Thursday, April 30, 2009

Making the Homestead Work

We've made a lot of changes around here lately. Most of them were out of a financial need but something happened along the way. I learned how much I don't need and what I can really do without. It's been quite the transformation for us. Can I call our one acre of land a homestead or even a farm. I guess it's all relative. I've learned so much this past year like who my real friends are. The ones that will help no matter what, the ones that don't make fun of me because I'm trying to make good changes for my family. I can't count the number of times I've been called Amish because I bake my own bread and now raise chickens for eggs.

There comes a time when you have to make decisions for your family that others might not approve of. Not buying store bought chicken or eggs is now one of them. Last week, I made dinner with some store bought Perdue chicken. I have to say I was completely nauseated. The meat was dry and stringy and the flavor was off. Maybe it was just old meat. The stores only tell you the last day they can sell it. They don't tell you when the bird was slaughtered or frozen or how it was kept. I found a fellow homeschooling mom just up the road from me. She raises meat chickens and processes them for customers like me. These chickens are born and raised on this farm and are free ranged to enjoy all of the wonderful farm grass and worms they can manage to eat. We will no longer buy store bought chicken or beef. We are looking into purchasing organic grass fed beef from a local farm. It may cost us more but well worth it if you ask me.
That means we'll have to probably purchase a bigger freezer. Last night, I made a pork roast in the crock pot. It looked ok but when I cut into it, it was mostly pure fat with very little meat. I paid over $15.00 for a roast that was all fat and there was not enough meat left to feed our family. Good thing my kids like vegetables. If I'm going to dish out that kind of money for meat, I at least want it to be good meat and to be enough to feed our family. When I started saving money with coupons and stockpiling my pantry, one of my criteria was that my family was going to eat well. I wasn't going to buy or eat hotdogs and mac and cheese 3 nights a week, I was agreeable to cutting our finances but not at the expense of eating poorly.

I think our family still thinks we are a little crazy with all we've done. They laugh at us when we tell them we have chickens and eggs but they all come back and ask for more eggs because they make the fluffiest omelet or scrambled eggs you've ever had.

Our pantry was so well stocked last week that I didn't need to go grocery shopping at all. Sure, we had eggs for dinner one night-my family loves having breakfast for dinner. As long as the meal are good I have no issues. I've been able to cut our grocery bill in half compared to what it was and using coupons has become a part time job for me. But we are also working on becoming debt free so anything I can do to help, puts us that much closer to our goal.

It's all about finding things that work for you. Lately, I've been pulling out antique ceramic bowls and using them. I even found my grandmothers salt dip and am now using that on my counter. I'm keeping everything handy on my counters to help in baking bread, homemade snacks, keeping things clean with homemade cleansers and laundry detergent and am enjoying putting clothes out on the clothes line. My counters used to be spotless and uncluttered but I've decided that I'd rather make it a home and make things work for me.
Silly things like these homemade knitted dishcloths just delight me. I don't know why I didn't use these sooner. (Probably because I don't know how to knit.) My friend Lisa made these for me and refuses to take any money -so I give her some fresh eggs and she makes me dishcloths. Bartering is the way I was raised and it's so rare these days. I don't know why or when people decided that Bartering wasn't a good idea. Last year, I traded some garden vegetables and an apple pie for babysitting. Easy deal if you ask me.
Managing a home in this way still gives me plenty of time for my beautiful perenial gardens. They are well established now and only need minimal care to bloom this beautifully.
My Echinacea attracts the most beautiful butterflys and birds. Every year they reseed themselves and delight me with this sea of bubble gum pink blooms. I make tea out of the blossoms so even my flower gardens are put to work.

Keeping things running smoothly in a house also requires some maintainence. I found this lovely fabric last night at Job Lot. It was an end lot sale and the original price tag said $18.00 a yard. I paid $6.00 for 3 yards and it will be enough to reupholster my dining room chairs.

Taking off these chair cushions will be no problem at all and recovering them will help them look fresh and new. Our kitchen is due to be painted and with the one wall painted red, these will fit in great and the stained seats will be no more.
In the beginning of trying all of these new things, I was overwhelmed. But it is getting easier every day as I perfect recipes, find new ways of helping us sustain ourselves and reduce our environmental impact and teaching my kids some great homeschool lessons on how manage money and be self reliant. It's a great that I hope doesn't end too soon.


Kate in NJ said...

We'll see who will be laughing when you're debt free. Not I, my are an inspiration!
My DH is getting on board with the idea of chickens...I just keep working on him. I made an awesome barter deal for some depression glass I wanted from a lady we met via CraigsList, and my fresh organic heirloom tomatoes. ;-)
We were both HAPPY!! :-)

Valerie Willman said...

This post is inspiring for me. Hope that I may someday get there. They way you describe your life in this post is pretty much the way I'd like to see our family go. I soooo want chickens, and my husband is really balking. I'm starting to get discouraged.

homeschool mamma said...

My husband was reluctant too. But once they are past the baby stage they really are minimal care and cost. I'll never go back to store bought eggs and now I think I'm getting guinea hens to control the ticks. What's happening to me?

Thank you both for the encouraging words. It helps me to trek on.

Momma Snail said...

I left some awards for you at my blog. ;o)

homeschool mamma said...

Thanks Momma snail-why haven't I been following your blog? Lost in blog land I guess. Just added you to my lineup.

Unpredictable Journey said...

Thanks so much for this blog. Your words keep me going and let me believe that we'll get there someday. We were close last year but had a house fire and now are farther away than before.
I'm jealous you have chikens, I admire your style and I love your blog. THANKS Amanda

Sara said...

It's good for your wallet, good for your family, good for the planet - what can people disapprove of? It all sounds and looks great.

homeschool mamma said...

Amanda-I'll keep you in my prayers.

I'm so enjoying all of this encouragement from blog land.


Valerie said...

We personally love the Amish! My hubby actually started growing an Amish beard after we visited them two years ago. He also wears an Amish style hat. My mom calls him Brother Keith...but really the Amish do not call each other that. But thats how my family refers to us too. I actually have a wall with all Amish stuff on it. It makes me happy!

Wish we lived closer to one another. I think we would be good friends!
Valerie in Maine

homeschool mamma said...

Well then, maybe I should consider being called Amish a compliment instead of an insult. Good advice.

We love Maine and have family way way up north.