Category Archives: 13 Skills

So…Now What?

From Halloween to Christmas we are in a whirlwind of activity.

There’s food, family and friends.

There’s shopping, cooking, eating.

There’s planning, writing silly stories about elves and–did I mention eating?


We spend quality time with family and friends and we make resolutions for the upcoming year. Habits we will break, books we will read, changes we will make and skills we will acquire.

We are kept so busy by all of the holiday hubbub that when the sun sets on January 1st, we feel a little lost…at least I do.

What do I do now? Now that Christmas is over and I’m determined to start this year off with a bang? I used to make a million resolutions. All the cliches were on my list.

I’ll start eating right and exercising.

I’ll spend less time on the computer.

I’ll follow a cleaning calendar…ha!

Normally, these resolutions run out of steam after a month…maybe two.

This year, I’ve listed our homestead goals, but I’ve also doused them with reality. I know that I will not complete some of them and I’m ok with that.

This year, I’ve made a few, general resolutions so I won’t feel overwhelmed when I look at my list.

Yes eating right and a cleaning calendar are on my list again, but I’ve removed the pressure and given myself permission to fail…one candybar does not mean I have to wait until 2018 to start all over again.

This year, I’ve asked for help and support from my family, my friends…myself.

Goal #1 – Grow my Blog
My husband is going to help me with this one. He’s going to push me and remind me to share, look for ways to reach more people and provide more quality content via YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Goal #2 – Follow a Loose Daily Schedule
I have one for cleaning, I have one for school and I have one for blogging. I’m going to try to follow them. I’m going to believe that I will follow them. I’m going to know that it’s ok if I don’t follow them exactly.


Goal #3 – The Garden
Even though I’ve listed this as the 3rd goal, as in previous years, it is the biggie.

So many lessons we’ve learned and so many new and exciting methods to try, plants to sow, trees to grow and processes to implement.

It. Is. Overwhelming.

Overwhelming, but exciting. My seed catalogs have already started to arrive. I’ve started pre-planning in my head and jotting ideas down in my gardening notebook.

I need to map out the kitchen garden. The squash arch will be moved closer to the deck and the garlic will be planted between rows.

I need to research how to make peppers and cucumbers grow in our soil and order seeds. I will not go overboard this year!


We need to make sure the trees get fertilized and pruned.

We need to continue watching the videos on plant propagation and transplanting so we can implement the methods at the right time.

And the chickens!

We need to butcher a few more to make room for new ladies and fill our freezer.

We are going to try hatching our own chicks this year. It will be a great project and learning experience for the boys (and us). But, since Pecky is a blue cochin and the ladies are pearl white leghorns, we will likely not get great egg producers.

We’ll need to research and order new chicks. I’m not sure we will go with the leghorns again. They are aggressive, peck at hands and they’ve all been really mean to poor Pecky.

Who knew that such cute little chicklets would become such mean little hens.


So, now what? Now, we plan, we plant, we learn and we grow.

Now what do we do?
Since the holidays are through?
We plan and we grow

13 in 17: No, Really

When I pulled up last year’s list of skills/resolutions we made for our homestead to prep for this post, I was a little shocked.

Shocked because we hadn’t looked at it since I wrote it in January.

Shocked because we’d failed to move forward on 5 of the 13.

Shocked because we barely made any progress on the majority of them.

I felt like we failed Homesteading 101.

Then, I found a post I’d forgotten I’d written. After I re-read it, I went from feeling like a failure to feeling like a success.

  • We planted 65+ trees.
  • We built a new, bigger run for the chickens.
  • We learned that we are not rooster people.
  • We expanded the vineyard.
  • We transplanted seaberries and blackberries.
  • We built a squash arch.
  • We built an herb spiral.

I’ve learned that nothing is certain. That even the greatest intentions can be pushed aside for those unexpected opportunities that pop up.

So this year, I’m listing the same goals and resolutions as last year.

I know other things will come up and we may switch gears to follow something else. I’m not going to feel bad or guilty about failing the skills below because I know that no matter what, we will learn and move forward.

1. Writing
I’ve been submitting to magazines and publishers after learning SO much in the workshop I attended in May. I’m going to continue to push forward and accept failures, learn from criticisms and take more risks.

2. Seed Saving
We saved more okra and amaranth seeds than we can use. This year, we are going to start saving tomato and pepper seeds too.

3. Concealed Carry
Another goal we have not tackled. We found a range near us that offers the class, but I want to get some range time in and get comfortable holding, handling and shooting my gun.

4. Essential Oils
I’ve been using and diffusing essential oils on a weekly basis. I will continue to use them and learn more about natural remedies for common ailments.

5. Back to “prepping”
I want to step this up. It’s an easy one and it is silly that, beyond ordering a few kits from Amazon, we’ve not made progress.

Our goal is to get back to food rotation and copy canning so that we have at least 6 months of meals.

6. Curriculum Planning
This is the one goal that I feel REALLY good about. The boys and I have a routine that often gets disrupted…and that’s ok.

8. Stocks and Investing
Ray has learned quite a bit about the stock market and investing. I have not.

This year, I’d like to start an investment club with friends. It will force me to learn and ask questions about the stock market and investing.

9. Fitness
I have let this one slide. This year, I’ll try to have a set routine…especially because the boys can go to a Kids Get Fit class while I work out.

10. Blogging
I had 268 followers at the end of 2015 and I have 362 followers now. Not too shabby! However, I can do better. I’ve started to share my blog posts on more social networks like Twitter and Pinterest. I’ve also created an Instagram account for my blog so I can share pictures of what we are up to.

11. Tree Care
This year we planted more than 70 trees, but have done little to make sure they will thrive. We are taking a “survival of the fittest” stance, but I think that might really be an excuse for not putting the effort in to make sure they survive (ie, laziness).

I’m determined to prune, fertilize and care for all of these trees…even those that seem on the verge of death.

12. Propagation
In an effort to at least start this goal, we’ve watched two videos on propagation.

We’ll continue watching these videos so that we can execute what we’ve learned in the Spring.

13. Brewing
Nothing has changed since last year on this one.

“We know how to brew and we know how to make wine…but I don’t remember the last time we’ve actually done either. We’ll be focusing on getting our kegs full and learning more about making meads and cysers from fresh fruit.”

We have a 8 gallon bags of grapes, blackberries and aronia that we will be making into wine this year. No, really.

No, really we will
No excuses for failure
No, really we will



Saving Seeds…Finally

We always say we are going to save seeds.

We know it will save us money.

We know the plants grow well with our soil.

We know the saved seeds will be unique. They’ve adapted to our growing conditions and there will never be another seed quite like it.

Yet each year, time gets away from us. By the time we remember that we planned to save seeds…it’s too late. Or at least, we think it is.

But this year, we actually did save seeds.

Okra seeds.

Okra seeds, along with pea and bean seeds are some of the easiest seeds to save.

First, just let the pods dry on the plant. When they turn brown and start to split at the ridges, cut them off, open them up and shake the seeds out. Let them dry for a few days and, voila! They are ready to store.


So far, we’ve saved seeds from three large pods and filled a small medicine bottle.


Old prescription bottles are one of the best containers for seed saving. They are easy to label and easy to store in neat little rows.

Sunflowers are also good candidates for saving, although there are a few more steps involved.

Tomato seeds are a bit easier than sunflower seeds, and pepper seeds even easier…at least there are fewer steps involved.

Since we ate the three peppers that actually made it this year (slight exaggeration), and our tomatoes were devoured by the chickens, the okra seeds…and maybe marigolds…are the only ones we’ll save this year.

At least it’s a start!

What seeds do you save?

So easy to save
Okra and marigold seeds
Cut, shake, dry and save

Pecky Greenleg: Chapter One

“What should we name this one, Jake?”

Jake studied the small chick with a thoughtful expression.

It’s gray feathers stood out in the sea of fuzzy yellow.

“Hmmm,” he murmured. “How about Pecky?”

“That’s a great name for a chicken,” his mom said with a smile.

“Wait,” said Jake. “Look at its legs.”

Jake’s mom peered at the tiny legs and noticed green feathers. “How odd,” she said.

“Her name is Pecky Greenleg!” crowed Jake.

His mom grinned and headed for the kitchen door.

“Are you coming in? It’s about time to eat lunch.”

Jake held the tiny chick in his hands, careful not to squeeze.

“In a little bit, I need to talk to Pecky Greenleg.”


The chick stared up at the little boy, not sure he liked the name he had been given.

I don’t have green legs! And…I am not a hen!

“Not a hen?” said Jake with surprise written on his face.

The chick stared at the boy. The boy stared at the chick.

“Ha,” Jake said with a shake of his head. “I must be imag–”

You can hear me?

Jake gaped, wide-eyed at the chick.

“Y-you can talk?”

Well of course not!

B-but, I can hear you!”

Jake’s mom peeked out the door. “What was that sweetie?”

Startled, Jake nearly dropped Pecky Greenleg.

“N-nothing Mom.”

His voice was hoarse and shaking. His mom looked at him with concern.

“Are you sure? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

He looked at Pecky and could have sworn the bird shook his head.

“Ha,” he laughed nervously. “No really, I’m ok.”

“Ok, if you’re sure.”

“Yep, I’m fine.”

“Well, why don’t you come in and wash your hands. It’s time to eat. ”

“Ok, be right there.”

When his mom shut the door, he looked back at the chick.

They stared at each other for so long that Jake thought he’d imagined the whole thing.

You’d better go in for lunch.

Life Cycles

The inspiration for today’s lesson came from the first question Joe asked when he woke up.

“Daddy, does a fish turn into a frog?”

I hadn’t planned to talk about frogs.

I’d planned to work on letters with Jake and addition with Joe.

But Joe was interested. He wanted to know how a frog was born.

So I ran with it…eagerly and with excitement.

Crazily enough, I’d printed out a frog packet months ago and stuck it in a folder for later use.

First, we talked about the life cycle of a frog.


After Joe could tell me each step, it was time to color.

Joe Explains the Life Cycle of a Frog

Joe got pretty creative with his. Every egg was a different color, the tadpole had stripes, the legged tadpole was blue and orange, the froglet was multi-colored and the frog was green…a true transformation.


Jake did an awesome job tracing his letters and he even wrote his name…sort of.


While Joe was coloring, I pulled out the frog puzzle I’d bought at a garage sale for 50 cents two summers ago. How fortunate that I was obsessed with finding educational materials as cheap as possible!

Jake, my puzzle guy, put the puzzle together and then counted the steps while Joe told him what they were.


After they lost interest in the indoor fun, we donned our garden boots and play clothes and headed outside to our little pond to hunt for tadpoles, legged tadpoles, frog-lets and frogs.

The boys searched quietly for a little while.


When they got bored being still and quiet, they started to dig with sticks and throw mud clods in the water. At one point, Jake’s boot got stuck in the mud and Joe fell (SPLAT!).


Not seeing any frogs or tadpoles, the boys started exploring.

“Look Mom! Deer prints!”


“Let’s catch the fish!”

“Let’s find some bugs!”

And on and on.

Joe got a bowl and started to sift and pour muddy, marshy pond water.


After pouring out a few bowls of muck, he shouted “I caught a tadpole!”

And sure enough, he had.


We studied it and talked about it. It was rather large for a tadpole so we swished around the water and saw it had fins and the beginnings of hind legs.

“It’s a legged tadpole!”

We touched it and Jake laughed as it moved under his finger.

Finally, I told them that we needed to put it back in the water so it could continue to grow. They were disappointed but I told them that we could come back out and check on its progress every few days.

They wanted to check the other side of the pond to see if they could find anymore. We ended up finding all kinds of water bugs.


I’m almost positive we saw another fish. It was blackish gray on top with an orange belly, but it moved too quickly for us to catch it with the net.

We spent all morning outside in the mud, only heading in when Joe thought a storm was coming.

One question from my little frog hunter turned into an awesome science lesson. I think I was just as excited as they were.

Little frog hunters
Playing joyfully in mud
Learning all the while


Mapping It Out

I started to map out this year’s garden…itching to do something after flipping through the pages in my seed catalogs. When I pulled out the maps I’d drawn up last year, I realized that they were not completely up to date.


We added some new shrubs and trees late last season.

I had not made a note of the honey berries I planted in the fedge.

I had not scribbled in the goji berries I planted in the vineyard.

I had not jotted down the purple plum hedge I planted along the drive.

The raspberries I put in the swale were missing from the map as well as the comfrey we transplanted.

So…on a less cold, less blustery day, I’ll don my boots, gloves, coat and hat and walk the property and update my maps.

I’ll walk through the swale.

I’ll stroll through the back garden.

I’ll amble through the vineyard.

And I’ll wander through the fedge.

I’ve already plotted out the kitchen garden and just need to note which plants go where. I’ll need to draw up the herb spiral and order the best for culinary and medicinal use.

Then, with a cup of tea I’ll sit at the table and start mapping out this year’s garden.

Last year’s maps are incomplete
It’s time to plan again
I’ll walk around on my two feet
Write what we planted when

I’ll make a note, I’ll plan anew
I’ll jot, I’ll write, I’ll map
I’ll add some new plants, just a few
Before Spring wakes from her nap

Homestead Goals 2016

We always, always, always set more goals than we possibly have the time and the energy to get to.

And, we always, always always feel that we are failing when we don’t get to all of them. We feel that we let the season slip by without really getting anything done.

Until…the season ends and we look back at all we have done on the homestead, when we see the forest instead of just the trees, we always, always, always feel pride in all that we accomplished.

I’m sure that this year, even though I will try not to, I will feel discouraged when I don’t get everything on my list done or even started. But I’m confident that when we look back in the Fall…I will once again feel proud of our progress.

This years goals:

  • Get the carrots in the ground earlier so that we actually have more than a few to harvest.
  • Make sure to plan for pests like slugs, cabbage worms, Japanese Beetles and squash bugs so that they don’t get away from me and take over.
  • Really take the time to fertilize with natural and organic materials. I’ve already started by scattering calcium-rich powdered egg shells.
  • Pull and/or transplant volunteer tomatoes, borage, dill and squash so that the kitchen garden doesn’t turn into a jungle of tomatoes, dill, borage and squash…even though the boys loved it.
  • Rework the vineyard so that, when we get kiwi, we will have a strong enough system to support the weight. I’m thinking cattle panels or something similar. The kiwi at full production will be too heavy for the gauge of wire we are currently using.
  • Get brussel sprouts grow. I’m not sure why I’m having such a problem getting them to even sprout.
  • Keep those dreaded deer away from my fedge, my vineyard and my trees in the swale. By any means possible.
  • Learn more about pruning trees.
  • Grow a medicinal herb garden.

But first, I have to get my schedule going, order materials and start my seeds.


Ready, set…go!

Let the fun begin
Order the seeds and supplies
Time to get started

13 in 16: Skills and Goals for the New Year

In 2015, we had a rather aggressive list of skills and goals to accomplish. Although we made great progress, this year’s list will look much like last year’s but revamped with more extensive and detailed intentions.

1. Writing
I took, what I perceived to be, many risks with my journey to publishing. By risks I mean scary jumps into a world where rejection is not only possible, but highly likely.

I’ve decided to focus my efforts on writing a chapter book/story book starring the mice from my Adventures in Homesteading series.

I’ve laid out the “chapters” and started revising and submitting for feedback in my writer’s critique group and I’ve joined the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)…finally.

This year, I am going to clean and tighten up my manuscript and submit it to agents and/or editors for feedback.


2. Seed Saving
Beyond saving amaranth and cilantro seeds, we made absolutely no progress on this goal.

That is three years of setting this goal and doing nothing about it.

Maybe with the extra day this year, we’ll move forward.

3. Concealed Carry
Another goal we have not tackled. We found a range near us that offers the class, but I want to get some range time in and get comfortable holding, handling and shooting my gun.

4. Essential Oils
I’ve been using essential oils on a weekly basis and as remedies for many common ailments…sore throat, cold, mood and anxiety.

There are a few classes offered in the area where I plan to learn more and use them even more and on a daily basis.

5. Back to “prepping”
We started to get back to prepping but sticking to it is almost like making that New Year’s resolution to “get fit and stay fit”.

It lasts for about six weeks and then the excuses start.

“I’ll start again on Monday.”

“Ok, after Valentine’s Day I’m really going to do it.”

We did get better at storing food and water. Not so much on home defense.

Our biggest progress on this goal? We added to our 72 hour kits. We took a day and, as a family, reviewed what we had in our bags and added what was missing. It’s still not perfect, but at least we did something.

6. Curriculum Planning
This is the one goal that I feel REALLY good about. The boys and I have a routine that often gets disrupted…and that’s ok.

That’s the beauty of teaching them outside the school system. We don’t have to make up days or ram through the rest of that ‘material’ in order to stay on track. Our goals are loose and our schedule is flexible.

Breakfast, playtime, work booking, playtime, lunch, playtime, field trip or fun activity, playtime.

They get plenty of play and they learn, learn and learn some more.

Sometimes we don’t see what they’ve learned until a day, a week, a month later, but it is so gratifying when I hear them apply something they learned to real life.

“Heel, toe, heel, toe…that’s a pattern!”


7. Meal Planning for Paleo/Primal/Healthy Meals
This is a skill and takes a great deal of organization to plan for, shop for and and stay on track with both the planning and cooking of healthy meals.

It’s so easy to buy the pre-cooked, processed box of potatoes rather than take the time to prepare fresh.

By the same token, it’s so easy to log on to Pinterest and search for sites where the planning and prepping guide has already been laid out in simple steps.

8. Stocks and Investing
We took the steps and invested the money. We are diversified…stocks, cash, silver, bitcoin, etc..

We’ve used our bitcoin to buy a laptop, a tablet and two bookshelves. More and more sites are accepting bitcoin and payment including, and the list goes on.

9. Fitness
I joined a fitness club and have been taking classes 2-3 times a week. I feel really good about this and my balance and strength have improved…drastically.

So far, I’ve been focusing mainly on muscle toning and not so much on cardio. I’m going to rotate in cardio classes so that I’m doing weights and toning 2 times a week and cardio two times a week.

Learning the correct and safe way to lift weights intimidates me just a little bit, but I have learned that a balance between cardio and weights is the best way to get fit.

10. Blogging
I have 268 followers now. 268! While I haven’t changed the design of the site, I have revamped it by adding category buttons to make it easier for visitors to navigate to what interests them.

This year I’ll continue watching 5 Minutes with Jack and seeking out how to turn my blog into a business.

11. Tree Care
We have planted many trees over the past two years, but done little to make sure they thrive and grow.

Well…they’ve grown, but I’m not sure they’ve really thrived.

This year, our plan is to learn more about propagating and pruning trees to ensure maximum growth and production. And, if we are feeling ambitious, we might try grafting.

12. Propagation
Our only try at propagating perenials last year was cutting off a blackberry branch, dipping it rooting hormone and sticking it in the vineyard.

That’s it. That’s all we did. But it worked!

We are going to try several methods of propagation this year including using root cuttings, leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, rooting hormone and layering.

13. Brewing
We know how to brew and we know how to make wine…but I don’t remember the last time we’ve actually done either. We’ll be focusing on getting our kegs full and learning more about making meads and cysers from fresh fruit.

Not so many skills
But goals to drive us forward
Start the year off right

Blissfully Unaware

The snow fall a few days ago caught us a bit off guard. We knew it was coming of course, but we weren’t fully prepared.

Our van is still blissfully unaware that it is winter.

We have a case of water that is now frozen, and bug-out-bags that are fully tricked out for warm weather. The clothes in Joe and Jake’s bags are summer clothes and a size or two too small.

I have short-sleeved shirts and shorts.

What is a bug-out-bag or, BOB? Basically a lifesaver, especially when an absent-minded mommy forgets to bring an essential (or non-essential but comforting) item along on a short or long car trip.

You may also have heard of a 72-hour bag or an “Oops” bag, Go-bag or Grab bag.

I made one for my friend and gave it to her as a baby shower present with diapers, wipes, baby Tylenol and benadryl, toys, onesies, socks, diaper rash cream and a few other odds and ends including chocolate, Tylenol and chapstick for Mommy. I called it her “Oh crap!” bag.

I use a backpack with many pockets, but any bag will do. I had the boys pick out their own backpacks and made it fun for them to pick toys, clothes and other items for theirs.


It has been a huge benefit for me on more than one occasion.

Once I forgot to pack clothes for the boys.

Once or twice I forgot to pack my prescription-Careless once again.

Once I ran out of diapers and I needed one quickly…VERY quickly.

I’ve listed out the details in a previous post, but here is a refresher.

The What – Essentials for a Basic BOB
Food (jerky, nuts, pull-tab soups, granola bars) and water bottle (3 days worth)
First Aid Kit – at least basic
Pocket knife or scissors
Emergency candles/flairs
Season appropriate clothing, 3 days worth
Toiletries – toothbrush/toothpaste, bar soap, wash cloth, towel, travel shampoo
Maps and travel information – your phone may have GPS but you never know if it will work so it is good to have a paper map too.
Phone chargers
Prescription medicine-one week’s worth. I keep a S-S pill box with my anti-seizure medicine. It has come in handy on more than one occasion just for overnight trips when I’ve forgotten my primary pill box.
Over-the-counter meds for headaches, allergies, etc.
Flashlights and extra batteries
Rope – Para-cord or similar. I have a para-cord bracelet I stuck in mine. It is amazing how much rope those things have.
Pen and paper
Garbage bags, the big contractor size

The What – Non-Essential but nice to have
Entertainment: Books, crosswords, wordsearch, travel dvd player, toys
Crayons/coloring books
Bug spray for summer
Hot hands for winter

This seems like a lot.

It is…and it isn’t.

Using plastic ziploc bags and vacuum seal bags you can fit a lot in a packpack. They don’t take up a ton of room, especially for one or two people.

I don’t have all of this in my bug out bags. I do have is clothes, beef jerky, nuts, water, cups, toys, flashlights, emergency candles, my para-cord, toothbrush and a few toys and books for both me and the boys and medicine.

I need to beef them up to include at least the essentials listed above, but I at least have a start, which is better than nothing at all.

As I said in my previous post, it is practical to have one of these in your vehicle.

You never know when you will get a flat tire or have the engine in your car act up and leave you stranded until help can come.

You never know when you will go to see Grandma, just for the day, and not be able to go home because the weather turns nasty and you are stuck without clothes and your prescription.

Could you buy this stuff? Probably…but why when a small bag in your car could hold everything you need?



Chalky Words

Today, after pulling a few thistles and picking some strawberries, we abandoned our gardening and got out the brand new sidewalk chalk.

The sun was out and the driveway a blank canvas for the boys to draw shapes and mazes.

After Joe wrote his name and drew a few circles, I went inside to get word and picture matching flashcards I had laminated earlier in the morning. I’ve started a “letter of the week” program that I found on Pinterest on a site called

It’s a great program! The activities and lessons can be tailored to each boy. They are fun and fast and cover the following tot and preschooler curriculum goals:

  • Memorization
  • Exploration
  • Life Skills
  • Increasing attention span
  • Fine motor skills
  • Creative thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Letters and sounds
  • Numbers
  • Handwriting
  • Science

I ran inside and grabbed the flashcards.

First, I wrote the words on the sidewalk, placing the matching picture above each word.


Next, I shouted out each word, asking the boys to race to find them. A little friendly competition never hurts to motivate two energetic boys.

They ran around looking for the pictures. Joe circled the picture before picking it up and handing it to me. Jake stomped on the cards as he found them.


After they found all of the pictures, I placed the word card above each chalk word and showed them each picture. Joe did a great job with this one. Jake followed him around and, after Joe found the word, shouted, “Here it is!”

Finally, without using the flashcards, I spelled each word out loud. They were on their scooters at this point, so I asked them to run the words over.

They both did a great job with all of these tasks. Jake did best when finding the pictures and both boys were able to find the words quickly as I spelled them out.

I had their full attention up until the last two words. Joe, finished with the game, took a piece of red sidewalk chalk and drew and “X” through each word.

“I’m done with this game Mommy.”

The fun learning lasted for about 20 minutes and then it was time to play and plant a few seeds before heading inside for lunch.