Posts Tagged With: Family

What to Expect from the Lazy Homesteader in 2013

I’ve thought pretty hard about the “resolutions” I want to share on the blog for this year.  I’ve had a hard time thinking of specific goals, and I’m not really into the “lose twenty pounds” type of resolutions.  I’ve decided that instead of goals I wanted to focus on some themes that are both personal to me and yet very applicable to the homesteading way of life.

This year, you can expect to see posts (hopefully weekly, realistically a couple of times a month) having to do with one or two of the following themes.

Rick hikng with C on his backCommunity – In 2012, I established a monthly potluck to help build community.  I made some new friends and built connections.  In 2013 I want to do this more.  I want more connection, more real relationships.  I have realized that no one can live this life alone.  We need each other and I want more of it.  I have a challenge in mind for this theme this year.  I’m excited about it, though it’s going to be a tough one.

Preparedness – Colorado had the worst wild-fire of all time in 2012.  There were hurricanes on the East coast.  For much of the country, there were record heat waves and drought.  Across the country there were poor harvest and food prices are on the rise.  I’m not a panicky or prepper or anything like that, but I have started thinking about the benefits of being prepared in a real emergency.

Thrift – Expect to see more DIY posts this year.  From homemade to making-do to doing without, I plan to share more thrifty ideas this year.

Food Connections – This is the thing that sent me down the homesteading path all those years ago; being connected to our food.  I have plans to share about sustainable food sources, processing your own meat (including wild game and hunting), and of course the garden.  This year I am going to explore as many aspects of food connection as I can.  I hope to close some of the gaps we’ve had in our own food sources as well.

Grace – This year I plan to go easier on myself.  You guys know I love a crazy goal.  But I also need a little more balance, and my kids certainly need a sane mommy.  So I plan to cut myself a little slack this year.  I’ve realized that this journey to being green and crunchy and self-sufficient is just that, a journey.  I don’t have to do it all at once.  It’s ok to take small steps and find what is feasible for our family.  I’m not throwing the baby out with the grey water or anything, but I am going to focus more on things like simplicity, peace, and well, the categories mentioned above.  :)

I’m really looking forward to 2013 and what it will bring.  And I’m excited to share our homestead with you as always.

About these ads
Categories: Community, DIY, Simple Living, Thrift, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bee Birthday and Easy Mason Jar Drink Lids (with Tutorial)

This weekend we celebrated C’s first birthday.  I ordered cupcakes from a wonderful, local, all- organic bakery that makes a to-die-for flavor called “Bee-titude.”  It’s a lavender cupcake with honey-lemon butter cream frosting, and it was the inspiration for C’s party theme: honey bee.  The party colors were yellow and lavender, and it turns out that this was a really fun theme to put together.

I also made a few discoveries for decorating this party that eased the green-guilt that sometimes comes along with me decorating.  I found spools of colored tulle at the craft store that I can easily roll up and reuse for another occasion instead of the crêpe paper streamers I usually use.  And I bought two yards of inexpensive broadcloth for the table-cloth that would match the party theme.

I used various glass plates and jars to decorate and filled a vase with lavender and chamomile flowers.

I have a gorgeous bee skep-shaped drink dispenser that my mom bought me for Christmas last year and I filled it with honey-lavender lemonade.  I was surprised that the lavender flowers turned the lemonade pink!

And I used my canning jars as glasses.  Pints for the adults with ribbons and tags to write names on, and half-pints with lids for the kids.  And here was my eureka moment.  Ball jelly jars are durable and their lids don’t leak.  And I used a HOLE-PUNCH to make them into drink lids.

Here’s how:

First I traced old jar lids onto patterned paper and then cut out the circles.

I used double-sided tape to stick the paper to the top of the lid.

Then I used a regular old hole-punch to punch holes in the tops of the lids.  This was surprisingly easy.  I did it with one hand and minimal effort.  The punch still worked great on about twenty paper tags after punching six lids.

I used a cheapy plastic straws with about an inch cut off the end to make the kids’ tumblers complete.

Not a single jar got broken between six, three- to seven-year-olds.  They even took them outside.  I wrote each kiddo’s name on the top of their jar, so there were no mix-ups.  It was really easy and completely free, since I had all these supplies lying around the house.  Henry even helped cut out the circles.

I plan to just swap out the paper circles and straws for the next party.

Categories: DIY, Simple Living, Thrift | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Five Last-Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

As we all know, time flies and I’m sure for some,  Mother’s Day has crept up on us this year.  Since we are down to the wire (Mom’s Day is THIS SUNDAY), here is my wishlist of readily available gift ideas that would make any Lazy Homesteader, this one in particular, pretty happy!

  1. Pressure canner such as the Presto 23 quart Deluxe Pressure Canner that is available at the local hardware store.  Yep, Ace at University Hills has one in stock for $119, Rick.  So does the Ace at Cherry Hills Marketplace.   Plus, I have a $5 off coupon in the Chinook book.  ;)  Then I could can up all that broth instead of freezing it; it’d be ready to use in a snap.
  2. Gift card to the local garden center.  Plus watching the kids while I go shop there.  I can use it to buy the frivolous plants you never want me to get when we’re planting out the veggie beds.  And if you do the laundry or the dishes while I’m gone, you might get some sort of husband of the year award.
  3. A gardening/homesteading/foodie/self-sufficiency book.  I have a few titles on my list… A Householder’s Guide to the Universe by Harriet Fasenfest, Kristen Kimball’s The Dirty Life, anything Sharon Astyk has written (her latest, Making Home, is available for pre-order), Coyne and Knutzen’s Making It, one or all of Jennifer McLagan’s books: Bones, Fat, or Odd Bits, Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping, the new Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Bloom and Baldwin, or The Non-Toxic Avenger by Deanna Duke.
  4. Rubber boots.  Okay, so I just bought a pair for myself, but I figured that I’m not the only gardener/homestead type who wants a pair of these.  I love them.  They will run in the $20-35 dollar range.  I was lucky and got these on sale for $18.  Note to my hubby: This does not get you off the hook for Sunday.  :)
  5. New pruners.  Good, sharp ones that will last.  Something in the $30 plus dollar range that can cut through 1″ thick branches.  At this point, I feel like I’ve outgrown the $9.99-special pruners.  They just don’t hold up to the rigors we put them through.  Think of them as an investment.  FELCO is notoriously good, and you can even buy replacement parts.  Hey, show me the order confirmation number and all will be forgiven if they arrive late. ;)

Of course, spending time with the man and the kids is the best part of the day for us moms (as long as there is no laundry and no dishes involved).  And I especially love it when my man cooks for the family.

What is on your Mother’s Day wishlist?

Categories: Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Green Cleaners in the Bathroom

This week’s boot camp is about green cleaners.  Lots of urban homesteaders are into doing things with less chemicals, more frugally, and more self-reliance.  Using or making some green cleaners around the house is a great skill to add to the homesteading arsenal.

The thing is, I don’t really use any cleaners in the house.  I use good old baking soda and white vinegar, and lemon juice.  And I think these have been talked about an awful lot on the internet already.  So while I can wax on about how effective these normal household items are to clean with, I am not sure I have much new information to offer as far as ingredients go.  Here it is, none the less.

I can tell you that these things really do work in Colorado where the water is hard and full of minerals that build up on everything.  Like my shower head, all covered in calcium build-up (or is that lime scale? or…  ??):

To get that puppy clean, first I tried just straight up vinegar with a grout brush.  Which did a pretty good job.

But I kind of needed something that would stick a bit better so that the vinegar could sit and work at it for me.  I’m all for scrubbing if it means I don’t have to use CLR, but if I can not scrub, that’s even better.  So I mixed some vinegar with some corn starch.  And poured the gloopy paste all over the shower head.  And then, while I let that sit, I used some on the tub faucet that is always sticking and tough to pull the shower lever thingy on (wow – the technical terms in this post are astounding).  Then, after I got impatient, I rinsed the shower head off… pretty good, eh?

It’s not perfect or anything, and probably if I had been a little more patient, it would have been, but I think it was decent. What’s even better is the mix worked on the tub faucet puller thing.

On to the rest of the bathroom!  Here is what I use:

Like the package says, there are hundreds of uses for baking soda.  That’s why I have a huge bag of it.  In the bathroom, I use it like most people use Comet.  I use it to scrub down the sink and tiles and tub.  And it works.

So what about the throne?  Well, lots of homesteaders are either into saving water or have male persons in the house.  Or both.  And so the toilet often gets stained from letting the yellow mellow.  And in our house, that hard water alone can leave a ring.  The best cleaning tool I have for cleaning a stained toilet is a pumice stone.

The first time I used it, I was scared to death.  I thought for sure I was going to scratch the porcelain and end up with a horrid looking toilet that I was going to end up replacing.  But that was needless worry.  It worked great.  And as far as I can tell, it didn’t scratch a thing.  First I don my rubber gloves and do a scrub with the toilet brush and a flush so the water in there is clean.  I don’t put any cleaners in there.  Then I grab the pumice stone.

I scrub around the water line, in the hole and under the rim.  It gets everything off.  You can see that the corners of my stone are getting rounded off.  The stone crumbles instead of scratching the bowl.  It works.  The toilet is sparkling.  After that, I will throw a splash of vinegar in the toilet and use the toilet brush again, for good measure.  Clean as a… well, not a whistle, but you get the idea.

I also use vinegar and water mixed in a spray bottle to clean the mirror with a lint-free cloth.  And to clean the floor. And to spray down the shower walls.

How do you clean your bathroom?

Categories: DIY, Simple Living, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How I Do it All

A lot of people ask me all kinds of questions about what we do around here on the Schell Urban Homestead.  The question I get asked the most though is, hands down, “With three kids, how in the world do you do it all?”  The answer is pretty simple… I have a strong partner:

Happy Anniversary, Rick.  Nine years seems like a great start.

Categories: Hunting | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

A Season for Family

I’ve realized from about October to February, is our season of family.  Hunting alone facilitates a great portion of this, and then the holidays manage to cement the rest.  We just don’t have time to spend with many friends, as much as we’d like to.  Family really takes priority.

During the harvest season, I think it is easy to start feeling like you are drowning in the work of a homestead.  I generally feel like I tread water pretty steadily around here, but after a spastic comment on the Apron Stringz blog, when both CJ and Erica of NWEdible reached out to me to make sure that I was alright, I realized my Shiny-Happy exterior was cracking a bit.  While I’m afraid that the comment I left came across way crazier than I intended, the truth is, I have been somewhat overwhelmed.

In April, Rick’s dad was diagnosed with ALS  (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease).  I’ve sort of kept this under my hat, since Rick wasn’t keen on talking about it with anyone, even in person.  He got pretty tetchy when I mentioned it to our neighbor (who is getting to be like family) and to our midwives while I was still pregnant with C.  So I’ve kept it off the blog all this time.  But I started bracing myself.  I’ve seen diseases before.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of watching my own father pass away.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer when I was fifteen.  Lung cancer has a 15% survival rate and a lot of people treat you as if you deserve to get it.  But my dad hadn’t smoked in over 20 years before he was diagnosed.  The cause of it was more likely asbestos from being a mechanic or possibly having the polio vaccine tested on him while he served in the Air Force.  Or seeing as he had lost a sister to lung cancer, had a brother that got (and beat!) prostate cancer and a father that died of multiple myeloma at 58, maybe cancer was just in his genes.

But my dad was determined to live.  He had surgery, most of one of his lungs removed, chemo and radiation.  He beat the cancer.  He was cancer free for 8 years before his body, racked by the treatments he received, gave up on him.  I was so grateful that my dad lived to walk me down the aisle, to know Rick.  It was hard to watch my dad, superman in my eyes, go from 6 foot tall to 5′-1″.  To see him lose weight.  For me to never sleep in peace, afraid that his oxygen machine would sound an alarm in the next room if my dad quit breathing, even for a moment.  To see his big, strong mechanic’s hands turn soft and thin.  He died at home in 2004, the day before my 23rd birthday.

ALS makes cancer look like the freakin’ flu.

With cancer, there are treatments, even cures for some.  Hope.  With ALS, there is nothing.  Just waiting, watching, making your loved one feel comfortable as they lose the ability to make their muscles work.  The prognosis for ALS is more than bleak.  Stats vary, but we’ve been told that up to 70% of people diagnosed with it die within 18 months.  It is always fatal.  Less than 10% live longer than five years.

Rick’s dad was beginning to show symptoms last October, though we didn’t recognize them.  He’d been feeling weaker for a while longer before that, but just chalked it up to being tired.  He just turned 51 last month.  Because of my experiences with my own dad, I keep expecting to see things plateau with him, but the disease has not slowed at all.  In April, his words were slurred, by May he was hard to understand.  By June or July, he would only answer yes or no questions out loud.  Now it’s even hard to tell the yeses apart from the nos.  His hands and arms are atrophied pretty severely, so he can’t write.  This past weekend, they gave him a feeding tube.

Through this, my, uh… “greenisim” is wavering.  I’m feeling the urge more an more to take the easy way out.  To throw the proverbial grey water down the drain instead of out the window.  (Here’s where the crazy comment on the Apron Stringz blog comes in).  Part of me doesn’t want to care anymore where my food comes from.  I want to turn the heat up to 69° from 67° and not feel any guilt.  Bag the whole Riot for Austerity.  Throwing in the towel looks appealing.  Part of me is wondering why I should care about organically grown green beans when my father-in-law is struggling to swallow.  I’m wondering if  we can sustain our sustainable life style?  And is it worth it?

The truth is, I know in my heart that it is worth it.  But I need to find a way to be ok with what I can do right now.  Maybe the Riot is beyond my reach at this point in our family’s journey.  Maybe CJ’s Quiet Riot, or even just tracking our energy use is good enough for right now.  Maybe I need to be ok with the things we are doing and hold the space while our family gets ready to walk through the coming grief.

I’ve known somewhat more loss than anyone in Rick’s family (all his grandparents are still living), and I know my strengths can be quite helpful in hard times like these.  The loss of his dad is going to be a devastating blow.  And I’m grateful to have this time with family right now.

So here I am, holding the space.  And turning up my thermostat to 68°.

Related articles

Categories: Community, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Winding Down for the Season

We’re playing catch up here as the harvest season comes to a close.  This is my favorite time of year, but it is one that works us the hardest.  As the weather cools off we find ourselves wanting to move inside.  We want to settle down with a cuppa and a warm blanket or cozy up to a nice bowl of hot soup.  Unfortunately, all that coziness will have to wait just a few more weeks.  Winter is the true sleepy season.  Fall is the season of work.

We have most of the harvest put away finally.  Sunflowers and corn are hanging to dry, onions and potatoes are stored, canning is finished, summer produce is put up in its various forms.  We have garlic to plant this week.  I am actually doing a little garden redesign as we are pulling plants when the freezes hit and kills them off one by one.  The tomatoes are still, unbelievably, hanging on.

I am hoping to get some of our kohlrabi to over-winter so I can get seed from it next fall.  The plants are from seed from Slovakia that was smuggled through the mail to my in-laws.  The variety is very large – 8 pounds or more without any woodiness.  Our plants are bulbing up nicely, and they might just be one of the few big successes this season, but the seed is hard to come by.

An Independence Days update is in order, I think.  I last did one in August.

Plant something – Planted a few hardy mums.  Garlic will hit the dirt this week – nothing else is on the docket though.

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard, kohlrabi, over 60 gallons (maybe even 80) of compost.

Preserve something – tomatoes and corn frozen, a couple of ducks in the freezer (thanks to Rick!!), the above mentioned canning, drying, dehydrating and such.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  Reused old t-shirts for a Halloween costume.  Working on other sewing projects from the scrap box – including some napkins and even two quilts!  Been mending things, not throwing them out.

Want Not – My friend Annie gave us some cloth diapers, and I used an old flannel baby blanket to make some extra wipes.  Got some great hand-me-downs from some friends for the baby girl.

Build Community Food Systems – Participated in both the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Urban Homesteading chicken coop tours.  Baby sat for some friends in exchange for a couple of pullets (we got the great end of that deal)!

Eat the Food – yes.  :)

Although my summer garden was a huge flop this year, I am happy that I put down some bok choy seeds and some late season peas this summer.  I might get one more harvest before we put the garden to bed completely.  I actually planted some other things too, but the second round of kale, spinach and beets never came up and I didn’t get any replacements in the ground in time.  I feared for the bok choy after the chicken coop tour – it got somewhat trampled since a few people didn’t seem to realize they were standing in my garden on my baby brassicas.  But it has survived, and even if it doesn’t get huge, I might get some baby heads out of it yet.

Still, I find myself drawn indoors.  Completing sewing projects (mostly mending) that I’ve put off for months.  Starting other projects.  Getting my craft on.  A few moments of inspiration have led to some things getting done in the handiwork department.  Halloween is coming and costumes need making.

We had a family dinner last week.  I’ve been spending more time with my sister lately and I am enjoying this time with her.  We decorated sugar skulls for the Mexican Day of the Dead.  The holiday begins on November 1st, which is Henry’s birthday, and we are big Halloween fans around here, so we did our Dia de los Muertos early this year.  (More on this later, I promise).

Life these days is transitioning from the mad rush of summer to the slower pace of fall.  Rick’s big-game hunting will mark the last of the harvest here, and that is coming in the next few weeks.  In the mean time, we are quieting down.  The canning pot is back in it’s spot in the basement.  H is focusing more on indoor play and learning.  It’s funny how we naturally move in these rhythms.  From outside in the sun and mud to inside quiet games at the table.

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Handmade Halloween – No Sew Pterodactyl Tutorial

Last year I posted two Halloween costume tutorials and they were a big hit.  In fact, they’ve been the biggest hits on this blog for the last month or so.  But last year, the costumes were easy.  E was a garden gnome, and H was a bat.  This year, H upped the ante – he wants to be a pterodactyl.

A pterodactyl.  Seriously.  How am I supposed to make that?!  H certainly keeps me on my toes.  Here’s what we came up with.

You’ll need:

  • a large piece of poster board
  • approx. one yard of fleece fabric (or an amount that will fit your kid’s arm-span)
  • hot glue gun and glue
  • scissors and hole-punch
  • duct tape, preferably in a fun color
  • five 9″x12″ pieces of felt in a variety of colors.  I used 2 red pieces, 2 orange pieces and 1 yellow piece.  These are not pictured.
  • a helper who wants to be a pterodactyl

Originally I was going to use spray paint to decorate the costume, but after trying it on some scraps, I decided to go with felt instead.  Just disregard that can of paint there.  ;)

So, the Ptutorial:

Roll the poster board into a cone shape, centering the bottom point over your kiddos eyes and making sure he can still see.  Tape the cone so that it will be the correct size to fit his head.  This will be sort of a hat.  A cone-hat.  It’s ok if there is a little wiggle room, since you will be making ties that will be on the inside of the cone-hat.

   

Punch two holes in the cone-hat near your kid’s ears, using duct tape to reinforce them (the holes, not the ears).  Keep in mind that the back of the cone-hat is heavy, so the holes will need to be in a place that will keep it balanced on his head.  Also keep in mind that he has hair under the cone-hat where you are punching the holes – unless you want to give him a weird hole-punch hair cut.  Yep, that’s the way we roll.

Cut the salvage edge off your fleece.  Cut this strip in half.  Cut one half in half again, and set the other half aside.

Thread the two pieces of the first half through the holes in the cone-hat.  Knot them on the outside.  Use a piece of duct tape to secure the knots to the side of the hat, so they will be as flat as possible, but won’t slip through the holes.

  

Wrap the tip of the cone-hat in duct tape.  Extend the tape past the end of the cone and give it a bit of a curve.

Cut your fleece in half along the fold so that you have two relatively square pieces.  Mine were each a yard long.  Use one piece to wrap your cone-hat.  I let a bit hang over the edge in the back of the hat, so none of the poster board would show.  Use the hot glue gun to secure the fleece to the poster board, trimming off any excess fleece as needed, and making sure your curved duct tape tip pokes through the top.

  

Where the fleece overlaps the point on the front of the hat, fold it over and glue it to the underside of the poster board with the glue gun.

Your hat should now look like this:

Set your hat aside and have your kiddo lay down on the second piece of fleece. I took this picture and then decided to turn the fleece the other way, 90 degrees.  So the wings will be wider, rather than longer.  Make sure your kid is at the very top of the fleece, and then mark where his armpits are and cut two slits in the fleece, about two inches long.  Fleece is very stretchy, so don’t cut these too big, or too close to the edge.

  

About two inches in from the edges (where his hands would be) cut two more slits about an inch to an inch and a half apart for each hand.  Again, not too big, they will stretch.

Cut the bottom of the fleece into a wing shape.  Folding it in half makes it symmetrical.

   

Have him put his arms through the armpit holes like he was putting on a jacket, then his hands through the hand holes so that his wrists are through and he can grip the fleece in each hand.  Now, measure where his waist is and cut two small slits about two inches apart in the center of the wings.  Thread the second half of the salvaged edge strip through these holes so that the long ends can tie around your kid’s waist.

The wings should now look like this (H is holding them up – not wearing them yet):

Now, using the felt, make dinosaur-like designs to decorate your wings and hat.  This is easy, since no one knows what dinosaurs really looked like!  We did these oval, spot thingies for the back/outside of the wings.

  

And wavy, red and orange stripes for the front/inside of the wings and for the hat.  Attach all your felt decorations with hot glue.

Now, dress your kid in some dinosaur-hue clothing appropriate for the weather where you trick-or-treat.  We used brown pants that we already had, and a greenish shirt.  If I can track one down before the 31st, I might have him wear a yellow shirt instead, because every knows pterodactyls wear yellow shirts

Have your kiddo thread his arms through the wings, tie his belt (under his shirt), and tie on his hat.  Notice that I covered the back of the belt with a dino-spot.

Voilà – pterodactyl!

Ka-kaw, ka-kaw!

Happy Halloween!

Oh, and if you are like me, you should just buy double the fleece you need, because you are going to make the first wings too small.  But this is actually a good thing, since all pterodactyls live in family groups…

Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,425 other followers

%d bloggers like this: