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20 Weeks: New Year Organizing Revival

Since I’ve been talking about goals lately, I thought I better address something that I left as a loose end last year.  Remember, back when I was half-way through my pregnancy with Cora,  my goal of organizing a list of 20 things in 20 weeks?

Well, I got all behind, and then I had my baby, and cleaning with a newborn, a toddler and a preschooler during the harvest season… forget it!

So the day before Christmas eve, I went on a frenzy in the bathroom.  And I redid the storage in there.  And then I remembered it was on the list of 20 things I wanted to get organized!  Woohoo!

So here’s the before…

Ok, this cool shelf thing that hangs on the wall holds our towels and a bunch of other stuff.  Q-tips, nail clippers, Rick’s beard trimmer.  Extra soap is up there in a brown box, a ton of random things are in that basket, some bubble bath and a low-flow shower head that’s not going to be installed in the shower anytime soon is up there too.

Under that shelf thing, we have the potty chair and a basket of bath toys.

Then, lastly, in front of the toilet we have a little storage bench full of our extra towels and wash cloths, and on top; my many, many magazine subscriptions (yes, I’m a magazine junkie).  Hey, everyone reads in the bathroom, I need variety.  And it’s my only place without the kids.  It’s peaceful.  Just like every mom.

And here’s the after…

First I moved the bench.  Lots more space here now in front of the toilet.

Then I emptied and reorganized the extra towels (got rid of a couple oldies that were worn out) and recycled or filed old magazines.  Now just the most current ones are out… and stacked nicely.  Went through the bath toys and tossed any that were too icky.  Cleaned any that needed cleaning and washed the basket liner.  The potty chair is used for emergency trips in the boys room – been saving E’s sheets this way.  Thinking of skipping the potty chair all together for C if we can, by the way.

And the biggie – the shelf.  Cleaned out that basket, tossing anything expired or irrelevant (yes, irrelevant).  That basket in the bedroom closet caught the extra soap and the shower head until we are ready to use them.  We used the bubble bath up and the bottle is now a soap dispenser in the kitchen.  Hair ties were corralled in the blue jar, and lotion is up high so it doesn’t end up in the two-year old’s hair again.  After all that, there was room for my apothecary jar of bath salts that used to live on the tank of the toilet.  Not like I ever have time for a bath, let alone many baths to necessitate an apothecary jar full of salts – HA!  But it’s pretty and the kids enjoy them, I guess.  ;)

Anyway.  It looks much nicer in there and I’m really loving it.  We desperately need a remodel in there, but I’m holding off until C is potty trained.  Hopefully by then, the boys won’t be missing the toilet any more either.  ;)  In the mean time, this is working great so far and it feels a lot more relaxing in there.

What about that list of 20 (which I later cut to only 18)?   I’m gonna finish it this year if it kills me.  Click this link to see what I’ve already done, and below is what’s left:

  1. Bathroom cabinet
  2. Boys closet shelf and clothing
  3. Boys toys and bedding storage
  4. Desktop/drawers and move desk out of office
  5. Office corners
  6. Office closet upper shelf
  7. Junk drawers
  8. Buffet
  9. Our bedroom closet
  10. Seed Storage
  11. Make a place for table linens
  12. Canned goods/canning and food storage supplies
  13. Find a place for Rick’s work clothes and my business supplies
  14. Kitchen glasses cupboard
  15. Bathroom linens/storage
  16. Scrapbooking table
  17. My sewing items
  18. Lower kitchen appliance cabinet

Not too bad, eh? So what if it’s late.  It’s still getting done!  Yippee!  This whole thing was inspired by Organizing Junkie’s 52 Weeks project.  Check it out to be inspired.

Is reorganizing anything on your list of resolutions this year?

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Categories: 20 Weeks of Organizing | Tags: , | 4 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°.

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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

Putting it All on the Line

I am in love.  My clothesline is actually making me happy.  I find the few quiet minutes it takes to hang the clothes up both meditative and satisfying.  Wait.  Did I just say laundry makes me happy?

This isn’t my first clothesline, but so far, it is the best.  Granted, it’s new, so I don’t know how it will stand the test of time.  But I really love the design.  Which is funny.  I actually wanted a traditional, two post with lines stretched between set up.  I envisioned my kiddos running between the sheets as they hung on the lines.  But we’re short on space, so we went for the umbrella style.  And I love it.  Here’s why…

It holds a lot.  A LOT a lot.  Like four or five loads.  Maybe more.  More clothes than I have clothespins for.  All the cloth diapers, inserts and wipes, all the kids’ bedding, all of my clothes and towels, tons and tons.

It spins.  This means that I can hang the whites on one side and the darks on the other.  Then I can rotate it so the whites get bleached by the sun, and the darks stay in the shade.  Awesome.  Also, I can stand in one place, with the sun behind me, to hang and turn the line as I fill each side instead of moving around or staring into the sun.

What are you hanging under there? In the past, I would hang lots of items, but not everything.  I never hung our unders up, for example.  I didn’t want the whole neighborhood ogling my ultra sexy nursing bras.  ;)  But with the new line, that’s just not a concern.

The trick to hanging the tightie-whities is pretending you’re wearing them – they go under all your other clothes.  That’s right, if you don’t want the neighborhood to know if the husband wears boxers or briefs, keep them on the inside.  Those t-shirts and dish towels are totally concealing the undies from prying neighborhood eyes.

Clothesline?  What Clothesline?  I can take it down and put it away if we’re having a garden party or something.  Not that this has happened, but it’s a nice option.  Also I think taking it down in the winter to protect it from the weather will probably make it last longer.

It is pretty and it smells good.  Ok, that is true of drying clothes outdoors, no matter what kind of line you are using.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love it.  Nothing smells so nice as sun-dried sheets.  And I really love how laundry looks on the line.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I see a full line fluttering in the breeze.

Do you hang your laundry out?  What do you love about it?

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Essentials Every Kitchen Needs

When we got married, Rick had a lot of the kitchen basics covered, or so I thought.  When my mom offered to buy us cook ware or dishes I declined.  I’m the practical type.  I figured his dishes and pots and pans were working and that was good enough for me.  I didn’t realize the value of good quality kitchen items and that this was the one big opportunity to get these big-ticket items given to us!  Instead, I registered for pillowcases and a shower curtain.  A SHOWER CURTAIN!?

Fast forward eight and a half years.  Rick’s pathetic cheap-o non-stick pans are long gone.  I’ve inherited my grandpa’s awesome cast iron, and I’m slowly building up my collection of stainless steel to replace the mid-range non-stick stuff I bought, oh, seven years back.  And Rick and I know what we’ll buy our kids when they leave the house or get married, even if they think whatever they have is “just fine.”  There are just some things that every kitchen should have.

Here are my top five items that are truly essential to a kitchen:

1.  A sharp knife.  Ideally, you need a good chef’s knife and a sharp paring knife at minimum. More is better.  If you could only have one, though I’d go with the chef’s knife.  At least that way you can chop an onion, which is the base for nearly everything else you’d need a knife for.

2.  Cast iron skillet.  It can brown up meat perfectly, bake corn bread or cobbler, fry an egg or make a frittata.  It’s not hard to clean at all (despite the rumors you’ve heard).  I honestly can’t think of a pan I use more unless it’s my dutch oven.

3.  A sizable dutch oven or a heavy, oven-proof stock pot with a lid.  Soups and stews, braising, roasting, chili or mac and cheese.  This is a kitchen work horse.  My dutch oven is enamel-coated cast iron and can roast a chicken just as beautifully as it fries one on the stove top.  It makes one-pot meals far tastier than any crock pot.  Soups it can do in its sleep.  In a pinch, your stock pot can do most of these things too.  I never look at wedding registries any more.  This and a dutch oven one-pot meal cookbook is my go-to gift.

4.  A wooden spoon.  Ok, I know this seems simple, but try managing a meal without one.  I’ve been in kitchens with no good cooking utensils and found myself wishing desperately for a plain ole wooden spoon.  They don’t scratch any surfaces, are strong and sturdy and generally can’t be beat by anything plastic or metal.

5.  A stainless steel saucepan.  With a lid.  Besides the obvious (sauce), you can boil noodles, steam veggies, make popcorn or no-bake cookies in it.  And it’s easy to clean.

I almost added a garlic press to the list.  I can’t believe how much we use ours, though a good chef’s knife can do a comparable job.

What about you?  Can you not live without your funnel or food processor?  A good baking sheet or pizza stone?  What are your kitchen essentials?

Categories: Food, Top 5 | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

What We’ve Been Up To…

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  We’ve been up to a lot.  We spent some time pulling weeds, trimming hedges, cleaning up the flower beds and mowing this weekend too, but I didn’t get a picture.  This is very sad, because it was the first time Rick used the new push mower!   Other garden news – the sunflowers and okra I planted are up and should make a nice screen soon.  But between all the projects, I’ve been pretty exhausted and have had weird hip-nerve-fire-stabbing pain going on my right side.  Because of that, I’ve been spending the boys’ nap time (my usual blog writing time) napping myself.  38 weeks pregnant and counting.  Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to over the last couple weeks.  As always, click to view larger.

The tree stump came out:

 

The garden is growing:

 

The rest of the basement got “finished”:

The nursery got a few more touches:

 

 

Baby’s ETA is any time now.  I was 12 days early with E, and although I know I can’t count on a repeat of that goodness, I can still hope.  You can bet there will be pictures.  ;)

Categories: DIY, Garden, Hugelkultur, Simple Living | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

20 Weeks: Junk Drawer No More!

Well, it’s my 12th project from my 20 Weeks of Organizing Challenge!  Unfortunately I got sidetracked, so I’ve been at it for 19 weeks.  Ha!  I may or may not catch up (most likely not), but I’ll keep going until I get all my items crossed off anyway.

Buffet Drawer - BEFORE

Here’s what my current list looks like:

  1. Bathroom cabinet
  2. Boys closet shelf and clothing
  3. Boys toys and bedding storage
  4. Desktop/drawers and move desk out of office
  5. Office corners
  6. Office closet upper shelf
  7. Junk drawers
  8. Buffet
  9. Our bedroom closet
  10. Seed Storage
  11. Make a place for table linens
  12. Canned goods/canning and food storage supplies
  13. Find a place for Rick’s work clothes and my business supplies
  14. Kitchen glasses cupboard
  15. Bathroom linens/storage
  16. Scrapbooking table
  17. My sewing items
  18. Lower kitchen appliance cabinet

Notice that there are only 18 items on there?  See – this is me not being all crazy A.R.  ;)

This week, I get to cross off the junk drawers!!  I have a confession.  There was not one, or even two junk drawers in my house.  There were actually THREE!  Now this week I wasn’t able to get all three done, but I did tackle the first two and I wanted to share them with you.

The first drawer I took care of was the easiest and the smallest.  The drawer in the buffet.  We like to keep playing cards and dice in there for quick access when guests come over.  But it sort of became a catch-all for extra coasters, batteries, phone chargers (for a phone we don’t even have any more?), and what ever random things that were on the buffet that needed to be stashed before a guest came over.

Here’s the cleaned out drawer…

Buffet Drawer - AFTER

Now it’s back to it’s purpose… cards to play games with guests, matches to light candles when guests come over, and that is pretty much it.  There are two plug covers in there because this drawer sits right under an outlet that we use to charge the batteries for the camera.  That charger is about the size of a deck of cards and does not have a cord, so I deemed it worthy to get use of the drawer too.

The second junk drawer in the house was in the desk.  The big center drawer.  This is an especially problematic area for me, because the drawer is so big and wide that I have a tendency to just clear off the desk into this drawer in a pinch, so when people come they won’t see the mess on my desk.  Are you noticing a trend here – I’m a stasher… I hide my messes instead of finding places to keep things.

 

To get this mess in order, I emptied the drawer.  There was a lot to recycle, and a lot that didn’t belong in there in the first place.  I put those things in their rightful homes.  After the cleaning out, there really wasn’t much left to put back in the drawer.

I added a paper file thingy, since our desk is out in the open now and we often have paperwork that needs addressing, but also kept away from the kiddos or put away until we can get to it.  There are spare pens in a ziplock and some sticky notes, and our box of checks.  That’s it.  I’d like a drawer organizer for this space, but until them, this will do.

Next week, I plan to get that third drawer done too.  In the mean time, here are my other 20 Weeks projects.  If you really like organizing or need some more inspiration, check out the Organizing Junkie.

Categories: 20 Weeks of Organizing | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Independence Day Independence Update

It’s been a while since I did an update on our Independence Days project.  Over the last few weeks we’ve done a lot.  But mainly I made up for a bit of garden neglect this weekend.  We pulled lots of weeds.  Lots and lots of weeds.

Rick has been working hard over the last few weeks at digging out the tree stump.  It’s such a big project, but this weekend he got through the last of the big roots and even the tap roots underneath.  He moved it a bit with our 4Runner, but we still need to get the trunk hauled before we can really move the stump anywhere.

I’ve been consumed with baby things lately as I realized last week while finishing up the nursery that we had NO baby clothes.  I mean none.  We thought we were done after Emmett, and since the house is small, we didn’t keep anything around.  Whatever I didn’t sell I donated.  So I did a lot of shopping this weekend.  But it was fun.  Rick and I went together, and I realized that it was the first time that we actually bought baby clothes together.  :) And now, the baby will have something to wear when he or she gets here.

Here’s the update…

Plant something – okra, two varieties of sunflowers, and sad to admit, but beans and squash just went into the ground.  I hope we get something?

Harvest something –  eggs, lettuce, garlic scapes, peas, thinned carrots and onions, got a few (a handful) of raspberries!

Preserve something – quiches and some grilled chicken in the freezer… mainly things for after the baby comes.

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, recycling.  Planned meals for 24 weeks straight, but then I missed last week, and our budget showed this.  But I have a plan going for this week, so I’m back on the wagon.  25 weeks planned this year so far.  I used some scrap wood from the garage to make a trellis for the grape vine, and I sold the gas-powered mower and set the money aside for a new push-reel mower.  It’s been raining a lot so we’ve just been watering the gardens and the lawn by hand as needed.  Also consolidated the freezers and unplugged the upright for the summer.

Want Not – Got new shoes for both boys (again!) – this time from the resale shop.  Got lots of neutral baby items this weekend second hand, and re-purposed a sturdy shelf to be the new changing table in the nursery.  Thrifted some pictures frames for the baby’s room too.

Build Community Food Systems – While my cousins were in town, our CSA started distribution.  This led to a few conversations about food – local, organic, non-GMO, etc.  I was super excited that when she got home, she went shopping and sent me an email detailing out her changes – she went for all local and/or organic produce, natural meats, organic dairy, etc….  !!  I know it’s not building MY community on this one, as they live in Tennessee, but it was really encouraging!

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day!  We celebrated by working outside and of course watching fireworks.  ;)

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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