My Cup Overflows. What it means to be truly thankful

Reposted by request

So comes the time of year where we endeavor to reminisce about what the Lord has done for us this last year. We think about the blessings He has laid upon us. As King David laid awake in bed at night, he remembered and recounted the goodness of the Lord in his life:

 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Psalm 63:6 

What a wonderful thing to do- to meditate on His faithfulness, His goodness. And a wonderful thing to teach our children to do as well. Not only at night in our beds, but all the day long. (Deut 6:6) In our family we do not celebrate hallow33n or the controversial "harvest parties" that coincide with Oct 31st. If Christian families wanted to celebrate the harvest of the Lord or play dress-up, why on THAT night when there are 364 others? I am not really asking anyone that question, I know that if they really are honest with themselves and God, they will know the answer. But I digress...

However, we DO spend a great deal of time in October and November preparing our hearts for the coming King, which we celebrate in December. Much time is spent giving thanks, reflection and in praise before December.

This year (2012) in particular, we have a long list of thanks and praise. I personally just had a near miss with death and will be with my family here on earth longer. A couple months ago, my grandmother gave her life to Christ only 3 days before she died. My husband has had a major financial breakthrough at work last week and our list of praises goes on.
Two days ago, I was literally laying in my bed as King David did. I was alone and thinking in the dark and suddenly became overwhelmed at how thankful I am that the Lord has spared my life to stay and serve my immediate family longer. In that moment, I had no thought for myself whatsoever, after all I would have been in Heaven. Nothing bad about Heaven, folks! No loss for me to go- only gain. BUT... my only thoughts were of how my immediate family needed me and I was truly humbled right then and there. Humbled by the honor to be reserved here to continue to serve them.
It was a God moment.
A moment like that is hard to really convey to another person the depths... or rather how deep and wide the implications and understanding you had in that tiny instant. True revelation, I guess you could say. In any case and however you might say, I have been made keenly aware once again how
not even a day is guaranteed to us;
how good through and through the Lord is;
my conviction to press on toward the mark has been rekindled
and also, interestingly and unexpectedly, I saw myself in the mirror in this last couple weeks. I was disappointed in a few things, but I was surprised at how clear and unpolluted my motives were in the rest of my "closet" when the Lord shone His light in there. Maybe that was an additional gift from God. How could that be a gift? Reason why is that, honestly, I doubt myself and my personal walk a lot. I always wonder in the back of my mind somewhere, "Am I really desiring what the Lord wants? Am I selfish in these ambitions? Is my heart truly running after Him?" He has eased my fears of this, at least for now, and at the same time He gently showed me my weak areas to work on. What a good Father He is. Makes me love Him all the more.

Clearly I have a lot to be thankful for. I know you do too. Won't you make these two months special and tell God how much you love and appreciate Him? Sort of like a romantic anniversary you may have with your husband. Love on Him!

originally posted 10-12-2012

Stop! Don't eat that! -- What foods are the worst for pesticides? The Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen InfographicIf you are trying to feed your family better... more healthy, more whole food, less bad fat, less GMOs, less pesticides and so on, then you will appreciate this new info-graphic that has been released.

There is a lot of information here but they have attempted to make it easy for all of us to scan quickly.

For me, I always knew that grapes were "naughty" so I never buy them. Like never ever. Washing them would be impossible. Which is sad because I absolutely adore them. So do my children. I also knew apples had junk on them, but I figured washing them was good enough.
Now I am rethinking that.
Just washing them is not going to do it. These chemicals are IN THE FOOD. Part of it's make up. 

I don't want to fly off in a paranoid frenzy, that's just not me.

However, now I know even more how important my garden is and that I need to ensure that these foods need to be grown myself. 
This is for my family.
It's my job to make sure what they eat is safe and healthy.
If I can't afford to buy it, that's no excuse because I could always grow it... whether in a garden plot, backyard or in containers.

Do you know that 25 strawberry plants are only $15-$25? If you buy the "everbearing" type then you will have strawberries all spring, summer and through fall. Surely you'd have paid yourself back many times. Plus they grow most anywhere and come back every year!! They even send runners so you can propagate more plants or give them to your friends or a family in need. Maybe you can post them on Craigslist for free or for a few bucks? Just don't throw them away. Buy them from a smaller company like Territorial Seed, if you can. Their strawberries are $17.50 for 25.
Tomato plant starts are $2.50-$4 for a 6 pack. Folks, tomatoes are $2-$3 a pound in the store for un-organic. You can do the math yourself to see you are a winner no matter how many tomatoes you get off just one plant. There is no beating homegrown tomatoes.

In any case, you can see that you can make a difference. EVERYONE can grow SOMETHING. The Lord made it easy for us. In today's world there is a lot of free info on the net and youtube videos on every kind of growing method or plant variety.

Your family deserves it.

[You can click the poster here to see it larger. Then you hover your mouse over and enlarge.]

Maple-Bacon Jam.... mmmmm bacon bacon bacon

Stop the presses! 

I ran across this amazing jam and just knew the whole world needed to know about it! Stop everyone you see and send out the good news! Hearts everywhere have been dreaming of this and now it has come to fruition! So, let your joy filled heart say, "Yes!" and run to your kitchen. In no time you will have such a delectable delight that angels will sing and grown men cry.

Maple-Bacon Jam

Sweet, salty, smoky, spicy and down right tasty bacon jam that is the definition of YUM! This bacon jam goes well on toast for breakfast and makes for a great condiment in sandwiches and burgers of all sorts! 

Servings: makes 1-2 cups (Recommend you DOUBLE or triple!) 
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 1 hour 50 minutes 
Total Time: 2 hours 

1 pound thick smoked bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces 
1 large onion, sliced 
4 cloves garlic, chopped 
1/4 cup cider vinegar 
3/4 cup coffee (brewed) 
1/4 cup brown sugar 
1/4 cup maple syrup 
1/4 cup bourbon, optional
1-2 chipotle chilis in adobo, chopped 
1/2 teaspoon cumin pepper to taste 

Cook the bacon in a large sauce pan an over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon starts to get crispy and set aside, reserving 1 tablespoon of the grease in the pan. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan. Add the coffee, brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, bacon, chipotle chilies, cumin and pepper, reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 1-2 hours. 
Process the jam in a food processor to smooth it out a bit but not too much as you want to have the texture of the bacon. If you do not finish it all in one sitting, store it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 weeks. 

A Passionate Christian Marriage: How To Have It & Keep It

A Passionate Marriage: How To Have It and Keep It When we first become engaged to the woman or man of our dreams, we envision a certain amount of perfection that will follow in our marriage. We see our life filled with smiles, laughter, passionate kisses, maybe some children. We don’t dare imagine life without a few little bumps in the road, because after all we are trying to be honest with ourselves.
What happens after we say “I Do” is where the rubber meets the road. All of our hopes and dreams we have separately, jointly and even unspoken ones… all join together. The brightness of a newly married life and romantic adventure wears off a bit. After years it may fade away completely. christian lingerie Why would this happen? Why is it accepted as part of the way things are when you get married? As Christians, we should immediately reject that lie. We should understand that marriage is a life long romance that requires us to be vigilant to guard it and our hearts. The enemy of our souls is seeking to kill and destroy and our marriage. Christian Marriage, tops his list of things to destroy. There are a lot of reasons why he does this. Mainly because marriage is holy before God and he hates everything called holy. Another big reason is that when we are married before the Lord, we are blessed, strong and bonded in unity. Literally that must make the devil’s skin crawl.

When we remember all these things, we should stand a bit taller and be ever more committed to protect and strengthen our relationship with our husband or wife. We know that satan prowls about like a hungry lion and breaking a godly marriage is pretty delicious to him.
So, how can we strengthen and protect our marriage from that?

It takes a hard and focused stand on the issue. We must eliminate everything, yes every thing, that comes between the husband and wife relationship. If our marriage is full of bickering there is a struggle for power in the marriage. That will take some serious denying of your flesh and giving God control. If we are spending too much time or too much money on “things” or “hobbies” then cut that out too. Sensual movies, sensual books, victorias secret (forms of porn!) have no place in your marriage. Ever. Don’t fool yourself if you think you are not affected by it. Your eyes & heart should only be for your sweetie. God’s word is clear on the matter.

Our children, according to scripture, are NOT ahead of our spouse or the Lord.
The Biblical order to your priorities is:
1. God
2. Husband/Wife
3. Ourselves
4. Children
5. Other family, Friends, Serving in Church
6. Exterior world christian marriage help, lotions, books, lingerieWhen we are at worship practice 3 nights a week, playing cards or out with friends frequently, shopping for kicks, on the net chatting or facebooking, texting, at soccer practice & games, pta meetings, television, netflix and so on… we are spending way too much time NOT being married or a family. We have our priorities out of whack.

It then makes sense that we will have a cascading failure of our marriage and family!

If we take the time to prioritize our walk- God first, Our husband or wife second- then our life will shift back into proper focus. No longer will chaos, busyness, fighting, power struggles, passive aggressive remarks and behavior, sexual problems in the bedroom and our children’s behavior plague us. All of these things do straighten out if we genuinely turn all of this over to the Lord.

On the subject of our bedrooms, it is a taboo topic for some reason in the Church. Secret sin abounds in this area. It is not a place to manipulate, coerce or avoid and make excuses. The marriage bed is pure and holy and good and safe. A place of trust and intimacy. God says so in Song Of Solomon, “Drink deeply!” Passion and romance are very good and He wants us all to have it. When we begin to treat our husband or wife like they are a treasure to us, with honor, with adoration, we will see a change. Make an diligent effort and do it regularly. Progress may be slow at first, but keep praying and keep up the good work.
Your marriage is worth it. Every little step counts. If you need help, a fantastic book “The Love Dare” is available at the link here.


Culturing and Fermenting: Kombucha

Culturing and Fermenting: Kombucha

Several years ago, I was talking with someone about culturing and fermenting and she introduced me to the word “kombucha” with a brief description of what I needed to do to feed and culture kombucha. Intrigued, I went home and looked up more information. For those not currently doing culturing or fermenting do a little exploring on the subject. There is an entire underground community sharing information on this topic. “Nourishing Traditions” by Sandy Fallon talks a great deal about kombucha and all sorts of fermenting and culturing. The book in general is a great self-sustainable person’s resource which covers many subjects that are not limited to culturing. The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) is a wealth of information, too. Kombucha is mega healthy. It cures quite a long list of surprising health issues. Most of us do not get enough fermented or cultured critters into our bodies to maintain our systems correctly anymore. In our family, My husband and I drink it and the children are always asking for it. You just can’t keep enough on hand so if you start making it, double your recipes after your first batch or two.

Kombucha. Well, what is it? It is often described as a mushroom (but its not one) or more accurately a probiotic bacteria & yeast colony. Its job is to create a lovely beverage for you. As culturing goes, the super hero in question here is ugly, phlegmy in appearance and looks like it should be thrown out upon first sight. You will soon fall in love with it’s slimy slippery goodness that creates a delightful super-healthy beverage resembling sparkling apple cider with a hint of apple cider vinegar tang to it. No lie. It is amazingly delicious and you are missing out.

Wait a minute, did I say slimy and slippery AND delicious in the same description? Yes. I did. The actual beverage you would drink is not slimy- only the probiotic colony that creates the drink is. The kombucha “tea” created is refreshing whether lukewarm or cold. Some folks even drink it hot and that would be great too, but it would kill off any live critter goodness in the drink.

When I received my first kombucha mushroom or scoby (S.C.O.B.Y.: Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) I was having some thoughts of backing out. I confess, I too did not have love at first sight. After following the standard directions, I put the whole ensemble in the pantry and hoped for the best but had my doubts. About 10-14 days later I pulled out the jar, pulled off the cloth covering the opening and surveyed the landscape. Toledo! I was -not- going to consume that. After confessing my dismay on a culturing forum, they laughed at me and pretty much dared me to try it. That worked and I poured a bit of the kombucha off into a glass and sipped. No, I did not die but I sure was surprised! And a kombucha believer was born that minute.
Kombucha scobys live off of the caffeine made by black tea and white sugar. That means the scoby eats the caffeine and sugar and replace it with live critter probiotics, so rest assured you are not getting a sugar/caffeine buzz here... or consuming scads of white sugar, which many people avoid at great costs.
Okay now, are you ready? Strap yourself in for some pictures to go along with this kombucha “tea” extravaganza, folks.

First you will need to acquire a scoby, a large gallon glass jar, very clean muslin or flour sack fabric (about 8 x 8 inches), wooden or plastic spoon, some regular black tea bags, white sugar. You do need white sugar and yes your tea must be black with the caffeine still in it. These are the rules for a happy scoby and a happy scoby will show you love in return.

Wash your hands. Boil about 15 cups of water. Pour off some into a glass, heat tolerant jar of some kind, preferably a 4 cup measurer for convenience. Two or three cups will do.
Place 10 tea bags in this water you poured off. Let sit 10 minutes and squeeze the tea bags out well without breaking them.
Pour your 1 ½ cups white sugar into the gallon jar and add your concentrated tea mix. It is important to stir sugar in until completely dissolved.
Now cool everything to room temperature. We don’t want to kill our new best friend before we even get started, right? Sure she looks like a snotty pancake, but give her a break! She works hard. It usually takes a couple hours to cool down so allow yourself this time in your day when you make a new batch of kombucha.
[Note: whenever you stir or transfer or decant kombucha or touch the scoby in any way, you cannot use metal of any kind. Wood, plastic or your clean hands only.]
Pour your large portion of cooled water into the gallon jar but leave about 2-3 inches head space. Wash your hands again. Your scoby is anxiously awaiting her new home, go find her now. Open the scoby packaging or jar carefully and pour off any liquid INTO your lukewarm sweetened tea concoction and take care with your scoby that she does not get too excited and jump right in too. Gently assist your scoby into her new cozy sugary caffeineish home. I highly recommend you use your hands to help ease her in. Just look at her in there! She’s happy. You did it!
Get your square of clean muslin or flour sack and place over the jar opening and secure with a nice thick rubber band. Grab a post-it and put today’s date with “10 teabags, 1 ½ cup sugar” and put it on your jar.
Place your jar in a closet or your bedroom if it is dark in there, where no one will be harassing her as she’s working.
After 10 days carefully bring her back to the kitchen, it’s show time. It’s your turn to be brave now. Do you have a nice clean turkey baster or a plastic ladle? Get it out. Take your cloth that keeps fruit flies, spores, dust and all manner of yuckness off your jar. There she is. Scared? Don’t be. Gently slip your baster or ladle along the inside of the jar edge to retrieve some kombucha and put it in a cup to try. Go ahead! See, I told you! She was worth it wasn’t she?

If you find the current stage of culturing is still a bit too sweet, cover her back up and put her back to work in the dark pantry you had her in. Check on her in a few days and repeat the process. My family likes kombucha “brewed’ for about 3 weeks. We like the sweet and slightly sour tang and increased effervescence. Like sparkling apple cider.

Now we are at decanting stage. Pull your scoby and any slimy stringiness out and place her in a nice cozy glass bowl. Use a slotted spoon if you must to get a decent amount of any stringy things.

Ladle or pour your kombucha into pint size canning jars and use the standard lid & band combo. Pint size is perfect for drinking and not too much fizz is lost between partaking. Tighten well to keep the bubbles in there or it goes flat. Flat is fine, just not as good. Put a few in the fridge to start chilling if you like it cold. No refrigeration is necessary. You do need to know though that the longer it sits the more vinegary it will be but usually that is a couple months when it becomes too tart. At least for us. If we find it is a bit too strong we add a bit of water to our glass and it’s fine. Guess you could use your too tart kombucha as a hair rinse or in salad dressing.
Reserve some kombucha as starter to go back into your new batch you are making now.
You remembered to prep your water and tea all day first for your scoby to go live in again, right? After all, she can’t be homeless. You'll need to have her home ready in advance of decanting.
Let’s look at your scoby now. Notice how she seems to have two parts now? Like she divided? The scoby you found floating on top of the kombucha tea is the “baby” and the scoby thing below it, perhaps on the bottom of the jar is your “mother” scoby. The mother is the original scoby you put in there, the baby is your new scoby. Good news: You can use BOTH scobys. Gently separate them if they are attached in some way.
Here are different examples of a scoby mother not floating on top while her baby is on top. Various combinations do occur though.

Give one away to a friend you know will be a good adoptive parent OR make 2 gallons of kombucha this time. Put the baby in one jar and the mother in the other. Simple. Both work and love just the same. Some people actually put “extra” scobys in the compost or out to the chickens. Don’t do such a thing. There are people everywhere scratching and clawing to get one. No one should ever have to pay $20 for a scoby. Share the love.
Enjoy the adventure. To your health!

The Great Purge... De-Crappification 2013: Part 1 (Parts 1 - 6)

Here it is. 
My honest, open, nitty gritty journey chronicled here on my blog for all to see.
I touched on it a bit in the last post, where I ranted about crappyness, clutter, time wasters, new techy gadgets and Facebook. Where I urged all of you out there in the world to also say, "Enough is enough!" 

I don't want a minimalist lifestyle or some new agey zen or feng shui jazz going on. That stuff is not from the Lord.  I want less. Less stuff, less mess, less belongings.
If my life is full of busyness, too much activity, too much belongings, too much drama... then I am not genuinely free to serve the Lord and I am too self concerned. If I am honest with myself then I know that to be true.

Did I already freak you out? 

Then I gotta tell you this: 
When you are purging, you do a lot of thinking. You think about why you have held this stuff and how much money and time has been wasted on it. You think about a lot of things.

Today I am decluttering and purging again. I think I am doing it every day except Sunday. It is nice to have only 1/4 of the toys we had a couple months ago and to have less crap in general. When I have ditched a lot of stuff out of a drawer or cabinet, I have taken the extra time to wipe it down with cleaner. That extra step is not really decluttering and minimizing my belongings, but it felt good to have it done. No one “saw” the mess ...or sees that it is now clean... but it looks clean to me because I know I just cleaned it. Hah! Kinda funny. 

I have been trying this last 2 years to get a hold of my clutter problem and I literally have a spotless house compared to what I used to have-- but I know what normal standards are and I still have a long way to go. One of the big motivators for me is that whatever our future home on a farm will be, it is sure to be a whole lot smaller than we have now. Probably without a garage to stuff things into also. The other big motivator is that I keep hearing over and over that less stuff means less stress and less cleaning and more of the "appearance" of clean. I seriously would like that instead of freaking out all the time that my house is a disaster. 

EDITED TO ADD all Parts of the adventure:
Getting Rid Of Crap For Real
Part #2
Part #3
Part #4
Part #5
Part #6

Getting Rid Of Crap... for real

My project over the last couple years has been to reduce our belongings. You might call it minimalism. I call it de-crapping. Six people in one home-- wow, just wow.
Over the last 3 months, I have resolved to get really SERIOUS about it. It's working. My goal now is to ditch 1/3 of our stuff by summer. I'm having a lot of fun but it is h a r d.

I already hate new fancy touch phones/iPads/tablets and foofoo gadgets and Facebook and all that junk. I quit FB about 2 years ago, the drama and privacy issues drove me batty. It wastes time too. So when I say I hate that stuff, I mean it. I do not partake, as it were. 

I watch almost everyone at stores and malls walking around texting, head bent down as they walk around. Nearly every person. Start watching for yourself. Couples sitting together at restaurants both lost in their own phone on FB or texting or whatever... who really knows but them? So much for having any relationship or actually communicating face to face. (Hey, lady! Your husband is sitting right there! You know... the guy you've been facebooking and texting all day?) Maybe you've heard of texters walking in front of cars?  

I see all of this as related to becoming less crappy. 
ELIMINATE the crap, folks. 
The air is cleaner and clearer without your dang foofoo phone. 
You LIFE is cleaner and clearer without it. 
Ditch it.

Here is a great and hilarious related post you may enjoy by J Smith.

The Short, 16-Step Guide to Getting Rid of Your Crap

Yay, it’s Friday! Time to head home and relax after a week of hard work..

1. Enter the front door of your home. Toss off your shoes. Notice, lying beneath, a pair of boots you have worn only once. Shrug.

2. Turn on the television and sit on your Ikea couch. Attempt to relax. Awaken 20 minutes later, realizing that you’ve been passively flipping through channels. Turn off the TV, remove the batteries from your remote. Toss them in your Blendtec blender. Stop yourself moments away from doing something drastic.

3. Briefly fondle the iPhone in your pocket. Stop yourself, realizing you were about to do the exact same thing with Reddit as you just did with TV. Call and cancel your data plan in the nick of time.

4. Begin to wonder what people did before television and internet access. Observe the room around you, looking over the unread books and unwatched DVDs lining your dusty shelves. Consider shopping, then picture the unworn clothes occupying your cavernous walk-in closet.

5. Realize your imagination has turned all black and grey.

6. Suddenly recognize that you haven’t used your “spare” room… ever. Do the math and realize said room is costing you five or six hours of work per month. Take out a piece of paper and compare it to that trip to Japan you’ve been meaning to take. Stare at the math in disbelief. Stuff the paper in your mouth and begin to chew.

7. Realize that the brief emotional rush that accompanied the purchase of each item in your home is now gone, leaving only the object itself in its most basic, uninteresting form. The gorgeous, pastel designer couch has become simply a chair. A beautiful glass buffet is transformed into a mere table. A set of immaculate handmade dishes has aged into nothing but a bunch of plates. Your goose down duvet is actually just a blanket. Wince.

8. Glance down at your groceries and realize that the Doritos, Lay’s, and Ruffles you purchased are all just coloured corn and potatoes.

9. Open your credit card bill. Wide-eyed, discover how often you’ve confused shopping with actual extra-curricular activities. Consider joining a monastery.

10. Remember that time you went over to a party in a friend’s pseudo-abandoned loft. Recall the roommates, the self-made art and photos on the walls, the obscenely cheap rent, and the embraced simplicity.

11. Begin to make a quick list of the top 10 things you own in terms of how much they cost. With horror, make a second list of the top 10 things that make you happy. Sense the creeping dread as you realize there is no overlap between the two at all. Shudder in terror.

12. Decide to have a packing party like your friend suggested one time. Take the old sheets you never used from Crate & Barrel. Cover all your stuff with them. Endeavor not to uncover it unless you decide you need to use it. Realize suddenly that you would never use anything at all because you are never actually home.

13. Remember a time in childhood when you were more excited by ideas, love, travel, and people than by anything else. Realize that you have, somehow, bought into a new religion, and that malls, from the inside, look exactly like cathedrals.

14. Consider starting a fire.

15. Consider that, perhaps, you are more than just your stuff. Begin to take a long walk. Breathe.

16. Begin to relax. Give yourself the freedom to begin to dream again.

The Great Purge... De-Crappification 2013: Part 6

All of this time I have been purging and tossing and recycling, I have also been keeping an eye on a section of my garage that has been harboring a potential money maker for my family. The stacks of boxes and odd shaped things that would not quite fit into boxes were neatly and patiently waiting for me to get around to handling them. 

Most of it, about 90%, is the stuff that did not sell at our unbelievably massive garage sale last summer. Okay, I know what you're thinking. No, it is not crap that is not fit for a thrift store. We don't try to yard sale or donate any junk.. that stuff is in the trash where it belongs. What actually happened was that after our very successful money making sale (yay!!!), we sorted the stuff out that simply were worth way too much to just donate. Most of it was boutique clothes that yard salers won't buy because they are looking to spend 50 cents on a Hanna Andersson dress or "high end" wooden toys and so on. (Umm no thank you, I'm not a fool.) The donate stuff went in several van loads to the donation drop. The boutique type high end stuff went into my special stack to await the local consignment sale. As I have been purging my home, I have added the top drawer type stuff to the stack.

Every decent size town has a consignor sale. At the very least, a consignment store. We have a few around these parts. Do a quick search on the net for your area. Most sales, you will find, charge the consignors 35% of their take plus a "building rental & advertising" fee. The one I chose only takes 30% and has a $12 fee. Higher than I prefer, but better than other sales AND the sheer number of customers looking for exactly the kind of stuff I have will be there, with cash in hand. People wait in long lines to get in.

If you want to do something like this, there are some things that might help you decide if you have the potential for making your time worth it.Your items for sale must not be recalled or have noticeable wear or stains, of course. The pricing can be the easiest part. The hanging your items as per the rules and the cataloguing/printing/hanging tags is the real pain in the hiney. Not to mention, time sucker and living room messer upper. Then you must bring all your goodies in, usually at a pre-arranged appointment. They will check your stuff to make sure it is acceptable. (The check in gals told me usually 25% of the items submitted are rejected. I only went home with 7 or 8 things, so they kept making comments on how nice my stuff was. Made me feel good!) The appointment times fill up as soon as the sale gets posted pretty much, so register that part asap after you agree to their terms.

All told, I spent three days preparing for this sale. When I say three days, I mean 7ish am to 7 or 8pm. My item count was around 325. That's twenty "banana" boxes full of clothes on hangers and toys. My dollar amount if everything sold and I did not have to pay any fees was $1100. While the sale is going, you can monitor the progress of your items being sold online at the end of each day. Kind of a nice feature. I'm not sure how many consignment sales can do that.

Now that the sale is over, I am happy to report I sold 265 of my items! Yay! All of my toys sold. Wow! Now I just wait for my check to come in the mail a couple weeks from now. 

BONUS! My house has a lot less stuff in it and I am "free" of it. Not to mention, I made some serious money off of it!

I will keep purging my home and continuing this project of de-crapping. I have far exceeded my goal of getting rid of 30% of our stuff. I am very pleased with myself. It's a good thing for me and my family and... my house is cleaner.

Fermenting Food For Your Chickens and BEST OF ALL... Saving Money!

Life on the farm for the chicken can be dull and routine except for the occasional discovery of a large grub all for herself. She might live in a dreary coop most of her days, she may find herself regularly chased by the neighbor’s dog, she might witness a serial killer raccoon wipe out her household or endure relentless daily torment from a bossy hen above her on the pecking order.

How is a chicken to get away from it all, get some R&R? You know really let loose?

I submit to you, The Chicken Speakeasy.
Imagine 25 chickens tipped and hopped up. The poultry party could go on all day and the barnyard full of poultry drinking songs. You may have extra chickens showing up at your doorstep asking for vacancies.
What? Yes, sort of, but I seriously doubt they are drunk. I would not do that to my birds.

In my search for cheaper feeding of my working laying birdies, I ran across great information on self-feeders, maggot breeding stations, cracked corn, and rotational grazing. All of these methods are pretty good and all merit attention. Someday soon I will be making the maggot feeder. What caught my eye was the “wet feed”. When you feed your poultry the standard pellets they are dry. The theory is that the chickens will consume more food if it is dry and then drink great quantities of water. Simply add water to the feed pellets and they are fuller faster and eat less. If we stopped right now and this is all you took away from my article, you would be a blessed poulterer indeed. Because it is true. I know it is because I have seen this myself. But wait a minute there is more.

Further study started to reveal some interesting information. Folks were adding apple cider vinegar to the birdy drinking water to reap lots of benefits. They were also sprouting or fermenting the grains they were throwing out to their poultry. Oh yes. First thought I had was, “These people must worship their chickens.” And they may actually do that, what do I care. But the fact is that the reduced food consumption may outweigh the costs of spending so much money on grain. On our place we do not worship or pamper the ducks and chickens. No grain. They get Layena, kitchen scraps and forage to their little hearts content. Pretty good, I think. I started mulling all these ideas around and eventually thought- What if I fermented the Layena pellets? Turns out that I am not the girl genius who first thunk it.

In any case, I followed the basic instructions a gal gave for fermenting her grains she threw to her Cornish Cross meat birds. A couple days later I had some seriously rockin’ poultry feed ferment going on and decided the party was going to begin.

Upon my approach to the coop that morning I was greeted with hello songs. When I poured the slop in the pan, they were looking at me like I forgot something. No one touched it. Sigh. Whatever… you can just stay in there until you eat it. No foraging for you! Next day I waited until afternoon to check on them just to make sure they had gotten hungry enough to eat the food. I got my customary happy greeting and when I dumped more hooch in the pan they all dove for it like there was a sale at their favorite store. Wow. These birds were already hooked. Even my ducks liked it. The Chicken Speakeasy was in business.

Since I began this I have seen my feed rate drop to an unscientific guesstement of about 60% of what I used to shell out. Around these parts a 50lb bag of Layena is $18 and I fully expect that price to skyrocket this year with the corn issues and drought. This is why I searched for answers in the first place. The bonus is that my birds are healthier, happier and the coop smells better too.

Okay so how does it work?

This project will take you 5 minutes and $10. Less if you have stuff lying around.
1 – 5 gallon bucket $3
1 – 5 gallon Lid $2
1 – 2 gallon bucket (free at the bakery)
1 – quart bottle Bragg’s ACV $5
1 – Drill
1-100 Chickens who want to party

Basic instructions are you start with a plastic trash can and a 5 gallon bucket, if you have a large flock of birds. Smaller operations can just use a 5 gallon bucket and a 2-3 gallon bucket. Whatever the case, you will need a lid for the larger container to keep out the unfriendlies.

Drill a lot of holes in your smaller bucket bottom and up the sides. My picture here shows the holes driiled only on the bottom. You need small holes or too much feed comes through. Plenty of holes will ensure enough water escapes when you lift it. You’ll see why soon. Dump a couple cups or a quart of apple cider vinegar (ACV) into the larger bucket/trash can. The ACV must be unpasteurized. The most commonly found brand is Bragg’s. Fill your bucket or trash can no more than half the height of your smaller bucket. Now fill your small bucket about half full of feed: grain or pellets or a mix. Push it into the water ACV until it floods through the drilled holes. Looks nasty? Just wait, it gets worse. Put a lid on that thing and I recommend you put it in your garage. I let my lid breathe it a bit.

(The set up before ACV and water)

Some folks love the smell of ACV- I am one of those “interesting” people who do too. When you check the fermenting feed in a couple days, it should be ready to feed your eager birds. You know it’s ready if it is bubbling. Give it a gentle stir just to see what going on. Yep, it smells stronger. Perfect. Carefully pull your small bucket up and let it drain out as much liquid as you can. You could lay a couple sticks across your larger bucket and set the draining bucket on that to save your fermentation liquid. Come back in 20 minutes. My first attempts at draining were NOT with my revolutionary-amazing-super stick trick. Hah! I made a mess of it those times. More holes drilled into the side of the smaller bucket also help drain off the hooch. Add more water to the larger bucket if you need to, possibly every day.
(Your ferment could look either way, but pic#1 is ideal)

After the first batch, you will get faster results because you have more fermented liquid to work with. One day should be fine to complete fermentation. Keep the stuff out of the cold weather to speed up things. You do not need to empty all the fermented feed out of the bucket before adding more pellets or grain to start working.

If you like the small 5 gallon bucket size and want to have more feed available for use you could always make more than one system. They are small and store anywhere.

OR go bigger- and use a half sized outdoor trash can. Get one of the shorter types so you can reach in easily. The interior bucket could be the 5 or 6 gallon size. Be sure to drill plenty of holes as this will be heavy to lift out. Either that or you will end up scooping with a nice strong colander. Nothing wrong with that. Just plan ahead.

When we get any other livestock (working animals) we plan on fermenting anything we give them too. Fermented and cultured foods are extremely beneficial for people. Now folks are giving it to their animals so they may share in the benefits. This has been a huge success for our farm and we want the success to continue.

Now that you know, what are you waiting for? Make your own Chicken Speakeasy!

The Great Purge... De-Crappification 2013: Part 5

Americans tend to accrue crap.

How many pairs of shoes do you really need? Isn't 10 coffee mugs a bit much? I believe 5 farming/work shirts is plenty. Do you actually need your old boyscout uniform or 4 boxes of Christmas stuff? Ticket stubs? 10 pictures on a shelf? More than one toothbrush? Or the broken down car in the yard that will never get fixed? Or broken anything, for that matter?

You need a neutral eye when assessing whether your things are crap or wise possessions. 

Keep the emotions out of it. Let it go
Sometimes I need to pray and ask the Lord to help me do this. I still struggle on some days.

My goal is to ditch 1/3 of our stuff.

If you can't downsize by a third, go for 1 out of every 10 things. It's a start. You will be surprised at what you can get done.

As they say...
There is power, freedom and meaning to be had if you live a life with less stuff and less attachment to the stuff. Fewer possessions means less consumption, less damage to the planet, less cost, less maintaining, less cleaning and more time, money, fun, freedom and fulfillment.

Less stress.
It's freeing.

Some tips that help are to start in one room and pick a corner and work clockwise around the room.
Get 4 boxes to keep with you:
Recycle, Trash, Give Away, Yard Sale/Craigslist.

Resolve to spend at least 15 minutes a day doing this. Set a timer and stop at the ding. Some people will do 15 or 30 minute increments more than once a day.

If that overwhelms you-
Try to make it a goal to get rid of a bag a day. Even if it is just a little grocery size bag. Or you could go for a trash bag a week.
EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS. It adds up fast.

Going back into rooms and areas and forcing myself to re-examine belongings to hopefully purge has been fairly productive.

** Here is some of what I have been up to:

·       Purging toys, toys and more toys until all we have is building toys (Kinex, Legos, Zoobs) and pretend play toys that encourage children to play together like Melissa & Doug wooden food, little animals & lizards, small wooden Melissa & Doug doll house, Playmobil farm set, a few babydolls, Matchbox/Hotwheels cars.

Result? Happier kids. Happier mom. Cleaner house.

·       I tackled our "junk" cabinet and "junk drawer". These were a procrastinator's nightmare.
Old cell phone chargers, super glue, CDs, tools and all kinds of stuff. Tools I use to put new batteries in stuff or do quick household fixes are now in a special plastic clip-lid box and labeled. Batteries are in their own tin and labeled.

·      Also did our front entry closet. With six people it gets so bad. (If I can get my husband to part with at least half of his hats, we'll be rolling.) Several adult coats, extra gloves, children coats and various other items are gone now.

·       7 more plastic bins/totes from the garage emptied.

·      6 boxes from garage done. One of which was really tough due to it being desk type papers and so sorting it was a pain.

·       Highschool yearbooks, memorabilia, all memory stuff from when I was a child, baby memory stuff from my own children. Kept 1 baby blanket for each child. Kept all photos.

·       A hard one has been all love letters and cards kept over the years. My husband is a very sweet, loving man and is not afraid to tell me what I mean to him. I love that! The result is I have a lot of his declarations in boxes and drawers. Now these are systematically being recycled when I find a stash of them. I make sure to reread them before getting rid of them. The tangle I had with it all is that I felt some guilt about letting them go, like there was some coldness in it or rejection of the love my husband had and has for me. I realized that I am not being fair to myself, because I am completely confident in my marriage, my love for my husband and his love for me. Keeping all those Valentines, Birthday, Anniversary, Mother’s Day cards letters and so on is excessive, especially when you’ve been married as long as I have. My husband is still keeping the ones from me.

·       Snow clothes gone through. Purged 3 outgrown snow-bibs, snow gloves and snow hats. Everything else is still good to keep and not excessive.

·      1 teen chair "confiscated" and going to thriftstore donation.

·      More CDs, big people books, clothes, etc going too. Not sure how many boxes.

·       At one point I had counted 180 children’s books but I am way past that now because the 180 books were in 6 boxes and I have purged over 11 boxes of books. That’s a lot of books, folks.

·      First Aid duffle bag has been sorted and condensed for easier use. Medicine cabinet cleaned out.

·       Shoes for the kids checked for sizes. Husband let go of some shoes.
·      Husband put up hooks on garage wall for all our backpacks.  

·       Kid “dress up” clothes purged completely (wow!) except for 1 girl princess dress with play purse and gloves, 1 boy knight outfit and 1 older boy Davy Crocket jacket and coon cap. Kept all the swords, play pistols.

·       Toys all re-decluttered. Big step was purging all the LeapFrog LeapPad books and cartridges and the LeapPad units and the carrying cases. Lots of money invested there but it was time to let go.

The Great Purge... De-Crappification 2013: Part 4

I inventoried my deep freezer with my sweet husband's help.

We had to organize it and purging food that had gone bad in order to make an inventory sheet. It was a good day for my chickens. They got some yummy freezer burned food.

My inventory is a low tech list system where on graph paper I have the item named and then under it I have used a highlighter to fill in the number of squares of that item I have in stock. As an item gets used out of the freezer, I draw a line through a highlighted square under the appropriate item. It's easy to add new squares to with a highlighter pen if I buy more. Adding new squares is easy at least for a while and then I will need to make a new sheet. It does not have to look beautiful. Now a clipboard sits on my freezer with boxes to check off as I use something out of it. It's working so far.

Every time you open your freezer, you lose all that wonderful frozen air you paid for. It costs you money.

It also adds moisture to the inside of your freezer which then freezes and brings you closer to needing to defrost. I hate defrosting my freezer.

If I could "see" what I have in my freezer without opening it and digging around, my hands would be warmer, deciding what to cook would be easier, I'd waste less energy and I probably would not over stock my freezer anymore.

I am going to make a genuine concerted effort to keep up this new inventory system. It makes sense.