Baby Mine, Getting Married

As a parent, there are many milestones we go through while raising our children. The final goal is the same through each of these milestones, to do the very best that we can to raise our kids right.

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This ‘raising our kids right’ thing has never been more prominent in my mind as it has been these past 5 weeks since my daughter announced her wedding date.

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SO many emotions every day as we make plans and the date gets closer to when she’ll walk down that aisle.

Excitement for the new path that’s laid out before this eldest daughter of mine.

Excitement in our family growing by the addition of a new son (in law).

Yet the occasional struggle to come to grips that my time as “mommy” to my “little girl” will never be the same.

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It doesn’t even seem possible that it’s already time, that she’s already grown up.

I was actually doing quite fine with it all, enjoying it and embracing it all very well actually… until I heard a song. I can’t even remember where I heard it? TV perhaps, or the background music on a Facebook video? Maybe the radio? I’m not sure.

What I am sure of though, is that I have not been able to keep my emotions under wrap since! And it’s kind of driving me bonkers… I’m not accustomed to not being in control of my emotions.

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Over 22.5 years ago for Alesia’s very first Christmas my husbands aunt gave us a music tape of lullabies.
Every single night for many years afterwards I would play this tape and sing along with the lullabies while I rocked my baby, and later on, babies.

Baby Mine

This particular song was one of my favourites. It’s brought back such strong vivid memories of my first years as a mother with this Baby of Mine.

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I sometimes feel like I’ve spent half my life battling this little girl. We are alike in some ways, both stubborn and strong willed. In other ways, we are very different. These differences have been the heart of many battles over the years.

I am an introvert, and this girl of mine is an extrovert through and through. It’s often difficult for us to understand one another because of this.

Yet these same ‘issues’ that caused struggles growing up, are probably some of the things we admire most in one another.

I admire her ease in public and ability to take on new tasks and meet new people.

I expect one day when she has children, she’ll appreciate her mother’s ability to be content at home raising her family.

But no matter the struggles, the joys have been so much more. With marriage and the addition of John to the family, there’s the promise of even more joy. We truly are blessed.

Family and friends are coming from as far as the Netherlands, Texas, Ontario, British Columbia and of course, nearby, to help us celebrate! I’m in awe at the willingness of so many to drop everything on such short notice to join us. It will be a true celebration!

This introvert is trying her best to embrace the ‘crowd’ and follow her daughters lead in enjoying all the people! ;)

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As we spend these last ten days preparing for Alesia’s wedding, I’m sure the emotional roller coaster will continue and I’ll keep hanging on for the ride!

Raising children is definitely the ride of my life! I’m quite sure that ride doesn’t stop when they get married!

The Balancing Act

The balancing act.

How to do it all, and do it well.

Parksville Beach, Vancouver Island, BC

Ever since having children, life has been a balancing act. It’s one thing to balance the ‘todo’ priorities on the list, but what about the extras? Often it’s the extra things in life that are truly the most important to us. The things that drive us, give us our ambition and motivation. Our passions, our desires. What about balancing life enough to give time to THOSE things?

Since my eldest was born over 22 years ago, I’ve always made it a point to find the time to relax, enjoy life, and enjoy the simple things life has to offer, no matter how busy things get. Our culture is busy, and I get that. We are a busy family, even though we spend the majority of our days now at home. With a homestead, life at home IS busy.

But, it’s important to slow down and smell the roses, as they say. If we, as mothers, rush through life and don’t stop to enjoy the little things, our children will follow our example and be stressed out, rushed teens and adults.

Stressed out teens and adults is not our ultimate parenting goal.

Enos Lake Nature Hike, Vancouver Island, BC

With 5 children in the first 8 years of our marriage, the youngest three being born within 22 months, it wasn’t always easy to find that time to enjoy the simple things. However, with creativity and some forethought, it was always possible!

While our first children were babies, and I worked outside of the home, I learned to take time out by having a long hot bath at least once or twice a week to refresh me, and lift my mood. Even if it meant dragging a baby bassinet into the bathroom with me, to have baby close enough if he/she woke up. Often times the heat and steam of the bathroom would help them sleep even better and I’d be left to enjoy my quiet time with baby near by, and a great book in hand, while I soaked up some bubbles.

During the time of just one child, we lived in BC near the ocean. Hubby and I would go for a walk on the beach many evenings with our two dogs, and baby Alesia in the snuggly. It was good to get out and enjoy nature and the peace and quiet the ocean has to offer. By the time our second child was born, I was working evenings and hubby worked days. We didn’t see much of each other for a while. We planned things this way though, so that we’d never need childcare. We ‘tag teamed’ child raising for a few years. During part of that time, I also had a home daycare. Often I’d load up 7 children ages 5 and under, and take them to the park and beach. Two good friends with children the same ages, would meet me there and we’d take turns pushing children on swings and visiting with one another while we all kept a watchful eye on our group. We’d bring along coffee so it was a real visit, even with so many little ones joining us. It worked out so well for us to have 3 adults. When we would all go to the beach, one mom could stay on the sand with the babies, the other two could be in the water with the ‘older’ ones.

Once all five of our children had come along and were old enough to walk, we would go on picnics at nearby parks or the beach, any and every chance we got. Nature walks were a HUGE thing as well, hikes and walks, as soon as they were old enough to walk or bike any distance, or even just sit in a stroller for a good amount of time. Where ever we went, I brought along a book so I could sit and read while the children played and/or rested. I think back to days on those days spent on picnic blankets with great fondness.

Lantzville, Vancouver Island, BC

I still remember the very first outing I had alone with all five children. I had been waiting for weeks, because I had delivered our twins by c-section and I was not permitted to drive. At exactly 6 weeks, I loaded all five kids into the van along with the double stroller and we were off to the local beach park! It was so great to get out, and everyone had tons of fun, until it began to pour down rain. I rushed as fast as I could to gather the older kids while pushing the awkward double stroller through the sand to the van only to find out I had locked the keys in there… By now the park had been emptied out and there was no one to ask for help.

There we all stood, my very first outing alone as mom to five kids, in the pouring rain, locked out of our van. Ha!

It’s still a good memory though.
Alesia and Joshua went to find someone to call autoclub and they didn’t take too long to arrive to unlock the door for me. I was still proud of myself for getting out and about on my own with an 8 yr old, 6 year old, a not quite 2 year old and 6 week old twins!

Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

These days, the kids are 22, 20, 16, and the twins 14. It’s no longer a struggle to find alone time to have a bubble bath (although my kids still seem to have a hard time NOT knocking in the door while I’m in the tub…). Now that the children are older and can mind themselves, I can sneak away and have a good long soak, or even go for a walk, with or without them.

Prairie Grove Road, Saskatchewan

 

We no longer need to drive for a nature walk, since we live in the rural prairie countryside! We still love day trips though, to check out nearby bodies of water and other attractions. Hubby and I have decided that every ‘stint’ of time off he has between his 12 hour work shifts, we will make a point of ‘staycationing’ at least day trip! We did this a few years ago while we were still living on Vancouver Island, and we all loved it. With a hobby farm and animals to feed, a garden to water and weed, and a home based business, there’s not so much opportunity to go away for long vacations so day trips and ‘staycations’ have become our favourite thing!

Ammonite Falls, Vancouver Island, BC

My extras are different now from years ago. Now I take time out to garden, which really isn’t an extra, since it does feeds the family & needs to be a top priority. It’s still an extra to me though because I love it so much. I learn SO much good stuff while gardening. God often whispers great wisdom to me while I’m working there.

I also like to write, and read, but in the last while I have not taken the time for either. I’m trying to change that because it helps to keep my creativity flowing and inspires even more creativity. Sewing, it’s something I do almost every single day yet I can not remember the last time I sewed something for myself. I did sew each of the younger three girls a bamboo velour quilt, but it took 14 months to complete them in time for this Christmas! They were meant to be given the Christmas before! lol I’ve purposed to make myself a quilt too now, since they don’t appreciate me constantly stealing theirs. I’ve decided to make it a family quilt by having each one dye different colours to be added to my quilt. It’s going to be my Mother’s Day gift. Hopefully for 2014, not 2015. Ha!

Julia & Nikki, just look at that smile!

Another extra that is very important to me, is riding the horses. This ‘extra’ has been neglected for far too long, through too many moves. It’s to the point now that I’m actually fearful of getting on my horse which really is a shame and not something I’m proud to admit! How many people dream of having a horse? I have one, and I’m too fearful to hop on her because it’s been so long since I’ve had the time to properly work with her. Plus I constantly worry about falling off and falling hard since I’m not as young as I used to be, and out of shape. I fear if I fall I’ll break an arm or my sewing foot or something, and then be out of work for a while. The fears are some what valid, but they are still fears. I want to conquer fears!

So that’s my goal this year.
To conquer fears, set aside excuses, and work on adding back in all the extras!

Train Tracks, Nanoose Bay, BC

How about you?
As a parent it can be more difficult to fit everything in but you can do it!

What are the extra’s in your life that you’ve been missing out on that you would like to find the time for again?


If you’ve ever wondered why… regarding shipping times here at the Homestead Emporium

It’s Monday and we’re behind on shipping.
I REALLY hate it when this happens! I hope my customers truly understand that we never ‘aim’ to have shipping delays!! We’ve been working hard since finally settling into our ‘final’ homestead, on getting shipping times down. However, sometimes life gets in the way and one day turns into two, then three, a busy weekend comes along, and here we are, late.

Our goal at the Homestead Emporium has always been to have two shipping days per week. This actually works out quite well and most weeks one of us gets all our packages to the post office twice. Sometimes, like this past week, things come up that cause every.single.thing we do to get backed up. We didn’t even have time for a stocking this week, which REALLY affects the home budget! A trip to the city on Tuesday for taxes, pretty much a full day adventure. Friday and Saturday an indoor garage sale to benefit our local museum. My goal each week is to TRY my best to have two days for just family, Saturday and Sunday. That didn’t work so well this week. I ended up working until 11:30pm Sunday, and I’m still not caught up.

This is the one real struggle for me about being a work at home mom. Work and home life must co-exist. There’s no heading off to work for 8 hours, working, getting it done, and going home. Since I’m at home and not away at work, it can often be taken for granted that I can run the kids to places, or I can stop everything to do whatever might come up. On top of working at home, I homeschool the kids, so I really do NOT like to disrupt our routine. I prefer to keep weekday mornings free for school and weekday afternoons (and often evenings) free for work. Things flow well when we stick to this schedule.

What’s all this got to do with shipping times?

Well…
I read a review the other day about a work at home mom (wahm) and it got me pondering our shipping issue. The reviewer was comparing the first wahm to another, saying that the first wahm had a smaller business then the second wahm, but the second had faster turn around times for email replies and shipping. So, to this reviewer, the first wahm had no excuse for not being just as fast, if not faster.

The review, in reality, was simply not a fair comparison. It got me wondering if this was the view of most wahm customers? Do they expect super fast shipping and emails from wahm’s because they are always at home and should be near their computer and sewing machines?

The first work at home mom does a lot of the work herself, as I do, in her business. Her turn around time was being compared to another work at home mom that has a lot of help. The first work at home mom does all her own sewing, all her own email replying, as do I. The second work at home mom has seamstresses that do the majority of her sewing now, and her husband also works the home business full time.

The comparison, and ultimately the review left for this wahm, did not take each woman’s reality into account.

I know our business is not lightening fast with shipping, and I really don’t know how to change that without drastically changing our family & homestead lifestyle.

I do have a shipping helper, but she’s young, and still learning. She does a great job gathering all the items and packaging them, but the final job of closing up packages and printing out shipping labels is still something I have to do. I decided a long time ago that this business would remain a FAMILY business as much as is possible while allowing our children (who are all now teens and adults) to come alongside and learn the business in ways that they WANT to participate. There’s no forced labour. Although, my son may argue with that as he really doesn’t “love” doing snaps, but thankfully he still does about 60% and our 16 year old is helping me do the other 40%. That means I’m doing snaps again where as before, Joshua did them ALL. The business is growing though, and I’m not wanting to ‘force’ him to do more than he wants to do, but there’s only one of me and only so much time in a day. Or in a week.

It’s a constant balancing act. Trying to figure out the very best way to allow the business to grow, while allowing my children to grow IN the business, in ways they WANT to.

This means deciding when it’s best to hire outside help, like Wendy and Ryan from http://www.eveningDESIGN.com, who have taken over a lot of my webwork! None of my children have the capacity, or desire, to do webwork at this time. At one time, Alesia did, so she took care of some, like all our etsy listings. Now she’s an assistant manager in her outside-the-home-job, and is in a serious relationship. Her other half lives 2 hours away so this means a lot of travel time for them. She simply doesn’t have the time to devote to Homestead Emporium any longer. So now Wendy is my right hand woman when it comes to all things online! And she does a fantastic job!

But Wendy can’t come over here and ship packages for me. She’s 2 hours away. :p

Besides, our children all enjoy the income they make from the business. This is the ultimate goal, that each family member who so desires, is able to make a good income through Homestead Emporium.

But that requires patience from me, to teach them and work alongside them. Teaching your own teens to work alongside you is different than being able to hand over a job to an outside adult. Since I do both, I know which one is easier. Hiring an adult…
But nothing worth while in life is easy, and watching our children grow and learn from a business I began is worth the extra work. And patience.

However, it does require a little more patience from our customers too. My hope has always been that each one of you will feel it’s worth the wait too.

Our family and business goal, has never been to deliver the FASTEST.
Our family and business goal has been to deliver the very BEST!

I’m hoping to get into a blogging groove…

I probably shouldn’t even type that out, I’m likely to ‘jinx’ myself and forget all about blogging from here on out! Things have been relatively busy here on the homestead for the past while. Then again, when isn’t it? Between getting ready for spring and planting seeds in countless pots in hopes of not having to buy starter plants this year, to the regular work of the Homestead Emporium, to homeschooling 3 grade 10’s and every day life of cooking, cleaning, and caring for animals, I don’t doubt busy is the ‘normal’ for our family. 20140427-141830.jpg   This afternoon I spent 1.5 hours planting more seeds. So far I’ve learned that the Jalapeño pepper seeds grow wonderfully and easily. Onion seeds are either very difficult, or they simply hate me. Sweet peppers came up ‘ok’. Out of all the seeds I started, I have 6 healthy good sized seedlings. Giant peppers, I have four. Hmmm…. I guess we’ll be eating a lot of SPICEY foods this upcoming year. lol Good thing most of us like the spicy flavour of Jalapeño! I hope to make Jalapeño infused oil this year too, so I’ll need extras in case I goof up a few times. Or more. So far my asparagus seeds are not really showing any promise, but I have lots of seeds left and considering they take 2-3  years before we can eat any anyways, I’m not in a hurry. We’ll get there, sooner or later! I have 3 wonderberry trees/bushes/seedlings coming up already. I’m pleased about that. Growing veggies is one thing I expect to be able to do. Growing fruit, to me is a true added bonus. I found out today that you can grow elderberry here in Saskatchewan. If I can’t find any starters this year, I’ll definitely be looking for seeds to start my own next  year! My tomato plants are doing alright. They are a tad leggy but I’ve started some more seeds in hopes that all is not lost. My Dad’s tomatoes grow the best, followed by the Pearly Pinks, with the Amish Paste tomatoes coming up very poorly. That’s a disappointment since I want, and need, them the most. I started a bunch more today in a better starter soil. Hopefully they will come up better this time. I was leafing through all my seed packets today and realized quite a few seeds need to be planted 2-3 weeks before last frost… hmmm…. that would be a week or two from now. Considering we can barely get TO the garden due to snow, and on days like today, muck, things will need to warm up and dry up awfully quick for that to be happening any time soon. Knowing the incredible rush & hurry that occurs once spring planting season is upon us, and knowing that I was too late with about half my seeds last year, almost causes my heart to skip a beat thinking about the busyness that will soon be upon us! Homesteading isn’t easy, but I have to admit, that for the most part it’s quite pleasurable. The other week when the family was away and I was left to feed all the animals their mid-day meal, even though it was blustery outside, I found myself pausing as I pushed the wheelbarrow of hay and just gazing around in awe that all this is ours. That this is my life. Finally. I really don’t think the wonder of that will ever cease. 20140427-141843.jpg   On the Homestead the baby animals are growing well. Sadly, Cinder the pint sized lamb did not make it. She fought well for about a month and we had hoped perhaps she’d simply be a pint sized lamb for the rest of her life but she passed away in her sleep one night. She never did figure out how to eat, or even suck on a bottle, so it wasn’t really a surprise. We had been syringe feeding her every feeding since birth. She gained weight slowly but steadily, and always seemed happy, and definitely very sweet, but she just never thrived, and always only barely survived. Her brother and sister and then Millie, our first lamb, are all growing like weeds! They get to play outside daily now that the weather is warmer, and they love it. Millie is so happy to finally have playmates! She always tried hard to get her mama to play with her, jumping up on her back, bouncing all around her, but to no avail. Now she has two playmates as they all share the large stall together, and the outdoor pen. It won’t be long before it’s time to find new homes for the moms. Our ram has already found a new home with a great big family of girls. Shaylah was SO worried that he’d miss her, but seeing as he’s gone from having 2 girlfriends to about 100 times as many… I think he’ll survive. Thankfully Millie, his daughter, is just like him. Super friendly, learns fast, and is more of a pet then livestock, so Shaylah’s very happy about keeping her. Julia is raising her lambs to sell once they are older. Once they are sold, she says she’ll stick with horses and focus more on horse training and riding. Shaylah will be getting one or two Shetland lambs early summer, and will raise them, along with Millie, to be used for their wool from now on. She’s also got plans to make a small cart, which she intends on teaching Millie to pull. We’ll see how that goes! I think we’ll need to make a custom halter for her, since their wool tends to be pulled on when sheep pull carts. I’m pretty sure we can figure something out though, with a little creativity! As I keep writing I’m realzing I probably don’t blog a lot because it always takes me so long and I write too much. It’s a vicious cycle! One day I’ll learn how to write SHORT blog posts. Obviously not today though! Maybe I’ll try that tomorrow. ;)

Our adoption

This is a very difficult post to write, and one I almost don’t want to share but you’ve all been through this long road with us and it just doesn’t feel right not to share the conclusion. Please keep in mind this has been difficult, and not an easy subject. I know things can seem faceless on the Internet, but we are a real live family, travelling a rough road, and gentleness is needed.

We want to share that the adoption process has ended for our family, and our adoptive ‘son’ no longer lives with us. Since he is a ward of children’s services, we are not legally permitted to share much information about why. However, we would like you to understand as much as we can share.

Due to his past, there were issues that we had really hoped were environmental, something that would not be an issue once he was in a stable home with a loving family. However, a recent incident brought to light just how deep the issues actually are. Children’s services stepped in and immediately searched out the right place for him to receive the help he needs.

Thankfully he understood that he needs help, agreed to treatment and went willingly. We truly hope all he learned while being a part of our family will help him head down the right road to his future. Be praying for him, and also that he receives the support he needs. We know this is hard for not just us, but his biological family too. Be praying for them as well.

The fact that the outcome of this adoption can not be as we had all hoped does not change who we are as a family, and we hope no one makes assumptions due to the lack of information we can provide. We still believe strongly in adoption. We do not regret trying to give him a ‘real’ family, and having him be a very real part of our daily lives. We hope the memories made here will last him a lifetime. We have to come to grips with letting go and letting God. We thank you all for your prayers and support while we travelled this road, and, as we adjust to life as it now is.

Converting to cloth on a ‘fixed’ income.

HomesteadEmporium.com:

This is an older post, and the prices shared reflect that. However, it’s just as relevant today but the cost of pads are 1-3$ more per pad depending on the size etc..
A great help in choosing a small stash for those on a tight budget!

Originally posted on Homestead Emporium's Weblog:

I hear, & read, a lot of people say they would love to make the switch to cloth, but that it’s just so expensive. I’ve often seen this said in regards to our own brand of pads and the cost of H.E.R. Pads. So, I thought it’d be great to share my thoughts, personal opinion, and advice on how to make the switch to cloth, cost effectively, even when deciding to purchase a well known brand of cloth pads created with top end fabrics!

The switch to cloth pads really need not be expensive.

The biggest savings will come in the amount of pads you buy in total. Lots of people think they need dozens and dozens of pads when this is really not the true! If you are on a tight budget and you are willing to put up with a little extra work (washing the pads daily), you…

View original 1,416 more words

The making of a product here at the Homestead Emporium

Originally posted on Homestead Emporium's Weblog:

(This is a repost of an older blog post from when we were still back in BC, we’ve since moved to the prairies but not much has changed except our work space is completely different, and Alesia no longer cuts for me, but still works behind the scenes putting up all our etsy listings. I now have another helper, Heather, who does all our hyenacart listings and Julia has begun helping me with cutting now that she’s just about 13 years of age. She’s been waiting a VERY LONG TIME (in her short 13 years!) to be a bigger part of the business! I swear this girl is going to take over Homestead Emporium one day, so watch out!)

I thought I’d share the making of a product, in photos and a few words, here on the blog.

Now that Alesia is back to working for me, things are moving…

View original 351 more words

Practical tips for this years garden.

I asked on the facebook page, what others would like to see more of. Gardening was mentioned, so I thought I’d share things that I learn, as I go along.
I’m not totally new to gardening, but I do still feel pretty much like a beginner. There is SO much to be learned. Gardening itself is pretty basic, but to garden really well, it becomes more complex.

Over the years of our marriage, I’ve had several gardens, in several parts of Canada.
I had a decent sized garden in Ontario when our eldest two children, Alesia and Joshua, were just young and up to the time Elsa was a baby. At that time however, I had a neighbour who was a wonderfully patient friend, and a seasoned gardener. She practically held my hand, step by step, through the whole gardening process that very first time. I still remember how she laughed when I told her how many pickling cucumber plants I had planted. She said I’d have enough pickles for the entire neighbourhood!

Sure enough, I did have TONS of pickling cucumbers that first year. What a blessing it was, because then she taught me how to make all sorts of pickles! Those pickles moved all the way to British Columbia with us!

When we moved to BC, I was pregnant with twins and we moved a few times in a few years. Until we finally bought another home of our own, we went without a garden. Our new home was in a small oceanside city. We had a decent sized back yard, so we built a couple of raised garden beds. In this garden I was able to add seaweed, and it was fabulous! The garden was my smallest ever, but I was able to grow quite a bit of veggies for the amount of space I had. I also grew a lot of flowers in those few years. I would go to yard sales and buy other gardeners spare flower bulbs. This is also how I bought lots of starter pots and gardening tools.

Once we moved to our first small hobby farm, the five acre farm in Nanoose Bay, BC, I dreamed of having my very first large garden. However, it never came to be. We had a lot of deer and rabbits, and there was so much work to be done at that property, in the home and the cabin, that the funds were always tied up in reno’s and yard work. We put off building and fencing in a garden each year because of this. Once we began planning a move to buy a larger ‘farm’, we put the garden dream on hold indefinitely, until we would be moved into our ‘final’ home.

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Last spring, it finally happened. We bought this home and immediately started on a garden. A very large garden! We had to work fast as we moved here the last weekend of April. I purchased all my peppers and tomatoes as plants, rather than seeds, since we had a late start. We also planted 50 pounds of seed potatoes in 4 varieties. Lots of salad greens in seed and starter plants. All grew fairly well. We planted loads of carrot sees, but they did not growe well at all. I know now that we started them too late, when the earth was already too dry and hot. They had been the last seeds we planted, when they should have been among the first. Last year was rushed. This year, I’m aiming to do things in a much more methodical, relaxed, and NOT RUSHED way!

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Those of you who are planning your first garden, here’s what I did the other day to save myself a lot of stress this year.

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Once my seed order arrived, I sat down and went through each one to find out which seeds would need to be started indoors, early, and how early. Which would need to be planted before last frost and which would need to be planted after the fear of last frost.

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I did not do this last year because… well, we were busy at the end of April, moving for the third time in one year since arriving on the prairies. Our garden still did ‘fine’ but we’re aiming for our garden to do GREAT!
*(I am SO grateful we moved in early enough to even HAVE a garden last year though, and we’ve been eating our potatoes, veggies, and even fruits and fruit juices all winter!)

Once I figured out which seeds would need to be started inside, early, and late, I grabbed my wall calendar and marked exact dates of when they need to be started.

For example, even though we do not start planting the more sensitive seeds until May long weekend in our area, the types of Peppers I bought actually need to be started indoors many weeks ahead, as early as this weekend even!

Next will be tomatoes and seed onion closer to April, and it just steam rolls from there right up until the May long weekend when we will plant all the rest. (With my NEW seeder!!)

Now I don’t have to feel stressed about it! I just glance at the calendar on the wall each week to see what’s coming up!

*What are some early season gardening tips you’ve learned over the years?
We’d love it if you’d share your experience with us!

My home isn’t perfectly spotless.

I read this article with interest, because I admit, our home is rarely ever that ‘perfectly spotless’ home.

My House Is Messy — and I Don’t Care


http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4853787

Sometimes I get frustrated, and I try to figure out WHY we can’t seem to have a home that looks as lovely as other people’s homes…

Then I look around at WHAT the mess is and it’s always due to projects and other worthwhile things.

Always.

Whether Elsa’s in the process of baking & decorating her cupcakes, Shaylah has her felting supplies out, Julia or I are cutting fabrics, or Alesia has her shoes in the way by the door between coming home from work and heading out to see her man.

My pretty antique tea cart holds my husbands paperwork and our bills.

The nice bookshelf near our dinning table is always stuffed to overflowing with our school books, writings, and art work.

My kitchen counter is cluttered with jars of apple cider vinegar in the making, iodine and other animal first aid supplies, and always.always.always dishes. LOTS of dishes because 8 people live here and we cook AND eat here 3 times every day.

We LIVE in our home, almost every hour of every day.

One day, it won’t be this way. There will no longer be the mess of meals made for eight. I get a small ‘taste’ of this already now that our eldest son works away from home 2 weeks at a time and our eldest daughter spends about every second weekend at her boyfriend’s family home.

These kids grow up fast. I’ve always had a deep understanding of that fact. Yet they still grow up even faster than I could have imagined.

Just the other day, I gave birth to twins. Those bitty babies are 14 now, and in grade 10! Just the other day we had five children 8 & under. The last 3 were born within 22 months.
Those five kids are 22, 20, 16, 14 & 14 now and we’ve added a an extra, a 15 year old into the mix, just for fun!

Just the other day I would take my five little children for walks to the library, holding my three little ones hands with my two hands. Always a hand short, but it never mattered. I have two hands, but 10 fingers. Often Shaylah & Julia would each hold tight to a finger on one hand, and Elsa would hold onto my other hand. All while Alesia and Joshua would walk alongside, or ride their bikes.

Just the other day, we taught those big kids to ride those bikes! Those two big kids are REALLY big kids now, and not really kids at all any more.

They will always be my ‘babies’.

So yes, there is mess.
Every.Day.

But I look at the mess, ponder it, and there’s none of the mess I could or would choose to loose.

One day the mess will be gone and I’ll miss it soon enough.

First year on the homestead, learning from our mistakes.

Once you own a homestead, it can become very tempting to try out every.single.thing. that sounds good! Why not right? If you’ve got the land, and the barn/space/outbuildings, and the desire to learn, the question always comes up, “Well, why not?”

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During these first 9 months as homesteaders we’ve learned that there are many good reasons NOT to try everything, and every opportunity, that presents itself! I thought I’d share a quick random run down of some of our lessons learned the hard way.

First… as much as I REALLY hate to admit that my husband may be right about this one…
1. Do not add anything you are not ready for.

Case in point, chickens. We’ve had chickens for years, before even moving across country. On our new homestead there was already a chicken coop, it even has a fenced in yard. However, the chicken coop was not truly winterized and hubby really wanted me to wait to get chickens. I had many good reasons not to wait though! Fresh eggs most importantly! Plus I have a hatred of throwing away scraps and get a big thrill from feeding them to the chickens.
So I read and read and read about winterizing chicken coops and SO MANY articles, blogs, and books said chickens do NOT need heat. SOooo we didn’t worry about adding heat. We always kept the coop as cozy as possible, with LOTS of straw and hay and decided on the deep litter method for the winter.

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Well, our chickens obviously do need some heat, and I should have listened to my hubby (still wanting to deny that one… we do enjoy our eggs and chickens).  When bitterly cold temperatures hit, it became too much for them and we lost our very favourite part banty rooster and our eldest rare coloured hen. Thankfully we only lost 2 birds, it could have been much worse. That day we immediately added two heat lamps to their coop (much to my dismay, because heat lamps do cause fires each year), made their coop much smaller inside to keep the heat central. Hubby was right, it would have been much more enjoyable to have done that extra work in the warm temps of summer rather than at temps below -40c!

To be better prepared for next winter, this summer we are building a whole new chicken coop. This coop will be built to last a lifetime. We’ve been researching all the best coop ideas and making a list of what we’d like to add into ours. We plan to make it a double coop with one side for hens hatching eggs, and/or other breeds we might like to add. We also hope to create a washable floor with some sort of spray in liner or lino. We’re still researching what would be the best for our needs.

As a bonus, we want to incorporate new and old things from around the homestead, such as a huge old window we found in the quonset. I hate that our birds have no window to look out of this winter and that they live in a dark closed off coop right now. (We do have a light in their coop, but I really prefer natural light!) We will also be repurposing wood from the outbuildings on the property that are no longer used. This will save us funds, plus recycle. Double bonus! We’re also researching the best way to heat the coop, but most of all, we’ll insulate it well enough that only minimal heat will be needed. My absolute ideal would be to heat it some way using solar power… but so far all those who I’ve spoken to/emailed have said it most likely would not be cost efficient for the amount of solar panels we would need. If anyone heats their chicken coop in a energy & cost efficient way, that does not include a heat lamp or other dangerous source of heat, please do share!

2. Don’t expect to do too much, too fast.

This one was really difficult, because when we bought this homestead lots NEEDED to be done, and it was hard to decide what needed to be done first! So we made a list and proceeded to get the majority of it completed before snow fell.

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We wound up doing everything that needed to be done outside first. Of course it was impossible to get it ALL done, but we did a good bit!

We managed to get the garden tilled, planted, and posts up. We didn’t manage to finish putting the actual wire fencing on the posts but aside from a few potatoes lost to some critter, we didn’t experience any real loss in the garden and even our dogs learned to stay out of that big dirt square I tended to spend quite a bit of time in. They simply learned to sit and watch from the sidelines.

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We created a garden, filled it with seeds and harvested our bounty.

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In doing so, we filled the newly renovated cold cellar.
We also filled half the barn with sheep and pigs and raised the pigs to fill the freezer to go along with our bountiful harvest of fruits and veggies!

However, some things didn’t get done. We were able to build the back porch, but not finish it to the point of insulation. It has been a great wind break regardless though, and by next winter it will be insulated and have a door on it!

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On a homestead, the list of things to do really never ends. We were able to patch the barn roof, but it will need to be replaced within a few short years to really do the job right.
We were able to clear and clean out the barn, fill the loft with hay, but we never did finish putting in the stalls. Our horses have done fine in their new paddock and have been well sheltered regardless. We had to decide to either do the stalls half-a$$ed or wait to do them right, we decided to wait.

On the other hand, some things got done that we never even plan to do! Like a riding ring! We were pounding posts for horse fences and still had posts and daylight left over, so while we had the rented post pounder we decided to just go for it and put in a riding ring! It didn’t get finished, but the posts are all there! Come spring, we’ll put up the rails and our family will finally have a riding ring after having horses for 8 years!

There were so many other things we did in a short period of time after moving in that we really should never have expected to get EVERYTHING done. The biggest non-homestead adventure to take up our time was our adoption. The 10 week adoption training course, building another bedroom, and a trip out west to pick up our new son.

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My husband and I are contemplating whether we have a ‘thing’ for adding chaos to our lives. We’ve kind of promised ourselves to try and do less of that in 2014. If I had to ask which bit of ‘chaos’ to take out of our lives last year though, I’d be hard pressed to pick anything that wasn’t a great learning experience! Even through the adoption process and THREE moves in one year, there’s not a whole lot of bad I can say about any one of those moves now that we’re at this end of it all. And so we learn and carry on.

3. Stick to your original homestead plan! You probably created it for good reason!
Do not allow heartstrings to sway you into moving away from that plan
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One of the many bonuses of homesteading is baby animals. Who doesn’t LOVE a baby farm animal?! They are so cute, and the thought of bottle feeding a baby animal warms just about any person’s heart. However, the down side to breeding animals is that the babies can die. Also, the cost of having the proper supplies on hand for the baby animals can be high, and the profits (if that’s what you’re aiming for) can be very low. I don’t personally know of many homesteaders who can afford to loose money!

For these reasons, we have never really intended to breed our own animals. We’ve also been through this before, because of the two rescue horses that came to us pregnant (it wasn’t known that they were pregnant at the time) and after one very young mare had a premature stillborn, we realized this just wasn’t something we really wanted to do. Our plan has always been to raise our own animals, from the point of weaning to the point of their use. Whether it be pigs, chickens, or cows for the freezer, horses for riding, sheep for wool, or chickens and ducks for eggs. I do not, nor do my children, have the heart to raise pregnant animals, wait on pins and needles hoping for a good birth, and possibly watch babies suffer.

However, last spring the opportunity came along for the kids to raise sheep, meat sheep.
We don’t eat lamb, so we hmmmm… & hawwwwed… quite a bit about the decision. Our plan had always been to have two ewes (female sheep) from young to raise for wool. Wool sheep! Shaylah felts wool into many art projects, and it just made sense to have wool sheep. Shaylah always wanted a sheep! You can’t have just one though, it would be lonely, so the plan was always to have two. Two females so there’d be no concern about breeding.

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Shaylah fell in love with a male sheep at a friends farm, and he came along with two female sheep, so we said yes to raising sheep. We finally decided that it’d be a learning experience and perhaps Shaylah (and Julia, who decided she wanted one of the ewes) could even make a little money raising the lambs. As much as we have grown very fond of our three sheep Molly, Dolly, and Wally, after going through one lambing so far, loosing twins and only having one of the three babies from the first batch survive, we really wish we had stuck with our original plan.

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The cost to lamb, between supplies needed on hand, and supplies needed “just in case” (like colostrum, lamb milk replacement powder, etc. if things don’t go well (we live rurally, it’s always best to have things on hand then to risk NOT having it on hand and needing it at 4am on a Sunday!) we went WAY over budget. IF we were raising LOTS of lambs, this wouldn’t be so bad because the same costs for many lambs isn’t much different for the cost for one lamb! But we’re not raising many lambs and never intend to do so, meaning the cost has been quite high.

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On our facebook page someone mentioned not to give up! As much as I truly appreciate the support to stick with it, I don’t feel we’re giving up if we decide not to continue on with raising lambs. I feel we’re simply going back to our original plan. We have learned lots through this experience, so we don’t truly regret it. We will learn from it, and not make the same mistakes again. Plus, at this point we do fully intend to keep Millie, our one living lamb, as a pet. Shaylah will use her wool for her crafting projects, hopefully for many many years to come. If we find a new home for our current ewes and ram, we intend to find the perfect little friend to keep Millie company. Hopefully a true wool breed lamb for a finer wool, for Shaylah’s felting. We’ll be on the lookout for Millie’s new BFF this spring!

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The fourth large lesson we learned this year was about storing foods. It’s a lot of info, so I will create a whole other post about that one some time soon.

Just remember, if you are new to homesteading and feeling a little like a failure, it’s really not uncommon! I’ve been encouraged by other blogs of new homesteaders who have been open enough to share their successes and even failures. There’s SO much to learn in the first few years. We often learn best by making a few mistakes along the way. We’re not alone in that! We’re reminded of how many times so many famous men and women of the past failed before they ever truly made it! If we just keep on keeping on, soon we’ll be succeeding much more then we could ever fail!

In the meantime, there’s been lots of little (and some big) successes and lessons along the way!

How about you? How’s your homestead plans coming along? If you’re wanting to homestead but live in the city or in town, do you have plans to try a few smaller things like herb gardening etc.? Do you have plans to make a move to a homestead one day? Share your stories, we love to hear from you!