How to re-use washer gray water!

So in early November walking around my back yard I noticed some water standing at the back of the house and after some curious poking around I realized it was the gray water draining from the washer to the side of the house and then due to improper setup and slope it was running under the house. Standing water anywhere is a no no, but especially near, under or up against your home!

I didn’t want to call a handyman out to fix it and I got to thinking with all the research I’ve been doing lately about gardening, permaculture and especially desert gardening with minimal or the least amount of water. So I got to doing some research on the uses of gray water…and quickly landed on this idea to redirect the washer gray water INTO the side yard where it is supposed to go but to then dig a trench so that the water will be gravity fed into that side yard in certain areas SO THAT I can have my future rose garden there. Ever since we moved in I wanted this small area to be a rose garden one day and this water drainage “issue” can now be the SOLUTION for that. As Geoff Lawton of Permaculture always says, let the problem be the solution!!! Think about it!!! =D

 

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So I quickly got to work on that. This project took me about 2 half days maybe, all by myself in early November and the only tools I used were a shovel and a rake. After the project was finished to make it look cuter I gathered some bricks and river rock laying around on the farm and “fancied” it up a bit and that’s it. So the project was 100% free, very necessary to not cause damage to the house and will be free water for a future non-edible garden AND…reusing something that would have otherwise gone to “waste” and just been absorbed into the ground elsewhere and non-contained, non-purposeful way! Those are all major bummers!

 

This is a heavy picture post as I took pictures throughout the whole process, as I always do. The visuals are very necessary for me to see my way through a project and to ALSO help me feel more accomplished. I also decided to do some videos of this project strictly to send to my Mom to show her but then I ended up sharing them publicly on You tube and since they help you see the water in action and everything I decided to share them on here as well.

 

VIDEO DISCLOSURE: I am no professional film maker (I know there is a word for that??) and in fact I’d call myself a super newbie to “recording videos” of anything other than family and kids playing! So these are a little shaky and there is no special editing or anything, very cut and dry and less than 1 minute for most of them.

 

Let the fun and pictures begin!!!

 

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As a fun little reminder, this is what that side yard looked like when we moved into the home about 6 mths ago now.

 

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Then this is what it looked like early summer after we cleaned up the weeds and junk. There used to be a chainlink fence there that a tenant’s animals knocked down, I guess.

 

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In early Fall I was poking around outside on a windy day and I thought I’d reuse these trellis’ we took off the front deck and put them up as a “temporary fence” since I had the posts so I just cable tied them up there. No it doesn’t look fancy or even pretty but it serves its purpose for now and when we redo the front fence, I’ll put new fencing up here as well. But free is always nice!

 

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Day 1 of the project!

This is what the area where the washer drain comes out goes to. This is the side of the house, directly under the laundry room and also next to the Ac. You can see there are bricks there I guess someone else had this intention of the water flowing towards our view (towards the camera) and out that way….it does not do that. Lol!

 

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Here is what that area looked like the day I walked over and decided to do this project.

 

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Step 1 for any project for me is always CLEAN UP! I have to start with a clean slate. Some people say that wastes time but I will tell you there is nothing more productive than working on a project with a happy, positive outlook and having a “clean space” is what gives me that outlook. Therefore…I always clean up first.

 

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This is the area just between the house and the fence, where the AC and electric meter live. These are also between myself and the majority of the side yard where those future roses will go. So I knew before starting my first trench would have to come out, around the AC and go between these two guys to then lead out into the main part of the side yard.

 

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I removed one of those bricks that was in the ground there to create an opening and got to digging the trench. I just used a regular rounded edge shovel because it is the only one I have. Thankfully the ground wasn’t too bad on this side of the house, I’m assuming from periodic soakings from the washer. Although you’ll see in the first video below the majority of the washer water does not actually come THIS way, as you’d think it does.

 

So I dug that first trench and then dug it around the AC then straight out into the side yard only maybe 2 inches deep the whole way. I really started was starting my outline and seeing what shape I wanted to have, where I wanted it to go. After doing that I dug 4 channels off of that main trench. And THEN I turned the washer on to drain so I could see what would happen after that little bit of work. This video below shows what happened the 1st time I ran the washer…

Digging a trench from washer drain part 1

Let me just say, at 20 seconds in when that water starts to go into that channel it made me feel like a Mama Bear proud of a kid doing something on their own for the first time. It was like I immediately thought “OMG, this is going to work!!!! How cool!!!”

 

So in this video we learned that with the trench obviously not done and not deep enough, after that water fills up that initial basin it then rises up and runs UNDER the house! Which is then where all the remaining water goes, preventing it from entering new said trench! Progress!

 

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So then I got to work on digging these existing trenches and channels all a little bit deeper and making some parts wider. At this point I just have 1 trench with 4 channels off of it to the left and right.

 

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A little deeper…

 

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Then I shift my focus back on that basic and I dig it deeper and wider as well, to catch more water initially.

 

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Then, thinking of that water running under the house I start shoveling mud from the pile of what I had dug out and start mounding it around the drain. I put it all up against the side of the house and all around, to block water from OVERFLOWING anywhere other than into the new trench!

 

And then I filmed video #2!!!!

Digging a trench for washer drain part 2

 

You see about half way through this video that this is the first time the water in the trench had MADE it around the corner and passed the first channel! It ALSO starts filling the basin and spilling over that brick wall on the front side AND a little bit starts spilling over on the right side going under the wire for the AC unit and back behind there. =( Add to that that once it got about half way down the channel, none of it was really deep enough so then it just started flooding the banks and overflowing. Lol! Learning as we go!

 

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Overflowing the banks because all the channels were too shallow at this point.

 

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Adding more mud around the main basin to keep water in the places I want it, without over flowing.

 

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I dug every trench deeper and as the water would flow through I’d watch curves or corners where it’d slow down so as that would happen I’d be there with my shovel to make certain areas wider or deeper as needed.

 

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At this point I still only have 4 channels off of the main trench. But I had dug them all to 4-5 inches deep, which was as deep as I felt they probably needed to be. So I ran the washer (not videoed) and with the washer draining TWICE with each load, it put out just enough water to fill the trench, all 4 channels and then over flow the very last channel but ONLY after that second drain cycle. So I concluded with a 5th channel, then it should be fine to hold (and trap, to soak into the ground to water nearby flowers) the water from 2 cycles from each load of laundry. I didn’t plan for it to hold more than that as we typically do about 1 load of laundry per day and that’s it, rather than doing a ton all in a day.

 

 

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With water standing in the whole system it made for digging and trenching THAT much easier. Thank God for that with our Arizona hard, clay-like soil…if you can even call it soil!

 

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I put 2 stray bricks on each side of the wiring for the AC unit just to try to keep water away from it and then put up a mud mound on the left side of it as well so that water won’t even go that way. I also put a mud mound on this front side of it where you used to be able to see the bricks in the ground, now you can’t.So it made that berm type thing about an inch taller.

 

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By this time, I added that 5th channel off the end since it was still overflowing at the end after a second drain (2 per load).

 

Digging a trench for washer drain part 3

You can see in the video that channels 3 & 4 weren’t as deep as all the others yet.

You will also see by the time of this video I no longer had issues with escaping water at the start, from the drain or the basin! Yay!!!!

 

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Day 2!!!

 

Time for clean up and small modifications!

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I started working to level all the dirt at this starting point because although you can’t see it, where I’m standing to take these pictures is a small chain-link gate. So once I started this project I decided this gate and this area would need to stay clear for myself or handymen to come access the AC to work on it or when I clean it seasonally. So in the future there may be a cute little mulch or gravel walk way here. So I leveled out that mud that was just all in a pile before I got to raking everything BEAUTIFUL!

 

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With all the trenches perfectly deep enough and 2 drain cycles putting out JUST enough water to fill all channels to the top but no more…the big work was done. So here I just leveled out the mud piles and started raking so that finished look I love so much!

 

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Main trench, channel 1 and part of channel 4.

 

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Channels 2, 3, 4 and part of 5!

 

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This side that butts up against the house I noticed while working the ground slopes down to the house so all that excess mud I had I threw that way and at the end I leveled it out so that it is a flat surface but also berms up a tiny bit at the house so that rain water or anything will flow away from the house, as it should.

 

Digging a trench for washer drain part 4

Video 4 is just a picture, video collage I put together on my phone to try to show some photos of it start to finish. Again, video disclosure, no sound or music or anything fancy. =)

 

A FEW DAYS LATER…

 

Riley man came outside and offered to remove 2 stumps from some old bushes that used to be here. As far back as 3 years, any time I’ve ever been to this property, there were never bushes here. They were always just those stumps. So I think we could resolve that they were 100% dead. And Riley loves destroying things, being a typical 11 year old boy so he got the shovel and went to town.

 

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ABOUT A WEEK LATER…

 

I was doing laundry and decided I’d come out to watch my little system with pride just to see how it was holding up a week or so after finishing and I decided the basin area just had to look a little cuter. So I gathered some bricks and river rocks from around the property and just made it cuter! My goal is to actually fill the trench and drains with sand one day so it looks cuter when it is empty and then of course I’ll plant roses. I recently decided I will be adding hibiscus to this flower bed with my roses and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that!

 

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This is how the channels are holding up about a week later. You can’t really tell I raked which is a bummer but that’s fine, the dogs had to run around and explore what I had done differently of course. Plus after Riley removed the 2 stumps I didn’t rake so that is all disheveled as well but oh well! (You see that little green patch of grass that came up where channel 1 ends and some water pools right there? Nature is a beautiful thing!

 

Digging a trench from washer drain part 5

Video 5 I filmed one morning early after I had started laundry AFTER everything was done and I added the rocks to the basin. You can hear the birds chirping, my dogs eagerly running around for the first time in the morning and my son Riley off in the distance in his chonies (not pictured, of course!) because he came out to see what I was doing, lol!

 

I love how in this video within just like 20 seconds the water is marching down that main trench like it is on a mission and it knows exactly where it is supposed to go. No issues in the way, no confusion, nothing. Just on it goes to fill up the whole system with ease. Bliss. And perfection! Pride swells!

 

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True before and after of the whole thing! =D

 

3 WEEKS AFTER THE PROJECT WAS COMPLETED…

I was outside walking around and I hadn’t done laundry in maybe 2 days so these channels were just dry (which is fine) but I noticed something green. So upon closer examination I found 4-5 spots where little grass is shooting up in the trenches or on the sides! How marvelous is that!!!!

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Since I’ve spend this whole last week currently studying Permaculture like it was my last dying wish or something (seriously, about 45 hours this week of studying and researching) these little green patches of life make me so happy and proud. Because Permaculture teaches that Mother Earth will rebound and heal itself and become lush and wonderful with a few simple techniques. These trenches I dug to redirect washer gray water are a small scale version of exactly what Permaculture is all about. All I did was redirect a wonderful resource like water and although I haven’t planted anything here yet, nature is responding, the dirt is happy, it is moist and it gets ample shade and sun and it is coming to life all on its own! It is just such a wonderful thing for me to see in action! Someday soon…or maybe in the spring, there will be happy roses and hibiscus of 10 colors here!!! And…as expected, I will smile every time I come home and walk passed this garden to get to my front door as I see the beautiful colors and smell those glorious roses!!!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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DIY Peppermint Bath Salt

This time of year I always make peppermint skin care – something! Not only is peppermint notoriously our “seasonal scent” around the holidays but for me personally it is a smell I love year round, it has numerous health benefits and…it just makes me happy!!!

 

So this year I made 2 peppermint skin care products and one I’m going to share how to do with you now is the DIY Peppermint Bath Salt!!!

 

This was my first time trying to make a bath salt as I’ve been making sugar scrubs for years but I did a little research on the bath salts first to make sure I knew what I was doing. If you check out this blog post she explains in depth the importance of understanding how to use essential oils in your bath water! In order for it to work properly and not risk causing skin irritation you have to use a carrier oil in your mixture and also put your essential oils in the salt that will help disperse the essential oil throughout your bath water! Good info!

 

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Your ingredients are:

2 cups of epsom salt

1 tablespoon carrier oil (jojoba, coconut, olive, or other) 

15-30 drops of essential oil

 

***Warning; as I’m using peppermint oil in this recipe please note that peppermint is one that can cause a skin irritation and so it is essential to use it properly. That’s why this recipe calls for a carrier oil, which you should use with all essential oils, not just peppermint. But be especially mindful of peppermint in facial products and use less than you would of other essential oils. This recipe calls for 15-30 drops and I honestly used about 17 drops, as the smell was prevalent and more didn’t seem necessary.

 

I had found this adorable green glass bottle with a cork at the Dollar Store for…$1!!!! So I had to have it. When I decided to put together this bath salt recipe I knew this was the bottle for it because how cute will that bottle be sitting in the shower or tub!?! Right!

 

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You put your epsom salt in your mixing bowl and when you add your liquid oil (I did coconut oil – for moisturizing) and then add your drops of essential oil on top this is what it’ll look like.

 

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But after mixing it around a bit by hand it turns into THIS! What I lovely refer to as “Peppermint Snow” because the texture of it reminds me of fluffy snow!!!

 

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Now I included this photo as a full disclosure that I am not always the smartest nor do I always just know the best ways to do things. Trial and error is the theme of my life! =D I did not have a funnel (and as I write this now I wonder why I didn’t just grab the funnel out of the trunk of my car…doh!) So I thought “Hey, I’ll grab some paper, make a funnel and we’ll be good to go, right?” Wrong! The paper was too flimsy, the peppermint snow was just clumpy enough and the bottle of this adorable glass was TINY! None of which make a good combination. So after a few failed attempts at that, I refused to give up on the glass bottle so I just started paddling it in the top of the bottle with my kitchen utensils, about 1/2 teaspoon at a time! Haha! Yes…it took awhile!

 

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And…it made a mess! BUT…messes can be cleaned! My whole recipe didn’t fit in the glass bottle but I knew it wouldn’t so I had a little plastic container for the extra that I saved it in to use that first before I break into the glass bottle.

 

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And so since messes can be cleaned…3 easy minutes later, here is the finished product! A super easy, very simple and rather quick process if you don’t choose a small mouth glass bottle!

 

Also, you can make this recipe with any essential oil and even a combination of a few different ones. Pick oils that either are scents you love, are mood boosting or relaxing or even have health benefits for you!!!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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DIY Laundry Stain Remover

Every time I mention homemade laundry stain remover on my Facebook here I get questions and comments and asked for the recipe. So this last time I made it I decided to do a blog post to share with you guys and I’ve also pinned it on my Pinterest board “DIY home products” here. There is ample information for all things homesteading, DIY and self sufficiency on my Pinterest profile so please check it out when you have a chance!

 

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Let’s get down to the recipe!

I first found the recipe on Pinterest on this woman’s blog here so let me give credit where credit is due! The ingredients are simple things that almost anyone has at home.

You need equal parts of:

-Dawn

-Baking soda

-Hydrogen peroxide

 

(Insider tip: In case you didn’t already know 1- Dawn is amazing and 2- Hydrogen peroxide almost always gets out blood!)

 

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So I was originally going to put this in a cute glass bottle and then I realized I really don’t need that much mixed up at one time so I thought this small little bowl with a lid would better do the job, although not as pretty. This little guy holds maybe a cup. In my mixture I did 2 tablespoons of each product so that in the end my final mixture was about 6 tablespoons total. Keep in mind, for a stain you may only need 1 TEASPOON to treat a spot. So make however much you feel your family may need.

 

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I put in my baking soda first, add my hydrogen peroxide and then pour over the dawn. You can see when they start to have a natural reaction or a “bubble party” as I like to call it. These ingredients are happy together AND they also do a good job!!!

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You just mix it all up and you’re good to go, it really is that easy!

 

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Here is a photo of my finished product. This sits on the shelf above my washer in my laundry room and over time you might see the ingredients separate a little bit. All you have to do is give it a little shake then take the lid off to use however much you need.

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Swales in landscaping/gardening!

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I don’t even recall where I first learned the term “swale” or what they are but google keeps telling me it isn’t a word or I’m misspelling it, haha! But, alas, it is a thing! I’ve dug 2 swales around my 2 withering cottonwood trees and used that to slowly, SLOWLY bring those back to life. And since my pomegranate trees are right next to those I dug a small trench from 1 swale to the pomegranate trees and then dug a swale around all 5 of those trees (1 big swale) and they are doing great as well!

 

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So I thought I’d put together a post with some research I’ve found online to help anybody explore this topic if they feel intrigued!

 

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This video on YouTube shows how someone dug a swale in the Sonoran desert and left it alone for 80 years and the ending result! Amazing!!!

 

This video is a great shot of how a guy uses small swales in his urban garden. So these can even be used in small spaces or micro gardens, aka, micro swales, rather than large scale permaculture situations!

 

NOW…this video made me make a sad face when I saw his wedding ring (haha!) and say “AWESOME!” out loud at 2:15 when he shows how he redirects rainwater into a channel system, into a rainwater diversion box INTO these two pipes that shoot out rain water into 2 tree swales to water 2 citrus trees! GENIUS!!!!!! Ahhhhh! Endless ideas on YouTube. He is one worth following on YouTube, especially because he lives in the desert like I do!

 

If you think you can’t do swales on flat land, this guy proves that wrong in this video, so worth checking it out! Capturing 12,000 gallons on water from just rain, with minimal grade in the land!

 

Want to know all about swales from a permaculture “expert”? Well here ya go!

 

I think that might be enough videos and so hopefully if you think this is something you might want to add to your garden then I recommend doing your research and setting yourself up with a way to “harvest” rain water and redirect it to where you need it, even without pipes and drains!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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5 mth update – work done on the homestead!!!

Hey there! Thanks for checking out our blog! This post today is lengthy and full of pictures, my favorite type of blog post! This is our 5 month update on what we have gotten done in our first 5 mths living on this small farm, working to turn it into a one day self-sufficient homestead. I know I had lofty goals and plans when we first moved in but I’ve always been an over-achiever. And honestly, as I have seen how slow many projects end up being when it’s just 1-2 people doing things manually, the old school way, I have come to accept NOW that progress IS very much gradual and I constantly remind myself to celebrate the small accomplishments, rather than ponder on the giant to do list!

 

We currently have a few projects “in progress” but for the sake of this post and the celebration of completion, I’m sharing projects that are done and/or just things we’ve dolled up that I’m proud of!

 

Let’s start at the beginning…of the property!

 

The Gate!

 

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Before…

 

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I just cleaned up some weeds, put up a welcome sign, put up a scare crow and corn stalks for our fall decor, put a metal H on the gate (not pictured) and hung my gun warning sign! =)

 

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The mail box needed some lovin’…real bad! I would love to get a new one, something cute and shabby chic or possibly even make one. But for now, I had to save this one’s appearance with some simple black spray paint and new numbers.

 

The Driveway! Ahhhh, the elusive driveway!

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This project I worked on for probably 5 weeks, on and off, as I had time and the weather permitted. I shared about this big project in 3 posts last month and you can see the first post here and in each post at the end it has the link to the next one in the series. This project was near and dear to my heart…and…curb appeal!

 

 

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Finally giving this little farm a proper “entrance”. Someday, there will be trees lining the driveway, #dreams *sigh*…

 

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Me, in my element, working on that driveway! I am happiest with a tool in hand and being in the outdoors!

 

The Front Fascade

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This poor little girl was overgrown with half dead bamboo, 1/3 of the trees around the house dead, no real driveway and this hideous dead leaning over tree you can see just there on the left that was in front of the fence line of bamboo. Every time I came home the first 2 mths I’d curse under my breath with just how pitiful the place looked. Which was fuel…for all these projects.

 

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Now, I just have 1 dead tree on the right side left to remove that is sadly not salvageable at this point and this whole front appearance will be better. The driveway outline (which is phase 1 of the big overall driveway project) is done, a lot was cleaned up, that tree was removed in the front. In the coming months a friend and his tractor are going to help me remove all that bamboo so that you can see the front of the house and the large deck.

 

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This was a frontal shot of the shop with the two mesquite trees in front of it just prior to our move-in. Before the move-in we did a bunch of yard work cleaning up all those random weeds just so that we could move in.

 

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The goal is for there to be a hammock between those mesquite trees in the future. But so far what we’ve done is create a walk way around that area and the parking area by putting down river rock. We then moved an old rail road tie from the “back 40” to use as an official “parking spot”. The mesquite trees have been trimmed up a little bit but for the most part they are doing great.

 

 

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This is the parking area, just to the left of the house. There are 4 cottonwood trees there as well as 5 pomegranate trees on the other side of the fence over on that right side. This is what they all looked like when we moved in. They were definitely extra pitiful and needed pruning, shaping and much love!

 

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I have trimmed all 4 trees and the 5 pomegranate trees and cleaned up the ground area. We put river rock down here to create a walk way and hopefully that will be a lovely flower bed next spring. After much love I have concluded 2 of those 4 cottonwood trees are beyond saving, they are losing bark all over and have major cracks. So 2 of the trees will be removed this winter. The pomegranate trees, are doing just wonderful!

 

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This is a good shot of the parking area from further back. I moved another rail road tie over to make 2 “parking spots” in front of the mesquite trees.

 

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This was the side yard that greeted you as soon as you got out of the car when we first moved in. I hated it…

 

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We cleaned up the weeds in this area right away upon moving in. Later, when we took all the trellis off of the deck I got the idea to put those up along the broken fence line just to create some separation there. It doesn’t look like a pro but it at least creates a fence for the dogs not running through there all day.

Then just about a week ago I decided to dig these trenches. Behind the AC unit is the out drain for the washer. Since we are on a septic here, the previous owner had put the out drain to just drain into this side yard. I noticed a few weeks ago that it was flooding the area and going under the house, which is no good.

So I dug a pit off of that and then a trench that runs off of that with outer channels. I did this because since we moved in I wanted this area to be a rose garden. So these channels will provide ample gray water (proven reusable on non-edible plants) every 2 days when I do laundry, to water the future roses! Each load of laundry drains twice, the first run fills up all of these channels to about half full. Then about 10 minutes later when it drains again it fills them all perfectly to the top without overflowing any of them! (Once almost done I had to add another channel just because it was overflowing a bit at the end. Now it is perfect!) It will keep the area saturated. Once the flowers go in you probably won’t even be able to see the channels. And I plan on putting some tiny river rock in the bottom of the channels just to make them look cuter, in case you can see them after flower growth.

 

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Here is a good before and after shot of the side yard project! Yay for future roses! And this spot in the east facing side yard has the best view of sunrises so I’ll have to put a little table set or bench out there for enjoying those! Things to come!

 

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Front west side yard…a mess!

 

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After we put in some sweat equity just cleaning it up. This has turned out to be both of our dogs’ favorite spot to chase each other around and run circles because the dirt is so loose here almost like sand. They love it!

 

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The deck before…I didn’t like how closed in it was. It was obstructing all of our pretty desert, mountain and sunset views!

 

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This is what it looks like now! We took all the trellis’ down, hung the flag and just did some general cleaning.

 

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Me, enjoying said deck! =D

 

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The back side of the house. There used to be a deck here that’s why there is a gap from the house to a concrete pad. I think I’ll add a deck back one day or at least pave that whole area so it doesn’t look so odd.

 

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This took about 3 hours of weed eating and raking to get it all cleaned up. Then I just put some chairs out under the mesquite tree.

 

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This is the corner area off of the back door, that door comes out from the kitchen/laundry room.

 

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I cleaned up this area and just setup that corner as a temporary place for trash when we bring it out before we burn it. I just sat up a piece of trellis to keep the dogs out of it and it works for the most part. This winter we need to build a trash bin so that it is animal proof, as they have “broken into” this setup twice now, haha!

 

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A view of the back portion of the backyard. These beams are left over either from an old pergola or an old porch, we’re not sure. Those weeds were ample and relentless. It took me probably 7 or 8 different days throughout the summer in short bursts of 2-3 hours each time working on it to get all these weeds gone and burnt because it was so hot this summer.

 

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We just took down some of the pieces of wood on that structure that were falling off or could risk a head injury, haha! And then that is where we decided to put up the pool this summer!

 

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In our first 5 mths living on the farm I conquered my first plumbing job! It took a lot of research online and I had to go buy tools or supplies 3 different times because I kept getting the wrong size. This is my sink in the master bathroom and we lived in the house a month before I was able to use my bathroom sink!!! That was a happy experience!

 

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After getting the project done and having a mess under there I decided after cleaning it up why not paint it, haha! So I taped up some paper and I painted the bottom silver for a girly twist and then the back and side white just to cover up that old wall paper.

 

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This picture is to commemorate the first tree I ever removed! This tree was obviously dead and was the reason I was so stoked to buy a chainsaw back in July, 2 months after moving into the house. I hated that tree! I mean, who wouldn’t!?!?! It was a wonderful experience and made me feel powerful and accomplished! I took on many trees after this one but she was the first!

 

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Remnants of the tree trimming on those 4 cottonwood trees by the parking area.

 

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Who doesn’t take selfies while they work? Lol!

 

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We lost our first small, frail tree to a Monsoon storm…

 

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Which urged me to remove another dead ugly tree. A large part of the trunk is still there because it shoots off into like 4 and I got tired that day, haha! I will remove the rest of it and maybe I can find something useful to do with it.

 

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After much research I learned how to tell for sure if a tree is dead…

 

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Or if it still has some fight in it so that you can save it! This is one of my cottonwood trees which I trimmed and fertilized as soon as we moved in. Then the green new growth came and now I just have some more trimming to do once I learned a crack in a branch means it is a goner and needs to go. Hopefully in a couple of years you won’t even be able to tell it looked like this at one time.

 

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I have seen positive signs of improvement on most of our trees but this one in the backyard, which I now know is another Cottonwood tree, is taking a little longer. I haven’t babied it as much as I have the ones in the front just because we aren’t in the backyard much after summer but she’s still trying and I’m so glad! (I am currently working on a project with this tree to dig a swale around it and a trench to water it with gray water from the dishwasher. I’ll post more about that when it is done.)

 

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The pomegranate trees before and now! Just gave them a good trimming and now water them regularly. After this “after” picture I dug a swale around the base of those pomegranate trees so now when I water them twice a week I fill up the swale and it allows it to slowly soak in over 10-15 mins rather than wasting water in run off.

 

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We did a lot of busy work, like cleaning up burn piles and stuff!

 

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I setup an official burn pile area to burn out trash and tree debris. Before we were just doing it on the ground and I just wanted to get a spot a little further away from the house and make a permanent place in the wide open. I just used some blocks I had on the property so the project was free and so when I have time I’ll buy some more and do them another layer higher.

 

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We started home schooling!!!!! After much thought and then a TON of research, I finally started home schooling Riley using the Charlotte Mason Method. You can read all about why I decided to home school as a single parent here! And I went into depth on why we chose the Charlotte Mason Method in this post! So far, we are just a few weeks into it and we both love it! I went over both of our thoughts on home schooling after the first few days in this quick post!

 

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I made homemade Febreeze for the first time and it turned out wonderfully! I make it new every month now and it has been fantastic AND free!!! I went over how I made this Febreeze-diy and the two items below in this post.

 

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I also made a homemade sugar face and body scrub and a sugar shave cream! Fun times! Just taking small steps to become more self sufficient and having to buy less.

 

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I gave blood for the first time in my life! I’m not sure why I never did before, but it made me feel useful!

 

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A local friend/farmer donated some lemongrass to us and we had our first experience potting a plant to keep it alive through winter so we can plant it in the ground in the spring. This plant will help naturally repel mosquitoes and we can also use it in cooking if we want! We did this as part of our Gardening “work” for our Charlotte Mason home schooling method and I shared a post about the lemongrass experience here.

 

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I got a few of my first power tools ever!!! <3

 

Let’s go INSIDE!!!

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This was the dining room when we moved in.

 

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This is our dining room now. (One chair is missing because I started working on a painting project with it. I’m going to paint the chairs teal and then the table and the buffet white!)

 

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The living room before.

 

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The living room now! (I am working on plans to get a smaller couch and some chairs because this sectional isn’t even all put together now because it doesn’t all fit. This was great at one point in our lives but now it is just too big for us and the sage green color doesn’t go with the new white/gray/blues scheme I want to do in the main living areas.)

 

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I got my first chainsaw AND had to fix the chain for the first time! It took some time reading the manual and looking up videos on YouTube but I finally figured it out myself! I was very proud of that!

 

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I took Riley to his first concert ever! Rascal Flatts!!

 

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I love these guys! They are my life! <3

 

ANIMALS!

Not farm animals, unfortunately….

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We had a road runner come visit the front porch a few days in a row. I was later told it is a good sign to have these around because they’ll kill a snake in a heart beat. That’s awesome! And…there are lots of videos on YouTube that show they can, haha!

 

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Saw my second snake on the property and this one was a big one (about 4 ft long) and it was being “chased” by a desert squirrel, lol!!!! It was the oddest thing I’d ever seen!

If you want to check out the video I uploaded to Facebook of this odd snake situation you can find it shared publicly on my profile here!

 

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We have lots of cottontail rabbits on our land!

 

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I found this neon green beetle on the front gate one day. I’d never seen one so bright, colorful and glittery before! Lol! I’m still not sure if that’s normal or someone painted him, ha!

 

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In late summer we have our Monsoon season which is our wet time of the year where we get lots of rain, big storms, strong winds, etc. And during that time these Sonoran Toads come out after a rain and they are poisonous to dogs and small children. I came home in the evening MANY times and they were chilling on my side walk from the parking area to the front door. They were HUGE…bigger than my fist, I swear! Ugh!

 

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We got a new stove!

 

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We had several of our first monsoon storms on the property. Flooding isn’t major here ON the property, thank goodness! But we do gets lots of water here in the desert when these storms dump it out in 30 mins! It really doesn’t take too long for the dry land to soak it right up! This photo is our vacant 4 acres on the west side, where there will hopefully one day be cows!!!!! #dreamdreamdream

 

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First storms mean storm damage. Not only did we lose a few weak trees but we also had a part of our back fence in our backyard fall down. =(

 

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We realized with the installation of our new handy, dandy outdoor electronic wireless thermometers that what the weather stations say the temp is is actually WRONG! This gauge IS in the shade, I swear. So in mid August, in the shade, it was 123 degrees. I didn’t get much work done outside between mid July to mid September because of this. I tried but I quickly learned my limits! We now know we will work from now (fall/winter) until NEXT summer to try to get as much outdoor stuff done as possible before the next major heat wave because we won’t be able to do much out there after that. So the goal is to make sure that the animals we get this winter and early spring will be cool enough and have ample water and shade before the summer hits. Same goes for the future garden.

 

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We learned 2 more things!!! 1- you shouldn’t put any grease down your drain (period) but especially when you have a septic tank. So not only do I put leftover grease in a jar to dispose of but I also put vinegar and water down the drain once a month to keep our plumbing lines cleared and “healthier” and I also put vinegar down the dishwasher once a month to keep it running well and not have any build up. And then the second thing I learned is that people with chickens keep the egg shells and crush those and use those to feed to the chickens again in their food and the calcium in it help them. So since my neighbor gives me free chicken eggs, I save all the egg shells for her and take her a bag of those any time I go to get more eggs! What a wonderful thing that is!

 

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Riley is learning to climb trees, lol, like a real country boy! Too bad most of our trees here are too small!

 

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I colored my hair back to my natural color (dark brown) for the first time in 5 years! I am happy with it! Maybe the blonde and red highlights can just signify my 20’s as I’m now 30 and I’m loving this solid dark brown enough that I think I will just stay “all natural”! =)

 

Well…without going over every single little thing, I think that is the most I can share with you for now! I can’t wait to update you come February or March with our successes, trials and learning experiences we figure out this upcoming winter! How fun will that be!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Prepping Lemongrass for winter!

Have you ever heard of LEMONGRASS!?!?!

 

Well just in case you haven’t, the first time I heard about it was when I was researching “natural” ways to repel mosquitoes here on our homestead.

To break it down, as stated on this website; “Lemongrass is a tropical herb packed with strong citrus flavor. The lemon taste is prized in Asian cooking, as well as in teas, sauces, and soups. In the garden, lemongrass forms a tall, grassy clump 3 to 5 feet tall. Its appearance rivals that of many ornamental grasses and can easily fulfill a similar role in the landscape.”

Lemongrass being a grass, lasts outdoors most of the year but lasts longer in warmer climates. Here in Arizona we’re in Zone 8 so it lasts the majority of the year. It is recommended to uproot it and plant in pots in the winter and bring inside when temps are below 40 degrees.

 

Our Plans

We want to have a good defense against those pesky mosquitoes this next year and when a local small farmer mentioned on her Facebook page that she had some free Lemongrass stalks for anybody who wanted some I totally went and grabbed up some. They sat on my front porch for over a good month because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to risk it and go ahead and plant them in the flower boxes around our front deck now and pray they survive the winter or what. So we finally did this week for Riley’s handicraft lesson in Gardening (his choice), which is the word to describe the extra curricular subjects children learn with the Charlotte Mason Method for home schooling. I explain handicrafts in depth in this post.

 

Where do you get it?
If you aren’t blessed with a giving local farmer or friend who has some lemongrass on their property, where do you find it? Well, it’s actually SUPER easy! When I was researching HOW to take care of this cute little grass I came across a blog post about how you can buy lemongrass in the grocery store and prep it to plant! <–Make sure you check that out!

 

Over on the blog The Prairie Homestead, whom I eagerly follow because she’s currently living a lot of my dreams on her farm/homestead and her blog is packed full of USEFUL information! I found this post on her blog about how to grow and use Lemongrass and in that they start it from a seed and germinate the seed! Awesome! At the end of the post there are also some linked posts with ideas and recipes for other uses for lemongrass other than as an aromatic bug repellent.

 

Something I plan to get obsessed with in the very near future is homemade soap making and you can find my ideas for that on my Pinterest board Soap and more soap! DIY Ya’ll! And you can use lemongrass a lot in homemade soap recipes! Things to come!

 

If you just want to follow all of my MANY Pinterest boards you can find my page here!

 

So after our research online a few days ago Riley and I gathered our donated lemongrass stalks, some empty pots we had in the shop and a bag of soil.

 

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As we went through all these steps I was trying to teach Riley the little bit I had learned about lemongrass and the little bit more I learned about planting in pots that I learned from my Mom growing up.

 

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Those donated lemongrass stalks!

 

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It took us MAYBE 20 minutes! But it was a great “Gardening 101” lesson for Riley’s once weekly gardening handicraft for home school.

 

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Proud boy!

 

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This is what I hope our lemongrass looks like come late winter or early spring!

 

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The GOAL is that our lemongrass will look like this by late Spring and it’ll be happy in its new home in the flower beds around our front deck. I’ll probably put some out by the shop as well since I often find myself there. And if we do our pool in the backyard again next year then I’ll put some out by it because the bugs were pretty annoying out there this past summer.

 

There is no telling if we did it exactly right or what will come of it but that is the fun of doing something new the first time. If we have issues with our potted sprouts I can at least get some at the grocery store and try to begin again before Spring. Live and learn!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Our First Day Home Schooling – online studies

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In a previous post, you can find here I mentioned that I decided to use the Charlotte Mason Method for our Home Schooling curriculum but that does not include math. So I spoke to a few friends and I thought we might do something online since math is one of Riley’s best subjects anyway. And pretty much everything else I had decided to do through books and hands on experience so that left nothing to do online and Riley was really looking forward to some studies being done online.

 

So after researching a few different online options I found IXL which offers math and language arts for K-12, basically. You can register any number of students, all work, grades and progress are tracked for you and daily updates are emailed to the parent’s email to let you know what accomplishments they got done that day. You can sign up for math or language arts only for $9/mth or you can sign up for both for $15/mth! I signed up for both since we can cancel it any time so if WE decide that method of either isn’t working great for him then I can just cancel it and not have money wasted on supplies and books.

 

So our first day doing home schooling we did just math and language arts online because my other materials hadn’t arrived in the mail yet after ordering them online.

 

Online free assessment tests

So we started with an online math assessment which showed Riley placed half-way through 6th grade Math which was a touch ahead of where he should be so that was great. So we dove right into it and started working through math problems and he was doing great. I knew the first several lessons should be material he already knows so even though I didn’t think he’d need me hands on, I sat there with him to go over everything and see how it worked out and how he did with it. It was a success!

 

Language Arts

A subject I had always known wasn’t Riley’s strong suit but there wasn’t an assessment test for it so we just started with the 6th grade level and he fumbled hardcore through the first lesson. So I opened up the 5th grade section and thought I’d go through the first few sections until we found stuff he did for sure know and he INSISTED he didn’t know any of that material either. So, we decided to start there. So he is officially a touch over a year behind in language arts but at this point moving forward we will be focusing on everything one on one so I’m confident we can cover some good ground the rest of this school year. And my primary concern will be making sure he understands these fundamentals to move onward and upward from here.

 

Emotions!?!

There were NO fits or emotional break downs on our Day 1! haha! But, all we did was math and language arts online. I can’t wait to go over how things went once we got our Charlotte Mason materials in the mail!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Why I chose the Charlotte Mason Method for home schooling

When I decided for sure in Mid-October 2015 that I was going to home school my 11 year old son (the full story here) I dove into research. I remembered that home schools often have local co-ops so I started researching those. I talked to a friend of mine in the next city over who I knew was a home schooling Mom. She gave me a wealth of information and pointed me in the direction of a few local co-ops that have groups on Facebook and she invited me to those. On there I met a handful of other local women who home school and several were eager to talk to me, hear my concerns and give me advice.

 

Then I reached out to one of my dear friends in Arkansas who I know also home schools 4 kids and her simple words to me were “You have to check out Charlotte Mason. Just research her.” And that lead me down a rabbit hole of 6 hours online (no kidding) reading and researching everything I could find about who this woman was, what she taught and why she was so special.

 

The first website I read end to end was the Wikipedia information about Charlotte Mason which you can find here

All of that information lead me to many more websites and books and inserts from books she had written.

In short, I will tell you briefly about her.

 

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Charlotte Mason was born January 1st, 1842 and although she had no children of her own she spent her life trying to improve the education for children in England. To quote the entry on Wikipedia, “Her revolutionary methods led to a shift from utilitarian education to the education of a child upon living ideas. She based much of her early philosophy on current brain research, on the writings ofJohn Amos Comenius, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, and others, and on the collaborative efforts of those whose beliefs about education she admired, as well as her vast experience as both a teacher and a trainer and mentor for new teachers.”

The foundation of her thinking was that parents are the best educators and this was developed because in her time many children did not go to school at all. So she felt like if they were going to stay at home with their parents until they got jobs, they should at least spend that time being taught properly by their parents. So her first few books published were books to teach parents HOW to educate, why it was important, child development, etc.

 

Another quote I love, “We may not make character our conscious objective,” she wrote, but she believed that parents and teachers should “Provide a child with what he needs in the way of instruction, opportunity, and wholesome occupation, and his character will take care of itself: for normal children are persons of good will, with honest desires toward right thinking and right living. All we can do further is to help a child to get rid of some hindrance––a bad temper, for example––likely to spoil his life.” – Wikipedia

 

In my most humble of explanations I will say; the CM Method is to teach the child as a whole being, treat them as an adult and not someone less than, teach above them so they rise to the occasion, treat them with respect and teach in a calm manner, and not let the education end at books alone. The CM Method asks the educator to teach the main subjects but also insure that children spend 1-3 hours a day OUTSIDE in nature studying or playing.

 

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Reading is tied to everything Charlotte Mason. For example, some of her curriculum books, (which can be bought through the website Simply Charlotte Mason here) are lesson plan books that for kids above grade 4 combine learning 3 subjects in a way to tie them together so that the student can grasp a concept fully, imagine it, see art from that time, etc.

 

“She spread before her students a feast of ideas from a wide variety of sources—from Shakespeare to knitting to Bible to tramping through field and stream to algebra to singing to foreign languages. And woven throughout it all, she emphasized the habits of full attention, best effort, and learning for the sake of learning.”

“All designed to help the child grow; for we learn, to grow.”

 

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On the Simply Charlotte Mason site you will find this useful explanation; “The Charlotte Mason method is based on Charlotte’s firm belief that the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind. So a Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”

 

Living Methods
For example, Charlotte’s students used living books rather than dry textbooks. Living books are usually written in narrative or story form by one author who has a passion for his topic. A living book makes the subject “come alive.”

 

 

Nature is Paramount!

Never be Within Doors

 

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A nature-diary is a source of delight!

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Children are encouraged to not only BE in nature but to get out in nature to learn about it. There are guided lessons but mainly kids are encouraged to seek and explore and record what they find and what intrigues them.

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“A beautiful and sturdy journal with gentle prompts to give you ideas of what to look for in nature study throughout each of the four seasons. Inspiring quotes, helpful nature tips, and heavy paper with plenty of room for drawing, painting, and writing about your nature finds. A lovely weekly guide to hours in the out-of-doors!”

 

Other VERY useful skills to explore!

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It also asks that children learn about famous works of art and musical composers on top of 3-5 handicrafts and life skills per year. Handicrafts are hands on artistic endeavors that children can learn and grow from.

Here is a recommended list of Handicrafts:

Beading
Calligraphy
Carving
Ceramics
Chalk drawing
Charcoal sketching
Clay sculpturing
Crocheting
Cross-stitching
Embroidery
Finger painting
Flower arranging
Gardening
Iron sculpturing
Kiting
Knitting
Latch-hooking
Leather tooling
Loom weaving
Macrame
Oil painting
Pencil sketching
Photography
Picture framing
Pottery
Quilting
Robotics
Rubber stamping
Scrapbooking
Scroll sawing
Sewing
Spinning fibers
Spool-knitting
Videography
Watercolor painting
Weaving
Weaving pot holders
Whittling
Woodworking

 

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She also recommends that children learn valuable LIFE SKILLS, even from a young age. Where as if these things are taught at home you are creating more well rounded adults who are more likely to become more self sufficient even as teens, as opposed to the children who were not taught these skills.

The CM Method Life Skills could include:

Auto mechanics
Baking
Canning
Changing a car tire
Changing a lightbulb
Checking the car’s oil
Cleaning: mirrors, sinks, toilets, tubs and showers, baseboards
Clearing the table
Cooking
CPR
Driving a car
Drying: clothes, dishes
Dusting
Electrical wiring
Emptying trash
First Aid
Folding: clothes, towels, sheets
Mopping
Mowing the lawn
Organizing: closets, cupboards, sheds, attics
Painting a room
Plumbing
Raking leaves
Setting the table
Sweeping the floor
Vacuuming
Vegetable gardening
Wallpapering
Washing: clothes, dishes, windows, car
Welding

 

Don’t forget the Arts!!!!!!!!

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“Looking for a good art teacher? Check out this encouraging and professional art instruction in a wonderful series of videos, covering a wide variety of art media: watercolor, pencil drawing, pastel, sculpture, acrylic painting, ink, and more!

This wonderful series of instructional videos will introduce to you and your children a wide variety of art media: pencil drawing, watercolor, acrylic painting, sculpting, pastels, ink, and more. You might try several projects that teach one medium—all the pastel projects, for example—and enjoy progressing through the levels with that one art type. Or you might select a variety so your family members can experience several types of art and find the medium that resonates with each one.”

 

Picture Study Portfolios

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“Everything you need to do art appreciation, all gathered into one beautiful package: gorgeous art prints, an artist biography, information on the pictures, and more!”

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.”—Charlotte Mason

 

The Stuff They Left Behind Portfolios

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“Awaken your children’s minds to the treasures of the world’s famous artifacts and architecture! These large, full-color photographs, along with background information and leading discussion questions, will help your students gain a deeper understanding of history. All conveniently collected and stored at your fingertips.”

 

Although this is a lengthy post and yes a lot I quoted from wonderful websites to help give you a full understanding of the Charlotte Mason Method better than I could simply put into words myself; I hope this provides you a thorough explanation of this style of home schooling and why exactly I chose it for my son.

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Why I decided to home school as a single Mom

Home Schooling

Home schooling is a huge responsibility! You take the power of your child’s only education into your hands. For some families, they were taught through home schooling so they naturally teach their children through home schooling. For me, I was raised in public school and then went to college, briefly! Ha! As a young single Mom at the age of 22 with two small boys, as soon as they were school age they went to regular school. Honestly, I was most thankful for the relief on my budget because having two kids only a year apart in age in daycare so I could work full time cost me about $1200/mth! It really IS cheaper for single parents to work part-time jobs or live off of welfare, if they can pay their bills with that. I never qualified for that because since I was a trained Pharmacy Tech and I had a certain “skill set” I made more than minimum wage which meant I made $50/mth too much to qualify for any state assistance. Oh the joys of that!

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Second Grade

I had my first issues with the Arizona school system with my youngest son, Konnor, was in 2nd grade. He had a pretty great teacher and even with his recently diagnosed ADHD and trying to get a handle on his behavioral issues and outbursts of anger (that was extremely unpredictable and rarely the same stimulus) the teacher was great and understanding. I would ask her numerous times how he was doing academically as this was the first year he was actually enjoying school and he had a good teacher so I was optimistic that his academics were on par as well.

 

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He couldn’t read!

Well come to find out before Christmas break he was actually failing his reading portion. The teacher had never given me any info or notice that he was going to get a grade like that! Perplexed, because we would read together at home, I sat down with him with a new book and asked him to read to me. He couldn’t! He tried a few words and got so upset a big outburst occurred. I then realized that the books we would read or he would read to me at home were books we had had for years, which I had read to him many times and he had memorized them! He hadn’t been reading TO me all along. =(

 

The Arizona school system just doesn’t care

That began my discontent for the school system with their lack of information and lack of a desire to help each student do their best. I realized they really do just PASS KIDS ALONG even if they do not know everything they need to. That year in Konnor’s 2nd grade year they were going to pass him. By April of the following year before 2nd grade ended, we were facing other issues including Konnor’s chronic asthma and allergies as well as eczema and his behavioral issues were beginning to be more than I could handle alone and he was too young for talk therapy as we had tried that as well.

 

Will Arkansas be better?

So I talked to his father who lived in Arkansas (whom he would visit several times throughout the year and Konnor knew well) and asked if we could do a trial run of Konnor coming to live with his Dad the end of his 2nd grade year and through the summer. I wanted to do this to see if him living in a 2 parent home would help (his dad had now married after our split) and also every time we would visit back home his asthma and eczema would get a lot better due to all the moisture in the air, where here it is so dry and so it exacerbates his health conditions. His father agreed and we took a trip out there.

 

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It was the solution for him!

The last month that Konnor did 2nd grade in Arkansas he went through assessment tests, he had a very caring teacher, his step-mom was already previously involved in the local school system and so she knew a lot of the people at his new school and he got put into a FREE after school reading program! In the month that he went through that program his confidence had already began to grow, with just the concept of reading. Through that 1st summer in Arkansas he was put into a different full-time reading and academics summer camp. It was like a day care except it was FREE and done through the school system. Over that summer he was able to come up a grade in his reading level. Throughout his 3rd grade year in Arkansas with his additional tutoring in reading and focused one on one attention with other subjects he needed help in he was FINALLY able to read his reading grade level, in less than a year in Arkansas. Mostly through the free programs offered in Arkansas that don’t even exist here in Arizona. The progress he showed over that time was enough to show me that I made the right decision for my son. Of course, (people ask me all the time) it was a very hard decision and Riley and I miss him ALL the time. We all talk on the phone often and we visit Arkansas 3-5 times a year to see him and other family. Thankfully, none of this would have been possible if his father and I didn’t have a mutually respectful co-parenting relationship. Our relationship when we were together was pretty horrible and it took us a good 2-3 years to reach a mutual understanding but the type of relationship we have now for our son is paramount and well worth it!

 

My older son, Riley, who lives with me here on the farm who I am now home schooling is 2 grade levels above Konnor, with them being 19 mths apart in age. Riley was in 4th grade the year that Konnor moved to Arkansas.

 

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5th grade for Riley

For Riley, 5th grade was not a bad year but it was a year that we, unfortunately, moved around a lot. So with 3 school changes throughout that year (totally my fault) he had a hard time making and keeping friends although he did meet 2 boys that he became good friends with that he has managed to remain friends with even after we moved away. His academics never suffered though. During that year I was not concerned about him being in school. Since he didn’t struggle much in school like Konnor, I never worried about him. But my main concern with the school system these years was due to a state wide budget issue the Governor was talking about cutting the already dismal extra curricular programs in elementary schools. Which meant the one day a week that Riley did art and music, he would entirely lose.

 

To me, in comparison to me going to Kindergarten through 9th grade in Arkansas, Arizona schools always lacked on the extra academics. I’ve always hated that my kids might get LESS from school than I did when I was growing up. I think academics are crucially important but what promotes a well rounded student and therefore, well rounded adult, is being exposed to many different types of studies including ones that encourage creativity and promote life skills, not just book smarts.As you could never survive as an adult with book smarts alone.

 

New Beginnings

When we moved to our little farm I was considering home schooling him because if I didn’t he’d have to move to a whole new school AGAIN and I felt bad for all the changes. We would be living in a more rural area with no bus stops anyway and so I began heavily researching home schooling. At this time I was just looking into the idea and rules and didn’t really talk to many people about it. I decided to go tour the local school that is K-8 which meant he could stay at the same school for 3 years until moving to high school and that to me was a positive thing, to give him some academic stability after all of our recent moving around.

 

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The school tour

The tour went great and I was pleased to find they had a school community garden which supplied produce they used in the cafeteria and they host a weekly gardening club for kids who want to help maintain the garden and learn about it. On top of that they didn’t require any school supplies as they were a type of public school where most of the kids were at or close to the poverty level so the state would donate funds to them to provide school supplies for everybody. I found that interesting but I did like that it would save me money! Then we discovered that kids in 6th grade and up all get a school laptop (a Chromebook) to use for their in class studies. They were not allowed to take them home but at least half of their work in class would be done on the laptop. I thought that was really cool and Riley being a computer guy loved the idea of learning online. So we discussed it and decided he’d go there!

 

The beginning of the end

Just before Fall break Riley had his first 6th grade parent teacher conference and I was excited to see how he was doing with his grades. Neither of his teachers had contacted me with any great concerns. One day I had ran into his teacher in the office and I had asked how he was doing and he said Riley forgets to turn in assignments sometimes or would be day dreaming in class when he should be working. These weren’t a giant concern of mine. Come to find out, he was FAILING in language arts and had a D in his favorite subject, Math. Not only did the teacher say that his D in Math was due mostly because he would not complete or turn in class room assignments but he then went on to greatly insult him in a very negative tone. I myself even felt threatened and intimidated by how he was talking to us both. The other teacher who was present acted as if she was used to him and just annoyed by his delivery. I was bothered that this teacher who spends over half of the day with my son was so harsh and insulting. He didn’t even act like he was interested in finding a solution to the problem or telling me ways that I could possibly help Riley. He spent 10 mins talking about what Riley does wrong, how he’s a loner (rude as hell, in my opinion) quizzing Riley on if he REALLY has friends outside of class or not, telling him how he needs to stop staying in lala land. He never once gave constructive advice but just insult after insult and I was taken aback. I tried to be friendly with the teacher, out of respect, I am never one to cause a scene. I did make sure to tell the teacher that on Riley’s last AIMS Math tests through the state the end of last year he had placed “exceeds expectations” in his math area so it was really odd to me that he would now have a D in his best subject in less than a few months time.

 

The talk

We left and as soon as we got out of the classroom I stopped Riley and said to him, “Does he talk to you or other kids in class like that often?” and he said “What do you mean?” and I said “How he was kind of rude and saying all the things you do wrong?” and he said “Well…yeah.” He obviously didn’t think it was an issue but Riley is so mild tempered and sweet that when he feels threatened or put down he just resorts inside himself. He’s not one to defend himself or speak up, and that is one thing I hope I can help him with over this next year because I believe the root is lack of confidence.

 

He had one more half day of school and then he was out for a week for Fall Break. Over the course of Fall Break I dove head first into educating myself on home schooling. I knew that the time was now. For him to be doing so poorly in his favorite subject meant to me that he was not happy at school or he wasn’t learning well in that type of environment. So the decision was made! In my next post I’ll cover what I found in my research and how I decided on which curriculum we are using now.

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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