Our first Christmas on the farm!

 

Our first Christmas on the farm is special to me because I always love this time of year but I also love to decorate for the holidays. A lot of our decorations we did have had been in storage for years so it was like getting all new stuff to start decorating here. Fun! I did decide not to buy Christmas lights because we had SOME and we didn’t need a ton and maybe next year when the farm is more established I will fee more like budgeting in to add more festive lights or something.

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I think I might have had the most fun decorating the gate. I love that we have this at the start of our property that I can change the decorations with the seasons and holidays. It makes me smile when I come home. I’d like to think that every so often my neighbors maybe enjoy it. But hey, even if they don’t, I love it and I guess that is what counts! =D

 

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Cute! The stuff along the top and the stars I did buy new but I got them at the dollar store! Lol! I didn’t spend more than $10 on a few new decor things to add to what we had.

 

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This is the gate from my parking area to the front porch. I love Poinsettias!

 

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I threw 2 strings of white isicle lights up along the front of the deck and that is really about it. I don’t enjoy hanging lights and we had so many that were broken and a tangled mess (a typical issue for most) that I didn’t want to fuss with it. The inside decor was more important to me because we see it all the time.

 

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I put together this cute center piece for the dining room table of all fake flowers from the dollar store, a red ribbon and some other little things. I really enjoyed having this on the table for the month!

 

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Sticker to go over the buffet with garland and poinsettias ON the buffet.

 

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Our festive dining room setup! =D

 

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Our tree!

 

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When we put this tree up I thought I’d write a whole blog post about how important a tree is or how symbolic it can be. But since I didn’t at the time and now the occasion has come and gone I thought I’d just say something breifly about why it is so important and symbolic to ME! I had my 1st son when I was 19. The first 9 years of his life our lives were closely tied in with my Mother. We either lived with her or really close to her. So Christmas was always about her tree, her decorations and when both of my boys would bring home homemade decorations from school they’d proudly go up on the tree. Well a couple of years ago I had so many special ornaments from my boys that I didn’t want them lost, broken or anything so I started separating our Christmas stuff. Then my Mom moved to Louisiana and I had a “hand me down” artificial Christmas tree. Two years ago when I thought I’d get a real tree I sold my fake tree. Then that next Christmas I didn’t get a real tree, we didn’t even decorate and instead left Az and spent the holidays in Louisiana with my Mom, my younger son and the rest of our family out there. So THIS year…after getting everything out of storage for the first time years…I found all those special ornaments. But we had no tree. I didn’t think about it and didn’t budget to buy a tree. I considered getting a real tree and I didn’t feel like I could afford it. So I went to the store on a whim and said “Screw it, I’m doing this!” and I bought a decent artificial tree with pre-lit lights (praise Jesus…if you don’t have one you don’t know what ease you’re missing, lol!). And you know what….I WAS PROUD! Because this was mine and my son’s first Christmas tree that we bought, all on our own, in our own house, on our first homestead, doing and living entirely on our own away from family and most of our friends and….I WAS PROUD! I let Riley setup the tree after we combed over our favorite special decorations and we really enjoyed ourselves. Once the tree was done I couldn’t help but stare at it and just feel proud of not only where we are but how far we’ve come! So THAT to me…is why a Christmas tree can be so symbolic. If you have ever spent a Christmas without a Christmas tree…the next time you have one you might realize just how special they are!

 

GIFTS!

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Seriously, this year everyone in my life totally outdid themselves. I’m wondering if everyone feels sorry for us out here in the boonies living on our own or if everybody was just “better off” financially this year but hey, either way, we have people in our lives that really care about us and have blessed us with an abundance of gifts!

 

I met a family recently on Facebook who is a family hoping to start homesteading soon and they started following my journey through this blog and my Facebook page and they asked if they could send me gifts for Christmas. I said there were several books I’d really been wanting to get myself so I sent them 5 examples. THEY SENT ME ALL 5!!!! I was totally shocked! Lol! Above are 4 that came in 1 day and the 5th one is below! I seriously can’t wait to get through these all, I’m so super excited about each one!!!!

 

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Then one of the gifts from my sister came in the mail unwrapped and it was these GORGEOUS blue vintage mason jars! OMG!!!!

 

TIME FOR FESTIVITIES!!!! Southern style!

 

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For Christmas Eve I made some hot chocolate to take to my Aunt’s house before we headed over.

 

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I put said hot chocolate in the mason jars my sister got me! How cute!

 

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At my Aunt’s Riley helped my Mom make fudge. Her and my Aunt Suzan came in from Louisiana for the holidays and it was wonderful to get to see them, all of them! This was one of the best holidays with a big part of my family in a long time!

 

CHRISTMAS MORNING CAME! And so did Santa….

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Almost all of these gifts under the tree are from my Mom and my sister Jennifer to Riley and myself! A lot of them came in the mail already wrapped and some for Riley I had to wrap but for a Christmas tree for just 2 people you can tell me we were very spoiled this year!

 

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Santa left a laptop under there for Riley! 😀 😀 😀 He noticed it right away…

 

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The dogs started out helping and then they ran outside. This is Riley digging in to find his laptop! He’s been asking for one hardcore for about 3-4 mths and since it will be useful in our homeschooling I told my Mom he could go ahead and have one now so she got it for him.

 

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A few of Riley’s presents that I’m most proud of really just because I always call him my “city boy in transition” because he still doesn’t totally understand the country life and such and so getting him into outdoor/country hobbies is my goal to help him realize how amazing this lifestyle of ours is! So he got new arrows for his bow for Christmas!

 

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He got another light saber so him and I can play together! Lol!

 

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He got a wood sword and a case and belt for it because he has this new obsession with swords so I figured I should start him out with a wood one!

 

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So Riley has had a pocket knife now for about 2 years that he earned in Cub Scouts but now that he’s getting older I figured he should graduate to a swiss army knife and then maybe next year when he’s 12 start carrying an actual hunting or survival knife! Progress. My boy is growing up on me!

 

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I got a ton of kitchen stuff for Christmas which is A-mazing! From my sister I got this glass mixing bowl set which I desperately needed….like…you don’t even know! Lol!

 

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My sister also got me this huge 128 piece home and auto tool kit! SO needed that! Love it!

 

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So we headed out super early, like 7am to go to my Aunt’s house to do Christmas morning presents with them after we did ours at home. We got to see the rare Christmas Full Moon sinking just before the sun rose on our drive over.

 

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Then to the east as the moon went down the sun came up behind the clouds and gave us this gorgeous view!

 

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My aunt’s Christmas tree! It is Minnie Mouse theme for the 3 year old grandbaby in the family, lol! I won’t share a ton of photos of my family as that is their life/privacy but I thought I’d share a few highlights.

 

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This is me and my cousin’s baby girl Amelia who is just a couple of mths ago. She’s my baby love and when I’m there I try to always have her, lol!

 

So while at my Aunt’s I got the rest of my presents from my Mom and all my family and they were totally over the top. I find it amazing that everybody totally listened to what I had said or hinted at as wanting. They all know that I’m trying to be this Pioneer Woman and that developing my cooking skills is really important to me. My Mom has seen the food pics I share on Facebook and I do that strictly because just a year or two ago I would never have dubbed myself a chef of any sort. But I’ve been working hard to go all natural, all organic, no processed food and in doing that you just have to learn how to cook. And when you’re learning how to cook you quickly realize what all cools and utensils and appliances you desperately need and which ones really aren’t that useful. So I told my Mom a few things I’d been wanting and the rest they ran with and I totally hit the jackpot!

 

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Mixing bowl set!

 

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Pasta Machine! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes!

 

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Canning mason jars!!!

 

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A peeler! This thing is awesome, we used it Christmas day for dinner to peel potatoes, lol! It’s great!

 

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A food dehydrator! Hello self sufficiency here I come!!!!

 

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A fry maker!!!! We will totally use this!!!

 

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My first cast iron set!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay! Pre-seasoned and even comes with a dutch oven! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve wanted this forever and my Mama did so good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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The awesome, huge tool set from my Mom!

 

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A canning setup! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another step down the road of self sufficiency!

 

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Christmas Day sunset out in the desert! My cousin Amanda’s husband is an Arizona native and he likes to go out to the desert for a lot of reasons and he wanted us to all go out to do a bon fire and just hang out so we did! Them and their kids and me and Riley!

 

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Here is Riley helping my cousin’s husband start the fire.

 

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Me and Riley enjoying the fire!

 

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Riley and his cousins playing in the fire, lol!

 

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An Arizona desert bon fire on Christmas Day at sunset! It was cold and a lil windy but the kids loved it and so I had fun!

 

THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS!

My cousin’s 2 older daughters wanted to come to our house for a sleepover so we had them over and other than selfies and being piled up on the couch we watched movies and stayed up late, lol! They ended up staying over all weekend!

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Fun times with the kids!

 

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Sunday running my monthly errands to go grocery shopping I decided to spoil myself a little more (I totally didn’t need the additional spoiling but I did need the jacket) and bought myself a new hoodie! I’ve had a black CenturyLink zip up hoodie for over 5 years from when I worked there and it’s…on the outs! So I bought a gray pull over hoodie that is Browning and has PINK CAMO!!! =D I love it!

 

I hope you guys all had a fabulous Christmas and I really just had to put this post together because I don’t want to ever forget just how amazing of a time we had and how lucky we are to have such good family! We have had a rough last year or two but all the great things that have happened this year on top of the quality time and conversations with my family this holiday season has really been not only a firm reminder of how lucky we are but also a much needed emotional reprieve for myself personally!

 

I hope everybody had a chance to recharge their batteries and spend the holiday season feeling loved!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

 

P.S. You KNOW in the very near future I’m going to be sharing a post about using each one of those amazing Christmas gifts for the first time because I’m so damn excited to cook with my cast iron, use that food dehydrator, make homemade pasta (Gahhhhh!) and everything! I’m just so excited about them all so when I do get to use them I’ll totally share how fun it was!

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DIY twin bed frame FREE!

So a couple of weeks ago I decided Riley needed a new bed frame. Let me clarify, he has one…but it is at my ex’s house still and so when we moved here we just put his two mattresses on the floor and he didn’t care because…he’s a boy…and…he was glad he could go plop down or throw himself on his bed, lol, without having to worry about breaking anything! Ha! Boys! Well it got to bothering me and one day in the backyard taking clothes off the line the pile of old wood 1x4s caught my attention and I GOT AN IDEA!!!!

 

The idea to TRY to make a twin size bed frame totally out of just our mind’s creation was born! I could have looked it up online to get some guidance but I was just pumped to go at it, do it with Riley and us figure it out together along the way through good ol’ fashioned trial and error!

 

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Here we go!

 

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This is a pile of 1x4s we had laying around from a trellis we tore down.

 

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This is a 2×2 post from what used to be part of a porch or something on the back of the house. Now it just hangs out there all alone so I cut that off with the chainsaw to use as the 6 feet or supports.

 

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We did measure the mattresses and stuff to figure out what our final width and length would need to be once assembled, I let Riley do the math while explaining a few things to him and then we cut some pieces down to the size we needed.

 

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I let him do A LOT. Because once we started the project he really got intrigued and had a genuine interest in building something tangible which is probably the first time he’s ever done that. Typically if I need something demolished, he’s my guy. But now, I’m fostering this love of building in him as we both have much to learn and it’s a very good thing!

 

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I must say that he approached this project with this idea that (based on HIS experience in his video games and especially Minecraft) that he can just build and do anything. Even though in real life he lacked a lot of the actual skill and really had zero experience. And I quickly noticed his “Get it done attitude” quickly changed to “What in the world am I doing here” because he realized his ideals of what he thought he knew how to do were not really in line with reality. This was a beautiful thing for me to see as a Mother!!!! I took it as an opportunity not to criticize him on the false security his video games give him but rather to sit and show him how to properly hammer in a nail, ways to hold it, how to hit it in straight, how to fix it if it isn’t straight, etc. Once he realized he didn’t know a thing about it, lol, he was willing to listen to Mama Bear.

 

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A frame is taking shape! AND we lost daylight. This idea was born at like 4 or 5pm and it got dark quick so we put the tools up and headed in and Riley himself (I totally was too) was super excited to work on this again the next day. Anything I can do to encourage him to be self motivated to get outside and especially work on a project (being as he’s home schooled, basically an only child with his younger brother living in Arkansas, we have no neighbor kids nearby and he’s an introvert anyway) then I’m all for it!

 

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So Day 2 we set out and since he had gotten a handle on a lot of the basics on day 1 with just using a hammer and nails and putting stuff together, I did a lot of over-seeing. Proudly, might I add.

 

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Max had to come out and meander around, wondering what we were up to. Once he laid down right in the middle here, lol, until he was in our way. Riley liked having his best buddy around to watch or “help”! 😉

 

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Well now that is kinda lookin’ like a bed frame! =D

 

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We measured our support pieces, nothing here is perfect, let me say that. I made sure that the frame was level, were the right final dimensions and all the feet were level. Beyond that, we left the wood that old peeling blue paint that was on that aged trellis for at least 10 years. We cleaned off each piece and actually came across a few pieces that had termites on it so those got pitched to maybe use later for something else. So these were all cleaned up, dust free (mostly) and bug free but definitely is not perfection, which we’re totally fine with.

 

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He has a navy blue bed skirt somewhere but for life of me I couldn’t find it so temporarily so we could revel in the accomplishment of the completed project, I put this green one I had on there.

 

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Tada!!!! <– As Riley would say! =D It is done! He has this Angry Birds blanket my Mom got him years ago and now that we have our sewing machine I plan to quickly learn how to quilt to make both of my boys awesome bed quilts in their favorites themes. Riley’s will be a Minecraft quilt and I’ve already picked out the inspiration and pattern so hopefully I’ll get that done this winter!

 

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Here is an over view of the final few steps!

 

Riley, is SO happy with the project! Not only did he do probably 80% of the work but we did this in 2 days, just an hour or two each time, he learned a lot, I learned a lot, I immensely enjoyed watching my child’s knowledge and experience grow in a subject I’ve never been afforded the opportunity to teach him until NOW and he has a bed up off the floor.

 

Even though when I first mentioned this idea he wasn’t even sold on having a bed frame because he liked his mattresses on the floor NOW he is convinced. He loves it, our dog Max who sleeps with him loves it, everybody is happy!

 

I kid you not for days when I’d walk into Riley’s room and he’d be laying on his bed watching a video on his phone I’d just look at him and say “Omg, you’re on your bed! How awesome is that thing!” and we both would just beam with pride!!! That is a feeling INSIDE that you can’t replace and you sure can’t buy!!!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

 

If YOU know of any other super, super easy wood working projects my son and I could try together please comment below here on the blog so that we can look into them! Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a post! <3

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What we have done so far to move towards self-sufficiency…

As I write posts and find myself sharing on Facebook homesteading and self sufficiency groups I have people asking me how I wish to be 100% self sufficient and how that isn’t really possible these days. I guess I should explain what I mean by being 100% self sufficient and we can start from there.

 

To me this is what being 100% self sufficient looks like:

All your meat comes from your own animals

All your produce, fruit, berries, herbs and medicinal herbs come from your own gardens

Using solar panels, wind turbines and a well to be “off the grid” of society and also remove those bills

Using rain water, swales, trenches and gray water to be useful on your property for watering to cut down on use from the well

All your food intake comes from somewhere on your farm or possibly bartering with nearby locals doing the same with resources you don’t have yet

Being 100% debt free, maybe aside from a mortgage

Making your own clothes and bedding

Having the skills to hunt for meat, not for sport

Having the skills to survive in the wilderness for a week with just a backpack if you had to

Having the skills and equipment to protect your home and land

Having a way to make your own ammo

Having a general understanding of how electricity, plumbing and building structures all work

Having a GOOD understanding of how to care for your livestock animals for their health and your safety

Using medicinal herbs or homemade essential oils for all medical treatments

Having enough general knowledge AND equipment for most first aid or medical safety skills to not need a hospital other than a life threatening emergency

Making all your cleaning agents and personal hygiene items yourself so that you know there aren’t toxins or heavy metals in them

Using all glass dishware to avoid the hysteria of possible toxins

Knowing how to do laundry the pioneer way for when it is necessary

Knowing how to play at least 1 instrument…(hey, we all need amusement, right?)

Having all the basic tools you need to do any task for the home or on the farm, even if it’s harder work or more physical labor, as long as it gets the job done

Knowing how to take care of any issue in your home yourself without having to call someone for help or hiring something out

 

Now THAT is a long list but I think I about covered it. Now in the ways that we cannot be TOTALLY self sufficient unless I didn’t have to work and we rarely ever left the house…I’d still need to buy gas for the car to go places and general maintenance and upkeep on the car. But I have to say, to be frank, if I never left the house again and we survived financially and healthfully I think I’d be okay with that. Of course, I’d still want to go see family and friends and we’d have to use our transportation to go barter for items. But I do hope to one day have a road side farm stand where I can sell our excess produce in season and also sell my homemade hygiene items for the health conscious people and maybe even sell some quilts. But those things I can do from home. I would still have to have our satellite internet so maybe that is what people say when they say I can’t be all self sufficient. But I will say, I want to do what I want to do for a couple of reasons.

 

The reasons I want to be AS self sufficient as possible are because:

It makes me feel good, strong and capable!

It makes me feel like I’m teaching my son invaluable lessons he can’t learn elsewhere or wouldn’t learn in society

It is very affordable to live if you’re producing all your own stuff

You have less bills when you don’t need all the “extra stuff” like cable, multiple computers, video gaming consoles, etc.

It reminds me of an old way of life that has always intrigued me.

Maybe I was born in the wrong era…

I want to not have to have a day job of any kind and still be able to have our homestead because the few “bills” we have to pay for I can supplement with the items we sell from the homestead.

 

 

So now that I’ve said that I want to share what we’ve been doing and the things I’ve been working to begin our SLOW but steady MIGRATION to one day NEAR self sufficiency homesteading!

 

What we have been working on the last 6 months:

Stopped buying ALL frozen food EXCEPT Riley’s damn chicken nuggets =/ *grunt, roan* (will explain later in another post)

Started stocking up on all “pantry essentials” that thrifty single Mom’s usually don’t keep.

Making homemade cleaning products

Homemade facial products

Not using paper towels or napkins, instead dish towels.

We hang dry all of our laundry

We recycle items

Burn trash instead of using trash service

Redirecting gray water to be useful in gardens

Homemade spider killing spray

Homemade bug repellent

Homemade anti itch spray

Homemade febreeze

Monthly preventative septic treatment instead of hiring a pro once a year

Fixing small plumbing issues ourselves

Bartering with neighbor for fresh chicken eggs

Selling unused items to have additional funds to go back into the homestead

Homeschooling instead of relying on the public system

Find a reuse for everything we possibly can. Thinking twice or 3 times before putting something in the burn pile.

Making homemade dog food

Buying all of our grocery items in bulk at Sam’s club

Prepping homemade meals and freezing them so they’re just as easy as store bought frozen meals

Doing a TON of research on how to make and cook as many homemade things as possible, with the least amount of preservative type items in it.

Stocking up on Mason jars and glass bottles to use and reuse.

Working on getting rid of most of our plastic storage containers due to the potential toxins when heating

Buying organic meat and produce until we have our own to fill our freezer and pantry with.

Finding new uses for old warn out clothes we’d otherwise just donate

Working adamantly to pay off my one car loan so that I have one less debt…and possibly something big to barter with!

Continuing to teach Riley how to shoot a gun and a bow and arrow with efficiency, part of his home schooling “life skills”.

Teaching Riley how to drive so that when we have a tractor or quad he can be my go to man if I need him, even though he’s only 11 (useful farm skill).

NETWORKING with a large variety of people nationwide but also in our backyard to help teach us about raising animals in Az, homesteading do’s and don’ts from people nationwide, joining local bartering groups, etc. All in an effort to get “in the know” with the homesteading thing and hopefully learn from others! Which has already happened tremendously!

 

 

What we are researching to do next:

Doing a TON of research on how to make and cook as many homemade things as possible, with the least amount of preservative type items in it. (This is a huge thing for me and I’ll do a whole other post to go into this and what all I’ve learned that is just plum fascinating!)

Research which seasonings we need to buy and keep in bulk for cooking until we can get the herb garden going.

Currently researching homemade soaps, shampoos and deodorant to get our hygiene products 100% homemade.

I have spent COUNTLESS hours researching the most effective way to garden productively and “with nature” in the low desert with our hot summers, year round cross winds, small predators and late summer monsoon rains. Researching this BEFORE setting it all up to make the first trial run as effective as possible, assuming there will still be some stumbling involved.

Researching how to dig a root cellar since I’m going to need somewhere to store all that canned goodness.

Researching how to grow wheat and what plants and trees I need to grow to one day produce all of our own oils and flowers used in cooking, baking and skin care.

Also researching what types of solar power and wind turbines will be useful and efficient on our specific property and how to set those up.

Researched how to get the house on our private well so that we can be off city water 100% and that project is in the works, easier than I thought. So then we’ll have 1 less utility bill.

 

 

If you have any insight, advice, suggestions or anything at all to share PLEASE DO! Consider me an eager baby bird ready to be fed knowledge from any source I can find it in because that is just about how I live my life 24/7…always learning! Thanks for reading!

 

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 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!

2nd-grade

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.

 

Sixth Grade_MED

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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Late 2014, Season of Changes

I pick up in our story, in our journey of getting TO the farm, in October 2014. The financial turmoil I mentioned in the last post that my fiance and I had post-summer was still happening and nearing a breaking point. Chad mentioned that his family had a house in another town an hour away that had been his grandparents and his mother and brother lived there now, there was still a small mortgage on it. They could always use some help with the payment and apparently there were 1-2 rooms that we could use for our rooms if we chose to move there. We talked about it for a while as it meant another move for me and Riley, him having to change schools, moving to a town we had never lived in, moving in with people we barely know and moving away from my real estate market in Maricopa that I specialized in. There were plenty of cons to the idea BUT the pros were that after talking to the family we’d have the option to buy the house from the family and own it one day, of course, allowing Chad’s mom and brother to stay. The house was run down and needed some work, things that they just weren’t able to take care of. So we planned a dinner with his Mom and brother to drive up there and talk to them about this idea, as they didn’t offer it to us in the first place. Chad did a lot of assuming but after talking to a few family members everybody was on board and so we prepared to move. It was the financial break we needed, to save us. We did, unfortunately, have to break our lease on our beautiful home in Maricopa but it came down to the fact that it was the only option we really had. We put 80% of our stuff in storage except for what we needed for our 2 bedrooms and moved in.


This is a part of mine and Riley’s life that because it involves so many other people, I will leave out a lot of the (unpleasant) details.

By November 2014 house remodel #2 on the farm was DONE!!! Myself and the Seller were very pleased with this. He decided he didn’t want the risk of putting a tenant in there again and the cost of the 2 remodels were more than he could recoup continuing to rent out the investment property so he had to sell it. He had an appraisal done on the property and I listed it for sale accordingly! 

Here are the photos of when the second renovation was completed as the house went on the market up for sale just shy of a year ago!


She’s no looker and still has no curb appeal but at least she was all cleaned up and ALMOST everything in working order!



The deck is 515 square feet, I measured!








Done again. Dining room.



Living Room 





Living Room




Kitchen



Kitchen




Backyard




Backyard




I have always loved these 2 mature mesquite trees and how they just seem to beautifully frame the shop!




A view of the entrance to the carport, the gate to the back part of the property (about 6 of the 8 acres is rural and fenced in, separate from the “front yard” part of the house/property)



This is a tack shed on the property.



3 car carport/shop



The chicken coop is right there to the right, inside that covered awning area.



A shot of the back 6 acres. =D


Changes abound!!!


The house went on the market and I was excited! I was happy to see it looking so good again and I hosted a few open houses to drive people to the house since it’s in a very rural area. Things didn’t go as planned. There was hardly any interest in the home and when I would have someone come out to see it they either were just curious to see what it looked like after the remodel (nosy neighbors) or they were wanting a rent to own option which the Seller wasn’t too keen on!


In my life, the second week of November was a giant turning point. The stress my relationship was under with my fiance got to be too much and after arguing daily for about a month and finally sitting down to talk, we ended our relationship. Problem was, I had no intention on ending the relationship and I had vested my entire life and my business on this move to a new town. Riley had only been in his new school for maybe 2 months, if that. Add to that that I was heartbroken because nobody likes the end of a relationship but I knew that if we did proceed to hack away at it that if a marriage did happen, it would eventually end as our views on parenting were so far apart…that any compromise seemed impossible. So, since I wasn’t planning on having to move AGAIN we hadn’t been saving money. Both of us had put all of our extra money into fixing up his Mom’s house that we had planned to buy. I think we sunk about $3000 into that house in two months, repairs that were greatly needed. But then at that point in my life seeing the end of my relationship it felt as though all that money had been wasted, on a home I’d never own, belonging to a family I’d never be part of. The magnitude of the situation I was in got to be too much for me to bear. When venting to my Mother on the phone (who lives in Louisiana) she told me that Riley and I needed to come out to see her for Thanksgiving and just give myself a chance to get away. So we did just that. We loaded up in the car and hit the road a few days before Thanksgiving when Riley got out of school. The week following the break up, while still living together, Chad and I didn’t do much talking. We had talked about how it was obvious I couldn’t move out right away so he’d have to be flexible with me. And we needed to at least be friendly with one another or it’d be unbearable for both of us. Since we both agreed on those things, that’s what we did. So our trip to Louisiana and Arkansas (where I’m from, where most of my family is, where my youngest son lives) was great!!! I’ll share some photos below because it was such a wonderful time!



Thanksgiving in Louisiana and Arkansas!



When I go back home several times a year to northern Arkansas it is a 23-34 hour drive. This was my first trip heading to West Monroe, Louisiana and so when we left home and my GPS said 19 hours I was like “Woo hoo, I can do that!”. A little known fact about me, I love road trips. Particularly, I love driving, as these trips going back and forth to places we’ve been so many times there is less “road tripping” and sight seeing and more driving through the night to not have to deal with traffic and fellow travelers! So I almost always set out midday or in the evening with the intent to drive straight through and every trip I’ve made by myself or just me and my boys, we always made it straight through. #motivation #loveit



But honestly I don’t do it alone. I always have a monster (or 5) on board and generally a jug of my homemade sweet tea to make the drive a little easier! And it works! =D




Coming into West Monroe! It was my first time there and I swear you drive through Texas for 12-13 hours (no lie) and about an hour before you hit the Louisiana western border you go from wide open plains to TREES!!! Being from Arkansas with tons of big, huge, beautiful green trees but living in Arizona the last 15 years…I LOVE TREES!!! So that is always one of my favorite parts about going back home!




My boys and I at the Duck Dynasty Headquarters in West Monroe, Louisiana!


Boys being adorable in the hotel


Me and my Riley man


Some time in Arkansas with those we adore!


Part of the middle of southern Arkansas on our way from my Mom’s in West Monroe, La (north central Louisiana) to where my bff and family live in north central Arkansas. Almost a straight line north through the center of the state. Trees and wildlife (deer primarily) abound!!! And fog, I do not miss driving in fog!



While there, I kid you not, I never once saw the sun. That to me, being so used to the bright, blissful, endless Arizona sun was pretty dreadful! This was a very soggy, long dirt road to my good friend Alaina’s house. She also lives in the middle of nowhere, common factor with my friends and family! But on a sunny day in spring or summer, this road and this area is immensely gorgeous with bright green fields, tall towering trees and wild flowers!!!



One of the days going to my best friend Jeannie’s house, this is the dirt road to her house. She lives in flat lands and the area is primarily all farm land. So all the area around her house in a good 8-9 mile radius is ALL farmland. The main highway is raised, due to damaging floods in the last 30 years. But once you turn off that main road you drop down to the rural dirt roads and they’re all low, pretty level with the farmland. So when there is a ton of rain and the nearby rivers rise (and they do, at least a few times a year) then the farmland gets flooded. If it is bad enough, then the roads get flooded. A few times, most recently just a couple of years ago, the floods got so bad homes were lost and major damage was done on the nearby towns. These roads make me nervous as I seem to always find myself on them in a car!!!


While in Arkansas to see Konnor we got to go by my best friend’s house and she’s PURE COUNTRY! Her and her husband (and their kids) live on an acre outside of town and have chickens, lots of dogs they breed and pigs!!! I hadn’t had much experience with pigs although…I do love pork! haha! So it was a wonderful experience to get to meet her pigs, talk to her and her husband about what it’s like to raise them and I was smitten! I knew right away when I had a farm someday I would have to have pigs! They are such smart and social creatures! I loved how they wagged their little tails when you walk up to them!


One of Jeannie’s pigs! So cute!!!!


I am still not a fan of chickens and I’m not sure why, they just kind of freak me out! haha!


Jeannie’s dogs looking out to the farmland surrounding their house.

When we went back home to Arizona after Thanksgiving it wasn’t too bad because we were only home for a couple of weeks before we left again for the Christmas holidays in the south. Chad and I got along fine, we had a few heart to hearts about how we could be friendly roommates and still split the bills like we were before and make it through until I could put a new plan in place. So everything was shockingly amicable on that front.


Christmas in Arkansas and Louisiana!!!


This was the first Christmas in too many years that all my siblings got together at my Mom’s house. The previous 10 or so years my Mother and I both lived in Arizona so we’d celebrate together with my boys but my sister lived in Arkansas and my brother lived in Oklahoma. This year with me coming out, my brother and sister came out as well since they were all less than 8-9 hours away. So my Mom was very happy to have all her babies and all her grandbabies together in one place! We took that opportunity to have some family portraits done by my sister in law who is a professional photographer!


The swampy yet beautiful park where we did our family photos! The grounds were GORGEOUS! And I’m not sure what kind of trees these tall, lanky, mossy trees were but any tree is a splendid sight to me so naturally, I snapped up several photos while there!


One of the docks we did photos on!




My two happy boys, playing video games at Nana’s!


My baby boo! He is already 8 but still loves his blanky that he got when he was just 6 mths old. Sleeps with it always!


Riley man on Christmas morning.

So those are just a few photos from Thanksgiving and Christmas! This was a long post with lots of pictures so I’ll pick up on the next post in early 2015! Almost got you guys caught up to date, almost!

XoXo,
Elizabeth
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