I have been absent…

….shame on me! haha! I have only been so absent from the blog because I have been heavily sharing our journey on YouTube! I found some comfort in sharing in a video format and felt a lot of things were easier to convey with that method. However, I have always been a writer at heart and so in the very near future I hope to incorporate regular blog writing into part of what we’re doing to share our journey, spread joy, help others, share our trails and errors, etc.

 

In the meantime, if you would like to check out what has been going on on our YouTube channel here!

 

Also, if you haven’t checked out our Facebook homesteading page yet please do so as I frequently share useful articles, tips and information there from other sources than just my own experiences AND I share photos of the garden and changes around the homestead DAILY! You can find our Facebook page here!

 

As always, thank you for checking us out, sharing our journey and always providing so much information and feedback to help me learn and grow!

 

Xoxo,

Elizabeth

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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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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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nature-spread

“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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May 22, 2015 A decision was made!

In mid May 2015 the seller of “the little farm” approached me with an offer. The house had been on the market since December and not selling, much to my dismay as the listing agent. So we would often chat on the phone about what we could do, why it wasn’t selling, etc. One day while on the phone he asked me if I’d live in the house! He said he didn’t want to rent it out but he knew how much time I spent there, how I’d go over once every month or two and do weeds MYSELF, keep the porch swept off. He knew I was a country girl and he also knew that we had moved around a few times in the last year trying to find our place in life. I was actually shocked by the idea initially, I guess because I hadn’t thought of it myself. I talked to a friend of mine and he said “Yeah, do it, you will love it out there, that’s where you belong anyway isn’t it?” So I got to thinking about it and then before I made my decision I brought Riley out to see the house. He had been there a time or two with me but never to see the house as a potential  new home for us. So that day we headed out and went to the house. I took a few photos that day of the “front yard” because while there I got to thinking about how exciting it’d be to live on an 8 acre property and all the different things we could do and animals we could have! Here are those photos!


The front gate to the property with my sign still up!



The “front yard” as I call it encompasses about 2 of the 8 acres and include the part that the house sits on. The back 6 acres are an L shaped part of the property fenced in for horses. So the front yard is large…and just wide open and dirt.


This is right inside the gate and to the right.


Out in the middle of the front yard is the well and well pump.


NE corner of the property


East side of the property


Me standing in the road, across the street from the house to take a picture with the house, property and my sign behind me! =D I was excited, in case you can’t tell!

So, I talked to Riley about it and he was going to be finishing up 5th grade within the week so we decided that is what we’d do. I talked to the seller and the house came off the market. We drew up a lease purchase agreement as he has some loose ends to tie up with the property and I have some things to do with my credit before I buy it. Part of our agreement was that I would get to live in it for a very reasonable rent payment and in return I would work on the property and grounds in a way that would better the home yet not drastically change anything before I do the actual purchase.

XoXo,
Elizabeth
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