Our chicken coop situation, project & video on YouTube!

When we moved to this property we knew we’d have animals in the future. We also knew there was an existing chicken coop attached to the shop and a detached tack shed but otherwise no other animal “structures” on the property. The coop hadn’t been used in years and the run was pretty demolished by who knows what.

 

So since I’ve spent the first 5-6 mths on this property cleaning up around the 8 acres, fixing up the house and doing minor repairs inside I decided it was time to start on animal projects. I’d love to get my chickens and pigs before we come out of winter just because I want to have them here and give them time to adapt to their new home before we go into summer, as I presume that will be the hardest time of year for them here in southern Arizona.

 

So last week I decided to go ahead and start doing something about this chicken cook situation. Below I’ll show you photos of what it looked like before and also some photos of the work we did on it last week PLUS a video tour I posted on YouTube! The link to that is near the bottom of this post!

 

HERE ARE PICTURES OF WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE WHEN WE MOVED IN AND UP UNTIL JUST RECENTLY.

 

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This is the outside storage area, like a “carport” off the coop.

 

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Inside the coop

 

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Inside the coop

 

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Inside the coop. It has a little shelf over there in the corner and there is power in here to YAY, I can add a light on an automatic timer switch if I need to give them either more light in the winter or put a heat lamp in there. In the summer I’ll have a fan on each size of the breeze way circulating air in there to try to keep them cooler.

 

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Behind the coop, the old run. With a big desert bush in the middle.

 

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I’m not sure what is up with that half way behind the storage area but it looks rough!

 

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That bush.

 

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THEN I GOT TO WORK ON CLEANING UP THE OUTSIDE STORAGE AREA AND FIXING THE COOP DOOR.

 

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Outside storage area as of about 2 weeks ago.

 

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Over the last few months as I have been removing or trimming trees I have been saving certain limbs that I thought would be useful in the coop. I read an article about having some limbs attached to the inside of the coop and that the birds like to “chill” or “play” on them, lol! So that is what some of these are for!

 

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I cleared out all the stuff I had in there and just raked out the whole area. It was just all nasty. I moved these little storage shelves I had in the shop out there as temporary storage. Then once I did that I got to thinking about how that opening faces the south and how this little area gets good sun exposure but not direct all day long. So I got to thinking this might be a good area for a temporary green house type experiment. Or maybe when I start seedlings inside I can bring them to this spot to transition to outdoors before I plant them outside. More research to be done on that though later!

 

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Then the door wouldn’t open more than 1 foot…

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So I started raking all the dirt out of the way blocking the door and quickly realized it wasn’t just that but 1 of the hinges on the door was broken.

 

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I got the hinge repaired, added some support nails and got the dirt all cleared so now she opens 75% of the way and closes perfectly since it’s all level now! Yay!

 

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I put some pots here because I’m just trying to envision really what it’s going to be like. I know there are a few herbs that are really good for chickens and since I’m also studying Permaculture at the same time I have decided there is at least 1 fruit tree that I’m going plant right beside the run so they can eat the fruit when it drops (plums) and then also I’m going to plant blueberry bushes along their fence line for them to eat as well and I can harvest the other side they can’t get to. But to start I’m going to plant some herbs in pots near the door so that those can start growing and I will use those to cut some off and give to them as treats as I walk by all the time.

 

THEN WE GOT TO WORK ON CLEANING UP THE FUTURE RUN A LITTLE BIT.

 

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What you see here is the coop in the middle, a covered storage area on the left, to the left of that is the wood fence to my backyard, on the far right is the outdoor storage area beside the coop that I showed you above and to the right of that is the gate that leads to my house and where I park. I had to tackle removing this big bush since it takes up (what I presume) is all of the OLD run. The new run will be much larger.

 

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Before I started this project I put out a reqeust on Facebook on local farming/homesteading pages asking for advice on how to remove this bush/tree and if anybody knew what kind it was. Since this is the desert and that thing was surviving all by itself just fine without being watered or cared for I knew it had to have deep roots. Which would make it harder to remove.

 

Luckily, within a few minutes I had some very helpful people sharing great info with me! Turns out it is a Greasewood bush also known as a Desertbroom bush. These guys not only are natives to the Sonoran Desert and DO have super deep roots BUT they are also very beneficial! They need no maintenance technically and their leaves have medicinal purposes. So upon researching the type further and confirming it is in fact a Greasewood bush I found that the leaves when crushed and used in numerous ways are anti bacterial, anti viral, relieve muscle aches, help upset stomachs, you name it! I’m all about having “useful” plants on the property so I was very glad to learn all about this guy here on the farm and how really there is no reason for me to get rid of him. The birds will like some shade and might also want to play in some of the lower limbs so I decided to keep it.

 

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Since it has a bunch of smaller limbs I didn’t think my chainsaw would work, I thought I’d have a lot of kickback. So I did first try my jig saw and a hand saw and neither went very well. So I went and got my chainsaw and Riley helped hold the smaller limbs down while I cut so that they weren’t popping back.

 

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We got the majority of the bigger ones along the bottom cut out and pulled away.

 

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Then got to work on the smaller ones around the bottom with the pruning sheers.

 

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So we got a lot cut out but the run was still a mess and the sun was setting.

 

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This is what this guy looks like close to the ground. Lots of big and lil limbs just going all over the place. I’ll have to make sure to prune this every few mths so it doesn’t get all wild again but that’s totally fine by me.

 

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Finally got the whole area raked out of debris, trash, horse poo, etc.

 

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She’s all cleaned up! The biggest thing left to do for the run is build all new fence around it, put in a gate/door, predator proof the bottom with hardware cloth, put netting over the top and add some features inside the run that I want to do like you’ll see below in my Pinterest inspiration photos. So yeah, still a lot to do but cleaning this up motivated me to keep at the project finally!

 

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MY FAVORITE BEFORE AND AFTER WITH THIS PROJECT SO FAR!

 

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I’m still amazed at how it actually looks like a tree from a distance even though it’s just a bush. It is so tall it has to be at least 3-5 years old. And something that has survived that long on it’s own I just couldn’t dare remove.

 

Here is the video on YouTube I just published today talking about this chicken coop project, doing a tour of the inside, introducing my puppies to you all (lol!) and a photo collage at the end of all these photos I just shared on here!

 

JUST SO THAT YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHERE I WANT TO GO WITH THIS COOP HERE ARE SOME IDEAS I’VE FOUND ON PINTEREST THAT I’VE SAVED AS MY INSPIRATION PHOTOS!

 

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I want a run built like this but with netting over the top!

 

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I like the idea of having a super cute door like this on the run as a “gate” just because it’s so cute! And I may have an extra door or two I could use for this it is just a matter of making it work. But I do love the pop of color as well!

 

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I’m going to plant some things in the run in boxes like this for the chickens to eat as they grow UP because I just think it’s such an awesome idea! So this will go outside in the run!

 

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I’ve also read that chickens like to “play” on stumps and I have plenty of logs big enough for this so I’ll jam a few in the ground in the run for them to play on.

 

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Not only am I in love with the “fresh eggs” sign and just have to have one but I also love that they have all these potted plants and flowers right outside the chicken coop. I probably won’t do any non edible flowers unless I’m trying to bring bees to the area (there’s an idea….) but I will definitely do herbs and cumfrey right outside the door and also along their fence line.

 

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I love this PVC automatic chicken feeder idea!

 

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I want the chicken coop to be on solar for the minimal things that will be running out there and not really because it needs to be because there is already power to the coop but just as a step to gradually move all structures on the property to solar and all NEW structures will be only on solar.

 

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This is one of the ideas I saw where they use tree limbs in the coop for the chickens. In fact, I hope my coop looks a lot like this one because I’m going to paint it white in there and I also have to do the ceiling and I have enough limbs to do a setup just like this one for my chickens.

 

Well, thank you again for stopping by and checking it out! I hope you enjoyed the post and the video! If you have any suggestions on what I’m working on or what type of dual purpose bird to raise here in the Sonoran Desert that can handle the heat, I’m open to suggestions!

 

Please subscribe to stay up to date on what we’re doing here on our start up homestead! =D

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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All natural skin care routine

So when I tell people I want to do everything all natural, homemade or organic in my home I get questions on beauty or skin care. So I’m going to share what I currently do for skin care and also which remaining store bought items I plan to replace next!

 

This is my little stack of homemade, all natural face products. I do not make all of these. The two that have little labels a friend of mine in New Mexico makes. She is an esthetician and knows what she’s doing and I met her a few years ago here in Arizona and after she taught me how to understand MY specific skin, I bought a few products from her to work with my skin and the results were amazing! So now she has moved to NM and I order these from her online either through her site or her Facebook page. You can find her business Facebook page here!

 

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Okay, so please don’t judge my plastic containers as I AM on a mission to replace all plastic containers with glass but that is actually pretty hard to do and a process to find all different shapes and sizes if you don’t want to just go on Amazon and buy them all brand new. That being said…

 

My products are:

Organic coconut oil (top left container): this is the remainder of my organic coconut oil that stays in its glass jar until it gets to the bottom and I put it in this thing to make it easier to use each time in the shower.

Use: I use this to wash my face, remove make-up, remove dirt, you name it. It gets all the make-up off including water proof mascara in a breeze! You just wet your face, put some on your fingers, rub it in all over you face and eyes then use a warm wash clothe to wipe it off. You will see the dirt and make up come off on the cloth! AND…it’s so gentle that after I rub it in on my eyes I can open my eyes to find my wash cloth, which I often do, lol, and it doesn’t burn or anything!

My homemade facial/body sugar scrub (left bottom container): I make this and you can find the recipe about half way down through this blog post of mine.

Use: I use this on my body daily and my face every few days as a gentle exfoliator. Sugar is actually gentle enough that you can use daily on your face if you want but someone with more sensitive skin might want to do every few days on their face. I could handle daily but honestly I just don’t take the time to do it.

Raw Shea Butter with Tea Tree Oil (glass black container front and center): This is a homemade mixture my friend does that is specially blended for my skin. The shea butter is whipped because I prefer that texture over any other after a few different tries. The Tea Tree Oil in it is necessary for MY skin to help kill bacteria as I have skin that is prone to that cyst acne which is the kind that happens under the skin and then you get white heads. Basically due to excess toxins, dirt on pores, pores being too big or too open and the dirt getting trapped in said pores. Also, she pointed out to me that people who are Native American tend to have issues processing cheese and so sometimes they/we can have acne or white heads caused by the cheese basically trying to escape the body, lol! Sounds crazy but makes total sense to me as I LOVE cheese…..tremendously! And I won’t give it up to have a 100% clear face, that’s for sure.

Use: This is my daily moisturizer! After washing (and the side effect of moisturizing) my face with the coconut oil in the shower, I then add this moisturizer as soon as I get out. A little goes a long way and so any morning I forget to use it within a couple of hours my face feels tight and dry.

Peppermint Epsom Salt for bath (back right green glass bottle): this is a therapeutic salt bath mixture I made and you can find the recipe here!

Use: This is good to use for the therapeutic benefits of Peppermint or just to soften skin in the bath. I shower more than I take a bath but when I do this is what I use to spoil myself.

Lemon Burst DIY natural deodorant (bottom right small container): this recipe I just made yesterday and after I’ve had a few days to use it and try it out in different situations then I’ll finish my blog post about it with an honest review of what I think of it.

Use: Deodorant….dur. =)

Lemon Cream Face Mask and Scrub (middle right glass container): this is another one my friend in NM makes for me. After working out on the property here all summer I noticed I had a few dark spots above my upper lip and also above one eye brow (odd, huh?) and I freaked out. I sent her a message and asked what was happening to my skin. After many questions she determined it was likely sun damage =( due to me being outside so much and not using any SPF or wearing a hat. Another sad face moment.

Use: This mixture was created for me after her trial and errors and the lemon in it helps stimulate skin to have new growth of healthy skin. So this is a powder mixture that when I want to use it as a mask I just mix it up in a tiny bowl and I actually use one of those hair color mixing bowls and brushes and mix it up into a paste. Then I get my face wet with warm water, apply the mask generously and let sit for 30 mins. Then I wipe off with a warm wash cloth. This is something that could heal the sun damage but she said it could take 2-3 times a week for a few months to see the difference. I’m patient and all but in truth I do this maybe once a month when I remember. It isn’t high on my list of things to do. But if I want to feel like I’m pampering my face (or say I’ve spent all day outside working) then I’ll wash my face (to get it clean), do my sugar scrub (to exfoliate dead skin) and follow up with the lemon mask (to replenish and pamper my skin) and my face feels super happy after!

 

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Shameless selfie! Lol! I took this picture not smiling so you can just SEE my skin. I love my skin! This is post shower, after putting on my tea tree oil moisturizer and yes…I’m wearing mascara. But that’s it. I try to not wear make-up much. If I’m home (which I generally am for days at a time) I wear no make-up and not even mascara. If I have to run a quick errand or something I’ll put on mascara because I am blessed with long eye lashes and without mascara I feel like I look tired. If I am “dressing up” I wear powder, blush, eye shadow and mascara. But really all that stuff is nothing but crap for your skin. So I try to really limit it. My esthetician is working on an all natural powder for make-up now made out of something wonderful but she’s still ironing out the kinks so when that is done I will totally try it!

 

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These are the ONLY remaining beauty/hygiene culprits, which I will be eliminating in the near future; herbal essences shampoo (15 year avid user), Vaseline lotion (6 year avid user), herbal essences spray gel for curly hair (10 year avid user), Dove bar soap (probably 15 year user), Dial liquid hand soap (I’ve always loved Dial) and then Arm and Hammer tooth paste. This tooth paste I’ve only been using about 6 mths but I really love it and the results I’ve had, which I think is thanks to the baking soda in it!

 

So since I just switched to natural deodorant I think my next change will be the toothpaste, when I run out of this because I don’t want to waste what I have on hand. I also have like 12 bars of Dove soap, lol (I shop at Sam’s Club) and I hope by the time I run out of that not only am I making my own homemade soap but that it has cured and is ready to be used. I am reaching out to my NM esthetician about ordering some of her homemade soap to replace all the dial liquid soap I have at each sink in the house. We’ll start there and not buy any more of that and then replace the Dove once I run out of it.

 

I have been researching all natural shampoos but I have some ingredients to buy before I can try a few recipes. I also have found a lot of info on LOTION BARS home made and I’m super excited to try some of those. I’m totally confident I can find a luxurious diy recipe for lotion to replace Vaseline…which I use religiously (daily) on my entire body head to toe, okay…foot to collar bone! And if I ever go a day without lotion (I forget or I’m in a rush post shower) I can tell all day long and it kills me. So I need a good solid replacement. And this bottle is running low and I really do not want to buy another…

 

So there ya go! If you have recommendations on diy all natural shampoo, conditioner AND the light spray gel for curly hair I am all ears! I am most concerned about what exactly I’ll replace my spray gel with because it took me years of trial and error to find this 1 product that works perfect for my naturally curly hair and makes my hair feel just the way I want it too, not too firm, not too loose. So, please comment here and share any recipes you have tried that work!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

And if you like what you see here and want to keep up with what is going down on the Little Farm with Big Dreams in Arizona as we setup our homestead and walk the rather misunderstood path of trying to become self sufficient PLEASE SUBSCRIBE so you get a quick email any time I write a new post! Thanks so much for checking us out!!! <3

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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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09-28-15 Phase 3 of driveway “redo”

Here in this post we pick up on Phase 3 of my driveway “redo” project which is explained in the post about Phase 1 here and then you can check out what I got done just before this in Phase 2 here! I spent the majority of the day working on this project because I wasn’t able to start until mid-morning and by then it was already hotter than I had expected. We were blessed with a few mellow days with temps in the low 90s after the rain we had gotten and on THIS day it decided to get back up around 105-110. But I was at a point in the project that I was very eager to continue and pick up on, excited to be reaching a point where it looked near done, at least to the level of done I plan to get it to for now. So I would work and take breaks and then work some more, using up the better part of a day.


I decided to start with the new driveway part that branches off to the right from the main driveway and leads to that double gate to the future pasture. You can see from this picture that those rocks weren’t necessarily in a good place so they had to be moved again. But what you can’t see is just how many weeds there were up by the fence and to the left of it. I wanted to go ahead and get rid of all of those. 

I began by raking all the loose debris and small weeds from that burn pile over to the gate, raking them up towards the new line for the driveway to “clear the path” if you will.



This took awhile but I do actually enjoy work like this because I’m one of those people who enjoys raking, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, etc because it feels like happy work for an OCD person. =) And then the result was pleasing which was what appeared to be an “intentional” path big enough for 2 cars or a large truck or even tractor! Success!


Here is another view from the other side of the debris and junk ALMOST raked away…


Me, happy to be working outside but it was pretty hot!!!


I am a huge fan of before and after’s and even before and now’s because it is a visual reminder or gratification for me of the progress that has been made. It gives me that jolt of contentment that refuels me to push on.


Once I got the rocks placed where I wanted them to remain, I got all the weeds up to the left by the gate removed and the only thing up there now is that bamboo, which will eventually be removed as well. And then I got everything raked out of the way.


This made me happy and was about the most I plan to do with this area for awhile, other than removing the bamboo and adding gravel. We won’t have a need or use for that gate until next year some time so for now this is what I set out to accomplish and from now on I’ll just keep the road way clear of weeds until the gravel goes down.


Here is a good before and now! I say “In Progress” because obviously this area of the project is not finished but it won’t be awhile and that is alright by me! For now!



Once I got the gate area cleaned up on the far side of this photo I just had to do an In Progress photo of this area, too! But the top photo in the collage above is from the other day before I got all those weeds removed.


Here is a great before and now photo collage of the work done just in front of the house, where the driveway splits left and right and where there will soon be visitor parking room by a new front gate (after the bamboo is gone)! I love this photo collage!!!!!! <3


Then I moved over to the driveway. The other day I had gotten the rocks placed and some of the weeds on the left knocked down but not all of them. So after that side gate area was cleaned up I focused my energy on getting all the weeds off this left side so you can see both rows of rocks and it look like an intentional driveway.


Here I had gotten the weeds at the end of the driveway taken care of and just had a few smaller ones up at the front to tend to.


I got ALL the weeds out of the driveway! Except you may notice that small little bush RIGHT there. Haha! I must say, when I was chopping down weeds I saw this little weed/bush of wild flowers that were blooming  beautiful yellow and I just couldn’t! I thought “Maybe it won’t be too much in the way”. So I get all the other weeds down, I put UP my weed eater and TWO extension cords it takes to reach this side of the yard, haha, and then come back out and spend an hour RAKING the entire driveway end to end. I raked from the middle off to each side to clear any other debris, small weeds I had missed and level out the existing minuscule gravel. So then once all that was done I came and stood back here to take my “after” photo, Yay…only to find just how much that little bush really bothered me. Again…OCD much?!?! So…I had already put away all my tools to get rid of it with AND I was tired and hot and felt just annoyed with the idea of getting everything back out, throwing my cords around and all that fuss just to come remove that one plant. Talk about slapping yourself for wishing you had done something the first time around.


When my pants and boots are this dirty and covered in dust, I know I’m getting something done and working with my body and it makes me feel proud, happy, capable, able and content! <3 Who said a single Mom can’t setup a homestead mostly on her own? =)


View of the driveway “done” for now from the south. I still need to remove the debris from that burn pile and, of course, remove that little bush…and then I’ll feel like it’s truly done until I move onto the next phase in a couple of months. And that next phase is gravel, trees and water lines.


View of the driveway BASICALLY done from the north. (That damn bush!) Ahhhhhh! 


People often know me as Elizabeth, the Realtor, single mom, woman who loves her aviators and who has very long, thick curly, wild hair. And the majority of the time when I’m out and about being social or working they’ll see me with my hair down and I’m typically in a long summer dress and sandals. It is my go to outfit, my “make me feel pretty and girly” outfit. But what most people don’t usually see (only a handful have really) is me when I’m the happiest which is when I have no make-up at all on, hair up in a knot, jeans on, boots on, sweating my butt off, calluses on my hands, bottle of water in my back pocket, etc. Being raised in Arkansas you might think I grew up this way but I really didn’t. We lived in city limits the majority of my life until I moved in with my sister when I was 12. At that point we lived in the country. Prior to that I had summer’s with my Dad or his parents and those were the real boonies and times when I spent as much time outside as I could, being a lil country girl playing in the mud, climbing trees, riding four wheelers, hanging out with my boy cousins! But throughout life I have come to find I am happiest outside. Being raised in the Phoenix metro from the age of 15 to 21, some “city” rubbed off on me but when I started hiking the local mountains for exercise, I realized how much I loved it. That grew and fostered a love of the outdoors in Arizona, even though it is insanely hot. But hiking and running outdoors even in the summer, over the years, I came accustomed to the weather we have here. And so this all brings me now to where I am 30 and I’ve been itching the last few years to raise my son in the country so he may have a childhood covered in mud as I did part of mine. And I do think if I never had a reason to dress up ever again and spent every day on this property working on clearing land, growing a garden, tending to animals…I’d be just fine with that! <3 I have finally found what makes me the most happy in my life and that is being far away from other people, tending to everything myself and learning a lot along the way, teaching my son useful skills he needs to know for adult life!



For good measure, I can’t forget the progress photos of the driveway!


And of course, lastly, the final before and now photo of the driveway from the gate to the house! To some it may not look like a whole lot was done but this took me probably a good 20-25 hours total over the course of numerous days to get this work done being as I did 90% of it on my own. Riley helped with the fire and hauling around some rocks and firewood but for the most part I knew he didn’t need to be working outside in 110 degrees weather because he isn’t used to it like I am.

I am excited for the near future when I can share with you the next phase of this project. As of now, there isn’t a planned date for what we’ll do next but it will include; gravel, 6 new trees and running irrigation lines from the well to said new trees. Until then…

XoXo,
Elizabeth
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09-20-15 Phase 1 of our driveway “redo”

My last blog post Creating a new parking area we left off where I had just been given free river rock from a friend and I used those to create pathways and walk ways in the parking area of our driveway up by the house. This one picks up where I began the driveway process. Ever since I was a child I’ve had a thing for long, tree lined driveways…maybe it’s a southern thing, I’m not sure. But from the first time I came to this property I thought it was odd that the gate was almost centered on the front of the house yet the driveway curves to the left to the parking area. So since I had these river rock I knew I wanted to begin the very early stages of “moving” my driveway to where I wanted it. The end goal is to have a driveway that goes straight from the gate up to the house then you can go left to the shop and where I park or go right to go to the gate to the open field. And then on top of that visitors can pull straight up and have plenty of room to park right in the front, in front of the front porch. Makes sense, right? Ha! So in addition to that I want the driveway to eventually  have 2-3 trees on each side with flowers along the bottom and for the driveway itself to be graveled to cut down on all the dust around the property. So phase 1 of that huge project (that will likely take me a year) is to “move” the driveway to where I want it. So the goal for this smaller project is to use the river rock to create new lines, then eliminate all the weeds and bushes in the way of that, clean up the pathway and just begin using it. Next I will add gravel to the entire driveway. Later on down the road (maybe next Spring) I’ll put in the trees which will have to have irrigation lines ran to them as well as critter-proof “cages” around the trunk of the tree to prevent gophers from digging up the roots so that they can plant properly. After all that is successful I’ll add some flowers!

So on to phase one!!!



Here is a “before” picture of most of the driveway and the front of the house just a couple of weeks after we moved in. I can’t find a better picture taken back from the gate so you can see the whole thing but in this photo I’m standing about half way between the gate and the house and you can see the driveway (where there are no weeds) wandering off to the left and my car off in the distance on the left. In this photo there was still a dead tree just to the left of my flag, on THIS side of the fence line.



 I began by placing the rocks on each side of the driveway where I wanted it to go, straight south towards the house. The rocks on the left you can barely even see because they’re amidst weeds and wild flowers.



Here is a shot of where I’m using the rocks to CREATE a whole new road that goes to the right side of the house to that double gate, which opens up into our side field. This field is now 4 acres of natural desert nothingness and in the future the plan is for it to be cow and horse pasture! So it only makes sense to create a road TO the gate even though it won’t be used frequently for awhile. Planning ahead!!!


Here the rocks are on the left and this is where the driveway will go left and lead to our main parking area at the side of the house.



This is a final shot standing up by the fence line of bamboo by the house. You can see the remnants of that dead tree I cut down that still needs to be dealt with.

I got this done in a few hours in the afternoon by myself while Riley was at school. The following 3 days we had rain and I wasn’t able to work on it at all. But as soon as the rain cleared up I moved on the phase 2! Which you can now find here!

XoXo,
Elizabeth
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06-13-15 Adapting to life in the country

As with any older home, especially one that has been through several remodels and then sat empty for a bit…you are bound to move in and then find problems just from living there and using everything. The first major problem we had was a water leak on the part of the water main that comes into the property.  Here we have city water AND a private well. The city water goes to the house and the well provides water to several water spigots throughout the property. In the future I’d like to have the well on the house as well to get rid of city water to try to go as off grid as possible BUT prior to that happening, the well will feed into a large irrigation system I plan to setup for our garden, fruit trees and many plants. But back to this story, we had a leak. I am an avid Do It Yourself-er so I began researching. I found numerous videos and articles online telling what this problem was and how to fix it.


The dogs liked the water leak, although it made a mud puddle they would still run over there everyday to lap it up.


After going to the store and buying a couple of different wrenches I couldn’t even get the damn nut off of it. It was so tight and I was afraid if I used all my force I might break or crack something since it is aged metal that has been in the sun…for forever. Not to say that I have he man strength but when you’re pushing something so hard that the whole thing is moving…I’d rather leave a problem then make a problem worse. So I relented and after a week and a half and 4 failed attempts to fix it myself, I called the seller. Within a week or so he had someone out who promptly fixed it…awesome! #thatwaseasy At least I tried!


Riley made fun of me when I bought a little Home Depot apron like this for him and me because in our adventures to try to fix that water main and work on the front gate we’d get all the way out there with the tools in our hands and if I wasn’t wearing jeans to stuff my pockets full…one or both of us would end up having to walk back to the house or shop just to get 1 tool we had forgotten or didn’t have room to carry. So, these did serve as useful and I snapped up 1 quick shot of him wearing his because he said “You better not tell anyone I ever wore this thing!” hahahahaha!


Our dogs! Our fur babies and the loves of our lives! Max is on the left, he’s our baby boy. Although he’s older than Bella and almost 5 or 6, we call him baby boy because he is scarred of everything and he’s smaller than Bella. He is a mix between Pitbul and Calhouta Leopard dog…which is a breed I had never even heard of prior to adopting him. He basically is built like a pit but has shorter legs, has a hunting dogs tail (like a pointer) and his coat looks like gray camo! He also has grayish eyes! He’s gorgeous!!!!


Bella Marie is our golden lab that my ex and I adopted while together because he wanted a female dog and one he could train to go hunting with him. So we found her and rescued her and she is THE love of MY life! I call her big girl just because she’s bigger than Max and probably the biggest dog I’ve had since I was a kid because small dogs have seemed to find their way into my life although I much prefer larger breeds. She is the most gorgeous color of blonde and also has these yellow or honey colored eyes that just…melt my heart. Her looks wouldn’t be so stunning if it weren’t for her personality of being the sweetest, most gentle dog. She listens well, is very grateful for being rescued,  absolutely adores affection and she likes to “slap hands” and give you her paw…all the time! <3 Some days she even wakes me up by giving me a “slap hands” on my face, haha! But most, this big girl loves to be outside! She’s a true lab at heart with that love of the outdoors and she’ll just run and run and run and run until she can’t breath anymore and sometimes even then we have to make her come in so she will lay down. She is my girl and sleeps on her camo bed at the foot of my bed although I do invite her in my bed when I just feel like it because…why not.


Max is Riley’s BFF and has been from Day 1. We got Max maybe about 6 months after my younger son Konnor moved to his Dad’s in Arkansas so Riley was really needing some sort of companion around because he wasn’t used to be without that little brother that followed him around everywhere and got into everything he was doing. So Mr. Max sleeps IN bed with Riley, EVERY night, without fail. It can be 8pm or 10pm and I tell Max “Time to go to bed” and he will run to Riley’s room and jump on the edge of the bed. Riley has a twin size bed now and he himself is almost as tall as me, although he’s only 11. He is about 5 foot 2 inches and so that twin bed WITH  Max in it…they are close to running out of room, lol!


My lovely Bella!



One way I began adapting or reverting back to country life is that I knew I had to start stocking up on tools, all varieties. This jig saw I found at a yard sale and once I got home I realized I had just bought MY FIRST POWER TOOL, EVER!!!! I immediately told my Mom, because I knew she’d be proud of her baby girl. Then I took this ADORABLE selfie and posted it on facebook! My Facebook friends were just as happy for me, haha! I’ve yet to use this for any project but I have several in mind where I’ll need it so I’m so glad I got it!



One thing I realized about myself a couple of years ago was just how much I enjoy doing things myself. Sometimes I’ll do something because it is cheaper than buying it or paying someone but other times I do it just because it makes me feel good. It is something about feeling capable and able to do something that really makes me feel like the most useful human being. It was one Christmas maybe 4 years ago when my Mom and I were discovering Pinterest and found a homemade facial sugar scrub and that, with the help of Pinterest, led to endless ideas of DIY heaven!!! So, after we were settled in the new house I had been wanting to try this DIY homemade Febreeze! First, let me say, I love Febreeze. It is probably a daily ritual with a son and 2 dogs for me to go through the house every morning and spray the furniture, bedding, dog beds and curtains. So…when I found this recipe I just had to try it. Honestly it is so super easy, that after the first time I didn’t even need the instructions to make it again. I will share the link to the blog with the instructions I followed:


In pulling up recipes of my homemade sugar facial scrub to send to a friend who had asked for it I came across a recipe for a DIY Sugar Shave Cream. It is all the same stuff you use for the sugar scrub but a different consistency and  you use this in place of shaving cream or soap and it is great to shave with while also giving you a light exfoliation! So of course, you skin feels amazing after! And FYI, you can never have too many mason jars on a farm or homestead! 


And here is a shot of the shave cream on the left and the facial scrub on the right, you can see how the consistency is different. These two I didn’t even put any scents or essential oils in because I didn’t have any at the time and smell is more for aromatherapy benefits. But typically I’ll do a coconut scent and then around the holidays I’ll do a peppermint scent because I love peppermint! But if you have certain things that you use aromatherapy for go with that. For example, citrus smells are mood boosters and help to reduce anxiety and the blues. If you need calming and relaxation, go with lavender. Just research which one would be best for you. Here is the link to the sugar scrub that I use most often:


In case you don’t know yet, you will soon learn I am a lover of Coconut Oil! It is one of the very few things I’ll use on my face. In fact all I put on my face is make-up, sugar scrub, coconut oil and Shea butter. I don’t buy any make-up remover, face wash, face scrub, moisturizer, etc. I use all natural and people often compliment me on my complexion and I’m quick to tell them how easy, cheap and simple it is to go all natural on your face. I think it really is the “secret” to youthful skin! Here is a good article!


So in June that is where we were on adapting to life in the country! And finding it pretty splendid, if I do say so myself! =)

XoXo,
Elizabeth
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