Category Archives: Homesteading

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2012, a year for growing roots

I love the New Year. It is fresh. It is new. It is full of opportunity. You start the year with a clean slate, except you get to build on the past; lessons learned, accomplishments made. I know creating goals are a tradition often kept at this time of year, even though these same goals are often broken before the year has gotten well under way, but I still like to create an outline of sorts that helps me to figure out what I want to do with myself for the year. As our family grows, this has also become a convenient time of year to review where our family is at and where we want to see ourselves this time next year. Without creating unrealistic goals, this has been a helpful way to guide us as we move forward.

For starters, I updated our Who We Are, Q&A, Favorite Reads, First Time Here pages, and even our welcome note. No longer are we in the middle of a move, or unemployment, and our progressive changes in lifestyle ought to be reflected in the background we have provided for you, so please check them out!

It has been a while since I gave you an update on where we are with the foreclosure process. Not intentional, I assure you; there are just too many things to write about! So, in a nutshell, this is what’s going on. While Papa’s new job has enabled us to bring home a little more mula, it is still far too little to pay our mortgage as well as take care of our family, so we cannot pick up the mortgage payments and attempt to get back to where we were in May 2011 when we stopped paying them. We are, however, still paying on the home equity loan we had, at least until our mortgage company and bank decide this is not necessary.

Foreclosure, we’ve discovered, is not as simple as handing in the keys and avoiding the payments. Papa has filled out countless forms, mostly repeating the same information over and over, as to why we are unable to make the payments, etc. In early December we were finally handed a notice of foreclosure by the local court house, saying that the mortgage company is threatening to repossess the house. We have not been issued an eviction notice, but because we told the mortgage company we’re not living there, they have winterized the house.

In the meantime, the mortgage company, and the bank who owns our home equity loan are arguing over whether or not the lien on the property for the secondary loan can be dropped in order to make the house available for short sale. At this point that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Politics.

However, with all that said, a relative of one of our neighbors, as the property used to be in the ownership of their family, has recently made an offer of $25,000 to buy the place. Our realtor agrees with us that it would be stupid for the mortgage company not to accept the offer, but again, it will be mountains of paperwork and countless phone calls, and who knows how many weeks before it is decided whether they can purchase the place for that little or not. We don’t know exactly how a sale would impact the foreclosure process or our relationship with the mortgage company or the bank, but it appears that one way or the other, the house will no longer be in our possession by the end of 2012. Time will tell.

Not entirely a nutshell I guess…

On the home front, our addition to the camper is closed in. Papa has installed windows, a temporary door, and closed in the edges of the exposed side above and to the sides of the camper so that it is protected from the elements. When we are able to save up enough money, insulating the porch will be the next project. We may begin heating with the woodstove anyway, to help thaw out the 50 gallon barrels of filtered and bleached well water, but we’re taking it one day at a time.

While we intend to have the porch complete in preparation for winter next year, Papa and I have been toying with the idea of (once summer comes) attempting to move the camper out from the porch, selling it, and using the income to build an additional room on the opposite side of the porch (where the camper was) to basically create a small home. The sale of the camper would more than cover the cost, and it would give us more freedom to create a furniture layout that works while we save up for our forever home. The downside: having to figure out a new water system if we aren’t using what’s in the camper. However, this is all in the talk stage right now. It may or may not happen.

Sometime before Chickie/Chap arrives, we also need to purchase a family car. Right now we are still using Papa’s truck and a borrowed car. I was hoping to cover the expense of a car with my herbal remedy sales, but the transition from unemployment to employment left us with no income for three weeks and the herbal money was pretty much what we lived off during that time. Now, we hope that the income tax return we get in February will cover not only our midwife expenses, but a used car as well. Something will work out.

I do want to stop here and point out something I know I’ve mentioned before, that while each of the difficulties we’ve faced are disappointing, there have been blessings throughout: we may be without a car of our own, but we have family who have lent us one to use in the meantime; we weren’t able to use the herbal sales as a jump start for a car fund, but it bought our groceries when we didn’t have an income; we weren’t able to finish the addition before winter, but we have a place to store water and we’re staying warm. There are just so many ways that God has provided for us and we are so thankful, because we know we don’t deserve it.

Moving on into the year – sometime in March we will welcome our fourth baby into the world, here at home with our midwife team. During and after this time we’ll be taking a break from homeschooling. I suppose that may sound funny to be thinking about considering Buddy is only in PreK, but I do like to keep track of all our projects and activities, and I don’t want to commit to that during my babymoon. I am also working on scheduling about eight weeks worth of guest posts during that time frame. This part I’m really excited about because there are so many bloggers who I know would be able to make a wonderful contribution to this blog. More info on this will be coming soon I expect.

Our homeschool year begins June 1st and ends May 31st. This year Buddy will begin Kindergarten and Girlie will begin PreK. Their education is largely based on experience – applying early reading, math, science, and social studies to family conversation, farm work, home duties, baby care, art and craft projects, etc. I have a few ideas for basic “book work”, but will be avoiding textbooks, fill-in-the-blank or rote work pages, and tests for a few years at least. I have ideas for posts on our homeschooling practices, which I expect to be sharing in the next month or two, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but I’m very excited about our early education plans!

In 2011 I took my five years of backyard herbal growing and home remedy making to selling them. It was on a very small scale, using herbal parties among family as our platform. Based on the performance of the sales, I do believe it is worth pursuing this as a home business. However, it is a lot of work, for which I am not entirely prepared to do with a new baby this year. Instead I want to focus on preparing more tea to sell to past customers, and researching business development for herbal sales in 2013.

Papa and I do want to expand our vegetable and flower gardens this year. Last year we produced enough food to have more than we needed to eat fresh veggies for the summer, but not quite enough to make preserving them worthwhile. This year we want to produce enough to can for winter eating. We also found a more local heritage seed company that we want to support when we’re ready to begin.

As for the chickens, we are pleased with the production we’ve had this year. On a good day we collect 10 eggs and a duck egg, on a bad day we find 5 or 6 eggs and no duck eggs. What we don’t use we sell to family and friends for $2 a dozen (with donated egg cartons). We have had to keep the birds in the coop for a couple days at a time to ensure they are laying the eggs where we want them, but they are mostly free ranging. This year we are planning to experiment with raising chickens – incubating a small number of eggs and seeing if we can get them to hatch. If we can, raising chickens for meat and eggs will probably become a long term project for us. And, believe it or not, meat rabbits have also been discussed around here.

Another change that I will try not to spill too much about because I want to devote it to another post has to do with a sudden jump in readership here at AFN. As I will share with you soon, it has been a surprise and a joy to see that not only are we attracting readers with similar views, but they are actively pursuing similar lifestyles, and apparently, we are helping them to accomplish their goals! I had a vision for this blog, but I honestly did not expect for it to take root as quickly as it has. Because of this, Papa and I are researching development of this blog to keep up with the growing needs of our readers. I am absolutely in over my head here, but excited all the same! Stay tuned to hear how you can help, and to learn what ideas we have in mind for the future of American Family Now.

why we dream of homesteading

Before we married, I volunteered at a nearby health center which was supported by a very large garden. Much of the food eaten by guests and workers there came from that garden. While the work was hard, I have special memories of the joy I felt in a good day’s work, and seeing and eating the fruit of my labor. It was healthy work and refreshing to the spirit.

Fast forward a few years, I was married with children, and my world view was changing. My eyes had been opened to the amount of control political entities had on our way of life, and we became concerned about potential effects on our family caused by impending economic and social decline.

In light of our values, our concerns, and recent acquisition of farmland by family, Papa and I began dreaming of homesteading.

A homestead with no electrical wires, sewage, or other additions considered standard, would inspire us to live simpler and enable us to be less restricted by government run programs.

A homestead would also provide excellent resources for raising and homeschooling our children, with woods, fields, animals, and building and gardening projects.

One of our hopes has also been that living debt-free on an off-grid homestead would give Papa the freedom to enjoy self-employed handyman work, which is what he really wants to do, and is also in line with our family values.

There are so many adventurous opportunities for families, lifestyles which promote hard work, and reward and protect the values of a variety of families, and homesteading does just that for us.

October nor’easter in our camper

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Yes we can! Yes we did!

Our first snow had to come early, break records for snow fall and be considered a nor’easter. UGH!

But it’s all good and we are looking forward to the challenge. With power outages in the 100,000+ we are here toasty warm with lights and tv.

Of course our real disposition is the 700′ walk to our vehicles. That none of us is looking forward to.

So enjoy our pics!

My new (old) clothesline

When we moved to our homestead four months ago, Papa uprooted the clothesline posts to bring with us, but for the first three months we spent $6 a week drying laundry at the laundromat. Embarrassing, I know.

You know what they say, that if a woman can’t get her husband to do something, all she has to do is throw it together herself and then he’ll feel compelled to do it right (which is her intention all along). So, I got tired of spending money on a dryer and threw this clothes line up, with a few ends around scraggly trees, and the other ends I attached to the water tower with spring clamps. If my intention was to show him how poor a job I could do, I succeeded with an A+ (and it actually wasn’t intentional).

Perhaps to prove how bad a job it was, hurricane Irene knocked over the water tower… and down came the clothesline.

Would you believe it?! Just a short time later I had my real clothesline planted in the ground.

YIPPEE!!!!!

Isn’t it beautiful? Thank you Papa.

A new walkway

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This is a recent project I have done to home’ify the homestead. Our total cost was about $20.00. I used three bags of mulch and some exterior paint I bought at Walmart at .5 the original cost. Hopeful this will induce more creativity in our garden layout.

Midsummer homestead, a video update

With all the events and changes to report recently, we’ve gotten behind on telling you about our homestead projects. Enjoy this video (in part one and two) Papa made to keep you all in the loop. And yes, our vegetable garden was started VERY late, but the veggies we’re getting taste SO good!

A rooster (or two)

It all started one recent early morning. I awoke to a strange, whiny cry. I listened from bed, trying to decipher whether this was just Atlas starting to wake up, when it became obvious that was no child. We had a baby rooster!

 

I jumped out of bed and looked out at the chicken run through my window. I couldn’t tell which of the three-month-old chicks it was (some of them were not sexed), but after watching them later that day Papa and I determined it was this young guy.

Look how proud he is of his new crow.

We may actually have two roos; the one that crowed looks an awful lot like the other chick we have of his breed (don’t ask me what breed they are), but that one may be a hen, time will tell. Either way we are excited because now we could raise chicks next year!

Our garden in July

Buddy and I finished reading Little House on the Prairie this week, the second book in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. I know I’ve read at least some of them before, but for some reason I had completely forgotten the ending of this one. After a whole year of building their new home and sowing their first garden, the Ingalls family was forced to move out of indian territory and leave the homestead behind.

Despite their courage to move on and not look back, I felt their pain. Their whole livelihood was based on that homestead, how could they have moved with less than 24 hours notice? I can’t imagine how incredibly hard that must have been.

Our own little garden is doing quite well, despite the late start to the season. Actually, we haven’t even started most of our vegetables, a late start indeed! What we have planted of herbs, fruits, and flowers are just loving the good mix of sun and rain we’ve had. I find it so relaxing tending to them, and look foward to harvesting. Buddy has begun helping me weed, and most of the sprouts have escaped the dangers of the chickens.

This week we did harvest some mint leaves and comfrey, and tested out Papa’s homemade solar dehydrator. Of course, they are drying nicely, and now we can drink homegrown mint tea and make more comfrey ice packs for kid-size boo boos. Today Buddy and Girlie helped me prepare comfrey oil infusions for future use with our salves.

I know everything is working out well right now, things that may not have worked out so well a few years ago, but the progress we have seen thus far has made me think we should have done this years ago! Perhaps I shouldn’t speak so soon, since most of the crops are far from ready  to be harvested, but still, it’s exciting to be a part of new growth, teaching our children about sustainable living, and providing healthy food and medicine for our family.

Seven weeks later

Seven weeks ago we packed up our home and moved our family to the little house in the woods, a.k.a. our home-on-wheels. And this week, with the help of Papa’s Papa, we moved the camper to its final resting place, a platform we could level it on. No more baths with a 3” difference in water from one end to the other!

The new view from our dining room window is much more pleasant, I think, since it rewards us with the sight of our ever-growing garden. While Papa has been busy helping his brother for the past couple weeks, he has still managed to develop the garden yet more. And with some of his birthday money he bought more blueberry bushes and a cherry tree!

What else have we been up to on the homestead recently? Living in the camper for several weeks has given us time to figure out what works and what doesn’t for the little things. For example, Papa rewired some electronics inside the camper to connect the battery inverter in the cupboard closest to the fridge. That enabled us to take the extension cord out of our bedroom window. He hopes to connect the inverter to the wall outlets so with a flip of a switch we can use either the generator or the solar panel to power the outlets.

Nothing new to report on the foreclosure front. Still more paperwork going back and forth before they will even say they are foreclosing on us, which we anticipate will happen this month, since it has been approximately three months since we made a mortgage payment.

In the meantime, Papa is applying for grants to pay for classes to get his class A driver’s license and get a part time job truck driving. This will only be possible if he can get financial assistance, but if it works out would prove to be one of the few viable alternatives to his established career in carpentry. The goal is to take classes in the fall after harvesting all the veggies and he is done helping his brother, but it’s all up in the air right now. One thing is for sure, no carpentry jobs exist in this area. Papa has called every construction company within an hour’s drive from our home and NO ONE is hiring.

our new fire pit

The family is doing well. The kids have been quite patient to play indoors due to the cool, rainy weather we’ve had, although Girlie has been throwing a wrench into my well-laid plans of the spirited child series. Ugh. And me, well, after nursing three babies for a total of 50 months, I’ve finally developed my first case of mastitis. If you really care to know more about that, click here to visit my birth blog.

And for the most exciting news, next week Papa and I are going on our first date in five years that will not involve a pregnant belly, a nursing baby, or rushing home to nurse a baby. All three of the kids will be sleeping over at my mom’s and we’re going to watch the fireworks. Just the two of us. Only 8 days left!! Not that I’m counting or anything. Hehe.