Tag Archives: living in a camper

6 ways you can make living in a small home easier

Some of the emails we get from new readers include a question along the line of,

“We are moving into a small home, but we have kids and I don’t know how we can make it work. How does your family seem to manage so well?”

First off, we’re nothing special. I mean, of course I love my family and think they’re the best, but when it comes to living unconventionally, we are far from alone. In fact, there are many out there who I would consider path-makers, more so than our own family. Like this family a reader just shared with me, who live with their 12 children in an RV. I’ve got nothing on them!

Which brings me to this point -

If your family is considering a move into small, unconventional housing, and you’re not sure if you can, or where to start, you can do it.

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Let’s just cut to the chase shall we? If my family can do it, your family can do it. How can I possibly know this? Because I never envisioned myself being cut out for it either.

And yet here we are, six people living in just under 200 square feet. From one previously cute-cape-on-a-quarter-acre mama to another (and to you Papas out there!), here is how you can make the leap without crashing ~

1. Change your mindset

I don’t want to sound cold, but the harsh reality is that attitude makes or breaks a happy home. I am thankful I had a few months warning to process our change of events before the move. I was fortunate. But I knew then that if I was going to live well I had to decide to be proactive and to be happy no matter the circumstances.

How can you do this? Start out slow by imagining yourself in a small home. Instead of thinking, “How can I possibly do this?” Think, “This is going to work, so let’s figure out the best way to make it happen.” No one is promising it will be easy, but there is a huge difference between the home atmospheres of a family who is happy and moving forward, and one who is stuck thinking about wishes and what-if’s.

Once you have begun imagining yourself in a smaller home, simply testing the waters of this idea in your mind, the world of small-home living will open up before you. You can choose to see the big homes next door, or you can choose to see the growing grassroots culture of people satisfied and empowered by their small homes.

Note – If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m coming at this post from the perspective of one who has no choice but to move into small housing. This was our position when we moved here during a period of unemployment in 2011, but we made this choice based partly on our dream to build a homestead, therefore it was not an unhappy decision. But the real reason I write from this perspective is because those who are making the choice simply because they want to probably know how they’re going to make it easy anyway. Most (but not all!) of the emails we receive asking about how we make it work are concerned about their lack of housing options and researching how to make the move as easy as possible. That I can relate to, and these tips are what helped our family to adjust.

2. Reduce the amount of space you currently use

Before you move, start reducing the number of rooms you use. Keep in mind the amount of room you will have in your new home. My goal was to “cut my house in half” well before we moved so I would have time to adapt to a smaller space before I had to. There was a certain freedom in tricking my brain into thinking I had control over this! I laugh now, but in reality I think this was my sanity saver, as I was really concerned about living with three lively kids in a camper, and now I have four! I’m positive that, as it did for me, thinking this way will help you to get those creative, small home ideas churning in your brain.

So did we cut our living space in half before the move? We had about 1,500 square feet to start with, and we reduced the space we were using down to about 700 square feet. Instead of a kitchen, dining room, living room, “den”, master bedroom, kids room, music room, and bathroom, we rearranged to end up with a kitchen, dining room/living room, master bedroom, kids room, and bathroom. It was still far more space than we have now, but we learned to get comfortable with that space, and it absolutely helped me to mentally prepare for living in a tiny home.

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3. Stop looking at Better Homes and Gardens

… at least until you are confident about your home. Such magazines feature large homes with financially unreachable furniture arrangements for most of us. I enjoy skimming through them as much as anybody. You can find some wonderful ideas for making your space useful and beautiful (and it is possibly to adapt those ideas to meet a small budget), but if you are dreaming about a certain type of home, and finding yourself living in another, it could be harmful to your spirit.

But don’t stop there! Redirect your attention to researching small home organization and decor. There are lots of blogs and Pinterest photos featuring some really beautiful and creative ideas. Check out this article, with quite a few references to other sources of small home ideas. Once you are confident in your space, ready to consider what you can do to make it yours, then you are ready for BHG and other common sources of home decor ideas.

Surrounding yourself with other families living in small homes, even virtually, will also uplift you. And when you start seeing what can be done, you are bound to imagine some cool ideas of your own for your family’s unique space. The longer we live in our tiny home, the more creative ideas we come up with for creating the feel of more space, such as Papa’s recent “renovation” of our bedroom. Here is a recap of some organization we have done in our home.

Part of this confidence issue (which I have struggled with a lot!) is learning to not be satisfied with boring. What do I mean by that? If you are given a small space to work with, think outside the box to make it your space. For example, when we bought our camper, one of the biggest things that bothered me was how plastic it looked. Vinyl wallpaper is not cool. Seriously now. Who wants plastic walls? So I researched how to paint on vinyl, and being able to pick and choose the color scheme of our tiny home has gone a long way to making it feel less like a camper and more like a tiny home. Have fun with your space!

4. Protect each family member’s personal space

Nothing is more annoying than being stuck in a small space surrounded by a bunch of people talking (or as in the case of parents) listening to children yell and scream, when all you want is a quiet spot to hide and think or spend time on a chore or hobby. Even in a large home, young children enjoy playing around their parents’ feet, so the idea of dealing with this in a small home seems insane. I understand. Believe me. I understand.

That’s why we place priority on everyone having personal space to be alone and keep special belongings safe. It doesn’t have to be big, or even completely separate from the rest of the living space. It could be one’s bed (we have a rule about not playing in anyone else’s bed unless the owner of said bed gives permission). We also regularly have quiet times when each person gets a different spot (their bed, couch, my bed, the table, the floor, etc.) to work on their own projects quietly. It isn’t always easy to get everyone busy on a quiet activity at the same time, but encouraging it gives each person the permission and encouragement to pursue their own interests without intrusion, and think without lots of noise!

The other thing is though, that living in a small space encourages forces us to face our problems. We can’t run away from each other – we have to confront disagreements head on. While this isn’t usually what we feel like doing, it is better for our family dynamic in the long run. We’re a tight family and we stand by each other. Living in a small space is obviously not necessary for that to happen, but it sure makes it easier!

Here is a post I wrote about finding personal space in our camper, five months after we moved in.

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5. Take advantage of the outdoors

Everyone knows we all need more fresh air and exercise. What better excuse to get it than avoiding cabin fever in a small home? We don’t spend tons of time outside every day (some days less time than others, especially on the very hot and very cold days), but if the kids get cranky and start bouncing off the walls – they go out!

What this looks like for you may be different than what it looks like for me. The Kellogg Show family (as linked to above) spends most of their days outside, which is how they say they manage living in a small space with a dozen kids. This might mean encouraging use of resources in your backyard (we have trees, a swing set, and chickens, for starters), going on small adventures in your neighborhood, or traveling longer distances to experience more outdoor adventures.

Even though we place emphasis on protecting personal space inside, and we have adapted to living in a tiny home, we absolutely appreciate getting outside to avoid or fix cabin fever.

6. Remember it will get easier

With enough time, we all adapt to the space we live in. If it’s a 3,000 square foot house or a 100 square foot cabin, you naturally become content with your space… if you let it happen. There will be moments when wish you had a bigger home, but if you have changed your mindset and grown to enjoy your space, before you know it you will feel that it fits your family just right. This can take a while, but it is a natural progression.

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Here are a few other families who live in small spaces.

Do you live in a small space? Have you considered it? Tell us your story? Or, do you have questions I haven’t answered? Ask away!

installing shelves in our camper, and a few rambling thoughts

This week’s camper-home improvement project involved adding extra storage in the form of shelves in our bedroom and the bathroom.

Why shelves? Our future house is our bigger picture, but as we cannot go any faster down that road, the next best thing is making small, cheap, and easy changes to our camper to make it more comfortable for however long we’ll need it. Plus, although this will be our third winter here, it will be our first without a covered porch for storage. Thus, Papa began brainstorming ideas on how increase the usable space inside.

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It makes a lot more sense, and now that he’s done it, I’m not sure why we didn’t do it before! With about $40, we added 20 square feet of shelving in the bedroom, a shelf under each open space in the dining room table bench, and two small corner shelves in the bathroom.

In the process, Papa also removed the frame under the bed. He had made it a couple inches too wide, and it was just the right height to prevent us from being able to store much under the bed, while obstructing our access to the other side of the bed. By removing the bed frame the shelving is at a perfect height, and we no longer lose stuff under the bed.

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That last little bit does of course have a story behind it. Papa came home Tuesday night after working yet more overtime, but somehow ready to work on the shelves. Because I had already made plans to work on the blog I did not accept his invitation to paint all the shelves white, which is why all but the bathroom shelves are still raw wood and may not get painted for some time to come. But that’s not actually the story.

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The story about lost stuff is that Papa did have some company while working, as he assigned Buddy the job of cleaning up what was under the bed while he began his project. I was sitting in the living room when Buddy went in to help him, and I heard Buddy gasp at the sight of all the Lego that had migrated from the box under the bed to the floor under the bed. I think the contents of the Lego box doubled that night.

I am just thrilled that these simple changes enable me to find better storage for some of the frequently used household stuff I have had to move back and forth from bed to couch to bed, depending on which piece of furniture was being used at the time.

Tonight Papa installed two more shelves above the head of the bed, near the ceiling, using more of the wood he bought earlier this week.

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Moral of the story – a little imagination and a touch of love goes a long way to making a small home comfortable!

This week has been very busy, and while I’ve been able to share a few things on facebook and twitter, I’ve been finding it difficult to figure out a way to simply enjoy life for what it is without fretting about sharing it all on the blog and at the same time share some of these special moments with you.

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Of all weeks for me to be feeling this way, we’ve been experiencing some of the highs and lows, firsts and lasts of life. Buddy lost his first tooth, Papa’s Gram is in her last days before going to Heaven (which brings up all sorts of thoughts and feelings in both adults and children around here), Papa used a bit of his overtime pay to purchase an iPad mini with a midi keyboard to aid in recording music, I was hired by my brother and sister-in-law for my first paid photography session (although I have no intention of pursuing photography professionally, it is a fun hobby), Pal decided he likes his new mohawk.

There are probably some others I have missed, and I may talk more about these in the coming days, but I think you get the idea of the wide range of experiences we’ve been having – not to mention the day to day stuff like homeschooling, chicken care, chopping wood, yada yada.

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Anyway, I’m rambling now, and you’re probably getting bored.

Monday I have plans to write about time management, daily do’s with four kids, and how we schedule our life, just in case you might find that useful or at least interesting ::: smile :::

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(I would kindly thank you for ignoring the dirt on the floor)

Until then…

small home organization and living: a recap

This weekend has been crazy busy on our blog and facebook page thanks to new visitors who found us through our guest post about our debt-free journey at The Prairie Homestead.

Welcome to you all!

We have received a number of emails from our guests, telling of personal journeys living similar lifestyles, and it is so exciting to get to know more families who are creating their own American Dream.

Also in some of those emails have been questions about how we make camper living work. Where do we fit the kids? Did we really have a home birth here? What about personal space and hobbies? It sounds fun, but what does it look like in real life?

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(The kids and I built a scale model of our new house. The roof is not right though – Lego only allows one pitch.)

Our first family blog began long before our move into an off-grid camper, so our journey has been recorded, from that blog into this (which we created a year and a half ago). I know that some of you, our visitors, have been going back through many of the old posts, but probably most of you just don’t have the time to do that.

To answer those very important questions and save you time, I have included here many of those posts in which they are addressed.

Not all of the posts in which we have written about camper living are included here. The story of what it is really like is woven into our everyday posts that might otherwise seem unrelated. I have tried to include some of the “big deal” posts where Papa and I intentionally wrote or videotaped about changes made to our living arrangement to make it more comfortable or user-friendly, or posts in which I wrote about how we feel about it.

Links to such small home organization and personal space/hobbies posts are broken down into categories to make reading easier. For example, if you don’t have kids, feel free to skip over the kid section. Or if you have no intention of remodeling a camper, you may not want to bother reading those applicable posts either. Feel free to pick and choose, or read all, if you want to know more about the nitty gritty of camper living.

These links go back all the way to February 2011 when we bought our camper but hadn’t moved into it yet. A lot has changed since then, so if you read something interesting about our lifestyle back then, it might not be how we live now. For instance, when we first moved we used the RV toilet. We don’t anymore, so you don’t have to bother asking how we empty the black water tank! Haha.

If you do have questions though, and you can’t find answers to those questions (check out the search box on the bottom right hand side of this page), don’t hesitate to email us at americanfamilynow@yahoo.com We’re happy to help!

And, if you haven’t done so yet, you may want to consider purchasing a copy of our book, A Year In a Camper, which follows our first full year of living here on the homestead. It shows what living off-grid in a small home really looks like with kids and a small budget, and even includes the birth story of our youngest. It’s available on PDF and Kindle for $3.99 and in Paperback for $7.99. All proceeds go directly to our building fund for our new off-grid house. Thank you for your support!

Without further delay, here are the links to our small home organization and living posts!

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4 kids in a camper

organization of our 200 square foot home

prioritizing hobbies

remodeling to make small home living feel comfortable

the homestead

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finishing up the living room remodel

With $150 we built a bench and hearth for our camper-turned-home! If you follow us on facebook you’ve already seen a couple of pictures from the project while in progress, but I’m happy to share with you that aside from a few last minute touches, the living room is done being updated for the winter.

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Here is how it all went down ~

Knowing that winter was fast approaching, Papa began considering again how we could install a wood stove, as we have a lot of free wood available to us and we both prefer it over our kerosene heaters. Originally we planned to install a wood stove on our closed-in porch, but as the porch is no longer in existence Papa had to rethink the arrangement.

In the end, after rethinking storage space and comfort, we came up with the plan to remove the fold-out couch, move the water tank (working around the propane heater which is also under there), build a bench and box around the water tank, and install the stove where the kerosene heater usually goes, along with a shield behind it. When living in a tiny home, you have to consider each angle of such a decision because there isn’t much room to play with.

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In this case, we ended up with some positives ~

  • By replacing the couch with a bench we gained 8″ x 4′ of floor space along the side of the couch, making the open area noticeably bigger.
  • We also gained about six square feet of storage space under the bench, which we will either be using for winter boots or jars of veggies from our garden.
  • The removable shelf on top of the water tank provides a small space for anything from coffee cups and books to Lego projects.
  • Instead of a messy, smelly kerosene heater for primary heat, we have a wood stove. This will save us money, smell, and the hassle of cleaning and replacing so many wicks. (We will still use kerosene at night, especially directed at the water pipes, in mid winter.)

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The whole project, aside from the through-the-roof chimney kit that Papa built and the cushions we’ll be ordering, cost us $150 in parts – wood, patio bricks, the safety bar parts, and screws. The metal shield pieces were small parts of metal roofing we had kicking around.

Papa calls it “a good hack job, with screws unevenly spaced”. True, if you look closely, you can see he took no more than a day and a half’s worth of time to assemble everything, but overall it gives it a warm, homey feeling. And I like the little details he added, like the lip around the back of the shelf to prevent Lego from falling into the stove area, the slope of the shield down to the lower level, and the hook for the stove tools. For the warm months Papa plans on building a shelf that sits on the stove top to hold books or doo dads or whatever, so the space isn’t a complete loss when the stove isn’t in use.

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The one part Papa was not happy with is the blunt front side of the bench. He could add a lip to cover the joint between the seat and the legs, but then the new cushions wouldn’t cover that extra part.

To be honest, I was responsible for postponing this project. If it wasn’t for me, Papa probably would have had it done a month ago. I was concerned at first about storage space – where would we put all the books, homeschool supplies, and arts and crafts odds and ends we stored on shelves and in drawers along that wall?  Secondly, could we make the bench as comfortable as the couch? I like to have a comfy place to sit.

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Papa was patient with me, but I knew he was set on the idea, so I decided to start preparing for the renovation as that was the only way for me to feel like I had some sort of control over the situation. Ha! Silly me.

I started by reorganizing the kids room and my bedroom cupboard space to open up the wall by the couch. Papa installed the stove next. Then this past weekend, on his last Saturday off for the next couple of months, Papa unscrewed the couch frame and took it outside, then figured out the best placement of the water tank to allow for accessibility and hiding it, creating additional space, and allowing for a stove shield. By Sunday night it was finished. Well, mostly.

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Here is what’s left ~

After I took the final shots here Papa came home and installed a small trim piece on the wall behind the bench (on the left hand side of the picture above). It looks the same as the trim behind the dining room table.

The chimney kit still needs a bit more insulation and a trim package, and the stove pipe needs a shield around the back. Papa plans to build a curved shield that attaches to the through-the-roof-kit to prevent it from touching the wall. Then we can take down the foolish aluminum foil behind the stove pipe – which actually keeps the wall cool by the way!

As for the comfort factor, we are ordering couch cushions later this week. I can sew pretty well, but I do not feel comfortable with furniture because it requires extra longevity and durability. I’m sure I could do it, but I’m not confident, so I’m using my upcoming birthday as an excuse to purchase some.

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I had hoped to buy one long bench cushion, but no where can you find a 72″ x 20″ x 2 or 3″  bench cushion, at least not to fit my budget! So I started looking into square seat cushions, and after some frustrating long internet surfing yesterday, I found a 50% off deal at Kohl’s for the exact size I’m looking for. I went back to get the link today and the deal has been suddenly ended without warning. Ugh. I guess I have a little more shopping to do. Anyway, I think we’ll end up with a set of seat cushions to fit, as I’ll probably have the best luck with that route.

The final touch will be the couch pillows. Last Christmas my in-laws gave me these two purple throw pillows. They complement the design of our couch, but may not work with our new cushions, so I’ve been thinking about making some slip covers for them when the time comes. Then this morning, one of my friends calls up and says “hey! I found a big piece of tan colored suede-like cloth in my craft supplies this morning, could you use it for your bench set?” And I’m like, “yeah!” So now I’ve got that last to-do provided for, and will be able to sew up those slip covers in no time. Thank you, friend!

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If you have done a renovation project to make room for a wood stove, whether in a house or home, please share your story!

Note: This post was featured in Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop #133

we moved! well, sort of

The spring after we moved our camper to this spot, we realized we had made a mistake. Somehow we had managed to park it in the wettest spot of all – where all the run off from melting snow comes pouring down the hill. When it rains, we are sitting in a giant mud hole. Ugh.

So when our porch flipped and the camper suddenly became a little more “free”, Papa and I started talking about whether it might be a good idea to consider a new spot on our property for the camper to stay. And after other more necessary projects were complete, this week we were finally able to start preparing for the move.

Tonight, Papa’s parents came over with their Jeep and helped us move the camper to its new location. We could have used our Durango, but it is currently stuck in two wheel drive until we get the new piece to connect the shifter to the mechanism underneath the car. Papa could have switched it manually to four wheel drive for the evening, but it was much easier having our parents come up, for which we are very grateful!

I took a few quick snapshots throughout the event, between keeping kids busy and out of the way, and helping Papa as needed, but you’ll get the idea with these photos here. The camper is now parked alongside the front of the foundation site, closer to the road, and much closer to the out house. Tomorrow we have friends coming over for dinner and Papa and his friend will put up the wind turbine, and possibly move the 100lb propane tank, completing our move across the field. Actually, we’ll also have to move the big water tank at some point, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Anyway, enjoy the pictures, and we’ll share more as we can.

Sorry about the blurry pictures at the end, it was quite dark when we finished and I’m surprised I got as good of pictures as I did with the flash!

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what keeping music equipment looks like in a camper

We’ve been asked, how is it possible to have electronic toys when living off-grid in a camper. We’ve shared about our electrical system in the past, but perhaps you’re wondering what it looks like in real life – aside from the watts, voltage, and amperage language that has some of us (a.k.a. me) going “huh?!” Can Papa fill his need for creativity with the music he loves to make? The short answer is, yes! Watch this video to see how he does it ~

canning in a camper, again

A couple people have asked me how we manage to can our garden produce in our small kitchen, and with kids around too. Last fall I wrote a post about how we canned our green beans, which you can find here. Right now we are in the throws of canning again, but we have made a few adjustments to our method to improve efficiency and conserve water (which you use a lot of while canning!)

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So far this season we have preserved 23 quarts of green and wax beans, 6 quarts of dill pickles, and 3 quarts of spaghetti sauce, and there will be much more to harvest from the garden before long. This is the first year we have had a significant enough amount of more than one vegetable to bother canning for winter meals, and it feels really good to see all that hard work pay off.

This is what canning looks like this year ~

  1. Prepare the produce to can and gather all needed supplies. Wash jars and lids.
  2. Send the kids out to play or give them an activity to keep them out of my work area. Chickie goes to bed, stays with Papa if he is home, or is restrained in a seat until the jars have been packed.
  3. To use the raw pack method for our beans, I used our propane camp cook stove on the table to heat a pot of water for heating up the jars, and a kettle of water to pour in the jars once filled with beans. As the jars become heated in the water I pull them out, fill them with beans, cover with boiling water, wipe the rims and put on the lids. Once all the jars are packed I shut off the propane, put those supplies away, and let Chickie down.
  4. Meanwhile, I begin heating water in the canner on the camper stove since it takes forever when using cool water from the tank outside. When the jars are packed they go in the canner, which is then heated to a boil with the cover on and the canning process is finished according to directions. If needed, I’ll repeat the process with more rounds of jars afterward.

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Why do I use the propane cook stove?
The canner is so big I can’t fit anything else on the stove. If I used the stove top for packing the jars first I could avoid the camp stove, but it would significantly lengthen the start to finish time.

Why do I raw pack the green beans?
Last year we used the hot pack method, in which you blanch and cool the beans before filling the jars. This method used far more water and was also tricky because you have to either frequently change the cold water bath or have a lot of ice on hand to stop the blanching process. The raw pack method just made more sense given our resources.

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(yes, this is what my home looks like when I’m busy with a project, let’s be honest!)

Is it safe to can around kids?
Yes. You just have to be smart about it. My kids know better than to play around the stove top and they don’t reach up to a hot burner while I’m making dinner, so the canner isn’t an issue. Using the camp stove on the table does present a slight challenge, but the older kids stay out of my work area when I ask them to, and I make sure Chickie is in a safe place for the relatively short time I need the camp stove.

What about working in a small space?
If you plan ahead, and do your prep work in advance (eg. cleaning the produce and the jars) you can clean up from each stage before moving on to the next, so your work space doesn’t need to be very big. I have about 10 square feet of work space plus the stove top and sink and that works just fine for me.

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Next year I plan to plant our vegetables more thickly to get a higher crop output. While we don’t depend on our garden for survival, we want to keep experimenting until we feel comfortable growing a year’s worth of food for our family of 6 if we needed to.

Here is a video I took last weekend of our pickle canning process ~

Do you face any challenges in preserving produce from your garden? How do you overcome them?

after work comes play

Phew! Another busy week flying by. I admitted to Papa that even with all the challenges that winter brings, there is a teensy weensy part of me that is looking forward to the natural rest period that comes with that season. It’s been a little more difficult than usual for me this week, and I’m not sure why. It might have something to do with the greater-than-usual amount of physical labor I’ve been doing outside, or it could be that after Chickie had started sleeping through the night we were both having trouble sleeping again, but whatever it is, I’ve been feeling ready to crash by the days end.

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My mom took the kids for a few hours today, and the first thing I did after dropping them off was sit down to read. I haven’t read something just for me during the day in way too long! Then it was scrubbing the bathroom and the infant carseat I’m giving away… boring housework stuff. But that hour was wonderful. Thank you mom!

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Next week our family is going on vacation to a nearby camp. It’s an annual Christmas gift from my mom and stepdad to take all their kids someplace for an extended visit. We’ve really enjoyed these vacations, and always anticipate the next one with excitement. The kids are looking forward to playing with their cousins, splashing in the water, and eating special snacks.

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(The brown spot behind the barrel marks the spot where the storage camper was)

Along with all those things, I’m also looking forward to a break from our weekly routine and an excuse to work on a couple of fun and easy projects I’ve been setting aside for lack of time. Like, finishing up a book I had to renew from the library, and watching family videos from the past couple years in prep for Chickie’s first year video. But I won’t forget to enjoy the little moments with my kiddos and take lots of pictures!

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We will be leaving on Monday and coming back the following Monday, and Papa will have a three day weekend in the middle to enjoy at camp with us. As for American Family Now, what you see here will be a little different than usual while we are away from home. In order to really be with my family, I want to minimize blog activity, so instead of posting three times a week, each day I will post a single picture which captures a special moment of our day, along with a little story or thought to leave you with. Though a little post can easily turn into a longish one for me, I will do my best to keep it short and sweet.

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Because we are coming back on Monday and I have a lot of mental catching up to do with all the homestead work and homeschool prepping going on here, this picture a day series will continue the week we return from camp as well.

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And when I am back to post in full-length stories the week of the 26th, I’ll be launching a new project I’ve been excited about getting started on here. I had hoped to share it with you already, but it’s just been too crazy! Hint, hint. It’s all about creating a platform from which both our family and yours can benefit from this website.

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(the peas stopped producing, so I turned the plants under for green compost)

As for homestead happenings this week, we successfully sealed 18 and 1/4 quarts of green beans, some from our garden, but most from my grandfather’s as ours are just beginning to be ready for picking (Here’s what canning looks like in a camper). We finished moving everything from the storage camper into the shed, some of which Papa was able to organize while I worked on the storage camper. Then my dad pulled the storage camper out with his jeep and moved it around the corner of our field so it’s ready for someone to haul away. It’s free for the taking by the way!

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(Chickie has graduated to “one of the kids” status now. She plays outside almost as much as them, and has just as much fun!)

The rest is usual week-to-week family life, although it sure seems like I ought to have more to share since it has been so busy…

of peas, sheds, and rock walls

I’ve got quite a few pictures for you this week. We’ve been busy and so has the garden. So far we’ve picked the first fruits of the blackberries, more blueberries, the first cucumber, a few green and wax beans (delicious!), almost all of the peas, and thinned out the carrots and onions which gave us real baby carrots and green onions. Despite hopes for canning our garden produce, we decided to help ourselves to fresh veggies from the garden – instead of canning for winter use we’ve been enjoying the more rare gift of produce straight from our own garden. You wouldn’t believe how much these kids will eat straight from the patch!

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On Saturday we plan to harvest green beans that my grandparents planted for us, along with any stray tomatoes that hadn’t finished developing before they left for a couple of weeks. Gotta love the grandparents – always thinking about their kids :::smile:::

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I mowed the other half of the backyard, and last Saturday Papa and his brother moved the tool shed to its permanent location, attached to the frame of the garden fencing. While they were busy moving it (with that little green utility wagon no less!) the kids and I were moving tools, building materials, and other things you would find in a shed down to the new spot, although I ended up moving most of it into the storage shed (funny how each out-building ends up with its own name). I think I finished that organizing project on Tuesday.

I also cleaned my car this week, for the first time in like. ever. Vacuumed, dusted, window-washed, the works. Not spotless, because you know with four kids it won’t stay clean long anyway, so what’s the point in using a toothpick (ha!) but I finally got the peeling Dodge decal off the windshield, which ads a lot to its presentation. While I was busy doing that the kids had fun pushing all sorts of buttons and moving my mirrors around (don’t worry, they didn’t have the keys).

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So now, the only things left around the outside of the storage camper (seen below) are the barrel full of sand and salt that I wasn’t about to move by myself, and a few small pieces of rigid insulation shoved underneath. Those will be easier to move once we pull the camper out of its spot.

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Tomorrow night the boys are going to one set of grandparents’ for the night so they can go see a mud run, and the girls to another set of grandparents for a girl’s slumber party with a nearly-two-year old cousin. While the kids are having a blast, Papa and I are (in addition to picking beans) going to haul butt and move the last of the boxes from the storage camper to the storage shed so that by the time the kids come back on Saturday we will have the camper out of the hole it has sunk into and ready to haul away. High five. Oh yeah.

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Let’s see, what else is there… I’ve been working on our hodge-podge homeschool curriculum for the coming year. This is Buddy’s last year of “the early years”, so I want to be as laid back as I can be about goals while still keeping him challenged so he can enjoy as much childhood freedom as possible. He’ll be in first grade and Girlie will be starting Kindergarten. I’ll wait to start Pal in PreK until next fall, when he’ll be 4 1/2. More on the curriculum in a later post this month when I can put it in a pretty package for you :::smile:::

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Still looking for a home for our second unexpected rooster. He is looking rather masculine aside from his missing tail feathers. You know, those ones that stand up nice and tall to tell all the ladies he’s available. Turns out Chrome wants the ladies for himself. We haven’t had any real show downs between the two of them, but I have a feeling it won’t be much longer before an occasional feather-pull as he walks by turns into mild cock fighting. I really don’t want to turn the newbie into stew, so if you live nearby and want a Buff Orpington rooster, please think about it!

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So, in more pleasant news… Papa says that putting a new door on the shed (the metal door in the process of being painted red which is leaning against that shed in the picture), finishing the vinyl siding on both sheds, and strengthening the fence framing will just about finish up the improvements in the garden area.

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Once that is complete we have to make a few improvements to our home-on-wheels. Number one, replace existing calk, open up the space under the bunk beds for water storage as we won’t have the porch, figure out a way to shelter the camper from the snow (which may come down to a tarp), and the biggie and most exciting by far – ripping out the carpets and laying down insulation-backed Pergo flooring. Can I get an amen?!

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I would be so happy to get rid of the carpet, and cover up the linoleum. Plus, it would at the same time make our floors a little warmer in the winter and fix the hole in the floor with something other than duct tape. For some reason camper manufacturers think it’s okay to cover up a hole in your base plywood with linoleum and call it good. It brings to mind some stories of what passed inspection at the home manufacturing company Papa worked for as a young adult. It would make you question anything other stick-built, that’s for sure! Moving on now…

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I love my kids. And I love that they are growing up here, in this place. And in this warm and sunny weather their imaginations have been running wild. Take this rock wall you see behind the mailbox. Buddy has been overseeing an assembly line process that involves each of the kids lugging rocks from the dirt pile near the foundation site and bringing them to this walkway near the chicken coop where he then stacks them carefully to create a wall. I believe they’re building a house, or maybe a castle, but whatever their imagination says it is at the moment, they have spent about two hours on it so far and look forward to working on it tomorrow. (Pal is eating supper by the way – they had a picnic outside tonight)

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What will this week hold? I haven’t gotten that far yet.

half done, but not half baked

After reading my last post, pointing out my insecurity, you might think this post is depressing too. Talking about half finished projects? Is she feeling frustrated or something? Well, actually no. See, we do frequently point out unfinished projects, especially if they were started a relatively long time ago. In a childish way of speaking, it’s like pointing out that you were the one who farted. If it stinks, you admit it instead of trying to pretend it didn’t come from you. If your yard is a mess, you joke about it instead of pretending it’s just fine the way it is. So in a humorous way of pointing out the other side to our homestead progress updates, let’s take a look at some unfinished projects.

A half-mowed back yard.

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Half-finished fenced area, with half-finished landscape fabric.

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Half-finished swing set.

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Half-finished storage shed.

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Half-finished yard cleanup.

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Half-cleaned out spot for the foundation.

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Having many started projects sometimes means having multiple projects that stay unfinished for a while. Sometimes that means having friends or family over for dinner, or even some of my doula clients for a visit, and they see our less than perfect yard stay less than perfect, at least for now, and I suspect that we care more about the state of our yard than they do!

The thing is, we are making progress, one part of one project at a time, and we are going somewhere in our list of goals. And it can be easy to over-think things, to become overwhelmed with the number of to-do’s on our list, but when the temptation comes to start thinking that way, we quickly put it out of our minds. It’s not worth wasting our energy on stressing about the future. As I’ve pointed out before, humor is essential for keeping things in perspective. Pointing out our well-thought out projects in the middle stages of completion (sometimes middle stages that last longer than we’d like) is a lighthearted way of saying ~ You know what? We’re not perfect. We don’t have it all together. We don’t have all the time or money in the world. But we’re living our chosen lifestyle, we are reaching our goals, and we are enjoying our life together one half, or one tiny baby step of a project at a time.