Wednesday, April 16, 2014

From Average to More Series: Chores, Plus Some Springtime Extras

It's seems I skipped a week! I could make excuses but I am a mama of two, pregnant with the third and that is all you need to know. Yet, I will go into detail as to how I have been feeling which did influence said missed post. But, first, would you like to see how big I am??

Sorry, it's a phone "selfie". Is that even spelled right? I hate that term. Anyway, there I am, that was a week and a half ago at 16 weeks and change. I was in Michigan at the time which was a great trip, by the way. I love my cousin and her family out there, if only we lived a bit closer to each other!

So, as the title suggests we will be talking about chores. I cringe over this currently because I have been somewhat restricted recently due to contractions and the like. It's been concluded that I am not having preterm labor but I am to be monitored a bit closer for it and not over extend myself especially with lifting. When Montana Man is home he has been helping me tremendously, but when I am solo I am doing the best I can. Sometimes my best is still too much and I end up having contractions at night which I calm down with an herbal tincture and half a beer. It's frustrating and tiring but I will make it work! Because of where we are with house construction and my condition we have decided to scale back our barnyard ambitions for this season. Grudgingly and with some relief also I cancelled getting the goats. I'm not super woman and really waiting another year won't do us any harm. I think we might also be waiting on pigs as well. The house is progressing but slowly as we are building it ourselves from this point and do not have a crew. It should be livable before baby arrives but it might be close! The chores I am left with I will illustrate for you as small as they may be.

The chickens we will be adding to this year and the flock will be quite large for the summer but will be whittled back down in the fall when we fill the freezer. I have mentioned getting heavier breeds to be for both meat and eggs and intend to increase the laying portion of the flock to around 20-30 so that I can sell more. My hope is to end up with some broody hens next spring and have them hatch next years chicks. Caring for them will still be pretty minor especially once we get a proper coop and run done. It's a basic feed, water, clean, collect the eggs routine that would take less than 30 minutes a day total.

The horse is still pretty easy what with his free choice hay and not using a stall. Obviously I am not riding him but I do want to get back to some ground work with him soon. We will move him back over to the "pond pasture" for the summer and then over to our new house when his paddock is done.

What I currently do is do chores either during nap time or after the kids have gone to bed. Very rarely do I get up to do them before the kids are up in the morning. I have no shame in saying I am not a morning person and if I were to get up before Puzzle Boy that would be 5:30. No, thank you. So nap time will be my aim since during the winter months that would allow me to actually see what I am doing. I will probably steal outside for a couple minutes just to let the chickens out in the morning but the rest will have to wait for nap time. And, that's it! Nothing to exciting.

Spring is still at war with Old Man Winter as it is cold today and snowed two inches overnight. NOT impressed. However, everything in the greenhouse is either coming up or thriving including the onion and cabbage seedlings I moved out there a couple days ago. I forgot to take pictures but I will soon! My four small raised beds are full of tiny white and red Russian kale, spinach and Rainbow Chard as well as peas that I planted along the back edge of each box. When the peas are a couple inches tall I will make them a trellis of yarn so they can crawl up along the sides of the walls out of the way of the greens. If this works well this might be a new ritual for springtime to get a jump on the growing season with the little greenhouse! So far the greens seem to have germinated well if not a little slow but given I direct seeded them all it took was a few days over 50 degrees to get them to take off. Hopefully it will stay cool enough to get some good spinach without bolting. We'll see!

And, a final note... while I was having testing done to make sure I wasn't in labor we found out we are having a... boy! Yay! Sweet little man.

Til next time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From Average to More Series: Shopping

If any of you know me personally, you might know that I am funny about shopping. I love to grocery shop particularly if I can do it alone or just with my husband. I enjoy the stocking up, the price comparison and the satisfaction of loading tasty ingredients to cook with into my cart. Shopping for clothing, shoes, gifts, large house hold items... I am NOT a fan. I stress over if I am spending too much and that I don't really need it. I just bought maternity clothes and it took me over a month to decide what I wanted to invest in despite having a generous gift card! I will mostly be writing about shopping for food and only touching lightly on all the rest.

So, groceries. These I have a mixed complex about. I absolutely love to shop for food and to have a well stocked pantry ever since I was a young teenager. However, in the past few years I have had the growing desire through my homestead knowledge to start to eliminate things off the grocery list by producing them ourselves or buying/trading as directly from a local source as possible. Currently we have succeeded in eggs from our own chickens, venison from hunting (which reduces our beef demand), pickles, some canned vegetables, limited amount of chicken meat (I'm almost out from December's harvest!) and we buy milk only from a Maine produced company. Sometimes this can be a tricky dance between ideals and affordability. We don't live on a lot of income and food is one of the costs that can be easily used to compensate when we have shorter months. Recently I have this urgency to really step up our efforts in supporting ourselves by producing as much of our 'storage' produce and beginning to find local farms to buy our meat products from that we can't yet raise ourselves. We will do a 'winter stocking up' over the growing season and buy as much meat as we can/need in the fall. I am hoping Montana Man will have good luck during hunting season so that we may exclude beef from our list. Wild meat is the healthiest you know! As you know if you have been following us, I will be adding milking goats this year so at the least we will not be buying our drinking milk. By next spring I should have enough milk from two does to start making some cheese and butter. If I am blessed with them having female kids then in three years I should have enough to not depend on the store for any dairy products and all the kids born after that will be sold to off set most or all the cost of keeping milkers. Now on to the action plan!

Weekly grocery shopping with three young children in tow may sound daunting or annoying at the least. So, what's a mama to do? Don't shop weekly! I'm going to shop once a month. Back in the day, you know, about 150 years ago people didn't shop even that often except those that lived in town. Shopping was seasonal or even a once a year event. While some day I would love to make our shopping a quarterly event, for now monthly will suffice. Amy at has a very well written series on shopping in her 'Large Family Living' section and honestly I do not feel the need to reinvent the wheel here! I am really pretty much using her methods but with my own personal touches.

What I plan to do is shop for the upcoming month at the end of month. My budget is something I have not yet decided on but I am thinking around $400. $350 of that will be used at the stores leaving $50 to be used at the farmers markets we will attend twice a month where we will get most of our fresh produce we aren't growing ourselves as well as honey and fresh seafood when available. The $350 spent at the store will also cover non-food items like plastic wrap, toilet paper and cleaning supplies. These non-food items may not be needed every month because we don't use many so then I would use that part of the budget to stock extra food to begin building a longer term storage pantry. The kids and I are the ones who primarily eat at home and are fairly simple eaters so I really don't see this being a huge challenge to make work. Special meals are often a joint effort both in preparation and cost in our extended family so small luxuries are not out of reach by any means. We eat well.

Ok, so where is all this food going? I did say our house was going to small, didn't I? Well, I have mentioned before having our daily pantry upstairs in our kitchen and a much larger one downstairs to hold the bulk of the stock including all our non-foods too. While I am not counting on it, I would love to see us add a solar deep freezer to the equation to allow greater storage of meats and things I prefer not to can (fresh berries for example). Montana Man and I are still deciding!

Just for fun I thought I would give a list of what I would like to stock this year 'for the winter' as the growing season goes on and where it will come from.

Strawberries- from a PYO farm locally to be made into jams and frozen whole for our smoothies.
Blackberries- from a friends land to be made into jelly and pie.
Blueberries- from a PYO farm locally that will be frozen whole for pie and smoothies.
Rhubarb- from our own patch to be made into syrup and frozen diced for pies and crumbles.
Apples- from a local PYO orchard that I am hoping to try storing whole for the winter in cool storage but also canned as applesauce and pie filling.
Root vegetables- from our own garden and bartering friends to can or store whole.
Green leafy- from our own garden and farmers markets to be fresh frozen (uncooked) for smoothies and blanched then frozen for quick sides and soups.
Squashes- from our own garden and FM's to be stored canned, or whole.
Beans and peas- from our own garden stored frozen, canned or pickled.
Tomatoes- from our own garden, FM's or bartering friends to be canned as many ways as I can!
Corn- from FM's and frozen (we don't eat much in a year).
Broccoli- from our own garden and frozen.
Potatoes- from our own garden and stored whole in cold storage.
Cucumbers- from our garden and I would like to try fermenting them this year!
Pork- raising our own to be butchered late fall.
Game- be it venison, fish or anything else, frozen.
Chicken and eggs- raise our own, butchering to be done in fall

To round out our pantry before the baby arrives I will be stocking up on our gluten free flours and such for baking as well as dried beans, rice and pastas. My goal will be to have enough on hand that a trip to the store won't be needed until about two months after the birth. When I think I am getting close I will do a big shopping trip to our local wholesale store and stock up. Perhaps I am also hoping pushing super heavy carts will cause me to go into labor. Wishful thinking!

As for other types of shopping, i.e. the kind I hate, I can't see that changing much right now seeing as I don't do much of it! I don't mind shopping online so that's what I usually do. I would like to focus more on finding locally made things that we need first and then USA made if local isn't available. Again this will come down to the balance of cost over ideals.

That's it for this week! Til next time.