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Good-bye 2017, Hello 2018

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Where did this year go?! Looking back at why I started this blog last year I think I am following my goals pretty well.

The road so far…my first blog post.

Ths year our focus has been on getting our debts paid down so we can save for our future property. I have been working on sharpening my homestead skills. My husband has also been working on his skills. We made lots of our own stuff, and repaired things that were broken instead of replacing them. We downsized our spending to help with the debt reduction. We expanded our garden to help us be more self sufficient into next year and the following years.

I count 2017 in the success column. What will next year hold?

A larger garden.

We got a Pressure Canner for christmas, and a new stove from my in-laws that has a dehydrate function! Those 2 tools will help us to preserve our harvest. Our garden last year only served to supplement our Summer food budget, and teach us to better manage the garden.

We also fenced in the larger garden because we added a family member, and apparently he loves pepper plants. He ate them every day until the plants were nothing but nubs.

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His name is Major, and we got him at the local animal shelter.

Hunting

My husband has a bow that he bought as a gift to himself a few years ago that he has been learning to use. This year he will get licensed to hunt. His veteran status allows him to get a lifetime hunting license. We hope this will afford us free meat in the fall (minus the costs of hunting).

Budgeting

Continue to spend less, save more, and pay off debts. I will stop spending money on snacks at work. Having a larger garden will allow us to lower our food budget, which helps in all these categories. My husband is able to get all his medical needs met, except dental, at the VA so I dropped him from our insurance plan and only carry myself and our children- more money saved! We are planning a yard sale in the spring to reduce our stuff, and hopefully make a little extra to put towards our debt reduction.

There are other things that we want to do, but are not ready to commit 100% in black & white. What are your plans for the coming year? Any advise on our plans?

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Garden Expandtion

So on our .6 acre of land we have almost always had a garden. The first year was great. Last year was pretty good. Here are a few posts about that:

GardeningSpringThings are growing

We decided last year that this year, after we cleared the garden out, we would expand it in both directions from the fences. Then we got a dog, and decided we would need to fence it in. The additions include an area that was once a huge tree stump, we burned it out over several years. We dug a lot of that out and spread the ashes over the whole garden. Then we got our tiller out and mixed it in as well as tried to smooth it out to make more level soil. Next we covered the area with all the leaves from our back yard.

This is where we are now. I don’t know why, but I find this oddly beautiful.

 

You can also see the compost bin here. That is plot 5 that will not be used until 2019, at which point I will let the compost out and incorporate it into the garden.

This area will be divided into 5 plots, or planting areas. I already have the next 5 years of crop rotations planned. Here is what it will look like next year. This is to scale(ish).

My garden plan
I accidentally drew the plants for plot 3 in the space for plot 2 so I had to make note to myself so I do not mess up my rotations.

I have a planting schedule that I will try to keep to. So far it has worked out, and I plan to make my garden notes in it. Really it is just an extra notebook that I divided up into months and years that also has my plans for fruit trees and bushes at some point. I also have a printout from google earth of my house. That I have marked in different colors for different ideas.

Our Homestead
Here we are. Green is current, Blue shaded area is the garden expansion versus the pink that were thinking of expanding to. Pink are fruit trees, and additions that I hope to make in the future.

We plan to transition away from using a tiller. I have been inspired by some like minded folks on youtube. But I felt that getting started we had the tool why not use the tool. Going forward we plan to put wood chips down over this area to provide more mulch, and I will pull it all back to plant and add compost.

So, I am hoping you all have some input on this. Tell me your experiance with these methods what worked, what didn’t. Any advice?

 

Menstrual Cup

Yes you read that right. I am going to talk about my lady time. So If you do not want to hear anymore about that skip this post.

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I debated with myself if I should even post this. It felt too personal. Like it was too much information. But ultimately this is something that I had to deal with and I am sure others along similar paths will have to face so I will share my experience. Full disclosure there are affiliate links in this post. However, I am not paid for my opinion, and I did not receive any products free or at a reduced cost.

A few months ago I started looking for alternatives to tampons and pads after using them the last 20 years. So much money spent! Where did I go?

Well the internet of course! And WOAH!!!! So much information. I found out about how bad for your body tampons are. Thanks for that internet. Then I found all natural tampons but I can’t afford those prices. I always bought mine on sale with coupons for like $2.00 a box.

Next, I searched for something that could be reuseable. I found menstrual cups, which if you ask my mom are gross, but I can’t figure out why because since using that I haven’t had gross blood soaked cotton sticks in the trash can. It just all gets poured down the drain and washed away, but I am getting off topic.

My eyes were opened! There were so many options. I started with youtube reviews, but they were all too much. Then I found one youtuber (is that what they are called?) that tried them all! She was very though and while it was gross I realised how much I appreciated her help.

So obviously, I debated back and forth for a few more cycles, I don’t say months because 3 cycles happened in a 1.5 month time period. Then, I read a post in one of my Facebook groups about saving money by switching to a menstrual cup. After reading about all these ladies that made the switch I decided it was time to look at this more seriously.

I went to amazon because I was motivated and have Amazon Prime and wanted to have it in my hands before my next cycle. I put several in my cart that I thought I would like. Here are the ones I picked out :

Diva Cup Model 2 Menstrual Cup

Lunette Menstrual Cup – Model 1 & 2

FemmyCycle Menstrual Cup Starter Kit

After looking at those prices it was clear to me which one to try first, because even if I hated it I would not beat myself up over $16.

Dutchess Menstrual Cups Set of 2

I am so glad I started there. I probably would have liked the more expensive ones too, but I didn’t have to try them because I have been using this little gal for the last 4 months. I am not going to go into detail about how it works, because there is already tons of information out there about how these work. I just wanted to share with you that you do not have to be a slave to your cycle.

I also wanted a back-up to keep in my purse and to use just incase of leaks, although I have not had any except when I didn’t have it placed properly. So I got these too:

Heart Felt Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pad (Pack of 5)

I hand wash them and hang them to dry. After 2 hand washes I machine wash them on delicate. I still hang them to dry.

This really all started with a way to stop spending money on these kinds of products all the time. If you are looking for a way to save money in the long run maybe one of these options will work for you too. If you are looking for healthier alternatives to the mass produced products on the market this might work for you too. Of course we are all different and what worked for me may not work for you which is why there are so many different cups out there and they all have good and bad reviews. findone that works for you too. Have you already made the switch then please share your story below to encourage others to make the switch.

When life gives you grapes, make Jam!

I have been meaning to post this, but I wanted to wait until I had a chance to try out the final results.

A few weeks ago I was gifted roughly 12 pounds of Concord grapes. I love free food. I immediately decided we were going to make jam. I am not a fan of jelly, and I have been itching to can something all season.

So I found a recipe. I will not include it here because we did not follow it, not even a little bit. So I recommend finding a recipe and then making it your own.

We peeled and deseeded the grapes by hand. This was harder than I thought, but easier than it sounds. Once both my husband and I were both working on it it went quickly.

Then we cooked and pureed them. We added sugar and lemon juice, and pectin as needed. Then cooked that some more. Finally we jarred them up and water bath canned them.

Now we have Christmas presents for the family all for the cost of sugar!

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All I have left is to add these labels and they will be ready to go.

 

WE ARE NO LONGER A 2 INCOME FAMILY

So a few weeks ago something happened, and without giving out all the details of our personal lives we are now living on 1 income. This has come at the perfect time for our homestead. It frees us up to have more quality family time, but also more time to work on building the infrastructure of our homestead.

Already we have put into place a few small things that will help us earn extra income online. We take surveys, and test products, to have a little side cash.
We also joined  Amazon’s Affiliate Program , after reading about it on several other blogs.

None of this has actually generated any additional income, but I am optimistic that it will generate at least a little.

The most important thing is that we will not be paying someone to care for our children anymore! They have more time at home to finish homework, get their house chores done, and still have time to play and be kids.

We have also completed a few projects that were not priorities.

We installed a clothes line to reduce power consumption! I love this I hang 2 loads of laundry when it is sunny, or even just windy. I still fluff the clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes, but that is down considerably from what it takes to dry a load of clothes.

Solar powered clothes dryer!!

We are moving forward full steam with the compost bin, and garden plans. We have laid out our expansions for the next 2 years, and have planned a rotating plan for the food we actually eat, and can preserve to save us some money.

We are making plans for a chicken coop and chicken run to add in the spring, and I hope to get some chicks from someone here locally, but I am not against getting 25 from a hatchery. Any that we don’t need to keep for egg layers can, and will be, eaten. Having a chef for a husband always comes with perks, like pie.

PIE

He is also quite skilled at making things. He put a pallet wall in our living room, and plans to sell crates online, or at the farmers market, or both.

I have set a SwagBucks goal to save enough up to get a PayPal transfer to pay for my strawberry, blackberry, and apple starts by January. Usually I use all my points for Amazon gift cards, and buy Christmas presents. This past year we have had a cash budget that has allowed us to slowly buy all the Christmas gifts over time. It is a lofty goal, but it is doable.

We have come to accept that Homesteading is not a goal. It is a journey.

 

Solar powered clothes dryer!!

Also known as a clothes line. I suspect there was one on the property before, but it was gone by the time we bought the house and moved in. Today while my husband was helping pull well lines to make repairs, he learned a lot about how to repair an existing well. He also scored us a free set of clothes line poles. These are huge, and are going to help combat our ever growing summer power bill.

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We decided to put it beside our garden. Where we want to expand it out to. It gets plenty of sunshine too! I am way too excited about this. Normal people do not get this excited over metal poles.

Sharpening My Skills

My little sewing machine

I saw somewhere online a list of homesteading skills to learn. One of those skills was sew your own clothing. I took a sewing class in high school. I made a little black dress, and it was very poorly made, but it fit and I wore it…once. I have had a sewing machine most of my adult life. It sat in a corner of my bedroom gathering dust for several years. I also have a bag of things that need repaired.

A few months ago I cleaned up a corner of my bedroom and found a cheap computer desk to use as a sewing table. This is the one I picked:

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Last night I opened the bag and repaired 2 pairs of my husbands dress pants he wears to work and to my disbelief a coat, dress, and 2 skirt’s for my 10 year old that have been in the bag since my 16 year old wore them. I know, I know, shame on me.

 

I threaded bobbins with different colors and went to town. Now don’t get me wrong. I know that sewing a few repairs is not the same thing as making your own clothes. However it is a step in the right direction. If I can stay on top of repairs then maybe my children will not outgrow the clothes before I get to making the repairs. Also by having it out and accessible I might be more inspired or inclined to actually make something from a pattern. I also learned how to use a pattern when I took that class. I’m sure I remember how to do that.

All in all I have come to accept that homesteading is not an end goal. It is the journey we take to get there.