Snow Ice Cream

 

IMG_0968So after playing outside in the snow all day and you are done warming up inside, the only thing left to do is make snow ice cream. This is a simple recipe that consists of just 4 ingredients.  What you need is 1 gallon of clean fresh snow, 1 cup of sugar, 1 table spoon of vanilla extract and 1 cup of sugar.  Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and enjoy!

Resolution Solution

It’s hard to believe that we’re already saying hello to 2016! As I get older, and especially since our son came along, the years just literally fly by! I am definitely that person who thinks 1996 was ,like, 10 years ago, and I’m stunned at the reality that I’ve been a married woman for almost 10 years and a mama for almost 5! Didn’t I just graduate from college yesterday?

It is common at the end of another year of life, to contemplate your successes, your failures, the happy times, the trying times, and how you and your family have grown and changed. Whether you had a good 2015 or you were ready to say “good riddance” when the clock struck 12, you probably had high hopes, big plans, and lofty goals when you woke up on January 1.

And then it happened. Reality hit you in the face like a ton of bricks. Your child woke up projectile vomiting, or your husband lost his job, or the basement flooded, or  a million and one other things that seem to suck the joy right out of life and steal your enthusiasm and vigor for the new year. As a result, we’re only a week into the new year, and you’ve already thrown those resolutions out the window.

Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve made and broken more resolutions than I can count. I’ve felt defeated and broken, and I’ve been so angry with myself. But what if I told you there is hope beyond those ill fated resolutions and empty promises to yourself and others? That there’s a way for you to literally be a new creation, to have peace, and that there’s relief from the constant hamster wheel of struggle.

The bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Simply by accepting Jesus as your Savior, and seeking a relationship with Him above all others, you will forever change your life and your outlook will change to an eternal focus, instead of looking for temporary satisfaction that worldly things and achievements provide.

If you genuinely seek Him, have daily communion with him in His word and in prayer, realize that he is doing a sanctifying work in you through trials and other life experiences to make you more like Him, and understand that only by His grace are you  capable of doing great things for his glory, you will begin desiring to please God instead of man. The culmination of this is living a life according to biblical principles and with an eternal focus. You will find that when you begin living a life with the goal of glorifying God and letting Him direct your paths, He will give you His abundant grace, the assurance and peace that passes all understanding in challenging circumstances, and the ability to grow and change your life for the better.

For example, some common resolutions are: lose weight or get healthy, get out of debt, kick a bad habit, spend more time with family, and get organized. I am so thankful that the bible has a lot of guidance about each of those things, and so much more!

1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 says “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” This verse can apply to many different areas of our lives, but my first thought is always we can glorify God by having discernment and self control with the food that we put into our bodies, avoiding various forms of abuse to our bodies (drunkenness, smoking, risky behaviors, etc), and taking the time to properly care for and nourish our bodies so that we can have the strength to work to provide and care for our families and to serve others.

Maybe you want to stop fighting with your spouse over money (or lack thereof), or begin taking the steps to see your debt realistically and start paying it off. You might resolve to formulate a budget and let your money work for you, or even save for a major purchase or life event. The bible actually has over 2,000 verses that pertain to money, and I know that there is one that applies to every single circumstance. Proverbs 22:7 says “the borrower is slave to the lender. ” I don’t know about you, but having unresolved debt and worries and strife about money can make me feel like I am enslaved to it. You don’t have to feel like that when it comes to financial matters. God wants you to love and trust him more than having material wealth and financial security.

He also clearly lays out his intention for the use of money and resources in His word. Proverbs 21:5 states, “the plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”Romans 13:8 says “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
 And again in Luke 16:10, 11 it says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” So it’s pretty clear that the Lord wants us to be diligent in working hard to pay back any debts and provide for the needs of our family, invest wisely and building our savings, be good stewards with our resources, be honest when dealing with money, and give generously.

These are just a few biblical truths to go along with our common struggles and resolutions. I believe that if you strive to live a life according to biblical principles, and with the desire to please and honor the Lord; there is no need to make empty promises to yourself and lofty resolutions. If you find your ultimate joy in the promise of living for eternity with God, instead of losing 15 lbs for that class reunion, seeking another get rich quick scheme or having “your best life now”, you will find your behaviors and attitude drastically changing for the better. Imagine how much more free, content, and joyful you will feel on December 31, 2016.

I’m looking forward to what the Lord’s direction is for our family in 2016, and I can’t wait to see how He works in lives as well!

Winter Eggs

Having a small backyard flock of chickens for fresh eggs is nice but it seems like it is an all or nothing proposition. In the spring and summer our hens are in full production mode and we have eggs to spare.  As fall rolls around production slows down and eventually comes to a complete stop.  If you find yourself in this situation don’t  despair, this is a normal process and there is a simple solution to restart the laying process.  Hours of daylight are the determining factor when it comes to stimulating egg production so the solution is to simply add a small light to the coop and in a week or two the hens will start laying again.  I typically will wait until night time temperatures are cold enough that there is a risk of freezing.  This allows our hens a period of rest from their egg production before starting up again.  This also allows us to use up some of the excess eggs we have left over from summer.  So if your chickens are” laying down on the job”, just add a small light to the coop and they will get back to work producing eggs.

What’s a Hunter’s Wife to Do?

It’s that time of year again. Your husband has donned his camo, spent countless hours scouting, following trails and looking for “scrapes” and “rubs” on trees.  He’s painstakingly searched for just the right tree to hang his stand, doused himself in every sort of synthetic deer excrement on the market, and loaded his shotgun with the best shells money can buy. All to accomplish what he’s waited all year to do. Yes, you guessed it, to bring home his prized buck or doe and fill the freezer with delicious, nutritious, and healthy venison!

Can I get a witness if this sounds like life in your house from mid to late  November? Do you silently dread when all the packages come home from the processor because you have no clue how to cook it or remove the “gamey” flavor, but yet you want your husband to know you appreciate his efforts to provide for your family? Do you scramble when October rolls around because you just realized you still have countless packages of random cuts of venison in the freezer that you failed to cook, and you want it gone before the next deer comes in?

Well, I’m here to tell you, there is hope for the hunter’s wife, even when you’re not totally sold on venison! I’m going to let you in on some secrets of how I went from totally despising the taste of vension, to now putting it in almost every recipe that requires beef, and very rarely eating or purchasing beef from the store. And if you learn to love venison, the health and financial benefits are numerous!

The first stop on your journey to loving venison is to accept that it’s not going to taste like ground beef. Yes, there are some people out there who SWEAR they can’t tell the difference, but unless you have been eating mostly venison your entire life, you will need to acquire a taste for it. The best way that I have found to do this, is to start by adding maybe half a pound of venison to half a pound of ground beef and gradually work up to all ground venison. You can also try it in recipes that are heavily seasoned so it will “mask” the flavor a little. Tacos, chili, spaghetti, etc would be good places to start. Rural King even has seasoning packets specifically for venison dishes that are called … We’ve tried a few, and I feel like they definitely improved the flavor.

The next tip is to add pork or beef fat to your ground venison during processing. It does cost more to do this, but it is well worth it, in my opinion! By adding pork fat, you can also make a delicious breakfast sausage. I will include that recipe at the end of the post. Unfortunately, it does make it significantly less healthy than plain ground venison, which has very little fat.

And the final step on your journey to loving venison is to learn how to properly cook it! Because of the low fat content, venison tends to dry out quickly when you cook it, and can become “tough.” You will also find that certain seasonings really compliment this type of meat. Invest in a good venison cookbook, and start trying some different recipes. You may waste a few packages of it through trial and error, but it is still significantly cheaper to pay to have a deer processed, as opposed to purchasing the same amount of ground turkey or beef at the store. And most importantly, I can guarantee when your husband sees you happily create meals from venison that he worked hard to put in your freezer, it will give him a sense of accomplishment and pride, and make him feel respected and appreciated for taking time out of his busy schedule to do something beneficial for the family.

I’ll close with one  of my favorite venison recipes that helped me to see the light, so to speak, on how wonderful venison is! Enjoy and happy cooking!

Venison Breakfast Sausage

Ingredients:

3 packages of thawed ground venison with pork fat added (will equal around 4 1/2 lbs)

1/4 c. sugar based curing mixture (We use Morton’s Tender Quick, which is sold in some grocery stores, but we bought it on Amazon)

1 tbsp. ground pepper

1 tbsp. crushed red pepper

3 tbsp. sage

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Directions:

In a large bowl, place all the ground venison. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix all the other ingredients together. Start gradually adding spice mix to the bowl of ground venison, and mix it thoroughly with your hands or a mixer. Continue slowly adding the spice mixture to the ground venison until it is well mixed.  Divide into 1 lb. portions to freeze, and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firewood Philosophy

“Few of us moderns have so tangible a reason to feel good about ourselves. This is why I prescribe a bucksaw, a maul, and set of splitting wedges along with a really big woodpile as therapy for the twitches, gout, flabby midsection, jangled nerves, or deep-seated feelings of alienation, powerlessness, inadequacy, and most other ills of modern society. A heap of fresh cordwood begging to be sawed, split, and stacked beats Valium any day”. Ceylon MonroeIMG_0762

 

I am not sure where I got this quote but I feel it describes perfectly my relationship with cutting firewood.  The entire process, from felling a tree to  splitting and stacking it, is so satisfying.  There is something much deeper to it.  Heating my home with any other method seems empty and hollow.  Burning wood for heat makes me feel more alive and invigorated.  The process allows a person to reconnect with a part of themselves that modern day people have lost contact with.  Sure it is a lot of work, but the reward that I get from it is immeasurable.  You might not be at a point where you heat with wood but the concept of getting outside for a good hard day’s work can benefit you just the same.

Family Time

IMG_2053Over the years, I have worked with people that live for weekends and vacations. They put in extra hours and finance a week long adventure to some exotic sounding destination.  I never quite understood this type of thinking.  Why make the majority of your life unpleasant to only have funIMG_0746 for a short period of time?  I would rather make the majority of my life enjoyable.  The way we accomplish this is to do simple things as a family that cost little to nothing.  This past week is a perfect example of this.

We started out by taking a mid-week trip to get a burger and fries followed by a drive through a local park and their Christmas decorations.  The “oohs!” and “ahhs!” coming from the back seat of our car were nonstop!  Follow that up with a trip to a model train show at a local IMG_0744church, and you have the makings of a very memorable and enjoyable week for a 4 year old; not to mention an affordable one for a single income family.  Family fun does not need to cost much.  With just a little time and imagination, anyone can find things to do that the family can enjoy on a budget.

BEES

bumblebeeclipart

This year I have decided to add a bee hive to our list of gardening/homesteading projects.  This has been something I have wanted to try for quite some time but I never really felt like the time was right.  That is changing this year.  I want to do this for a couple of reasons.  The first is to have a winter project that I can work on after I get home from my job and the other is to have a father, son project.  Our son enjoys hanging out in the garage and doing things with me so, although he may not be a big help in the construction of the hive, he will enjoy being out in the shop and it will be great family time.

So to get this project kicked off I needed to do some planning.  I need to decide on a design for my hive so off to the internet I went.  I narrowed my choices down to two types of hives after some research.   Most people are familiar with the box type hives.  This is called a Langstroth hive and is probably the most popular and widely recognizable design there is.  There is nothing wrong with this type of hive and if my goal was to maximize honey production then this would be the type of hive I would choose.  The other type of hive I considered for this project is the top bar style.  This is said to be an older design and some feel that it allows the bees to build their comb in a more natural manner.  One drawback of the top bar design is that it is not as efficient when it comes to honey production.

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A duty free picture from the internet of a Langstroth hive

 

Of the two previously mentioned designs I decide to go with the top bar for the following reasons.  First is that it is a simple, easy to build design.  I am interested in keeping this project simple and fun to complete.  The next reason is that it seems from reading, that the top bar may require less time input from a management standpoint.  I am interested in providing a good environment for the bees so I was drawn to the top bar design for the fact that it mimics someplace that bees would choose to build a hive.  I feel like if I can provide them with something akin to a normal hive location I will likely  be more successful.  The final factor in my decision was that honey production, although desirable, it is not my ultimate goal.  I am more interested in introducing more pollinators to my property and that will in turn improve the productivity of our garden and orchard next year.

finishedhivewroof-backside
A duty free picture of a top bar bee hive from the internet

The internet is full of information on bee keeping.  So much so that it can be a little difficult to sift through the information that is out there.  I was able to find some various designs for free and I will be adopting the best parts of them into my hive.  There are no rules concerning the type of material used to construct the hive so a person can feel free to use whatever they can find.  I will be using some material I had left over from previous projects so I expect the cost of new material to be minimal.

After several years wanting to do this I am excited to finally get started.  It is the little things like getting out in my garage and spending time showing my son how to cut wood or hammer nails that give great joy.  This type of satisfaction cannot be replicated siting in front of the television or staring at your smartphone.  There is no substitute for human interaction or interaction with the natural world which God created for us.

The Well Stocked Pantry

IMG_0572Have you ever been in the position when the family is hungry and you need to fix something quick?  You go to the fridge and there is nothing there so you call and order a pizza or run out for a burger.  Well for us the nearest pizza place is a 12 mile round trip and that just isn’t always a good option. Pizza every once in a while is fine but not that healthy and this should not be your answer when the cupboard is bare.    Let me suggest an alternative that may save you some time, help you avoid the moments of wondering what to fix for supper, and help you eat a little healthier as well.

The solution I am speaking about is a well-stocked pantry.  When I was growing up my grandmother had the ability, at a moment’s notice, to create a meal fit for a king.  She did not use convenience foods that I remember but rather she cooked from scratch.  Her kitchen was well stocked with all of the essentials that you would need on regular basis.  There was no running to the store to pick up a stick of butter, she always had plenty.  So I am sure you think that this is either too time consuming or costs too much but neither of these are true.  As a matter of fact having some basic staples and possessing the ability to utilize them to create healthy and nourishing meal is one of the key components to living life more simply.IMG_0578

Let me touch on other justification for having a well-stocked pantry just a bit.  One of the benefits of having food around the house is that you are not spending you time and money running out to get food every time you eat.  It takes time to drive there and back and it costs money for gas.  If you live in an urban area this may not be such a big deal but for us it does add up. Another benefit is that you have control over the quality of the ingredients that you cook with so that you can provide your family with nutritious food to fuel them through their day.  Now I am not a huge health food nut but I do believe that there is a great benefit in eating good food and that you can do yourself great harm by the food choices you make resulting in disease and premature death or disability. The last point is that of being prepared.  I am not necessarily talking “doomsday Prepper” prepared, although there may be some merit to that line of thinking.  What I am discussing here is something more routine.  Maybe your neighbor just had surgery and you need to cook them a meal.  How about unexpected guests?  What about a big snow or ice storm that causes travel difficulties and knocks out the power?  All of these are very possible and real scIMG_1405enarios that could happen and have happened to us in the past.

So how do you go about getting started stocking you pantry?  I am glad you asked.  One of the first things to do is see what you already have.  There is no need going out and buying supplies that you have plenty of.  The next thing to do is think about the types of food your family likes to eat.  Get a list of a few of the family favorite meals and find good recipes for them.  Compile a list of staples from these recipes.   The best way to approach this is to start small.  Create a list of meals for 1 week and have the ingredients for those 7 days.  The next week you may add additional meals but you should have many of the ingredients already from the previous week.  After repeating this for a few weeks you will eventually have a good assortment of supplies and recipes at your disposal. Now that you have a robust meal plan you will want to increase you supply of the main ingredients so that you no longer running to the store every time you cook.IMG_1406

I have read articles that had lists of items that you should buy and I guess that makes for some good reading but I often wondered how anyone could create a list not knowing what the reader likes to eat.  I prefer my method based on the fact that it allows you to lean as you go and should also result in less wasted purchases.  There is no need to go out and buy everything all at once.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right and this is no exception.  Take some time and plan which is also a key concept that I will often repeat.

Having these extra items will require you to consider how exactly you are going to store them.  You don’t want to be wasteful with your resources.  After all, you spend good money on these things and it would be a shame for them to go to waste.  You will also want to store these items in a way that preserves their nutrient value as well.  Generally speaking a cool dry area of you home will work well for storing foods.  We utilize our unfinished basement for this and it works well for us.  One consideration is that we do heat with a wood burning furnace in the winter so our food is kept in the North West corner of the basement since this is generally the coolest side of any home.  We don’t utilize any special method of storing food other than canning some of our garden produce each year.  We do have two additional deep freezers that we keep stocked with various meet, frozen corn, and fruit that we put up each summer.  For the most part unless you are looking for really long term storage of food, the original packaging will be adequate.

 

So now you have some food and in the house to feed those hungry kids and you now have more time because you aren’t running after pizza and you have more energy because you are eating better.  This looks like a winning solution all the way around.  One thing has noticed personally that many of the ways we have found to make life simpler is to adopt the practices that once were common in households across the country.  We have allowed our lives to be crowded with too many things that are of limited value and that drain our time and resources.  We are slaves to our possessions and suffer because of it. Making little changes will allow us to break free of these things that bind us, ultimately allowing us to live a life that is more full and affording us the opportunity to serve our families and others more freely.  This is just one step in our journey to simplification.

 

 

 

 

Canning the Last of Our Crop

This evening, we spent some time doing some of our last canning of the season.  We had a bumper crop of sweet potatoes this year, and we thought we would give canning them a shot, since we haven’t had great luck getting them to keep in our basement in the past.  We get asked a lot of questions about canning.  I find it a little curious that people are so amazed that we eat food that we grow and can ourselves. The most common questions that we get are, “Is eating home canned foods safe?”,  “Is the actual canning process safe?”, and “Do home canned foods actually taste good?” Well, the answer to all of those is a resounding “YES”!

As for the first question, I have to think about all of the food safety recalls that happen, yet people have no problem buying their food from the supermarket where they have no idea where it comes from, how it was grown, what chemicals were sprayed on it, and was it processed correctly.  I guess ignorance is bliss when it comes to food. We do not use herbicides on our garden and I try to use the least amount of pesticide that I can.  Synthetic pesticides are only used as a last resort when other measures do not work. Many people also have concerns about home canned foods growing botulism or other bacteria. If you follow the specific directions for each type of food that is found in the manual that comes with your canner, there is virtually no risk of having spoiled food. In fact, we have no qualms about eating canned food that is 5 years old, and it actually tastes and smells as good as it did the day we canned it. We have been canning for over 6 years, and we’ve never gotten sick or had any issues with our home canned goods.IMG_1414

Another common fear that is expressed to us, is the fear of using a pressure canner. People always cite those crazy rare stories about people’s canners exploding. I assure you, we have never heard of that actually happening to someone who was using the canner for the proper purpose, following the rules in the manual, and keeping their canner in good working order.

There is no comparison in the quality of taste when it comes to the food that comes from our garden and that which you get from the store and that difference is still present even though we can it ourselves.  Who has not had the hard those mealy store bought tomatoes that are pale and anemic looking inside?  Contrast that with the dark red juicy tomatoes that burst forth from our little garden plot every year.  I cannot help but think that there must be nutritional differences as well.  I do not worship my physical health but I do want to be a good steward with what God has given me and my family.  Gardening and canning is just one way I can do this.

Canning does take some time but like most chores that we do, if we do them together it is more like quality family time than work.  This is a concept that seems to be foreign to so many these days.  IMG_1415Even though I have a full time job and we run a small business, I find the time  we spend  gardening and preserving food to be enjoyable.  I do not have any interest in coming home and sitting on the couch.  There is no satisfaction in that.  Time spent canning is time that we work together as a family for a common goal, and later we get to reap the benefits of our hard work by partaking in the delicious and nutritious food that we grew and canned.

 

Why Simplicity?

 

Sunrise from our property

I am not sure if it is just me or maybe there are others that feel this way, but for all of my adult life I have felt like there was just something wrong with what is viewed as normal when it comes to work and providing for your family.  I guess I followed the status quo, to some extent, by going to college and getting a job when I graduated.  I took my first job in healthcare and found out that there was great pressure to get more education, so that is what I did.  I ended up with 4 degrees from 4 separate universities.  Healthcare also requires you to work nights, weekends and holidays.  Sometimes there is also “call”.  I accepted all of this as the price I had to pay but it never seemed right.  I spent a great deal of time away from my family and home to make someone else money and for what?   The hospitals I have worked for certainly have their own interests and prosperity in mind, not mine.  This is not to say there is no benefit from working for others; it just does not “feel” right to me.  Some may be perfectly happy doing the 9-5 every week, or in the case of healthcare, the 7-7. As for me, I cannot help but think there has to be more.

 

My father is a very hard working man and I think that he instilled that work ethic into me as well.  For the first several years of my career, I worked a lot of overtime and I had as many as 3 jobs at once.  This all changed in 2011, when my son was born, and my father gave me some of the best advice I have ever heard.  He said that I should make spending time with my son a high priority because he felt like he missed out on so much while he was working long hours to provide for us.  This was a little hard for me to comprehend since I had always been a hard worker and had seen that played out in the lives of my parents.  This is not to say he was advocating that I become lazy, but rather I begin to focus less on material things and more on the simple pleasures of life; the things that really matter.

This, I guess, is the real point of this post.  We spend so much of our lives chasing after things that really do not matter.  Whether that is homes, jobs, food, hobbies, or whatever, we tend to chase after things that in the end mean nothing.  At the end of our lives will we say ” I wish I had spent more time at work, I wish I could make one more Facebook post, or if my house was a little bigger I could die a happy man?”  I bet not.  As a matter of fact, I am finding out that it is not the “things” in life that matter but rather the people and how you can take care of them.  Life is more about service than being served.  Providing rather than being provided for.

Another point  I’d like to discuss in relation to simplicity is the sin of idolatry.  I would not have been so inclined to think of myself as an idolater until I began to study the topic from a biblical standpoint.  The short version is that an idol is anything that is more important to you than God.  So with that I mind I did some self-evaluation and I realized that there were many things that took priority over God in my life.  Not to say I built a golden calf in my garage, but my security in my job certainly could qualify.  How about all of that education?  I am sure I could list a thousand things but this is start.

So a simple life for me is more than just a romanticized notion but rather a lifestyle that allows me to live out my duty to God and my family more fully.  I do not believe that God is happy taking a backseat to our smartphones and our summer vacations.  At least this is not how I understand it.  I believe that we have a duty to live our lives in such a way that God is the center, and for me a lifestyle of simplicity is how I choose to do this.