Category Archives: Sarah’s Farm Adventures

Christmas on the Homesteadish

Christmas on the homestead. Ish.

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Am I allowed to call what we do a homestead?  I’m not sure.  Right now I don’t feel like we’re doing anything active.  And what defines a homestead anyway?  Alas, I digress.

I attempted a cleaned-up version of fudge today.  It was ok.  Honestly, we all will enjoy it, and my fellow real-foodies will, too, but for those not accustomed to coconut oil and its flavor… it’ll overwhelm.  I’ll still gift it as planned… but more likely to people who are used to that kind of thing.  I’m going to keep trying this week.  Next up is a maple walnut and a chocolate peppermint.  I have hope. ;-)

There are no presents under the Christmas tree.  20161220_064213

Fear not, I haven’t turned into a grinch… I just can’t put them there for keeping because my fierce protector Izzie thinks they are toys.  She actually got ahold of one present, completely ripped off the wrapping paper, and buried it in her blankets in her crate.  She’s a smart cookie.

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Needless to say, the tree feels naked and my room doesn’t feel complete.  It’s probably the biggest reason I’m excited… my girls have no idea how much they’re going to have their socks knocked off.

Not that it’s all about presents.  I mean, we all know that.  But y’all, I have no guilt or shame in saying I love giving gifts.  Gift-giving is my love language.  This is my season.  This is my TIME. I wish I could afford or excuse constant shopping for others, but since I can’t, this is it.  I’m going to go big or go home.

We have more surprises in store for them than just presents.  But that’s another post for another time….

We are thinking forward.  We’ve got a bulk of the supplies necessary for doing our own maple syrup.  The little corner of our garage is gathering speed this last month. We did dabble in it last year, but this year we have the pans, the stove… the real deal.  There’s a part of me that feels a little in the twilight zone when we get stuff together like this.  I can’t believe that we’re actually DOING this.  Doing this crazy DIY, make your own/know your food thing.

Which of course brings us to the other burning question… chickens.  No, butchering my own chickens and processing them did not scare me off from doing this again. The bigger concerns are improvements to our current system, the cost of those improvements… and just that the right cash is there when we need it for the annual costs.  I reaaaalllly want to do layers, but that’s even more complicated.  The landscape of our property is tricky and we’re near a major road (while the speed limit is 55, I’m certain most are going 60-70 mph).  I want them to free range, I need to be able to get to them in the winter. I’d like electricity out there for the negative temp days and keeping the waterer thawed.

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But the other underlying issue with the chickens is that a large part of these projects are MINE.  We’re still in process with diagnosis and how to fix my medical predicament.  And as we weigh what types of lifestyle changes we may have to make in the next year, will we have the upfront costs available? And depending on the treatment and how long it takes me to find a new normal, will I have the time and energy to manage them? I am so vehemently against randomly taking on animals without counting the cost.  I am not going to take them on and then find out I can’t care for them and have to give them away. Or sell them. Or whatever.  I firmly believe God gave us a huge and humbling responsibility when He asked us to care for creation, and not being wise and responsible without having the intent to care for them well is a sin. (#sorrynotsorry  … lack of stewardship is a problem. Knowing the right thing to do and not doing it is just as much a problem as knowing the wrong thing to do and doing it regardless.) (Another parantheses… just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with knowing when it’s time to rehome an animal.  Sometimes, that’s just as wise and responsible.  But taking them on willy-nilly is not cool.  We’ve been here before, and lots of lessons learned.)

So as it pains me – no really, it does – I am aware there is a strong possibility I may not being doing any chickens this year.  I cannot take care of all of these things and my family if I’m not taking care of me.  Think of that airplane mask thing… put the mask first on yourself.  And that’s for good reason – you can’t care for others if you’re starving for oxygen.  And mama can’t care for chickens and cook dinner and love her children the way they deserve if she’s so pained she can’t move.

These are my Christmas thoughts… because Christmas is going to come steam-rolling in and we’ll be in the new year and thinking and praying and deciding these kinds of heavy things. (By the way, pray for us, ok? We need loads of wisdom!)

It’s like a blank canvas. Christmas speaks hope and joy. A time when God does something new.  It’s appropriate that it falls during our darkest literal days, and right before we begin a new calendar year.

God’s got something new.

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(P.S. – obviously taken before the onslaught of snow :) )

 

Hard Stuff & Freedom

This year was HARD.

We raised meat chickens (butchered them ourselves). Settled into a home. Fundraised and WENT to Haiti for a week. Struggled with high drama in several relationships.  Oh, and at work, I consistently put in 50-60 hours. Per week. For months.

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So yeah…. hard.

Call it disease, call it stress… it almost doesn’t matter… my body has been on a slow decline for the last year. We’re in the process of figuring out a plan on how to deal with these medical issues, but for now… I’ve had to slow down. Which again… is hard. (Did you read the list of hard stuff? No room for slowin’ down there.)

I went gluten-free to deal with one issue, and in some ways – along with medical intervention – that one specific issue has improved.  But it didn’t eliminate any migraines or any other ailments.  In fact… it all just continued slowly to get worse.

I’m going to be honest, it’s incredibly frustrating.  As someone who doesn’t even let soy come into her home, as someone who has sanitized GMOs from her family’s diet… I feel a wee bit cheated.  I feel like I did the right thing by our diets, and I’ve had new issues creep up instead.

I didn’t want to come here and write about all the success I’ve had in the kitchen.  Well, because I HAVEN’T. Aside from my enthusiasm and proselytizing about healthy food being reduced, I positively didn’t have the energy. My kids have eaten so many sandwiches it’s ridiculous.  I gave up making bread.  I just COULDN’T anymore.  My body didn’t have it in me.  It’s a struggle to muster up the energy to do anything but the bare minimum… and I’m talking also about cleaning toilets and washing clothes. And this isn’t even touching on writing.

I felt as if I couldn’t come here and talk about these things because a) it wasn’t food related and part of the whole “eat-better” message I’ve been so intent on and b) it wasn’t encouraging.  One of my biggest gripes about social internet presence is those that use it just to complain and garner pity. This wasn’t going to be what the blog was about.  So, instead… I just chose not to write.

I miss it, though.  I miss putting all my thoughts together into one space. Woven into all my past posts was my heart.  Things I was enjoying.  Things I was doing.  The problem of course is that I just wasn’t cooking as much in the last several months (almost a year) and I didn’t know how to relate my writing to the mission of encouraging those around me to eat well.

So, this blog is going to change.  I’m not going to delete it and undo anything.  But I feel it needs to be relabeled, and to include a mission and title that’s more about me, my heart, and not so specific on food.  (Don’t worry, as much as the energy level has decreased, I still LOVE to eat!! So food’s still up there.)  I also have other things beating in my heart… I often end up writing tiny blurbs on my personal facebook page, but I think it makes more sense to combine this all in a blog.  And Foodies Gone Real doesn’t necessarily fit.

I want to do what God’s called me to do well.  I have never doubted He’s called me to write encouragement.  Things will change because I want freedom – freedom to write as God calls, and not just bound up on what type of diet encouragement.

And don’t we all want freedom?

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Summer Lovin’

Why I love summer:

Praise THE LORD school’s almost out.  I know there are lots of people that are anxious (or flat-out don’t like) summer vacation because they have to occupy their kids… or so they think… I’m a proponent of teaching them to self-occupy, but that’s another blog post for another day!  I miss my girl SO MUCH when she’s gone.  Her sister does, too.

That, and it means NO MORE PACKING LUNCHES.  I really hate doing it.  But I hate what they serve in the cafeteria more (and how much it costs!) so packing it is.  That, and I feel that I can convince her to eat well and a more diversified plate if she’s home.  She’s my texture-aversion kid, and for those of you who don’t know, part of getting them to conquer this anxiety is consistency, lots of affirmation, lots of experimenting… in other words, impossible to do for that middle meal for a whole 9 months. I have to give her whatever she’ll eat that whole time. I have to save up the work of coping with the fear for the evening meal, which can make for some stressful times. In other words… I would like to have another meal or time of day to deal with this! Looking forward to it!

The other thing I’m greatly looking forward to – my schedule permitting (I hate that I have to say that!) – is strawberry picking.  I’m looking for jelly/jam/preserve recipes for which I don’t have to use white sugar, and my hope is between strawberry and blueberry season I can manage to put up enough for a year! (And believe it or not, I think it can be done between the two seasons!)

His Mercies - Foodies Gone Real

If you follow on instagram, you might have seen our chickens were moved to the tractor up in the orchard.  (For the record, this agriculture/homesteading venture is joint with family… so if you ever think this stuff seems so huge for one family to bite off, you’re RIGHT! We all have certain responsibilities, and most of us work another job… which is why we’re doing it together).  I think my unofficial job title is the animal husband-er.  I’m raising the chickens, and have plans for layers… and have my hopes on a pig, goat, sheep, dairy cow…. and the list goes on.

I’m ready “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver and I A-D-O-R-E it.  All locavores, or real foodies, or homesteaders should be required to read it.  Her chapter on her daughter’s chickens was spot on.  I agree with her, when she says she’s so glad that baby poultry don’t stay looking like this:

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They would be impossible to cull! Instead, they turn into moody teenagers, then into brutes that attack each other.  I am so humbled and thankful I get this experience of knowing where my food comes from.  These chickens are getting an incredible life (compared to the chickens raised commercially) and maybe it’ll all just be in my head, but I just KNOW the experience of eating them will be hands-down better.

Also on instagram, I excitedly presented some of my early carrot seedlings.  Gardening I can do, (no black thumb) but I’m still cautious and learning ALOT.  My mother-in-law’s thumb is so effortlessly green I think she just has to wave it around dirt and things magically sprout!  Needless to say, my little carrot seedlings I am so proud of!  Carrots take a long time to germinate, and you have to direct sow (no transplanting), which in my humble opinion, gives lots of room for things to go wrong.  At least when you start seeds indoors, you can pick which ones get transplanted, and get them established before you let the bunnies and deer anywhere near them.

I’m desperately trying to raise green beans again – which I LOVED growing last year, but the bunnies are killing me, here.  My mother-in-law has the right idea on her property: they installed a fabulous hoop house.  Duly noted, duly noted. I’m not sure my beans are going to make it unless I figure out a way to fence it all in.

Green Beans Introduced to Bacon - Foodies Gone Real

(Two years ago green beans!)

On top of raising our own food, we do buy into a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture). (We don’t yet produce enough to be entirely self-reliant.) Basically, a farmer sells shares of his/her produce.  I bought a share, so every week I get 1 share’s worth of vegetables, and a little bit of fruit.  This is worth EVERY penny.  Aside from the locavore aspect – supporting a farmer in the community – this was the BEST way I learned to try new foods, and it felt risk-free since I already paid for the share.  It almost feels free. (It’s not, but it feels that way because you go to pick up your food every week and don’t leave any money behind!) My first “found” veggie – that I just had NO idea what it was, or what it tasted like – was garlic scapes.  I wrote up an explanation and recipe on it two years ago here.  I CAN HARDLY WAIT FOR MY SCAPES!

Bag of scapes!

I hope what you hear here is EXCITEMENT.  Anticipation.  Never in my whole life did I enjoy summer until we started our homesteading venture.  This land explodes new life, new life which God allowed me to participate in growing.  The farmer plants the seeds, but God makes them grow.

To return.

I’m back. I’m back in the kitchen, recovered from life, and ready to take this kitchen head-on.

Agrarian - Foodies Gone Real

It was a hard year.  And not that the hardness is over, but I’m moving forward again.  I was pretty stuck.  Financially, emotionally, spiritually. Hardly exercised, barely meal-planned, struggled to spend quiet times in the morning with my God. As with all things, there are lots of components to being stuck in a pit.  And while those things that put me there are still kinda hanging around, God’s gently raised my chin to Him and said, “Enough. I can get you out of this, but staring at the floor of the pit and complaining will do nothing to ease this up.”

I managed to keep the facebook page going in all of this – even if just for myself to remind myself that this was still here.  This thing I was called to was still here.  God didn’t tell me to stop, I just got tired.

I miss cooking.  I cooked a ginormous meal of homemade Korean dumplings with Einkorn Flour (courtesy of the new cookbook from Jovial … it’s really the best).  I cooked the entire thing from scratch. Took me nearly two hours. It was cathartic.  I felt at home again. I need to cook, need to create.

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So here I come.  I’m sick of this pit.  January – a fresh start reminded me of how much I was sick of sitting like this.  February, the second month, the second chance is here and I mean business. God’s got this.

 

His Mercies.

Because this blog is (partially) run by me, I can do what I want to, and today it’s write about something not-food-related.  That’s your disclaimer.

I was struck this morning how God, in His great mercy, designed and allowed the earth to fruit, produce, multiply, in such a way that it can be handled from an agricultural point of view.  What do I mean? Well, the squash don’t come as the same time as the strawberries and the carrots and the pumpkins.  They require a very specific combination to do what they do – for example, strawberries start flowering when it’s cold.  Squash don’t.  (In a general sense, friends!) It’s like there is this Master-Weaver, putting all this stuff in order so that we DON’T have to do all this stuff at the same time and kill ourselves in the process.  He gives us this bounty, piece by piece, little by little.  Y’all, that’s mercy.  Because He could have designed it in such a way that we got it all at the same time, but He didn’t.

Every moment of our lives reeks of mercy – and we really just can’t see it.  The driver that wasn’t paying attention, the job we thought we wanted, the home we hoped to have.  These are all things that are orchestrated behind the scenes, and we can’t see from what He saved us.

So, in the meantime, we complain that we may have to wait for the strawberries. In reality, He’s portioning things out so we are not overwhelmed and giving us those good things as He knows for our good.  We suffer through seasons of our lives that are dismal, seemingly crippling, where it feels that He’s holding out on us. He is the Master-Weaver, the Master-Gardener, who knows what and how we should have when.

And He promises that it’s ALWAYS for the good of those who love Him, and for His glory.

The End.

(Now go eat some strawberries!)

His Mercies - Foodies Gone Real

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