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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 :) )

 

Ticks are Gross

(*Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, vet, nurse or any type of medical professional. The thoughts expressed here are just my opinion and as a result of months on reading about ticks. And yes. I read an ungodly amount. Keep reading to find out why.)

We have a puppy now.  She’s a big puppy… one-quarter Great Dane, one-quarter (black) Lab, and one-half Blue Heeler.  Her full name is Isabella Cocoa Macri (another story for another time) and we call her Izzie.  Or as I often call her… Izzie Busy.

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(This is her in September at a mere 9 weeks old. She’s now over 4 months.)

Much like parents of human children, we think our puppy is just the smartest. However… she is still a dog. An animal.  An animal that sniffs and eats disgusting things outside and then walks in our house and wants to french kiss.

Our house had a brief and terrible run-in with ticks.

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It completely grosses me out to even share this pic.

No seriously, it does.  When one appears in our house on the dog or a human, it’s all I can do to not throw up and force dear husband Lance to remove it. (I did have to remove one once from a child when he was out working. It was dreadful. *shiver*)  We live in the country, nearly in the woods… so these suckers are just a fact of life.

Now, rest assured… Izzie has been de-ticked. We’re taking care of her, using our best solutions to deter further ticks. The biggest deterrence nowadays is the snow outside :) And, in case you’re wondering whatever has been going on with my health, please know that in the battery of exams and labs, I have been tested for Lyme’s disease and I’m 100% negative.

I share this picture with you because I just can’t stop thinking about them. They’re little blood-suckers… but what’s the harm? They attach, and then what? Most humans don’t even feel them burrow in. We only tend to notice when running our hands over skin that used to be smooth and now there’s a little tag.

But they don’t. They don’t just attach and then you’re never bothered again.  They transmit diseases, and more than just Lyme’s disease.  They’ll fill up with blood – and eventually get so engorged living off you they’ll fall off. Then go lay some eggs or do some other form of procreating.  And they leave YOU with whatever disease they were carrying.

If there’s any good news here, it’s that a) not all ticks are carrying diseases and b) sometimes your body will fight off whatever invaders on its own without you even knowing. Thank God for your immune system.

This is probably some sort of cathartic post for me. A conquer my fears. I hate these nasties. No really, I do.

Who wants to take the chance by leaving a tick… just there? So it doesn’t feel like it’s causing a problem. Besides… it might itch after you remove it. But does that mean we don’t deal with it?  I think we all know this is a silly rhetorical question because the answer is a resounding, NO.

So here’s the reason I keep thinking about them.

We leave “ticks” attached to our heart and soul. Y’all, we do this all the time.  We have these little things that are literally sucking the life force from us. They don’t itch, they don’t bother us, so we just leave them alone.  And maybe someday they fall off, but what they leave in their wake is worse than a tiny itching wound.

Call it bad habits. Bitterness. Envy. Resentment. Bondage and addiction to something so small there’s no harm and no way anyone will ever be affected. Wrong.

What are these little things leaving behind? A sour relationship can leave you with bitterness. Causing the disease of discord, not trusting others, and refusing to participate in community. (And by the way, if you think God didn’t intend us to be relational… you’ve missed the point of the entire Old Testament, Greatest Commandments from Jesus and the Great Commission. He’s big on intimate relationships. Not fluff and stuff, but hard and real and in your face.)  That one, off-to-the-side relationship that seems off-kilter and no-big-deal can cause long-term issues with your ability to relate and be relatable.

And that’s only one example on a “tick” that attaches and causes problems. Bad habits lead to poor stewardship with your money and time. An unhealthy adoration for food also can drain the bank, but also sucks energy from you and puts you in improper perspective with your body and your obligations to care for it. Envy and jealousy can lead to buying stuff you don’t need (aside from the relational discord).

This is a strong case for pointing one finger out and all the rest of the fingers are pointing back at me. I’m convicted of these tiny things. I’m a notorious user of the phrase, “It’s no big deal.” (You can ask Lance.) The problem is, all those tiny deals equal one big deal. Those tiny decisions to ignore lead to long-term disease and death.  They equal one person who’s distant and angry and unable to relate to the community in which he/she is placed. (By the way, God’s sovereign over that, too, in case you were wondering. Don’t know why you are where you are? Talk to God about it.) Your ticks affect everyone around you.

We are in an open battle where souls are at stake. There is nothing Satan would love more is paralyzed and inefficient Christians because then they aren’t doing their end of the bargain of following Him and the Great Commission. Those ticks on our soul rob us of our ability to be fully functioning committed believers of Jesus and lovers of the people He loved.

When you’re faced with one that’s stealing your life force and leaving behind disease, remove it. Don’t let it sit and continue to do damage.

Eugene Patterson writes his paraphrase on James 1:19-25:

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

Chances are, you already know what’s slowing eating at your soul. Be good to yourself, your relationships, and your God and deal with it. Write them out, pray it out, confess it and ask for help. Figure what’s causing issues and what can be done to move towards healing.

P.S. – Just in case you’re wondering, I let Izzie be the featured image here. Because God knows I don’t want to look at this post in a rolling feed and see those nasty things. So a sweet puppy it is.

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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Agrarian

These last few months I have had to steel my nerves as we are about to move – and this is a fabulous move, just a few miles away – but a move nonetheless.  And it’s not just any move, it’s a move that will likely launch us into farmerdom, and entails heavy gardening, chicken butchering, orchard caring. There’s been loads, and loads, and LOADS of research, and decisions, and more research and more decisions.  I think I could sum my whole life up in a handful of spreadsheets. :-P

Our commitment to real food has expanded (or maybe joined forces?) with extended family. I think we all feel a little bit nuts, a little bit anxious, and alot excited.

I read alot of prairie books, and historical fiction – about the west and agrarian life – as a young girl.  I think somewhere along the way it seemed impractical to desire such a life (although there was an idea amongst my sisters and I to resurrect the Flying “O” brand [our family/maiden name starts with “O”] after several decades of no ranching).  I progressed into teenage years, was told I’d argue with a brick wall and decided that politics and law school would be the fit for me. Then I moved, God got ahold of me, placed an Italian-Upstate-New Yorker in my path and pretty much didn’t let me off the hook. I abandoned many of my “goals” to chase after domestic life (which I don’t regret one bit although I did return to work), then found myself in an industry I really, really liked – one that entailed a sharp mind, eye for detail and an uncanny desire to audit.

I could launch into a sermon about being who God intends you to be – and being comfortable enough in your own skin to just be ok with who you are: your dreams, your heart, your ideas, your way of thinking (all assuming it doesn’t conflict with the Word of God) – but the bottom line is this: I am turning 30 this year and I’ve just NOW become okay with how He made me.  It is OKAY that I want to garden, and live in an old house, and butcher chickens.  It doesn’t make me less a mom, wife. Doesn’t make me less less a woman, less a follower of Christ.  If it doesn’t make me less in His eyes, why should desiring the things of old make me less in my own?

And let me tell you what… this agrarian life is one of the MANY things to which I’ve circled back.  The realization of who I REALLY am, in many fields, ways, behaviors, beliefs, has made over my life – changed my marriage, changed my parenting, changed how I fit into my local church.  I had to really stop doing things out of obligation, and paranoia about whether or not people would think less of me, and do the thing which God put in my heart decades ago.  I had to stop believing the lies I’d AND Satan had told me about myself and listen to the heart of the Savior who redeemed me a long time ago.

Auditing is not the thing He put in my heart at age 10.  Farming, though – ah, yes. Yes HE did. Agrarian - Foodies Gone Real

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