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Calm Before the Storm

October was busy and hard. It is one of my most demanding months as an ELA teacher; overseeing school picture day (I’m the yearbook advisor), organizing literature fairs, coordinating Harvest Day, field trips, and more, not to mention the regular demands of teaching. It is as stressful and exhausting as it is exciting and fun. Unfortunately, the month ended with the loss of my thirteen-year-old lab.

I had been trying to get as much done before November as I could, as I was preparing to have surgery to fix a herniated disc that had been plaguing me since March. Fortunately, my last MRI showed so much improvement (an almost 75% reduction in the size of the herniation) that my doctor no longer recommends the surgery. While I am far from pain-free, I am making significant progress. Read more

Two Pigs Added to the Homestead (Things We Are Doing Different This Time)

We recently purchased two pigs. Tanner is raising one as a 4H project (learning the entire process of raising swine from piglet to butchering weight). The other is being raised and processed to fill our freezer with homegrown pork.

This is the second time we have raised pigs on the homestead and each time is a learning experience (as is anything we do…). Here are some things that we are doing better the second time around.

Fence. Before you purchase your pigs (or any other homestead animal), be sure to have a secure pen to put them in. We tend to put the cart before the horse around here, so often animals come to the homestead before we have proper fencing. This can make things very stressful when you are trying to put something together at the last minute or when you create temporary pens that can’t properly contain your animals. This year we are keeping our pigs in what was formerly a lot surrounded by an electric fence; we are replacing the electric fencing which was destroyed by falling trees during a storm with five board fence lined with woven wire. Pig enclosures don’t have to be huge but I have found that if they are a little bigger then pigs don’t turn them to mud as quickly and they tend to be less pungent.

Housing. Last year we housed our pigs in a calf hutch which worked pretty well. The only downside was that the pigs leaned against the hutch making it a little misshaped. This year we are housing them in our old goat shed which has an open front allowing them to access their run as they please. It is way more then they need but it was open and keeps them out of the sun, wind, and rain.

Water. This is probably one of the biggest improvements we made. Last year the pigs drank from a water tub that had to be cleaned and filled constantly because the pigs were using it as a bath. This year I was able to get a 55-gallon plastic drum that I attached water nipples to creating an automatic pig waterer. I only have to fill it up about once a week and the pigs always have access to clean water. The pigs figured out how to use the nipples within minutes (and have earn learned how to “run” the water out to create a wallow beside the waterer).

Feed. Another upgrade which has drastically reduced the chore load with the pigs is an automatic pig feeder. I purchased a Farmstead single door hog feeder which holds a bag of pig feed and keeps it clean and dry. The pigs have constant access to feed and I only have to fill the feeder everyone so often.

I think pigs have so much personality and spunk and I love having them on the homestead. Having proper fencing and shelter and purchasing an automatic waterer and feeder has made caring for pigs less demanding and, in turn, even more enjoyable.

We are looking forward to watching them grow!

Garden Update | Week 4

It was a balmy 40 degrees outside today. I’m not letting the cool weather stop me and have managed to get a jump on a garden this year turning my kitchen into a stand-in greenhouse.

Today, I decided to replant the overgrown lettuce in my Bounty Elite Aerogarden and started 8 pods of various heirloom lettuces including Deer Tongue, Red Sails, and Black Seeded Simpson. In the last pod, I transplanted my chives from my Aerogarden Farm Plus as it was being overcrowded by my humongous basil plant.

I finally transplanted the first seeds, various tomatoes plants, I started in the Jiffy peat pellets to bigger 3″ peat pots. I should have transplanted them several weeks ago and I think I starved them for nutrients leaving them in the pellets too long causing the leaves to turn yellow slightly. I will just have to see how they do.


In my Aerogarden Farm Plus, the dill and basil are out of control and I need to get them cut and preserved somehow. I’ve tried to preserve herbs before in a dehydrator with no luck, so this time I might try freezing them. My two cherry tomatoes plants are growing and have blossoms on them; however, I am seeing a lot of curled and discolored leaves. What I have concluded from some research is this might be a nutrition deficiency, and while I’m following the recommended nutrient schedule, I might need to up the amount a bit.




What I’m most excited about are the seeds I started in the Farm XL seed starting system a few weeks ago just kind of messing around. I started cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini, and Brussel sprouts and they are actually doing really well. I’m worried that they will get too big and tangled before I can get them into the garden. I just received my seed order from Baker Creek Seed Company and started those seeds yesterday in the seed starting system. I can’t wait to see peppers, tomatoes, and some luffa grouds starting to pop up!

Now, if I could get the weather to warm up enough to get some stuff in the ground outside…

Starting Seeds with my Aerogarden

I recently splurged and purchased an Aerogarden Farm Plus, which I put together on the kitchen table (…my kitchen really isn’t big enough for it, but neither is anywhere else in the house). The Farm Plus has two growing bays. In one side, I’ve planted a herb kit with basil, dill, and cilantro and two cherry tomatoes plants that I plan to keep in the Aerogarden system. In the other bay, I’m trying out the seed starting tray which allows you to start 85 seedlings at one time.

Goose and I found some older seeds in the house and decided to play around and see what would sprout. We planted tomatoes, peppers, swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, eggplants, zucchini, and cucumbers. Unfortunately, none of the tomatoes and peppers germinated (I think the seeds were just too old and had not been stored properly). What did sprout was every. single. eggplant, zucchini, and cucumber. Not only did they sprout, but they have become quite large seedings in a very short period of time. I am working to get them transplanted into 3″ Jiffy Pots.

This is the first time I have had any success with starting seeds. I’m afraid that I have started too early and these plants are going to be too big to manage before I can get them into the garden, especially since I don’t have a greenhouse to move them too.


I purchased another round of grow sponges and some new tomatoes and pepper seeds. I’m going to start them this weekend.

Please send your eggplant, zucchini, and cucumber recipes.

New Additions {Nubian/Savanna Crosses Born on the Homestead This Week}

Within the last week, our herd of Nubians goats has more than doubled. Our herd matriarch, Willow, was the first to freshen, giving birth to two strong bucklings in the wee hours of the night. Gypsy followed suit giving birth to triplets, two doelings and a buckling, the very next day. Small but healthy, the trio seemed to be doing well; unfortunately, at some point the next morning one of the doelings died (we believe that Gypsy may have laid on her…). The latest addition belongs to Marmalade who had a single doeling. We have one doe to go; however, we are not sure if she is pregnant as we have never successfully bred her before.

When we bred our girls, who are mostly brown, to the snow white Savanna buck I had no idea what coloring they would have. All five have been white with four having a little dusting of brown on their knees and backs. It’s interesting to watch them mature as the coloring is becoming more prominent each day. What I was pleasantly surprised about this kidding season is how fast these kids seemed to be up and moving after birth. In previous seasons, our full-bred Nubian kids seemed to take a while to get on their feet and needed some assistant; I would almost describe them as fragile for the first couple of days. In comparison, the Nubian-Savanna kids seemed to get up faster after birth and nursed much quicker with little assistance. At just a week old, they are strong, playful and healthy.

Our intention with the new additions is to utilize them in a browsing project to help eradicate invasive plants in the county. Amy came up with the idea of naming each of this seasons’ kids after the various invasive species.

Introducing Brome,








and Thistle.


Week 3 of 52 Weeks to Preparedness

Week 3 of 52 Weeks to Preparedness challenges you to evaluate your emergency medical supplies. To get started this week I went through all my supplies, disposing of outdated medicines and inventorying/organizing what was left.

This week’s list is pretty basic and I had just about everything on the list and more. I not only keep my regular medicine cabinet stocked but also have several pre-assembled medical packs that I have stored in my car, EDC, and 72-hour kits. I also recently invested in a basic first aid manual.

Ready stresses that a home emergency medical supplies kit should be customized for your family’s needs. Things that I noticed that were missing from the list were OTC medicines for children such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and calamine lotion. Other essentials in our home include insect repellent, sunscreen, and tools like dosage spoons and a thermometer. Check out for a good checklist of family medicine cabinet essentials.

I decided to purchase a new thermometer since the one I have has seen better days. I also purchased several cabinet locks; even though I store medicines and supplies out of reach, I like the added security of child-proof locks. One thing that I’m adding to my future purchases list is an extra pair of glasses; definitely a must-have but my prescription is a little pricey, so that purchase will have to wait just a bit.

One thing that I found odd about this list is it includes feminine hygiene supplies. I’ve never thought of these products as part of my first-aid supplies and, honestly, think they deserve their own list.

The most important action that I took this week was to sign up for a first aid / CPR class through the Red Cross. I have taken several first aid / CPR class before but none recently. I’m taking this opportunity to take an online class and refresh my training.

Until next time!

Week 2 of 52 Weeks of Preparedness

Week 2 of 52 weeks of preparedness focuses on obtaining basic tools for an emergency.

I thought this week was a big – and expensive – step from week 1. I would have predicted something more along the line of a 72-hour kit. This week’s items, if you don’t already have them, would be pretty expensive to purchase. Also, these tools require some experience to handle. While I have many of these tools because of my lifestyle and have people around me who know how to use them, I don’t think as a novice I would pick these tools up and start waving them around (hammer crowbar? wood saw? ax?).

Another thing about this week’s challenge is that it recommends you purchase a large trashcan to organize your tools in. While I understand storing emergency supplies in a dedicated space, it seems more practical to me to learn to use these tools and incorporate them into your daily life. I wouldn’t want to attempt to learn to use an ax for the first time in an emergency situation.

My first step this week was to inventory what I had and take the opportunity to organize it. To help with the organization component, I purchased a Rubbermaid Tool Tower ($39 Amazon).

I had a few of the bigger items including an ax and shovel. I also had many of the smaller items but I have them integrated into other kits. For example, I keep paracord and a multitool in my EDC. I also have a hand-cranked radio in my 72-hour kit and keep matches and lighters in both my 72-hour kit and pantry.

Some items that I need to invest in include new work gloves and a cordless drill.

Other useful items I think missed the list would be a tape measure, duct tape (check out these awesome “to-go” rolls on Amazon), and WD-40. Another item that I would include is an emergency gas/water shut off wrench. For a less expensive approach to this week’s challenge, I would recommend a household tool kit. I have gotten a tremendous amount of use out of the kit I recently purchased and kits are both affordable and compact and contain most of the basic tools that the average household needs.

Week 1 of 52 Weeks To Preparedness

In the new year, I have set myself a goal of following Ready Nutrition’s 52 Weeks of Preparedness. I have successfully finished the first week which focuses on setting aside about 72 hours of food for emergencies. I selected foods that have a long shelf-life, are (decently) healthy and is stuff that we already eat. As items approach their use by dates, I can rotate them into our daily pantry, use them up, and simply replace them in the emergency supply.

In brief, Ready Nutrition suggests water, peanut butter, juice, meat, soup, other non-perishable items, and beans.

To meet those suggestions, I purchased five gallons of Deer Creek water, Horizon Organic Milk, two boxes of Capri Sun (I couldn’t get the 100% juice locally), packets of tuna in water, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, and other non-perishable items such as oatmeal, applesauce, fruit leather, honey and hot chocolate mix. I also threw in some salt and pepper and hard candy.


I found an extra Coleman cooler in our basement that was the perfect size for storing all the items pictured above (because the water takes up so much space, I am storing it separately). The cooler will also be handy if for some reason we need to grab-and-go with our food supply.


I forwent the beans because those would be really hard to cook (especially if it was a situation where we didn’t have power) and I store beans in my regular pantry. I also discovered I only had one can opener in the house, so I decided to go ahead a purchase an extra one that I will leave in this kit. Even though nothing I currently have in my emergency supply requires a can opener, something I add in the future might and it never hurts to have a spare.

It felt good to accomplish week one. Looking ahead to week two, the focus will shift from creating a short-term food supply to investing in tools for the homestead.


Black Copper Marans Egg! The New Chickens are Finally Laying… or at Least One of Them Is

The temperature here on the hillside has dropped dramatically the past few days and the forecast predicts that extreme cold is here to stay through the weekend. The skiff of snow that we received on Monday has been packed into a sheet of ice and the ground is hard and slick. Fortunately, the biting wind has abated slightly.

While plowing through my evening chores (in an effort to get back into a warm house as quickly as possible), I threw open the hatch on the chicken coop and to my delight was a small, speckled, dark brown egg from one of my Black Copper Marans!


Christmas Bark Box Unboxing {And What Happened When Asterisk Got Ahold of the Goodies Inside}

I actually bought my first Bark Box on a whim after watching an unboxing video by Ally on YouTube. I purchased a single box as a gift for my sister’s puppy, Gus, when she first got him and she (and Gus) loved it so much she bought a subscription. I have been receiving emails from Bark Box about subscribing and have been successfully ignoring them until right before Christmas when they offered a $5 box just in time for the holidays. I succumbed and signed-up. While I think that it is ridiculous that my dog will be receiving gifts for the next several months, I am justifying it to myself that if I were to buy the toys/treats individually it would cost a great deal more.

Each month is themed which makes the boxes a lot of fun to open. Today, Asterisk and I unboxed his Christmas Bark Box and here is what was inside.


The box had two toys in it. A string of Christmas lights…


and a squeaky snowman head.


The box included two full-sized bags of dog treats…


and a dog chew (which Asterisk demolished).


Asterisk seemed to enjoy all the treats and loved the chewy. I gave him the snowman squeaky toy which he also seemed to really enjoy; however, it didn’t last long. Within about ten minutes, Asterisk had torn the outer “snowman layer” to shreds leaving behind a squeaky plastic ball which he seemed to have just as much fun with. Maybe tomorrow I will see how long the string of Christmas lights last.

Merry Christmas!

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