Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Eb and Flow of Seasons


As I sit down to my computer to write today, I find it a bit overwhelming to realize that more than an entire season has passed since my last entry.  Although many things in our daily lives has remained the same, there have also been so many changes - it's almost hard to believe they've all happened within just one family.


 
Our little G-Bear is already 6 mo. old.  Similar to her Auntie, she has an effervescent personality and a contagious smile.  G-Bear isn't the only change Musician and this Bride have gone through these past two annual seasons.  Our beautiful daughter-in-love has made the decision to temporarily leave the workforce and stay home with G-Bear full-time.  Thus far, they are seeing positive effects on Musician's business.  Now that they are not juggling childcare, Musician has more flexible hours for his students and contract work.  Musician's Bride has taken over much of the bookwork for his business uniting them as a team in, what is now, "their" business.

There was a short period of time while Musician's Bride was weighing her full-time working mother vs. full-time wife and mother options, when they considered a complete lifestyle change that would have included moving home.  Naturally, PopPop and I were "over the moon" happy at the thought they might be with us, but we did maintain emotional caution. As wonderful as it would have been for us, we know that the" kiddo's" would have a serious  period of transitioning to not only small town living, but a very rural lifestyle.  They have expressed strong interest in coming to Eastern Montana, but have decided to wait a few years and work on improving their homesteading skills, and explore employment options for this area.  In the meantime, they will move into a slightly larger home that will allow more space for their business and provide them with a large secluded lot for gardening and raising chickens.







The last two years of high school kept our Songbird on the road and so busy I didn't think I'd miss her as much as I have since she moved to college.  She calls several times per week and her school is close enough that during the past six weeks, she has been home 3 times.  But it isn't the same.  I don't see her sleepy eyes, tussled hair and gorgeous face each morning.  I don't kiss her cheek and hug her good-bye before she rushes out the door to ... where ever.  I don't hear her gay voice call out "Mom ..." every afternoon.  It is weird, but I even miss hearing her yell out , "Mom! Farmer Boy is ...... Make him QUIT!"  What I miss most about her is the sweet scent of heaven that she's smelled like since the moment she was born.  Do you other mothers remember that sweet fresh smell of heaven your newborn babies smelled like when you first held them in your arms?  Songbird is the only one of our children that still smells like that & I dearly miss that sweet scent.

So far, college seems to fit her well.  Between 16 credit hours, the college rodeo circuit and working a part-time job, she is incredibly busy.  But anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that Songbird is not happy unless she is consistently progressing toward a goal. 

Songbird  is so excited about the progress she and her Quatro have made in college rodeo.  The practice with a team and the more competitive atmosphere have been beneficial to both.  Last week she had a 6.5 second practice run on goats.  In completion, that wins the money.  While at completion in Iowa, Quatro had a couple "PERFECT" barrel runs and his speed continues to steadily increase.  Within the next few years, Songbird has her eye fixed on making it to the National College Finals Rodeo ... she might make it someday.


 




 
Farmer Boy is the only duckling left at home.  He continues to participate in 4-H.  Due to some "growing pains", PopPop and I had to enforce a break from rodeo and most other privileges.  It has taken a while, but he has earned back all of his privileges and has started participating in some local ropings and other rodeo activities.

I must confess that I was very surprised to find that he misses Songbird.  For the past several years they seemed to have a contentious relationship. Before Songbird left, Farmer Boy stated several times how happy he'd be when she moved away to college.  Now that she's gone, he sometimes seems lost.  I suppose in some ways, he is.  Being the caboose, he came into a large family with many personalities, and lots of energy.  As all his siblings have grown up and moved away, he has witnessed his world shrink.  All the things he loves or doesn't like about his parents (typical for teenagers) has become magnified, and because he doesn't have  a "buffer", i.e. sibling, between him and us, he seems overwhelmed at times ... and I'm sure he is.

He and I continue to struggle through home schooling and as of right now, Farmer Boy is on track to graduate when he is 19.  He hopes to move that date up to 18, but he has a lot of catching up to do for that goal to be met.  If you think of him, please keep Farmer Boy and his academic progress in prayer.



After skipping a semester of college, due to a mess up between the college and veterans affairs, our Middle Child has happily started another semester.  Because he had to skip a semester, he is taking 18 credit hours, and will for a couple more semesters.  His school is in the Houston area and was severely flooded by Hurricane Harvey.  This natural disaster delayed the start of classes and has forced the same course load for the 18 credits to be crammed into a reduced time frame, resulting in a huge homework load.  Couple that with a part-time job and he is a busy guy.  But he is a smart boy, a hard worker and like his younger sister, will succeed.

I am saddened to report that he and Miss N are no longer seeing each other.  I say I saddened because our whole family had high hopes for this relationship.  Middle Child and she have been close friends since grade school, both were home schooled, raised in the same church and have strong family values.  However, it appears that the years he spent in the U.S. Navy and her years in college changed both of them in ways that would make them incompatible for marriage.

When not studying or working, Middle Child spends his time with his Aunt and her family.  I am so very thankful to have family near him.  My sister, Mrs. A, makes sure he is well fed, has a fun and peaceful place for him to spend time and showers him with as much love as I would.  That's my sister, loves my kids like her own.  How many folks are that blessed?

Although I don't have a recent photo of him to share, the second child, Teacher, has also decided to return to school to obtain an advanced degree.  He is currently organizing his work life, finances and the such so he can return to school soon.  He continues to be active in his church community and has been writing whenever he is not working.

Earlier this year he battled a long relapse with Mono, but seems to be on the mend.  Since we all miss him, we are hoping he will be able to come for a visit soon.  Most of all, as a mother, I hope we can coordinate it with a visit from all the "big" kids.  There is nothing I enjoy more than having ALL my children at home with me at the same time.  The house may get crazy with all of them here, but it is a  TERRIFIC kind of crazy.

Me?  Well, I've experienced as many changes as our youngin's. Some of you may not be aware that our family has struggled with some serious issues for a very long time.  After repeatedly trying, and failing, to get cooperation from others to improve some of these issues, I found these circumstances were "pounding" me into a serious depression.  Because they believed my depression to be situational, and I agree, I had 3 healthcare professionals deny my request to try anti-depressants.  Finally after many months, a fourth also agreed with me and the others that my depression is situational, but also recognized that my depression was becoming debilitating.  Six weeks ago, I began a low dose anti-depressant and I now recognize that my depression was even worse than I initially realized.  My circumstances, situation, and struggle is still very present, but with the help of medication, I am now coping with it in a more rational way.  I no longer feel as if I am driving an emotional roller coaster that has zoomed off its tracks and am trying to navigate it through a category 5 hurricane without a compass or a properly working steering mechanism.  I know there are many folks who disagree with anti-depression medications.  I am sure they have very valid reasons.  Because of a very negative reaction more than 2 decades ago while being treated for PTSD, I too had very valid reasons for avoiding them.  But there have been many advances in the treatment of depression and my specific medication has turned out to be a tremendous help.  I am thankful to God that I found a healthcare professional who recognized that I need some temporary help.  After trying everything that I can within my own power and influence, I've come to realize that God Himself will have to intervene in our family's specific situation.  I do not understand why God has "waited" or allowed this to drag on for so many years, but He has His reason(s), plan and timing.  I must trust Him and His wisdom.  In the meantime, I will continue to lean on Him and thank Him for the advancements in medicine that have provided me some emotional relief from the burden I've been carrying for such a long time.  Now that I'm able to think on things more rationally, I can also pray for our specific situation more rationally.


After 15 years of being a full-time wife and mother, I've taken on a part-time job.  Actually, I "slipped' into Songbird's former waitressing position at the local café.  Back in the day (3 decades ago), I enjoyed waiting tables, but wanted and needed more stable employment for our family.  Thus, I moved into the corporate arena.  I am forever thankful for the positions I held and all I learned while working for large corporations.  But I've always said, "If I ever have to go back to work and don't need a position that offers a healthcare benefit package, I would love to go back to waiting tables".  Because we live in such a small town and the restaurant is privately owned, I get to do a little more than wait tables at the café.  On the days I work, I make the soup and bake pies.  Last week Mr. S said it best when I approached his table to inform him of our hot plate special.  With a big grin on his face, Mr. S. put up his hand in the stop motion and said, "No, no.  I want a big bowl of your soup and another slab of that pie!"  Although it makes home life even busier, I am working at the café two days per week and I am having the time of my life.

I know this has been a VERY long post but I hope it has "caught" y'all up a bit.  I am looking forward to visiting all my regular blogs and "catching up" with them as well.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Taking a Blogging Break

If you haven't noticed, I'm in the midst of a blogging break.  It is spring rodeo season, I'm trying to put my garden in, Songbird will be graduating from high school in a couple weeks and we will also have new kids arriving around that time.  When life slows down a bit, I'll be back.  Until then,

May God Bless You and Your Family,
Mrs.B

Thursday, May 4, 2017

My Culinary Tour

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that I am a "foodie".  I love to talk about food, grow food, cook food and eat food.  There have even been times in my life when I've dreamt about food.  For me, the most difficult aspect of moving to rural Montana, has been the tremendous lack of culinary variety.  Yes, I am able to cook many of my favorite foods and cuisines, and cook them quite well.  However, sometimes it is a great pleasure to be pampered by someone else who produces a product just as good or better than I can cook myself ...  a luxury that I do not get to indulge in on the Montana prairie. 


Visiting our new grandbaby down south afforded me an opportunity to indulge in a few culinary delights that are simply not available on the Montana prairie.  The Montana prairie is cattle country and boasts of their perfected steaks and prime rib.  However, I must honestly say the best steak I've ever consumed was NOT in the state of Montana.  Here's a look at a few of the amazing culinary indulgences not available on the Montana prairie that I enjoyed during my travels.



  
Sauceman's BBQ & Grill located in Charlotte, NC is a multiple winner of the BBQ PitMaster contests.  I must say, they deserve every single award they've ever won!  The general manager, Edmar was a delight.  He served us up TWO sampler platters overflowing with BBQ chicken, smoked brisket, pulled pork, fried green tomatoes, homemade onion rings, and fresh cut French fries.   Since Charlotte is located on the boarder of N. Carolina and S. Carolina, Sauceman's serves three traditional BBQ sauces; a North Carolina vinegar based sauce, a South Carolina mustard based sauce and a sweet hot combination commonly found in the Louisiana/Texas region.  This was absolutely some of the BEST BBQ I've ever ate.  Thank you, Edmar!
 
 
DON'S Seafood located on the Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, LA has been in business since the 1930's.  80 years of business says something about the quality of food served at this fine seafood establishment.  Montanan's don't even know what it is and since it was in season, I couldn't resist indulging in that Gulf Coast delicacy, crawfish.  I relished a huge bowl of crawfish etoufee served with piping hot and crusty buttered French bread.  OH MY WORD!  Six years without crawfish ... how have I survived? 




The Cadillac Bar located on Shepherd near I-10 in Houston, TX, has been a Mexican food landmark for the Heights and River Oaks areas for more than 25 years.  My first encounter with its mouthwatering menu was more than 25 years ago when I worked in the Heights.  Whenever, our company's corporate executives came into town, they ALWAYS took lunch at the Cadillac Bar.  I was thrilled to introduce this Houston landmark to my sister friend, Mrs.A, also a native Texan, who commented that it was the best Mexican food she's ever ate.  Yes, KNOCK YOUR BOOTS OFF YOUR FEET  Mexican food is the reason the Cadillac Bar has continued to be a thriving business in the heart of the Mexican food capital of the U.S. for nearly three decades.





Although the best Italian restaurant I've ever eaten at was located in New York City's Little Italy, there is a hidden gem in one of Houston's suburbs.  Italiano's Resturaurant is located in a strip center on the Eastex Freeway in Humble, TX. This family owned restaurant has been a local favorite for about 15 years.  The Chicken Marsala was always my favorite and after being gone for six years, it was as good as I remembered it.  The garlic knots are also still served fresh out of the oven, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and seasoned to perfection.  I finished off my meal with a generous portion of my favorite desert, tiramisu.





Since I mentioned dessert in the above paragraph, I have to tell you about Gigi's Cupcakes located in Kingwood, TX.  My sister friend, Mrs.A introduced this little shop to me. If you are looking for an amazing gluten free cupcake, Gigi's is the place. We tried the gluten free  triple chocolate torte. It's moist, brownie like texture and indulgent dark chocolate flavor is AMAZING.  It was the best gluten free baked good I've ever tasted!  I give this little shop two thumbs up.


65 years and counting, Luby's cafeteria style restaurants have been a life long landmark in the state of Texas.  They serve good old fashioned comfort food one will generally find on Grandma's Sunday dinner table.  I was about 9 or 10  years old when my grandmother wanted to go there for a special Mother's Day meal.  I don't remember what I ordered during that 1st visit, but my grandma ordered the pan fried liver and onions smothered in brown gravy.  She shared a bite with me and from that day forward, Luby's liver and onions has been one of my favorite comfort foods.  As a matter of fact, I genuinely do not remember ever ordering anything but liver & onions smothered in brown gravy, green beans and mashed potatoes from a Luby's restaurant.  Luby's liver and onions is the only liver and onions recipe I've ever liked and I am so glad I was able to satisfy my craving for this favorite childhood comfort food.


Of the 26 countries our Middle Child has visited, Greece and the Mediterranean cuisine he found there was one of his favorites. Savvas Greek Cuisine and Grill located in Atascocita, TX serves up authentic Mediterranean cuisine.  The Middle Child says it's just like what you'd find in Greece and since he's been there ...  Their marvelous pita is baked fresh daily and was the best I've ever eaten.  This little "hole in the wall" restaurant has become a favorite of the Middle Child and my sister friend, Mrs.A.  If I get another visit to the Houston area, a return visit to Savvas Greek Cuisine and Grill will most definitely be on my list of "must eat" places.

 


Pontchartrain sauce is another KNOCK YOU OUT OF YOUR BOOTS culinary masterpiece and Papa's Seafood House is the only place I've ever been able to find it.  Pontchartrain sauce is a shrimp, crawfish and mushroom brown-butter sauce that is generally served over Texas red fish.  My personal favorite is when I can get it served over blackened flounder, but I will never turn my nose up to grilled red fish.  Papa's Seafood House is another one of Houston's landmark restaurants and has been busy 7 days a week for more than 40 years.  Today, I believe there are 4 or 5 Papa's Seafood House restaurants in the Houston area.  I recommend the pontchartrain sauce - you can decide what you'd like it poured over.

There were a couple other places on my list of "must eats" but a family emergency summoned me home before I had an opportunity to enjoy them.  Until my next visit down south, I will crave the menus at these missed restaurants and dream of BBQ, Mexican and Seafood.



Disclaimer:  I was not compensated in any way for any of these reviews or endorsements.  All opinions are my own and based upon my own personal experiences.


Monday, April 17, 2017

As A New Grammy ...

... I just can't resist sharing our Easter Sunday photos.


Musician, his Bride and their little Gbear


Gbear all dressed up in her new Easter dress.  And what does any perfect girl do during her 1st Easter photos shoot?  Nap, of course.

First photo with my new Granddaughter, Gbear

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

Or as I prefer, Resurrection Sunday because He lives.



I am so very pleased I get to spend our GBear's first Resurrection Sunday with her!  Because our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, gave His life, our little GBear will have the opportunity to accept Jesus as her personal Savior and have everlasting life.  This is a gift that is also available to you.

John 3:16-17 says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."

I pray your Easter Sunday is filled with LIFE.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Country Life - Finances ...

... & other resources.



Although I am on the road, I wanted to post the next topic in my series about Country Life.  Yes, Mr.B and the littles are "holding down the farm" while I'm visiting our new grandbaby.  I am a little nervous of what I'll find upon my return home. But if I am to enjoy myself, I must have confidence that Mr.B will ensure the house is still standing when I get back. 

When we lived down home, there was an auto dealership commercial that boasted, "Trucks and eggs are cheaper in the country."  Lending the illusion that a country lifestyle is an inexpensive lifestyle. Um, not so.  It costs a lot of money to move to the country. And, once there, depending on your vision of a country lifestyle, it can cost a lot of money to get your place going and established.  I will say that, in general, the farther one lives away from a metropolitan area, the cheaper land and houses seem to be. But that is where one needs to have a clear vision of the type of lifestyle they desire to lead.  Do you want to live close enough to the city to commute to your current employment?  Do you plan to change careers, take a local job, start your own business?  If starting your own business will you need access to the diverse demographics a metropolitan area offers? As mentioned in my first post in this series, Country Life - Family Dynamics, nearly every family in our community has at least one adult working away from home.   Unless you are very wealthy, it is likely someone in your family will also have to work away from home.

Once there is an established vision of what we desire our future country lifestyle to look like, we have to figure out a way to pay for it.  This is a Reality Check. Winning the lottery or one of those "get rich quick" schemes found on late night television advertisements are unrealistic financial plans for one's future, no matter what sort of lifestyle one dreams of.  Those who are serious about obtaining any life long dream or goal need a serious and methodical financial plan on how to get there.  I think the first step in obtaining one's long term financial goals is to eliminate all debt outside of one's mortgage, and maintain a debt free lifestyle.  You can not save the capital needed to finance any dream or goal by dragging a truck load of debt behind you.  Eliminating debt is not complicated, maintaining self-discipline to accomplish it is the hard part. 

Back when I did a little bit of "debt elimination counseling", I found that most urban folks are really, really addicted to the urban financial drains that keep the wheels of an urban economy turning - fun things like smart phones, eating out, movies, bowling, snacks and expensive to-go coffees, put-put golf, kayaking, vacations, home décor, symphonies, playhouses, bars, newer cars, boats, motorcycles, etc.  It was shocking for a "simple life" sort of girl, like me, to realize how much U.S. households spend on entertainment and luxuries annually.  Try this for one year ... eliminate any entertainment or luxuries that costs money.  Put all the money you would have spent doing all that stuff, toward paying off the debt those things bought you.  Yes, you heard me right, all of that entertainment and those luxuries bought you a truckload of debt.  Many respond with, "But what about all the memories we made?"  1. Memories will not finance long-term dreams and goals. 2. There are TONS of free memory making activities. We just need to utilize our creativity.  3. When you move to the country, you won't have easy access to those money sucking venues anyway. So, why not get used to living without them now?

Dave Ramsey, Larry Burkett's Crown Financial Ministries, Howard Dayton's Compass 1-Finances God's Way, are only 3 of the plethora of financial resources available to help people get of debt and stay out of debt.  By the way, if you peruse any of these web-sites and decide to purchase one of their books to help you get started on your journey to eliminating debt, please check out a library, used books stores and re-sale shops for copies of their books.  It makes no sense to spend unessary money on books that teach others how to save money.  Mr.B and I began listening to these guys on their, free to us, radio programs when we began our journey to a debt-free lifestyle.  It wasn't until we had been living debt-free for nearly two years that I purchased one of their books, from a re-sale shop for less than $2. Mr.B and I did not spend any money on learning how to get out of debt. Instead, we paid close attention to the snippets of "free to us" information we could glean from these time tested and proven financial mentors.  Nowadays, when I give away copies of their books, I purchase them, deeply discounted, from re-sale shops.

Once all the debt, outside of a current mortgage, is eliminated, you can then begin a financial savings strategy to finance your dream of country living.  The above resources will also be of assistance when mapping out and working toward that plan.  In addition to cold hard cash, the investment of your current home will most likely be a significant financial resource when it comes time to make "the move".  One just needs to decide, should I sell my home and use the capital to invest in my "country estate", or would we be best served by using our current home as a rental property to generate some semi-passive income?  Of course, if you find yourself moving very far away from your current location, like Mr.B and I did, a rental property may not be an easy long-term situation to deal with.  Because we moved more than 1,700 miles away, we chose to use the sale of our previous home as part of the capital needed for our current country lifestyle.

Before I move on to discussing other resources, please pay close attention to, and take, the following advise.  Please DO NOT EVER take money from your retirement funds or plans to finance a dream lifestyle.  There is nothing adventurous, exciting, noble or interesting about living in abject poverty or being financially dependent on one's children and grandchildren during retirement years.  In today's economy social security purchases nothing above a poverty lifestyle.  I dread to see how much worse it will be in future decades.

While working toward the necessary financial goals needed to finance a desired country lifestyle, there are other useful resources, or knowledge and skills, one can, and should, develop prior to moving.  Gleaning as much knowledge and developing as many skills as possible before making a move to the country, will contribute to minimizing the culture shock of moving into a rural lifestyle.

Vegetable gardening is one of the most common activities associated with country living.  Tackling a DIY edible landscape project or a back yard vegetable garden at your current home is a great way to find out if gardening is your "cup of tea".  I always encourage folks to begin small by doing something like using the annual landscape maintenance budget to fund a DIY edible landscape project. There are many, many books on this topic that can be  borrowed from a local library.  The huge resurgence in back yard vegetable gardening is a bonus for beginner gardeners because it's easy to find others with lots of advise and suggestions. When the whole family gets involved, all may find it's a fun, educational and "free" memory maker. In addition gardening is a healthy and purposeful exercise program. Best of all, everyone gets to enjoy all sorts of "good for their bodies" vegetables.  It has also been noted that children are far more likely to eat, and like, vegetables they've grown themselves. If you currently employ a lawn maintenance service, let them go, and involve your family by learning to maintain your home's landscape yourselves.  Landscape maintenance is a DIY when living in the country anyway.

It has been my personal observation that when urbanites have country living dreams, those dreams generally align with what's commonly known as a hobby farm; not a full-time career, multi-section crop farming or ranching enterprise.  Which introduces my next skills topic, livestock.  As mentioned, most urbanites are most likely not dreaming of several hundred cow/calf pairs, but they do dream of a few chickens, a dairy goat or milk cow, and maybe a couple hogs. In my opinion, chickens are a great introduction to the management of livestock.  They are inexpensive and very easy to care for.  Best of all, their composted droppings are great fertilizer for the aforementioned vegetable garden.

Rabbits are another backyard livestock option for urban folks. Especially those who are interested in learning animal husbandry.  They are another "easy keeper" in the livestock arena.  They are very quiet, which makes them an excellent fit for urban areas.  Raising back yard rabbits will provide one with a great education about providing weather appropriate housing, breeding records, sales, processing, etc. Rabbit droppings are a FANSTASTIC garden fertilizer that doesn't need to be composted prior to use.  Rabbits are also an excellent food source, another aspect of country living that one should familiarize themselves with, even those who don't plan to raise and process their own animal proteins. It is very likely some neighbors will and thus, it only makes sense for one to have a firm understanding of this aspect of a country lifestyle.

I know someone who lives less than 10 minutes from downtown Charlotte and there are two households in their neighborhood that have a hen house and chickens in their back yard.  They don't have roosters, but a hen doesn't need a fella around to lay an egg.  She only needs one to fertilize her eggs.  Like Charlotte, there are urban cities all over the U.S. that are beginning to allow chickens, and other, small livestock, in back yard settings.  I recently read an article where Minneapolis has passed a new city ordinance that allows residents to keep "back yard" type livestock.  Wherever you live, please review and adhere to the local ordinances before setting up any animal housing or purchasing any stock.

Of course, urban "farming" isn't exactly the same as country living, but learning some of the skills associated with a country lifestyle will better prepare everyone for the future move. Or maybe when all the entertainment and luxury venues are eliminated and everyone's toiled for months putting in, maintaining, harvesting and preserving in a decent sized back yard vegetable garden and cared for a half dozen chickens for a year, all that may bring a dose of reality prompting a decision to exchange the country lifestyle dream for something more suitable for your family.  For those who find they love all the rewards, challenges and adventures associated with "urban farming", it will only encourage them to enhance their financial disciplines so the dream of a Country Life will become a reality.

I hope this short Country Life series has provided all those dreaming of a country lifestyle a few realistic topics to consider and explore prior to making the big commitments associated with obtaining and living the Country Life.  If you have questions or would like more information on how our family achieved our goals of a rural lifestyle, please inquire in the comments section and I will do my best to continue sharing our family's personal experiences with you.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

It's Official ...

... I'm a Grammy and Mr.B is a PopPop!



G Bear 6lb.5oz. 20.5 in.long
I think she's BEAUTIFUL !!!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thrifty Thursday - Homemade Sewing Patterns

When I was living with Grandma as a young girl, I consistently observed her re-use, recycle and up-cycle all sorts of things.  But I was always most impressed by her skills at the sewing table.  One thing she did that I found so very impressive was gratefully accepting bags of old clothing that others had donated and re-using the buttons, hooks & eyes, zippers, biased tape, etc. out of those old clothes.  She also re-used all the fabric from those old clothes.  Fabrics that were not torn or stained were used for sewing projects, often a certain  little girl's clothing.  The stained or tattered fabrics were cut into cleaning and mop rags.
The second impressive talent she displayed at the sewing table was making homemade sewing patterns.  Although I observed Grandma make some pretty intricate, multi-pieced patterns, my tutorial of simple a baby's bib describes the 5 basic steps to making a homemade sewing pattern.

Step 1 - You'll need some sort of paper for your pattern.  I personally prefer recycled packing paper, but  paper grocery bags and newspaper also work well.



Step 2 - Use a hot dry iron to make the paper of your choice as smooth as possible.  If using newspaper, the heat from a dry iron will "set" the newsprint so you won't have to worry about it rubbing off onto the fabric.
 


Step 3 - Draw the pattern, adding a 1/2 inch, onto the paper.  I used a store bought bib that I had saved from when I used to babysit and traced around it.  Very IMPORTANT, when tracing or drawing out your pattern, make sure you draw the cutting lines an extra 1/2 in. larger than the finished product for seem allowances.
 


Step 4 - Cut out the pattern pieces.
 


Step 5 - Label the pattern pieces making sure to note any special instructions.
 


Most of my homemade patterns are simple 1-4 piece patterns, not any more complicated than this baby's bib.  But the process of making a multi-pieced pattern, is the same 5 steps for each pattern piece. 

 As a girl I watched my grandma make large multi-pieced patterns for intricate articles of clothing and many other items.  With the high price of sewing patterns often costing more than a store bought item, I think taking the time to make homemade patterns is a very thrifty practice.




Monday, April 3, 2017

Water Supplies

Our Farmer Boy used to watch those "doomsday prepper" television programs and would frequently advise me about additional items I needed to add to our pantry and barns.  Although we are not "doomsday preppers", I do maintain a store of food, hygiene, healthcare items and water.

Today, we needed our water supply.  We did not experience any weather systems or natural disasters that usually cause the power that pumps our water well to go out.  No, our power has been working fine all day.  Instead, one of the galvanized couplers in the down hole casing rusted and gave way causing a lack of water to our house, barns and pastures.


When we realized our water well was not working I began asking myself questions like, "How long will we be without running water?" and  "How much will the repair(s) cost?"  The length of time and cost to repair water wells greatly depends on the issue.  Sometimes it costs only $25 and 45 minutes while other times it may take weeks and more than $10,000 to drill a new well.

This is an example as to why a well stocked pantry and emergency water supply is important. Clean potable water is the most important resource we all use.  Not only do we need it to prevent dehydration but we also need it for hand washing, bathrooms, washing dishes, cooking, laundry, wound and healthcare, etc. 

I know most U.S. households do not live in rural areas and are not dependent on water wells for their daily water supplies.  So, many may think my situation does not apply to them and think only a long term power failure would be of concern.  But I think an emergency water supply is even more important for urban households because when the water supply is interrupted in an urban area, EVERYONE is out of water.  Since our power was not out, today I could have gone to a neighbor for water, if I had failed to store any.  But in an urban area, if the water pumping station fails, all the neighbors are also out of water.

In the few hours our well was out, I used more than 15 gallons of stored water for drinking, cooking, hand washing, egg washing, dishes, and toilets.  Fortunately, our water well repair was not expensive nor time consuming.  But I was very glad I have my water storage available. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

You Know She's Country When ...

... her prom shoes are cowboy boots.


Our Songbird and date.  2017 Prom

Monday, March 27, 2017

Make Over Monday from the Sewing Room

I'd like to begin this post with a "shout out" to Mrs. Rhonda at "If You Do Stuff, Stuff Gets Done" blog.  She usually begins her week with a "to do" list and seems to consistently whittle away at it.  She accomplishes quite a bit.  I'd like to acknowledge her because as of late, I've been battling some situational depression.  As such, I've found on some days accomplishing much of anything is a struggle.  However, her blog has been a great source of inspiration to me on those "difficult" days.  I follow her lead and make myself a list of things that need to be done, should be done and / or things I know I would enjoy doing or accomplishing under normal circumstances.  So, Thank you Mrs. Rhonda for encouraging  me!

Some of you may remember the Best Birthday Gift Ever! post from September 2016, where I shared that our Musician and his beautiful Bride announced they were expecting their first baby and our first grandbaby.  The sewing and crochet projects I listed in the "Post Holiday To Do's" entry back in January 2017, were all about goodies for the new addition to our family.

Here are photos of all the sewing and crochet projects I've completed for our little G-bear.



Four reversible bibs

Three reversible burp cloths
These bibs and burb cloths were made by recycling flannel receiving blankets found at the thrift store for only $0.25 each. I purchased 7 coordinating blankets and after finishing these bibs and burp cloths, I still have enough material left over for 1 or 2 other projects.
 
Infant sized granny square afghan.  Grey, yellow and white are the colors selected for G-bear's nursery.
 
Although I did not use left over or recycled yarns for this crochet project, I do have some left that will eventually find its way into, what I call, a scrap-aghan.  The yellow centers surrounded by white reminds me of daisies - my favorite flower.

Crib sized strip quilt
 
This feminine crib sized strip quilt is a very frugal gift.  I spent less than $5.00 on the quilt backing.  The pieced top and batting were scraps from other projects.

Nursing cape with "cupped" opening and handy storage pouches.

A young friend of mine has a nursing cape with a "cupped" opening at the top.  When I saw hers, I decided I would have to figure out how to make one for my dear daughter-in-love. I decided to add pouch style pockets for things like a pacifier, teething ring and a toy. This fabric was originally purchased for another project that I never got around to making.  Instead of allowing to it sit on my fabric shelves for another year, or so, I decided it would be perfect for a nursing cape that matches G-bear's nursery theme.  I used free plastic box strapping from a recent mail order shipment to make the "cup" form at the top of the cape.  The sunflower button for the neck strap is recycled from one of  Songbird's nursery projects - 18 years ago!

If you choose to follow my lead by turning recycled materials into gifts, please don't ever be ashamed or think you've given a "cheap" gift.  Anyone who crafts, sews, paints, etc. knows that hours, days and, sometimes, months of ones time is invested in a handmade gift.  The hours, care and prayers poured into a handcrafted project by the artisan is a priceless gift to the recipient.

What can you find in your closet, scrap pile, garage or basement that can be made into something new?


Post Holiday "To Do's"

3/27/17 -
I am happy to report that nearly all the projects listed on my "Post Holiday To Do" list have been completed.  Since the littles will be in charge of housekeeping while I'm visiting down south later this month, I decided to wait until I return to deep clean the kitchen.  I've finished the mobile kitchen island. We are now waiting on the countertop to be cut and delivered from Fargo.  I'm excited about posting a photo of the finished project once the counter top arrives.  The next post contains photos of my completed sewing and crochet projects.
1/10/17 -

I cleaned and organized the basement today.  I will now have an indoor work space to build the mobile kitchen island.  I also listed the extra washing machine for sale in our local newspaper and local on-line sites. Hopefully, it will sell quickly.

1/7/17 -
Marked a couple more tasks off my winter to-do list ... HURAY!

1/6/17 -
Autumn and early winter, like spring and summer, is a very busy season for us.  Not only do we have numerous projects we try to finish before winter, homeschooling becomes a priority. Adding to all that, we also have the business of the holiday season with harvest festival(s), Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations. 

Consequently, by the time things slow down for winter, I often think I'm exhausted.  If I don't make any plans to get everything cleaned up and organized, it would be very easy to find myself overwhelmed and napping 2 - 3 hours each day until spring.  As temping as hibernating through the winter sounds, it really is the best time of year to indulge in some of the indoor hobbies I enjoy and any indoor projects that need to be completed.   Experience has taught me that our insanely busy spring and summer will leave me regretting unproductive winter naps.

Here is a short list of this winter's priorities.  I've already completed a few!

 Finish homeschool lesson plans for winter months 
Put all Christmas gifts in their new homes
Build and install second coat rack in entry
Pack & deliver donations to thrift center
Pack & store Christmas décor 
Write & mail thank you notes
Have the kids write and mail thank you notes
Deep clean kitchen & dining room
Clean and re-organize basement
Prepare the basement for spring thaw
Sewing project(s)
Crochet project(s)
Build mobile kitchen island - Cabinet finished, waiting on counter top
Sell extra washing machine - listed for sale 1/10/17
Patch the chandelier hook hole in the kitchen ceiling
Patch the door stopper hole by the upstairs bathroom
Select and order business cards for the farm

What are your plans during these winter months?  Please share, I would enjoy reading about them in the comments section.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Frugal Feasting Friday

Instead of posting a frugal meal plan today, I decided to share my most recent monthly grocery haul. Although I plan out our weekly meals, I do not grocery shop for those weekly plans. Our meal plans are constructed around the products stored in our pantry and freezers or the week's harvest during gardening and butchering season(s).  So when I shop, I shop for re-stocking purposes and fresh produce during winter & spring that is on sale for less than $1 lb. Occasionally, I will splurge and purchase produce, like fresh asparagus @ $2 lb. or less, but that only occurs a couple times per year.  Re-stocking a deep pantry is the key strategy I use to save so much money on groceries and household products.

I have maintained a $400 per month "grocery" budget for nearly 20 years.  I say, "grocery" in quotations because our non-edible household products, annual gardening & canning supplies and butchering expenses are also included in that $400 limit.



When it comes to restocking, I use the sales flyers and purchase only deeply discounted items from the flyers that are needed to replenish our annual supply.  One of the grocers in our area offers a case lot sale twice per year.  These case lot sales are the only times certain items are discounted by 50%, or more.  I've briefly shared additional money saving tips here and through various posts listed under the "Budgeting and Planning It Out" section on my "Mrs.B's Farmhouse Cookbook" blog page.  So far this month I've spent $271.34 of my $400.00 budget.  Unless butter goes on sale for $2.50 lb., or less, I will not spend any of the remaining $128.66 left in my budget.  It will be put back for butchering expenses and gardening & canning supplies this coming autumn.

Here are the items I purchased to re-stock our pantry and freezers today:

50 lb. flour (case lot)
50 lb. sugar (case lot)
20 lb. frozen boneless chicken breasts (case lot)**
16 lb. frozen cod fillets (case lot)**
25 lb. various cheeses (quarterly sale)
6 gallons white vinegar (case lot)
5 lb. dried kidney beans (case lot)
4 lb. various dried pastas (quarterly sale)*
2 cases (24) canned Albacore tuna (case lot)
2 cases (24) canned chicken (case lot)**
4 lg. mayonnaise (quarterly sale)*
4 qt. beef broth (quarterly sale)*
1 lg. box Rice Krispies (reduced for quick sale)**
2 box Lucky Charms (quarterly sale)**
1 canister panko bread crumbs (dollar store)**
1 bottle vanilla syrup (dollar store)*
1 pound cake (dollar store)*
2 boxes instant flavored coffees (dollar store)***
4 cases bottled water (quarterly sale)**
4 lg. pkg. feminine hygiene products (quarterly sale)*
30 roll bath tissue (quarterly sale)
2 parchment paper (dollar store)**
1 plastic cling wrap (dollar store)**
1 foil sheets (dollar store)**
1 pkg. cheese cloth (dollar store)
12 foil to-go containers (dollar store)**
1 pkg. facial cleansing cloths (quarterly sale)***

In the above list you will notice that I purchased a few items from a dollar discount store.  Our closest dollar discount store is more than 130 miles, one-way.  Because of the distance, I keep a mental list of items I need from the dollar store so that when we are driving through that area I can stop in.  Sometimes, it may be an entire year before I have an opportunity to go to a dollar store. So, it is important that I always leave a little extra in my budget so I can take advantage of the opportunity when it arises.

If finances were tight, there are about $80.00 worth of items on the above list I could have omitted; either because I can make it homemade (*), substitute a more economical option (**), or the items were simply a splurge (***).  In the event of a financial crisis our pantry and freezers are so deep I could skip the grocer for an entire year if necessary. I'd still have gardening, canning and butchering expenses but could slash my "grocery" expenses by more than 75% if necessary.

It took two years of patience and perseverance to stock our pantry and freezers on a $400.00 per month budget.  It was worth all the work and I encourage you to steadily work toward building a deep pantry as well. I think the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can feed your family, and feed them well even in the midst of a crisis, is priceless.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Frugal Feasting Friday

You've heard me say it before, "More than grocery sales and re-sales shops, a frugal lifestyle encompasses avoiding waste in all it's forms".  That's why today's Frugal Feasting Friday post is about using up something most will pour down the drain.


We consume fresh milk that is not pasteurized or homogenized.  Non pasteurized milk only lasts about 10 days under refrigeration.   Although we date the milk, my family does not always pay attention to the date sticker on the lid and will bring the gallon jars up from the basement out of order. Thus, sometimes I will find a gallon that has turned.  That's exactly what happened this past week. There is no way I can bring myself to pouring an entire gallon of milk down the drain, even if it is soured.  So, I decided to have a baking day.  Yes, a baking day ... Soured milk is the perfect substitute for buttermilk in any baking recipe.  Best of all, these baked goods freeze well and re-heat in a jiffy.  With Farmer Boy's 6:30 AM Driver's Ed classes, these pre-prepared breakfast foods will be a blessed time saver.


Hotcakes, Blueberry & Apple Cinnamon Muffins, and Coffee Cake


My recipe for Sour Milk Hotcakes can be found here.

Sour Milk Muffins

1 1/2 c. sour milk
1 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
4 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
6 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease bottoms of muffin tins.  Mix together sour milk, vegetable oil and eggs.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add liquid ingredients to dry. Mix until just combined.  Evenly divide batter among muffin tins.  Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.

Variations - Blueberry Muffins:  Fold in 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberry to batter.  Apple Cinnamon Muffins:  Add 1 tsp. ground cinnamon to dry ingredients.  Fold in 2 grated apples (including skins) to batter.

Makes 2 dozen muffins.

Sour Milk Coffee Cake

5 c. flour
2 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 c. sour milk

Strudel Topping

1 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease three 8"x8"x8" baking pans.  In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In a smaller bowl mix together oil, eggs and sour milk.  Add wet ingredients to dry; mix well.  Evenly divide batter between baking pans.  To prepare strudel topping, combine all ingredients cutting in butter.  Sprinkle strudel topping evenly over each cake.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done.

Makes 3 8x8x8 cakes

Having a baking day utilized sour milk that many would simply pour down the drain.  By freezing everything I will also save time over then next couple weeks.  Time is often the most precious of resources for our busy lives. Remember to always cool your baked goods completely before freezing them.