Friday, January 31, 2014

Moving Day

Things have been a little crazy here on the homestead.  With the recent passing of my dad, I wasn't sure how we were supposed to get everything accomplished in time--find and move a trailer, get it ready, move us, remodel our "town" house into a rental, have a baby....the to-do list was getting huge and being dominated by something entirely out of our control--finding a trailer.  It was getting to be a bit much--and we were running out of time. My pregnancy timer was starting to scream at me.  I really only have about 2 more months before I need to quit doing crazy things like remodel houses and move and unpack before I run a real risk of throwing myself into pre-term labor.  I decided to actually pound the pavement and actually drive through some mobile home parks near our "landing location."  And I stumbled upon a mobile home.

Like I said in a previous, it seemed like a perfect option for us. And our moving day couldn't have been better.  It was cold enough to keep the ground frozen to prevent ruts and getting stuck--but only as cold as it HAD to be for that.  No wind. No rain.  It got moved in time to not require the previous owner to pay lot rent at the mobile home park it was getting moved from. Our mover had actually moved this exact mobile home INTO the park, and had moved another one off the landing farm before, so he was familiar with both ends of the move.  And he was cheapest by far, not to mention good old country businessmen who deal with cash and handshakes.  Its been a long time since I've had that--and it was refreshing.

It was a great moving day and we couldn't have asked for it to have gone better.

Our friends' cute son, SOOOOO excited (nearly as much as myself!) to see a house MOVING!!!
We have been truly blessed. We love our mobile home and it has been the ideal for us in so many ways.  I can't wait to wipe away the traces of the 90s in it and start afresh.

We have a lot of great ideas for making it a very liveable--and growable--home for us, one that will last us a decade or more, hopefully.

We have worked nearly 30 hours to prepare and move it since finding it less than 72 hours before--on only 6 hours of rest in between.  And we have many more hours of work ahead of us.

But for tonight, we rest.  And we are thankful. We recognize the beautiful orchestration of so many things to make today not only possible, but a resounding success--and to allay my time crunch fears and put us back on schedule.  I can't say how many times we said "if we could just get a trailer by February 1st, I think we'll be ok on time." Friends, February 1st is in 90 minutes--and this is the first I've been able to chill and relax and decompress and relax in the past few days.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." -- Romans 8:28
I love that verse, and am sad to always see or hear it in a somewhat negative light (i.e. even THIS annoyance or trial God uses for our good). But there are also times in which it is nothing but good.

And today has been good.

Our bovine welcome to the farm.  They were very curious about Dan's Jeep.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Trailer Saga Begins!

We have been very passionate about getting debt-free and living frugally--and living out in the country.  It has ALWAYS been on our radar for years, but never thought that we'd be ready to make the jump for several more years. After some inspiration from our wonderful friends Kristin and Daniel (who are running an organic farm and spending their time, energy, and money managing and growing the business--very inspiring and encouraging to see it done, let me tell ya!), Dan and I have been seriously considering simplifying to a trailer, getting out of debt, and hunting for our forever property (then building our forever home SANS mortgage!).

"The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender."
Proverbs 22:7
I don't know about you, but this family doesn't want to be a slave to anyone!  A few weeks ago, I blogged more in depth about our reasons for the move to the trailer (click here if you missed it).  Let me tell ya, it's gotten some high praise--and raised eyebrows.  Certainly not a typical move for someone in my world!


There she is!  Our ticket to freedom!  (And I'm taking name suggestions!)

She's a very pretty 16x80 single wide trailer, 1999 Clayton. 3BR, 2BA. Has a jacuzzi tub (that we're removing for extra space) and comes with dishwasher, stove, fridge, washer, dryer, and some random furniture that the previous owner is leaving behind.  The previous owner is a non-smoking, maintenance-man, bachelor.  So it's been taken care of, is minimally lived it, and tidy--and meets Dan's approval for structural integrity.  The previous owner is very nice, gave us a fair price--then called us a few hours later to let us know that he actually needed $100 less for it than he was originally thinking.  Honest guy.  I like doing business with honest people.  The moving guy was highly recommended--and actually moved this very trailer to it's current location. AND, he moved another trailer off the location that it's going to.  Let me tell ya, that makes me feel MUCH more comfortable having a mover that knows the trailer, the start location, and the end location!  And did I mention that he was the cheapest by about $500!  The interior screams 1999 and as we get it ready and repainted, I'll be taking some pictures of the interior for y'all.  Given it's nice condition, I actually am scaling back a few of my "essentials" on remodeling for a trailer, so it will be a little bit of a work in progress, but then we can pay cash for those upgrades--and enjoy it that much more!

We found it less than 48 hours ago--and we're moving it in 24 hours!  When things are meant to be, they fall into place.

We. Are. Excited.  It's really finally happening!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Meal Planning: Weeks #3 & 4

Howdy all, just getting back into the saddle this week and finding our new normal.  There's really nothing to post as far as meals go from this last week.  It was a whirl-wind and very unexpected week for us with the sudden passing of my father.   We appreciate the care, condolences, flowers, cards, and meals that were showered upon our family.  Things will be a little subdued around the blog for a bit, but I know how much I truly enjoy this and need it for some me-time--plus Dad liked reading my posts.

For now, here's our meal plan for the week (trying to get these up a day before the week starts for y'all).

General Overview

  • Breakfast:  In this transition time for us, I've chosen to go the easy route of cereal and bagels along with our stand-by scrambled eggs.  Shredded stuff is usually making it to breakfast for us as well.  Grace in my kitchen.  Some really awesomely healthy soaked oatmeal porridge is coming our way come February--baby steps getting back into the saddle.
  • Lunches: As per normal, leftovers.
  • Desserts-o-the-week: Larabars and Gingersnaps

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sloppy Lentils

Dan was a little hesitant of this recipe when he saw me making it--and I did cheat some from the original to add back in some meat.  If you want to see the original post that got it all started (and go for a truly meat-free meal), see Sloppy Lentils from Passionate Homemaking.

I actually have made a decent number of changes, so here's my version!

Sloppy Lentils
  • 2 c. dry lentils
  • Water
  • A splash of apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 c. onion, chopped (1 small)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large can (approx. 30oz.) diced or crushed tomatoes (I like the smoother results with crushed)
  • 12 oz tomato paste (This is typically two teen cans or one small can--close enough is ok, I hate having leftover tomato paste!)
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 3-5 Tbsp of molasses (to taste). Maple syrup would also work well here.
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hamburger buns, or a hearty loaf of bread (will make closer to 12 hamburger bun sandwiches).  We've served them over baked potatoes, so that's a gluten-free option.
  1. Place lentils in a plastic or glass container, put in a generous amount of water (they soak up a bunch! Think 6c. or more) and a splash of apple cider vinegar.  Soak overnight.  This will allow them to start to sprout just a bit and deactivate any anti-nutrients in the lentils.
  2. The next day, drain and rinse your lentils, place in a saucepan and cover with fresh water.  Simmer for about 30 minutes. 
  3. While your lentils are simmering, melt your butter in a large skillet and brown your beef and saute your onion and garlic.
  4. Add in your tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices and simmer together about 10 minutes.  Add your cooked (and drained!) lentils and allow to simmer together another 10 minutes or so.
This seems like it would take a long time, but it's actually a quick dinner to whip up.  The lentils take some planning and in a pinch, you could just cook them the same day, but I prefer to soak them.  This is where meal planning comes in handy--for example, this week, I made a note on the day before to get them soaking, and soaked extra and stuck them in the fridge so they would be ready to go for another lentil-containing meal later in the week.

For us, I never cook lunch; we just eat leftovers.  This would probably make 2 or 3 meals for a family of 4 (Dan eats like a laboring-man does!), so either save for leftovers, or freeze half for another quick meal later!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Meal Planning: Week #2 (and a "recipe")

Here's to week #2.  This will be a shorter week for us as we're planning on spending extra time with family and I'll be away from my kitchen.  Eat up your leftovers and try some of those recipes you keep pinning...(you know which ones I mean!)

**Breakfasts: Still eating up those bagels and English muffins or toast and eggs over easy.
**Lunches: Leftovers, like usual.
  • Sunday Dinner: Teriyaki Chicken (my pin, notes, and link to the recipe) with Sesame Noodles and Asian Roasted Cabbage (Roasted Cabbage Recipes coming soon).  I saved chicken from my Roasted Chicken from last week.  The rest of that carcass was made into stock.  Triple the meals (or more!) from one chicken.  
  • Monday Dinner: Roasted Potato and Garlic Soup (new recipe for us and a good way to use up extra onions, carrots, and baked potatoes from last week)
  • Tuesday Dinner: Leftovers
To compensate for such a short meal plan, here's a "recipe."  It's so short that I'm not even sure it would qualify as a recipe; however, it's a staple around here this time of year, so I figured it's worth mentioning.  

Shredded Stuff 
(as so dubbed by Dan)
  • 1 lb carrots (a bag of baby, or a few large ones, scrubbed well)
  • 3 large tart apples (we typically use Granny Smiths)
  • Lemon juice (I use the Santa Cruz lemon juice--like this--for-real juiced lemon juice for ease, but probably 1 large lemon is equivalent)
Using a food processor, shred your carrots and apples into a coleslaw texture.  Add a splash of lemon juice and mix well.  That's it!

It's about the only way that I eat carrots, and it's always easy to get Little Man to get in some veggies (a challenge with an 18-month old at times!).   This makes a fair amount, so we'll keep it in the fridge (the lemon juice helps with browning) and eat it at several meals.  We like it so much that it doesn't make it past the second day around here, as it also gets eaten as a snack.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

5 Reasons to Live in a Mobile Home (and no, I'm not crazy)

For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.  
Better to have little, with fear for the Lord,
than great wealth with turmoil.

-- Proverbs 15:15b-16 --

If 2014 is all about changes, we're getting ready to make some of the biggest ones this year.  These changes will solidly launch us towards the type of life we value and help us instill character traits we honor in our children.  It will also allow us to be an example to our kids of the sacrifices that we expect of them, particularly as young people, to live Biblical lives.

Significant debt is not one of the things we value, nor do we value a consumerist, impatient, imprudent, entitlement, poor stewardship, have-it-all-right-now mentality.

We've done a lot of thought, praying, and planning and feel like what we need as a family is to drastically simplify and downsize our life.  It's becoming more and more apparent after Little Man that the most important things in life, and the most important things to give the L.M. really aren't things--it's character and life lessons.  Cliche, I know.  But true.

Up until now, I've enjoyed a large salary and I have to admit that I've felt the pull of city-life.  Dan, I know, is pretty immune--he'd truly be happy living out of his car and sleeping on the floor like back in his college days.  

Living in the city is hard for budding homesteaders.
  • There are neighbors who complain about your rooster and have the city send you threatening letters where you have no idea whom to try to make amends with...despite roosters being entirely legal.  We checked.  
  • The only parts of my yard that get enough sun for veggies are in my front, un-fenced yard--difficult to tend to veggies with a toddler potentially escaping into the road.  
  • I really don't have enough grass to tractor rabbits on for meat.  Forget about any dairying.  
We don't really have the OUTDOOR space that we'd like--and I feel like we have too much indoor space.   Our home isn't really large by my peers' standards, 1600 sq. ft, but for a family of 3 (soon to be 4), it's really just large enough to encourage us to accumulate STUFF that we don't need and spend too much time cleaning, organizing, and tending to.  I would like a larger kitchen and a real pantry since I try to do all our own cooking for health and financial reasons, but our parlor and two upstairs bedrooms are never used. 

 Bam. Essentially a wasted 300-400 sq. ft.  

Somehow, we went from a tiny 1 BR apartment for 2 years, to renting a single ROOM for 9 months, to a 4 BEDROOM house and it's just encouraged me to fill up the house with things over the past 3 years--things that I have an odd attachment to, despite most of it being given to us or hand-me-downs.  Things that I didn't even pick out.  Things that cost me nothing.  Things that should not be difficult to get rid of or give away.  But they become soooooo hard to get rid of. A smaller home will make me more intentional about only keeping things that are useful or I find beautiful or truly sentimental in value--and frustrate me to the point that I get rid of extra stuff out of sheer desperation.  

Living small is like having deadlines.  You get shizz done--or downsized, as the case may be--because you don't have an option.

We really value the country life.   Having animals and gardens teaches responsibility and hard work and gives an opportunity to learn money and business management principles that will serve our kids their entire lives.  And Little Man loves being outside.  It's better for your health--good old fashioned dirt and sunshine.  Dan needs a larger workshop for his business.  There just isn't space to teach all these diy life-skills in the city. We need the wide open spaces.

However, we're not interested in trading a rat race for a pipe dream.  I know plenty of people who have played Keeping-Up-With-the-Joneses in the city and those that chase the Green-Acres-Dream in the country.  We want to be OUT of debt, quit paying a mortgage (or minimize it as much as we can), build some wealth, and be in the place where our life is self-sufficient and simple enough that we can live on what we've invested sweat into--a few rental properties and a piece of land.

Honestly, we've already started some of that and just completed our first rental property--quite an accomplishment!  Go, Dan!

The next step to this is a trailer--a nice, large single-wide.   In my dreams, it's a 3BR, 2bath, 16x80 with new Allure plank flooring, fresh paint, and a clear deed.

Yes, I said it, a trailer.

And no, I haven't lost my mind.

Before you turn up your nose and give in to the stigmas, give the idea a chance.
  1. It's ridiculously affordable--think a decent minivan to OWN and we can move it whenever we find our piece of paradise, taking all of our improvements, upgrades, and personalizations with us (it's so hard as a woman to leave all your "nesting" behind when you move, knowing that the next person will just paint over it all.)
  2. We can live in it for a few years now and get out of debt. 
  3. We live in it a few more later and build our stick home SANS MORTGAGE!
  4. We can rent the "city house" at a price equivalent to our mortgage and allow that investment to turn into a nice rental income in a few more years.
  5. Living in a trailer means living in the country NOW, rather than waiting for several YEARS.  And for a budding homestead, time is money.  Time that could be spent finding our property and making improvements that take years to accomplish--think orchards to mature, pastures to improve, or flocks/herds to build, for example.
Getting rid of all debt, owning my home outright, and having a rental INCOME equivalent to about 50% of my current income (but without loans!), trading in hours at my city-job to be more of a homesteader, all by our mid-30s is a VERY tempting prospect--certainly one that I'd be willing to trade 400 sq. ft. of inside space for.  And when you take into account the ACRES of outdoor space that you'd be gaining, the trade is hard to pass up.

The financial savings in lifestyle costs that allow us to pay off debt faster and the interest payments on current loans ("responsible" ones of mortgage and student loans, at that) alone are staggering.  Next, when you couple this with non-taxable "income" in the form of home-raised food (comparable to the best organics), and multiply this by a few years, you're looking an income-equivalent of over $100k for a sacrifice of time equivalent to a part-time job.  Finally, add in the fact that you could build your dream home mortgage free as well, and you're talking about some real money.  

And none of this takes any account of the better environment, life lessons, and influence-control that you have on your and your kids' psyche, world-view, and life perspective.

Honestly, we'd be crazy NOT to do it.

Bring it on.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Meal Planning: Week # 1

I guess this should be part of the goals--better meal planning.  It is something that I've been better at the past 6 months or so,  Just trying to refine it some, and working out a bit of a system that works for US! (future post on that is coming!)

Please note, the Biggest Man made a trip to the bread store.  I'm not a mega fan of the processed foods and breakfasts that that creates, but I know they enjoy it and I'm ok to use that for no-thought breakfasts for a week or two.  Getting back on track one step at a time...progress towards goals, y'all.  Giving myself some grace.

**Breakfast:  These will be eggs and/or bagels and English muffins for the week.
**Lunches: I've almost never cooked lunches ever throughout our marriage--we always eat up leftovers!
  • Sunday Dinner: Leftovers from last week (Dan made homemade pizza!)
  • Monday Dinner: Waffles with our family favorite "shredded stuff" of carrots and apples--I get to try out this new purchase!
  • Tuesday Dinner: Baked Potato Bar with Spicy Greens (new recipe to try for us)
  • Wednesday Dinner: Sloppy Lentils (my notes) with Sweet Potato Fries
  • Thursday Dinner: Roasted Chicken and Garlic Roasted Cabbage
  • Friday Dinner: Home-made Salisbury Steak with Green Beans Almondine
  • Saturday Dinner: Lentil Hamburger Helper with Broccoli
Let me know if you need recipes for other things.  These are either family recipes, or things that I've made often enough that I don't have a recipe for them.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ten Goals for the New Year

Kicking off this new year, it's appropriate to take life stock and make some goals for the year.  Time to get back into the blogging saddle and chronicle our homesteading steps!  New Year's Resolutions get a bad rap become no one can stick with large life changes.  I like goals better. I have success with them already and they're something to work toward, not a lifestyle change per se to get discouraged over.  I can always look back and see how much progress I made towards a goal, and not get discouraged that I didn't meet a resolution.  Success on a scale, not a binary system.

Daddy and Little Man enjoying some Christmas snow
1. Expand the family

We have a new bambino coming this spring.  I need to learn how to balance those new challenges, parent the Little Man through becoming a Big Brother and making sure that I stay focused, balanced, and healthy with these new changes.

Becoming debt free--or at least be more on the road

A large goal, given my master's degree and undergrad and our budding rental investments, but make some forward progress.  Action steps for this year will include the following....

2. Buy a trailer and move to the country to really launch on some homesteading (another post on that coming soon!)

3. Turn our "city house" into a rental and fold all our "new"income into faster student loan payments.

Nutrition Overhaul

Always room for improvement, but here are my goals for the year! (Gotta keep it reasonable with a new kiddo!)

4. Give up soda for 6+ months (Reward: Berkey for my Birthday!)

5. Do all sprouted and home ground grains by the end of the year.  (WonderMill in the works!)

6.  Learn to like at least one new probiotic food and incorporate it into daily life

Health and Wellness

7. Make my own cosmetics except mascara or quit using them

8. Use all homemade beauty supplies (soap, shampoo, lotions) except for hair items

Homesteading Goals

9. Set up 2-3 beehives and quit buying honey

10. Grow all my years' supply of green beans, tomatoes (sauced and diced), and can my applesauce.

**Note: This post was shared on The Prairie Homestead's Barnyard Hop. Trying this out for the first time. :)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Start of 2014

I guess it's time to consider this a relaunch.  The past year has been a challenging and also rewarding year.  It seems for most, 2013 was not a year of ho-hum.  Either your year seemed to suck or it was pretty awesome.  I feel like it was half of both.  Like other times in my life, I try to enjoy each season, not wish it away, and be gratefully expectant of the next coming.

I've learned over the past year how to be a mom--sorta.  Obviously, that will be a life-long learning process, and on the days when the Little Man runs up and says "Mom!" just to give me a hug and snuggle and kiss, that makes my day and my year.  Watching him grow up has been one of the biggest blessings and joys of my life.

I've learned how to chill out--again, sorta.  I'm not a chill person.  But this past year has shown me the absolute importance of taking care of myself some.  Doing things that I find soul-feeding and nourishing and recognizing how important they are has taken me a long time to realize.   It's about stewardship and I've realized that I've been pretty bad at being a good steward of myself the past year.  The first few months, heck, probably year, of Little Man's life, I was in sacrifice mode.  Sacrifice my sleep, my schedule, any self-care time.  Don't get me wrong, sacrifice is a good thing and I love him dearly, but I know that I got myself into an unhealthy place.  I know that my sleep has been drastically affected and ultimately, an unhealthy, unbalanced mom makes for a bad home-life, no matter how much sacrificing is going on.  You try to be a better person by giving up, but when you place your own care at such a deficit, everyone suffers.  Hard lesson to learn, but necessary.

Here's to a year of some balance and boundaries--for myself.

One thing that I realized I needed was to be creative.  I enjoy planning and looking to the future and doing things--but when they become part of a super-mom check list, they are soul-sucking and life-draining.  On those days where I was just wandering around like a zombie, ending it feeling like a failure for not being capable of accomplishing anything was just a nasty cycle of unhappiness.

I've spent some time thinking back to things that I loved to do and one of them was this blog.

Blogging was a way for me to unite my planning streak and creative streak and journaling streak into one.  Being on a constant look out for new information or always having it in the back of my mind to capture a new picture of something awesome helps me live more intentionally, more gratefully.    It makes me appreciate the little things in life--because I'm consciously more aware of them and intentionally looking for something awesome to share.   It's like pinterest, but reverse.  Rather than looking for awesomeness in others' lives, I look for what's awesome in my own to write about and share. For me, finding the silver lining and pausing to appreciate the daily precious moments are very healthy and keep my perspective focused where it should be--gratitude.

I've realized that somewhere along the line, my years of working in the ER have jaded me. My job forces me to think in worst-case scenarios, make some statistical and gut decisions about how likely they are, go try to prove (or disprove) them and take care of my patients, or at least not miss anything.  It's been an insidious perspective shift that has really gotten to me. At first, it started out as "ER Lessons of the Day" of crazy, silly, stupid, or ridiculous things that I ran across.  Funny, but after a while, you tend to only look at the negatives, the worse-case scenarios, and after a while, it eats at a person.  You never relax, you never enjoy. There is just this constant level of vigilance that begins to permeate your life and it becomes something that places you on edge and you're jumpy and irritable.  Not my idea of enjoying and appreciating and slowing down in life.

Here's to some fresh starts and fresh goals to go along with some fresh perspective, fresh thankfulness, and fresh gratefulness.

Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: perspective.

I want to have one where I'm enjoying the hike up the mountain, not complaining about the fact that I'm not there yet.

For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.  
Better to have little, with fear for the Lord,

than great wealth with turmoil.

-- Proverbs 15:15b-16 --