Archive for November, 2009

Remodeling A Family Affair

Yesterday in our Frugal Photo Post I posted a picture of one of our remodel projects.  It is the one we are in the middle of right now.  It is something the whole family pitches in on and helps.  Our older boys work there when they can, making time around college and their other jobs.  Hubby goes over after work and I go over when I can with the little ones.  We work together on it until it is done.

When we first got married we did not want to rent so we purchased a house within the first year of our marriage.  As fate would have it my husband got a job across state less than 1 year of owning the house.  We tried and tried to sell it but had no luck.  So we rented it out.

We had never considered owning a rental but had not choice.  We lucked out and got very good renters.  They paid their rent on time, took good care of the house and treated it like their own.  We ended up having them as renters for over 20 years!  It also began our adventures in getting older houses, fixing them up and renting them out.

We lived in 8 different houses in our first 12 years of marriage.  We would move into them, fix it up, move out, rent it.  We did this over and over all the while looking for our ‘perfect’ piece of property in the country.  We finally found the 10 acres we are now on and decided to build.  All of our previous experience was invaluable when building our own home.  It saved us  money being our own contractors and doing much of the work ourselves.  It is also very satisfying looking around our home and knowing that is was our own sweat and labor that built most of it.

Being a landlord is not for everyone and we have decided that this will be the last until hubby retires.  But with the way the economy is and with 401k’s not being what they used to be it helps to have a ‘back up’ income for emergencies and for retirement.

As nice as the extra income will be in the future what I really like is the chance to get to bring an old house back from the brink.  To find the old love letters in the walls, to see the vintage wallpapers, to refinish the old growth floors, and to bring to life an old but charming kitchen.  There is something about a house that is a hundred years old that almost talks to you as you work on it.  There is a sense of history and depth that a modern house just does not have.

It has also given us the opportunity to learn many new skills.  I can wire a house, lay tile, sheet rock, and lay hardwood.  Hubby does his own plumbing and siding. The big boys know how to do all these things and more…

Of course the little ones get to learn about workplace safetly, lol!

Yes remodeling is a family affair around here!

What interesting things do you do together with family or friends?

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer raising organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids…and a camel!

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We decided that the weekend after Thanksgiving is usually a time to think about shopping.  Black Friday, the alarm going off at 4:30 am, early morning doorbusters, the mall, the crowds…the mayhem!

Since we like to swim against the current around here we are sharing photos of  ‘being frugal’ .  Now this we do admit was a bit of a challenge, but it was fun…much more so than fighting the crowds to get to the 50% off socks!


For a couple dollars in seeds I grew well over $100 of pumpkin if I had bought it canned.  Roasted, pureed, and frozen for use all winter…no pumpkin shortage here!

We do our own remodeling…it takes longer but saves tons of money.  Besides the satisfaction of a job you know is well done.  All of our older boys now know how to frame, wire, plumb, sheet rock, tile, and side a house.  You can’t put a price on that kind of knowledge!

Purchased 18 years ago this month.  Chevy Astro Van, 8 passenger extended length with towing package…hauls hay, sports teams, bags of leaves, groceries, lumber, widows, a dog and a goat!  Yes that is 264,750.7 miles on it!  I’m hoping to get at least 20 years out of this van…more if I’m lucky!

Baking my own organic whole grain bread 2x weekly.  Grinding my own grains purchased in bulk saves me 100’s of dollars from my yearly grocery bill…although I do it for the nutrition and taste more than the money savings…though that is nice also!

Lastly is skipping the monthly fee of cable or satellite tv or even the latest movie in the theaters to sit on the porch swing and watch God’s sky show!  Its free and oh so much better for your soul!

So what interesting or unique ways are you being frugal?

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When a line of plastic garbage bags gets you excited!

Want to know what’s in my bags…bettcha do!

It’s beautiful, and nutritious…

Look!  Fo0d for my garden…lovely leaves destined to be shredded and put down as much.  To break down into lovely healthy soil for next year’s garden.

Yep…you know you’re a gardener when you are thrilled by plastic bags full of leaves!


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The Day Before Thanksgiving

It’s the day before Thanksgiving
And while I’m employed
I’ll get to work early,
Yet slightly annoyed.
How can I focus?
I’m much too distracted.
There’s so much to do
In the time so compacted.
There’s a turkey to roast
And you know, that takes hours.
It can not be rushed.
No, it’s not in my powers.
Sweet potatoes for baking
Need scrubbing and peeling.
So deliciously spiced.
Oh, the smell sends me reeling.
Preoccupied with thoughts
Like this all through the day.
‘Til the very last customer
Is sent on his way.
Then, I make my way home
To wear my other hat.
I’m the mommy, the wife,
And the cook and all that.

I plop down in my chair
Parked in front of the fire.
With so much left to do
Still before I retire.
Then I see that my boys
Have been working hard, too.
There’s not quite so much
Left for me to do.
The turkey’s been soaking
For hours today.
It’s ready for cooking
(or most of the way.)
My little’s been washing
The veggies and stuff.
He too young for chopping,
But still, it’s enough.
I remember again
As I hang up my hat
How important they are
And I’m thankful for that.

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I usually check the news in the morning while I’m waiting for the coffee to get done.  I try not to obsess, but I like to keep up with what’s happening in the world at large.  So, this morning I turned on CNN and listened to a bit of the wrangling over the Health Care bills.  Everyone who came on had their little bit they were supporting or fighting.  Everyone hanging desperately on to their little bit, pulling in their own direction.  It reminded me of leading my goats to pasture.  Every morning I have to take our 12 goats to what ever bit of pasture we have fenced for the day.  I hook them all onto one long lead, grab the collars of the two leaders, and we all walk to the paddock.  The goats pull against each other rather than fighting with me.  Since I have the two strongest going the direction I want, we usually get there without much trouble.  If they all decided to go the same way for a change, there would be no way I could control them.  (An Alpine dairy goat can pull about 400 lbs, times 12… my 150 lbs wouldn’t stand a chance.)

Anyway, I was thinking about dysfunctional governments, the broken healthcare system, and how unlikely it was that anything meaningful would come out of this process as I went to do chores this morning.  I walked into the barn and this is what I saw

Epiphany!  All the little pieces of my brain came to gether and I Understood.  They asked the wrong question.  They asked how they could fix the system, and everyone grabbed a bit to fix or protect.  They should have asked “What is the best health care system for everyone?” and worked from there on creating one that worked.

That’s what happened with this lovely fence.  Three years ago we had a goat about to give birth.  It was her first time, and I could tell that it wouldn’t be easy.  I needed a pen where I could isolate her.  So I scrounged two old gate panels and a short piece of 4×4 and cobbled together a pen.  It did the job, and has served similar purposes since then.  But it wasn’t built properly, it was in the wrong spot, it was too small, and it wasn’t really goat proof.  Shortly after building this pen I realized it had some problems.  So, I fixed them.  I added a patch to the bottom to keep the kids from crawling under the fence and getting into things they shouldn’t.  I tied one of the gate panels to the other so I could open it like a gate to let mom out.  It was basically functional again.  Later one of the goats discovered she could hop the fence between the pens and then hop the gate on the small pen and get out.  After discovering her out of the pen with her nose in the chicken feed a couple of times I realized the fence was too short.  So another old gate was salvaged and wired on to the top of the fence.  That kind of worked, except over the gate area.  So I strung some wire.  Success again.  Then the cow leaned on the fence and cracked the old 4×4 so the whole thing leans.  If I don’t keep an eye on it every day someone will find a hole and slip through.

My epiphany was that I’d been asking the wrong question.  I asked “How do I keep the goats from getting through or over this fence?”  The result was the cobbled together mess in the photo.  It worked, kind of…  If, three years ago I had ask, “What do I need to house and care for my goats properly?” I would have designed and built a different system.  I would have used many of same materials.  We always scrounge here first.  But rather than spending my time trying to fix the crisis of the moment with what ever came to hand, I would have created a system that worked. 

There is an idea in Holistic Management that I try to use (but completely forgot in this case.)  “Problems push, goals pull.”  When we problem solve, we react to the part in crisis, often without considering the whole.  When we have a goal, a vision, we act to advance toward that vision.  We attend to the rudder and to trimming the sails, not just to the flapping bit of canvas that seems to be causing a problem.

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I must admit to a slight obsession.  I love glass containers.  I especially love old blue glass containers…

You know the ones our grandma’s had!

I use them for all kind of storage.  I have one in my sewing room with old buttons in it.  But I mostly use them to store food in.  This one is destined to store orzo.  I think the little glass lids are just too cool!

Beautiful, simple and made to last!  I find them in antique stores, second-hand stores and at garage sales.  They are great for storing things that you buy in smaller quantities, like chocolate chips.

Since I have switched to exclusively storing in glass everything except my very large bulk items like grains I have had to figure out how to label all my containers.  I wanted something that could easily be changed.  I have tried the making tape and marker labels but hated the sticky residue it left.  I tried paper labels but they got torn.  I finally hit upon something that works great for me…chalkboard paint.  It is inexpensive, easy to find, and easy to apply.

If you have a smooth clean glass container it is as simple as masking off…I purposely wanted the edges uneven so I ripped the tape down the middle.

Apply the tape…

Just a little side note, it is easier to do with your jars empty.  I of course did not heed this bit of my own advice and did it to a jar full of  rolled oats…proceeded to forget them out overnight, it rained and I had to be creative with using up this many oats in a very short period of time as they got damp.  So try for an empty jar…and a sunny day!

Apply your first coat of paint…

I learned that I needed 3 coats of paint for this project.  I also learned that I needed to remove the tape after the first coat was dried.  If you left it on for all three coats when you removed it tended to peel up the paint.  Since I wanted a ‘rustic’ edge anyway painting coats 2 and 3 freehand was not problem.

I also painted each coat in a different direction, vertical, horizontal, and then vertical again to get a crosshatch look otherwise you tended to notice the brush strokes more.

Let dry well and voila!

Jars that have easily changed labels that hold up to hand washing and just are fun!

I have found glassware that is made in the USA by at a few shops in the big city but for me I get mine on amazon.com, I hate driving to the big city.  They are made by Anchor Hocking and for the very large jars like I store my oats in you will pay $23.95.  

 My airtight jars are from Ikea they were not expensive but they are made in China…I am on the lookout for domestically made glass that is also airtight and easy to open and close.  If I find it I will pass it along.

So next time you are at a garage sale keep your eye out for some great glass jars, they will be a great addition to your food storage plan!

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We’re all here again in our Sunday post…today we are sharing some of the things we are most thankful for!

I’m thankful that there are people who take the time and effort to grow food to sell at the farmer’s market. This makes it much easier for those of us that want good healthy local food and don’t have the space or time to grow it ourselves. I also appreciate that it gives me the opportunity to get involved in my community and to get to know my neighbors.

I’m thankful that I have space for a few homegrown vegetables. I don’t have much space, but things I manage to grow give me a deep sense of satisfaction and freedom. I’m very very thankful for this opportunity.

I’m also thankful for my heritage and the women that came before me who canned and preserved and grew their own food. I’m thankful that they passed these lessons down through the generations and I can help my sister pass them along to her children. I love canning in these jars that my grandmothers used for so many years.

I’m particularly thankful for the changing seasons and the beauty and variety it brings to my life. I really appreciate the ebb and flow of the seasonal changes and I love being in tune with those through gardening and eating seasonally.

When I step out onto my back porch I am thankful that it is trees I see and not skyscrapers…

For muddy little hands that bring me flowers.

Llamas at dusk…

Dancing in the rain!

And I’m even thankful for Camels in the Snow!


At Roberts Roost I’m thankful for…

Hands, they do such amazing things,


And Band-aids to patch up the hands after a project is done (there is always blood…)

And this slim little box that connects my little farm and my little life to the larger world and to a wonderful community.


What kinds of things are you thankful for?

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