Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter Survival Kit For The Car

I think by now everyone has heard about the havoc caused by the ice/snow storm in the South this week. I spent some time today reading some of the stories of the people who where stuck out on the roads unprepared, some for many hours, some with children...there are some scary stories out there! I had posted a little something on Facebook a week ago about getting a Winter Survival Kit ready for the car, but now I wish I had done a blog post too!

It's an important subject to me because I have a getting-stuck-in-bad-weather story too. A few years ago I was on my long commute home from work with one of the Farm Kids, who was still a baby,  in the car. It was raining and then there was a sudden, significant drop in temperature and the interstate became a sheet of ice in a matter of about a minute. I watched as every single vehicle in front of me slid off the interstate. We weren't far from an exit and I really didn't want to just pull over on the interstate for fear someone (perhaps in a semi) would slide into us. So I gripped the steering wheel, crawled along, and prayed like crazy. We miraculously made it to the exit and found  a place to park. We were only about 15-20 minutes from our town under normal driving conditions, but I knew there was no way we'd make it. We were very fortunate, we waited it out for awhile, (singing nursery rhymes and playing with everything in the car!) and in about 3-4 hours we were safely in our warm house. It was a little nerve-wracking but I was so thankful first of all that God had answered my prayers and we were safe and then that we had food, water, warm and dry clothes, blankets, everything we would need if we had to be out there for awhile.

So, better late than never, here's my Winter Survival Car Kit:

-Blankets and/or warm sleeping bags
-Bottled water
-A first aid kit (actually, never take this out of the car)
-Battery powered radio and flashlight (BUT you need to be sure to have fresh batteries with you because the cold will cause batteries to drain quickly)
-Lots of warm clothes.  Hats, mittens, coats, socks, boots, snow pants, whatever you can gather up.
-Food. Stuff that will keep in the car, and if you bring canned food, don't forget the can opener.
-Plastic bags. In my case they were great to have for diapers, but you never know what you'll need them for.
-Candles and matches
-Cat litter to help get traction if you get stuck.
-Shovel, ice scraper, and brush
-Jumper cables (again, just leave these in your car)
-Ideally, flares or a reflective triangle, but at the very least a piece of bright colored (red is best) cloth that you can tie to an antennae to attract attention from work crews or rescue personnel.
-Car charger for your cell phone
-If you have children, be sure to pack for them too. Clothes, diapers, wipes, food/drink that is age appropriate, toys or books, and children's first aid supplies

A couple other important things to remember: if you run the heater in your car to keep warm, only run it for about 10 minutes each hour, roll a window down a little and make sure your exhaust pipe isn't covered in snow to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. It is usually best to stay in your vehicle rather than trying to walk anywhere, unless you are absolutely certain there is a safe building very close. It's easy to get disoriented in blowing snow. Also, really try to keep your gas tank at least half full. When I used to make that commute, that meant getting gas every other day, which was kind of a pain, but I think it's worth it.

We put all our gear into plastic totes and leave a kit in each of our vehicles during the times that storms are possible in our area. I know it seems like a lot of prep for something may likely never happen, but if it does you'll be so glad you did!

Did I miss anything? What do you keep in your car for emergencies?

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Felted Dryer Balls

Winters are dry around here. Dry skin , dry hair, and when you open the dryer it's like a fireworks show in there. We've been on a quest for awhile to find something that will take the static out of our clothes. We were using a dryer sheet, then two dryer sheets and still getting shocked by our clothes! Plus, I'm not a huge fan of all the chemicals in dryer sheets. I looked into those rubbery dryer balls, but found some information that they may release some unpleasant chemicals when they heat up too. So, I decided to try the old felted wool balls method. Want to try it too? Here's how...

You'll need to have some 100 % wool yarn. Make sure your yarn isn't a blend or it will not felt. You will need enough to make 4-6 tennis ball size balls. Also, keep in mind you may not want super dark colors, or if you do, you will need to be sure to wash them enough that they don't bleed on your clothes.

Start by winding one end of the yarn around two fingers, about 10-15 times.

Slip the yarn off your fingers and start wrapping it around the middle of the bundle.

Keep wrapping to make a tight ball.
When you get to the size you want (I did about tennis ball size, you could make them a little bigger to make drying time even shorter) use a yarn needle or crochet hook to pull the end under several layers and then trim off the remainder.        

Then you need an old pair of tights or pantyhose. (I last wore these to my sit-at-a desk office job, I must admit, I smiled a little when I cut them up!) 

 Put each ball into the leg of the tights and tie between each ball with cotton or acrylic yarn or string (don't use the wool, it will felt right to the tights!).       

It will kind of look like a caterpillar!

Put the whole thing in the washer and wash in hot water, then dry on high heat. You may need to do this more than once. I did it three times to be sure it was all felted together really well.

Take them out of the tights/pantyhose, and they're ready to go!

Throw them in the dryer with your next load of clothes, you will be static free, and you won't have to worry about sending your construction-working Hubby off to the job site with princess underpants stuck to the back of his shirt!

Have a beautiful week!

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Crock Pot Enchiladas

I have to make a trip over to our old house today (you can read a little about that house here), which means I won't be here to make dinner, so I'm leaving this in the crock pot for the family to have tonight!

Crock Pot Enchiladas
2 lbs ground beef
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 15oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 15oz can red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
1 15oz can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin (ground)
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican Blend cheese or Monterey Jack
6-8  6 inch flour tortillas

Cook beef, pepper, and onion in skillet until meat is cooked through.

Drain. Add both cans of beans, tomatoes, water, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the cheeses together in a bowl.

In your crock pot, layer some of the meat mixture, two tortillas, 

and then some of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layers to use up all ingredients.

Cover and cook on low about 6 hours (or until hot all the way through).
When you serve it, just be sure to spoon through all the layers! It's an easy, hot, and delicious meal, perfect to have cooking in the crock pot while you get on with all your weekend projects!

What are your plans for this weekend?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

It's cold. Again. As I write this we're headed toward -11 with a -30 wind chill. So that makes it a perfect evening for some hot chocolate! Once I realized how many ingredients on the store bought packets of hot chocolate aren't things I recognize, I decided to try making my own mix. It turned out to be super simple to make a delicious mix, so I want to share it with you!

It only takes a few ingredients that you probably already have!
You'll need:
2 Cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 Cups sugar-I used this Washed Raw Sugar but you could use regular sugar, Turbinado, or Sucanat also.
1 tsp salt

Put cocoa and sugar in a blender and blend until sugar is powdered. Mix in the salt and place your mix in a container.

Use about 2 heaping Tablespoons in a mug of hot milk.
You can add a few drops of Vanilla in for a little flavoring if you like, it's good either way!

Now I'm going to make a cup, grab a blanket, and listen to that cold wind blow outside!

What's your favorite cold weather drink?

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Farm Pictures

Hello! Is everybody ready to start a new week? As always, the weekend flew by around here! Today the Farm Kids and I spent a lot of time outside because it was sunny and 50 degrees, which is pretty much unheard of in January here! When we get a day like this we just can't pass up the chance to get out and soak it up! I got some pictures while we were out wandering around the farm, so I thought I'd share them with you today....
 We brought the rabbits out to play. Can you even tell this is a rabbit? They pretty much just look like a pile of fur.

The chickens seemed extra happy about the weather too!

It's awfully brown right now, but I still love it.

The SUN! 

Beautiful blue sky.


I really like the Sycamore trees, the contrast of the white bark and blue sky is gorgeous.

Waiting for the birds.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that we found this guy in the chicken house tonight. (Oh, and if you don't follow me on Facebook yet, won't you come join us? It's fun!)  Our little opossum friend was quite angry about being evicted from the house before he had his chicken dinner!

I would love to go back out there for little stroll in the dark if I can find a little more time tonight, I don't want to miss any of this beautiful day! It makes me think of long walks on summer many days is it until Spring?

Have a wonderful week!

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Our Un-Fancy Toy Box

Hi guys! Is anybody else just about ready for Spring? We've had an incredibly easy winter so far this year, hardly any snow or ice! But still...I'm starting to think of green grass and sunshine!

Anyway, I was just cleaning up the living room and realized something needed to be done about Farm Kids' huge box of blocks.

It had clearly seen better days, and I knew if I picked it up that big crack would break wide open! I decided to move them to a cardboard box and at first I was going to cover the box in fabric and add a cute fabric liner...but here's the thing...we live a long way from a good fabric store which means I very seldom get to buy new fabric and, well, a cardboard box of blocks just didn't seem like a good use of the fabric I do have. So, instead I thought I'd try covering it with scrapbook paper. (Oh, scrapbooking, I do miss you, but I just don't have the time. We can be friends again someday. Maybe when the kids go off to college. Or join the circus.) 

So I cut some strips (because I thought it would be cute with stripes) and got some glue.

Fifteen minutes later, instead of this...

I had this....

For a super simple and cheap free little project, it made a lot of difference! 
By the way, all those wood blocks in there? They are just pieces of wood my husband cut into different shapes and sizes and the kids love them! I know they would choose those over any block sets I ever bought them!
What are you doing today? 

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

For Rent

Hi there! I hope everybody's new year is off to a great start! We're back to normal schedules after the Christmas and New Years vacations and back to work on the bathroom addition, garden planning and some other house-related projects.It's that time of year that can get really cold, snowy, and gloomy around here so most of our projects right now are indoors. For us it also seems like this time of year comes with an awful lot of bills to pay. Taxes on both of our properties, extra heating costs,  extra electric bills for the animal's heat and/or water heaters, etc. This year, one of the ways we'll be making a little extra money is by renting out a couple of our pastures. Now, I know not everyone has extra acreage to rent out, but if you do this something you might want to think about. Of course, there are some things to consider.

We are renting to a local rancher who will be putting cattle on the land, but you could also consider renting out space for horses, goats, even chickens. Whatever type of animal you have room for and are willing to have on your property. You will first need to determine what area you are willing to rent out. For us, we hope to get a few more animals of our own this year, so we don't want to rent out all of our pastures, but we have two fairly large ones that we know we won't need this year.

You will have to talk with the people interested in renting, first to get references (if you don't already know them) and then to determine the specifics of what they need and which one of you will provide it. You'll need the right kind of fencing for the livestock you will have on the land. For cattle, either electric fencing,

or cattle panels.

We already have areas with both of these, but our renter will be bringing some more of his own cattle panels to make an alley for loading and unloading his cattle so that they will not be going through area we will be using.

They will need access to water. We have a creek, but if you don't you will need to decide who will supply the equipment to water the animals.
(The creek won't be frozen by the time the cows get here!)

If they will require feed other than the grass on the pasture, you will have to discuss that also. You may need feed bunks or other feeders and you'll want to be clear on who will be feeding and when, so that you are aware of who will be on your property. 

Another thing to talk about is whether or not they will need access to a barn or shelter. Our renter does not want access to our barns except in the instance that one of the cows are sick or injured, then he would like to be able to get that animal inside to receive care. We are ok with him using one of the barns in that case, so that worked out for all of us.

You'll also need to find out what time frame they want to rent for. Where we live the "season" is May through October for the cattle to graze, but it will be different in other areas. 

Once you have all this figured out you can talk about what price you want for the use of your land. (If you have electric fencing or waterers, don't forget to factor in the extra cost of electricity!) This is usually either per acre or per head or pair. Be sure you have a good phone number for the animal's owner in case one gets out or you notice a problem.

Now that we have our deal all worked out, the extra income will help with those bills and I'm looking forward to May when I can look out my windows and see a pasture full of cows!

I hope you have a great week!

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014


 I know it's the New Year and most folks are focused on the future. But today, I'm thinking of the past and how it has led me here. To my little farm, not far from where my Great Grandmother lived.
She's known in my family for (among other things) having come from Denmark and having a little trouble with the language, always telling my Dad to "Throw the cows over the fence" meaning throw some hay over  the fence to the cows! 

I'm also 7 miles from the farm my Grandparents moved to in 1933.
Where they raised their 4 children during the Great Depression. Because they were on that farm and had the faith, skills, resilience, and grit to grow, raise, and preserve food for their family they were able to give their ration stamps to the folks in town who really needed them. It was there that my Dad learned the many skills and life lessons he has passed on to me that allow me to take this path that I'm on. I hope I inherited some of that grit too!

Also, me and Dad both like cute goats! :)

That old farmhouse has been gone a long time now, but we still visit the land sometimes.

And it's still there in the heart of my very favorite homesteader.

It's a minimum no maintenance road. It's really bumpy. Sometimes it tries to throw you off the side. If it rains, you're not going anywhere, so you better just batten down the hatches. 

But I drive it anyway. Because it's my roots. Because my heart grew from there. Because, just like in life, sometimes the roughest roads lead to the best places.

I hope you're having a beautiful day!

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