Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cutting the fat in these economic times

In the old days to cut the fat literally meant to cut the animal fat (ie. butter, cream, salt pork) out of the diet because there wasn't money for it, or it wasn't available.  Nowadays to cut the fat literally means budget cuts and families, schools, cities, states and countries around the world are having to do it.

The economy in our neck of the woods isn't great, it's not as bad as some places in the US because we're less than an hour from a major city, Seattle.  Not everyone has been directly affected by this economy, but if you have a home you have most likely been affected by decreased values.  If you have a job, lucky you, be thankful, hopefully it's one you enjoy and not one you're just doing because you have to bring home the bacon so to speak.   Many people including ourselves have been hit hard by the downturn in the economy, both of us having careers in the housing industry.  We don't see how the economy is going to get better any time soon, at least the housing which is at the heart of so many things.  My husband has been a carpenter his whole life and had never been out of work, there were always jobs and referrals for new jobs.  Now carpentry work is scarce, we have some jobs as Spring nears that are hopeful, but this time of year is lean.  Together we talk about the economy and are concerned about what's happening, we don't let it drag us down, but we're acutely aware that it could get worse before it gets better.

In the midst of it all our family is still strong, healthy, and financially sound, we have a scrappy adventuresome attitude... it's called Faith, and it's the all important daily ingredient!  Our overhead is low and we don't have to work ourselves to death just to maintain, we have more time than money, but it's our choice how we productively spend that time and how we spend our time making money.  I recently had someone who knows me well mention that maybe I should go get a job at Boeing because they're hiring.  I thought inside to myself, me at Boeing?  I would wilt, that's not my dream, vision, or calling.  Sure we'd have more money, but what about quality of life, I wouldn't have much of a garden, how would I do all the things I do around the house and tending to every one's needs.  If we were in dire straights, yes I would do it and make the best of it, but we're not in dire straights, we're just cutting the fat, staying home more and making it just fine.

Our choices to cut the fat and our overhead make it where we can live this life we have chosen, one of self sufficiency without having our hand out to anyone.  I've talked about this topic some already but wanted to share again because I feel it's important to hear what other's are doing to survive right now in these challenging economic times.

So what have we cut, the first to go was tv and movie rentals several years ago, we now occasionally check out movies from the library.  The second to go was cell phones, when I got out of the real estate business two and a half years ago, we had 2 adults and 2 children on the phone plan and another one wanting one, so it was a big expense and not one we wanted.  Now if you need a cell phone for your business that is important to keep, we have done just fine with a land line.  We cut back on sporting events, and now just focus on school sports which is nice because they usually last 3 months verses select soccer year round.  We rarely go out to eat and almost never go to movies, we try to stay home more and drive less, and we really coordinate our outings to do as many errands grouped together as we can.  We're a ways out of town so this is important for us.

We've had to cut back on buying meat, nuts, boxed cereals, and luxury items like good cheeses, wines, and ice cream.  Now on the rare occasion when we do get these items we truly savor them.  Maybe you're getting a picture of why I'm dreaming of making my own artisan cheeses, brews and ice cream.  I like this kind of fat and now I want to learn to make my own, so it's not cut, it's created.  I love good artisan bread, but it's expensive, so I learned to make my own.  We cut buying a coffee at Starbucks while out, we make our own at home.  We cut buying new clothes, furnishings and household goods, and buy used at our local Goodwill.  When we need building materials we go to the salvage and scrap yards, most of our buildings my husband has built with our own trees milled, and he's used materials from the salvage yards. 

We're careful with our power and water use and are taking shorter showers, turning lights off and doing less laundry, if it's not dirty don't throw it in to be washed.  Our children are good sports and understand and they are not deprived in any way, they're all warm and well fed and have plenty of time themselves with us and each other to grow and develop. 

We don't have credit cards, the last one we paid in full and shredded several years ago when things started getting tight, so we are never tempted to buy things we can't afford or don't need and we discuss daily where we're at and what we need to do.  We've made choices to invest our money into fruit and nut trees as long term investments, and farm animals into shorter term investments.

Being scrappy has taken on a whole new meaning for us these last couple years as I've watched my husband take jobs he never would have normally have taken.  For years he had bigger homes and barns he was creating, now work consists of small carpentry jobs, tree work (he's a good lumberjack) and whole variety of other things.   He's done many hard physical jobs where at days end he's dirty and exhausted from head to toe, I like to make sure he has a hot meal as soon as he gets home and let him know how proud I am of him and his work ethic that's so strong and diligent.  The fun part is I also get to see him have time to work on projects at home, happy and free, and time to be together and plan.

Come the first of April I get to go back to my plant nursery job on weekends, a job I enjoy and for that I am thankful.  So you can see it's not all roses, this life of ours, but it's real and we're scrappy, and through Faith and hard work it pays in another kind of richness, one of simplicity in home and family, where you can sleep through the night and have peace in your heart.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Country Kitchen

My vision of an old country farmhouse kitchen...

It's an old settled place where smoke curls from the chimney and natural, honest materials have been used, wood and stone, brick and tile.  As you walk up the stone path, perennials flank you on both sides,  ahead you notice a large covered porch and your eyes take it all in, geraniums and flowers in pots and cans of every shape and size, foxglove blooming under the window, and clematis climbing up the sides of the porch.  The delphiniums shine in the bright morning sun, and a comfy old swing and friendly dogs greet you, the cats sit up yawning as they all come to say hi and welcome you here.  As you open the wood screen door and step inside, you enter another world and all your senses come alive  A rich complicated smell greets you, one of wood smoke and baking bread, herbs and garlic, frying onions and soup, hot jams and vanilla, yeast and dishwater, somehow all these smells melded together over the years.

The stone floor in the kitchen has been smoothed and polished over the years by the passing of countless feet,  and rag rugs are scattered throughout.  At the center of it all is a thick handmade wood slab table, scoured and worn over the years by daily use.  It has been made strong and stable to last through the years, meals are eaten here, plans are hatched here, as well as laughter and good cheer.  In one corner sits the large blue porcelain sink, well worn and used from dishes to baby baths.   On the other side is the wood fired range with it's eccentricities and moods, that must be faithfully served to bake bread and boil water, it glows warm overlooking the garden below, with comfy cushioned chairs on either side to take it all in with a warm cup of tea. 

In every country cook there is a certain squirrelling impulse and a desire to store good things away into pots, jars, and baskets.  Things like chutneys and blackberry cordials, dried fruit, and herbs, baskets filled with apples and cherries, pears and plums.  As they wait to be transformed into glimmering jeweled jars of preserves and jams, herb vinegars and oils.  The kitchen is a place filled with yeast and milk cultures, vegetables fresh from the garden and whole grains in bins and containers.  Hanging from the ceiling are racks that hold baskets and large copper pots, bundles of herbs, and strings of dried onions and garlic. 

An alcove off to the side leads to the pantry where all the overflow goes, and although it's a small pantry it is lovingly filled to the brim with every good thing.  Large crocks are filled with fermenting pickles, sauerkraut and homebrew.  The floor to ceiling shelves are lined with home canned vegetables and juices from the garden,  jars of jams and preserves  from the berries, and tins of crackers and homemade soups.  Strings of spicy sausages and curing salami's hanging from above.   

The sunlight coming in through the windows has a warm golden glow, with parsley and chives on the windowsill.  The windows are framed by billowy curtains that blow in the breeze on warm summer mornings, and the floors are well swept, the rugs are all shook, and the laundry is hung by the garden below.  The farm sounds in the distance, goats calling and roosters crowing, all add to the feeling of a world within a world, where it could all begin and end right here.  For within is a refuge of comfort and safety where family and friends are warmed and cherished and generously fed. 

PS. I thought about this vision while sitting in front of my woodstove while it was cold and rainy outside and began daydreaming of a long ago farm kitchen on a warm sunny day.  So I pulled out my handwritten journal and began to write, some of this dream is already in place in my home, much of it I'm still working towards.  I wanted to find a photograph of a kitchen like this and I couldn't find one, so I pulled together a few items in my kitchen that were close by.  Milk from last nights milking, eggs from the chickens, garlic I grew and braided, hazelnuts I gathered in the fall, and a loaf of bread I made, winter vegetables from the garden, and a few sprigs of sage.  I am a romantic when it comes to the old fashioned ways, and I hope my children and future grandchildren will derive this sense of well being in our own country kitchen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

testing our self sufficiency skills

This last week has had it's share of highs and lows for us, we lost our power, phone, and running water for 3 days, and the snow came down hard for 5 days straight.  Needless to say we got to test our skills.  In my last post we were still in the fun part of the snowstorm, we had cozy showers and running water, laundry and a phone line, hot water and power.  Before the lights even began to flicker we had already begun to gather water in vessels and lay out the candles on the table, just in case.  Wednesday around noon the power went out, and the snow continued to fall hard.  It was kind of fun the first day and night with no power, then morning came and another day, and another day, and the snow continued to fall.   We had the phone line for the first day, and then that went dead for 2 days.  We chained up the truck to get into town, and all through town it was compact snow and ice, our school district was closed all week, and the kids had fun playing and reading.  I stayed busy with the animals, and cooking and cleaning, and continued to milk Zolena through it all.  We had 4 kettles on the wood stove to heat water for washing and cooking with, some had melted snow and some water was pulled up from the hand dug well.

If you saw the weather for Seattle we're very similar only we're about 50 miles NE  in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, our temperatures are often 10 or 15 degrees colder because we're 20 miles inland from the Puget Sound, and the Pacific Ocean.  Just down the coast where my Mom and Dad live in Coos Bay, Oregon, they're so near the ocean it rarely freezes or snows and the snow almost never sticks to the ground, it melts right away.  Here now a week later and we still have snow on the ground, it has warmed up, but the driving is still slippery.  I don't like to drive in icy snow, so I've been happily home-bound all week, we've had plenty of good food and so have the animals.  Plus I've been getting alot of great exercise hauling warm water heated on the stove to everyone. 

There is a whole new appreciation for a wood burning stove when it's you're sole heat source (which ours always has been) and your main source to cook on, and heat water with for washing dishes.  It also becomes the central focus in the evenings with candles around for light when there's no power.  Even with a well the water doesn't flow from the sink without the electric pump, the toilet doesn't flush unless it's refilled in the back, and the shower doesn't work at all.   Luckily for me, I took a shower right before the power went out for those 3 days. 

I had a whole list of what I was going to do everyday this last week, and I pretty much had to put it on hold and just go into survival mode, tend the animals, chop wood, carry water,  make meals, and clean.  The beauty of the snow in mid January is nice,  then we had too much snow, almost 2 feet, and then freezing rain, and then the cover to my  chicken aviary was near collapsing and the pen for Stormy and Cowboy needed to have the snow removed daily.  I was outside getting snow off areas that could collapse, the snow became hard to walk in, and we all got a little cabin fever.  I also had the duty of shaking off all our edibles and ornamentals around the garden and yard,  making sure branches stayed intact.  When the rain finally came and it began to warm up, we  all cheered, now today it's still melting and the wind is gusting with some high winds around 50 miles per hour, our winter weather is finally here.

Nearing the end of the 3 days we had some renewed discussions on independence from the power company and have a real desire to see our windmill operational, we've had one for years, and just need a high tower, a real high tower to get above the tree line.  We talked about ways to build the tower and the batteries we'll need to store the power, along with many of the nuts and bolts of actually making it a reality.  Back in the late 70's, my  husband lived out here for 10 years with no power, phone or running water, that was back in the day when many back to landers started out just the same way. 

Still today you could start out and buy or rent land, build a small cabin or modular home,  put in a wood stove and small kitchen and live.  It's amazing how simple people lived for thousands of years and how far we've come in such a short time.  How many of us could survive without power for a month, or two, or more?  I'm sure we all could if we had to, but wouldn't it be a little nicer with heat and a way to cook, and a piece of land to grow food.  Our whole electrical grid is so fragile, the possibility of it going out for awhile is very real.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

fun in the snow

Kaley having fun sledding on our first "Snow Day" of the year!
It snowed most of the day today and they say more is on the way, 
 it looks like there will be no school for the rest of the week... and all the kids say... Yay!!!

Golden Retrievers are like kids, they love to play in the snow.

Tessa heading down the hill!

Tessa with the male puppy Fatolini (aka, Bubs), well he has several names depending on who's talking to him. 

Summer wants to sled too!  She loves getting in on the action.

Jason with Josie, she is such a sweetheart.

"Snow Kisses" from Sierra

in the kitchen

I've been having fun cooking in the kitchen on these snowy days.  Over the last several weeks I've been practicing a new method of making whole wheat sourdough bread.  The method uses a wild yeast biga and a soaker, whole wheat needs to be brought alive by starting the bread the day before, and allow the flour the and wild yeasts to ferment.  Everyone in our family loves good whole wheat bread.  I'll write more about this method and post more pictures of this process the next time I make it.    I also made a big batch of chicken, barley, rice and vegetable soup, and baked a butternut squash to eat as dessert (with butter and brown sugar) plus I'll have enough left over to add some to the soup tomorrow.  I love to make good smells in the kitchen on a snowy winter day. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

snow storm

We awoke this morning to a dusting of fresh snow, just as predicted.  As the day wore on it began to get dark and windy and the snow really started to come down.  Just like a snowglobe, the snow went every direction as the wind blew.  Stepping out my back door, this is the view of the woods behind the garden, big Douglas fir and Hemlock trees.  The trees surrounding our property are giant, and they always look extra big with snow on them.  The puppies had fun playing in it today, and the goats stayed inside their snug little barn.  I fed everyone undercover, and gave extra helpings of alfalfa and grain.  They're saying more snow is on the way.

I like to cook when I'm cooped up inside, so I made a sweet potato pie, the smell filled the house with the sweet spicy aromas of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.  It turned out delicious and we just finished eating a piece with whip cream, sitting by the fire all snug and cozy.  We had glasses of goats milk to wash it down, Yum!

We've been feeding both of the fires, cleaning, and playing outside most of the day.  I waited until the snow stopped around 4pm to go milk, I do have a covered area, but the snow going sideways still made everything wet on our milk stand.  In early December I switched from milking twice per day to once a day during these darkest of days.  I plan to pick back up again with 2 milkings per day in mid March as the days are getting longer and warmer. 

I decided back in the Fall not to breed Zolena this year and just milk her through the winter until Jersey freshens in the summer and I can begin milking her.  I'll have several months where they'll overlap, and the cheese making will really begin to happen.  It takes a lot of milk to make cheese.  I'll also have Joon's milk and nigerians have the highest butterfat milk, it has loads of cream.  It's so fresh and thick it whips up into cream in seconds, plus it's wonderful for cheese making and soap making.
Naptime in their new bed that Dad made for them over the holidays.  We have two beds he made just for the dogs to give them their own cozy spot.  Summer's in the one on the other side of the porch, it's kind of like a dog living room now.  They see me with the camera and open their eyes to say hi, still tired from playing in the snow.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jersey's date last night

Jersey is almost 2 years old, which is pretty old as far as goats go for never having been bred.  I've been wanting to get her bred all through the Fall and somehow couldn't time her heat cycle where I knew she was ready, or I was at work and couldn't get her there.  I talked with the the breeder Kim and she helped me pick out a gorgeous buck named Excaliber to be the sire, I looked at him through pictures on her website.  It happens to be the same farm Jersey was born at, called My Enchanted Acres Nubian's, she has about 40 goats, all Nubian's and has been raising them for over 20 years.  They're one of the most well respected Nubian breeders in the Northwest, and I am thrilled to have her bloodlines.

Kim told me what to look for in heat cycles and that they can last for 2 to 3 days, and happen every 21 days.  I watched and watched and finally noticed her going into heat on Christmas Eve of all days, she was in full blown heat on Christmas day.  I knew I'd have to wait another 18-21 days for her to go into heat again, there was no way I could get her there on Christmas day.  There are definitely benefits to owning a buck, if I had one, we could have just put her in his pen on Christmas day and it would be no big deal.

I knew we were getting to the end of rutting season, and Nubian's are seasonal breeders, meaning the bucks go into rut from about mid August to mid January, and the does go into heat during this time as well.  The little Nigerians can breed year round, that is one of their special benefits.  I was getting worried we may have to just wait until next Fall, which I didn't want to do because I wanted to start milking her this summer along with Joon.

Yesterday I called Kim in the morning and excitedly told her Jersey was wagging her tail, bellowing , and mooning over little Cowboy (the Nigerian buck we have).  I said "I think she's ready, can we come over today".  We agreed on a time, got the pen together in the back of the truck and drove the 30 minutes over to their farm.  While we were driving her there, Jersey had her head to the wind taking in all the new smells.  As we unloaded her, she looked around at the familiar farm where she was born. I'm sure she remembers the first year of her life.  I bought Jersey through another lady who only had her for a couple months, she got her from this farm.  It was fun to meet Jersey's mom and grandma and see all the many variations of color and beauty in her goats.  At one point while we were waiting for them to get the buck, my husband called me over and said you gotta come see this.  I had been looking at the yearlings, and when I went over and peaked over the wall, there were 22 cute and curious goats looking at me, they were the older does, munching away on their hay.  I so wish I had brought my camera, but the lighting wasn't the greatest and it was getting dark.

As Excaliber came up to us, I noticed how big he was, his coloring is a creamy color and he is so handsome, as far as Nubian bucks go.  Plus we quickly realized he was also a total gentleman, Jersey didn't seem too scared, but leaned into me for courage I think.  Before I knew it, it was over, and they said, there's one.  As the four of us stood there talking along with many little goat eyes curiously watching us, he bred her 4 times in about 15 minutes.  Then as they led him away, I said "So that's it, she's pregnant now".  They said " Yes, that's all there is to it."  Well how bout that. Jersey seemed calm and happy, and we loaded her up, gave them the breeding fee, and then got to have a peek at her new 3 day old Nubian kids.  She had 4 kids already born this year, and has more to come all through the early winter and spring, they were so cute, I can hardly wait! 

I was so relieved to know that I got the timing right, and that we'd gotten Jersey bred this year.  Plus we're happy for her that she'll get to be a mom, and that we'll get to have another milk goat. This year Joon should have kids around May 10, and now Jersey around June 12th.  It worked out perfect to have the kids spread out, so the first month of their life they can be in the nursery with a heat lamp.  Such simple things like getting a goat bred make me happy today.  We also have snow predicted for this weekend, only our second time since November.  I love the snow in January and February, it just feels right, it's winter after all :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

plans for this year

Sometimes in the middle of the night when all is quiet and I look out on the stars, I say thank you because I'm so grateful.  I know that I'm living the life imagined by me for so many years, it's the one my husband and I have created and we love it.  I also know that it all came from within first and began as a thought, then it was talked about, then it was written down, and then it was accomplished through time and labor. Some goals and  thoughts are quick to accomplish, like saying you're going to get up at an hour earlier, but most often there is time and work invested to bring our dreams into reality.  

A gift from my daughter for Christmas was a new journal.  I like to start a new journal every year, in it I write down my overall goals, then break them down into the steps I need to take to bring each one into reality.  I will then invest time each day or week to work on the goal.  I have many different areas of interests and some take more or less time and some are seasonal.  Most of my goals take money and it needs to first be earned, and then invested into materials. This year I want to be better organized with my time.

One of my biggest goals this year is to set up an art studio and begin painting again after many years.  When I was young I remember whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd  say, "an artist"  meaning I wanted to paint pictures, I used to love to draw people and animals.  I need to set aside 2 or 3 hours a couple days per week, and schedule the time in, so I actually sit down and do it.  I have an upper loft in my bedroom that is going to be just for my paints, paper and artwork.  It has plenty of light and will be perfect.  I want to paint pictures of our farm life and capture these moments on canvas.

Another big goal is to set up a "creamery" in my kitchen for a while, and just learn everything I can about cheese making, I have visions of wheels of cheese aging in a root cellar.  I want to make as much of my own butter, yogurt, and ice cream as I can this year too.  Speaking of root cellars, we began digging into a North-east hill side by our house when we had a back hoe here last year.  We moved some big rocks over to begin a staircase, someday this will be a stone entrance with an arched thick door, and will be an authentic root cellar.  For now I have a large basement that is our storage area, and will cure aging cheese just fine.

Grafting and propagating fruit trees and edibles for Applegarth Nursery is going to be a big priority along with potting up native species for sale, and planting more rootstock.  This year I want to get licensed through the state to be able to sell my nursery stock and farm products, like goats milk soap, and lotion.  I also want to go to the Seattle fruit tree society scionwood sale in February and get more varieties of fruit trees and root stock to plant. 

Soap making is going to be fun this year with goats milk.  I still need to buy more supplies and also want to try my hand at making lotions.  There are new essential oils I want to try as well as making some naturally scented bars.  Plans are to turn the kitchen in the barn into my designated soap making area.  I hope to be selling Applegarth soap and lotion on Etsy, and to be linked through this blog by next Fall.

Something I want to see happen this year is a farm sign at our front gate.  I know I'll have to paint it myself to be  happy with it, I'd love to carve it out of wood and then paint it.  I want it to be oval shaped, and have some artwork depicting our farm, like a goat, an apple tree, and a rabbit perhaps.  I need to play around with a design on paper first.

For years I've been wanting to learn how to make my own artisan beer.  I've checked out every book our library has on it and read them all.  I've talked to brewers and got catalogs from them of where they get their supplies.  In the old days every good housewife knew how to make hard cider and homebrew, as well as how to make cheese, soap, sew, and cook.  In our orchard we have apple trees planted that are specifically for hard cider and someday we'll have fall cider pressing.  For this year though I just want to learn to make good artisan beer and bottle it.  Not that we drink a lot of beer, it would just be fun to learn.  Once you get into making your own good foods, I think good drinks are simply the next fun thing to try.

We are planning to build the goats their own goat barn this year, at least phase one of it.  This will take the most time and money of all our projects.  We'll hopefully begin this spring or early summer by pouring the foundation and beginning the framework and roof.  It will have to be done when the days are longer for my husband to work on it after work.  This will also be the year our perimeter fence will finally be finished, currently it's two thirds of the way around our 10 acres and we just got most of  the remaining wire needed to complete it.  For the last few years we have invested much time and labor into this fence.  It will be so nice to have this huge goal accomplished.  I am going to love being able to close our main gate and know all the animals and plants are safe and protected from the deer and predators.  The chickens will have daily freedom and our goats will have plenty of room to run and have rotational pasture.

Each one of the children has goals they are working towards as well.  Tessa is learning the guitar and we've been taking her to lessons once a week.  She'll be doing Track in the Spring and Soccer in the Fall (both seasonal school sports), plus she'll begin high school. She has her goals of going to the University of Washington after two years of community college, and is talking about a career as an editor or publisher of books.  Kaley is our runner, we are planning to enter her in various local running races as this is dream of hers.  She has hopes of going to college on a running scholarship.  Jason is getting a car soon and will be getting his first job this Spring.  He's a Junior and is also enrolled in a technical school learning automotive repair.  My daughters living on their own Christina and Heather, both have good jobs as barista's and goals they're working towards just as ambitiously.  We like to help all our children plan and think about their futures by talking about college and what classes they need to take and talking about different careers with them.

In our big house this years goals are to finish the walls, taping, texturing and painting them.  We are also planning to put down the tubing and pour the floor in the kitchen so when we lay our stone tile it's heated.  I also want to put finish on all the interior wood. 

I have plans for this blog, like having a section for the books I'm reading and the ones we have in our library.  I want to take more pictures of the meals I make and the recipes and methods I use.  Plus I'd like to connect and network with more local women that are interested in learning from each other.  I want to be faithful to write regular posts and articles that are interesting and inspire you to learn and grow.

The vegetable garden will have some new things like jerusalem artichokes and globe artichokes, and I'm hoping for my greenhouse to get set up too, but may have to be happy with just a small hoop house to get starts going this year.  The flower beds are getting an addition of trees and plants that we've been planting over the last couple months, and continue to plant even now.  New beds are being dug and we're landscaping around our big house.  We've been getting trees and shrubs through the nursery where I work and  I'll share more about this whole landscape project in another post.

It sounds like a lot when I read it all.  This year I'm going to continue learning all about gardening, goats, chickens, rabbits and honeybees.  It will be the year our farm gets licensed to sell products and we'll go through our gate and see an Applegarth Farm sign hanging. It will be the year of the artist and a creamery and a brewery in the making, these are some of the good things in life to me. 

Most of all I want this to be a year that I honor God in all that I do, and to daily thank Him and count my blessings.  I hope this is a year full of health and prosperity for our family and yours!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

writing out the dream

This is a post I wrote on December 14, 2010, with a few minor changes.  I wanted to share it again for those of you new to this blog.  I'm planning to write out my 2012 goals and will write a post detailing them.    

One of my favorite things to do when I have a quiet moment is to dream of what I really want in life, what I should be doing that is meaningful, not just for me, but for my family, my friends and the community where I live. This is new to me in recent years, I haven't always been in a position to even be able to think about what I wanted to do. My thoughts have primarily focused on raising my children and creating memories with them, cooking, cleaning, organizing, and tending to everyones needs have been a huge job over the last 20 years! In the midst of raising children I also worked for 12 years as a realtor and had to be disciplined to make money.  Personal ambitions since I have been an adult have been very limited, if you're a mother with young children you will understand.   

Four years ago, I really began to ask the question in my quiet hours, what am I here to do on this earth (besides raising children)?  What do you want me to do... my creator?  I would ask Him who knew me before I was born, and created me, gave me my family, my Mom and Dad, my twin sister, and my brothers, and gave me the gift of 5 beautiful children, and my husband, whom I adore.

Writing it out.. this is what I heard when I asked 4 years ago what it is I'm put here on earth to do? My answer was simple and clear, but also included some of my childhood dreams of painting and animals. You are called to teach others about what you're learning about self sufficient living through writing and photographing your journey. Get prepared to be out of debt, create your own food and power, work from home as much as possible, and teach all that you are learning, and have learned over the years.  The cashflow is to come through having a small fruit tree and edible nursery, and Jarin's new business building cabins and bungalows.   

5 years ago I started gardening more intensely, and studying like a student in school, getting as many books as I could. 4 years ago, I studied beekeeping, and got 2 honeybee hives, plus that was the year I bought fruit trees, put in an orchard and learned all I could about pruning and tending to my new orchard and hives. Jarin deer fenced the large vegetable garden, so we could really begin to produce our own food, and it has grown by one large bed every year. 

The next year I got rabbits, and more fruit trees, and Jarin continued to build fencing to enclose the whole ten acres in deer proof fencing.  We want to plant the land in fruit trees and edibles, without having them destroyed by the deer. The next year we got chickens, and began to build the coop and the chicken run to make it predator proof... this was a huge job!

We are learning as a family where our food comes from, how much work it is to create rich soil to grow your own food.  How to create fencing that lasts and keeps deer out of the vegetables and fruit trees.  We have learned to greatly value the chickens, rabbits, and honeybees for their contribution to the farm's permaculture plan.  

In the next few years we hope to get off grid totally with the help of a windmill and solar power. These are dreams that will become a reality I know. Further down the road, I hope to hold self sufficiency classes and retreats here at Applegarth Farm.