Fun(ee) Farm

I was trying to find some good adjectives to describe our little slice of heaven here in Minnesota.  Hobby Farm doesn’t really cut it as we aren’t there yet (and probably won’t ever be).  Funny Farm might make people think we are crazy (which does work some of the time).  So I settled on Fun(ee) Farm.  Since the way we choose to do life out here in the country adds pleasure to our lives and we aren’t a working farm.

The vegetable garden takes so much of my time and does become a chore many a day.  It’s all about eating fresh in the summer and enjoying some of it canned/frozen in the winter.  After all the blood, sweat, and tears, my husband loves to point out ~ a can of corn costs $0.98 on sale at the grocery store!  This year the kids actually got excited about what I was planting and they made sure I knew their favorites.  I think their enthusiasm came from my not asking or requiring them to weed or help in the garden.  I have decided to keep it to myself.  My quiet time.  I putter.  I weed.  I water.  I haven’t started talking to my plants ~ although I hear that may help them grow.  I may have to start sweet talking the tomato plants.  It is SO worth it for the fresh and yummy produce!  IMG_1758

The flower gardens beautify the place.  I LOVE flowers gardens.  I hate weeds.  I have tried numerous tricks and hacks.  Nothing seems to do a better job than good ol’ fashion weeding my hand.  I do as much as time allows.  For some of the other gardens I have embraced the “au natural” look and just let them be.  The “garden of hate” being one of them.  Backstory on that in another blog!

Our chickens are layers and used to get named.  I got smart and bought all the same kind so now they are nameless.  They eat our scraps and garden leftovers.  In return they give us the most delicious eggs.  Again, my husband loves to point out the cost of eggs at the store versus the cost of feed and heat.  He loves both the eggs and veggies and teases in love.  The younger girls sell the extra eggs since they do most of the chicken chores.  They have the best deal.  All profit and no costs!  How’s that for a business plan?!

Family pets ~ we have 2 dogs and 4 cats.  Currently 9 kittens.  We need to slow down the kitten factory for obvious reasons.  Mostly, I am tired of almost killing myself as I step out the door and attempt to avoid squashing a kitten.  They are also reeking havoc on my flower beds.  A squirt gun and moth balls seem to have curbed their bad habits (for now).

The dogs are our protectors and buddies (they live outdoor year round).  They keep the wild animals away and the occasional stranger and delivery person.  Even though they could swallow a kitten whole, they are terrified of them!  The younger one (Gunnar) runs with me.  The older one (Ranger) cheats and takes short cuts and takes periodic breaks.  But he always manages to show up just in time for a post run doggie treat!  I plan to post more on trail running in the future so check back.

We have four daughters who keep us very busy.  They are all in different sports and school activities.  Remember my previous post about doing better with a routine and structure?  That went out the window days ago!  I am still committed to finding time for my devotions and quiet time but am going to need to be flexible.  It seems every day brings a change in the daily schedule.  The weather plays a big part too.  If it is raining I have more indoor time and don’t need to water, which frees up some time.  I just finished 2 medium sized painting projects.  I have a long to do list of items that I would like to get done this summer.  I have realized that I have to have more than one project going at a time.  That way I can switch gears depending on weather and kids’ schedules.

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She has been bugging me for a pet bunny.  We have wild rabbits all over the yard.  I told her if she could catch one she could have one.  Cause who can catch a wild bunny?!?!?  Joke was on me – cause yep, she can!  Despite my promise we decided it was best to let it go and live free.

Through the hustle and bustle of it all we manage to have oodles of fun.  I am almost pushed to the brink and sent to the funny farm some days.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

God Bless our Fun(ee) Farm!

 

Afraid to Blog?

Why blog?  I don’t even know why I decided to give blogging a try.  I certainly don’t need another thing to do.  I think the allure was a “give back” mindset.  I enjoy and appreciate so many blogs.  I guess it’s my way of possibly being helpful to someone else ~ way out yonder in our big world.  A way to connect with others and share common interests.

When I first started to ponder the idea of starting a blog, my first reaction was excitement.  The next was FEAR.  My mind swirled and my emotions flip flopped.  I finally took the plunge and decided to give it a try.  I didn’t want to invest anything more than my time and thoughts.  I was not looking for a post to go viral or to make money.  I just wanted to share.  I love that others share as well.

Confession ~ it is easier to blog while being pretty much unknown in the blogging world.

My secret is ~

Nobody knows that I am blogging

Not a family member, friend, co-worker, or community member.  I could use social media to alert family & friends when I have written a new post.  I could tell someone in casual conversation.  But fear holds me back.  The possibility of judgment, ridicule, or any sort of negativity keeps me from sharing with those closest to me.  I know this is completely silly.  They will read and follow my blog or they won’t.  Either won’t change my life.  But for right now, having people not know makes my blogging feels safe and comfortable.

As a teacher I have pondered encouraging students to blog.   So I wanted to have some life experience in the blogging world before school starts. Another big reason I started.  Sort of a “putting my money where my mouth is” thing.  I plan to continue through the summer and then re-evaluate.  I am hopeful that some amazing lessons will develop as I continue.

 

My first important lesson has been to take a risk and try something new.  Next should probably be throwing caution to the wind by inviting family members  and friends to follow my blog.  I will let you know when I have decided to rise!

 

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Sticky Note Chore Hack

I implemented chores with my daughters years ago.  It would take me ALL day to clean our house top to bottom and get the laundry caught up.  We have purposely worked very hard to avoid raising “entitled” kids.  Chores build character.  We wanted the girls to learn responsibility, take ownership over their messes and our household.  Cleaning and laundry are a cyclic phenomenon so we never run out of work that needs to be done.

With 4 kids ~ cleaning sort of feels like shoveling when it is snowing.

All of our girls have had chores in some form.  We have organized them every which way possible.  Allowance or no allowance.  Assigned or choose what you prefer.  The public debate will continue about kids and chores.  But….

In our house ~ we do chores.

Summer brings a new set of variables.  As does their age.  Two of our daughters are old enough to drive and work.  Therefore their workload around the house is a little less.  The younger two are having to take over some of their chores.  “That’s not fair” may have been muttered a few times.  Unfortunately, fair is not equal is one of my favorite phrases!  I will be honest.  The first few days of summer break were rough. I spent most of the days outside working in the yard.  Every time I came inside the house was upside down and Netflix seemed to be their only priority.  I may have blown up a few times. I tried lectures, pleading, guilting, but nothing changed.  I honestly think they are oblivious to the obvious.  Something had to change or summer was going to be a long one.  And then I stumbled upon one of the greatest mum hacks of my parenting career…..

STICKY NOTE CHORES

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Every morning I leave a note for the girls who are home.  If they aren’t working or at practice they get a note.  They can choose when they want to do the chores.  I have noticed they usually get them done right away which is fine with me.  It has been glorious.  No arguing with me.  I don’t even have to watch them roll their eyes.  The junk drawer has been cleaned out, the plastic container drawer organized, laundry is kept up, kitchen cleaned up, etc.  Anything can go on this list – I mostly choose items that I just can’t get to but need to get done.  These items are also above and beyond our regular cleaning.  They still have their normal chore assignments on cleaning day.  I am hoping that they will start to see and learn what I usually do in a day.  What it takes for our home to hum along day to day.  It’s early in the summer but I am hopeful that this new plan will be a summer sanity saver!

 

I also found this little gem that I plan to tweak and then hang on the fridge.  It is a good little reminder that their is life outside of Netflix!

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Devotions & Discipline

I thrive in a routine.  I guess I am what most would consider a type A personality.  As a teacher who is off in the summer I relish the freedom.  I also LOVE lists!  Nothing makes me feel more accomplished than checking items off a to do list!  Without a routine I feel frazzled and discombobulated.  Don’t misunderstand me ~ I love a good veg out day once in a while.  It just needs to be planned!  I have learned that I feel more calm, grounded and satisfied when I have a “productive” day.  This summer I am getting the chores out of the way ~ immediately.  Which means a chickens chores, morning run and watering the gardens (since I am already sweaty it’s the perfect time).  BEFORE anything else happens my plan is this:  To get back to daily devotionals & quiet time.  I grabbed a book I bought a while ago and the day 1 started off with this:

“Be still and Learn”

“Quiet time to learn of God’s ways requires discipline.  Yet our daily routines cries for our attention.  We find ourselves with too much to do – and the ticking of the clock constantly in our ear.  Our loved ones cannot be ignored.  Duty calls.  There are meals to prepare, medicine to dispense, clothes to arrange.  When is there time for God? ….Don’t let the call of your duties down out the need for quiet time.  Discipline yourself to set aside a few minutes for the Lord.”

This descIMG_1626ribes me to a tee ~ I think about it.  I want to do it.  But something always pulls me away in another direction.  And before I know it the day is over.  I am exhausted and just want to go to bed.  Today I carved out some me time.  About a half hour.  What amazed me was the kids saw what I was doing and grabbed their books and did the same thing.  I know this time will require sacrifices.  Getting up earlier to make sure I have time.  Telling family that they will have to wait.  But I think it will be worth it.  Summer goes by fast.  Life goes by faster.  Make the time.

Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.

 

Freedom~Family~Farm Life

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Memorial Weekend is always a bustling time for our family.  As I worked in the garden this morning I took some time to remember and appreciate those soldiers who have sacrificed for our country and freedoms.

We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.  

 In between graduation parties and garden/yard work I managed to make some yummy treats using the rest of the rhubarb.  I found a rhubarb slush recipe that called for 8 CUPS of Rhubarb.  I made one batch for me and one for the kids.  Mine will have vodka.  Must remember to label the ice cream tubs correctly!

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16 glorious CUPS of Rhubarb used.  WHOO!HOO!

I used another 4C to make a pie.  This also turned out better than I anticipated.  I have rhubarb pulp left over from making the slush mixture.  I was suppose to just discard it.  Instead I kept it and will experiment with it.  I am thinking Rhubarb Milkshakes or Sorbet.  If either turns out to be delicious, I will add the recipe(s).

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We also tried a few variations of lemon water using the Lemon Balm that so kindly re-grew this year.  My daughter was excited to learn all the different ways you can use this little gem.  She planted it last year so she feels like it is hers to share with the family.  We made lemon water and lemon tea.  Since the water was such a big hit, we plan to make it in bigger containers to it lasts longer.

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She also can’t wait for her first mosquito bite.  She read that you can use a leaf to make it not itch.  She won’t be waiting long for that bite.  We live in MN!  They are already out and hungry.  The last tidbit she shared with me is that you can chew it to freshen your breath.  Now I will need to make sure she keeps brushing her teeth and doesn’t think the lemon will do it!  Makes my heart happy when she is eager to learn and help with recipes using food we grew ourselves.

I will share the recipes and personal notes soon.

 

Freezer Fun!

There are only a few phrases that can elicit a united groan from my family.  One is “time to clean out the chicken coop!”  If you have ever done this you know the smell. That stench can send them all running for the hills.  It’s been raining for a week so I think I will let dry out a bit before we tackle that spring project.  Instead we will start what I like to call “freezer fun.”  It is that time of year where I dig deep deep deep into the chest freezers and pull out lost meals, unidentified sauces, lost veggies and attempt to concoct some sort of meal out of this mismatched group of foods.  Hence the name “freezer fun.”  Nobody enjoys it but it must be done.  Some food too freezer burnt to consume gets thrown to the chickens.  They LOVE freezer fun! So do the cats and dogs; they get a few treats too.  By the end of the summer I will have a fresh batch of veggies and fruits from the garden to be frozen.  Also some make ahead meals for those busy school/work nights when you need a go to meal that is quick and healthy.  While I am cleaning out the freezers, the pantry gets a once over.  Out with the old to make room for the new.  How many ways can I use canned peaches??  

While I am in the mood the garage needs to be cleaned out as does our house.  How did we acquire SO much stuff??  Being bogged down with so much stuff has made me research minimalist living.  Sounds delightful.  Except that every time I sell, donate, or give something away, I need it the very next week.  Why is that?  Haven’t touched an item for 10 years and then the very next week ~ bam ~ need it!  But I am downsizing.  My goal is to do something everyday.  No matter how small – one closet, one drawer, one trip to donate.  Something.  Hopefully by the end of the summer we will have downsized a bit.  My husband had a great suggestion; quit buying stuff.  🙂  Stay tuned.  I will keep you posted on how much progress I make.

Rhubarb

 

IMG_1391I remember sneaking into a neighborhood garden and picking rhubarb.  Dipping the stalks into a bowl of sugar and enjoying every sweet/tart bite!  I should share this little throwback with my kids on Thursday!  They don’t think I am very hip.

I am not really sure what to think or do about my rhubarb.  I got some from a friend a few years ago and stuck in my garden.  I love that it grows SO easily and needs very little care.  Even with all the neglect so far I haven’t killed it. Every year we eat a bit, and use it to bake a few deserts.  A few times a summer I have to cut it back and it just continues to grow.

All.  Summer.  Long.

It seems so wasteful to not use more of it, so this year I am determined to not be so wasteful.  So far I have made 2 kinds of jam and muffins.

But I need more ideas!

Please comment to share your treasured rhubarb recipes.  I am eager to consume more rhubarb since it is a natural resource right my backyard.

Bottom line: I need to find a healthy and purposeful way to use it.  Currently, I feel like it falls into the same group as zucchini – used in a lot of recipes but doesn’t add a lot of taste.  Maybe it adds moisture and hidden nutrition value and I should just be happy.

My biggest issue with most recipes is TOO much sugar.  Most are calling for so much sugar that you don’t even taste the rhubarb.  Which is just how my kids like it!  I just tried a healthy” banana-rhubarb muffin recipe that used honey instead of sugar.  It’s moist and you certainly taste the rhubarb!  I fed them to my kids when they were the most vulnerable.  “After school starving.”  They snarfed them down and said they were good.  Maybe a little tart.  They aren’t cupcakes kiddos!  This recipe is being added to the family favorites list.

Nutritional Value:   Rhubarb is packed with minerals, vitamins, organic compounds, and other nutrients that make it ideal for keeping our bodies healthy. Some of these precious components are dietary fiber, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, B complex vitamins, calcium, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.  Experts say it’s good for your bones, teeth, heart, and eyes.  Also your immune system.  It helps lower blood pressure and prevents constipation.  That’s a win-win!

Caution:  Fake rhubarb (spreads just like fake news!) Burdock grows all over our area.  I accidentally mistook it for wild rhubarb and let my kids try it.  It had a more woodsy, earthy taste that none of us enjoyed!  It is not toxic but I am sticking to the rhubarb plants in my garden!  Don’t eat the greens!  They can be toxic.  Greens will give you a tummy ache which is probably why chickens don’t like them.

Spring in Minnesota

Spring in Northern Minnesota is an exciting time of year.  The days are getting longer and temps are finally starting to warm up.  I welcome back birds, leaves, perennials, and green grass!  I love to crack open the window and fall asleep to the frogs chirping at night.  I make spring sound so calm and serene.  My reality is a frenzied rush to tackle the garden and yard beautification projects.  Have you ever watched barn swallows?  

img_1389.jpgEach year they return to our birdhouses and I am slightly annoyed by their activity.  They flit, flutter, chirp, fight, swoop, build, and repeat.  I am certain my family would say I act just like them in the spring.  There is just SO much to get done!  The massive yard cleanup and preparations for our short summer growing season begins.  I weed, rake, weed, till, and generally curse my lack of effort from the fall.  My internal thoughts while working range from “Why didn’t I spend more time preparing the gardens for winter.  The birds chirping sound so pretty.  Why do I have so many freaking gardens?  I think another flower pot would look nice right here.  Maybe I won’t even plant a vegetable garden this year?”  Despite my grumblings, gardening and yard work gives me such satisfaction.  

A mild spring blessed my area so I got an early start on the cleanup projects.  I typically wait to plant the vegetables and annuals until closer to the end of May.  (It isn’t unusual to have frost or snow in May.)   I tried to resist the urge to plant early but the temptation was too great! I blame the lettuce and potatoes.  A friend told me she sows lettuce seeds in the fall for an early spring crop.  Since I learned of this in March, I decided to plant in April and see what would happen.  I also threw in the taters since they were sprouting like crazy in the basement.  So far so good!  Both are growing well.  The rest just sort of happened by accident.  I ended up weeding and tilling a few more sections while planning where I would plant the other veggies.  I puttered, planned, and enjoyed the sunshine.  The weather was just too nice to resist and the forecast looked promising.  In went the corn, peppers, cukes, peas, and finally the tomatoes. (I’ve got old bed sheets if we get some frosty nights.)  Sometimes the planting timeframe just has to be earlier, otherwise it would be June and the seeds would still be in their packets!

I did a quick google search about over-wintering seeds for a spring crop and came up with very little for my area.  I would be interested to hear if anyone has had success growing lettuce this way.  Fresh salads in May/June would be delightful!