And now for something a little different….the story of the Buddy Poppies

Berry Flags

Blueberry and I saw our first Ladies Aux. member of the VFW this Friday of Memorial Day weekend selling Buddy Poppies.  Our little darling was born with a heart for service, so of course the second she found out they were accepting donations, she was laser focused on making a donation.  We don’t often see people collecting for charity in our little piece of the world, but I was happy to see them as I think this charity is so worth supporting.  A couple of things about Buddy Poppies that you may not know….

Did you know that Buddy Poppies are assembled by disabled Vets, typically in VA hospitals?

Did you know that often times, these Vets are compensated for their work helping them earn at least a little cash?

Did you know that these programs also support widow and orphan programs across the US?

While some VFW units also sell these for Veterans Day, the inspiration to wear and sell Poppies for Memorial Day is often credited to Moina Michael in the early 1900’s who was inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Field”:

In Flander’s Field

by John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky,

The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago,

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved and now we lie,

In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe

To you, from failing hands, we throw,

The torch, be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us, who die,

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,

In Flanders Fields.

So, if you see the men and women in vests selling Poppies, please take a moment to at least stop and thank them for their service.  Most of these folks are Veterans or the families of Veterans, but if you have an extra couple of dollars, please consider sharing it with them.  Regardless of your view on war, I think it’s our duty to show respect and kindness to those who are willing to die to protect our right to be free, because for these folks…Freedom is never free.  And if you have a Veteran in your life (and you probably do, even if you don’t know it), please give that person a handshake, a hug or a kiss.  Sheldon is our resident veteran and while he is the last person to want anything for what he just considered his duty, we are still very proud of his service as a family.  Thank you again to all of our Veterans and their families.  We owe you everything!

Choosing a heritage breed cow for your homestead

It’s been a few days of having our beginning herd home here on Blueberry Acres and we’re learning that much like every other animal, cows have their own unique identity and personality.  Maureen (the little one) is highly curious about our barn cats.  She is quite nosey and it’s obvious that she wants to explore the cats with smell and probably taste since she licked the wooden fence post that one of our barn cats, Peter had sat on just seconds prior.  Pia (the pregnant one) is a little more cautious.  Apparently we are her third farm and she is a little more apprehensive about us and the situation in general.  She doesn’t seem to display the same amount of “ooooh a cat!” as Maureen, and I suppose that is ok.

 

But, beyond these specific personality traits, our decision to build a herd of Belted Galloways was a strategic one.  We knew we wanted to concentrate on a heritage or less common breed.  Here are some of the things that we discovered specific to this particular heritage breed:

Temperment:   Generally speaking, these cattle are more docile.  They are not overly aggressive and as a result, we believe that they will be very well suited to our small hobby farm.

Size:  Galloways are typically smaller than your average Angus cow.  Maureen was born in 2011 and the top of her head doesn’t even come to my shoulder (and let’s not lie-my shoulder isn’t that far off the ground) which makes her a little easier to handle.  In addition to just having less body mass, this also makes them easier and cheaper to transport.

Feed:  Galloways are excellent at processing food/grass where some breeds will desire more specific grasslands, Galloways are genetically predisposed to make the most of the grassland that they have due to their heritage.  In addition, Galloways have been known to consume about 75% of what a typical Angus would take in but still produce the same amount of meat.  However, that is not to mean that they produce lower quality beef.  Quite the opposite, as Galloways are known for…

Beef:  High quality, lower fat meat is the by-product of both their genetic makeup as much as the fact that most Galloway producers (like us) are either grass-fed and/or grass-fed AND finished.  We’ll be in that later category-grass all the way.

Adaptable to varied conditions:  Given that this breed started in Scotland, I don’t think I would recommend them for a farm in Hawaii, but in the diverse Missouri climate, they are well-suited as they will produce a double coat in the winter to protect them from harsh winds and weather.

So, for us, this breed just became the best of the best in terms of value, disposition, and meat quality.  As our herd grows, we will eventually begin breeding ourselves as well as selling meat products.  As our herd grows, we may add an Angus or two just to see what a Beltie/Angus cross is like, but we will also make sure that we do our part to preserve the lineage of this amazing breed.  The breeder that we purchased our girls from also sold us some ground beef and it was FANTASTIC!  We know that building a herd is going to be slow going for this uncommon breed, but we think the investment will be well worth it.  After all, isn’t homesteading all about the journey and not the destination?  Happy Homesteading!

This post also appeared on Modern Homesteaders.  We love the info there-go check them out!

Voodoo Doughnuts

This is normally off our normal topics, but Voodoo doughnuts is my favorite doughnut joint ever. I was introduced to it years and years ago on a late night when I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a shiv or a donut…but ever since, I have waxed poetic for that voodoo loveliness. Thanks for sharing Carhartt!

Crafted in Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

Voodoo Doughnuts and Carhartt

The magic is in the hole! That’s what they say at Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland. Located right across from the “keep Portland weird” sign, Voodoo has been serving up crazy and delicious doughnuts for years. This is Holly. Dream up the wildest breakfast treat in your mind, and she can make it for you. You want bacon on your doughnut? Done! How about m&ms or Cocoa Puffs? Got that too. When you step into the shop, you feel like Alice in Wonderland with the crooked chandeliers and giant doughnuts hanging on the walls. And get this, they’re open 24 hours a day, so stop by anytime.

shop Holly’s look: Cheyenne Shirt, El Paso Pant, High Vis Suspenders, and Carhartt Hat

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Ugh, snakes.

I’m not going to give these little cretins any more time on my blog than necessary, but within the last 2 days, we have had 2 snake visitors.  One confirmed poisonous and one we think was, but weren’t sure.  Before you give me the blah blah blah about how beneficial snakes can be to help cut down on the rodent population, remember that I have a 4-year-old.  WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE WE HAVE SNAKES.  I don’t get it..the kid is smart and has fairly strong logic skills, but I guess because we haven’t ever had a back yard quite like this, she just can’t seem to get it in her head that the dead snakes mommy and daddy keep showing her were live bites waiting to happen.  Sigh.  So, we’re launching the snake offensive to reduce the amount of bites waiting to happen for this hard-headed kid.  Some of it we already know, but some ideas we’ve seen online and we’re going to give them a try:

1) Remove the homes.  This has been a bit of a bone of contention between Sheldon and me.  We have leaves that have accumulated in the flower beds near the house.  Sheldon being the super tree hugger that he is wanted to leave them as is so they could provide nutrients.  I wanted to purchase a leaf blower (because frankly, I have done all of the raking that I think I safely can without being knee-deep in leaves) and blow those suckers to kingdom come.  We had settled on the Sheldon method of leaving sleeping leaves lie until he saw yesterday’s snake on the front porch.  I think Sheldon will be swinging by the store tonight after work to get the leaf blower in operation huff and I’ll puff and blow your house down.

2) Something stinks.  Many of us have heard that mothballs are a great deterrent to snakes because of the smell.  However, they can also be toxic to pets and kids who pop those little white balls in their mouths.  However, I am going to try to embrace the smell without the risk.  I heard about putting moth balls into a sealed container (like an empty milk jug) with small holes so that the smell can escape, but little paws/fingers can’t get the balls.  Plus, this protects them in the rain so they don’t disintegrate.  I hate the smell of moth balls, but I’m counting on snakes hating it more.

3) Let nature help.  Of course there are tons of ways to help naturally dissuade snakes from camping out on your lawn furniture.  For us, we’re going to do a multi-prong approach.  We’ll be getting our guineas soon, and from what I understand, those pea brained little critters are great for controlling ticks and snakes.  Something that we have had plenty of already.  We also have barn cats who don’t seem to be into the snakes, but they are good for controlling the rodent population.  Remove the food and snakes will go elsewhere, right?  We’re also planting beds and planters filled with a mixture of lemongrass, rosemary and marigolds.  It may not be the most gorgeous collection of plants, but who cares.  At least I won’t keep having nightmares about snakes under foot ON MY FRONT PORCH!  Sigh.

4) Let commercial products work.  We’re not crazy about this, but see earlier comment about 4-year-old with stubborn streak.  We’re also laying down some of the commercially available snake away granulated product.  We’re not happy about this at all, but as parents, this is something we just need to do.  We’re also going to lay down more DE to help reduce more of the food supply.

Bottom line is that we want to be as inhospitable as possible for these little slithery boogers.  Would welcome any feedback on what you have done to reduce snakes near your home!

Happy de-snaking.

Chicken coffee klatsch

Not much to say about this other than chickens….

WP_000022

Chickens running from me as I employ Blueberry’s method of herding them. That is to yell CHICKENS! while coming at them. It’s not a method I recommend.

 

Blueberry has named this guy (gal?) Peepers.  We aren't sure what kind of chicken he is as he was the "free exotic" that we got with our other chickens from Murray McMurray.  Frankly, the way he looks and moves, I think a Roadrunner snuck into the mix.

Blueberry has named this guy (gal?) Peepers. We aren’t sure what kind of chicken he is as he was the “free exotic” that we got with our other chickens from Murray McMurray. Frankly, the way he looks and moves, I think a Roadrunner snuck into the mix.

 

This is Bob.  Obviously he is not a chicken.  He is my 15 year old cat who often lays across my laptop when I'm trying to work, blog, surf, whatever.  He contributed to this post by getting off the keys.

This is Bob. Obviously he is not a chicken. He is my 15 year old cat who often lays across my laptop when I’m trying to work, blog, surf, whatever. He contributed to this post by getting off the keys.

 

I think this is my favorite picture with the black and white Jersey Giants and the White Rocks.  I like to imagine them around the water tub giggling and telling stories.  Probably about the dorky chicken who just stepped into the middle of the clean tub depositing dirt.  Thanks for nothin dude.

I think this is my favorite picture with the black and white Jersey Giants and the White Rocks. I like to imagine them around the water tub giggling and telling stories. Probably about the dorky chicken who just stepped into the middle of the clean tub depositing dirt. Thanks for nothin dude.

 

 

 

All Women are prissy, backstabbing cows: A rant on farmgirl tough

Ha!  Made you look.  Don’t you hate those types of statements that make it seem as if we can all be shoved into one specific box?  Some of my very favorite stereotypes and flawed logic statements (courtesy of Buzzle) are:

I’m Christian, so I must hate homosexuals.
I’m German, so I must be a Nazi.
I’m an atheist, so I must hate the world.
I’m Mexican, so I must have hopped the border.
I’m rich, so I must be a conceited snob.
I’m a guy, so I must only want to get into your pants.
I’m young, so I must be naive.
I’m from the Middle East, so I must be a terrorist.
All Italians are in the mob.
All Irishmen do is drink and beat their wives.
All Farmgirls are tough.
Whoa…wait a minute.  What about that last one?  All Farmgirls are tough.  Why is that on the list?  Well, let’s talk about it and my difficulty with the word tough.
courtesy of wikipantings.org

Rosie-totally farmgirl tough
courtesy of wikipantings.org

A few weeks ago, our houseguest Mr. C., Sheldon and I were all sitting around the kitchen table playing cards.  Suddenly out of the blue, Mr. C. asks me if I have a tattoo.  I reply that I don’t (I’m sure with a whatyoutalkinboutWillis kind of face) and go on with the conversation.  But, something about that exchange sticks with me.  Finally, a few days later, this was the convo between Sheldon and me in bed (hot steamy scene NOT about to ensue):

 

Me: Hey-why did Mr. C. ask me about a tattoo?  That seemed really out of the blue.  Where did that come from?
Sheldon: Well, sometimes you come across as tough.
Me: Tough?  What the FDashDashDash does that mean?
Sheldon:  You know.  Tough.  I don’t know.  Tough.
Me: You say that like it’s an insult.  Like I must have a tattoo because I’m rough, tough and barely a woman.  Where is this logic going anyway?
To which I think Sheldon responded by snoring.  End of convo.  To be fair, it wasn’t his argument.
But, I cannot tell a lie.  This whole interaction first with Mr. C. and then with Sheldon just grated on me.  I’m not a dip swillin, curse word flinging (well not every day), hard chargin broad.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with tattoos but I have no interest in them.  I have a handbag collection that I refer to as “my precious babies.”  I can’t stand it when my eyebrows are ungroomed.  I love pink and would wear it daily if I didn’t look like an idiot trying to cram into my 4 year old’s clothes.  I love manis, pedis and kleenex commercials.  I often drive the tractor singing the theme from Green Acres in my head all the while imagining myself as Eva’s character.  Why the flock is someone calling me tough????!!!!
courtesy imdb

courtesy imdb

Fast forward many weeks and I’m still masticating on this idea.  Let’s face it-if you want to homestead on a quarter acres or a thousand acres, you must have a degree of mental and physical fortitude.  Why just this morning I killed a spider in my kitchen without even squealing.  If that doesn’t show development along those lines, I don’t know what does.  However, the word tough seems to have a connotation in this exchange that I simply cannot wrap my mind around-like it’s an insult.  And to be fair-it’s not just this exchange.  Go Bing the words tough farm girl and click on images.  The amount of weirdness that comes up from the web is a bit off-putting, to say the least.  Which to be fair to Mr. C. tells me that lots of folks hold a similar viewpoint when faced with someone who doesn’t exude softness on a daily (sigh, sometimes not even weekly) basis.
So, what’s a homesteading girl to do?   I cannot imagine how anyone-male or female could live this life and still maintain that 24/7 stereotypical idea of feminine beauty.  Much like baseball, there’s no crying in homesteading.  But for women, I think the standards can be incredibly unfair.  Yes, I haul 40 lb bags of dirt along side my husband.  Yes, I spend hours cleaning the chicken coops.  Yes, I drive the tractor, move the rocks and Lord help me, have participated in the demise of farm animals.  I suppose that makes me tough, but why does being tough carry the implication that I am not soft, lovely and womanly?  I do not know.  Sigh.  Why do I keep writing these blog posts that have no real solution?
For me, it all goes back to why we do this…The Blueberry.  A lovely little girl who loves tutus but has no compunction about picking up a worm and shoving it in my face.  Hopefully she will be better equipped to face a world where dichotomy in women is more embraced and we don’t all have to fit into a specific box to be pretty, womanly, smart or capable.  My hope is that one day someone will refer to her as tough and she will smile and say thank you while changing the oil in her tractor in her couture gown.  Seems totally realistic, right?  Let’s hear it for #farmgirltough!

Earth Day 2013 Activities & Thoughts

As I thought about writing this post, I chuckled a little bit.  I had to actually Bing for confirmation of today being Earth Day because let’s face it..as homesteaders, EVERY day is Earth Day!

image courtesy of earthday.org

image courtesy of earthday.org

However, if people want to use Earth Day to give away free stuff, then I’m more than happy to take advantage of that!

Free Stuff:  Many thanks to MissiontoSave.com for pulling together a pretty cool list of free stuff available today.

Free Entrance:   It’s National Park Week!  National Parks across the US are offering free entrance this week.  Not sure where the closest Nat’l Park is to you?  Use the handy locator to find one.  Sure, many of us feel like our homes are already filled with wildlife-why would we want to go to a park to see more?  Well, because it’s free!  And it’s a great way for our kids to understand the importance of not just their parents, but us as a nation preserving large sections of land for all to learn, enjoy and appreciate.

Free Lesson Plans:  Speaking of our kids, The Educators’ Network has made available free lesson plans/ideas for teaching our kids about Earth Day, climate change and beyond.  the Green Living Section of About.com also had some good general info from the history of Earth Day to more activities for kids.

On a more serious note, here’s my Earth Day disclaimer: I really do find the idea of a single day (or even week) celebrating the Earth as laughable.  I decided to just delete my rant here about how every day should be Earth Day.  Instead, let me just say that I am honored and blessed to be among the growing network of people, families and farmers who are trying to get back to a life that is more respectful of the Earth God has created for us.  Thank you for all you have taught me and all you will teach me.

Talking to our kids about tragedy: One homesteader’s take

Well, my goodness.  It’s been a helluva week.  First the tragedy in Boston and now when I turn on the news, I hear about the fertilizer plant in West, Tx that killed multiple people, injured countless others and leveled many many homes and businesses.  It is enough to make a parent want to put their kids back to bed and shut all the curtains until ..oh, forever?

While being a hermit may sound appealing, the hard truth is that this is the world we live in now.  Horrible people do horrible things on a massive scale.  Dangerous facilities that aren’t supposed to be dangerous can erupt in a mountain of fire when conditions are right.  As I thought about this, I have to draw upon my own professional experience.  I’ve counseled hundreds of people through loss, grief, sadness and change.  However, I’m not a counselor by education or trade…it’s merely part of my “day job”, so instead, I want to share with you decisions as parents we made in our home.  Regardless of terror, nature or accident, the bottom line is that innocent lives are lost every day for various reasons….and we need to be prepared for how to talk to our children about that.

Earlier this week as the news of the Boston Marathon broke, my first thought was to a couple of my oldest friends whose son runs the marathon every year.  Typically they go to Boston to cheer him on and my gut reaction was for their safety.  As Blueberry attempted to look over my shoulder as I looked up race checkpoints and tried to figure out when their son might have crossed the finish line (he’s just fine btw), I realized that she was picking up on my worry even if she didn’t see any of the video or pictures of what was happening.  And then this morning, she was sitting with Sheldon and I as we watched the morning news when they broke in with an update on West.  As much as we want to shield and inoculate our children against the horrors of a modern world, we simply cannot.  It’s everywhere…and even if we go on a no TV/Internet diet, let’s face it-our kids all know how to read worry on our faces.

So, as I think about how to address these horrors with our little Blueberry, I try to think about a homesteaders spin.  I cannot speak for all homesteaders, but generally speaking, those I have talked to seem to be straight shooters who are interested in educating and communicating with their children in a direct way.  Most of the homesteading parent blogs/articles that I have read lead me to believe that many are like us-we want to protect our kids but still understand that they need to grow up informed, educated and prepared to face a world without mommy and daddy constantly hovering like a helicopter.  That kind of parenting outlook needs to bleed into how we address tragedy.  If you’re struggling with this concept, I can’t give you the perfect answer.  Only a parent knows what their child can/cannot take.  But I can tell you how we handled some events over the last two years or so.

In some cases, we opted to not mention it at all.  For example, the case of Sandy Hook.  That was a tragedy that as a Mom, I simply could not bring myself to talk about without a high degree of emotion.  Both Sheldon and I agreed that we would not expose Blueberry to any of that coverage, nor would we discuss it as a family.  Articles like this one from PBS agree that you have to make a determination by age if it’s even appropriate to address.

In some cases, we talked in generalities.  For example, the Boston Marathon bombing.  I discussed that something had exploded in Boston and some people were hurt.  I also took that as an opportunity to talk about police officers, fire fighters and countless others who were doing whatever they could to help make people safe.  Boston’s Children’s Hospital has some excellent yet simple advice for walking through this process with your kids from talking about tragedy to helping them cope with frightening events.

In other cases, we talked openly.  As the story of West broke this morning, we didn’t restrict it at all.  At the time I’m writing this post, it sounds like it was an accident caused by just some really unusual circumstances coming together.  It’s a huge tragedy, but one that needs to be understood so that conditions aren’t repeated.   I think it’s important that if our kids can handle it, then they hear about things like this.   Modern, industrialized commerce comes at a cost and this one was a terrible, terrible cost.  The thing that I don’t want to do is get up on my homesteading bandwagon and talk about “we shouldn’t be producing this kind of crap!  It’s too dangerous!  Curses to chemicals!”  Sigh.  It’s too easy to do that when you hear about terrible stories like this caused by chemicals that I wish we weren’t using, but I truly believe that it disrespects the humans who were just trying to make a living and lost their lives for it.

In addition, we’ve had a number of family losses over the last 18 months through the death of a parent to the loss of multiple grandparents.  This has caused us to expose our little Blueberry to death much sooner than we would have anticipated or liked.  With each event, we were able to talk about what happened typically without too much detail, how we hoped that person was at peace and headed to Heaven-that’s our own belief system.  It’s led to a ton of questions, which we have welcomed.  These are often out of the blue and typically are related to death as a process.  The Child Development Institute suggests that parents encourage questions and reassure kids that it’s ok to feel however they feel.  In our case, we have done this, but an unexpected joy that has been born about these questions has been that she has wanted to understand more about Heaven, Hell, The Holy Trinity, birth, love and more.   She’s rarely sad when she asks these questions-it’s more of a desire to understand than a desire to be morose.  As a result, I’m not sorry we approached it the way we have.  At almost 5, our kiddo has a sensitivity that is appropriate for her age, but also understands a little more that life is precious and death is inevitable.  And let’s face it-a handle on death is a necessary attribute for even the littlest of homesteaders.

So, that’s how we have handled both the distant and local tragedies.  Basically the same way we work to approach homesteading.  Directly, honestly, with respect for the beings involved and with the understanding that we don’t know it all.  Would love to hear from some other homesteading parents about how you handle this “messy” part of parenting.   And our prayers continue to go out to everyone who was impacted by the tragic events this week.  Take care y’all!

 

An open letter from Oklahoma regarding the Boston Marathon

I love his line: “…good guys will show up….And they’ll keep showing up.”

proactiveoutside

Dear Boston,

It’s hard to find the right words. But we feel your pain, shock and sadness. Deep within us.

In a little less than two weeks, people from all over Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma are going to gather to run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. It’s a great race, the state’s biggest. And while competition and achievement are high on the list for those of us going, there is a higher purpose for the event: To highlight the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

In a matter of a few days, we here in Oklahoma are going to reflect on the event that gave rise to the Memorial, and later the marathon that bears its name. It was on April 19, 1995, that Timothy McVeigh exploded a huge truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people — including 19 children…

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Keeping our kids (and us) safe out in the sun: Natural/Organic sunscreens

Original post appeared on Modern Homesteaders-go check them out!

Ah, the sun.  It feels so good against the skin of my bare arms.  Until I remember that I haven’t applied sunblock in 6 hours and every little scratch from that chicken wire that I’m working feels like a million bee stings.  Enter in that essential summer tool: sunblock.

infographic_sunscreen_web_small

Sounds easy enough, right?  But, it’s really not.  Many consumers are simply unaware of the toxic soup that they are applying on their skin every single time they open a bottle.   We’re not just talking kinda bad stuff…we’re talking chemicals that have the potential to increase skin tumor risk, disrupt hormone balance, sprays/powders that coat little lungs, and products that don’t work well enough to provide any actual protection from the sun.  If you are interested in reading about some of the products that failed to past muster with the Environmental Working Group, you can see their hall of shame here.

Homesteaders generally seem to be a more informed bunch of folks, but even we struggle to make the right choice in balancing good for us and good for our pocketbook.    In our research, we have found that both the EWG’s recommended list and this resource on The Daily Green offered some alternative options to the super pricey bottles.  You are still going to pay more than you would for the cheapo drug store kind, but the benefits absolutely outweigh the risks in this case.

I’ve also seen some recipes for homemade sunblock, but I will be honest-I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ingredients to give it a try.  Would love to hear from our readers if you have cracked the sunblock code!  Happy spring!