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!

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!

 

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!

Desperately seeking oreos….

Oreo cows that is!  We are ready to add cows to the pasture here at Blueberry Acres and I’m wondering if any of you out there in the blogosphere have suggestions for finding Belted Galloways, aka oreo cows.  We have contacted breeders but are finding that so many of them are more interested in show cows vs. hamburger cows that I’m not confident that we are contacting the right people!  So, other farmer/homesteaders…have you had experience in researching and buying the “alternative” breeds?  We would love to hear from you!

pic courtesy of wikipedia

pic courtesy of wikipedia

 

 

 

Barn-Hop

A common fig tree…MY heritage breed

I’m a second generation American.  My Dad’s family hails from miscellaneous parts of Italy from the north to the south and while we grew up a very very proud fairly typical American family, there are still times where I find myself thinking and referring to my slightly more homogenized friends as “you white people.”  For those of you who grew up in any kind of culture that wasn’t all wonderbread (black, white, brown, red, polka dots-whatever), I bet you know what I mean.

 

As I have gotten older and the less desirable aspects of this sometimes old fashioned culture have fallen away, I find myself left with the warm and fuzzy memories of a family who still maintained some identity of their roots.  These identities are often tied up with individuals, as with my Great Grandfather.  I was lucky to know him as a teenager although to be fair, our language barrier was a pretty big one.  But to hear stories of him through my Dad now that my Great Grandfather has been gone for a couple of decades, well it’s something special.  I have learned that he was a mason and gardener at Kykuit (the Rockefeller Estate in NY) for pretty much his adult life.  I have learned that the shovel that my Dad now uses was one that my G-Grandfather “liberated” from that same estate when he retired (sorry Rockefellers!) with an explanation to my Dad “Bucky-he got lotsa money.  He no miss this“.  But, I also know that his own garden was important to him.  Enough so that when he came to America almost 100 years ago, he brought with him a fig tree.

 

Now, I don’t think we know how long he (or his family) had it in Italy, but I do know that my Dad has maintained his own cutting from it for at least 20-30 years.  And this spring, we get our cutting of it for Blueberry Acres!  Something that I look forward to planting in our ground with my little Blueberry beside me. A fig tree that has been in my family for at least 90+ years and 2 countries.  I’m having a hard time putting into words how cool I think this is, but with all of this talk of native seeds, heritage breeds and heirloom produce…to be able to grow and enjoy delicious figs from a tree that was hand carried by my Great Grandfather on a ship across the ocean all those years ago.  Well, I think it’s pretty cool that I will be able to pass that kind of heritage breed down to Blueberry one day.  I wonder what heritage our grandchildren will talk about when we are long gone….it’s something to think about on those frustrating homestead days.  We are creating a new heritage for our kids!  Happy Homesteading!

You know you are excited to homestead when….

You awake with glee at 3:00 am because you got a response offering you 13 free pallets for your gardening project.

You are excited to find food grade rain barrels 2 hours away and plan a family adventure day around that.

You find a big bunch of worms in your compost pile.

You stop yourself from throwing away that bottle thinking…surely there is something else I can use this for (and then you do-no hoarding here people!)

And when you read other peoples’ posts on poop, fish, agriculture, farming, gardening and DIY crafts with glorious abandon.  You just might be a homesteader!

Homesteaders: Are you protecting your technology investment?

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This post was originally shared on Modern Homesteader’s site.  When you get a chance, please go check them out!

We are hoping to share some information as part of a series on maintaining your computer technology.  As some of you may know, over at Blueberry Acres Farm we are budding homesteaders who still maintain “day” jobs.  I am able to work virtually thanks to technology, but my husband “Sheldon” is the one paying the mortgage because of technology.  That is, he’s a geek by trade.

So when we thought about all of the other homesteaders who not only use their home computer equipment, but really count on it to sell product, connect with other homesteaders, follow up on homeschooling lessons or get important information, we thought a good place to start would be free resources that you can use to protect your computer.  Let’s face it-homesteading can be expensive when you start looking at purchasing land, equipment, etc.  Most of us are trying to simplify life, so the idea of needing to buy a new computer every year or two isn’t too appealling.  Just like our vehicles, a little maintenance can go a long way-especially when it comes to online protection.  While he could go on for hours about ways that you can improve your protection and computing experience (I’m telling you-he really could talk for hours, sigh) let’s start with just a couple of Sheldon’s favorite free resources:

Microsoft Security Essentials: If you have the Windows 7 OS (or earlier), then  you can use this to help defend computers running Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.  If you have already upgraded to Windows 8, Windows Defender replaces Security Essentials and runs in the background without an install.  If you are still running Windows 95, I really don’t know what to suggest… :)

Ad-Aware Free Antivirus: Lavasoft describes this as something that “combines our legendary Anti-spyware with a super fast, free Antivirus. It now features  download protection (blocks malicious files before being written to disk), sandboxing (keeps unknown apps running in a virtual environment) and advanced detection.”  It’s good for Windows 8, 7, XP and Vista.

AVG Anti-virus Free:   Another free resource that detects and stops viruses, threats and malware.

And what I think is the most important suggestion…Is everyone in your house singing off the same sheet of music when it comes to online protection?  You are probably doing all of the right things to protect your computer investment…but are your kids?  Your grandkids?  Your spouse?  Your parents?  Why do I ask?  Well, I think of my senior citizen parents who allow the grandkids to come and go on their computer.  Not only can that be some dangerous “grandparenting,” it’s also bad PC management.  It feels like we are CONSTANTLY cleaning viruses and the like off of their computer because not only are they not keeping up with PC clean up, but they allow the g/k’s to go onto any site they want.  Make sure that you set the expectation and that if a child (or adult) is allowed to use the PC without supervision, they know the rules of proverbial road.  If you have doubts, consider setting up accounts for each user on the computer so that they cannot make changes to the PC without the administrator password…that you don’t leave on a post-it note next to the computer!

We will share some additional suggestions on technology repair/management in our next post in this series.  Thanks and happy homesteading!

Shellie, Contributing Writer, Modern Homesteaders

Blueberry Acres Farm

 

I think my family is trying to murder me…

…through sleep deprivation.

 

Sorry for the lack of posts/responses lately folks.  Between Sheldon’s snoring, Blueberry’s wandering and everyone’s nighttime noisiness, Blueberry Acres Farm has been far from bucolic over the last week.  It hasn’t been all zombie-like movements…We have successfully planted 12 new trees (go environment!), ordered what feels like truck loads more (I have no freaking idea where these new trees are going), gotten in another order of seeds, gotten in bedding plants and almost broke my amazingly agile and healthy 70 year old Dad as he helped us plant the latest batch of trees in the driving/cold rain.

This weekend will bring us more dog training, more garden planting, probably more trees, and apparently the building of a turkey coop THAT I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO BUILD BEFORE THE TURKEYS GET HERE IN 3 WEEKS.

I have lots more to say but no time to say it right now.  Calgon take me away!  🙂

 

Arbor Day Foundation: More than just cheesy commercials

Those of us of a certain age all remember the Trees are Terrific commercials that Arbor Day put out a couple of decades ago.  While the commercials were over the top patronizing, the message was still solid…get out there and plant some trees people.  Enter in Arbor Day Foundation 2013.  They are still alive and kicking without the cheesy animated cardinal.  Their website http://www.arborday.org has a wealth of information about planting in your zone, educational programs for kids as well as opportunities to help your city/town replenish your tree population through programs like Tree City USA.

pic courtesy of arborday.org

pic courtesy of arborday.org

They also have what looks like a beautiful lodge for the ULTIMATE tree hugger vacation, Lied Lodge.  While we have not been there, I think it would be a very easy sell for me to get Sheldon to visit their lodge/tree farm while I get some rubs in the spa:

Barn at the lodge: pic courtesy of Lied Lodge

Barn at the lodge: pic courtesy of Lied Lodge

But, I’m not here to talk about scamming my way into a spa day (sigh, heavenly!)…I’m here to talk about scoring some bargain trees.  You can do this a few different ways like through getting a membership for ten itty bitty dollars, you get ten free trees that you get to select from a listing of either ten of the same, or just ten pretty flowering trees that are well suited for your zone like the Golden Raintree:

pic courtesy of forestry.about.com

pic courtesy of forestry.about.com

Or, if you are feeling more generous, you can either opt for no trees at all…or you can select that your ten free trees go into a Nat’l Forest.  In addition to the gift with membership purchase, you can also just purchase trees outright from their nursery, which we did (and I will blog on when I’m not so sore from the planting.) The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the idea of ordering fruit trees through them without being able to verify from whence they came….ie…GMO?  It looks like some of their fruit trees are heirloom varieties but I can’t seem to find information on the others.  However, I personally believe there is much that you can do to “rehabilitate” certain plants/trees if you take a long view approach.  That is-more than likely, these trees will take at least a few years to reach fruit bearing stage.  As a result, if perhaps they grew up initially in a “broken-home” full of chemicals from parents with questionable heritage, they can still be loved, nurtured and eventually grown as organic as possible.   And while you can’t love the GMO out of a plant, I do think that you can get pretty close to what God intended with some TLC.  Bottom line is that while I can’t verify if these trees are all heirloom, non-GMO, organic, etc etc…I still believe it is a really good thing for the environment planting more trees that are good for your zone.

Sigh, ok…gotta go get dressed for a morning of boring errands in the city.  Been up waaaay too long today.  Curse you time change!  Happy planting!

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!  http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!
http://newlifeonahomestead.com

 

 

It’s time for a quickie

Not much to say today since I have miles to go before I sleep, but did want to share this pretty view from my “office” this morning.  I would also share a picture of our alpha barn cat Fluffy Newspaper, but it’s hard to get a picture of him when he is too busy sticking his bottom in my face.  What is the deal with cats and their bottoms?  Sigh.  Anyway-hope you have a beautiful day!

 

This would be perfect if my toes weren't freezing.

This would be perfect if my toes weren’t freezing.