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When You're About to Blow a Gasket on the Homestead

If you haven't been there, you aren't human. It happens at least once a month on any normal homestead. If you're lucky, maybe it will skip a month. If you're not so lucky, it might happen every week. But, it happens. And I'm here to tell you how to survive and thrive on the homestead even when things are being thrown at you like an automatic airsoft pellet gun. I use that term because my son purchased one of those bad boys and when they have an airsoft game going on outside, I make sure I stay inside. I see those who are getting hit with this machine gun and they just can't get away, until they find cover that is. It makes for a lopsided game in favor of my son's team.

Life on the homestead can feel like that. Sometimes I just want to throw the towel in and say, "YOU WIN! There's no way I can compete with you anymore! I can't get away from you and your little schemes you keep throwing my way!" There are days when I open the door from our old farmhouse and peek outside, wandering what's going to hit me between the eyes this time.

Homesteading life is not fair. Deaths happen, equipment breaks down, fences are almost always needing some work, animals act like brats, animals act like brats, animals act like brats. Uh-hum.

I told my son the other day that there are times I get so mad at the animals causing mayhem that I just want to shoot them. And then the next day(ok maybe a week or two) I just love them so much. That whole concept where they say that animals will lower your blood pressure is not true. When they act like loons I think my blood pressure could go through the roof. Yet, when they are all cute and acting normal, it could quite possibly go down a good bit. But, doesn't that just balance the high and the low out?

When we are on a drive and see a goat sticking it's head through the fence, pushing and pushing just to get that blade of grass, we rejoice. Sad, I know, but we rejoice in knowing our animals aren't the only ones who wreak havoc on the fence. When we see a horse reaching over barbed-wire, pushing the fence down to eat grass on the other side, we laugh. Sad, yes, but at least our horses aren't the only ones who can bear the pain of an electric shock or barbed wire and ruin a fence just to get a few pieces of grass on the other side.

We went on a little vacation a month ago. We don't do that very often. In fact it's been a few years. When you have animals, even when there's someone there watching them for you, it causes a little nervous sensation in the pit of your stomach when you pull out of the driveway for a few days. And, yes it's usually for good reason. Anyway, we had been on the road for a few hours and got a call. The goats got out. Even with electric wire on top of field fence they managed to find a way, while we were gone for a whopping three hours.

The very first day we were at the cabin in the mountains, we got a call. Part of the loft caved in. Thankfully no one was hurt. But why? I'm mean really, why? Can't we just get a little break for crying out loud?

But you know what we did? I'm not going to lie and tell you we smiled and sang The Sound of Music theme song while holding hands running through the mountains. We were bummed and worried about it for a bit, offered some temporary solutions until we got home, and then we let it go. What would worrying about it hundreds of miles away do for those situations? Absolutely nothing. We swallowed a little harder for a few moments, but we didn't let it ruin our vacation.

We had a blast.

Worrying robs us of joy. The older I get, the more important this verse becomes. We've all heard it many times, but do we take it to heart?

'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'

I can testify that if we really make our requests known to God with a thankful heart and put aside the worrying, then somehow He does what He has promised and gives us peace.  Pretty awesome.  God is my anti-blow-a-gasket remedy.  He's my nerve pill, He's my sleeping pill, He's my all.  Get it?

Every morning I go to my kitchen sink and fill my coffee pot up with water.  We have a window there that looks out to the east.  I see my big garden, the barn and trees in the backdrop.  And if I'm not too hurried to look, I see some of the most amazing sunrises.  There's a catch to these sunrises though.  You have to look up at that moment or you will miss them.  They don't last.

When I'm not in a rush, I catch these wondrous gifts from God and it fills me with a sense of awe.  I know He is present.  But there are those days, you know those days, when I have my head down just wanting to hurry up and get that water in the pot so I can have my coffee, FAST!  And I miss it.

Blessings are alot like majestic sunrises.  If you aren't looking, you will miss it.  They don't last forever.  We get so busy trying to make this homesteading life work and it can suck the life right out of you at times.  And in the process we have missed so many opportunities to see those blessings.  Keep looking up.  Keep your eyes open.  You will find one, I promise.

Sometimes we can't outright see blessings.  They might not be so obvious as a sunrise set before us.  When I am about to blow a gasket or am just so done with all of the negatives, I have to seek out the good.  It might be hard to find but it's there.  Ask my family and you will hear them tell you that when bad things happen, I always find a way to say, "Well, at least....." and I fill in the blanks.

At least the goats didn't eat the neighbor's plants, at least that injury was able to heal on its own, at least the hay loft crash didn't injure an animal, at least I got some exercise chasing the dang horse back in the pasture, at least we have each other, at least we have milk to drink(this is a constant reminder when the goats keep getting out), and the 'at leasts'  keep going on and on and on.

So find your blessings, your 'at leasts' on the homestead.  They bring everything into perspective and it keeps us from blowing that gasket.  Sometimes we even laugh about it when we do find our blessing in the midst of all of the chaos.  It changes our thought pattern, makes us thankful

Fellow homesteaders, we are in this together.  We might feel alone at times and wonder about that big house for sale in the neighborhood down the road, but reality is we love this life.  Let's stop stewing about it and move on.

Have you found your blessings?

Needing some encouragement on the homestead?  Get my ebook for just $3.99 or free with unlimited Kindle!

My Immune Boosting Routine

Flu season is creeping up fast and I have to tell ya, I can sometimes be a little paranoid when it comes to getting sick.  Once it hits one of my kids, it's quarantine time.  I break out the little portable tv, grab some movies and one of my older kids will hook it up(I unashamedly don't know how) and put it in the quarantine room along with the sicko.  I'll check in on them, maybe slide a plate or two of food under the door...you know, what normal compassionate mothers do.

I then wash my hands like I'm about to perform a surgery.  Oh, and if I have an itch on my face, I panic.  Even if my hands just got washed, I wonder if I touched something contaminated in the past 10 seconds.  So, after scratching my face, I wash the area I scratched.

I won't even begin to tell you what I do if my kid vomits...

I've often wondered where I could get an old chem gear suit like the ones I used to wear while practicing for a chemical or biological attack when I was in the Air Force.  Might come in handy.

Anyway, we mothers really don't get sick days. So call me paranoid, but there's a reason for my paranoia. I don't have time to get sick!  Can I type that in all caps or would that be rude?  Can I get an amen or something?  Help ease my conscience for not being that parent who stays by their sick child's bedside with a cool washcloth on their forehead and kisses their cheek.

Believe it or not, I do have some compassion for my kiddos.  I do feel bad, really.  And I do my best to sympathize without getting vomit or snot on me.  One way that I show them compassion is by boosting their immune system.  Once flu season is here, I make sure they tell me if they feel like they are getting sick, or if they were around someone who was sick.

At that point, it's time to break the reinforcements.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries contain vitamins A, B and lots of C.  They also contain flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage.

I make my own elderberry syrup and instead of buying those little bitty bottles of the stuff and paying a pretty penny for it, I make pints of it for cheap cheap cheap!  We take this often especially during basketball season with the kids.  It works!  The key is taking it before you get sick and keep at it for awhile.  Because my kids love this stuff, I do remind them that they only need one or two spoonfuls, two to three times a day.

My son even suggested I make elderberry wine.  Should I be worried about that request?  Anyway...

Essential Oils

I use a combination of oils to help boost our immune system.

Protective Blend - This blend is made up of orange, clove bud, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus radiata and rosemary.  Studies have shown that the oils in this blend have the ability to kill harmful bacteria, mold and viruses.  Just what I need!

Melaleuca -  The common name for this essential oil is tea tree oil.  It is known for its antibacterial, antifungal, anti-infection, antiviral and anti-parasitic properties.  That's alot of 'antis' and I didn't even mention them all!

Lemon -  This oil is also known for a few anti-something-or-others.  It is antiseptic, antifungal,  an antioxidant and antiviral to name a few.

I use a blend of all three.  When we have been exposed to sickness, I grab these babies out and this is what I put in an empty veggie capsule:

3 drops protective blend
3 drops melaleuca
3 drops lemon

Take every 3-4 hours until you think you are out of the woods of being exposed.  If you don't feel comfortable taking this internally, you can apply to the bottoms of your feet and halve the drops for each oil.  This is what I do with my younger children.

Now, if we get that feeling, you know the one, where you just know you are getting sick and your body is trying to fight off something, then it's time to break out the big boy...oregano.  This powerhouse oil is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and an immune stimulant.

I add 2 drops of oregano to the above concoction when I need reinforcements.  It is important to know that oregano is a hot oil and it is not recommended to take internally for more than 10 days.

Now remember, it is so important to use only therapeutic grade essentials oils from a brand you trust.  I use doTERRA essential oils because I know they are pure and I know where they come from, how they are harvested and how they are tested.  If you are ready to take charge of your health, you can order HERE(you don't have to sell to order!).  Questions on how to order? Go here first to find out about your options!

Top Ten Essential Oils for Livestock

I am amazed at the many uses of essential oils.  And when I found out that I can use them on my farm animals too?  Holy cow!  That was a revolution for me!  And it's not rocket science either.  As you read this list, you will realize that many of the issues we have as humans are treated the same way with livestock.

Dr. Roark is a veterinarian who uses essential oils and I have learned a good bit from her. If you are interested in learning more about animals and essential oils, she has a facebook page you can follow here.

Dr. Roark's top 10 essential oils for Ruminants and Pseudoruminants (cattle, sheep, 
goats, llamas, alpacas, etc.):

1. Protective Blend, OnGuard: immune support, mastitis, coccidiosis, caseous lymphadenitis, abscesses, bacterial or viral infections, hoof conditions, general herd health 

2. Digestive Blend, DigestZen: bloat, scours, diarrhea, constipation, internal parasites, milk production, general gastrointestinal wellness

3. Frankincense: inflammation, cuts, scrapes, tumors, cystic ovaries, pain management, eye conditions, lymphoma

4. Oregano: abscesses, bacterial or viral infections, scrapie, vesicular lesions, 

cryptosporidia, fungal infections, herd outbreaks

Ready to take control of your health and your livestock's?  Find out more HERE!

5. Grounding Blend, Balance: stress, fear, showing, anxiety, broken bones, joint pain, tendon and ligament issues, spine alignment, overall wellbeing

6. Lemongrass: dehorning, lameness, scours, mastitis, tendon and ligament regeneration, arthritis, fungal infections, bladder infections, edema and fluid retention, parasites

7. Breathe: allergies, sinus infections, pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, cough

8. TerraShield: lice, mange, flies, ticks, bots, mosquitoes

9. Serenity: allergies, burns, inflammation, cuts, stress, birthing, anxiety, depression

10. Melaleuca (tea tree): ringworm, lacerations, scrapes, dermatitis, bacterial and fungal infections

  Find out how you can get one of the most trusted brands HERE!

Why I Don't Have Raised Beds

Sometimes I feel like I need to be in a support group.  You know, one called Row Croppers Unite, or something like that.  I can see myself standing up and introducing myself,

"Hello, I'm Susie, and I don't have a raised bed."

And then everyone will come and hug me and tell me it's ok and that admitting this is the first step.

Would you join me if I started that support group?  Cuz I'm here for ya.

Anyway, for real though, I don't do raised beds people.  I don't.  Did you know that you don't have to have raised beds either?

One of the reasons I called this blog Our Simple Farm is because I tire of seeing the work and effort and money that people put into their homestead because so and so said it would be best to do it a certain way.  My mantra, as you see at the top of this page is "With a keeping it simple twist" because I don't do it like everyone else.  I don't feel the need to Keep up with the Homesteading Joneses or pour money into this homestead when our whole purpose is to save a little money.

So basically, the only reason I would say yes to raised beds is if you can't physically bend down or kneel.  Hey, at the rate I'm going with old basketball injuries, I'm heading there, but until then, I'll enjoy my row crops.  Also, if you live in town and have limited space, raised beds are a good option.  But, even then they aren't really needed.

Now, don't get me wrong, if you have the extra cash and can pour money into raised beds, go for it. Or if you live in a neighborhood that only allows raised beds, this article isn't for you.  Also, if you are so against tilling that it's like a religion to you, then you might want to read an article supporting your belief, not this one.  So don't get in a tizzy over this post(I already got a bad comment about the terrible affects of tilling) and just move on with your day.

But if you feel you think you need raised beds to make everything look good and you hear all of the benefits for the soil and less weeding and so on and so on, yet can't seem to justify the cost, this article is for you.

If you've ever heard of Eliot Coleman, you might know that he doesn't do raised beds either.  And he is the master of masters of organic gardening.  I have learned so much from his book, The Organic Grower, and encourage you to pick one up soon!

We have sandy loam soil.  Yes, that is awesome, I know.  Some aren't blessed with sandy loam and have hard clay to deal with.  Now they say that raised beds aerate the soil and that is true.  My soil is already aerated with sand which is one of the reasons Eliott Coleman says there is no reason to have raised beds if you have my kind of soil.  For those who have clay soil, you still don't need a typical raised bed, but you do need to lift that soil up a bit.

My row crops of zuccini and yellow summer squash.

Did you know you can do this without spending a dime?  When I lived in southern Indiana, we had heavier soil.  So, I double dug up my beds to lift and aerate the soil.  If you don't know what double digging is, go HERE and watch my video.  Basically double digging is using a shovel and digging up a small ditch about a foot deep and 2-4 feet wide, and as you work backwards, you fill in the ditch as you go.  You also need a pitchfork to aerate the soil and you will need manure and/or compost.

When you are done, you will have a semi raised bed and you can amend it as needed or layer mulch, etc. to it.

So, you might be thinking you're not down with double digging and that's ok too!  You don't have too double dig if you have clay soil.  You can simply add your fertilizer, manure, compost and/or soil ammendments to the soil, then till it up.  I recommend adding manure with old hay and some sand to it to lighten it up a bit.  To keep the weeds down, add straw or mulch in between the rows.  If you don't like the idea of tilling every year, then add your composted manure and other amendments in the fall, then when spring comes, use a pitchfork to gently mix it in the top few inches.  You still might need to lift the soil so a good tool to have for this is called a broadfork.

My garden is pretty big.  I like to put up a lot of produce for the winter months.  We're talking two 50ft x 200ft rows approximately.  I would love to see my husband's face if I told him I'd like to put it all in raised beds.  Not only would he see dollar signs going in the trash, he would think about how much he would miss getting on the tractor and tilling it up in the spring and fall.

My bean patch with kale in the background.  This is a little more than a fourth of our garden.

I have a confession to make though.  Another reason I don't do raised beds is because I like to spend a lot of time in my garden.  I like to hand weed, I like to use my wheelhoe in between beds, I like to work in my garden.  If I had a low maintenance garden, what would I do?  Sit there and watch the tomatoes grow?  I don't think I expressed how much I love using my wheelhoe.  In fact, my son and I both like to use it to work the back of our arms.  It's awesome!

My son is smoothing out the soil and getting rid of any weeds that have grown since tilling to get it ready for planting.

There are alot of people shooting for a low maintenance/no maintenance garden.  If you are like me, I think I would go nuts if I had nothing to do in my garden.  Granted, I do some mulching with my potatoes, but I really like to see those neat, weedless rows in between after I just got done wheelhoeing.  I like to see a lettuce bed after I hand weeded it or used my collinear hoe(one Eliot Coleman designed for tight spaces).

I like the fact that my garden keeps me in shape, gives me much needed sunshine and gives me a feeling of satisfaction because I didn't spend a dime on it other than the seeds and a couple of tools. And if a crop fails me, I know that all I lost was a few bucks for the seed.

And because I can amend my soil with much needed manure, I can grow pretty much grow anything with great results.  Sure I have my flops here and there, but there's no pressure because one flop or two isn't costing me much.

So yeah, I think raised beds are overrated.  They are pretty to look at, but so is 8 rows of sweet corn that you just hoed and side dressed with composted manure.  You can get a semi-raised bed without spending a dime with double digging, or stick with a well amended tilled garden and get pretty much the same results with a bit more weeding.  But either way, you don't need to put a whole lot of money into it.

Instead of having a Row Croppers Unite club, maybe I should just have The Garden Addict club instead or I Love Tilling and I'm not Ashamed club.  What do you think?

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