The Personalities of Rainbow’s End – Fivel

The Personalities of Rainbow’s End – Fivel

Fivel is my big teddy bear and my dance partner. He is 16 hands 3 inches tall, which for non-horsey people means the top of his shoulder blade at the base of his mane (the hair along his neck) is 5 feet 7 inches off the ground. His is a gentle giant and a total prima dona.

Fivel is totally and completely my horse, although he loves DD too. I have had him since he was born (almost 17 years ago!). He was originally intended as a foal that we would raise, train, and sell. He had other plans. Every time someone would come to try him, he would pretend to be lame and act up. Before and after, he was always right as rain. Some horses are like that though, they find their person and that is that. No one else will do. He loves to dance with me, which means doing dressage to music. He is particularly fond of disco music. ABBA is his favorite. If a song comes on that he doesn’t like or likes he should be moving differently to, he refuses to do what I tell him. (This is why I call him a prima dona.)

 

Summer Time Batch Cooking

Summer Time Batch Cooking

Summer time, has become batch cooking season around here.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term, batch cooking is making food in large batches and preserving it (usually by freezing) for use at a later date – think soups, stews, etc.  With school starting up in August, I will be twice as busy as I have been.  When taking farm work, house work, and school time, I have no time (and probably not much energy) left for fixing full dinners during the week.  I started thinking about how to make that easier and came up with summer batch cooking.

In late May, I made a list of the dishes that 1. my family likes, 2. were easy to cook on a large scale, and 3. froze well.  (Thankfully, with 1 large stand-up freezer, and two fridge freezers, we have plenty of freezer space.)  While making this list, I also listed out the ingredients, including quantity, required so that I could buy them when they were on sale.

Here is my list (if you want any of the recipes that aren’t posted, just leave a comment or email me and I will make a post for it):

  1. Burgers (done with ground venison, ground beef, and ground bacon)
  2. Chili and Kids’ Chili (done with ground venison and ground beef)
  3. Taco Meat (done with ground venison and ground beef)
  4. Taco Soup
  5. Meatballs (done with ground venison and sausage)
  6. Meatloaves (done with ground venison and ground beef)
  7. Lasagnas
  8. Shredded Pork
  9. Chicken Stew Meat see my Chicken Stock Recipe
  10. Prepacked Raw Chicken Boneless Skinless Breasts (yes, I know that this is not technically batch cooking but they so versatile, often on sale, easy to vacuum seal in 2 meal size portions, and it takes 5 minutes to throw them in an oven safe dish with some BBQ sauce for an easy main dish)
  11. Chicken Pot Pie Filling
  12. Chicken Stock (see the above link)
  13. Tortilla Soup
  14. Beef/Venison Stew
  15. Minestrone Soup
  16. Spaghetti Sauce (finally have a good recipe!)
  17. Potato Soup
  18. Bean Soup
  19. Split Pea Soup
  20. Vegetable Soup

In June and July, I cooked. Then, I vaccuum sealed (yes even soups) using my Food Savor Game Saver (awesome product by the way – the moist food setting is great!)  I freeze things on the top shelf of my upstairs freezer on a baking sheet sow they stay flat.  Then they are easy to stack in the big freezer in the basement.

At this point, some of you may be cringing at that amount of cooking.  It really isn’t that bad and doesn’t really take much longer than fixing a full meal for dinner.  Most batch cooking sessions took around 3 hours from start to finish (including time for grinding venison and for cleaning up).  Prepping meals for freezing later usually took about 30 min, if I didn’t need to rearrange for better freezer space usage.  We also eat some of whatever I batch cooked for dinner that night, so I cut out dinner prep work for that day. Score!

I put the soups in a large stock pot after doing the morning farm work and let them simmer with an occasional stir and taste test until dinner.  For shredded pork, I either put it in the Instant Pot (for pork shoulders) or the slow cooker overnight (for pork loins).  I also double up and make recipes that use similar ingredients at the same time.  Some examples are: taco meat and taco soup, bean and split pea soups, chicken stock and tortilla soup or chicken pot pie filling, and meatloaf and meatballs.  I can’t do burgers at the same time as anything else involving ground meat, because my Kitchen Aid will overheat if I try to grind more that about 9 pounds of meat at a time.  I buy ground beef, but I have to grind the venison and bacon myself.

Well, there you go.  Happy cooking!

Follow up to Beginning Homesteading – Part 2

Follow up to Beginning Homesteading – Part 2

So, DH read my post from 2 nights ago and commented, ” I like it.” Then he laughed, “You seem really put together on your blog.”  I laughed back, “Everyone seems really put together on their blogs.”

That got me thinking.  When I read other people’s posts about housekeeping or training animals or keeping chickens or homeschooling or raising kids, if I like their ideas, I try to implement them.  Then I get frustrated with myself and beat myself up (a lot), because I can’t be so buttoned down as everyone I read about.

For example, I have read a bunch of books and posts that discuss putting housework tasks, laundry, etc all on schedules.  If you do x, y, and z every day or on a set day every week, you will never fall behind on your housework, your laundry will never pile up in baskets, your dishes will never pile up in the sink, etc.  If that works for those women, more power to them.  I like their ideas, but right now in my life, I am lucky if the clothes get washed.

Give yourself grace and remember to laugh. 

Try to slow down, at least occasionally.

I have tried putting things into routines and schedules, but, invariably, 3 or 4 days into it, a giant monkey wrench gets thrown in.  Then, I won’t be able to get the ball rolling again for weeks.  You know what I’m talking about, you finally get all the laundry washed and folded and all the dishes done, then someone (or more than just one) gets sick, the barn floods, the tractor gets stuck in the mud (so you do too), and you have hay and shavings and feed deliveries all within 2 days.  You are lucky to keep everyone alive.

At the end of the day, you look at the kitchen and the laundry piles, turn the light off, and go to bed (after crying in the shower for 5 or 10 minutes because you are too tired to think and you feel like a failure for not being able to stay on top of it all). So believe me, I am not that put together.  I live in chaos.

There are many mornings when the kids run into our room and get dressed out of the laundry baskets sitting next to my side of the bed.  🙂  I have much more to do than hours in the day.  Recently, I added together everything that I “should” be getting done in a week and ended up with enough spare time to sleep for 5 1/2 hours per week – yes, per week not per day.

I can’t cut anything out right now so things get done as I can do them.  Sometimes I prioritize, and sometimes I just start with something that I know that I can complete just so I can cross it off my list.  I do try to sleep 6 1/2 to 8 hours each night.

So anyone reading this (I am writing this to myself too), give yourself grace and remember to laugh.  Try to slow down, at least occasionally.  Do a happy dance when the clothes make it back into the drawers, only to have a kiddo throw them out 30 minutes later looking for the perfect shirt.  Celebrate when the kitchen looks clean for a minute before you get to make it messy again to love on those in your care.  Notice the little victories and cheer wildly for accomplishing them!  You are worth celebrating!

Beginning Homesteading – Part 2 – Balancing Act

Beginning Homesteading – Part 2 – Balancing Act

For anyone who isn’t aware, farming (even on a small scale) is hard work and there is a lot of it!  Having large animals to care for is like having kids – there is ALWAYS work to do and you rarely get a break.  I am currently struggling with the balancing act of farm work, housework, family time, homeschooling (yeah, we added that too), personal time (for my own sanity), blogging (which is why I haven’t posted in a while), and time with other adults (so I don’t turn into a scary hermit lady).

Farm work takes me anywhere from 15 to 30 or more hours per week, depending on the weather, what needs to be done, etc.  Housework is the never ending cycling of washing and putting away things that have been made dirty and disordered by the people that I love.  It takes about 12 to 15 hours each week (not including cooking or grocery shopping).  Cooking is about 2 hours each day.  Homeschooling takes about 15 to 18 hours each week (since the kids are still in preschool).  Next year, it will eat up more time.  I try to take about 30 min of personal time first thing in the morning for my Bible study and prayer time.  On slow days, I might get an hour to veg with some TV or a book in the afternoons.  As far as blogging, I am trying to steal away for 30 min right after the kids go to bed each night.

Finally, comes time with other grown-ups.  This (along with personal time) is probably the hardest thing to fit it.  Believe me, part of me would love to hide out in the barn and do farm work most of the time and become a scary hermit lady, but I know that is not how God designed us.  He has called us to be salt and light to the earth and, to do so, we have to be around other people.  Right now, my family is my main mission field, but He still calls me out of my bubble and around other people.  I also know that, with our choice to start homeschooling the kids, I need to be an example to them on getting out and being around other humans.  I have started going to a Mom’s Connect Group a couple times a month.  It gives the kids a chance to play with other kiddos and me some much needed time with other moms of young kids.  I still try to get to BSF but it has been hard lately to get out on time (and not smell like a horse – or worse) after doing the farm work.  My family and I also go to a neighborhood Bible study 2-3 nights a month.  There is also church and Sunday school on Sunday mornings but the latter has also been hard to get to lately with the morning farm chores.

Part of me would love to hide out in the barn and do farm work most of the time and become a scary hermit lady, but I know that is not how God designed us.

He has called us to be salt and light to the earth and, to do so, we have to be around other people.

So how do I do it all?  I don’t.  I have started trying very hard to focus on whatever I am working on at that moment and give that my energy and attention.  I realized a little while ago that life was racing by, and I was missing everything.  I had been so busy trying to do everything all at once while planning to do another list of things tomorrow and the next day and the next and … (you get the picture) that I was missing out on the joy of living right now.  In the past, I described my balancing act as trying to juggle a bunch of raw eggs.  I have discovered the problem with doing that occurs when you suddenly have too many.  You might struggle to keep them all in the air for a bit, but, sooner or later, they will all come crashing down and leave you sitting in a sticky puddle of egg goo.  I am learning to stop juggling and start cherishing the job at hand (yes, even dishes, laundry, and mucking stalls).

There are still times when I have to try to juggle multiple responsibilities at a single time but, when I can, I try to put down all but one and focus on that.  If I am working with the kids, I try to give them all of my attention.  If I am resting, I try to rest well.  If DH and I are playing a board or card game, he has my focus.  When I am working around the farm, I try to be in the moment and enjoy just being a farmer.  Do you know what happens when I do this?  I am finding more time, more energy, greater productivity, and, best of all, greater joy in what I am doing!

Skunks

Skunks

We have had something living under the chicken house and getting in and stealing eggs.  🙁  We set up a live trap with a can of cat food in it.  Two days later, we caught a skunk.  DH dealt with the skunk humanely with dry ice.  (Do your research on it before you buy any.  It is VERY dangerous stuff, and there are some horrible stories about people mishandling it.)

I put a big rock over the hole and the next day something had dug around it.  Live trap went back with more cat food.  Two days later, we let the dog out in the morning.  The dog came in smelling AWFUL!!!  DH bent down to smell him and immediately started dry heaving.  Poor Socrates was sent outside until we had time to bathe him.  We looked out the window and there was another skunk in the trap.  (Now we always check the trap before letting Socs out.)

Well, after breakfast was over, I figured that I needed to deal with the stinky dog.  I remembered that a friend of ours had mentioned that skunk spray is an oil.  That got me thinking about the dawn soap commercials that show the poor little duck that had been caught in an oil spill.

I pulled on some old clothes; gabbed the bottle of blue dawn, some rags, and a bowl of warm water; and headed out to see if I could deskunk the dog.  Fortunately, it was warmish outside so my teeth weren’t chattering while I scrubbed him.  Socs was not particularly happy with me.  I ran out of water and was forced to lead a very wet, very miserable, very soapy dog to the shower to clean him off.  Thankfully, we have a walk-in shower.  I rinsed him off and taadah blue dawn did the trick!  No more stinky dog!!!!

So, if you ever have a critter (or person) who needs to be deskunked, try the liquid blue dawn soap.  It works!

Also, we seem to have caught all the skunks!

Little Laundry Life Hack

Little Laundry Life Hack

For anyone out there who has a dust buster (the small, handheld, battery powered vacuums), I have a wonderful discovery to share.  Anyone who doesn’t have one, you should get one.  They are awesome!

We have one because the kids can use it and have been vacuuming cereal and other crumbs from around the table since they were each about 2.

Anyway, here is my life hack.  You know how annoying it can be to pull the lint trap out of the dryer and have it drop stuff all over the top or floor (depending on where your trap is)?  This is especially bad living on a farm because there are always wood shavings in the trap.  They go EVERYWHERE!  Also, sometimes, it can be hard to get all of the lint off of the trap itself.

Well, grab your dust buster!  Vacuum the lint trap itself!  Vacuum up everything it drops out of it.  Vacuum the opening to the place where the trap goes in.  It is awesome!!

That’s it!