Thursday, October 31, 2013

When we have time together...Hunting, Clear cutting...and cheap cheese.

It's not very often that we get to have a day out without any children. Hunting season however, marks a yearly opportunity for D and I to get out into the wilderness for a day just to ourselves. As we prepped for our big day, I worked in anticipation of some quiet time. The constant chatter, and laughing of children is lovely, but once in a while (a great while) quiet time, alone, is cherished. Cherished as a time for the two of us to just enjoy each other. 

As we walked quietly at pace, and scanned the field edges and the interior of the forest, now naked of her leaves, we are together. I enjoy fully his presence, as he does mine. As a woman raised in a family with 3 older male siblings, I grew up to enjoy tagging along, and he, having grown with a younger sister, learned to appreciate the company. Now, as husband and wife, I am his perfect all that he does. Even though the traditional roles may dictate that I ought to stay home during the hunt and have the cooking ready for his return, I see being a apart of his work a help to him.  

As we entered a large cutting, where the skidders once tore the ground and cleaned the forest that once stood here, we saw two things. Two things that tear me. One is that this cutting gives opportunity for the new growth that the animals need to help over-winter them: a source of food. The other is that this cutting, has raped the forest. It has taken from her not only the needed trees, but has cleared out all good things. The ecology that once thrived here is forgotten. The ground having been ripped by over-sized tires has been robbed of microorganisms and growth that will take centuries to re-establish. As we sit and wait for a sound of life, I hear nothing. The birds are even still here. It is open, bare of cover. The deer are surely not here..they are deep in the forest where there is dense evergreens to protect them from the raging wind. We, people, have taken their hiding place. 

We sat a while longer, still waiting. We had a quick picnic and then moved on to another, perhaps more vibrant with life, place. 

We come to a place where the forest was dense, the moss thick, and tracks scattered the ground. We saw the footsteps of deer, moose, and of course their adversary, the coyote. Walking through the open fields, and them coming to the place where we were to sit, we settled in. Just as the animals do, we found refuge from the cold wind in a small field, just inside her edges. We were covered with fur bows in the front, sitting just inside the treeline we waited. Here, we sat for a long, quiet time. I found a few old maple stumps where late fall oysters were still clinging on, and harvested them. We ate crackers and cheap cheese by a small fire that warmed us after the cold walk. The fire was not discrete. The smoke wrapped around that enclosure like a spot light would light us up..but, it was romantic. Even if we never saw any wildlife, we were enjoying each others company. And we were warm.

Finally, after a long hunt, and a happening in a slow stream, Dan scored his game for the day. Certainly not what we were seeking after, but something for the table none the less. We are happy. The children were in awe. It was his first Duck. We are thankful for that. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Step-by-Step Soap Making, Oil Cleansing, New Venue, and A New Dress

I'm going to start off this post by showing you a step-by-step glance at how I make my soap. I wouldn't say it is a tutorial. More of a glimpse of how soaps are traditionally made. I have a few extras to share after, as it has been a busy week at the homestead. Following the soap, I will share some photos of my oil cleansing products, reveal my master marketing plans for this coming week, and share a collage of a dress I just finished making. Enough delay, onward...

Here is my Tallow that I had rendered from beef suet a few days ago. I have it in my soap pot and have weighted it according to the recipe. It will need heated to 120 degrees, and so I will turn the burner on low to get it started while I work on other things. 

This soap will be an Oatmeal & Honey soap. I was making a bar with Oatmeal, sage and yarrow, however I will be soon replacing it with the new Oatmeal & Honey. Here I take Organic Steel Cut Oats from Speerville Flower Mill and grind it to a soft, fine powder, leaving just enough grains to give a gentle exfoliation. 

Next up is the lye solution. I measure carefully and exactly the lye crystals into one jar. Also, I weigh the proper amount of cold water. Then, taking it outside, I slowly pour the lye crystals into the water (never pouring the water onto the lye). While I add the lye, I stir and stir until the lye dissolves. At this point, the solution of water and lye reacts to create a lot of heat. In order to add this solution to my tallow, it needs to drop in temperature considerably. I place it in a cold water bath, and monitor it with a thermometer while I return to the tallow, which is still warming on the stove. 

My son asked to help make soap today, and so here he is with the tallow. We have warmed it to just below 120 degrees, and he is stirring it as it continues to warm. It's important to watch the temps closely, because if the temp gets too high, then you have to readjust the heat again. 

Finally both the lye solution and the fats have reached their proper temperatures. Now it's time to mix. I slowly pour the lye solution into the fats, all the while stirring. 

Once all the lye has been added, I grab the stick blender with my free hand, and with both hands stirring, work the newly forming soap until it reaches "trace". Trace is the stage to which the soap thickens to a soft whip cream consistency.

I always line my pans. Some people don't, but I find it is easier to remove the loaf, and makes for an easy clean-up.

Pouring the soap into the mold.

Smoothing out the top of the loaf

Me! Ha!

I had pre-heated the stove to 100 degrees, and have 2 baking stones in there to absorb that heat. After I shut off the stove, I open the door just slightly to let some heat out. Once it is warm to touch, I place the soap loaf into the oven and close the door. I leave the tallow soap to incubate for the afternoon (normally 6-10hrs).

Soap incubating.

I was explaining to my son about the saponification process and the need to incubate. Essentially, slowly letting the soap gradually cool as the lye and fats continue to turn, chemically, into soap and glycerin.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here's just a few shots of me making oil facial cleansers. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now, I have a few shots showing the display I have been working on. I have a space held for me at the Woodstock Farmers Market where I will be setting up on Nov 1st. With only days away, I have been adding the finishing touches. I am pretty excited to be returning to the down town market. I had vended there a few years ago, selling jewelry and sewn items, however once my youngest guy was born I found maintaining such a space was more demanding than I could keep up with. Times have changed, and I'm coming back! 

...and last but not least, here is the dress! It makes me feel pretty.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My day in one picture. Just missing the bird that Dan shot, but it was in the fridge cooling. My friend graciously offered to let me pick her grapes, and on the way home we foraged oysters and one lone lobster shroom!  

"Cheap Trick" Wednesday. *Consume no more* Sewing, Alterations, and Saving your money.

Over the weekend I was handed 6 pairs of very nice jeans that were just my size. You see, after breastfeeding for 27 mths I had packed on some spare weight. Last January, when I decided to retire my job as a source of food for my little, marked the beginning of a new era and turned my instinctual "must store fat" response into one that has gradually had me return to my pre-pregnancy weight. -30lbs later, I was still wearing my size 10 jeans and subsequently looked as though I was either *really frumpy* or like I was packing something in the trunk. It wasn't until a friend of mine insisted that I try on her new (and much smaller jeans) that I realized how much smaller I really was, and also that my current jean collection was very much in need of retirement. On our trip to Moncton last week I did splurge and purchase a very nice and well fitting pair of jeans. Yay! Then, to my surprise, this past weekend, my sister-in-law handed down to me 6 pairs of jeans in my new size! I was absolutely ecstatic! Trying them all on though, I quickly discovered how much my sister is in love with flare & boot cuts. This I am not. I freeze to death in the winter as the chilled, snapping air whipps around and up my leg though the gaping fabric of a flare leg pant. So, I knew something had to be done. Being thrifty, I set into altering them. All 6 pairs. Above is a before and after photo. 

I will add this post to my "Cheap Tricks" labels. I intend to, as promised, share tips for saving money onward in form of blogging. This is the first. This is a prime example of how we, as "consumers" can have the temptation to go off and in this situation purchase many new jeans. Instead, if you have gone down only a few pant sizes, why not try salvaging what you have? In my case, I went down 6 sizes and so that large of an alteration just wasn't in the cards. Those pants, that are too big to alter, will be passed on to my sister-in-law, who is expectant with child and will be needing after baby pants. In this case, I simply altered these fitting pants to suit my own specific taste. I grew up in an era of bell bottoms and big flares, but since the re-emergence of the straight leg, and skinny jeans (which I cannot tolerate wearing), I fall into that place where I can pretty much choose what I want without standing out as a weird eyesore marked "fashion faux pas"...even so, I do on occasion find myself wearing some pretty "out-of-the-box" ensembles. Back on topic, I am sure that because of the recent switch form flare to skinny, there are many mothers out there with teenage daughters that are asking for the new fashion rave. Although I do not support the trend in these "barbie doll" style jeans (simply because they give girls a false since of body image), altering their current stash of jeans to narrow up the legs may save many families a lot of cash. Why toss good jeans simply to buy more good jeans? Anyhow..if you are the least bit handy with a needle, this is pretty beginner stuff. Go and use a friends machine and get your pants right, instead of worrying about buying any new ones. If you don't sew and don't have the courage to try it out, then bring your pants here. I can walk you through it step by step. 


1) Here I started out but trying on the pant to determine if, and how much I wanted to alter. 


2) Then, turning the pant inside out, I mark with a pin where exactly I want the pant to fit. For me, I started bringing it in just at the knee, and where it started to flare. I marked one pant only. Take special care when taking the jeans off, as the sharp pins may scratch you or come out. 

3) Laying the jeans out on the table I lined up both pant legs so as to measure and match the alterations. I put the leg with the pin on the bottom, and the unmarked leg on top. As I set the pin in the top leg, I gently lift it and poke through at just the same place the pin is on the bottom leg. 

4) Sew in a rather straight line all the way down the pin line. Be sure to back sew, front sew, & repeat a few times when first starting to sew, and then again when finishing off. This makes sure that your stitching is tied off at both ends and won't come apart when in the wash.

5) Sew a second line just to the right of your first line using a wide stitch. I set my stitch length at 2 for this..making it a good solid fray barrier. If I had my mothers serger here, I would serge this edge. 

6) Finally, cut off the excess material. If you are concerned, you can try them on first, but I suggest trying them on inside out. If you flip them right side out, they may seem taught as the extra fabric will take up space. 

Again, here is the after photo..

..and I have 3 more jeans to go. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A little more about..."We splurged at a total of $46.73 on groceries this week".

Perhaps I am a rebel. I just cannot fathom spending $200 a week on groceries. This is the average cost for a family of 4 in Northern America. With today's economy, and the reoccurring costs that a family on a limited income faces, how do people afford this? Oh, right...mothers are sent to work, the children at daycare or public school. We don't do that. I made the commitment over 5 years ago to be a stay at home mother, and almost 2 years ago devoted my time to homeschooling our children. Running a household on a single income is not a simple task. Part of my commitment to stay at home, came with the obvious responsibility for me to work steadily on reducing our costs. As a stay at home mother, my job is now to save anyway I know how. Whether it be by cutting coupons, planting a garden, patching jeans, or making meals from scratch. I posted the status "We splurged at a total of $46.73 on groceries this week" to my facebook profile yesterday and to my amazement, quite a discussion arose. I know our budget is slightly out of the norm, but really didn't for-see it being such a discussion starter. There were a few of my friends who shared in my budget beliefs regarding food, but for the most part, a lot of my friends were shocked that I could get by with so little. One comment "What do you eat?", had me really thinking. I wanted to tell her the total truth. We eat very bland food. Not a lot of taco's, no fancy bakery breads, not much by way of imported cheeses or select grade cuts of meat. We eat what we make, what we hunt and what we find growing wild. Fresh carrot sticks from the garden are the kids treat. It's nothing to see them toting off with a bag of apples and cleaning the whole lot of them off in 10 minutes (between the 3 of them). Just up until a few weeks ago, when we were visiting friends, did my kids EVER have fluff. You know, that marshmallow'y spread that kids love. Yep..they asked "what is that". Don't get me wrong, we do buy "snack" stuff from time to time. This weeks was one box of cereal, a bag of popcorn, and sunflower seeds. 


Well, it's a long story...Here's part of my response to the many questions that arose on my published status.

"we've been chowing down on apples (I bought 4 bushels a few weeks ago) raw carrots sticks, homemade kefir smoothies, raw broccoli, and such. Still lots coming in from the garden. I have canned a lot of fruit juices, also have lots of berries and jams put up for winter, and so we sometimes buy banana's when they are on sale. The only things we do spend money on weekly is milk, cheese, eggs, grains and toilet paper. Just recently we've transitioned from boxed cereals to oatmeal. I still do buy one small box for the kids as a *treat*, but in this house, that lasts all but 3 hrs. I've noticed, that when only whole foods are available, that''s what my kids eat. Come winter it will get a little harder, as the diet can get pretty bland, and so we do supplement ans spend more on fresh produce. I plan to restart my sprout garden once the ground freezes..we use it as a lettuce substitute. It's pennies to grow, can be grown on the table top and nutritionally packed and my kids eat it like chips when they are hungry. I'mm looking into growing wheat grass for juicing this winter(to add into smoothies/popsicles) is very healthy, plus I have 27lbs of it stocked for us (and the rabbits) to eat for this winter. Don't get me wrong, there are weeks we spend far more than $46. The week we bought the apples, it was over $60 just for the 4 boxes, but it beats paying the top price for them in February, plus they store very well. Our potatoes we picked (150lbs) off a field after the harvester had went through. It was considered our phys-ed/practical life skills class.  We make the majority of our household supplies. (soap, shampoo, deodorant, face washes, laundry detergent, fabric softener ect) and all of that pays for it'self as the profit from selling those items to others covers the cost of making our personal products." 

One friend asked, "when it comes to packing the kids lunches and staying away from junk its too it something you acquire a taste to or what's the secret.....I'd love to offer the kids better choices but I guess I don't know where to start....any suggestions as to how you got going with introducing it to your family"

Well..I find it takes time for everyone to get used to eating differently..especially My husband. He likes packaged foods, so gradually sneaking stuff in works here. I might bring in one new food every 3-6 mths. And as I bring something new in, take an old (unhealthy) one out. For example, I have learned a lot about the negative impacts microwaves have on people..and have wanted to get rid of ours. My husband has always opposed this idea! He believes the risk is minimal...but then 2 weeks ago our microwave quit, and we have not replaced it. I am hoping that, if I just don't bring it up, perhaps he will forget how convenient it was to have, and passively agree to not get one. (besides, we just don't have the cash for one anyways). Some of the things I have tried to introduce have not been a hit at all, but I just try and try again. The biggest thing is to make it easy. If having good foods is at the cost of a lot of hard work and agony, then the benefits aren't that great. Stress can bring your health down just as much as bad food. To explain more, just be simple. Once small change is one step forward. I can look down the road to where my ideals and dreams are, but if that is all I ever do, then I am defeated before I even start. Ask..what can I do today to move towards that place? Well, today I am trying to stop my 3 year old from filling his belly with the package of hot dogs that we bought (as per the husbands request). He has had one as a snack, and is asking for more. I will put them into the freezer (to be hidden) and so then he won't have that for his next option. Next time I will offer him some oatmeal, or popcorn. When the choices we are use to having are not longer available, and we are hungry, other things become more attractive. 

Perhaps I will blog more on how to practically apply some traditional life stills..something of a "how to" series. It seems that the more I learn and share what I am doing, the more the people around me take interest and want to learn...and I am all about sharing that. I believe that is one tradition that is fading today...passing on our traditions to the next generation. Somewhere, somehow, we forgot to teach our daughters and sons how to live life. We started to depend on others for our welfare and safety. I think that if my Great-Great grandmother were to see the society that she herself started when she pioneered in the "New World", she would shake her head. I don't think a picture of our main street, plastered with fast food joints, dry cleaners, and fitness gyms would reflect the vision she had for her descendants when she settled here. This is "Why" I want to be different. I don't want to be a blind consumer. I want to know that I have worked hard for the things I have..and that those things are worth the sweat. I love the gratification of providing a full meal for my family with only pennies invested. I love hearing my kids tell me, "Hey, we picked those potatoes! And that is the bird Daddy shot the other day." when eating our meal. That is the drive behind my madness. Besides that, I am very cheap. Too cheap in fact, that I haven't bought Kraft Dinner in over 2 years because they raised the price to over a dollar a box.

I have a lot of plans for our future. We need a wood cook stove. That will be a huge investment for us..but it's on the someday list. We want a farm. Someday. I plan to buy chickens this spring for eggs. I am extending our urban garden and building a small green house. My eldest son and I plan to take the hunters safety course together in May. I want to be TV free. I want to read my bible more. I want to pay off dept that is incurring interest so that I can afford to give to charity. We want to rig up a wind power generator when we move out of town. I want to learn how to sew pants, and button-up shirts. The list goes on and on...and day by day we get closer. Slowly. In time. Some people say it is inspiring. I say, it is a life of hard work. Honest work. I hope that the inspiration that comes from my sharing is the kind that propels others to reach their own goals..that encourages them to help themselves. And I am willing to share, whatever I can along the way.

Monday, October 21, 2013

-Bohemian Hand Bag- "Indie Dusk"

-Bohemian Hand Bag-
"Indie Dusk" 
...Ethical and sustainable. 
Hand sewn & hand painted artisan graphic hand bag.

This over-sized bag is equipped with two exterior decorative pockets, giving it both functional and cosmetic appeal. The "over the shoulder" straps are generously wide and support the bag at hips length when worn in the sling position. A gentle color pallet provides a natural feel for late autumn and winter months.

See below for detailed progress photo's as well as the final photo shoot which shows the finished detail.

* * * * * * * *