Chaos On Serenity

Diary Of An Off-Grid Homesteader

Category: Homesteading Humor

How To Avoid Absolutely Everything In Nine Easy Steps

Today is a very special day my friends, as it signifies the end to my first prolonged blogging slump. In fact, it has been almost exactly two months since I last posted anything. For any of you who actually noticed, I apologize.  While I would like to reassure you that it won’t happen again, the likelihood is high that it will.

The thing is, I have a condition called ADD (also known as Avoidance and Denial Disorder), which means I suffer from chronic procrastination and I just can’t help avoiding things.

Most of the things I avoid are perfectly understandable: phone calls, Dr. appointments, laundry… But sometimes I avoid things that I really enjoy, things that matter. Like writing my blog.

I have even developed a system to ensure the greatest chance of total self-sabotage, which is to wait until things are going really well and ​then drop the ball. Pretty clever, eh?

Anyway, in honor of overcoming my first anti-blogging binge, I thought it would be fun to share with you guys some tips and tricks I have honed over the years as a professional procrastinator. As always, please enjoy at my expense.

How to avoid absolutely everything in nine easy steps:

​1. Never answer your phone unless you are certain who is calling. Even then, it’s optional. Be sure to forget/lose your phone often. Breaking it is even better. Charge it sporadically. Bonus points for not setting up your voicemail. Triple bonus points if your auto-correct is totally jacked up and you refuse to fix it, resulting in endless texting/messaging/emailing headaches.

​2. Distract yourself with menial household projects. Make sure they are super low on the priority list. Some great suggestions are: organize the kitchen cabinets, deep clean the refrigerator, empty the junk drawers. The key is to do them all together, ​while also rearranging the furniture. Consider switching entire rooms around for maximum effect.

​3. Never have what you need when you need it. Got a boring appointment to go to? Lose your car keys. Need identification for some sort of legal crap? Bring the wrong purse. Have an important letter to mail? Only remember to buy stamps​ after you return from running errands. When you do finally get the stamps, be sure not have any envelopes. You get the idea.

​4. Keep details murky. Your facts and figures should always be a little blurry. Be as general as possible. For example, it’s okay to know that the party is at the end of the month. But do not remember the exact date. And never the exact time. And it should go without saying not to write it down. Alternatively, if you do write it down, be sure to refer back to step three.

​5. Find something to obsess over. My favorite obsessions include binge-researching conspiracy theories, reading entire books without taking any breaks, making soap and paper at inappropriate times, and, of course, rearranging the furniture.

​6. The more excuses the better. When the nagging begins (from yourself or others) it is important to have a heavy arsenal of brilliant excuses at the ready. These excuses should be very convincing to keep the guilt and negative consequences away, so craft them carefully.

​7. Complicate things. There is no better time to suddenly become a perfectionist than when you need to get something important done. While this strategy can work in many different situations, I find it particularly useful when a writing deadline is coming up.

​8. Overschedule yourself. This may seem counterintuitive, but the more you put on your plate, the less likely you are to get it all done. When you realize that you don’t have enough time for all your commitments, be sure to drop the important stuff first. If you keep yourself sufficiently overwhelmed, you may even decide it’s too much work to get out of bed at all, triggering a complete cancel-a-thon. Keep a good book around, just in case.

​9. Absolute avoidance. Out of sight, out of mind is extremely prophetic here. For example, when I am avoiding writing, under no circumstances do I turn on my lap top or even take it out of the case. Honestly, it can be risky to even see the case, so I stuff it in a corner of the bedroom and cover it with laundry. Denial is the name of game, my friends.

And there you have it people. Nine easy steps for avoiding absolutely everything. Go ahead and give them a try. Just be sure to surround yourself with some very patient friends and family, especially if you don’t want to end up a hermit in the woods! hmm….

As always, thanks for reading and don’t be afraid to spread the shame 🙂

Wholeness, my friends.

Funny Is As Funny Does

I have been blogging for seven whole entire months now, people – which is basically a miracle of consistency for me. Seriously, anyone who knows me knows how impressive this number is. Sure, I may occasionally disappear for weeks at a time (something I am working really hard to rectify). But still, considering my severe commitment issues, the fact that I haven’t found something else to do by now is pretty amazing. Honestly, I think a little pat on the back is in order.

Anyway, when I started Chaos on Serenity, the idea was to share my wealth of knowledge on off-grid living. However, it quickly become apparent I really don’t know shit about homesteading and that writing about my life-fails would be a much more relevant angle.  

So the blog has morphed into a chronicling of my most embarrassing moments, much to my sister’s delight.

Okay, fine. I can deal with that. If it takes throwing myself under the bus to get anyone to read my stories, I am willing and able. Fame is fame after all. And I have to admit that writing humorous anecdotes (regardless if I am the butt of the jokes) has inflated my ego quite a bit. People are laughing at my stories. I am making people laugh. Therefore,  I must be funny. (The fact that they are laughing at me versus with me is not the point).

So, yesterday, flying high on my new found comicality, I rang my sister to talk about my blog and how hilarious I was. Of course, I had to be humble about it, so I started off the discussion with a modest, “Gee, I never thought I was funny” lead in. The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Her: I know! No offense, but you are NOT funny. You just put yourself in funny situations and you laugh at everything. Since you are good with words, it just comes out funny.

Me: (bubble totally bursted)  Uh… yeah. Exactly…. Wait – so I laugh too much?

Her: Yeah, you just find everything funny even when its not funny at all.

Me: (connecting some dots)  Oh… maybe you’re right. Last week I thought one of my friends had made a hilarious joke but she just looked at me like I was nuts when I started cracking up. I guess she didn’t say anything funny.

Me: (connecting more dots) Actually, that happens all the time.

After that I quit listening to whatever my sister was saying and began making a mental note of all the times I had literally rolled on the floor laughing while everyone around me just chuckled awkwardly.  I had assumed they were all a bunch of boring dolts, but I guess they were just being polite.

Wait, does this mean my new funny friend I just starting texting isn’t really funny? Do you think she’s noticed that I have been LOLing her excessively? Maybe it’s time for a reevaluation of everything I ever thought. Thanks, sis.

So the moral of the story is this, rather than having a refined and sophisticated wit about me, I am just the opposite. I have no boundaries and zero taste when it comes to discerning funniness. I just laugh at every damn thing, including my own not-funny jokes. Great.

Not only that, but all it took for me to discover that I am not a funny person is writing a blog that makes people laugh. Go figure.

As always, thanks for reading everyone. And remember, sharing is caring people. If you like what you read, don’t be afraid to spread the shame 🙂

Stepping On Moss And Other Springy Things

Hello friends! I hope you all have been having a truly magical spring/summer.  I have thought often about you guys over the past month or so. Nearly everyday, in fact, I have thought: I should really check in with everyone and write a blog post soon. And then I thought: Okay, just as soon as I finish gardening, or making soap, or cleaning, or washing dishes, or some other very important obligation…. but the thing is, those obligations never go away. They are always there. There is ALWAYS something that needs done. So I decided, if we are going to make this thing work, I’m just going to have to do it. Just sit down, open my computer and say hi.

And here I am. Sure, the gardens need mulched, the children washed, the poop buckets dumped. But those things can wait (well, maybe not the poop buckets).

Right now, I am saying hi.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I do not have a grand plan for this post, so I am making it up on the fly. I thought I could just update everyone about how things are coming along on the homestead, ramble on a bit, and get reacquainted to this whole blogging thing again. But I promise my next post will be truly epic. Maybe.

Compared to winter, spring and summer on the homestead are ahhhmazing. Everyday we wake up to the birds singing, goats baaing, and not a single creepy neighbor in sight. I love to take advantage of the quiet (cool) morning hours, so I let the family sleep in and slip out to the garden for a bit. This I consider my meditation time.

The gardens are looking good, though maybe not great. I have just recently starting adding a lot more organic material to give the ‘maters and melons a boost, so I am hoping this will help speed things along.

I don’t have a garden fence yet, as Mav is too busy building fences for people that will actually pay him. So the chickens and I have a hate/hate relationship going on right now.

Basically, they like to torture me by eating my cabbage and scratching off all my mulch. Then I come in and spend my time fixing the damage, only to have them come right in after me to damage my fixing. It’s kind of like the groundhogs day of gardening. See why I don’t have the time to blog? Just blame Mav. Or the chickens. Really, anyone but me will do.

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I have also started a Zen garden this year, as I needed an outlet to satisfy my moss obsession. In the spring, I went into the woods and collected a whole bunch of moss. Then, I transplanted it to a shady spot that had a couple of boulders anchoring it to give it that authentic ‘Zen’ feel. Before I put the moss down, I weeded the area really well, made sure the ground was wet and roughed up a bit. I placed the moss on the ground and used little sticks to stake it into the dirt so it would have a chance to attach itself. For the first couple months, I watered it when it wasn’t raining. Once or twice a day, I stepped barefoot on the wet moss to encourage it to attach to the ground. Also, because it feels good on my tootsies (except watch out for the little stakes!). And, surprisingly, it seems to be working. The moss is attaching and spreading slowly, as moss does. A nice, rainy spring has definitely helped.

Of course, I can’t just go around playing with moss all day. Ain’t nobody got time for that. So, I have had to move on for now and put my energy into something that can actually sustain us (like vegetables). But in the fall, I plan to add more moss and make it the most magical Zen garden this side of the Cuyahoga.

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We added two sweet goats to our family recently. Which tripled the size of our herd. We have plans to hire a hunky stud in the fall to service the ladies so that we can have adorable babies in the spring. Oh yeah, and goat milk.

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My sister just came for a visit, bless her delicate soul. It rained the entire time. She’s the best though, I totally appreciate her succumbing to the experience. I expect to see her up here again sometime around never.

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Enjoying an outdoor dinner at the our new table. This was the only 45 minute window of time it wasn’t raining buckets the weekend my sister was here

And just to make you indoor-plumbing people jealous, here is a picture of the enchanted table my love built for me. Hello dinner parties.  

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We are doing the farmer’s market again this year. It’s a lot of work at times, but the kids love it. It also forces me to leave the woods and talk to people at least once a week – so in a way it’s therapy. Because it is such a small little market, I don’t have to worry about being a very good business woman either.  I just sell what I got if I got it, smile, and talk out of my ass for four hours. Good times.

The house and bath house are coming along really well. Not so much physically, as much as in our hearts. Matt is crazy busy at work right now, so the time he has to build me a house is a bit restricted at the moment. However, we are still absolutely planning to be in the house before ‘that season which we do not speak of’ comes again. Or people will die. Mav, are you reading this?

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The bath house. So close, yet so far.

Ok, well this blog post has taken enough of my time today. I really have things to do, like curse the chickens and whine about the mess. It’s been great friends, we really have to do this more often.

How have you guys been doing? I hope you are enjoying the ups and downs of life. No matter how busy you are, be sure to get your nature time in! It makes everything else so much more manageable, don’t you agree sis?

***This was Spring 2017***. Read the update here

Two Sisters, A Comparison

I once joked with my sister that the only thing harder than my life is hers.

The face she made when I said this was one of utter shock.

Apparently, she disagrees with me.

So much so, she actually bet me that if I wrote this blog post, nobody who reads it will agree I have the easier life. ​Nobody.

And so, the challenge is on.

Don’t get me wrong, as mentioned in previous posts, my sister is basically perfect.

She has four, right-in-a-ridiculous-row, cutest-things-you-ever-saw, age-six-and-under, mesmerizingly adorable children.

She married her high school sweetheart at the tender age of 18, has never been in any kind of trouble for anything ever, and mails out thank you cards as religiously as I lose library books.

She has been a maid of honor at more weddings than I have been ​invited  too.

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Yet… yet… I still wouldn’t ​prefer her life.

She definitely wouldn’t prefer mine.

My sister and I are opposites, from our physical appearance to our personalities. We have learned to compliment each other quite nicely over the years. Where I am passionate and impulsive  (irresponsible), she is organized and level-headed (boring).

We are also very competitive. Hence this post.

Now I get it, I am the crazy sister – not exactly a badge of honor, though I wear it proudly.

Still, there has got to be ​someone out there who would rather live in the woods and commune with the trees than be at the beck and call of tiny humans 24 hours a day.

As mentioned, my sister has four young children. She has pretty much been pregnant or nursing for the past seven years, non-stop. She is also a very attentive mother – which translates to very needy children. Stage five clingers, she calls them.

I may live in the middle of the woods with no indoor plumbing, but my youngest child is eight. When my kids get on my nerves, I simply send them away to do chores.

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My sister and I both added new puppies to the family last year. Mine is a little shit, but since he has the run of the woods, who cares?

My sister’s dog is a little shit too. Only they don’t live in the woods, so it matters. She often escapes from their fenced-in backyard and runs straight over to the neighbors. This neighbor is not a nice lady.

Neighbors scare me. The thought of wrangling my wayward dogs out of some crotchety old lady’s yard makes me quiver.

This is why I live in the middle of the woods.

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Also, I do a lot of cooking. As a vegetarian who wants to eat healthy, it’s sort of a must. Plus it’s a very homesteady thing to do.

My sister doesn’t really cook and her kitchen attests to it. She has like, one pan and a whole bunch of upcycled yogurt containers.

With one baby glued to her boob, another poking a finger in the dog’s butt, a third crying because someone looked at her wrong, and the eldest hiding in a closet making silly videos on a stolen phone, I get why my sister doesn’t have time to cook.

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Still, is that really an excuse for not having a decent can opener or a simple lid for steaming rice?

No, no it isn’t.

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But what I really want to know is how she manages to keep her children so clean and coordinated, looking like little baby models, every single day.

Sure, she has indoor plumbing, so that helps.

But still, when it is time to leave the house, she’s like Mary Poppins, all smiles and songs, managing the impossible: four snotless, stainless, adorably dressed children out the door on time with no yelling. Something’s not right people.

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My sister is an extrovert. She never stays home if she can help it. In one day, she can easily handle ballet class, lunch date, park, grocery store, library, another playdate and top it all off with a ladies’ night out.

I am an introvert. I never leave the homestead if I can help it. I get tired just ​thinking about running errands. Socially busy days drain my body of vital life force energy.

Another reason I live in the woods.

You know what else? I have spent the last 20 years coming up with awesome business ideas. A handful of them even made it out of the idea stage, like, to where I actually made business cards and everything. None of them ever amounted to much as I have a tendency to move on to something new as soon as I get bored (usually right after I order business cards).

My sister, though. She sits silently by watching me come up with one hair-brained idea after another. Just minding her own business, changing diapers and such. Then bam! She decides she wants to be a photographer. And after less than a year has a bonafide photography business with actual ​clients.

She doesn’t even have a business card! Something’s not right people, I’m telling you.

So sure, she is organized, efficient, calm, patient, beautiful, joyful, sweet, polite, reliable.

But she doesn’t live in the woods.

Now, who’s with me?

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Library Liberation

I am in love with our local library. Obsessed is more like it. As a poor, homeschooling, homesteading family, the library is a miraculous beacon of hope in a world of expensive curriculum, allowing us to function with little funds in our quest for wisdom.

It’s a beautiful thing, my friends.

After all, the library has to be one of the last places on earth that offers it services completely free. Free books, free movies, and free internet (makes it a triple threat in my book). They also have free room rental, which we occasionally use as a winter school solution to keep from killing each other in our tiny, cramped space.

So, yeah the library is amazing. And the people who work there! At least at my local library, they are like another species of humans all together, so friendly, patient and ​helpful.  My local librarians are my idols. I want to be just like them when I grow up.

So you can imagine my embarrassment when, just the other day, my girls called me out in front of one of my favorite librarians so brilliantly, so perfectly, I was left bright red and sputtering from shame.

See, the problem is, I have very little self-control, especially when I’m surrounded by books. I’m like the proverbial kid in a candy store. Only a kid is at least limited by the change in his pocket. When it comes to checking out books, I am limited only by the library’s generous cap of 75 items.

Lots of books plus poor organization skills equals large library fines.

Amazingly, considering all of my issues, it has taken me a long time to get to my current library low.

Mav was the first one to go down. It took me less than a year to desecrate his library card. Then I got a card in my name and, for a long time, I kept it under control. Sure, there were occasional hiccups; a lost or ruined book here and there. But I paid off the fines as needed and we kept the reading rolling.

Unfortunately, I had a recent relapse and watched my library fine jump to $160.00! Oops. Can’t pay that anytime soon. But…

I must have books.

In desperation, I turn to Phoenix who shakes her head, shrinking away from me.

She knows what’s coming.

“We are going to have to put a few of our school books on your card. No choice, we need them for our learnin’. Plus a book on cultivating mushrooms for the homestead, and this other one on fermentation. And just one more item, a princess book for London. That’s all, promise. Unless you want to get a movie…” says I.

Phoenix sighs, reluctant to allow me to defile her sacred card. But, she basically has no choice.

I must have books.

And so that’s that. We got some books on Kyrah’s card. No big deal.

But, after having to beg Kyrah to relinquish her card, I realized it was completely shameful to force her hand. I mean, what kind of example am I setting here?

So I got a card in Leyla’s name.

And everything was cool until a few days before Christmas. Phoenix wanted to grab a few books to read over the holidays and I had a couple of holds that were ready for pick up. When I walked up to the counter, the librarian, recognizing me, immediately went to look for my holds, only she couldn’t find them under my name.

I casually mentioned they were on Leyla’s card. Shrugging it off like, of course an eight-year-old is reading this 800-page biography on Joan of Arc.

Phoenix had come to the counter with me to check on her fines. She knew she had some late fees (of her own doing!) but was aiming to keep her card under $25.00 in fines so she could still use it.

When the librarian announced her fines at $32.00, blaming a certain over-due princess book, Phoenix immediately turned on me, claws out.

“This is why I don’t want you using my card! You’ve already ruined yours, it’s not fair, now I can’t get any books!” She hissed loud enough for the whole library to hear her.

I could feel my ears burn, I began to sputter, about to throw Leyla under the bus in my place when-

The librarian, beautiful being that she is, sprung into action, overriding the fines so that Phoenix could use her card. “You need to get some books honey, and it’s Christmas.

We thanked her profusely, me feeling doubly ashamed. The shame of the poor and the shame of the guilty. I told myself it was okay, the librarian still loved me, they are super-human after all and not prone to judging. I took a deep breath and got my anxiety under control.

As I was finishing up my transaction with the holds, Leyla popped out from under my elbow. The librarian was explaining the more rigid late fee policy with the special-order books when Leyla piped in and said, “Mom, no! You can’t order these books on MY card, I don’t want big fines!

My ears, which had just returned to their regular color, burned bright all over again. I gave the librarian a pitiful smile and nudged my loud-mouths out of the library where they got a full briefing on tact and diplomacy.

In other words, throw me under the bus again ladies and kiss those coveted cards goodbye!

How about you? Have your kids ever thrown you under the bus? How did you handle it?

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Everything You Don’t Need To Know About Making A Fire (and a few things you do)

I tend to have very bad timing, people, and today’s post is no exception. Today we will be discussing the finer points of building fires, wood woes and the like. This is a subject I have been meaning to write about since the onset of cold weather four or five months ago. However, the inspiration for writing it never fully hit until now, just as we are moving into spring and no one cares about heating with fire (for the next five months, anyway). 

The good news is that my firewood post would have been just as useless five months ago as it will prove to be today, so you haven’t really missed out. The main focus of this How To Make A Fire tutorial is to throw in as much juvenile humor as I can manage (we are talking about ​wood ​after all) without being too annoying. It’s a delicate balance, my friends – wish me luck. Of course, I do plan to steal a couple of real tips from actual homesteading blogs so it won’t be a complete waste of your time, I promise 🙂

I would just like to say that I have never been officially trained on how to start a fire, and have had to go through some hard knocks to figure it all out. Honestly, what I have found to work the absolute best when starting a fire is to yell out in a whiny, helpless voice “Maaaavv, build me a fire”. Generally, this does not work in and of itself, but when I start threatening to withhold certain pleasures (breakfast, people, geez!), it gets the job done.

Actually, I really don’t mind building fires. In fact, when I get a nice fire going in minutes rather than hours, I feel a huge sense of pride, like I can accomplish anything I put my mind too.

When it comes to building a fire there are two methods that I am aware of (there are actually quite a few more, I just didn’t feel like googling all of them). These two methods are: The Tepee method and the Log Cabin method.

The Tepee Method vs The Log Cabin Method

A few months back, when I was gearing up to get this ​How To Make A Fire tutorial written, I took a series of really terrible pictures (a specialty of mine) while grabbing whatever tinder we had on hand (paper and a cardboard cup holder, in this case) as well as splitting a random mixture of kindling. I crossed my fingers that I had guessed correctly for the purposes of this tutorial as I knew I was unlikely to go through the hassle of staging it all again. Well, we all got lucky as it ended up being the perfect amount for my fire.

Ironically, the very next day, just as I was about to show off my pictures to the boys, they started talking about how much the tepee method sucked. At this point, I backed slowly away, no longer having the heart to show them my awesome work.

However, regardless of what those snotty woods’ boys think, the tepee method is a tried and true method and, besides, I have pictures.

Both the tepee method and the log cabin method start off the same: with tinder and kindling. Tinder is very flammable small material (can range from paper to twigs to dry leaves and pine needles). Kindling is thin pieces of wood. Tinder and kindling must be dry, no exceptions. Unless you have a blow torch. But in that case you don’t need this tutorial or anything other than fuel, logs, and the patience to flame-blast the wood until the cows come home (this is Maverick’s favorite method, by the way.)

Here is what I used to start my fire:

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Side Note: I grabbed that cardboard drink container on a whim but it actually worked out really well as a long-burning tinder. Plus I could stuff the other paper and cardboard into the cracks while allowing for a nice air flow. One of the tricks to getting a fire going is to make sure it can breath.

​Now light that bitch.

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​Okay, now you simply stack up some of the thinnest kindling around the burning tender in the shape of a, you guessed it, tepee. Then shut the door to the wood stove (making sure the flue(s) are open) as this gives it a nice flow of air. Listen for a little woosh, signifying the fire is really catching.

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At this point, you got a good thing going. Open the door and add on thicker and thicker kindling, being careful not to smother the flames. Then shut the door again and let the airflow work its magic.  When I know my baby can handle the big stuff, I throw on the logs and voila, a fire is made.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Now, my ADD is kicking in and this tutorial stuff is starting to bore me, so if you want to know how to do the log cabin method (plus a bunch of other cool methods), please click here.

Actually if you want to learn anything of value, leave now and find a real homesteading blog, my friends.

Okay so now the fun stuff:

Mav and I were a little reckless (by reckless I mean totally unprepared) this past year of extreme homesteading and ended up with wet wood (also known as unseasoned wood) to deal with midwinter.  Let me tell you, nothing ruins the homesteading mood quite like wet wood. Coaxing wet wood into performing is a tedious, frustrating task. Wet wood is useless wood. You have to play with it forever to get any kind of reaction out of it. All it can do is smoke and smolder and cause a lot of frustration, for everyone involved.  No matter how hard it tries, it just cannot heat things up.  

So how do you prevent wet wood? You take some time to prepare yourself. Don’t just rush in. Make your game plan early on (like spring or summer), get your wood cut and stacked neatly and securely and then ​always use protection. This is key, gentleman. If you do not remember to cover your wood, you will end up with a very unhappy homesteading woman. She will literally lay in bed all day with layers of layers of clothes on while giving you the stink eye for ruining her life. Sexy? I think not.

Wet wood is no good but dry wood is amazing. Nothing makes a homesteading woman more excited than a huge stack of hard, dry wood. Dry wood can get her so hot and bothered, spontaneous stripping takes place. Sexy? I think so.

Now, I would like to apologize for wasting so much of your time today. Do you have any real tips to share with the rest of us? Please comment below. And remember sharing is caring people. If you like what you read today, don’t be afraid to spread the shame 🙂

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