Keeping your cool in the face of adversity is the Holy Grail of good mothering.
Just as a queen bee’s pheromones create harmony in her hive, the mother’s mood sets the tone in her home (ever heard the saying happy wife, happy life?).
However, this is not always so easy…
After all, children can be messy, willful and not overly concerned with things like the electricity bill. They leave peanut butter and jelly crime scenes in the kitchen and booby trap the stairwell with their toys and shoes…
One of my children’s favorite ways to irritate the hell out of me is to turn on every light single light and leave all the kitchen cabinets wide open. Needless to say, their poltergeist behavior does not bode well for my mommy pheromones.
So what are we mothers (and fathers) to do?
Reminding them gently and patiently does not work in and of itself.
Screaming and yelling may get the job done, but the household harmony will be lost in the process.
Ignoring their bad habits, or, worse yet, trailing behind them to clean up their messes will only create a bitter mama and some rather spoiled children.
This is where push-ups come in…
That’s right. Stealing a trick from good ol’ boot camp, I have found that push-ups are all that is needed to whip our little people right into shape (figuratively and literally).
Allow me to explain why this simple technique works so well:
Harkening back to the queen bee and her pheromones, a mother’s mood is arguably the most important aspect to a healthy family.
However, it is nearly impossible for us moms to be easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy when our simple requests are blatantly ignored and our precious free time is spent picking up after our children.
Even the most gracious and patient of mothers can’t sustain harmony under these conditions for long.
That’s when many of us ‘snap’. We end up screaming or grounding our kids in a fit of fury after we have reached our limit.
But, if we have a tool on hand to be pulled out anytime, anywhere, we can avoid the theatrics and the giving away of our peace of mind.
Push-ups are a consistent and reliable method of reminding The Forgetful Ones of the household rules.
They are also a healthy physical activity that can build strong bodies.
Ironically, with the push-up method, the more bad habits your children have, the more opportunity they will have to buff up. Can we say, win/win?
How to Implement The Push-Up Method
Hold a family meeting. Announce there will no longer be endless pleading and begging, screaming and yelling, to coerce your children into behaving like good little household citizens. Explain you will now be using pushups to help remind them to clean up after themselves, brush their teeth, flush the toilet, etc.
Introduce the push-up. Demonstrate what good form looks like (you may have to practice this a little before calling the meeting). In our household, we take the push-up method seriously. Our children are expected to have good form (straight back, no butt up in the air, head in alignment with their back). This ensures they take the whole process seriously while building up strength and stamina. Remember parents: no pain, no gain.
Determine a starting point. Be sure you meet your children where they are physically. If they have never done a push-up before, they may need to start with a modified push-up (knees on the ground), or even start with sit-ups. Know that they will definitely whine and complain and act like their arms are made of wet noodles. Assess them fairly and judiciously. Once you have a starting point, be sure to add to it as their strength builds. Let them know your expectations moving forward, such as “I will only remind you once a day not to lock your sister in the basement. After that, it’s five push-ups”. In our house, push-ups are a blanket consequence for all minor transgressions.
Adjourn meeting and wait like a child on Christmas Eve for the first sign of misbehavior. Once said behavior happens, calmly request push-ups payout. Channel your inner gym coach and count them down, correct their form and take tiny pleasure in the fact you will no longer be outsmarted by their cute little pleas of “I forgot!”.
Consistency is Key
Remember in all things parenting, consistency is key. It’s easy to let things slide one or two or ten times. But then the blow-up happens.
What makes push-ups such a great parenting tool is their ease of implementation. The phrase “Drop and give me twenty!” should be on the tip of your tongue as you work your way through the house, checking to make sure the minions have followed orders.
In all seriousness, my family has had a lot of fun with the push-up method.
When children know what the expectations are (and the consequences if said expectations are not met), they tend to fall into line rather easily. When moms have a method to control the madness, they tend to emit harmonious pheromones which create a busy hive of happy, healthy baby bees.
To all my parenting peeps out there, sit down and hold on to your hats for a few minutes as we enter the turbulent world of teenagerism.
Truly, it has been my experience as having been a teenager once myself and now living through my second bout of it in my kids, that being a teenager is TOUGH. Much tougher, perhaps, than even being a parent of a teenager.
And it’s getting tougher. I mean just yesterday, when I was a teenager, we didn’t even have social media to screw with our heads. If we wanted to join up with other teens and make bad choices, we had to put a little scheme into it. Nowadays teenagers can just google their way into trouble. Often while sitting on the couch right next to you (if you can get them to come out of their room, that is).
This is why it is even more important than ever that we, as responsible parents, try really, really, hard to ruin our teenager’s lives. Because if you aren’t ruining your teenager’s life, somebody out in there in google world is (for realsies).
So, based on my aforementioned experience, I have created a quick How To guide to help you do your absolute best in your noble parenting quest to ruin your teenager’s life.
Strategy #1: Chores. Lots Of Chores.
Now when I say chores, I don’t mean some cute little chart where they earn stickers for unloading the dishwasher and brushing their teeth. I mean real, gritty, down and dirty chores. That actually help you out and make life easier on the entire family. Sure, cleaning and bodily hygiene rituals are just fine (we could actually use a little more of those around here) but think about adding something intense to the mix- something that makes them sweat, makes them think, and/or creates a lasting result.
My children haven’t always had to do chores (this could be why we have such a hard time with cleaning and bodily hygiene rituals…). To be honest, it wasn’t until we started homesteading, living off-grid and taking care of animals that I realized chores weren’t cute anymore. In our life, everybody is needed to keep everything running smoothly (and even then, we are often still just puttering along).
For my sanity and because I would turn into a bitter old lady otherwise, everyone has to do their fair share of chores every day. Which translates to hours and hours a week. And the older they get, they more chores they get to do. Yay!!
So how is this beneficial to anyone else but me? (Said while sipping a pina coloda from my easy chair as the children fan me and feed me grapes). It creates this thing called character. It creates confidence. It gives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Basically, your kids won’t be whiny namby-pamby’s if you work ’em young and work ‘em hard.
Now, I realize most of you are not living off-grid on seventy acres with endless amounts of work on your horizon. I am not suggesting you disassemble your house and have the kids nail it back together. But I am suggesting you create the kind of life where each member of your family contributes in a valuable and meaningful way. And if it makes them sweat, even better.
If you are homesteading, coming up with chores is easy. If you are not, you might have to get creative when it comes to doling them out in large quantities. Some ideas for meaningful chores for teenagers are: Design and take care of a small butterfly or vegetable garden, help with a building/repair project, learn how to fix a flat tire/change the oil, assist in family meal planning, or committing to a volunteer project or organization like Habitat for Humanity, etc.
Fun Fact: The younger you start them on chores, the easier it is to get them to actually do anything by the time they are a teenager. Plus by then, if you have done due diligence, they will surprise you with how capable and helpful they can be, even while perfecting their death glare.
Strategy #2. Make Them Spend Time With You
Now I know this sounds cruel, but hear me out. To truly ruin your teenagers life, you need to insert yourself strongly into it. That way, when they are thinking back on how you ruined their life, they will have lots of memories of you doing all kinds of stupid stunts to support their theory. Drag them to a movie, ask them about their latest book (tips on how to get your teenager to read in Strategy Three), do a chore together (my favorite).
Don’t be afraid to act silly, talk to people in public, or show some kind of affection towards your teenager while spending time together as these actions are sure to having a lasting embarrassing impact, a key to ruining their life.
It really doesn’t matter what you do together, but it is important that you remain positive and unaffected by their attempts at withering your soul with a single glare. Forcing your teenager to spend time with you when what they really want to do is kill you can be brutal on the tender parenting heart. This is a good time reach into your spiritual toolbox and pull out the Second Agreement from Don Miguel Ruiz’s incredibly simple yet profound book, The Four Agreements, which is this: Don’t Take Anything Personally.
Of course, getting a teenager to agree to spend time with you can be pretty tough. The first step is getting them out of bed. For tips on how to do this, refer back to Strategy One. The second thing you need to do is to completely bore the shit out of them so they talk to you out of sheer desperation. Which brings us to Strategy Three, the Mother of all Methods for ruining your teenager’s life.
Strategy #3: Take their phone away. (Insert horrified gasping emoji here)
Yes. I. Did.
I took my teenager’s phone away.
And guess what, everyone? She didn’t die! She didn’t go into convulsions, or start blubbering and drooling. (Actually, she quit doing that when I took her phone away).
In the interest of full disclosure (a caveat of this blog, really), I can now admit (a year later) that Maverick was right (of course, once again, yawn..) when he suggested we wait to give Phoenix a smart phone and social media. But did I listen? Oh no, I did not.
In hindsight, the best tip I have for moms and dads approaching the should-I-give-my-teenager-a-phone-and-social-media-decision is this: The minute that smart phone (or even tablet or ipod) goes into their hands and social media accounts are opened, the lines between parent and child autonomy start to blur, getting ever blurrier as the days, months and years go by.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as developing personal autonomy in our children is a baseline goal for parents. But giving your child too much autonomy too early sets the stage for trouble, as I found out the hard way. So be very, very sure you are ready to go down this road.
Also, parental controls and/or spying apps are there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them. They allow for a slow release of your child’s privacy and autonomy as they prove they can handle it.
Above all, always make sure you follow your mom instincts and DO NOT give in to the mom guilt, no matter the amount of justification they sling at you. Truly, my resolve to wait on the phone/social media was blasted apart when Phoenix began pointing out all the deficits she already had in life, such as living in a camper in the woods, being homeschooled with no close friends, and the whole pooping in a bucket thing.
She begged for a phone, citing all the ways it would magically change her social life for the better. Saying yes to the phone, Snap Chat and Instagram was really my way out of all the mom guilt I was feeling. Of course, when I realized what I had done by giving her the phone, my mom-guilt came flooding back. Oh, the irony.
When I made the counter-decision that my teen’s phone had to go, it was not easy. By this time, she had pretty much turned into Gollum from The Ring, stroking the phone adoringly while muttering precious, my precious over and over to herself.
Honestly, I was downright scared. For some irrational reason, I thought I might actually ruin her life if I took her phone away. I even googled how to take your teens phone away and also should I take my teens phone away. (Apparently, teens are not the only ones who no longer have to think for themselves).
And even though, in all of google land, I found not one professional advising me to take my teen’s phone away (in fact, all I found were articles telling me how I should never invade my teen’s privacy or break her trust by taking/searching her phone), I did it anyway.
Best. Decision. Ever.
After all, do kids really have a right to social privacy? Shouldn’t they at least have to work for it?
I mean, when I was a kid, we had to sneak out in the middle of the night to have any privacy with our friends. And there was a reason why we wanted privacy in the first place, which wasn’t exactly anything our parents would have approved of.
It seems the leading edge opinion on the topic is that going through your child’s phone is akin to sawing off the top of their head and peering into their private thoughts. A complete violation of their personal being. Yet maybe, just maybe, it is not in the best interest of our children and teens to have unchecked and unregulated access to each other (and everyone else lurking around the internet)
Of course, when I took Precious from Gollum, there was a period of total freak out. The death glares were in full swing, along with dramatics to make any momma’s heart race. Yet, with the gentle support of Maverick, I stayed strong, my friends, and just loved her through it.
Then slowly, every so slowly, my child came back to me. Now a year later, she told me just the other day how glad she was we took her phone and social media when we did because she was being a ‘total idiot’ and that she is still suffering some repercussions from her ‘wild days’.
I am not telling you what to do, just reminding you to listen to your instincts and find what works for your family. But please, as tempting as it is, don’t put your head in the sand. What you don’t know CAN hurt them.
Believe me, I know how tempting denial is, but remember, as parents it is our job to ruin our teenager’s life. This means doing the tough work sometimes. So even though they may scream and shriek and have phantom limb pains, stay strong, my parenting warrior.
And if you find your resolve weakening, just repeat this mantra over and over: A phone is not an appendage, a phone is not an appendage. Also, try not to delay, as I am pretty sure taking your child’s phone away will soon be illegal.
And there you have it friends, three strategic steps for ruining your teenager’s life. They seem to be working really well for me, judging by the intensity of death glares I am earning lately. If you have a strategy to share with the rest of us, let me know in the comments! #parentingwarriors
Hey there friends! Today we are going to talk about my favorite natural skin care product of all time, the remarkably versatile yet always humble, witch hazel. Witch hazel is the number one staple in my all natural skin care routine as an all-in-one cleanser, toner and moisturizer. It’s soothing, tightening, toning and cooling abilities make it perfect for skin irritations of all kinds. It is also thought to be the best natural treatment for acne.
Witch hazel is absolutely perfect for low-maintenance homesteader-types as well as anyone looking for an affordable natural skin care cleanser and toner and all-around natural beauty care product.
For anyone wanting to start making their own all natural skin care products, witch hazel should be one of the first items you stock up on as it makes the perfect base for custom toners, insect repellents, refreshing face sprays and more!
Famed for it’s astringent, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties due to its high tannin content, witch hazel has so many great medicinal and natural cosmetic uses, it really is a must-have item for any homestead or natural skin care routine.
Even the government has been bewitched as witch hazel is one of the few herbal remedies to win approval by the FDA (oooh).
Honestly, it wasn’t until I moved out here to no-man’s-land and realized washing my face without a faucet really sucked that I woke up to the magical powers of witch hazel. Since trying it, I have been completely under it’s spell and I think you will be too!
What Is Witch Hazel?
Witch hazel extract is made from the bark, leaves, and twigs of the witch hazel shrub (Hamamelis virgiania), a plant that has been used medicinally and cosmetically by Native Americans for centuries.
Witch hazel is also known as ‘winterbloom’ in honor of it’s yellow tassel-like flowers that bloom in the fall and winter and shoot off the tree in early December like a winter fireworks display (so witchy!).
Witch hazel is even purported to have real live supernatural abilities. It’s Y-shaped branches have been used for centuries as a dowsing rod or divining rod to help locate underground water sources. It is said the witch hazel rod will dip down when is held over a place water can be found, Unfortunately (or rather fortunately I suppose), I did not know about witch-hazel-as-divining-rod when we dug our well, or else I may have insisted we try it. Thankfully Maverick is pretty witchy himself and divined the perfect spot to dig our well without the aid of a dowsing tool.
Witch hazel is also easy to grow and easy to process into so many awesome concoctions! I am planting a few this fall and I will keep you guys posted 🙂
Ten Enchanting Uses For Witch Hazel:
1. Brothers Grime Removal
I fell in love with witch hazel after it become the solution to one of my first off-grid delimmas: How to wash my face conveniently and regularly without running water.
See, our first year here on Serenity we had no indoor plumbing or even a well to pump water from. We had to carry all of our water in (often uphill by foot) and heat it on a stove or fire (or the sun!) to warm it up. Needless to say I turned into an old water-miser, carefully measuring out every single drop.
That’s when I began getting creative and reached for the witch hazel. I just poured some witch hazel onto a cotton pad, swiped it over my face and was instantly impressed and disgusted. Impressed because it worked so well, disgusted because it worked so well, judging by the very dirty cotton pad.
Even after we became water-rich with our own well and hot water set-up (woo hoo!), I still use witch hazel to clean my face. It’s just sooo much less of a hassle than soaping up and rinsing off and bumbling around looking for a clean, dry washrag, (something akin to a unicorn in my house) to dry my face off with.
Anyway, I usually use a couple of cotton pads for a good face cleansing, and I wipe all under my chin and neck too, but be careful around your eyes as witch hazel can sting a bit. That’s all there is to it. No sudsing, no rinsing. No blindly searching for a clean towel that doesn’t exist. Totally water-less face washing routine. An off-grid miracle.
2. Pores No More (All Natural Toner)
Witch hazel isn’t just a gentle yet effective natural face cleanser, it is a natural toner as well. Thanks to all those tannins, it has wonderfully astringent properties. Witch hazel helps dissolve oil and dirt clogging pores while tightening and soothing skin.
It can be used by itself or, if you want to get a lil’ fancy and wet those homesteading toes, you can use it as a base in a custom toner. Just add a few drops of an essential oil or two that you and your skin love into a bottle of witch hazel and there you have it, a custom mixed toner. That’s all there is to it.
If are ready to up your homesteading game, check out this tutorial on how to make your very own witch hazel extract from raw material with a recipe for a lavender and frankinscence witch hazel and apple cider vinegar toner (yum!).
3. Puff Be-Gone! (Under Eye Magic)
Witch hazel makes a great natural treatment for puffy eyes (something I quite prone to these days). It’s anti-inflammatory and astringent properties help reduce puffiness and swelling as well as redness and dark circles.
To use, just pour a little witch hazel onto two cotton balls and set the cotton ball under your eyes for a few minutes (or even longer if sleep is what caused that puffiness in the first place!), while relaxing and breathing deeply. Again, be careful not to get witch hazel directly in your eyes, as it does sting.
4. Witchy Itch Stopper
My first summer on Serenity I was out collecting moss and ended up collecting a nasty poison ivy rash as well. For a couple of weeks, it took all my willpower not to scratch my flesh clean off my arms. During this trial of mind over matter, witch hazel was an essential tool in my all natural rash management toolbox.
For minor bites and itches, dabbing a little witch hazel on every now and then may be all you need. But if you have a poison ivy rash or poison oak rash, witch hazel may not be hard-hitting or long-acting enough to save your sanity all by itself.
For my poison ivy rash, I used a witch hazel/oatmeal paste combination, which helped significantly to keep me from completely losing it and going claws-in. Thanks to witch hazel’s fast-acting soothing effect, it stops the itch on contact and lasts just long enough to warm up the oatmeal paste and slap that on for a few minutes. Expect to repeat this cycle 535,099,815 times until the rash finally, god-blessedly, goes away.
For an easy homemade itch relief spray, try mixing witch hazel, aloe vera gel, and essential oils in a spray bottle, like this recipe.
Or try this recipe for an all natural handmade anti-itch cream, if you want to earn a few extra notches in your homesteading belt.
5. Happily Every Aftershave
Witch hazel makes the perfect all natural aftershave, thanks to it’s antiseptic, anti-inflamatory, toning, and astringent qualities. It helps stop bleeding from nicks, soothes inflamed bumps and reduces redness.
6. Zip Zap Zit
Did you know most commercial acne products contain witch hazel? Did you know they usually contain some pretty gruesome other ingredients as well? Why not just skip the poisons (and the price!) of commercial acne products and start making your own nontoxic all natural handmade acne remedy yourself?
Of course, the best way to treat acne is through diet, but there are ways to help manage breakouts when they do happen. Witch hazel makes a perfect all natural treatment for pimples and blackheads. It can be used as a spot treatment for pimples or, when used as a toner it pulls double duty as an acne treatment.
Try adding a few drops of tea tree essential into the witch hazel for even more pimple-fighting power.
7. Baby Bum Brew
Due to all it’s aforementioned qualities, which hazel makes a great all natural treatment for diaper rash. It’s cooling properties help soothes baby’s bottom while anti-inflammatory tannins work to reduce pain, swelling, irritation and promote healing. Apply straight from the bottle with cotton pads for immediate rash relief.
For preventative measures, try making your own handmade natural baby wipes with just a few easy-to-find ingredients. It’s a great way to avoid all those scary and unnecessary toxic ingredients found in commercial baby wipes. Plus you will earn some homesteading mama bragging rights at your next play date.
8. Vanishing Vericose Veins
Highly respected as an all natural astringent and touted as the best natural topical remedy for varicose veins, witch hazel has a tightening and staunching effect on the blood, and reduces pain and swelling of varicose veins. To use, soak a towel or cotton sheet in a solution of warmed witch hazel and lay over the vein. Keep legs in horizontal position and relax and breath deeply. About a half hour should be enough time for witch hazel to work its magic.
9. First Aid Fairy (Stops, Bleeding, Swelling and Bruising)
Witch hazel is a powerful vulnerary; that is, it seals off slow leaks in blood vessels, and stimulates the drainage of lymphatic fluid from a bruised area. This is the reason why witch hazel is so effective in reducing the swelling and bleeding from a cut or blunt force.
Witch hazel works best when applied soon after injury happens. It will work very quickly if applied right away, stemming both internal and external bleeding and reducing swelling from sprains etc.
10. Bug Repellent Potion
I use witch hazel as the base liquid for my homemade bug spray. By itself, it won’t do jack to keep gnats and mosquitos at bay, but it makes an affordable and effective carrier in your all natural bug repellent recipe.
To make handmade bug spray, fill up a spray bottle with witch hazel and add as much of your favorite insect repelling essential oils as you ‘safely‘ can. (In the interest of transparency, I don’t personally pay attention to safe use standards for essential oils in my bug spray because I have found I have to make it quite strong for the natural bug spray to work very well and I figure no matter what it’s got be safer than DEET, right?)
Just be smart and test out your homemade bug spray on yourself before you go dousing down the whole family. It’s always a good idea to test sensitivity to any new product you make. Babies are more sensitive to essential oils and there are only a few that are recommended for use on wee ones.
My favorite essential oils to use in a homemade bug spray are lemon eucalyptus essential oil, clove essential oil (be careful of overusing this one!) and rose geranium essential oil.
Pro tip: The two secrets to making an effective homemade natural bug spray is to make it strong and reapply constantly.
So basically to sum it all up, witch hazel is a homesteading essential and if your are dealing with anything skin-related, you should probably use witch hazel. Get yourself a bottle today and maybe even stock up a nice supply. After all, you never know when you just might find yourself extreme homesteading in the woods.
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 🙂
Ok friends, before we dive into today’s Top Ten list, we should note that every homestead (off-grid or otherwise) is a unique operation and whether or not you fit the criteria of homesteader is honestly just a matter of opinion.
Seriously, I question my own homesteading creds at times! I may live off-grid in a camper in the woods, but I’ve yet to can my own tomato 🍅
The way I see it, if you’re involved in any activity which helps you shake free from the clutches of The Man (i.e. helps you become sovereign and self-reliant) than absolutely you are homestead-worthy!
After all, homesteading is as much a way of thinking as it is a way of living.
This being said, most homesteaders make sure they at least have a decent roof over their heads, an accessible driveway and some form of indoor plumbing before they take the homesteading plunge…
However, there’s a group of us out there who scoff at such folly…
We fall into a category known as off grid (off-grid, off the grid). But this category can be illusory as well, as there are off-gridders who are living in the height of luxury with decked-out cabins, solar-everything and composting toilets that cost thousands of dollars! (I’ve not actually met these people in real life, but I’ve seen them on YouTube)
So, for clarity’s sake, I coined the term ‘extreme homesteading’ to ensure I’d never be confused with the average namby-pamby homesteader… (kidding, kidding- I don’t think people with indoor plumbing are namby-pambys- I actually aspire to be just like them one day).
What Is Extreme Homesteading?
It’s one part camping, one part pioneer grit, and a whole lotta crazy.
You’re definitely 100 percent off grid. You might have a smattering of structures you’re building yourself in various states of completion. You should probably have access to things like a bulldozer and a bobcat. Maybe you have a saw mill to process your own trees. Definitely you have multiple generators, solar panels, chainsaws, and tools. Lots of tools. A ridiculous amount of tools.
While you do have something to live in (unless you are in the tropics, then some palm trees will suffice), it’s not quite a house. It could be a camper (nothing too fancy) a tent (get as fancy as you’d like) or even a van (a cozy kid’s bedroom, I say). Basically, anything temporary and hodgepodged together to get you by whilst you build The House Of Your Dreams.
There are some variables though. What one person needs to be comfortable can look a lot different than another (some of us are just nuttier by nature, I guess).
For example, our landmates purchased a solar refrigerator/freezer before they even considered coming to Serenity fulltime. We, on the other hand, are still working out of a cooler (or ice box, as I like to call it – much more pioneer-esque, don’t you think?)
Okay, so now we’re clear about the definition of extreme homesteading, lets get to this super important, absolutely essential list already.
Ten Important Items Every Extreme Homesteader Needs:
1. Gigantic Pot.
I talked about this in a previous post; however, the Gigantic Pot is really essential if you don’t have an on-demand water heating system set up yet. With the gigantic pot and a heating source (stove top or fire), you can keep a nice supply of hot/warm water to be used throughout the day for washing dishes and bodies. Believe me, you’ll feel a lot more in control of your life when you at least have the option of keeping things and people clean.
2. Witch Hazel.
As a natural beauty care buff, I am IN LOVE with witch hazel. The main thing I use it for every day is to clean my face. Its super-refreshing, doubles as a toner, doesn’t dry my face out and, man, is it good at getting rid of the sweaty grime that builds up several times a day in peak gardening season.
As an all natural waterless face cleanser, witch hazel makes extreme homesteading (where attaining water, especially warm water, can be a bit of a procedure) a much more convenient affair.
Instead of wasting a whole lotta water to wash my face, I just pull out the witch hazel, some cotton pads and – viola! – I no longer resemble a dirty street urchin (my garden hands are a whole other story, however)
Witch hazel actually has a ton of great uses on the homestead. It can be used on minor cuts and burns, as it has antiseptic and pain-relieving properties. It helps reduce puffy eyes and hemorrhoids, and can be used to soothe diaper rash. And it’s cheap! For a full low-down on the witchiness of witch hazel, check out this post.
I pity the hammock-less homesteader. What is the point of living in the great outdoors if you can’t relax and enjoy Mother Nature anytime, anywhere? I have a hammock that is quick and easy to tie up and take down. After spending the morning in the garden, my pup and I go hiking around Serenity and when I find a good spot to rest, (usually by the creek), I tie it up and have a little shut eye. That is, until Maverick or the kids air horn me back to reality. Which brings me to the next item on our list…
4. Air Horn or Megaphone.
This is really only necessary if you have a decent size property to roam but even if you don’t, the megaphone or Air Horn can be a lot of fun- especially for those of us who aren’t afraid to embarrass our children in public. Serenity is a little over 70 acres, so the air horn comes in handy when it’s time to call the kids in for dinner or chores. It also works nicely to to wake mom up from her hammock hiatus
5. Sun Hat
I love my sun hats! Not only do I feel very homesteady when I am wearing one, it also allows me to garden without crying and squinting like a little old lady at her cat’s funeral (was that in poor taste? sometimes I can’t quite tell). The sun hat is also great at fanning away bugs and gnats, covering your face for an afternoon nap (judge much?) and allowing you to forgo your sunglasses so your eyes can absorb the sun’s healing rays and synthesize vitamin D.
6. Mud boots
Nothing makes me feel better than a good pair of mud boots after a rainstorm. It’s like the rain wants to break me down, but it cannot when I have my mud boots at the ready. They actually make walking around in thick sludge sort of fun. Like I can do anything. Bring it.
7. Outdoor Shower/Bath
Like I said, every homestead is different. We technically have a shower in our camper but who wants to be closed into that tiny space when there are other options? So when the weather’s nice and the sun’s shining, there’s nothing I like more than taking a shower outside.
Rigging up a shower station can be as primitive as a bucket of warm water, a bar of soap, a wash cloth and some trees for privacy. You’ll be amazed by how clean a sponge bath can get you! You may need to enlist help of another for washing long hair, though.
During the heat of the summer, in true pioneer spirit, we also often bath in our swimming hole…
Stepping it up a notch is the outdoor fire bath, an amazing contraption I’ve had the pleasure of using many times at my bff’s farm. Talk about pure heaven, bathing under the open sky, water heated to perfection from a fire under the tub. The whole process of building a fire, filling up the tub and waiting for the water to heat up can take hours, which means you’ll really appreciate the experience.
The fire bath is actually really cool and deserves it’s very own post, so we’ll come back to it in the near future. Until I write it though, here’s a tutorial on how to build one.
Taking a shower/bath in the great outdoors, more specifically allowing yourself to be totally stark naked with the sun shining on every part of you, is an extremely invigorating experience. I really think everyone should try it at least once. You never know, it may become your new thing.
8. Clothes Line With Pulley.
Laundry is the never ending story, weather you homestead or not. On an off-grid operation, things and people get dirty quick. Knowing this, it still took us a whole year of hanging wet clothes and towels willy nilly anywhere we could, tying sagging ropes to trees and tossing the overflow over tree branches (which was about as aesthetically pleasing as it was functional).
Finally, Maverick realized there was a lot on the line, so to speak, and put up a totally rad pulley system with a super long rope that goes high into the trees, never sags, and can handle a full laundry haul. It’s even fun to use. Sometimes its the little things, my friends.
7. Hand Washing Station.
This should probably be at the top of the list. A decent hand washing station is so incredibly convenient and necessary for an off-grid homestead that’s not set up with indoor plumbing yet. It’s also a great to take with you on camping trips, etc. I hate to admit it, but it took me a couple of weeks before I actually set one up, (hey I was just getting used to things!) using instead a cumbersome jug of water.
This clumsy arrangement up did nothing to encourage the family to wash those dirty paws. Finally, realizing we were on the brink of an Ebola outbreak (kidding, kidding), I bought a super cool antique beverage cooler with a spout for ease of washing, filled it with warm water, set out a bar of homemade soap and a clean hand towel and declared we adopt some standards again.
8. Composting Toilet/Outhouse.
Obviously in order to stay anywhere comfortably for more than a few hours, you need somewhere reasonable to relieve yourself. Enter the composting toilet and outhouse. Both of these options require you to live on a little bit of land so as not to freak out your neighbors or create any contamination issues.
The outhouse is also rather simple. Basically a nice deep hole in the ground, at least 100 feet away and downhill from any water sources (well, river, spring, etc).
We use a composting toilet as well as an outhouse. When the outhouse fills up, we simply dig another hole and slide it over. (Maverick’s mechanical auger makes this a much easier job than digging by hand, but we do that also).
Composting is seriously not nearly as gross as it sounds (as long as the kids stay up on their bucket duty and we don’t run out of shavings!). It’s an impressively circular system and one I think deserves a lot more consideration.
10. Sexy handy man who can build/fix anything your heart desires (in due time).
Homesteader or not, we all need one of these in our lives!
If you’re a homesteader (to any degree), what essential items can’t you live without? Comment below and let me know!
As always, sharing is caring people! Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!
I have a confession to make. I have only ever truly loved one purse. She was a backpack handbag and her name was Sadie.
Just the right size and shape to hold a couple of my favorite books, crumpled receipts and wadded dollar bills, she had this amazing ability to meld right into me, so that I would often forget she was even there. Which meant I rarely took her off. Which meant I never lost her. She was perfect.
Sadie was an item of deliberate manifestation. At a point in my life when I was really on fire, I called her into existence. I knew what I needed to finally get organized was a good purse, so I stopped into my local second-hand store certain that the perfect purse would be there waiting for me. And she was.
Turns out, Sadie wasn’t the answer to my organizational problems.
That didn’t stop me from falling in love with her.
Sadly, we were together for only a short while before my carelessness began to wear her down. Soon enough, her zipper no longer zipped, her inner lining began pulling apart.
Finally the day came when I laid her to rest. Saddened at our parting, yet excited to see what else was out there waiting for me, I began the quest for another Sadie.
However, no matter how many thrift stores I frequented, no matter how much I believed she was out there, I was unable to manifest another Sadie. No purse I came across could even compare to the perfect fit we had.
A full year passed and still nothing. Until yesterday.
Yesterday I was again on fire. It was the day before my first public reading and I was feeling the energy. I went to my favorite local consignment shop and immediately loaded my cart up with awesome finds, including the perfect oracle skirt to wear for my presentation. So, as I always do, I headed over to the purse rack. At this point I was tingling, the creative energy was so palpable. I wasn’t surprised when my eyes immediately landed on the most fantastic purse I had ever seen.
Oh man was she beautiful! She was the perfect shape, the perfect color, a rich, grassy green, my favorite color. She was more stylish than Sadie, with an asymmetrical pocket in front. Just enough pizzazz to keep from being boring, yet not so much as to be trying too hard.
Of course, she was a backpack handbag style. The loveliest I had ever seen. I had been searching for her for an entire year. I picked her up and held her, reveling in my obviously amazing powers of manifestation.
And then a little voice whispered to me, look at the label. I hesitated for a second because deep down I knew what I would find.
I turned the label over in my hands and, staring right up at me, taunting me, were the words, “100% leather”.
My heart sank and the struggle began.
Now, I am not ‘vegan’. I eat eggs, though I try to avoid commercially farmed ones, I eat honey. I eat goat cheese and some other cheeses on occasion. In my weakest moments, I even eat Oreo Blizzards. I guess I would describe myself as (working towards) being an ethical vegetarian, although I really do try to avoid labels. They are just so defining.
Labels aside, my personal journey to (re)becoming a being of love and light centers around a continuous effort to grow kinder, more loving, more compassionate. In order to grow kinder, I have to think about and acknowledge my choices, even when that choice is not for the greater good. Sometimes I choose for me and only me. Sometimes I choose for my family. Usually convenience and affordability come into play.
For example, I would prefer to always buy vegan cheese or skip the cheese all together. However, my family really loves cheese. I can usually substitute vegan cheese with minimal protesting, but, depending on the day, the price can be prohibitive. Also, they eat a lot of pizza.
So often enough, I will buy the real cheese, even though I know and acknowledge that it comes with the hidden price of pain and suffering, which ultimately is a much higher price to pay than a couple of extra dollars or a little inconvenience. Yet, knowing this, I still buy it sometimes. Because it makes my family happy. I like to make my family happy. They love cheese. I could tell myself it’s just cheese. But I know it’s more than that.
So, back to my purse story.
Here I am, holding the purse of my dreams in my hands, hemming and hawing on what to do. I want this purse. Yet do I really? Do I really want to wear the skin of a murdered being around on my back all day every day? Yes, kind of. I mean it looks nothing like the skin of a tortured animal, it looks like a beautiful purse! If only I could just ignore that fact that it use to be a real live being that was no doubt abused and tortured before death I could just buy the damn thing. I have been waiting for this moment for a freaking year! And it’s only six bucks!!
I looked at Maverick, begging him to tell me I was being irrational. He is in a different place in his journey and could easily give me the nod of approval. Yet, he did not. He walked away, knowing that I have to make my own choices, knowing that I am simply attempting to use him as an accomplice, a crutch, an excuse. I breathed deeply. I tried on the purse. I took off the purse. I tried on the purse.
The struggle was real people.
But, an interesting thing happened. The purse actually did not feel good. It honestly felt as conspicuous as huge ugly zit. It felt like an endorsement for murder. It felt like a tortured being on my back. I took off the purse and put it back on the rack. My heart broken, I walked away to the shoe aisle, where I bought a pair of brand new $100.00 boots for only $10.00. They have leather uppers.
So what is the point of the story?
I am still not quite sure. I just felt like it needed to be shared. So many people seem to decide to do nothing in the midst of (perceived) insurmountable problems. They feel like their small every day decisions can’t change the status quo, so why bother. To some, it’s an all or nothing approach. Since there is no way to make 100% ethical choices without going insane or moving to a cave in the Himalayan mountains, it is easier to just not think about it. Believe me, I get it.
But what if we took the pressure off ourselves and each other? What if the first step was simply admitting, acknowledging that there is terrible suffering in this world and we all play a part in it, vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise. This is not about being angry, not about blaming and pointing the finger. It’s about just standing in the reality of what Is. It is my experience that from there things get easier, clarity sets in, the veil is lifted. If a person truly desires to become better, to become a being of light and love, they have to first acknowledge that there is a problem and we are all a part of it. Paradoxically, we are all the answer.