Chaos On Serenity

Diary Of An Off-Grid Homesteader

Tag: off grid

How To Ruin Your Teenager’s Life In Three Strategic Steps

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

Bewitching Witch Hazel: Ten Enchanting Uses

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. 

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?

RIB_7661

The Quest For Sadie: Lessons Learned From A Secondhand Purse

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.

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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.

How To Wash Your Dishes Without Running Water: Six Steps To Off-Grid Domestic Success

Ok friends here we have quite possibly one of the most important How To tutorials of your off-grid extreme homesteading life… dishes. Yes, that’s right. More important than solar power, more important than growing food, more important than a composting toilet (ok, now I am exaggerating) is doing your dishes.

After all, dishes make the world go ’round and it is nary a homesteading woman who can live without clean dishes. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to multiply right before your very eyes, popping out dirty creations like the gremlin spawn of a mogwai. And, like a gremlin, they sneer and snarl at you from their crusty perch on the counter, daring you to just try and wash them without running water.

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Fear not, my extreme homesteading friends (or weekend campers), as I have found a pretty decent way to wash your dishes without running water. All you need are the right tools and set up and those evil dishes will no longer have you sleeping with one eye open.

Step 1: Get a Gigantic Pot

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There is one key item to doing your dishes without running water quickly and efficiently and that is the Gigantic Pot. The Gigantic Pot is absolutely essential if you don’t want to spend an entire day heating up small batches of water. And believe me, you don’t. I started off with a Small Pot, and I was not happy. The Gigantic Pot brings me much joy.

Step 2: Get a Long, Crappy Table

Okay so you have your Gigantic Pot. Now you need a long, crappy table. I say crappy table because if you can do your dishes outside on a crappy table, you can slosh water all over the place – which tends to make you feel better about having to do your dishes outside on a crappy table. Get it? I have a nice, crappy eight foot long table that is the perfect length for our size family, or for my lazy housekeeping habits, whichever way you want to look at it. So technically you could use a smaller table and you can also use your actual sink and counter area, but that’s a little boring, don’t you think?

Step 3: Set Up Dish Area.

First, there are a few other things you will need:

  1. Two basins, one for washing and one for rinsing. These are what I currently use. I know they don’t match. Don’t judge me.
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2. A cup with a handle for scooping hot water out of the Gigantic Pot into the wash basin. I use this measuring cup which conveniently hooks right on the handle of my pot when not in use. A match made in heaven.

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3. A jug (or two, depending on your dish load) of clean, cool rinse water next to your rinse basin

4. A sponge or rag to wash dishes and some biodegrable dish soap

5. A drying rack and/or large towel

6. A large bucket to dump dirty dish water into (another option is to just dump directly onto the ground if you are outside and it won’t create a mess.)

7. Compost container to scrape your food scraps into.

Step 4: Heat Up Water

Now we are ready to get to work. I will forewarn you, I like my dish water hot and clean, so I refresh often. I use anywhere from 2-4 gallons of hot water, depending on the dish load. I usually heat up more water than I need, because is saves time and hey I can always take a shower after.

Pour water in your pot and heat it up. One of the many blessings in my extreme homesteading life is my (nearly) full-size propane stove. So heating things up is easy peasy (until we run out of propane right in the middle of making dinner. that is). I just put my Gigantic Pot on the stove, turn two burners on and it heats up quick.

If you don’t have stove yet, you might want to look into getting a portable burner used for camping, if you plan on cooking more than once a week. Of course, if you want to (or need to), you can always go to the maximum extreme and heat your water up over an actual fire (technically the maximum extreme would be rubbing two sticks together to start said fire, but I digress). As romantic as it sounds, however, it’s really a pain in the ass to do everyday. But I have done it and so can you.

However your go about it, the important thing is to get your water HOT. That way it stays nice and hot until the last dirty dish has been hunted down. If your water gets too cool, it is a hassle to reheat and you run the chance of loosing motivation and not finishing the dishes, which does not feel nearly as satisfying as finishing the dishes.

Now scoop your hot water into your wash basin and pour cool water in the rinse basin. If the water is too hot (which it should be if you have been following directions) mix it with a little of the cool water until you get the right temperature. As you work your way down the dirty mountain, the water should cool off to a reasonable temperature. Better hot than not, I say.

Step 5: Wash Your Dishes

Now you wash your dishes. I like to move from the left to right, but to each his own. As your wash basin water cools down and gets dirty, dump it into the waiting receptacle or onto the ground if you prefer and refill with fresh hot water. Same with your rinse water, if it gets too soapy. Finish all the dishes. All of them. It feels good, remember?

Step 6: Call In The Troops

This is about the time I start yelling for Maverick and the girls. Maverick, with his strong shapely arms and equally strong stomach, gets to dump the teeming bucket of dirty dish water. We like to dump it right into the garden beds. depending on the chunks. Yum.

Now its the minions’ turn to help. Remember how we were doing the dishes outside? Well they are the lucky ones that get to haul the clean dishes back inside, put them away all nice and neat and then hang the dish towel on the line to dry until we need it again for a new table-load of dirty dishes, usually about ten minutes later I’d say.

Well there really is no glamorous way to end a dish tutorial, so bye!

thRJFPOBLN

Beautiful Farm Girl Seeks Vegetarian Cowboy: A Law Of Attraction Love Story

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Five years ago I met Maverick, my (mostly) vegetarian cowboy; the man who is making my dreams come true by building me an off-grid, sustainable community surrounded by nature with only his bare hands… and a bulldozer.

While many people say our successful union was a stroke of blind luck,  the very fact he isn’t a serial killer (so far…) defying all odds,  I like to believe our meeting each other was a result of one of my more successful incidents of deliberate manifestation. Either way, one thing is for sure,  our ‘how we met’ story is so utterly unromantic and scandalous that it makes the perfect story for today’s blog post.

Before Maverick, I had dated my share of questionable characters (shocking, I know). Some of these guys were pretty terrible, some were just the typical zombie-types, devoid of any meaningful, independent thoughts. To be fair,  it takes one to date one, so I could only describe myself as a zombie as well.  

Anyway, after having an epic awakening followed by the crumbling of my latest  zombie relationship,  I moved north with my girls to explore community farm life and learn to grow my own food. We moved into a tiny primitive cabin (or shack as Mav likes to call it) on a small farm in a quaint country town in mid-west, America.  

It was a bold move to be sure, some would even call it reckless. Yet it remains to be one of the best decisions of my life. 

I spent an idyllic spring and summer pulling weeds and tending seeds (both figuratively and literally), eventually deciding I felt emotionally healthy enough to meet someone great. I had dumped some baggage (though come to find out, not all of it!) and was confident in my newfound creative abilities to attract a great mate into my experience.

So now that I was ready to date, the question was, where would I meet someone? After all, I lived in a tiny cabin on a farm in a city where I did not know anyone. I was not working outside of the farm. My hosts were great and I was quickly becoming best friends with the head lady of the farm. But her husband was oooolllldddd. Like just-suffered-a-heart-attack old. And so were all his friends. (In the interest of full disclosure the odd social structure on the farm consisted of a lot of young, lively, fit farm girls and a handful of really old dudes. It’s no surprise my city friends were convinced I had joined a cult!)

Anyway, back to the love story…

I am not a very patient person. When I make a decision, it pretty much has to happen right now. So once I had decided to meet someone, I was not content to just wait for fate to bring him to me. Taking a proactive approach to dating clearly left me with only one option: Online dating. (This was in 2013, just as dating apps were really gaining in popularity. Good thing I am usually a few years behind the latest trends or Mav and I might have never met seeing as how he still carries a flip phone).

So I crafted a clever profile, with vegetarinism and cowboyism a clear prerequisite, and joined a popular dating site (or two). However,  the selections were very few and far between of people who shared any of my interests (who wants to go roam the woods barefoot? … anyone?)

 I met a few guys that could never be pinned down to an actual date or were, um, a bit different than their pictures. Yet not a single cowboy. Basically, the process was long and drawn out and not worth the money. I felt using the dating sites just served as a buffer to immediate communication and actual interaction. Looking back, I wonder if maybe it also served as some sort of safety feature… hmm…

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a Craigslist Personals Ad.

Now I know you are all gasping in absolute horror.

And I agree, Craigslist personals are teeming with filth and debauchery of all kind. But seriously guys, it is not like I advertised my address or any other personal information. I also did not include a picture or make any references to sexual fetishes. It’s all good, people. Calm down.  

What I did do is remain 100% convinced that I could find an amazing person anywhere I put my mind to, as long as I believed. 

So, yes. Maverick and I met on Craigslist. I put out an add, he ignored my very specific qualifications (vegetarian, yo!)  and responded. I decided to overlook my non-negotiable standards based on the fact that he owned a huge lot of land and seemed willing to let me do whatever I wanted with it. 

From the very beginning, our dates have consisted of wondering aimlessly around the woods. That is literally all we do, other than the whole homesteading thing. He has more patience with me than my own mother. He never yells or demeans me when I lose the car keys, or my driver’s license, or drain the batteries for the millionth time (okay, well, he does lose his patience over that one, but the first 100 times he didn’t even bat an eye). 

Seriously though, Maverick is 100 percent dirty cowboy, 90 percent vegetarian (thanks to my many years of food shaming him), and the sweetest, kindest, safest, calmest, pure-of-heartist man I have ever met. He is so amazingly capable and smart and warrior-minded, I have full confidence we would survive a zombie apocalypse completely unscathed. He is my knight in dirty work boots. 

And there you have the most epic, unromantic love story of all time. Swoon. 

Remember, if you want miracles to happen you have to BELIEVE they can.

P.S. This post is in no way an endorsement for Craigslist Personals or any other form of online dating. It’s just a story, people. Date at your own risk! 

Namaste, my friends 

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What Type Of Homeschooler Are You?

Sometimes I feel like an imposter when I tell people I homeschool.

After all, when I think of homeschooling, I picture a super-organized, perpetually perky mom and her brood of perfectly polite, constantly clean, studious children. I imagine this homeschool mom having a detailed schedule that she sticks to like clock work, planning out her handpicked curriculum a year in advance while her offspring practice rote memorization and dote on each other all day. Hmmm… come to think about it, that sounds an awful lot like my sister!

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Okay, so now that we established my sister is my fantasy homeschool mom alter ego, lets talk about what kind of homeschool mom I am.

I am the type of homeschool mom that starts a cleaning project in the morning and by evening realizes the only ‘school’ we did that day was home ec.

I am the type of homeschool mom who makes a mountain of lists, outlines, and diagrams only to misplace them right before we need them.

I am the type of homeschool mom whose children wear pajamas all day and brush their hair only when we are going somewhere important (grocery store is low on the priority list).

I am the type of homeschool mom that starts a lesson, realizes its boring and pointless, and sends the kids to play Legos while I regroup over a bottle of wine.


One of the rare occasions I managed to get the girls all cute and somewhat matchy-matchy. This was the first day of a twelve week homeschool art class (note the bow in Leyla’s brushed hair and the fact they both have their lunchboxes packed and in-hand). Sadly, it all goes downhill from here my friends.

​It use to be that I pushed against who I was as a homeschool mom.

I would spend hours creating beautiful schedules and chore charts, ordering curriculum and reorganizing our collection of books. Hours I would spend on these things, waiting for them to magically transform me into the homeschool mom of my dreams. We are now in our fourth year of homeschooling and I have yet to be organized or perky.

In fact, the only thing which has really changed over the years is that I no longer strive so hard to be what I am not. I have given up trying to fit us into a fixed schedule, as we are just too spontaneous for that kind of planning. Instead, I keep a nice loose tally on what we have going on. When something is working, it is easy to keep at it. When something isn’t working, we drop it and move on.

Once I gave myself permission to relax, we became way more consistent and found a routine we actually look forward too. Since we no longer have to follow a list of Things We Must Get Done, we can get lost for hours reading together. We can choose to put the books down when the weather is gorgeous and friends want to come over, knowing we will pick right back up where we left off tomorrow, or the next day.

So how do I measure our homeschool progress if I not by what we have tangibly accomplished?

I pay attention to who my kids are. I look for signs we are on the right track. I am happy to report my kids are curious, creative, and thoughtful. They love to explore and have adventures. They are able to converse with people of all ages. They are not too self-conscious. They are smart and capable. They are strong and responsible. They care about ethical issues. Most of all, they are happy.

This is not to say I don’t still pine over moms who actually stick with their curriculums and carefully chart their children’s progress. Mom’s who always have a clean, matching pair of shoes (and socks!) for each of her smiling, hair-brushed children.

The fact is, a part of me will always want to be that mom.

But, I am not.

And I have realized when I quit trying to be someone else, I can actually be a pretty good me.

And now some more pictures of my adorable nieces and nephew.

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So what type of homeschool mom are you? 

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