Everywhere a Quack Quack

The snow is finally staring to melt away and temps are staring to rise. My strawberries have begun to sprout already, and plans are beginning for our garden which should be getting it’s first seeds sown Sunday!  



The most exciting thing in our near future, to me, is that we will have our first livestock soon! 9 ducks! That means I am busy building their pen. It is so fun and exciting! The design options are a bit overwhelming though.  I really want a rustic look, and I think I am going to opt for a green roof that I can grow some herbs or something on.  I will post pictures of the build and the final product, as well as our new tenants soon!

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Fingerprints on the Microwave

Things have been a bit challenging on the homestead recently. Days start early, at 4:00am and often close with my husband and I passed out on the couch, much earlier than we had intended on heading to bed.

Our entire family is excited for spring to come, but in the meantime we continue with our daily activities and try not to let hardships get us down. Life on a homestead; even in general really, is not always shiny, or new or exciting. Sometimes you just have to stay the course and do what needs to get done to survive.

One day my youngest daughter and I were in the kitchen making lunch together. Which meant that I was trying to make lunch while entertaining a 3 year old, keeping her from making a mess, and making her *think* she’s helping.  While this little Dance of the Mama was playing out, I caught a glimpse of said daughter, just out of the corner of my eye, smearing and patting her tiny handprints ALL OVER the microwave. 

Of course, given this situation I did what any sensible mother would do…and promptly threw up my arms in exasperation and asked what she was doing. “You are getting fingerprints ALL OVER” the microwave I managed to bark out. She replied, in her best know-it-all, teenager voice “Yeah!” This lead me to ask her why, since she not only realized what she was doing but was doing so intentionally.  She told me she was making a picture to make it beautiful. Leave it to a 3 year old to turn your idea of beauty on it’s head and renew your thought of perspective.  

Isn’t this what we all need to do though sometimes? Stop looking at our situation through the lens of negativity and try to think of ways that we can not only enjoy it, but make it beautiful and be thankful for it.



This little pick me up was just what I needed that day, because several hours later our drains started backing up because the inlet to our septic froze. 

I hope this helps you put on your rose colored lenses for a bit and I hope you’ll visit again soon! 

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Homestead Adventurelogue 5: Country Birds vs City Birds

Funny thing about life, it just keeps barreling forward whether you get everything done that you want to or not! Life has been keeping me busy, and we’ve met some challenges, but we are still really loving our new home.

Recently we were hit with heavy snow, as I mentioned, and part of living off the beaten path, means clearing that path so you can make it to work the next day, or even the mail box, in our case! It also means that time others might get to spend indoors, is spent outside shoveling, since we lack modern conveniences like a plow or snow blower.

Even though the work was slow and tedious, thankfully the snow was light and fluffy, and the fresh air, and beautiful view made the work pleasant and move quickly.

While the company was also enjoyable, since hubby and I were shoveling together, the highlight of the day was spotting a hawk that not only have hubby and I never seen in MI before, despite having lived here our entire lives, we also had no idea what kind of hawk it was.

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After some research with a friend, hubby was able to discover that it is a Rough Legged Hawk. It had us baffled, because it was quite large, but we could tell by it’s markings it wasn’t a bald eagle, even though we thought it was close in size. It turns out it has a 5 foot wingspan, and only migrates to Michigan in the winter! These are the type of things, that while this life might not be for everyone, it’s why we love it.

I was driving to “town” (13 miles away) the other day and thought to myself, it’s so different out here; near the city if you see birds, you typically see doves, blue jays, pigeons and crows. Near our home, a good number of the birds I see are hawks of all different varieties, but there are also cardinals, chickadees, blue birds and even a few finches…and it’s not even spring yet!

Thanks for reading!

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Homestead Adventurelogue 4: Hockey, Hiking, and Heartache

Things have been busy around the homestead lately with lots of learning along the way. I’m not sure if I’ve already mentioned it, but we know how to work our damper a little better now, so the fireplace has done a much better job of helping to heat the house.

Hubby had Sunday off and for the first time in what feels like a very long time we were all home together with NOTHING we had to do. We did have plans to go to a friends for the super bowl in the evening but we had the whole day to ourselves. I decided we should go out for a walk through our woods since we hadn’t don’t that yet. I figured we would play in the snow and gather a little more firewood. I also told my 7 year old daughter that we would clear off a patch of the pond so she could try out her new ice skates.

The pond feels HUGE when you are out in the middle of it. With all of us working together, we were able to clear an area pretty quickly. Hubby gathered his worn-with-love hockey sticks from the covered carport that serves as our shed right now, and I grabbed a puck from the house. We had a nice family game of hockey. The ice princess-in-training even did really well on her skates! All the kids received money for Christmas from one of their grandmother’s, and ice princess was adamant that she use it on skates, even though, at the time, we had not even moved in yet!

After our game we grabbed some sleds to pull the saw and hatchet on, as well as the small kids, and we though we might pull wood back on them as well (that didn’t pan out how hubby anticipated.). We had a nice walk to the back of our property and found that we have several clearings and not quite as much woods as we thought. We did find a large number of young trees though, and I was really excited to find a few birch trees among them! The highlight of the walk though was definitely discovering what is probably the oldest tree on our property. Standing regal and majestic, even when void of leaves, my best guess is that it’s some type of oak. Through some creative tree-hugging we were able to estimate that the trunk is approximately 15 feet in circumference and that the tree is likely to be between 100-150 years old. The tree is truly behemoth for this little corner of our world, and while I’m sure it would not quite rival any red woods or sequoia’s, it is still a wondrous site to behold. I didn’t have my phone with me, but I will be sure to get a picture of it to share.

When we were done marveling at nature, we went on the hunt for felled trees and found several suitable for firewood that were also easy enough to handle. We were able to get several large pieces cut, then we decided to head inside for some lunch and to warm up a bit.

The snow had been falling slowly, but steadily all day…a sign of the impending, forecasted “snowpocolypse.” It was also a somber reminder that our beloved pups had run off only the day before and had not yet returned. Even though it was a lovely day, and we headed to our friends that evening as planned, it just wasn’t the same without them hanging out in the snow with us.

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The drive home was slow and a bit treacherous at times thanks to about half of our total snowfall already being on the ground. Thankfully hubby can handle a vehicle well and we have four wheel drive, so we arrived safely and got the kids tucked into bed.

As my head hit the pillow, my mind wandered to thoughts of my fur babies; where they might be, and prayers that they weren’t caught outside in the 14+ inches of snow we received.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Homestead Adventurelogue 3

Yesterday marked my first real challenge as a homesteader…our well froze. I ended up starting a small fire in a portable fire pit, in the well house, after failed attempts to plug in and use both a blow dryer, and a space heater to defrost it. I’m not sure if the fire helped, but by late afternoon we had water again.

I’d say the highlight of the day though was using the firewood I found and cut. I have more to cut today because my battery keeps dying before I can finish. Yes, it was a triumphant homesteading day because we figured out how to use the damper on our fireplace!!! It didn’t seem to be giving off much heat from the first two fires we built, and I was a bit discouraged and dissappointed…then last night hubby got a roaring fire going and we used the damper correctly and the fire warmed the house nicely.

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The epitome of the evening, however, was that my husband gathered the children from their beds to come sit in front of the fire. Gathered around the hearth, snuggled tightly in blankets, I began to read aloud a book my father read to me as a child; The Swiss Family Robinson. I finished the first chapter and the kids asked for another so I obliged. They even asked if we could do that EVERY night! It was a lovely time and something I always dreamt of, but never knew that I would see realized.

So today, I will head out in search of a few more fallen trees, hopefully get them all cut up and get a fire going, as well as continue to unpack and organize, and dream of all the wonderful plans I have for this place.

Thanks for reading!!

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Homestead Adventurelogue 2

Getting firewood was a success! My son and I were able to find some felled trees large enough to be used as fuel but small enough to handle. I got enough for last night cut into logs before the battery on the reciprocating saw died…only to find out the charger was still at our old house. It has since been retrieved and the battery has been successfully recharged. I’ll be outside, probably around 7-7:30 cutting up the rest of the wood, and maybe gathering some more…I may be surrounded by about 20 acres or more on all sides but I still don’t want to risk getting on the bad side of any of my new “neighbors.”

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I’ll also be perusing Pinterest today for some ideas for “nice to meet you” gifts for my new neighbors, and coop and mini-barn plans for this spring. I’d REALLY like to build a mini-cob house for something…not sure which animals it would work best for…and I have to convince the hubby, who is not completely sold on cob and/or straw bale homes yet. Whatever we decide, it needs to be Fort Knox for chickens! I saw raccoon prints when I was out getting firewood yesterday, I heard coyotes when I let the dogs out at 5am yesterday, and I saw about 5 hawks in the area on the way to town.

I want to make some plans for a rabbit house and run too…I want to keep a couple as pets, some for meat and some for 4H for the kids.

Now that hubby is on board with dairy goats we may add them to the mix too! All in baby steps though…we will probably only have chickens and maybe rabbits this year…maybe maybe goats…eventually we would like horses, sheep, alpaca, and a meat pig, as well.

Only low maintenance animals will be around until about July since we have something big planned in June that I have been having loads of fun planning…and no it’s not a baby. More to come on that later!

Until the next Logue…I’m off to crochet some booties for my baby! :)

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Homestead Adventurelogue 1

We closed on our new home, celebrated our babies first birthday, and have accomplished our goal of acquiring a home with a fair amount of property, so that we can homestead, and live more green and sustainably.

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We hope to convert the home to solar energy, and geothermal heat, but those things take time, and more-so, money, so those things will be waiting a little while. In the mean time, I am going to start planning our year round garden and orchard as well as a new chicken coop for the spring.

This isn’t really about any of those things either though. Today, my adventure, is to bundle up, go out into our property for the first time, armed with nothing but either a reciprocating saw or a hatchet (I’m not sure what we brought from the old house) and locate a dead tree, no more than 3-4″ in diameter, cut it down it necessary, haul it in, and cut it up for firewood! We are supplementing our heating with our wood burning fireplace.

I’m both excited, and trepid for this excursion because it will be my first time getting firewood for our home. It is cold outside, I don’t know how long it will take, or how challenging it will be to aquire. It is important though because we need the heat. Hopefully my lack of more powerful tools doesn’t present to much of a challenge and next time I will be reporting my triumphant victory over a dead tree to you!

Join me again soon, and thanks for reading!

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54 Free Educational Apps

It’s getting to be that time of year again; back to school…or in our case “back to homeschool.”  I don’t do much blogging about homeschooling, mainly because I still feel rather new to it.  I suppose I shouldn’t since we started homeschooling half way through my 8 year olds pre-school year, but I’m still figuring out what works best for us, which I think will be a continuing process.

*This post contains affiliate links that help provide for my family at no extra cost to you! Please see my full disclosure for more info.*

One thing I am somewhat proud of though is the educational apps that we utilize on our iPad and Kindle Fire.  I spent HOURS searching for and previewing free apps to find the best ones, that fit our needs.  While I found it fun, I know not everyone has those hours to spare (like me currently!!!)  I hope you find this list helpful, and that it saves you some ever-precious time.

These apps are for pre-school up through lower elementary (2nd-3rd grade.)  I am going to do a separate post on apps for foreign language lessons, so check back for that, or better yet, subscribe! Seriously though, thanks so much for stopping in, and I hope you find this helpful.

 

54 Free Educational Apps for iPad and Kindle Fire

LibAnwhere:  Has a large database of library’s.  If your library participates (my 2 out in the country do!!) then you can use your card to log in to your account, just like you would at the library’s online portal, and from there you can request books, renew what you have out, and put books on hold.

Toddler Math

Lego Junior

AlphaBabyFree:  This is one of my absolute favorite apps! You can add photo’s and your own voice (I never have yet though.) The shapes and letters grow and shrink, it’s colorful, yet simple, and introduces baby to colors letters and shapes…it can even entertain rather young babies…while on my way to a blogging conference I entertained my then 7 month old with it on the train!

AbcMagic

BobBooksLite:  This is a great supplement to the books, which my kids love.  I plan to buy the full version.

BuildAWordExpress

TabTale Counting 123: Tab Tale has a collection of apps, some are great, some, not so much…check it out and find the ones that work the best for you.

First Words Sampler

Lego Duplo

Mancala FS5: This is a simple game, but it uses counting, is fun, and can be played alone or with 2 players.

Coloring

Sight Words

Adventures Under Sea Math:  We love this app.  There is a picture, covered with a grid of math problems, the student picks the answer from multiple selections in the side bar and slides it on top of the box the problem is in.  If it is correct, it disappears, revealing a small part of the picture underneath.  The problems get progressively harder with each level (and I think you can purchase additional levels.) You can also set the difficulty level in the settings.  You can also increase difficulty by adding a timer.

Animals in Pieces HD

Audio Slide Math: I loved this for early math (pre-school and kindergarten) because not only does it use manipulatives, but it tells you the correct answer.  It’s also fun!

Dino MathFree:  This is one of my kids favorites.  Kids can do math or subtraction.  They count the dinosaur manipulatives to help find the answer, and if they get it correct they get “prizes” which are just little pictures, like a smiley face that pop up at the bottom, but my kids get excited over them!

ShapePuzzle HD:  Another favorite here…this is a fun puzzle game that you can adjust the difficulty on, that also builds vocabulary.

WorldCraftHD: For the Minecraft lovers in your home!

Rainbow Car Tab Tale

Human Anatomy:  Simple app that allows you to look up and display parts of human anatomy for reference.

Star Walk:  We love this app also.  It’s like a planetarium in the palm of your hand.  It shows constellations and planets, in real time so you can hold it up to the sky to locate certain stars, planets or constellations, then look to the actual sky to match them up!

All Aboard Dinosaur Train PBS

iBirdLite

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally

Friendly Toys TT

AbcSpellingMagic

 

Kindle Fire Apps (These should be available for any tablet with an Android operating system as well.)

Veggie Tales

Discovery Channel

Match ‘Em Up

Uno and Friends

Build and Teach Handwriting Free

Kids Academy 123 Tracing Free

2nd Grade Learning Games: This only offers a few categories for free, but it is a game format that teaches alphabetical order, greater than and less than, positive and negative number, and even and odd numbers.

Preschool and Kindergarten Learning games

Sight Words Free

The Arithmemouse Addition/Subtraction Game

22Learn Baby Bubble School

History Channel Free App

Easy Verbs

Serpodile 1 Learn cursive writing

Flash Apps English Flash Cards

123 Kids Fun (music)Collection

Letter Paper: We use this with a stylus to save on paper consumption, and just to switch up our writing practice a bit, since neither of my big kids care for physically writing too much yet!

World History Quiz

US History Quiz

Smithsonian Channel Free App

Animal Planet

US President Facts

Lets do Math2

EFlash Apps Genius Baby Flash Cards:  This is a fun collection of flash cards for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to help them learn various things.  We use it to keep my 3 year old (she was 2 when we got it) occupied when we are at a restaurant and she’s getting stir crazy, or similar situations elsewhere.

Awesome Arithmetic Free

 

*You should be able to find any of these by going to the app store and typing the app name in the search box.*

 

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and I have yet to do a new search for the current school year.  Typically I take one night, put on a movie, and do an extensive search before starting the new school year to see if there is anything new, exciting, or useful that I’d like to get.

We use a number of apps in our foreign language study also.  We are currently doing Spanish.  We will have an introduction to Greek this year.  Next year we will add in Latin, and either French or German.  I will do another post that highlights the free apps that we use for foreign language.

Do you use free apps in your homeschooling, or as supplements for your out-of-the-home schooled children?  I would love to hear about free learning apps that you love!

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DIY Pop-Up Cloth Wipes! Frugal and Green!

This post is for Day 3, which is a topic of my choice for the 4th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge, so I’m going to show you how to DIY Pop-Up Cloth Wipes.  I use these for baby wipes for changing diapers, and cleaning little hands and faces, but you could switch up the ingredients and use this idea for natural cleaning wipes as well!

I make a simple wipes solution out of a couple drops of olive oil, and a couple drops of Dr. Bronners as mentioned in my Day 2 post, which I dissolve in about an inch of water in the bottom of the wipes container.  You can use baby soap/shampoo or any other mild soap of your choice, and the olive oil can be omitted if desired. You can also use baby oil if you are not using cloth diapers, or you can use your choice of essential oil to scent the water and give it different properties. Obviously use different ingredients if you are using them for cleaning.

  • Open Wipes Container
  • Fill with wipe solution (about an inch in the bottom.)
  • Fold wipes as shown in picture (approx 8-14)
  • Insert folded wipe stack into container and press down firmly until all cloths are saturated…flip and repeat or add extra water if necessary.
  • Feed top half of top wipe through the pop up hole and close.
  • Use as needed!

I’ve found these to keep well for up to 2 weeks, but I usually use them faster than that.  I only make up a stack of between 8 and 14 or so wipes so I go through them pretty quickly. It’s so easy to set up though that it’s no big deal to re-fill it as needed.

I hope you will try this and see how easy, frugal, and green it can be! I’d love to hear about it if you do.

Already use cloth wipes? What do you love about it?

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Laundry Without A Washing Machine

This post is for Day 4 of the 4th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge.  We talked about the why we’re using flats, and what is in our stash, and I showed you how to make cloth wipes…now it’s time to show you how to clean all of that so you can use it again and again, even if you don’t have a washer and dryer!

A load of diapers, wipes, and covers in the “camp style” washer.

My washing routine is quite simple.  As I mentioned on Day 2, I use a 3 gallon tub (you can use a 5 gallon bucket, your tub, or anything comparable,) and blue plunger with a little Dr. Bronners Magic Soap to wash my diapers, wipes, and covers.

Here’s how I do it…

  • Add cold water to the tub to rinse the diapers.  I throw the dirty diapers in the tub as soon as I take them off my baby’s bum.  I fill the tub with cold water so they can soak.
  • Put the plunger in the center of the bucket, and PLUNGE! After I get about 6-10 diapers in the tub I make sure it’s still full of water, then use my plunger to help rinse the diapers by plunging in the center of the bucket.  After I do that several times, I pull the plunger out, move the diapers around a bit and do it again.   I do this about 5-8 times.  If the water is really gross I will do one additional cold rinse before washing with soap.  You want to keep the plunger somewhat low and do small, quick, up and down plunges so that the plunger is actually moving the water through the diapers and not just sort of stirring it.
  • Empty the bucket.  If you need a second rinse, do that now. Don’t worry about getting all the water out of the diapers, just dump out what you can.
  • Fill the bucket with hot water from the tap, and add your soap. You want the water as hot as it gets…add a TINY amount of soap…I just do a quick “tip” of the bottle and several drops come out.  When using cloth you want to avoid using too much soap, because in the next step you have to make sure you rinse ALL of the soap out to avoid diaper rash, and soap build-up.
  • Plunge the load several times.  Plunge away until the diapers look reasonably clean and you feel happy with it.  Move the diapers around to be sure you are moving the water through all of them.  If the water is really dirty, you can repeat this step as well.
  • Dump the dirty water off. Don’t worry about squeezing the excess out yet.
  • Fill the tub with cold water.  Plunge the load to rinse all the soap out. Repeat until water is clear and there are no more suds.  This is very important because if soap remains in the diapers it can affect absorption, probability of diaper rash, and can cause the urea to break down into ammonia faster; which is not something you want on your babies bum!  Don’t let this scare you, it’s not hard, just be thorough.  I do 2 rinses and have had no problems.
  • Empty the water after the last rinse.  Empty the water, and then I press down with the plunger to get a little extra out.
  • Carry out to the line, or drying rack or hang around your house.  Now it’s time to get them dry.  I hang mine outside so I wring them and shake them out before hanging on the line, if you need to hang them around the house you will want to wring them ahead of time over your tub or sink.

Diapers drying on the line…these diapers are pretty old, so some are a bit stained, but at the end of the day…they are for catching poo, so I don’t mind!

I really enjoy washing diapers this way…so much in fact that after I did the challenge the last time, I took my camp-style washer on the road and washed dirty laundry, towels, and cloth diapers each time we went camping! It was so nice having clean clothes, being able to take my cloth diapers with me, and not having to take sandy towels home!

If you don’t have Dr. Bronner’s soap, or don’t want to use it, fear not, you can use pretty much any homemade, or commercial laundry detergent, just use a reduced amount since it is a smaller receptacle.  You can even use a couple drops of dish soap!

If you are finding that your laundry is a little stiff after it gets done drying you can try adding a little baking soda or vinegar to your wash.  Both are said to help, and they won’t hurt the laundry at all.  I haven’t had much issue with this yet because it’s been very windy, which naturally softens the fabric as it dries.

I hope you’ll give this camp-style washer a try, and I would love to hear about it if you do!

 

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