I could learn a lot from a chicken

It’s not uncommon to hear a cackle here, a cackle there, a cackling throughout the day as our free range flock visits the coop to lay an egg. I love to hear them gently announcing the prize for their hard work. Often times, Elvis, our kind-hearted and only free-ranging rooster, will lead a few hens in a chorus of support for the happy egg layer. The egg song is heard often and unobtrusively. Until tonight.

In one of our smaller coops is a very special flock. It’s a coop full of 9 silkies. They are fluffy, they are docile, and they are the teddy bears and lap dogs of chickendom.  They cuddle by day and huddle by night, confined to the safety of their coop and run. These young pullets and cockerels are the highlight of my flock and my friends and family love to gander at these lovely little puff balls. These puffy fluffy little sweethearts often don’t lay until at least a year, according to my research. So they’ve got a ways to go, or so I thought.

Suddenly, in an instant, an absolute ruckus rang across the chicken yard from the cozy coop just out the back door to the free range flock’s house on the other side of the goat pen. I flew to the window to see every chicken in sight had joined in this very egcited egg song. The breeding coops were singing their hearts out, the bantams and the cochins, the speckled sussex and the Easter Eggers, all singing along while the free rangers were crooning at the top of the their beaks. Every chicken near and far rejoicing because 1 small silkie laid an egg.

I could learn a lot from a chicken. Romans 12:15 (NLT) says be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Yeah, on Facebook, it’s easy to show happy and easy to shop weeping, but what about those real days where your friend is giddy over her promotion – the one you didn’t get? Or when my child excitedly built their 457th lego castle that day? Or the friend that is still sighing over the breakup or the loss?

We could learn a lot from a chicken. 

We need to learn to celebrate, even when we don’t feel like it. We need to learn to show empathy, even when our heart isn’t on straight. So we swallow and choke down that pride of ours, and we set aside our broken dreams or our elated hopes and we sing that egg song or we sing that song of mourning. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. It isn’t always easy, but it is always the loving thing to do.

Cackle along, my friends. Cackle along.

Homestead Happenings

Grab your coffee and find out what’s happening on the homestead.

With daylight stretching longer and longer, and the sun beginning to warm the soil, I cannot wait for spring planting. My fingers itch to get in the dirt and I am already craving fresh summer squash and tomatoes still warm on the vines. I keep reminding myself it’s not really safe to plant for another 6 weeks! But it is time to be working on spring preparations, starting seeds, and getting organized.

Captain Jack II, Blue Andalusian

As our homestead grows, we are working on implementing some permaculture models. The

idea with permaculture is that you work with nature, not against her. Rather than spending hours tilling up so for our new pumpkin patch and in the garden, we put our chickens to work. Operation chicken tractor is in full swing! Ok, we don’t have real chicken tractors, just small coops that we got for a great deal at our local Tractor Supply. We plunked one small farmhouse coop in our garden, which we’ve mulched with old straw bedding from the goat shed. And it’s new residents are the offering of my original 6 Tractor Supply silkie mixes. These white fluffies are having a blast digging up bits of kale and carrot that overwintered and digging for grubs. When it’s time to plant, they will have turned the soil, fertilized, and debugged the garden. It’s a win-win!

Betty the Barred Rock

Up on the hill, we placed our other farmhouse coop with the first 5 chickens I hatched from my Brinsea Octagon Eco Incubator. They hatched from a mix of eggs from Meyer Hatchery: a blue andalusian cockerel, a Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Buff Brahma, and and a slightly peckish barred rock hen. They’re still on the young side, but they should have our pumpkin patch free of weeds and bugs in a month or two. Hubby carries out food and water every morning! Of course, we still have our main coop with a mix of hens – silver laced Wyandottes, EE’s, RIRs, astralorps, and a beautiful splash Ameraucauna rooster. Egg production is picking up, and I’m hoping for a broody mama hen or two! We have one more coop of chickens – they’re extra special. I have a tiny coop in my home office with 9 various silkies – beautiful month old babies that I hatched from eggs from Wright Fancy Feet Farm. I love watching them feather out and they are getting so fluffy and beautiful!
We’ve had a problem with hawks, which is a sad reality of free ranging. A good rooster is a great help to the flock, of course, but we also have some surprising new guard dogs. A couple of crows have taken up residence in our trees. I thought they were just a creepy nuisance until I heard them, angrily chasing off a hawk circling our chicken yard. Somebody give those crows a great big hug!

We’re also looking at new greenhouse plastic for our hoophouse, an additional hoop house, an looking for perennials to add to our garden. I can’t wait to plant sunchokes, heirloom beans, and all kinds of squash. We’re hoping to add a Nigerian Dwarf doe to our herd and look into breeding our sweet Maisy as soon as she is old enough. Maisy and Jasper are enjoying the sun and love frisking and frolicking! We are searching for a good goat fence to give them room to forage and to pasture our chickens, and I can’t wait to sell our extra produce this summer. We love our fresh, chemical free veggies!

Since I couldn’t wait any longer to get my fingers in the dirt, I had to bring

Elvis, the silkie roo

some dirt into my kitchen. I planted some 21 day radishes, a pot full of lettuce, started some sweet potatoes for slips, and sprouted a handful of soup beans. It amazes me every time that a tiny seed can become a plant that provides food for my family. Only God’s creative nature could have come up with that plan! Every time a seed sprouts, I see God’s hand at work. If God can bring about delicious fruit from a meager seed, how much more can He do in our lives when we just open up to Him. I can’t wait to see what He and our garden will be up to this spring!

What are you doing new (or old) in your garden this year?

Grace for the grind

IMG_6513We are creatures of habit, are we not? Easily falling into the routines and rhythms that make up out lives, yet as the wonder in the rhythmic repetition wears thin, we fill with disdain, or boredom, or scrolling smart phones, lost in the humdrum of the daily grind. I felt that way, that Saturday when I loaded 170 pounds of chicken feed into the back of the beatup minivan, with 2 kiddos chattering along beside. Just another chore, to feed the hens. But happy hens make tasty eggs, I think, so feed them well and feed them often.

We bantered our way up the drive, and the children dashed off to join the others in a rousing game of whatever it was they were playing in that moment. And I might have missed that moment, thinking about the humdrum of the day and the chores to be done, the cooking and the cleaning and the digging and the mowing, as I dragged and hoisted and fumbled with 50 pound feed bags. Moments are so easily missed amidst the rhythm of life.

But something caught my eye, and it made the moment sparkle, just a bit of gleaming in that sun. It seems the flock had their eyes on that van, and their eyes on that food, and they think with their tummies, and their little legs came running just as fast as tiny chicken legs can go. And suddenly, the sound of laughter coming from mIMG_6501yself as I watched the stampede of chickens coming down that hill at the very sight of a simple yellow bag of feed. Around the coop, and down the hill, and over the driveway and around the van, with a cockadoodledooing and squawking and bawking and with those little legs just scurrying as fast as can be. The flock knows my voice. Their little legs run and they come for the treats and they come for the feed. They’re just chickens, but they know what they want and they know what they need and they know they should run to good food and get fed and I laughed all the way from the deepest part of my guts as I watched all those chickens run and run fast.  And as I laughed with my chickens who run so intentionally straight, I woke up to the day and I smelled the sweet scent of the wild honeysuckle in the wind, and I felt the warm sun, and heard the laughter of kids. And this was a moment that I could so easily have missed. breathe

But there, right there, in that 50 pound bag was a grace from our God who made each moment for us to breathe in and breathe out and enjoy and not miss. But we stare at our phones and we stare at our screens and we stare at the things that are inside of our heads and we forget to look up, and we forget to look out, and we forget to breathe in the scents and breathe out. And we forget to watch for the giggling kids and the flitting of birds, and all those scurrying hens and we forget what the sound of our own laughter is like when we trade in the giggle and scurrying hens for the scrolling of stuff in the sweaty palms of our hands.

But what do we do? Can you picture the church, like a stampede of hens? RuIMG_6509nning straight, fast, and strong to the food of the Word and the arms of the Lord?  Can you take in this moment, with the fresh air and the squawks and the playing of children and just praise the Lord for the gifts that He gave and the moment He made and the Word and the love and the so many things? Things that we’ll miss in the humdrum of chores and the rhythm of life if we don’t look around and we don’t let ourselves laugh from the deepest part of guts. Breathe it in, breathe it out, and look for the gleam of this life, of this moment, God’s in it, God made it, you can’t get it back, don’t waste even a second.

100 Ways to Have More Joy Today

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  1. Get some sun!
  2. Take a brisk walk.
  3. Go for the gabfest.
  4. Be kind to someone else.
  5. Make music.
  6. Preferably with children. Especially your own.
  7. Clean out a cabinet.
  8. Donate clothes you don’t need.
  9. Take dog food to an animal shelter.
  10. Read a book.
  11. Meditate on your favorite Bible verse.
  12. Take dog food to an animal shelter.
  13. Sing a song to God.image
  14. Make a list of blessings. All of them. Hang it up.
  15. Offer to clean house, make meals, or babysit for a new mom.
  16. Bring puzzles to a nursing home. Stay long enough to put one together.
  17. Eat chocolate alone.
  18. Eat kale with a friend.
  19. Take slow, deep breaths and let go of all the tension.
  20. Exercise! Even for 5 minutes.
  21. Create a sacred space in your house – a cozy spot for prayer, Bible reading, or whatever.
  22. Craft.
  23. Sail paper airplanes with kids in the neighborhood.
  24. Take flowers to a lonely widow.
  25. Diffuse frankincense essential oil.12718245_10209123865354261_6862987505419495670_n
  26. Sit by the fire and listen to it crackle, breathe in the scent of smoke, and relax.
  27. Plant flowers.
  28. Set up a bird feeder.
  29. Talk to chickens. Or guinea pigs. Or puppy dogs.
  30. Take a nap!
  31. Drive with the windows down.
  32. Have relay races with your kids.
  33. Handwrite a letter to a friend or family member.
  34. Tell knock knock jokes to elementary students.
  35. Create a dance party for your family.
  36. Paint your nails a crazy color.
  37. Tell God all the things you love about Him.
  38. Tell your spouse all the things you love about them.
  39. Tell your children you’re proud of them.
  40. Learn a yoga pose.
  41. Try something new – art, music, archery – no matter how old you are.IMG_0255
  42. Write a love letter to your significant other.
  43. Write a love letter to God.
  44. Write a love letter to yourself, detailing all the great parts that make up you.
  45. Spend some time reading your Bible, and ask God to speak to you.
  46. Drink a great cup of coffee.
  47. Read some awesome blogs (see the blogroll for ideas).
  48. Send a digital gift card to a friend for no reason.
  49. Buy your groceries at a farmer’s market.
  50. Plan a vegetable garden, or at least a vegetable plant.
  51. Write a song, even if you’re not a musician.
  52. Turn your phone off and enjoy the peace and quiet.12274560_10208341969687358_974294269506600596_n
  53. Research a Bible character or story. Ask God to help you apply it to your life.
  54. Take funny selfies and text them to unsuspecting friends.
  55. Throw your kids a tea party with tea sandwiches and tiny cups of juice.
  56. Watch ridiculous facebook or youtube videos.
  57. Try a new recipe.
  58. Start a blog and write about your favorite things.
  59. Hold a mock photo shoot with your children or pets. Order the prints from Snapfish.
  60. Ride a bike.
  61. Forgive someone who has hurt you.
  62. Forgive yourself.
  63. Pray for people you don’t like. Pray for people who do.
  64. Ask Siri to show you how to beat box.IMG_0166
  65. Sit in silence and listen to God.
  66. Sponsor a child from World Vision.
  67. Mow your neighbor’s lawn.
  68. Make a list of things that make you happy. Pick one and do it.
  69. Set a timer and then clean something.
  70. Buy a box of Joe for the teacher’s at your kids’ school.
  71. Make fried bananas.
  72. Ask God to give you joy.
  73. Scroll up and sign up for the newsletter on this blog.
  74. Plan your dream vacation, even if it’s 5 or 10 years down the road.
  75. Start saving for it. Every penny counts.
  76. Buy pizza for a foster family.
  77. Adopt a dog. Or a gold fish.image
  78. Go to a foster care informational meeting and find out how you can help children in care.
  79. Make a list of things that bring you joy. Do at least one a day.
  80. Set up your living room like a movie theater. Eat popcorn and watch a favorite movies.
  81. Find a Bible reading plan at biblegateway.com. Then use it.
  82. Look for God’s hand in nature.
  83. Look for God’s hand in your life.
  84. Do someone else’s chores without them knowing.
  85. Make your kids beds while they are at school.
  86. Sneak little notes into your loved ones’ lunch boxes.
  87. Sell something and use the money to help someone else.10402817_10209321482294561_5875413210361805778_n
  88. Eat a nutritious breakfast – even if it’s dinner time.
  89. Make fresh salsa.
  90. Eat off of the good china.
  91. Daydream.
  92. Plan your garden.
  93. Doodle.
  94. Facetime someone.
  95. Listen to the bird’s sing.
  96. Ask your family questions about their likes and dislikes.
  97. Start a new hobby.
  98. Go outside and gaze at the stars after dark.
  99. Plant a tree.
  100. Share this blog post!

10 Reasons you need chickens of your very own

10. Because chicken snuggling is a thing.

 

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9. You can feed them your leftover pumpkins from Halloween.

 

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8. You can drink out of really cool mugs like this one.

 

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7. They will entertain small children for hours.

 

6. They will gladly till and fertilize the garden for you.

 

5. They look quite glamorous in photos.

 

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4. It’s fun to watch them dance.

 

 

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3. They are great watchdogs. I mean, watch chickens.

 

 

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2. Because cuteness.

 

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And because love.

 

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And because cuteness.
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1. And because eggs.

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Hope at the homestead: when God got His hands dirty

imageLife gets a little too heavy sometimes, when the bills roll in faster than the paychecks do, and the babies aren’t sleeping at night because of stuffed up little noses, and I can’t control the hurt that’s haunting my heart over the pain my loved ones bravely face, and then the laundry mounds up high and it’s just the last straw in an overwhelming pile of straws after staying up late drawing puppies for a 2nd grade diorama, and I stop and wonder, where is God in all of this? Where is He when I can’t keep up with the life that I created and the circumstances that I didn’t? Oh, in my head, I definitely, pridefully, know the answer.  He’s right here. He never left. And He never will. But sometimes it takes my soul a little longer to catch on to when my head once learned all the right answers in Sunday School, so I squirm in my spot and whine about life and finally, finally, seek out ways that help me feel closer to Him.

And I start to remember that all of us here in the northern hemisphere are pretty Vitamin D deficient, which leads to fatigue, and fatigue to overeating, and overeating to a bit of depression when the winter gets deep and dark. And it’s no wonder that all we want to do is sit on our sofas eating cookies and dozing off when the heaviness of life gets a little to weighty to bear and makes me feel far away from God.

So instead of reaching for the choimagecolate I reach for a doorknob and step out into the sunshine so I can look for signs of life in the outdoors, signs of hope, signs of lighter and brighter days. And it is there that I relearn my favorite life lesson that God has revealed Himself through His incredible undeniable creation. And I start to see His hand in a freshly budded leaf, and hear His voice in the delicate song of a robin, and He whispers to me softly through the whispering of the woods and my soul starts to catch on that God is with me and I was simply looking in the wrong place.

cropped-IMG_7754.jpgAnd I remember that when God created this earth, He spoke and made it out of nothing. From nothing, not from dirt or mass or matter or even so much as an atom or electron, from nothing His words brought forth life, the life that now tentatively pokes its way up and out of the frozen ground, and flits about snatching worms out of muddy spots, and shows that winter doesn’t last forever. It’s just a season and if God can create everything we have ever known from absolutely nothing, ex nihilo, nothing at all, than surely He can help fresh, new life poke through my frozen heart and refresh the staleness that has been my spirit in the harshness of the winter days.

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And that is what I love the most about my budding homestead, that every inch of every acre reveals a little bit of God’s unfathomable creativity, His mindfulness of every detail, His penchant for variety, His love of life and newness and spring after the winter and most of all, His love and His nearness for me. And every blistered hand from raking and every aching back from sowing, and every tiny squeal of delight from tiny humans gathering eggs or chasing chickens is an opportunity, a possibility, and the unbelievable ability to work alongside of our Creator to bring forth life where there wasn’t life before; it is the means to tend, and nurture, and experience miracles that are tiny and miracles we’ve never seen before, and a way in which we can learn to love and adore and learn to be loved and adored as we hear His whispers in the woods and feel His nearness in the sun and sense His breath breathe new life into our very souls.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the city or the country or in the in between, if you feel like God is far away I can promise you He’s not. I know it in my prideful head from Sunday School but I am daily learning it in my soul that God is close even when I worry that He is not, and we can learn this daily lesson together, one tentative step, one chicken egg, one blooming budding growing stem at a time.

And maybe you don’t have an acre, maybe it’s just a backyard spot, or a sun speckled window with a little room for a bowl or even just a potato where you can plant a seed and call it a homestead of your very own. And as the seed pokes it’s tender stem through the ground of that pot that is your very own homestead you can see and learn and know that the very same God who spoke into life lacey soft petals and stormy weather strong trunks of trees and green and plush blades of grass and singing birds and chicken eggs is the very same God that got down in the dirt of the earth and fashioned you with His very own hand (Genesis 2). And that my friend is hope and joy and love and closeness and may we never forget the holy God who got His hands dirty in the earth- for us.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6, NLT

 

Recipe of the Week

Coming up with delicious clean/paleo recipes is always a challenge, especially when I’m short on time – which is pretty much every single day of my life. My dear friend sent me an awesome cookbook for my birthday – Well Fed – you can buy it through the link below (this is an affiliate link which means I might make a little cash if you buy it here):

I am totally in love with this cookbook. It is clearly written, practical, offers suggestions, substitutions, and amazingly delectable paleo meals. Even if I don’t have the time or all of the ingredients to make the recipes exactly as written, they definitely jolt my culinary creativity and inspire me to get cooking (which is not usually my favorite thing to do). My first attempts were zucchini noodles using the Spiral Ninja:

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As we as the chocolate chilli.

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I am totally hooked on both and I can’t stop making zucchini noodles. The kiddos were enraptured! I even made some fancy cucumbers with the spiral ninja for my salad. But Tuesday was even more of a rush, and I really needed to get groceries. So I got creative and used just what I had on hand. I came up with pan fried coconut lime chicken, which is both clean and paleo. How easy is this!

Coconut Lime Chicken

Dump your frozen or fresh chicken in a large skillet.

Dump in a nice sized scoop of coconut oil (several tablespoons should do the trick)

Pour lime juice over top.

Simmer until it’s cooked.

It was so good that I made it for dinner again tonight!

I also added the cumin-roasted carrots from Well Fed and a heaping fresh greens salad with red and yellow pepper, tomato, and homemade dressing. It was so good that I ate a ton, and the best part of it is that I didn’t have that heavy, boated, fatigued feeling that I get after a full meal of carbs. I had the energy to get up, clean up, and get going to work. What more could I ask?

I admit, I cheated on Paleo just a bit with a little touch of shredded cheese on my salad and this dressing: 

Mayo Dressing

Several tablespoons of mayo or Miracle Whip (there is a recipe in Well Fed for a Paleo friendly mayo but I haven’t had the time to whip it up)

A generous squirt of mustard

A tablespoon of maple syrup

Celery seed, salt, and Italian seasonings to taste.

Stir it up with a fork and add just enough milk to make it creamy.

It’s very sweet and tangy so the kids loved it, and so did the grownups.

It doesn’t take much to get me excited about food, fresh yummy food, but it does take a lot to get me excited about COOKING the fresh yummy food. Thanks Well Fed, for bringing back the joy in cooking. Delish! 

Top 10 Reasons to turn your home into a homestead


At the mention of a homestead, I always pictured Laura Ingalls Wilder running free through the idyllic fields in the tv show, Little House on the Prairie. Are you with me? That tiny cottage where the girls are snuggled together in one bed, the naughty cows that got loose through the fence, the frightening barn fire, the endearing Papa mending the fences and the occasional broken heart of a small child. I totally wanted to live there. Be her. Learn to write on a chalkboard slate. Have a pet chicken.

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I don’t know if that beloved show was an accurate depiction of the time period or not, but it did point to the difficulties and struggles of homesteading. Having a homestead was risky business, for sure, overflowing with danger, hunger, and hard work. Modern homesteading is really nothing like that (well, it’s still hard work, I suppose). Oh sure, if you REALLY wanted, you could buy a plot of land and live off-the-grid in your vegetable oil powered camper. Oh, come on, why not? Well, maybe because I like health care, and hot showers, and, air conditioning, and gulp, the Internet. But that’s no reason not to have a modern homestead of your own. In fact, here are my Top 10 reasons that we want to turn our home into a little modern homestead.

10.Food. I like food. Ok, I really really really like food. I mean, I like a lot of food. And what I really like is good, healthy, really fresh food with no additives, no fillers, and no chemicals or pesticides. When you grow it, you get to know what you put on it, in it, and around it, and how long it’s been there. As a closet control freak, I resonate with that. And with food.

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9. Homesteading tastes good. Really, it does (and we already established just how much I like food). There is nothing like the taste of a warm fresh tomato straight out of the garden (they’re so good, my favorite five year old eats them like apples). Or an egg you gathered from the coop that morning. And those strawberries that you’ve been watching ripen for days? Freaking amazing, especially when they are still warm from the summer sun. You will be amazed by how good homesteading tastes.

8. Chickens. Do you know how much I love chickens? Me, the worship leading, hair styling, preaching, seminary graduate, bookworm, coffee junkie who doesn’t leave the house without makeup totally loves chickens. If you have a ‘homestead’ you get to have chickens (well, OK, depending on the laws in your neighborhood, anyway).  Chickens rock, but that’s fodder for another post.

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7. Fresher air. No matter where you live, plants clean up the air and give you nice fresh oxygen to breathe (You do remember science class, right?).  Urban homesteaders actually improve the air quality in the city. The more plants, the more oxygen. Grow them in your house. Grow them outside of your house. Grow them inside, outside, up sidedown… right side up, around and around and all year round. Your lungs will love you for it.

6. Grass is so yesterday. Vegetables are much trendier. They look nice, taste great, and you don’t even have to mow them (and if you use the right techniques, weeding is pretty minimal, too). (But I digress, because it’s all about the food).

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5. You’ll save money on that really fancy gym membership. If you’re homesteading, you’ll get plenty of exercise from weeding, raking, carrying, building, stacking, plucking, harvesting, and whatever other kind of activity you employ to build and upkeep your homestead. Muscles are cool. But muscles you earned from physical labor? Much cooler (and cheaper) than the kind you get at the gym.

4. You can homestead right where you are. Homesteading doesn’t have to mean off the grid living… You can grow a small garden patch or an acre or twenty. Raise chickens and goats, or not. Whatever your space, whatever your situation, you can implement homesteading techniques that positively affect your food, your family, your finances, or even your fun. You can try canning and herb growing right in your apartment kitchen. Or turn  your yard into a gorgeous garden. Homesteading is about making the most of what you have.

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3. It’s great for the kids. They’ll learn the value of hard work, and the reward! They’ll eat healthier food. They’ll learn how to care for animals. They’ll get fresh air. (And they’ll get tired, too!) They’ll learn science, biology, math, nutrition, exercise, and a gazillion other things like self-suffiency. They’ll have a blast checking on a ripening pumpkin or seeking out cucumbers hidden beneath their leafy vines. They’ll learn the joys of chasing chickens and playing in the mud…. Oh, the mud… I guess they’ll learn about taking baths, too.

2. Money. You can save money homesteading. You can even make money homesteading. Because homesteaders aren’t the only ones that love farm fresh food – you might make a few extra dollars selling off your extra eggs, earn a little dough by selling your goods at a farmer’s market as a part time job, or even homestead full time and make it your living. Or maybe, like most of us, you’ll just save a few bucks on your grocery bill and be happy with that.

5 tomato plants served my rather large family with more than enough tomatoes to make a summer’s worth of spaghetti, salsa, salads, and more. We figured out that the amount of money we saved by eating our own tomatoes, rather than store bought, more than covered the cost of the garden fence, tiller rental, and seeds and plants for the rest of the garden. Did I mention that I love to save money almost as much as I love food? (Yeah, I know, it’s still about the food, isn’t it?).

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1. Homesteading brings joy.  There is something amazing about planting a seed, and with a little water, and some good dirt and sunshine, it grows, thrives, and provides food. Every little plant is a little miracle from God. Every egg a gift, every tomato, every zucchini, or squash, or onion, is a reflection of the nurture and care that God has for each one of us. Every connection to our food gives us a sense of well-being and well, gratitude. Each baby chick is a little  glimpse of God’s tender mercy. Every ray of sun, His warmth, His love. Growing, nurturing, tending, sharing – these things feel so good and are so fulfilling that you can’t help but let a little joy sneak in even on those hard and tired days. Perhaps it’s inexplicable, but somehow, someway, homesteading brings joy…

And…

Ok, food.

Homesteading brings food. I’m really about the food.

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What to do when I’ve lost my happy

My ‘normal’ state of being is a happy contendedness. How I feel when all is well, life is normal, and I am simply feeling pleasant.  It is where I feel most like myself, with an inner calm and a sense of excitement about what life will bring. It is my happy. It’s usually accompanied by coffee.

Only most people would probably agree, my life is far from normal. My family size is definitely not normal – an almost 20 year marriage and 6 kids (a combination of biological, adopted, and fostered) under the age of 9. My dream  profession, also not normal. My deepest desire and calling is to be a pastor. My lifestyle – not typical – trying to build a miniature farm on a suburban 3 acre lot. My preferred food plan – clean/Paleo with an occasional cupcake – is not for everyone. My love of chickens, and cats, and baby everything. My passion for foster care and special needs. My love of fitness and essential oils. My excessive furniture rearranging. My penchant for dreaming up possiblities. My collection of books, both physical and electronic. And my need for creative expression through music and writing, well, OK, that might be the most normal thing about me. These are all of the things that are a part of who I am, whether they are normal or not. And they are the things that bring me to my happy.image

But sometimes, I simply lose my happy. I’m not talking about clinical depression here. Not grief, not chemical imbalances. Sometimes, I simply cease to be happy. Maybe it’s when I feel stuck and the possiblities for moving forward have been exhausted. Maybe it’s when I’m taking on too much at once, when I allow the mommy guilt to build up and set in. If you have a child, you know all about that mommy/daddy guilt. Maybe it’s the state of my budget (red), or when I feel like I’m not accomplished enough for a person of my age (kind of old), when I’m overtired, or when I think everyone else has it better. There – I said it. Comparison.

Comparison. It kills my joy. It steals my happy. It makes me cease to be me because I’m looking outward, wanting to be someone else. I’m pretty sure that this part is normal because a lovely friend – who happens to share a lot of the things of life that I love -reminded me that research studies have shown that Facebook causes depression. Facebook. A freaking website, where we all – in college dorm style – share our breakfasts, heartbreaks, triumphs, vacation pictures, job changes, children, and dirty laundry. All in the same place. All at the same time. It is a caucaphony of life’s stuff. And then we look to see if each other’s best moments are better than our own. Facebook is fun, but Facebook sometimes steals my happy.

But if facebook steals the happy, did you know that exercise restores it? Somehow, exercise brings out some feel good endorphins, causing us to feel happy. Today, I did Pilates from Daily Burn. And it was tough, not because this intermediate level, 19 minute, core strength workout was so hard, but because I was simultaneously managing 2 toddlers who were climbing, throwing, shouting, hiding, singing, playing, dumping, and crashing all around me while I was trying to get 19 minutes to do something to make myself happy. And in that moment, I didn’t feel very happy. It tested the limits of my inner sanctum, but I did it anyway because I know that even though it was difficult in the moment, over the course of the day that little workout would help me to restore my happy, as well as burn fat, get stronger, and seriously stand up straight like my mother used to say. (Guess what – standing up straight can help you feel more… happy).

Other things that help me restore my happy – sleep! Oh how I need sleep, and I also crave alone time with God (but I am never ever alone), taking pictures of my 31 (yes, 31, you have a problem with 31?) chickens, dreaming about the next step in building my homestead (hoop house, goat house, or just a plain old bird house), rearranging the furniture, playing with my 6 children, and blogging during their nap. At least, I pray-plead daily that they really really take a nap.

So if you’ve lost your happy – (not a depression or grief type of lost your happy), but more of a daily grind got you down kind of lost your happy – consider this. Shut off the phone. Close the computer screen. Grab the kids. Go for a walk. And then move the sofa. It will get you moving forward towards your happy.

 

 

Like a chicken led to safety

Psalm 91:1-4, NIV from www.biblegateway.com

 

I never intended to become the crazy chicken lady.

I just wanted a few chickens to run around my yard and lay a few eggs for breakfast. Honest. But somehow I ended up with 24 Silver Laced Wyandotte hens and 1 chicken of a rooster named Captain Jack. And that’s when the ‘addiction’ began.

There is a never ending supply of chicken pics on my Facebook page. I post far more chicken pics than pics of my kids. I sent my poor hubby out to the coop in the middle of a blizzard with cracked corn – because digesting cracked corn makes the chickens warmer. The chickens know my voice. And when I pull my big white van up next to the chicken run, they all come running to see what I’m up to.

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Lucky for us, the rooster mostly crows from inside the coop. But I love seeing my chickens dig around the chicken run, winging flight as high as the hardware cloth allows. I love bringing them my kids’ leftover Mac N Cheese, peanut butter and jelly sand which crusts, and the leafy celery ends that no one wants to nosh. They are happy, well-fed chickens, for sure.

But my chickens are stubborn and they don’t head to safety on their own. Our yard is not a safe haven for chickens – there are hawks soaring overhead, ready to swoop up a wayward chick. There are bobcats, and coyote, foxes, and raccoons, all waiting at edge of the tree line, salivating for a tasty chicken wing. One snowy evening, the wind howling, snow spinning around the yard, and the chickens huddled up against the side of the coop. It wouldn’t take much for them to go in – they could fly, hop, walk, and bob the few steps up the ramp and into the coop to safety. But they refused. They refused to be tempted by treats, by light, and warmth. Those ridiculous chickens just wouldn’t head for safety from the storm and hungry predators. Instead, they waited, cold, scared, and without protection.

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I don’t know what was wrong with those chickens – maybe they’re just stubborn. Like me. I had to pick up each and every chicken in that freezing snow squall and move it inside to the safety and warmth of the coop.  God is our shelter and our safety. He’s waiting to spread his wings over us when He seek our haven in Him. We, stubborn at times, look for safety in all kinds of places – homes, alarm systems, guns, family, church, work. I get it, because I seek comfort and safety in those kinds of things, too. But our ultimate place of shelter is in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.  This is what I need to remember when the storms come. And they will come, just like they already have come – in the form of snow squalls or hurricanes, financial difficulties or the stormy days of bad health, family dramas, or lost jobs – God is the shelter I need to seek.

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Where are you seeking shelter? Are you huddled up on the outside, getting battered by the winds and the storms, quaking from those that would devour you? God has spread His wings and all you have to do is go in.  I still don’t mean to be the crazy chicken lady, but if it helps me learn about God’s loving kindness for each of us, well, then, just maybe it’s worth it…

Psalm 91