I am away from my CrossFit - have you noticed? I think ... 5 weeks now? Too long to be calling myself a CrossFitter, that's for sure. I got busy (I know, lame excuse) with other projects, and honestly was not getting enough sleep to give up an hour to the gym. Now that I'm home I get enough sleep but the gym is a half hour away. I want to build the gym back into my routine, I really did enjoy it, but in the meantime, I haven't given up on the journey to the healthy part of the happy and healthy homestead. I'm on what Hubby jokingly calls FarmFit, which is just a fun way of saying "I keep busy working around the homestead." Here's some proof:
Sure, I have a trailer for my little riding mower, but it was a small trek from the cinder block pile to my garden, and using the wheelbarrow saves a little gas and builds a little muscle. So I get to save money and get a workout while the job gets done, in about the same amount of time. Bonus! So, instead of going to the gym alone, I am working around the property, hiking, and playing with the kids to stay fit. Speaking of which, now that I planted my new cedar trees, I need to patch my bike inner tube to go riding later this week, after I chainsaw some big logs into firewood.
Oh, the beloved dehydrator. As much a part of my food preservation system as my pressure cooker, boiling water canner, and vacuum sealer. I've been making homemade banana, strawberry, mango, apple and other fruit chips for years now, as well fruit leathers, dried veggies, dried herbs, and even some dehydrated dinners for the trail. We eat them as the fruit chips as snacks and as part of homemade trail mix while camping, hiking, etc. The kids are so used to real fruit chips, they won't even eat the store bought stuff - they think it's gross. You know, the sugar-coated kind that comes in a clam-shell case. A couple years ago, we were out running errands, it was one of those days I was not prepared with snacks in the car, and my son asked for some strawberry chips. Okay, sure, why not? As a special treat. Well, why not is that they're covered in sugar and soaked in preservatives, but let's put that aside for a moment.☺ He ate one and almost spit it out. "What's wrong with these? They don't taste like your strawberry chips. Here, you can have them. I'll wait." This from a hungry 2nd grader. Oh, yeah, Victory for Mom moment. When your little ones can tell between real food and processed, manufactured food. I was so proud.
So, for any who haven't delved into dehydrating, fruit is the absolute simplest thing to start with. And you don't need anything fancy. I started off with a hand-me-down dehydrator and trays like this one:
It doesn't even have a dial, you just plug it in and it turns on. The temperature is controlled by turning the top vent, and you rotate each tray from bottom to top (or vise versa) to get each tray dried at the same rate. It worked great, and it was free, so I was all over that.
He is so awesome. This has 10 trays, a 12 hour timer, and temperature control. And he got me some liners for fruit leathers and mesh tray inserts for small stuff like banana chips, herbs, and anything else that would fall through the trays. I am all set with this thing! And I passed my other dehydrator down to my neighbor, who was enjoying my fruit snacks and asking about which one she should buy. Buy?? No way, pass along the goodness of free useful stuff!
Back to fruit chips. What do you really need to make them?
A heating device. A dehydrator (homemade or store-bought), an oven, a hot car, a tray in the sun (this doesn't work in Michigan, but in those 'dry heat' climates it does).
A cutting device. A mandolin or other type of even-slicing device is handy and makes it go quicker, but if you have a knife and can make relatively even cuts, that will work fine.
A holy surface. Some type of tray that allows air to circulate all around the fruit. Dehydrator trays, cookie cooling racks, even window screen.
Good fruit. Overripe or under ripe fruit is no good. If you put not-so-good fruit in, you get not-so-good dried fruit out.
See? It doesn't take much. To dry, all you do is cut the fruit, lay it on the trays, turn on the dehydrator/oven/sun and let it happen. And it is so yummy, and cheap! Have you looked at fruit roll-up or banana chip prices? Eek! Buying fruit in season and on sale and then preserving it (in any fashion) is an easy way to stretch your budget. Getting fruit on the cheap is a post for another day, but as for dehydrating, I'll show the banana chips next.
This book is far from new, it was published in 1945, but it was new to me up until a month ago. I'd heard the reference to it, but didn't realize for a long time it was referring to a book. I thought it was a reference to a setting with lots of creatures, like, you know, maybe a farm, with lots of animals.
So for those like me who somehow missed this classic in high school, it is a satire on the Russian Revolution. The story is about a farm where the animals are tired of being mistreated by the farmer, revolt, and take over running the farm. The pigs, being the smartest, take charge. They lay out the Seven Commandments, learn to read and teach (mostly unsuccessfully) the other animals how to read, direct the work, and otherwise rule the newly re-named Animal Farm. All is fine until someone wants more than others and the Commandments get ... bent. I won't spoil the details - I recommend read the book, or listen to the audio book read by Richard Brown. I went through my library's online service (they use hoopla) and listened on my phone.
There's all kinds of remarks and political opinions on this book I won't get into, but I did think of this story when I was listening to the news the other day. At certain points in debates, one animal gets the sheep to drown everyone else out with a chant that, effectively, stops the debate altogether. It reminded me of the town hall meetings where people with real questions wanting a real dialogue are getting drowned out by protesters yelling and chanting until they shut down the meeting. I'm not a conspiracy theorist or anything, but who is teaching those sheep?
Okay, to end on a happy note, the sun is now up and I'm going to check the fruit in the dehydrator, get another cup of coffee, and figure out how to tune my mower.
You know those kind of people who are prepared for things before they commit? I'm not really one of those people. Usually I have some kind of idea, especially if it is my idea and not being forced upon me. But I am never totally prepared. I was in the middle of the dining room built-in buffet project when I committed to having my son's birthday party a few years ago. So, in true fashion, I put in an order for 60 meat chicks when I had no home for the chicks (cold outside) and no coop for the chickens.
So, Yes! I put in my order and payment for 60 meat chicks, with one week to get a brooder ready, and 6 layers chicks, due 3 weeks later. The layers are coming from a friend who is putting some of her fertilized eggs in the incubator this week. I was not able to go with a local breeder for the broilers, so they came from the Family Farm & Home, on sale. Which is why I went ahead and ordered them even though I wasn't ready.
Failure #1: Last year we did we did 10 chicks inside the house.
They started in a tub in the bathroom, then in the actual bathtub (thank goodness for a second bath), then outside in an enclosed mobile coop. We decided after that - no more chickens in the bathroom. It needed a total wash-down and airing out for days. Not again, no, thank you.
This is what we came up with for the chicks in our unfinished basement. We did change to all red lamps for heat, hanging right in the middle, and a white lamp hanging from ceiling for light during the day. We only had one heat lamp, feeder and waterer, and the wire shelf, so everything we had to buy.
Failure #2: 60 chicks grow really fast.
Did you know that 60 chicks take six times more room, food, and water than 10 chicks? Who knew? Okay, I'm no idiot, I knew that. But this was the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowing and understanding are not always the same thing. We quickly ran out of room for these chicks to be comfy. We had them split up, first into 3 tubs, then 4, and we were filling food at water in each tub 3 times a day - 4 by the time they moved outside. They had feathers, but not fully feathered out, and the temperature was still too low to go without heat lamps, but they were about 2 days away from not being able to move around inside the tubs any more. So we had to make their outside home work, ready or not.
Quick note: I added about a tablespoon of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar to a gallon of water for them from day 2, and they had no problem.
Failure #3: Dead chickens.
We did lose one chick the first day, one chick the third day, and another chick after a week and a half. Every one of them were found under other birds, apparantly smothered. I ordered 10 more than we actually need for loss and give aways, so that wasn't an issue. It bothered me, though, these poor little guys, getting squished when they had plenty of room, and heat - even in the middle of the night they were next to each other, but not huddled in a solid mass. I'm told this happens, and we haven't lost any more since. I used it as a teachable moment and moved on.
I know days will come when being at stay at home mom won't feel like vacation (I'm only on day 4 after all), but I am going to enjoy it as long as possible. The kids are on Spring Break, so that helps, too. Call it a honeymoon phase. It is a very strange feeling, waking up and my biggest decisions to make are what's for dinner and do we go on a bike ride or to the store first today? Everything else is working on small projects around the house. I can look at an undone (or more likely, half done) project and think "Yeah, I'm going to do that today," instead of figuring out how to fit a whole day's worth of chores into 6 hours on 5 hours sleep.
I shouldn't complain about how it was. I know people who are up at 4am and not home until 7, then they are putting little kids to bed at 8, or shuttling kids to and from sports or music or clubs until 10, day after day, with more sports and clubs and work on the weekends. And I'm not trying to gloat, either. I'm not sitting in some fancy mansion with a BMW in the drive while Hubby earns a 6-figure income sitting at a desk. We've chosen to take the path of being more self-reliant, enjoying simpler pleasures, and going without things that others aren't willing to.
Yes, I have a five year old vehicle with a payment, but we no longer have cable. Yes, our kids have a video game system, but it was given to us and he just bought 5 used games for a whopping $20, using a gift card from his birthday. Yes, I still go to the grocery store, but I buy my eggs, beef, pork and lamb from a local farmer and am raising my own meat chickens, and I preserve a lot of my own food. Yes, Hubby just splurged on that new camera, but I do almost all my clothes shopping (and home goods, books, homeschool supplies, etc.) at second hand stores. It's a give and take, and the more I "give" - not buying a lot of stuff and buying used - the more I "get" - less time at work to afford it all and more time doing thing, like chickens, together.
It all get round back to my Joysmithing goal - creating a more joyful life. The less money I have to spend, the less I (meaning Hubby now, of course) have to earn, and the freer we are to be home as a family. And whether 'home as a family' means enjoying a fire in the backyard while kids play flashlight tag, or building and fixing things at home instead of shipping it off to a repair shop, we are still doing it together.
And now it's time to....well, whatever I want, right? 😊 Actually, going to bed at a decent hour has its perks. Quiet time before kids are up to enjoy some coffee and blog, laundry's already on it's second run, I have some pictures to put in new (used 😉) frames since the cheap ones broke, and then a shopping list. It really is amazing, how much lighter I feel. I didn't feel stressed about my job before, but this new feeling of freedom really is a feeling of being lighter. I can't describe it any better than that, but I bet you out there who have made the choice I have no what I'm talking about. Here's hoping we can all feel this weightless joy.
No, you haven't missed anything in the news. This is my own new personal holiday. I have 4 more days of working my full-time job before I retire!
I'm not near old enough to actually retire, but I am quitting work to be home on weeknights to be with hubby and the kids, start homeschooling again, have more time to garden, more time to finish house projects, and more time just to be. I worked about 19 years in different careers while I became a wife, mother, homeowner, camper, gardener, hiker, chicken raiser, and all the rest. I enjoy my job, and get satisfaction from doing it well so that my co-workers can concentrate on the job they have to do, but my passion is my family, and the two can't be balanced out anymore. I am ready to drop the working part. I am so grateful to Hubby for doing all the financial stuff to get us ready, and supporting my decision. And before anyone shakes their head and think me naïve, I know I am actually going to have more work as a stay at home mom than going to a job. And while I won't get a paycheck to take to the bank, I will be paid in so many other ways it will more than make up for it. Like Handsome Boy says, I am rich in love.
In other news, since I haven't written in over a month, our meat chickens are here and the broiler coop is finished - what a learning curve! Our egg layers are in my friend's incubator, the new garden beds are covered in straw waiting for a design plan and Mother's Day (aka planting day), shower tiling is in progress, Mom is mended up and ready to move back home, and spring is here!!! Otherwise, I'm generally just trying to put my life in some kind of order so I can actually get things done instead of looking around wondering where to start. Ever since the fall holidays, any routine I once had was thrown out the window. Almost every day has been reactionary. A list got accomplished on schedule here and there, but not nearly enough. I am ready to find my new routine.