End of December on the Homestead

It is a snowy and cold end of December day at our place. We have so much snow! The drifts are piled high, we have been digging around gates to keep our critters in their proper places, and there is about a foot of snow accumulation atop the wood pile. Winter has proclaimed its arrival with confidence!

Jack, my Christmas puppy, is nine weeks old already and has fully made himself at home on our farm and in our hearts. He is a smart and active little guy! He weighed thirteen pounds at his first puppy checkup this week. He is learning to sit and stay and come to his name... and he loves his treats and his squeaky fox toy. {smile}

The outdoor critters are faring well. They spend most of their time in their spacious pens and warm shelters by their own choice... and they do seem to enjoy standing in the warmth of the sunshine when it peeks through the gray winter sky. We carry warm water to them and fill up their beds with extra hay for comfort.

All is well in the barnyard. And we have *lots* of snow in the back pasture...

Overall, 2017 was a year of maintenance and rest at our place. A year of reflecting and thinking and planning... what direction do we want our farm to take?

In our early years of homesteading, we were building and fencing and experimenting with gardening and raising a vast variety of critters, striving to become as self-sufficient as possible, by the grace of God.

Those were good years. Busy years! A lot of work and very satisfying, too.

The past few years have been quieter around our homestead. We have become a farm sanctuary... we haven't been producing our own dairy products or gardening. I haven't done much canning. I stopped making my own laundry soap, even.

The rest was nice... and perhaps necessary. But now we are ready to get back into homesteading. Perhaps not at quite the same intensity as before now that our buildings are built and our fences are up and our homestead is paid for. Thank you, God! But we want to spend more time making things and pouring energy into the simple life that we love.

This week, I made yogurt for the first time in ages. I washed the fabric I bought to make myself another skirt. Later today, I am going to be making a batch of laundry soap. We have been talking about buying some chicks this spring. And we are watching for the just-right-for-us dairy goat to add to our barnyard, so we can produce some of our own dairy products again.

I'm excited about those things.

So we are heading into 2018 with a re-ignited desire to get back to basics at our place. To do things for ourselves and produce some of our own food (not meat... our animals are safe here) and grow a bit in self-sufficiency. To put to use the knowledge and skills we have learned in our seventeen years on our homestead.

Sounds fun, yes? I think so.

Happy New Year, friends. I wish you many blessings and much peace and joy in 2018...

A Grateful Heart

It has been a wintry and wonderful week at our place, friends. And it did fly by all too quickly, in my opinion... probably because my dear hubby has been home all week and we are enjoying a stay-cation of family togetherness and getting things done around the homestead.

My hubby has been spending some time each day plowing our one-third mile long driveway. So far, so good... we have not yet gotten snowed in!

I have been cleaning up from Christmas and getting things put away. I sorted through my closet (again) to remove the items that no longer fit and encouraged our children to do the same in their closets. And I got inspired to also go through some drawers and cupboards in the kitchen.

Oh how clean and organized everything looks. Yes!

I used my new stand mixer for the very first time to whip up a big batch of pancakes. Such a fun and effective gadget, this 5-quart red mixer is! I'm excited to experiment with it.

Here are a few of the snippets from my ongoing gratitude list this week... 

:: Our Christmas. It really was a lovely day. I received a few homemade gifts from my children, which I love! One of our boys made me a latch-hook pillow (with a crocheted back!) and one of our girls made me a little framed picture for the shelf beside my bed.

Happiness is homemade indeed.

And it was wonderful having our adult daughter home for a few days at Christmas, along with her dog Juno...

:: Wildlife on and around our farm. We are still seeing deer quite often, and this week we have also been seeing a small group of elk on the hillside across the way. 

:: A birthday. One of our girls is a New Year's Day baby... she was *the* New Year's baby in our county the year she was born, and we got our picture on the front page of the newspaper for that achievement. {smile} Was that really twelve years ago already?? Oh my...

And here we are at the end of 2017... my last grateful heart post of the year. I have *so* much that I am grateful for this year, big things and small things.

Among those blessings is gratitude that I decided to start blogging again this year. Writing and taking photographs helps me to notice and savor all the goodness that surrounds me, and I do love sharing snippets of it all here and on Run Hoop Julie.

And 2017 is the year I discovered hooping! {smile} That discovery is indeed something I am very thankful for...

Thank you for coming by my blog today, friends. I wish you a cup brimful of things to be grateful for!

With peace and kindness...

Our Christmas

Peekaboo, Ruby!

some of the food (one of our many pizzas)

a beautifully snowy white Christmas day

Juno and Jack

my homemade pecan pie (which my Hubby claimed for his own)

Jack's first Christmas

It was a lovely weekend of shopping and baking and celebrating and celebrating some more at our place friends.

We had some last minute errands that took up most of our Saturday... it was actually quite nice to be out and about on a cold snowy day, with so many other people also in the shops, and an almost-Christmas festive feeling in the air.

There was a bit of baking, food preparation, and gift wrapping yet to be done on Saturday as well. I made our pies for Christmas, and a birthday cake for our Christmas Eve birthday boy.

Oh, and guess what... My dear hubby surprised me with a stand mixer for Christmas! My kitchen is yellow with red accents, and my lovely new mixer is red... so it will sit upon the kitchen counter at all times, I decided. I am looking forward to using it the very next time I bake. {smile}

Sunday (Christmas Eve) was all about our boy's birthday. Our fifth child is now fourteen years old! It was a wonderful day and I reminded him as I do each year that he is the *best* and most memorable Christmas gift I have ever received.

And then Christmas. It was a whirlwind of activity and fun and food... nine of our family of ten at home with all of the pets and critters that complete our homestead. Here are some snippets and traditions from our day ~

Several years ago, we accidentally purchased six oranges and one grapefruit (instead of seven oranges) to add to our children's stockings. It is now a tradition that our son who received that original grapefruit gets one each year, and it continues to be quite hilarious to us all every single time. Ha!

Our usual Christmas food... we *always* have cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast. And then store bought pizza with lots of salads and side dishes and desserts for the rest of the day! I make pizza for us every week all through the year, so it is quite a treat for me to let someone else do the cooking for Christmas.

Just a little bit of time in the out-of-doors. I took Jack and Juno out for some fresh air and the kids enjoyed zipping down our homestead's fantastic sledding hills on their new sleds. It was quite cold and it snowed all day long so we weren't outside for very long.

We enjoyed opening gifts, we had a lovely video chat with our adult son who lives far away, we watched a few movies... it was a very nice day of togetherness. I do hope that you had a good Christmas, too!


A Grateful Heart

Greetings from our c-c-cold (17 degrees F) and very snowy homestead, friends! It began snowing earlier this week, and I am so glad that I took my camera with me as I tended to our critters then because there is very limited visibility today, with all of this lovely just-in-time-for-Christmas snow coming down!

It is cozy at our place... we have a fire in our wood stove and our Christmas lights are on. The tree is lit and lovely and has a pile of presents beneath it. And what a blessing to hear my children discuss their excitement about what they are giving in those packages even more than curiosity about what they will be receiving. {smile}

All of our critters are cozy as well. Their shelters are well stocked with bedding hay and we carry warm water to them when the weather is this cold. Our hens must be happy because they are laying a surprising number of eggs for this time of the year.

It is wonderful to have them for all of the Christmas baking I have been doing!

And yesterday, I glanced out the window at just the right time to see a cattle drive happening down on the county road. Perfect timing to take a moment and watch... (I love cows.)

Here are a few more things from my ongoing gratitude list this week ~

:: Jack, my Christmas puppy. He is eight weeks old today and simply thriving at our house. If love does indeed make a puppy grow (I think I heard that from Clifford the Big Red Dog) then Jack is going to be enormous. Ha!

:: All together in one place. Nine of our large family of ten are together for Christmas... I feel truly blessed. And Juno is home, too, and got to meet Jack. Happiness indeed!

:: Stay-cation. My dear hard-working hubby will be off work all of next week! Oooo... how excited I am for all the family togetherness to come, friends!

:: My back feels better. And I have an idea...

 As I told you here, I tweaked my back earlier this week. It is feeling better, thankfully. It also made me really reflect on my exercise habits. My birthday is in January, and I am thinking that on my birthday I won't exercise at all. It will be a gift to myself and a good baby-step in my journey, I think.

:: Jesus, my Lord and Savior. I do not have adequate words to express how thankful I am that I am His and He is mine. I think my faith is growing and maturing a lot these days, friends... God is so big and good and in control and all of my hope and trust is in Him alone.

:: Ordinary things... our daily family read aloud time, my carpet cleaner (that puppy, after all...), dancing to Christmas songs with my children, having time to knit in the evenings, Christmas movies, online sermons, kindness.

There is always so much to be grateful for. It is a real key to happiness, I think... noticing and appreciating all of the good and wonderful things around me. And truly believing that the inevitable not-so-good things are for my good and God's glory.

Thank you for coming by my blog(s) this week, friends. I wish you a wonderful weekend and a very Merry Christmas abundant with goodness and blessings.


Almost Christmas

It is a snowy and cold (17.7 degrees F) wintry day at our place, friends. We are listening to Christmas music and making candy and keeping our new puppy entertained and out of mischief.

Such a good day, a simple and ordinary day... and it is all working together to bring a rather festive atmosphere into our home.

This year, we have been listening to mostly hymns and Christ-focused Christmas songs. It is something I thought might help keep our focus on Jesus through the season and minimize the more commercial aspects of Christmas. It was a good idea, I think.

I wanted to try making divinity this year. So today, we gathered all of our ingredients and supplies and then realized that our candy thermometer is nowhere to be found.

So... I had to guesstimate when the sugar syrup was at the right temperature. Our farm fresh egg whites whipped up to beautiful stiff peaks, and then I poured the syrup in.

The candy did not turn out like puffy clouds as we had planned. Rather, our divinity pieces look like flattened and sticky lenticular clouds. Ha! They are delicious regardless.

And we had a good time giving divinity making a go!

I do hope you have a lovely day where you are...

Puppy Love

Oh, I do have a serious case of puppy love, friends. Jack is just fantastic... a busy and boisterous bundle of energy and affection and fun. And simply adorable, yes?

I am indeed thankful for the help of my tribe with this lively pup... it has been a full time job for the whole lot of us to keep this little guy under watch and out of trouble as he explores his new home and gets used to life on our homestead.

And he does love it here already! Jack has made himself right at home.

Did I mention that I am in love? {smile} All of us are, really. Simply smitten.

Wishing you a lovely day...


Friends, I am so excited for you to meet the newest addition to our happy gentle homestead! He is the sweetest little guy... a mere baby, just now old enough to leave his mama and join our family.

I would like to introduce you to Jack.

We have been thinking about it for awhile... bringing a puppy into our home. A dog for all of us, but most especially for Mama. But it had to be just the right puppy for us. The perfect match for our family and our farm. Experience has taught us the importance of being selective and patient when choosing just the right animals for our place. So we watched and prayed and waited.

And I had no idea that a match had been found. Not even a clue. So when my dear hubby said he had something to bring in for me when he returned home the other day, and that it was to be a surprise, I really did not know what to expect.

I certainly did *not* expect to return to the living room to see our children seated together with a squirming, tail-wagging puppy right in the midst of them... a darling Yellow Labrador puppy adorned with a shiny blue bow bigger than he is...

"Merry Christmas!" my tribe cheerfully exclaimed when I came into the room.

Oh my! A Christmas puppy! It was indeed love at first sight all around, I think.

I already had his name chosen. It was decided long ago... I've known for awhile that if I ever got a male dog I would name him Jack, after a character in one of my favorite movies. The movie character Jack is kind and brave and loyal and strong... a good friend to those he loves.

Just like my Jack will grow to be.

What a delightful whirlwind of activity this wee puppy has brought into our home! It is going well and it is a lot of fun having this rambunctious pup as part of our family. Jack is receiving so much love and attention and already seems to know his name, such a smart little fella he is!

With our house full of children and a barnyard full of critters and acres and acres of open spaces to explore with us at his side, sweet Jack is indeed home. He fits right in with us already, unabashedly adored by all.

Friends, I got a puppy for Christmas... a complete surprise! Squee! I must say, I am rather impressed that my dear hubby and children pulled this off so successfully!

Welcome to the family, Jack! You will love it here, I promise. And welcome, most especially, into my heart. {smile}

A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday to you, friends. It is quite windy on our happy gentle homestead today... I wonder if a storm is blowing in. It would be nice to have a bit of snow just in time for Christmas!

We have been doing daily readings from an Advent devotional as part of our Christmas season celebration. One of the discussions my children and I had recently was about how God perfectly arranged all the necessary details and circumstances of Christ's birth to perfectly fulfill Old Testament prophecy.

My children and I were thinking about how God controls everything and knows everything. Oh what a lovely truth that is!

This week, we had another chance to be amazed at how the Lord works things out perfectly...

One of our boys had a toothache. My hubby and I decided that he should have it looked at. Our dentist had a cancellation so we were able to schedule an appointment right away (which was yesterday).

Yesterday's weather was perfect for me to drive to town for the appointment. I have *very* particular circumstances in which I am willing to drive. (I am accepting this limitation about myself for now... perhaps I will try to overcome it one day, but I am giving myself grace today.) So I was thankful for the ideal-for-me driving conditions.

As my son-with-the-toothache and I were getting ready to go to the appointment, I asked my youngest boy if he would like to come along with us. He said yes, so the three of us went to the dentist.

The toothache was due to a minor cause that didn't even require treatment. What a relief... we were thinking our boy might require a root canal. As we were getting ready to leave, I mentioned to the dentist that we would be back one day for him to have a look at our youngest boy's tooth that had just come in rather misshapen.

Our dentist had a quick look and suggested we just take care of it right then. Turns out our youngest boy had a supernumerary (extra) tooth that was quickly and easily extracted and now *that* concern has been removed.

On the drive home, we discussed how neat it was that God used a minor toothache in our older boy to get our youngest son's tooth taken care of...

The appointment was available. The driving conditions were fantastic. And at the very last minute, I decided to also take our youngest son along to his brother's appointment.

And today, we all feel better! Thank you, Lord.

I like to remember these stories whenever I am tempted to worry or fret. I have seen it again and again in my life... God is in control and He does care about even the smallest things. I am grateful.

Thanks for coming by my blog this week, friends... I appreciate all who read my ramblings here and on Run Hoop Julie. I wish you a cup brimful with things to be grateful for.

With peace and kindness...

Our Deer Friends

Oh, the deer we have seen this week! A lovely group of them was grazing just outside of our fenced yard a few days ago. It was so quiet and still outdoors, we could hear their munching sounds as they nibbled at the earth.

As we observed the wee herd, a beautiful buck wandered over from our neighbor's pasture to join the does at our place. He was bleating to them... it was so neat to watch and listen!

I love love love seeing so many deer on and around our happy gentle homestead these days. How blessed we are to enjoy the variety of critters that visit our little piece of Montana.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these deer as much as I did!


Lessons From Our Homeschool

We are well into our twentieth year of homeschooling in our family. We began as our oldest children were starting fourth grade and first grade... way back in 1998. These days, the six of our children still at home occupy grades from kindergarten all the way up to high school senior.

And this is our busiest and bustling-est homeschool year yet! I would describe our homeschool style as organized and eclectic. Effective. And lots of fun... most of the time. {smile}

Along with the standard classes and traditional methods, we encourage our children to explore their unique interests, develop their talents, and enjoy their individual hobbies and activities. We work and play together around our homestead and have all kinds of lovely adventures and outings and experiences.

Those are all good things that contribute to our learning lifestyle, I think.

A long time ago, we chose Proverbs 23:12 as our homeschool verse. It has always been a priority of ours to instill in our children a love for God and a love for reading and learning. I think this verse captures that desire quite nicely.
"Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to the words of knowledge."
                                        Proverbs 23:12 {WEB}
And every day, it seems, at least one of our children will present me with a bit of information that in twenty years of homeschooling, I have not heard before.

Here are a couple of those recent lessons from our homeschool...

This week, one of our boys said to me... "Did you know that you are older than every dog alive?" Ha! Now, that is obviously true (I am 48 years old) but I had never heard it put that way before. It did make me laugh out loud.

As we were eating supper the other day, we were discussing the mysterious black eye I woke up with (I have no idea what I did... in my sleep, no less!) and also our son's pet Pacman frog. This led to one of our children telling me that frogs use their eyes to push down their food when they swallow. I find that rather fascinating!

I just love those little random tidbits of information that come up throughout the day amidst our ongoing educational endeavors.

Homeschooling is a blessing that I never take for granted. There is always something new to learn... and with a house full of children and many more years of homeschooling ahead of us (Lord willing), I have hopes of finding out all kinds of things I don't know yet as all of these students of mine learn and grow.

Wishing you a lovely day...

I use the World English Bible (WEB) for my word pictures because it is a version in the Public Domain. The name "World English Bible" is trademarked. More information can be viewed here.

Oh Yeah! Banana Bread

This is the vegan version of our favorite banana bread recipe. It was once a standard recipe, the kind found in cookbooks of long ago, with white flour and plenty of sugar and eggs and cooking oil. I made it that way in the old days... also known around here as nearly thirty years ago, when my hubby and I were first married. {smile}

Tasty indeed, but I soon tweaked that recipe to suit our family's preference for real food and less sugar. That version contains home-ground whole wheat flour and ground flax and a reduced amount of sugar and cooking oil. It is our usual loaf to this day, when I make banana bread.

When I was vegan, I came up with a completely plant-based version of my usual recipe. It has very little sugar and no cooking oil or eggs. It is quite yummy and frugal... I plan to continue making this plant-based version myself occasionally. Especially when our hens aren't laying many eggs.

Way-back-when, it somehow became a family tradition to declare "Oh yeah!" when the lovely aroma of a loaf of baking banana bread begins to waft through the house. And that is how my banana bread got its name.

I am happy to share this version of a family favorite with you, friends. Here is the recipe...

Oh Yeah! Banana Bread {plant-based recipe}
(makes 1 loaf)

4 Tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
2 cups whole wheat flour (purchased or home-ground)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 large ripe bananas
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plant-based milk (I prefer unsweetened cashew milk)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Lightly spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. My loaf pan is glass and the size is 5.25 x 9 x 2.75 inches (1.5 quarts).

In a small bowl, combine the ground flax seeds and the water. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, combine the whole wheat flour and the baking soda. Set aside.

Peel and mash the bananas. Set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar, granulated sugar, molasses, vanilla extract, and plant-based milk. Mix well. Add the flax seeds and water mixture, and the mashed bananas. Mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir well. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread it around if necessary so it is even and smooth on top.

Bake at 375 degrees (F) for about 45 minutes, or until the banana bread is nicely browned and baked thoroughly. Carefully remove the finished loaf from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for about half an hour. Then, turn the loaf out of the pan onto the wire rack to finish cooling.

At this point, my family descends and amidst literal exclamations of "oh yeah!" because they know it makes me laugh, the banana bread is quickly devoured. And I am left wondering why I didn't double or triple the recipe. Ha!

Yes, it is indeed that yummy. And whether you are vegan or not, I do hope you like it, too.


Good News

Dear friends, I do hope you had a lovely Christmas! Ours was simple and quiet... we exchanged gifts, enjoyed family time, watched a few Chri...

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