End of September on the Homestead

It is the most wonderful time of the year, in my opinion. I truly do love all four seasons, but if I had to put them in order starting with the one I love the *most* my list would start with autumn. It is such a cozy, home-y time of the year on our homestead.

Our summer homesteading projects and our winter preps are complete, so autumn is mostly a season of school and everyday chores and making things, as we begin to prepare for the upcoming birthdays and holidays and discuss the things we hope to accomplish around the home and homestead over the wintry months to come.

The family hunters will soon go hunting and we pray they will successfully fill their tags and our freezers will fill up with wild game meat. What a blessing that would be! One thing I really hope to get back into is building and maintaining a food storage stockpile for our large tribe. It was so much easier back when we had one... but it was gradually used up and I haven't yet been able to rebuild it. A priority, for sure!

The creek looks especially beautiful this time of the year. We spent several joyful moments relaxing creekside in September. The leaves are falling from the bushes and the trees and blanketing the pasture along the creek's banks. We picked some of our wild chokecherries when they were ripe and I made chokecherry syrup and put a few gallons of chokecherries in the freezer.

And the colorful trees along the creek are especially beautiful from above, when looking down from our hilltop farmhouse vantage point. The colors of this mountain in September are glorious.

A very few vigorous wildflowers are still thriving in the pastures. Our night time temperatures have dipped into the 30's (F) recently so they may not have much time left. I liked the way this blossom appears to be growing from the rock... in fact, the wildflower's stem is simply bent to the side in that direction. {smile}

I am beginning to yearn for more goats! More and more with each passing month, it seems. I miss our days of milking and the convenience of producing some of our own dairy products on our farm. Our current goats have always simply been pets and companion animals, we likely won't ever milk them, but I am praying that the Lord has more dairy animals in mind for our homestead one day soon!

My cow-friend Matilda has had a good month of wandering the back pasture and grazing with her miniature horse friend, Shadow. Both of them love the current abundance of apples and apple cores coming their way. Matilda is getting the beginnings of her dark and shaggy winter coat. She looks good!

Our eight remaining hens are doing an amazing job of laying enough eggs for my baking. And we get a duck egg upon occasion, too. Farm fresh eggs are the best, I think.

September was a month of apples. We made lots and lots of applesauce and other apple goodies at the beginning of the month, and then we were blessed with more apples earlier this week and even more today. Apple days continue in my homestead kitchen! Thankfully, my children like to help with some of the prep work.

We work together. We laugh a lot. We get it done. And it's a lot of fun.

Finally, I have a lovely orange sunset to share with you. Isn't it pretty? Sunsets always make me feel thankful for our simple life and the many blessings we enjoy on our big family's mountainside homestead. And autumn sunsets usually occur at just about the time that we finish our evening chores and the work of the day is behind us... we can take a few moments to be still and admire their beauty.

And in to October we go, friends~

A Grateful Heart

:: homemade bread and friend-grown squash ::
It seems trite to begin so many of my grateful heart posts by proclaiming how quickly time flies by. But I know that I am not the only one that notices how quickly the days seem to whiz past sometimes.

Our boy with an October birthday announced, "One month until my birthday!" one day this week. First of all, I can hardly believe that the boy who gave my dear hubby and me the surprise experience of an unassisted home birth when he was born is going to be seventeen already.

The home birth was planned, but the unassisted part was not. Our midwife did not arrive until several minutes after our precious baby boy was born. Was that memorable, joyful, wonderful event really seventeen years ago? Oh my.

And, since his end-of-October birthday commences the holiday season including a plethora of family birthdays at our house, wow! I guess I had better get busy if I am going to achieve my hope of handcrafting a few of my Christmas gifts this year!

But, I am not going to run ahead of myself too much. This is the moment at hand, the one I choose to abide in... and here are a few snippets of my ongoing gratitude list this week~

:: Julian ::
:: baby superworms ::
 :: Julian the Pacman frog. Isn't he adorable? He belongs to one of our boys, the one who is about to have his birthday, in fact. Our son is experimenting with growing his own frog food and has successfully hatched superworms in a habitat that he made for such a purpose. He let some purchased superworms mature to become beetles. The beetles bred and their eggs hatched. So exciting!

:: Pretty flowers from my girl. Such happiness in an adorable mug! We are all adjusting to her work schedule and we are thankful for her job and that she is transitioning so well into this new stage of life. She and I are both grateful that she plans to live at home for some time to save money and pray for direction for her future.

:: what a blessing! ::
:: More apples. And another generous friend gave us some extra squash from their garden this week. These apples are from the same tree that our previous homegrown apples came from, but they are noticeably sweeter than they were those few weeks ago. So I am making more applesauce and pies and cakes and my well-fed family is pretty happy about all of the homemade goodies coming out of the kitchen these days.

:: Laminin. My children and I learned today, in our eclectic homeschooling endeavors, that our cells are held together by a protein that is shaped like a cross. We looked at some online images of laminin molecules and marveled at the truth that itty-bitty crosses literally hold us together. It thrills me to learn that even our inner workings point to Jesus! God is so good. I love homeschooling.

Well, I need to get today's gallons of homemade applesauce ready for the freezer and see if the apple cinnamon cake I made (just like this one) for family fun night is ready to come out of the pan. But I will be back here tomorrow, Lord willing, to share with you my traditional end of the month on the homestead post.

Wishing you much gratitude, friends!

Eleven Months Old

The puppy days are coming to an official end around here. My sweet Jack is now eleven months old and looks quite grown up... although he will still fill out a bit and get a little taller, likely. I can hardly believe that this furry bundle of energy that bounded into our hearts and lives last Christmas has but one more month before his first birthday!

Jack still loves his ball more than anything else. Most especially his newer one... though they are exactly the same, he can tell them apart. He brings it to us, he plays with it by himself. He chases it down and brings it back, though getting him to actually give it up is still best achieved with a treat to offer in trade. {smile}

Jack often bounces his ball on the ground and then catches it. Or tosses it up out of his mouth and catches it. And when he wants to play with one of us he will sometimes toss his ball out of his mouth to us. I am going to work with him until we can play catch together... I toss it to him and then he tosses it back. Since he is naturally starting to do that already, I think it might be something he can learn.

Jack is not an early riser. He gets up when my hubby and I do, goes outside for a minute and then has his daily peanut butter. {smile} But then he always naps while my dear hubby and I have our morning coffee. I guess he must have figured out that once the kids get up and our happy-busy day begins he will be go, go, going until bedtime.

And oh does he love our creek. He gets in the water and splashes with the kids and explores the bank and pasture. We have been going down there regularly and Jack seems to know what the word "creek" means now. He absolutely knows that when I get his harness we are going to go outside and have some fun!

I've always been *so* thankful for the year-round creek on our property... it is a favorite place to hang out for our whole tribe, including Jack.

We have had a few fires in our wood stove already this season. It took Jack no time at all to figure out that napping next to the cozy fire is bliss.

And another picture of my napping pup. It appears as though all this dog does is sleep... not true, not true I assure you! He is usually so active that I can't get a non-blurry image, ha! It is much easier to photograph a sleeping Jack, for sure.

Jack Kelly (that is his full name... he is named for the character in the Broadway play "Newsies") is loyal, protective, sweet, smart, silly, and a very good listener to my every thought. {smile} He gives kisses and spends much of his time by my side. What a friend he is. I love this dog so much!


First Weekend of Autumn

We have enjoyed regular hikes to the bottom pasture of our homestead recently. It is a favorite place of ours, especially this time of the year when the creekside trees and bushes boast the colors of fall and the creek itself is but a few inches deep in most places and perfect for wading and splashing and exploring.

There is a certain place along the bank of the creek where the mud is absolutely clay-like. It molds easily and holds its shape so well. Our boys collect it and make wee balls that harden into perfect practice ammunition for their slingshots. It is a frugal and sustainable endeavor that they came up with on their own. {smile}

And last week, we gathered another bucket of the creekside clay-mud to craft into some heart shaped ornaments for our Christmas tree and to use for a homeschool art project.

All of us worked together on the hearts. We fashioned a heart shaped template from cardboard so our ornaments would all be the same size.

As they dried, I poked a hole in each one with a straw so I can add a hanging ribbon later. And we smoothed the sides a bit to keep them neat looking.

Isn't the clay-like mud wonderful? What a blessing to have discovered it for our rustic makings and craftings.

Here is a disk of the clay all patted out flat with the heart template on top.

Did I mention that I had a 22-pound turkey in the roaster oven while the family crafty-ness was taking place on the deck? It was done at just about the same time we were... and it was delicious!

After we made some heart ornaments, our children each made a bowl with the clay. We have been studying clay sculptures in our homeschool and they had fun making their own artsy projects.

We put a few of our goats out on the grass of the barnyard for awhile on Saturday afternoon. Heidi was happy to nibble and wander and she always stays close to her herd sisters.

And there was just enough of a breeze for me to get the day's laundry dried in no time.

The slight breeze didn't dampen our enthusiasm for archery practice. Our oldest at-home daughter had to work, but the rest of us took some practice shots at our target from various distances.

My dear hubby and our teen boys use compound bows. The rest of us prefer to use either a long bow or a recurve bow... my hubby has a nice collection of archery equipment after his many years of interest and participation in the sport. How blessed we are that he is sharing his skills and knowledge with the rest of us!

We are all having a great time with it. Most especially my dear hubby, I think.

As we returned home from some time in town on Sunday we stopped to admire the colors of fall that have taken over the foothills of the beautiful mountain that we call home. Ahhhh.... Autumn. So lovely!

And amongst the doings of Sunday, I took the time to stitch a bit on my poppy cross-stitch sampler kit. It mostly gathered dust over the summer, I admit. But there is such a homemade feeling about fall that infuses me with a palpable *need* to craft and cook and bake and create. Even more than usual.

So I anticipate regular progress being made on my poppies!

Autumn began in a crafty and cozy and beautiful way on our happy gentle homestead. I do hope the first weekend of fall was a good one for you, too.


A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday to you, friends! It is a glorious summer-becoming-autumn day on our homestead. 76 degrees (F) with the slightest hint of a breeze, blue sky, and the lovely look of fall in the air. Do you notice it, too, the way the light shifts as summer ends and it is as if God has put a beautiful autumn filter on Creation? I think it is wonderful.

Oh, what a happy-busy week it has been around here. You know, it has taken me years and years to find the balance of rest and play and work that my tribe and I thrive within... and I treasure that family and homesteading rhythm! I hold it dear and am very careful to guard it as well as I can.

I'm not perfect at it, and things often always happen that are out of my control (God is in control!), but I love a calmly productive day where we get things done, tend to our necessary tasks and responsibilities, and still take the time for fun and play. I have been blessed with several of that kind of day this week. {smile} *Grateful!*

Yesterday afternoon, our homeschool assignments were finished for the day and I had *finally* taken the time to do the big test that was next in my American Sign Language syllabus. (I did very well on that test, I was so happy! I don't know why the Lord sparked my interest in learning ASL, but I am greatly enjoying my studies.) I had already made bread and the kids had helped me pat out the pizza crusts ...

The older boys were practicing archery and it wasn't yet time to proceed with the next step of my refrigerator pickle making... (here they are finished in half-gallon sized jars, I didn't take an in-progress photo) ...

The day's laundry was washed and hung to dry, but I hadn't yet gotten it folded and put away. And we spontaneously set it all aside to hike down to the creek. We got Jack harnessed and grabbed a bucket to collect some things we need for a school project and off we went.

How glad I am that we did! Time flies, days pass quickly, and I am determined to *not* miss the simple opportunities we have to do activities as a family, appreciate nature, and enjoy the farm we are blessed with. It was a lovely adventure... happiness! {smile}

Here are a few more snippets from my ongoing gratitude list today~

:: Jesus. I have listened to several bold and encouraging sermons lately (I listen to sermons while I am trail running, often) and they have all made me realize in a fresh way just what Jesus did for me (us) when He became sin (my sin, all sin) and willingly died on the cross to fully pay my (our) penalty and allow me (us) to have the blessed gift of eternal life simply by truly trusting and really believing in Him.

So often, we try to make God like us or like we want Him to be. But God is God and we are not! And then to love God and live for Him, obeying His commands from a place of eager joy while basking in grace... *that* is the secret to a happy life, I think. When we have Jesus we have everything, including the promise of eternal life in Heaven.

So yes, I love this present life and all of the wonderful blessings we enjoy... but not more than I love Jesus. I seek to be mindful and abide in the moment at hand... while keeping my eyes on eternity. God is good, friends. I hope you know Him, too.

:: Our farm. The animals, the chores, the small steps God allows us to take toward self-sufficiency. Making things, doing things. The feeling of satisfaction at the end of another happy-busy day. That my cow-friend Matilda comes to me when I call her. The smell of goats. I love it!

:: Blogging. It is a creative outlet that I truly enjoy. I love that blogging is a tool that helps me be more present in my day, it puts me in a noticing place and prompts me to do things... to live a rich and full life that I can write about! Even ordinary days contain nuggets to savor, thoughts to explore, lessons to share...

My blogs are a place to sort things out. To share the beauty of a simple life. To record my recipes for myself and my children and anyone else who wants to try them. To proclaim the joy of a slowed down, homemade, contented life that does contain its struggles amidst the joys and fully trusts and abides in the Lord through all of the ups and downs. Simply put, I feel free to be myself in this space.

I imagine, when I write my posts, that I am writing to a like-minded friend... perhaps a sister-in-Christ... someone who knows me well through my words and accepts me just as I am. Is that you, dear reader? If so, I sincerely thank you.

It does seem that there has been a shift in blogging since I began my first no longer published blog way-back-when (ten years ago?). But that's okay, change isn't automatically a bad thing... change is often good, necessary, and beautiful! And as for the rumor that blogging is not worth it anymore, I respectfully disagree! Mine bring me great joy. (this one, Run Hoop Julie, and Images of a Happy Gentle Life) And I love visiting blogs, too... it always makes me sad when a favorite blogger of mine says goodbye. It feels like losing a friend!

Well, the duties of the day and big family life beckon me away from the computer... and, Lord willing, I would *love* to venture back down to the creek with my crew to bask in the loveliness of this end-of-summer afternoon. So, I will wish you a cup brimful of gratitude and a lovely weekend where you are and be on my way.


Homemade Peach Pie

Like many homesteading keepers at home, I am an avid home baker for my big family. I bake bread and bread-type goodies most often... twice a week, at least. I do my best to keep the cookie jar filled and my cake plate rarely gathers dust. But if you asked my tribe, especially my dear hubby, to name their favorite baked treat that comes from our homestead kitchen I don't think there would be a moment's hesitation before *pie* was declared the winner.

And this week, at our local grocer, the peaches were too beautiful to pass by! The peaches were large and at just the right stage of ripeness. It was peach perfection. So peach pie was immediately added to my menu plan as a seasonal and delicious treat for my pie-loving family.

I'm not an expert pie baker, but I have learned over the years how to make pies that my crew can't get enough of. These days, one pie lasts the eight of us at home one meal or snack. {smile} And showing my love to them with something as ordinary as baking them a pie... peach or otherwise, gives me a feeling inside that is best described as contented and cozy.

Love is the best ingredient in any recipe, yes? And today, we had peaches!

Homemade Peach Pie

You will need pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie. Do use homemade pastry if you wish, but don't hesitate to put this together with ready-to-use purchased pie crusts if you prefer. {smile}

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). And have a baking sheet handy if, like me, you want to use one under your pie pan in the oven.

8 cups of peeled fresh peach slices
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup white granulated sugar + a tiny bit more for sprinkling
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
2 unbaked pie crusts

Place the fresh peach slices in a bowl or large measuring cup and sprinkle the lemon juice over them. Mix gently and set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the unbleached white flour, white sugar, brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt. Stir well.

Add the peach slices to the flour mixture in the large bowl. Mix gently with a rubber spatula or with your clean hands to coat the peach slices as evenly as possible with the flour mixture without damaging or squishing them.

Put one of the unbaked crusts into a standard size pie baking pan, easing the crust into place.

Spoon or pour the peach slices into the crust in the pie pan and mound them so they are highest in the middle. Dot the peach slices with the tablespoon of butter by cutting the butter into tiny pieces and placing the pieces evenly atop the peaches.

Cover the peaches with the other unbaked pie crust. Crimp or flute the edge of the crust. Cut a few slits in the crust to vent the pie and sprinkle the top crust lightly with a tiny bit of white sugar.

I cover the edges of my pie with a foil shield to prevent over browning, and I place my pie pan on top of a baking sheet in the oven as a precaution in case the pie overflows. Pie overflow has only happened to me once in many years of pie baking, and it was a huckleberry pie, but that mess was enough for me to begin my baking-sheet-under-my-pie habit, just in case!

Bake in a preheated 375 degree (F) oven for 60 - 70 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is nicely browned.

Carefully remove the finished pie from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool well before serving. We like our peach pie served warm and topped with ice cream or whipped cream or both... yum!

If you have any leftovers, I recommend storing them covered in the refrigerator and using them up within a couple of days.

I hope you enjoy making and eating this peach pie as much as we do. Enjoy!

My Style :: Thrifty, Modest, and Handmade

I was so excited to share with you last week the recent thrift store finds I was blessed to discover. Our children found quite a few things that they wanted and I finally happened upon some clothing items in my happy-size and style. Yes!

It is rare for me to find plus-size clothes or even sewing patterns that fit my body in the way I prefer *and* also fit my eclectic modest style, so to discover such things second-hand truly inspired me to do a happy dance. Right there in the thrift store.

And over the weekend, I put together a cute and modest thrifty outfit with a top and skirt from those recent finds.

This entire outfit was purchased second-hand, except for my headcovering. I really like this style of top, it is cotton and loose-fitting with a button front. And the denim skirt is just right for me in every way, I love it!

Before we left the homestead, I decided to also wear the crocheted vest that I made for myself last autumn. It was a crisp fall day and perfect for a cozy handmade vest. With flip-flops, for now. Ha!

I liked my thrifty outfit. It felt like me, if you know what I mean. {smile}

Writing this post and sharing these images has brought on a feeling of nostalgia and thankfulness. It took me back to a time twenty years ago, when I first felt the niggling to begin wearing skirts and dresses exclusively. I remember how nervous I was to make such a noticeable outward change, and how the occasional comment or article suggesting that such convictions are prideful legalism stung my soul.

And I remembered the first time I wore a headcovering. With my dear hubby's blessing, it was and is my heart's delight to obey the New Testament principle of covering even though many (most?) Christian ladies do not choose to cover these days.

Do I wear dresses and headcoverings pridefully?... no and no! I wish people could understand that legalism is an attitude, not an action. But it is up to the Lord to open the eyes of understanding, it isn't for me to worry about.

So, after years of unsolicited fashion advice from others {smile} and going back and forth between dresses and pants so as not to offend anyone, it feels amazing to have the Christ-based confidence and the stable size and the body positive mindset to fill my wardrobe with what I love to wear! To dress according to my very own tastes and Bible-based convictions and my own dear hubby's preferences.

And I feel happy for those who may just now be contemplating their own modesty standards and convictions in response to Bible mandates... modesty isn't about rules, it is an outward expression of a transformed heart. A heart that isn't following the world or even another believer's rules, but a heart that listens to the Lord.

One of the perks, perhaps, of this current culture is that it seems rather easy to express oneself! But I want to not only be myself, I want to be all that God created me to be. The authentic person that the risen Jesus died to save!

As for me, thrifty and handmade is working quite well with my choice to homestead in a skirt. And I am quite convinced that my personal style preferences and convictions will not be swayed by anyone but the Lord.



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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