Counting My Frustrations

When times are difficult you’re supposed to count your blessing right? Well, I’ve been doing that for a while and it finally dawned on me: I need to count my frustrations! Stick with me…it turns out ok.

photo 4

It all started when I was thinking… i mean talking my baby…okay I was talking to myself. It happens, ok?

Anyways, I was having a wonderful little chat with myself when I realized how ridiculous it all sounded. And not because I was talking to myself either, just because of what I was muttering on about. So here goes. In the last few weeks these are the things that have made me whine, stomp, growl at the world and call my mommy:

  • I think it started when rodents (otherwise known as adorable little bunnies…die, bunnies, die!) ate the entirety of my spinach and lettuce crop. Fantastic.
  • Rodents invaded my house. Mouse infestation, which only says one thing to me: gross. I armed myself with a boatload of traps and two (maybe three? eh details, details) kinds of poison.
  • The poison worked (happy dance) at which point the aforementioned mice went off and died in some corner of my attic where apparently, flies and maggots did their thing. (I certainly didn’t go check.) Fly infestation. I woke up to a stupid (yes stupid, it’s a fantastic adjective, I know) number of flies in my house. Great! (Make a whiny phone call to my mama.)
  • The bees came back. You see, I live across from commercial beekeepers. When the bees come back they immediately start foraging. It’s like a carpet of bees in my yard. Usually that means no playing in the yard for like week. Oh yah! I forgot to mention that I’m afraid of bees. Don’t judge me, I know they just want their pollen. So I work alongside them, just as long as I’m clothed from my neck to my toes. So our “week” turned into like 6. Apparently they’re scaling up business over there and they keep bringing
  • more bees to their little home base across the street. But I like honey, so I work around the bees’ schedule: early mornings, late evenings and let people think I’m avoiding the heat of the day.
  • We got busy. (This the point where you start to say, “really? everyone is busy.”) But yes, we got so busy that I basically did chores at home and nothing else. Did I say chores? I mean I washed a few clothes because we we’re completely out of clean laundry and tried to keep dishes out of the sink. At the risk of sounding like a crazy yogi, my whole rhythm got thrown off and I called my mama again. “Nothing feels right. Everything is off, we’re so busy!”
  • Mold. Yes, mold. In the house that I live in and breathe air in. Not only did I have a rainbow of mold in the wall right behind my couch, everyone thought I was crazy for being disgusted by it. “Mold spores are everywhere,” they say. Yes, but mold colonies are not supposed to be behind my couch! On top of that we had to uninstall the newly installed air conditioning unit that caused the mold which would have it’s own bullet on this list except that it got freezing cold out side (I mean like 50-60° but it’s August people).
  • I moved out. In our hurry to just get it out, we removed the mold all wrong. You know, according to the experts over at google. So I decided to give our friendly neighborhood spores a few days of quality time with a box fan. Of course I then procrastinated moving back. It was a little difficult keeping both houses clean and my new dairy cow spoiled and my garden going, so after a week…
  • During my little mini-vaca, I came home to get some clean clothes and food only to find, oh just another mouse in one of our “just in case” traps. I also found it somewhere particularly yucky to me, but whatever.

Chlo-chlo

  • Also while we were living in two houses at once, I found my bred cow (how shall we say this) spotting. (Sorry non-animal people, I guess this is farm life!) Why is my pregnant cow bleeding from her lady parts? Well, because most likely she’s not pregnant anymore. Maybe just maybe my praying for a bovine miracle will land us milking Chloe right on time this January, but most likely it was wither signs of a spontaneous abortion or a heat cycle. Thankfully, I’m working with some cool ladies who appear to love Jesus and have good integrity. If she is open (farm/ranch people language for no meat and no milk up in that heifa!) we won’t be out our lots of dollars.
  • Some other stuff that involve other people so I can’t write them on the internet, but believe me: very, very frustrating. 

Okay, you say.

You’ve heard enough.

So as I whined out loud (to myself and also my very wonderful, patient parents & husband) I sounded ridiculous. A little bit of wildlife? Some completely normal farm problems? What am I whining about?! I felt the same way and just kept asking myself, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just get over my sinful heart and be happy, let it all roll off?”

Thank Jesus for good “older women” in my life! “Maybe God’s not trying to teach you a lesson,” they say. “What if you’re just supposed to keep on, keepin’ on? Just wait on God’s perfect timing.” Apparently I can even be narcissistic in my problem-solving. It must be me and my sin problem. Never mind Satan out there trying to steal, kill and destroy!

Okay, I’m better. I got myself some therapy (aka rearranged my living room, I’ll take some pictures for you…you’re welcome).

So I’ll just enjoy the birds and the bees (wait what?), the “wildlife” and all of the wonderful people that stop by “the parsonage” while I wait on God’s perfect timing for the perfect chunk of dirt to grow my green beans and keep my milk cow.

And that’s the rest of the story.

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The Why: Food Edition

I’ve been thinking a lot about why we do the things we do. Why do we eat a certain way? Why do we homeschool? Why do we spend our time the way we do?

Some of this stems from comments made by others implying that they don’t approve of the way I spend my time and energy. Other times friends and family give us confused looks about our eating choices. I’m definitely not what you’d call a people pleaser. Like most people, however, I want people to think I’m making wise choices. I mean, if they have a valid reason I should do something differently, it would be silly to ignore their advice, right?

So, being an over thinker (my friends in high school used to say I was overanalyticalizationing, just to make me twitch), it’s helpful for me to have gone through all of the reasons I believe I’ve made the best Biblical and healthy choice. This way, when someone makes a comment or gives a look I don’t feel tossed to and fro. It’s easier to evaluate whether their differing opinion is helpful or not if I know exactly why I made mine.

Issue number one: Food.

We eat mostly organic (or foods produces in a similar manner). The goal is basically not to eat it unless it grows. Out of the ground, walking, swimming: grows. Not something that did grow but has been put in a box or a bag or a can. Not something modified to grow kind of like a super hero food. Because a super hero is really mutant (except batman of course!) And mutant food doesn’t really sound appetizing to me!

Of course this isn’t always how it works out. For instance, I don’t have the resources, time or energy to make all my own tomato sauce. Another one for us is tortilla chips, and tortillas for that matter. I have made our own tortillas, but I have a hard time getting a corn shell right and with two glutards in the house that’s an absolute must. We eat quesadillas, nachos, chips and salsa, tacos (you get the idea) almost daily. They’re all so easy that they make perfect go-to quick lunches! Obviously there are good things that don’t fall into the “grow”category such as minerals, but it’s been a helpful way to explain it to people.

I try to bake all of our own gluten free bread, but my husband likes to buy a good sprouted loaf for himself. We also prefer raw dairy products to pasteurized, homogenized “milk” that half of my family can barely drink (hence the dairy cow).

So the why: I didn’t jump on the organic fad when it started. It actually began with my celiac diagnosis. When I started paying very close attention to what I ate, I began to notice exactly what made me feel well and not-so-well. It obviously began with glutenful items as well as dairy while I was still healing. Then, because it takes a good chunk of time to figure out how to eat out when you have Celiac disease, I noticed when I returned to restaurants that I didn’t feel so well. Add a move that put us a 20 minute drive to the nearest restaurant and 30 to the nearest fast-food joint and let’s just say my menu planning skills got a work-out.

By this time, it wasn’t just me. The rest of my family had aching tummies, weird gas and let’s not mention the cranky kiddos. That’s when I became fixed on the issue: Our bodies were not made to process all of this “stuff” in our food. Stuff that’s not food. Stuff we can barely pronounce. Stuff that the FDA has deemed “safe”. Our digestive system has the amazing ability to break down organic (living) material and other things that God has given to keep us healthy and moving. But I believe that it doesn’t have the ability to break down pesticides, preservatives and other things that takes a laboratory to get into our food without negative repercussions on the body. Also by the time many great foods get to the shelf, much of the nutrient content has been either destroyed or made unavailable for our bodies to absorb.

Cranberry Granola

Homemade Cereal

I started with this one because it’s easy for me. We eat “naturally” (as if that word has much meaning anymore) because we’ve experienced both sides of that fence. The grass is totally greener over here. :) I also think that the long term benefits will be great as well. I recognize that maybe everyone doesn’t agree with me or think it’s worth the effort. I don’t expect to convince any one of anything. (Although sometimes it does get difficult to listen to other people’s list of maladies while they slather margarine on their bread. I just pray for grace while they talk and ask God to help by brain-mouth filter to work properly.)

Anyways, I’ll leave you with one last video my husband found on hydrogenized oil. Whenever we wonder about something, I try to say, “look it up”. This one comes to mind every time I look at an ingredient and wonder what it is. I think about this video and just figure that it might have been engineered to taste good but I’m sure it won’t slide down my arteries nice and smooth. I’ll pass!

To blog or not to blog: Chloe

I have far less readers on this blog than on my previous one. I think a good portion of this is because the Bella Red had a focused theme of content: theology and the church. The rest probably had to do with my passionate heart coming off a wee bit…dramatic.

Finding Engedi doesn’t gather any one kind of reader; probably because one day I post pictures of my latest sewing project, one day I talk about homeschooling and the next what I learned from Scripture.

So that leads me to my question for today. Do I continue to blog about my everyday life if it adds the additional dynamic of…farm life? I guess that’s what you’d call it. I don’t feel like I have a farm. I have a garden, some chickens (both for several years) and now, Chloe: our milk cow. None of which exist on my own piece of dirt. Do I add one more “thing” to this blog?

IMG_20150720_1949568_rewind

Homecoming Evening :)

As I was wondering this, I started thinking about why I blog at all. Is it to collect readers and be heard? Not really. And I definitely don’t see myself doing it for money anytime soon. So I decided this is simply a journal that I don’t mind you peeking at.

Whether it be on paper, in the sand or on the world wide web, I will always write. It’s just in me. I may not do it perfectly, but it gets the confusion in my head out and simplified so that Jesus and I can take care of business.

I didn't even know a "felfie" was a thing. But here we are taking a farm animal selfie.

I didn’t even know a “felfie” was a thing. But here we are taking a farm animal selfie!

So the question remains, will I blog about my novice homestead adventures? I think so.

Will I post a tutorial on how to milk a cow? Probably not. Will I share what God was speaking to my heart in the milking parlor? That’s more like it.

So while you may see and hear about our adventures in dairying off and on; fear not, loved readers of my diary, it’s not turning into a farm blog!

Happy New Year!

I don’t make resolutions. Even as a child, I thought they were pretty silly. ‘Why now?’ I used to think. If you’re doing something you shouldn’t, quit as soon as you realize it. If you get lazy and give up, start again! If you think you should be doing something, chances are Jan 1st isn’t the first time you thought of it.

Well, I was a different kid. An old soul they used to call me. It’s ironic considering how much of my life revolves around the very young: children of my own, teaching within the church, oh and that youth pastor I’m married to keeps my house perfectly populated with young people.

Here are some things I’ll be working on this year, but for the record most of them have been in the works for several months:

  • My husband and I have been trying writing in cursive. PenMANship he calls it. Pending him making the first move, I think we’re going to write letters to each other, thereby improving our penmanship AND our relationship!
  • I’ve trying to be diligent about making my own bread, yogurt and kimchi regularly. Maybe the “resolution” spirit running around will even inspire me to add meats and cheeses to the mix. We’ll see :)
  • A thought occurred to me today that it might be helpful for me to record each day. This way, I can remain accountable to myself for what I accomplished each day, keeping me from idleness or simply doing things that are not worth my time. I doubt I could keep up with food to, but maybe recording what I ate would help prevent the accidental gluten exposure that keeps ruining several days at a time.

So there you have it, resolutions from someone who hates resolutions.

What bandwagon(s) are you jumping on? Anti-resolution? I want to hear about that too!

Our Honest Thanksgiving Menu: Real Food & Otherwise

Update: I highlighted our actual menu in orange where there were choices given. It was a delicious day!

There has been a lot of talk about holiday dining on the blogosphere these days. When it comes to entertaining and guests and being one ourselves, where do we compromise? So I decided to honestly share how we will be handling our Thanksgiving menu. Honestly, I would love to be able to prepare a huge 100% real food meal with sprouted buns, wild turkey, home grown beets – the whole nine yards, not only for my immediate family but as a service to the extended friends and family who will be joining us.

Maybe next year I’ll set a holiday food budget and save in advance (as well as pay a babysitter) so I can do it all, but this year here’s what it will look like. You’ll see that the biggest area in which I’m caving is homemade soaked baked goods. Being over 7 months pregnant and doing all of that on top of normal commitments is one unrealistic expectation I am with-it enough to dodge.

  • Organic Spinach Salad topped with walnuts, organic pears, dried cranberries
    • (Store-bought) Raspberry Vinaigrette or (Homemade) Italian Dressing
  • Rolls (will ask Mother-in-law to pitch in here so ingredients might be organic, definitely not soaked, but she will bring gluten free as my father-in-law in on a GAPS type diet)
  • Main Course Options ( I need to decide on one or two)
    • Turkey – local, free range organic ♥ –
    • Two Chickens – Local, free range – yummy, healthy, but not turkey!
    • Venison/Elk Roast – I read today that the Wampanoag Indians brought five freshly hunted deer to the first thanksgiving. I think it would be plenty festive if we used some of the wild game in our freezer!
  • Trimming – Homemade stuffing from gluten free bread – if I have time to make the bread I will, but I’ll be honest and say that I’m not above buying a (hard as a rock I might add) frozen Ezekiel Loaf or other bread (food for life) to make it.
  • Mashed Potatoes – Homemade from homegrown potatoes
  • Gravy – Homemade, thickened with xanthan gum or one of my many GF flours
  • Creamy Corn – canned corn (i know BPA…once in a while I just have to) simmered with organic cream and unprocessed sweetener of choice)
  • Dessert – My husbands grandmother will probably want to bring something, usually an interesting jello number or a boxed pie. (Pumpkin pie…from a box)
    • Also, I will make a homemade pie (either pumpkin or butternut-maple with real maple syrup) my cheat: Gluten Free Mama’s Pie & Pastry Mix
    • My Mother-in-law was kind enough to make both gluten free blueberry pie and apple crisp – not organic, but edible for me which doesn’t happen very often. Woohoo!

Ok, so there’s the bulk of it. As you can see, my normal standards have been lowered. I find fellowship and hospitality more important than being inflexible in our diet. We have chosen to eat natural foods prepared healthily for good reasons. But taking care of the body God gave us is not near as important as showing others love (Isaiah 58, 1 John, the whole life of Christ).

When it comes to large events, do you lower your standards (wherever you’re at in your real food journey)? If so in what ways? If not, how do you manage it all?!

Matching Kids Pajamas

The other day, I set out to make something for my little girl to come home from the birthing center in. She should be here around the coldest day of the year, and I wanted some warm pajamas that could buckle in to the car seat. I finished a pair of footless pajamas only to have the snaps start popping off as soon as I was finished. (I’m guessing it’s because I’ve been trying to use up notions that my grandma bought who-knows how long ago.)
Soooo….I got off the bottom, added a ruffle and WAH-LAH! A night gown! Since I made my son a pair of pajama pants to match I figured I might as well show them off.

PhotoCred EliciaJohnson

I used a pair of newborn footie pajamas as a pattern for the top half of the gown. I then just cut two extra wide rectangles (the same width) and pinned the ruffle on the way I wanted it. I then sewed the right sides together, back stitching over each gather. I don’t have a serger so of course I zig-zag stitched all of the inside seams.

I won’t even pretend I am an amazing enough seamstress to make this all up on my own so here are my other resources for using existing clothing as a pattern and making children’s pajamas. Check the tutorials sections of these websites:

Made By Rae

MADE

It’s Always Autumn
Here are a few of my Little Dude flying a plane for us in his new PJs!

PhotoCred EliciaJohnson

PhotoCred EliciaJohnson

PhotoCred EliciaJohnson

It was to late to charge my camera battery so I’m sorry for the bad lighting and the instagram look!

What are some of your favorite online craft resources?Do you have a favorite tutorial?!

Repurposed Shower Curtain

In my frenzy of nesting this pregnancy (aka the whole second trimester) I have done a lot of artsy things! It all started with knitting projects and migrated to sewing/fabric projects. Since this baby will eventually share room with my son, I had wonderful plans of making my own crib sheet, crib blanket and trendy curtains.

Oh the plans we make! Since none of these have made it past the planning phase (so far), I decided it was time to give in and buy some curtains to replace the ugly tan ones in my son’s room. (They came with the house – yeah that ugly!)

While I browsed the curtain isle in Target, I was disappointed as everything I chose seemed out of stock or the wrong length. Just as I threw in the towel and walked away, I found myself on the endcap looking at the clearance items. While the curtain selection continued to be less than encouraging, my eye was drawn to a geometric orange shower curtain…and the gears started turning!

I bought two (I only ended up needing one) and headed home to start sewing! I simply cut the shower curtain in half and redid the seams on those edges. I then folded over the top and sewed a new space for the curtain rod. No fancy extras, I didn’t even take them up any which I had originally planned on – and tah-dah!

Photo Cred: EliciaJohnson

 

The whole project was MUCH cheaper than buying curtains OR fabric to make them, and half of the work was already done for me!

 

What’s your favorite “look what I did” repurposing story?

Pros & Cons: A Food Co-op

Some women just love to shop. They love to shop for clothes, housewares and even groceries! I am not one of those women. I’ll admit that I love the occasional antique shopping trip. (I loooove old things!) But I’ve always labelled the mall as an energy-vampire and I dread walking into most super-markets.

Image by destination360

Meal planning, organized lists and experimenting with new recipes have all made my bimonthly grocery trips slightly more enjoyable. But still…there are so many other things I could be doing! Then I discovered this magical thing called (drum roll please)…a food co-op.

My friend Darcy always has this fruit bowl with unique varieties in it. She was also serving interesting greens in her salads and had such a colorful table of foods when I’ve been over for dinner. Finally one day a group of Bible study attendees were trying to figure out exactly what one of her fruits or veggies was and somebody asked, “Where did you get this?” She responded with two words that have changed my life: “It was in my Bountiful Basket.”

Huh? I thought she had gotten a fruit basket gift from someone, so after a few weeks of more cool fruit I asked her what a Bountiful Basket was. She explained that it was a food co-op.

A food co-op is generally a member owned but definitely member-funded grocery “store”. In the case of Bountiful Baskets however, there’s no actual store-front. You pay for a basket of fruits and vegetables. All of the money you pay goes straight to buying the produce. Because of this there is a (very small) processing fee as well. You reserve a basket at a particular pick up place and time.

The Pros and Cons: 

-Unfortunately, you generally don’t know what will be in your basket until you get it. This makes meal planning difficult (or fun if your a glass half-full type :) and unpredictable.

+On the plus side, you can add on whole grain bread, granola or extra veggies.

+You can upgrade to an organic basket. (I love this feature. This way I don’t have to stand in line with my fingers crossed that I don’t end up with a bin full of dirty dozen produce.)

-Odd distribution places and pick-up times. At least in my county, I can’t really line up a regular grocery trip with my basket pick up. the pick up times are early in the morning (I would have to take my basket home to keep it fresh since I live in a rural community) and at places like a hardware store at the (complete opposite) edge of town or the masonic temple.

+I save my self time, energy and lots of money at the grocery store!!!

-You usually have to bring your own basket, but this doesn’t seem like a big deal to me!

Overall, I  think it’s awesome! Check out bountifulbaskets.org or search for other food co-ops serving your area.

Do you have other local initiatives to save people time and money in your community?

Furninshing Your Home…Without Breaking the Bank!

Have you walked through a big chain furniture store lately? Everything is way over priced and cheaply made. We had a solid wood bedroom set from one of those stores and pieces of the bed frame would fall off now and then. I felt like my mattress was just going to hit the floor one day!

Joking aside, it can be quite costly to furnish and decorate your home. Here is a quick guide to finding items that you like AND you can afford!

Know Your Budget: Going into debt to redecorate doesn’t make a home easier to live in; it does quite the opposite! If you don’t even have some cash to get started with, start setting aside a little each month. Even $20 a paycheck for a few months is enough to get a living room full of furniture if you shop right!

Photo by chictip

Make a Wish List: Shopping for anything can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Make a list of things you like to find and any details. for example. Maybe you need a couch to fit in a small space.  Write down any size requirements or restraints along with color/material preferences. This way, if you walk into a store search the Internet, you will save yourself from considering something that wouldn’t work for your home anyway.

Shop wise: Don’t over pay for something that won’t last! Here are some practical options for where and how to buy

  • Second hand stores: they just don’t make furniture like they used to (at least not for reasonable prices).  In order to find a good deal on something (not hideous) at most second -hand stores, you’ll need to shop frequently. Know your local stores well. Some stores only bring inlarge items on a certain day of the week or have sales on specific things on a certain day. 

*For example Salvation Army and Goodwill have colored tags that go on sale according to the day or one color per week.  If you’re willing to wait you could get a nice sized discount on something you’ve had your eye on.

  • Craigslist/Freecycle: No matter what kind of furniture you’re looking at, you should know your limits and be ok with them. If you’re not comfortable with a free pressboard bookshelf or 20 year old mattress, don’t feel guilty. When using websites, be especially particular. Watch out for scams and don’t be afraid to go look at something before you make a decision.
  • Auctions/Sales: Spend one summer consistently searching garage sales and you can probably check almost everything off your list. Strategically plan the garage sales you want to hit to maximize your efficiency and be sure to carry cash. Auctions (especially if you live near a rural area) can contain a wealth of goodies! When nobody wants the family farm, a literal treasure trove is up for grabs to the highest bidder. This is perfect if you’re looking for small antiques to decorate with or classic, (usually large) solid furniture items.

photo from thestate

  • And finally, Sales at Large Furniture Stores: Every season (spring and fall especially), stores will want to replace a large part of their inventory. This is a good time to pick through and attempt to find some quality stuff for less. Make sure you’re buying something that you think will last sufficiently long and is worth what you’re paying for it. Also check the damaged furniture to see if anything is discretely dented or easily fixable.

When shopping for used furniture, it helps if you’re willing to decorate a room around an “interesting” or unique piece. When I got fed up with fake, cheap couches I had very little money to spend on something new to replace my futon. I knew that if I was going to find something, it was going to have to be something no one else wanted. I had in mind something bright (like orange-which I don’t even like) and floral.What I found was better than I imagined! The St Vincent de Paul was asking $95 for a yellow/green 1974 Ethen Allen couch; I offered them $75. Because it was a good quality couch to begin with, it was still super comfy and in relatively good shape. It definitely required some shifting of accessories and colours in my living room (which was previously red)! So don’t be afraid to try something different if you think you canmake it work!

What have been some of your greatest challenges in affordably making your home comfortable? Do you have a super-find story like my awesome green couch?