The Making of “Fred” – Being Confident, Independent

A big part of our move here to the homestead was about the opportunity to be more independent, especially in terms of our food and finances. Gaining this type of independence requires some serious drive, sometimes hard work, and an “I can do this!” confidence and grit.

Often it’s hard to reflect on the day-to-day things that happen because you’re just in the mode of moving right along. Today I had a chance to reflect on the idea of being confident and independent. And it wasn’t my own confidence and independence, it’s my kids.

I received a text message this morning with a link to this recently published story by NPR: To Raise Confident, Independent Kids, Some Parents are Trying to ‘Let Grow’.

I’m not going re-hash the article, I hope you just go ahead and read it. After I read the article it reminded me of some play the kids had just the other night. It was dark (cause that’s what it does here after 5:30 p.m. in winter) and the kids wanted to go out and play. My kids, 4 & 9, and a friend aged 9, got bundled up in their snow gear. Each of them were equipped with headlamps for seeing in the dark (their initiative to do so). They also made sure we had a walkie talkie and that ours and theirs were in communication. Off they went, playing in the cold, snow, and dark. While the kids played, it allowed me and my friend to enjoy tea and good conversation by the woodstove. Besides our conversation, the yurt was quiet, which is a real rare thing, ha!

Probably about an hour passed and we heard communication over the walkie talkie – “we’re having fun, but we’re coming in now!” In they came, smiles on their faces, excitedly talking. After dumping their snow gear near the woodstove to dry it, they loudly explained to us that they had “worked on something in the woods” and that we’d have to wait until daylight to see it. We received clues, including that rock pebbles were involved.

The next day we were all together again and going for a hike through the woods. The kids were really excited because they wanted us to see what they had done. A short ways from the yurt, but at a place where the yurt was completely out of sight, we got to where they had been the night before.

There stood a SNOWMAN! Built away from home, in the dark by the light of headlamps, and with absolutely no adult intervention. In my eyes, this snowman is the perfect symbol for raising confident and independent children. I’m sure I had the biggest smile on my face, but the smiles of excitement and pride on their faces was way more rewarding.

Kids Outdoors in Snow with Snowman
The kids with “Fred”.

Parents, perhaps it sounds scary to let your kids play in the dark and cold while you sit inside drinking tea. But I firmly believe that no classroom or lesson can substitute the experience the kids had out there. They were working together, knew to be prepared (well-dressed, in communication, having headlamps), had independence from parents and therefore came up with this entire play time and building of “Fred” completely on their own. They were fully focused in the moment, using creative-play, and creating memories that will be hard to beat. Were these kids building their confidence and independence? Absolutely! Did this experience help me better see my children as the capable and independent children they are? Yup. Will they be better adults because of it? Man, I sure hope so. In this moment, reflecting back on their excitement, independence and joy makes me one happy mama.

Wishing you peace, love, and nature in the NEW YEAR! (Confidence and Independence too!)

-L

In Response to a Hog Harvest

Yesterday marked a first for me, we had a complete hog harvest right here on the homestead. We’ve harvested hogs before, but they went to the local butcher. The local butcher became unexpectedly unavailable at our harvest time, so it was time to try for ourselves. I participated in the whole event, start to finish. I helped prepare the pigs for dispatch, move them, skin the carcass and gut the carcass. I did all the meat cuts on a half hog. It was exhausting but necessary process. I learned a lot!

With that experience complete, I’m feeling a deep sense of pride in myself for being capable of this (and being willing!). It makes me incredibly pleased to be so involved in a process that provides our family with hyper-local food that was raised with love. Yes, we greatly enjoy the meat, and yes, we know the name of the pig it comes from. More about this in my thoughts here:

In Response to a Hog Harvest

I raised this pig.
I watched her be born.
I watched her grow.
I watched her lazily wallow in the mud on hot days.
I watched her take cozy shelter in the hay on cold.
I fed this pig by giving her a pasture to graze.
I shared with her my garden goodies.
I was loyal, I cared for her.

She gave me laughs, and perhaps a few moments of frustration.
Don’t most relationships?

I gave her back scratches.
In return, she warmed my heart.

I knew from the start what she would be.
Because of this I cared for her even more.
I provided for her.
Now, she provides for me.

That is ethical.
That is responsible.
That is hyper-local food.
That defines her and that defines me.
That is something I take pride in.
That is my homestead life.

Wishing you peace, love and nature,

-L

1,200 pounds of food for FREE.

Last week we were granted an amazing opportunity. The story goes like this. I posted a few messages on Facebook Marketplace and in my newsfeed asking for people who were interested in donating their old Halloween pumpkins to us to contact me and we’d do pick-up.  (We ended up with an entire trunkload of pumpkins! The pumpkins are feeding the pigs.)

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Hauling pumpkins away from gracious strangers.

Anyhow, a Facebook friend saw the pumpkin message and shared the details with her friend. Her friend happens to know a family that grows a large field of vegetables. Anything that doesn’t sell at their farmstand then seems to be picked by community members and donated to local food banks, so awesome. They still had a lot left in the field and snow was coming. No one else was coming to pick. We were connected with them and they allowed us to come out and pick the leftover carrots, rutabagas and beets for pig feed.

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Our young helpers, Flora and Woodland.

It was 20 degrees and snowing but in less than 2 hours we filled the truck with what we estimated to be 1,200 pounds of root vegetables for our animals. The pigs are happy with all the root vegetables. The rabbits are enjoying the carrots. The chickens, ducks, and goats are eating some of the beet greens. All around happy bunch of animals here…and all because of the thoughtfulness of one person that set a chain reaction. In thinking about my gratefulness, this entire experience warms my heart and it also inspires me to consider future growth of our own to emulate the generosity of the family who owns this farm and is so gracious.

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Happy pigs!

So, I’m looking now for some luck in paying it forward. Keweenaw and U.P. area readers, we recently learned of a person who is looking to relocate back to this area. Do you or someone you know have an opportunity for this multi-talented individual? Here are some details. If you are interested in more information, please send me a message.

  • Trained as an electrical engineer and worked in that field for 10+ years
  • Past 2 years working on farms full-time and plans to continue that indefinitely
  • Experience with tractors and equipment, livestock care, poultry slaughtering, making hay, and raising/harvesting/selling vegetables – organic, field, high tunnel, hydroponics
  • Current living in New England, but lived in the Keweenaw in the 2000’s
  • Looking for “apprentice” type relationship.
  • Current employment is stable, so no set timeline

Please share!

Peace, Love, and Nature,

-L

Tour the Homestead on YouTube!

Hello!  Long time since we’ve updated the blog.  But, all for good reason. When the blog goes dormant…it means we’ve been busy!

The harvest is coming in strong.

Homeschool is underway.

The animals are lazily enjoying the autumn weather.

The pantry is being stocked with homemade canned goods of every kind.

Amazing time is being spent with friends.

The woodpile is large enough to sustain us through the winter.

But as the harvest season wraps up, more cozy time inside will be available and I’ll get back to writing, which I love as much as all the summer work (and it will be a well needed break)!  If only there were more time in the day for all the things we love the most, right?

Chores are calling, so let me get to the point of this blog.  Tim and I, the kids, and the homestead….well, we’re on YouTube!  No, no….we didn’t start a YouTube channel.  But we were visited by new friends who have a popular homesteading channel on YouTube.  We didn’t know it, but they brought their camera and asked us if we didn’t mind filming a bit with them.  We said “yes!”. The final product was a real treat for us!  What a beautiful gift to capture the homestead in this format, which has not been done before. We celebrated a year here on the homestead in June, so watching this video which was filmed just a few months later is making me feel proud of all our hard work and accomplishments. I hope you enjoy watching the video as much as we did:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH: They LEFT THE CITY to Homestead & Live the YURT LIFE

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Love, Peace & Nature,

-L

 

 

I Can Berrily Stand It

The last few weeks we’ve been eating berries.  Lots of them! This year, the berries are sooooo good that I can berrily stand it! (<—see what I did there? Ha!)

One of our major joys this July has been foraging for berries.  Since we have a full summer of experience here at the homestead now, we know more where to look and what to look for when foraging.  We’ve been visiting our property for over 8 summers, but this one by far has given us the best looking, most tasty, and massive quantities of berries. Now, if I could only find more time to pick!  I’ve been putting the kids to work to help out.  Flora, 8, is fairly useful.  Woodland, 4, well…..he’s really good at eating the berries, as you can see by the proof here.

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Let a 4 year old forage berries, and you get this!

This season’s ripe berries include juneberries (also known as serviceberry or other names depending on regionality), blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. We have all of these on our homestead growing wildly (I am a lucky lucky girl!). The Keweenaw thimbleberries are coming into season too, but I have to travel off our homestead to pick those, and I haven’t gone out for this season’s haul yet. Soon.

What to do with all these berries? Well, our favorite is fresh eating. The kind of fresh where it never makes it to the house because you just eat your way through the bushes.  This reminds me of one of our favorite books, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (see the book read here). The kids and I are definitely kindred spirits with little Sal and baby bear.

Wild blueberries in hand.
Yea, I ate all these wild blueberries.

Another way to use the berries if you don’t eat them all is to make jam. As a busy family of 4, I’ll admit, we eat PBJ sandwiches at least one meal a week….if not more *wink*.  I have no shame in this, especially when I’ve made enough jam from the strawberries and coming up from the juneberries and blueberries to last us at least a year. There is nothing sweeter than jam made with berries from our own homestead and made with love, by me.

Yet another way is preserves….as close to berry eating as you can get in winter. Delightful on yogurt, french toast, pancakes, or a dutch baby. Lastly, creating a syrup is also a dandy of a way to get that fresh berry flavor.

Our favorite find this year has been the juneberries. When fully ripe, these beauties are plump and taste like a combination between a blueberry and a concord grape. YUM – gimmie more!  The trees they grow on are scrawny but tall so a ladder is a necessity in picking these. I’ll go pretty well any distance and out of my comfort zone for berries.  They are in the rankings of my favorite food and an unsteady ladder is the risk I will take to eat them!

Juneberries on tree.
Picking with friends makes for great memories!

My favorite thing about picking berries is not necessarily the taste, full belly, or canned goods – it’s the memories made.  Memories of this time of year, memories of the summer weather (and bugs that come with it!), the key life moments taking place, and having great conversation with friends while picking. Summer in the Keweenaw. These are the days!

Pasture Raised Pork for Sale

Big news from the homestead, we have pigs for sale!  2 ways to buy:

1.) Feeder Pigs for sale.  Weaned and ready to go to their new home around mid-August.  E-mail to get details and reserve your pig. $100 per each.

2.) Pasture Raised Pork for sale. Whole pigs for sale. Our happy hogs are raised on pasture, eating grasses, local vegetation and happily rooting and rolling around. To support their growth they are supplemented with hay and hog feed. The expected date for our 2018 harvest is early December. Butcher dates are reserved for: December 11, 2018 and December 18, 2018.  You can get the details and information on how to reserve yours here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/15dstxO9mJr3N4hze4HaMeh_nPeLJNMBmAXGcgKNghA4/edit?usp=sharing

FranniePiglets

We are located in the Lake Linden, Michigan area. Feeder pigs will be ready to be purchased by mid-August, but you can reserve yours now, just send us an e-mail.

The Totem Tree at the Yurt

A totem is a symbol that represents a story. Every one of us has a story, we may also have ideas in our minds that involves changing/elevating/improving our current story.  It could be something large (making a big change in life to make a personal dream come true) or something that seems less significant (finding more organized ways to live minimally). No matter how insignificant or overwhelming an idea seems, making it come true – essentially, creating a new story – can mean achieving something you’ve always hoped for or perhaps bring a new outlook on life. Embracing personal growth is something I’ve spent a good time in my adult life doing (disclaimer: not always successfully!). I always seem to have ideas in my mind that will help me better myself, or work towards a new goal.  I don’t always succeed, but keeping my focus on the idea or ideas allows me to more likely achieve what I’m aiming for. I’ve learned that having visual reminders is an essential to my success, and this is why I developed the idea of having a totem tree here at White Sky Woods. I have never seen a totem tree before, so maybe I have a fresh concept here (but probably not – haha!).

A few weeks ago, I introduced the idea of a totem tree to my family. The concept is to have a totem tree that visually reminds us of goals, changes we hope for, etc. The visual reminder is a scrap of fabric tied to the branches of our chosen tree. Our neighbor is a quilter and she generously donated fabric scraps for our purpose. Each scrap of fabric hung on the totem tree is a symbol for a big idea, dream, thought, wish, or goal that we have. The totems are colorful reminders to us, symbols of who we are and what we desire from life. It is a place for positivity only, and it lacks ideas of materialism.

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Totem Tree overlooking our Yurt at White Sky Woods.

The kids and I went looking for the perfect totem tree and we found a beautiful blooming apple tree that will be seen daily and also by guests that visit. We decided to extend our totem tree to any visitors that would like to join us. The fabric scraps were put in a ziplock bag with a description of what a totem tree is along with these instructions:

Join us if you like! Write your big idea, dream, or goal on the unprinted side of the fabric scrap you choose. Or, if you’d prefer to keep your idea to yourself, keep your fabric blank. Find the totem tree and tie your totem to a branch. Now, you’ve put your big ideas out to the universe by sharing it on our totem tree!

After a few visits from friends, we have some beautiful fabric scraps hanging from our tree, swaying in the wind as a reminder of the activity it takes for us to reach our goals. I love this idea and I hope you do to.  If you visit, please, participate in our totem tree!  If you like, comment below….what big idea, dream, or goal would you write down to tie to the totem tree?

Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

Don’t miss a thing that goes on at our homestead!  Follow us here, or here!  You can also subscribe to the blog!

Homesteading Year One, A Brief Memoir

One year ago, we sold our house, packed up a big moving truck, and made the 4.5 hour drive north that we had so many times before…but this time it was a monumental trip.  It represented the end of certain aspects of life as we knew it….including Lisa’s retirement from her career, no more traditional school for the kids, no more daily commute for Tim, no more mortgage payments, and no more neighbors (well, at least ones that live closer than 1 mile away).  Each thing we left behind was purposeful and had a huge gain for us – the ability to live simply, to homestead for our goal of sustaining our family with food and local resources.

But, we really had no idea of the many other experiences and gains we would get from this life change.  The ones that broadly stand out to me as I look back on year one:

  • The Keweenaw Community.  I am so excited to have the time now to actually participate in like-minded events in the community. We’ve attended events, performances, and learning opportunities.  I am unsure if I somehow was unaware of these types of events taking place in our old community, but here I feel that there is so much to do and participate in that I couldn’t possibly find time to do it all! Along the way we’ve met so many awesome people and now we’re meeting people who are asking us “are you the family that lives in a yurt in Jacobsville?”  “Why yes, that’s us.”
  • Winter. We were warned. We were asked “are you actually living out here all winter?”  Well, one of the worse winters in the past years (at least this is what the locals told us) took place….over 300 inches of snow during the season and WE SURVIVED!  Not only did we survive but we loved it. Other than the situation where I attempted to drive my tiny car through a huge drifting snow bank less than a mile from home, got stuck and then had Tim come to my rescue with truck, in which he also got stuck….winter went very smoothly.  (Major thanks to our neighbor with the plow truck and tow to save us both!)
  • Wandering. In the past year, we’ve had more flexibility for travel.   We took 2 amazing trips – Wyoming for the Solar Eclipse and Florida/Alabama.  We’ve also done more wandering around the Upper Peninsula and the Keweenaw area. We’ve seen breathtaking views, and enjoyed learning about local history, geology, and the natural environment around us.
  • Joys and trials of raising our own food. Our first year garden, while small, helped provide about 1/4 of the food we need to sustain our family. This year, we hope to bring it to 1/2 – 3/4.  This is now helped by our chickens, ducks, and pigs who provide eggs and meat.  Having the animals has been enjoyable but we also had some hardships with the natural circle of life.  Life and death, success and failure is all part of living a homesteading life – and for that reason I mark all these learning experiences as gains (not losses). Plus, how many people can say they’ve chased a pig in their pajamas?  Well, true story, I can – haha!
  • Homeschooling.  This year, my children and I became a team! We learn together, we fail together. We have life experiences together.  We have honest conversations and are learning to understand each other better than we’ve ever had the opportunity to before since we were apart for so much of the day.
  • Friends. A fear I had with this change was being able to meet new people to develop friendships with. We’re kinda isolated out here and add in being an introvert, I was worried we would not meet new friends.  Friends for Tim and me.  Friends for the kids. Well, I can laugh in the face of that fear. Not only have we met new people, but we’ve developed new, amazing friendships.  Friends who understand and embrace our homesteading lifestyle.  Friends who have skills they can share with us and that we can share back other skills in return. Holding close friendships that remain from prior to our move and developing new friendships has been the most soulful gain of all in year one.

We have daily trials, we are human after all.  But even with that, are we living our dream life? Yes! Our yurt is a cozy, small home that embraces us.  Our homestead is a lively, entertaining place that provides for us. Our community provides us with people and opportunities we learn from and feel part of.

Homestead life year one recap = damn, life is beautiful.

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Springtime Blueberry Blossoms!

Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

Don’t miss a thing that goes on at our homestead!  Follow us here, or here!  You can also subscribe to the blog!

 

Meet the Livestock at our Homestead!

It hasn’t been yet a year since our move and our homestead has been growing and has more growth on the way.  Coming into this, we had very little (ok, none whatsoever) experience with livestock. First we just had our chickens. You can meet the flock here. Right off the bat we saw how each of them was different in personality. Flora (our 8 year old), quickly corrected me to say they do not have personalities, they have CHICKENalities. Clever girl. The rooster from that original flock fell ill and didn’t survive, it was our first homestead fatality. The hens however have been laying faithfully, survived the long winter, and took kindly to our replacement Rooster – Alabaster.

Alabaster
Alabaster – The Rooster

Last fall we also brought home 2 pigs. The pigs have given us many exciting, humorous and frustrating times.  Just click here for Nat’s explaination of his recent escape.  In months where there is no snow cover, our pigs are pastured, eating a natural diet and tilling up our soil for future crop planting. In winter, we cleaned up the pen daily and kept them happy with fresh bedding. Our first agenda with these pigs is to breed them and sell the piglets as feeder pigs. All signs show that our female, Frannie, is pregnant and due in mid-June. Time will tell what our long range plan for keeping pigs will be, but they have been very enjoyable to have around! They are living happy lives, I mean, c’mon….just see here:

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Pig Snuggles. Frannie (Pink), Nat (Brown).

Our newest edition was an ask from Flora. She even paid for 2 of her own! DUCKS! Yes, they have duckinalities… 😉 The kids are adoring on them. The goal is to keep the females from each breed and 1 male from each breed. Perhaps in the future we can allow them to raise some young to have more ducks for eggs and/or meat. Any extra males will make a meal that we will be so very thankful for. The ducklings are currently 1 week old. We have 2 Cayuga’s (black ducks) and 6 Swedish Blue (Yellow ducks). They live inside until it’s warm enough and they develop their feathers.  Then they will go out and till up our garden for us. Major AWWWWW-factor here:

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In May and June our livestock population should grow.  First, chickens. We will be working on having one of our chickens “go broody” and sit on eggs from our flock.  If we can grow our own flock, it’s a sustainable way of providing more food (eggs) for our family.  If all goes smoothly, we should have chicks in late May.  In mid-June if our calculation for Frannie’s due date is correct, we should have piglets!  As someone who is new at all this, I’m hoping for a successful delivery for her, and a small litter.  Time will tell!

The animals have really made the homestead complete. While there were some cold, winter snowy days that I dreaded animal chores, I am so happy they were out there giving me reason to get out, get fresh air, and get moving. The little extra effort is well worth the reward.

What should be next?  Comment on what type of livestock we should consider for our homestead and why!

Puzzled by Minimalism, Creative Solutions!

So, I had this image of sitting around getting snowed in for our first winter here. Afterall, even locals laughed at the idea of us living out here in winter. Our UPS delivery woman politely asked last November, “are you actually staying here all winter?”  With all the warnings of a “Yooper” winter, you can see why we thought our winter would be relaxed….no where to go, nothing to do. Afterall, our area gets an average of 250+ inches of snow annually. Yet, it’s now March and I don’t recall this whole sitting around thing happening.  What actually happened is that Tim picked up more hours on the job, I started and finished my certification as a Medical First Responder, and our kids kept busy with friends, activities, and lots of playtime in the snow. We’ve also done a lot of snowshoeing and exploring around our property, which looks so different in winter.

 

Maybe, in my wildest dreams, I was hoping winter would be an excuse to be lazy…but, it hasn’t exactly panned out. I won’t complain, because I do like keeping busy, within reason. Well, part of my lazy winter dream was to have a puzzle to work on at any whim. I like puzzles – they are relaxing, you can still have conversation while you do it, and you can come and go from it as you please. Plus, I think it’s good for the mind to be able to focus on details. Winter is the perfect time to do a puzzle when you might be stuck inside due to bad weather (although we’ve found that bad weather doesn’t stop us).

But, we have a slight problem with this puzzle idea. We are 4 people living in a yurt, and we don’t have a ton of “free space” to just set up a puzzle and have it sitting around all the time. We can’t build it on our kitchen table, because that’s where we eat. Getting a second table isn’t an option because we don’t have space, plus we try not to have anything here that isn’t really a necessity, attempting to live more minimally. So, time for some creative problem solving, gosh I love that (I’m not being sarcastic here). How can we build a puzzle without taking up current needed areas, and without getting something new or taking up more space?

Easy, time to retrofit our kitchen table into a puzzle table and kitchen table! This was my idea, and Tim made my concept come true. Our kitchen table is nothing special, so taking it apart was low risk.

First, the table top was removed.  I’ll be honest, parents with young children…if you haven’t looked UNDER your table lately, I recommend against it unless you think you really need to know.  I scrubbed off some things that, oh boy, I have no idea what they were.

Puzzle Table
Removed table top.

 

Topless Table
Table without top. Ready to put in secondary puzzle table top.

Then, Tim built a table within the table that would be the space for our puzzle. It’s 4 sided, so bonus that no puzzle pieces should fall off while being worked on!

Puzzle Table
Table top built under original table top.

Lastly, the table top was fitted with properly placed dowels so that when put back ontop, it would not slide off. And just like that, it was time to work on the puzzle! When done, just put the table top back on! Unless you knew, there is no telling there is a puzzle “in” the table”. The table is not huge, so for 1-2 adults, the top is easily removed and leaned up against the wall.

Puzzle Table
Time to put the first puzzle together!

I was giddy with joy to see my idea of a puzzle table come to fruition. <–Geek.

Looking forward to spending downtime at this table as a family.  This puzzle is too complex for our 3-year old, but our 8-year old is already having a good time with it!

Viva la puzzle table!

Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

Oh, be sure not to miss a thing that goes on at our homestead!  Follow us here, or here!