Monday, November 28, 2016

Get Ready for Winter || Home and Holiday Organization Sales

Hey, Bootcampers! I hope y'all had a simply wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. For us, it was a lovely time at home together, recounting the way God has showered his blessings upon us this year. One of those blessings was a wonderful garden - stay tuned in the next few days for some of the recipes I whipped up for our Thanksgiving feast - using produce from our own homestead!

In the meantime, you might be feeling slightly - or incredibly - overwhelmed by your to-do list as December approaches. It is a joyful time of year, no doubt about that. But if you're not organized, it can be exhausting, too. Do you feel like your wheels are spinning but you're not getting anywhere? Let me share three great products with you -- two of which are deeply discounted due to Cyber Monday!

Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers - Lulu Version

First off, my own book, Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers, is on sale over at Lulu - in both paperback and coil-bound. If use the promo code CYBER40 at checkout, Lulu will discount an additional 40%, giving you the book for half off! That's the best sale of the year!

Plan to Eat - Annual Black Friday Sale

Next -- and this one is EXCITING, y'all! -- Plan to Eat is having their annual Black Friday Sale for 50% off an annual subscription to their amaaaaaaazing meal planning site. Friends, I'm not the kind of blogger who gets a lot of free products to review and make money off of. If I'm telling you about a product, it is because I use it and love it. And I LOVE Plan to Eat. I've been a regular Plan to Eat user since 2010, and when I say regular, I mean DAILY. You just wouldn't believe how much the website and service improves every year. It's really fantastic. I blogged about it back in 2011, and though the site looks a little different, the service is still amazing. If you struggle with making a meal plan, or sticking to a meal plan, or creating and sticking to a grocery budget, or coming up with healthy things to feed your family, or just. not. having. enough. time. or maybe, like me, it was all of the above -- Plan to Eat is an amazing solution.

Please, go check it out! This amazing one-sale-a-year brings your cost to only $19.50 for a YEAR -- that's $1.63 a MONTH -- 5¢ a day -- less than 2¢ a MEAL -- for easy access to all your favorite recipe sites with simple importing, meal planning, even automatic calendar alerts to remind you when to thaw your meat or bake your bread! Click on over and take the tour. I think you'll love it as much as I do!
After you sign up, I'd love to share my recipes with you or help you use it to your best advantage. My user name is Bootcamp Heidi - just friend me!

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

The 12-Week Holiday Planner

The last terrific resource I want to share with you is Sheri Graham's The 12-Week Holiday Planner for the Christian Family. It is exactly what it sounds like - a planner that takes you from October through the New Year, helping you get and stay organized in all your holiday preparations, aiding you in your desire to celebrate deliberately and weave peace and joy through your festivities. It's a digital book with unlimited printing so you can print out all the pages you need year after year. I've been using this planner to help me organize my cooking, baking, gifting, and calendar for eight years now, and I'm sure I'd be lost without it.

Included in each printable book:

  • Blank monthly and weekly calendar pages for planning your year
  • Weekly “To Do” lists showing exactly what needs to be done each week
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas Menus forms
  • Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Recipe Card forms
  • A Holiday Self-Evaluation form
  • Shopping Lists
  • “Sheri’s Tips”- tips to make your holidays meaningful, shared throughout the ebook
  • Christmas Craft and Gift Ideas
  • Memory Making Ideas for the Family
  • Holiday Journal Pages
  • Many, many forms such as:
    Christmas Gift Shopping List
    Gift Making Checklist
    Christmas Card Checklist
    Holiday Wardrobe Planner
    List of Baked Items to Share/Give Away
    Favorite Meals to Freeze for Later
    Decoration Ideas
    Needed Supplies to Purchase This Week
    Holiday Baking Schedule
    Kids’ Gift Idea List
    Christmas Gifts to be Shipped
  • PLUS!!! Two bonus weeks with family tradition ideas, menus, and more!
  • PLUS!!! Some of Sheri's favorite holiday recipes!
  • PLUS!!! Holiday Coloring Pages!
  • PLUS!!!  Brand new zipped folder with all the forms from the planner in editable PDF format

So, what are you using to organize yourself this busy holiday season? As always, I LOVE comments! Let me know how you're staying on top of things!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What Do I Do With All These Green Tomatoes? || Garden Day

The calendar says it's just a week until Thanksgiving, and yet here I am, tromping barefoot around the homestead. We've had an extraordinarily long, warm fall here in the Miami River Valley of Ohio, and though I've been pining a bit for cooler temps - I mean, November should feel like November, y'all! - it's been really helpful in a lot of ways.

The goats are still in the woods eating plenty of green stuff, which helps lower the hay bill quite a bit. We've been able to put off using the wood stove much, too, which means fewer through-the-snow trips to replenish the woodpile on the back porch this winter.

And this warmer weather means the garden has really never stopped producing. There is still a beautiful mess of heirloom lettuce and rainbow swiss chard out there, and until a few days ago, there were still 75 or so tomato plants growing their little tomato hearts out.

Looking at the 10-day weather forecast, I decided to take advantage of the warmer temperatures and finally take them all down before they just froze to death (and me right along with them, ripping up garden fencing in the coming 30˚'s!)

We tipped the scale at just over 2,500 lbs. of tomatoes this year -- our best year of tomatoes ever -- and I really wouldn't have felt bad about just tossing vines -- with their green tomatoes still attached -- to the chickens. In fact, that's exactly what I would have done just before the first freeze in years past. But last year, someone tipped me off to a little green tomato trick that I want to share with y'all.

First, just go ahead and pick your green tomatoes. Those that are salvageable have a sheen to them - the ones that don't are dull green. It takes a bit of practice to discern between the two, but if you save a dull green one, nothing will happen except that it will never ripen. No worries.

Now you must find a place to store them! We clear off a few shelves in the basement pantry and line them stem side down (so they don't roll away). You might want to put down newspaper or shallow cardboard boxes if you're worried about one rotting. When deciding where to store them, here are a few considerations: It should be a relatively dark, cool place, but not freezing (so not the garage or attic), and it should be in a location that you will visit often so that you won't forget to check on them. (Or, if you are very forgetful, you could set a reminder in your calendar!)

Now, just wait. Literally, that's all there is to it. In the photo below, every tomato was green when placed on that shelf 3 days before, and you can see how quickly some had already started to ripen. Last winter, most of our tomatoes ripened by the end of January, but a few held out until February.

Every three days or so, check your stock. Just make sure there are no rotten ones (you'll smell that!) and if you find any that are starting to pink up, bring them to your kitchen.

I sit them on my kitchen window sill to ripen a bit more in the afternoon sun. We either eat them like fresh-picked, (BLT's with Ohio-grown tomatoes in February!) or if I have a glut of ripe ones, I will halve them and toss them in a freezer bag (skins and all) for a stew later on.

We picked over 200 green tomatoes this week, so knowing that we can continue to use them is a real blessing. I hope it blesses you, too!

What do you do with your green tomatoes?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Love Calls Us To the Things of This World || Laundry Day

Here's wishing you a Laundry Day where you joyfully serve your family. May Richard Wilbur's poem, Love Calls Us to the Things of This World, be an inspiration to you today. Read more at The Homely Hours.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Free Shipping + Bootcamp Sale | Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers

Hello, Bootcampers! I'm just popping in for a moment on this busy day to let you know about a promotion that Lulu Press has happening right now. The Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers book is available in Kindle format on Amazon, and also in perfect bound paper through Amazon, as well. But it's also available through Lulu press in coil-bound format. Some Bootcampers LOVE the coil-bound version, as it makes it easier to print off pages and use it as a planning binder as they're getting their homes together.

Both paper versions are $24, so I usually suggest using Amazon, since so many folks have Prime (free shipping!)

However, this free mail shipping deal through Lulu means you can get the coil-bound version for the same price with FREE SHIPPING. To sweeten the deal, I'm offering the Lulu coil-bound version for 25% off - that's only $18 - no promo code needed! Just remember to use Lulu's code APRSHIP50 through April 22nd to get free mail shipping.

This deal is only good through Friday evening, so grab yours today while the price is great!

I hope this helps you get a jump on transforming your home from messed to blessed this spring!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Million Things in the March Off Grid | Homesteading | Off-Grid Living

This post first appeared on the Beyond Off Grid blog. From the website: "Beyond Off Grid is a documentary film and media project that explores why we should strive to reduce our dependence on the modern economy and control grid, and how this can be accomplished." In addition to the film itself, they provide excellent educational webinars to provide information and inspiration to those seeking a lifestyle less dependent on modernity and all of the risks that it brings to your family’s safety and survival. Seriously, go check them out. We're big fans.

Everything I learned about homesteading this year can really be summed up in one sentence: I have so much to learn about homesteading. Because here’s the thing: Homesteading, though thrown around as a sort of general term — most folks hear it and have already formed a mental image of a “back-to-the-land” nature lover, or a hipster urban farmer, or super-rural gun-totin’ new pioneer — homesteading, really, is not one thing. It is a million things. It is a million things I did not grow up learning. A million things I did not learn in public school. A million things I barely even knew existed.

I grew up in South Central Kansas, in the heart of the Bread Basket. Farm country. By which I mean: huge combines, and huge grain silos, and huge amounts of pesticides and dust blowing in the ever-present wind and huge, incredibly smelly concentrated animal feeding operations, and “Hey, smell that? That’s the smell of money!” One thousand acres of prime, black soil, and the farmer’s wife buys all her produce at the local grocery store, shipped cheap from Mexico and California. Farming.

In college, I did what a lot of college students do. I learned that there was another way and I sprinted toward it as recklessly and with as little thought as possible. Back then it was called Christian Environmentalism - older, wiser me knows it’s barely the former and strongly the latter. Still, God opened my eyes to another way.
I lived in an environmental village in Central America where we grew our own food without chemicals and where we composted our own waste. Later, I visited a major factory farm in California and saw that it was not the money that I smelled — it was mismanagement. It was pollution. It was death.
So I did what any self-respecting, immature college student would do. I became a staunch vegetarian. Because, hey, that meat is gross (it is) and those animals aren’t treated right (They’re not.) I did not know there was another way. I did not know there was “organic” or “local” or “grass-fed” or “permaculture”. I did not know a million things. I still don’t know a million things.

My husband and I had been married for about four years when we started thinking about farming. We were living in Kansas at the time, and we knew we needed a little land. Hey, land should be flat and cleared, right? That’s what farmers need. We moved to a five-acre parcel of desolation bordering a huge wheat field. I drew up a few pictures of what we could maybe do with it. I discovered John Seymour’s illustrated classic, The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It. At that time, we also found Scott Savage and his Plain Reader. Those essays changed our lives. But there were a million things to learn.

I remember, early one spring, my husband suggesting we plant a garden. “Sure,” I said. “But I don’t know how.” And that’s as far as it ever got. We lived on that farm nine months before he changed jobs and we moved to a new state. We never planted anything on that farm. We didn’t even grow flowers.

We lived in an apartment in Amish country for nine months in that new state. We didn’t have any land to call our own, but the desire began to burn in us both. I read everything I could get my hands on, and we made major changes in our lives. Kind women taught me how to bake my own bread and how to can. We ditched the TV, we sought to simplify our lives. I even began to dress more “plain”. Our minds were changed, but we weren’t farmers.

We moved back to Kansas, and found a house in the city. That first spring in the new house, my husband rented a rototiller while I clenched one hand around these little organic seed packets I had bought online and the other around a used copy of “Square Foot Gardening” and prayed with all my might, “Lord, please let me figure out what I’m supposed to do.” There were a million things I did not know. But the garden thrived that year, and the next year we doubled it. I even coaxed a small crop of apples from the old tree in the backyard. I learned some things. But there were still a million things I didn’t know.

A few years later, we changed states again. While living on a little property that was beautiful and private and completely inappropriate for farming, we dreamed and talked and discovered Michael Bunker’s Surviving Off Off-Grid. Well, that was that. We read it. We read it again. We CAME TO TERMS. We had to finally admit that we don’t know a million things and that we could not let it stop us anymore.

I began to view homesteading like having children. I hear young (and sometimes older) couples say they’re not going to have children until they’re ready. Well, news flash: You’re never “ready”. You don’t even know what you need to be ready until you’re in the thick of it. You don’t know what you don’t know. And later, you do know what you don’t know. That’s even scarier. There are a million things. But you have to start somewhere. There will be a lot of flailing and mistakes and frustration and you will waste money and you will feel stupid and sometimes it is like you are DROWNING, but you will get to the other side and say, “That was pretty amazing.”

After two more years of farm hunting, we ended up on our homestead. We had land and we had strong young children (going on nine of them, now) to help us set our hands to this joyful work. There were simply no more excuses we could make.

We learned how to cut down a tree. And another. And another. We learned how to chop and season and store firewood. I learned how to not be terrified when I watched the seven-year old swinging his own axe. (Mostly.) We learned how to operate a wood stove without burning down the house. (Yet.) But I still can’t name the trees on our very wooded homestead. So our family is going to take a tree-identification course together this summer. There is one more thing - maybe twenty more things - I will know.

I learned that I am allergic to poison sumac. And I learned how to identify it. One more thing. (An important thing!)

We got our first farm animals - Nubian goats - to clear the dense honeysuckle and poison ivy and sumac on our property this year. Two-month old kids. There they were, in the shed on their first night and I was as panicked as a new mother on her first night home from the hospital. “Now what am I supposed to DO with this thing?” I picked up my Kindle and found some books, and read everything I could. What do you mean, de-worming? Trimming hooves? WHAT ON EARTH. A million things. I feel confident with our goats now. But when we breed them next fall, it will start a whole new chapter of “Things Heidi Doesn’t Know”. What about when it’s time for them to kid? Will I be able to milk them? And then there’s cheese making. And yogurt making. And soap making. I don’t know a million things. But I can learn.

We got chickens this spring, too. Again to the books, and to the things I don’t know. I didn’t know how exciting that first egg would be, or how hard it would be to butcher the few old gals someone gave us. I didn’t know that roosters wake up at 5am, and therefore babies wake up at 5am, even if the coop light is set for 7. (I kind of wish I didn’t know that.)

I thought I knew how to garden. Then I learned a new-to-me method that made me see how many hours I’d wasted weeding and watering and I wondered, “How many more millions of things don’t I know?” The garden was prolific. What a blessing. Now how do I store all this food? How do we dig a root cellar? Fermenting? GNOWFGLINS? (Is that even English?) And how can I start seeds more successfully this year? What do you mean, “Soil block maker?” What else don’t I know?

Two rabbits just arrived this past weekend, and my 11-year old daughter was sitting in bed by the light of a Kindle late Sunday night, taking notes for Mom on “How to Raise Meat Rabbits” while three of her younger sisters snored away, because there are a million things I don’t know. (But now she knows.)

And again I hear the little voice in my head: “There are a million things I don’t know.” But it’s March. So now a new voice whispers back: “You don’t have to know a million things today. Just start with one.”

Just one thing. One thing is what this month is all about at our homestead. It is why we deliberately refocus and “double down” each March in our effort to be more self-sufficient and productive — to March Off-Grid. This month, we are choosing to not ignore the panic and frustration of “not knowing”. Rather we are choosing to embrace the “million things we don’t know” and decide — resolve — that tomorrow there will be one less thing we don’t know, and one more thing we do. Because the joy in learning that one thing supersedes the fear of the million we don’t, every time.