Category Archives: Homesteading Skills

January Crafting

A few weeks ago I was reading one of my favorite blogs–Soule Mama–about how she loves crafting in January and quickly January is becoming my favorite month of the year for just that reason. The craziness of the holidays is done, but it is still nice to engage in indoor activities and enjoy a lull before the spring the storm. So crafting is exactly what we have been doing this month.

Avril has caught my bug for knitting. Here she completed her first hat, actually her first complete project ever. She used this pattern. It was one of the most expensive patterns I have ever purchased but we have gotten a lot of use out of it.

I originally made a hat for Pray and Lith and Avril liked the pattern so much she thought she would give it a try.

Mavis is more a fan of sewing. She picked out this pattern from Pinterest and Effie decided she wanted to make one too.

I have also picked up a lot of inspiration for next month. Having girls who love creating as well has been very rewarding, now we have to figure out how to get all that crafting in. Special thanks to my best friend Jenelle who knows just how to inspire this creative family!


What a wonderful change this year has been. We have already enjoyed almost a week of 60 degree weather. This is VERY unusual for Minnesota. Even though this week is a bit cooler the break in winter weather (hopefully the end, pretty please) has been so refreshing. But with the change in weather comes other changes to the farm.


I really have no business complaining. Really Mud season is not that bad; except that it is very had to walk and all that cold mud is really hard on the animals, but it is heralding something much better. We just came off 3 days of rain so we are super saturated but hopefully it will start to dry out now.


Meet Zelen. One of our goals with moving to the farm was helping to get the children set up. We wanted to show them ways to avoid debt, make extra income, and be as self sufficient as possible. So Proeun II has started his own cattle business. Zelen is a 3 year old Galloway. We purchased her bred and will hopefully have a calf this June. She is accompanied by Claire who is a year old this month. We are so excited to start this process with the children. II will be showing Claire at the fair this year.


Scout and Tiger. Really good mousers are worth their weight in gold and we try hard to colonize at least 2 cats in each of our out buildings but with spring these 2 guys were getting into more fights and Tiger had been taking off for longer and longer periods of time. At one point we really thought we had lost him. So we decided that it was worth the extra money to invest in their health and they have both been fixed now. All the cats on our farm have now been fixed (except for one female we hope will give us kittens so the children can experience it once before we fix her).


Avril is hoping to start her own business this spring as well–sheep. And with sheep come sheep dogs. I actually was feeling the need for some herding dogs every time the goats got out but it really wasn’t in the budget. Then we came across these 2 dogs. They are actually Amish dogs and a mix of herding breeds (Australian Shepherd, Blue Mountain Heeler and Border Collie). They were just right. Avril will be joining II in Dog training this year through 4H.

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We have also begun growing for our CSA. After several years on our own farm it is nice to have some systems set up that make the work more routine. We now have our cooler doing double duty as a germination room and our small greenhouse up that we use for early season. It is so fun to see the very beginnings of plant babies.


We are also waiting on our animal babies. Elsa our Berkshire hog will farrow again any day now. And the goats will start after that. I do love spring.

Happy Memorial Day–Enjoy summer

When we first moved to the country I never wanted to leave the property and that was fine for awhile. But even farmer’s need to take a break and step back and reset. I find for me the best way to do that is the wilderness. I am blessed to have a family property I can retreat to, but even with having a place available I hadn’t been there since we moved. Finally this weekend I was able to get away and it was like heaven. I have to say being out there away from life’s pressures, enjoying nature, I just feel more myself and more able to enjoy life and family.


My children took the weekend’s opportunity to enjoy trying out the camera. Two and Mavis especially enjoyed this with Two saying he wanted to be a photographer. Here is a portrait he took of Effie.


Mommy t-rexxy by Mavis.


Pray Grant by Two.


I love just going for walks with the children.


One thing I really want to learn is how to identify the things of nature–plants, trees, birds, bird calls, etc. Here is a plant I discovered on this camping trip. I believe it is a marsh marigold.


It wasn’t all fun and games. The gentlemen worked to put up an outhouse.


Finished outhouse by Mavis.

So work, play, relax, love, enjoy and reset that was the name of the game this weekend. Honestly it was so needed. I hope you are taking time regularly to recharge and reset. What things do you like to do?

Off my bookshelf

I have been reading a lot of blogs lately. Honestly I have come to view reading as my original creative activity. Out of it comes so many things that make life more enjoyable. Reading affects my creativity in so many ways. Whether my reading sparks an idea I really need to process through my own writing or becomes a wonderful family dinner, embroidery project or just soul food, I really feel it when I am not spending an adequate amount of time in books.

I did finally break down and buy a kindle (or Proeun bought one for me) but that was mostly because some books that I really wanted were only available in a digital format. I still much prefer real, physical books.

Come to think of it most of the books I have purchased I found out about on a blog. The very first blog I ever started reading was Soule Mama. I have all her books now and have found that they really give me that soul food that I need. Her family lives on a hobby farm in northern Maine and in many ways they have been on a similar journey as our family. Her most recent book, The Rhythm of Family has short essays from both her and her husband in honor of each month as well as projects and activities that can be done as a family. Since it is January (still) I have started from the very beginning and try to do at least one of the activities a month.

A recent addition to my blog reading is Yummy Mummy. I stumbled across this site when I was searching for “healthy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.” I found this recipe. Now I make this yummy and healthy recipe a couple times a month. Especially when mommy needs a little pick-up at snack time.

The book The Yummy Mummy Kitchen has many more delicious recipes. But I also love the brief essays and life tips. While Marina Delio lives in California and has a very international background I can’t relate to some areas of her life but I find her recipes delicious and her passion infectious. She writes in the introduction, “I’m not the Yummy Mummy. You are.  . .A Yummy Mummy is not a high-maintenance mom. Being a Yummy Mummy does not mean weekly manicures, grocery shopping in stilettos or nannies. It has nothing to do with money or perfection, it’s an attitude. She puts the kids first, but also takes care of herself and finds balance amid the chaos.” I definitely need to work on this but good food always helps.

I have also always loved handcrafts. My mother taught be all the basics, but now I am discovering so many great resources. Anna Maria Horner has a style I really connect with so when she came out with her own embroidery book I pre-ordered it (yes I wanted it that bad). It is such a joy to browse. and now Avril and I are working on our own project. I help thread the needle, pick out the thread and lay the foundation stitches then she comes back and finishes it. It is a great way to wind down in the evening.

Anna Maria also inspired me towards design. I used to design my own fashions, at 7 years old. I would make catalogs entitled JCAmy. But for the most part my designs and passion for it has been lost. But this winter I have been reminded of how much I love fashion and design. Wanting to explore this further I bought Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design. It begins with the very basics and moves forward. I love the interviews with the designers and sidebar tips. Soon the season will begin in full swing and I am definitely looking forward to warmer weather, but till then I am enjoying my indoor comforts.

Handmade Christmas

I finally did. I have been wanting to have a handmade Christmas for a long time, but didn’t think it would really work for the children. The adults in my family have enjoyed it for several years now with each of us trying to come up with something special to make for the others. For example this year I made salted caramel sauce and truffles for my sister and she made us homemade root beer and birch beer. I should say that I am so blessed that I come from a family where handmade is normal. My grandfather loved working with wood and my grandmother started a line of women who sew, knit, crochet, embroider, can, cook from scratch and bake and really anything else they decide to try.

So I was getting a little fed up with the story of Santa Claus. My children were becoming completely focused on what they were getting and as you can imagine the requests were getting more elaborate including this year a pony and an Xbox. I had been telling the children “don’t ask Santa for that because I will tell him no you can’t have it.” Finally we watched a VeggieTales about Saint Nicholas together and I explained the truth. I also told they children I wanted them to focus on giving rather then getting so I looked for projects we could work on together for the children. I found so many options out there that with the exception of legos (one toy I don’t mind splurging on) and a video game we could play together the majority of our Christmas presents were handmade. And the children loved it. They were even excited to see their siblings open their gifts. That is what I want to see. Here are some of our favorites from this year.

I saw these blocks on pinterest and thought they were so cute. I followed the instructions and had them printed on sticker paper about our local print shop. I think these were definitely a favorite for Mavis and Avril to make. I also made the carrying bag.

I saw this dinosaur tail pattern and thought of my little paleontologist. She loves rocks and dinosaurs and her favorite toy is her “Mommy t-rexy.” Obviously it was a hit.

I saw instructions for making magnetic paper dolls and put my own spin on them. I used these dolls but they were not colored so I had lots of fun coloring them with my husband’s art set. I did have difficulty finding the right size tin so I ended up order a tin CD case from etsy. I then had to print the dolls a bit smaller to fit the tin. I think I printed at 65%. I used mode modge to attach a colorful backing paper and then glued the doll parts directly to the tin. I used a roll of magnet I got at Michaels for the clothes. The magnetic canvas had a sticky side so  I put the clothes on the sticky side and cut them out. Now I need to make another set so they can play together.

For my littlest man I finally made the “quick change trousers” from Handmade Beginnings. So much fun I made 2.

Other projects were cutting down Cambodian sarongs to fit the girls and a pair of pants for Two.

We also wanted gifts to spark creativity. So Avril got a face painting set and book. She painted Mavis’ face then Proeun did the rest of them. What a fun evening.

For extended family we asked for clothes, books or games. My sister is the queen of games so she helped extend our family game night by giving the kids some of her favorites. So all in all it went pretty well. We still were able to give fun gifts, we didn’t fill our house with things that will break easily and the children were actually excited about their gifts and what was even better for me, they were excited to give each other gifts. Yes we had a very blessed Christmas.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

It sure is. This morning our thermostat said -10 degrees. Yes that is the temperature. We are pretty sheltered here by the woods but I have heard that the wind chill today is expected to reach -30. So what would make a 32 year old mother of 5 children want to leave a nice comfortable bed and house to go out into weather like that? Chores. I have to admit when reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series and she would talk about chores I had no idea what that meant. Now I do. We currently have 12 goats, 35 chickens, 3 barn cats, 2 rabbits and 1 donkey, plus there are the 2 dogs and 2 indoor cats (but the children normally take care them). I have to admit, yesterday I was thinking that if we didn’t have all these animals that I would be able to sleep in and I wouldn’t have to chores on days like today. 

But then I would be missing out on a very important truth, “caring for animals makes us better people.” See when the weather is like this it is not just feed and water they need. I have to monitor body condition to ensure that they are getting enough calories to heat their body in a addition to normal body functions. I have to watch activity and make sure that they are not getting lethargic. I have to listen to their breathing and make sure it is not too labored. I might even have to check the condition of their poo if I expect a problem. The thing with animals is that they can’t tell you when things are going bad, you just have to know. 
I was thinking about the comparison with my children. For the most part they let me know when something is wrong. But not always right away. I can use my observation skills learned caring for the animals and apply it to my children. Even adult relationships often could use a little tender loving care and observation to catch a potential problem before it turns deadly. 
The truth of the matter is everyone wants to feel needed. But many do not understand that in serving and caring for others (animal or human) that is where we are really needed. I hope to teach these skills of observation and care to my children so that they will never question their worth. And there is a huge sense of empowerment when you do difficult tasks many are not willing to do. When I was outside this morning in 3 plus layers of clothes laboring so hard I was actually too warm at -10 I felt so strong, “Baby I got this.” 
I remember reading in Farmer Boy about temperatures dipping below -40 at night. Almanzo’s family was so wealthy they didn’t have room in the barns for all their animals so some of the yearlings were in the barn yard. At that temperature apparently sleeping animals can freeze solid without even knowing they were in danger in the first place. So Almanzo’s father would have to wake in the middle of the night, dress and go out with a whip to get the animals moving and blood pumping just to save them from freezing to death. I hope it doesn’t get to that but if it does I like to think I got that to. 

Crazy Boy Farm Goat Babies

The farm babies exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo has always been one of my favorites. This weekend my sister went to see them. I am feeling so blessed that I have my own farm babies this year that I get to spend as much time with as I want.

Here are some teaser pictures.

Rose has the little spot on her forehead and Joey on his leg.

I love how Effie interacts with them, playing with them and cuddling them and letting them chew her hair. Such a great experience for her.

Avril named Rose–I think naming is their favorite part. Both these babies are purebred Nigerian Dwarf Goats and registered with the American Dairy Goat Association. I love having goats but while selling them is neccessary in order to be able to maintain a herd that is always the hard part. So in the next couple of weeks check back for our goat page. There we will have information about our goats and list the ones for sale. While these 2 are the only ones born so far we will likely have 5+ goats available for purchase.

New Year: Healthy Soil–Review of “Back To Eden”

Last night Proeun and I watched a life changing video, literally. See we knew that farming was not an easy life, and we were totally willing to embrace that, feeling that we were called to live this life. We have been very blessed by our move and loving every minute of it, but it is alot of work, especially bringing soil back to life that has been farmed conventionally for years.

One of the great people we met during our move loaned us a copy of Back to Eden and we finally sat down to watch it last night. See we had heard about no-till farming but weren’t really sure how to go about implementing it. “Back to Eden” gives you a step by step example of the how to and also the benefits. Turns out that even though man lived in a garden when first created, he didn’t actually till the soil until after the fall.

The movie goes on to explore different coverings that the earth naturally uses for its soil and how to recreate that on your on your own land. Now the answer to so many of our labor intensive problems like weeding and irrigating and building up the soil are answered in one way, covering and no-till. So we begin our process this year. We are so excited. One of the women on the video who visited the demonstration garden was asked if she would use the same methods at home, “definitely she said, in about 3 hours.” We feel the same way. So so excited.

Seasons Best Eating

This year I finally feel like am able to partake in the seasonal eating I have always wanted. I am not ashamed to say that the main reason I love farming is because I love eating. Yes there are the added benefits of being stewards of the land, connecting with place and family and teaching my children about a valuable, hard working lifestyle where all are important. But really if it didn’t taste so good I don’t know if I would still be doing it.

Now that we are finally finally in the season of plenty it is such a joy to go to our harvesting fridge and see what we have left over from our CSA deliveries or heading out to the field to see what’s available for lunch. Whether it be a quick stir-fry or roasting up some delicious veggies or a salad. Oh so yummy. I don’t know if I would say I am becoming a food snob but the flavors of food direct from the field are so unsurpassed it is hard for me to eat them out of season anymore.

Here are a couple of the dishes I have been living on lately

Tomato Basil Salad

1 or 2 large tomatoes (heirlooms are wonderful especially Striped Germans) chopped
2 garlic cloves
1-2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together and let sit for about 15 minutes for flavors to meld. This especially important if the tomatoes are cold.

My mother first made this for me from a recipe from somewhere, but I am not sure where that original went so I have just been playing with the portions myself. Now this is almost a nightly meal for me during tomato season.

Amy’s Favorite Salad Nicoise


2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
juice of 1 lemon
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2-4 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp of salt

Put cloves and walnuts in blender and pulse to grind. Add the basil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Then with blender running drizzle in enough olive oil to make a nice dressing consistency. Stir in dry mustard and salt.

For the salad for 4 good sized salads

One head romaine lettuce chopped
4 hard boiled eggs chopped
1/2 pound fresh green beans blanched
3-4 red potatoes boiled until tender in bite sized pieces
albacore tuna
2-3 sliced heirloom tomatoes

Put down a bed of lettuce followed by potatoes and green beans (note they should be room temperature by running under cool water). Sprinkle chopped eggs and crumbled tuna on the top with slices of tomato on the side. Top with dressing and enjoy.


Monday boxes and boxes of fresh fruit arrived in our living room. We arranged a bulk fruit shipment and had 155 boxes to deal with. Luckily most of them were gone by the end of the day.

7 were mine however–2 peaches, 2 gala apples, 1 nectarine and 2 barlett pears. The pears are holding well and I should have a couple days before I have to can them. The apples are doing better but I put a bunch of them in the frig to try and prolong them a bit, apples are a favorite treat of the children. Maybe next week I’ll try some apple sauce or apple butter.

Last night though it was time to do peaches. Most of them were perfect ripeness of near perfect.

I set up a comfortable work station on the coffee table with a tray of blanched peaches (to remove the skins), hot, just washed jars–though they cooled pretty quickly–a bowl for skins and pits, a cutting board and glass of water to stay hydrated. Then I packed jars and watched, “Camp Rock” with the children. I am not enthused about Avril’s decision to be a rock star when she gets older. She insists that she wants to be married and a rock star, her brother said, “you can’t be married and be a rock star, you won’t have time.” I honestly don’t know where he picks some of this stuff up. Anyway it was more or less relaxing.

Within and hour I had 13 quarts ready to go in the canner.

After pealing, cutting and packing I put 2 TBSP of honey in each jar, boiled a big pot of water and poured the water over the peaches and honey making a kind of syrup. Then on with the lids and into the canner for 25 minutes.

I was planning on canning more but Proeun loves peaches for fresh eating so I had to save some for him. Some of those went in the fridge too. I can’t wait to have a walk-in cooler! We could have fresh fruit most of the winter with proper refrigeration. In any case my goal is completed with peaches. I plan to do up 24 quarts of pears. The nectarines were for fresh eating but I am not keeping up with them so I am looking for a nectarine salsa type recipe today. I did a similar raw pack with the nectarines last year but didn’t like them as well as the peaches. Then I’ll do something with the apples, maybe a little sauce, butter and baking apples.

I still only have 8 quarts of tomato sauce and 18 pints of diced tomatoes, mostly the weather, and plants but also a little bit of my time. Oh well at least we will have some fruit.