Monday, May 23, 2011

Country Festival

Over the weekend our small parish put on a country style spring festival. It was a blast.

We had a rat race, pie eating contest, balloon dart game, bean bag toss, fish pond, country store, barbecue, old fashioned sodas, potato sack race, cupcake bake off and more. In a parish with only about 15 families we have about 50 children, this was for them and to help pay down our parish hall we have been building. The kids had a blast and it brought back great memories of when I was a kid and we'd have a harvest festival every year at my church where I grew up. We raised a bunch of money and best of all us adults had a ton of fun.

It amazes me that in such a small community like ours how much talent you have packed into such a small space. I don't know if it's because of where we live or what, but it's there. Almost everyone is self employed, me included. My husband works for a larger company to pay our bills, but here is the talent in our parish. We have 3 contractors who have or have had their own business. A cleaning business. A bakery. An auto body shop. A new mechanic shop (across the street from me, how awesome is that?!). A candle making business. An artist who teaches (and did face painting). A pilot/airplane mechanic. A music teacher (many instruments). An electrician. A plumber. A science and English teacher couple. A mailbox business. An upcoming assisted living home mainly to house a fellow in our parish. Some very creative minds who organized our event. Two nurses. Computer programmer/repairman. Multiple hunters. Multiple talented homeschool/regular moms who sew/knit and or also have small homesteads, garden, animals, etc. Many of the men have regular 9-5 jobs to support their family, but share their talent where and when it's needed. This does not even include the various friends that live around me who have talents of their own but don't attend our parish, but still share their talents when needed. This place attracts a certain type and I have yet to figure it out or put my finger on it. We love Alaska and we love our church and we love each other. We have made a strong bond and have had many trials to test that bond. Because of that it's made us stronger.

Country Jane, enjoying country life

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

See ya, it's spring

Alaskans envy those warm climates during our cold winters, but in reality, I think we enjoy the long break... But let me tell you, once summer hits, we're going 24x7 and don't know how to rest 'till the snow flies.

I've been with a sick family, then outside working on the fencing and garden for a week or so. Someone I know took the time to write (what I think) is a great post on his blog and I thought I'd share.

Curmudgeon With a Gun


Country Jane, busy as a bee

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Picking up where I left off

Today my "friend" reminded me how much I adore quilting. I used to be an avid quilter and would make many small or a couple large during the winters. The last few, however, are full of schooling children, blogging and keeping up with my business.

The rain was currently falling and what a better project to work on than an unfinished quilt? I long to go out and work on the fence this time of year but the kids are still finishing up school, getting chores done, and dinner has to be made. My free afternoons, however, have been getting rained out!

my new passion with quilting is to try to put a dent into my huge fabric collection and to not buy new fabric, blue won with the most inventory so it was next on the list

put the pieces together to see what I got

decided to make it bigger so I spread out

photo of our neighbors and our mountains courtesy of my daughter
 By the time I sorted through my other things and decided what to work on the sun had re-appeared and was perfect for fence building...but too late. Sewing is spread out, son is still working on school and so I'm hooked for the evening.

Country Jane, content

On organizing sewing projects

Someone inspired me today to pull out an old project, but in looking I found the others that are waiting for the day that they are more important or more fun. It's probably a no-brainer to everyone out there but I hate to stop working on a sewing project and then toss it to the wolves (aka a bin full of other junk). It makes it so un-appealing to get something back out again to work on it. You forget what you were doing, what measurements you needed, where are those instructions? Why is it so dusty? Where's the rest of the fabric?

top left: fabric that I like I've already made a purse from, top middle: a quilt started by my great great grandmother I need some embroidery work done before I can finish, right: a denim circle quilt with the coffee can lid template and instructions for when I get more jeans to cut up

a picnic basket that I use to hold fabric my mother gave me and has been an ongoing hand quilting project for the kids to have something to do when I'm sewing...should be a nice lap quilt some day
My favorite sewing storage bags are the ones you get sheets and curtains in at the store. They sometimes have a label holder even. To me the better looking it is in that package the more likely I'll get it out later to work on it. I keep them (the ones that didn't escape to "that safe place" land) inside a nice large box/basket that sits patiently in my living room.

Country Jane, sewing

Thursday, May 5, 2011

True Dat

This is my new motto. Thanks to Curmudgeon and Arctic Patriot for loaning it to me for a while.

Country Jane, choleric

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rural Revolution

Just a quick thanks to Rural Revolution for posting the entry I submited for the Safecastle Freedom Award. I submited an esay titled Baby Steps. I'll post it here if you want to read it.

Rural Revolution has been a great blog to read this last year since I started my quest for the perfect blog. She is a good writer and has much good information and I happen to agree with her most of the time.


Baby Steps

I wrote about my baby steps on my blog last year and got a “silly face” from my girl friend who I grew up with but now lives in Chicago. She teased me that my baby steps were pretty gigantic, but now in retrospect, I realize that we have different goals so mine seem gigantic to someone not aiming for the life that I am.

When I married my husband I was totally un-educated. What I mean by that is I didn’t know a thing about critical thinking or a world beyond the TV and public schools. In order to marry him he asked me to agree to 3 things. Number one, to be willing to be a pastors wife…eeek really? Um ok.(disclaimer, he’s not a pastor but has always had the desire to be one) Number two, to NOT have a career and stay home with any children that we had …eeek, am I dreaming?! yes please! Number three, to Homeschool our children…what the what?? I had NEVER considered this before. I KNEW I had hated public school. I KNEW I did not learn much at all and it sucked the life out of me. “Ok.” I said.

After a few years of marriage I learned some other things. We don’t take public assistance, no matter what. I had a hard time with this, but my husband held fast even through very trying and poor times. It was his job to provide for his family and that he did. We didn’t (and still don’t) take the many programs that are practically pushed down your throat. Public health care for pregnant women and children. Public food assistance for them as well. Public funding for homeschool with just a few (a lot) of strings attached. And those are just the ones that I personally was very tempted with. I won’t go into all the reasons why he said no, most who read this will understand already and those that don’t might never.

We will own guns. I had a hard time with this too. I didn’t understand the need. My father never seemed to care if he had one or not (he did) and never taught us kids to use it. The statement “Slaves don’t own guns, Free people do.” rings so clear to me today. Though I loved my childhood and the innocence that my parents let me have, we were slaves. We have that freedom and we NEED to exercise it for many different reasons. I am now, finally, at the place where I feel comfortable, not weird and now almost naked with out my side arm.

We will let God decide how many children we have. This was always something I desired too. I could not imagine what number would be perfect. So far at 6, it’s great, but the kids really want a baby for Christmas, hehe.

I never really liked gardening. In fact I was actually mad when 2 people got us plants for our wedding gifts. My mother never had a garden and the thought never crossed my mind…that’s what the produce section is for, right? My husband and I lived above a garage in a cute little apartment for four years. My mentor (the woman of the house) gave me a garden spot to grow my produce and flowers. Her husband would fertilize it for me even, with their rabbit manure (how gross I thought). She wouldn’t really take no for an answer and gave me all my starts and I enjoyed my teensy garden and keeping her company that first summer. I was hooked.

More children leads to more things needed for them all to do occupy themselves with. I knew I didn’t want my children playing lots of video games. I was blessed with a space-cadet animal lover for a first daughter. She still asks us for new animals every week. In reality it was Martha Stewart’s beautiful eggs her hens produced. The green eggs stuck me and I had to have them. So I needed a coop and some chickens because you just can’t buy green eggs at the store, so we got them. (we don’t even watch TV anymore, but thanks Martha)

Now my chicken coop is in between two fenced in runs, the chickens get one side one year and the garden the other, and then they trade. This way I don’t have to collect and then spread the rich manure, they do it for me.

My daughter has wanted a horse since she could talk, been obsessed. I, of course, wanted to fulfill her dream because it’s the one animal I had also always wanted. Well, my mom promising that when I grew up I could get my own horse wasn’t such a great idea because she forgot to ask my husband. We have the space, but who has the money to buy all that hay? (Especially in Alaska, ouch!) My daughter also discovered she liked goats and has been nagging about horses and goats for quite a while, so I’d started collecting 6’ high dog run fence panels off Craigslist because I’d heard they make good goat fencing. Last year I was picking up my third load of free goat manure and I finally asked the lady how it was to keep goats. She told me how simple their housing was even in the cold and what they ate and gave me a phone number of a local reputable breeder. 2 months later we had 2 newly freshened Nubian does giving us 2 gallons of milk a day being milked by my animal crazed daughter who loves (almost) every minute.

Now that goats were off my mind, my mind wandered to food storage. I realized that I would love to have a “mini store” in my garage so that I didn’t have to run to the grocery store if I ran out of spaghetti sauce…so I bought 3 cases and thus began my food storing. In about 8 months I have a years worth of many of the dry goods. I’m not finished but happy with the start.

All of these baby steps might be huge for someone with 1.2 children living in the city. But for me it’s just the beginning to the life that I want us and my children to lead. I know that I’m naturally lazy (day to day sort) and all of these things from homeschooling to goats to fence building gets me off my butt. I love the feeling of accomplishment after a long day. I also never realized how much my kids, er children, would actually enjoy their hard work until one night we were having a little feast in the kitchen. My son pointed out, “look, all of the food we’re eating we made ourselves.” He was right. It was smoked salmon, goat cheese, hard boiled eggs, caribou jerky, goat milk and ptarmigan nuggets. The best feeling came over me when my husband beamed at his family.

Whether or not my children decide to live this way, we know we have done right by them to teach them these basic things that nobody knows how to do any longer. We are always learning and taking new steps. At this moment we have eggs chirping ready to hatch, a goat ready to kid and bees in their way to us. What more excitement could you ask for?

Our baby steps have led us not to an easy life, but a very rewarding and happy one.

Country Jane, learning to walk

Goat business

I am slowly learning about the goat business around here.

We had 3 bucklings about two weeks ago and last Friday I took them out the the farm where I purchased my two does last year.

While we were chatting she said, "oh, not now!" and ran to her doe's fencing and jumped right over, I couldn't see that behind the straw pile was a LaMancha doe laying down pushing out a kid. She delivered 2 healthy kids (boy and girl) and took them into her barn to get dried off.

Down to business, we collected my bucklings, she looked at their legs, how they stood apart, what one might be best for breeding, etc, but over all she liked all three. She took them into the barn where she had the dis-budding iron on and proceeded to curl them up under her hold their head and burn around their little horns. Let me just say, "OH MY GOSH!!!" My daughter (12) sat right behind her while I freakishly peered over the stall door in anguish. The smell, wow, burnt fur and flesh. They scream. It's pretty hard. But after the 3rd one was done, I realized I would have to and probably could do this. My daughter helped her after that with 2 or 3 more while I pretended to be doing something important with my children at the car.

Disbudding sounds horrible, and is, but from what I have read it saves much heartache from goats getting heads stuck and dying, mamas killing babies, and owners getting nailed. Most breeders up here disbud and won't buy horned goats, so that's what I will do too.

Onto tattoos. Ugh. Messy and again, PAINFUL. She's such a pro. She gave them each a tetanus shot then we pasted their long ears with green ink and POP went the tattoo puncher. She got the 3 letters into each of their ears when my daughter casually said, "Mrs. B your daughter just delivered a kid." She looked up and looked at what we were doing. I said, "go, we can finish later!" and I put the sad boys back into the kennel and went to check out the action.

She had the doe on her back with both hands inside. It took some non spermicidal jelly and a cigarette, but she and her children put the doe up onto the cable spool "table" and she proceeded to push the second kid back inside because it was all discombobulated and finally pulled it out holding it's head straight with her hand. Poor thing. It wasn't dead even though the sack had been broken for a while at that point. She put mom and 2 babies in their own private stall so she could rest and lick her kids.

We finished the tattoos, discussed what buck I might want to purchase for myself, dicussed what I should sell my bucks for and finally headed home.

I have chosen the route of purchasing good pedigree goats, ie more expensive. I only do this because it makes sense to my pocket book. First of all the place I have gotten them herd tests for disease every year, she has about 100 goats...that's a lot of blood draws. With a clean herd you have to expect to pay more, herd testing is time and money but the knowledge for you and your customers that you have a clean product. I know that "cheap" goats can produce fine milk but I also know that if I pay one or two hundred dollars more up front I can charge more for my kids AND I'm breeding for good milk production. (Some breed for color, some for size, etc.) If I spend $1500 on hay and grain for two full sized does, I would prefer to give that food to goats that give me the maximum amount for my dollars. I will spend far more on feed than I will on purchasing goats, so I'd better make it count.

At this time my bucks are up for sale and my asking price for just one of them is the same as what I paid for my doe. I may not sell even one, so they may be Easter roasting goats next year. It would be a pity, but such is the way things go.

Country Jane, headed to get more hay