Eric has always been fascinated with woodworking. Though he’s always had most of his tools, he’s never really had the time until he retired. Since then, he’s been able to do quite a bit of different projects.

When we moved to Tennessee in 2012, we got everything we were looking for except for a shop. Eric has converted our good-sized two car garage into a workshop. And for now, my car still has a space. He has built shelving, a rack for all his wood and work areas. It actually functions quite well due to his impeccable use of space and organization. In California, I was amazed what he did with a one-car garage and I still had room to park my car.

The finished table

A trestle table built out of oak from our farm for my brother and sister-in-law.

Even though Eric doesn’t have the shop he’s always dreamed of, he’s made what he has a nice place for doing what he loves. I kind of look at it the same way, the kitchen doesn’t make the cook, the cook makes the kitchen.

Eric has repaired quite a few pieces of furniture in the past three years and has built a few nice pieces of furniture. People are actually starting to take note of it. In his shop now sits 4 pieces of beloved antiques from my friend’s brother and sister-in-law waiting for restoration. Eric looks at each piece carefully and does not rush through as to what the solution will be. He removes old glue and screws and tries his best to restore each piece as close to the original as possible. When it looks good and is able to function, people are pleasantly surprised.

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Before. A stool that was bought at Goodwill for $4.50.

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Repaired as if the missing piece had always been there.

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Glue up on an antique foot stool. Eric recreated the right front leg.

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I don’t have a before pic, but this cabinet was completely falling apart. It now functions perfectly.

I have to admit, most of the projects I’ve asked Eric to build have been Pottery Barn knockoffs. I can see him rolling his eyes every time I ask. Now that he has his fair share of projects going on, I don’t dare ask for a “honey build this” project. I just hope that one day he’ll finish the outdoor furniture I asked him to build last year.

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This is a Pottery Barn knockoff I had Eric build. I just love it!

Maintenance on a 32 acre farm has been a challenge, but in between that, Eric always seem to make time for projects. He’s also had to learn to slow down and not have the same expectations he once had, like trying to finish a project in a set amount of time. After all, he isn’t in a hurry anymore. He can take the time to do some really quality pieces.

 


I just love bartering works. I never really experienced it till we moved here from California in 2012. It’s a mutual thing. You have a need and someone can provide that need. In turn, you provide something the other person needs. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. People do that a lot here; services for goods, goods for services, services for services or goods for goods. I thought it was a lost art, but it’s very much alive here.

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We have a friend that will cut the grass from our pastures and bale the hay (here they call it bush hogging). He takes a large portion of the bales for his labor and leaves us with a couple for the winter so we won’t buy hay for our horses. It’s beautiful thing. Eric likes that he doesn’t have to kill himself bush hogging all 32 acres. Before our friend came, Eric got ahead of himself and bush hogged about 16 of our acreage. Our friend informed us that he could still bale the cut hay.

Then there’s just the good nature of people here. Take for example, my friend calls Eric and tells him she’s got a friend who’s building a cabin and needs to get rid of some cut timbers. If he hauls it, he can have it for free. There were some large timbers of birch, oak, ash and sycamore. Eric loves to get his hands on this kind of wood so he can make his own lumber. When someone does this kind of thing,  we usually reward them in some way, like making them a handmade gift out of the wood.

Another thing I love here is that people are willing to share their plants. I almost never have to buy plants anymore because people always give me their extras. I love the benefit of looking in my garden and lovingly remembering who gave me what. I find myself doing same thing now. It’s mutual respect thing.

People share information willingly here as well. Who needs a telephone book here? Our friends and neighbors always know someone who can provide a service of some sort. I find myself offering up information now too.

Even though this isn’t really a barter, I find that the Amish great resource here for lumber, firewood, bee hive equipment, fruits & vegetables and baskets which are all reasonably priced.

Most people think that it’s culture shock to move from the city to the country, but I love how the simpler things have actually made our lives easier.

 

 

 


A Simpler Life

10May16

Have you ever thought about going green? I’ve been pondering it for awhile now and I think it’s time. I’m just sorry I haven’t done it sooner.

I’ve never really been a fan of powerful cleaners or anti-bacterial soaps anyway. I really can’t stand the smell of them. Instead of Windex, I use a reusable cloth meant for windows with water and it does a good job with no streaks. (It almost looks like a chamois cloth.) Vinegar is a great degreaser that I use around my stove. I’ve still got to convert to a product for wood and tile floors, but I’m almost there. When I find the right solution I will convert.

Making natural biodegradable soaps really interested me so today I made a liquid Castile soap. It’s a base for making other cleaners. Here’s the instructions I used.

If you haven’t seen Wellness Mama’s site, she has some wonderful recipes for cleaners, makeup and skincare. Mommy Potamus is another great resource. Natural ingredients to keep on hand are: Castile soap, baking soda, your favorite essential oils, vinegar and lemon. I’m looking into alternatives for borax. Though I’ve seen it recommended on several sites, I am not convinced it is safe.

I’m revamping my makeup, shampoo and moisturizers too. There are some awful toxic, endocrine disrupters in makeup and skin care products as well as cleaning products. Since I’ve had thyroid issues, I really want to make sure I’m not making matters worse. Look up your products on EWG’s (the Environmental Working Group) Skindeep database and you’ll see how toxic some of those products you’re using are. It will show you ratings based on their toxicity.

I’m finally getting back to composting my kitchen scraps. What stopped me before is that the compost pile was near the barn which is about 500 yards from the house. Thankfully, our composter is now in close proximity. When you’re on a 32 acre farm, it makes a big difference! I want to be successful, so it’s got to be easy.

Giving up plastic is another thing I’m working on. Some people think they’ve got to get rid of all their plastic and start from scratch. That would be a waste and it just adds to the problem. If you’ve got it, use it. Just don’t buy any more of it. This subject is one that will really make you think. When you buy, avoid processed foods (all food that are not made from scratch)…That’s where all the packaging is. Consider buying bulk from bulk bins. Bring your own natural bags or reusable containers. There are plenty of bulk stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods and Earth Fare. It’s a hike for me, but if it’s just once a month, so it’s worth it. Check out the Plastic Pollution Coalition for some great info. on getting plastic out of your life. Jeff Bridges speaks on plastic.

I bought some canvas bags for groceries and netted bags for produce. I can’t believe Tennessee hasn’t gone plastic bag free at their grocery stores but I’m going to do it anyway. I bought 10 canvas grocery bags, 2 large canvas shopping bag and 20 netted bags.

I invested in a stainless steel safety shaver and did away with buying disposable plastic shavers.

I used to thaw my meat out in plastic bags in hot water in my sink. Here is my new solution. 1 stainless steel bowl, 1 stock pot filled with hot water and 1 lid.

My goal is to take advantage of reusable things like glass jars and containers. I already have lots of them. In my pantry I save glass and plastic jars for reuse.

I’ve found a really nice instruction for making food wrap or sandwich bags out of cotton fabric and bee’s wax or wax. It’s really easy. Here are mine. They smell so good.

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What really bothers me is there are so many products now for going green. I am choosing not to go this route because I think the whole point of going green is becoming more self-sufficient, getting creative and using what you have. This way, I feel like I’m part of the solution.

It’s always bothered me how we pillage our land and don’t give back. In fact, we live more complicated lives than our great grandparents. I want to get back to a time when we didn’t require so much. This also makes sense when you’re retired. Having a set income makes you think about those kinds of things.

Being a good steward to the earth also means impressing upon others to think about their impact on it. If we don’t influence our kids or grand kids, who will? I think in terms of making sure there’s a world for everyone.

We all have to do our part. I am not perfect. I know I have a long way to go, but it’s too important to wait. We all need to act now. “Living sustainably is not a hippie thing. Killing the world = killing ourselves.” Spirit Science


I’ve decided to make my own biodegradable soap. In case I haven’t said so, I’ve been wanting to make all natural liquid soaps for the house for some time now. I’m disgusted by all the chemicals and hidden ingredients in most products.  I love that I get to control what’s in it.

I’ve invited my friend, Sandi here to join me to make two batches (1 for her and 1 for me) of liquid Castile soap.

You need a base soap like Castile, in order to make different liquid soap variations like dish washing liquid, liquid hand soap, dishwasher liquid soap, liquid laundry detergent, shower gel, shaving cream, pet shampoo or bubble bath. I will be storing them in glass jars and will repurpose plastic pumps I’ve saved.

Though I could probably buy Bonner’s Castile Soap for about $16 for 32 oz., I could make a gallon (128 oz.) of homemade Castile soap for $30 or less.

Here’s all the supplies I either had to get or had on hand:

NOTE: Do not reuse wooden spoon, plastic utensils or immersion blender ever again after using it for soap making.

  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • A slotted spoon
  • Wooden spoon
  • Glass measuring cup or bowl, 2 quart
  • Glass measuring cup, 2 cup
  • Scale (I bought a digital scale)
  • A crock pot – 6 qt. minimum
  • Immersion stick blender (a cheappie you can dedicate to soap making)
  • Plastic table cloth to keep your work area clean
  • Glass jug, 1 gallon (to store your new soap) and 1 glass pint jar. It’s a little over 1 gallon.

Here’s the ingredients I used:

  • Olive oil, 24 oz.
  • Coconut oil, 16 oz.
  • Potassium Hydroxide Caustic Potash KOH Flakes, 9.35 oz. (comes in a 2 lb bottle)
  • Distilled or filtered water, 1 gallon

We’ve decided to do this outside because of the fumes from the lye. However, after doing it, we were glad it was outside. Batch one boiled over a bit. When they say pour slow, they mean very slow!!!

We cooked batch 1 in a stainless steel pot. Batch 2, we cooked in the crock pot. Batch 2 took all day. We were done with batch 1 after 4 hours. Batch one is the one in the bottle. It turned out good. It’s thinner than you think of for liquid soap.

 


We did a visual check this week on the progress of our hives. Here are a few photos. The girls are filling up the frames up and there’s a few cells with cap brood going on (bee larvae). The black & gray cells are pollen. The golden cells are honey. The first 3 frames are the fullest of the 10.

The Queen at bottom right side of knife

The Queen at bottom right side of knife from Hive #1. Click on photo to see it enlarged.

So far, we’ve had good success with examining the hives. The best time of day seems to be at dusk. Eric goes very slowly. I almost find that we really don’t need our bee suits, but it’s just a level of precaution. If you were stung in the eye, you could loose your eyesight.

The first hive looks really healthy, but the other hive is smaller and not so active. Hopefully in another week or two, the second hive will do better.

We are still learning, but so far, we are really encouraged.


We looked forward to getting our bees.

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Our bee boxes were set up and ready earlier this week.

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Inside the hive box. 10 frames inside the brood chamber which is where the bees will make honey and raise their young.

After the bees fill up 80% of the frames, we will put a honey super and put 10 more frames in.

When Eric picked up our bee packages, he went to a someone’s house that had bee hives. Bees were flying all over the place and he got stung on the tip of his finger. He’s lucky he didn’t have a reaction like he did when he was a kid. He didn’t bring his epipen!

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This is a package of bees. Eric brought our two packages (3 lbs each) home yesterday. It was so cool hearing them buzzing around in their screened packages. They actually smell good too!

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Liz lifts up one of the bee packages to see how heavy it is. It’s hard to believe it is 3 lbs of bees! Our dog Kona was very curious!

We joined a beekeepers club here and there’s a lot others just like us getting started. Another girl and her daughter, from our club, came up to watch us install the bees. She won the hive our club was giving away. She’s getting ready to purchase her bees soon, so this was really good for her to watch.

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We put out sugar water for the bees. It’s a 1:1 Spring solution of water and sugar, one for each hive. (Autumn/Winter solution is 1:2 water and sugar)

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This is the entrance of the hive.

This is Eric installing the bees.

Eric made a sugar station for the bees (below), aka “The Sugar Shack”. They are going through the sugar very quickly!

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The Sugar Shack

We will not be able to harvest our honey until a year from now, but I cannot wait. I can already tell we are going to love raising bees.


Signs of Life

27Mar16

This year wasn’t a bad winter. In fact, it was pretty mild. Every year I get a surprised when things start to come back to life when it looks like they won’t. You see, some perennials act like annuals here. I guess it’s too cold for them. So, I’m never sure when I plant a perennial if I’ll see it again the following spring.

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Lavender

The lavender survived the winter. I didn’t think it would since I’ve read that they don’t do well in Zone 7. Mine looks really healthy though. It might have been a hardier variety. The hardier ones are developed for colder climates.

Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller

My dusty miller actually survived and it has new growth. Note to myself for next year…Don’t dig them up. They’ll come back!

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage

A pineapple sage plant I planted after growing it in my bathroom all winter last year grew huge during the summer. All the stalks had died during the winter, but I found new growth underneath. Turns out, the person who gave me a cutting of this plant needs me to give them a cutting because their plant died!

Even my stevia has new growth.

Russian Sage

Russian Sage

Russian Sage and Mexican Sage are also coming back.

Eric threw a bunch of iris bulbs out by the treeline and they are growing now. Even though they only bloom once, I love it when they do. They are so vibrant. I had more bulbs, so I threw them out there too.

Tulip

Tulip

We have gladiolus, dutch irises, irises and tulips and they all have different blooming times. I’ve integrated them so we will have a full season of blooms.

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New Plum Tree

We brought home two new plum trees last week to add to our fruit tree grove of apples, pears and peaches.

We also planted strawberries and raspberries. Two years ago, we started blueberries and blackberries and the blackberries are real producers. We’re ot doing too well with the blueberries, so we fertilized them this year. Hopefully it helps. We started everbearing strawberries this year.

Each year, we plant less in our herb garden. I like that there’s some established plants in there now and each year we learn something new about the plants.




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