Herb Series 3: Blue Vervain

Homesteading

*Sorry for the delayed post in the herb series. We were having computer issues and I was unable to get onto the blog*

Today I’m talking about a lesser known healing herb. If you are a Vampire Diaries fan you may know it as the herb used to harm vampires. ;). Aside from it’s fantasy uses Blue Vervain has many real-life medicinal uses.

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Verbena hastata and officinalis, Verbena, Common Verbena, Common Vervain, Eisenkraut, European Vervain, Herb of Grace, Herb of the Cross, Holy wort, Juno’s Tears, Pigeon weed, Simpler’s Joy, Turkey Grass, Swamp Vervain, Mosquito Plant, and Wild Hyssop.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“The blue vervain or verbena is a creeping perennial of the mint family, bearing numerous, small lilac-blue flowers. Verbena hastata is native to North America and is incredibly similar in appearance and properties to its European cousin Verbena officinalis, whom it is often mistaken for. It grows with wild abandon in the Great Plains section of America, and can be found elsewhere on prairies, in meadows, and open woodlands. The Dakota tribe’s name for it translates as “medicine”.”

Vervain has traditionally been used to promote overall balance of body and mind. It has been used to treat a wide variety of imbalances including colds, coughs, flus, congestion, headache/migraine, liver imbalances, nerve and back pain, arthritis and depression, stress and anxiety. Vervain’s healing properties are attributed primarily to it’s bitter and stimulating effect on the liver and other organs as well as it’s relaxing of the nervous system. It is particularly useful as a pain reliever for joint pain, earaches and headaches. Blue Vervain has been used to treat colds, coughs, sore throat and as an expectorant for things such as chest congestion and bronchitis. James A. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases (www.ars-grin.gov/duke/) list more than fifty medical conditions for which vervain has been used traditionally, but it has never been proven. The above ground parts of the plants are gathered for use to make tea, tinctures, syrups, soaks, salves and creams.

As with all natural remedies and medicine there are risks and warnings associated with Blue Vervain. Consult a doctor and/or do your own research before consuming/using it to treat any condition.

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Herb Series 2: Echinacea

Homesteading

With all the sickness going around my friends and family I thought I’d choose Echinacea or Purple Coneflower next. Besides being Stunningly (is that a word?:P) beautiful, this little plant is definitely beneficial in the medicinal garden. I must admit I don’t know if I am more excited about growing this for the properties or for the pretty blooms.

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Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea pallida, Echinacea angustifolia, Coneflower, Snakeroot, Purple Coneflower, and Blacksamson.

Mountain Rose Herbs says:

“Echinacea is a hardy perennial that is indigenous to Canada and the United States, specifically concentrated around Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. The flower has a distinct shape with a large central disk that is covered in awns. In reference to its distinctive shape, its name is derived from a Greek word meaning “sea urchin.” The flowers are often cultivated for ornamental use, and should be planted in loose, sandy soil.

Echinacea is one of the most popular herbal medicines available, with American and German sales valued yearly at over one-hundred million dollars. The plant was historically used by early Native Americans and became known to popular medicine after the settling of the prairie states in the 1800s. By the 1880s, the popularity of Echinacea had grown, and it was marketed for a variety of ailments by Dr. H. C. F. Meyer.”

Echinacea is widely used to fight infections most commonly the cold and other upper respiratory infections. Sometimes it is taken at the first sign of sickness and other times it is used to treat symptoms of a further progressed illness. I found contradicting evidence as to whether or not Echinacea is effective at preventing a cold or just treating symptoms. We will just have to try and find out!

In addition to treating the common cold Echinacea has been used to treat a variety of other infections such as the flu, urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, genital herpes, bloodstream infections (septicemia), gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections, connective tissue disorders, lupus, syphilis, typhoid, malaria, and diphtheria.

The immune stimulant property come from Echinacea’s complex sugars, Polysaccharides and Echinaceoside. According to Nutritional Herbology:

“The proven actions of Echinacea are due to water-soluble polysaccharides. They act by sequestering the attacks of various microbes and allow the body to heal itself. Upon reaching an infected area, the polysaccharides have an immunostimulant effect, which results in the production of leucocytes (white blood cells). The resulting phagocytic action of the leucocytes effectively eradicates a number of infectious organisms.”

In addition to it’s powerful internal immune stimulating effects it has also been used externally to treat wounds, skin infections, psoriasis, acne, eczema, inflammatory skin conditions and aid in skin regeneration.

The top portions of the plant can be used to make juice, infusions, teas and tinctures while the root is used in the same way as well as being cut or powdered to be used in capsule form.

As with all natural remedies and medicine there are risks and warnings associated with Echinacea. Consult a doctor and/or do your own research before consuming it to treat any condition.

*S

Herb Series 1: Oregano

Homesteading

I thought I’d share with you my favorite medicinal/culinary herbs that we are working on growing here at the Johnson homestead.

First up: Oregano.

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Origanum vulgare, Common and Wild Marjoram, Greek Oregano and Winter Oregano.

It’s most popular in it’s culinary uses, especially in Italian and Greek cuisine. It goes particularly well with tomato based dishes. Over here I use it in everything..soup, stew, when roasting meat or a chicken, almost every crock pot dish and even sometimes with my eggs.

Mountain Rose Herbs describes it as:

“Oregano is a warm and aromatic yet slightly bitter herb in the mint family. Good quality oregano has a pungency that numbs the tongue. The best quality oregano is grown in a warm, dry climate. The name is derived from the Greek, meaning “mountain of joy”. Sunlight encourages the concentration of the essential oils that give oregano its flavor. Two other herbs are used in the same ways as common oregano but have different culinary and medicinal properties. Mexican oregano is a plant in the verbena family that has an even stronger flavor, while marjoram is a closely related plant that lacks oregano’s essential oil and has a different, gentler “mouth feel.”

While most people are only familiar with Oregano as a kitchen spice it has surprising health benefits. Perhaps the most remarkable is it’s powerful antibacterial properties thanks to it’s two oils thymol and carvacrol. Oregano is found to be antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiseptic, immune stimulating and antiviral.

Oregano is popular in the Natural healing community but is starting to get attention in mainstream medicine as well. While studies are still being done Oregano has been found to show antibacterial and healing properties against E. Coli, Salmonella, vaginal infections, candida, aspergillus mold, staph infections, listeria and pathogenic germs. Some studies suggest it is as effective as mainstream antibiotics in killing germs and bacteria. Mark’s Daily Apple states :In fact, researchers recently discovered that oregano is a better treatment for giardia than the prescription drug commonly prescribed to treat the illness. Pretty Impressive! Good to have on hand in cases where you might have consumed contaminated drinking water. 😛

 Oregano is also packed with healthy Omega-3’s, Iron, manganese, Vitamin K, fiber and antioxidants making it great for all around health.

While the fresh or dried herb can be used, oregano essential oil comes in handy as well. I’ve heard of it being used to boost the immune system internally when sick, being used topically for things like athletes foot and ringworm as well as using as a mixture with water to spray on trees suffering from fungus/mold issues.

We plan on keeping the essential oil on hand as well as using the herb we grow to makes teas, tinctures,sprays, salves…you name it.

Keep in mind I’m not a doctor, I’m just sharing things I’ve found in our journey to become more self-sufficient. Oregano/Oregano oil does need proper dilution when being used medicinally and is not considered safe under certain circumstances such as pregnancy. Consult a health practitioner before self medicating 😉

*S

Goodbye 2014 and Hello 2015

Uncategorized

While most people have already reviewed their 2014 year..I as usual am late to the party. Chris has been sick in bed since the weekend and both of us have been up most nights, him coughing and I listening to the coughing and keeping the fire going. We did however sit down and reflect on our past year. 2014 was quite a busy year for us…neither one of us remember another year in our lives that we did so much.

Year 2014

-We decided we were going to take the plunge and move to the Pacific Northwest.

-Chris left his 9-5 office job and took a position working remotely.

-We put our suburban home in Indiana on the market, deciding to sell it ourselves rather than use a realtor.

-Chris traveled to Iowa.

-Started this blog 🙂

-Started working with a realtor in the Washington area to find our next home.

-Proceeded to show the house for 2-3 months, sell and donate 1/2 of our material possessions including our 2nd car.

-Chris traveled to Texas twice.

-Sold our house..packed ourselves..our things..and Darci into a U-haul and made our voyage across the country with no home waiting for us.

-Rented a small studio townhome for 2 months while house hunting for the perfect land.

-Fired our realtor.

-Both Chris and I went to Texas.

-Finally found a home, which came with a whole new set of stresses.

-Chris went to Texas again.

-Inherited a giant 2nd dog.

-Celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary.

-Moved in and immediately got a flock of chickens.

– Cleaned up the property and started making plans for our homestead.

-Tested out a small herd of troublesome goats for 2 months.

-Chris went again to Texas.

-Embarked on the journey that was collecting and prepping firewood for winter. A complete project all on it’s own.

-Starting winterizing the house and out buildings.

-Built a chicken tractor and dog house.

– We joined a new congregation and made some great new friends.

-Chris went hunting and got our first deer ever!

-Chris traveled to Kansas City.

– Our clothes washer, water heater and fridge all broke and had to be replaced..within weeks of eachother.

-Kept working on the house. (a project that is still on going.)

-Tried to get in hiking, camping and fishing trips but found little time.

-I battled sickness almost the entire time we have been in our new home, including a fun e. coli infection!

– The work is still continuing.

Get the picture? Things were crazyness for us. In a good way. We did so much and accomplished so many things we weren’t sure we ever would. 2014 was a fulfilling and blessed year for us. We learned so much about our visions for the future and did something most people only dream of doing. We are so grateful to have had the opportunities we did and can’t wait for the next 50 years of crazy busyness. 2015 is really going to be the year of getting our little homestead up and running. We are excited to share the things to come with you!

Uneventful Winter

Homesteading

I’m disappointed. I was promised snow here in the Pacific Northwest & here we are December 22nd, and it’s bloody sunny and dry. Agh. It isn’t feeling like winter. It’s just cold enough that the house is drafty but not cold enough that we want to start a fire in the stove until the evening. My visions of curling up next to the wood burning stove with yarn and homesteading books while watching the snow fall all winter are put on hold. Oh well.

I can’t say things have been very eventful here on the Johnson homestead. We are focusing on fixing up the inside of our house but nothing has begun yet. I’m mostly reading before Spring comes and we are planning the garden, beehives, duck coop, rabbit hutches and the 800 other things we have planned for May…but it’s all planning and plotting.

Uncle Jim & Aunt Janet have been sending us some goodies though…

They sent us a BUNCH of heirloom seeds from their garden.

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We got Serrano Chili Pepper, Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (Aunt Janet said these made the best pumpkin pie they’ve had), Green Pea, Virginia Gourdseed Corn, Anna Swartz Hubbard Squash, Dill (they know I just love fresh Dill), Purple Top White Globe Turnip, Table Queen Squash, Cucumber, Vermont Cranberry Dry Bean, Detroit Dark Red Beet & Provider Green Bean.

We got so spoiled by them 🙂 🙂

We are super excited to see if the varieties they use in Indiana will do okay out here!

I’ve started (by started I mean I’ve glanced through the catalogs) planning what heirloom seeds we need to purchase now in addition to the ones that were gifted to us. Along with that Chris and I have been considering the benefits of raised bed gardening. Uncle Jim & Aunt Janet also sent us a book on Straw bale gardening so that,along with seed catalogs, have taken over my dining room table.

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I’m pleased to share that my culinary/medicinal herbs that I started indoors are doing well. Yay!

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I am growing

Thyme, Basil, Oregano, Dill, Parsley, Rosemary, Peppermint, Chamomile. Calendula, Wood Betony, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Echinacea and Plantain. There are a few more that I plan to add but I’ve got a small start. I’m going to do a little herb profile post so you can read all about what I’m growing.

Hopefully I have more for you soon.

🙂

How we broke our broody hen

Homesteading

Hello there!

I apologize for being gone for so so long. I came down with a nasty infection and was bed ridden for 2 weeks. I haven’t thought about anything to do with homesteading or the blog or anything except for sleep…and food…I missed food. But I am back among the living now. yay.

The other day Chris and I noticed our little black bantam was in the nesting box…often. I brushed it off thinking there was no way a hen would go broody at this time of year! Well she did and she meant business.

When chickens lay eggs they release a hormone that ceases as soon as she is finished. Well sometimes the hormone continues to be released and you end up with a broody hen. What is a broody hen? She is a hen that decides she needs to hatch out some baby chicks. A broody hen will sit on any eggs she can and sit and sit and sit and sit. They basically sit on these eggs day and night for 21 days until they hatch. Normally, we would be thrilled to hatch out some chicks but don’t think these cold winter months are the appropriate time for little ones.

Aside from her becoming incredibly aggressive and territorial…the hen will sit on these eggs to the detriment of her own health. They rarely get up to eat, drink and relieve themselves…and they put all of their energy into taking care of these eggs. This leads to weight loss, vulnerability to parasites and sickness and often a malnourished hen. The hen will also start plucking her own breast feathers in order to ensure all of her body heat goes to keeping the eggs warm. Oh and they also stop laying eggs for you during this process and sometimes it can take up to 8 weeks for them to begin laying again.

We just got our girls consistently laying and this particular hen happens to be the one that ALWAYS gives us an egg. We didn’t want to risk her health so we knew it was time to break her. A lot of different resources will tell you different methods. Basically the hens breast and underside needs to be cooled down. We read that removing her from the nest box multiple times a day will break her but that seemed unreliable and very stressful for her. We did remove her a few times to take eggs out from underneath her and clean the coop but that was all and she was very stressed…screaming and flapping and pecking our hands. It just didn’t seem healthy to do that to her repeatedly. So we did some research and read about a broody box.

A broody box is usually a little cage or pen with a wire bottom that you put a broody girl in for a “time out”..sort of. You place the cage/pen up off the ground in a well lit place with food and water and leave her in there. The idea behind the wire bottom is that broody hens want a nice soft, comfortable, dark and warm spot to nest in..a wire bottom cage is anything but that and it also allows air flow to get beneath her and cool her down. This essentially is supposed to break the broodiness. If you catch them in the first day or two it is only supposed to take about a day to break them, but the longer you let it go the longer it takes to break her. After giving the hen some time you should let her out with the rest of the flock and watch her behavior. If she goes back to normal daily routine she is broken…but if she high tails it back to the nesting box she needs more time out. So we used a rabbit cage that we have around and placed her inside of it in the coop with the light on. She made some fuss and let us know she wasn’t happy about it but stayed in there for a day. We decided to let her out and to our delight she joined back in with the rest of the flock. She roosted up on her perch at night rather than in the nesting box and today she foraged outside with the others. Woohoo for the broody box!

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Example of a broody box ^

Apparently her breed of chicken tends to go broody more often than not and they are supposed to make excellent mothers. We are hoping she goes broody again in Spring so we can hatch out some little chicks.

If you’ve ever had a broody hen we’d love to hear about methods you’ve tried that have worked 🙂

*S

More Winter Prepping

Homesteading

We are still doing winter prepping. I don’t think the winter prepping will be over, even after winter is gone. Our shed needs siding put up and yesterday both of us were in the crawl space putting down vapor barrier and insulation. Chris found a dead mouse. I don’t like it underneath there. Aside from all of that we have been finding time to enjoy the weather. We’ve gotten some more snow. Not much but enough to enjoy it.

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The dogs had a ball playing in it!

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And we decided to go walk around in it before meeting 🙂

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We’ve been taking a run at hunting grouse the past few days. Nothing yet…but I’m sure we will get one. Isn’t it funny how they seem to be everywhere when you aren’t looking for them, but once you are prepared to hunt them…they mysteriously disappear. So strange.

I also cooked our tenderloins from the deer we got. OMG…it’s our favorite meat ever. It was incredible. I found a recipe for Venison Steak Diane, which was pretty simple. It rocked our socks. The meat came out perfectly medium rare and oh so tender. Unfortunately a deer only has 2 tenderloins…and we ate them. We are hoping that the butterfly steaks I cut out of the back straps will be just as tasty.

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The pictures don’t do it justice. Now I’m hungry.

We are going to get some down time this week. We promised ourselves a movie day on Thursday. Just us..food..eggnog and Netflix. I can’t wait.

With the moving and buying a house and everything else I haven’t had time to knit in like 7 months. That makes me sad. I love knitting. With Winter approaching I feel like we don’t have nearly as many scarves as we should. Or knitted blankets. So I’ve pulled out my knitting things and have been trying to get at least 10 minutes a day in. I’m knitting Chris a scarf out of fisherman’s wool. Hopefully it’s warm…this winter seems like it will be a cold one.

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Look at me knitting in front of my wood burning stove. Such an old country lady at heart. hah.

 

The Best Homemade Mayo

Paleo/Primal

What is the best part of having fresh eggs daily from your own chickens? The delicious things you get to make with them of course! Chris and I are very particular about what eggs we will consume raw. We have nothing against eating raw eggs and in fact do so often, but it’s the quality of the eggs that decide for us. Pasture raised, fresh and local if possible is always best.  Luckily we now have a steady stream of eggs coming in that we know come from chickens that are raised the way we want them to be. So I’ve gotten to work creating fun things with these fresh eggs…starting with MAYO!

We are mayo fiends. Mayo addicts. Yes I know it sounds odd but we like us some mayo in this house. Currently in the fridge we have regular homemade mayo, homemade maple mayo, Sir Kensington’s brand chipotle mayo and wasabi mayo from Trader Joe’s. I know it sounds strange but just try it, it’s amazing…that is ditto for the Sir Kensington’s as well. Do it. You will be in taste bud paradise. As much as we like mayo..we are not fans of the horrible ingredients that go into it. Most of them are filled with soybean/vegetable/corn oil or a mix of more than one, sugar and the mysterious “natural flavorings”. Sir Kensington’s is the exception…the ingredients are not bad..but once you check out the price tag for a cute little jar you’ll be running to make your own mayo quick. When we are feeling a bad craving coming on we pop out the naughty wasabi mayo..enjoy and move on. You gotta live a little right?

Aside from the ingredients…

HOMEMADE MAYO TASTES BETTER…LIKE WAYYYYYYYY BETTER!

So much better it isn’t uncommon for Chris to catch me licking a spoon of it when making a fresh batch. Yes I told you…we have (mainly me) a problem. It is also so unbelievably simple there is no reason not to make it. Try it…tell me what you think!

HomeMade Mayo

Ingredients

  • 1 large pasture raised egg
  • 1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tsp. Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 Cup Avocado oil
  • Salt to taste if desired, warning, go easy on it…you can always add more later. I add maybe 1/2 a Tsp. to start.

What to do

  • Add your egg, Dijon Mustard, lemon juice and salt (if using) to your food processor. Give it a whirl just to blend those things up quickly. Then while your food processor is still running slowly add your avocado oil in one tablespoon at a time. You have to go slow or it won’t form. Keep doing this and you will see your mayo start to form in 5 minutes or less. Keep blending until it reaches your desired consistency.

That’s it! Can you believe it? And it will be the best mayo ever…

🙂

It snowed! Oh & we went deer hunting.

Homesteading

Yep…we got snow last night. Can you believe it? Now it isn’t a lot…and won’t stick around..but it snowed. We were pretty excited.

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Now we really need to finish our prep for winter. Today we will be chainsawing a downed tree to dry out for next winter’s wood pile.

This past weekend was a really good weekend. Definitely one to be thankful for. It started with getting some wood cut and stored for next winter. We don’t want to be scrambling next Fall like we did this year.

Then Chris decided to do some hunting, hoping to get a deer to put in the freezer for extra meat on hand just in case. Friday evening we had no luck. Then Saturday he decided to try again. Well he got one! His first deer. It went really well and he got as humane a shot as possible. The deer passed right away. I have been watching videos and reading on how to process your own deer. A lot of people take them to be processed but it costs at least $100, usually more. Plus I like the idea of knowing where the meat started and what all was done. So we took on the task of doing it ourselves. So after Chris got his shot…he came and got me. We got to work right away removing the entrails. If this is not done promptly the meat will start to spoil and rot. It was pretty dark by now so we hurried and brought it down to the barn.

I watched a video in which a hunter used a come-along to hang the deer he was processing. He had a fancy spreader for the legs but mentioned he used to use a board with 2 nails on each end and some string. So I made one of those while Chris set up the come-along. We used paracord and it ended up working out really well. You always hang deer head down. In order to hang the deer by the hind legs you make a slit in between their bone and the tendon that runs along the back of the leg, this is right below a major joint and supports the weight of the deer really well. You then slip your spreader or in our case, board, between the bone and tendon and it hangs. Here are some pictures of the come-along and make-shift spreader.

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You can see the way I explained slipping the board between the bone and tendon.

We did a lot of reading and couldn’t decide if we wanted to skin it and let it hang overnight or leave the skin on over night. We got conflicting answers but decided to go with leaving the skin on so the meat wouldn’t dry out. As long as the weather is cool enough (below 40 F) you can let the deer hang, some people will leave it for up to 3 days to let the meat cure!

We left it for the night since it was approaching midnight and hoped for the best. Bill sat outside the barn for the whole time so we knew he would keep critters away.

The next morning Chris made a delicious and quick breakfast. Eggs in a basket…his mom used to make them…thank you Jan! They are the most delicious things ever! Then we headed to the barn to get to work. It was pretty cold for the whole day which was great for the meat. We started with skinning then began quartering.

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The process took a few hours but I feel like we did pretty well. As we quartered we put all of the meat into a cooler then lugged it up to the house for me to de-bone and butcher. A lot of people don’t take the ribs or use the lower portion of the legs because the meat is “not very good”. We believe in using ALL of the animal so we took those parts and put them into portions for food for Darci and Bill. We also saved the organ meat and tongue for them as well. We are so glad we can find use for those things that might otherwise be wasted. We’ve got a TON of meat and bone for them now.

I spent the next few hours Trimming fat, cutting steaks, roasts, stew meat and making ground meat and packaging it into butcher paper for the freezer.

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I Learned how to cut roasts, thick cut steaks, butterfly steaks, tenderloins and back straps.

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Packing is NOT my strong suit…oh well does the trick.

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We picked up this manual meat grinder to make ground meat.

We ended up with a TON of meat and are planning on giving some to my friends that are having a rough time.

We are also going to try to tan the hide to keep and use. It is in the freezer and will be a project for this weekend.

I refrained from taking any pictures of the deer before it was almost completely processed. We do not believe in taking pictures of dead creatures especially “trophy” type pictures of animals we have hunted. Taking a life is not easy and we try to be as respectful of the process as possible.

In addition to the deer meat we were able to harvest, our chickens are finally getting settled and giving us a consistent and increasing number of eggs each day. In the past few days we have be fortunate enough to gather almost 2 dozen.

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We have put so much time and effort into making our hens comfortable and have been trying so hard to get everything just right. This was really so satisfying for us. As Chris said when he went in to collect eggs yesterday..” I was so happy I could kiss the chickens!” haha.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend. It really felt like we were finally settling into the lives of being homesteaders.

*S

Cultivating Gratefulness

Uncategorized

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a kind, warm and caring friend. She always invites me into her home, makes coffee and takes time out of her week to spend hours with me. During our visit, she opened up to me a little. Our conversation hit me like a ton of bricks. I take A LOT  for granted. And it’s not just me…but almost everyone at some point or another doesn’t stop to be thankful for something. I, like many others, find myself complaining and stressing about the little things rather than stopping to enjoy everything I have. I won’t deny it…we are all guilty of it at some point. I wake up healthy in a house too big, I have a closet full of clothes and a warm meal on the table every night. I have a husband that loves and provides for me, the bills are always paid and we have savings in the bank account. I don’t even think to stop and be grateful for that everyday. That’s not to say I am not thankful…because I am..but I often forget these things when my day goes rougher than I would like.

My dear friend struggles to make ends meet and has really been down on her luck…yet her and her family are grateful and humble. They devote much of their time and energy into others and are grateful for what they have. It’s really a beautiful thing.

I learned a lot from our short conversation and brought it back home to Chris. We both have been really focusing on how fortunate we are and how we want to give back.  We are choosing going forward to be more present and thankful each day. Too often we get caught up in the simple things and forget how lucky we are to be alive.

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I challenge you to be more present and grateful in your daily lives.

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