Thursday, May 31, 2012

Randomness From May

Homestead happenings....I wanted to move our new baby chicks into a secure area with their mama so that they would have a little more room.  The fencing for this pen is too big for baby chicks and I only had some odds and ends of chick wire, so I had Columbus cut the chick wire into two foot high strips.  Then I attached the chick wire to the fence with zip ties.  We ran out of chick wire, so I repurposed our old living room curtains by cutting them into strips and then having the kids weave them into the fence.  The chicks are still so small that they can get through the chick wire, but when they get a little bigger we will be all ready.

 My Man got some straw to spread on the garden and fruit plants. 
Raspberry Patch

Goodness from chickens.  This chicken yuck was aged, so I put it near Sugar Kings corn patch.

I ran out of straw before I got all of the garden done, but at least we got a start on it.

Unhooking the wood stove to put in the A/C. 

The picnic table in it's natural state of varying crafts.

JoJo loves Christmas all year round.  He got these little angles from a lady at a yard sale, brought them home, and put them in with some mint.

Happy the Beagle gets her nails painted.

The Rose starts to learn to ride a bike.

Cleo has been obsessing (she's 14, so when I say obsessing - I mean really, really obsessing) about getting a hammock.  I had a huge piece of fleece fabric that I picked up for next to nothing at a yard sale.  We finally found it in storage, so we attempted a homemade hammock.  It worked well - she slept in it the first night it went up.

And there was enough fabric left over for another hammock.

And three little capes.
Homemade BBQ sauce....once you make your own you'll never go back to store bought.

JoJo's Robot - made from a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl, egg basket and magnet letters.....I thought it was clever.

Like the title says - just some randomness from May.  I took Columbus to the Nashville airport today for his trip west to see my dad.  I hope that he makes many great memories this summer.  Yesterday, we attempted to butcher our meat birds, and I finally setup my RainSaucer freebie to test it out - so, posts on both of those things coming soon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stupid Questions Parents Ask

I took Columbus to the DMV today to get a picture I.D. since he will be boarding a plane in less than 48 hours.  I'm not so worried about getting him on the plane, but I do worry about my dad being able to get him back on one to come home.  I'm sure that my dad would be more than willing to keep his summertime buddy, but I want my boy back (already), and he hasn't even left yet.

While we sat and waited, and waited, and waited for our number to be called, we played hangman and tick-tac-toe and tried to tune out loud children either ignored by their parents, or loud children being scolded by their parents.  I left my younger crowd at home.  More out of selfishness than anything.  I wanted to spare myself the aggravation of dragging twin four year old house apes, boys who when left to their own devices tend to entertain themselves with what my dad always called grab ass, and girls who pick on each other for fun, to the DMV.  It's not always easy to pass off ten kids as civilized human beings when they are stuck sitting for hours in close confinement with other people, and today I just wanted my wait to be easy and peaceful.  I'm sure if the other people waiting had known I could have brought seven more kids they would have thanked me for not.  I know I would have thanked our fellow people in waiting for not bringing theirs, but I didn't get that chance, because they did haul their little kids to wait in the underbelly of one of our government's most inefficient and back-assward establishments.  But I digress.

While in the agony of our waiting I heard one mother ask her son; do you want me to take you out to the parking lot and spank you!?!  Here in Tennessee I hear this all the time.  Parent's are always asking their children if they want to be spanked, whipped or whopped.  Usually, I silently wish that they would, or I think that if maybe they did a little less parenting from the couch at home that they wouldn't have to threaten it in public, but today I just turned to Columbus and said; you know, just once I want to see a kid turn and look his mother in the eye and say yeah, why don't you - let's go.  Columbus started belly laughing, which made me laugh, and got Sugar King and Einstein going too, and then we were the rowdy ones in the DMV.  Seriously though, this has got to be the stupidest question a parent ever asks a child.

I am 99.9% sure that I have navigated almost seventeen years of parenting without having asked this jem of a question.  Which got me to thinking of my own personal number one dumb question........who did it?  This is another stupid question to ask kids, at least my kids.  I used to ask it all the time.  Seriously, it took me years to wisen up and stop, or maybe it wasn't that I actually got smarter as much as they just wore me down. 

It didn't matter how small or how large of an issue the question who did it involved, it was always meet with a chorus of NOT ME!!!  After hearing NOT ME so many times in my life I snapped one day and yelled back at them that I hadn't a clue who the hell NOT ME was because I was very sure I didn't name a single one of my children NOT ME!!  I thought I had them then. 

But no, they just keep answering not me, and I kept saying I didn't have any children by that name, till finally, in a state of frustration, I just stopped asking who did it.  I didn't have any other choice really, asking who did it meant I wanted an answer, and in the guilty persons refusal to answer it and say me, I did it, meant that someone was lying, and how could I let a lie go unpunished?  And let me tell you, it is a tedious task to sort out a liar from a herd of children, and it can take most, if not all, of a day, and even then you may or may not get a confession.  And then there is always the ugly fear that an innocent person confessed just to take one for the team and make the madness stop. 

It became far easier to make an announcement, like:  I don't know who did it, and I am not asking who did it, but I am telling each and every one of you to not do it.  Case closed. 

So easy.  So sane.  Why didn't I think of it sooner?  Oh well, some of those who did it interrogations will be fine memories over the Thanksgiving table someday.  And who knows, maybe one or two of them will finally solve a few mysteries?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Public Bathing Etiquette

It's only been since the weather has warmed up that we've had any company at our water hole.  Despite frigid water, we've been bathing there for months now.  At some point I figured if they could swim in it, they could get clean in it too.  I gave up on actually washing kids hair from a rock at the side of the creek one by one, to lining them up assembly line style and squirting shampoo on their heads while standing on a rock higher than them, lathering them up, and then instructing them to jump in and rinse well.  Then I toss them a bar of soap and they take turns washing under their swim clothes.  It's a little primitive, but it works well, and they smell a whole lot better.  And just from past admissions to creek bathing - yes, we use environment friendly soaps.

Now that the summer heat is visiting there are more and more people at the watering hole.  Usually, we try to wait them out before we break out the soap and shampoo.  There's just something personal about washing your body, not only is it not socially acceptable, it's a little embarrassing.  But the hotter it gets, the more people are there, making it almost impossible to get some privacy.

Last week we encountered such a situation.  After days of rain and no bathing I finally broke down and just started washing hair right in front of another family.  They left, maybe they were ready to go anyway, or maybe it seemed weird to them.  Either way, I came home with clean kids. 

We went to bathe again a few days ago, and again as one family left another would come.  Finally, it was down to us and another couple with a small dog.  We had seen them at the swimming hole before.  The man is a large and jolly fellow.  He loudly talks with his dachshund as though the dog is a child, and after unsuccessfully trying to get the dog to willingly come into the water he forces him, because; if daddy wants Jake to swim, then Jake is going to swim.  He's friendly towards the kids, making jokes and giving high five's to the delight of small boys who giggle at the attention of such an animated grownup. 

I finally decided that these strangers were safe enough to do our business in front of them.  He didn't strike me as the type to freak out and give a lecture.  I'm better at giving those than I am at receiving them.  So, I went first, washing my hair at the side of the creek, which apparently was the green light go for all sorts of public bathing, because this other couple then took little Jake the dog a few feet upstream from me to give him a bath.  I took that as a sign of acceptance and proceeded to get on my rock and line the kids up for their wash cycle.  At which point Jake's daddy got his soap and washcloth out of his car so that he could wash up.

It was rather comical how it all happened; everyone afraid to be the first, but then once it got started everyone was washing everything, including the dog.  I had to force myself to hold back laughter as we all washed and made small talk.  I'm still not sure how I feel about a dog being bathed right upstream from me.  The old me, the one that had privacy and running water, finds it disturbing.  The new me, the one without running water, she doesn't care so much, she's just glad to be clean herself. 

I was thinking; there needs to be some kind of signal us public bathers can give each other to spare ourselves the awkwardness of going first.  I don't know what the signal would be, but it would make things much more pleasant.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Surprise Hatch & Columbus Heads West

Yesterday, the kids discovered a missing hen hiding under the mobile with a nest of eggs.  We tried to remember back to how long it had been since we had last seen her so that we could guess when the eggs might hatch.  All guess work was taken away this morning when the kids checked on the hen and her nest only to discover hatching chicks.

Needless to say, school books were tossed aside and most of the day was spent under the mobile waiting for baby chicks to emerge.  This is the third time we've had our own chicks hatch, but we've not had good luck at keeping them alive.  In the past our hens didn't pick a safe enough spot to have her babies, so in a matter of days something awful happened.  I was determined not to let that happen this time, so we cleaned out the big wood box that we use for chicks and got it setup for our new mama and babies.  Mama hen didn't like being moved at first, but once we got her babies and eggs in with her it didn't take long for her to settle down.  So far, she has nine chicks, and she still has seven more unhatched eggs.  As a commenter of Facebook pointed out - I am still in the offspring lead here on the

Speaking of chickens; I sold off 22 of my meat birds a few weeks ago, but the 7 that are left should be ready to butcher soon.....I hope next week.  We weighed them today and most of them were a little over four pounds.  I don't know if it's realistic to expect them to gain a pound in a week, but I'd really like to get them done before Columbus leaves.  Wait...Columbus is leaving you ask!?  When?  Where?  And most importantly - what will you do without him!?!?!?

My dad called a week or so ago looking for some slave labor to spend some quality time with one of his precious grandchildren.  He originally wanted one that wasn't old enough to fight back, but we talked him into taking Columbus since this is one of the last summers that he will have the time to go.  So, at the end of the month Columbus will fly to Arizona to my dad's, and from there they will drive to Utah to drop off my dad's girlfriend, and then the boys will head to Nevada to visit family, then onto the Oregon coast.  There, they will go clamming and crabbing, fish, and live the way that men live when no women are should be lots of fun.  This is a great opportunity for Columbus to spend some time with my dad, see some of the country, and learn some new skills.  We will miss him terribly, and the month or so that he will be gone will feel like forever, but I'm sure that he will make some good memories that will last the rest of his life.

And a brief garden update - it's growing.  I know it should, but with this crazy clay up on the mountaintop I was afraid it wouldn't.  Now we just wait to see fruit and vegetables.

 Sugar King's corn patch.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Trailer Trash Woes

Fixing up the tin can is nothing like an episode of This Old House.  When we talk about improving trailer living, we're not talking about a diamond in the rough, we're talking about Turd Polishing.  Our latest attempts at civilized creature comforts were no different than our previous attempts.  We make Micky Mouse look like Albert Einstein.

I date the tin can back to the 70's, and that guess is based solely on the avocado green sink and bathtub.  It's been so long since we had the flushing throne in here that I can no longer remember what color it was, but my guess is that it was green, too.  If we were honest to God trailer trash all I would have to do is look out my front window, and I would clearly see my old toilet sitting in my front yard doubling as a lawn ornament, and then I would without a shadow of a doubt be able to tell you it's color.  I guess all that says is that we haven't made a full commitment to the movement.  Don't get me wrong; I'm not totally knocking trailer trash.  Being trashy has it's advantages; like I can let my four years olds run n*ked and filthy in our front yard and no one expects any different.  I don't have to worry about old lady neighbors saying oh my, look at those poor children in hushed voices as they slowly drive by.  Instead, I imagine them saying nothing at all, and in place of hushed voices they just exchange knowing glances.....They're trailer trash, after all.

At any rate, the windows are just as ghetto retro (retro is still in, right?) as everything else, which means that they crank open.  I should say that they are meant to crank open, because we don't actually have a handy gadget like a crank for our windows.  My Man just goes outside and manually opens and closes them, depending on the weather, and his mood.  We have no screens - tin turds don't always come with screens, don't-cha-know?

You can watch as many old westerns as you want, and I don't care how many times they show a woman in the kitchen happily cooking bug's just another Hollywood lie.  Seriously, pay attention the next time you are watching an old western - notice there are NO screens.  Not on the windows, or on the doors, and then notice if you see people swatting at bugs, or like my children, who look like they have leprosy from bug bites.  It's enough to make a girl living the screenless trailer trash dream want to pick up her used second hand pre-owned shoe and throw it at her T.V.  Maybe there weren't any bugs back then?  Maybe bugs are a new thing, due to Global Warming?  Maybe I should write Al Gore on the behalf of all screenless trailer trash and ask him to investigate?

My Man got some screen, and today was finally the day he decided to git-r-done.  We argued about how best to install screen onto retro crank windows, and then we argued about the absolute necessity, or not, of screens, curtains and open windows.  Don't judge.  Due to lack of privacy we've managed to turn petty arguments into an intimate sport.

I don't know where I got my sense of entitlement from, but I wanted all three - open screened windows and curtains.  I use the term curtains loosely here.  We actually have tension rods and cheap fabric from a yard sale cut to fit.  That's the trailer trash version of custom window coverings.  I figure as long as I keep the promise I made to myself before we moved in here and never, ever, tack, nail, screw, tape, glue or otherwise attach a sheet over a window and call it a curtain, that I can live in denial and call my tension rod and fabric with unfinished edges a window covering.  Don't rain on my parade and tell me otherwise, this is one of the few lies I indulge in.

Are you ready for the pictures now?

3 for 3 on this window - screened, open and with curtains.  We attached this one on the outside with the frame still on in hopes that it would withstand the wear and tear of the hose through the window.
View from the inside.  A little duct tape for the open edges and we're all good.  Notice the stick holding open this retro window...the hinge no longer works.

2 out of 3 on this window - open and screened, but I had to let the curtain go.
Just another shot of our fine craftsmanship.
And since we were getting all fancy trying to keep the critters out, we did some maintenance on the Magic Mesh screen.
One of those n*k*ed and filthy four year olds who roam the mountaintop.  I can't actually spell that word in relation to kids anymore - you'd be surprised at the creepy Google searches that come up on my stats.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I'm Not Sure What I Was Thinking?

When I bought the gigantic box of 100 cones at the restaurant supply store where we do the bulk of our grocery shopping.

Maybe it was out of habit, because I buy a box every summer.  There's just something about a fresh box of cones that says the world is a better place.  While standing in the isle of the store, safe from the summer sun, I forget all about melted ice cream running down hands and arms, smeared from ear to ear, and dribbling down onto kinda clean shirts.  No, in the store all I see are happy little people with wide bright smiles cooling off on a hot summer day.

Maybe it was because we were on our way home from the preparedness fair and I was in the mood to stock up, even if it was buying a plenitude of uselessness of a disaster item.

Or maybe it was because by the time we got to the grocery store my mind was on overdrive fielding questions, requests, and tracking kids, no longer able to function in a practical sense.  Maybe it was the Gary from SpongeBob headband, and all the silliness that went along with that purchase, that made me do it.

What ever the reason, I'm stuck with them now, and I'm not so sure where to put them in our 600 sq ft tin can?  The box bounces around.  Has been moved from here to there, and back again.  It teases the kids, prompting them to ask over and over, which sounds a lot like begging; can we have ice cream cones? all hours of the day and night.

The only thing I can think to do is to go out and buy however many gallons of ice cream it takes to fill 100 cones and then feed them ice cream non-stop until they are all gone, unless you might have a better idea?
Baby Man has his first cone:)

Reader Emails

I love the reader emails that I get.  Most are very supportive, often heartfelt, and I'm just plain flattered that people take the time to let me know what's on their mind or heart.  I've been scolded a time or two, and sometimes I get advice that leaves me wondering if the writer has basic reading comprehension skills, but 99% of the time the emails I get are just nice.

The other day I got another reader email, and this one was a little different.  It made me think a little bit more.  It made me look at myself, not only through my eyes, but through a readers eyes also.  Let me share a little of it with you.

Have you ever wondered at the etymology of the word meditate?
This was the first line, and to be honest, I had to google the word etymology.  For those of you as unknowing as I.  Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.

I ask because I believe your reflective posts are a form of meditation. I first thought they might have been whining, but after reading of your adventures for some time now, I believe they are meditations you use to better understand your situation and your life.

My reflective posts - I liked that part.  Whining, however, caught my attention.  I know that my reader, who I will call Mr. H, says that he came to an understanding that I'm not whining, but this is something I have worried about - sounding like a whiner.  I think that I do whine, even more than I publicly want to, but Mr. H has it right - my blog is a sort of therapy for me, and even though I like to write, I'm unskilled (don't think I don't see the run on sentences and misplaced comma's, and I'm ever SO thankful for spellcheck) and being somewhat new to the blog world I'm still looking for my voice or style

I want to just be me, but here's the thing - my life is actually pretty boring if I just put it all down matter-of-factly.  Case in point, the last 24 hours: one of the kids left their candy stash in reach of a dog, who ate the entire lot and then proceeded to vomit all over my tin can.  My bed )even more thankful for that washing machine now), the dogs bed (yes, I managed to squeeze a dog bed into 600 sq ft), and the carpet.  Did my thrifty self have a single paper towel or napkin to clean up such a chocolate massacre?  Nope, I only have cloth napkins and towels....not my first choice for nasty dog vomit.  The five year old sprayed bug repellent into the eyes of a four year old right as Baby Man woke up and was crying to be fed.  When I went to make dinner (BBQ ribs) it was discovered that we were out of BBQ sauce, so I whipped up five pints and a quart of that while I wrangled a nine month old hanging off my leg, fielded the never ending questions and requests of older children, and pushed pots around in my already too small kitchen.  Before mentioned pre-school aged children are obsessed with painting, and anything involving glue, which is as messy as a semi truck carrying Elmers School glue colliding with another semi carrying chickens, and just to keep it real, lets throw in another truck full of paint.  I want to tell them no to crafts, but I just can't do it, because I don't think that's what a good mom does, so instead I tell them to take it outside.  And then I could go on to tell you about the teenagers on four wheelers who have been racing down the road in front of the tin can for months now, and I could tell you that finally, today, I was out front when they went by and so I motioned for them slow down, at which point they stopped.  I politely asked that they do me a favor and just not speed in front of my house.  At which point the ringleader, a young blond, with far too much makeup on, and clothes ten times too small that I couldn't help but to stand and wonder how in the world she managed to contort onto her well fed frame into, threw up her hands, shook them around a little, and rolled her head.  Not in a yes, or a no motion, just around, leaving me clueless to if she had in fact just agreed or disagreed?  I then reminded this product of our current society that she was in fact on a private road, at which point she argued with me and told me she would have slowed down, but I had got all hyper on her, so now she wasn't going to slow down.  The whole exchange ended with me pulling the property owner card and telling them I was no longer asking that they slow down, I was telling them to slow down, to which they peeled out, flipped me off, and raised as much dust as possible.  Yeah, My Man and I loaded up and found them at home, where their parents were, and it became evident very early on in the conversation where the children had got their winning personalities from.  Shall I now move onto our studies of english, history, math, spelling, and handwriting?  Or, I could move onto health and money issues?  Or the nine year old who doesn't think that any of the rules apply to him, or the eleven year old that thinks I just forgot are words that he can mutter at me and I'll just say oh, okay son, good enough.  How about the fourteen year old who couldn't condense a thought into a simple yes or no answer to save her own life?

No, no, no.  I live all of that of my life.  Don't get me wrong, I love them, and I love the chaos that they bring, but when I come's my time.  I get to pause and think the thoughts and feel the feelings that have been buried, sometimes for days at a time, and let it out.  My Man and I were just talking yesterday, and we both said we still had no regrets about moving to the mountaintop, but that doesn't mean that it's all done and settled.  It's a transition, and big transition, and I'm, even we, are still working through our feelings about it.

Mr. H went on to say:

I believe that is what you are engaged in in these reflective posts. That being said, I wish to add a thought or two of my own and hope that you will meditate on them occasionally.

1. "Freedom isn't free"  You have chosen to free yourselves from one way of life to live another.

2. ..."We again, dig deep for faith.
"... which tells me you have faith so I will venture on and ask,  "Have you ever considered that The Father is every bit as happy to see you coming, as your children were to see you come home from your trip to town?"

I'm not talking about salvation, I'm talking about how He wants us to come to Him and talk it over, to ask for direction, (how do I get over this hump?) and strength.

I'm not preaching at you, we all walk our own path. Meditation, can be prayer. Prayer, can be meditation.

If I have ventured where I should not, be frank and say so, I will not broach the subject again.

Mr. H, you did not venture to where you should not.  I appreciate your email, and I think that you understand me, and for that I say thank you.  I say thank you to all of my readers who read me and understand me.  I sometimes wonder if I share too much of my mental odysseys?  At times, I feel vulnerable because of them, but still, I am compelled to put them down here.  I don't want to come back later and read We are frustrated.  The dog ate all of Sugar King's candy and puked all over.  The Rose sprayed bug repellent in JoJo's eyes and Baby Man was crying.  None of that makes me feel better, or think, or understand myself (past and present).  It took a lot to bring us to the mountaintop, and I don't go into it, but it's there, and we're still figuring it all out.  For me, I come here.  My Man has his way, and thankfully, the kids, they're just happy to have the woods to roam and places to explore.  I may whine a little, but I try not to too much, and usually it's for a reason - I need my turn, lord knows I listen to enough of it during the course of any given day.

I thank you for the reminder that we are more free than we have ever been and all of this is worth it.  And yes, in a way, at times this is my prayer time.  My time to connect, but I can't lay it all down at His feet.  I want to understand.  I want to be responsible and learn, but maybe I do need to learn to ask for a little more help in the strength and direction department.

I have no idea why the font changed half way through this post, and no idea how to fix it's just going to have to stay this way.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Storey's Homesteading Book Giveaway!! Sheep, Goats, Cattle & Chickens!!

My First Giveaway!!

So, I'm going through our storage unit and I'm coming across all of this really great stuff that I can't keep, and I'm wondering what to do with it!?

And then this really great idea comes to me.......give it away!  It makes me happy to think that some lucky reader will enjoy them, and a giveaway just sounds fun!!

What do you win?

All four of the Story's Guide to books that are pictured!!

Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep

Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats

Storey's Guide to Raising Beef Cattle

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens

*these books are all pre-owned, not new, just so we don't have any disappointed winners, but they are in great used condition.

So, here are the official rules:  You don't have to follow me, or promise to name your next pet after me, or like my page on Facebook, or run around your house five times while barking like a dog, or link back to my blog, or tell me your deepest darkest secret.  The only thing you do have to do is leave a comment on this post with either an active link back to your blog, or some kind of contact information so that I can notify you if you win.  Easy Peasy:)  If you win you will need to provide me with a shipping address so that I can send the books USPS media mail.  Please, contest is limited to United States addresses only!  The last day to enter the contest is June 6th, 2012, and the drawing will take place within a day or two after that.  Oh, and you can only enter once:)

How will the winner be determined you might ask? 

Meet JoJo and his favorite Cat in the Hat hat.  All entries will be written down on a piece of paper, put in JoJo's favorite Cat in the Hat hat, and then a winner will be drawn by a child of mine.  The only exception to this process is that the favorite Cat in the Hat hat could possibly become lost or damaged during the duration of this contest, and in that event a substitute hat will be used:)


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


This sickness has evolved from a 24 hour fever to something else.  A rambunctious four year old is pitifully laid up in bed, unable to hold down even water.  In the middle of the night his sad little voice wakes me; mommy, aren't you going to hold the bucket for me?  And then he wants it washed, a clean slate for each episode.  I don't blame him, even at four he is intitled to have standards. 

In the morning, pale faced kids lay around in pain.  Tylenol no longer taking away the aches and pains.  I finally decide to drive down the mountaintop, alone, for more sick people supplies.  I can count on one hand how many times in a year I am alone, totally alone.  Before I leave, the other healthy four year old asks to go with me, no, I tell him.  You'll be scared, he warns me, if you go by yourself

Inside I chuckle, at the thought of being afraid to be alone.  They don't know me without them.  They don't know that their mommy is a person even without her defining babies in tow.  At four, he doesn't realize how prized the upcoming hour will be to me.

They walk me to the van and stand at the side of the road to wave goodbye, as though I am setting off on an exciting voyage instead of to a small town grocery store for 7-UP, Pepto-Bismol, and fever reducer.....of the glamor of it all.  I don't even make it 10 yards down our dirt road before I turn up the music I never get to hear with them in the van.

The window is down, my sunglasses on, and my only regret, besides my sweatpants and flannel shirt, are the factory installed speakers that make Bono from U2 sound distorted long before I'm satisfied with the volume.  I skip songs, looking for one that will articulate how I feel.  I want to hear Bono put my thoughts to music, make me feel at peace, which is what I fight for. 

The weather has been rainy, gray, dreary.  In all of the dampness my life feels dirty.  I feel dirty.  My kids and the tin can look dirty.  Last week, and this week again, we hit a wall because of the gray overcast.  It takes over and makes everything look dingy.  I want a hot shower, I want to wash it all away. 

Buckets of water, a half-assed solar shower, the swimming hole, the pond liner bath....little bits of water flow here and there, just enough to not smell, but I want to be clean, all of me, all of us, all at once.  It's been three months since we've had a real shower.  I don't really keep count anymore, I have to stop and think about it, and then double check with Columbus.....has it really been that long, I ask? 

Sometimes, as we drive I watch the houses as we pass by and I try to remember back to what it was like to have running water, flushing toilets, and a little bit of room.  I wonder if the people who live in those houses know how good they have it?  It's a rhetorical question.  I don't blame them, it's not their fault that our lives were pushed to the point of picking and choosing between what most people take for granted.

My Man says it's an off dayWe're in a funkIt's the weather.  I say; we said that yesterday, and the day before that, and last week.  We take daily stock of our lives, of what lays undone.  How much time before winter comes?  How much money do we need?  What should we do first?  How much time will it take?  What do we really need?

Most days the answers seem impossible to come by.  There's just so much to do when you start from nothing.  I want a hot shower as bad as I want a good nights sleep, and then I wonder why I have to pick between the two? 

This month marks the one year anniversary since we bought our mountaintop property.  Honestly, I spend most of my time trying to forget that period of our lives, but lately, I've been trying to remember.  I know that the past that lead us here is what will put today in perspective.  I can't conjure it all up, not the full intensity of the fear and the stress.  Maybe I just don't want to.  Maybe I just shouldn't.  Deep down though, I know what lies there, and I try to make that knowledge justify the hardships of today.  It's hard, to want to forget and to remember, all at the same time. 

I came home and passed out vitamins.  I pushed soft foods and washed out the bucket.  I reminded myself to be grateful for the hose through the window and the washing machine backed with 55 gallon drums of water.  I took stock, of the roof, the food, the second chance that we have here on the mountaintop, and the ten little faces happy to see that I safely made it back from my wondrous trip to town. 

These are the moments that I didn't plan for.  These are the thoughts I did not anticipate.  We struggle to keep our focus, to see more of whats been done and less of what still needs to be done.  We again, dig deep for faith.  Just because we knew that this mountaintop wouldn't be easy, doesn't mean that we knew how hard it would be.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I Want to Have Ten Kids!!

I don't know why, of all the things to remember from my childhood, that I so vividly remember so many people asking me; what do you want to be when you grow up?  Maybe it was the awkwardness that I felt in the truth.  Maybe it was all of those years of listening to my own mother speak of her expectation, in a demanding tone, that I be a strong and dynamic woman, and most importantly, that I don't need a man.  Or maybe it was that she never really seemed to enjoy her role as a mother very much.  So, when asked, I often froze for a second or two, my mind stumbled for an acceptable answer, while my heart knew the truth.  I wanted to be a mom.  That's it, just a mom, nothing else.

It didn't really seem to matter how I answered their question anyway.  Often, what ever I said was met with discouragement.  After a while, it just seemed to me my best bet was to lie.  Teacher, that was always a good and noble answer, hard to argue with, grounded, attainable.  Even saying I don't know got me a better response than anything close to the truth. 

When I was in the second grade my teacher rounded up the class to sit in a circle.  She then asked us how many kids we wanted to have when we grew up?  We went around the circle giving our answers.  About half way through the circle it was my turn.  I said that I wanted to have ten kids.  In my seven year old mind this didn't sound like a high number of kids to have, it sounded fun.  I didn't think it odd or unusual, even though I didn't personally know any big families, or any families with more than two or three kids.  Even all of these years later I have no idea where I got the idea to want ten kids ~ I just did.

My teacher threw her head back as she laughed, perched high up on her teacher stool in front of the class, and as she pulled her head back down towards mine she made eye contact and told me that I would change my mind when I grew up.

That sealed the deal for me.  I may have been young, but I knew right away that I had just said something foolish, stupid even, and wrong.  My face grew red, and because it was too late for me to take my words back, I did the next best thing; I tried to undo my shame by not wanting ten kids anymore.

When My Man and I got married we thought we would have three or four kids, depending on how things went.  Columbus grounded me and gave me a sense of worth I never knew existed.  I liked being a mom to him, and I liked how it made me feel about myself.  We had our second, and then our third, and then the first set of twins.  It was busy and chaotic, but I loved almost every minute of it.  With each new arrival I demanded more of myself, determined to keep our lives as normal as possible.  I never wanted the kids to resent my yen for wanting lots of them.

We went onto have babies seven, eight and nine.  By this point I was obviously no longer a child, and I was actually afraid to have ten kids.  There was just something about hitting the double digit mark of kids that made me feel freakish.  Maybe it was that teacher's voice echoing in my head, or maybe it was years worth of looks and comments.  Either way, the very thought of ten kids scared me

There are four long, heartbreaking years between baby number nine and Baby Man.  It was in all of those losses that I stopped caring about how freakish double digits may or may not seem.  It was in that pain that I both learned to count my blessings and to care less about what others thought. 

By the time Baby Man came he wasn't the first number ten to have been conceived.  I had long since learned that a positive pregnancy test did not guarantee a baby in nine months.  I held my breath and again waited for the tell tail signs of loss.  I started with the hours, which passed to days, which passed to weeks, and then finally to months.  Nine long months of waiting to see, of holding my breath. 

I thank God for Baby Man  I watch him grow and I am amazed that he stayed when all the others left.  I wonder why, when our lives were falling apart and even the most basic of needs being met were in question, he came.  His timing was all wrong.  But somehow, just the thought of him, scary number ten, brought peace and healing, even in the midst of life's catastrophes. 

It took thirty years to be able to say it and not hear that teacher laughing at me ~  I want to have ten kids.  It's Mother's Day, which in my mind is our day.  They make me a mom, a happy mom, and that's what I want to celebrate ~ us, as a family, all twelve of us, because there are a whopping ten of them.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

More Randomness

Baby Man - proudly climbing the mountains of boxes brought home.

Most of this week has been spent sorting out our storage unit.  We somehow managed to drag home two entire van loads of more stuff.  I purposely brought home Rubbermaid containers, so that some things can be stored underneath the mobile.  I must say, the addition of brightly colored plastic boxes scattered under the mobile only further adds to the trailer trash look.  But, if it saves us money by making less to pay to store, so be it.  We are all rather impressed with my ability to cram so much into 600 sq ft.  I mean, we always knew I was organized, but at the risk of sounding like I am bragging, even I am amazed at managing what was previously thought impossible. 

Columbus added another shelf for me.

When we first moved into the tin can, since it was temporary, we only brought what was actually needed.  Now that any hopes of a house happening this year have been dashed, and in the interest of minimizing storage units, I was more open to finding a way to make wanted stuff fit.  Surprisingly, the tin can kinda feels like home now.  It already felt like home because it was where we rested our heads at night, but now it's a little more warm and homey.

It's crowded, but it's familiar.  I like my new little corner of counter:)

Just as homey - freshly washed Baby Man nappies hanging to dry.

My Man took some time to add a new (to us) window that he bought with donation money (thank you:))  His office was rather cave like, and now he has a beautiful view of the woods.

A visitor we had this week.

All in all it was a good week, and once I got over my emotional hump of having to deal with the storage unit, it really wasn't half bad.  I'd even say that it turned out well - we all feel better about the tin can. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tonight, I Write for Me

My thoughts still escape me.  Tangled with feelings that I can not unknot, try as I may.  I see a dog chase it's tail in circles, stupidly.  In vanity it believes it will catch itself one of these days.  I am that dog, even if I don't want to be.  I fight myself and what I believe.  I let myself get ahead of today and search for future securities.  There are no guarantees.  Another cliche.  Too many of them roam my head, but I keep repeating them anyway.  They are what keep me going.  They make me believe that it's all for a reasonIt will all be okay.  And they remind me to hold tight.  We all know what's most important in life, so why is it so hard to keep focus of it?  Why does it feel such a fight to stay on task.  To stay the course.

In haste, I drive down the mountaintop to our storage unit.  Mixed with emotion, I think about our stuff, or what's left of it.  We've had more than one fire sale in the last few years.  All of these things have become little more than a pain in the ass to me.  I wait for an office addition to be able to clear out the office storage, so that I can go through the household storage.  Render down.  Keep, sell, get rid of.  These things are what's left.  Left of our old life.  Left of the us that was.  We're new people now.  We have each other.  We have what's important.  So what about these things?  Do I really just grab the family photo's and run?  I know what to do with the kids books and worn out clothes.  Favorite toys, even broken, are easy, too.  Furniture I once loved.  Trinkets to remind us of something special.  Sentiment.  Lot's of sentiment.  What about it?  There is no room for sentiment in 600 sq ft. 

As I drive and think I start to feel my nose tingle and my eyes burn.  I fight it, because the boys are with me because I always do.  I watched weak my whole life, and I decided long ago not to become it.  It's not weak to cry if you know when to stop.  Would I, if I started, know when to say when?  If I could stand and hurtle my thoughts against a plate glass window just to watch it shatter, I would.  Somewhere deep inside of me I think it would make me feel better. 

After we clear a path, I walk in to start unearthing our past, box by box.  I happen to feel in my back pocket, a pair of children's safety scissors, that I had picked up in the front yard earlier, or was it yesterday?  I mumbled about it at the time, but they come in handy now.  I only remember packing a few things.  Cast Iron pots.  Cloth diaper inserts.  Random things from my desk - tape, stapler, pens.  I know that there are books - lots and lots of books.  But, what else?  Do we still need it if we don't even remember it?  I know that there are more important things buried in these boxes.  I know that there is more to us than a few pots and some Scotch Tape.  But does it even matter anymore?  Are we past the point of owning things? 

I want those things to be me.  I want those things to be our life.  I want to have sweet memories that I lovingly unpack to show my children that I cared enough to save them.  Save a little piece of our history.  Instead, all I feel is utilitarian.  Do we need it?  I'm practical by nature, but this takes things to a whole new level for even me.  I wonder how to decide?  I wonder why it's my job alone to make these decisions?  I don't feel qualified. 

I think about how we got here.  We fought to get here, to this place of the new us.  Not because we wanted to remake ourselves, but because we wanted to save ourselves.  It was noble, and it still is, but these leftover pieces, they are hard to handle.  There are sharp memories, and if I'm not careful I might cut myself.   These boxes filled with mixed emotion, the rest of them will wait for another day.  The boys and I repack the path that we made, pull down the door and lock it, for safe keeping.

Kitchen "Improvements"

It's a gray and rainy day up here on the mountaintop, and kids are slowly but surly coming down with fevers.  It will take a few days for the sickness to pass through all of the ranks, but so far it appears to only be a 24 hour bug, thankfully.  I always go down last, it's as though I have some mom superpower that enables me to ward off what ever bug we have just long enough to take care of everyone else.  It never fails, I always live in a certain state of denial that maybe, just maybe, I won't end up getting it after all, but in the end I almost always do get it. 

When we hooked up the washing machine we moved it under a window, both for ease of running our redneck plumbing, and because of space and the direction the door swings open.  By moving the washing machine we opened up the corner of the kitchen so that My Man could put in some more counter space.  The tin can came with an eight foot strip of counter, of which the sink takes up 33 inches, leaving us about five and a half feet of space, half of which is butted into a corner and blocked by the stove.  That's probably more information than any of you want to know about my counters, I'm sorry.  But it's been a drag dealing with so little space for the last six months.

All the counter space we had.

My new counter almost makes my kitchen feel spacious now.

With the new counter.
The counter is made from a table that we bought at a yard sale for the table legs - the legs are what My Man used to make our dinning room table with.  I was never quite sure why he kept the nasty old top, but it all makes perfect sense to me now.  My Man will build some shelves underneath for storage at some point, hopefully soon. 

After loading these pictures I thought maybe I should tidy up a bit and then retake them, but then I figured that would just fall into the category of what My Man calls turd polishing, so why bother.  Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to have more counter space, but the aesthetics of the tin can leave a little to be desired. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Casting Call for Off Grid Community, Family or Couple

I received this email today, and as requested, I am passing it on.  I have not verified any of the information, but if you're interested I'm sure that you can.

Please allow me to introduce myself.  I am a casting associate with a Los Angeles-based television production company that develops television series for a variety of cable networks.

Our company is in the beginning stages of development for a new reality series that will center on the day-to-day life of a unique community, family or couple living off the grid.  We are now casting for a community, family or couple that resides anywhere in the United States and lives off the grid.  Are you an outgoing community, family or couple comprised of interesting characters who are living without electricity or basic housing needs and have dynamic personalities?  Although on-camera experience is not required, all family members must have big personalities, be comfortable speaking on camera, and able to legally work in the U.S.

Please see the attached press release for your review and consideration.  We are respectfully requesting that you share and forward this information to any individuals, families, businesses, clubs, groups or organizations that may be interested in being considered for the project.  To be considered, please email us photographs of your community, family or significant other.  Please tell us, in detail, your story of why you would make for compelling television, what city and state you live in, the description/function/role of each person and include contact information (name, number, email)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,

Matt Labinski
Casting Associate

And here is a copy of the press release:

Los Angeles television production company is
casting for entertaining community or family for national television project
Los Angeles, CA, May 7, 2012 – Los Angeles-based television production company Red
Varden Studios is currently casting nationwide for entertaining, off-beat, unique,
outgoing community, family or couples living OFF THE GRID for a national television
project. Do you know of a community, family or couple living off the grid; without
electricity or modern housing needs? Are you a modern day Swiss Family Robinson-
type family? Are you entertaining enough to captivate a national television audience via
a reality series?
We are now casting a unique, entertaining community, family or couple living off
the grid that resides anywhere in the United States. Dynamic personalities are a must.
On camera experience is not required; however, candidates must be comfortable in front
of the camera and interacting with others.
To be considered for the project, please email the following to producers at photographs of the group/family/couple (both group photos
and individual photos of each member), describe the role(s) of each person including
role/function, tell us your story and why you would make for compelling television, what
city and state you reside in, and full contact information (name, phone number, email).
Red Varden Studios is a television and film production company founded in 2007. Red
Varden develops and produces scripted and non-scripted content for studios, broadcast
networks, cable networks, syndication and digital media outlets, within such genres as
documentaries, reality shows, game shows, viral videos, comedies, dramas and
independent live action and animated feature films. Since the launch of the company Red
Varden has produced two seasons of the series The Othersiders for Cartoon Network and
sold other projects to TLC, Oxygen, Cartoon Network, ReelzChannel, and
Red Varden Studios
6133 Bristol Parkway, Suite 278, Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 670-5860

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Saturday Preparedness Fair

Saturday morning we headed down the mountaintop to go to the preparedness fair.  It had stormed early in the morning, and the gray clouds were just starting to burn off, but by the time we got to the nearest civilization it was sunny and there were plenty of yard sale sign outs.  We decided not to take the freeway, but the scenic route instead.  It's not often that we all leave for a day of fun together.  Those days are cherished, and this day was one of them.

We stopped at a few sales as we made our way along country roads overtaken with spring - it was beautiful.  My Man let me make fun of him all day long, and he never got all serious and mad at me - not even once.  The kids provided background noise, but somehow managed to not fight.  It was pleasant.  At some point along the way I remembered that we had yet again forgot that we would be crossing into a new time zone at the preparedness fair, so we stopped with the yard sales and hurried onto the fair. 

Sugar King
The fair was pretty basic.  It would be perfect for what we call newbie preppers, but if you prep at all, read about prepping, or even think about it, most of what the fair had to offer, you would already know.  The fire department pushed smoke detectors, checking your smoke detector batteries, having an escape plan, and calling 911.  The American Red Cross, I'm not at all sure what they were really there for.  The man that talked to me was most interested in getting me to volunteer, and even my I have ten kids and a breast feeding baby that I don't even leave to go to town speal didn't stop him from suggesting out right saying, that I could still volunteer, because I, afterall, have two hands, so I could hold the baby in one, and work with my other free hand.  I laughed, but what I really wanted to do was slap him.  Enough of that though, least this entire post turn into an ugly rant against said Red Cross worker. 

Lodge cast iron was there, along with a business that sells Berky water filters, Wonder Mills, and other food storage items.  Then there was a booth on 72 hour kits, the Sheriff, the Health Department, Disaster relief, basically all of the organizations that you would expect.  They all had pamphlets and pencils to pass out, one booth even had some band aids.  Another booth was giving away samples of chili made with wheat instead of beans.  It was good, it tasted like chili, it was just the texture that was different, but definitely edible.  When I asked about a local source for wheat I was met with blank stares from the elderly couple behind the table.  They told me they didn't know where a person could buy wheat, which I thought was odd since they were giving away samples of it, but then I looked at their name tags and saw that they were with the LDS church.  Oh, I thought, they get all of their wheat from the church, so they don't know of any sources for it other than the church.  It left me a little confused though, why push wheat to people if you can't tell them where to buy it?  And before you email and tell me to get it online, I know I can do that, I was interested in finding a local source.

There was not a strip of cotton candy to be found, the snow cone machine had been packed up hours early, and the popcorn was on a limited supply from the bottom of the machine, but the kids took their disappointment in stride.  The fire department did have a pretty cool hands on activity of putting out fires.  The kids really enjoyed it, and I would like to believe if ever confronted with a real fire maybe they would have a little better idea of what to do, or maybe because they have pyro blood pulsing through their veins they just got a kick out of anything fire related.

G-Man (4) showing no fear at all.  He actually pushed the firefighters hand out of the way when he tried to help pull the pin from the fire extinguisher.  It was a priceless sight, and another man even told us how awesome G-Man was as he passed by.

So much pride for such a little man.

The Rose takes her turn - she could hardly lift the extinguisher.




G-Man was so in love with putting out the fire he had to try it a second time.

A big brother and a little brother - look at the bounce in his step.

Baby Man hanging out in the shade.

A yard sale find - A Gary (from Sponge Bob) headband.  Endless fun for 25 cents.

Our beautiful Rose takes her turn at being Gary.

More silliness from the back of the van.  The audio along with this is: Hello Mam.  Can I see your license and registration, please?  She thinks this is as funny as can be, and she says it over, and over, and over..........

A view of the super moon on our way home.

From the fair we made our way south to do our grocery shopping.  My Man doesn't normally go with us, so even he was in a state of awe at the whole ordeal process, and shear volume of food that we managed to pack into the back of the van.  Then we all piled back into the van, and I made sandwiches as we drove down the freeway towards home.

I hope that this post doesn't sound too negative about the preparedness fair.  I don't mean it that way at all.  These are just my observations, from my perspective.  I know that the people that organized and worked it, worked very, very hard, and I would highly suggest attending one if you don't prepare.  I've been of an emergency preparedness mindset for a number of years now, so most of what was covered I already knew, but back when I first got started I would have loved something like this.  If you don't prepare, don't know what a 72 hour kit is, don't have extra food and water, basic first aid supplies, and some backup plans for an emergency, I would highly suggest that you get some.

One cool idea that the 72 hour booth had was to carry premade cards with a picture of each family member and their personal info - name, age, DOB, height, weight, etc.  This is something I had not thought or heard of, but after seeing it I realized that in the event of an emergency those kinds of cards could quite possibly be the very most important item in my EDC (everyday carry bag).  I mean, if I was separated from one of my children, finding them would become my number one priority.  So, I did learn something new, and that alone made the time and effort worthwhile.