Mucking it Up in Mud Season…

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When I first moved to the New England 14 years ago I had never set foot on the East Coast.  Yet I had this odd fascination with the East Coast lifestyle.  Somehow that lifestyle seemed much more fitting to me.  Living a majority of my life overseas in Japan, I was also fortunate to live in places like California, Guam and Hawaii.  Pretty awesome, right?  Even with those wonderful opportunities I missed something… I never truly experienced  the change of seasons.   So when I met my husband I was lucky to discover he was from Maine… which eventually led us “home” to raise our family on our beautiful mini-homestead.

Spring is a tricky time in Northern New England.  Yes, spring officially starts in March, although you really don’t reap the warmer temperature benefits until much later.  But, in all honesty, there never really is a true spring up here.  It’s mud season.  This is when all the snow and ice melts. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it snows. More often, we get a wintery mix and erratic swings in climate. Nature is at its most capricious.

Just looking out my door I can see the soft ground peeking through the melting snow.  It’s soft, it’s squishy… it’s mud.  And at this homestead it means a lot of dirt dragging in the house.  Not only from my kids, but the dog and, worst of all, my husband (sorry, honey, but it’s true).  Mud season also means it’s time to put up those heavy winter coats and break out the spring weather wear.  Fleeces for chilly mornings and evenings, rain coats for the slushy mess, and muck boots to trek out in to the yard or, as in my kids case, just play.

Mud season is probably the most dreaded season of the year.  Yes, even more dreaded than winter.  However, it’s the price of living in Maine. Our winter brings fresh snow and bright blue skies; autumn has the most glorious foliage and summer, with moderate heat and low humidity, is perfection. Spring does not really kick in until May, and then everything blooms at once. I love living in a place with all the seasons, even if I’m counting the days to daffodils and tulips.

When I think about it mud season is not all bad. There are no crowds. Days are getting longer. Shovels rest while snow piles shrink. Empty beaches are beautifully surreal. The sidewalks around town are finally clear of ice.  We’ve been hibernating all winter so throw on a pair of your mud boots and enjoy the outdoors!

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop.

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This Week’s Project Download…

It was another whirlwind week here on the homestead.  And this morning it was tough programming the kids to wake up earlier than normal because of daylight savings time.

I am proud to say that the derby car is complete!  Just in time for the races this coming weekend.  Just some minor sanding and paint touch ups.

I’ll have a special blog post on this project and my many lessons learned.

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I didn’t have time to do many projects this week (I’ll get to that in a minute).  I was able to make a peppermint citrus scrub though.  It is extremely easy to make.  You can use sugar or salt, both will gently exfoliate the skin.  The cooling sensation of the peppermint oil helps soothe itchiness, and the coconut oil (or another other oil you choose to use) moisturizes.  I like the citrus because it is very invigorating and immediately wakes you up and has a wonderful clean, spring/summer scent.  We definitely need that up here in Northern New England!

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Here’s how to make the scrub:

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar or salt.   (I personally buy the cheap stuff since I won’t be eating it)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil .  You can substitute olive oil, almond oil, apricot oil, avocado oil, or even use a combination.  
  • 2-4 Tablespoons orange zest.  You can also use lemon or grapefruit zest, it’s really your preference.
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable glycerin.  I’ve read it’s optional, but it does add extra moisturizing properties.  
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil.
  • 10-15 drops orange essential oil, or any other citrus of your choice.   

Instructions:

Mix sugar, oil, zest, and vegetable glycerin together. Depending on what type of oil you use, you may need to add more or less to get the proper consistency. Make sure there is enough oil to make the sugar stick together, but not so much that it is floating on top.

Gradually add in the essential oils until you’ve reached the desired scent. It may take more or less, depending on the type of oils you use.

Store your sugar scrub in a glass container.  I put mine up on the kitchen window sill.  The great thing is that this scrub also makes an awesome gift, especially in the summer when we’re all out in the garden getting our hands dirty!   Just rub a small amount of the scrub on your hands or body and rinse with warm water.  

Honestly the sky is the limit on this scrub.  You can add any scent and oil you choose.  I think my next one will involve lavender and rosemary.  

This week I really had to focus on my daughter and her school work.  I was so nervous about her learning and study habits.  Thankfully, everything turned out just fine.  I just need to ensure I stay on top of her and encourage her.  She has been reading “My Life as a Book” so I read it as well.  I must say this has been of my favorite books she’s brought home so far!  Maybe it’s because the main character reminds me of a cross between her and her devious brother!

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The kids enjoyed a wonderful few days with dad as he made a quick visit home (thus the lack of projects I could complete – there was too much excitement at home).  Unfortunately, the visit was short lived and he’s out patrolling our waters again.  It’s only for a few weeks and he’ll finally be back home for a decent amount of time.  Just in time to get the garden going!

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This Week’s Project Download…

Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like nothing was accomplished, yet it was so busy you were relieved it was over?  That was my week.

Between a snow storm, power outages, homework, after school activities, and doctor’s appointments it was a hectic week on the homestead.  I wasn’t able to get many projects started, or even finished for that matter.

The derby car is still a work in progress.  I only have two weeks to get it all done!  A lot of painting and priming to do, and then it’s on to the wheels and axles.

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I had to hollow out a couple eggs for my son’s school project this week.  He is making ‘cascarones’, eggs filled with confetti and broken over a friends head at the completion of Lent.  My son’s class will fill the eggs with birdseed instead and break them over their class tree.  He will enjoy this project so much!  Thanks to YouTube I quickly learned how to blow out the eggs and empty them out.

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A trip to the grocery store for fresh Italian parsley got me cilantro instead (apparently I have no idea what either look like).  I’m not a fan of cilantro so it is in a handy mason jar growing roots.  The cilantro sits nicely on my kitchen window sill, along with the basil, mint, bamboo and aloe so I guess it’s a keeper.

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I did make another batch of elderberry syrup and vanilla extract.  We go through about a 1/2 pint of elderberry syrup a week.  The extra vanilla extract will stay down in the basement until the holidays.  It should be extra yummy by that time, and a gift our neighbors will surely enjoy!

As far as reading…  I’m old school… I still love the feel of the paper in my hands.  This week I didn’t have much time to read so I settled for a Kindle book, “Wait for Me” by Elisabeth Naughton.    Mystery, heartache, joy and, yes, a bit of passion.  I don’t care much for the cover of the ebook though.  The cover gave me the impression the story would be “fifty shades’ish”, but that was not the case.  It was a quick read and I enjoyed the story.

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This week is an exciting one at the homestead.  My husband is making a brief stop home and will be here for a couple of days.  The kids don’t know so they will be extra surprised to see him!  As quickly as he arrives he’ll soon be back out on the steel boat patrolling our ocean.  We take what we can get!

Which reminds me… I better buy some bird seed!

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The Latest Craze… Juicing.

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Alert: there is a juicing craze out there!

Okay, so maybe I’m behind the bandwagon a bit… I am just now realizing the fascination America is having with juicing. From time to time I’d stumble upon a Facebook post on someone’s latest juicing recipe, followed by a colorful Instagram picture of the scrumptious juice in a tall glass. So this got me thinking… maybe I should be yet another follower and check this curious phenomenon out. I mean, I like juice. My kids like juice. However, I hate the price of juice, the ungodly ingredients in juice, and the fact that it takes a picture of the American flag to let the consumer know the fruit in the juice is actually grown in the U.S. And, yes, I did watch “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” and “Hungry for Change” on Netflix. If that doesn’t motivate someone I don’t know what will.

After much research I found a juicer that would fit my family needs best, an Omega brand. It’s not the most expensive model out there. However, it is pricier than other models you can purchase in the box stores. The Omega juicer is said to extract the most amount of juice, and works well with greens. You can find many reasons as to why you should juice. And there are just as many reasons out there why you shouldn’t. Each person differs. For me, the primary reason was not to fast or put myself on some crazy juice diet. I just wanted to be able to make fresh, wholesome juice. And to combine a couple of carrots, a celery stalk, or even a beet in my juice.

I also like my Omega brand because the model I purchased allows me to make my own nut butters, baby food, and even pasta! On top of that it homogenizes and even grinds coffee beans! The grinding of coffee beans means a lot in this house. Not because we are huge coffee drinkers (which we are) but because last summer my husband’s military duty to his country took him to South America. That trip to South America landed this household with 40 bags of coffee beans… from Columbia. Folks, we have a lot of coffee!

Juicing has gone well so far. My daughter has really enjoyed it. She even drank a spinach, pineapple and carrot juice I made the other day. My son, on the other hand, sticks to just plain orange or apple juice. When he’s not looking though I throw in a carrot or two. We’ve also made pasta which turned out really well and my son LOVED. I think he had three helpings of spaghetti that night.

Down the road I look forward to making some baby food with this gadget. Spring is around the corner and soon the garden will be thriving. I can’t wait to make some jars of baby food for the newest addition to our family!

Cheers!

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“But the fire is so delightful”…

It’s a bit early I know, but Fall is slowly creeping upon us.  Up here in Northern New England it seems that summer only lasts two months… actually, that might be more of a fact.  So, anticipating fall, which leads to planning for winter, is truly a year round process.

If you read my earlier post you know that we have a large pile of freshly delivered wood sitting off the side of our driveway.  I imagine at some point in time, hopefully within the next month, (hint, hint, o’ manly husband of mine) it will get stacked.

For the past three years our home has run solely on wood heat.  The only exception we’ve made was this past spring.  My husband was away and the chimney needed some serious cleaning.  Completely lazy, and having no idea what to do, I closed up the wood stove for the season and ran the furnace for about a week.

Earlier this summer my husband and I decided to upgrade our wood stove.  Our current stove runs well and has been excellent to us.  However, knowing that we use this as our primary source of heat, we decided an upgrade was warranted.  After weeks of research and negotiating back and forth with one another on style we made a decision.  Our choice:  A Harman Stove.  I’ll spare you all the details of this highly reviewed stove.  Bottom line, it meets the needs of our home.  This means we can continue to run solely on wood heat and keep the oil in our tank as an emergency reserve.

One detail I will share is that it comes with a cooking grill attachment for the top loader.  Yep, you guessed it, the good ole’ husband got his way again…

But, that’s okay, this stove was Made in the USA and that’s worth it’s weight in gold compared to a cooking grill!

Happy winter grillin’ everyone!

The fruits of our labor…

Nothing brings pleasure than seeing the fruits of your labor.  All your hard work and dedication… the goal you’ve been reaching for has been achieved.  Such an awesome feeling…. that of accomplishment.  Ahh… like opening an ice-cold bottle of beer… er, iced tea, after a hard days work.

A few weeks ago we celebrated just that at our homestead.  It was early evening, after dinner, and the kids were about ready to clean up.  My husband looks out the window and saw a mama fox (belly full of babies) in our yard.  We’ve known for a while now that we have critters that roam our land.  Every morning I’m awakened by the cackle of a male pheasant.  A few weeks ago I spotted a turkey cruise around.  Even the ‘squatter’ woodchuck has taken refuge in our freshly delivered wood pile yet to be stacked.  Yes, the fox is a predator, and can certainly cause more harm than good around our small, country home.  But the sight of her just reinforced the purpose of our work… to create an environment that we can grow our own food, maintain the land, and bring nature back home.

I’ll be honest, our garden has struggled a bit.  We are extremely lucky to not be part of the drought that affected so many farmers this season.  In my neck of the woods we received heavy doses of rain in a short period of time, along with prolonged humidity.  I’m not sure if that affected our overall harvest, or if it’s the fact that we choose not to use any pesticides (thus making our garden all the more desirable to those pesky pests).  Or if it’s because my husband was gone most of the summer and taking on the garden, kids, work, and other chores became too much for me.  Regardless, overall, our garden still produced more than enough veggies for us to enjoy.

Next summer I hope to be able to spend more time at home (if my goals are achieved), allowing me to really concentrate on the garden, and maximize its full potential.  Last summer I spent a lot of time in the garden, and enjoyed just sitting among my veggies taking in all the colors.  This year I did not do that, and I missed that tremendously.

This summer my husband and I discovered kale.  Of course, I knew of kale, but I never really KNEW of kale.  I even had three huge bunches growing in our garden.  I just wasn’t sure what to do with it all.  That was until I went out on a lunch date with said husband (which is extremely rare – like lightning hitting you rare) to Olive Garden and devoured their Zuppa Toscana soup.  It’s basically spicy sausage, potatoes, and kale in a creamy broth.  My oh my was it yummy!  It has led to me saute it a dozen different ways, even making some kale chips.

As the season comes to an end I’m still hopeful we’ll continue to reap the benefits of our garden.  Cool weather is upon us and it’s time to think of those cool weather veggies… cabbage, spinach, lettuce, radishes, onions, beets, carrots… and more kale.  Tis’ the season!

Summer Camp lesson…

This year I sent my children to a real outdoor summer camp.  No overnights – they’re not quite ready for that just yet… or maybe I’m just not ready to let them go.  I spent last winter diligently researching summer camps.  Once my selection was made I saved every nickel and dime I could to ensure their summer would be a blast.

Summer camp is suppose to be a young person’s first true taste of independence and personal responsibility, putting to test the social and problem-solving skills he or she has been taught at home and at school.

I chose a camp circiculum that would benefit each of my children, giving them exposure to outdoor adventure, team building exercises, personal development, arts and crafts, not to mention a whole bunch of swimming.  Their summer camp offers physical challenges, providing them with an environment in which their problem-solving and teamwork skills are truly put to the test. So, for them, what comes across as merely a fun, physical challenge is in fact a test offering valuable life skills, providing them with leadership and teamwork skills that will help in any social or work environment.

My kiddos come home everyday talking about all their activities.  What’s even more exciting is that they are doing activities like archery, harvesting their own garden, learning to make a living structure in the woods, what to do if your kayak flips over, visiting the horses in the barn, hiking, ropes, obsatcle course, and playing all the old traditional camp games and singing songs.   They are all designed to teach the three P’s – Patience, Persistence and Perseverance.

Mom’s and Dad’s don’t take it personally – when you go to pick up your children from summer camp, they may prefer to stick around and enjoy the company of their peers. I learned that my first week.  The kids did not want me picking them up until closing circle was done.  Oh, and yes, I can never be late for opening circle in the morning either.  And Friday’s are the most sacred… it’s awards day.  Every kid at the camp prays that their name is called for a special award.  I think summer camp is synonymous with the personal maturation process, and allowing our children to see that life can be a blast, even when presented with many challenges. Perhaps the greatest benefit of sending my children to summer camp has to do with me letting my children begin to enjoy more of their freedom.

In the end, summer camp was not only an experience for my children, but for myself as well.  I felt that I have let of part of my children go… not in a bad way, but in a way that allowed them to grow up and become the wonderful human beings they are.  And because of that I grew up a little myself.

I’m already looking forward to next summer!