Thursday, January 28, 2016

Homestead Planning Inspiration

I will admit I'm a little overwhelmed with the idea of designing and planning a homestead or mini farm from scratch. I know I want the design to be practical, sustainable, but also beautiful at the same time.

I've been scrolling through lots of Pinterest photos lately, and I have found so many inspiring images. Too many, sometimes ;)


 © Copyright Jim Champion and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

As if the design of the farmhouse itself isn't enough of a job, we must also have carefully planned spaces for various animals should we choose to keep them in the future. Of course you know this girl will be keeping her chickens!  ;)

 The placement of the gardens and orchard will be critical, and we can't forget outbuildings and other features such as proper water drainage, sunlight and permaculture design.
For our homestead, we hope to carve out areas for several functions--I've made a list below:

  • main house
  • barn or tool shed
  • small greenhouse or cold frames
  • kitchen garden
  • row crops
  • chicken coop and pen
  • composting
  • orchard and berry bushes
  • pasture areas
  • honeybees
  • possibly pig and goat shelters?
  • fire pit
  • perennial beds for flowers and medicinal herbs
  • rain barrels, swales to control rainwater runoff
  • play area for the girls with a swingset and a sandbox
  • wooded acreage for timber, foraging, and wildlife

I've started sketching out some rough drafts of a homestead design situated on our acreage.  I'm definitely no expert in this.....but I'm enjoying playing around with the design. I can't wait to share it with you!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Big News on the Homestead

Well, we did it.

We made a decision to start the process of building our own farmhouse on 10 acres of land generously gifted to us (provided the appraisal goes well). **deep breath**

I so SO wanted our next house to be a historic house that I could rehab/restore. I also wanted to live closer to our parents and extended family. But it just hasn't worked out that way--at least not right now. The Lord must have other plans for us--we can't seem to find a property in this area on enough land in our price range that would work for our needs.  I've even looked for old farmhouses that people need moved. It makes this preservation girl a little sad....
Georgia has no fear--she loves exploring :)

On the other hand, I'm excited to be building a house that we get to design from the ground up, sort of--at least tailored very much to our needs at this point in our lives. Friends, get ready to hear all about our adventures in building this little homestead. Eeeeeeeeekk! I can't wait!!!

 If you are a homesteader, I would love to hear suggestions or advice in what you would plan to include or how you might design things differently. I'm going to need all the help I can get!

Monday, January 11, 2016

January Chickens

If you have chickens, you know that sometimes the winter season poses special challenges to tending for your flock. Dealing with very cold temperatures and fewer critters and greens on the ground for the birds to eat can become problematic at times. Not to mention it just plain stinks sometimes getting out in the cold to do the chicken chores.

My chickens loved the warmer temps we had this past month but all the rain this fall made their quarters quite muddy and damp.

A very important wintertime chicken chore is ensuring that your flock's source of water does not freeze. By using a water heater base underneath your chicken waterer, you won't have to worry about the risk of their water freezing in icy temperatures.

Be sure to check the combs of your birds for frostbite. Breeds with single combs are more vulnerable to this condition. If it appears they may have some damage, apply Vaseline to help heal and protect the comb in really cold weather.

Supplement your flock with scratch grains, cracked corn, and kitchen scrap leftovers. Since there aren't as many wild insects and bugs roaming around in the dead of winter, it is nice to give your flock a little supplement to their diet.

Continuing with my herb naming tradition, my two roosters are named Basil and Dill :)  I haven't named the girls yet.....any suggestions?

Basil likes to get a little too friendly with June and Georgia, and a couple of times they have triggered biting or an attack by running away from him (he thinks they are his hens). Most of the time he just gets too close because he does his "dominance dance" around them anytime they are outside and he is out of his pen. We usually try to keep him in the pen but if he gets out I try to pick him up and carry him around a bit to assert dominance over him.

My little flock will be a year old this coming spring and I can't wait to let them hatch some baby chicks!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Struggle with Chronic Pain

In November of 2011, my husband and I were in a bad car accident that resulted in a broken tibia for me and a concussion and some bruised ribs for him. The Lord was certainly with us for it could have been so much worse.

 I decided (despite pressure from the orthopedic surgeon) not to have surgery and just let it heal on its own. BEST DECISION I EVER MADE. Although it was a long process and grueling at times spending 8 weeks in a full-height leg cast then 2-3 months after that in a leg brace, not only did it heal beautifully but now I don't have to worry about any pins and screws in my bones. Have not had any issues with it since it was declared fully healed on the x-ray. I could devote an entire post to this actually--the way I shocked the clinic staff instead of going the surgery route (which they claimed would help me be up and walking much faster). The healing process for a broken leg was a very stressful time for me, and sometime around the 4-month mark I developed some TMJ (or tmjd) and orofacial pain issues.

It could very well be that is was accident related, but I'm not sure I will ever know for sure. It affected the muscles in my jaw, mouth, face and head, down my neck and into my shoulders. It was like a constant tightness and aching and an inability to let the muscles relax, that eventually caused a lot of pain in the area. Soon, the stress of the tmjd pain was worse than the worrying over the healing of my broken leg. The stress-pain-stress cycle had begun and I was desperate for a way to break it.

I saw several different doctors, physical therapists, and other specialists and tried many different therapies. I took medication, did physical therapy, tried acupuncture and massage, cranio-sacral therapy, a night guard, adjustments to my bite, chiropractics, dry needling--you name it.

Nothing fixed the problem overnight, but over the years, my tmjd pain has very gradually become more manageable and less bothersome. (Thank you, Jesus!) I can say now that I have days, and even weeks, where the pain doesn't bother me at all and I don't have to use any pain management tactics (such as guaze pads to separate the jaw just a tad, essential oils, or cold/heat therapies). Even more recently my pain has reduced so much that most of the time it is gone. This could also be that now that I have children, they keep me so busy on my feet that I have less time to think about my tmjd pain, which I think has helped it to heal on its own somehow.

So what made the difference? Below I will share with you some things that I feel helped me the most.

1. Reducing my stress level as much as possible. This, for me, meant reassurance from doctors that it was not something serious as well as simply relaxing at the end of the day with a hot bath. It might have meant canceling some travel plans. It also involved medication prescribed for me by my orofacial pain doctor that helps subdue the nervous system to get it under control so that then the muscles can heal from other therapies and not be in a hyper vigilant state all the time.

2. Distraction from the pain. This is huge. Working outdoors on my homestead helped so much with this -- anything physical that involved working with my hands and focused mental concentration was a great distraction.

3. Exercise and physical activity. I cannot emphasize this enough! Exercise is critical to balancing the stress hormones in your body and sometimes during really rough months I can remember my body pump class may have been the only pain-free moment I had experienced all day. Gardening was also a fantastic way for me to get exercise and be outdoors which always helped my pain. Gardening is incredibly therapeutic, and I would argue helps a whole lot more than you may think in recovering from a traumatic injury.

4. Yoga. For me yoga has been wonderful in keeping my muscles stretched and it simply feels so good when I'm having a painful day. It also helps to reduce stress with the breathing techniques. My teacher does a slower-paced deep stretch type of class that lasts about an hour and twenty minutes, which I think is especially beneficial for my condition. It's not strenuous, but relaxing.

5. Hot and cold therapies and if necessary, a muscle relaxer. A heating pad, a hot bath, or sometimes cold packs applies to the jaw and face are helpful in times of acute pain. And occasionally, I might have to take a muscle relaxer. Some people may also find an anti-anxiety type of medication to be a more effective rescue medication for their pain. There used to be times when I was suffering in years past when that was the only thing that gave me relief.

6. Diet. I definitely feel better when I follow a gluten-free diet that is also well-balanced whole/traditional foods with plenty of vegetables, fruits, sources of protein, and low in sugar. My new primary care doctor, an osteopath, who also specializes in pain management, wanted me to try the autoimmune diet but I simply cannot go that far just yet. Right now, I think going gluten-free is enough really makes a big difference. I definitely have times when I cheat but I'm hoping to sick to a low-gluten diet in the future.

In a way for me the key was "less is more." I had times when I ended up more inflamed and flared up after receiving some sort of medical treatment versus when I had just let the muscles rest for a while without any prodding.

Try not to dwell on your pain or condition. And above all, don't spend too much time googling what's wrong because you will just end up scaring yourself and worrying more!