by Jen on February 15, 2012
We got the kids a puppy for Christmas this year. After much debate, we named her Jessica Sophia or Jessie (like the cowgirl from Toy Story). :)
She’s mostly Australian Shepherd and really is a pretty smart dog. We’ve introduced her to the other livestock but she’s never been loose around anything except our two cats. So we’ll see if her natural herding instincts kick in or not.
by Jen on January 30, 2012
If you look up at the header image, you can see a stone retaining wall that runs from the garden shed over to the garage. Above that retaining wall is a mostly sunny spot that will eventually become the garden.
Here are a few pictures to get some idea of what we’re hoping to do.
We’re building raised garden beds because the soil is a lot of clay & sand. The landscape timbers mark out where the beds will be with paths between each for easier weeding/planting.
Here’s the middle of the garden along the fence looking out toward the street.
That is the beginnings of our garden. Hopefully we can get all the raised beds built up three timbers tall and filled with dirt in time to put the plants in.
I just ordered some seeds this week too. I’m planning to start as many as I can inside using handmade newspaper seedling pots. I’ll try to post those once I start making them.
What does your garden look like? What would your dream garden look like?
by Jen on January 26, 2012
We have been in our new home for almost 4 months, but since most of it has been colder temperatures, we have yet to move the chicken coop over. So, the girls are set up in the garage for right now.
We took the old chain link chicken run and put it inside the garage to give the chickens a 10 ft by 10 ft space inside where its warm. Here’s a few pictures:
We’re hoping to get the chicken coop moved over in the next couple of months and this spring, once we get the fence finished, they’ll free range in the backyard for part of the day.
That’s the plan anyway…
by Jen on October 25, 2011
Hey, I’ve been meaning to tell you about what we did last weekend, and what we got done the weekend before that…in fact we’ve just been downright productive all the way around. But before I can really expand upon our productivity, I had better tell you that we have a new prairie ashram.
You read that right! We found, saw and purchased a new property that is now the headquarters of Our Prairie Ashram. You may also have noticed our new header image of our new ashram. Its been very exciting here, but with the move taking place later in the year than we’d hoped, there are lots and lots of things that need to be done before fall wraps up and winter begins. Which is my attempt at an excuse for not posting the exciting information sooner. ;)
We moved in the last week of September and have been working weekends (and Matt’s days off) to get things done and try to get settled before the cold really settles in here. We’ve gotten some exciting things accomplished and I really can’t wait to post them for you, but more often than not I sit down on the couch after getting the kids tucked in bed and fall asleep sitting up for a good 20 minutes. And then once I wake up again I need to get lunches packed and clothes laid out for the kids to be ready for the bus in the morning. So, don’t take it personally, I’m not neglecting you purposely. And, we’ll be back soon to post more often.
Really, we will.
by Jen on September 4, 2011
I’ve never canned anything before, so when we decided to make grape jelly I really had no idea what to expect. Luckily Matt had some experience with canning things and I am grateful that he took the lead on this project.
My youngest and I picked grapes on Friday morning and ended up with a bucket full, approximately 10 lbs worth.
Our first step in the conversion to jelly was to pull the grapes off the stems.
Next, the grapes got rinsed and dumped into a stock pot.
Then, they got cooked and mashed and cooked and mashed.
And more cooking and mashing.
Then into the strainer to separate the juice from the pulp.
We ended up with just a little over 10 cups of grape juice after squeezing out every bit of juice we could.
We prepped our pint jars by filling them with hot water to keep them from breaking when we poured in the hot jelly.
Next, we mixed the fruit pectin and sugar with our grape juice and ended up with this fantastic tasting, though still slightly runny jelly.
We filled our jars and wiped them clean.
Then we added the tops and proceeded on to their hot water baths.
The final tally of useable jelly was 11 full pints with a bit leftover.
For my first canning adventure it was fun to see how it worked and especially fun when the end result looked & smelled & tasted like what we were hoping for. It was also good to make use of the fantastic crop of grapes we have. It wasn’t as hard as I thought, but I could see that it was definitely easier with Matt and me working together.
Have you done much canning this year? What do you like to “put up for the winter”?
by Jen on August 18, 2011
Well, once we knew for sure that Betty was a rooster, it was only a matter of time until we had to get rid of him. That time came this week when we received a letter of notice from the city. They had received a complaint regarding our rooster crowing and gave us almost a week to remedy the problem. Fortunately I had a friend who had a good home for him just outside of town where he’ll be able to stretch his wings and chase all the hens he wants to.
It was disappointing to have to send him off to another home, but we were very glad he’ll be able to keep up with a new group of girls.
I think I’ll miss the crowing, but I’m not sure yet. Sometimes I enjoyed him and sometimes he was annoying.
He was such a pretty rooster and I’m sad that one of my Americanas had to leave, but we really couldn’t keep him in town.
I’ll be curious to see how the coop dynamic changes with Betty gone. We’ll find out!
by Jen on August 8, 2011
This really isn’t the blog post I set out to write today, but while I was taking pictures for the blog post I was planning, I thought to check the chicken nests before going back inside.
Here’s what I found:
Yay! Two eggs, meaning two of our hens are laying now! And, because the eggs are both a blue-ish, green-ish color, that means that Beatrice is our newest layer.
Here’s Henrietta (our first layer):
Hopefully we’ll be getting some brown eggs in there soon from the rest of the girls. I’m looking forward to not buying eggs anymore!
by Jen on August 2, 2011
One of the first things I learned to do when we started this simple living thing, was to make my own laundry soap. Its such an easy thing and sooo worth it cost-wise! I make the powdered detergent, but if you need liquid detergent, there are instructions out there to make your own liquid detergent as well.
Here’s what you need:
–Soap. I use Fels-Naptha. Its a laundry soap/stain remover and is only $0.99 per bar at our grocery store. One bar will do a triple batch of the detergent recipe I use.
–Washing Soda. It is different from the Arm&Hammer laundry detergent, so make sure it says “Washing Soda” on the box.
–Borax. Honey, if you aren’t keeping borax in your house already, you should be. This stuff cleans up so many things! (My boys managed to squeeze out a nearly full bottle of pancake syrup onto our cream colored carpet, and after scooping up as much syrup as I could, I soaked the whole puddle with borax dissolved in water. You can’t even see the stain now, although there is a bit of a “crunchy” spot when you step down.)
Here’s what you do:
First peel back the wrapper on the bar of soap so you have a bit to hold on to.
With the other hand, hold a cheese grater over a clean bucket.
Then grate your soap into the bucket.
When I make a batch of detergent, I usually do a 12x batch. It uses up a whole box of washing soda & four bars of soap with a little borax leftover. Which, around here, is never a bad thing to have borax on hand.
But making a 12x batch means we do a lot of grating.
Once the soap is all grated, I then run it through my mini chopper to get finer pieces. The larger grated pieces still work, but they take longer to dissolve in the wash simply because they’re bigger pieces. So I do a round in the mini chopper.
(My detergent making helper isn’t a fan of the mini-chopper.)
Once the soap is ready, I measure out the other ingredients into a second bucket, and then add the soap pieces.
Here’s the recipe (remember I’m making a 12x batch here.):
Tip: I discovered that if you add the soda and borax on top of the soap, its really hard to get all the soap bit mixed in to the detergent. They tend to stick together and stick to the bottom. So I add the soap on top and then mix everything together.
It will look very similar to store-bought laundry soap when you’re done. But, this kind only takes 1-2 Tbsp per load.
Yes, it really only takes about a tablespoon to get your clothes clean. If however, you have extra dirty clothes feel free to add a second scoop.
I’ve also found this to be fantastic at cleaning up stained clothes due to potty-training accidents. Put a whole tablespoon into a washtub and fill it up with warm water, enough to cover your stained item(s). Leave it soak for a day or so and then run it through a regular wash cycle. I don’t know how many pairs of little boy jeans this has saved me.
One more trick I use is to keep an extra bar of the Fels-Naptha on hand and use it like a stain stick/pre-treat for standard issue stains.
How about you. . . have you ever made your own laundry detergent?
If you have, do you prefer it to store-bought detergent?
If you haven’t, do you think you might try a batch?
by Jen on July 31, 2011
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by Jen on July 27, 2011
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