"The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land."
-Abraham Lincoln

Thrifty Thursday

I met a woman in the grocery store the other day who was complaining about the high cost of general household cleaners.  Store bought cleaners generally cost anywhere from $2.20 upwards to $5.00.    Most of these cleaners can be made at home for much cheaper and with less toxicity.

There are a few base ingredients that you will need if you intend to make your own household cleaners.
1. Plain white vinegar.
2. Baking soda
3. Rubbing Alcohol
4. Borax
5. mild dish detergent

This recipe for an all purpose cleaner is one that you can mix up right in the spray bottle.  It's easy and economical.
All Purpose Spray Cleaner:
1 tblsp. vinegar
1 tblsp. borax
Hot water
a few drops of dish detergent
essential oils *optional*
Makes 16oz.

In your spray bottle combine the vinegar and borax.  Fill the bottle about half full with the hot water and swish or stir until the borax is dissolved.  Add the dish detergent and fill the rest of the bottle with more hot water.   Add essential oils if you'd like.

Soft Scrub recipe:
This one simply requires a small amount of baking soda (enough to get the job done).  Add liquid dish detergent to the baking soda until it forms a paste-like consistency. 
It's great for use on sinks and counters.

Glass Cleaner:
1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 cup water
1 tblsp. white vinegar

Mix together all of the ingredients right in the spray bottle.  Use it just as you would any commercial window cleaner.

Wood Polish:
1 cup olive oil or almond oil
1/2 lemon juice
a few drops of essential oils are optional (I don't use them for this recipe because I find that the scent of the lemon or scent from the almond oil if I use it instead of olive oil is pretty enough)

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle.  Spray onto a cleaning cloth and apply it to your furniture like you would commercial wood polish.

Carpet freshener: You could just sprinkle plain baking soda directly onto your carpets if you want a no frills carpet deoderizer but if you want something with a little more oopmf then try this recipe:
6 cups baking soda
3 cups dried lavender buds and flowers
1 cup cornstarch

Mix well and place inside an air tight plastic container.  Store for at least 2 days before using.  Sprinkle onto your carpet and let it sit for 45min-1 hour then vacuum it up.

Making your own cleaning products saves your money and your lungs.  
**A word to the wise if you want to make your own cleaners... Never mix vinegar or other acidic materials like ammonia with bleach. It WILL result in toxic fumes. So if you decide to go from here and experiment please do so safely and research.**

The above image can be found here.

Some New Projects

It's been nothing but cloudy, rainy, and downright dreary around here lately.  It was unusually warm yesterday and today but, to quote Dr. Seuss, "The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house..." and we made sculptures!

This is the before picture (note the newspaper. Multiple layers are necessary if your doing this project with kids that are anywhere near as messy as mine)
We used a homemade self hardening clay recipe:
4 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of salt
1 1/2 cups of water
Mix together in a large bowl until a dough forms and you have self hardening clay.
After your finished modeling and sculpting away, allow the clay to sit in a warm dry place for about 2 days (depending on the thickness) until completely dry.
The sculptures seen above had been drying for 3 days.

Once they were completely dry I mixed about 1/2 cup of white vinegar to 1 package or kool aid to make a nice stain.
Then I gave the kids free reign to "paint" their sculptures to their heart's content.
The picture above are the finished products.

On a more grown up note, I've finished one comfortghan for one of our local nursing homes.  

It's large enough to fit a full size bed and fits a standard size nursing home hospital bed with a little extra hanging over the edge.

I really loved the colors in this afghan.
The variegated green, brown, tan and white yarn just makes me feel happy.

We also recieved a wonderful gift on Saturday.  

A beautiful, light, and lacey baby afghan from my very talented aunt.
I love this because the color would work well for a boy or a girl and it's nice to have something a little lighter weight to wrap Youngest in when we are inside.

All in all it was a pretty good weekend.  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well.

Dachshund Puppies

Cookie had her puppies last night and I have to say they are absolutely ADORABLE!  
She started labor around noon with heavy nesting and some whining and had delivered the last pup at about 1:30 am.   She had 6 total, 5 boys and 1 girl, which is one more than showed up on the x-ray.  

Here she is with 4 of the 6 puppies.  She was taking a much needed rest at this point.

Fortunately everything went smoothly.  I had the vet on call but he really wasn't needed.  She knew exactly what to do and when to do it.
All the puppies are healthy and eating well.

I've already got some cute little puppy toys in progress.

Absolutely Hilarious Video

I found this video over at the self sufficient life which is a really cute blog so be sure to check it out.
Anyways, I tend to love Ray Steven's music video's as it is.  I remember watching "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" as a kid and "It's Me Again Margaret".   Those videos are CLASSIC.
So here's his latest and not only is it funny, it's also very reflective of the time and seemingly general sentiment of the American people.   Can't get any better than that. 


A couple of months ago I went into the dentist's office because of a pain in my upper right wisdom tooth.   Low and behold I had a decent sized cavity.   "Great" I thought, "at least I won't have to get it pulled"......
I made my way back into the dentists chair last week.   I was just a little nervous.  The last time I'd had my wisdom tooth pulled (upper left wisdom tooth) I was in the chair for over an hour.  45 minutes of that time was spent with the dentist literally yanking on my tooth.  The novacaine had worn off.  The dentist would clamp down on my tooth, pain would shoot through my mouth, I'd hear a crack, it would go numb for a second and then there would be blinding excruciating pain and then he would do it all over again.   I understand now why pulling teeth is such an effective form of torture.
I was expecting a similar experience this time around.   Except my current dentist is nothing like the dentist that did my last extraction.   I'm very fortunate to have found a dentist and dental office that make the patient's comfort their number 1 concern.  I've never seen a dental office that went so far above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to concern for their patients.   So last week when he started to pull the tooth and realized I wasn't completely numb he immediately stopped.  Bless his soul.  He gave me another shot.  I still wasn't numb.  He decided to send me to an oral surgeon.  I proceeded to panic.
I made the appointment with the oral surgeon anyways, like a big girl.   Today was the big day.  I was so nervous I thought I would surely pass out.   I tried to convince him that I didn't really need the tooth removed, the cavity could simply be filled.   His response was, "Nope, sorry, I can't recommend that".  Three shots later and my mouth is numb.  15 minutes later and he's back.   "You'll feel some pressure", he says.  That's the understatement of the century.  I thought my head was going to explode.
Not too much actual pain though for which I was eternally grateful.   The pressure was uncomfortable but this guy was aces at pulling teeth and the whole thing was over in less than 5 minutes.  
I was prescribed some pain meds, antibiotics and loaded up on gauze pads.   I'm still bleeding a little and I'm a bit sore even as I type this almost 10 hours later but it's not as bad as it was.  At least it's behind me now.  

Anyways, the anticipation of the event had me so worried that I wasn't blogging much.  Nor was I crafting much for that matter.   I've been working on a couple of old projects that need finished and hopefully will be able to post them soon.  
So here's too happy teeth and happy crafting.

What's your beef?

My urban dwelling friends often ask me how I can take animals I've raised or help raise to market to be killed.  Their initial reaction is that it's inhumane to eat animals you've raised.   We usually end up in lengthy discussions where I end up explaining to them my viewpoint on the issue and they always seem to come out of it a little more world weary, a little more jaded, and with a strong resolve to buy from local farmers.  
I entered into one such conversation today and it made me wonder how many people out there are under the impression that buying their meat from the grocery store is somehow better, more humane, than buying it from local farmers?   It seems to me that people see chicken, beef, pork, all packaged nicely and wrapped to go, in the grocery store and they don't think about where it comes from or how it got there.   Somehow, since they are so far removed from the process, it doesn't seem as concerning to them.


My argument is generally that raising your own animals are at least buying from small farms where you can go and see how the animals lived and were raised is more humane and healthier than buying from the grocery store.

The reason for my argument is that most grocery stores get their meats from animals raised on factory farms.   Factory farms that operate like these:

Where "breeding" stock pigs are kept their entire life time in pens so small that they can't even turn around.

The living conditions in these farms are so crowded and unsanitary that illness spreads like wildfire.
The animals are loaded up on super antibiotics because if they weren't thousands of these animals would be lost to illnesses that are almost unheard of on small farms that run a clean operation.
They are also loaded with growth hormones so that they reach slaughtering weight faster and more "efficiently".

Another example of the extreme over crowding at factory farms.

Many times chickens are crowded 10 or more to a cage with little room to move.
Mind you, chickens are not the brainless birds that they are sometimes portrayed to be.
They are engaging, intelligent (at least as intelligent as dogs and cats), friendly, creatures that when left to live a full life will form social connections and heirarchies in their groups, care for their young and bond to each other and to humans.

Pigs and cows are much the same way.
Pigs are super smart and complex creatures but in factory farms they are often abused and dead animals are often found lying around the floors and inside the holding pens.

Pigs that are still alive but to sick to move are sometimes left behind to die or, possibly even worse, pushed, pulled and drug into the slaughter house to make it into our food supply.

These are downed calves (some only hours old, others only a few days old) that are on their way to the slaughter house.
They are too weak and too sick to move.
This is what is packaged to Americans as "veal".

Now, compare this to what my animals go through.  Our chickens go through their lives in a roomy coupe with a nice sized grassy area for roaming and grazing.   They are fed a varied diet of grain, grasses and tasty little bugs that they pluck straight out of the ground.   They are kept in clean areas that are safe from predators.  They are handled with care and loved (yes genuinely loved) until the time comes for them to be processed.   We process our chickens ourselves in such a way as to minimize their stress and pain and to make the process go as quickly for them as possible.  They aren't strung up by their feet in mass production lines of flying feathers and frantic sqwuaking, loud machines and broken bones.

Our cows enjoy plenty of open pasture.  Good quality food and clean enclosures.  They recieve proper veterinary care, as do our chickens, and handled and talked to daily.   They are shown love and respect.  They get fresh air and we never, ever, rip mothers away from their babies until they are properly weaned at the right age.  Our orphaned calves aren't sent, feeble and sickly, to the slaughter house.  They are bottle fed and carefully attended to until they grow up strong and healthy.
When we take them to market we take them to a butcher that we personally know and that strictly adheres to certified humane standards.  Not all butchers do adhere to those standards, many just want to cut costs, and unfortunately it's difficult for outside groups to crack down on those that do not adhere to these standards.  Our butcher is not understaffed and his workers are treated fairly and well paid which actually does make a huge difference in how they treat the animals.
Unfortunately slaughterhouses like these, with skilled experienced and compassionate workers are becoming harder and harder to find because of the explosion of factory farms.  Factory farms tend to do their butchering on site and if they don't they hunt down the large slaughterhouses that are cheap and can turn out huge numbers of animals. 
There are alot of reasons for the success of factory farms but at least one of those reasons is public ignorance to the problem.   You don't need to go vegetarian to help animals, you just need to avoid factory farms, support the small farmers and bring family farms back from the brink.    With the resurgence of family farms you'll see a resurgence of smaller operation slaughterhouses and smaller operations HELP to ensure more humane operations.


Unless you have been living under a rock (in which case you probably would not end up on here anyways) you've heard about the earthquake and subsequent devastation in Haiti.  
The Haitian people are in bad need of help and support.   In order to try and get the word out there, I've included a list of ways that you can help the relief effort.
1. An easy way to help the relief effort is to text the word Haiti on your mobile phone to 9099.  Doing that automatically sends $10 to the American Red Cross to be used for Haiti.
2. You can visist the American Red Cross website at http://www.redcross.org/.  There is information on their website about donating and volunteering. 
3. You can also check out the Salvation Army website at www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf
4. Head to your church and pray.  Also many churches are taking up donations for Haitian relief as well and some are recruiting people to travel to Haiti to help.  

If we all pitch in and do what we can then we can make a huge difference to the people of Haiti.

Funny Youtube Video

A docu-drama detailing why you should never turn your back on a ram.  Please turn your cell phones off, sit back, and enjoy the movie.  Popcorn and refreshments are available in the kitchen.  Thank You.

I feel this guys pain, I've been on the receiving end of a cranky ram before, it hurts.


As a follow up to my previous blog entry I thought I would share some project ideas that can utilize our new found laminating talents (whether they be of the laminating machine, self sealing, or warm iron variety).

The first project idea?  Bookmarks!
I LOVE to read.  I devour books as often as I can and I've found that my kids are becoming little bookworms themselves.
Unfortunately, as a result of rigorous over-use, every book mark that ends up in this house is crumpled, ripped and destroyed in a mere matter of days.

I think you can see where I'm going with this...
we needed a way to protect our bookmarks so that we didn't end up having to resort to using string, pieces of paper, old bandaids (j/k about that last one), or whatever is laying around the house to keep our page.

Plus, it's a great way to personalize them.

I decided to whip up a quick photoshop image using royalty free and common use images and vintage ephemera...

I also found a whole host of pre-made bookmarks for microsoft office here that are available for download and I printed off some of those as well.

It's best to use cardstock for this project.
It adds even more stability to the bookmarks.

I proceeded to laminate in the same manner as I described in the last post and...

The finished product.
Now we have nice, personalized, and sturdy bookmarks.

Case closed ;)

Thrifty Thursday

I finished my 7x9 granny "rectangle" for Warm Up America.  

I used the rectangle granny square pattern found at crochet cabana.
For me, 8 rounds worked up to the exact dimensions I needed (7in x9in).
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

Onto the Thrifty Thursday money saving tip(s)...

I worked up a couple of really cute little chore charts for my oldest two kids.  I tailored made them for each of my kids according to their ages, reading skill level, etc.  I wanted them to be able to cross off each chore as they went through the day but having to print out multiple chore charts for the week or month seemed tedious and rather expensive in terms of paper and ink, not too mention wasteful.  The answer: laminating.   I could laminate a chore chart for each kid and hang it up in their room.  That way, they could use a washable marker or crayon and cross off each chore as they went through the day and the next morning we could wipe it clean and start all over again.  That's tip one.  Laminate your kids chore charts, or a template for your shopping list, or even a simple weekly planner.

With that idea in mind, I loaded up each of my little moppets and headed over to the local office supply store.  The laminators there ranged in price from $700 to $40.  I headed over to the local Walmart.   There the only choice of laminator cost $37.   I looked at the sheets of laminating paper.  The self sealing (no laminator needed) cost $10 for 20 sheets.   The ones that were meant to go through the laminator cost half that at around $5 for 20 sheets.  Now on to tip 2.
I didn't like the idea of paying nearly $40 for a laminator for simple home projects.  I really didn't like the idea of paying double for self sealing laminating sheets.  So, I came up with this thrifty little compromise.

I bought the sheets for the machine and decided to utilize my iron in lieu of the laminating press.
If you want to try this at home there are a couple of supplies that you will need.
1. An iron that has a low setting.
2. Thermal laminating sheets.
3. Tissue paper or light cloth to protect your iron.
4. Something to laminate (in this case I used an example of Middle's beautiful artwork monster)

Place your item into the laminating pouch like so...

Cover with the tissue paper.

For my iron I used the acetate/nylon setting.
If your iron doesn't have that option then just use the lowest setting if it gets too hot you'll have bumps and bunches and melted spots.

Press firmly as you iron.  I like to work from the top down and sweep out from the center as I go.
Make sure to get your corners and edges.
After about 10 seconds of work you have a nicely laminated product for a fraction of the cost.

Cookie's Story

Meet Cookie.
She's appeared on this blog before so I figure that it's about time to formally introduce her.
Cookie is a rescue mini dachshund.  She came from a puppy mill that was operating about 2 miles down the road from me.
The owner of the puppy mill had found out that he was about to be raided.
So he started to "unload" the evidence.
He began to dump dogs and puppies.
He dumped 4 at a neighbor's house and he dumped 5 in our yard.
With all the dogs that he dumped, animal control still found a whopping
60 (SIXTY!) dogs and puppies.  Turns out he couldn't unload all of them fast enough, he was still, thankfully, caught.

Of the 5 dumped at our house,
there was only 1 dachshund.  There were two chihuahuas, 1 lhasa apso, and 1 westie.
We fell in love with the dachshund immediately.  We already had a dachshund, Chandler (you can see his picture below), so we were familiar with the breed. It just seemed to fit.

Unfortunately, we couldn't keep all 5, and the two chi's were close to death as it was. 
We knew they needed more care than we could provide. We turned the other 4 over to the SPCA, they were the ones who were spearheading the investigation.
From what I've heard, 1 of the chi's passed away before the end of the night.  The other had to be put down. But, the westie and the lhasa apso were able to be treated and found good homes.

We named our new family member, Cookie, because she was so sweet and we got her over to our vet immediately.
She was treated for dehydration, they estimated her age at about 5 years, and found she was pregnant.
She was, apparently, one of his "breeding stock".
We began her treatment for worms around what we guessed, based on ultrasound, was her 40th day of pregnancy, as recommended by our vet.
Fortunately, considering what she went through and where she came from, she was fairly healthy.
Now, I don't have anything wrong with dog breeders.  But there is a right way to breed dogs and a wrong way.  What he was doing was definately the WRONG way.

ANYWAYS, that was back in November.
As of right now we are getting very close to end of her pregnancy.
As you can sort of see here:

I'm nervous and excited.
I've never been involved in the dog whelping process before.
Oh, I'm not new to the birthing process.
I've had three kids of my own, been around for the birth of calves, horses, goats etc.
But I've never been involved in the dog breeding realm of things.

I've got the vet's number posted on my fridge.
The number of a REPUTABLE and experienced dachshund breeder right next to the vet's number.
I've read books and articles online.
We've got the whelping box.
I've got the emergency puppy feeding kit.
We're ready.
Bring it on mother nature!

This would be Chandler.
Isn't he cute?

New Year's Resolutions

Every year I seem to follow the trend of making New Year's resolutions that benefit the outside of my body i.e. lose 10lbs, exercise more, eat healthier, etc.  But this year, I've decided to make a few resolutions that will hopefully benefit the "inner me".  
This year I resolve to:
1. Go at a little slower pace.  Stop piling on project after project after project.
2. Really stop to smell the roses.
3. Occasionally do things that I really enjoy just for the heck of it.
4. Be more spontaneous.

Baby it's COOOLD outside

It's seriously frigid out here today.   It got up to a whopping 4 degrees with a nice windchill of -10.   Needless to say it made my outdoor chores more than a little unpleasant.  

But, the chores are finished now.  The chickens are fed, the cows are fed, the horse is fed and I'm finally at home ready to sit down to a nice cozy cup of cocoa.   It seems like a good day today to once again tackle the "afghan from hell".

Also, I'm working on some more squares for Warm Up America.  So I'll hopefully be posting some of those up here soon as well.