Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beautiful Wisdom on Self-Discipline

I love this poem by Samuel Longfellow:

Go Forth To Life

Go forth to life, oh! child of Earth
Still mindful of thy heavenly birth,
Thou art not here for ease or sin,
But manhood's noble crown to win.

Though passion's fires are in thy soul,
Thy spirit can their flames control,
Though tempters strong beset thy way,
Thy spirit is more strong than they.

Go on from innocence of youth
To manly pureness, manly truth;
God's angels still are near to save,
And God himself doth help the brave.

Then forth to life, oh! child of Earth,
Be worthy of thy heavenly birth,
For noble service thou art here;
Thy brothers help, thy God revere!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Best Blog Award Picks

Thanks again to Terria of Daily Good for honoring me with the Best Blog award. It's not very easy choosing my favorite blogs out of the many wonderful blogs created by very talented and creative people. There are SO many, with such a variety of content and style, but here are 15 that stand out to me as "Best Blogs", each for a uniqueness that I appreciate. Not in any particular order:

Over Good Ground - Beautiful!!! AND, she raises goats :-)

Bush Babe - A part of me feels at home with her.

The Hermitage - Art, fantasy, a true adventure.

Katney's Kaboodle - I love her photos

TRUE NORTH - I'd like to see more posts because I love what he does.

Are You Sure You Want To Eat That? - Lots of great info on a topic that is useful and interests me.

Marking The Path
- He's insightful, real, and sincere.

Southern Home Moments - Upbeat and positive, well done personal blog.

A Cheery Disposition
- I like her style

A Heart 4 Heaven - She hasn't written a lot yet, but what she has, is beautiful.

Sending Postcards - Great pictures, fun to travel with them.

Choose Joy - Real, Honest, Inspiring

A Lily Among Thorns - A beautiful person who truly loves the Lord.

Metamorphosis - An energetic thinker - like me! With a REAL life.

Creative World - I've dabbled a little in pottery and really enjoy the beauty she creates.

Thank you to all of you out there who are willing to share a little of yourself with the rest of us!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Cutest Kids!

Hey everyone! We're starting a new business and it's keeping us more than busy, so sorry I haven't posted this past week. But I just have to tell you about my goats! I'm really sticking my neck out here, but yes, the picture is of me. Me and Sally. I was about 12.

We had a milking cow named Buttermilk - we called her Bossy for short - but Dad decided to try goats since they are so much cheaper to keep and easier for us kids to work with when we were little. It usually took 2 of us, taking turns, to milk the cow, and I was always a little scared of that big hoof hitting me or knocking over the pail. I was about 8 or 9 when we bought our first goats. I had a milking doe named Sweetpea; a beautiful Alpine with markings like Sally's but she was brown with white and black trim. Sally is her daughter. I usually sold the kids in the summer but Sally was one that I kept and she turned out to be a very big, strong, milking doe.

Goats are really a lot of fun. I raised about every kind of farm animal there was to raise, and I'd have to say that goats are definitely the most intelligent and have the most personality. They were my favorite "pets" and are easy to work with and pretty inexpensive to keep. They got a couple of cups of good Purina Goat Chow at milking time. The rest of the day they needed a clean water supply, a salt mineral block, good grazing in the summer, and some good hay in the winter. They do NOT eat garbage! They are actually the most finicky eaters of any farm animal I know. Even when they got 100% alfalfa, they would nibble out all the little dried leaves and leave the big stalks, which we would throw to the cows. When too many bugs landed in the water bucket, "the girls" would beller for me until I came down and refilled the bucket with fresh water.

They are very curious, though, and like to explore things by nibbling on them. I think that's where they got the bad reputation. They chewed a few holes in pieces of clothing left outside, and occasionally shredded and chewed up boxes or other paper items. However, when a cardboard box was once left in the meadow, the cows ate it in its entirety!

Sometimes in the summer, I would cut a patch of tall grass with a hand cythe. Each day I'd turn it with a pitchfork until it was dry in the sun. When it was ready, Dad and I would load it into the pickup and haul it to the barn where we would fill a stall with grass for the winter. Dad scattered a little salt through it as we piled it in the barn. That keeps it dry, prevents mold and cuts down on fire danger. It also provides them with some salt in their diets. This picture is of Dad and I hauling the hay to the barn. Oh, those were the days!

Goats are like people, in that their disposition often reflects the way they have been "raised". Sweetpea had a nice set of horns (and a beard). We bought her when she was a year old and the family who had her, had children who would grab her by the horns and pull her around. She hated that. In the 14 years I had her, she would never let anyone touch her horns, except me. She liked it when I scratched her head between them. Sorry to say, she tossed more than one unsuspecting child who came to our house to visit and unknowingly reached towards her head. She treed my cousin once and wouldn't let him down until I came. She loved Saltine crackers and napping with me under a tree on a hot summer day. She followed me everywhere I went, even in the house (when Mother wasn't home!). If I went in to make a sandwich or get a drink or something else, I'd let her follow me. She would go from room to room and patiently wait. I guess I can safely divulge that info now that it's so far in the past!

Baby goats are the cutest things on hoofs! Within 20 minutes of being born, they are trying to jump and frolic in their new-found world. I cuddled them and held them on my lap. There were 2 drawbacks to that, however. First, they loved to chew on long hair and very often I rescued a strand after it was mixed in with a gooey green glob of cud! Secondly, they never out-grow being a "lap baby". More than once, I had a full-grown goat, bigger than me, try to climb onto my lap and plop down. They love the affection and companionship.

Goats are very social animals and don't like to be alone. You should always have at least 2 and they will be pretty content. The young ones love to climb and are very playful. We made a climbing mountain out of 3 or 4 of those big wooden cable spools that the electric company often discards. We also stood one up on its side and put a 2x10 over it for a Teeter-Totter. The little goats would run up and down that board and play Teeter-Totter with each other, or with us, for hours!

They also loved bouncing on the inner tubes, which I mentioned in The Ultimate Kid's Toy (Oct. 21, 09). One day when Grampa came down to our house in his pickup, my frolicky little kids seized the opportunity to explore the new playground. When he came out of the house and saw them butting heads and jumping around all over the hood and roof - well, let's just say he was NOT happy!

Goat milk is close to human milk in molecular structure - much more so than cow's milk - which is why babies and other people with milk intolerances can often drink goat's milk. It is naturally homogenized, so very little cream separates and it is a rich milk. I sold a lot of milk around our valley, mainly for babies, but for a lot of others also with various health problems, or they just wanted a good healthy milk to drink. When the kids were born, I let the mother's lick them off and bond with them, but I'd milk her and put the milk in a bottle with a goat nipple on it. When they looked for milk, I'd steer them away from Mom and bottle feed them. We kept them separated most of the time for a week or two until they stopped looking to Mom for milk. When they were safely weaned, I put them back together. I milked in a bucket and took filters to the barn with me. With a filter in the funnel, I'd fill the bottles and feed 2 babies at a time - warm, fresh milk right out of the mother. The rest I took to the house, filtered, and put in the fridge in glass gallon jars. A healthy milking doe can give anywhere from 1 to 5 quarts of milk at each milking. On her peak years, Sweetpea gave 5 quarts of milk, twice a day!

With either cows or goats, you can sometimes detect a taste in the milk if they ate something strong, like pine boughs. The goat milk is probably even a little more sensitive than cow's milk. We could sometimes tell if she had nibbled some pine tips or had tried some strong weeds down by the spring. But normally, no one could tell the difference. We liked to pour some of the milk into a regular milk carton for visitors who refused to drink "that goat milk" that they insisted they wouldn't like. They would think they were getting the stuff from the store and be satisfied and we would chuckle about it when they left!

If you keep a buck for breeding, he needs to be kept separate from the milking does. The bucks urinate on themselves to attract the females. They can be pretty stinky and that strong odor can sometimes be faintly detected in the milk. We didn't keep any bucks. We took our does to someone with a buck when they were in heet, and had them bred. You can milk them where ever you want, but we had a little barn that Dad built 3 milking stanchions in. The picture on the left is Dad milking before we finished the barn. I don't have a picture of our stanchions, but the one on the right is a basic stanchion and gives you the idea.

At milking time, they would run to the barn - they looked forward to the grain and being milked - and each doe would jump up on her own stanchion. They each know their own name also. If 8 goats were up on the hillside, I could call one of their names, and she would be the only one to look up and answer me. They are very intelligent animals.

The goats need a little shed or "goat house" with fresh straw to sleep in. We used an old pickup topper and put boards across the inside to keep them off the dirt. Unfortunately, they don't go outside to do their business, so the straw has to be cleaned out and refreshed periodically. They also need a pen that will keep them in and dogs and other potential predators out. We put them in the pen at night after milking because we lived in the woods where there were coyotes, wolves, cougars and an occassional bear. If you have enough land that they can safely graze in the summer, they will stay pretty close to the house and people.

Their hay should be put in a hay feeder of some kind, not on the ground. Putting it on the ground results in a lot of waste and the goats can get mold and bacterias that will make them sick. Our milking does ate about 10 bales of good alfalfa each, during a winter. Because they pick around the larger stalks, there is always some waste. There are a lot of different types of feeding systems you can set up, but we just had a wooden trough, raised up off the ground, and covered to keep it dry. As they nibbled through the hay, they pulled very little out onto the ground. We had a small wooden platform around the feeder also, though, that was under the tin roof, so what little they pulled out, we could easily pick up and put back in. Here are a few ideas of hay feeders:

Many people also raise goats for meat. If you castrate the little buck, he is known as a Wether. With their personality and cuteness, I could never eat any of my goats! So I can't tell you anything about the meat. But if you are working towards greater self-reliance, goats can provide milk, cheese, and even meat, for very little cost. Add into that; companionship and entertainment, and I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want a couple of little goats!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jelly Bellys and Chickens

I don't know about you, but if I were forced to eat only what I've got stashed in a cold, dark room for a year, well, I can think of things more pleasant. However, if it's that or starve, believe me, I'd be very grateful! But it's the extras - things beyond survival basics - that make preparedness more appealing, even an enjoyable way of life.

First of all, I keep a little stash of M&M's, Jelly Belly's and hard candies between the rolled oats and powdered milk. It's "comfort food". But what I really need, is something FRESH! A garden is ideal. A greenhouse would be great. If the best you can do is a few herbs and vegies in a window box - absolutely do it! I store garden seeds and sprouting seeds. If any of you are interested in sprouting but don't know how to go about it, I can post some sprouting info.

Today, I want to peak your interest in other kinds of fresh foods. Imagine there's a food shortage going on and you have fresh drumsticks on the roost! How about organic eggs straight from the nest. Or fresh milk right out of the udder! Mmmmmmm!

Goats and chickens are fairly easy to raise and they aren't very expensive to keep. It's probably easier to have goats and chickens than you think. I know at least a dozen different people who live in little houses in town with little back yards and keep either goats or chickens, or both. For now let's just talk about chickens.

Chickens need a coop with nesting boxes where they can stay warm and dry, and a penned-in area outside surrounded with chicken wire, including on top. That's as much for keeping predators out as it is for keeping the chickens in. You can get ample ideas and building plans from books or the internet on how to build a simple chicken coop.

Some people just scatter feed every day, but I'd recommend a feed trough where their food can stay dry. Chicken feed isn't very expensive and well worth it for all the eggs and meat you can raise. They also need a clean water source. It's nice to keep sawdust or something in the coop to make cleaning it out easier. If you start with new chicks, don't make the mistake of putting them on straw. The straw is slippery and their little legs are not strong enough. We ended up with a few that couldn't stand up on the straw and by the time we realized it, they were crippled.

I'm not going to go into depth here on the details. I'd just like more people to be aware of how do-able it can be, even if you live in town. You can raise "fryers" for meat or "layers" for eggs, or both. We have a friend with 12 chickens who gets more eggs than he knows what to do with. He gives most of them away. I asked him why he doesn't just keep fewer chickens. He says he thinks harder times are just around the corner and he'd rather have too much than not enough, because he can sell them or trade for other things he may need, or just be able to help other people out. Trading and bartering is a great win-win situation. If you have children, it's a wonderful experience for them to have some animals to take care of. There is so much to be learned by observing and working with nature.

The more we can do now to LIVE more self-reliantly, the less trauma and crisis we will go through when times are harder and supplies may be hard to come by. For most people it will be a huge adjustment to go from living daily off the convenience of store shelves, to trying to figure out how to take care of themselves. I know a lot of people who wouldn't hardly notice the difference if the world shut down, because they don't have to rely on anyone else to live comfortably now. They would just keep on doing what they are doing. The closer we can get to that, the better off we'll be.

Google "Backyard Chicken Coops" and you'll be amazed at how popular raising chickens in the back yard is! There are designs that take as little as 10 x 6 feet for a coop and small run for 3 good laying hens. Here are a few nice ideas from Google Images:

With a few chickens and a stash of Jelly Bellys, you'll be on your way to being truly prepared! And, it's a much healthier way to live! (Well, maybe not the Jelly Bellys.) In the next post, I'll convince you that no home or family is complete without a couple of little goats!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Heart for a New Year

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."

Ezekiel 36:26-27

This is my prayer for all of us in this new year. We will be blessed and prepared and have peace if we stay close to the Lord, follow Him always, and let Him lead us.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Best Soap Making Supplies

In my search for soap making supplies, I learned that not all soap base is created equal. Not only did the prices vary greatly, but the ingredients used can be as individual as those using them. I wanted good, natural ingredients. I avoid things like Propylene Glycol and Sodium Laurel Sulfate.

Propylene Glycol has been found to cause damage to the liver, kidneys and other organs. Industrially, it comes with warnings not to let it touch your skin or inhale the fumes. It is the main component of antifreeze and engine coolants, fiberglass, imitation vanilla, and is found in most of our shampoos, toothpaste, lotions, other cosmetic products and many commercially processed foods. But the FDA has determined that very small amounts (in any one given product) doesn't pose any known health risks, except to cats. If you've washed your hair, brushed your teeth and eaten a dozen or so food products containing it all in one day, I wonder if that's considered a "very small amount".

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), or Sodium Laurth Sulfate, is a sudsing agent, or a detergent, and is highly corrosive. It has been found in testing to damage the liver, brain and other vital organs, and is considered one of the most dangerous ingredients used in body and bath products. The FDA gives it the same sanction as Propylene Glycol, because unfortunately in our country, the primary focus is on money, not health. Do a Google search on either chemical, or any other ingredient you are suspicious of in your food or "health and beauty" products. Your skin is like a huge sponge. What goes on it, goes in it. Here's a site that gives a quick overview of SLS.

Soap base makers begin with glycerin and then create their own recipes from there. The majority of the sites I shopped on included chemicals that I didn't want. Some were loaded with lots of natural ingredients, plant extracts and oils but they were expensive.

I was thrilled to find Cierra Candles. She sells candle and soap making supplies. Her soap base ingredients are simple and pure, no scary chemicals, and her prices are great. So I thought I'd save you all the trouble I went through of searching and comparing dozens of sources.

Having good health is a very important factor in being self-reliant and prepared. If we are dependent upon doctors, we are not self-reliant. We are stuck in that trap of having to comply in order to get what we need. It's important to exercise, eat whole natural foods the way the Lord made them, and read labels! Good health is peace of mind.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Easy Homemade Soap

I've always loved glycerin soaps, but they can be pricey to buy. Glycerin soap is more gentle - better suited for babies, children and other people with more sensitive skin. I like the way they look, too. They come in clear, opaque or solid and endless variations of color and design.

Regular soap is made from a base of mixing vegetable or animal fats with lye crystals. The glycerin is a by-product of that process, that separates out when those are combined together. It is part of the natural chemical make-up of the fats. Even though it is chemically separated in the process, in the "cold process" method, it is mixed back into the soap, because the glycerin moisturizes and softens the skin. Commercial soapmakers separate the glycerin out. It is used in lotions, creams and for a plethora of other things, or to make pure glycerin soap.

I know several people who make their own soap at home, and the internet is full of soap-making instructions. It doesn't look terribly complicated, but the lye must be handled very carefully. You need to wear protective clothing and eyewear because it will burn your skin, can be fatal if swallowed, will remove paint, and the vapors can damage your lungs. I've never wanted to mess with that, so I discovered the ease of what is called "melt and pour" soap. You just buy blocks of glycerin and by-pass the combining the fat and lye step. It's quick, easy, safe to do with children, and inexpensive. It's also a lot of fun because you can be creative with colors, scents and design.

Melt and pour soap base can be purchased on the internet, from a craft store, or from a local wholesale source if you have one. I've also found it on E-bay. Craft store prices are much higher. Our local craft store sells it for about $10 per pound. Bulk sellers list it on E-bay for about $4 - $6 per pound. I bought it from a local soap maker who also sells the soap base and scents to home crafters. She sells it for $2.36 - $2.95 per pound, depending on the quantity you buy. One pound will make 4 of the large 4 oz. size bars. You can usually buy glycerin soap in the stores for $2 to $6 for a 3 1/2 or 4 oz. bar. I made smaller bars; about 2 to 3 ounces, and the cost came out to around 35 or 40 cents each.

Melt and pour soap is made by melting the glycerin, adding your scent and color, and pouring it into the mold. It's that simple, unless you want to get a little more creative by layering colors or embedding objects or other soap pieces. You will need a microwave safe container (glass, not plastic) or a double boiler to melt the glycerin in, scents, coloring, a spoon or stir stick and the mold to pour the melted soap into. I also use a spatula to clean the container out with, and you will need a knife if you pour it into a large container, instead of individual molds, so you can cut it up after it's cooled. A glass measuring cup will work for the microwave if you are only making a couple of bars of soap at a time. For larger batches, a double boiler is preferable.

I found that the double boiler was easier for melting the soap base consistently and mixing everything in while it maintained a good constant melt temperature. With the microwave, you have to melt it in short intervals of about 15 to 20 seconds, stirring between each one, which also made more foam on top. In the double boiler, it melted easily without the danger of over-heating, and I could stir it around gently with the stick without forming any foam on it.

To make a double-boiler, you need a pan to heat water in, and another pan or glass container that will sit on top of it, preferably with a good fit to keep the steam in. Keep the water hot and steaming without touching the top container. (NOTICE: You cannot re-use the pans or other containers and utensils that come in contact with the hot soap for food, so you may want to go to the thrift store and buy a few used items that can be saved only for soap making.)

Cut the glycerin block into small pieces before melting. This is the pink soap in the double boiler, after adding the scent and color. If you stir very slowly, and only enough to push the unmelted pieces down until they are all liquid, it will not foam or form bubbles. When a few bubbles form, spray the top with Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol, and they will disappear.

Instead of buying individual molds, I poured most of my soap into bun pans that I bought at the dollar store, and then cut them into squares. In this picture, the blue soap is already cut and wrapped in plastic wrap.

For the green soap, I used a soy milk box, washed it out and coated the inside of it with Vaseline. You can use a milk carton, a loaf pan, candy molds, popsicle molds, or anything else that has the size and shape you want. If you spray your container with Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol right before you pour the soap in, it should come out easily. When the soap is cooled and set, turn the container upside down and gently twist it, push in the center, or if it is a very solid container and the soap doesn't want to come out, you can put it in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes. The soap will shrink slightly. Then run warm water on the bottom of the container and the soap should come right out.

I bought both clear and white soap bases. Some of the white base, I cut up into slivers, slabs or chunks to put in the melted clear soaps for design. The lavender and pink soaps were made from the white base. Here are some pictures of the finished bricks of soap and the bars after they are cut:

The lavender soap was made by melting and coloring some of the white soap base, and then adding pieces of uncolored white soap. For the pink soap, I cut up and added all the scraps that I trimmed off the bricks of clear soaps after they were finished. It gave it a nice confetti look. The hot soap has to cool to about 125 degrees before adding pieces if you don't want the pieces to melt. Putting them in while the soap is hotter and allowing them to melt creates a different look that you might like, or you can let them melt and then swirl them with a knife or stir stick.

If you make your soap with different colored layers, allow each layer to cool enough to be solid on top before adding the next layer of soap. Spray the first layer with Witch Hazel first so the layers will bond together, or they might separate after they are cooled. It's a good idea to spray your solid pieces that you add so they don't cause your soap to chip or crumble where the pieces are not bonded completely.

Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap to keep them fresh longer. Glycerin draws moisture from the air, so if left unwrapped, it will "sweat" by forming beads of moisture on itself. I made all 6 batches of soap in about 3 or 4 hours. It's such an inexpensive way to stock up on something both needed and nice to have. You can make one big batch in a short amount of time and stock up your storage supplies. Or, they can make very nice gifts. I made the soap this year as Christmas gifts for all our family and friends and only spent about $45 for all my supplies! Something both attractive and useful. I didn't have time to post it in time for a Christmas gift idea because I made them the day before Christmas Eve! But I hope you'll all try some soap-making this year. Have fun experimenting with design and color and have both nice gifts to give away and plenty of soap to add to your preparedness supplies. And all for very little cost!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Let's Get Prepared for a New Year!

It's a new Year! Resolutions or not, it's a great time to find the motivation for new commitments and re-evaluations. I am going to take fresh inventory of my family's needs so we can make a clear plan going forward into the year. Both economical and political forecasts indicate a greater need for preparedness.

I would urge everyone to work towards having 3 months worth of self-sufficiency, as much as is possible. Make a list of everything you would need on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. List food items, toiletries, personal things, medications, emergency heat, light and cooking, and needs for household, babies and pets, etc. If you had to stay in your home and rely on only what is there, have enough of everything you would need to be as comfortable as possible. Make a meal plan and figure the amounts of ingredients.

I know things are very tight for many of us, but it's amazing how quickly extra cash and items can be accumulated just a little at a time without really noticing that any extra was taken. It's not too hard to cut out a few things that aren't essential and put that money towards your preparedness goals. Here's a few ideas:
  • Don't eat out this month. Pack a lunch instead of buying fast food.
  • Rent a $1 movie instead of going to a theater.
  • Don't buy the clothing item unless you really need it. Even if it is a great sale!
  • Keep a list of groceries and other things you need and then go buy them at once, instead of running to the store every time you think of an item or two. Use less gas.
  • Learn how to make fun entertainment at home by playing card or board games, reading good books, crafts or hobbies, good conversation with family members.
  • Cook more from scratch and buy less pre-prepared convenience foods. This will save you LOTS of money! You'll be healthier too! Soups are so easy and very healthy.
  • Trade needs with a friend. Let someone cut your hair and you watch her kids. Loan your neighbor your lawn mower and let him help you work on your car. You can develop a support group at the same time!
  • Don't waste! Extra food can be eaten next meal or for a snack. Reuse items.
There are always ways to cut back without it hurting. It just takes some commitment and self-discipline! We repeat a lot of things out of habit and routine, but with a plan and a clear picture, it's not too difficult to make some great changes. You can save hundreds of dollars a month by following some of these suggestions, and that will buy a lot of extra storage items, or put away a little extra cash! So...
  1. Take inventory of what you have.
  2. Make a list of what you need.
  3. Make a plan and set a goal to have it completed.
There's no better time than now to prepare. I pray this new year will be filled with success and peace of mind for us all!


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