I would love to be able to write regularly and consistently on here, but that is just SO not in the cards for me right now. I’m just going to put it out there that from here on, don’t expect consistency with me when it comes to my writing. I’ll keep trying with the sewing posts, but that’s kind of hard. Sometimes I write easily and I have lots of motivation in a single week, and sometimes I don’t have the time or energy for writing for two weeks. That’s what happens when you do what we do! But moving on… Let’s talk road trips, filling freezers, and the holidays.
Last weekend, we returned home from a 9-day road trip. We could have been gone for 11 days, but by the morning of day 9, E was quite done with the driving, and I had enough of his crying, so we started to make our way home. We went down to St. Louis, then Bentonville (Arkansas), and then to New Orleans in the first 3 days, and then spend the next 5 days traveling back up to St. Louis, following the mighty Mississippi, and on the last day, we went from St. Louis back home. It was an adventure to be sure, like a giant field trip for the family. We saw a lot and we learned even more. I plan to share more about it with you soon!
I can’t remember off hand if I talked about this, but we had our final chicken butchering on October 28th. It ended up being just Scott and me, and if memory serves me correctly, I think we butchered 26 chickens. This final batch were the smallest ones yet. Honestly, they seemed as if their growth slowed when the temperatures started dropping. The day of butchering was very cold. I don’t remember the temps, but I think we were near freezing temps when we started butchering for the day. It was our best butchering time yet (in terms of speed). We were so cold that we worked as fast as we possibly could to get the butchering done. Scott did all of the bleeding, scalding, and plucking, while I did nearly all of the evisceration and most of the packaging. Peanut was a good help with packaging in the beginning, but he got cold and stopped helping eventually. Pumpkin helped run the water for the plucker and keep chickens in the trailer until we were ready to butcher.
Can I be honest with you? I was SO HAPPY to be done with the chickens for the year. I am so glad we raised chickens again, and to have a freezer FULL of meat, but I am happy to be done moving the chicken tractors every day, done hauling feed and water… I told Scott that next year, I’d really like to try and get the chickens raised in a tighter grouping (maybe 2 week spacing between batches instead of 1 month), so that it’s not such an extended period of time for working with them. Really, it wasn’t that bad, and we have some plans for making that job even easier in the future, but I just was ready to be done with it by the end of the season. I think it didn’t help that I was feeling like quite a failure at a lot of different things, and with so many predator issues at the beginning of the chicken raising season, I was just anxious to be done so that we would actually get the amount of chicken I had wanted into our freezer.
You know what has been really good for reversing that sense of failure (besides getting chicken in the freezer)? The Handmade Christmas Gift Boot Camp that I’ve been talking about. The projects in it are good baby steps back in the right homesteading mindset direction. I’ve been wanting to make soap for over 3 years now, and I finally did it! I didn’t get it perfect, but it turned into soap, and it works! I admit that I was nervous before starting, just feeling like somehow I would screw it up. The kids were out of the room, watching shows so I could work safely on the project, but just when it was about time to mix the oils and the lye, they decided to come down into the kitchen by me, and I rushed the last steps of the process to avoid children getting chemical burns or making a mess of the already messy project.
Rushing the process didn’t completely ruin my soap. I made a large batch of soap like in the video, but I divided the basic batch into 4 smaller batches that I scented differently. In one batch, it seemed like the essential oils I added may not have mixed in well. In another, it seemed like it just never reached the right consistency. I’m going to examine them more over the weekend before deciding if I need to rebatch or not. Either way, I’m glad I finally made soap!
Last night, Miss Lady and I made the tinted lip balm (also from the Boot Camp) with one of her cousins. Honestly, I did most of the work, they just watched, but they were as happy as can be watching, and they each got a tube of tinted lip balm at the end. The recipe uses cocoa butter, so they smell kind of chocolatey, and we ended up putting a bit of peppermint into them, so they’ve got a peppermint patty quality to them. Miss lady may have taken a bite out of hers *mother sighs and shakes her head*… Thankfully, none of the ingredients were harmful, but I did have to explain to the girls that they shouldn’t eat it, even if it tastes like chocolate! The girls are going to be giving out the different lip glosses to their fellow female cousins and aunts on that side of the family (but don’t tell, and if you receive one, act surprised 😉 ).
I’m planning to work on a few more of the projects from the boot camp in the next month, but I’m not sure which we’ll do next. I really want to make the cinnamon ornaments next, but seeing as there won’t be a tree to put them on for at least a week, I don’t want to do them until that point. So I’m not sure what we’ll tackle next, but I’m sure I’ll tell you about it! The bonuses that Jennifer has put in are neat… how to make your own seasoning mixes, directions and printables for a recipe book, and creamed maple (it’s like a spread). I’ll probably reference the spice mixes in the future, and the creamed maple is one I’ll probably make before Christmas.
If you are still interested in participating in the Boot Camp, it’s not too late. Right now through November 20th, it’s still on sale for $39.97. After that, the price goes up to $49.97 until December 22nd, when sales for the Boot Camp close. You’ll have access to all of the videos and downloads until September 30th, 2018, when they’ll be getting ready for next year’s boot camp. I have to say in all honesty, I’ve been absolutely loving the boot camp. There are multiple projects that you can do with pretty little children, and there’s definitely a few new projects that I have or will take on. But one of the things that are really nice about it is that if you purchase a “spot” in the boot camp, you have access to the Facebook group, which allows you to ask questions to the different teachers. You can also share pictures of your projects and help encourage others through their projects, which is nice for helping keep the motivation up as you make your handmade gifts.
Speaking of handmade things, I’ve been working on a few sewing posts. Tomorrow, I’m hoping (fingers crossed) to finally get my felt ornament post up. I wrote most of the post, but then I had to redo some of the pictures, and then I ran out of time before the road trip, and then my laptop charger cord broke… So the hope is to get that up sometime tomorrow for you. The felt ornaments are fun and fast and easy. I made some by myself, but I’ll be making more with the kids soon.
You know the post with the 10 gift ideas for the sewist? Well, that wasn’t supposed to get posted. I had written it while talking with my mom and scheduled it to be posted while away, but right before leaving on the road trip, we decided to do the gift post differently, only I never canceled the first post *sigh.* Yeah. Anyway, there was never really anything wrong with the post, but it wasn’t what I wanted to put up. So (hopefully) tomorrow, my mom’s version of the post will go up, and it includes 40 gift ideas for the sewist, and it’s broken up into different categories to give you ideas for different situations. We’ll have links to the items listed to make it easier for you to do your shopping.
I’m also working on another hand-sewing post, this one for a small drawstring bag. I spent maybe an hour or so making one at my sister’s house the other night. She had some friends over for a craft night, and we chatted while working, so it wasn’t like it was taking my full concentration the whole time to make the bag. The plan is to sew up a few to put some baking mixes into for Christmas, but you’ll be able to make yours in whatever size you want, for whatever purpose you have in mind. We’ll be practicing the back stitch, and it would be easy enough for you to use that concept to sew up a pillow if you wanted.
Now that we’re back from our road trip, it’s time for me to start thinking about Thanksgiving. This year, Pumpkin’s birthday lands on Thanksgiving. I still can’t get over the fact that he’s going to be NINE next week. It feels unreal. Anway, Thanksgiving is going to be at our house this year since his birthday and the holiday land on the same day this year. The house will need to be cleaned well, I’ll need to make sure we have enough tables and chairs for the 25 people who will be here, and I need to think about things like decorating, menu planning and prep, dishes… My parents have a large set of dishes that we use every year, and all the women in my family work together to plan for and make the meal, so it’s not all on any one person. (The men are on dishwashing duty after the meal.) Everybody chips in somehow. Even so, I’m thinking along the lines of my tablescape post from a while back.
With Thanksgiving coming up and cold weather really settling in, I’ve been thinking about food. What foods do I want to contribute to our meal? What foods will warm us up the best on a chilly evening? I made a variation on my favorite kind of mashed potatoes the other day, and last night I made one of my favorite soups. It got me thinking though that maybe I should share a few of my favorites on here, so I may be doing that over the cold months ahead.
Tomorrow, gun hunting season starts for us. Scott is planning to go out this weekend and next. We’d absolutely love to get at least one deer this year to help fill our freezers. We have plenty of chicken for the year, but it would be nice to have another meat option! And it would admittedly be good for morale here after a year of failures.
Oh, and speaking of filling freezers, here’s a friendly reminder. If you are longing to have your freezer full (or your pantry), now through Christmas is the time to work on that. This is the time of year when food goes on sale. Learn what can be frozen (meats, beverages, butter…) and what is shelf-stable, and stock up when they go on sale. Butter is typically at it’s cheapest this time of year, so it’s a great time to stock up. Sausage for party platters go on sale, so if you like snacking on things like that, get extra. Crackers are usually on sale, and so are baking ingredients. I’m hoping to make a shopping trip very soon to stock up on food, especially after a dismal harvest year, and now that we officially have 7 people eating regularly at home (E eats big people food now 🙂 ).
For those heading out to hunt in the coming weeks, I’m praying for your safety! What kinds of holiday preparations are you making right now? Will you join me for the Boot Camp? Are you hosting a holiday at your home? I love hearing from you, so don’t forget to leave your comments!