Time for a Change


Clean house. Get organized.

Clean house. Get organized.

This has been my mantra. My goal. My ambition. For years.

I am not a lazy person. I’m on the go constantly. And I actually don’t mind cleaning. I love everything that goes with organizing: binders, files, bins, and baskets. Problem is I can’t afford all that crap. Some yes, but not for the quantity of stuff we have.

My mother thinks I am a hoarder. I am not. What I am is a homeschooling farming stay at home mother of 6, living in a 1200 square foot home.

Do I get rid of the books? Printer? Legos? Dishes???? I am constantly taking things off to Goodwill when the youngest child of each gender has outgrown them. I love getting rid of things that have outlived their usefulness to our family. But still, we are simply out of room.

This is the end of another long week of me banging my head against the wall trying to figure out where I’m going wrong.

Lose weight. Dress yourself up a bit.

Lose weight. Dress yourself up a bit.

Okay, not another mantra. But goals and ambitions. I actually talk to myself much differently than this…but I think all women do. We can be downright nasty to ourselves.

I spend like 15 minutes in the bathroom all day. Total. I look like crap. I’m overweight, my hair is frizzy, my eyebrows are like twin forests that have 2 eyeballs poking out of them.

Long story short, no matter how early I get up, no matter what kind of list I make, at the end of the day, I’ve barely showered, rarely shaved, and forget taking a walk.

I am ready. For a total shakedown. For a life upheaval. I’m tired of doing things the hard way everyday. So I want to do some REALLY REALLY hard things for a few weeks, and see if they don’t start to become a little easier.

And what better way for me to become accountable, than to tell the world about it?

I am going to wade through this crap and get it figured out. For me, and for my family. In one year, on October 1, 2014, I want to be 60 pounds lighter. That’s a lot of weight to lose, but I need to do it. 5 pounds per month. I’m going to do it. Along the way, I want to be losing some other things. Clutter. Calamity. I want to lose that thought I have at the end of every day: I am exhausted, I got very little accomplished, and I spent no time with my kids. Yes, I homeschool them, but I don’t consider that “time spent”. I want time to read books, cuddle, play ‘darbies’ and dinosaurs, and talk.

Week one:

At the end of each day, these things must have been done, no matter what.

-milk cows

-twins to/from college classes and driver’s ed


-3 meals prepared

-20 minutes of yoga, 20 minutes of walking, and 20 more minutes of whatever you want exercise-wise

-all stock fed and watered

-2 loads of laundry: washed, dried, folded

-no dirty dishes or washrags left in the sink

This list might seem short, and it certainly isn’t all I will do in a day. But right now, these are the absolutes, that I don’t want to get pushed out of the way to do other things, and not get done.

This post doesn’t quite have to do with homesteading, but it does for me. I have searched high and low for advice and help about these issues, and because I’m a homesteader and a homeschooling mother, I have found little to nothing that applies to my life. There are times where I have just felt like giving up and ‘going back to normal’ because I can’t keep up. Are you with me? What are your goals? What do you feel like you’re missing out on? Here is the link to a little worksheet I prepared.



Make your own…Laundry Soap (and links for free printable labels)

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These recipes are all over the internet. And yet I get asked for this all the time, and hear people in awe that I don’t, in fact, need to purchase this everyday item. Ever.

And yes. This is perfectly fine and safe for HE machines.

I use a powdered type. I think my recipe is fairly standard but over the past couple years I’ve modified it slightly just to make the quantity that I need without leftover “ingredients”. So without further ado, here she is:

Powdered Laundry Detergent

2 bars Fels Naptha soap, grated (Actually, you can use any bar soap you want here. I have used all types from the store, as well as my homemade bar soap.)

1 box Borax

2 boxes  Washing Soda

2 cups Baking Soda

(Additionally, I’ve seen alot of people adding a couple tablespoons of either Purex fabric softener crystals or Downy Unstoppables to their mixture for scent.)

Here is a link to Great Oak Circle for some printable tags and how to attach them. (Scroll down…)I love these, they are so cute!


And here is another.

laundry soap2


Chickens…From Egg to Life: Projects and Lessons

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These are all links to free places on the internet where you can get lesson plans, worksheets, and ideas to go along with incubating and hatching your own eggs.

U of N, Embryology's Live Egg Cam

U of N, Embryology’s Live Egg Cam

Enchanted Learning
A chart showing (cartoony) daily development of the chick inside the egg. Also nice worksheets to label the parts, as well as a glossary of terms.
*Between the ads at the very top of the page, and the title for this page “Egg and Embryo Development”, there are a total of 4 links about chickens on this page.

University of Nebraska’s Site for Embryology
Super nice website put on by Nebraska extension. Egg hatch cams, candling photos and videos, incubation how-to’s, etc. I was really impressed with how nice this was put together.

Embryology is a fellow wordpress blog that has the links to 4H Embryology Curriculum workbooks free to download. (These workbooks are no longer available from 4H so this is a great find!)

Science Net Links
Nice lesson plan, with some printables. Seems to be geared toward the younger kids, like PreK-1.

Chicken Life Cycle Teaching Resources
Lots of cool looking ideas to browse through for hatching related school projects, though they all appear to be for a fee of around $7.00.

Chickens…From Egg to Life Part 4: Candling Eggs

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I candled the 52 eggs I set last week and wanted to take pictures to show everyone. My camera, however, is AWOL. I’m not even going to bother putting the crappy pictures on here that I took with my phone. Instead I’m posting a link to the Backyard Chickens forum that has an INCREDIBLE thread with amazing day by day pictures of what you’ll be looking for when you candle. (While you’re there, look around. These are some of the nicest, most helpful chicken peeps around.)

Egg Candling Pictures: Progression through Incubation

Egg Candling Picture from BYC, the dark circle in the center is the eye

So the update is, out of the 52 eggs I set, 48 are viable growing chicks. I’m pretty pleased. These are set to hatch for Valentine’s Day.

Also, here is a pretty sweet clip (not mine) of a moving embryo. When I candled eggs the other day my middle son was able to view this and was so excited.

Coming soon will be a post for science activities about incubation and hatching eggs, perfect for homeschool, 4-H, etc.

Growing Your Own Pharmacy

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Herb gardens can be planted in all sorts of styles and arrangements. Most common are the kitchen herb garden, for culinary purposes. I plant a wide variety of herbs, but not just to season sauces. That’s really just a fringe benefit. My herbs are grown primarily for medicinal uses.

This will be our third year here at the farm to include herbs in our list of garden fare. Like each year, this year’s garden will be broadened based on last years successes and pitfalls.

Here is a (nearly final) list of what we’ll be planting this year:


Basil (multiple varieties)









Dandelion (I don’t cultivate this, I harvest it as it grows naturally in the yard)




Goldenseal (Harvested responsibly from the countryside)



Lemon Balm (aka Bee Balm)



Mint (a couple varieties)

Mugwort (I’m going to try again!)



Plantain (I harvest where it grows wild-everywhere!)





Sheep Sorrel

Spilanthes (Native American toothache plant)














Many of these I’ve grown before, most with good luck, some not so much. A few of these I have never grown before, but every year is an experiment. I’m looking forward to it!

Chickens…From Egg to Life Part 3: Setting the Eggs, What next?

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Whopper, one of the Bourbon Red Turkey poults I hatched last year.

Whopper, one of the Bourbon Red Turkey poults I hatched last year.

Setting your eggs

Setting is just a term used to mean you start incubating the eggs. When you’re ready, place your eggs in the incubator. If you have an automatic turner, put them in that. (My turner is external, so I simply put my eggs in the tray and fit the bar snugly to hold them in place.) The eggs are going to incubate in the same position they were stored in, pointy side down. If you don’t have a turner, you will have to lay them on their sides, and develop a system of turning them manually, three times a day. You need a system in place so you can tell each time which eggs have yet to be turned. Some people write X’s and O’s, one on each side.

After you put the eggs in the incubator, the temperature will go down for a bit. If you had it set properly to begin with, walk away and give it time to warm the eggs up. It will come back up but it can take several hours.

Now What?

Keep a calendar, or a piece of paper nearby to your incubator for keeping notes. I prefer a calendar myself, but there are many different ways, even inexpensive software available. On the calendar, write down the time you set your eggs on the correct day.  Put your finger on that day and slide it down 3 times, each time advancing one week. The date that you land on is the date that your hatch should be finished. Write that down. Now on the day before, write down: hatch should start. And two days before that write down: lockdown. All of these dates are very important for you to keep track of. Writing them down now will save a lot of headache.

Candling Eggs

At some point you will probably want to candle the eggs and see whats going on inside of there. This is trial and error, you won’t get it right all the time ever, and hardly ever at first. I promise to take some pictures as I go and I will create a new post regarding candling for you. There are certain things you should expect to see, and certain things such as blood rings that tell you to throw the egg out.


Lockdown is the final 3 days of incubation. At the start, take the eggs off the turners (or the turners out if that applies to your incubator). Fill the water reservoirs completely full. Keep the vents 1/2 open. All the eggs should be laying on their sides. Close up the incubator, and walk away for 3 days. Don’t open it for anything, until the hatch is completely over. (Note the term lockdown.)

Around day 19-20, you may start to see eggs moving around, or hear cheeping inside the eggs. So cool!! Right about the same time of day you set your eggs on day 20, you should begin to see or hear holes being punched in the eggs. I will update you with photos toward the end of next week with complete details about the hatching process, as well as definitions for the terms pipping and zipping. As always, if you have questions about anything, feel free to ask!

Chickens…From Egg to Life Part 2: Egg Selection/Storage

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Egg Selection

If you have chickens outside, egg selection will be quite simple. Choose eggs from mature hens. (I don’t recommend hatching pullet eggs. It can work, but it doesn’t always.) The hens must have access to a rooster, or vice versa. A good ratio to ensure fertile eggs is 1 rooster to about 7 hens, give or take.  Select the best looking eggs, and the cleanest. Never wash the eggs, as they are porous, and washing can force bacteria inside the egg which will kill the embryo, and possibly cause the egg to explode.

If you don’t have eggs to hatch, you’ll need to buy some. I have bought from many sources. Locally, through Craigslist, BackyardChickens.com, and Ebay. I sort of prefer Ebay. Backyard Chickens is a great site, but some of the eggs are quite expensive. They are typically from enthusiasts specializing in certain breeds. If this is what you’re after, then by all means do it! Ebay sells run of the mill chicken eggs. And the feedback system makes it much safer to purchase from the sellers.

There are many breeds to choose from, its an individual choice. Once you decide what you want, check the seller’s feedback. Steer clear of too many negatives from broken eggs and delayed shipping. I don’t pay much attention to negatives due to low hatches or claims of unfertilized eggs. Make sure the seller does not wash the eggs under any circumstances. If you get some with a little poop, no big deal. Don’t even mess with trying to pick it off, you’ll probably just break the egg.

If your eggs come on time and in one piece, leave the seller positive feedback. That’s what you bid on. It won’t be their fault if your eggs don’t hatch more than likely.

Egg Storage

Once you receive your eggs in the mail, there is an important step to take. Don’t skip it, it will affect your hatch rate considerably. Take the eggs out and carefully put them in an egg carton POINTY SIDE DOWN.

Pointy side down, this is how the egg will go into the carton.

Pointy side down, this is how the egg will go into the carton.

It may take a little practice to tell which end is which, and sometimes there really are rounded eggs that you just have to give it your best guess. Store the eggs like this for 24 hours. The purpose of this is to allow the air sac time to rise back into place at the fullest part of the egg in case it was disturbed during shipping. The air sac doesn’t come into play until really the last 24 hours the chick is in the egg, and it would really stink to get that far only to have the chick suffocate in the shell because the air sac was in the wrong place.

During these 24 hours, keep the eggs in a cool spot, approximately 50-60 degrees. I put them on top of my freezer in my basement.

Eggs waiting to be incubated.

Eggs waiting to be incubated.

By the way, the eggs can be stored for longer than 24 hours before you begin your hatch. If you choose to wait, simply prop up one end of the carton on one side one day, then switch to the other the next day. Repeat until you’re ready to hatch. This is simply turning the eggs to keep them viable while waiting, replicating mama hen in nature. She lays only one egg per day, for about 2-3 weeks before she actually begins to incubate. After this time period, hatchability declines.

In my next post, I will discuss “setting” the eggs, record keeping, and how long it will take for each phase of incubation. If you have any questions please ask!

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