Chip Gardening – How To Make Chips FAST!

Back To Eden Chip Gardening

We recently learned about the Back To Eden style of chip gardening. At our old homestead, we used a permaculture method in our huge gardens. We were lucky, though. We had chickens and 1.5 acres of grass mowed every week to add to our compost.  Then we would pile up the compost on all of our rows as a mulch/feeder for the plants.

Well, this new homestead isn’t such a place. We basically live on a gravel pit, not so good for gardening. A man named Paul, from Sequim, WA, not too far from us, has a farm called Back To Eden. You can google him and see his amazing gardens.  He uses wood chip gardening.  We have lots of maple, alder and fir trees that have fallen or need to be taken down for the south sun to shine on our garden. So, we bought a chipper that can go on our tractor! Now we have LOTS of wood chips.

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The basis is this: use an organic covering of wood chips over your native soil and, as they decompose, it will transform your garden area into rich, black soil.

On our property, we have many Big Leaf Maple trees as well as Alder trees. So we have lots of leaves in the fall, all of those leaves were blown into our garden area this last fall.  The many, many rocks in the area were raked up, but we never tilled, just got the surface rocks off. Then we applied the wood chips. This is our first garden year at the new place, and we planted late, so our garden isn’t up to par yet, but it will be fun to see and show you the progression. It’s a journey you know, homesteading and gardening doesn’t happen in a day!

Here are pictures of our old gardens, can’t wait for this to happen here!

And some advice from Paul Gautschi

Find a source of “covering” that is local and readily available to you. Be resourceful:

  • If you have local tree service companies, call them and ask for a delivery of wood chips.
  • If you have access to a chipper, chip yard waste on site.
  • If you have access to a tub grinder, it will save you a lot of time chipping.
  • If you have a lawn, collect your grass clippings.
  • If you have trees, gather its leaves.
  • If you have rocks, they will retain moisture and slowly release nutrients.
  • If you have weed free hay or straw, assemble a pile together.
  • If you receive or purchase a newspaper, save it.
  • Grow plants that can help provide an onsite resource for a “covering.”

“The ground is a living organism. As all living organisms, God has designed and made it so it is always covered with something. It’s all about the covering!”
– Paul Gautschi

No matter where you live, if you apply a covering to your garden, God will do the rest, and you will be blessed!” – Paul Gautschi

If you are starting a new orchard or garden plot:

  • Dig out any tenacious weeds.
  • Call local resources such as Recycling Centers and ask for their expired newspapers or call Newspaper Companies and ask for their left over newspaper rolls.
  • Resist the temptation to work, mix, prepare or till your soil!
  • Cover it! Simply add layers!

If you already have an existing orchard or garden in place:

  • Resist the temptation to till your soil!
  • Simply cover the soil with a covering resource!
  • Paul Gautschi originally applied 3-4 inches of composted wood chips to his garden plot.
  • Paul Gautschi initially applied 12-16 inches of wood chips to his established orchard.


  1. For an ideal Back to Eden garden, apply 3-4 sheets of newspaper. 
  2. Then apply 3-4 inches of organic compost orcomposted manure. 
  3. Then an additional 2-4 inches of wood chips oralternative covering on top. 
  4. If you are implementing the methods in the Spring or Summer, additionally apply a dusting of composted manure for organic fertilizer. 

For an ideal Back to Eden garden, cover your garden in the Fall! If you look at creation, nature drops its needles and leaves in the Fall.

  • Note: *If you are using raw wood chips, allow time for them to break down (at least Fall – Winter). You will experience more work fertilizing with organic manure if you wait until the Spring or Summer to apply raw wood chips.
  • Note: *If you are using composted wood chips that have had time to decay, you may apply and plant in the compost immediately.
  • Note: *If you are using composted wood chips that have been screened, you may apply and plant in them immediately (Paul prefers this method for his home garden).
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A Couple’s Yearly Vision Quest ENVISION #wholemama

envision #wholemama


Every February for the last 16 years, Isaac and I have celebrated our anniversary with a few rituals. One of which is going over our goals for the year.

It is the beginning of the year and the start of another year of marriage for us, so it is a fabulous time to envision what it is we want for the next year, 5 years and longer.

Isaac is such a great visionary. Before he builds something or creates a work of art, he always envisions it in it’s entirety first. It is always drawn to scale and planned out. He believes that once he sees it, it’s half-way to completion! It is pretty natural for him to have goals and plans, he meets them, too, so it must work!  I’m thankful he can lead us in this conversation, I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of gal and this forces me to look deep inside to see what I want, to meditate on what God wants for me, for us and for our family.

There is our business we talk about and plan our schedule, progress we want to accomplish at our (old) homestead, trips we want to take.  We talk about each of our kids and just generally touch on the most important things in our lives.

As we get to our long term visions, the same desire comes up year after year after year:

To have a simple, paid-for homestead.

That’s it! Easy enough, right? We have had this vision since our first (16) was 2 years old. We started off on that path by selling our house and buying and living in a big, green school bus!

Alas, we got side tracked. The opportunity was there but we fell for the get a mortgage plan and Isaac built us our dream house. After 11 years there, with the same goal and vision we’ve had for years (we believe God put the vision there and just wouldn’t let it go), we decided to go for it!

You can read that story here.  To make a long story short, though, our house sold quickly. It was a horrible and painful experience in so many ways but at the same time it was freeing and felt so right. We walked away with pretty much exactly what we put into the place,which wasn’t a lot, and hundreds of thousands less than we could have in 2007.

We’ve spent hours and hours in conversation (our poor children are ready to just get on with it) talking about our vision of being largely independent and free from debt so that we can travel as a family. We prayed for guidance and waited for some doors to open. Envisioning our future, designing our new life, starting over.

The door that opened for us was 15 acres of raw land with a little creek and a lot of hills, butting to state land and close to the water. The perfect place to start over.

I am so happy to say that we will be living our vision very soon! But we had to envision it first, we have to be designing our future! This has been a TON OF WORK and it’s far from over. Our lifestyle is changing drastically and we are so happy to start envisioning what our new life will be like – in a simple, paid for homestead!

It definitely feels that our vision and God’s plan for our little family are merging and I’m so thankful that He placed this vision in our minds and courage in our hearts to pursue!

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Homeschooling and Our Project Freedom

20150731_171147[1]Our boys are taking a few months completely off of academia (book learning) to be part of our off-grid homestead building project. I’ve written plenty before on the involvement they have had in designing our gravity fed water system and, really, all aspects of the project thus far.

It was definitely a lot to expect of them to do school for 3 hours in the morning and then head out to the property to work with their dad. Of course, Maya and I work hard, too. Just not always in the same way.  Often times it is very cold and wet and that is hard on an 8 year old! Well, now she is 9. But you get the idea. Her main work should be play, and also being part of our family rhythm and learning about perseverance, systems and organization in a huge project like this, and learning to read and do her math facts, of course.

And me? I still have a 1700 square foot house to maintain and I’ve been doing all the support stuff.  Although the boys in this family know how to cook and cook well, know how to do their laundry and often do, for the time being it is up to me and me alone. I want them to be well-fueled to work hard and I want them to have warm socks and clean underwear when they need it! That, along with all the running around, picking this pipes and wire and construction materials, doing the planning and ordering etc.  So, my work is pretty much cut out for me on a daily basis.

For the boys, their most valuable learning point, I believe, is seeing what we can do when we work together, do a bit each day, think each process through and persevere even when we don’t really feel like it. All the while, keeping balance and time for family fun, personal fun and all the other details of life.  This is a big lesson. Think of school: 50 minutes to do your lesson plus some homework.  For 5 or 6 classes. It’s fractured and they may be learning quite a bit, this lesson we are excited about usually gets no attention at all!

Academically, you wouldn’t believe how long it took us and how many conversations we had about our water system.  There is a rise and run to figure, there is gallons per minute, there is elevation and fall (different than the rise and run).  The boys stuck with us while we learned to figure these things in real time for something as life-giving as our drinking water!  We had to do similar equations for our electrical system.  Then there is yardage figuring for the concrete, “Kaleb, go figure out how much concrete we need for our slab, it’s 4″ thick and 36’x48′.” He needed help but he got to see and  do. Not just learn from a book.  I just bet you that he remembers this mathematical equation!

That was math, but there is science in figuring soil type for our septic system, drawing up the system (which Isaac left to me and Kyler and it was super hard). We watch the weather like a hawk. We measure our water and hike up to the holding pond to see how much water there is in comparison to last week. There are solar array figuring and sun evaluation. There is learning to be thrifty by getting bids for jobs, going to the used stores like Habitat For Humanity, scouring the dump (we’ve gotten 2 sinks, a table, a grill, lots of pipe and metal d0-dads that we need and more).

Most importantly, we are working together. They are an integral part of this project. They are wanted, needed and depended upon. This gives them purpose and a sense of belonging that I think is so important for teenagers and that many miss out on.

These kids, I hope they are learning what they need to know to grow up and  be a valuable asset to their families, their communities and independent on their own, when needed.  I hope they are learning the skills needed to be real men and a real woman, who are strong, independent, smart, resourceful, know how to learn and love the process, and how to be kind and good to the planet and to other humans. I hope they are learning that they can take another path, a path not carved by society, or us for that matter. But a path designed by them, for them, whatever that means for each of them.  I want them to be brave and courageous and loving.

We will get back to book-learning soon enough!20151017_155230[1] 20151028_152642[1]

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Off Grid Cooking For A Crowd

We had lots of great help these past few weeks which means I’ve been feeding a crowd. These guys are working so hard and without fuel for their bodies they wouldn’t be able to keep on keepin’ on as well as they do!

What do I cook? BEANS! Lots of beans. Black beans over brown rice and topped with carrot-cumin slaw and all the yummy Mexican fixings. 15 Bean soup with onions and vegis on top (and bacon on a lucky day), 3 bean chili. Lots of beans.

My gazeebo is awesome. I really love the rustic-ness of it as well as how functional it is.

Wash station and lots of fire wood in the background

Wash station and lots of fire wood in the background

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Winter Time Gumption

Winter Time Gumption and A Positive Attitude

It’s cold and wet outside, so cold and so wet. So wet that, really, it’s ice. Everywhere.  Maya and I both slipped in the parking lot and fell while trying to run errands today. I so want to be in the house and hibernate: make soup and bread and read a book by a warm, cozy fire.  It’s hard to keep the gumption and good attitude to get this project done and keep my body healthy and get fresh air, when all I want to do is cozy-up! I did manage some yoga today, though.

And then there is Isaac. On the go, fast and hard, from the time he pops out of bed at 5:30 till after dinner.  He finally poops out around 7:00, but not before a 3 mile run and an hour or so jamming on his guitar. He serenades me while I make dinner. At least that’s what I think of it as now. I used to get really bugged because it’s nice but . . . . loud? Trying to think and talk with the kids is difficult. One day, complaining to my girlfriend about this, she said ingeniously, “He probably thinks he’s serenading you and you’re loving it.” That changed my whole attitude! Now I would totally miss it if he were to no longer play for me while I make dinner!

This man’s gumption is enough for the both of us! He and the boys poured our concrete slab for our building 36’x48′. A huge job that was made easier by his cousin, who helped so much. And his cousin-in-law. All day on New Year’s Eve they worked. And I cooked a lot of food. That’s my big job these days.

Our building is going to be part workshop and part living area. The living area will have a little kitchen, bathroom, woodstove and then our RV for me, Isaac and Maya and the boys’ Job Shack, turned bedroom. Interesting, I know. But DEBT FREE! We’ll own it all!

Now that we are done with the concrete, we are ready to finish our micro-hydro system and then start framing! We are getting closer to our dream! My estimate (sshh, Izee doesn’t like me to put dates in my head – the pressure of it all, I guess) is six weeks.

Enjoy these pictures of our foundation pouring day.


The cousin-helper

The cousin-helper

DSCN8734 DSCN8733

Working late into the night

Working late into the night


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The Daddy Is A Real Hero!

The Intruder


She's hugging her hero! Just after she opened her presents.

She’s hugging her hero! Just after she opened her presents.

We had a really, really scary night the other night. My husband is a hero and so are my boys. They are protectors. Especially Isaac and my oldest son, 16.  I know that we, the human race, have a fight, flight or freeze mode.  I also know that when it comes to fighting, we must practice discernment, we must know about fighting out of real fear and danger and protection, and not let that fight turn to anger and revenge.

I am so, so proud of Isaac and Kyler and Kaleb.  They did the right thing. They fought, but not for revenge, for protection.

On Saturday night, after Isaac locked up the house and fell asleep and then Maya went to bed, the boys and I decorated the dining room for her birthday. She was turning 9!  We had to unlock the door to go outside to the shop and get lights and her presents and stuff for decorating .  We made the room so festive – she really wanted to wake up to her birthday party all ready!  We did a nice job and went to sleep.

At about 3:15 or so that night, Isaac woke up to go to the bathroom. The bathroom is in the hallway, across from Maya’s room, which had an almost closed door, it was barely ajar. This part gives me chills. As he was walking past her room, a man opened her door and started walking out and down our hallway!  I heard Isaac ask, “Hey! What are you doing?”  He was half asleep (he tries his hardest to wake up as little as possible for his nightly pees) and so was disoriented and a bit confused. The man started running down our hallway and I heard a huge bunch of clashing and crashing and banging.  I always wake up when anyone uses the bathroom or gets up for water ~ I’m a light sleeper and feel like I keep a good watch over everything in my sleep. I am wrong about that. As this was happening, I was just becoming more aware and realizing something was seriously wrong, but in no way what-so-ever was I thinking, “there is a stranger, an intruder in our home, in our daughter’s room.”

Then I heard Isaac say, in an almost completely unrecognizable, deep and strange voice, “What were you doing in my daughter’s room?”  At that point I became totally awake and ran down our hallway to where they were fighting. What I saw was a man down on the floor, with Isaac wrestling him and trying to restrain him. He was fighting really hard. I was still confused and not sure what the heck was happening, wondering who it was, thinking maybe it was someone we knew, hurt. It kind of seemed like Isaac was helping him up? Then I heard it again, “What were you doing in my daughter’s room?”

Chills ran down my spine and made me numb and freezing and I started screaming and asking who he was and what was going on. Isaac said that he didn’t know but that he was in Maya’s room and to go check on her. I was screaming, “Maya, Maya, Maya!  Are you OK, Oh My God, Maya!” When I ran to her room, she was sitting up in her bed and crying. She said she was ok and then I heard the guys fighting more and I ran out and tried to kick him, but it didn’t work out so well.  At that time, Isaac asked where Kyler was so I started shouting for Kyler.

Kyler ran out of his room, paused for just a second to see what was going on. I screamed, “a man was in Maya’s room!” Then, without any hesitation at all, he ran up to the man, who was still trying to fight Isaac off, he’s a big guy, the intruder, and Kyler used his elbow and all his weight to pound on the guys back over and over and over again, until he finally stopped trying to kick Isaac. He was like donkey-kicking Isaac. He was kind of on all fours, but Isaac had his head and arms in a bit of a hold. All the while, he was trying to bite Isaac and kicking and being horrible.

As soon as Kyler and Isaac had him restrained, he rolled over and we saw that he was fully exposed. His entire penis and balls were out and it was apparent that he was a very bad man, with very bad intentions and I totally freaked out.  That’s when I called 911 and tried to give them a coherent story.  Still, the man was fighting and trying to bite Isaac. It was sooooooooooooooooooo scary.

At one point, while I was talking to the dispatcher, I got a knife and said that I was going to have to stab him to make him stop fighting Isaac.  Isaac was telling him to shut up and be still, but he wasn’t cooperating.  “Oh my god, his penis is out! He was in my daughter’s room with his balls and penis exposed! What was he doing in there? He won’t stop fighting with my husband. I’m going to have to stab him to make him stop, oh, I don’t want to stab him, hurry! Please get here, somebody is going to get so hurt, oh God, Isaac is going to have to kill him or something. Oh, we can’t kill anybody, we don’t want to kill him,  Hurry!”

I ran up and down the driveway looking for lights and felt such despair when I didn’t see any.  It felt like they were taking forever. I hung up and called Isaac’s cousin to come over, he’s like 6’9″ or something and, in retrospect, I should have called him first, because he lives a few hundred yards from us and could’ve been here way faster than the police. The cousin and his wife got here super quick and by the time they got here, the police were just pulling up.  This was probably 15 minutes or maybe 20 from when we first woke up. I was showing them to our back door and they ran in and grabbed the guy from Isaac and asked us if we knew him, we said no and then they took him out. He was struggling with them also, and they had to drag him out.

During the time that I was on the phone with 911, my 13 year old came out went and got Maya and put her in our room and told her to stay in there and consoled her.  Then he came out and noticed that the presents were on the floor, including the fish he got for Maya. So he saved them and, really, Maya knew about the fish and would have been terribly sad if they had died.  So, it was a wonderful, thoughtful thing to do. She loves those fish!

By the time the police came in, Maya had come out of my bedroom. She was really scared and worried her dad was going to get hurt. I’m not sure exactly when she walked in the living room because I was running up and down the driveway looking for the police and running back into the house like  a wild-scared woman. But she did see him and by the time I got to her, she was shaking like a leaf and crying and so was my 13 year old.  We were all doing that crazy, shock-shaking. It was a real-life nightmare. It’s still hard to believe it actually happened.

The police were kind and told us we did a great job. The detective got there at around 5:30 or so and did his thing. Scheduled some more investigative things and said that he was really impressed with Isaac. He said the guy was lucky he didn’t get shot. He said how great it was for Maya that her guardians protected her.

As a family, we stayed huddled up all morning, while the police talked to us, waiting for the detective and then after the detective left, we knelt together and gave thanks that we were all ok.  We were scared, exhausted, shaken up, but safe.

Maya still wanted to do her birthday, so I gathered myself together and made a birthday breakfast, put all her gifts back in order and let her do her presents at like 6:00 a.m.

The door was unlocked because the boys and I forgot to lock back up after Isaac had locked it up.

The man clearly knew where Maya slept. He must have been stalking her. He was so very quiet. Was he there before? We have reason to think so now, but are not certain. Yet.

The man is in jail and his trial is at the end of the month.

Maya, who was never afraid to be alone, to go outside in the dark, or sleep in her room, now won’t go outside, doesn’t like to be alone and sleeps with us. She said the safest place for her is right between us!

Isaac’s hand broke during the struggle with the intruder. That comes with a whole bunch of problems as it makes it difficult for him to work. It’s a tight Christmas this year.

But, we are safe. We are ok. My love for Isaac and my respect for him and his quick thinking and acting and his restraint in not shooting him (we believe in non- violence whenever possible, just because you have a gun and a reason to shoot someone, doesn’t mean you should shoot them) and protecting us and keeping his wits about him. I don’t want to spend another night without him.

I’m thankful that we are a strong family, with a strong faith. Strong enough, that more than once, we prayed for the man. That he would come to sorts and be a good person. But that he would not get out of jail  any time soon.

I feel sorry for his mom. Being the mom to that would be very difficult. All moms love their sons, even their grown (37 years old) sons who do bad things.  This must be terrible for her. I’ve prayed for her more than once, too.  I also want to ask her, “WTF? How did this happen?” It’s quite extreme to go into a stranger’s house, into a child’s room and do . . . whatever he was doing.  I hate to let my mind go to what he might have done if he hadn’t heard Isaac. I do know that pedophilia is a serious and awful crime and that it progresses. Who knows where this might have gone?

This Christmas, we are thankful for the Peace that comes with our faith and for our safety right now. I’m thankful that Isaac was prompted to wake up right when he did and  I’m thankful for my HEROES ~ My husband and sons! This is one proud mama and wife. My heart  fills with pride when I reflect back on their protection and then their tenderness to Maya (and me) that day. What would have happened without them? What if I had woke up to use the bathroom and saw him, what if Maya did, or Kaleb? What if we hadn’t heard him and he came back again another day and hurt her or, worse, took her. OMG! Please let him get a lot of years in jail.


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Ram Pump Off Grid Water System

Pumping Water Uphill WITHOUT Electricity!GIFT SET AD

I know I won’t be winning any fashion awards with this one, but it was really, really cold out and we’ve been working all day! Anyway, here is my RAM PUMP video. Thanks to Engineer 775 at for hooking us up with the Ram Pump. Great service and loads of info!

Part 2

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Making The Leap To Off Grid Living

We sold our dream house to follow a new dream of FREEDOM! We call our project Operation Freedom.  We sold our dream house so that we can be debt free and live within our means and in a way that uses a smaller amount of our Earth’s resources on a daily basis.

We sold our dream house so we can travel. We are trying to have the smallest amount of outgoing monthly expenses possible so that we can live on the smallest amount possible and save money to travel. We want to spend time with the kids and with each other, doing what we love rather than working our days away to earn money to buy stuff and pay huge monthly bills.

Operation Freedom includes living off the grid so that we can reduce our monthly outgoing expenses, be less dependent on the municipalities and be more connected to nature.

This is what we are designing and building for ourselves. Our property in the NW is completely off-grid. We have a gravity-fed water system that uses a Ram-Pump to pump water uphill 84 feet in elevation, without the use of electricity!  Awesome! This is technology from the 1700’s that our son learned about and talked us into using.  We get our water from a spring coming out of our hill at 5 gallons per minute. This water is piped through 2″ poly pipe 220′ to a ram pump and then 1 gallon per minute is piped up hill and into a 3000 gallon water tank.  1 gallon per minute doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s over 1400 gallons per day, which is more than we can use.  The excess is routed right back into the creek that the spring spills into.

We were lucky because the property had a water system that was built in the 1960’s or so and lots of the piping was there as was a cistern.  So, we just had to rebuild what was already there.  The water goes from the 3000 gallon tank down to our homesite by gravity, where we have lots of volume and lots of pressure!

Here are some pictures of the spring before it was developed and in the process of development:

Our spring coming out of the hillside at 5 gallons per minute

Our spring coming out of the hillside at 5 gallons per minute

On a very, very hot day, the spring was a great shower!

On a very, very hot day, the spring was a great shower!

Izee working on cleaning gravel to develop the spring

Izee working on cleaning gravel to develop the spring

Transporting our 3000 gallon tank

Transporting our 3000 gallon tank


Rife Ram Pump, pumps water uphill WITHOUT electricity!!!!!


Sweet mother and father in law came to visit and tour the property


This is the spring, no more pipe with water coming out. We dug around the spring and back-filled with gravel, sanitized and then covered the whole thing. It is piped down into the catch.


This is the catch, it is covered now, but here you can see the pipes that filter the sediment, which falls to the bottom and the pipes have bunches of holes. You can adjust the flow into the ram pump pipe with these holey pipes.


Our really big water storage tank. The five of us unloaded this and set it up ourselves!


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Our Off Grid Gazeebo and Outdoor Cook Area

The boys built a sweet gazeebo! They used logs from trees that we had cut down when we cleared for our building site. Izee had designed the structure from one at our local state park, so they had the package all put together for quite a few months. All the posts, beams and rafters were cut to size and then the kids and I peeled everything and it just sat in the sun to dry all summer and fall. We moved camp recently and are now parked right by the gazeebo with our woodstove and table and all that we need. I love it!


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Waste Not, Want Not?

I believe this is the reason there are still hungry people in this country. So. Much. Waste.  I also believe that we are on a planet of abundance, that we’ve been given all the tools we need to thrive here.  As humans, we need to manage what we’ve blessed with.  What can we all do, on an individual basis, to help this?

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The Good Life Summers


Enjoying the beautiful day, just the 3 of them.

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I Want This Outdoor Kitchen!

My dream kitchen!

My dream kitchen!

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Going Off-Grid: Developing our off-grid power system

We live in the Pacific NW.  We are planning on solar power, which is definitely a risk in this weather.  We knew we were going to, eventually, add in a small hydro system.  We have a spring fed creek, it’s not big enough for any fish or anything, it’s spring fed and doesn’t change much throughout the year.  We’ve decided to start with the micro-hydro system and then add the solar a bit later.

By starting with the hydro set up, we can have power before we build our shop.  The PV panels were going to go on the roof of the building, which obviously means that we won’t have power until after the shop is built.

We found an AMAZING company, Backwoods Solar, who is helping walk us through this.  We are learning so much.  According to them, we can do our hydro system and wire to a temporary shed which holds the 8 batteries of our 48 V system.  It will also house (temporarily) our diversion controller and inverter and all the other parts of the system, excluding the PV (solar) panels. This will allow us to have power before we build!!!!  We won’t have as much power, it looks like the creek will give us about 2400 Watt Hours a day, so we will have to use the generator once in a while to bring the batteries up to 100%.

We are very excited about this, it’s going to be a great learning experience for our whole family.  We are trying to involve our 16-year-old in the whole process, he’s very interested, most of the time.  All the kids have come out with us to do the measuring of the creek, to find elevation fall and distance, and to measure the gallons per minute of the creek.

Our hydroelectric generator

Our hydroelectric generator

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Developing Our Off Grid Water System

We are well on our way with our Off-Grid plans for our property.  We’ve designed our gravity water system.  This is a 2 part system.  This is part 1.  Here is a picture of our potable, fresh water spring.  It’s called Kyler’s Spring because he found it and developed it.  It currently gets about 4 gallons per minute.  5760 gallons per day!  THAT is a lot of water. It will be piped down to a ram pump that will pump up to a 1500 gallon tank that will then gravity feed to our house.

Part 2 is developing a weir and dam to harvest some of our creek water.  This water will be our irrigation water and will get piped down to the ram pump and up to a 1500 gallon tank and then gravity fed to all our gardens.  Which WE CAN’T WAIT TO PLANT!  This is a picture of the old cistern on the creek, the water went from the dam to this cistern and then pumped down to the waterfront properties below.  When we bought this property, the water rights came with it!  The waterfront properties abandoned this water system for another one down the road.  This is where we will put the ram pumps.

So, we will have 2

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Homeschooling Teens Doesn’t Have To Be Hard. Read These 7 Tips

Homeschooling Teens

I have a 13 year old boy and a 16 year old boy.  I homeschool them both and have since 2008!  My 13 year old has never been to public school and my 16 year old went through 2nd grade. I also have an 8 year old girl and have homeschooled my nephew through middle school.

I know most people dread the teenage years and think homeschooling teenage boys has NIGHTMARE potential.  But, I LOVE it!  Here are 7 tips I’ve used to help us along the way.

  1. Keep a daily rhythm.  The kids need to have some structure to their day.  I don’t let them sleep in until 9:00 and I do make them eat breakfast and clean their room.  I do have them start math by 8:30 or 9:00.  Our meals are the anchors to the day.  We eat three of them.  I feel like this is of utmost importance. Especially for the growing boys. They need to eat. A lot. It keeps them way happier throughout the day, more cooperative and just plain more content.
  2. Sit down and ‘do school’ with them sometimes. Even if they don’t need you to. I’ve found that when I sit down and read to them from their text/book/encyclopedia and discuss it with them I can evaluate how much they’ve soaked in from the lesson and from previous lessons. The more involved I am in the their lesson, the more alive it seems to come for our whole family. One nice thing about homeschooling teens is that I don’t have to babysit them through their school. But if I just leave it to them, sometimes at the end of the week, when we go over everything, it turns out they didn’t understand it as well as they should have or they (gasp!) didn’t do it to par or completion!
  3. Let them make popcorn. Or whatever it is they really, really want to do during school. This is a great incentive. My oldest loves to munch on popcorn during school. If the morning has gone smoothly, he’s sat down and started math without being told, managed his time well etc, then he can make a big batch of popcorn. It makes him think homeschooling is still cool!
  4. Don’t be too structured with them. We have a rhythm, not a schedule. This allows us  to make allowances for other learning experiences that may come up during the week. There are lots of them, too! So, if something will teach or show them how to become better adults, make an awesome memory with a sibling or allow for some sort of character growth, we’ll put book learning aside and do it! Most of the time, in our experience, life-learning is better than book learning.
  5. Take deep breaths. I do this often. While I’m breathing deeply, I tell myself that puberty is hard. As hard as PMS and PMS can be really, really, really hard. I appreciate when Izee has patience with me and I try very much to have patience with them. The worst times are when PMS and Puberty collide. I don’t have 7 tips for that. Yet. Maybe I will grow and learn. When I do, I’ll let you know! But, what I do know, is that when one of them gets upset or seems illogical, they will, most of them time, come to their own logical conclusions as long as I’m not yelling at them and making them defensive. They are smart boys, they are both responsible and want to do what’s right. When I yell and place blame, they become defensive and angry. While I’m all about strict boundaries and don’t mind a little tugging on their ear to remind them of respect, usually deep breathing and quiet is more productive.
  6. Give plenty of outside free time!!!! I believe in this whole heartedly. They pretty much spend from lunch to dinner outside. They chop wood, climb trees (yes, still) work hard and play hard. They have so much energy, they have testosterone they need to burn off. They need to do this outside, away from me! Some of their best brother-bonding times happen outside, in the woods, making camp fires, building shelters, exploring and conquering the useless. It seems man-boys need to conquer something. Isn’t that what has gotten our world into so many wars? Maybe conquering the useless is the answer!
  7. HAVE FUN! Sing and dance and be crazy with your kids. Laugh and play with them. Give them hugs and cuddles as if they are tiny children at the same time as giving them responsibilities of young adults. They are in a special, short lived transition. We can have fun with our teenagers. We can enjoy their company. It probably starts with mom, though. So show them the fun-loving self inside of you. Don’t be too serious about everything. Pray for them and trust they are turning out just fine.
    • Limit computer and device time. I know I said 7 things, but this is the most important one. The more the kids are online and watching crap on Netflix, the worse their attitudes get. The more they play outside, the better they get. It’s a no-brainer. We don’t own a TV, but if you do, TURN IT OFF DURING THE DAY!

I hope these are helpful to you. I’d love to know what you think, so please leave comments with any feedback or questions. Follow me and share my blog if you feel like it!

Thanks & Blessings to you!

~ Cari

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Time or Money?


I’m almost 40.  I don’t want to wake up when I am 80 and discover that I have spent the majority of my waking hours with good energy making money so I can buy stuff I don’t really need that bad!  Oh wait.  I don’t make any money.  I don’t want Izee to wake up when he is 80 and discover that he spent the majority of his waking hours with good energy making money SO I COULD BUY STUFF I DIDN’T REALLY NEED THAT BAD!

Here are some steps we are taking to avoid that.  To live a life that’s fun to live, not just make a living!  We like for Izee to be able to work part time.  Mainly in the mornings and home for lunch and the afternoons; to be free to be with us in the afternoons.  Lately this has been to work with the boys at the property.  At the old house, we played and worked in the afternoons.  Hiked or gardened or kiteboarded.

1.  We sold our pretty house to get out of our mortgage and be debt free.  This was hard to do.  I loved my house.  I hated our whole mortgage situation.  We are now renting in town while we work on our property.

2.  We try to keep our expenses down enough so his part time work is enough to live on and save some.  We simply don’t spend that much money.  There are lots of blogs about living frugually.  We don’t do much different than most everyone else, but maybe we are good at fixing what we have so we don’t ever buy new stuff?  Izee can fix anything.  I’m pretty good, too!

3.  Clearly, we don’t keep any credit card balances or car payment.  I drove a really crappy van for a year before we bought a nice van for me.  I felt kind White-T driving around in that thing.  I hated it, actually.  But it’s over now and I have a pretty van.  It was worth it to not spend the money till we felt like it was a smart thing to do.

4.  We try not to fall into the trap that we should make more money now, just because we can.  I don’t know about you, but the more we make, the more we spend.  I don’t see our saving go up too much after a certain amount of income.  We’d rather have time than money, I guess.  But, there is a happy medium.  A bunch of time with no money isn’t that fun, either!

5.  Izee trades work for lots of things.  We’re really blessed with a great cousin that will allow him to fix machines to use machines that we would otherwise never have access to!

6. We are taking our time on our property.  Most people with a bunch of construction experience would have this clearing project done by now.  But it would probably cost more.  We are working together, the 5 of us, almost every day and we are learning a lot together and it’s great for the kids to see what can be done with diligence.  A little bit everyday really adds up!

These are some steps we’ve taken and beliefs we have that help us to need less money and have more time.  The idea that all 5 of us are home for most of the day will be another post.  It sounds great, it has a down side, though! 🙂


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Gazebo Posts

I am peeling logs for our gazebo.  Hopefully it will be built this Spring.  I am thinking April.  I’m not aloud to tell Isaac that, though, because he doesn’t like deadlines!  I have LOTS of posts to peel.  My shoulders are getting strong!


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The Great Maple


This amazing maple is on our property!

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We are making some progress out at our property.  We’ve cleared the spot for building our shop.  The kids, Isaac and I have chopped and stacked so, so much firewood!  It gives The Props a nice, cozy feel to drive up to such a stack of firewood.  It’s like money in the bank, you know?  It is security and warmth!

We will be applying for our building permit really soon!  I think we have enough to build the shop and get some source of alternative power going.  And, hopefully, water!  We have a nice creek that we will tap into until we get a spring box made for our water system.

This road to being debt free is different than when we built before.  Last time we just got a loan after we ran out of money and finished the house.  This time, we are really trying to do everything as frugally as possible.   And it’s still so, so much money!  I will give a break down of our expenses thus far in the next post.

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Firewood, Lots and Lots of Firewood!

As you know, we have been clearing out our little building spot.  It is a ‘perch’ with great Southern & Eastern Exposure.  Just what we’ve been wanting for so long.  It’s hard work.  Cutting down trees, stumping them and burning the debris, chopping and stacking firewood.  Our boys are planning on selling wood this coming fall.  I’m sure they will make some good money at it, too.  They are getting so strong!  They’ve put up enough wood for at least 2 winters for us to use when we get our shop built AND they have 3 or 4 cords all stacked and drying, ready to sell!  Love those hard working boys!  Here are some pictures of our work so far.  (yes, we are all working hard, Maya and I included!)

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And after the work is done?  Some oysters and music by the fire!


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What Does It Mean To Pledge Allegiance?

Last night, visiting after dinner, our family started discussing the Pledge of Allegiance.  Certain members of my family were saying that it seemed like serious brain washing to have kids stand and say it every morning.  That we shouldn’t pledge our allegiance to anyone but God and each other.  The kids were really adamant about pledging their allegiance to their dad, but not to the government.  (what about me?) What if the government goes bad?  What does it all mean?  So, we got out the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary and looked up the following words: pledge, allegiance, flag, republic, nation, under, indivisible, liberty and justice.  We rewrote the pledge based on the Children’s dictionary.  Here it is:

I make a sincere promise to be loyal to the piece of fabric that is the symbol of America and to the form of government in which the people have the power to elect representatives who manage the government that the flag stands for.  One large group of people who live in the same part of the world and share the same language, government and customs, beneath God, unable to be broken or divide and with freedom and fair, impartial treatment for everyone.

We still won’t stand and say it at our school, that seems to institutionalized. But, I liked it, it was simple, easy to understand and didn’t seem so memorized.  What do you think?

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A New Phase

We’ve entered into a new ‘phase’ of our life.  We’ve sold our house, you saw that it was for sale a while back?  Well, we are now renting in a little town close to lots of our relatives.  It’s so fun being close to our cousins.  KK, in particular, is super luck to have his good friend/cousin as our neighbor.  They hang out all the time!  This cousin is one that he hasn’t been really close to in the past, and I’m so glad he is becoming so close to her.  Most every day, after school, she comes down and they get to play.  In fact, it seems KK kind of whines around till she comes over!

We’ve also bought some acreage about 6 miles from here.  I am excited to post some pictures.  Izee has already been out and made a road to the building site!  Our plan is to build a shop and buy an RV to park in the shop and live in until we build our house.  We have enough to put in power and water and septic.  We’ll have to tighten our belt buckles to save enough for the shop.  It will be about $15,000.  A metal building, not aesthetically pleasing, but very functional.  I am just so happy and excited to c0-create this new life with Isaac and the kids!  It’s like a fresh start.  Debt Free!

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She Turns 8



Maya and BFF in matching dresses, with their babies, on their way to a tea party with me and Grandma!  So Fun

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Earth-Lovers Vs. Jesus-Lovers

Learning To Evolve

I know we are all evolving, not from fish to man, but our minds are always growing and learning new ways.  We humans are very adaptive creatures and have found ways to adapt to our changing world: cultures change, environments change, climate changes, seasons change.  We must adapt.  As a lover of this beautiful Earth and as the amount of people depending on her increases at enormous rates, we are going to have to evolve to a new way of thinking and living.

I learned a new way of thinking from Tom Cornell on Sunday. He was talking on why we exist.  Why are we here? He said it is so the one who created us can love us, similar to why we have children.  We have children because we desire to have a love that is greater than we’ve ever known, that really only exists with our children.  I’ve never loved anyone or anything like I love my children.  I would give anything up for them, jump in front of a truck for them, starve to give them food and even give up most of my social life and extra activities to raise them.

What do we do as we prepare for the coming of our children?  We prepare a room for them in our homes.  We buy a crib, paint a cute mural or put up wall paper, buy diapers and clothes and enjoy the work of it.  Before we go give birth, we make sure all is ready, we mama’s ‘nest’ away and make sure that everything is perfect for them, that all of their needs can be met in their environment.

This is what our Earth is for us.  It was created for us to enjoy and to meet all of our earthly needs.  It has done extremely well for us for the last million or so years.  She provides our food, water, shelter, and every other thing we need.

How do we feel when our children, who we have so painstakingly prepared for and worked so hard to provide for, destroy their rooms, come into the house and wreak havoc, making our homes and their rooms totally inhabitable.  We then have to step in and discipline them, teach them to pick up their stuff so they can actually use their rooms.

This might be a silly analogy, but when Tom was talking about God preparing Earth for us, and creating  us simply so that He can love us, it reminded me of why I had kids and all we do for them to prepare for them and provide for them.

We are destroying what was created for us.  It’s a fact and it’s sad. Humankind is taking more and more and more everyday and we are altering the perfect balance of our planet, the balance that makes our beautiful, wonderful, blessed lives possible. We Americans aren’t paying for it (yet), but people and animals all across the world are.  Primarily in poorer countries with valuable natural resources, which we want and take.  Earth is being raped so that affluent Americans (and other developed nations) can have more and more and more.

The big question I have in my head these days is why is this such a controversial issue?  Why is there such a gap between those who love the Creator and those who love the Earth? It makes no sense to me. At all, whatsoever.  This isn’t a political issue.  This shouldn’t be left vs right or conservative vs liberal.  Those paradigms are ridiculous anyway and we need to EVOLVE BEYOND THINKING THAT WAY.

My new goal is to find practical ways that my family and I can work to do our part.  To use less resources, consume less Earth-raping meats, reuse what we have, make do with what we have and to bridge the gap between Earth-lovers and Jesus-lovers.  They are not mutually exclusive.

Live simply so that others may simply live.


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Teens’ Internal Compass



We sat down recently and made some very general goals for our kids.  Now that they are older, I think it’s a good idea to know what direction we are headed and let them know the goals we have for them.  It was nice for Isaac and I to sit down and come up with this.  It’s not a road map of exactly what we want them to achieve, it’s our direction.  What we do daily should match up with one of the goals.  Obviously, we are weird.  Our goals and your goals are probably different.  We’d like them to be self reliant, have their own business, love to travel, homeschool our grandkids, love nature and travel.  The bottom line, though, is we want them to be fulfilled, happy people.  We will, undoubtedly, love them no matter what life they pursue. But hopefully we are setting their internal compass in the direction of a more organic lifestyle than mainstream life offers.  Here is what we came up with:

    • Look back at their time growing up as a joy-filled time, full of creativity, fun adventure and new experiences.
    • They should have a wide variety of experiences while they are still with us, that we can watch over and supervise. They should feel that while their path is narrow, their possibilities are not and that their minds are broad, with a view of the world made by experiences and people, not a view made by television and computers.
  • School at home through 10th grade. Go to OC for 11th and 12th grade and maybe one more year.       Graduate at 19 with a high school diploma and an associates degree. This is the completion of formal academia overseen by us. I want them to feel well-educated and that they will look back on their time homeschooling and feel that they learned enough about the world, history, science, math, ability to communicate with proper grammar and a wide range of vocabulary to make intelligent decisions and to be able to clearly and efficiently communicate their ideas with others. I want them to be able to manage their own small business and never feel the need to be on a payroll of someone else, making someone else rich.       They will be self reliant.       They will know how to manage incoming and outgoing finances and to manage a very self sufficient homestead.       They will know we did a good job equipping them for their unconventional real life.
  • Learn to kiteboard, rock climb, mountain climb, travel well, backpack, be adventurous.       Find way more value in nature and adventure than in things.
  • Get a vehicle at 16.
  • Have at least one girlfriend during their late teenage years before they ever think of getting married.
  • Learn the local area and be able to go hiking/climbing/playing outside as much as they can.
  • At 16 or 17 start a small landscaping business. Earning money for travels or for their future land by helping /teaching primarily edible landscaping. This is a useful and needed skill that they could be very successful at and have a feeling of providing something good and need and getting paid in cash for.
  • I also want them to be able to travel extensively as young adults. Hopefully following their kiteboarding/mountaineering life to awesome places. They would be able to work as landscapers for the spring, summer and fall and be able to take off to travel for the winter.



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Find The Homeschool Lesson In This:

I was just remembering a day not too long ago my kids and I were at the Grocery Outlet, or, as my BFF calls it, the Used Food Store. I shop there because I’ve found I can get some good produce for cheap, coffee and some of the organic processed food I like. Not for the used food.

The kids weren’t being horrible, but they were being . . . active. I had been trying to talk on the phone to my mom whilst shopping, which always leads to confusion and chaos in my mind.

All of this added up to me being kind of overwhelmed by the time I got to the front of the store. Well, at the front of the store, at the check stand, there was a man with just a bag of sugar. He was (probably still is) a handsome, brown man. I let him go in front of me because I had a huge cart full of stuff and he had just sugar. So he blew me a kiss, right close to my face. I suppose it was to show gratitude. I laughed and said, “well, you just have some sugar, no problem.” He blew me another kiss and said, “now you have some brown suga.'”Clearly, that flustered me and I blushed and smiled.

Then, as I was moving my cart to make way for him, I rammed the cart into the stand of white wine at the end of the check out stand. You know how they have wine there so the mom’s can get it, last minute, on the way out of the store? We’re talking RAMMED it, the whole thing tumbled down with a huge crash and bang and loud glass and white wine spewing everywhere. At least a dozen bottles broke.

OMG. Aren’t you glad that wasn’t you? BTW, the manager was nice. I started sobb-laughing, which was confusing to everyone around. They probably wanted to get me the heck out of there as fast as they could as they told me to calm down and not worry about a thing. Luckily it was their cheap wine, like maybe $5 a bottle. The kids ran to the car to hide.

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Raw Vegan Ranch Dressing

Oh my, this is good stuff.  It’s kind of sour creamish.  Yes, it’s raw vegan sour cream!  I’ve used it in it’s thin state as a salad dressing, today at lunch I used it on baked potatoes.  Then again at dinner I used it on my Vegan Taco Salad.  It really is rich and creamy and not that powdery taste that some of the raw vegan dips/sauces can have.

Even my kids liked it!


Even Isaac liked it!  (actually he LOVED it!)



I probably won’t win any photography awards.  That’s okay because it was very rewarding watching my family munch on this great dip.

  • 1/2 cup each raw (preferably soaked) cashew nuts & raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 21/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 sundried tomatoe
  • 1 whole tomato, cut up
  • some paprika, chili powder and some onion powder

Blend all this in the vitamix, adding water to thin as desired.  For a salad dressing use more water, for a vegan sour cream or vegan ranch dip, use less!


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Zooming Kids


Just look at that smile on her face!  I wasn’t into the idea of my youngest on her own motorbike, but after a long safety lesson and careful practice with her dad, she got ‘1st gear only motorbike certified.’   I think it’s so funny that Isaac always certifies the kids in their activities.  Like swimming.  The boys had to get dock certified to play at the lake we love to go to without us on the dock.  This meant that they had to swim around the dock without help before we would let them play on the dock without one of us right there.  Also, knife training.  They got trainer knives which they had to check in with us and use only with supervision and proper training until they were certified knife carriers.  They are all certified in salad making, dressing making, bread making and other kitchen duties.

They’ve been trained up in lots of fun activities, but also in their chores.  It is best to really follow through with what they are doing and be very specific about your expectations, knowing they will be inspected afterwards.  I have found that the kids do well what is INSPECTED, not necessarily EXPECTED!  After a while, they are trained up and can usually do a good job on their own.


Wow!  My sweet girl is already zooming around our property on a little motor bike.  She had so much fun and loved it so much.  She did this for a long time while I was working in our garden, which produced lots of yummy greens for some great dinners and lunches!

Kaleb also zoomed, but he ZOOMED fast.  He loves some speedyness in his day!



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Our Garden and Greenhouse

We do a lot of gardening around here. And, as I’ve mentioned, my 15 year old is an avid gardener.  So, we’ve built a greenhouse!  He has been having such fun with it.  We have as well.  We’ve started all sorts of vegis.  Our garden is coming along.  Here are some pictures.

Lettuce Box

Lettuce Box

Funky Greenhouse!

Funky Greenhouse!




Funky Greenhouse!

Funky Greenhouse!

Chard JPeas

Chard JPeas

Onions Beets Kale Carrots

Onions Beets Kale Carrots

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My Support Group

Wow! Here is a picture of our field trip to the big city! We all live in the woods. We all homeschool our kids. We are the best of friends and our kids are the best of friends. And we are cousins and sisters. Aren’t we lucky? We have so much fun together. ELEVEN kids between the ages of 2 and 15. Aren’t we amazing, um, lucky?

We often get together and visit. The kids play and have their much loved social time. We get to bounce ideas off of each other. What works? What doesn’t? Have you tried this? What do you do when…..?

I have the oldest kid, so in lots of ways I am the guinea pig! I also try a plethora of curriculum, so I am like a live review of choices!

They are wild and crazy! We have two 2 year olds, 4 year old, two 7 year olds, 8, 10, 11, 11, 12, 15
I have to say they are very, very good kids. Happy. Drama Free. And 4 tweeners and one teenager. Doin’ good so far, mamas!






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The Good Life Book

So, you know how my blog’s name is The Good Life?  Our inspiration comes from Scott & Helen’s wonderful book, The Good Life: Helen & Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living.

I just can’t recommend this book more highly.  I’ve purchased several and have handed them to friends and family to read.  Some people get it, some people don’t.  But I know that, no matter what, their simple -living ways are a good influence on mankind, so anyone reading this is a good thing!

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How can a homeschool mom stay happy and healthy?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the hundreds of things we have to get done in a day, this is true for all moms, but especially true for homeschool moms.

Many homeschool moms work from home or even work outside the home, this just adds to the list of things to do. So, we’ve talked a lot about keeping our homes organized, a rhythm to our day, striving for simplicity and all of these things help.

But, if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy! We HAVE to take time to take care of ourselves!  Getting it all done is one thing, getting some of it done and being mainly happy and healthy most of the time is another. No, none of us will be joyful and cheerful 100% of the time, of course not.

I can genuinely say that I am mainly happy most of the time. With a song in my heart and a smile on my face. About once a month, for a few days, the song turns to grumbling and the smile turns to tight, pursed lips. But this is another post!

I’ve found a few things help. The most important is HEALTHY LIVING! I’ve made a list of what this means for me. For you it might be different. But aren’t we trying to inspire eachother around here? I’d like to read what it means to other moms, so I’m thinking someone out there might be interested in what it means to me.

1. Not being too busy. We stay at home 4-5 days a week. When we get too much running around to do, the next steps become very difficult and we are all strung out all the time!

2. The first thing I do is drink 1-2 pints of water with a half of lemon in it. This makes me feel great right away.

3. Eat some fruit or drink a green smoothies every morning.

4. Go for a long walk after dinner, we call this our ‘digestion walk.’ I think naming our rituals might be a sign of getting old as it reminds me of my grandparents. Oh well. I usually go with my husband, but enjoy alone time as well. Either way works. I get pretty annoyed, though, if DH invites all the kids to go. Insists they go. It might be good family time, but it is really not quiet time!

5. Try to do some yoga every day. Sometimes I do Yoga For Surfers 2 on youtube. We’ve been doing that for years. We have it memorized now, but I still like to have it playing on the computer just to hear so I don’t rush through the poses.

6. Avoid anything processed. I go into a carb coma pretty easily so I generally have nothing in the sort of crackers, store-bought cookies etc. We usually have nutella. I spread that on everything. But it doesn’t make me exhausted.

7. Spend the afternoon outside. This is the best, most important concept. FRESH AIR! NATURE! TREES! GRASS! We need them all!

8. Never, ever eat MSG. The source of migraines and inability to perform daily tasks. This is something I just realized. It is awful stuff.

9. Eat a huge salad everyday.  This keeps me vitamined up and really helps keep things movin’ on through the body.  If we are stoved up, it’s hard to have lots of good, clean, happy energy.  Know what I mean?

10. Talk to my mom and sister on the phone everyday. They make me smile. They make me laugh and they always cheer me up.

When I don’t do these things, my happy level goes down because my health level goes down. I find I get way more done when I don’t get too busy to do these things. It’s called taking care of myself. I haven’t always done it, but now that I’ve started, I make it a number one priority.

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Homeschooling Rhythms & Anchors

How we organize our days and our homes makes a huge difference in how our homeschool days go.  I have found that I need to

  1. Make A Plan
  2. Work the Plan
  3. Schedule Accordingly

As much as I believe in the importance of rhythm in our daily lives, this is something I really struggle with.  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, my husband, Isaac, is very ritualistic and sequential in the way he thinks and in the way he lives.  Me?  Not so much.  I am random by nature.  So, this being the case, I have had to concentrate on the rhythm of our day.  We have some strong anchors in our lives, though: everyday we wake up around the same time, we eat three meals a day together as a family (both a blessing and a curse, for I am the cook), we have school work we do in the mornings before lunch and we have a pretty consistent bed time.  Isaac is home by lunch time most every day and he likes to have a ‘read and rest’ with the kids after lunch.  That is  a time where he reads to the boys and I read to Maya and sometimes we all take a quick nap or sometimes we don’t.

But after read and rest, it’s time for project work outside.  This is sometimes free time for the kids to pursue their own interests.   Right now Kaleb is working on a Honda motor from an old rototiller that was broken.  He is fixing the motor to build a go cart or some motorized bike of his never-ending imagination!

Kyler is spending most of his time doing gardening stuff.

Maya mainly plays fairy.

For structured projects, we are still building our greenhouse.  The boys have been working hard on it and I am super excited for it to be finished so we can have a warm, sunny spot to start our seeds!

I definitely think that our basic daily plan of wake up, breakfast together, school, lunch together, read and rest, play/project time, dinner together, free time, family time then bed really gives us quality family time as well as freedom to pursue our own leisure time.

Leisure time is not the same as entertainment time.  We leave that for in the evenings; a movie, some youtube time or surfing the internet.  Leisure time should be more productive and should be doing something we are interested in and, hopefully sometimes, completing something.  That we way we have something we can look back on to be proud of.  Knitting a scarf, a motor, plants growing, a coloring page full of beautiful colors, a clean floor, kiteboard trick mastered etc. etc…


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Middle School Homeschool Language Arts Recommends

Here are my top pics for homeschooling middle school.  Remember, I don’t subscribe to one certain school of thought when it comes to homeschool.  Have you heard of eclectic style homeschooling?  That’s us.  We take months off at a time for road trips sometimes and are pretty structured at other times.  And everything in between, too.  We are definitely nature inspired and spend more time outside than in,  that is one area we are very consistent in.  Our lack of structured science attests to that fact.  I do, however, believe in strong reading, writing and arithmetic skills.  Now that my middle child is Middle School age and my oldest is in High School, I feel like I can strongly recommend the following resources:

Language Arts:

  •   Shurley English (I come back to this again and again.  I just love how the script is straight forward, the lessons build on eachother and they are easy to understand and the concepts seem to stick in the child’s mind.  Also, the way the writing lessons are taught is exactly what my child needs, very specific writing instruction.)
  • Wordly Wise (the kids don’t love doing the lessons, but they are worth while and of good quality.)
  • EdCon Publishing, Bring the Classics to Life.  I like these for reading comprehension and my kids seem to like them. They are not Living Books as they have been rewritten for the kids.
  • Handwriting Without Tears Cursive
  • Spectrum Spelling and Phonics.  I don’t love this, but it’s better than the other Spelling courses I’ve tried.
  • Oakmeadow as a backbone has worked for us for 6th grade.  I add in some Shurley English, like 2 or 3 lessons most weeks.  I also don’t use Wordly Wise with this as it has it’s own vocab pulled from the daily reading.
  • Earthschooling-I have used some of their block lessons for math and really like them.  I will be purchasing some supplemental Language Arts stuff for Kaleb, too.  I can’t help it, I think I’m a curriculum junkie!

I will post math & history resources in another blog.

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Keepin’ It Real!

I think it’s fun to post cute pictures of our cute life, where everything has a place and all things are in their places.  Neat and tidy we homeschool moms are.  Right?  Mandy days that’d be a lie over here.  Although we clean up most days and try to do a real good clean on Fridays, this is pretty much what our homeschool space looks like most days.  We are in the midst of our  morning school session.  Kyler is up in his loft area (his new place to do school.  He has a plan to build a Tiny House in the next while and has been converting a little loft in his bedroom TO his bedroom).  Maya has been cleaning the bathroom and KK is at his desk, doing his work.  Kind of.  He’s got his IPOD and is texting his cousin.  As soon as I am finished with this post, I will be taking his IPOD and he can use it again AFTER his school work and chores are done.  I need to reread this post about Gadgets and The Good Life.  But, for now, Kaleb has his IPOD.  This post is about keeping it real.  As much as I’d like for this to be real


This is my current reality:  All the desks are a bit messy, the windowsill is cluttered, as are the bookshelves.  The floor has a million tiny pieces of who knows what.  But hey, at least my kids are cute, right!



Maya tends to keep her spot pretty neat.  Maybe because we share that spot?  It might help.  She is doing a 7’s page in her Main Lesson Book for Waldorf First Grade Math.  I cut her bangs this morning.  I may have missed a few of them.  I’ll get right on that.



Kaleb’s desk is usually the worse.  He is very non-sequential, leans more towards chaos.  Like his mother, I suppose.  See, he has an empty popcorn bowl from like, last Thursday?  Also, the slingshot comes in handy during his Ancient Africa Oak Meadow 6th grade lesson.  Don’t you think?


Here Kyler is in his loft.  He keeps his new spot organized and tidy.  He rigged it up 3 days ago, so we’ll see if it lasts.  I went up there to get a picture of him quietly doing his school work, as I hadn’t heard from his for quite a while.  I was proud of my freshman boy studiously studying.  But, alas, he was making his paracord survival bracelets.  He sells them, so it’s part of his business.  But not part of his school.




More of the boys’ area.  This is AFTER they cleaned it up.




Reality check. 



Posted in Rasing Kids for The Good Life-YIKES! Big Job., The Good Life Homeschooling | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Homeschooling Teens & Pursuing Passions

Kyler's carrot harvest 2013

Kyler’s carrot harvest

One great thing about Homeschooling through the middle school and high school years is that the kids are really able to pursue their passions.  It takes a while for them to explore different subjects and activities for them to find something that they are passionate about.  As homeschool parents, we can offer them a wide variety of opportunity to do and participate in much of our everyday lives.  For a full time public school student, this just isn’t the case.  So, I am proud of my son.  He’s developed a real love of gardening.  He’s amazing at it, too.  He’s saved seeds from many of the plants from last year.  His favorites are melons and squash.  He now has some lights in our garden shed that he can use for his starts and he’s started plants earlier this year.  I have asked him to organize his thoughts and plans in a notebook.  He is keeping track of the time he spends gardening and making a list of the books he reads.  He has note cards for each type of plant he’s planted so far and cross referenced them with numbers on his pots.  He came up with his method all on his own.  By the end of harvest season this coming fall, he will have earned an electives credit for his sophomore year and he will have learned so much because he is doing what he loves.  And we will be eating well!  He had a huge part in our gardening last year, too.  We talked so much during the season last year about doing it this year as a high school credit and he must have thought about that a lot, because he is really taking the bull by the horns and turning it into a true course.  I am so proud of him.  Did I already say that?  By the way, homeschooling teenagers is fun when you let them pursue some of their learning.  Can you imagine how much more effective this is than learning about plants from a textbook?

Kyler working hard in the gardening shed.

Kyler working hard in the gardening shed.


Kyler's garden growing set up.  He is doing as a high school credit this year, so he is really working hard.  He's started watermelons, honeydew melons, tomatoes and lots of squash!

Posted in Rasing Kids for The Good Life-YIKES! Big Job., Simple Living | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments