April 1, 2017

March '17

March has been quite satisfying around here.  While we spent February getting certain areas of the backyard in order and prepping garden beds, we spent March working to ensure a strong future for our aspiring homestead.  There is very little as satisfying as seeing the germination of the seeds I planted after carefully prepping the soil.

For now, I am keeping a close eye on them watching for pests.  Once my plants are large enough and/or I have finished making chicken wire cloches for their protection, I will let the ducks once again roam the garden area for bug control.

Speaking of, the ducks are doing great!  It’s been their mating season so it has been interesting to watch the drakes compete for attention.  I am hoping one of my hens will decide to set her nest soon.  In the meantime, we added three baby ducks to our flock.  I would be thrilled if they were all girls, but being that they were straight run, there is a decent chance of boys.  Life will be much shorter for them if they are all boys.  For now though, they are just cute!

 We also did some work on our two and half year old made-from-scraps chicken coop.  After three years of chickens we have learned a few lessons (another post).  So we revamped, put on a new roof and created a new space for our girls to lay eggs.  They had no problem adapting to their new egg laying digs and have been providing us 8-10 eggs a day (plus 1 or 2 from ducks).

We culled two of our older flock members because we wanted to thin the flock just a little and once they get older, they lay fewer eggs.  Bad news for them, but good news for our venison-loving household because we got some chicken.  They were good hens, may their souls rest in peace in chicken heaven.

 The biggest news is that my beehive is set up!  Long time coming.  This was something I talked about since we got out here three years ago, but the timing had not been right for me.  So finally, I have my hive and it has found its perfect home in view of my back porch just like all my other endeavors.  I figure the more I see something, the more attentive I will be to it. I opted for a Top Bar Hive; more on that later.

 It’s been exciting for me around here, to make big strides to grow and raise our own food.  That was one of my main goals when we moved here three years ago, but my plans got derailed for a while why I worked through mother of cancer stricken, chronically–ill child PTSD.  So now the sun is shining again and we are moving forward.  Super exciting.

As for Clayton?  Well mostly he is doing great.  Talking up a storm and always taking things in.  His favorite phrases this month are:

“But how?” –when something goes wrong instead of but why, he says this and shakes his head with a hand on either side and gets a sweet little whine to his already super sweet voice.

“What to do, what to do?” –this has been a go-to for a while now.  He still uses it with the same theatrics as when he started.

“Where are you?” –I wish people could hear him say this one.  It is precious.  And when he says it he puts his hands to his mouth like he is calling for whatever he wants.  This morning he wanted his cars DVD, “Cars, where are you”, the other day looking for George, “Daddy where are you?”

Equally used is his sweet little, “Der dey are” = There they are.

“Do you hear dat” and “Do you see dat”

He is also good with using “I sorry” and “pease” – but don’t take that to mean he can’t throw down the gauntlet with a tantrum…he can.

Oh and I can’t forget one of the sweetest ones, that shows what a considerate kiddo he is….”Are you happee?”

It can be hard to understand him but he tries and things keep getting clearer and clearer.  I end up translating a lot for others, but this has all been such a long time coming and is really fun for us.

 Unfortunately, he did have an incident this month.  He became unresponsive and we rushed him to the ER.  Long story short, we didn’t stay, because they didn’t have the good sense to do labs immediately on an unresponsive child.  While waiting for them to do something, which didn’t happen we were able to get Clayton responsive again and we left and called his doctors in Pensacola.  Because the hospital did not do immediate labs, we can’t confirm the issue was blood sugar related, but are pretty sure.  As parents it would have been nice to get that confirmation.  I was hesitant to go to our local hospital, but did so out of fear not knowing why Clayton was unresponsive.  In the future, we will go straight to Pensacola.  For the record, I never would have left the ER with Clayton had I not been confident in where he was at that moment and in the fact that it was an issue his other doctors and I could handle outside the ER.  When we first arrived, I was concerned it may be something more serious such as acute renal failure (been there done that) or such.  Knowing what to look for, I was confident in my decision to leave, while very disappointed labs had not been done to confirm our suspicions.  I would NEVER recommend anyone leave like we did unless they were sure and had the support of doctors outside the ER like we did.  Just saying.  Follow your mom gut and stand up for your kid always.

And he also spent some time fighting a pretty mean rash this past month.

It lasted WEEKS.  His eyes were the worst and then a bit on his arms, but nowhere else.  All better now though and moving on to April.

March 3, 2017

February '17

What a busy month!  Productive...what a productive month.

We have been working on projects non stop and I love it! For starters, I spent the month of January and February getting my garden boxes ready.


Adding a special cocktail of soil, hay, ashes, egg shells, organic banana peels and duck poop. Yes duck poop. My ducks have a pond and once I fill it, I let them get it down until I'm left with their "mud" in the bottom. I then pour this lovely aromatic mess in my garden beds. Now I'm finally starting to plant!

We also adopted 5 grown chickens from a friend getting rid of her flock, bringing our flock to a total of 15.  Plus our 4 ducks and we are rolling in eggs!  Seriously rolling in them.


We've been working on some outdoor Clayton projects...like a new clubhouse where we removed his old swingset and a newly built porch bench. Both from scrap wood. You know that makes me happy!  I'll do a post on the clubhouse later, but here is his new bench:


The headboard was my great grandmothers and we made the seat out of wood recycled from his swingset.  It looks a little awkward because it's so deep, but that was intentional for Clayton.  All of our projects have been custom to his needs and how he'll use them.  It's his "daybed". ;) What you see sticking out underneath is our mantel drying out.  Which of course was another February project.


Me and the baby-man set up camp in front of the fire while George went hunting. We literally spent the last weekend of hunting season like that.


And then...George also harvested the first deer from this property!  Family property for over 30 years and the first deer was dropped this year. He got a kick out of dropping one in his backyard (the very back of property, not right by our house). On the last day of hunting season too.


Then I have been working on crafting for the antique mall.  I'm experimenting. Trying different things.  Seeing what I like doing most and seeing what buyers like. And of course furniture fun... 

Vintage side table makeover:


Reclaimed coffee table:


Reclaimed lumber makes me sooo happy.

And lastly we've been tying up a few loose ends in our backyard so it functions better and allows us to enjoy it more.  So close... post those projects and Clayton update soon.

February 14, 2017

Milling A Mantel

Sometimes I have no doubt the people around me think I'm crazy. An innocent  shade of crazy of course, but crazy none the less. I'm not. I just come up with these ideas that people think are ridiculous and have very little (to no) faith in. I think I just believe in myself and some of the people around me more than they do. For example:

"I wanna build a house for $50,000."

 This one got a lot of laughs and enough doubt to last a lifetime, but we ended up building a nice quality (yet unfinished cosmetically) house for under $57,000.

"I want chickens and ducks, and maybe a goat and some version of a homestead."

 Everyone wondered why I would want any of this since I can get what I need at the store. They also mostly thought it would be a passing phase. NOPE! :) Sans the goat because I want to travel and a goat would make that difficult.  Poultry not so much. Or more recently...

"Hey George, lets pull a big log from the pile leftover from clearing the property for our house and mill our own beam for over our fireplace."

 I say things and I get the crazy look.  Sometimes from George, sometimes from our parents, neighbors or friends.  There is always someone who gives it to me. The way that I want to live and the things I value are sometimes just a step further than any of the rest of them or in some cases completely different and folks end up in a combination of doubting my commitment, doubting my process and not understanding in general why the hec I want to do the things I want to do.  BUT none of that makes me crazy...just misunderstood. ;)

None of it should come as a shock to anyone though. I have a mom who has always collected everything and nothing at the same time always trying to create whatever she could. My stepfather is the strictest of strict do-things-yourself kind of person that led him to be a man of many trades.  I grew up in a house built by my dad and PawPaw (and my mom and over the past twenty something years modified by my stepdad). My dad does a lot of tinkering and is also known to tackle projects himself and greatly appreciates old things. And my Paw Paw was always working...always. He was moving and grooving and gardening and mending fences and feeding chickens and building things he needed around his home to make it function better. And even my neighbors Julie and Greg who for many years were like another set of parents since I practically lived at their house with their kids had a profound influence on me as I watched them DIY and garden and such. When you look at my influences, it should be no surprise that I would randomly let George know we were going to tackle this project.

...And of course Clayton's influence too. Every way in which he he molded our lives has made all of the skills and lessons about working and creativity and DIYing from those around me growing up even more needed and wanted.

Now if only George can believe in the crazy as much as I do! Bless him, he follows me even when he's full of doubt. Of course sometimes I think it is just so he can prove me wrong...which he usually doesn't. Because I have more faith in his abilities than he does!

So anyway... this weekend my crazy led us to milling our own fireplace mantel. Bless my soul, I am in love.  Milling my own mantel ranks up there with one of the coolest things I've done.  Whether it's food, furniture, lumber or whatever, our society just goes to the store or orders online, etc. to get what we want. Most of us never take part in the "start to finish" or any part of the process for that matter.  So to stand there and participate in and watch this log become my mantel was awesome. It humbles me and makes me so appreciative for what I have. It makes me so appreciative for the values I hold dear and for the way I want to live. It leaves me longing for that kind of high everyday. More DIY, more growing our own food and raising our flocks, more being involved and being a hands on part of all that goes into our life. I never expected to be here...in this place...but I am so blasted thankful I am and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  The last decade has been super tough with high highs and low lows, but it has led me to this amazingly beautiful place. So far 30 has freaking rocked my socks off! If things keep up like this I will be the happiest old woman ever! Pray it's true!

Back to my mantel...We pulled the log from the pile nearly a year ago (at which point the log had been cut down for two years) and immediately attempted a straight edge cut using the chainsaw.  Well, George will tell you it was tough as nails to do and the result was more than a bit wonky.  So we left it. For months, I would peer over at the log wondering if it truly would be transformed into my mantel. Finally I reach a "$&@? or get off the pot" point.  So, for $25 I ordered a chainsaw accessory off Amazon that was going to make or break my mantel idea. The idea is that you use a milled piece of lumber as a guide for a straight edge. The accessory slides along the milled lumber while connected to the chainsaw in a way that allows it to mill a straight line.


I didn't even tell George until it arrived in the mail because I knew he would be doubtful. But like a champ he gave it a try... And it worked!!! It worked like a charm. We will be using this accessory all
the time now.


Now my mantel has made its way to the back porch to dry for a long while.  Because it's heart pine and I want it good and dry so I'm not putting lighter knot over my fireplace. Yes, people do use heart pine for mantels. Google it. I am just in love and cannot wait to get it up down the road. We even left a tiny bit of a live edge on it. Just beautiful.  It already has dried out so in the few weeks it has been on the porch and the color is changing. Just love it!


January 17, 2017

Vintage Booth: Progress

Now that George is out of school and I’m not playing teacher or tutor to him, I have some time on my hands.  Truth be told, this is one of the only times in the eight years since I had Clayton that I have had this much time.  Clayton was sick with his kidney disease and a few other things when he was little, then he got cancer, then his back, then we physically built our house ourselves and immediately after we moved in, George started school.  This feels like the first good chance I have had to breathe and relax a little.  But since I don’t like being too idle, I am taking this rare opportunity to do something that while it is for my family, is also very much for me; my vintage booth.  I have a booth in a local antique mall that I have had for the past couple of years.  It has been something that was filled with items people donated to help Clayton’s medical fund. 

Over the past couple years, it has functioned in that way and been perfect because I could leave and do what I needed to do with Clayton and not think twice about it.  Since this model works so well with my life with Clayton, I always wanted to do more with it.  I have been hoarding ideas and things for projects I have wanted to do for years and I am finally getting to them.  I have all kinds of things I want to do with the booth to provide a small income for my family for fun things and medical bills, but also for my soul.  I LOVE working on projects like this.  It relaxes me and I get so much enjoyment from it.  So I have been super excited to have the time to finally customize my booth and make it my style and start to craft my own inventory, which is my ultimate goal.  Baby steps though.

This past week I have added a burlap backdrop, fabric covered wall, board and batten treatment and now I am adding a decorative weathered tin roof!  I looked on craigslist and didn’t see the rusty corrugated style tin I was looking for.  And then I realized that weathered tin is exactly the sort of thing my Paw Paw would have in his enormous old barn.  So after talking to my grandmother she told me to come look around and see if I could find any.  I hadn’t been in his barn since he passed.  Not many people have.  It was emotional because that barn is my Paw Paw in every way.  I spent so much time in that barn growing up with my cousin Adam trying to tinker around with Paw Paw.  I have so many fun memories of being in there and I always loved it.  My favorite days were the ones when he had the huge double doors flung open and we would go in and out playing here and there munching on kumquats and satsumas.  His barn is a treasure trove of things from burn barrels to hammers and absolutely EVERYTHING in between.  He was definitely a collector of things... but in an organized way.

At some point, the family will go through it.  And while I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, I can say that for me the idea of messing with anything is hard.  It has to be done, but it is hard.  It still feels like his and the idea of dismantling his system of stuff is just…tough.  His personality covers every square inch of that barn.  It’s why I knew he might have the rusted old tin I was looking for.  This is exactly the kind of project I would have turned to him for help with had he been here. :(

After not finding any tin in the barn, I went to go look around back where I remembered him having some stuff when I was a kid...yes there was a decent chance it would still be there.  As I started to round the end of the barn where there is a carport, I saw it; against the outside wall was my rusted tin.  I started doing the hyperventilating crying thing.  I knew Paw Paw would have it and he did.  Even when he is no longer here, he managed to help me out.  As George stared at me wondering what he should do, I finally caught my breath.  I had not missed my Paw Paw that intensely since he passed. I know, I know…I’m sure I sound like a goof to some people.

Now that I have my tin, George made the supports and I am staining, painting and weathering those, then we have to cut the tin and hopefully by the end of the week it will be hung.  Progress!  I'll post pictures once it is.

While the last couple of years, the booth has been a hodge-podge of donated items and even some of mine and my mom’ things, I am trying to sell off the old and craft the new.  Moving forward I only want to fill the booth with handcrafted items (by myself or George), vintage finds or repurposed items; all of which need to be my personal style.  I think I will have more success with the booth by filling it with things I love that I would want to buy myself.  So I’m excited for a little extra income (I hope) and lots of crafting in my future.  It will take a little time for the booth to fully evolve but the process has started which is a win!

I’m also trying to get the more time consuming booth renovation over because come February, we will be coming and going to doctors again.  Clayton will be due for checkups with ALL of his doctors.  Yay...

January 2, 2017

To 2017 & A Lifestyle To Love

I was really surprised over the holidays when George’s mom expressed that she thought our lifestyle (small house) was only temporary.  Once I considered her words, I realized my mother too had expressed her own doubt at times wondering if we would one day want a larger house if we made larger incomes.  Thinking about this, I realized that if our own mothers think our lifestyle is temporary because of circumstances with Clayton, then most people might.  So I’ll set the record straight.

I cannot say enough with enough passion…George and I LOVE the way we live and the lifestyle we are building for ourselves.  We aren’t fresh out of college deciding to backpack across America or to build a tiny home on wheels.  God willing there are plenty of years ahead for how we live to change, but we aren’t “testing” something out.  We fell into this way of living by accident/necessity with Clayton and his very unique circumstances.  And once again Clayton and all of his awesomeness bestowed a wonderful gift upon our family. 

We found that we wanted a simple life.  We wanted a life with less “things” and more adventures.  We want a life that will focus on the outdoors and family.  We want a small house that requires less time to clean and maintain and simultaneously promotes togetherness with our family.  There are no playrooms, craft rooms or man caves to escape to; instead it is our family together in front of the fireplace or talking while Clayton’s cartoons play in the background.  We don’t want to kill ourselves with the responsibility of a high paying job that makes us sacrifice our well-being, sanity and family time.  Instead we want to follow a path of making a healthy living balanced with healthy stress levels and healthy relationships with each other.  And while we are raised in a world where that idea is mostly scoffed at and seen as a dream, guess what?  It’s not a dream and it’s more than possible.  Furthermore, it doesn’t mean we have no ambitions, if that were true, George would not have just graduated after going back to finish school.  All it means is that we have acquired the perspective to balance the ambitions, health, wants and needs of our family.  And we know that our family is a team, we function together and we put each other first.

Where our perspective came from…

On November 22, 2011, our three-year old son Clayton was diagnosed with stage IV, high risk neuroblastoma (form of pediatric cancer) and we had no idea how long we might have with him.  When something like that happens the things that go through your head ARE NOT:

“I wish I had made more money.”
“I wish I had caught that episode of Grey’s Anatomy.”
“I wish I had spent more time at work.”
“I wish I had stressed over work more.”
“I wish I had a bigger house.”
“I wish I had a fancier car.”
“I wish me and my family wore more designer/popular brand clothing labels.”
“I wish my house was in perfect order.”
“I wish people thought I had it together and my life was grand.”
“I hope people don’t see my flaws.”
“I wish my house was full of antiques.”

No.  Not even close.  What DOES go through your head are things like…

“Dear God, don’t let my kid die.”
“What the hell is happening?”
“How, how the hell did this happen?”
“How much time do we have?”
“Why the hell did I care so much about watching the damn TV that I didn’t give him the attention he deserved.”
“Why the hell did I ever give anything the opportunity to overshadow him…ever.”
“What the hell is wrong with me.”
“Don’t take him from me before I have a chance to be what he deserves.”
“He is the only thing that matters.”
“I promise we will change our ways.”
“I’m never going hear him call me momma”

Nowhere in my list of regrets in those moments and days was there anything pertaining to living a fancy lifestyle or a financially demanding lifestyle.  Because that doesn’t matter.  Not even a little.  I mean sure I like quality things, and I do have quality items, but not at the expense of anything that matters.  And what matters is Clayton and the life we are building with him.  He doesn’t need parents who drive fancy cars or wear name brand clothes or pay a big mortgage on a big house with a playroom or whatever is trending these days.  He needs us.  And he needs us to pay attention to him.  Which sadly is not something our current society emphasizes with technology. 

Where our perspective has taken us…

When we are little we are shown this window to the world in which we are suppose to carve our own niche, but we aren’t always given the chance to consider alternatives.  Instead we are pulled toward this world where mom and dad need to go to work and work like crazy to pay for the house that is way more than they need, over-accessorized cars, iPhones for all, wardrobes to keep up with the Jones’ and the ridiculously priced toys and accessories everyone wants…you know what I’m talking about… golf carts, 4-wheelers, boats, etc.  We are somehow taught or shown that this is what we “need”; That those are the things we are suppose to work towards. 
NO!  NO!  NO!  Those are not the things in life that we “need” to work towards.  And if it weren’t for Clayton, George and I would probably be chugging along working towards those things too.  But Clayton taught us the secret to life…NONE OF THAT SHIT MATTERS!  And so we choose to take the path less traveled.  The one that we feel is more rewarding.  I apologize if this sounds as though I am judging anyone.  All I can say is that I am judging a lifestyle I once thought was my future.  A lifestyle that I thank God everyday, I learned early I didn’t need or want.  

So now as we start this new year, we are more settled than ever into our new and improved lifestyle of changing our views of what we “need” and focusing on what really matters.  We were in survival mode for so long after Clayton’s cancer diagnosis.  Then the past couple of years we were gifted with a little more time than normal to think about what we wanted in life and what direction we wanted our lives to take and how life with Clayton had come to shape us.  What we found is that our lives had miraculously lead us to this perfect-for-us building block to build off of. 

So to our moms (and I’m sure plenty of other people) who don’t really understand how we can be satisfied for a lifetime with some of the ways in which we are choosing to live…All I can say is we are happy.  We have almost no clutter bogging us down; our roots are fairly shallow and give us the freedom to explore and live a life of adventures; we have found joy in our lives while providing for our basic needs and those needs of Clayton and we manage to sneak in a few splurges here and there just to add a little extra dose of happy without stressing us out in anyway.  Our minds, spirits and our time are freer than they have ever been and we are finally decompressing from our journey.  And while we are enormously flawed human beings, we found a way of living that leaves us more grateful for our gifts, closer to God and closer to each other.  We would not trade where we are for anything and have no desire to ever revert to any other lifestyle. 

To figure out if your life works for you you have to ask yourself a few things:

  • Is this lifestyle I think I want worth the sacrifices I will have to make to have it?
  • What am I sacrificing to have this life? Time with my kids? Having kids? Time with my family? My health by being chronically overstressed?  Family values I hold dear? My sanity and peace of mind?
  • Do these things I think I "need" really make me happy or are they just a bandaid for a deeper problem or insecurity?
Maybe you'll find your meant for the life your trying to live...or maybe you'll think a little more about what you believe to be most important in your limited time on this earth.  

Whoever you may be, peace and love and joy to you and yours.  Without our struggles, we would not also feel the immense joy we have been blessed with.  So here’s to 2017 being full of new adventures and less “stuff”…