Traditions, Where the Heart Is

Because It’s Summer

I love summer. Truly, I don’t hate any season since moving home from Colorado, but summer and spring still reign as my favorites. Longer days, warmer nights, swimming, fishing, barbecues, 4th of July… summer is just hard to hate.

Though today is the summer solstice and technically the first official summer day, to me the first day of summer will never be a date on a calendar. No, I mark summer by the feel of the air, the warmth of the sun, the colors of the world, the first frog that chirps and the first lightning bug I see flash.

Those mark the days of summer.

One thing that I have never missed out on during a Missouri summer was catching lightning bugs. It has always been a summer tradition of mine whether solo, with family or friends. I must admit that the latter two are much more fun as I sit here remembering my 20 year old self with my best friend darting about the yard one June evening.

Past my elementary years, the game has always been catch and release… immediate release. However, I remember my younger years keeping the jar full of blinking lights next to my bed as I slept; what a perfect country night light. The next morning I would let them loose on the front porch and watch them skitter away to enjoy them again that evening.

Those were in the days without tablets or smart phones and my parents managed to keep me entertained with all sorts of things on the farm. There aren’t many memories I have indoors during nice days back then and I could hardly even be kept inside during thunderstorms. I only hope living on the farm can afford our children a similar type of childhood.

I will teach our own children the art of catching lightning bugs… because it really is an art. The only equipment needed are hands, a jar, some grass to put in the jar and a lid with holes punched in the top. The sensitivity required comes with the actual catching of the bugs.

You must have delicate hands to successfully capture a lightning bug without crushing its delicate body. The flashing parts are especially tender and require gentle handling. Thus, cupped hands with quick, but delicate, sweeping motions are best.

Raking your fingers tends to capture a lightning bug between the fingers, resulting in a squished bug. Clapping your hands together too quickly can also result in the same fate. This makes it all the more tricky when trying to capture these insects, but results in great memories of mason jars flashing in the dark.

I hope to watch our children from a front porch swing for many years to come as they dart back and forth across the yard. And I very much so hope that this inspired you to start catching lightning bugs as one of your own summer traditions.

A Piece of Work, Care Packages, Gifts

4th of July in a Box

This last deployment was the first time my husband was ever deployed over 4th of July. Usually he was getting ready to leave around that time or hadn’t quite gotten there yet. This past year, he was supposed to return stateside the end of July.

I remember getting strict instructions not to send anything to him the last month of deployment. He was worried he wouldn’t get it before he left for home. When it came down to it though, he teasingly stated, “Well I already know I have a 4th of July package coming.” He did not.

I’m not one to disappoint though. So I wracked my brain and scrambled to put together one EPIC 4th of July care package. The only problem with sending a care package with this theme is… what the heck do you put in it?

You can’t send fireworks, that’s a BIG no no. You can’t send family. These men are already surrounded by patriotism. They bleed red, white and blue. They are over there for our freedom and understand the price of it more than most. It doesn’t get more 4th of July than that.

So I got creative.

What can I send that’s LIKE fireworks? What can I send that is patriotic that they may not have and may be of use? What can I send that would give them some FUN?

The answer was this:

The cap would keep him cool and I knew a lot of his civilian clothes to hang out in were getting stained with the red African dirt so this gave him some more shirts as well. I knew they didn’t have many coolers to keep their drinks cool for their BBQs, so I sent them one for the occasion. As for the Pop Rocks… it was the only legal form of fireworks I could think of to ship.

To decorate the box I purchased:

I lined the box with Black Construction Paper (*side note* for those of you who don’t know this, priority flat rate boxes are the way to go). Then I dispersed the firework stickers throughout. Last, but not least, I poked holes through the interior flaps of he box and strung the firework sections I’d cut off the stringer through them so that it would look like fireworks popping out when he opened them.

Enjoy fellow military wives!

Green Thumb, Saving Money, The Piggy Bank, Vegetable and Herb

Cutting Container Costs

The first time my husband and I had a container garden, we were living in Colorado with a substantially smaller backyard than we’d both grown up with. Since we weren’t familiar with our land lords or the Colorado soil yet, we chose to grow a container vegetable garden that year.

Folks, I nearly had a panic attack when the cashier at the local nursery rang up all our plants, containers, and soil. It was well over $500 for less than 10 square feet of gardening space. Thankfully, the containers were at least something we could reuse year after year but eeesh!

I had the forethought in our second year to start my own seedlings instead of purchasing them. The cheapest way I’ve found to do this is to by a variety bulk package of seeds… this way you also get to try some new things too. I found my Survival Seed Kit with 50 varieties online for $17.99! A lot of seeds need to be started indoors in February and March though. So plan accordingly 🙂

The following year we re-used the same containers, but added some extra gardening space with the help of pallets. Eliott’s work at the time, had a lot of excess pallets they would just throw away, so we got 3 free pallets out of it. Besides, your rows are already ready made for you with pallets! We simply purchased some gardening burlap and affixed it to the bottom of the pallets with a staple gun to hold in our soil.

As another option for free containers, make friends with your local cattlemen. They have a constant supply of empty tubs to dispose of from the salt and minerals they feed their cows. This is how my mom gets her containers!

For my herbs, the prior tenants had left behind some cinder-blocks. Since we had a brick patio, I simply turned them on their side so I could use the holes as planters! They worked great for my basil, cilantro, parsley, dill and fennel, just not my oregano. I used the same seed mentioned in Terracotta Herbs for this herb garden as well!

The soil we purchased, since the yard was too small to make our own compost, was Miracle Grow Vegetable and Herb Garden Soil. Though it wasn’t organic, it was rich soil and garden friendly. But to save even more money it is best to make your own compost, as I mentioned before in Turning Garbage into Gold.

Thus our cost was significantly reduced from over $500 to around $60.

It is definitely important to do your homework prior to purchasing anything for your homestead, big or small!

Fur, Feathers, Fluff and Fuzz, Poultry, Saving Money, The Piggy Bank

Ferment All the Things!

I’ve already written about fermented tea, and I’m sure you’ll hear about some of my other ferments in posts to come. But… did you know that you could ferment things for your animals as well? Ferment all the things!

After reading Welcome to the Farm, by Shaye Elliot, we began a 3 day fermentation on our grain. To do this, we fill a 1 gallon bucket with grain and then fill the bucket with water until we can see it just below the surface of the grain. I loose fitting lid, or towel is placed over the top of the bucket and the bucket is set at room temperature for 3 days.

We start a new fermentation every day so that we always have freshly fermented food for our hens. We currently have 12 hens and they make their way through most of this feed each day. I would adjust it accordingly for your chickens as after 3 days the ferment can begin to turn.

Moldy food is never good for any of your animals and can make them very sick, so it is also necessary to make sure that you clean out the feeder well each day. The fermented food can easily become stuck in the corners and edges of the trough and mold and turn sour to the point that it is no longer good for your chickens to eat.

The advantage of fermented grain? Well, as mentioned with fermented tea, good bacteria grow in the fermented grain and are great for chicken’s digestive health. Additionally, the fermented grain expands and sometimes will start to sprout, providing more nutritional value to your hens.

In providing more nutritional value, the shells of your eggs will increase in thickness. Added bonus? Bigger yolks. I may not like hard boiled yolks, but when it comes to bigger yolks in my poached or over-easy eggs… yes please!

This is also more economical. Since the nutritional value increases and the grain expands with fermentation, your chickens are full faster. Thus, you spend less money on chicken feed for your chickens that are not solely free range.

For now, we just purchase the grain from our local MFA feed supplier. However, at some point we would love to grow our own grains to make our own scratch to ferment for our chickens. However you choose to do it, I think the advantages definitely outweigh the draw backs.

Family, Traditions, Where the Heart Is

For the Finnicky Father

I don’t know about anyone else… but Father’s Day around this joint is the most difficult gift giving event. I don’t know if it is that men have the tendency just to go ahead and buy what they want, or if they are just bad about asking for things they need or want.

Take my own father for instance, he has finally made a wish list on a couple websites, but most of them are bullets. Granted, he really wants them, but he does not need them nor does he use them often-maybe once or twice a year. He is also notorious for leaving things in packages for years after receiving them before finally deciding he’d like to use it.

Personally, I like to give gifts that will be used or appreciated often. Not to mention he rarely gets excited over gifts, particularly ones that he has had on a wish list. Since I also like to surprise people with gifts, this doesn’t really work for me either.

My father-in-law is just as difficult to buy for. No wishlists, no hints, no direct answers when asked what he wants (except homemade foods). He on the other hand, does act happy when receiving gifts and will open them immediately. We also know when we’ve hit the jack-pot on a gift because he will use it over and over again.

So what do I do to shop for them? I pay attention. VERY close attention.

My father recently purchased a new boat and has been like a little kid in a candy store getting it ready for fishing. Purchasing new equipment, putting together snack boxes and a first aid kit, and adding fancy new features to it each week (it has 2 fish finders folks… 2). So, that inspired my Father’s Day for him.

For him, we purchased:

Remember how I mentioned that my father-in-law is pretty good at letting us know in one way or another if he really likes a gift? Well one of the things he loved was moisture-wicking T-shirts. Before we got him more was literally wearing the same one so often that my mother-in-law would have to sneak it into the wash.

However, we got them for him to use at work on the back hoe and he has decided that they are fantastic to sleep in. In an attempt to get him something else to use on the back hoe, we are going to try moisture wicking shorts this time. He also enjoys TV, Tom Selleck and blue grass.

Thus, we got him:

I hope this helped you all with your Father’s Day needs. Those danged fathers are difficult to buy for!