Love Letter

I entered a contest over at The Renegade Farmer. Here’s my entry:

I love our farm because it’s a fantastical place to bring up our four children. Where else could they run naked in the yard, cover themselves with mud, wash a tractor with the hose, catch a toad or several, follow a bee or have “tea” under a willow?
I love farm living because it’s gentle. We witness bringing baby calves into the world, hold tiny helpless chicks in our hands, or nuzzle mewling kittens steps from our front door.
I love farm life because it’s slower. Living out in the country means I have a convenient excuse to not have our children in Girl Scouts, piano lessons, skating lessons, soccer, or any of the other ‘good things’ that over involve families and steal time away from their core.
I love living on a farm because it’s more healthful. On a good day, I could go pick the tomatoes, lettuce and spinach for the salad, grill a home raised steak, fry up potatoes from the root cellar and drink wholesome raw delicious milk. That level of perfection still is a fantasy, but the possibility for it to be reality is there, and tangible.
I love living on the farm because we are witness to the life cycles. Our babies are bred here, born here, grow up here and hopefully will live here after we’re gone. The children see the eggs in the hens’ nests, pet the baby chicks, watch them grow and change, and after they aren’t good layers anymore, eat home made, sumptuous chicken noodle soup, and know that’s how it is.
And most of all, I love my farm because it’s where my family is. And being with my family is my favorite thing of all, and makes me truly happy. And I really like to be happy.

Jessica is wife to a fifth generation farmer. They and their four kiddlets live in a 160 year old farm house which is in a constant state of renewal and deconstruction. They raise Gelbvieh cattle, random breeds of chickens, and grow corn, hay, wheat, and soybeans as well as several failed gardens. (There’s always next year!) In addition to her family, Jessica enjoys knowing God, reading, baking, learning, writing, and chocolate.
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I couldn’t afford to work

Our local paper just had an advert in for the upcoming school year by a daycare/preschool. It had the prices listed for all their ages which I’d never really looked into.

As it turns out, if my three younger were in preschool/daycare and Aviana were in public school, and I were a teacher (because I am a teacher and taught until the summer I had Lil Miss A), it would cost us $2000 a month in child care~!
$2000!!
Based on my BEFORE tax pay my last year teaching, I would be handing over half my salary to The Little Red Schoolhouse! And then I’d still have to buy gas to drive to school, an updated wardrobe, lunches, and I’m sure our grocery bill and eating out bill would rise because I wouldn’t have time to do from scratch cooking.
I couldn’t afford to work.
Plus I would only get to see my kids from four (if I left work right away) to seven and on the weekends, which would really be a bummer, and that’s only if I never went to the gym or did anything with my friends in the evening. I can’t really count the mornings since we’d be so busy getting out the door.
And when would I fit in grocery shopping and cleaning (Not that cleaning takes up a huge chunk of my time–I wouldn’t want to mislead you.) and crafting and reading for fun and learning new things?
I couldn’t handle it. I’m getting stressed just thinking about it.
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So that little girl yesterday, stomping and crying and kicking the door and screaming at the top of her lungs? In church? Not even our church?

That was mine.
So that little boy this morning, who was wandering around with his goods swinging free, because he threw his pants and undies down from the balcony in church? Our church? Where I have to show my face again?
That was mine.
I just thought you should know.
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Feb082011003-1

Family Drawing Afternoon

The people Brielle loves

Aviana’s beautiful princess and prince

Brielle’s beautiful princess

My castle–I was going to add a dragon and some more details, but somehow ended up being pulled in about six different directions. (I know, I only have four children, but still somehow the directions are six. At least)

Grandma Joyce’s Owl
Aviana’s gingerbread boy

Brielle’s no cats for Jessica sign (because I’m allergic)

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Jan082007027

Radical Homemakers part 2

I had so much to share from Shannon Hayes‘ book that I couldn’t fit in all into one post. The book Radical Homemakers was just that meaningful for me.

Young families find that humility enables them to accept help from willing parents without stigma, or vice versa, reducing their duplicative demands on an extractive economy.

I think there is something wrong with a culture that demands independence from one’s family. I think it’s good for young adults to have autonomy from their family of origin, but I disagree with the idea that living at home as a young adult means you’re a loser. It’s sad, really, that old people are put into homes with other old people instead of living with their families, and young adults are forced to try to live above their means or with (sometimes) crazy roommates to make ends meet instead of sharing the family home a while longer.
Pioneering home economists in 1899 created a field in academia so a female scientist could be a full professor, and believed they were making room for women in the American university system, but in truth were pigeon-holing them. And a larger glitch (if it can even be called a glitch, instead of a catastrophe) was they needed to be portrayed as the experts. To achieve this, the housewife, a fixture in American culture, was now demoted to the level of lowly amateur, compared to the professional, salaried, “expert” home economists.

The very ones who were trying to help women find fulfillment instead robbed them of it when, if they chose to pursue a career full of diapers and dimply knees, tomatoes and tiny toes, gardens and stories and dressmaking and cheesemaking, they were disdained.

In the early 1950s the U.S. was one of the healthiest countries in the world, but by 1960, it had sunk to the 13th healthiest…Since then we have continued to fall, so that we are now 25th, behind almost all other rich countries, and a few poor ones as well.
We spend so much money on medicines and doctors and yet no one tells the truth or asks about nutrition. Everyone believes the diet dictocrats so irrefutably. The lack of true nutrition education, the key to real health, in this country is deplorable.
In 2005, editors of The Economist magazine proposed an alternative gauge for evaluating our nations’ economic health, one which accounted for indicators such as divorce rates, community life, well-being, and political freedom. It found that the U.S. ranked thirteenth, behind even Spain, where the citizens earned only 60 percent as much money.

See, money can’t buy happiness! In fact, it appears to buy misery instead. Pretty sure God knew what He was talking about when He said, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
Psychologist Michael Yapko observes that when other societies achieve America’s standard of living, their rates of depression increase.
I don’t think it’s necessarily having a high standard of living that causes depression, but what our attitude is about it. If you’re constantly in pursuit of the next thing, the new game, the new toy, the new car, the new whatever, you’re bound to be unhappy. I read about a study once that said upon purchasing something the happiness level would rise to the same height and drop just as quickly regardless of whether they had purchased a new small dollar item, like shoes, or a new high dollar item, like a car!
True happiness comes from reaching out to others, in serving. Well, truly, loving God first, then serving.
Buying all that stuff consumes more than our dollars, it consumes time too; the New Road Map foundation reports that a typical American now spends six hours a week shopping and only forty minutes playing with their kids.
Maybe they should shop with their kids. 🙂
It is ironic that after overthowing imperial/corporate rule in the 1700s, Americans have not only accepted it, but have come to think that it is imperative for the well-being of our nation.

We have become part of a mechanics of government, of lobbying, of powerful corporations (Monsanto would be a classic example of how the corporation rules what a farmer can do with his own livelihood) and we feel generally powerless to stop the relentless push of the machine.

We no longer worry about “keeping up with the Joneses.” Instead, we now compare ourselves to those glamorous people we see on television, in movies, magazines or in the music industry. When our societies encourage perpetually rising expectations, and those expectations exceed our ability to met them we feel either aggressively resentful or depressed. Or, in the words of Gore Vidal, “it is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”
We have a serious comparison problem in this country. Personally, it’s one of my worst traits. And what good does it for someone like me to see Barron Trump’s solid gold nursery, and compare my baby weight to his mom’s? None! Normal people couldn’t and shouldn’t try to live up to the standards of the people who pay more to their bodyguards than my husband makes.
Between 1997 and 2005, more Americans declared personal bankruptcy than graduated from college.
Clearly, many others would agree with me, but much too late to save themselves from financial irresponsibility.
Making careful use of family resources or government programs is not a shameful sign of undo privilege or leeching off the taxpayers; it is a prudent effort to stretch resources father, tighten family and local ties, build a culture or interdependence, and reduce reliance on the extractive economy.
Farmers do take advantage of a lot of government programs, that’s why the government has them. The requirements of WIC mean that if you are a one income family with children under five, you probably qualify. It’s weird for me because I’m in favor of as little government as possible, and yet I feel like since those programs are already in place, why not?
The following quotes describe my home and life to perfection (or lack thereof, as the case may be :-))
(Their homes) are filled with books, simmering pots, some dirty dishes, musical instruments, seedlings, wood shavings, maybe some hammers or drills, sewing machines, knitting baskets, canned peaches and tomato sauce, jars of sauerkraut, freezers with hunted or locally raised meat and potted herbs. Outside the door, one is likely to find a garden plot or potted tomatoes, fruit trees, bicycles, probably a used car, shovels spades, compost bins, chickens, maybe a wandering goat or other livestock, and laundry blowing in the breeze. These people are producing their life, not buying it.
Enjoying what she has, feeling as though she has enough of what she needs–enough true wealth(family, friends, community, nourishing food, interests, security)–make the products and overtime work-a-day world seem repugnant and utterly unnecessary.
(Radical) homemakers had to become autodidactic, self learners. They had to think independently, embrace general knowledge, work with what they had, make mistakes, find their own teachers, and muster the courage to star from wherever they were.
When many of us picture homes with a full-time Radical Homemaker, we may envision a lush garden devoid of weeds, accented by sunflowers. Maybe some precociously articulated and well-mannered children are gathered around a long harvest table, helping each other study their lessons while a few perfectly made toys wait neatly along a shelf or windowsill. Chickens wander peacefully outside, keeping the lawn free of bugs. the house is kept secure and well repaired by competent hands, there is something delicious simmering on the stove, the dishes are always washed, and there is always time to sit with a mug of tea, study the pristine landscape, and ponder the good life. If such an image inspires you to move forward, wonderful.
There might occasionally be blocks of time (never more than about five minutes) where a Radical Homemaker life can look like this. The remainder of the day is a flow of contained chaos where we endeavor to play a deeper and more mercurial role in our family ecosystem. When working with an ecosystem (as opposed to an office system), the work is never done. Life is always going on. Weeds grow, children express their true nature, the pump for the solar hot water burns out, windows stop closing correctly, chickens wander in the road or poo on your porch furniture, and the best toys have a quirky trait of preferring floor sand kitchen tables to shelves or window sills.
The reduced income didn’t matter when she had rest and pleasure. That ability to find pleasure, incidentally, was yet another critical skill each of these homemakers possessed.
Finding joy in all circumstances is an art form few can achieve, but it’s sincerely a joy to try.
Many of you will find yourself on the following scale. Keep moving forward, my friend. It’s a worthwhile goal, and freedom is yours to be had!
Three stages of Radical Homemaking:
Renouncing–becoming increasingly aware of the illusory happiness of a consumer society.
Reclaiming–the homemakers entered a period where they worked to recover many of the lost domestic skills that would enable their family to live without outside income.
Rebuilding–Their homes had become more sustainable and meaningful places, and now they were applying their talents and skills to bring their communities and society along with them.
And this I love if only because I’m the girl in the middle of a knitting project, several sewing projects, a cross-stitch project, always the cooking and the baking and the improving of our nutrition, the learning and the teaching, and the learning through teaching, a remodeling project, cardmaking and some scrapbook layouts.
“The greatest happiness comes from absorbing yourself in some goal outside yourself, “explains Richard Layard. “Prod any happy person and you will find a project.”
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Feb172011009

Radical Homemakers:

Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture

I tell you what, it has been a long long while since a book has made me think so much, challenged me so much and energized me so much. This book was due back at the library yesterday and as you can see, has about many many places marked in it that I wanted to go back to, ponder over and digest more.

I couldn’t figure out how best to portray the goodness within these pages, so I thought I would just share with you passages I found to be the most thought-provoking.

I bring you quotes from the author bolded and my thoughts following.
Mainstream Americans have lost the simple domestic skills that would enable them to live an ecologically sensible life with a modest or low income.
I completely agree with this–it’s scary how many people think it’s amazing if you make your own bread. Worse than this, most people don’t want those skills and think it’s beneath modern living to be so “little house on the prairie.”
At the other extreme, homemaking was seen as a realm of the ultra-religious, where women accepted the role of Biblical “help-meets” to their husbands. They cooked, cleaned, toiled, served and remained silent and powerless.
Obviously, the author and I don’t see eye to eye on this point at all. I feel like I am a help-meet to my husband. As far as power, we had a recent conversation where I mentioned something that a couple of other people in Kevin’s life had also said. He got kind of miffed at me, and I called him out on it. He said, “Well, if you say it, it carries more weight. I want to act on what you say.” Silent? Powerless? I don’t think so.
Home is where the great change will begin. It is not where it ends. Once we feel sufficiently proficient with our domestic skills, few of us will be content to simply practice them to the end of our days. Many of us will strive for more, to bring more beauty to the world, to bring about greater social change, to make life better for our neighbors, to contribute our creative powers to the building of a new, brighter, sustainable and happier future. That is precisely the great work we should all be tackling. If we start by focusing our energies on our domestic lives, we will do more than reduce our ecological impact and help create a living for all. We will craft a safe, nurturing place from which this great creative work can happen.
I love the future this paragraph envisions.
(By the 1960s) The middle class American housewife’s life had become, essentially, meaningless. The industrial revolution and subsequent rise of America’s consumer culture had demoted homemaking from a craft tradition to the mindless occupation of primping the house, shopping and chauffeuring.
Unfortunately, I think that is what many stay-at-home moms relegate themselves to. They don’t see all the beauty of creating sustenance for their families, of sewing practicality, of figuring out how to do it themselves, of saying, “I could make that!” and then trying to do it.
The purpose of higher education should be to prepare students to perpetually teach themselves, cultivate their interests, talents and skills, and ultimately use them to serve their communities in a meaningful way.
I don’t necessarily think you even need higher education for this. It’s called personal responsibility, people! You don’t need a $50,000 university degree to self teach and cultivate your interests–stop watching TV and figure out what you like to do; then go out there and do it, and impact others doing so! Part of the problem in my opinion is the classic public school education and people can no longer think for themselves.
(As women fled the hearth and went to the work place during the last fifty years), our health, happiness and well-being have also dramatically declined. The abandonment of the kitchen, the loss of personal finance skills despite rising household incomes, the relentless increase in busy-ness and the compulsion to replace emptiness and loneliness with consumer products have ups us on a course for an ecological, social and cultural train wreck.
For there to be true social egalitarianism, then the work of keeping a home must be valued for its contribution to the welfare of all.
(As women and men became ‘radical homemakers’), they took on genuine creative challenges, tended toward engagement with their communities and made significant contributions toward rebuilding a new society that reflected their vision of a better world.
The choice of these individuals to become homemakers is not an act of submission or family servitude. It is an act of social transformation.
These quotes pretty much just need an “Amen, sista!”
Doubtless, the suggestion of creating a life-nurturing alternative to our existing consumer society still has countless key-punching economists puckering their mouths, rolling their eyes, and trying to persuade their sons and daughters that such an effort is fruitless. These folks go home at night and, sometime between heaving takeout on the table and finding the TV remote, they offer parental guidance, urging their daughters to grow up to continue the fight for fair treatment in the workforce,and their sons to practice their necktie knots so they will be able to comfortably don their daily noose in adulthood.
The thing I struggle with on an almost daily basis, whether it’s in regard to homeschooling, discipline, food choices or what have you, is that whenever you are doing something that is different from the majority you are quite often met with puckered mouths and rolling eyes. I just love her word picture.

Our national (now global) economic principles have served only a handful of powerful elites. In the process, it has wrought havoc on our culture, our planet, and on the lives of most who serve it. By rebuilding our home lives according to values of social justice, ecological sustainability, and family and community security, we begin the process of dismantling the extractive economy and creating in its place a life-serving economy that enables us to meet our needs while thriving in harmony with our earth and spirits.
I love the thought of being able to meet my needs while creating my home in harmony with my beliefs and to end up with a family that can change the world for the better. That’s what I’m doing, what I’m striving for, and it’s just a blessing having someone phrase it so well for me!
Speaking of making bread:

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Raw Milk!

But first a few bits of randomness:

Every time I think the phrase “raw milk” I hear Gollum saying “rrrrraw and Wrrrrrrrrigggling”.
It’s getting a lot harder to be at the keyboard with Denton my lap–Mr. Grabby Hands is no longer content to just watch.
I’m sad the snow is melting. I like that it’s 40º and I can go without a coat, but I had the mud puddle the farm and gravel roads turn into…Let’s hope it’s not this way until it’s officially spring. But it probably will be…
Denton got his first tooth in and his amber necklace did seem to help him not be so fussy during the teething process.
So, on to the topic at hand, Raw Milk.
This is milk that has not had to succumb to the government’s requirements of pasteurization, homogenization, and processing. Most people think it was in our best interest that laws were passed in this regard, but really it’s only the dairy industry who benefits, because then they can crowd more cattle into smaller places and not concern themselves so much with cleanliness and care for the animal.
I feel bad for the individual dairy farmers–they work even harder than grain and beef farmers, and make less money. The profit margin is almost nil for these families.
In Iowa, raw milk is illegal to sell. Luckily, I live right next to Illinois, where it is legal to purchase from the farmer. The closest one I found is about a 45 minute drive away, but the trip took all morning. I’m not sure how sustainable it will be to to this every other week, but I’m hoping to join a co-op, where one person in the co-op makes the trip for all the members.
The owner of the farm was awesome! He talked to me for as long as I wanted (until I had to turn my attention to the rascals), answering questions about all his industries–they also have alpacas, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, bees and a miniature horse. He gave us a bit of homemade butter balm for Cadrian’s chapped cheeks. He held Denton while I carried out our jars of milk to the van. I spoke with his wife on the phone and she was equally as wonderful.
I’m excited about the prospect of being able to give my family the milk God created. I’m excited about being able to experiment with making butter and cheese with real milk. I’m excited to buy my whipping cream already included in the milk. I’m excited to try clabber and buttermilk. I’m excited to provide my family with some of the most amazing, yet simple, food known to man–Raw Milk.
If you would like more information on the benefits, safety and all around wonderfullness that is raw milk, this link would be good place to start. Or maybe this one. They’re both really interesting and chock full of wholesome goodness.
Kind of like Raw Milk.
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So I even passed up a bite-sized Snickers…

I’ve been looking into not eating sugar. Or at least less of it. I know I’m an addict.

Plus I’ve been reading a lot into the science behind weight gain–it’s showing more and more that the “DIET AND EXERCISE” mantra we’ve been hearing over and over for our entire lives is really not accurate. It’s more carbs and sugar that make your body gain weight.

More later from the experts and researchers–back to me now.

I read this awesome list of ideas on how to cut out sugar in your life–I’m not ready to go cold turkey and give it up completely, even for a week or a month. But I do think I can not eat sugar every other day. Because then I can tell myself, “Well, I can eat that(Oreo, Snickers, cookie, homemade chocolate lollipop) tomorrow.”

So today, I have been doing really well at not eating any sweets. We’ll see how it goes the day after tomorrow…
The book Good Calories, Bad Calories was reviewed in our latest Samaritan Ministries newsletter. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole book, but the research is solid. That along with Nourishing Traditions and a slew of other information has convinced me we need to make some serious changes in our diet.
**Note**The above Good Calories, Bad Calories link has great and thorough information on the book, but I do not in any way agree with the blog author’s philosophy on God.
And while I’m disclaiming, I completely disagree with the book author’s philosophy on capital ‘E’ Evolution **
We generally eat healthfully and homemade and homegrown, but there is a lot of room for improvement. I’ll keep you posted on our journey. I’d love to hear your stories too.
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