Master Gardeners Program

PutnamCountyTNMG
Three weeks ago, I started my Master Gardeners class. So far, I’ve learned about the history of the program, soils, and pruning. I have another nine classes to go and 40 hours of service to complete before getting certified as a Master Gardener.
I had a friend a few years ago who took the course in another county and loved it. When we moved to our farm, I really wanted to start growing out own food, so I took a few free classes with the Rutherford County Master Gardeners at the local library. Continue reading

Reducing Our Waste

One of our main goals in living a more sustainable lifestyle is reducing our waste. We’ve started with trying to be more conscious of buying products that reduce packaging. We also try to recycle and reuse as much as possible.
We took a big step this week in getting our compost bin up in the yard. We have a small compost bin for the kitchen that we use for our every day compost (cooking scraps, paper towels, etc.). We empty it into our outdoor compost bin every few days.

We’ve gone from a traditional 13 gallon kitchen trashcan that gets empty every 2-3 days to a smaller 8 gallon trashcan that gets emptied once a week. We’re not at zero waste, but we’ve made a significant improvement, going from over 30 gallons of trash per week to 8 gallons or less.
Like most Americans, we occasionally partake in online shopping, which comes with cardboard boxes, but we can now shred the boxes and add them to our compost.
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Homesteading 101

As we’ve worked on renovating our farm and making plans for the future, our major focus has been to learn to live with less. We’ve spent a lot of our time learning new skills like gardening and upcycling. When we started, we had no idea that what we were doing was homesteading!  Of course, now that we know, it makes Google and Pinterest searches much easier.  😉
I’m pretty sure I’ve read every list out there on the top 10, 12, 15 skills you need to start homesteading, so I wanted to share with you some reasons to homestead and some places to get started.
Once upon a time, homesteading referred to the granting of public lands to families for farming at little to no cost. In recent years, the word has taken on a new meaning and refers to a life of self-sufficiency. There are as many ways to homestead as there are people doing it, but the gist of it is to reduce your footprint and consume less by using your skills to grow, to create, or to recycle what you need to live.
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Stewardship of God's Creation

I am so often disappointed when I look around the world and see the way we treat God’s creation. When God left us in charge of things, I don’t think God intended for us to abuse his creation. I think God intended for us to love and to care for his creation as God loves and cares for us, which we are most certainly not doing. I have several friends who are in the rescue business, either canines or equines, and their Facebook pages are continuously filled with sad stories of abuse and neglect. Don’t get me wrong. I understand what it means to fall on hard times and have to re-home your pets, but the volume of animal abuse and neglect in our so-called Christian society is in no way consistent with Christian teachings.
I witnessed a disturbing incident on the way to work the other day. I was driving my usual 5 miles over the speed limit when–as always happens–60 miles per hour just wasn’t fast enough for some hotshot in his supped up, lifted Chevy truck. Just as he came barreling around me and the person behind me, a squirrel darted into the road. I can’t be sure, but I would swear that the driver intentionally hit the squirrel, who realized his error in judgment and tried to retreat. The poor squirrel rolled under the big truck tires and was thrown into the other lane. He clearly did not die on impact. It was heartbreaking. I have no great love for squirrels or any other of God’s rodents, but I could never imagine being so callous as to not care that I took a life–any life. Continue reading

The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals

A few months ago, I was named the USA Representative for the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (AWSA), whose purpose is getting animals on the agenda of the Christian Church. Founded over 30 years ago, the organization is called to make Christians and others aware of the need to care for the whole of creation, and in particular God’s creatures, and believes that God has given us a responsibility towards sentient beings with whom we share God’s world. Their activities include the following:

  • Encouraging churches to include animal welfare concerns in their prayers.
  • Encouraging and helping churches to hold animal blessing services and to be aware of the need to care for God’s creation.
  • Through education and lawful action, advancing the conservation and well-being of animals.
  • Co-operating with other organizations, religious and secular, that have similar aims.
  • Production of Animalwatch (free to members) containing articles and information about animal welfare issues, interests, and events and providing a means by which the members can share ideas, stories, and concerns.
  • Publishing a series of pamphlets about animal issues, ensuring that materials are balanced and theologically and scientifically sound.
  • Helping to arrange major services and events focusing on animal care.
  • Promoting awareness through exhibitions, meetings, talks and preaching.

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Everything is Sacred

I’ve gotten a lot of questions both on and offline about how all my interests tie together.  How does taking care of a donkey relate to theology?  What does solar-powered lighting have to do with dog training?  How does bargain shopping at Goodwill relate to Christian values?  What does Pampered Chef have to do with farming? The answer to all of those questions is stewardship.
These questions remind me of a story a Lyons Legacy trainer told me about Josh Lyons. Josh was asked not to talk God about one of his events. He told them that it just wasn’t possible to NOT talk about God when he was talking about horse training, because his training abilities were a gift from God. I respect that. Owning your Faith isn’t always easy.  Sometimes people don’t get it.
God has blessed us with a beautiful peace of earth.  God has blessed me with an amazing job.  God has blessed us both with intellect and drive. God made us stewards of 37 acres, two horses, two dogs, a cat, a donkey, and a sizeable income. Being stewards, we don’t “own” any of this. God has honored us with their care. Continue reading

It's Time to Listen

ListenWell…  President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate change agreement.  Dems/Progressives are ticked off.  I get it.  I do.  When you passionately support something, and it doesn’t go your way, it’s a tough pill to swallow.  But I’m bothered by the shallow nature of the discourse.  Several of my friends on Facebook have made posts implying that anyone who disagrees with the Paris climate change agreement is greedy or uncaring or not really Christian.  Fill in the blank.
Unfortunately, that eliminates the possibility of real discourse about a very important subject.  I didn’t vote for President Trump, and I’m not a fan.  I am also not a fan of the EPA or the Paris climate change agreement.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m a passionate believer in being a good steward of God’s creation, so maybe taking a few minutes to find out *why* I oppose such governmental efforts would be worth the conversation?  Maybe listening to what I have to say with an open mind and an open heart would be useful and educational?
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Bullet Journaling for 2017

Over the past 9 months, I’ve become a Bullet Journal addict.  I’ve always been a fan of pen and paper for keeping track of my schedule, to-do list, and goal setting.  I like the physical act of writing things out.  It helps my mental processes.  I also like crossing things off lists!  There’s something satisfying in changing the status of a task.  🙂
I’ve tried many, many planners ranging from the expensive Franklin Covey options to the inexpensive 3-month Emergent Task Planner.   When I heard about the Bullet Journal system, I was currently using the Passion Planner, which offers some great pages for setting long-term goals and breaking those goals down into manageable daily tasks.  It also helps in focusing your daily to-do list to achieve long-term results.  What I didn’t like about it was the lack of flexibility in  using its pages.  I think I used almost as much white-out as I did ink!  In truth, I was missing my Emergent Task Planner!
The Bullet Journal system was attractive because it was simple and flexible.  I could use any journal and could get as creative as I wanted or keep it as simple as I wanted.  I confess…  I have an obsession with office supplies.  I had an entire drawer of brand new journals, so I just picked the one on top and got started.  I took a spin through Pinterest for inspiration and spent the next three months experimenting.  Because the Bullet Journal system is so flexible, you can start a new journal any time you like, which made changing journals or tools very simple.  It took me about 6 months to really develop a style and tools that worked for me, but now that I have, my Bullet Journal is helping me stay focused on my goals.
Many people who use the Bullet Journal system prefer to use the notebook designed for Bullet Journaling.  Many also prefer the classic Moleskin line of notebooks.  For me, I wanted a notebook with some of my favorite things about other planners.  I loved that the Emergent Task Planner was spiral bound.  I could lay it flat and view two pages or easily flip to lay flat on one page.  I loved using engineering paper, because it was squared and made it was easy to create grids.  I’m not a fan of spending $30 on a journal or a notebook.  I live on a farm and have horses, dogs, and a cat.  Things get destroyed, spilled on, etc. on a regular basis.  My last notebook was eaten by our puppy.  Yes, eaten!  So…  I settled on the Miliko Transparent Hardcover A5 Spiral Notebook, which sells in a 2-pack on Amazon for $12.99.
I have a few must-have tools, which include a ruler, Sharpie pens, and page tabs.  I use all the basic pages for a Bullet Journal (index, future log, monthly logs, and daily logs).  For a few months, I went down a rabbit hole on Pinterest and went a little nuts with the creativity, but in the end, I settled on the pages I needed and a level of creativity I’m comfortable with.  I have a monthly habit tracker, brainstorming lists for blog entries and books I’d like to read, a 2017 calendar, 30-day challenge trackers, expense logs, a gratitude list, and a Bible study tracker.  I also take notes here and there for work or writing.  Since there’s no set format, my Bullet Journal adjusts from month to month as I need it to.
As usual, I didn’t make useless New Year’s Resolutions, but I did start January with a fresh habit tracker.  One of the big things I need to tackle this month is a sugar detox!  I gave in one too many times to the seasonal sweets at Dollar General and need to get back on the healthy train.  🙂  I always re-order my monthly habit tracker in order of the habits that are the highest priority, so my top two are always Bible study and prayer.  The next 3 tasks for January 2017 are all about diet and exercise.  I’m looking forward to the days getting longer and my behind getting smaller.
If you’re interested in Bullet Journaling, I highly recommend starting with the Bullet Journal videos.  I also recommend checking out my friend Hillary Yeager’s BuJo series.  She’s much more creative than I am!
Hope you’re having a wonderful new year!

Shrove Tuesday with a Twist

Shrove Tuesday is traditionally a time for us Episcopalians to come together to eat pancakes and burn chrism and palms.  It comes from the tradition of feasting on the contents of your cupboards in preparation for the fasting of Lent, which begins the following day.  For our household, Shrove Tuesday took on new meaning.
I was working from home and got a message from my husband’s aunt.  For the last three years, we have been living in one of her homes, paying the mortgage, and arguing about whether or not to buy the place.  She insisted we treat the place as our own, because she knew I wanted to buy the place, and she had no interest in moving back in.
Things change…
Her circumstances have changed radically in the last three years.  Our intentions have changed radically.  We have spent the last two months stressing out about getting the house ready to sell and making sure we take care of her.  She has spent the last two month living in an apartment while we live in one house and another house remains on the market.  Between a crappy economy and unforeseen family circumstances, she needs her house back.  She contacted us feeling guilty, but we were relieved.  Panicked, but relieved.
Talk must now become action…
CrossofashesOur dream building about downsizing into a travel trailer while we build our dream home is no longer talk.  It is our reality.  I’ve spent the last month trying to discern God’s will and soul-searching for just the right thing to do or to give up for Lent.  God called.  He wants me to give up my stuff.  :p
I joke, but it’s true.  I asked.  God answered.  I know someone who needs to sell her travel trailer.  I know someone who needs our house.  I know two people who are facing an empty, too big nest with too much stuff.  This is a win-win-win for everyone.
I’m scared…
I won’t lie.  My husband and I are terrified about how this is all going to come together.  We’re terrified that we’re going to be stuck in a travel trailer together with 3 dogs and a cat and be completely miserable.  What if we fight?  What if the dogs fight?  What if we can’t get everything done in time?  What if his aunt is upset about something we did to the house?  What if the truck breaks down?  We have a million fears and questions.
But we also have faith…
FortyDaysFortyItemsWe know God provides.  We’ve both seen it.  God has plans for us, and those plans are GOOD.   God has called, and we will answer, knowing that God will be there for us and that this journey is another positive step toward a stronger marriage and a more fulfilling life.
So as Ash Wednesday arrived, I committed to spending Lent parting with many of my material possessions.  When Easter Sunday arrives, we will be living a new life in a new place.  We will be manifesting our new intentions to devote our lives to being a positive force of transformation in the world.  The next 40 days will be full of temptations, but I am sure that with God’s help, we will come out the other side renewed and restored.
What are you committing to this Lent in preparation for the Lord’s death and resurrection?  What fears do you carry with you?  How will you overcome?

My Ore-Ida Totchos Adventure

20160106_111914As a part of my Jingle VoxBox from Influenster.com, I received a coupon for a free bag of Ore-Ida Tater Tots, which were to be used to try out one of the Totchos recipes from the Kraft Recipies Totchos Hub.  We choose the Loaded Totchos recipe.
Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. (32 oz.) Ore-Ida Tater Tots
  • 1 container (8 oz.) Kroger Sour Cream
  • 1/4 cup Kraft Three Cheese Ranch Dressing
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh green onions, divided
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) Kroger Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled

Steps:

  1. 20151231_111602Pre-heat oven to 425ºF.
  2. Bake tater tots as directed on package.
  3. Cook bacon as directed on the package.  Crumble.
  4. Mix sour cream, dressing and green onions until blended.
  5. Spread tater tots onto platter.
  6. Top with sour cream mixture, bacon, and cheese.

The Good…  This was sinfully yummy.  All of the things you love about Nachos mixed with all of the things you love about Tater Tots!  Easy to make too.  We used real bacon, so that had to be cooked separately, but it was still an easy dish to whip up.  Other than over time, for which we were doing other things, it took maybe 15 minutes?
The Bad…  The plate is supposed to serve 12.  There were 3 of us, and we devoured it all.  That means that each of us consumed 1120 calories , 80 grams of fat (32 of which were saturated fat), 140mg of cholesterol, and 2400mg of Sodium.  Yikes!  I highly recommend that if you make this, you make it as a party dish or as a side dish when serving several people.  Don’t temp yourself into throwing portion control out the window!