Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saponification Saturday

This weeks soap is a citrus creation because with all the Marigolds and Warty Pumpkins on our farm, I'm in an orange mood. 

Made with coconut, sweet almond, castor and an olive oil/rice bran oil mix, (the soap, not the pumpkin) it is colored with tumeric powder and titanium dioxide. The erratic EKG looking lines are very high tech. I create them with a stainless steel pastry blender.

Keeping those costs down by using funky kitchen items, that's how I roll.

These bars are scented primarily with orange essential oil with a bit of grapefruit EO to add another layer of scent. They smell fresh and bright and would be a great morning shower soap bar, or again a great bar for the kitchen because the orange is good at removing onion, fish and other strong food aromas.

They will be ready to ship October 1. Price is just $5 for a large (over 5 oz) bar plus postage. If interested email me at with your address and I'll tell you the shipping amount. I have just six of these available.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Shopping Cheap Shopping Local

Image result for Junk for Sale signs
Internet Image

One of our goals here, not yet obtained but getting closer, is to live under the poverty line. Here, in the USA, for a family of 2 that magical number is $16,020. Scroll to the bottom of this post if you'd like to see how these poverty levels break out by family size.

In my years of nursing management I brought home five times that level. Coupled with our prior farm income from sales of organic meat and milk, we were fairly flush. Currently our income is far more inconsistent. When our Chatsworth farm tenants were making the agreed upon payments last year, our income was enough to pay that mortgage , our small mortgage here and our basic living expenses. In July those payments stopped and our financial world was flipped over on its face. By selling off livestock and equipment we've kept our heads above water. Our ears were drenched, but with the right upward angle of our chins, we've stayed afloat.

Soon, we hope to close a deal on the Chatsworth farm, I'll tell you details on that when it happens, and then after that...we'll see a huge income drop. Huge.

It's exactly what we want, what we have planned for. Less income, less expenses and most important; less taxes paid to a government that overreaches its boundaries and under claims its responsibilities. We are not victims of downsizing, early retirement or layoffs. We are both college educated and we have chosen to decrease our "standard of living" in order to work primarily at home at the tasks that bring us the most satisfaction: homesteading and writing.

One way we live cheap is by shopping cheap. The terms pre-owned, salvaged, recycled and just plan USED make us giddy. It took me years to figure out that once an item enters your home and is worn or used just one time, it is know longer "new" yet generally just as valuable. We, society, pay big bucks for sharp creases and shiny surfaces that do little for an items functionality. Household items are an excellent example of this and so I wanted to tell you about this great new shop in Fairbury, Il. I recently discovered.

Someone Else's Treasure is located downtown at 124 W. Locust Street and it is a welcome change. The owner has filled her shop with a nice variety of items including home decor, housewares and used furniture. These items are not so unusual in themselves but what is unusual, what is super appreciated, are the prices. They are reasonable. Definitely marked up from the estate sales, or auctions from whence they originated, as they should be, but still easily affordable.

Her used furniture is by far the best of deals, recliners for $25-$50, end tables for $10, dining chairs for $15. Certainly one can find these same things at other used furniture stores but lately there has been this insane upward pricing of used furniture that is "Mid-Century" aka. over 50 years old. Craziness to spend $200 or more on upholstered furniture that contains other peoples, excuse me, moistenings. Don't get me wrong. As a retired RN, I have a fair tolerance to other peoples' body fluids but I don't care if George Clooney napped in that Lazyboy, it isn't worth more than the one my grannie snoozed in.

And sure you might get furniture cheaper at garage sales,but soon garage sale season will be over and great deals generally take travel time, going from one sale to another. The owner at Someone Else's Treasure has taken the time, gathered the items and made it easy to find wonderful used stuff for great prices.

And no, she is not a friend of mine, nor do I get a free set antique dining chairs for my blogging efforts. I just appreciate the entrepreneur who wants to make a living without skinning her customers alive and I like telling others about good deals.  Here is her FACEBOOK PAGE.

2016 Illinois Poverty Levels, For Your Viewing Pleasure

Household SizeYearly Income Poverty LineYearly Income (125%)Yearly Income (150%)Yearly Income (175%)Yearly Income (200%)Yearly Income (250%)Yearly Income (300%)Yearly Income (350%)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Old Wood, New Window Frames For the Grain Bin House

A few weeks ago Keith built window and door frames for the downstairs with repurposed wood from a variety of sources, some pieces granted safe harbor in our barn in Chatsworth for years. I've been pondering the options of finishes. At first I was leaning towards a nice crisp white latex to unify the variety of wood types but Keith and our three sons all thought that was a bad idea. Only one of those four males actually lives here and yet opinions abound.

Who raised these kids anyway?

So, I've been living with the bare, mismatched wood (in both age, condition and type) waiting for inspiration to hit, a decision to make itself known. Paint or stain? Paint or stain?

Inspiration came in the form of available FREE wood stains.

Years ago my brother-in-law gave us several quarts of combo stain-polyurethane. The stuff was indestructible. It's been in basements, frozen (can it freeze?) moved from home to home and yet, still perfectly usable. In contrast, we were out of white paint and I didn't want to pay good money for more.

Decision made.

Yesterday was warm and dry so we took down all the trim from three windows and one door in the downstairs of our Grain Bin House, and lined them up outside on 2 x 4's and saw horses. You can see the wide variety in wood types and condition in their pre-stained status.  I lightly sanded all the sections, removing all debri of a suspicious nature.

A couple hours later, (I get distracted easily. OH LOOK, THE MAIL IS HERE, IS THAT A LOOSE BROILER? I WONDER IF THE STEERS ARE OUT OF WATER. WHY DID THE NEW YORKER REJECT MY SHORT STORY? DO THESE SANDALS MAKE MY TOES LOOK FAT?) I had completed  one coat . I stayed with that single coat for the simple reason, I didn't want to do more. It was hot here and those tiny black bugs were so annoying.

It didn't take long for all the trim pieces to dry and we put them all back in place late yesterday afternoon. I'm happy with the results, the window frames fit in well with the rest of our rustic-eclectic "motif". Please excuse the fuzziness of the after pictures. My phone's camera is bi-polar. Also my walls are not orange, they are pale grey, not that I am opposed to orange walls, some of my best friends have orange walls. Well, actually none of them do, but if they did I would still visit them and drink all their coffee.

Cost of all wood       $0
Coats of stain           $0
Sandpaper                $1   (had on hand, used only one sheet)
Brush                       $1   (had on hand, can't even remember when I bought it, used it several times)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Saponification Saturday

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was making soap again now that I'm done with school, unless I win the lotto and can afford to return to NUIG for my MA in Irish Studies. Until then we're moving forward with our goal of creating income off the wealth of the land or the sweat labor of the homesteaders.

So, I offer two kinds of soap for sale this week. Neither is available anywhere else but through my blog. No web page costs, labeling expenses, or fancy packaging means lower prices for you. Email me at to order or for more info.

The first bars are made from cows milk, specifically the first milk after calving called colostrum.  (Thank you to our cow Lis) These bars also contain Coconut, Almond, Castor and Olive oils plus generous amounts of the aforementioned colostrum. They are unscented and uncolored. The cream colored hue is all natural.

They come in either a flower shape (4 available) or an oval shape (4 available). Each weighs about 3 oz and is perfect for guest baths. Wonderful to use as a body or shampoo bar. Super moisturizing and gentle.

Each is $3 plus shipping and handling.

The second soap bar available is a mildly exfoliating coffee-cinnamon bar. Made from Olive, Castor and Almond oils plus pastured lard, it is colored with real coffee and scented with cinnamon essential oil. It smells like yummy Fall! The middle layer also has a few coffee grounds for exfoliation. Its slanted layered shape is fun to look at and hold, and its lather is fantastic. A perfect bar of soap for a cook or gardener. Each bar is at least 5.5 oz. ( a solid handful)  and sells for $5 plus postage. Only 6 available.

The soap bars are simply first come first serve.
If you want any you must email me to order.
Thanks a million.


All I have left are 2 oval colostrum bars.
EMAIL ME at to order before they are all gone. 
I'll be listing more soap next Saturday

Monday, September 12, 2016

Got Milk? We sure do.

Pregnant Lis. Not near as ominous as she looks.
 A few weeks ago I told you of Puppettes dilemma, the older cow of ours not so well taken care of by our Chatsworth Farm "tenants". We brought her up here to The Poor Farm and put her out to real pasture. She did well as far as overall appetite, strength and leg muscle recovery, but the mastitis in her udder never resolved and so, as we had planned, she was sold at the sale barn.

Not an easy trip for Keith to make but at least he knew he did the best he could for her those last few weeks.

Since Puppette was meant to replace Holly the cow with the attitude problem, this left us again, without our own milk source. I even had to buy store milk in order to make pancakes for my grandkids last week.

How gross was that? Really gross. If you're a raw milk drinker like we have been for decades I know you feel my lack of good gut bacteria pain. Nothing kills my appetite and desire to cook than using store bought milk which is basically white water devoid of all nutritional benefits.

Enter Lisdoonvarna.

No, not the cool village in County Clare which holds the worlds biggest Matchmaking Festival, which incidentally is going on right now, but Lisdoonvarna the cow named as such by me many years ago just after I returned from visiting said village.  For simplicity sake and to avoid folks giving her all their contact information and love interest specifics, we just call her Lis.

Lis and new bull calf

Lis is seven, 15/16 Jersey and 1 teeny part Holstein. One of Keith's favorite cows from our old herd he thought she and I would get along well up here on our new place. He was right. She is super gentle, calm, kind to her pasture mate (the young heifer Mucca), a people lover, and an excellent mother. She recently calved a handsome bull baby.

Dry spell over,  we are once again raw milk drinkers.

It's good to be back.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Organizational Fireworks

 Friend Jay visited again last weekend and as always when he is here, sparks flew.

I've been in need of a decent file cabinet for my tiny office for sometime , so Jay and I went shopping at the Restore in Champaign. This is the resale shop that supports the Habitat for Humanity organization and it is filled with used furniture, lighting fixtures, floor and bathroom tiles, paints, and all sorts of building and household supplies. It takes time to find true treasures but the low prices make the hunt, well worth it.

In addition to a small couch and chair to go in our upstairs lounge, we discovered an older, very sturdy, all metal file cabinet for just $20. A real steal of solid steel. But, Jay thought it too big for my wee office space. I dared to oppose him and we brought in home.

Turns out, he was right. The depth was ok, the height, too tall.

But I wasn't about to return it, it was too cool of a file cabinet, so Keith took it into his work shop and  cut it down to size, shaving three inches off the bottom. What my husband can do with a power tool always impresses me. Sparks flew brilliantly while Keith cut and Jay (too close for my comfort) used his body to control some of the fallout. No one was injured in the filming of this documentary and Keith's shop did not burst into flame as I feared. The file cabinet however, suffered a serious amputation of its bottom portion, resulting in a custom fit under my desk.

Now all my papers, stories, book chapters and generalized ephemera, have a decent place to hide out. Of course the fit is so tight I can't quite figure out how to remove the towel we used to slide it under there to protect the floor. Details, details.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Chicken Littles

With all that we've had going on of late, we were tardy in getting our fall broiler chicks ordered. I was sure I had completed this task in June but when the chicks never arrived it became clear I had only THOUGHT about ordering them; follow-through had been lacking. But finally, reordered, they arrived.

We like the Freedom Ranger breed. They grow well but not to the crazy Frankenbird size of the white Cornish or Plymouth Rock variety, which are ready for slaughter at 6 weeks. (But if you wait too long these poor creatures suffer bone deformities and heart failure from the rapid weight gain.) Instead, the Freedom Rangers take 9-12 weeks, but they do not suffer genetic abnormalities and their meat is very tasty. We will likely butcher them mid-October when the weather is cool outside and the bugs have died off.

This is a good thing as butchering chickens in the heat of summer is one sticky, smelly, sweaty event no one wants to attend.

In addition to organic broiler feed these bambinos will also be pulled about the yard in their protective hutch on wheels, allowing them to have fresh grass, bugs and worms. Not only are they efficient growers and great tasting, these little dead birds walking, are super freakin' cute.