Fall Flowers

Oh man! It is fall.  Lots of people love fall because of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and boots with scarves and vests. Some love it for the hay bales and jack-o-lanterns.  Others for the apple butter and plaid blankets.

I love those things too.  I sure do.  But I also love fall for another reason.

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I just love fall flowers.  They push their way up toward the sun for one last bloom before settling in for a long winter’s night.fall Flowers 2

I love the attitude of my fall flowers.  There are only one or two, but mostly one, of them at a time.  And I respect their I’m-doing-this-because-it-is-beautiful-and-right-so-there approach to the world.  You bloom, flowers!fall flowers 4

Some of our fall lovelies have popped up in the strangest of places.  Places we didn’t even know we had flowers planted. They just popped up, all full of look at me, I only need water and sun to be awesome.fall flowers1PS- does anybody know what that flower is (above)?

 

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5 Things I Learned From A Spending Freeze

This post is about to get honest, real honest.  Are you prepared for that? If not, stop reading.

I can’t do it all.  I can’t.  I want, desperately even, to be the perfect teacher-blogger-wife-homesteader-finacier.  Maybe you have a similar wish with different words between the hyphens.  But the simple fact is that with a finite number of hours in the day, I can either do all of these things poorly or I can ask for help.  Today, I’m asking for help from you dear bloggy readers- Rather than feeling badly about not blogging three times a week like I always intend to, I’m going to cut back to once a week so that I can be successful.  I’m recommitting to you to publish every Wednesday.

With that said, here’s a post Mr. G. and I have been working on for a little while:

We went on a Spending Freeze for the month of September. We’ve been reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and then I stumbled across the 31 Day No Spending Challenge*.  Mr. Grassroofs loved the challenge element of it all.  So we sat down and made our ground rules for what we would would and would not live without for a month.

First we decided to buy all our meat and non-perishable goods for the month.  We went to Costco and bought what we thought to be thirty days worth of meat and snacks and olive oil (we finished the months with loads of food to spare).  Then we went home and Mr. Grassroofs went crazy with the vacuum sealer.  We did set aside some money each week for fresh produce and dairy products, because a Paleo lifestyle and a shelf-stable lifestyle aren’t always compatible.  Even though we had money budgeted for grocery items each week, we didn’t want to let ourselves off the hook too much; so we added a clause that said we could only go to the store once per week to buy our agreed upon fresh food items.

Two more exceptions kept us from being completely spending-free.  We knew we had a wedding to go to in early September, so we set aside some money for that.  However, we budgeted everything on the low side of a travel expense so as not to use that weekend as some sort of “cheat” weekend.  Finally, we have renters living in our guest house and we knew that we had an obligation to them.  After all, would you want your land lord to say, “Sorry we can’t fix the air until October, we’re doin’ a challenge thing.”

After the ground rules were set, we settled in for a long winter’s night.  Just kidding, we settled in for a month of free Netflix and books and resourceful cooking.  It was a fantastic experience.  Here are some things we learned:

1. We were losing a lot of money to hobby cooking. As I write this one, I can hear very responsible people telling me that there is software that can help you to see where your money is going.  To them, I say, you’re right! However, when Mr. Grassroofs would swing by the grocery store to pick up a few items so he could try out a new recipe, the software lumped that into the food category.  Thus, those purchases were made to seem like a necessity, but in reality they aren’t.

Silver lining: Mr. Grassroofs had a great time concocting new recipes using the ingredients we had on hand! And he made some pretty delicious stuff too.

2. I can live without coffee. I know, I know. I can hear those responsible people again, saying of course you can live without coffee. Purchased, produced, comes-with-a-cardboard-sleeve coffee was my favorite treat- a great way to take the edge off an early morning faculty meeting or a reward for getting to Friday.  Plus it seemed like an inexpensive alternative to date-night.  Even when we did Whole 30, I was still able to get the coffee-shop experience by getting iced coffee; so I had made myself believe that going twice during the week and twice on the weekend was reasonable.  Giving it up for a month was a refreshing reminder that nobody needs to buy coffee four times a week.

Silver lining: I was on time for work everyday that month, and we are learning how to use the beautiful French Press we got for our wedding.

3. I should drink more water. I already told you about the coffee addiction, so you know I have vices which is good for this upcoming section.  Mr. G and I (but mostly I) were drinking away our dollars.  On top of coffee, I didn’t realize how much juice I was drinking.  I mentioned the small amount allotted for fresh produce each week- well, juice was on the list of “if we can squeeze it in that week” items. Most of the weeks we couldn’t, so we did without.  I really had no idea how much juice I was drinking!  Additionally, we drank a lot less alcohol.  We were never over-drinkers in the first place, but because our portions were rationed, we became very aware that we were drinking less than normal and that maybe we should keep that up after the freeze.

Silver lining: I drank a lot of water and my skin looked great!

4. We have great friends. Depending on who your friends are, when you tell them you are on a spending freeze, they may incorrectly assume you are destitute.  Or they may be angry that you can’t “do anything fun” for a month.  But not our best friends!  They were so utterly supportive.  We could not have been received better.  One friend helped me get water when we went to coffee shop, so that I could avoid the 25 cent cup charge.  All the friends pitched in to orchestrate a surprise party that was humble and AWESOME (there was jousting)!  Mr. Grassroofs and I had sort of prepared to be a little isolated for a month, but nothing at all was interrupted by the freeze.  Friends came over and shared meals, we walked around downtown, we went to the beach, and did basically all the things we normally do.

Silver lining: We have great friends.

5. Conversations about money are hard, but worthwhile. Money is a very tricky subject, especially for us Millennials who grew up during the “great phase out” of cash and the rise of online payment; plus, lots of us didn’t overhear conversations about money.  Depending on where we grew up, we may have had some in-school financial education, but then again, maybe not.  All that means that getting on the same page about money, and I mean in a real-nitty-gritty way, requires some discomfort and some vulnerability.  But once you are moving in the same direction at the same time toward the same goal, the conversations are easier and the motivation is higher and the path is clearer.

Silver lining: After the discomfort and vulnerability comes closeness and progress on financial goals.

* We loved this blogger’s 30 Days of Living Well and Spending Less; but in full disclosure, we did not strictly follow her guidelines.  We read most of the literature, but didn’t do most of the activities, like cleaning out our closets because we just ran out of time in the day.  I don’t want to do any disservice to her great work by claiming that we  strictly followed her procedure.

A Good Old Fashioned Barn Raising

For those of you who have been following our career for a while, you’ll understand how much of an accomplishment Mr. Grassroofs and I are celebrating.  For those of you who don’t, here’s a little back story: When we bought our little homestead about 2 1/2 years ago we were drunk off the “potential” of the place.  We knew it was going to need some renovations, but we thought it was worth it for the character of the place.  Then we moved in…and everything got awful.  We learned that our task was so much bigger than originally planned that we pulled back into one of our “houses” and left everything else untouched because we just couldn’t tackle it.Great Guest House Renovations

One of the “potential”-s we saw when we first bought the place, was to fancy up the in-law’s quarters in the back of our property to rent out.  We loved that it was built into an old barn and just had a rustic atmosphere in general.

Well, that potential is finally becoming realized.  Two of our mostly lovely friends approached us about it a few months ago.  Mr. G and I talked it over and decided that this would be the push we needed to accomplish this dream.

Great Guest House Renovations

So we got in there and had a good old fashioned barn raising.  The friends came and helped us demo this staunch, hardy “cabinet”.  I began work on laying laminate flooring, which I affectionately referred to as puzzle time.Great Guest House Renovations

Mr. Grassroofs and our two friends, Neal and Wes, were fantastic during the whole experience.  Neal used humor to ease all the tedium of say…not having square walls or level floors. And Wes never faulted us for our negligence at some things and complete lack of knowledge at others. Great Guest House Renovations

But at the end of the day and then two more weeks, the place was repainted.  It had an AC unit.Great Guest House Renovations

We had put in laminate floors that beautifully masqueraded as real wood. We had installed new cabinets with a natural unfinished look.Great Guest House Renovations

We even put counter tops on those cabinets- I know, blows your mind!  We had installed new dry wall in several places.Great Guest House Renovations

Our wonderful construction dogs helped to hang new base boards.  Just kidding, they mostly sat around with tongues hanging out. Great Guest House Renovations

And by the end of it all, we were so pleased to call the place a real home.Great Guest House RenovationsDont get us wrong- we still have to finish the great room and install new doors and paint a handful of things.  But let’s not talk about that right now.  Let’s sit back, crack open a beer and celebrate the beauty of accomplishing a major goal!

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I love you readers, and would love to hear about things you’ve accomplished that you never thought you would.

guest house reno final

 

Predator Cams

This is a post to celebrate Mr. Grassroofs.  He really is an incredible man.  He indulges almost my every whim. Very nearly 100% of them.  Whimsy is what brought us to be chicken and duck owners. And though Mr. G doesn’t find the little boogers nearly as fascinating as I do, when we lost our flock to a predator in late April, he was determined to find out what vicious killer had done the deed.

What he found was indescribable.  Indescribable, but I will try…

A strange predator

He set up the predator cam  in the evening.  You can see above our great tree house and pretty messy tool shed area.  We aren’t a very tidy people, the Pattons. But we have other good qualities that make us lovable.  For instance, I’m really good at eating cookies.

When he came back the next day from a big formal meeting, we found this picture stored on the chip.

A strange predator

I knew it!  I knew that a broad fox, dressed as a bi-pedal man in a striped shirt was after our chickens.  I mean, I really knew that a cross-species dressing coyote had ill will toward my pipsqueak hens but also wanted to be sure to express his professionality.

Thank goodness Mr. G is so indulgent.  Otherwise, he may not appreciate this teasing.

 

 

A Tuesday Duckling Round-Up

Okay, so remember when I posted about our new chickens?  I asked you, dear readers, to help us name them.  We got lots of great suggestions- for which we are wildly grateful.

We only have one problem here at the beach homestead. We have more birds to name.

These are 6 lovely, fantastic, wonderful, cute, adorable, highly intelligent Pekin ducks.  Well, maybe not highly intelligent.  But they are enjoyable.

And look how cute they are!

Look, I taught them to swim!  Lucky they had me to show them how to do what they are designed to do. I mean, without me they would have been relegated to walking everywhere they wanted to go!  And they may never have eaten the mosquito larvae I intended for them.

Those ducks are so lucky.

So let’s name them! (Again, not individually- but let’s throw out 6 author names to be applied to the group of sweet ducklings)

Also, here are some wonderful websites that helped us to get started with ducks:

  1. HGTV Gardens
  2. Fresh Eggs Daily- Basic Duckling Care
  3. Organic Gardening- 4 Reasons to Get Ducks

 

The Big Move

 

 

The Big Move Collage

Recently, Mr. Grassroofs and I had to move our chickens outside.  Their prehistoric little selves were getting too big for the indoor brooder.  And as much as Fitz loved trying to herd the little guys, we didn’t love cleaning chicken droppings off rugs, and bills, and socks, and pencils.  So we decided they had to go.  Outside that is.

The big move 1 edited

We have a beautiful chicken tractor.  Seriously, it is lovely.  We got it last year for our first flock.  However, we lost the first flock, so the coop fell into disuse and some pieces of it are broken.

The big move 2 edited

Like these doors that are supposed to be held in place by some swing hinges.  Instead, they set into a little groove, but are hardly predator proof.  How do you know, Mrs. Grassroofs?  Well, that is how we lost the first flock…

Nothing says, “You’ve got some structural integrity issues” like a door lying on the ground covered with a pile of feathers and trail of red spots.

Laugh it up now, Foxy Loxy, but I’ve got your number.

The big move 3 edited

And the wheels at the bottom- the defining piece of having a chicken tractor, the more-grass-fertilizing, more-bug-destroying, better-chicken-adventuring piece, the raison d’être of a chicken tractor- had broken off.

The broken chicken coop was a good reminder to me.  I love living simply, and I want to get off-grid, and I want to reduce our load on the environment.  Yet even with all of that, I still wanted a new coop.  For whatever deep-seeded, corporate driven, media sponsored reason, I just thought we needed a new coop.  The world does a good job of making us forget that fixing what you’ve got is preferable to getting something new.

Luckily, Mr. Grassroofs is level headed and reminds me of our goals when I’ve forgotten them (he’s great like that). He set to work on fixing the coop.  Those are his capable hands at the edge of the picture.

The big move 5 edited

After coop was fixed and moved into the back yard, we needed all our girls to meet it.  This lovely lady was so eager she waited on the top of the baby brooder for five whole minutes!

SIDEBAR: Chickens should be moved into their outdoor space when they are fully feathered.  If they still have their downy chick feathers, that may not keep them warm enough on cold nights. We moved ours out a little early because we knew we’d have several warm nights for them to get used to being outdoors, and we quite simply didn’t have a larger box to brood them in for those last few days until they were fully-feathered. 

The big move 6 edited

So our ten sassy hens made their way into their new home and are doing quite swimmingly.  Now they just need names.  We don’t actually name them individually, because chickens aren’t pets.  They’re a food source.  But we’ll pick out ten different names to throw around when we’re out feeding them.

The one you saw about is Jane Austen.

This little gal below is, alas, Emily Dickinson. Because she’s down (on the bottom level).  I just tried to make a poetry joke.  Did it work?

 

The big Move 7 edited

We need 8 more notable female authors.  You can help! Post Below!

 

 

Beef Tallow and Chicken Runs

 Mr. Grassroofs and I had a busy weekend. We absolutely loved getting out into the garden and starting work on the new Beginnings of a Chicken Rrunchicken run.  I had conned him into letting us get ten new chicks.  The conversation went something like, “Please,pleeeeeeaaaaase,  they are single-comb leghorns.  Think of how many Foghorn Leghorn jokes you’ll be able to make!  And they’ll be fluffy…for a while.”

So naturally I had convinced him with my lawyerly compunction (or lack thereof). He kissed me on the forehead and did that head shake thing where it isn’t quite a no and isn’t quite a yes, which basically means it is a yes.

So that we don’t lose the flock again, we’re building a larger run for our little newcomers.  To be clear, Mr. Grassroofs is building it.

I was inside for part of the weekend, rendering beef tallow.  We found out during our Whole 30 that this is what Buffalo Wild Wings.  I also found out that the tallow can be used in soaps and candles.  Thanks to The Happy Money Saver for all the advice.

The story starts with me asking, somewhat sheepishly, the butcher at Whole Foods if they had any beef fat.  They gave me this little packet FOR FREE.  Wasn’t that sweet- this delicious looking little pound of beef fat.

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I set to work slicing off the last little bits of meat.  The dogs were pleased.

I cut the remaining fat in to tiny chunks.

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I put everything in my cast iron skillet and turned it on low heat.

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I covered it with a lid.  These homesteaders don’t actually have a cast irn lid, so I used the glass lid for our wok.  I’ll be interested to see the difference between the outcome when we finally get that lid.

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After about 30 minutes it looked like this.  I began to worry because this is different than the pictures from The Happy Money Saver tutorial.  But I decided to stick it out- I’m trying to grow as a person.

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After about an hour, I could see a noticeable puddle of standing fat.  Is your mouth watering yet?

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And about 90 minutes into the whole thing, I thought we were done.

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I sent the whole lot throw a cheese-cloth-covered colander.  The crispy parts that get caught on the top make really excellent dog treatsies.  Fitz practically learned to roll over just because of these!

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And you are left with beautifully pee-colored tallow.

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We poured it into a mason jar and popped that little guy in the fridge for use in burgers later that week.  Our cast iron has never enjoyed a better seasoning.

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Beef Tallow Collage