We’re glutton for punishment: Spring Chicks at a Farm Store near you.

This time last year we were contemplating chickens. Now, we’re doing it again. We have nine ladies at this time, and too many eggs for our family.  That we’re contemplating more is a sure sign of chicken fever.

If (and that’s a big if) we get any chicks this year we’ll only get three; a rooster and two hens.  It would be nice to let the flock clutch on their own and sell the pullets throughout the year. We can’t do that without a rooster. Our beloved Lanchester gave his life to protect the ladies. We might be lucky and get a good rooster again! Maybe we could name him Valentine.

chicks
Photo by Elena Blokhina via Shutterstock

We still have the brooder. The tractor is already built (although it needs some improvement), and the winter run is in use. We’ve finished the heavy lifting of chicken-care on the homestead. Three babies would be a nice addition, and after four weeks they wouldn’t be babies any more.

Keeping chickens is stinky work. The kind you can’t really get out of your nose. The kind that comes back whenever you hear the word pullet. Oh, but it is worth it. The glamorous side of raising chicks is the soft sound of peeping, the warmth of the brooder light, the nuzzle of downy feathers, and the smell of fresh woodchips.

We have a v[egg]an in-house now, too. Our 16yo daughter is on the vegan train and her two main sources of protein are lentils and her homegrown chicken eggs. Plus, the mail lady volunteered to take 18 eggs a week. That keeps the pile of eggs down to a manageable mountain. Three more chicks, only two of whom can produce eggs? Seems like a fine idea.

After all, a dozen is a perfect number; especially for chickens.

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February is InCoWriMo!

What is InCoWriMo?  International Correspondence Writing Month, which is like NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo only not so all-consuming! InCoWriMo requires a month of action, but only a little bit of elbow grease and very little time. To join in, all you have to do is write and mail a postcard, or a letter, every postal day, during the month of February.

You can send correspondence to anyone; to your family, or friends, or do what I did and pick some names from the 2017 InCoWriMo Address Book. The people I picked are all in the US but no two are in the same state. There are international addresses as well, but I’m keeping postage application easy this year by staying in the US.

postcard

Join me in the fun. It seems like a great way to meet new pen pals, to practice handwriting, and to finally clean out, use, share that pretty stationary paper! -`ღ´-

 

Wanderlust: Minimalist Friendly Vacation Ideas

The minimalist idea of amassing experiences instead of things helps pare down possessions and say just say no to new things that catch your eye, but the idea is no help when it comes to wanderlust. We take a family vacation once a year, or two long weekends each year. But man, how I want to go everywhere all at once! We’ve caught the travel bug and spend all together too many hours sharing ideas about where to go next.

This year we’ve narrowed our options. Any vacation can be minimalist friendly but some places are designed with consumption in mind. Disney vacations, for example, focus on the act of consumption. So Mickey is out of the question. All theme parks are about consumption, to one degree or another, so they’re out too. With the big name attractions off the list it was easier to find these five minimalist friendly vacations.

vacay

  • The ocean. Whichever one is closest to you is your best option. There are no lines, there’s no paid parking, no overpriced souvenir shops with glitter and glitz. What you will find though, is miles of beaches for combing, waves for riding, and tide pools for exploring.
  • The Rocky Mountains. Hiking! Camping! Beautiful vistas! Sunsets! Campfires! Skiing! Snow or awesome quartz rocks and lush green grass.  Are you getting the picture?
  • Rt. 66. Depending on where you live this can be a day trip or you can go the full length of the mother road. Find and photograph the rusty vehicles before they melt away. Drive with the windows down and lrt you hand ride the wind. Let your permit carrying 15 yr old try the straight-aways. Swear off all fast food chains. This becomes more challenging and fun as the trip goes on.
  • Underground. Looking for a bargain? Explore the cutthroat, underground markets of the nearest big city. Kidding… Caving is a lot more fun than it sounds, especially in the summer. There are three types of caves: explored, semi-explored, and wild. Having visited some explored caves the semi-explored ones sound like fun, but I think we’ll leave the wild ones be. There’s a fungus sweeping from cave system to cave system across Central and North America. By traveling from cave to cave, explorers are spreading White Nose Fungus and bats are dying. Bats eat bugs, mostly moths and mosquitoes. Less bats = more mosquitoes! Nooooooo!
  • The desert. “Go West young person!” If you have not yet, please do, go camping in the desert. Aim for spring or fall: winter nights are too cold and summer days are like visiting hell, not kidding. The abundance of wildlife in the fall is astounding. If you can see it in the fall, after a good rain, you’ll see all the flowers too. It’s just so beautiful.

So there you have it! A quick list of minimalist friendly and inexpensive vacation ideas. Until next time, Happy Travels!

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Winter Gardening: Biodynamics, Keratin, and Compost

Here in the USofA we are covered in a wintry mess. The garden lies dormant under a layer of ice and the fresh veggies are long gone. We still have veggies in the freezer though, and huddle in front of Netflix with big warm bowls of pumpkin soup. You can see our soup recipe (it’s GF, and vegan) on Bread Butter & A Cup of Tea. The warm summer days and sun-ripe veggies always sound the best in the depths of winter and so we start planning the garden now.

Biodynamics is a gardening system that incorporates gardening by the moon and soil replenishment through magical means. I’m not into the magical means but they are interesting to read about. One soil amending recipe calls for burying cow horns with quartz inside of them, directly in the garden, on auspicious days. Not really my thing. However, the scientific advantages of keratin in the soil are well founded.

Keratin for soil amendment is so valuable that somebody patented it. The patented keratin mix is intended for greenhouse soil amendment. It contains added elements that speed the oxidation process which helps with water maintenance in the soil, and is useful for replenishing nutrients. Luckily, chicken feathers are a good source of keratin (and much easier for us to come by than cow horns) but they take a long time to compost which is why we’re talking about gardening in the wintry depths of January.

Feather sourced from Radu Luchian. http://raduluchian.com/resources/chicken-feather
Feather sourced from Radu Luchian. http://raduluchian.com/resources/chicken-feather

In addition to veggie scraps, we compost the chicken poo and the shredded paper that they nest in. It’s a streamlined process now, but it took us some time to set up and get used too. We shred all the recyclable junk mail and use it as chicken bedding in the coop and nesting boxes. When it’s dirty we move the paper and poo to the compost bin and mix it with the veggie scraps. We find a 50/50, green/brown mix works well for us. It was really difficult to maintain the ratio when the pumpkin vines were composted, but now we’re catching up because we add more and more chicken bedding but not near as many green bits through the winter. Also – we learned that you can add dryer lint to your compost. It’s considered a brown item because it adds carbon and fiber to the pile, but we keep and use it for fire starter in the wood stove. There are so many uses for all the little things we used to throw away!

Adding the chicken feathers from the coop and nesting boxes provides the keratin the Biodynamic method calls for. I hope to see the difference this summer with our first harvest – even though it seems so far away from the here and now.

Stay warm all my Northern Hemisphere friends, and soak up some sun for me if you’re in the South!

Bullet Journal and Simple Heresy on YouTube!

Do you have a thousand and one things to keep track of?
Me too. So I’ve been watching some Bullet Journalers on Instagram and YouTube: Ryder Carroll, Boho Berry, palestblue, and Jenn Rogers (who I just love), plus more. The bullet journal (bujo) system is a streamlined and easy way to keep track of everything – even when your phone battery dies. The extra-special good news is that you can make your bujo any way you like. That flexibility allows me to put the minimalist mindset into my planner by switching to a bullet journaling style. – Or at least that’s the plan.

A Sordid History
I started using a planner in seventh grade because my mom made me. (I never thought I would say that phrase again!) It was a, 8.5 x 11 lined planner with a week per spread. I didn’t use it. It was a place to doodle when I wasn’t paying attention in class. In 10th grade I picked up a 6×8.5 journal and kept it as a diary, then I got into art journaling and collage. Then in college actually used a planner – as intended – to balance work, school, and social life, but after getting married I slipped back into diary mode. Then I started homescholing and I got a teacher’s planner by Mary Engelbreit that I just loved!

Fast forward to today… I have a notebook, a diary, a writers book, a homeschooling planner, a regular datebook, and apps that remind me of everything. That’s too much stuff. This collection does not jive with the minimalist mindset.

Enter The Bullet Journal
I think this might be a life saver. Trying to go minimalist is sometimes difficult – but hey, it’s a process.  You can see the pens I’m using and the inside of my very first bujo in the video below. Oh, and you get to hear the sound of my voice for the very first time ever. How exciting!

Over time I hope to simplify the spreads, but now the whole bujo experience is new and exciting so the entries are still over-the-top!

“Will she stick to the simple mantra, or will she commit heresy?”
Who knows!
Stick around and together we’ll see what happens!

Minimalist Gift Guide in 5 Easy Sections

If you have a minimalist on your list this is the gift guide for you.  The last-minute ideas that may work for one friend will find their way to the donation box in the minimalist household.

So here is the big secret: consumables. Easy as it sounds, it is the best way to make your minimalist happy and show that you care! I’ve divided some consumable options into five basic sections. Scroll on – to see which section is right for your minimalist.

gift-guide

  1. Foods. Nutritious, or not-so-nutritious but delicious food is a great way to show your affection for a minimalist. Take a trip to the local grocery store, farmer’s market for you southerners, or health food store. Look for items with simple and aesthetically pleasing  packaging. If you know they eat something everyday you can buy a bulk container of that item.Are they always nibbling on granola? Enjoying morning oatmeal? Eating fish and rice? Munching on dried berries? Sneaking chocolate covered fruit? Crunching on shelled walnuts? Nibbling fancy cheese rounds? Rule of thumb for any minimalist gift is to Keep It Simple and you’ll be doing it right.
  2. Beverages. Everything stated in the food section goes double for beverages, but here you have to adopt a little of their minimalist mindset. If your minimalist is a coffee, tea, or bourbon drinker, then they would love a variety pack of beans, leaves, or bottles. However, beverages are often sold with accoutrement. Your minimalist does not want the fluff – they are after the goods. Deliver a simply wrapped package of their beverage of choice and you have a winner.
  3. Soaps and Lotions. Everybody needs to get clean, and in the harsh winter months a little extra moisturizer keeps skin smooth and soft. If you know your minimalist well enough to have seen inside their bathroom you know what kinds of soaps and lotions they use, or maybe you are unsure because they transfer the soaps into those wall mounted dispensers behind the crisp white shower curtain. Either way, if you saw the bathroom, soaps and lotions are acceptable gifts. When you make your purchase pay attention to the packaging. Your minimalist is all about purposeful living. What is the purpose of that cling wrapped set with all the easter-grass looking ribbon squished between the bottles on the styrofoam stand to make the bottles look like they are different sizes, inside the useless colorful three-sided cardboard box?  Skip the fluff of the ready-made Christmas gift and go to the other side of the store. Pick a few items that match your minimalist’s style. If you saw their bathroom you know what they like even if all the labels were hidden. Was the bathroom fragrance and dye-free? Did is smell like rainbows, or a zesty mountain man? Follow your nose to the right scent for your minimalist.
  4. Experience.  Movie tickets, hockey tickets, opera tickets, zoo tickets, museum tickets, train tickets, and concert tickets are all ways you can buy an experience. Buy two tickets and take them, or let them take someone else on an adventure. If you are unsure of what kind of event they would like to go to – take a guess. I’ve never seen or met a minimalist who never tried anything new.
  5. Digital Items. Digital books, music, e-courses, video games, and digital gift cards (Starbucks anyone?) are all acceptable way to show you care. Your minimalist friend is not into collecting stuff. They are anti-stuff, and a digital gift shows that you understand their anti-stuff vibe.

Here ends the quick and clean minimalist gift list. If you have other gift ideas share them in the comments! We love to hear from you. Until next time – Enjoy the holiday season and indulge in some simple heresy.

Wood Stove Installed!

Ch installed a wood stove in the living room.

It’s so pretty.

I catch myself just looking at it.

wood stove

As you can see, there are a few bits I need to touch up with stain, and some ash to clean up beneath the door, but it’s so pretty and it did such a good job keeping us warm last night, I just had to post. It took a long time to get to this point and we’re so glad to be here.

The Earth Stove is a vintage 1970’s model with a goldenrod ceramic shield in the center of the removable door. It the quickest wood stove we’ve ever had: It can boil a pot of water, from first spark to rolling bubbles, in half an hour. Although you can’t see it in this picture, it has an adjustable, outside air, intake damper. It has a flue damper too, so we can control the draft, either increasing or decreasing the rate of burn.

The bricks are beautiful gray and natural reddish, king bricks, set with natural colored mortar. The process was a mess but well worth it!

bricking img_20161021_153129

At the same time, we also venetian textured the walls. Venetian texture requires the application of many layers of colored plaster. We went with a neutral light gray, lighter than the mortar but not a stark white, despite our minimalist leanings.  We’re thinking about adding vertical boards for the traditional waddle and daub construction look, but it’s just a thought at this point!  Honestly I’m glad the stove project is coming to a close. It was a lot of work, but well worth it!