Friday, April 24, 2015

Homesteading like a Jerk: How to Pick a Rooster

The average urban homesteader/hobby farmer wants chickens for one thing....fresh eggs. Now don't get me wrong, there are a few out there who raise chickens for meat purposes, and some out there (like me) who try and pick dual-purpose breeds, but most chicken keepers I know are hard-core egg enthusiasts. Ovumators. Calcium aficionados.

And we all know what you need to get eggs......a hen. That's right. No rooster necessary. As a matter of fact, roosters are somewhat irritating to the hen-hoarding chicken keeper because roosters tend to be very overprotective of their flock....including the eggs. Nobody wants to get gouged when collecting eggs. Plus roos like to get their freaky deeky on with your hens and it ain't a gentle, smooth jazz scenario. It can stress a hen out to be around all that testosterone.

So what's a girl to do?

Well, thankfully, there are these incredible and rare chicken experts called chicken sexers. These badasses can take a peek inside a chick's vent (or cloaca) and determine whether or not that chick will grow up to be a hen or a rooster. Of course, most sexers and hatcheries will tell you the sexing methods we use today are only about 80% effective, but still. Pretty awesome to have resources like that. We can essentially pick-and-choose our backyard gals. And pullets (female chicks) are in high demand - we have an assortment of options to choose from.

But....what if you, like me, prefer to homestead like a jerk? What if instead of supplying your hens with a comfortable, stress-free lifestyle, you'd rather have them beaten up by an edgy rooster? We have all these resources available to help us choose hens, but where are the rooster-choosing resources? Where are the "cockerel" bins at the feed store? Well, don't worry. If you prefer mauled hands/arms/children and broody hens over a peace-filled, egg-saturated backyard, I'm your girl. Just call me the rooster-picking guru.

Step 1:
Make sure you absolutely cannot have roosters in your area. True jerks know when to break the law and prefer to do it whenever possible, even if the fees are insane and the neighbors own rifles.

Step 2:
Build a coop that can only hold the precise number of chicks you initially buy. This way, when your rooster knocks up the rest of the flock, those sweet little additions have absolutely nowhere to live.

Step 3:
Ignore everything the chicken books tell you and pick out the chunkiest, most active little chick at the feed store. Make sure it's the biggest chick you can find. Realize a huge chick equates to a healthy appetite and nothing more.

Step 4:
Decide that feminism exists in the chicken world and bypass gender stereotypes when naming your chicks. Name your big, plump, active little chick something creative and, hmmm, I don't know, Gandalf.

Step 5:
Greet your flock every day, all day with, "Hello girls!" and "How are my pretty ladies?" Complement your chick on her big feet and incredibly unique clucking noises.

Step 6:
Decide your chick's chest-led strut is just her way of modeling her pristine, ever-reddening comb and waddles. Tell her how beautiful she is and how she truly is the leader of the flock.

Step 7:
Make your kids fall in love with your chick and coddle her like a wee lil' baby every chance they get. The bonding element is what we're hoping to tap into here....a real, true bonding moment between your kids and the animal.

Step 8:
Refuse to believe any of those "quacks" on the chicken-keeping forums. Your girl is just healthy and a little large, that's all. Doesn't matter if she herds the flock like a crazed shepherd or that she occasionally attacks her own reflection in the water bottle. These are all just signs of her spunky, feminine nature. All homesteading jerks know that.

Step 9: Be proud when you hear that first cuk-COWR! All your jerk work paid off and she's finally learned her war cry!

Congratulations! You should now officially have a rooster. You can thank me later.

Have a great weekend all and as always, thank you so much for reading!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Homesteading like a Jerk: Cinder Block Raised Bed

Some of my greatest blog idols are super-powered homesteaders. They are transparent with their faults and generous with their knowledge. They grow wheat. Their lawns are littered with chickens, pigs, and goats. They're good at sewing pillows from old sweaters, or making soaps, or combining different essential oils into healthy body remedies.

I, however, consider myself a newbie to this homesteading realm. I want a self-sufficient life, a healthy life, a more cost-efficient life, but like most newbies, I am not entirely sure how to get there. So I fly by the seat of my pants. I pin homesteading tips and tricks like it's my job (seriously, though, it's my job....if you have a blog and need a Pinterest manager, I'm your girl). And then I execute, hoping for the best. I don't expect to nail it the first time around. Nope, I just aim for learning something, or a bundle of things, to apply next time. Because there will always be a next time when Jen gets her heart set on something.

This week, I decided I would add two raised garden beds to my yard. We'd built one before out of fence planks. It became my raised garden bed of doom.

Not this time, I told myself. This time, I am going to plant with intention. I am going to grow with wisdom. I am going to think with the end in mind. Plain old fence planks aren't enough to hold such vast knowledge, not this time around. No. I need something more permanent. Something more...... concrete.

Hey Home Depot. I see you sell cinder blocks for like $1.40 a block. That ain't bad. Even with your huge delivery fee, the cinder block option is more affordable, movable, and weather-resistant than my planks. Looks like we got a winner.

So they arrived. On a flat-bed semi truck.

Dude couldn't get them through the gate into my backyard. He had a massive forklift that was just a teensy too wide for the doorway. And when I say teensy, I really mean his massive, gargantuan forklift would've left a hole twice the size of the gate had he followed my instructions and "just plowed on through."

So he just left them right here, in my front yard, just inside the gate. 80 cinder blocks. One nice day. And one Jen. Terminator time.

I'd cleared some backyard prairie plant debris from the far back reaches of my yard and piled it high on the lawn to help kill the grass. It kinda worked. See that little patch of yellowed grass?

Then I laid down some landscape fabric and started building my bed. Layer one, lookin'...hmm. Bit of a curve here, yes?

Well we could try and level the ground. Realign the structure. Build with physics in mind. But how 'bout we just shift them around instead. That's better.....right?

Layer two, lookin' decent.

How about a second one? Those blocks ain't gonna move themselves! Ah, there we go.

Now move that salvaged debris straw crap into the walkways and have your kid jump on it. Perfect.

Look at that! Two raised garden beds. Each have twice the planting area as the old one. Those little holes in the blocks are perfect for a border of marigolds and nasturtiums to keep bad bugs at bay and good bugs in plenty. Both beds together, with semi-truck delivery, cost less than $175. Without delivery we would've paid under $110. No level needed. No measurements needed. No experience needed. And look, you get a free pallet!

What's that? Took you four hours to move all those cinder blocks? It's time for dinner already, you say? Well, how about that. I'm sure you have dinner all planned out, right? Oh. I see. You were supposed to put the crockpot on seven hours ago. Well never fear, tomorrow's dinner menu is "breakfast for dinner," so you can just borrow from tomorrow and pull the ol' switcheroo. Wait, you don't want to sit at the stove and make pancakes for an hour? Stirring batter sounds about as fun as eating nails, you say? Too many dishes, hm?

Here you go. Pancake muffins. Rockin' the Halloween cupcake liners in April like a boss.

Better add something hearty and filling to that plate. Something worthy of 80 cinder block bicep curls.

There we go. Breakfast potatoes with chunks of seasoned sausage.

Now that, ladies and gentleman, is homesteading in real life. You get a plan, you execute on the plan, the plan falls apart, and then other plans you thought you'd planned fall apart too. So you improvise as best you can and try to take notes. And who knows. Maybe you'll get huge arm muscles and an unexpectedly delicious dinner out of it.

Anyone else gardening this spring? Made your plans yet? Ever had plans fall through? What tips and tricks do you have to share? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below! As always, thank you for reading :)


Friday, April 3, 2015

Rebirth: What's Love Got to Do with It?

Today is Good Friday, the day before Easter, and whether you celebrate the holiday or not, the season is certainly focusing itself on renewal and rebirth. Grass is turning green again, flowers are poking through the dirt, and I can finally walk outside again without getting frostbite. We're waking up, stretching, and looking forward to long, golden days and weekends that seem to stretch into the workweek. Renewal. Rebirth. What a wonderful time of year.

This spring is especially radiant to me for a number of reasons. Yep, I got my chickies. This is also the first spring I have the blessing of being home with my kiddos. But this spring is also particularly eye-opening for me. I'm challenged with adjusting my habits, desires, and expectations to meet this new reality.

You see, my lovely readers, I married a man who is nothing like me. I am friends with people who are nothing like me. I have family members who are nothing like me. I am surrounded by people I love, but are nothing like me. And although I've always considered myself an independent person, I've realized I am placing too much of my happiness in the hands of people who do not define life, love, and happiness the same way I do.

Now I get it. Some of you are probably shaking your heads. Duh, Jen. People are different. Deal with it, look at the good in people, and move on. 

Well I wish it were that easy for me.

Those who know me on a personal level know I am empathetic to a fault. I absorb the emotions of those around me, whether they're family, friends, or strangers. This quality sometimes serves me well - I can be a very good sounding board for those I love and respect. This quality also causes me to be quite judgmental, way, way too sensitive, and prone to anxiety.

So what's a girl to do?

Well, the most common answer I've received is to emotionally detach from people, particularly those I'm around most frequently. Don't worry, be happy. Take the good, leave the bad. Unfortunately, that's akin to asking a dog to stop barking, or a cat to stop climbing, or a rabbit to stop multiplying. It is possible to cease what feels natural, but not without breaking me down into something that won't resemble the real me anymore. My emotions are tied to my identity, no matter how warped or silly or trivial they seem.

Now the old Jen, the pre-reborn Jen, would've said, "Surround yourself with people who love you! Do good things with good people and you will be good! Plan something for your family to do together! Organize something with friends!" And for the most part, hanging with those I love does make me feel good. I love my husband. I love my family. I love my friends. And they love me so, so much.

But searching for solace from this life in the actions, thoughts, and words of others is risky...because there's a chance the people you're leaning on won't understand you. Or want the do the same things. There's a chance they won't see your conflicts as conflicts. Or feel happy with the things that make you happy. There's a chance they will want to follow a different path through life. A path completely different from your own. And when these people are the anchor to your happiness, you're going to get dragged down by differences. And it will depress you and make you feel like the last thing you are is reborn and renewed.

But what if instead of being reborn through the love of those around me, I be renewed through the love I have within me? How about truly earning some of the independence I claim to have and learn how to be happy, alone? Wouldn't it be grand to take pictures just for me? How beautiful would I feel if I could finally look in the mirror and think, "Stunning, just as you are...."?

It's a time of renewal, dear readers....and for me, that means realigning my plans so the end picture has more of me, less of me among everyone else. I need to be more selfish with what I truly want and less giving of things I do not derive joy from. I believe it was a dear friend, Kristen from Mommy in Sports, who once told me the cleaning can life instead. What a wonderful truth!

So here I go. I am pushing myself to be reborn from a love of self. I am aiming to be more independent and try things I've always wanted to do, but haven't. I am going to stop waiting for a dance partner and just start dancing. I am going to stop waiting for others to join me and learn to be happy alone, in my unique reality....because I truly think the only way we can be fully happy in a relationship is when we are happy with ourselves.

Any of you have a go-to activity you do when you're alone? Something that is just for you and makes you feel beautiful? Share it with me below, will you? I can use all the help I can get! :) A very happy Easter and spring to you, lovely readers. Thank you, always, for reading. 


Friday, March 20, 2015

Let's Talk About Chicks, Baby

You guys.

I got them. I got four of them. My chickens (said in a Smigel my precious voice).

Barred Plymouth Rocks:

White Plymouth Rock:

Silver-Laced Wyandotte:

If there were a way to explain how excited I am right now... I still prolly wouldn't be able to exaplin it....that's how excited I am.

I'd planned my flock out differently, you know. Oh yes. I'd had my flock planned for months....and I'm sure you can tell from the past-tense tone that things didn't quite go my way. This wouldn't be post if there weren't some sort of internal self-adjustment, right?

I knew I wanted some Barred Plymouth Rocks from the get go. They are super layers and are dual-purpose, meaning once they are done laying they are perfectly suited for the dinner table. They also have excellent temperaments, are sweet with other birds and kids, and are tolerant to the frigid winters we get up here. Overall, they are a sensible, cute bird that I couldn't wait to get my hands on. I picked up the little black beauties on Wednesday. There were plenty to choose from. I went, I saw, I purchased. In and out in a matter of minutes. I was overjoyed to come home with my first two little dolls.

Next up, I'd planned, were the Easter Eggers and Buff Orpingtons. I'd wanted those two breeds real bad. Easter Eggers lay cool eggs (the shells are pastel colored...different variations of green, blue, and pink) and the Buff Orpingtons are super fluffy and chunky. I'd double checked with the store 12 times and was told yes, the breeds I wanted would be arriving at the store today, Friday, March 20th.

So this morning I packed up my car again and headed out, excited to complete my flock and have everything go exactly the way I planned it. Jen's perfect little plans :) I cranked the heat in the car (the babes need heat to stay healthy), dropped the little kid off with G-Ma and G-Pa, and drove out into the wild wilderness that is springtime road construction.

I arrived at the feed store at 10:15, exactly 2 hours and 15 minutes after they opened. I headed back to the chick area, hearing their little peeps chirp out from beyond shelves of  hardware cloth and power tools. I practically skipped down the aisle to my soon-to-be-babies.

The nice, young girl who helped me get my Barred Rocks was there, scoopin' poop and changing litter. I looked around for the bin holding the Orps and Eggers. Nothing. Hmm.

"Hi," I said with a smile, opening my towel-filled box expectantly. "I'm here to pick up a few of your Buff Orpingtons and Easter Eggers!" I seriously looked like The Joker, that's how big my smile was.

Her eyes immediately fell and she stepped back from me just a bit. "I'm sorry," she said. "They sold out already."

I kinda blinked for a second. I might've said, "Shutup."

"I started work at 8AM, got here at 7:45 this morning," she continued, "and there was a line of people outside the door. Even the people waiting since 7 ended up missing them."

"I'm not leaving here without a chicken," I told her, forcefully. I could tell she was a little afraid of me. I tried to mask my disappointment (cheyeah, rite....Jen, masking emotions?) and turned away. I looked into the other chick-filled bins and my mind immediately began acting like a total priss.

No. No. Not you. No. Nope. Bet you lay plain white eggs. Very Merry UN-Special to you. No. Weird-looking. Too sleepy. Too peckish. No. No, these birds won't work. Stupid hillbilly line of people taking my birds.

I heard the head staff woman come over, the one who ran all things chicken and knew me practically by name (I'm telling you I planned this OUT). She quietly asked the younger girl, "Everything ok?" The younger girl nodded and they both checked me out from under their eyebrows. They were waiting for me to freak out. Poor ladies. What a shitty morning they must've had. I kicked it into customer-service sympathy mode.

"Pretty rough morning, huh?" I asked them.

The younger girl smiled and the other lady sighed and looked upward. She returned my smile and said, "Lots of yelling. I get it, people get excited. I just feel bad for those who didn't get what they wanted. I'm sorry."

Yep. That was the hinging moment for me. These two ladies are just trying to do their job. They'd been yelled at all morning and were both still smiling at me, nice as can be, nothing but sympathetic and sensitive. It made me stop and think for a minute.

Every year for her birthday, my big kid asks for donations instead of presents. We usually get $200+...and every penny goes to an organization called Heifer International. They provide livestock and training to people who can't afford to eat. My big girl actually chose a flock of chicks as part of her donation this year. So while I'm sitting over here hemming and hawing over eggshell colors, some family somewhere is excited to just get a chicken. Any chicken. A chicken.

I did a quick Google search on the breeds left in the feed store bins and found them all to be hearty, dual-purpose, steadfast layers with good temperaments. With the staff lady's help (what an awesome woman!), I chose two beautiful little babes, a White Rock and a Wyandotte. Next week another Buff Orpington shipment comes in, and if I get one, great. If not, that's ok too. These loves will be filling my heart and my egg basket all year :)

Stay tuned! I'll be posting a "How to Raise Chickens Like a Jerk" post in the next few weeks!

Happy SPRING my friends! And thank you for reading :)


Friday, March 13, 2015

7 Truths I Want My Kids to Understand

Ever have one of those days when everything just works out exactly the way you need it to...and you find yourself truly believing that something, somewhere, has your back? If you read my post from last week, you know I was struggling big time. Wasn't sure how I was going to drag myself out of that pit.

Luckily, something, somewhere, had my back.

Started with a stellar therapy session (therapy RULES,'ll be amazed) that forced me to do some fairly deep soul searching. Then the weather stopped being a dick. Then one of my favorite people in the world called me to the carpet, reassuring, steady, and there for me. I received a "Paid in Full" letter from one of my student loan companies. My big girl got her stitches out and my little girl allowed me to spend approximately one hour without her so I could talk to other adults. I'm on my way back up...I can feel it.

Still, I found myself wishing I had some sort of quick fix for these awful episodes I tend to encounter. I yearned for one thing I could turn to when things got bad ... one thing guaranteed to lift me out of my funk. And then it hit me...

My kids.

Now don't get me wrong, my kids are often a source of my anxiety. I swim in parenting guilt so thick Lewis and Clark couldn't find their way out. But that being said, I realize when I focus on making life fun and interesting and meaningful and joyful for my kids, the effects wear off on me, too. So I've been hanging with the kiddos more than usual. It's been helping! But, sadly, I've noticed hints (specifically with my oldest) of the same anxiety and negativity that follows me around. Can't say I'm surprised. Our children absorb the environment they are raised in. I try, but I am not perfect. I am flawed, through and through, and they experience the effects of those flaws.

So what's a mom to do? Well I think we all know my answer to that question. Yep. Write a blog post.

I try and tell myself the following truths throughout the day to prevent episodes of negativity, depression, and anxiety. They are all things I know to be true in my heart, but struggle to remember amidst life's little troubles.

1. You do not need anything to be beautiful.
You don't need makeup, clothes, hair, a partner, a job, or a specific number on a scale to be beautiful. You can't buy beauty, can't smatter beauty on your face, inject beauty into your body. Your beauty lies within, as it does for all human beings. Almost everyone realizes this truth at one point or another...more often when they're falling apart and covered in wrinkles. Your beauty lies inside. It is a light you can ignite and add kindling to until your very last days on this earth. Try not to be on your deathbed before figuring this one out. It'll save you money, time, and tears.

2. Your two hands can impact the world.
You may never cure cancer. You may never travel to Africa. You may spend the majority of your day in the same place, around the same people, surrounded by the same things. Reach out, I beg you, and touch the world around you, however familiar it may be. Your two hands can plant life. Your two hands can save a life. Your two hands have the power to irrevocably impact the lives of those around you, and in turn, impact the world.

3. The greatest gift you can give a relationship is honesty.
Be honest with yourself. Identify your needs. Express them with honesty. Never try and cover up your needs...not even for a minute. To do so is to add a slow-working poison to your relationships. Know yourself....and when you don't know yourself, find a counselor who can help you figure it out (hint: Self magazine quizzes don't count). Only when you've identified your own needs and boundaries are you truly ready to dedicate yourself to another. Only then, when you are honest with yourself, are you truly ready to embrace and contribute to someone else's forever.

4. What you put in, on, and around your body matters.
Food is not a microwave oven atop a keg in the closet. Food is money, food is life, and food is power. Learn how to grow your own food. Share what you learn with others. Try to encourage others to care too. Do not assume it is anybody else's job to know these things but your own. When you spend money on something that will go on or against your skin, learn about where it came from. If you can't get an answer, buy something else. Or better yet, make what you need yourself. Or even better than that, find someone who's really, really good at making what you need and become their friend. Your choices affect the're a domino.

5. If life sucks, you're to blame.
It's not his fault. It's not her fault. It's not the world's fault. It's not your boss' fault. Life sucks because you're letting it suck. Look at your skin. See your scars? Your body healed itself. It has the power to close wounds. It has the incredibly magical ability to create tissue where once, there was nothing. It has the confidence to place new cells exactly where they need to be. It has the determination to fight against things it knows are bad. Coolest part? You control you body without even acknowledging it. If you can subconsciously create skin, I'm pretty sure your focused energies are capable of overcoming a sucky day. Or week. Or even year. One foot in front of the other. Just do it. Your body knows the way.

6. Your pride is worth more than mine.
I am so proud of you. You make me proud every day. When you were born you were gorgeous, even though newborns typically look like alien old men. When you said your first word you were a genius, even though hundreds of kids do that everyday. When you hugged me while I was sad you were the most sensitive and caring little girl in the world, even though seconds later you farted and told me you had to poop. I am your momma and I am proud of you...but my pride means nothing compared to the vision you have of yourself. I won't be sitting there during your first job interview - you will. I won't be standing there when you're forced to end a bad relationship - you will. I won't be laying there when you are struggling to get out of bed in the morning - you will. Your view of yourself, your pride in your abilities, and your confidence in your choices, means so, so much more than mine. Put effort into proving it to yourself before proving it to me.

7. Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.
Make mistakes. Forgive yourself. Learn. Try again. Repeat. I just explained life in a nutshell. Don't worry about becoming a master at anything....because once you are, your brain will find something else for you to pick at. Perpetual motion, as long as it's forward, is all you need to succeed. Be brave. Don't give up. Make mistakes. Forgive yourself. Learn. Try again. Repeat.

Like any parent, I want my kids to learn from my trials and tribulations. It's delusional to think they will...yet we all try anyways. My daughters will likely encounter the same struggles I do, regardless of how much time and effort I dedicate to teaching them the truths listed above. That's ok. I'm ok with it, really. My wish isn't for perfection in my children. It's for peace and comfort when they need it and I can't physically be there. I hope the things I say will resonate with them at the exact moment they need it the most. Who knows, maybe my book-crazy girls will pull up Mommy's blog somewhere down the road, when they're lost, missing me, and needing help. I hope they find this post. I hope they read it and find strength to climb into joy.

If you ever read this, my wild and free girls, Mommy loves you. Embrace the beauty that surrounds your glowing beings and remember you have a soft place to land, nestled deep between kindness and movement toward your dreams. You will forever have a home in me.

Thank you so, so much for reading.

Friday, March 6, 2015

My Apology to Dog Lovers (and Other Flaw-Filled Adventures)

Hello lovelies :) Missed you last week. Let's just say I was things up. How, you might ask?

Well, you ever have one of those days where everything you do is essentially the opposite of what is considered productive, positive behavior? That was me...for about 14 days straight. What can I say. I've been in a funk.

It all started two Saturdays ago. 

You may remember a certain little post I wrote called, "What's with Those DOG People?" You know, the one where I rage on and on about how animals are best left to natural purposes, like guarding, herding, hunting, etc., and really have no business being prioritized ahead of children, home, job, food, or anything else...and how I am not really a dog person anymore....that one.

Yes, well, all that went out the window two Saturdays ago. Two Saturdays ago I put my sweet Doberman, Zeus, to sleep. We drove him to the vet office together, my husband and I, and he licked our ears the entire time. It was almost like he knew it was coming. He pranced around the little room they put you in. He sniffed under doors and couches for a while, checking things out. He came over for pets on the head. After a good 30 minutes (it was a walk-in clinic, so we had to wait), he laid down at my husband's feet. Zeus didn't get up to greet the vet and vet tech when they entered. He just laid there, quiet, unmoving. I came around and held his head in my hands. He relaxed into me, closing his eyes before the vet even started the injection. His last breath was a sneeze. We left him lying on the floor, looking just as he would when he'd sleep in his bed at home.

I. Was. A. Mess. I am not kidding you, I cried for days afterward. I was practically hysterical at the vet's office. I was inconsolable on the way home. I am sobbing right now. I miss my dog, the unappreciated, sweet, stinky, giant oaf who greeted me every day and never asked for anything other than food, bathroom breaks, and pets on his head. Talk about a teachable moment. If that sweet boy taught me anything, it was compassion and realizing you don't know what you've got until it's gone. I miss him every day. My deep, heartfelt apologies, dog lovers. I'm sorry I ever accused you of being crazy. Turns out I've got some of that "crazy" in me, too.

Although I wish I could say that was the only "awakening" I had recently, I can't.

I also hurt a close friend of mine. She was pained by things I chose to say and not say at an important time in her life and I made her cry. Yep. Made a very incredible, important person in my life ball her eyes out because I was so selfish and turned inward that I couldn't be a good friend. 

Oh, and remember that book I'm writing? Turns out I hate it. Turns out I want to burn it instead of edit it. Everything is wrong. I want to change everything. When did I ever think this book was good?

It's freaking cold out. I'm sure some of you've noticed. When it's cold I don't walk. I don't run. I curl up on my couch and watch TV and read books and eat, eat, eat. I've gained weight. I'm not feelin' all that healthy. I'm not feelin' all that comfortable in denim, either.

Wintertime also means more snow days for my big kid. I'm cracking at the edges, people. I'm in a less-crafts, more-screaming situation. Wasn't this dynamic supposed to be reversed once I started working from home? What am I doing wrong here? How I am I not able to get this suzie homemaker thing down?

All of these things, all of this "awakening," has kicked my anxiety into full-blown FML mode. And you want to know the worst part? The bad feelings that lead me to feel bad are not that bad....which makes me feel bad for feeling bad. Are you following me? I feel like such a whiny little shithead. I am blessed. I have wonderful people and things and creative outlets. I've never had a bullet stream through my front window and I have no worries that my kids are going to be profiled because of their skin and I've no threat of getting beheaded for being a woman with a college education. I know all these things, you see. My first-world problems make me feel like the chump with a paper cut in a room full of amputees. 

So, as is customary when I feel myself slipping into my coma of worry and warped perspective, I'm taking to the page. Yea, no, not my novel's page. That thing can suck it for the time being. I mean this page. You guys. My heavenly, comfortable zone of transparency. Typing it out is like walking my head through the answers.

Dog people, I understand you better. I am sorry for the thoughts I had about you before. We may never see 100% eye-to-eye, but you have my respect instead of my eye-rolling. I am sorry for the eye-rolling. I was a jerk.

And to my friends, who always love me just the way I am, I apologize in advance for ruining your day, or your big moment, by being a totally selfish person. I am filled with emotions I'm still learning to control and I will continue to work at it because you are wonderful and you deserve nothing less than the incredible friendship you've gifted to me. 

And novel. Oh novel. I will fix you. I hate you, but I will fix you. I promise to keep reading books on how to make you better. I will dissect you and examine you and move you into positions you never thought were possible. I will blow past my editing completion goal date. But I will do so knowing the only queries worth making are the ones with a solid novel behind them. I will make you solid. I promise.

Hey body. Remember me? The horrible chick who secretly thinks horrible things about you? I'm going to infuse you up. Matter of fact, I hand-sliced forage-fed pork chops for the first time yesterday. I rendered down the fat to make lard, which shockingly has less saturated fat than butter. I did that. Me. And I can do more cool grow tomatoes. And enrich you with homemade dinners even on the weekends. And take you out for walks again in just a few weeks. So hang in there with me. We're on our way back to happy. 

And to my babies. Mommy's sorry she's been so down lately. It's not your fault. Remember how one of you cracked your head at school earlier this week and we had to race you to the doctor for stitches? Remember how I was totally on my game, holding pressure, talking calmly and gently, walking you through every step of the procedure with pride in my heart at your bravery and kisses all over your face cuz you're still cute? I'm going to do that. More of that. 

And anxiety, I don't really know what to say to you. You stalk me. I get it. I'm kindov a big deal. But in case you haven't noticed, you're creeping me and my family out just a little bit. I'm considering getting a restraining order against you. It may come in the form of scouring Trip Adviser for dreamworld vacation spots. It may come in the form of a night out with friends. It may come in the form of a comment on this very blog. But just know it's coming.

I know I say this every time I close...but today I mean it x100. Thank you for reading. I appreciate you hearing me out, waiting me out, helping me out, and providing me with insight into your own lives, be it through a comment here, in person, or on your own blogs. I am so thankful for your role in my life (every one of you has one) and hope any mistakes you've encountered this week are resolved swiftly, with love and a steady amount of forgiveness for your beautiful, flaw-filled self.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Preparing for Spring

Today's blog post is brought to you by Frigid Winds, Ice-Day-All-Day, and the worst month in the entire calendar, F-youary.

I am a winter baby. I love snow and the whole hermit thing. But I'm going nuts, people. I am missing... you know...walking. I am missing fresh air. I am seriously looking up scenic landscapes to put on my computer's background just so I don't have to stare at white, ice, and snow all day. The pics help. I'm not joking.

Here. Go ahead and soak in these images from April 2014.

Motivating, right?? Feeling warmer yet? I was actually lying on my back, on the ground, when I took that pic of the tree and the sky. On the ground! It's so hard to remember moments like that when I look outside now....

So what better way to thaw an icy mood than with a little spring planning, amiright?

Step 1 of the JenThaw: Figure out what you want.
I am trying to move toward more self-sustainable gardening and eating practices. I want like 400 raised beds, 7 hoophouses, goats, chickens, bees, strawberry gutters, and more compost than anyone could ever possibly need. I had to narrow it down a bit. Just a smidge. Here is the sketch I ended up with.

Step 2 of the JenThaw: Prioritize.
I obviously can't get everything I want. I know, I know. Saddest story you've ever heard. You'll notice three colors on my cute lil' sketch up there. Red means it's on hold until further notice. Orange means we'll get it in 2-3 years. Green means it's a go for this year, baby!

Step 3 of the JenThaw: Grab what you can now.
It's always better to shop in the off-season! Stuff is cheaper and I've found it's easier for me to purchase things little by little than buying everything all at once. That being said, it can get really hard to find off-season stuff in stores. I buy online. Amazon mostly.

This year we're getting chickens. This is a huge, huge deal, people. I honestly can't stop talking about it, that's how excited I am. We already have the little brooder set up, heat lamp tested, thermometer ready to rock...just need to rig up that poultry nipple waterer and lay down some puppy pads and paper towels and we're ready for babies.

Planning ahead means less stress later. At least that's what I tell myself as I add yet another item to my backyard diagram....ha!

Step 4 of the JenThaw: Get ready to plant your food - and go heirloom!
I've been seed shoppin like a mofo. I bought these bad boys last fall during the huge year-end seed sale.

Why buy heirloom? Well, aside from the fact you can use a french-ish accent and be all like "mmmyeeesss theese are my eeehhhhrloom tomatoes"'s also better for the environment. And your family. And agriculture in general. The seeds aren't "more expensive" or "more work." They are just better seeds. You'll get better food. You won't be buying some Monsanto GMO spin-off. Did you know the plants you buy from Home Depot and Lowe's are rarely, if ever, heirloom varieties? Might as well pluck some good ol' GMO tomatoes from the grocery store. Heard a rumor Lowe's is working to fix that. Hope they do...but until then, I'm growing from seed.

Planting really isn't that difficult and no, you don't need to have a green thumb. I actually am known for my inexperience in the plant realm. But even I was able to grow spinach, kale, punkins, carrots, and cucumbers last year in my itty-bitty raised bed. Buy some seeds. Plant some seeds. Eat healthy. Be well.

Step 5 of the JenThaw: Remember flowers, too.
A Facebook friend recently shared this Grow the Rainbow initiative to plant 1 billion wildflowers in an effort to help save honeybee colonies. I bought some of their organic, non-GMO wildflower seedles (seeds rolled into a ball with compost and clay and sprinkled with fun, non-toxic, kid-friendly color) and am so, so excited to get this party started.

I don't always plant flowers, but when I do, I do it for the pollinators.

What are you guys doing to stay warm and positive during these cold winter months? Do you have any spring preparation going on in your house? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)