Sunday, December 22, 2013

Who Needs Pintrest?! (Our Shed Update!!)

If you read my last blog post then you already know how hard my amazing husband has been working at getting my soaping shed to functioning status.  If you haven't read it, I encourage you do so, so you can see the "before" photos and get a better impression of what he's accomplished and why he deserves the "husband of the year" award.

We are almost there!  And I have to tell you, all week I have been feeling like a little kid  - overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation.  I absolutely LOVE renewing spaces. If you asked,  my husband will tell you that I am a very simple woman: nothing makes me happier than a can of spray paint and some old furniture (okay... and a few trips to the thrift store).  Getting his "go ahead" for me to start bringing my things from the garage into the shed made me all giddy inside.

Okay, enough about me.  Let's get right down to the progress we have made.  I warn you - this post will be picture heavy. :-). 

This (below) is what the shed looks like on the outside now.  It is a lot more leveled than it was before.

I added old shutters that were sitting in the garage, after painting them brown and green, for some character.  

The tall dresser (left) was left behind by the prior owner. I painted it and it now stores all of my soap packaging supplies.  I am pleased that everything is organized in one spot, further fueling my OCD nature.   I have had this gorgeous painting (above dresser) for a long time. It was a gift from my late father and I am glad to have found it a home in this special space.
Are you wondering why so much "green and brown" yet?  Well if you hadn't noticed, green and brown are M&M Soaps' signature colors.  So I appropriately decided to incorporate those colors into the space to enhance the creative energy I seek in this sanctuary.  I was seriously thinking of painting the exterior green, but have decided to hold off on that idea for now. :-)
 I love how the space does not look commercial at all.  I wanted it to be much more than just a place for making soap.  I wanted to be surrounded by things that speak to my spirit and things that are  an extension of what is in my home.  It was important to make this very small space as multi-functional as possible, where my children could sit with me and keep me company while I work, or where friends and family could also stay when they come to visit.  All we would need to do is whip out the blow up mattress and electric wood stove (if it's cold), and voila!  Instant comfort and privacy. Okay, well there is the small issue of no toilet or running water but hey, at least they'll have a place to sleep. :-)  
This (left) is another one of the dressers left behind by the prior owner.  This one houses my soaping equipment, soap molds, safety gear, etc.  The empty picture frame above the dresser was also from our old home. 
I found this gorgeous antique looking wrought  iron vase (below) at a local flea market.  When I saw it I just knew that it would be the perfect place to store my cello wrapping paper rolls.  I love it!  The small wall shelf  to the left was used in our former home and has found a new life here as a place for my oil and spice extracts.
I wanted to keep all of my regular essential oils together and in a convenient spot.  Luckily I remembered that we had a brand new bathroom cabinet that we brought with us in the move.  The tall cabinet fit perfectly in this corner and I was able to fit all of my essential oils and other additives with room to spare.
We re purposed one of the old counter tops from our kitchen (below) and turned it into a work table. 

The shelving you see on the wall above the finished work table (below), was a hutch to a bedroom set we had purchased second hand for our children which they never used. I painted it I did a miserable job at painting it because it was really windy outside that day. Have you ever tried spray painting in the wind?  Then I know you can totally relate.  Besides, my new mantra is "done is better than perfect".  So there!  It IS perfect. :-)

I was also able to fit a floor cabinet that I once used for the children's crafts (beneath work table) for more storage. Directly on top of this floor cabinet I now sit my bulk oils and more additives. 
  My new mantra in print as a daily reminder.  This truly helps balance out my OCD tendencies.

This corner shelf was another great find at the flea market.  It was originally black and I knew that once painted, it would make a nice addition on one of the corners.  I really like love it! 
On top of this dresser (left) sit images of a few of the most important people in my world.  While working in this space I want to surround myself with positivity and images of people that bring out the best in me.  
While the weather has been favorable, it has been raining tremendously here which made it hard to do much to the exterior.  We plan on sprucing it up a bit once the ground dries up.  One of the things we will finish doing today is adding a few tons (literally) of flagstones that are being offered for free by a neighbor up the road.  They will make a great pathway and cut down on the mud tracking when it rains.  I was also excited to find three wood pallets in the barn that he will add to the front to make a small porch where I can put a flower planter on one side and also have a small box for my muddy shoes. 

The outdoor sink will be placed on the left side of the shed in the next few weeks.  There is currently a chicken/rabbit coop there that will need to be relocated - it is massive in weight and we just can't move it on our own.
My husband also found a large bay window in the barn (in perfect condition) that we will add to the back wall in an effort to bring in some much needed natural light into the space. 
In the end, this did not turn out like the Pintrest inspiration shed at all.  Actually, I think it turned out a million times better.  Why?  Because my family's sweat and energy is invested in this space.  Even our two small children had a small part in it. 

And I am extremely proud of the fact that only a fraction of the materials needed to rebuild the walls and floor were acquired commercially.  We used as much reclaimed wood and building materials as we could find in our barn to rebuild the floors and wall boards, including the tin ceiling.  With the exception of the two flea market finds (second hand corner shelf and wrought iron vase), everything else you see here came from things we already had laying around in the barn,  garage or house.  That to me is so gratifying!

There is another shed that my husband wants to convert into an outdoor school/play room for the children.  He is a brave man.  That shed is bigger but needs A LOT more work.  Stay tuned for that adventure!
Thank you for allowing me to share this chapter of our journey with you.  I hope you've enjoyed reading about it as much as we have enjoyed the experience.
Blessings to you and yours in all of your endeavors!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Our Shed Adventures!

I am now convinced more than ever that Pintrest is a very dangerous place.  Like most, I have a great collection of photos that serve as inspiration for many things. 

Before we moved into our farm house, I expressed to my husband how nice it would be for me to have a space just for my soap making and crafting... you know, like a "soaping studio".  Sounds nice doesn't it?  I could see it clearly with my mind's eye, and Pintrest was going to help me him make it happen:  a modest and simple soaping shed with electricity and running water, just feet away from our home, where I could escape to and spend hours upon hours lost in my creative flow.

I now present to you "Exhibit A"!... my Pintrest inspiration:

Isn't it adorable?  Can you blame me for wanting THAT... or something similar? 

It just so happens that there are two decent-sized outbuildings on our farm that could lend themselves to such an endeavor.  Well, so I thought.  It has only been a week, and while I do have complete trust in my husband's abilities, from the look of things, I might end up with something shall we say completely different a bit less ambitious.  To my husband's credit, he has tackled this project with the utmost enthusiasm (even working late nights to get it done).  Yet, it has turned out to be a bit more involved than we had hoped for.  By day 2, I think he began to grasp just what I had gotten him into: the poor man had to dismantle all floor (and wall) boards in order to straighten the structure out because it was caving in so badly.  I felt SO guilty that I was almost tempted to suggest that we call it a day and go to the local Amish store to order one of their amazing pre-built sheds.  But aside from the cost, doing that would totally betray our purpose to live a more sustainable life-style... right?  Right.

In retrospect, from where I was standing it sure did look simple enough; clean out the shed, spruce it up with paint, add shelving and make a few other adjustments.  The most significant adjustments being the adding of electricity and a re-purposed outdoor sink like this one (yep... you guessed it... Pintrest again!):
He is working really hard to make an old dilapidated structure functional.  If you think I am exaggerating, take a look at what I am he is working with. Enter "Exhibit B"... the dilapidated shed:
  So, am I exaggerating?  Am I really?

Aside from what the photos reveal, it is  a real solid structure  I want to convince myself that it is a solid structure.  Really, it is.  And I have witnessed some miracles in construction work and home improvement projects.  I know that where there are "good bones" there is potential.  In fact, our farm house is a classic example of that.

At this point, I really wish I had amazing "after" photos to share with you (like those perfect ones from my Pintrest inspiration board), but  I don't.  It is still very much a work in progress, so you will just have to wait in suspense along with me for the finished product.  And even though these photos may not be as inspiring, I do have faith that it will turn out just perfect... for us.  And the truth is that even if I don't end up with a shed REMOTELY similar to the one on my Pintrest inspiration board, I am so grateful for his efforts in wanting to give me my very own sanctuary -  a space where I can work undisturbed.  The fact that we have a VERY long to do list around here, yet he has put everything else aside to do this,  means the world to me.  He's definitely a keeper. :-)

There are many things that I can do around the house without the help of my husband but I am realizing how much more I need to step my game up in order to assist him in accomplishing the things we want to accomplish together.  I can use a power drill and a few other tools just fine but when it comes to measuring and cutting, I am really challenged.  I will be the first to confess that in my next life I want to be a carpentress (yes I just made that word up).  I really, really do!  It is my humble opinion that carpenters rule!

I would love to hear what skills you have developed out of your desire to be more self-sufficient!Please do share!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Our First Week Living Away From 'Civilization'

If you are like most, you’ve surely uttered the expression “I can’t wait to get back to civilization”, after spending time in the country, away from your IPhone and other gadgets.  You may have even found yourself starting to count down the days before your return to the “civilized” world you left behind.
Our family recently made a permanent move away from what most would consider 'civilization'.  There were many reasons for our wanting to do so, which I plan to get into in another post, but suffice it to say that a desire for a better quality of life was at the core of our decision.  Many of our friends likely consider us a bit odd, if not in-sane, for wanting and actually pursuing such a drastic change.  Maybe we are in-sane.  But what I can tell you with certainty is that we are already experiencing positive side-effects in our lives.
I want to share snippets of our journey in the hopes that it encourages you - not necessarily to do the same thing - but perhaps it will allow you to feel empowered and motivated to take steps towards pursuing your dream(s) and leaving your comfort zone. 

Now that we are mostly unpacked and somewhat settled in, I can take a few moments to share with you my observations and thoughts.  Here they are, in no particular order:
1.       We have discovered that in rural areas neighbors are neighborly.  They are not afraid to knock on your door and introduce themselves.  We lived in a relatively small city (over 10,000 residents) where our neighbor’s houses were less than 15 feet away, yet in 20 years I can count with one hand how many neighbors I got to know beyond the usual “good morning” pleasantries.  In fact,the day we left only TWO neighbors approached us as we were loading our truck and expressed that they were sad to see us go.   In sharp contrast, on our second day here, we came home to homemade jam left on our door step with a 'welcome to the community' handwritten note from neighbors, including their telephone number in case we should need anything. 
2.       Everyone is extremely helpful, with no ulterior motives.  Whether you are looking for the best mechanic or a reliable source for raw cheese, grass fed beef or pastured eggs, out here away from civilization, everyone is genuinely helpful and willing to share whatever contacts they have and what they know.   Although we lived in a fairly small town, we only experienced this type of community  with ONE family, before moving here.  There is an “abundance mentality” here that might take city dwellers some getting used to.  The idea here seems to be that if I help you, I help myself and by extension, I help my community.  For me and my family, that is quite refreshing and a beautiful thing to see in action.  Just as a small example:  my husband was asking our neighbor a few days ago where we might be able to rent a truck in order to be able to move my mom’s furniture into her new place which is about 20 minutes away from us.  We were looking for a U-Haul type facility but being out in the country we figured that U-Haul would be hard to find.  The neighbor mentioned how we would be better served using a trailer to haul my mom’s things instead of going through the trouble and expense of renting a truck.  We thought his suggestion was great, except we didn’t have a trailer or a registered truck to haul it with.  Being mentally exhausted from the move, we dismissed the conversation and figured we would just deal with it in the morning.  When we woke up the next day, we found a nice new Chevy truck and a huge trailer (with keys in the ignition) sitting in our driveway.  We both just looked at each other and smiled.  The trailer was big enough for my husband and I to load all of my mom’s things in one trip.  After a few hours, we returned the truck to our neighbor, clean with a full tank of gas and a thank you note.    

3.       You stop looking at your watch.  At least I have.  I haven’t worn a watch in years and even before moving away from civilization, I was always a slave to time.  Every task I undertook was dictated by the clock.  Now I find myself wondering about the time only long after it gets dark.  Now that I think about it, my husband purchased a watch several days ago and it is still sitting unopened.  Go figure!
4.       If you have a home-based business, consider Internet accessibility in the area you are looking to move to, BEFORE you commit to a location.  I am almost embarrassed to admit that this was honestly one of the last things on my mind when we picked this home.  Yet it has proven to be a challenge mostly because we have been cable free for the last 6+ years, for conscientious reasons.  Because our home sits in a valley, we could not get any Internet signal without either:  (1) cable or (2)  a 120 foot tower (which would have had to have been erected on our property).  The idea of having a tower on our property was not something I would even consider, for health reasons.  So we now have cable, BUT fortunately, we are able to block virtually every channel except for a few educational ones.  And so far so good.

5.       E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E will invite you to their church.  J

6.       Flies and lady bugs will invade your home!!!
I am not sure if it is a country thing or just specific to the are we’ve chosen, but I have never seen anything like it.  Flies gather (ok, correction..... they swarm like bees) by windows(indoors and out) and siding.  Previous to moving here my husband had an abnormal obsession with flies. He’s the type to stop anything he is doing – and I mean ANYTHING-  to kill that ONE fly in the room.  The only difference is that now in our new home he has to contend with hundreds at a time. J We have sprayed a lemongrass essential oil concoction all over the place and he has also caulked areas of the home I am certain were not meant to be caulked.  So we can say they are currently under control (i.e., not swarming like they were before).  The lady bugs are not as gross (or abundant) as the flies.  And to be completely honest, I can actually handle just about anything (even flies), as long as I don't see a cockroach.  Cockroaches are definitely a deal breaker for me... but I digress!   I have since found out that these (pic. to right below)  Osage oranges will deter insects (including spiders) so we have harvested plenty from our land and have strategically placed them on the outside and inside.  I am hoping they help.

 7.       Even if you are not a hunter, you will be forced to become aware of hunting season (and its intricacies) real fast.  I get up pretty early every day and since being here I have been waking at around 5:45 a.m. to take walks in the fields with my small terrier Roxie.  On one particular morning earlier this week I walked farther than usual and my thoughts were interrupted by sudden gun fire.  At first,  I instinctively ignored it since you hear shots go off often in the country even if it’s not hunting season.  But as I walked further, I caught sight of our neighbor and noticed that he was wearing his orange vest with rifle in hand  – even his hunt dog had an orange vest on! Yikes!!! That’s when it occurred to me that it was probably a real good idea for me to start heading back... pronto!  That was the last time I took my morning walk.  Hunting season here goes from the second week of November until November 24Th   .  Now, whenever we venture out beyond the 2 acre mark we make sure that we all have orange vests on and our children in particular are not allowed to roam our property without supervision.  Another funny incident occurred on our first night here.  A distant neighbor was traveling down our road and her car was struck by a huge buck.  It caused significant damage to the front hood of her car.  She saw the injured buck go back onto our property and after introducing herself along with her daughter, she begged my husband to allow her husband to come back first thing in the morning and look for it.  She offered us the meat in exchange for it's head.  Yep... that is all she wanted...its head as a trophy.  I was quite amused at how she was more concerned with locating the buck than with the serious damage it had caused to her car.  Oh, and her husband did come back around 7a.m. the next morning (with rifle in hand) to look for it.   

8.  You can actually see the stars at night!  I know this isn't a big deal to some, but to us it is HUGE!   On most nights, the sky has been crystal clear, allowing us to see every star cluster.  

9.    I have always longed to be in an environment where my children could explore and learn from nature's abundant gifts.  Everyone that knows us knows that we have a Dr. Doolittle in our household.  Seeing both of my children, but especially my daughter, develop her intuitive abilities in a natural setting is beyond rewarding.

There is more to come, as I plan to continue sharing our experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly- on our journey for a simpler and more balanced life-style.

I know what you are thinking... it is too early to tell; but so far, stepping away from 'civilization' has served our family well.

So what are you doing or what have you done to leave your comfort zone?  I would love to hear from you.



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Urgency of Building An Herbal Home Apothecary

Before pharmacies and drug stores were created, there were apothecaries. Aphotecaries dispensed medicines, including herbal remedies and often functioned as pharmacists and doctors. Their skills with herbs made  them reliable resources for people seeking healing from any ailment. Apothecary gardens provided herbs to aid healing. The art of apothecary continues in this modern era. Herbalists today grow their own herbs and treat ailments just as their foremothers-and fathers.

In anticipation of how busy our family will be in the coming weeks and months, and in between packing, I have been working on adding to our family's herbal apothecary.  In fact, I spent this past weekend making a few items and thought it would be a good idea to share my progress with you in the hopes that it encourages you to want do the same for your family. 

One only needs to look at the most recent "news" headlines to be reminded of the fact that things are changing very quickly.  Now more than ever families are realizing the need to take concrete steps towards becoming MORE self-sufficient in all areas of life, but especially where our health and wellness is concerned.  And that basically means that we must take responsibility for ourselves and our families because the harsh reality is that no one is coming to save us... no one!  So as we continue see the theater show play itself out, we should not be distracted but rather be focused on what steps we need to take towards self-preservation. Ask yourself "how prepared is my family, not IF but WHEN we have little (to no) access to supermarkets, pharmacies, etc.?"  Your family's future well-being will depend on your response.

One aspect of self-preservation and self-sufficiency involves taking responsibility for our health NOW.  And one of the ways we can be prepared is by gathering herbal remedies that we can rely on for maintaining wellness now and have them available for when minor illnesses strike.  This is again only one of the many steps towards being self-sufficient, but it is one that is certainly worth taking seriously as so many questionable laws are being implemented at record speed.

I encourage you to become familiar and gain basic knowledge in the preparation and usage of herbs. Having a collection and knowledge of herbs and essential oils will allow you to create everything from remedies for headaches to homemade face moisturizers that not only saves money in the long run but ensures your long term health as you are not assaulting your body with toxic chemicals and hormone disruptors.  You can create herbal teas, salves, tinctures, syrups, liniments, poultices and more.  Some of these herbal remedies can be stored for months and even years, depending on the carrier used.

Basic Herbs and Their Uses
You likely have some of these growing on your yard or land and don't even know it.  If you do not, you can find these herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs or online.  You can use them fresh instead of dried, but you will want to double the amount since dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh.

  • Lavender- anti-inflammatory, soothing, insect repellent, soothes headaches, aids sleep and relaxation.
  • Peppermint- fever reducer, good for digestion, invigorating.
  • Spearmint- aids digestion, reduces bloating, antioxidant, invigorating.
  • Milk Thistle- promotes liver function, gallbladder, detox, lowers cholesterol, antioxidant.
  • Elderberries- treats flu.
  • Fennel- good for digestion and bloating, diuretic, flea repellent, soothes coughs.
  • Rosemary- memory, circulation, anti-carcinogenic.
  • Chamomile- Soothing, good for digestion, colds, aids sleep.
  • Nettle- high in protein, iron and vitamins.
  • Ginger- nausea, diarrhea, digestion, arthritis, soothing, treats inflammation.
  • Calendula -internally for digestive disorders like gastritis, esophagitis or colitis, rheumatic disorders, gynecological problems, externally for skin disorders like eczema, acne, minor burns, sunburn, fungal infections, thrush .
  • Hyssop -for bronchitis, coughs, fevers, flu,  chesty colds, antiviral. 
  • Cayenne -circulatory stimulant, tonic for the heart, digestive aid, endorphins releasor, rich in Vit A and C, supports immune system, topical pain reliever for arthritis, bursitis, muscle and joint aches.
 My Favorite Essential Oils
I will be the first to admit that high quality essential oils are not cheap.  But I consider them an investment in my family's long-term health and over the years I have accumulated a diverse selection that I have come to rely on for our family's wellness.  I personally prefer to use Young Living essential oils especially when the essential oil will be used internally.  However a great source for essential oils is Mountain Rose Herbs.  Whatever your choice, just be certain that the essential oils you purchase are of superior quality and that they are therapeutic grade and do not include fragrance oils. 

  • Grapefruit- energizing, brightens dull skin and harm dilutes toxic build up, helps with water retention
  • Lemon- antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, astringent, detoxifying, energizing, brightens dull skin
  • Orange- antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, aphrodisiac, detoxifies, boosts immunity
  • Clary Sage- mild antidepressant, astringent, aphrodisiac, digestive, sedative
  • Rosemary- antibacterial, hair growth, mental activity, respiratory problems, pain reducer
  • Lavender- antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, calms anxiety, blood circulation and respiration,
  • Peppermint- indigestion, respiratory problems, headaches, nausea
  • Spearmint- antibacterial, anti fungal, insect repellent, restorative, stimulant
  • Eucalyptus- antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, stimulating
  • Tea Tree- antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, insecticide, stimulant, helps with wounds healing, detox, relieves pain

The carriers noted below are relatively inexpensive and easy to find and with the exception of the Vodka, can be found here.
  • Vodka (80% to 100% proof)- for tinctures and aromatherapy mists
  • Coconut, Almond or Olive Oil- for salves  and balms
  • Vegetable glycerin - for tinctures
  • Raw apple cider vinegar - for tinctures
  • Raw Honey- for syrups and oxymels
  • Beeswax- for salves and balms

Recommended Books To Get You Started
I strongly recommend that you acquire at least one good reference book for learning how to brew and blend your herbs.  There are many available online and at your local library.  I have also found quite a few excellent herbal books at our local thrift store for practically nothing.  Some of my personal favorites that I refer to often are listed below. 

I accomplished much this weekend, but I still have a few to add to my ever growing list.  I plan to get these done within the next two weeks.  Here is a quick list of the ones I still have to complete:

Chickweed tincture - for cysts (esp. ovarian cysts), infections, dissolves and consumes bacteria.
Stinging Nettle tincture - for adrenals and kidneys.
Oat straw tincture - for the endocrine system.
Burdock root tincture - blood purifier, tonic for liver, lungs, stomach, uterus, joints, kidneys.
Prostate Tonic tincture - I will be using a combination of herbs that nourish and protect the prostate gland
Deep Sleep tincture - This will be formulated using herbs that help relieve insomnia.
Children's Stress tincture - I will use a combination of herbs that are safe for children to produce  a gentle calming remedy for stressful or challenging times.

All of this information may seem overwhelming at first, but the intention is to at the very least get you thinking about it.  Start thinking about the positive effects that doing this can have on your family. To get started all you really need are some basic herbs, essential oils and various carriers that will allow you to take advantage of their healing and soothing uses. Getting started is usually the most challenging part, but I promise you that once you do, you will wonder why you didn't do it sooner. 

NOTE:  This information is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Keep all herbs out of reach of children and pets. Special care should be taken by pregnant and/or lactating women when handling herbs.