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"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Art is knowing which ones to keep." –Scott Adams

by Forest Wander


Handmade Gifts from the Homestead

By Jenny Flores


     "The holidays should be a time of great joy and peace.  It is a time to reconnect with friends and family.  It is too easy to get caught up in the other aspects of the holidays and exchange our peace for anxiety.  The only antidote for this is to be prepared and make a commitment to give personalized and thoughtful gifts.  It sounds trite, but I have honestly found people truly appreciate a homemade gift; it shows an abundance of good thoughts.  After all, we are not just thinking of the person when we hand over the present, but also when we came up with the perfect gift idea and during the entire time it took to make the gift.  Depending on the present, this could be days, weeks, or months.  Now that is good will!


     Use your creativity and let your love show with packaging.  Add a handmade ornament or two, a book of monthly gift certificates, and a card that truly expresses how much they have added to your life.  Remember: peace and joy, not anxiety.  Everyone celebrates the holidays for different reasons but the underlying meaning behind any tradition—religious or secular—is to celebrate the love we have been given by giving it to others.  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!"


Jessica's New Homestead Cookbook

Mom's Pumpkin Bread

By Jessica Shelton


     "This week, I’ve decided, out of the kindness of my little heart, to share with you one of my most-treasured recipes.  It’s one I’ve enjoyed for as long as I can remember, and have never tasted its equal.  It is one of my very favorite harbingers of fall and the holiday season—my mom’s pumpkin bread.  I’m sure, unless you’ve been living a seriously deprived life, you’ve had pumpkin bread before, but this is the best I’ve ever had.  Dense, moist, spicy, and sweet, this loaf turns out soft and smooth on the inside, and nearly crisp and slightly chewy on top.  While I usually try to put a healthy spin on my recipes, this time I’m throwing caution to the crisp, autumn wind… I mean, it’s (almost) the holidays, right?"



Friend, Anybody Can Weld

By Doug Smith


     "My first recollection of him welding was with me sitting on a garage stool made from a truck wheel, a two foot piece of flat steel bar, and a old cast iron farm implement seat.  That sturdy stool was one of Dad's first welding projects sometime long before he helped mom create me.  Now some 45 years later that stool still sits in his workshop and is as sturdy and comfortable as ever.  In addition to making all sorts of necessary items, Dad also made rotating clotheslines and decorative plant hangers from discarded farm equipment.  He also developed a reputation for his homebuilt utility trailers and custom trailer hitches.

     My point here is that anyone can learn to weld.  Dad had no formal training yet even today can still keep up with the most experienced tradesman.  I've never taken a welding course outside his impromptu lessons in the garage behind our house growing up, but I've chopped and boxed classic truck frames, repaired trailers, replaced rust with patch panels on antique automobiles, repaired tractors, and built my fair share of plant hangars and barbecue grills, and novelties made from horseshoes and nails.  And while it's not my primary interest, I've made more than enough money welding for customers to pay for my equipment and supplies for my own use." 



Alluring Alpacas

By Heather Huffman


     "I love fiber.  Whenever my mom ropes me into going to the craft store with her, I can be found in the yarn aisle, running my fingers along all the pretty colors and marveling at the variety of textures.  When my family made the decision to be more self-sufficient and moved to our little homestead, I knew I wanted to not only produce our own food, but a way to produce my own yarn as well.  My research led me to an animal that’s only been in the United States for the past thirty years or so: the alpaca.

     A lesser-known, smaller cousin to the camel and llama, alpacas are a unique and fun addition to any homestead.  With their gentle nature and the average adult alpaca weighing in at 100-175 pounds, they are an animal the entire family can enjoy.  In fact, my 10- and 13-year-old sons are usually the best "alpaca wranglers" in the family.  My initial research on alpacas had me worried they’d be hard to care for, but the reality has turned out to be that they’re as easy to keep as goats, without many of the headache-inducing antics.  Alpacas are curious animals that are quite friendly once they get to know you.  (Although, I wouldn’t expect one to ever come up to get its neck scratched like a goat will.)"  



Two Parents, a Kid, and One Tiny Cabin

By Martina Kuhnert


     "Yeah that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her sisters living with their parents in that one room cabin were weird, weren't they?  And that guy, Abraham Lincoln, growing up with all his family in his one room cabin, they actually made him president.  What were they thinking?'  These are my stock answers to people who imply that there is something wrong with my family because we choose to live in a very small cabin.  How small is it?  It doesn't even have a bedroom, just a loft.  

     So how do we do it?  How do we manage personal space and all the possessions necessary for a self reliant, high quality lifestyle?  We learned to follow three basic principles.


     Knowing what we value, keeping our space organized, and respecting each other help us face the great challenges of living in a tiny cabin.  Learning to live in our small home has given us great rewards.  Our family is not just close in space, we are close at heart.  We have built a life around the values we have chosen for ourselves, not what our culture has dictated to us.  As a result, even though we don’t live in a mansion, our lives are rich."



The Importance of Being Surveyed

By Sheri Dixon


     "It was a happy day when I signed papers to buy this place and an even happier day to receive the deed free and clear from our county tax office.

     Interested, since I had never seen the legal description of my land, I playfully paced out my east lot line (the only one that's a pretty straight shot over pretty level land).  I started at the north corner and counted out paces.  I looked up when I reached what should've been the end.

     Curious... my house was up ahead of me by about 100 feet.

     Confidently, I started at the other end of the east lot line and counted off paces.  I looked up.

     There was my house, teasing me from 100 feet away again.

     This was potentially bad." 



Adam vs. the Post Pounder

By Sue Dick


     "I gasped and jumped up as Adam floundered to his knees blood obscuring his face, 'I'm hurt!' he gasped unnecessarily.  I ran over and grabbed him under the arms and hauled him to his feet.  'I'm hurt!,' he repeated again.  Babbling placating words, I helped him over to the fence he must now climb over to save a very long journey around to our main gate right through the curious flock of sheep.  As an aside, if you've never kept sheep you can't imagine what it's like to try and keep your balance in the wooly press.  Not renowned for their intelligence, they flock tightly around you with their deafening baaas wondering what you might be bringing them.  It's very hard to keep one's balance and Adam was having trouble enough.

     I was surprised he managed the climb over the fence, a trail of splattered blood behind him and we began the drunken walk to the yard.  I bellowed at the top of my lungs for my older son whom I could hear outside.  He came running down the path and I saw the look of shock when he saw his father's bloody face and stumbling gait.  I yelled for him to grab his little brother and get him in the car seat.  He must have flown because when we got to the house both kids were sitting buckled up in the car.  I helped Adam into the car and grabbed the sweatshirt from my son's back to staunch the flow of blood while I ran inside to get the keys and my purse, and then we drove to town well above the speed limit (a half-hour drive at the best of times, only 15 minutes this time)."



An Innocent's Tale

By Neil Shelton


     "This was during a period when much of my life’s knowledge and experience came directly from Donald Duck.  Nobody in Duckburg was what you’d call 'normal', not if 'normal' meant being like Dick and Jane’s parents.  Dick and Jane were such out-of-it, goody-two-shoes losers, compared to Donald Duck.


     Bill and Goldie fit right into my world-view, because they were so much like cartoon characters.  Bill was a short fat little man, about the size of Santa, to my mind.  Like a cartoon character, he always wore the same clothes: a battered old fedora that looked like he’d been born in it, bib overalls with a red or blue bandanna hanging out of one back pocket, and work shoes that usually had open wounds on the sides.  During the winter, or for a trip to town, he might get all dolled-up by adding a blue chambray work shirt and socks.  He always had a crooked pipe which he was always relighting or refilling with Prince Albert tobacco, source of as pungent a smoke as civilized man has ever known.  Somehow, he managed to always have the stubble of beard.

     When my father would take me to Bill and Goldie’s I knew that I had to at least feign an interest in whatever the men were doing, otherwise I might wind up spending time with Goldie."



Homestead Heating Safety

By Doug Smith


     "You’ve made the decision to live a simpler life in the country… no corporate ladder climbing, no tense lengthy commutes, and no keeping up with the other rats in the rat race that is suburban living.  There are a lot of new skills to learn, and few will be as important as knowing how to heat your new homestead safely… in fact, your life could depend on it.


     There you have it… safe and simple practical ways to implement the safeguards suggested by the leading insurance companies regarding heating with wood.  Done properly you can save hundreds of dollars a year by heating with wood.  Done poorly, it could quickly cost you much more than just your beloved homestead."  


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