Homestead Experiments (H.E.), helpful hints, and deep thoughts about our journey to a simplified life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What? Now you tell me!

So, as part of my new-found contentment with our current living situation, I have decided to tackle some of the projects that we are allowed to do (per our landlords), but did not want to invest the time or energy into in case we were moving. The main one was to start clearing out the underbrush and young trees that have taken over our backyard. I had bushwacked the old path out in order to get to the blueberry patch in the far back, but our visibility was so poor that we weren't able to see if our friendly black bear sow and her cubs were back there or not. Unfortunately this resulted in an unexpected, yet peaceful, encounter with my friends who had come to go berry picking! Surprise! Yikes!
Plus, I wanted to make the backyard more kid-friendly for winter play.

Farmer Boy and I donned our work gloves and boots, grabbed our hand-saws, and went to work slowly cutting down the trees. There were a couple of Sitka spruce that literally took my breath away-and not in a good way! Eventually Farmer Girl joined us and the three of us sawed, hauled, and sweated many larger alders and brush away from one side of the creek bank for a solid 2 hrs. We sang a little, and joked about how this was hands-on learning for the pioneer days.  We brainstormed ideas to use the bigger logs we were cutting. Log cabin chicken coop, perhaps?  

At lunchtime, we were wiped out and jelly-armed. About that time, my hubby stopped work for lunch. I told him to come look at our progress. He admired it and then asked, "Now, you're using the small chainsaw, right?"


Chainsaw? What chainsaw?

"You know, that small, electrical one that you had bought a couple of years ago at a garage sale for $20? You thought it would come in handy for clearing brush in the backyard."

Wow. I'm glad I have such great ideas. It's just too bad I don't remember them! HA!

Oh well. Here is a picture of our progress today. Just picture  a 20'  x 10'  area at a 45 degree downward angle, that was filled with small saplings, a few bigger alders and medium spruce, along with A LOT of berry canes. Whew! We kept reminding ourselves that steep angle will make for an excellent sledding hill in a few months!

Tomorrow we clean it all up and haul it away to the back (someday) burn pile. Then, when we get our next spurt of dry weather, we'll start working the other side of the creek until we systematically work our way around the 1/2 acre paradise that is hidden back there!  It's not easy work for cupcakes like us, but I do love working alongside my kids. I.Am.Blessed.

In the middle is an old stump from a giant spruce cut down long ago. There were many trees growing out of it which we cut, but left the lone elderberry tree since our little feathered friends really like it.

Hillary At Home

Monday, August 18, 2014

How To Give Up

It's the proverbial light at the end of most military spouses' tunnels. It's this glimmer of hope that helps us to pack, move, unpack, and then repeat as directed. What is it? 

It's the vision of the Family Home. It's the notion of putting down roots, mortgaging a house, and finally FINALLY getting to experiment with all of those Pinterest projects that have been filling our boards and dreams! It's the romanticized plan of settling down in your grand home on the picket-fenced property that the kids and grandkids can return to year after year.  It will be idyllic, cozy, and sweet. It will be our own Green Gables or Rose Cottage-but with indoor plumbing and air conditioning!  Surely our husband will get a great paying, M-F job where he will be home on weekends, not 'stand duty' overnight, or be floating in the middle of the ocean. AND he will make plenty of money to afford the above home, of course.

BUT! What if your husband doesn't take the six figure job offer?(choke choke!) What if he decides to join the ranks of the dreaded 'self-employed'? (Nooooo!) What if his principles and values lead him to start a business where he uses those military-taught skills to better his community? Well, in a nutshell, that means two years of business records to qualify for a meager mortgage. It means two plus years to qualify for something bigger than a shoebox (especially in Alaska!). It means my own Green Gables is on hold....indefinitely...sigh.

 ...I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation....Phillippians 4:12

Contentment. The struggle with it plagues most of our society. It is the most oft-mentioned topic among my Mom friends. The Apostle Paul had to LEARN it. He had to be intentional and purposeful with it. He had to practice it to get it. Why, why, why is it so stinkin' hard to achieve?!

It's not as easy as just simplifying and down-sizing as many minimalist blogs would have you believe. As my analytical, yet usually correct, handsome hubby likes to point out, those are external actions that may or may not stem from an internal perspective shift. Just because someone has altered the size of their living space or quantity of possessions, does not mean that their heart is satisfied. Often, but not always,  they have just re-prioritized what their desires are into a different venue. (Yes, he's not only good looking and highly principled, but a deep thinker, too.)

In my case, I had the recent wake-up call that my cozy, nest-filled agenda was not God's. I was discontent because I was railing against His plan for my journey. I was too busy stalking craigslist and the local MLS to pay attention to His still small voice. I was too distracted for contentment in my current home by constantly looking at how I could gut it and improve it if only given the deed. Oh, I have plans for my homestead, and God was just in my way! My husband and his business were in my way! My whole situation was just in my way! (Stomp stomp)

Wow. Then through a variety of sources and venues (like the Spirit so often does), God gently showed me, not only the error of my sinful, toddler-ish  thoughts, but the way to conquer them:

1) First I had to remember that He has called me to this life. He has laid out the path for me to follow. My end goal is/should be to hear Him say "'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things...Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Matthew 25:21When I pause and actually play this scenario out in my mind, I am able to truly make this my ultimate desire. Consequently, it's much easier to remember that it's not about my timing or my agenda. It's about His and being faithful to this path He has called me to. And yes, while it may not be as literary and poetic as I wish it to be, it is what He has deemed appropriate for me, my family, and His divine plan. Besides, when I think about the horrible genocide occurring right now in Iraq and the persecuted church and poverty-stricken people all over the world, I have to ask "Is renting a house for a couple of years longer really that horrible of a trial? Really?"

2) Once I have that newly reshaped vision in sight, then the next step is the natural overflow. I must surrender. I must give God all of my plans, hopes, and ideals. I must truly and sincerely say to Him "Your will be done." As a friend prays  "Lord, let your will be done, and let us be faithful enough to accept it."

3) This leads to the most recent insight that the Lord has given me on this topic. To truly be content, I must not only accept, but embrace this journey I am on. I need to quit looking for ways to expedite His process or 'help' Him find loopholes to make it happen in my time-frame. I cannot resent the financial or familial situation that the Lord has placed me in. This is the journey that He has called me to. I need to be found faithful in it. 

I need to "...Do everything without grumbling [complaing] or arguing..." (Phillipans 2:14), whether that means out loud or internally! 

I have to purpose to seek joy in my situation. I have to choose to "....give thanks in all things..." (1Thessalonians 5:18), and I have to truly keep my perspective focused on eternity. I truly believe that living this way will lead to the spiritually abundant life promised in John 10:10. Do I want to merely accept my lot in life, or do I want to enjoy my life abundantly?

I have found that, for me, the most tangible weapon that I wield in the battle against discontent is to stop and pray for the chronically ill, hurting, dying, persecuted, starving, homeless, enslaved people scattered all over this world around me. There are literally those that live in constant fear and constant need with no hope of an end in sight. This is their life. If I take my eyes off of me and my shallow desires, and put them on Him and the mission field around me, I am much more able to count my blessings.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
As we can see by this song, penned in 1897, what I have written above is nothing new or mind-blowing. It is  a timeless struggle with a timeless answer. However, it is the fresh wake-up call that I needed, and I pray that it will encourage you in your own battle as well. 

Be brave and courageous fellow Warrior of the King! It is truly a noble, vital battle that you are fighting, and you CAN ' all things through Christ which gives [you] strength" (Phillippians 4:13) which definitely includes slaying that nagging monster of discontent!

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep on singing as the days go by

Hillary At Home

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A No-Power-Tool Needed Platform/Captain's Bed in Minutes!

Okay, so my creative Hubby wanted me to do a quick post highlighting his ingenius bed building idea. Since building this bed here, we needed to re-vamp the platform. While it was a supportive bed design, the wood rubbed and creaked on all of the different joints, which drove my sensory spouse crazy. His subsequent obsessing about the noise was enough to take me to Crazy-ville with him! We could have gotten some sort of traditional bed frame to put within the frame of our headboard and footboard (In the previous post I explain how our platform was basically free-standing and the boards and rails were purely aesthetic), but then I would have lost all of that glorious storage space underneath the heightened frame. Hmmm...

Then one day while wandering the aisles of the local home improvement store, it hit him like a ton of, well, shelves!  That's right, shelves! As in Sterlite shelves like these ones here. He took the measurements, and realized that if he put those together in a single layer formation under sheets of MDF, then it should make a great platform with storage included!  He bought two sheets of MDF and asked the store employee to cut them  into the proper dimensions for a queen sized bed. He bought two sets of the shelves, and came home with an optimistic air.

He arranged the shelves into pairs (one slab on bottom, one set of posts, and one slab on top). He arranged them in a 3x2 formation  so that I could slide my totes and boxes in from the sides.

He topped these with sheets of non-skid shelf liner before laying the MDF on top with a slight gap between (to avoid that dreaded rubbing), and then the bed skirt and mattress!  Added tip: A King-sized flat sheet is the PERFECT length for a bed this height! It touches the floor on each side exactly with no alterations needed! 


Now, just like my other bed, this one does sit higher than your average bed frame to accomodate the storage. A trade-off that is totally worthwhile in my opinion. Besides, there is just something that feels regal when you are truly "climbing into bed"! 

Because this idea can be so versatile, we've realized that it's kind of like the Lego version of bed frames! Since building this one for us, he also replaced the squeaky slat design in our son's hand-me-down captains bed by putting a single row of shelves within that frame.  We also plan to replace my daughter's regular twin bed with a shelving one to increase her storage. She doesn't have any kind of headboard or footboard, so it will be completely free standing with decorative storage totes to be her 'drawers', and I'm thinking of dressing up the shelves with decorative duct or washi tape. More on that later...

Hillary At Home