Monday, December 12, 2011

Get Tested!

  Oh for the love of soil! Soil can be complex, as I have found. Back in our home state of Minnesota the soil is awesome.  Black, rich earth everywhere you step.  I never remember my mother adding anything to the soil before planting her flowers.  Just seed, weed and feed. Now all the American History lessons from grade school make sense as to why people were moving West.
  Living in Georgia has me longing for the black dirt back home!  There is not much you can grow in red clay and sand.  Not to mention acid level in the soil due to our lovely Georgia pines.  Fulfilling my dream of growing our own food was going to mean some dirty work for me.
  On the suggestion of all the gardening books I read I had our soil tested. I found a link on how to soil test in GA:  In the link is suggests mailing in your soil sample for $15 dollars.  I am a cheap skate so I took my sample down to the Richmond County Extension Office for $8 dollars (602 Green St, Augusta GA if someone is trying to find it).  Within two weeks they emailed the results to me.  All the nutrients (nitrogen-N, phosphorus-P, and potassium-K) came back good, but soil quality obviously had too much clay for good drainage.  So what's a girl to do?  Take a trip to Lowes!  They sell composted manure and top soil by the square foot for about $1.40 a bag.  We started a compost pile for next year which will eliminate the cost of buying soil, but in a pinch it's a fairly cheap solution to ensure better growing results.
  For example, during our first year in GA I attempted to grow tomatoes in just composted manure.  Not a great idea.  The plants soon became lush and green and were climbing all over.  However, they only produced a handful of tomatoes.  After reading up on soil I realized I had given the plants too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorus and all of my hard work was out the window. I should have used top soil and added compost to balance the ratio.  Once again, I can finally apply schoolhouse learning to real life - ratios and elements from the periodic table!  Things which I thought I would never need, took 15 years past graduation in order for the knowledge to become applicable.
  So, read up on your area.  Find your County Extension Office, they will have a plethora of knowledge for free.  I will post a list of books I have an on going love affair with which have been helpful.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Socialization- I hate this question!

We have chosen to home school our children. There are many reasons we made the decision. My oldest son who is 6, Anders, has a hyper activity problem. He is fantastically smart, reading at almost a 6th grade level in kindergarten, but can be distracted and needs constant redirection, something a teacher with 30 other students might not be able to give him. Second, we are Christians. I want my son to know Jesus Christ. This does not mean he will not learn about other religions and have a closed world view. We openly talk about Islam, Buddhism and Judaism frequently. I want my children to know true hope and faith, but in a country that tries to take faith out of every part of society I've realized it's up to me to instill it into my children. And yet how can I teach my children good morals, values and our Faith if they are essentially being raised by their peers and a teacher for 9 hours out of the day?
Ironically, when I tell someone we home school our children they only ever ask 1 question, "What about socialization?" Seriously! This is what our culture is worried about? Shouldn't it be, "What about academics? How about choice in curriculum?" Maybe that is one of the reasons so many children are failing in our schools- too much pressure in socialization and no one caring about their academics! Just a thought. It's statistically proven that children who are home schooled are at minimum 25% smarter, do better on tests and graduate earlier than those who attend public school. They get to work at their own pace and learn in subjects that interest them. Why not give kids a reason to like learning?
 I'm not saying home schooling is perfect either. They get out of it what you put into it as a parent. It takes work.When I started thinking about home schooling I went through many books and it all seemed Greek to me. This is what we have done thus far: last summer I pick up a copy of A Well Trained Mind a guide to classical learning. We worked through the suggestions in the book and every Sunday night I would take 30 mins and write out what we would be working on for the week. It was great having the freedom to ask Anders, "So, what do you want to learn about today?" We made frequent trips to the library and chose subjects and books. If we couldn't find one he really wanted, we would order it on and wait. Everything was working out well, but I doubted myself and how much work I was giving him. He would get through every subject in 2-3 hours. What do we do with the rest of the day? On a friends suggestion we signed up for, an online public school. They sent out all of his books, science experiments, a computer and even a printer! And best of all- it was free! Everyday he logs on and works through each subject and then does book work. He has a teacher besides me who interacts with him 3 times a week in an open forum with other kids. It still only takes him 2-3 hours to complete all of his work, the same amount of work he would be getting in a public school. The free time lets him learn more things he is interested in like piano, Latin and of course ultimate lego building. Although I love k12 and recommend it for someone nervous about home schooling, I like to call it home schooling with training wheels, I am not sure if we will use k12 next year or if we will switch to a Christian curriculum. I've heard great things about A Beka curriculum, all of the Christian private schools use it here. Why not give my children a private school education for a fifth of the price? If you have questions about home schooling I would love to help, drop me a line!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trash Talk

So let's talk trash. I recently had an eye opening experience regarding our families weekly trash. We cancelled our garbage pick up. Nick thought it would be a good idea to save the $30 dollars a month since the landfill is on his way to work. I was all for saving some change, but have you ever kept every piece of trash you generate for a week out where you can seen it? (For us it was in our garage.) Let alone trash for 5 people?
 I quickly realized we needed to do something about how many bags we were throwing away. The first week we had about 8 bags. By the second week we had 3. I started saving just about anything made of plastic and reusing them as grow pots for plants in our mini green house. (We do not have a recycling pick up, although I have been told we have a recycling program I have yet to see it in action.) And we also cloth diaper most of the time to cut down on our waste and save money.
What I am most flabbergasted about is what people consider trash! Driving our trash to the dump gives me perspective on what is really happening. At first the sight of "rolling hills" as you pull in can be lovely, until you realized those beautiful hill are peoples buried crap. Looking into the dump truck we fling our bags into is almost painful. A leather sofa, a couple of antique chairs, loads of lumber, and at least 15 lead glass windows. All things I would gladly have reused and re-purposed. Just sad. What more can I say? Please use and to re-purpose large "trash" items. Trash does not just disappear, it goes somewhere and stays there until only God knows when. Try keeping your trash for a week and see what you can reuse, you might be surprised.
Egg cartons for growing seedlings, or making caterpillars for kids crafts
plastic milk, juice or soda bottles can be bird feeders, planters and scoops for pet feed
used old shirts, towels for rags and don't use paper towels
and of course save the seeds from your fruits and veggies!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Break Up

I'm breaking up with our culture (as I know it).  "Bigger is better," and always searching for more.  Better TVs's, DVD, blue-ray, iPod and whatever phone is latest and greatest and does more (too bad it cannot fold my 9 loads of laundry)!  Clothing labels, Oprah and the mantra of "me time," fake nails and hair, driving a car to define my success in life and flaunting my insecurities instead.  The bottom line is:  I have bought into it all my life and I am exhausted.

Ironically, while accumulating more I crave less. So less can be more!  I want simplicity all the while making my life constipated with more.  I know I can't live a life simply while still going by cultural standards of easy and convenient.  We are breaking up.  I'm going back to the basics.

The purpose of this blog is to showcase, if you will, our journey into a homestead lifestyle.  Back to basics. Asking questions such as "where does this come from," "why is it done this way," "is there a better way," and "how was it done before in history?"  All questions that have lead me to where we are today.  1 simple acre in Georgia.