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Faithful Homesteader

Celebrating the Year of the Rooster

Faithful HomesteaderBeing a chicken mama, I thought it only fitting to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Rooster. I was excited to find that there was a large celebration in Dallas. I have never attended such an event, so I was looking forward to a new adventure.

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The festival attracted a wide variety of people both young and old. There were plenty of events for the children and many food trucks — food is always important. They had a stage with a variety of presentations, from a lion dance to a fashion show to a Tai chi and Kung Fu demonstration. I thought these were interesting, but what excited me most were the interactive classes.

I attended a Tai chi session. I do Tai chi, but this was a different style, so all the movements were new to me. I also went to a Kung Fu class. There were mostly children in the class, but that did not dissuade me. The last interactive class was a class on Qigong (pronounced chee-gong). We mostly focused on breathing. All were interesting.

I couldn’t resist getting a face painting of a rooster. I liked it so much that I kept it on for an extra day, much to my husband’s chagrin. I was reminded that, according to the Chinese zodiac, I am married to a man born in the year of the rat. Maybe this explains his attitude...

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One of the best things of the day was the chance to meet some roosters rescued from cockfighting. They all seemed so sweet. I went back to the roosters more than once. As I petted them and looked into their eyes, I just felt as if I could feel their pain. I hate to think about what those poor roosters endured. I am glad that they were rescued from such a life.

I feel bad for roosters in general since they seem to be far less wanted than hens. If I was in a different situation, I do feel like would want a rooster. They fascinate me, and they can be so beautiful.

Overall, I enjoyed the festival. It was a different experience for me. The only thing that may have made it better was if I had been able to go with somebody.

I am excited that it is the Year of the Rooster!

Aquarium to Terrarium

Faithful HomesteaderEvery winter we start our peppers and tomatoes indoors. About two months before the last expected freeze in North Texas, we start prepping our seeds. In the past, we would lay out the seeds on our dining room table and use heat lamps. This year, we have turned an old aquarium into a terrarium. I like this setup better, although we are still using our dining room table.

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We re-hydrated the tomato seeds before planting them in their temporary home.

We are growing Flamenco tomatoes and wild tomatoes. The wild tomatoes will produce even in 100-degree weather. Both types have produced well and have good flavor. We have also started Redskin and Purple bell peppers. I gave some Purple bell peppers away last year, and they were well received. For seed starting medium, we use one part potting soil, one part native soil, and one part compost.

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We put the seeds into a used, 55-gallon aquarium. These can often times be found for free on Craigslist. We put foil around three sides of it to help reflect heat and light. We put 15-watt florescent grow lights inside. I definitely like everything being contained inside the aquarium. I am less concerned about fire hazards this way; I worried before that my cat might knock things over, but now I things should be safe from her.

For now we are keeping the lights on all the time, and later we will start putting the seeds outside a little at a time to begin to acclimate the plants to the outdoors. We start out with just a couple of hours at a time and then gradually increase the time. When we are confident that there will be no more freezes, we transplant the seeds into the ground. We usually use a cover crop around them to help retain moisture. We have found that it reduces the need for watering and keeps the temperature of the soil lower.

Learning on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderIn the past, I was fairly content to just stick to my normal routine. I worked in an office; I was a couch potato and a gamer. Living a homesteading lifestyle was certainly far from my mind. However, things change, and now I am more open to trying new things and seeing learning as a great adventure.

In the past five years, I have learned about wild birds, chickens, and horses. I have learned some about gardening and various soil types. I have even planted some seeds! I can appreciate the importance of learning self-reliance; I am hungry for knowledge.

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There is so much I can learn from these books that I received from GRIT.

I read an article about dealing with stress, and it talked about having a "learner’s mindset." That phrase stuck with me. In the case of the article, it seemed to be speaking of learning from stressful situations. However, for me it is a new way of looking at my life. There is so much that I want to know.

I would like to learn sign language, Chinese, and martial arts. I think it would be great to make my own soap and lip balm. I would love to have ducks and start learning about them. I know learning is good for brain health, and I want my brain to be as healthy as possible. My mind already isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but I will continue to exercise it the best that I can.

I will continue looking for that next great adventure and learning more about the homesteading lifestyle. I only know a small fraction of what there is to learn. I am motivated, and I am always looking for something new to write about concerning my homestead journey and just life in general.

Attending My First Horse Show

Faithful HomesteaderI have been volunteering at a horse therapy ranch for around nine months, but I just now went to my first horse show. I attended the Chisholm Challenge Horse Show in Ft. Worth. It is held every year in January the week before the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. It is a horse show for equestrians with disabilities and has three days of competition. I heard it referenced as the unofficial start of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

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Seeing all of the different therapy centers represented was interesting. I didn’t know that there were so many of them — 13 in the area! I still have so much to learn, so as I was watching I often didn’t know what I was seeing. However, I know that it is a big deal for these riders and their families. It makes things worthwhile for the volunteers to see everything come together. I wasn’t there for the whole thing, but I was there long enough to see that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes and there is a lot of waiting around.

During my time there, I was grooming horses and preparing and carrying props. I did sit and watch some of the competition, but mostly stayed with the horses and other volunteers. I saw multiple stories on the news about the competition; they highlighted various riders with autism and other disabilities. It is inspiring to see people have the connections with the horses that they do, and to see them able to overcome difficulties.

When I watched the news stories, I felt a sense of pride to have played a small role in the show. It was good to see how everything comes together outside of the classes. Now I have a better idea of what the students are training for week after week. It will probably give me a different outlook when I go back to the ranch next time.

New Year on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderFor the most part, 2016 on the homestead was low-key. I am looking forward to a more interesting year in 2017. Last year, we had moderate success in the garden, but mockingbirds seemed to enjoy much of it. I hope we will enjoy more of the fruits of our labor this year.

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Our chickens survived the year. The biggest drama was when our little hen, Buster, had a prolapsed vent. I guess she was just too productive. It was a banner year for her. She has quit laying for the season, but I am nervous that she will have problems again in the spring. I sure hope not.

My husband always likes to try new gardening techniques, and I'll be sharing them once he shares them with me, no doubt. Last year we started using garden frames, and we plan to add more. Plus this year, as we start our seeds inside, he will be using a fish tank as part of the setup. Every year our dining room table becomes ground zero for the garden, and the fish tank is already partially assembled.

For the last few years we have talked about painting our house. This is the year that it needs to happen for real. I am looking for us to be more productive on the homestead in general. One priority for me is more home-cooked meals. We had way too few of them last year, so I am looking forward to more variety in our diet.

I want to continue embracing the homestead life and learning the skills of self-sufficiency. I don’t want to have to rely on someone else to provide for my basic needs. I fear so much of that is becoming lost with each new generation.

I am not so much about making resolutions, but I am always seeking to live a good and productive life. I want to be the best version of myself that I can be. I am always looking to learn new things. Last year, I started volunteering at a horse therapy ranch, and that has been a different experience. I hope that I can find something new for this year, too.

Easy Crockpot Beef Stew

Faithful HomesteaderIt is a wonderful time of year for stews. I frequently like to make beef stew in the winter. There is always a slight chill in the house since I try to save money on heating bills, however, the beef stew does help warm me up nicely!

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I am not a great cook, but I like to make simple meals that satisfy my husband and me. He is usually content with the beef stew, and it is definitely easy to make in the crockpot. I often just add carrots, onions, and potatoes, but occasionally like to add other vegetables, too.

Beef Stew Crockpot Recipe

I add everything to the crockpot in the order below and cook for eight hours on low or four hours on high.

• 2 or 4 carrots
• 2 or 3 potatoes
• 1/2 or 1 onion
• other vegetables, optional (I like green beans if I have them on hand)
• 1 package of beef stew meat
• garlic powder
• onion powder
• cumin
• paprika
• basil
• pepper
• Himalayan pink salt
• 2 to 2-1/2 cups water

I never measure my spices. I sprinkle everything on top of the meat generously. The only things that I ever really worry about using too much of is the salt and pepper. I do like a little more salt than my husband does, and I think he likes a little more pepper than I do. Towards the end, once the meat is fully cooked, I taste and add more seasoning as needed. I will also add more water along the way if it looks like it needs it.

I really prefer to buy the stew meat that is just ready to toss into the crockpot since I hate cutting up meat, but if I find good deals on small steaks I often will just cut them up and add to the stew. This beef stew is one of my favorite meals that I make. I love how easy it is to prepare and have it come out tasting good!

My Online Homesteading Community

Faithful HomesteaderIn my little, semi-rural community, I don’t know my neighbors well. Therefore, I am extra thankful for my online homesteading community. It amazes me how much they have become a part of my life. Now I can’t imagine going a day without them.

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I blog, but the only social media that I am involved with is Facebook. It seems like enough. I have connected with so many people from around the world. I love being able to share about my chicken and homesteading adventures with like-minded people. On this "Faithful Homesteader" Facebook page, I have a nice little following. I have made friends, and they are dear to me. I try to keep my page light for the most part, but when I share some of my struggles or sickness, it is sweet to see the concern from these Facebook friends. Some even pray for me. They are incredibly supportive.

I also follow a good deal of pages that are about homesteading, chickens, ducks, goats, healthy living, etc. Not all are strictly homesteading pages, but I still lump them into my wonderful community. It is great to follow adventures of people from around the world who are sharing similar passions and struggles. People share triumphs, heartbreak, and everything in between.

With all the ugliness on Facebook both before and after the election, I so appreciate this community. I need those cute animal pictures and a focus on anything but politics or other ugliness around the world. If not for these things, I might be tempted to give up Facebook.

I like learning new things and sharing recipes and gardening adventures. There are some impressive people out there. They are incredibly creative and hardworking people. There is a sense of closeness I feel with these people who are often physically so far away from me. I feel like many of them get me. That is important to me.