Saturday, January 14, 2012

I am not a pastor....

So, I have had a few questions about the name of my blog. It would seem that people think I am claiming to be a pastor and don't understand why I keep talking about agricultural stuff on a religious blog. 

So, first off, I am not a pastor. I have never been a pastor. I would not dream of pretending to be a pastor. This is not a religious blog. 

I am a spiritual person and I do have beliefs but I would not presume to spout them off to complete strangers. Religion is just not a subject to peruse if you want the conversation to stay civil, which I do. 

So why pastoral? Well, I took the liberty of looking up the definition in the dictionary in hopes that it would clear up the question a bit. 


having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas: pastoral scenery; the pastoral life.
pertaining to the country or to life in the country; rural; rustic.
portraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds or of the country, as a work of literature, artor music: pastoral poetry; a pastoral symphony.
of, pertaining to, or consisting of shepherds.
of or pertaining to a pastor or the duties of a pastor:pastoral visits to a hospital.
a poem, play, or the like, dealing with the life of shepherds,commonly in a conventional or artificial manner, or with simple rural life generally; a bucolic.
a picture or work of art representing the shepherds' life.
Music . pastorale
a treatise on the duties of a pastor.
a letter to the people from their spiritual pastor.

So, since we have established that I am not a pastor and this is not a religious blog I think that we can eliminate a few of the definitions right away. #'s 5, 9, 10, and 11 are out. Of the rest of the definitions, I think #3 is probably the closest to what this blog is. Pastoral Dreams refers to my ideal of a life I wish to lead someday. Simplicity and serenity are words that I aspire to. Country is where I wish to be someday. Right now I am just learning what I will need to know someday. I read inspirational and instructional books, work on my physical fitness, and learn traditional handmade crafting skills in preparation for the day that I will finally realize my dream. 

When that day comes, I will be ready to get started. I am sure that there will be more to learn but I will have the foundation in place for the life that I hope for. 

Love and encourage each other,

Book 2: Pioneer Woman Black Heels to Tractor Wheels Review

I finished reading my second challenge book last night. Stayed up kinda late to do it but I just could not put it down!

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels is a love story, a life story, a real story. One of my favorite things about it was that it was about real people. No perfect heroins here! She was every bit a fallible human being. Through everything she keeps her gracious manner and her humor intact. It is one of the reasons that I love reading her blog. She does not try to be perfect, she is just trying to be her.

So, I am not going to do a big review of this book beyond telling you that it was one of the best stories I have read in a long time. What I am going to do is direct you to her website and let you decide for yourself.

In other news:

  • I will have a challenge update post tomorrow. I have not been as good as I could be. However, I am working on that.  
  • The Lineman's schedule has changed and he is about to have 7 whole days off of work! I'm kinda excited about  it. :D I just need to find a video game that I can kick his butt at. (yes, I am a little competitive. Why do you ask?)
  • It is finally snowing here in Western Iowa. It makes my heart sing! Wish it was going to last. 
Love and encourage each other. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review of Challenge Book 1. Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Food Rules by Michael Pollan
I adored this book. It was a quick, easy, common sense book. I have been on so many diets that made eating so complicated but this book makes way more sense!
It starts off with a very simple rule: Eat Food.
I know, this sounds obvious right? However, most of the stuff at the typical grocery store is not, in fact, food! Mr. Pollan calls it edible foodlike substances. I love that description. If it comes in a bag or a box or a jar, chances are it is an edible foodlike substance. Not Food.
The rest of the book gives you more rules and guidelines to help you choose between real food and edible foodlike substances.
Here are a few of my favorites.
#7 Avoid Food Products Containing Ingredients That a Third-Grader Cannot Pronounce.
#15 Eat Foods Made from Ingredients That You Can Picture in Their Raw State or Growing in Nature.
     -This one had me giggling as I tried to picture the raw and natural state of a Twinkie!
#21 If It Came from a Plant, Eat It; If It Was Made in a Plant, Don't. 
#22 It's Not Food if It Arrived Through the Window of Your Car.
     - I love this rule! How many of you thought that stuff in the paper bag was food? You have been fooled!
#45 Eat All the Junk Food You Want as Long as You Cook It Yourself
     -This is one rule that I will be following! I do not have the gumption to make cookies and cakes and pies and whathaveyou every dadgum day!
#65 Give Some Thought to Where Your Food Comes From.
     - I love the idea of consciously appreciating where the food you consumed has come from. Mr. Pollan quotes a Zen blessing that I think I will be adopting myself. "This meal is the labor of countless beings, let us remember their toil." Simple yet profound wisdom. 
Which brings us to the final rule in the book:
#83 Break The Rules Once in a While.
     -I think that may be one of the most important rules in there. "Everything in moderation, including moderation." 

This book is not only rules about what to eat but also how to eat. The rules are easy and make a lot of sense. No complicated meal plans here. Just eat food.

I have had a soft spot for Michael Pollan books for years and this book did not disappoint! I highly recommend it as a light, informative read for anyone interested in a healthier way of life.

Love and encourage each other,

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thank yous

I always have the best intentions of getting thank you cards before the holidays start and writing them up and sending them out before the new year dawns. I think there is a rather frank expression regarding best of intentions.

I still plan on getting the thank you cards and getting them out but for now I will have to resort to the all time worst thank you format in my opinion. Email.

I should restate that.

I personally prefer to not send thank yous via email. In my opinion it is impersonal at best. This is not a judgement on others and please don't take it that way. It is a recent change of opinion for me. The more time I spend learning about homesteading and handmade lifestyle choices the more I want to simplify and do more by hand without the use of electronic helpers. It's not all bad, don't get me wrong. There are many great things that come from the interwebs and I have enjoyed and partaken of many of them. I just feel like I want to pull away a bit and regain a little personal communication.

So today I will finish emailing the thank yous, and when I go to the big city this week I will pick up Thank you cards to be sent to everyone that thought of me this year. It will give me a good excuse to practice my handwriting (which has become atrocious in the last few years).

Love and encourage each other,

Saturday, December 31, 2011

God bless Seed Catalogues and my New Jenn Challenges

First I would just like to say that I am in love with Seed Catalogues! Seriously! What can be better than diving into a catalogue full of possibilites! Oh the eye candy. The dreamy wonderment of new life!

But I digress.

And now, on to my New Year, New Jenn Challenges! Yay!

  1. I will read 52 books this year. Any books will do but bonus if it is farm/ homestead related! Lol. That makes one book per week for the whole year. Since I am uber busy in the summer and pretty lax in the winter I am going to try to get a few extra's under my belt during the slower months to make up for the lack of time I will have when traveling season picks up again in the spring. I have about 3 months of not much to do before then and should be able to get a fair few of my books finished in that time. Why will this challenge work: because I love to read, have lots of new books that I have been wanting to read and I love to read. This Challenge gives me just a hint of motivation to finish my books in a timely manner. 
  2. I will finish 52 projects this year. By projects I do not mean specifically sewing or knitting or crocheting or drawing or whathaveyou. My projects can be anything that I want, from easy to hard. I may learn a new dulcimer song, knit a blanket, crochet a hat, build a bird feeder, clean out my closet, make a new dog bed for the pups, whatever I want. Most of the projects that I am likely to pick will be easy enough to finish in a few sittings. I will however be doing one long project. I have been wanting to make a quilt for our camper bed since we bought it. Queen size, no frills, simple, beautiful, made by me. It will most likely take me all year to do this project as I will be working on it a bit at a time amongst the other projects. My hope is that I will finish it on New Years Eve 2012 and it will be my 52nd project. Why will this challenge work: because it caters to the fact that I have too many hobbies! If it was 52 knitting projects it would not work. I love knitting but would get bored if I HAD to do that many. This allows me to do lots of different things and work on multiple projects at one time when I have extra time. 
  3. I will learn a dozen new dulcimer songs. This one is an addendum to number two and is the only project I am putting a number too. As much as I love the dulcimer, I am afraid that I will get too bogged down in my other hobbies and my dulcimer will not get enough attention. For me, the dulcimer is a form of meditation. It is soothing to my soul. I feel it is important enough to make it more of a priority, especially during the hectic summer months. Why will this challenge work: because I can work it into my projects challenge easily and it will be a respite from the more intensive projects I am likely to pick during the winter months. 
  4. I will limit my computer time to 2 hours a day. I know this one sounds ridiculous but I tend to get very caught up in the net and this leads to neglecting other things that I enjoy doing. I am not too far from this goal and may alter it later in the year if I need to but for now 2 hours is a good limit for me. This will mean parring down my blog list, getting my news from other sources, and curing my addiction to facebook. I am not limiting tv time because I already don't watch it much. Whit and I enjoy playing Wii games together and I like to watch movies while I knit, crochet and sew. This makes limiting boob tube time pretty irrelevant at the moment. That may change in the future however.   Why will this challenge work: because I need that time to read my books and finish my projects and because I want it to. I want more simplicity and less tech. (I know, gasp!) 
  5. I will get off of my butt for at least 2 hours a day, 30 minutes of which will be intentional exercise time. Since the hotel is not keeping me moving as much during the slow months and so many of my other resolutions are non-active, I feel like it is important to make sure that I get my butt up each day. It makes me feel better and helps with my concentration during other activities. During the summer I am on the go so much that the only part of this challenge I will have to work at is the 30 minutes of intentional exercise. Why will this challenge work: because it will help me to accomplish the rest of the challenges and also give me a chance to get away from my projects a bit. 
The Lineman and I will be working together this year to relearn french. Why, because we both want to learn more languages and we both already knew french once upon a time. Starting with a familiar language seemed like the right thing to do.

I know that this seems like a lot of things to work on all at once and it is! However, it is all doable and most of it is building on habits that I already have, doing things that I already love. I spent a lot of time thinking about this over the past few weeks and I came up with this list in the end because most of the challenges work together with other challenges and all of them work toward my goals in one way or another.

Now to address something that may come up down the line. If a challenge is just not working out and I  feel too bogged down I will just drop it. I will not punish myself or feel guilty about it. The purpose of this challenge is to better myself, which is not accomplished by putting myself down when I fail. I will learn a lot of lessons this year, good and bad, from the attempt to meet my challenges head on. I will learn new things about myself. I will relearn old things about myself too. I know this going in. So I ask that my readers encourage me in my pursuits instead of berating me in my failures. If you don't like what I am doing, don't read my blog. I will not let anyone beat me up this year.

love and encourage each other,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fauna Dreams.

I have spent a considerable amount of time researching what animals I want on my homestead. I have changed my mind a dozen times or more, sometimes per day. The following decisions are only accurate as of today and do not constitute a binding decision on the part of this blog owner. With that said, here is the list of animals I would like to raise.

1. I have been back and forth about whether I wanted sheep. I have heard great things about sheep and I have heard awful things. I had all but decided to forgo sheep even though I am a knitter and would love to have my own wool, until one cool morning in early October. Right here in the hotel parking lot I got to meet some of these beautiful sheep! I was completely taken by them. I love their diminutive size, and sweet, curious demeanor. I love that they can be rooed instead of sheared. They game me a sample of the wool, which is fantastic in my non-expert opinion and a gift of a felted Soay sheep doll which has found a home in our living room. Finally, I have found my sheepish match and am looking forward to learning to spin wool from the little Soay's in my pasture!

2. One of the first things I knew for sure was that I wanted a milk cow. I have looked into several different breeds of cow and have nearly set my heart on a Dexter. I love that they are considered to be a tri- purpose breed so I can use them for milk, meat and muscle power. Due to the rareness factor of this breed I will most likely need to have a bull for breeding purposes but I am not sure what to do with him the rest of the time. Are bulls good for muscle work? Anyway, another reason that I chose this breed is because of their size (small) and the fact that I will not have so much milk that I cannot keep up. We don't need THAT much for the two of us and if some day we do need more, I would rather just get a second Dexter cow than trade my girl in for a bigger model.

3. I want a Pony! :D It is every girls dream to have a pony and I could use the muscle around the farm. This one is up in the air a bit though. I have in the past considered getting a full size horse or even a draft horse since a large part of what I want it for is work, but I also want to ride. However, I have limited experience riding horses and drafts and I am definitely not experienced enough to be riding on my own. Which brought me to the pony idea. With a pony I get a valuable farm worker of the equine persuasion without the temptation of riding. I am leaning toward a Haflinger because of it's draft animal ancestry.

4. Pork will be necessary at the homestead (if I can convince The Lineman who hates them). Both for the meat and for their ability to "clear" land. I have no idea what kind of pigs I would want. Since I would be raising spring pigs rather than breeding I could realistically try out a few different breeds to see what I liked.

5. I am also thinking about meat goats. I have never had goat meat so that would be the first thing to consider before buying them. I want to be self sufficient and goat would help to diversify our food. Since I would have plenty of meat animals I could realistically keep what we would need and sell the rest or give it to a local family in need. (this would be true of all of our surplus meats and produce) Again, would have to try before I buy as I don't want to raise an animal I am unwilling to eat.

6. Rabbits. No particular breed ideas yet  but The Lineman insists that rabbit is delicious and I am willing to try anything once. These will be tough for me as they are so cute and cuddly that having them for dinner may prove to be my undoing. We shall see. I believe in this way of life. I believe in raising animals humanely, naturally, and as organically as possible. I believe it is important to eat the food that you raise yourself. Again, we shall see.

7. And finally, ducks, geese, turkeys and chickens! This category is a must for me. I love fresh eggs from pastured birds. I have not picked breeds for this one because it's going to depend on where we settle. Different birds do better in different climates. I am so looking forward to a thanksgiving bird that I raised myself! Or roasted chicken that was still clucking that morning. Ummmm.... that's the good stuff!

Now, as I expressed at the beginning of this post, this list is by no means final. Most likely I will not be able to have all of these animals at once and that is ok. I want to do as much as I can but not to the point of having no time to enjoy the fruits of my labors. If I cannot raise it myself I will either source it local or do without. It is not that big of a problem. We will be supplementing our meat stores with wild game as well and I doubt that we will be starving! I have tried to be practical in my choices and every animal we bring onto our homestead will have multiple purposes for being there.

Except the bull.

He may cause me to rethink my cow choice entirely.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My dreams and my reality.

I have a dream.
I dream of a little self built, off grid cabin on a hill.
I dream of a red barn full of hay and tools and animals.
I dream of pasture land and a dense forest.
I dream of a handmade life.
I dream of family.
I dream of being a homesteader.

I am not there yet. There is still a long road ahead of me, but everyday the dream becomes clearer. Everyday I am just a little closer to what I seek.

We have a plan.

In the mean time. We live mostly on the road. We bought our camper so we could take home with us as we travel the country for The Linemans job. Right now we are at a pit stop. Shelby, IA is not the destination but we will be here for a few years. While we are here I am working hard and paying off our debts, building up our savings, and learning everything I can. I am making decisions, but mostly I am dreaming.

Dreaming of my forever home.