How To Make A Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner

This citrus All Purpose Cleaner is completely non-toxic and costs only pennies to make! #homemadecleaners

When my kids were babies, I would spend their nap times in the bathrooms with the vent fan running, scrubbing away and trying not to breathe the toxic fumes.  However, the day came when they no longer napped, and, even worse, they wanted to help!  I didn’t want them in the room, much less handling the chemicals in those cleaners.  So, I set out to find a better way to a cleaner home. 

Honestly, I didn’t think natural cleaners could live up to the cleaning power of chemical products.  But, for the most part, I have been pleasantly surprised.  In the cases that I do have to turn to a chemical cleaner, I simply rest in the fact that our exposure has decreased substantially.  

This citrus All Purpose Cleaner is completely non-toxic and costs only pennies to make! #homemadecleanersThe staple of a great natural cleaning arsenal is a great all purpose cleaner.  This easy-to-make cleaner combines citrus (which works as a degreaser, stain remover and freshener) and vinegar (which serves to break down mold, grease, mineral deposits and bacteria).  It’s completely safe for the kids, cheap to make, and smells amazing!  Use it to clean and deodorize sinks, stovetops, countertops, bathtubs, floors, toilets, and more. 

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Grab the printable recipe below!

How To Make Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • Glass jar
  • Orange peels (or any other citrus fruit peels)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of salt
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
Instructions
  1. Fill your glass container with orange peels. (You can save orange peels in the freezer until you have enough and are ready to make the cleaner.)
  2. Lightly coat the orange peels with salt and let them sit for at least 30 minutes. This will pull the oils from the peels for a great citrus smell and more cleaning power.
  3. Fill your container with vinegar and water. I like about half and half.
Notes
Any combination of citrus fruit peels can be used. Experiment to find a scent you love! Essential oils can also be added along with the vinegar and water.

Now that you have a cleaning product that’s safe for your little ones, check out these tips for getting your toddler to help around the house!

Do you cringe when your toddler wants to "help" you around the house? Read why you should let them help and how to deal with the messiness. #parenting #momhacks #toddlers
Are you concerned about the chemicals in your home?  Have you made any of your own cleaners?

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Easy Sausage Gravy (Plus A Freezer Recipe)

This sausage gravy is easy to make and will remind you of grandma's home cooking! Even better, the recipe gives freezer instructions for a quick, hot breakfast! #biscuitsandgravy #sausagegravy #homecooking

I love old movies!  I love getting a peek into how life might have been before we became so industrialized as a nation.  One thing that has always fascinated me is how the whole town seemed to look forward to the County Fair.  The whole family would load up their buggies with their best animals, quilts and mama’s famous pies.  The anticipation was so thick that you couldn’t help but be drawn into the excitement on the screen.  The day was full of rides, interesting sites, and sweet treats for the kids.  The ladies took their placement in the domestic arts competitions very seriously.  And, the men enjoyed a little gambling on the buggy races.  I don’t know how historically accurate those movies are, but the nostalgia of everyone taking a day away from their incredibly hard work to come together for fellowship, fun and friendly competition always puts a smile on my face.

So, this year the kids and I gathered up our creations and submitted them for display and judging at our local county fair.  The entry part was a little tedious–filling out what seemed to be 100 tags and standing in line multiple times with four kids to submit our items in the proper categories.  However, I chalk a lot of that up to lack of experience.  We’re going in with a plan next year!  And, Saturday morning, when we walked around as a family seeing our goodies on display and finding some of them with ribbons (and even cash prizes), it was totally worth it!  The kids were thrilled with their ribbons, and all have plans to come back next year with even better entries–including rabbits and chickens!

This sausage gravy is easy to make and will remind you of grandma's home cooking! Even better, the recipe gives freezer instructions for a quick, hot breakfast! #biscuitsandgravy #sausagegravy #homecooking

That morning, I also competed in the gravy cook-off and Towhead showed his eggs.  We were both happy with the results.

This sausage gravy is easy to make and will remind you of grandma's home cooking! Even better, the recipe gives freezer instructions for a quick, hot breakfast! #biscuitsandgravy #sausagegravy #homecooking

I have to admit, winning meant quite a bit to me.  More than anything, I want to be a skilled homemaker, but I grew up in a generation that didn’t really value those skills.  For years, making anything without a recipe scared me–especially gravy!  Trust me.  If you had witnessed some of my failures in my early years of marriage, you’d understand.

This sausage gravy is easy to make and will remind you of grandma's home cooking! Even better, the recipe gives freezer instructions for a quick, hot breakfast! #biscuitsandgravy #sausagegravy #homecooking

Anyway, years ago I read a newspaper article written by a Home Economics teacher.  She shared a gravy recipe that she has been teaching students for over 25 years.  There’s even an option to freeze the cooked sausage and flour, then just add milk and cook for a quick breakfast!  Nowadays, I don’t stress so much about the measurements, but the basic idea is still the same.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have.  🙂

This sausage gravy is easy to make and will remind you of grandma's home cooking! Even better, the recipe gives freezer instructions for a quick, hot breakfast! #biscuitsandgravy #sausagegravy #homecooking

Easy Sausage Gravy (Plus A Freezer Recipe)
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ½ pound sausage
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk
Instructions
  1. Brown the sausage in heavy skillet.
  2. Pour off grease and add 6 tablespoons of flour.
  3. Stir until the flour is evenly distributed.
  4. Add 3 cups milk, ½ cup at a time.
  5. Stir to make a paste, as you add the remaining milk, evenly mix the milk throughout.
  6. Cook until thickened.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Notes
To make ahead of time, brown the sausage, drain the fat and coat it with flour. It can then be frozen. Just add milk and cook until thickened.

 

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But What About The Kids? What My Kids Taught Me About Contentment.

So many times, we worry about giving our kids THINGS. Find out how my kids...yet again... taught me what was really important! #parenting #minimalism #simpleliving

Anytime we make life decisions, our kids and how they will be affected is a big consideration–as it should be. Our great escape to “the middle of nowhere” was no exception. We knew that in the long run, moving to the country would give our kids amazing childhood memories and help them learn responsibility sooner. However, from our perspective they had a much more comfortable life in our city house. They had their rooms, a playroom, the oversized backyard jungle gym, their friends, their video games, a neighborhood pool, frequent trips to restaurants and other fun kid places, and way too many toys. Even though we tried to enjoy the simple things in life, we were the typical overindulged American family. And, honestly, we still are. But, we’re getting better…

As parents, we worry about giving our kids the latest and greatest of everything. But, our kids have a completely different perspective! Learn what my kids taught me about contentment. #parenting #minimalism #simpleliving

Our move into the garage-house required them to share sleeping areas. Many of their toys have been put into storage. There is no playroom. We often trip over each other. We wait for our turn in the one bathtub, and taking a long, hot shower is a treat. We limit our trips to restaurants and other entertainment. There is no jungle gym. Seeing friends, or anyone for that matter, requires planning.

 

Like any momma, I worried that they would have trouble with the adjustment and miss the things they previously had. I was concerned that going from spending their days in decorated rooms and landscaped yards to a living space designed with functionality in mind would be too much. I fretted about them feeling isolated or bored, especially since we were ditching video games and most t.v.  I wondered if they would grow up deprived because we wouldn’t have time for all of those cool crafts in my “For The Kids” folder on Pinterest.

Despite any misgivings, inside we knew that this would be the best move for our family. I figured that we would survive our temporary arrangements–sacrificing now so that we could have so much more later. But, how well do kids grasp the concept of delayed gratification? A month is forever in a young child’s mind. Can we help them keep their eye on the prize for months… Or even years? Those were the things running through my head–yet again–on that fateful day when we walked away from our old home for the last time, then again as I assembled our beds and lined them up along our South wall in the garage-house.

But, the next morning, as the sun roused me from my semi-conscious state, I awoke to giggles… Then all out laughing. I looked over at my oldest child, who was stretched across his bed, gazing across the prairie to the adjoining ranch and asked what was so funny. “Cows.” he responded, “There are cows out there.” And, for millionth time in my kids’ short lives, they taught me something… PERSPECTIVE.

Happiness has little to do with our circumstances, and everything to do with us. <Tweet that!

 

We know this intellectually, but our kids live it. Because, where I see a tight living space, they see togetherness. Where I see land that needs landscaping, they see hours in the dirt–or mud–with their favorite dump trucks. Where I see no video games, they see a life-sized Angry Bird game made from a leftover lumber tower, pvc pipe and bungie cord slingshot, and $1 grocery store balls. Where I see the loss of a neighborhood pool, the see a water trough and a garden hose. Where I see the loss of their own rooms, they see the opportunity to chat and giggle late into the night. Where I see no jungle gym, they see a great climbing tree with the perfect branch for a tire swing. Where I see fewer trips to the restaurant, they see more time to play. Where I see less time with friends, they see each other…

Have your kids surprised you with their reaction to a major life change?  When was the last time you took slowed down and enjoyed life through your kids’ eyes?

My kids have taught me so much.  Here’s what I learned the day I found them making Bucket Lists and why I think every kids needs one.

goal setting for kids

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Garden Planning

planning the garden

planning the gardenWhen I was planning out the year for The Great Homesteading Challenge, I struggled with when to do the gardening challenge.  After all, between starting seeds, preparing beds, sowing seeds, weeding, watering, harvesting, preserving the harvest, saving seeds, and research, gardening is always a part of the homesteading life in one way or another.  Also, admittedly, gardening is definitely not one of my strong points.  It took me three years of failing before we had a decent harvest.  (However, I never claimed to be an expert.  🙂  I created this challenge so we could all learn together!  If you would like to join us, subscribe to the blog in the left sidebar.  We’d love to have you!)

 

One thing I contribute my failures to is lack of planning.  My garden plan in years past consisted of browsing through the plants when they showed up in the spring at Atwoods and throwing whatever looked good into my cart.  If I could find an elderly lady to stalk for a few rounds and copy her purchases, even better! 

When I got home, I planted stuff wherever it looked good, with the exception of putting the onions closest to the chicken pen.  I knew that the chickens didn’t like onions.  So, hopefully, if they got through the fence, they would come across the onions first, figure there wasn’t anything they were interested in there, and leave the rest of my garden alone.  I’m not kidding!  Therefore, this year, I am working on a garden plan early… or, probably, on time.  This gives me time to study, change my mind a few times, and start some stuff from seed.  After all, if I want to be more self-sufficient and save money, buying plants is not the way to go. 

garden plan

 

 

Last week, for the challenge, we started on a rough sketch of our garden.  I also started an Our Life Out Here Pinterest page to share some of the many great gardening posts that are out there.  This week, I want to share a few more resources to help with our garden planning.  If you’re like me, I’m sure you’re still sketching and re-sketching as you learn.  Take some time to check these out.  I think you’ll find them helpful!

 

 

Things I’m printing for my homesteading notebook:

If weather permits, this is a great time to start preparing your garden plot:

And, last, but not least, if you plan on starting seeds indoors, get those seeds and start gathering containers to plant them in.  I am going to experiment with starting seeds in egg shells, toilet paper rolls, and a windowsill planter.  Save your eggshells and tp rolls.  🙂

Shared on:  Homestead Barn Hop, Green Thumb Thursday

Why Are There Snakes On The Fence?

Snake impaled on barbed wire fence

Snake impaled on barbed wire fenceA few weeks ago, we were walking the fence along the back corner of our property when we saw the strangest thing.  There was something hanging on the fence.  Actually, there were several somethings.  Ribbon? Pieces of feed sacks?  No… Snakes!  Small, dried out snakes!  There were SNAKES hanging on the fence!

Somehow, they had been hung on barbs on the fence and left to dry.  Once we got past the obvious creepiness factor, we started trying to figure out how on earth they got there.  They were at the back of the property, far from the road, on a fence shared with our single farmer neighbor.  It was seriously doubtful that he made time in his busy day to catch garden snakes and impale them on the fence.  Were hawks accidentally dropping them, and they met their fate on the barb of a fence?  If so, how were there eight of them within 20 feet of each other?  Could coyotes put them there?  Why?  Thankfully, a quick Google search solved the mystery.

Loggerhead shrike impales snakes on barbed wire

Photo credit: www.birdsofoklahoma.net

 

 

It was likely the work of the Loggerhead Shrike!  This cute little guy lacks talons, so it catches it’s prey and impales it on thorns or barbed wire.  Crazy, right?

 

 

 

A few days later, I was thinking about the snakes hanging on the fence.  They didn’t get there on their own.  They don’t belong there.  Sometimes I feel that way.  I look around at everything I have and am, and I wonder how I got here–4 kids, a house (albeit a garage), cars, a barn, land…  Do I belong here? 

Fence snake mystery

 

Sometimes I feel like the awkward teenager trying to do life perfectly, not understanding that the pursuit of the perfect life is futile and will only ruin any chance I have of living a great life.  Sure, I want to do my best to live a life in service to God, be a great wife, love my kids well (which is much more than simply making them happy), and do work that matters.  But, pursuing perfection will either paralyze me with fear or prevent me from ever having authentic, meaningful relationships. 

 

No, like the snakes, I did not get here on my own.  I have been blessed by God with so much.  Without Him in my life, I would have surely done something so dumb by now that I would have lost it all. However, I DO belong here.  God has chosen ME for this life…  For THIS time and THIS place.  For this marriage.  For these kids.  Even for this little square on the map, to care for this land and these animals.  Like Esther, I will proclaim that I was born for such a time as this.  I will not doubt my place here, but will do the hard work and face the hard things.  Because, yes, somebody did put me here–the God of the universe that set this whole world in motion carved out this place and chose me.

Shared on:  HomeAcre Hop, Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

January Happenings, Homemade Cleaners, and Bloopers

labels for homemade cleaners

labels for homemade cleanersBelieve it or not, 2015 is already 1/12th over!  Around here, that is super exciting news since it means we are getting closer to SPRING!  And, spring means new babies (of the chicken variety) and gardening!  For those participating in the Homesteading Challenge, we have made several new homemade cleaners and started a homesteading journal!

So, today I wanted to take a few minutes to recap our adventures and catch up on anything that we may have missed.  We’ve made an all-purpose citrus cleaner, liquid laundry detergent, no grate powdered laundry detergent, wool dryer balls, and re-labeled recycled containers.  For my subscribers, make sure you check your e-mail for printable labels for your homemade cleaners and journal, as well as printable homemade cleaner recipes for your homesteading journal.  If you’re not a subscriber, it’s not too late!  Subscribe in the left sidebar for the free printables!

We also launched the Our Life Out Here You Tube Channel.  It’s been an adventure of it’s own, and I want to thank my friends, family, readers, and viewers for all of your support!  It’s meant the world to me, and I am truly humbled that you would take part of your day to read or watch the musings of this simple Oklahoma girl.  So, I put together this little blooper video to say “Thank you!”

In February, we will be planning and dreaming about our gardens, preparing our soil, and starting seeds indoors.  We can’t wait to get started and hope you come along for the ride!

Homesteading Lifestyle-You Think I Oughta Move?

homesteading

homesteadingWhen people find out about our homesteading lifestyle, I’ve learned that their reaction falls into one of three categories.

The first is my fellow homesteaders.  Upon meeting, we will form instant comradery.  The conversation will start innocently enough–listing off what animals we have and what we plan to get next.  Then, before we know it, we’re discussing abnormal chicken droppings, breeding, and butchering techniques with someone we’ve known less than five minutes.  At this point, part of the group will leave and others will quickly start a side conversation about…well…anything that doesn’t involve the breeding habits of rabbits. 

Reactions when people learn we homesteadThe few that remain in the conversation make up the second group.  They may not homestead, or even have any animals, but they are interested in learning about the lifestyle and where their food comes from.  Us homesteaders love having them in the conversation because, for us, the only thing more fun than homesteading is teaching people about homesteading.  Besides, when you’re constantly realizing how much you don’t know, it’s nice when someone asks you a question that you CAN answer.

Lastly, you will undoubtedly have someone ask why you would want to do all of that extra work when you could just go to the store and buy food and soap… Or why on earth you would want to live out in the middle of nowhere so far from grocery stores and malls… Or why you would want to spend your days covered in hay and manure… That conversation usually goes something like this:

Shared on: Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

2014 In Review

bucket list blogging

bucket list bloggingToday I went out to the barn and drug in the Christmas tree box so that tomorrow when the temperature drops to single digits, I can stay inside packing everything away… Well, except for when I’m outside busting ice.   :-/  Packing away the Christmas decorations always gives me a feeling of closure.  The previous year, with all of it’s triumphs and trials, is gone forever.  The dreaming, planning, resolutions and goals are in place.  And, the pursuit of those goals has already thrown a few challenges my way, putting them at risk of becoming another New Year’s Resolution statistic.

As I look back on 2014, it was basically a year of maintenance and waiting around the homestead–saving just a little more money to build our dream home, improving our pens and shelters for our existing animals, making our garage-house more livable, cleaning out our storage container.  Honestly, I was getting a little too apathetic and comfortable with where we were…  Enter an e-mail invitation looking for adventure seekers.  I signed up for the challenge and two days later I was on a 30 day quest to define and take action towards my goals. 

It was a crazy month!  I rolled out of bed hours before the kids so I could work.  I stayed up late.  I accomplished so much that the next month, I launched this blog!  Blogging is something that had been on my mind for years, but I had too many things holding me back.  I secretly wrote my blog post in hopes that someday somebody might read them.  Then, Day 13 of Challenge Month 2, I was supposed to “do that thing that scared me”.  So, I closed my eyes, posted a link on my personal Facebook page and invited my friends to join me.  I had high hopes of getting 100 likes in 2014. 

I was humbled by the response.  That goal of 100 likes was surpassed within a few days.  We closed out 2015 with over 500 Facebook likes and almost 3,500 page views!  Now I realize that in the blogging world, those numbers are considered NOTHING-BURGER.  Thousands of blogs get that kind of traffic in a day.  But, I don’t see it that way.  It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers, but every number represents a person… A person who gave part of their most important commodity–their time, a piece of their day.  A person who has work, and kids to pick up, and a house to clean, and little league games to attend, and deadlines to meet, and a million other things to do, but they cared enough to stop and take a look into our lives–to celebrate our successes, to mourn our losses, to laugh at our antics, to share our story with others and even to share a piece of their lives with us by commenting on blog and Facebook posts.  What a blessing!  Thank you!

So, as we charge into 2015, can I encourage you to do that thing that scares you?  Find your tribe–your group that will cheer you on as you run to the finish line, pick you up when you fall, and give you a good, swift kick in the pants when you need it.  There are online communities for every goal out there.  If your goal includes homesteading, homemaking, or self-sufficiency, we can help.  Join our homesteading challenge.  If not, find a community that is aligned with your goals.  Either way, if you need encouragement, you know where to find me.

Much Love,

Mandi

 

The Great Homesteading Challenge

Homesteading Challenge

Homesteading Challenge

Happy New Year Friends!!!  2014 was a great year for us as we ventured into un-charted (for us) waters.

I hope your year was wonderful also, but even if it wasn’t, that’s the beauty of a new year.  It gives us a chance to step back, reflect, plan, and forge ahead with a clean slate!  I know for me I’ve suffered from a little thing called “analysis paralysis”.  I’ve spent many hours researching and planning, but have rarely taken the next step of actually implementing the things I was studying.  For that reason, my word for 2015 is ACTION, and that is my reason for creating THE GREAT HOMESTEADING CHALLENGE of 2015!  I introduced this challenge in a previous post, then spend an undisclosed amount of time looking for information on how to create a challenge group.  😉  It turns out, I didn’t find a ton of information, so, guess what, I’m going to take ACTION with what I know!

The best way to get involved is to subscribe to our blog.  Subscribing simply means that you can provide your e-mail over on the right, and you will get notified when new content is on the blog.  You will only get notified if there is new content, and I promise I will never take advantage of, sale, or laugh at your e-mail address.  🙂  If you subscribe, you will get an additional monthly e-mail outlining the projects for the month and a shopping list.  Also, as part of my challenge, I will be creating a notebook with recipes, information and spreadsheets for the various challenges.  After all, information on “how to survive a long term electrical outage” won’t do much good if it’s all on my Pinterest account.  Subscribers will also receive links to all notebook pages I create throughout the year.  If you choose not to subscribe, we still love you!  You will have access to all how-to videos/instructions on the blog–just make sure you pop in and check for new content!

Soooo… Without further ado, here are monthly topics for the year!  We look forward to learning together!  Let’s make 2015 amazing!

January: Homemade cleaners. We will be making laundry detergent, soap, all purpose cleaners, etc. The goal is to reduce the amount of chemicals in our home and save money.

February: Gardening. It’s still cold here on the homestead, but it’s a great time to plan and get a head start on a great spring garden.

March and April: Frugality. Tips and tricks to get out of debt and stay out of debt, even while building a homestead.

May: Chickens. Chickens are a great way to get into livestock. They are relatively inexpensive, provide both meat and eggs, and are tons of fun! They are even allowed in many municipalities and backyard chicken keeping is on the rise as more and more people become interested in knowing where their food comes from.

June: Preparedness I. We’re not talking in a crazy prepper way, but when you live 30 minutes from the nearest urgent care and electrical outages could last for weeks, basic first aid and food storage is a must!

July: Food Preservation. Now that the garden is producing, it’s time to harvest and store some of those yummy veggies for the cold winter ahead!

August: Preparedness II. Preparedness is such a broad topic that we can’t possibly cover it all in one month.

September: Winter Prep. Winter’s coming! It’s time to get the garden, animals and buildings ready!

October: Replacing the Grocery Store. It’s amazing how easy it is to make many of the things that we buy at the grocery store weekly!

November: Skin Care/Beauty Products. Now that we’ve reduced the chemicals used our home, let’s reduce those that we use on our body, too.

December: Year In Review/Planning. What worked? What didn’t work? Let’s use what we learned to plan for an even BETTER 2016!

What We Do For Fun

As I mentioned the other day, I am reading “The Unwired Mom” by Sallie Mae.  It has given me practical tools to participate in social media without getting sucked down the internet “rabbit hole”.  I just wanted to show you the result of a basically unplugged Sunday afternoon in our house.

So, if you want to spend less time staring into a computer screen (or phone) and more time dancing with chickens (or whatever you do for fun), I highly recommend picking up a copy of “The Unwired Mom”.  😀

Disclosure: The FTC requires me to tell you that I have included affiliate links in this post. This means that I will receive a commission for all bundles purchased through my site.  Even though it is not required by the FTC, I feel a moral obligation to warn you that the money will probably be used to buy more chickens.  However, no matter how badly I want more chickens, I would never recommend to you a product that I would not purchase myself.  Read the fine print about this bundle and read the answers to frequently asked questions about the bundle.