Living in close quarters


Six months in, and I’m beginning to sense that my “winter sabbath” is going to need to be much longer. I’m trying to rest and regain my bearings, but it has been hard. Here are my most difficult challenges thus far. Feel free to skip the downers if you’d like!


DOWNER: It’s a bit lonesome. It’s not that I’m seeing any of my friends less, but because we moved a good 45 minutes away it takes more effort to “just” meet anyone for coffee. Or even to go *get* a coffee. I’m missing the last-minute get-togethers and the on-the-fly multi-family pizza suppers. I’m not currently running a book club and no one else is either. It feels like I’ve left the party and no one remembers me.


UPSIDE: My house is full of people! We’re connecting with one another more with board games and have been doing an evening family Bible time since September. I’m missing my friends but growing closer to my family. And my snail mail writing has picked up, connecting with friends who’d rather send a letter than communicate online.


DOWNER: It’s cold. Gone is the thermostat to maintain whatever comfortable temperature I want at all hours. The floors are cold. The walls are cold. The windows are cold.


UPSIDE: We’ve learned to use a woodstove and once it’s going, it feels wonderful in here. I’m not sure if it’s the wood-heat, but it feels so much nicer than electric. We’ll be looking into a better woodstove so that we can bank the fire (new terminology!) and make it easy to restart. Once the siding gets replaced on the north wall, that will help the cold walls, and the floors simply need rugs. Slippers help too! Windows are on the “to be replaced” list.


DOWNER: It’s dirty. There is dirt on the floor all.the.time. I can’t even figure out why…it is more people in less space? Is it blowing through the non-insulated (but looking-very-pretty) walls? It is a constant battle to keep it swept. Constant.


UPSIDE: We can sweep! It is a great blessing not to have carpets. Rugs we can shake out. Floors we can sweep. And when the floor is swept, I *know* it’s clean. Carpets, not so much…lots of dirt can bury into those fibers. I’m not sure I’ll be replacing my dying vacuum cleaner. And, with so many people here, we all work together to keep our house clean. Many hands, light work.


DOWNER: My kitchen is too small. As in, way. I appreciate the blogs and photos of people cooking and even writing cookbooks from their galley kitchens, but I now have ten people and only a teeny bit of counterspace. It’s a challenge to find places to sourdough or otherwise ferment anything. Plus our range doesn’t work well, and the fridge has its own issues as well.


UPSIDE: I can make this room bigger. I can move things around, build new countertops and replace appliances as the budget allows. It’s just going to take some time and a bit of out-of-the-box thinking. I’ve hired a kitchen designer, and though that’s not cheap when you have to add travel costs to the boonies, I figured it was cheaper than making expensive mistakes when it comes to remodeling. Although…she hasn’t contacted me for a month, so maybe she doesn’t want to make the drive. Maybe it will be just me making tons of mistakes. And blogging about it…because bad stuff happening makes for good storytelling, right? Meanwhile, I’m using stools and chairs for additional counterspaces, and we’re just making it work. We’re eating :)


So, yes, our new downsized home is very pretty and has a lot of potential. But it’s living in the messy middle of what is and what it could be that can be a downer. It’s good to remember the upsides.




We’ve owned our Maremma Sheepdog since he was a puppy, born 5 1/2 years ago. He has been a good dog, and a worthy investment for our family. Today he got into a rather loud and angry fight with two dogs that ignored his warnings to stay off our property. The dogs’ owner lazily biked by, calling for them above the din. I watched as they ran off, my dog nipping further at their heels. I guess I half expected a limp apology but the owner calmly agreed with me, maintaining his peddle, when I told him my dog was “just doing his job.”


Thankfully, my maremma wasn’t hurt. I gave him handfuls of treats and lots of love, “that’s a good boy.”


Raising a livestock guardian dog is not easy. It’s not like you can just bring a puppy home, and suddenly he knows your rules and what he’s supposed to guard and do. If anything, because he has a guarding instinct, you have to pay attention and take the time and care to train him further. Otherwise, he may just decide that your goat (or child or cow or whatever) is his ultimate responsibility and will fight to the death anyone that dares to approach said goat (or child or cow or whatever).


Before we picked up our dog, I took great pains to read up on the breed and chatted with the farmers raising these dogs. I even joined the yahoo group specific to his breed, and eavesdropped. Livestock guardian dogs are not for everyone. They are very possessive and like to make up their own minds. This is a great benefit when you want that guarding ability, because you’re not always around to tell him what to do. In fact, he will balk if you tell him what to do. These dogs don’t want an “owner”. They want a “partner”. And they don’t need (or want)  your lovey-dovey-kissy-smoochie talk either. What they want–and will demand, if they don’t get it easily–is your respect.


Respect is a two-way street, of course. I taught my puppy to respect ME first. I used (and highly recommend) Leerburg’s dog training videos. Not everything was applicable, but I learned a great deal and used much of it. Everything my dog failed to learn (where to poop, not to jump up on people as a puppy, etc) was my fault and lack of follow through. But he learned to respect me, and to this day I can–if I wanted to–reach under his nose and take his supper dish away while he’s eating.


Any dog, especially a livestock guardian dog, needs to know where the boundaries lie. My dog had to earn the right to be off a lead, and we took many, many walks around the perimeter of his jurisdiction. We put up, and still use, an electric invisible fence, mainly because the cost of fencing for five acres was beyond our budget and then some. But, again, you can’t just put up an electric fence and go about your way. The dog needs to be trained to it.


Livestock guardian dogs need to be socialized to many people, too. They need to know that when strangers come onto the property, YOU can tell that dog that “it’s all right” and the dog will leave ‘em be. Sometimes I think my dog would cheerfully greet any stranger, but I also know that he can read “something’s wrong here” very well. When he was a young dog, I made the mistake of trying to have my neighbor feed him so we could take a vacation. I made many mistakes there that led to her getting a nip (thankfully, she was understanding).


What were the mistakes? First, my young dog was still in training and still highly sensitive to wanting to guard anything. So, because he was in the barn with the goats at the time, his (wrong) understanding was that any person approaching was suspect. Second, my neighbor had his food in hand–highly unusual. And, third, she admitted she didn’t like big dogs and was a bit nervous–which of course, all led to my dog’s reading “something’s wrong here”. What *I* failed to do was read the situation from HIS eyes.


So, be prepared to spend time training your dog. If you don’t want to put in the time, then please get a breed that is much more easy-going. I don’t know what, maybe a lab or some such. Although…our lab helped to train our maremma how to chase off coyotes, black bears, and bald eagles, so maybe you can teach other breeds of dogs new tricks.


Also, you need to know that in our culture of treating dogs like….I dunno….royalty? humans with their own bill of rights?…some folks can be downright….um…clueless…about how to act around a strange dog, much less a livestock guardian. I had one person march right up to my big white dog, while he was in the goat pen, ignored his (and my) warning, and grabbed his face with both hands to give him a smoochy-smoochy-poochie kiss. Of course he snarled at that person who then went on to decry what a dangerous dog I had. Another stranger tried grabbing his collar to discipline him as he was sniffing the man’s calves and waiting for me to tell him “it’s good, shove off”. And then there is the bicyclist who didn’t seem to understand that my dog could have ripped off his own dog’s heads if he had wanted to. Thankfully, my dog doesn’t “want to” really harm anyone; even strangers (with me) are able to pat him if they are so inclined. But, sometimes, “dog lovers” are the most dangerous people to approach such a dog. You’ve got to really know your dog and decide whether he’s better off staying within the livestock pen, or if he’s safe enough to have run of the property where other people may come and go.


Again, owning a livestock guardian dog is not for everyone. Know that owning one has its challenges, but if you can train him up and give him the respect he needs while doing so, he will faithfully and loyally watch over you, your family and your livestock. And yes, he’ll even roll over for you to rub his belly. Want more information? I found this book very helpful (although at the time I was *stuck* with the last puppy available and didn’t get to compare him to his siblings as the book suggests). Find whatever breed’s association internet page, and connect with breeders and owners to ask questions of. Yahoo groups are another good place to look. Ultimately, a good breeder will interview YOU and make sure you are well prepared for this kind of dog…and take the dog back if you cannot work with him.


Have you ever considered owning a livestock guardian dog? Or do you already have one and can relate?


“I Need to Go to the Store”

January 21, 2014

I say those words far, far too often. In my case, it’s about twice a week, which may or may not sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me. But for as many years as I’ve worked towards decreasing my dependence on the supermarket, here I still am. I find it not only […]

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On Goal(s) Setting

January 4, 2014

Isaiah 52:12   For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.  I love the beginning of a new year much as I love Mondays. Fresh starts. New days. Hope. In setting goals for the day or week or month […]

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If There’s an Empty Barn, Rejoice

November 11, 2013

Habakkuk 3:17-18   Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God […]

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Longing for Your Dream? Practice.

November 7, 2013

I’ve been thinking, that in my quest to live a quiet(er) life, too often I think of my YiaYia and the little two room house she lived in, as if turning Waldonesque would center my heart.  I realize, logically, that this is not so, that discontent is not easily assuaged by change in circumstance or […]

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What to Do While Floundering

August 6, 2013

Or not.  This is what *I’ve* been doing.   Ever since we tried to sell our house and then took it off the dumpy market, I’ve been turning it all upside down and redecorating, repainting, replanting, re-re-re-thinking about how to make the house I was (and still am, in a sense) ready to walk away […]

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You Don’t Have to DI(all)Y

May 31, 2013

Acts 9:6  …Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?     It was a little too much for me, this small little post I came across.  It endeavored to teach me how to make *something* in my kitchen from scratch.  Now, I’m not even going to say what *it* was because probably someone in these parts […]

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How to Build Awareness

May 10, 2013

I was talking with some friends yesterday about how our drive for getting things *done* sometimes makes our awareness of needs–and blessings–in front of us sorely lacking.  The problem is that as often as we push past cultivating awareness of our surroundings (and the people in them), that God-given sense of ours becomes dull.  Really, […]

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Living the Forgotten Way Lifestyle

December 3, 2012

Podcast: Play in new window | Download   Daniel and Abby Jo are joining us to share their off-grid experiences with living the Forgotten Way.  You’re sure to enjoy their story!     Daniel and Abby Jo are no longer blogging, but you can still find their website here.   The Grandpa Jakes Campfire Cooker […]

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Basic Herbs in My Home

November 15, 2012

It’s that time of year when harvest is closed and the dark and cold outside foster rejuvenation of mind and body.  It’s a time to find quiet, catch up on reading, pick up the knitting needles (or scrapbooking…or whatever…) again and take advantage of more hours to sleep.  For me, it’s also a time to […]

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November 11, 2012

My YaYa, brother and I bringing bread to the oven. We crawled up the mountain on gravel roads for hours, slowly snaking up in the midst of dirt and brush and the odd dilapidated auto meeting us on the downhill.  The passage was narrow and guardrails would have been pointless anyway.  I remember the crunch […]

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The Reality of Living Off the Grid

September 21, 2012

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Meet my off-grid friend! Bugging out to live off the grid sounds very intriguing, especially in our current economy with our need to simplify and downsize.  But what is it really like?  Listen in on the conversation I had with a young mother, telling me a bit of […]

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Busy, Busy, Dreadfully Busy…

September 13, 2012

Aren’t we all?   I dislike being so busy.  You know, I haven’t worn a watch in at least 15 years, so maybe it’s time to chuck the calendar as well because I can’t seem to just have a week with nothing on it.  Oh, it’s not full of bad things at all, and much […]

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Post-Due Date Waiting

April 28, 2012

Well, here I still am, now six days after my “due date” for baby number seven.  It’s nothing new to me, this waiting for a “late” baby to show up; in fact, baby number five decided to wait a whopping 18 days (and he packed on the pounds to prove it, at 10lb 15oz).  The […]

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Raising (and Butchering!) Your Own Meat Animals

April 11, 2012

Ever think about raising and butchering your own meat animals? Join me as I interview my friend Sonja to hear her experiences and advice. Warning: there may be some parts you might get "ick-ed" about!

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Healing a Duck After An Attack

March 29, 2012

*UPDATE*  This morning, the 30th, our last duck, our “one tough duck” Handsome, died.  We are all sick about it.  But we’re reminded how awful death really is, and how Jesus conquered death.  Someday, someday soon, death will die.   It’s never a good sign when my kids come pounding on the kitchen door with […]

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Nesting 2.0

March 24, 2012

That’s what my husband calls it, anyway, this full throttle attempt at designing and uploading a brand new website before the end of the month (no pressure, just one more week to go aaahhhhh!).  I haven’t done this since I started blogging in 2006, when I taught myself a lot of html coding from dissecting […]

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A Day in My Life, Part 1

February 2, 2012

Evening to Morning T’wasn’t so long ago I was looking at someone’s blogsite and sighing over the fact that it looked like this writer was miles ahead further than me, headed where I wanted to go. But then I came across what her day was like and decided that not only was she living far […]

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Natural Face and Skin Cream, Part Two

January 12, 2012

Well, I was so excited about the fabulous cream I made last night that I wanted to share it with you pronto!  And then….something was nagging at me….like….didn’t I blog about that before? YEP.  You can read how I did it here.  So I guess that makes this post “Part Two”. But…seeing as how I […]

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A Walk Around a Pacific Northwest Garden

August 19, 2011

Want to take a walk with me around our gardens?  We’ve got the goat milked and the hens let out and all of the animals are happily watered and fed.  Let’s grab the point-n-shoot and head out…. Yes, what you see here is a real miracle:  tomatoes growing in the Pacific Northwest: And a squash […]

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Pastured Poultry From Your Backyard

June 17, 2011

In this podcast my husband and I share about how we raised and butchered our own meat hens. We didn't grow up farming, we're not experts, but with help from the internet and a "just do it" attitude, we did it and are so happy with the results. Believe me, if we can do this, you can too.

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Late Spring This-n-That

June 13, 2011

Here is some catch-up on what’s going around my home and farm-ette.  Flowers are coming into bloom, including the unusual pink lilic tree; what an intoxicating introduction to spring.  I love wandering to and fro through the garden and smelling nature’s perfume wafting from the newest blooms.  The apple blossoms are finished, and sweet rocket […]

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May 24, 2011

I was thinking today of some beautiful things I am lately filling my senses with. For one, I’m writing in a journal I bought from this company, Legacy.   The paper feels so nice to the hand, the cover is lovely to the eye, but I must admit the pen was replaced!  I miss writing […]

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Morning at a Happy Home and Farm-ette

April 25, 2011

Morning these days is glorious. The air just smells so spring with salty sea air filtering through the woods and daffodils perfuming the air. If I could put a scratch and sniff on all of your computer screens, I would. Want to come join me for a bit this morning? We’re outside first thing because […]

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Early Spring

April 7, 2011

Early spring around here, weather-wise, means rain showers with peeks of sun, cloud covers and intermittent hail and snowflakes. It also means indoor handwork slows down and outside chores pick up. Here are some pics of other things going on around home and farm-ette. I was at the store about to buy a bouquet of […]

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Rainy Day Homesteading

March 15, 2011

Here in the Pacific Northwest we’ve had deluges of rain. We not only got puddles in our front pasture, we got ponds and rivers! I have to admit it’s been a blessing because I’ve been focused on getting the inside jobs completed before spring. But the peas will be late this year, already, as it’s […]

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A Soap Making Craze

November 2, 2010

Maybe if I stay busy enough I won’t spend time wondering if I’m sad enough. Isn’t that weird? You all are so kind to me; thank you thank you thank you. I haven’t even deleted any emails yet; rereading your words and hymns is a great comfort. So, I’ve been on a soap making craze, […]

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Mushroom Hunting

September 28, 2010

A young woman I know mentioned that she liked to go “mushroom hunting” and so, being ever so my timid self (ha), I immediately asked if I could tag along! After all, we live in the woods, so I wanted to learn about the food growing there in my own backyard. She was just as […]

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You Don’t Need 5 Acres…

September 16, 2010

…to bake up a batch of fresh bagels. Unless you want to grow the wheat for the flour. Homemade bagels smell and taste ridiculously delicious, and they are not that hard to make. It involves preparing the dough and rolling them into circles the night before, refrigerating it, and then boiling and baking in the […]

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Milk From (Your!) Front Yard

September 6, 2010

Well, if you have the space....why not? In this podcast I'll share about the benefits of whole, raw milk, share an interview I did with my cow-owning friend, and tell you about my own dairy goats. As usual, my husband pipes in at the end. If you can grow lettuce, you can milk an animal.

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Living Slow

August 29, 2010

Every now and again I wonder what everyone is rushing all about life for. Usually I think of this while watching traffic, knowing that each multi-thousand steel encasement has at least one person in it with places to go and things to do. And because of the stainless bubble surrounding said person, there is opportunity […]

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Real Life Happens Outside of the Computer

July 30, 2010

This is from our road trip; the scenery was beautiful! Life’s been so full lately that I am hardly missing my online world! My computer time has been almost nonexistant, and my blogs unread and unfollowed. Other than tweeting with my friends and answering a few emails a day, it’s been pretty quiet (for me!). […]

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Opening Day at the Farmer’s Market

May 4, 2010

Our family decided to take part in our community’s farmer’s market last Saturday for opening day. We didn’t have a lot to sell, but it was still a great experience. I had to come up with a name for our farm (if you can call our mini-homestead a “farm”), so I named it Sweet Pea […]

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Babies on the Farm-ette

April 18, 2010

Well, trying to breed our doe milk goats twice in the past year has resulted in nothing more than a couple of contented goats making our pasture picturesque. After weighing our options, we decided that what we would add a buck to our small herd to avoid yet another trip to the breeders across a […]

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Possess and Dwell

February 6, 2010

1 Corinthians 11:22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? I’m a homemaking, homesteading, homeschooling wife and mother of six who, even with all of the work that goes on around here, sometimes wonders at the end of the day, “Where did my day go?!” And I admit that when I […]

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Naturally Reared Animals

January 21, 2010

Nothing in human nature is so God-like as the disposition to do good to our fellow-creatures.Samuel Richardson I am so thankful to the Lord for the privilege of keeping and raising a variety of animals. It is hard work, but the pleasure of being around them is but a partial return that includes meat, milk […]

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More Homemade Seasonings

December 15, 2009

After my stint of garlic powder making, I was totally hooked on making our own seasonings. Never mind that most of our garlic powder now comes from China (and this writer makes some interesting observations about that); the color, smell and flavor of freshly made seasonings is out of this world. This only matters if […]

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Meet Our New Puppy

November 25, 2009

We have a new puppy and he is keeping me very busy! He was 8 1/2 weeks old when we picked him up, and he is settling in nicely. We never even had one night of whining from him, amazingly. I love the feel of his fur; it is so wooly! And dirt just dries […]

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Making Soap

November 17, 2009

I’m really not opposed to buying soap from the store, but I get satisfaction in understanding the process of how to make it and also in doing it “my way”. Also, I get an amazing amount of soap from a short stint in the kitchen! I like just following directions and recipes rather than trying […]

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Harvesting Honey

October 31, 2009

Well, I waited long enough to do this. First of all, I’ve never done any of this before. Second, I was so in awe over the whole process I didn’t want anyone to miss how beautiful the frames looked. And to harvest the first year! What joy! I showed the frames to everyone who visited, […]

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Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

October 7, 2009

I believe it was Matthew Henry who said something akin to when God sends mouths, He sends meat. We have seen this time and again in terms of provision in all things, and are so thankful for every bit of it. Lately, we’ve been drowning in bananas of all things. A friend of ours works […]

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Rewards of the County Fair

September 5, 2009

We participated once again in the annual county fair. It was a week of long hours, daily driving, and hard work. Every day I packed up six children and spent long periods of time on the fairgrounds, keeping my baby happy and my toddler corralled while the older children swept barns, greeted guests, and showed […]

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Barn Building

August 16, 2009

We’re currently building a small barn for our dairy goats. My husband has never built a barn before, but is doing very well using his knowledge of construction to make it happen. And me? I’ve never milked a goat in my life and although I’m enjoying the animals themselves (they’re so sweet!), my confidence isn’t […]

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