Around the Farm

Its been a busy week here at Schoolhouse Farm! We started the week by harvesting around 125 meat chickens. This is always a tough day but a necessary one. Knowing where your food comes from is extremely important. The understanding on life and death. The fact that death does bring life to us is an amazing concept. Im not sure that I will ever grasp the whole meaning of this. But we now have a freezer full of wonderfully delicious chickens, that lived a great chicken life.

Harvesting chickens is a community effort

We got a new area cleared out and planted a cover crop. This area we hope to develop into pasture with fruit trees and bushes mixed in. It will take a while to get there. We planted pearl millet, buckwheat and sunn hemp as the cover crop. This hopefully will help smother out any unwanted plants. It will also serve to add nutrients to the soil and help attract and feed more pollinators. The next step will be to create swales and plant pioneer trees. We will do that in late winter.

The new cleared area

Another angle of the cleared area

Today we started a much needed barn. This will be a place to store the winter hay and milk the goats. Its not going to be huge or anything just big enough to get the job done. We are using the wood that we had milled last year from our property. It give you that feel of being a pioneer to be using wood that came from your own land.
6x6 posts for the barn going up


Some Summer Oil Recipes and Tips for the Whole Family

From the homestead.

We've been in and out and all over this summer. Thoroughly enjoying it, the heat, the travel, the them parks, the friends. Lazy afternoons and breaking in new milk-goats. It's one little adventure at a time that fills us to the brim with memories and joy. Hope yours is unfolding in similar fashion.

Of course, with all those goodies...come a few stings. I compiled a list of a few of our favorite remedies for this season. I hope you use and enjoy them. It's hard to imagine how difficult life would be if the, 'mama, my tummy hurts. I need oils.' wasn't quickly met with some the digestive blend or peppermint. Or, the more time suffering our littlest would have had if I hadn't had a handy roller of lavender when she burnt her finger on a light-bulb in the car.

Tips and recipes for summer
Summer's Hot. 

Here are a few tips to keep you and your loved ones on the toxin-free track--especially with these common Summer pitfalls...

::After Sun Reliever::
(recipe here)
This popular recipe is simple and SO effective. No need to suffer through the pains of forgetting to lather on the spf. Encourage healing, and relieve the heat and itch.

::Summer Ear Discomfort::
So many kids (and adults) have to suffer from this unfortunate side effect of underwater play. But, with a few simple oils, pain and suffering can come to a quick end!
1 drop of Basil or Melaleuca on a cotton ball resting in the ear is a great way to relieve pain, as is Lavender around the back of the ear. Diluted Oregano is another amazing boost for the immune system and helps fend off nasty bacteria that can turn an innocent day at the pool into a prescription anti-biotic. Avoid all that struggle and use these quick tools to give your body what it needs to take care of the problem itself!

::Bug Bite Itcher-Blocker::
A natural anti-histamine, lavender is a simple fix for the worst of bug bites. It's ability to pull out toxins makes it great to have on hand even in more emergent situations, like spider or snake bites. Chigger attack? unscented lotion and lavender worked wonders for what had to have been hundreds of bites our dear 5 year old had. Relieved itch and they healed up much more quickly where we applied, vs. the hard to reach ones on the scalp.
(of course--seek medical assistance--but grab and apply the lavender fast and frequently!)
Other great options: Purify, Balance, Terrashield, Frankincense

::Bug Off::
Natural and even pleasant smelling, Terrashield is great for humans and animals alike! Prevent ticks, fleas, squeeters, chiggers, flies and more. This blend is great in a spray bottle, or just dabbed on. We'll often mix in some of our other favorites, like lemongrass, for added protection.

::Gotta Cool It Spray::
Peppermint is a natural temperature reducer. The cooling effects have proven themselves time and again for our family. Simply fill up a spray bottle with water and add several drops of peppermint--mist the back of your neck, or your back...aaaaaaah. Cooling relief that lasts for a while! (plus, peppermint is a fly and spider deterrent, great for headaches and to fend of allergies. Is that a four-fer?)

::Skin Irritation Relief::
(recipe here)
This recipe is so easy and useful. We've had some rough bouts with skin irritation from plant contact--Dead Sea Salts and Basil are some other great remedies. (and avoiding it altogether is optimal)
For more sever break-outs, we've found Basil helps a lot as well!

::Hydration Station::
It's important to stay hydrated! Picnics, parades, swimming and tee-ball are all wonderful activities that get us outside--but keeping liquified is important! Adding a drop of lemon to a glass or Stainless steel water bottle is a simple way to get flavored water that is healthful and nourishing.
(reminder: Citrus oils cause photosensitivity when used topically--be careful if you apply it to avoid direct sunlight)

::Car-sickness Buster::
Roadtrips are popular in the summer! Prepare yourself with the inevitable nausea that can follow. Eating poorly, twisty roads, and screwy schedules can all take a toll on our digestive system. Never fear! the Digestive Blend is a lifesaver! Touch the top of the bottle, apply it to the navel and find instant relief!
Even kiddos find fast relief from tummy-aches with this amazing blend.
Stock up!

::Sore No More::
Overworked it in the garden? Hauled too much mulch? Spent endless hours on the Habitat House? Fixing your own? Paddled too hard on an impromptu Kayak trip?
The Soothing Blend! The rub is phenomenal, and we often layer it with the oil for deeper penetration. And the cooling effect is an added bonus! Make sure you have this simple tool in your toolbox and ache no more!

::Slumber like Lumber::
It can be hard to fall asleep when the sun is still up. "..in summer quite the other way, I have to go bed by day." --Robert Louis Stevenson
Know that poem? It's one of my favorites, and I remember the difficulty of going to bed before dark as a kid. But, sometimes a gentle sleep aid helps our little ones get the rest they need. And us! This is our favorite sleepy-time blend, we use it nightly! The lavender helps us fall asleep, and the cedarwood encourages a deeper sleep. It's life changing when you get a good night's rest!

1 10ml roller bottle
8 drops Cedarwood Essential Oil
8 drops Lavender Essential Oil
Fractionated Coconut oil to fill.
Use: Apply the blend to the big toe and back of neck and sleep like a baby that actually sleeps.

Don't have oils yet?! 

(We offer some great kits to get started with.  They include a wholesale membership that gives you 25% off retail--no obligations. Want to start a business, passionate about Natural Healthcare and Holistic Living? Talk to us--we'd love to partner with you. Interested in a rebate on your membership or kit? We've got those options!)


Homesteading: The Fence Part 2

So like 2 years ago...

We told you more on fencing was to come with this post. And it turns out we had more to learn. And do...

I sit here and write about it while Drew is in trenches getting it done. And the girls--the girls are master-fencers now too, and it couldn't have been done without them. Have we discussed child labor? Yep.

Anyway, the point is, we've done a little of nearly everything the fencing industry has to offer. Save for barbed. The first fence is working great, but it was by far the most expensive and difficult route. And, though it's still holding up fairly well--goats climb it, pigs dig under it and if trees fall on it, well...bad news.

We rely heavily on electric netting like this. We use it for poultry completely, which gives us the ability to move the chickens and turkeys all over the property, getting them on green grass as often as possible, while protecting them from predators and keeping them--for the most part--out of the garden area where they otherwise flock. (pun intended) We also use it for the goats to get them in areas that are either too difficult to fence, or that will will never put a permanent fence to, and honestly--for beginners who are on a new property, hands down, this is the best option. There is an investment for the fencing, and we use mainly solar chargers, but it's so versatile. Frustrating to cart through wooded and brambly terrain? YES. But, we have been able to clear a lot of underbrush that would have been impossible to clear this way as well. And--it has given us the ability to let our goats fertilize and graze in areas, like our infant-orchard, that we never intend to fence.

BUT. Our property isn't pasture. As we've mentioned it is wooded and hilly. We've had lots of timbering done, not clear cut, but the back part of our property--about 6 acres, is somewhat untouched because it's difficult to access; our 1 acre pond divides our property in 2. And we've been aching to get the goats back there to clean it up, and to have more to graze on. And, potentially, to introduce a beef cow at some point. So--currently this is underway, and we're using a fencing method we've used to expand our first paddock in which we used structured wire. It has proven faster, more versatile and less expensive, and we were worried about the goats staying in--but so far, they're happy to avoid electric which means they don't apply pressure to the fencing and posts as they do with the structured wire alternative.

By using t-posts and the trees already on the property to hold the wire, and after having a fella carve a path with an excavator so as to make the task doable through the thick woods and brambles, we are adding a little over an acre pasture on the back part of our property. With a little electric the 6 strand electric system will make for a lot more freedom for our growing herd/flock. And, it'll be nice to tap into some more of the property to meet their needs.
see that mess of wire NOT on the spinning jenny? Well, it's nice when equipment doesn't malfunction--and when it does, it's fair to cry...especially when you're 6.
Let me point out, we border all down the side a beautiful rolling pasture that belongs to our neighbor. It's lush, green, probably deplete of great diversity, but man would it be easy to fence...but, shh. The grass is always greener, right??
but when you're 6 and you can fence, well...i'd say she's ahead of the game.
Honestly, the biodiversity in our wooded area will hopefully establish quickly as a great place for fodder for multiple livestock species, and the goats will likely make quick and easy on cleaning it up so we can work to establish even more grasses and such. There's something very satisfying--no matter how difficult--about pioneering the land this way. And, we're anxious to eventually add a cow or two, silvo-pasturing is the wave of the future. ok, maybe a stretch, but still, it is going to be interesting to see how it plays out. #adventuresinpermaculture

What are your homesteading projects right now?


How to Homeschool on a Farm

From the non-expert.

People often tell me, or ask me, or mention to me something about homeschooling and I'm pretty nearly clueless. Sure, I've heard the terms and can sometimes even understand when the long-timers start talking their homeschool lingo. But, I usually laugh, shrug and say--'yeh, we're unschoolers'. In fact, i think we're a new category of un-unschoolers. 

Not everyone appreciates this style, and I get that. Many mothers, in particular, seem to struggle with the fear that their children aren't being a filled up with educational experiences as possible. I can promise that the less full we leave them the more they will blossom on their own. Let them be full with curiosity. It's hard not to want to explain every fact at every question, but my 6 year old doesn't need me to go into a unit study on weather when she asks 'Why does it thunder?' (But trust me, it's a difficult temptation to avoid.)

Educating my children has become more about me educating and molding myself into a curious being--someone willing to trust and experience and be willing to have wonder. It's blissful, but it isn't easy. But I would encourage you to try! 
Maybe we're 'wonder-schoolers'...I think I like that.

Why unschool?

--We truly believe that learning is a completely natural process and that in a literate home, it would be impossible to raise uneducated children.
--Life offers daily opportunity to teach and more importantly, demonstrate learning to our kids.
--Having tried structure, and knowing the learning styles of our children it is painfully apparent that a classroom type style of teaching/training or rigid curriculum is painful, stressful and unproductive. It's more important for our home to have peace. It would also be detrimental to their love of learning to continue to pursue more 'traditional' education styles.

How we do it:

--Our kids are not entirely free to do whatever they want all day. Our lives are structured with yearly, monthly, weekly and daily rhythms. Chores, farming, small bits of math and reading work are incorporated and required from our kids. However, the majority of their day is unofficially structured. Free time, rest time, play time, creative time, exploration time. While they are expected to uphold some responsibilities, even our 3 year old, we have merely tried to create an environment in which they can find and do and ask.
--We often encourage or come up with new games, projects, etc. and through living and working together as parents we are learning our children's gifts and struggles. We try to creatively meet their needs without stressing too much about the standards school systems would impose, and more on how confident they feel as learners.
--Too many structured activities are the opposite of what we're going for. We'd love to have our kids play soccer and little league and join swim team and take art classes and more. But--the point of having them home is not to run around like chickens with our heads cut off. We have to make a concerted effort not to jump in on too many co-ops and extracurriculars so we can be at home and unstressed. These boundaries are the hardest to maintain. Our children have chosen ballet and music lessons and we have to draw a line there. This has been important for us.

--Everyday is not perfect and being with kids and responsible for their training ALWAYS comes with frustrations and head-butting. But, we also have plenty of time to overcome these difficulties together, and knowing that our goals are specifically to offer our kids freedom and free-thinking helps us maintain balance. Most days.

--pretty much John Holt has already said everything important, read some of his inspirational books!

What do you think, are you Wonder-Schoolers, too?