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Monday, July 16

With Love from....New Jersey

1. Liberty Science Center

Liberty Science Center is one of the best educational places to visit in NJ. It has so much to offer to kids in terms of exhibits, and have many amazing classes that are worth your time and money. The Liberty Science Center has a fairly high admission price, but it's a lovely place to explore.

2. NJ State Capitol

NJ State Capitol is a fantastic place to visit. You can take one of the tours of the capitol (actually, it's the only way to get in there). The tour is very informative and even the youngest kids were not bored.
Historical Places To Visit Around NJ Educational Field Trips NJHistorical Places To Visit Around NJ

3. NJ State Museum

The NJ State Museum is located on the same block as the NJ State Capitol, and often it makes sense to visit them on the same day. The museum is full of excellent exhibits on art, science and history for everyone to enjoy. The admission to the Capitol tour is free while the NJ State Museum is donation based. The grounds between the two are beautiful and there is free underground parking. 

4. Sandy Hook Light House and Barracks.

The Sandy Hook Light House and Barracks are brimming with history. They are free to visit until Memorial day, and after that it is $15.00 a car. It happens to be one of our favorite places to visit, to read more about our experience there, visit us here. Actually, I highly recommend the tour of the Light House. It's an adventure.

Historical Places To Visit Around NJNJ Science And Nature Classes For Kids

5. Environmental Education Center

Located in Basking Ridge NJ, this center offers many fantastic class for kids at a very reasonable price. They are also neighbors with the Raptor Trust. Both are worth a visit and provide many education opportunities.

6. Liberty Hall Museum

Liberty Hall Museum is located in Kean University. It is definitely one of the more impressive trips we have taken for it's historical value. The tour guide was knowledgeable and the tour lasted just the right amount of time. Read more about our visit there. The price was not too much, and we were able to use our library museum pass program.

7. Thomas Edison Historical Park

Thomas Edison Historical Park is another great educational field trip. It is Edison's Labs, and his house up the street, and you really get to explore all the nooks and crannies. We went there with the group of homeschoolers, and enjoyed quite a few interesting demonstrations, as well as learning quite a bit about Thomas Edison. The admission price is quite low.

8. Princeton University and Princeton Art Museum.

Princeton Splash Event Homeshool ClassesPrinceton University is so much fun to explore with the kids. It has a certain magic about it. We go there often, and enjoy it tremendously. The University houses the Princeton Art Museum. The admission to PAM is free, and it's amazing. Their art collection is impressive. They also host homeschool days and family days with all sorts of activities for the kids.

9. Zimmerli Art Museum and Rutgers Geology Museum

Those two museums are located across the street from one another. Zimmerli Art Museum has a small admission price. The Geology Museum is free, but they do accept donations. They are both fantastic places to see. When visiting the Geology Museum make sure to ask about the scavenger hunt!

Historical Places To Visit Around NJHistorical Places To Visit Around NJ

10. Duke Farms

Duke Farms is one of those places that you really need to see if you are visiting NJ. It provides agricultural, historical and environmental education opportunities for families. You can rend bikes, or pick up a pair of binoculars for bird watching, or you can go for a hike and enjoy a ride on the tram. It is free to visit, but keep in mind that they are closed on Monday. 

 Mariya is an artist and photographer who loves living in New Jersey with her family and an unusually large amount of dogs. She runs Happy Family Art and The Happy Homeschooler where you can find art tutorials, crafts, more coloring pages and more about the places we visit.

Tuesday, July 10

Groove is in the Heart (Deee-Lite)

Yesterday, I brought you some of my more creative dress-making ideas.  Today, we're going to share some of the upcycling that we did this past summer from garage sale finds.  Everything we started with cost less than a dollar - or was even free!
We started with this Hawaiian-themed desk.  We picked it up - in really beat up condition, but with a good base - for a dollar at a garage sale, and completely overhauled it.  My eldest used some old curtain material for the seat and painted it.  I put in the tile and the chalkboard.   Voila!
This old captain's chair was out in our shed.  I have no idea where it came from or why it was there.  There were six of them...we gave all six of them different "classic" looks, and sold all except this one.  The desk was also out there, and we cleaned it up, painted it, and used an old pillowcase to make a matching seat cushion.  We resold them for a little 'piggy-bank profit.'
We snagged this dingy, nasty chair at an estate sale for a quarter.  It had good bones, and was quality vintage, but needed a facelift.  The boys cleaned it and painted it, and I made new a new seat and back for it.  Doesn't it look like so much more fun now?!  My sister (with her inexplicable love of the color yellow) was the inspiration for this one.....the little bumblebee...
These were during our "ocean phase," when we were visiting the aquarium. We had lots of temporary tattoos, and discovered that they attach quite nicely to old, leather suitcases!  They brightened this blue one up and turned it into a cute, kid-sized piece.  The old window sash was scraped, sanded, and stained before we stuck a poster-sized photo, which hubby had taken in Cozumel, behind it.
The end table was painted with a Dr. Seuss themed / outer space world during my eldest son's space craze.  The youngest was still into pirates, so I created a play table just for him out of some scrap wood we had laying about the garage.  Neither of the tables were painted by the boys, but they each dreamed up the designs for them.
A friend of mine had this old army footlocker that she wanted to use for her girls' I had her bring it over and got right to work.  This one only took an afternoon - all the kids were playing together nicely, so I was able to finish very quickly once the initial coat of purple dried.  Simple, yet effective, her girls still love it today!
Finally, I created this banner for my grandfather's airport wall, before he passed.  He and I spent countless weekends together at the airport, flying in the Alpha Charlie and bumming around with the other old men that spent their weekends there.  We spent each spring doing science experiments for the science fair at the airport (he was a retired engineer).  Can you tell that I still really miss him....?
 I hope that these projects have inspired you to go out and create something new with your kids - or just for yourself!  Don't be limited by what the mass-producers create....use your imagination, put your spin on it, and make it memorable

As Miss Frizzle would say.............get outside!  Get mess!  Make mistakes!  
.........and HAVE FUN!!!!!!!

Friday, July 6

Summer's Hottest New Reads!

The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride (Joe Siple)
With all his family and friends gone, one-hundred-year-old Murray McBride is looking for a reason to live. He finds it in Jason Cashman, a ten-year-old boy with a terminal heart defect and a list of five things he wants to do before he dies. Together, they race against the limited time each has left, ticking off wishes one by one. But when tragedy strikes, their worlds are turned upside-down, and an unexpected gift is the only thing that can make Jason's final wish come true.

A centenarian and ten year old seem an unlikely pair. Toss in a strong, brave, and kind little girl, and you've got the leading cast of this life-changing adventure novel. For fans of Tuesdays with Morrie or The Five Times I Met Myself, this book delves into some of the hard issues in life, what it means to truly love and live, and how we can affect others. The love in these pages is something we all so desperately need to recover these days. I don't want to say too much (no spoilers here), but you won't be disappointed. I _can_ say, however, that if this book doesn't make you both chuckle aloud and shed a tear, then you are an inhuman robot.

Engraved on the Heart (Tara Johnson)
Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad. Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times. Battling an angry fiancĂ©, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

I loved feeling like I was part of the setting in this story.  The author does a good job of bringing the Civil War-era south to life!  She also makes the characters very real, doing a good job of pointing out the beliefs and feelings of both sides.  The main character may be white, but she has struggles and prejudices against her for things she cannot her something of a connection with the slaves around her.  She works with the other main character on the Underground Railroad, and together they help as many people as possible.  Along the way, they have their share of struggles and begin a romance that holds a few secrets of its own.  This is a quick read that you'll not want to put down, so bring a glass of tea and settle in for a few hours of reading!

What Blooms from Dust (James Markert)

Just as Jeremiah Goodbye is set to meet his fate in the electric chair, he is given a second chance at life. With the flip of a coin, he decides to return to his home town of Nowhere, Oklahoma, to settle the score with his twin brother Josiah. But upon his escape, he enters a world he doesn’t recognize—one that has been overtaken by the Dust Bowl. And the gift he once relied on to guide him is as unrecognizable as the path back to Nowhere. On his journey home, he accidentally rescues a young boy, and the pair arrive at their destination where they are greeted by darkened skies and fearful townspeople who have finally begun to let the past few years of hardship bury them under the weight of all that dust. Unlikely heroes, Jeremiah and his new companion, Peter Cotton, try to protect the residents of Nowhere from themselves, but Jeremiah must face his nightmares and free himself from the guilt of his past and the secrets that destroyed his family. Filled with mystery and magic, this exquisite novel from award-winning author James Markert is a story of finding hope in the midst of darkness and discovering the beauty of unexpected kindness.

An interesting story set in Dust Bowl-era even reads like a period piece, very dismal, at times emotionless and just struggling to power through. The cast of characters is intriguing, especially the little boy and the story behind him; the magical elements of the coin-flipping lend an air of mystery; the typewriter element is ingenious for its time; and the setting is so well-developed that you feel as though you're right there breathing in the dust. Through all of the hardships, the characters keep their strength through their faith. I thought that the story of the roses, at the end, was especially beautiful!

Murder at the Flamingo (Rachel McMillan)
Hamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times -- including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square. When he meets his cousin's “right hand man” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand.  Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo night club.  When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build.

This book appears to be the first in a new series of mysteries that are set in the 1930s.  I love how the author has recreated the era, both in description and tone, incorporating historical settings of glamour, grit, and everything in between.  While it is listed as a Christian book, the story is not overtly religious in any way...preferring to take its references from the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Instead, it is probably listed in this category because it is a clean mystery with moral messages.  I love old black and white mystery movies, and this book felt like one of those.  There are hints of romance, bad guys who turn out to be good, good guys who turn out to be bad, sudden twists, and personal struggles all within these pages...and I really look forward to the next installment with Reggie and Hamish.

River to Redemption (Ann Gabhart)

Orphaned in the cholera epidemic of 1833, Adria Starr was cared for by a slave named Louis, a man who stayed in Springfield, Kentucky, when anyone with means had fled. A man who passed up the opportunity to escape his bondage and instead tended to the sick and buried the dead. A man who, twelve years later, is being sold by his owners despite his heroic actions. Now nineteen, Adria has never forgotten what Louis did for her. She's determined to find a way to buy Louis's freedom. But in 1840s Kentucky, she'll face an uphill battle. Based partly on a true story, Ann H. Gabhart's latest historical novel is a tour de force. The vividly rendered town of Springfield and its citizens immerse readers in a story of courage, betrayal, and honor that will stick with them long after they turn the last page.

This was a fascinating story of race relations and human relations, based on truth and using factual names (yet somewhat fictionalized), in the antebellum period.  The author does a great job of building the setting, through well-developed characters and vivid scenery descriptions.  She doesn't dwell on the negative side of slavery, but lays out the facts as they pertain to the story and moves on with it.  It's interesting to think of a slave protecting a white girl - especially when the two suitors come calling - and yet it may have happened more than we realize.  Love and loyalty are not race-dependent, and Louis chose to remain in that station to protect Adria, even as she was trying to save him.  There were a few twists and turns, and I wasn't sure how the love triangle would resolve itself at one point, but good character wins in the end.  The book contains several spiritual references and is a clean romance.  Reading the author's note also brings another level to the historical context.

Amish Celebrations (Beth Wiseman)
The Gift of Sisters
Hannah and Rachel are fraternal twins approaching their sixteenth birthday—a time when they will be allowed to spread their wings and enjoy their rumschpringe. The sisters couldn’t be more different: Hannah is outgoing and beautiful, while Rachel is shy and withdrawn. And when newcomer Abraham Stoltzfus arrives in Lancaster County, both women fall head over heels for him, each fighting for his affections in their own ways and driving the sisters to turn on each other. Who will Abraham choose? And will Hannah and Rachel reunite after a devastating heartbreak?
A New Beginning
Rebecca and Noah are in love and about to be baptized. But when Noah decides to enjoy one last night of his rumschpringe a few weeks before the ceremony, he does something that causes Rebecca to reconsider his proposal. As Rebecca and Noah navigate the turn in their relationship, Rebecca must learn to forgive Noah or abandon her dreams of marrying him. If Noah won’t forgive himself in time for the baptism, his guilt could cause him to run from his love for Rebecca and leave his community behind.
A Perfect Plan (previously published in An Amish Wedding)
Priscilla King has been planning to marry Chester Lapp since she was sixteen years old, and when Chester pops the question on Priscilla’s nineteenth birthday, wedding plans begin immediately. But everything begins to fall apart as Chester works to build a house for his new bride, only to have one disaster after another occur. Can true love take this couple through the challenges that threaten their union, or will they begin to doubt that they are on the right path, the one God has chosen for them?
A Christmas Miracle
Mary is twenty-seven years old and already has five young children. Married to her husband at age eighteen, she wasn’t quite prepared for motherhood, and exhaustion and frustration are sending her into a downhill spiral as the holidays approach. Too proud and ashamed to ask for help, Mary’s situation begins to take a toll on her marriage. But when an elderly man in a red suit and his sidekick elf befriend Mary, showering her with wisdom and advice, she must choose to accept help, learn to cope with her situation, and ultimately find the true meaning of Christmas.

The tie that binds each of these four stories together is that they are celebrating something, including birthdays, baptisms, weddings, and Christmas.  I like these stories because they show that the Amish go through many of the same struggles and challenges as the rest of us, but they do it with the strength of their faith.  Each story is bite-sized, perfect for reading a whole one before bedtime, and will leave you mulling over it afterward.  My favorite was a Christmas Miracle, partly because I love Christmas stories, and partly because I just loved the magic behind how it all worked out for the main character!  If you like fiction that makes you think just a little, and helps to strengthen your own faith, then this is a great collection.


The Faith of Dolly Parton (Dudley Delffs)
Dolly Parton has entertained, educated, and inspired millions of fans for over five decades. Whether she’s writing songs, performing live, recording new albums, acting in or producing new movies and TV programs, expanding her wildly successful Dollywood amusement park, helping children around the world learn to read with her Imagination Library nonprofit, or donating millions of dollars to schools, charities, and people in need, the Queen of Country Music has never been shy about crediting her Christian faith for her success. “A belief in God is essential,” Dolly shares. “You have to believe in something bigger than yourself. We grew up believing that through God all things are possible.” Growing up in the little mountain church where her grandfather preached, Dolly started singing hymns and playing guitar at services when she was only six. Consequently, she has never been shy about discussing her faith and relationship with God. “People say, ‘Well, I am surprised that you talk about your faith,’ and I say, ‘Why not? That’s who I am. That’s what keeps me going,’” she explains. Tennessee native, Dolly fanboy, and award-winning writer Dudley Delffs now spotlights ten faith lessons as evidenced in Dolly’s life, music, interviews, and attitude. The Faith of Dolly Parton focuses on the ways Dolly’s life can inspire us all to be more authentic, to trust God during hard times, to stay grounded during the good times, and to always keep our sense of humor. Sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, frequently surprising, and always true to Dolly’s down-home spirit of joyful generosity, this book will delight her millions of fans as well as anyone seeking a fresh faith-filled role model.

Staying true to the personality of Dolly herself, this book focuses on ten lessons that she's drawn from her life.  I knew about her music, but did not know much about Dolly, the person, until reading this book.  Her story is one of hardship, faith, and overcoming through her strength in character.  I love the song 'Coat of Many Colors,' but didn't realize how much it drew from her own background!  She keeps a sense of humor through it all, and imparts us with her wisdom to keep on keeping on...bringing our own unique talents to serve others and the Lord.  For any fan of Dolly Parton, this is a must-read!

Lisa Gungor thought she knew her own story: small-town girl meets boy in college and they blissfully walk down the aisle into happily ever after. Their Christian faith was their lens and foundation for everything—their marriage, their music, their dreams for the future. But as their dreams began to come true, she began to wonder if her religion was really representative of the ‘good news’ she had been taught.  She never expected the questions to lead as far as they did when her husband told her he no longer believed in God. The death of a friend, the unraveling of relationships and career, the loss of a worldview, and the birth of a baby girl with two heart defects all led Lisa to a tumultuous place; one of depression and despair. And it was there that her perspective on everything changed. The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen tells the story of what can happen when you dare to let go of what you think to be true; to shift the kaleidoscope and see new colors and dimension by way of broken pieces.  Lisa’s eloquent, soul-stirring memoir brings you to a music stage before thousands of fans and a front porch where two people whisper words that scare them to the core. It is the story of how doubt can spark the beginning of deeper faith; how a baby born with a broken heart can bring love and healing to the hearts of many, and ultimately, how the hardest experience in life often ends up saving us.
Admittedly, I'm a bigger fan of their music than I was of this book, but if you're not familiar with their music, you don't have to be.  This book isn't about touring with the band, or even how she goes through the songwriting process, it's about their faith and the journey they've taken to get where they are today.  One of the biggest themes within that framework is love, acceptance, and inclusiveness.  The story is told through the metaphors of a dot, line, and circle....where the dot is the church she was raised in (and how confining it felt), the line is the journey that she makes to get to today's faith, and the circle is her new definition of religion, which is all-encompassing.  It is a memoir, but more than that, it's a testament to the changing face of religion - to a more open spiritual definition where all people are included (ie, gays, ne'er-do-wells, and the types that traditional religion overlooks).  At times it gets a bit silly, but is an interesting narrative on Christianity in the modern world.

Freak of the Week (Ann Gabhart)
What did Mrs. Rooks mean? That his leg wasn't his problem? What did she know? She wasn't lopsided with one leg shorter than the other. She wasn't a freak. Clay Ashby has a little problem. He limps. That makes him feel like a lopsided giraffe especially after Nikki Hendricks, the most popular girl in sixth grade, starts making up rhymes about his limp that has the other kids laughing at him. But then he meets up with an old man trying the impossible in spite of disabilities ten times worse than Clay’s. When Clay joins a baseball team, Old Dan helps Clay believe in his abilities and shows him heart matters more than looks. But Nikki, on the team that always wins, is still ready with her rhymes. Will a ballgame for the championship settle it all?

This is a sweet book for children of all ages.  We read it aloud together as a family, and got into some great discussions about character along the way.  My kids really aren't into sports, but one of them is special needs, and so this is something that they cope with on a regular basis.  While they understand how to approach his needs, and help those around us with him, this gave us an opportunity to talk about other types of special needs.  The author writes from a Biblical perspective of turning the other cheek and demonstrating love to teach love.

Fawkes (Nadine Brandes)
Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.  Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.  But what if death finds him first?  Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.  The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.  The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.  No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

I wanted to like this book.  The cover is beautiful and the plot sounds intriguing and very promising, but I just didn't like it.  I plowed all the way through it, thinking my interest would pick up, but this just wasn't a book I could connect with or endorse.  I did, however, learn a bit about history that I had not learned before...namely, about the Gunpowder Plot.  I'd heard of Guy Fawkes, but just in vague terms.  The history lesson received through this book is why I'm giving it three stars.  I thought that it was slow, did not like the characters, and found the fantasy aspect very left field.  It's not often that I dislike a book, and you might like it a lot.  If fantasy is your thing, it would be worth checking into further.  If nothing else, you'll receive a first-hand account and history lesson from 17th century England.

I received some, but not all, of these books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 3

Getting Started with ... Livestock

When we were first starting out, the man at the feed store told us, "If you're going to have livestock, you're going to have dead stock."  At the time, we laughed it off, having no idea what he meant....but boy did we learn!

Knowing how to care for livestock is something that takes years to master...and the man at the feed store wasn't talking about us in particular, but anyone who cares for livestock...seasoned or not.

Leigh Tate, blogger at 5 Acres and a Dream, has recently released a guide that breaks down livestock for beginners.  While some books say that they're for beginners (but aren't really), this one truly is.

Before we get to the book, I'd like to address the title.  "Prepper" is a word that either draws your interest or is an immediate turn-off....there doesn't seem to be much in-between.  However, in our experience, it's just a different twist on the word "homesteader."

We don't consider ourselves to be preppers.  We do, however, have a little bit of land and have reached a certain age where earning a living in a world of zeroes and ones just isn't cutting it anymore.  There's something innately fulfilling about being able to create something with your own two hands.  We have found prepper books to be an invaluable source of information for homesteading questions.

Whether you’re looking for a farm-to-table solution that provides fresh meat and dairy products today, or a long-term plan that will feed you and your family after the collapse of civilization—or both!— this all-in-one preparedness guide is for you. It teaches sustainable animal husbandry skills that allow you to build and operate your own small-scale ranch anywhere from a backyard to a bug-out bunker. 

Packed with tips, techniques and strategies, this handy guide breaks down everything you need to know, including how to:

• Choose the best breeds for your needs
• Build barns, coops, hutches and fencing 
• Grow feed and utilize pastures 
• Breed your stock and raise offspring 
• Protect your animals from predators 
• Provide basic health and vet care 
• Preserve fresh milk, eggs and meat

In this book, you'll learn easy, low-tech or tech-free ways to manage both your land and your livestock.  It covers poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and guineas), sheep and goats, rabbits, and cattle.  As a prepper book, it takes the perspective of long-term survival and preparedness, but in the terms of maximizing your investments, that can only be a plus when you're looking to start a small homestead.  

The book covers :
  • Chapter 1   First Things First
  • Chapter 2   Best Breeds fpr Self-Reliance
  • Chapter 3   Barns, Shelters, and Fencing
  • Chapter 4   Forage and Feed
  • Chapter 5   Breeding and Pregnancy
  • Chapter 6   Blessed Events: Birthing and Hatching
  • Chapter 7   Eggs, Milk, and Meat
  • Chapter 8   Keeping Them Healthy
  • Chapter 9    Keeping Them Safe
  • Chapter 10  Keeping Things Manageable
  • Conclusion: If SHTF 
It also has several handy charts for at-a-glance knowledge, including :

  • Livestock overviews (sizes, expected production, acreage needed, natural and productive lifespans, example breeds)
  • Grasses, legumes, and forbs (annuals, perennials, warm and cool season examples)
  • Hay Feeding Needs
  • Homegrown and foraged feeds
  • Natural vitamin and mineral sources
  • Gestation times for livestock
  • Labor times and number of offspring
  • Incubation times for various poultry
  • Homemade feeds for hatchlings
  • Supply lists (birthing, hatching, milking, routine and emergency care)
  • Alternative de-wormers and medications
  • How to know when you need a vet
  • Normal range of vital signs
  • Common livestock predators (includes signs of attack)
The book is well-organized and does not presume that the reader has any previous knowledge.  It starts out at the beginning and walks you through the needs, care, and troubleshooting of each animal, helping to build your confidence along the way.  There is also a great selection of extra resources for further information at the back of the book.

Meet the Author
Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Leigh and ask a few questions that were on my mind...

1.  It seems that homesteading is something you've taken up as an empty nester.  What was your 'previous life' like, and how does is affect your approach to homesteading?
Yes, we got a late start on homesteading. It was always something we wanted to do, but early on we decided to homeschool our kids which meant adjusting to one income. That meant there wasn't extra income to put by to save up for our own property. We rented in a semi-rural area, however, which enabled us to have a large garden and rabbits. I canned and preserved a lot of our food and kept a large stock-up pantry. We used wood for heat. So in a sense, we were homesteading, but it seemed very limited compared to what we wanted to do.
That was in the late 1990's to early 2000's, during the height of speculation about Y2K and the analysis of its lack of aftermath. I mention that briefly in the introduction to Prepper's Livestock Handbook, but it had a long-lasting impact. It made me understand the absolute necessity of preparedness. No, the world as we knew it didn't come to an end, but being prepared has been lifesaving since then on more than one occasion: extensive power outages, times of joblessness, even being able to generously help out-of-work friends.
The biggest challenge of starting as an empty-nester, however, is knowing we don't have several decades ahead of us to slowly build our homestead. We understand that as we get older our energy levels be lower, so we feel a certain pressure to get things established before that. If we started younger, we would have approached it one area at a time. For example, we probably would have first modified the house to better suit a self-reliance, then established extensive gardens and orchards, then prepared for livestock, then worked toward energy independence. As it was, we started on all fronts at once. It's not necessarily an impossible way to approach it, but by working on so many areas simultaneously, we always feel like we have a lot of loose ends!
2. If someone was interested in getting started as a homesteader, which animal would you recommend breaking the ice with, and why?
I'd say chickens or ducks. Most folks recommend chickens, but ducks are an excellent alternative, especially Muscovies because they are a quiet breed and are content with just a large pan of water to bathe. They don't need a pond. The advantage to starting with either of chickens or ducks is that they are easy to obtain, inexpensive, and don't require a lot of room or costly housing and equipment. They can get most of their diet from your garden and kitchen scraps. Plus almost everybody uses eggs. For those wishing to be more self-reliant in meat, chickens or ducks are a good animal on which to learn butchering. In addition, they provide excellent manure for the compost pile.
Rabbits are another possibility, especially if one lives in an area with animal restrictions. Rabbits are quiet and can be housed in a garage or basement, so they can still be a valuable food source for anyone wanting greater food self-sufficiency. They do require a nominal investment in housing and feeding equipment, but rabbits are inexpensive to purchase and except for hay (unless you grow your own) can be fed from your yard, garden, and kitchen.
3.  It seems that many empty-nesters are making the switch from a 9-5 job to homesteading.  Why do you think this is?
Yes, that's true. I think the reason for that is age and experience. Empty-nesters have been in the 9-5 system enough years to realize that its promises of wealth, security, and leisure are empty promises. Some people do obtain all that, but others experience the flaws in the system and understand that there is a cost. There is a huge cost to the environment, and equally important, to human dignity as well. Keeping the economic growth machine going requires a lot of little cogs; little cogs that keep spinning their wheels but can never escape the rat race.
I think most of us have a sense of purpose in raising our children, but once they leave the nest that purpose leaves with them. Many folks seem to think that the purpose of life is accumulating stuff, while others realize that more and more stuff will never satisfy one's soul. As an empty-nester I then realize that the industrialized consumer system is a hopeless one for me as an individual. Homesteading is the answer. It offers freedom from the rat race and a sense of life purpose. And it's true. Nothing is more satisfying that eating things I've grown with my own hands, being my own boss, or experiencing the joy of new farm babies and animal antics. Those things are priceless.
4.  You've written a few introductory books for homesteaders.  What's next on the horizon for books?
I would like to move toward next steps in homesteading, because I think there is a growing need for that. While many people are just starting out, there are others who have the basics down and are looking to build on those basics toward greater self-reliance. I was able to do that somewhat in Prepper's Livestock Guide. It was written to help someone in the early stages of homesteading and livestock keeping, but there is also quite a bit of "next step" material, such as growing feed and hay, making feed mixes, establishing sustainable pasture, and alternative methods for food preservation.
Currently I'm in the outline stage for a sequel to 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. That book was about our early days on our homestead, when we were trying to establish our basics. Now we're striving to take our self-sufficiency to a higher level, which means facing new questions and challenges. It's meant not only re-evaluating, but finding new ways of thinking. My hope is that our trial-and-error experiences can encourage others on the same journey.
5.  What else would you like folks to know?
That there is no perfect time to start homesteading! No matter where you are or what your circumstances, make a start. Doing something is better than doing nothing. The best way to get nowhere fast is to do nothing.
Expect the unexpected. There will be set-backs, but these are part of the learning process, and set-backs are not necessarily bad. I learn a lot from my problems and mistakes, often finding better solutions than I expected.

Remember that a lifestyle change is a huge undertaking. It takes time, but it's well worth it.

Pick up your copy of the Prepper's Livestock Handbook today!

Monday, July 2

From Manteo to Murphy.....North Carolina

We road-school around the United States, but some of my favorite places to take the boys are in the Old North State. I get to take them to all the places we visited as kids, and experience the memories again through their eyes! North Carolina is divided into the Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Mountain regions…and we are going to hit three stops in each of them on this tour!
Coastal Plain

Graveyard of the Atlantic / Lighthouses

The Outer Banks of North Carolina has a long, rich history full of pirates, U-boats, and shipwrecks! More than 2,000 shipwrecks lie off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. A dangerous mix of storms, shoals, and strong currents earned the area the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” There are several museums dedicated to the history of the region, and (if you’re bold enough to make the climb in the ocean winds) some beautiful lighthouses with absolutely breathtaking views of the area!

Unit Studies : Graveyard of the Atlantic & North Carolina Lighthouses

Wright Brothers / Hang-gliding

The North Carolina license plate boasts “First in Flight.” When visiting OBX (Outer Banks), we always take time to stop at the Wright Brothers Museum for an aviation day. If the weather is nice, definitely stop by Jockey’s Ridge and do a little bit of hang-gliding as well! They have classes for every level, from beginner to advanced. Feel the wind in your face!

Unit Studies : Aviation, Wright Brothers, & Hang-Gliding

Lost Colony
One of the first English settlements to the New World, led by Sir Walter Raleigh, settled in the Roanoke Village of present-day North Carolina. Their story, and the mystery surrounding it, has yet to be solved. There are several museums, plays, and hands-on activities dedicated to the history of this colony and region – and they’re all fun!

Unit Studies : Lost Colony

Piedmont (The Triangle is what most people think of for this area, so we are focusing on the Triad instead – the other metropolitan region.)

Old Salem
Old Salem has wonderful actors who dress up in 18th century costume and demonstrate daily living and worship in the original community. When visiting, you get to experience life over two hundred years ago through hands-on activities and discussions with costumed re-enactors. We are all about hands-on learning!

Unit Study : Old Salem

North Carolina Transportation Museum
Known to the locals as 'Spencer,’ this museum has four large exhibit buildings that represent the Southern Railroad's largest steam locomotive repair facility on the east coast. Buildings include the Back Shop, the Master Mechanic's Office, the Flue Shop and the 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse. The museum is a source of education and fun for the young and old.

Unit Study : Railroads

Raptor Center
Tucked into the hills of southwestern North Carolina, a magical forest lies full of eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, and their raptor cousins. The Carolina Raptor Center, in Huntersville, is dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey through education, research, and raptor rehabilitation. As an added bonus, it feels like a land of fairies as you wander through the winding forest trails!

Unit Study : Raptors


Paradise Falls / Waterfalls
The mountains of North Carolina are known for their stunning waterfalls! Paradise Falls, located near Cashiers, happens to be our favorite to visit for a day hike. The flora and fauna make for a great ecology study all on their own!

Find Paradise Falls

One of our favorite black and white shows is the Andy Griffith Show. Up in Mount Airy (think : Mayberry), they’ve dedicated their tourism industry to recreating the scenes and atmosphere of the show itself. Friendly people, old timey entertainment, good food, and lots of fun can be found here!

Unit Study : Character Training w/ Andy Griffith

Biltmore House
Probably the best-known house in the Tarheel State is the Biltmore House. Built at the turn of the 20th century by the Vanderbilt Family, it features gorgeous architectural design, a winery with its own science lessons, and a hands-on, microscopic look at the history of the Gilded Age.

Unit Study : Biltmore House

You can learn more about field trips in North Carolina by going here, but honestly…just stop on by…there’s some Cheerwine and sweet tea over by the barbecue..and there’s always room for one more at the table!

Monday, June 25

Sunshine Girl (Parade)

"Friends are the sunshine of life." -John Hay
Every few months, my friends and I send each other boxes full of goodies.  We don't see each other often (maybe once in three years), and this is our way of sending hugs & sunshine through the mail.

These boxes are full of treats and goodies for both mom and the kids.  We're utilizing the postal service, which to me is a lost art, and also it is full of little gifts that don't cost much (we mostly shop from our homes or local thrift stores), but they are from the heart. Not everything has to be electronics and expensive. The best things in life are just little thoughts from people that care about you.  I encourage you to send find a partner and send sunshine never know when one will arrive on the perfect day!

We don't have rules...we just aim to make each other smile.  But if you need some guidelines :
  1. Fill up a flat-rate box...pack carefully and make a game out of how much you can cram into one box.  I'm not sure who the current title-holder is in our group right now.
  2. Even if it's Christmas, don't wrap things - it just takes up more space.  DO put a note inside for mom, though, if you want it wrapped up on the receiving end.
  3. Fun things to send :  small souvenirs, snacks, photos / postcards, small toys, books, cd/dvd, clothing (occasionally we'll swap shirts amongst the kids), magnets, homemade stuffs (jelly, jam, cookies), art & craft supplies, fun thingamajigs....the list is endless!
I crammed all of this into two medium flat-rate boxes.  It was back-to-school time, so we swapped out nice, "new to you" clothing.  And that's a full-sized cookie jar in the back!

We also like to put in baked goods!  Cook up some extra love with these sunshine lollipops, from Hungry Happenings.

Sunshine Lollipops (makes 12)

  1. Pour some of your melted candy melts into a squeeze bottle fitted with a small round pastry tip (or use a disposable pastry bag, or a zip top bag with one tip snipped off.)
  2. Pipe a circle the same size as your cookie onto your parchment paper. Set a craft stick onto the piped circle. Pipe triangles all around the piped circle. Fill in with candy coating. Repeat making 12 sunshine pops. Refrigerate for 5 minutes until candy coating hardens.
  3. Note: I recommend making a few pops at a time then refrigerate them, so that the yellow candy coating doesn't get splotchy, streaky, or spotty:) 
  4. As you work, you will probably need to re-heat your candy coating. Place it in the microwave and heat it for 10 seconds, then stir. If needed, heat 10 more seconds, but don't over heat or you could burn the candy coating. I like using the plastic squeeze bottle for projects like this because the entire bottle (as long as you use a plastic decorating tip) can go into the microwave.
  5. Pour your remaining yellow confectionery coating into a small bowl. Place a cookie in the melted coating, submerge it completely, then use a dipping fork or kitchen fork to lift it out. Tap the fork on the side of the bowl allowing the excess candy coating to fall back into the bowl. 
  6. Set the candy coated cookie in the center of a sunshine pop. Immediately add two candy eyes. Repeat creating all 12 pops. Refrigerate for 5 minutes until the candy coating hardens.
  7. Remove pops from refrigerator and allow them to warm to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Use a black food coloring marker to draw smiles and eye lashes on your sunshine lollipops.
  8. Store your Sunshine Lollipops in an airtight container for up to a month. You can package them in clear cellophane bags to give out as gifts or party favors.