One Big Adventure
An opportunity to log in some of the thoughts and activities of our homeschooling family of eight. We love books and good food and aspire to a Christ-centered, multi-generational, agrarian life.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Granny Miller Challenge--Food and Water


We ate well during the weekend. I think, the main reason we did, was that we menu-planned to the nth degree--kind of like we would have if we were taking a trip. It helped us to stay focused and organized to already have the decisions made. I wonder how that would work in any sort of a long term situation, because I know that I am often hit or miss on meal planning on a day to day kind of a basis. (Note to us: work on being more consistent with menu planning, so the habit is there when the need is.)

For dinner Friday evening, we had planned Vegetable Beef (venison) Stew. Plan A was to cook it in wood-fire coals, but Owen worked with a neighbor off the farm and it rained, so we cooked inside on the propane cooktop instead. We all became fans of the long butane lighters over the weekend and laughed at ourselves for turning off burners and trying to light them by the knobs, without any flame.

Saturday morning, we had planned coconut flour pancakes and homemade, homegrown pork sausage with eggs. We thought it would be handy to use an old-fashioned hand-powered hand mixer to mix the pancakes, but it turned out the whisk was much more effective with a batter. The sausage was easier to make than I thought it would be (I used this family favorite recipe from Alton Brown, and used 2 and a half pounds of already-ground pork.) I used an old cookbook holder from the farmers' market box and really learned to appreciate how much easier it is to read from a cookbook or recipe binder that is propped up in a holder and lit with a lamp on the counter. We cooked the pancakes and sausage over the coals outside. Owen and Becca set up the awning to protect us from rain and Owen's Boy Scout fire-making experience kept us in plenty of hot coals. It was hard work to bend and cook over fire just a foot off the ground. The cook cooks just as much as the food does! We decided to leave off the eggs. The pancakes were egg-y enough and plenty filling with the sausage.

We wondered aloud if homemakers of bygone days wore a towel over their shoulder with 'designated spots' for different 'messes'. Perhaps they wet one end and used one corner to wipe their hot, cooked face, and the other wet corner to wipe off dirty hands. Maybe they saved the dry end for wiping only what was clean, like washed hands. We decided that cooking over the fire is almost too difficult and time consuming for everyday meal preparation. We will be improving our dutch oven cooking skills, learning and trying pit-roasting, looking into making and using a solar oven. In the long run, we'd like to build an outdoor stove and wood-fired oven that will allow us to cook in a more upright position without our faces directly over the fire.

Saturday lunch was more of a snack... rice cakes on hand with hummus or egg salad or pb. It made for a nice break in the day and we visited at the table as no one was distracted.

Saturday supper Hannah and Owen worked together over the fire again. We had pork ribs--they had already par-cooked so they warmed over the fire mopped with sauce, foil-wrapped potatoes cooked in the coals, we had sauerkraut that had fermented in our crock (as a side note, the kraut we have made with homegrown cabbage has been much more flavorful to us than that which was made with boughten cabbage), and broccoli steamed on the stove inside. Dessert was dutch oven-baked applesauce hung over the fire.

Sunday breakfast was home-made yogurt, apples or bananas. The yogurt had already been made using a heating pad for incubating. We talked about options for making homemade yogurt without power. One idea would be to place the yogurt in jars in a cooler and adding some jars of warm water to keep the cooler warm. Perhaps this could be done in an oven as well.

Sunday 'lunch', after church was eggs, bacon, refried beans, corn tortillas, salsa, avocado, lettuce. We cooked inside on the propane cooktop (and wondered how many butane lighters or boxes of matches we should keep on hand).

Sunday supper was our celebration meal. We hand-churned coconut milk ice cream, and popped popcorn on the stove. We agreed we had survived the weekend very well, indeed.

The next post will be about Water. I think it will take longer than I originally thought...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A new hobby...

Last weekend we did the Granny Miller challenge. It was a great weekend for us. We learned a great deal and agree with Granny Miller that everyone learns so much more from a hands on experience. We sure did.

It seems that some level of preparation has always been important to us. I grew up in a home that had a stocked pantry (even though we didn't grow our own food, my mom always had the next boxes of cereal, bottles of catsup, cans of tuna and bars of soap in a closet in our hall bathroom). Vern grew up in Minnesota and his mom always had extras in a closet in case they were stuck at home after a snow storm. We have generally carried that with us and expanded on it some. In our first country home in Minnesota, we expanded on the idea more. Since we have moved to our current country place, we are sometimes overwhelmed with how much more we seem to need to expand our skill set.

When we read about the Granny Miller Challenge Weekend, we pretty much all agreed that we should give it a try and test out just how prepared we are for a power outage. We altered the plan a little to suit our family.

For our first challenge weekend, we intentionally chose a weekend that would likely be neither too hot nor too cold. We left the power running to the fridge and the freezers. We also used power to process 18 roosters that have been needing to be culled. We used power to run the well pump for water and the plucker. We do know how to process chickens by hand, and realistically, if we had no power for freezing, we would not process 18 chickens at a time anyway.

In general, we would all say that the Granny Miller Challenge weekend for us was like having all the benefits of camping (reduced stress, time together, minimal interruptions, quiet...) without the negatives (we weren't in a leaking tent when it rained, we slept in our own beds, we didn't have to haul a flash light down to the bath house for a middle of the night run.)

Over the next several posts, I plan to cover more specifics in the areas Granny Miller recommends:

1. Food and Water
2. Shelter
3. Clothing/linens/laundry
4. Hygiene/toilet
5. Recreation/communication
6. Miscellaneous
7. Review/what next?

If you have any general questions, please comment and I will try to address them as I work through the list. Please feel free to share your own helpful tips!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Frontier Logs

 We've always enjoyed Lincoln Logs. I don't even remember when we Owen got his first set that he shared, naturally. Up in Minnesota, we had a huge tub full of the newer Lincoln Logs... they, however, didn't make the cut for moving.
 Daddy and Momma have mentioned that there used to be Lincoln Logs sets that were all wood. I never saw any till we moved to Georgia. One of our neighbors, Grandma Dean, has some old Lincoln Logs that her sons used to play with. James really likes going over to Grandma Dean's and playing with the Lincoln Logs.

I looked for all wood Lincoln Logs sets, but didn't see any till I looked on CSN Stores. They have a whole bunch of Lincoln Log or Frontier Log sets. For Christmas, we got a set. It was a 160 piece set for $21 plus shipping. Total was $25. Which wasn't a bad price considering some other sets I had, by then, come across.

Owen, Becca, Carrie and James have really tested it out. James in particular. It has stood up very well to being catapulted, tossed, dropped, stepped on (ouch!) and so on. That is, except for the cardboard sign "Cavalry-US". It looks like James has bent it! 

Most mornings, James will pull out the tub of Frontier Logs, dump them out on the floor and ask for help in building a house. "Nahhhhnieeee, haowshhh.  Meessss" translated to "Hannah, house. Please". So we build a house and he knocks it down and asks for another one.

I really like these Frontier Logs and hope to slowly build up our Frontier Logs to build the mansions Katie, Owen and I used too. From the use love these Frontier Logs have received, I think they will last a good long time. When we buy more sets, we'll get them from CSN Stores because the shipping is quick and the price is reasonable.

Ideal - 300L - Wood Construction 300 pieces Frontier Logs in CanisterWe might even get this set. It's only $36.24 plus shipping. I don't know that I like that it also has 20 plastic figures (More to keep track of, IMO). But I'd bet James would. Because they're 'western', Becca would too.

Did you play with Lincoln Logs/Frontier Logs when you were growing up?

***sponsored by CSN Stores. This is my honest opinion of CSN Stores and Frontier Logs... all words are 100% my own. Pictures taken by Becca or Carrie or from CSN Stores website.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Large Family Logistics

One of my online friends has been talking about this book and then she posted this link. As a former logistics officer and having a large family, I'd love to get this book. But if you enter, win it and don't want it, I would love to have it. :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Yummy Chocolate Cake!!!

Who says one can't have chocolate cake or cupcakes on a gluten, dairy,  and processed sugar free diet. We think these taste just like their gluten containing counterparts! :*)

Friday, October 29, 2010

What a little girl wants...

Greenleaf Dollhouses Shadybrook Cabin Dollhouse Kit 

When I was a little girl, one of my biggest desires was to have a dollhouse. And then, one year I did get one! It was a large dollhouse and it came with lots of little wood parts to make it. Daddy and I set up one of the bedrooms to be able to work on it, without little ones touching it. We were only able to glue the first and second floorboards together, before James was born and we needed that bedroom. 

Momma and I looked online on that day to see if we could find some dollhouse furniture that would go with it. I distinctly remember seeing a nursery set, with a cradle, crib, rocking chair and a rocking horse. I loved seeing the different sets, but didn't ever get any and finally lost track of the site with the sets. Recently, I came across another site and they carried the same sets I remember seeing a long time ago. I didn't see any on the site, but it would be great to see drop leaf tables for a dollhouse. I could think of many different uses for a mini drop leaf table, but the primary one would be that it wouldn't take up a lot of room. :)

Katie, Owen and I have been talking about seeing if we can put together my dollhouse and that means I will look into getting some furniture and finishing up some dolls Katie and I started when we were about 7 and 5 years old. I really hope we do, because I still like dollhouses. And decorating them too! 

CSN Stores sells drop leaf tables, dollhouse furniture and an amazing selection of dollhouses, if you don't have one yet. ~Sponsored

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I kissed shampoo (and conditioner) good-bye!

(with apologies to Josh Harris)

If you don't already think I am nuts, you probably will soon.

I gave up shampoo. And conditioner. I haven't bought any for myself in over three months. And it is summer in Georgia.

I had read a number of things about shampoo and conditioner replacements and about how toxic commercial hair care products can be. And I thought I should do something. BUT, I live in Georgia, for goodness sake, and people SWEAT here. AND I have frizzy curly hair. HOW would I EVER make it without CONDITIONER. I was sure I would be one big, permanent, oily frizz ball.

Then my friend, Millie, mentioned her no 'poo method. And that she has frizzy hair--or did, before she kissed shampoo and conditioner good-bye. And I was convinced that I at least needed to give this a chance.

So, I took my empty tight-wad, unhealthy shampoo and conditioner bottles and rinse them with warm to hot water until I was sure nothing was left.

I filled my shampoo bottle 1/8th full of baking soda, added warm water, replaced the squirt top and shook to dissolve the soda. (Some like to add some essential oil or herbs for fragrance, but the next step makes that moot for me, so I just do the soda and water).

I filled my conditioner bottle 1/3 full of real apple cider vinegar, then added water to fill. No need to shake, but be sure to put the squirt top back on. It will be handy in the shower.

When I shower, I wash my face and neck first, especially if I've been doing 'dirty work'. Then I squirt the Soda wash all over my head and hair. I rub in around in my scalp with my fingertips, just like it was shampoo. Some say it sort of suds for them. I haven't seen or felt any suds. I wash down my hair with my fingers and then rinse... rubbing with my fingertips. The AMAZING thing is that my hair squeaks! and feels clean. One time, after a particular sweaty and dirty garden work day, I had to wash a second time. I knew this because after rinsing, my hair didn't have the squeaky clean feel like it should.

After rinsing the wash out, I squirt the hair rinse (water and vinegar) all over my hair. You don't want this in your eyes! I rub it around in my hair and then let it sit while I wash up and do whatever I need to do! When I am all done washing up, I rinse my hair thoroughly.

Only one time did I think I smelled like vinegar, but Vern said he didn't smell it.

My hair is softer than it's ever been. I can actually brush through it, which I usually cannot do because it is so thick, coarse and frizzy.

I always have baking soda and apple cider vinegar on hand, so it is easy to make up... and it is very inexpensive. I'm also confident that I'm not adding any extra toxins to my body.

Now if I can just win over the rest of the family!

(Notes: I did read somewhere that if you use henna, the vinegar is not compatible with that.)

Do you have any budget-friendly, natural ingredient recipes for hair care products that can be made at home?

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Today we visited Dr. P, James' surgeon, for James' post-surgery visit.

Dr. Parker came into the room and looked at James (almost like Dr. Keller does). Then, he smiled... and said, "Fantastic." "He looks fantastic!" Then he asked me when his surgery was and had it really only been five weeks? And again, he said, "He really looks fantastic.".. So... I think we know what Dr. P thinks! :*)

He asked a number of questions about how things have been going then he, umm, examined James. Which James was none-too-happy about. He couldn't get over how well James was doing this soon after surgery. And he said that bodes well for a full recovery, BUT :*), he said we still need to be on the lookout for signs of things gone awry for the next 6 months or so.

I asked about James' g-tube and we are tentatively aiming for October or November to close that up... He said it might be Day surgery, but could be overnight, depending. Gotta love a surgeon who doesn't make any promises! I mean that in the nicest way, since really, most things are not their promises to make!

As we headed home, I was mindful that it is not due to anything that we have or have not done, that the Lord has spared our James (whether for now or for the long term, we don't know, of course) and taken other children. I am grateful He is worthy of my trust, no matter what my circumstances. It isn't my circumstances, or James', that determines who I am, or my value (or yours either), it is that God loves us so much, that He sent Jesus to die for us (not collectively, but individually) so that we may be reconciled to Him. And He will pursue us however He needs to, to give us the opportunity of receiving that gift.

And that is humbling... in a very wonderful kind of a way.

Thank you for your prayers for us!

Friday, June 25, 2010

An herbal giveaway

Much to the chagrin of the doctors who work with James, and think that my daughter, Hannah, should go to medical school (or, at the very least, nursing school), Hannah would rather take a class about herbs... and maybe be an herbalist.

This giveaway could help her move in that direction!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Happy times

I think the hardest part for me this surgery (besides praying and wondering about pain management) was the fact that James was doing so great before surgery. It is not so difficult to hand your baby over to the surgeon when you know his life depends on it... and he looks like he is depending on you to help him.

It's a little different when he looks the best he has in five years... and you're sending him anyway.

I believe it won't be long until James is back up to full speed and, since pain management has not been the nightmare this time that it has been in the past, I really have no regrets. Already his little belly looks more like that of a little boy and less like that of a war-torn veteran. That is certainly something to be grateful for... and I am!

I am also grateful for some sweet time yesterday. Just about the time I was wondering if this was our day of trouble since James had gone so long without food or drink, the Big Apple Circus clowns that are permanently assigned here showed up. They occupied James for about 45 minutes and I think they had just as much fun as we did!

If you want to see MORE pictures you can go here!

Preparing for the best

Yesterday was a good day. The last day, hopefully and Lord willing, that James will ever have had an ostomy bag. Already his little belly looks so much better than it has in the last three years! Not to say we don't still have a long road of healing ahead of us.

We do.

There are lots of things to share from yesterday, but for this post, I'll stick to the surgery and what we are looking at for the next while.

After the surgery, Dr. Parker came out to let us know how things went. He was pleased, but remains cautious. His cautions have to do mostly with the fact that James had Hirschsprung's disease as a baby. Once a child has Hirschsprung's disease, any subsequent blockages or enterocolitis are automatically 'blamed' on Hirschsprung's, because they might have missed some bad sections of intestines (they remove those parts that have no nerve cells). At any rate, while we and the oncologists were assuming all along that the enterocolitis that necessitated the ileostomy was caused by James' chemo (vincristine, in particular), the surgeons were assuming there were missed sections with Hirschsprung's disease.

So... what that means is, while the surgeons are in favor of re-connecting James, they will remain only cautiously optimistic until James' colon 'proves itself' with use over the next 6-12 months.

This was not a surprise to me. But after surgery, Dr. Parker spent a good bit of time re-iterating everything that could go wrong over the next 6 months to a year and what we need to watch out for. He does believe we likely have all the bad sections of colon removed, but he can't prove it. The only way to prove it is to hook it all up and try it out.

While surgery went well, they won't call it a success for a while yet.

Now that surgery is done, we look forward to the best case of good things that need to happen.

Over the next days, we need to continue to manage James' pain. I am truly encouraged by the epidural. It blocks the pain from about the bottom of his rib cage to about an inch below his belly button. He does have some breakthrough pain and there are meds prescribed to cover the breakthrough pain. So far, James has been pretty good about telling us when it hurts. Us is limited to me and Hannah though. When other people are in the room, he either closes his eyes or puts on a brave front until they leave! Of course, if we don't know he hurts, we can't do anything to help relieve the pain. Please pray for wisdom here.

Hopefully in the next 2 to 3 days, James will have bowel sounds (or tummy rumbles), pass gas, and stool. All that will be the first steps to prove that this 'is working'. And then he can start taking clears by mouth. In the meantime, poor guy is sure licking his lips a lot! We are putting salves on his lips and he can have a swab with water to 'whet his whistle'. Zorro has been a great comfort so far. Pray it holds! And the tummy rumbles, gas and other proof come just at the right time--after things are healed enough to handle the activity.

Once he tolerates clears, we'll be watching for any bloating (a bad sign of things gone wrong) and if all is well, James will be able to eat some 'normal' food. Then we will watch again for any sign a bloating (still a bad thing) and proof that things are moving like they should.

Dr. Parker said if everything works 'best case', we should be able to go home Tuesday or Wednesday. If anything doesn't, all bets are off. I, for one, would love to home next Tuesday or Wednesday. Even more than that, I would love for everything to work 'best case' and to give God the glory for it!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


It has been a good day. Thanks for your prayers and encouraging notes!

This morning we were able to have a 'homemade' breakfast at the Ronald McDonald house. They have an incredible kitchen set up, which gives us a lot of flexibility. What a huge blessing!

After breakfast, we headed over to the hospital. We decided to drive since we had things we would need to unload from the car. Tomorrow, I'm hoping to walk! We registered right away and visited radiology. The radiologist thought James' colon looked like it had grown some in the last several months, but the rest of his intestines 'looked pretty small'. I forgot to ask if there were any signs of blockage. Quietly I called out to the Lord, that He would rescue James and make a way for surgery... and that it would work.

Getting admitted to the hospital and getting to our room all worked pretty simply. Unfortunately, the emergency room here was very overloaded and the surgery resident and intern didn't have the order for James' bowel prep in by 6 p.m.! About 5:30 (I hadn't realized how time had passed), the nurse commented that if we didn't get the order soon, surgery might have to be moved from Wednesday! Well, that lit a fire under me and I started to make phone calls. Then I realized the surgeon's office was closed for the day! Yikes! I called the Nurse Practitioner we have worked with and left a voice mail. I started to call the answering service for the surgeon and then realized that if I answered the questions wrong, or the wrong surgeon was on call, I would get no help at all... "Oh Lord, here I am in my day of trouble! You promised if I called out to you, you would rescue me!" Just as I finished praying, my faith for this was so small, I had no idea how the Lord would work this one out. Just long enough to see my ugly doubt, and there was a knock at the door. Dr. Parker popped in... looking like he was fresh from vacation (he did just have an almost 4-day weekend!). Just in time, he got the orders in place, answered my main questions and chastised the intern and resident for not calling him and getting the orders in place. Thankfully, no harm was done to James and hopefully someone learned a valuable lesson!

Just another hour and a half of go-lytlely (they'll turn it off at midnight) and then he just needs to sleep for the night. They had hoped to be done by 9 p.m., but this gives James a little longer for drinking clears (he's eating homemade chicken broth as I type).

This afternoon, we met with one of the doctor's that run the pain team... All I can say is, "Why didn't they have a pain team for the last surgery!"... No... I'm so grateful they have come up with this idea! It's essentially an anesthesiology team that work to keep the children comfortable, especially after a painful surgery or procedure. The plan is, believe it or not, to use an epidural. The epidural enables the them to block the pain without slowing the gut. Dr. Li said that morphine will be available for breakthrough pain and that if the epidural works (there is a chance that it won't), James shouldn't need much morphine. This will allow him to get up and around. He won't be groggy and when his bowel sounds indicate he is ready, he will be able to drink and then eat. Please call upon the Lord with us and ask Him to bless this plan for His glory and James' sake.

So, tomorrow is the big day, some three years and 5 weeks after James got his ileostomy, he should get his take down.

Before then, we are hoping to get a good night's sleep. And I need to finish washing diapers!

"Call upon Me in the day of trouble. I will rescue you and you will glorify Me."