123: RAQ #9 – self reliant “enough”, homeschooling, homesteading books, frozen eggs, self-publishing
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It’s another random audience questions podcast episode (and blog post) where I pull five questions from my giant mason jar of topics you’ve sent in. Today I answer your questions about: being self-reliant enough, hard times in homeschooling, favorite non-fiction homesteading books, frozen eggs in the winter, and self-publishing. As always is the case with these random audience questions episodes, the podcast episode is more in depth than the blog post.
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1. Enough self-reliance?
“What food items do you use a lot of that you don’t grow/raise yourself, and do you have any plans to start growing/raising those things yourself so you can be less reliant on the system? – Katie
Moving to our farm, and I had this grand dream that we’d be so totally self-sufficient that we’d never need to go to the grocery store, or if we did, our shopping list would be so tiny that people would be in awe of how little we needed from “other people”.
Ten years into this gig, I can tell you:
We raise our own chicken, turkey, and pork. I do not need to go to the store for chicken, turkey, or pork, or anything that comes from those animals such as eggs or lard.
We also plant a large garden of various vegetables. I do a lot of canning, especially of tomato type sauces and condiments. We have grapes and raspberries and dandelions here, so jelly/jam is plentiful.
Last year we had our first successful herb garden so I have some stuff available like basil, sage, lemon balm, and peppermint.
But there are lots of things I do not raise or grow here. I do not have a milk cow, so I purchase all my dairy products. I don’t grow wheat, I don’t grow sugar beets. I don’t grow coffee beans or vanilla beans. I don’t grow peanuts.
Sometimes “homemade” means that you’ve got some of the items to make a “product” happen, but you need additions from the store to make it happen, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
I’ve successfully made mead, but I needed items from the store to make that happen.
I like making my own mayo, but I have to go to the store for olive oil and the salt and the lemon juice. All I have to contribute to it is the egg.
I like making my own noodles, but I need flour and salt from the store.
I think it’s always great to experiment and try new things, it’s also important to realize that a) you can only do what you can do b) there is a store in town c) even Ma Ingalls was shopping in town and d) every little bit that you can do is a step further from the system — you don’t have to completely remove yourself (and most of us can’t anyway.)
I think it’s admirable to grow and raise what you can, but don’t beat yourself up about what you can’t (or won’t) grow and raise where you live.
2. Hard times in homeschooling
What did you do on the really hard homeschooling days? To my knowledge, you homeschooled your kids all the way through and you still talk about them, so my guess is you didn’t eat your young at any point. I have an 8 and a 10 year old. Homeschooling has been mostly okay for the past couple years but this winter it feels especially impossible. We are at each other’s throats. We struggle through our work. What did you do when things are really hard? – M.
You are correct, I did not eat my children. But there are probably times I wanted to. And there are also times they probably wanted to sink some fangs into me.
If you are in a place where you feel like you can’t get away because it’s -20 and icy and you can’t go anywhere and you feel like a prisoner in your own home, homeschooling is going to feel very hard and impossible and gross. As someone who lived that every winter, the only thing I can tell you is that it is totally normal, it totally happens, and it’s okay to take a break.
Sometimes the hardest thing about winter homeschooling if you’ve lost your mojo is that you’re also feeling guilty because of this belief that if you don’t do all the things every single day, your kids are going to grow up to not know who the first President was or what the capital of your state is or how to add fractions and they will walk around with two left feet while picking their nose. I am here to tell you they will be fine.
Homeschooling is hard. Winter homeschooling can sometimes feel impossible. Do what you need to do as a family to get through. Taking the rest of February off of formal studies is fine. Deciding you’re going to spend the rest of the month reading books in a blanket fort together while you eat popcorn and drink hot chocolate is fine. Spending the rest of the week giving your kids free range of the kitchen to make a menu and cook and bake whatever they want for the family is fine. Deciding you’re going to binge watch old cartoons from the 40s is fine. Opening your giant tote of fabric and ribbon and buttons and letting them outfit their stuffed animals is fine.
If you need a reset, your kids probably do, too. And obviously what works for one family is different from what will work for another for lots of different reasons: ages of kids, personalities, living situation, methods of homeschooling, etc. But if you are frustrated and exhausted and want to cry, your kids probably do, too. The reset is more important than what you fear is going to happen because you didn’t work on fractions for a week.
I speak from experience. 🙂
3. Favorite non-fiction homesteading books
Can you tell us some of your favorite non-fiction homesteading books? As in, the ones you’re always going to when you need an answer for something? – Ashley
I have a big ol’ bookshelf of homesteading books, but I will tell you the three that I open the most often.
Chickens in Your BackYard: A Beginners Guide by Rick and Gail Luttman This gem was first published in 1976 and is the book I go to when I have a chicken question. I was gifted it by another homesteader when I was first starting out here at the farm and let me tell you, the binding is broken on this one! Great, simple information regarding keeping chickens.
The Backyard Herbal Apothecary by Devon Young What I love about Devon’s book is it is so informative and easy to understand. We’ve got goodies growing all around us, but I was never confident at identifying things or knowing what exactly I could use them for until I got a copy of her book. I’ve used this one many times for myself and when other people have questions. It’s laid out so nicely and makes me feel like I know what I’m doing when it comes to herbs, what to use them for, and how to use them. Devon knows her stuff.
Attainable Sustainable by Kris Bordessa This book is full of so many ideas, tricks, tips, recipes, and general knowledge about homesteady type things, I find myself constantly reaching for it. Kris packed this book with information, and it’s a beautiful book to read. (You can check out Episode 81 of the Farmish Kind of Life podcast for DIY Your Pantry, an interview with Kris about her Attainable Sustainable book.)
4. Frozen eggs in the winter
Greetings, Minnesota farmgirl. How in the world do you keep eggs from freezing in the coop before you go out to get them? And if they are frozen, can you still use them? – Russell
It is going to be in the 30s today, but it was a negative 30 last week at this same time. When it’s that cold, it almost feels like if you don’t get out to the coop and catch that egg as it’s laid, it’s gonna freeze. In the winter, if your chickens are still laying, the only thing I can suggest is to check your nesting boxes more often. That’s not possible for everyone though, especially if you’re working away from home. So if your eggs do freeze, what do you do?
My rule of thumb is that if they freeze, I will let them thaw in the house and then use them. If they freeze and crack, however, they become an egg for the dog or I save the frozen/cracked eggs in a separate container and then when I have enough, scramble them up and feed them back to my chickens for a nice treat.
There are people who say even if the egg cracks, you can still just let it thaw and use it for yourself, but I have never been able to get my head around a cracked and open egg that’s unprotected from whatever was in the spot my ridiculous chickens decided to lay their eggs today.
5. Publishing a book
Here is something I know that you can answer! Does it cost money to publish a book? I am working on a book about moving to a homestead and I was told that if I self-publish on Amazon, it doesn’t cost anything. Is this true? – Brianne
While it technically doesn’t cost anything to upload your book to Amazon and make it available for sale, there are costs involved with publishing. While not required, I highly suggest hiring someone to do your editing and also (unless you have actual experience) hiring someone to make your book cover.
Can you publish without hiring an editor or a cover artist? Yes. Should you? That depends on who you are and what you want to accomplish with that book. Is it, “I wrote these words and now they are in my hand as a real live book!” If so, that’s awesome! But that’s totally different than, “I wrote this book and it’s going to be my business.”
My personal experience with editing: I read my manuscript many, many times before it’s a “final draft”. Then I run it through editing software that I purchased. It always finds stuff that I missed. Then I send it to my editor. Even with me reading it many times and running it through the software, he still finds things that were missed.
Regarding a cover: People absolutely judge a book by its cover. If making a cover isn’t your thing, look around for someone who can do it for you. Help support their art; they are a creator just like you.
In the most recent book I published, I spent about $500 before pressing publish (and I’m not paying top end prices, at all). My fiction books (because the manuscripts run much longer) run much higher than that for cost before publishing.
My most recent book, Make Friends with a Dog: 18 Tips to Live a Good Life (available in paperback and on Kindle) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WP8CCGY
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