It has been forever. The last post I wrote was my fourth baby’s birth story, and here we are, well over a year later. I’m sorry for up and leaving and never saying a word.
I have been missing you all dearly, and missing writing. Blogging in particular has such a nice dynamic- It’s so pleasant to share something with you, hear from you, learn from you.
Over the last several months, I’ve been wracking my brain about how to keep my foot in the blog-o-sphere. You see, I love blogging here at the Goats page (capital G because certainly those Goats have earned proper noun status by now), but it’s become clear to me that this blog has outgrown itself. Here’s what I mean.
Happy New Year, guys! It’s that time again: time to announce what readers have judged as the very best of They’re Not Our Goats for this year.
I say this without bragging or fanfare- I know very well that my blog is just a little speck somewhere in the dustbin of the internet world. However, it’s always interesting to me to see what readers liked best each year and helps me to determine what you would like to see more of in the following year.
That’s it! Thanks so much for reading along with me this year, sharing my posts, supporting me and my crazy family, and putting up with my on again off again blog regularity. They’re Not Our Goats would be nothing without its readers.
So, to you my friends, cheers! And here’s to a happy 2018!
I am possibly one of the worst procrastinators ever.
I put off and put off and put off simple tasks. Picking up that toy I’ve been tripping over. Feeding the sourdough starter. Getting out first thing in the morning to feed the animals. Preserving that batch of beets that was sitting in the fridge for far too many weeks.
You know what happens when I procrastinate?
My house falls apart. Food gets wasted. Bills get paid at the last minute. Library fines accrue. Animal cages take much longer to clean because they get messier than they should. I get stressed out because of so much to do that I should have been doing all along.
Procrastination makes more work for me. Those simple little tasks add up- and even multiply- as I ignore them. It seems that every time I let something go, it’s easier to let more go. And pretty soon, when I’ve let go of too much, it all becomes overwhelming. You try washing the dishes and feeding the animals and folding the laundry and practicing for a concert and working on the blog with small kids under your feet and chickens sneaking in the kitchen through the open door.
Hmm. Maybe I should have done those little things one at a time.
Procrastination is a time waster. I don’t want to do that work right now… instead, I want to_________________________ (fill in the blank). Just veg out a few minutes? Eat cake? Play on my phone? When I procrastinate, I put off the work that needs to be done in favor what is essentially a big distraction and waste of a few minutes… or an hour… or a day…
Procrastination can be costly, too. Didn’t preserve the food? I’ve wasted the time, money, and work it took for us to get it in the first place. Didn’t pay that bill that you forgot about? Now I’ve got a fee on top of the original payment.
Procrastination is an ugly monster that can undermine an otherwise pleasant routine.
It’s hard to change habits completely. I sort of fall into that undisciplined category by nature. BUT that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to do better. Here are some of the things I’m working on:
2016! You are almost over! And while the year has certainly had its negatives, let me take a moment to highlight the positives from our personal life.
Last year, spring, we took a big risk and transitioned largely to teaching and making music for our income. We built a home music studio in our garage. I took on an extra night teaching voice lessons. We started teaching local music classes at a community center and started playing more gigs out. And somehow, we’ve still been able to make our budget every month.
The homestead was largely a disaster this year. And you know what? I. don’t. care. I spent a while feeling guilty about it, but I’ve decided that there should be no more comparison to some mysterious standard I think I have to live up to. We made a lot of mistakes and failures this year, but we will get back to it. And everything will be okay!
We have been so blessed this year by several huge money-saving boons… A van bought at a public auction at half price. A large portion of venison given to us by hunting friends. Gifts of meals brought over here and there by family. Free babysitting. You know who you all are. Thank you a gazillion times over.
We’ve been learning to say no to extraneous commitments that are hard on our family without feeling too guilty. I can’t say enough about how good this has been for us.
Of course, there have also been many struggles. Over the past year we’ve dealt with a lot of uncertainty and worry– not to mention I always feel like I’m on the verge of survival mode. Pop over my house sometime and find me knee deep in chicken poop and toddler toys and dishes piled up high.
But that’s life, isn’t it? The new year makes me want to move on and forward.
Now, in the spirit of annual tradition, I shall proceed to give you the blog’s top ten most popular posts for 2016. Without further ado:
8. Easy Overnight Soaked Grain Bread – This really is an easy recipe that I’ve made over and over again for our house. Perfect for the night you realize you’re out of bread and you know your kids will be missing it in the morning.
How I Afford Being a Stay-at-Home Mom– My number one post this year was how I afford being a stay at home parent. Since writing it, my husband and I now split the load about 60/40, respectively– we both work part time to make up our (low) full time income. This is also a good arrangement for us. Our kids don’t need daycare and we are still able to homeschool. Hopefully the principles in this post will apply to a variety of family situations.
That’s it for today. 2017 is coming! Here’s to a fresh new year and a fresh start. Happy New Year!
2015 was a whirlwind at our house. I spent the first part of the year feeling tremendously sick with pregnancy, the next part waiting for our 3rd baby, and the last part being a crazy lady committing to too much shortly after having said baby. But there were a few other notable happenings that came along the way, like these:
J turned 5 and started kindergarten at home. He’s my thoughtful, cautious, bright little boy. He loves cars, saws, working with Dada, making up songs, poems, and practicing writing.
V turned 2 and loves joining in (and getting her nose into) whatever activities her brother has going on. She’s my little ham, my daring stunt-girl, singer, dancer, and charmer.
We welcomed sweet baby I in August, and our family of four turned to five. She’s been the easiest adjustment out of any of our kids. She often reminds us of how quickly time flies.
My elder daughter was hospitalized last fall with a life-threatening case of croup. While it was a terrifying experience, we are so grateful she got medical help in time and that she made a full recovery.
This year’s garden had its discouraging moments. The plants got a little out of control, and our preservation rate was much lower than usual. On the upside, we got lots of winter keeper veggies and my hubby planted lots of fruit trees.
Tim rebuilt our porch this summer. It was a huge project for him to undertake, but it looks quite nice now and is much more stable than it was previously.
My hubby continued teaching at a local private school, and took on summer jobs working for neighbors and a landscaping service.
I continued teaching private voice lessons, took on a rare doula client, and kept working on the blog (even though it went on the back burner for a couple of busy months).
2015 was a year in which I struggled much emotionally. However, I’ve also had the opportunity to be (slowly) learning important life lessons. Here are two that keep standing out to me:
I must learn to be at peace despite my feelings or my circumstances. It’s easy for me to get caught up in my own insecurities and self-doubt, particularly in relation to how I’m raising my kids and what we are doing with our lives. My littlest one has been integral to teaching me to accept my circumstances and live with peace- however imperfectly I may be doing it.
Life is too short to be wasted living half-heartedly. I’ve spent too much time of my life wishing for the next thing and whittling away what precious hours I have in the meantime. Wouldn’t it be better to pour my energy into the way I want to live now instead of waiting around for the right things to happen to me?
Finally, I’ll wrap up the recap by sharing my top 10 blog posts of 2015:
#10- $25 Grocery Challenge– For one month, I limited my family’s grocery budget to only $25/week in order to use up what we had, save money, and eliminate unnecessary junk from our diet. It was fun for a time, but I was definitely ready to be done with it by the end of the month.
#9- Why Bother with Homesteading?– Sometimes we question whether or not all the work put into growing and raising your food is worth it. This post served as my defense for making the effort.
#8- Elderberry or Dogwood?– Elderberry and dogwood plants look surprisingly similar. When you’re trying to forage for elderberry, it can be difficult to tell the difference. Check out this helpful “guest” post from my husband-the real plant guy around here- on differentiating the two.
#7- Look Who’s Here! The announcement and summation of my third baby’s birth. After much ado about nothing, she arrived speedily at home in the water.
#6- Six Natural Immunity Boosters– We all hope to stay healthy when cold and flu season hits. Give your body a head start by trying one of these six natural immunity boosters.
#5–Letter from a Pregnant Mama– For some reason, people have a knack for saying all the wrong things to pregnant women. This post was mostly just for fun. Let no one think I am ungrateful or that I take offense too easily. Has anyone said one of these things to you?
#4- Make Over Your Mornings Review– Who knew a course review would make it into the top 10? Crystal’s e-course was seriously motivating and effective in helping me reform my morning inefficiencies and bad habits. Now I need to do it again since I’m finally out of survival mode!
#3- Tick Bite Prevention (Naturally!)– We get a LOT of ticks- and bites- where we live. Find out tricks we’ve used to prevent bites in the first place, and what we use if we do find one of the little buggers on us.
#2-Managing My Mornings with a Newborn– Ah, the reality of life with young kids, particularly those in the newborn phase. You just don’t get as much done as you would hope. But you can still live intentionally, even when you can’t keep up with everything.
And finally, my most popular post for two years in a row…
#1- Apple Honey Jelly– This post details how to make apple jelly out of only peels, cores, water, and a bit of honey if desired. There’s no refined sugar and no added pectin. Give it a go!
Thanks for sticking around and helping to make 2015 a great year. Here’s to the next one!
I was making such good post-baby progress on my health goals this fall. I was exercising five days a week, eating nourishing food, prioritizing sleep, and consciously caring for my mental health. Of course it wasn’t perfect 100% of the time, but I was headed steadily in the right direction.
But then, life hit me. Thanksgiving through Christmas was a bit of a wash in the health department. I worked too much, stayed up too late, ate too much, and may or may not have indulged in way more sugar than I should have. I went into survival mode and dropped the ball on almost every wellness goal I had been working on.
I imagine the busyness and corresponding downfalls of the season is one of the reasons people end up setting New Year’s resolutions so readily. December, with all of its merry making, cookie baking, and feasting can get the best of almost anyone. (Right? Or is it just me?)
I don’t beat myself up over a few bad weeks. I think the over-indulgence of Christmas is just part of the natural ebb and flow of the seasons. That being said, I can feel the awful difference in my body between being an active, mindful eater vs. a sluggish, cookie-vacuum machine. I am SO ready to reform and do better come January.
I don’t usually make formal resolutions, but I do have intentions to press my own “health reset button”- because heaven knows I need it! Here are my health goals for January:
Exercise 5x days/week.
Plan and eat balanced, wholesome meals.
Limit sugar intake.
Give myself a 10:00 p.m. bedtime.
I’m the type of person who thrives on using tools (or gimmicks) to keep me motivated in areas of health, cleaning, or what-have-you. (This post contains affiliate links.) One of my favorite tools that I keep returning to is the Healthy Living Bundle that I purchased last fall.
If you missed it back in September, there’s good news- it’s back for two days only- today and tomorrow- and is packed full of awesome resources to get you back into your healthy groove. (Cause that’s a thing. I groove to health all the time. 😉 )
You can read my full review of the Healthy Bundle here, but let me highlight three resources that really went to work for me last fall:
The Thrive 90 Fitness Program– This 90 day workout program (valued at $47) includes daily exercises that can all be done at home with minimal equipment in 30 minutes or less. After completing over a month of this course, I felt much stronger and more energetic- two things that a mom of three littles can really benefit from!
Oh Lardy’s Guide to Fermenting. (Valued at $9.99) This book was the one that really got me started on fermentation. Tamara and Kelly dish out the science and many health benefits to fermentation, and share many tasty recipes to try. After my first few successful ferments, I never looked back. There’s almost always something sitting out on my counter with an airlock now! (You can find a recipe from the book here.)
Tired and Hungry Cook’s Companion. Of the twenty-three real-food resources included in this digital library (twenty-three!!!), this is my favorite so far. The two free months of healthy meal plans from Kresha at Nourishing Joy (valued at $24) are complete with over 65 recipes a month, ingredient checklists, and family dinner activities. I can’t even tell you how much money, time, and decision fatigue this meal planner has saved me. I sense a full review coming in the future.
These three resources alone are worth almost 3x the price of the entire bundle, but there’s so much more that it includes! There’s paleo and allergy-friendly recipes, natural home and natural health solutions, basic homesteading skill books, and healthy pregnancy and baby reads. It’s 90+ health resources for under $30- now that’s a way to kick-start your new year!
Remember, the bundle is only available today and tomorrow, so make sure to grab yours before it disappears for another year. I’m so looking forward to getting back in gear and working towards better health all-around. What are your goals for January?
When you purchase the Healthy Living Bundle, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. As always, I only promote products that I have experience with and truly value. Thank you in advance for supporting our family in this way!
It’s the early hours of the morning on the day after Christmas. My son and I have been admiring his stack of new books and tinkering with little treasures while the tree twinkles away in the corner. He colors in his new art journal while I take a few minutes to type.
We’ve been going, going, going far too much this semester- at least far too much for a family with three young kids. We’ve had barely an evening a week with all of us home at the same time with no place to go. I know of many families who do this regularly and seem to handle it well, but to me, it’s more stress than it’s worth.
This Christmas was such a welcome contrast to all that running around. Granted, it was still busy- we didn’t have much time to prepare “real” presents for anyone, much less to make the Christmas music we generally prepare and play. But for some reason, it didn’t really matter. I resigned myself to low-key gifts for our families, and decided that if we didn’t have time for all our regular traditions it would still be just fine.
(J enjoying a viewfinder.)
We came to a screeching halt from all of our bustling yesterday. It’s hard to slow down suddenly after feeling so rushed and scattered, but it was much needed. Christmas day ended up being one of the calmest days we’ve had in a long time.
The best part was the morning. The kids didn’t get up until after 7 a.m., and they were content to sit and eat breakfast in the kitchen for a while. We lit a snowman-shaped candle and hummed carols along to my husband’s ukulele plucking, then moved into the playroom to stick characters on our advent wall hanging and read the Christmas story together. The children played together without fighting. (A Christmas miracle!) We finally had to suggest that we open our presents before visiting with grandparents.
(V modeling her “new” dress-up clothes.)
Such harmony is a rarity around here- the kids must have known subconsciously that staying settled for more than 10 minutes was a great Christmas gift! While none of us were perfect and the day wasn’t without its cranky moments, it did carry that sense of rest that I’ve been longing for.
There’s a beauty of finding calm amidst chaos- it’s not something I typically do very well. In fact, I’m easily frustrated, cranky, and not always nice when I’m facing a stressful situation. But apparently it’s a lesson I’m supposed to keep learning. For example, in the middle of writing this post, I got annoyed and had to take a break because one of my children-who shall not be named-wouldn’t stop jabbering and let me think clearly.
Oh yes, peace and rest, peace and rest.
(Baby I keeps us smiling.)
It’s something I have to keep reminding myself of. Peace isn’t found merely by avoiding problems. In fact, that quietness of heart and mind is quite a separate thing from our circumstances.
After hearing so much of Handel’s Messiah this week, I can’t help thinking of the text from which “His yoke is easy” is taken:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11: 28-30)
A friend and I were just talking about how misleading blogs can be sometimes. I don’t want mine to be one of those blogs. So, in the spirit of full disclosure and a reality check, I present to you, in no particular order, the things you should know about this blog.
The topics I write about are things I get excited about. The projects I write about are interests of mine. They are not the entirety of who I am.
I make a lot of mistakes. Often big ones. I hope that my blog conveys that.
I usually either write at naptime or in the early mornings, then pre-schedule my posts.
I don’t like how much time the social media aspect of blogging consumes. I’m trying to figure out how to schedule my posts out on there and then have a designated time for response and interaction.
I don’t cook all the recipes I write on a regular basis. So I wrote a sourdough recipe– great! I love sourdough! But sometimes I go a month without making it. Please don’t be under the assumption that I am a sourdough baking, yogurt making, fermenting machine every single day.
I never do it all.
I get excited about good-for-you real food that tastes good too. I write about that a lot. But I don’t mind meeting my family at McDonald’s for a play place date on occasion. I know it’s bad for you. But it’s not our usual, and I don’t think it will kill us every once in a while.
I like chocolate. Is that related to blogging?
I started a blog, not because I think I have something super-awesome and new to offer to you, but because I like to write and I miss it when I’m not doing it.
Sometimes I think that blogs are a big distraction and a waste of time. When they become that, we should read fewer of them.
Sometimes I think my blogging-writing voice is kind of obnoxious.
I wish that I wrote about more intelligent things more often. But so far, I haven’t met that goal.
What works for my family may not work for you. Be thoughtful about what is good, and then do what you think is best.
Notice all the things I don’t write about: garden care, housekeeping, decor, animal health, and magical laundry that folds itself in your sleep. That’s because these are not my areas of expertise. There’s a lot I don’t know.
Sometimes the garden and canning and animal projects on the blog turn out well. Sometimes they don’t. That’s part of learning, growing, and the natural ebb and flow of things.
I am not the picture of health, even though I like learning about and writing about health topics.
I think that we should be good stewards of our bodies and the earth, but I also think that the pursuit of doing so can become an idol- one that can possibly be harmful to our thinking and our relationships. My hope is that this blog won’t lead anyone down the road of homesteading/natural living worship.
I make a (very) wee bit of money on my blog. I hope you don’t mind my monetizing it, because that helps me to stay home with my kids. I never endorse a product I don’t like, because that would be dishonest and silly.
Even though this blog is kind of in the “homesteading” niche, I don’t like the label. It makes me squirmy. But I’m still passionate about doing it.
I’m fairly clueless in a lot of ways.
Blogging is a welcome excuse to not clean my house or weed the flower beds.
I like writing. But I’d rather be hanging out with these guys and watching their antics. So you’ll excuse me. 😉
Saturday night, we were a bit behind on our evening routine. The goat got milked late, the dinner was sitting out on the counter, and there were toys everywhere. I got the food put away while Tim worked on the first coat of paint on our porch, then I joined him to tackle the laundry while we sat out in the cool summer air. He painted, I folded, we talked.
10:23 pm. We came inside. I looked at the pile of dishes and made an offhand comment: “I had better just put 10 minutes in on these dishes. It will make my life better tomorrow.”
He replied, “You should read fewer blogs and more books. Too many ideas to make your life better- not enough deep thinking.”
He knows I’ve been obsessed with trying to “organize my life” better before our third baby comes. I’ve pulled out all the stops: I did the Make Over Your Mornings course from Crystal Paine, a 30-day minimalist challenge with a couple of friends, and a half-hearted attempt at this Four Weeks to a More Organized Home checklist. I’ve been trying to keep up on evening and morning routines and turn myself into a more disciplined person.
Those “ideas to make my life better” aren’t inherently wrong. They can be extremely productive and beneficial to your home. But perhaps even all those good things can take the place of other, more meaningful things? Deeper, more fulfilling ideas, more important projects- rather than the next mom blog with a brilliantly “pinnable” image of some new life hack you should try?
Blogs came up again today. Our car ride home was filled with how detrimental it is to be comparing yourself to other people. How getting caught up in what you’re not doing can seriously take away from the life in front of you that you could be living.
“That’s the problem with the type of blog that’s always talking about what the author is doing,” Tim said. “Because someone will always read it and wish that they could be doing that instead of just being content with their own life.”
Us included, of course. Am I contributing to a widespread internet epidemic?
Sigh. Why do I write about what I’m doing in my day to day life? Is it to make you look at our family and make you jealous over all the cool things we’ve got going on? Is it because I like talking about myself too much?
I hope, at best, I’m writing about all this stuff because I’m excited about it. I hope I’m writing it because it might be helpful to someone else. I hope I’m writing in honesty, sharing our discoveries, triumphs, and failures along our journey.
It probably doesn’t make much sense for someone who is hoping to turn her blog into a part-time income to tell you to read fewer blogs.
If my blog- or anyone else’s- is an encouragement, then read on. If an idea is inspiring, then give it a go. If you can relate to my struggles, or it makes you smile, or you just enjoy reading it, then please do come back.
But if my blog- or anyone else’s- is making you miss out on YOUR real life, then stop reading now, please. If it’s making you discouraged because you’re not where you would like to be yet, then close the computer or smart phone or whatever and go do something good. If it’s giving you the idea that we have a perfectly beautiful life without any problems, then please be assured that we are real humans with ugly sides. We are people who struggle much.
For goodness’s sake, I think my husband is right… I know I need to read more good books instead of one blogging idea after another. I could stand to do something real instead of surfing my phone. I’d be a little more content with my own life, a little more focused on what I need to do if I wasn’t always looking for the next clever idea from someone I’ve never met before.
I’m going to go work on putting furniture on the porch with my husband now. What will you go do?
Whatever it is, when you want to come back, I’ll likely still be here, because I still enjoy writing. And we still enjoy learning from others. And blogs and projects and ideas can still be helpful.
But let’s all remember- we mustn’t get so caught up in someone else’s online life that it takes away from our own.
Having children often brings a family to celebrating the holidays much more purposefully than they did without them- and for us, Easter is no exception. Over the years, we have developed some lovely Easter traditions.
I always loved Easter growing up. Sunday morning, I would get up to a colorful Easter basket filled with all sorts of goodies. I’d get dressed (often in a homemade jumper from my mom) and get ready for church. The house would be filled with sun streaming in the living room windows and the bustle of putting on ties and tights and hairspray.
At church, there would be a lot more people than usual. Easter lilies dotted the sanctuary, and a brass quartet joined the big pipe organ for the morning’s hymns. We always sand, “Low in the Grave He Lay,” then all stood up on the first chorus- “Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes!”
After church there was an egg hunt at home while my mom prepared Easter dinner. And there was always a feast to enjoy together.
Over the years, we have begun collecting our own set of traditions for Easter. While we don’t always get to do every single one of these activities, they are some of our favorites:
Egg Dying- I just love this tradition- it’s such a fun project to do together! The egg is also a symbol of new life, so you can remind children that they are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).
Holy Week Services- I have attended only two of these in my life, but I am surprised by how much I love them. On Maundy Thursday, our church reads the passage on the last supper, and we share communion to remember the meal Christ shared with his disciples. On Good Friday, the passages detailing the crucifixion are read, coming to an end with darkness in the church building and all exiting in silence. These two services help to highlight the potency of the Scripture passages leading up to Jesus’ death- and set us up for great joy on Easter morning when we celebrate the resurrection!
Good Friday/Easter Meal- I originally found the idea of a Good Friday meal from Jessalyn Hutto (her site was originally Desiring Virtue). I can’t find the original post to link, but I want to be sure to give her credit! Some of these ideas are hers and some are my own additions/alterations. Our Good Friday/Easter menu has come to include:
Lamb- I like this recipe. (To represent Jesus, the sacrificial lamb.) I ONLY buy lamb once a year because it is so expensive, but I think that in this case, sparing no costs reminds me of the great cost of Christ’s sacrifice.
A braided crown loaf- usually traditional challah, representing the crown of thorns and the body of Christ broken for us.
Grape juice or red wine (depending on your family’s preference) to represent the blood of Christ, spilled for us.
Potato balls, to remind us of the stone that sealed the tomb.
A spring salad- why? Spring growth always reminds me of new life after a long winter, so the salad serves as foreshadowing of the new life to come.
Easter Breakfast- We have made “resurrection rolls” in the past- but whether or not we indulge in these sweet treats, we almost always enjoy a hearty breakfast on Easter morning. There’s something about coming out of the somber season of Lent and the darkness of the crucifixion to a bright and cheery, celebratory Easter morning feast that lifts our spirits!
Resurrection Egg Hunt- You know those little plastic eggs filled with candy? While we don’t restrict our children from having an Easter treat, we do like to fill most of our eggs with something more wholesome! We fill plastic eggs with different symbols that tell the Easter story. I’ve seen many different versions of this, but here is one DIY example.
For both us and the children, traditions rich with symbolism help to keep our minds stayed on the real reasons we celebrate the holiday. What are some of your favorite Easter traditions?