I'm Tonia and this is my family. There's Hubs, my wonderful partner; Bug, my darling daughter; and Boo, my charming son. We are the Collins clan. We are a homeschooling family who try our best to live out God's will for our lives every day. There are lots of stumbles along the way, but we love each other and this little life we're carving out for ourselves. Recently we found ourselves called to make some big changes in our lives so we're packing up the McMansion and moving out to a little farm in need of a lot of TLC. We have tons to learn and tons to do and we invite you to share the journey as we turn our not-so-new heap into a home.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sometimes There's a Rock

After a couple of crazy weeks, with tons of running in circles, we're finally back at it around the Heap. The big project continues to be the chicken run and coop, which like everything else, is proving to be a lot more complicated than expected.

You might remember the trench the kids and I were digging:

Well, this trench has become the bane of our existence over the past couple of weeks. First, only about half of it was even in the right place. Once the Hubs started placing the posts it was quickly evident that there had been some miscalculations somewhere. This meant Hubs had to dig new post holes- a job that is nowhere near fun- and that our much worked upon trench was useless. To top it off, the trench we were so very proud of was about 6-8 inches from being deep enough. Needless to say, we have had some digging to do.....
This weekend the Hubs had a discussion with Bug about digging...and the inevitable rocks you find when doing so. "Sometimes," he said, "You find a rock and you think it's a really big one, but as you dig a little you find it's just a little one." I'm thinking the lesson was probably lost on her, but you and I can see it clearly.
It ain't nothin' 'til it's somethin'
Sometimes, though, it's definitely something. Sometimes there are gigantic rocks. Obscenely heavy rocks. Please, dear God, get this rock out of the way NOW rocks.

We could finally see the finish line. We only had about 5 more feet of trench to clean out and the digging would be done. And then, my shovel hit rock. I called the Hubs over to help get it out. He is the breaker bar operator in our digging hierarchy so he is the one to call when something needs broken up or wedged out or whatever. This is the point where I got to hear about the rock lesson Bug had heard earlier in the weekend. This is also the point where I looked at the Hubs with a blank expression. I'm not interested in any character lessons right now, buddy, I am T.I.R.E.D. Get the rock out, please. Only without the please.....

I'm convinced this is also the moment when God decided to spank me for my bad attitude because what happened over the next hour can only be described as punishment.

Dig a little. Try to find the edge of the rock. Wait for Hubs to see if he can get the breaker bar underneath the rock. Nope. Repeat.

Dig from one side of the trench, then from the other. Kneel. Sit. Stoop over. Get more dirt out. See if the rock will move yet. Nope. Repeat.

After a whole lot of grunting and groaning and about a dozen exclamations of disbelief from me ("Good grief", "Holy cow", "Sheesh"...you get the point), we finally, finally got the rock out....

 and declared the trench to be officially done.....
and the chicken run ready for the next phase of construction.
Sometimes there's a rock and you just gotta keep at it until you're past it. Thank you Lord, that we don't have to battle the rocks alone. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Greenhouse Reality

Last weekend we had some wonderful friends come out to help with some work. I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful we are for this. It's always a little breathtaking to see how much work gets done in one day when several strong men dig in.

The Hubs and one friend worked on plotting out the chicken run while another friend worked on clearing out more brush and....sit down while I tell you this.....tearing out the greenhouse.

Yes, you read that right. I was so excited about that greenhouse when we moved out here, but as I started making note of growing conditions around the Heap, I started to realize something pretty significant- the greenhouse was in the shade. Like, all of the time. Now, I'm not an expert on growing in greenhouses or anything, but I'm pretty sure they have to get sunlight to work properly. So, sadly, the greenhouse dream is temporarily put to rest.

Since it was a lean-to greenhouse it couldn't just be moved elsewhere so it had to come down completely.

We now have boxes of broken glass to get rid of because nearly all of the panels were glass and it turns out they don't really come out in one piece. Thankfully, no one got hurt while they worked on this mess.

After it was down, we discovered that we have this beautiful, large concrete slab that is in really good condition. Funny how we couldn't see that with the greenhouse there. I immediately started dreaming about what I would do with this new found patio.

It wasn't until everyone was gone for the night that I realized what this area should be used for. We had been debating about how to make the new dog run usable and had finally settled on buying a concrete mixer and pouring a concrete floor.

"Could we move the dog run onto that slab?" I asked Hubs. It would save us several hundred dollars and quite a bit of back breaking work.

He agreed that this was a very sound plan so off we went, in the dark, to immediately move the dog run.

It is perfect.

Sam cannot dig out so both dogs are secure in there. It is in a place that is nearly always shaded so we don't have to feel bad about them being penned up and now they have a lot more space to move around in when we have to leave them.

Oh, and I still have some space for some plants and a couple of chairs so we can sit out on the patio at night and enjoy the cool air. Sometimes a failed plan can turn out oh so well.


Saturday, September 14, 2013


Work on the chicken run/coop had to be halted temporarily this week when we realized that we had a tree that needed to come down right next to where the run will be. It was supposed to be an easy job. It was supposed to take an hour or two at most. Yeah, right.

The tree in question needed to come down so that we can hang guttering on the side of the garage. It appears that when it rains the water comes pouring down the roof of the garage in such a way that dirt washes down a small hill and builds up in front of the building that will be the coop. We had to dig out the doors in order to get into that building and obviously we don't want to have to do that again. So we'll put guttering up and catch the rainwater in rain barrels, which we can then use to water flowers or the garden. But first, the tree needed to come down....turns out, it was a very stubborn tree.

The Hubs started by chopping off the branches and the kids and I dragged them to a pile to be burned. There were a lot of branches!!

Then he chopped off the top of the tree...things were still going pretty well at this point. The top was heavy and hard to drag to the burn pile, but we managed. No biggie.

Then it was time for the main trunk. Hubs tied a rope around it and instructed me to keep tension on it so that the tree would fall in the right direction- there was a post for the run close by and we didn't want it to fall into that and mess it up. Turns out that wasn't going to be a problem.

The Hubs started sawing.

The Hubs kept sawing.

Then we pulled on the rope to see if we could help it start its descent. The tree did not budge.

After some more sawing we tried again. Still no luck.

This cycle continued for I have no idea how long. The kids had agreed that they would yell, "Timber!" when the tree started to fall. At some point they abandoned this great idea and went off to pick up trash instead. You know they're bored when they CHOOSE to go pick up trash instead!

More sawing, more pulling.....that tree would not budge. By now, it was dark...not getting dark....it was dark. Desperation set in. We briefly entertained the idea of some rather dangerous methods that included the phrase, "If I were younger...." Then he got the tow rope and I got the van. We set out to get that tree down tonight and by golly, it was coming down tonight.

Praise God. It worked. Down came the tree.

Once we got it down, it was easy to see the problem. The tree had partially grown into the garage so the chainsaw couldn't get to that part of it and it was a big enough part to keep the tree from falling over of its own accord.

Needless to say, we didn't get anything else done that night...but we got that tree down! In the end, that was good enough for us.


Friday, September 13, 2013

School at the Heap

Forget about reading, writing, and arithmetic....today we touched on subjects some kids will never get a chance to learn. I'm crazy proud of the kids, they worked so hard and had great attitudes about it. What in the world did we do today? We dug a trench. Yep, we did....and I bet you had no idea what kind of things you could learn from that!

Physical Education:

Yeah, this one is kind of obvious.....digging is hard work. Our trench needed to be about a foot deep and about a foot wide. No biggie, right? Well, not until you add in the giant rocks and the tree roots that plagued our every move. Like I said....hard work. I was responsible for the initial breaking of the ground and the kids took turns with the other two jobs: scooping out the big stuff and cleaning the trench out of all the remaining dirt. We worked on this for probably about 4 hours today, though not in consecutive hours.

We talked about splitting big, hard jobs into smaller chunks. We talked about setting goals (like, let's get done to this spot and then we can take a break and share a Coke). We talked about perseverance. We talked about how hard Daddy works and how we can help him by doing some of the jobs that we can do, giving him more time to do the jobs only he can do. We used our muscles and broke a good sweat.

Real, useful P.E.

When's the last time you used a rolling scooter and a playground ball to get something done? That's what I thought.....


This place is covered with trash. Seriously, you cannot even begin to fathom it. It is thrown, buried, and piled everywhere. So, digging a trench means finding all sorts of interesting things. The kids like to look at the different "treasures" they find and try to figure out what the people who lived here before us did. It's just a guess, but it looks like the area where we were digging today was used as a junkyard for old cars and equipment. We found giant screws, and big metal chunks, and some rubber things that might be old belts for motors.

Suddenly the history lessons about this ruin or that artifact make a lot more sense. So that's what the people who dig up stuff are doing, huh, Mom?

Animal Husbandry:

The trench is part of our chicken coop/run project. So we talked a lot about why we need to have a trench and how having the fence below ground will help keep predators out. We also talked about our responsibility to the chickens we keep, especially when Boo asked, "So, a fox gets a chicken...who cares? It's only one chicken!"

In addition, we talked about PH when we talked about concrete and why you don't want to mix it with your hands. We found some cool caterpillars and talked about how to figure out what they want to eat and how to keep one alive (for an AHG project). We did home ec when we hung out laundry and then folded it later, and when we cleaned up the kitchen.

And when it was time for a break the kids both sat down to devour the library books we picked up yesterday.

Of course, Monday we'll be right back to the books. It's time to start our new curriculum and we're all excited about that, but I refuse to be fooled into believing that today was a wasted day because we didn't do school as our culture defines it.

They learned. They are happy. That sounds like a successful school day to me.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Month in Review

One month....

30 days.....

Our lives have been turned upside down, and in a peculiar way, finally set right side up. Lessons have been learned, but more than that, we've come to find ourselves living more the way we always meant to in the first place.

I can't help but look back over our past life and wonder how in the world we ever got there. It's not as if we sat down and plotted out a plan to have too much stuff that cost us too much money and made us slaves to jobs we didn't enjoy while simultaneously taking us away from our children. We just did what everyone we knew was doing and really never thought to question it.

Inline image 1
After a gigantic garage sale that lasted 4 days we still had this much stuff to take to Goodwill

We meant to keep God at the center of our lives.

We purposed to educate our children ourselves and help them be firmly rooted in the truth.

We said our marriage and our family had priority over everything else.

But somehow stuff and bills and mortgage payments edged their way in. Somehow we found ourselves always working, never having quite enough, and all of the important things getting our scraps of time, attention, and devotion.

It was never supposed to be this way.....

Life in 800 square feet is a lot different from life in 3600 square feet.

Life in the Heap means we're together. For real. And you'd better learn to get along, treat each other with love and respect, and develop some serious patience.

Life in the Heap means everyone works, and works hard. Everyone does their part. We are a team and we're all working for the same thing- each other.

Life in the Heap means you'll be learning new things every day. You'll probably be doing things you never, ever thought you would. You might as well slap on a smile and charge up your sense of humor now, it's about to get very, very real.

Life in the Heap means gratitude  and recognizing that no amount of stuff will ever be better than what we have right now.

I never would've dreamed that a dirty little farmhouse in the middle of the country would set our priorities back in order, but here we are 1 month in and I can say that's exactly what has happened. We are truly happy, connected, and hopeful.

Life is good.



Monday, September 9, 2013

The Smell of Sunshine

The smell of sunshine on freshly laundered clothes.......

Towels gently swaying in the breeze.........

The THWAK of wet jeans smacking you in the face as you struggle to get the clothespin in place......

Ah, yes, it's true....Hubs got my clothes line up!

I cannot tell you how giddy I was to have this little project complete. I needed to do laundry by Wednesday, but I saved it up, knowing I would have a clothes line to hang it on by the weekend. I reminisced about  all sorts of romantic memories of hanging out clothes to dry when I was a little girl. Saturday I did a bunch of work around the house, but the highlight of the day was doing 5 loads of laundry, all of which were hung out to dry. Well, except the unmentionables- nobody needs to see that, trust me.
Turns out there were a few things I had forgotten about hanging clothes out to dry. Like, the way towels turn to sandpaper under the hot sun if you don't use a fabric softener in the wash. Or, how many clothes 5 loads really is and how it's a lot more work to hang them up than to toss them in the dryer.
I had remembered very accurately, though, how wonderful the clothes smell after hanging out and how you just feel more connected with the whole process of laundry when you put them up on a line. I don't know why that is, but somehow it's true. I'm thrilled to have a clothes line and I will be using it regularly when the weather allows.

The Hubs took his commission very seriously. I had given him all the information I deemed important regarding clothes lines and he then worked out a plan. Top of my list of pet peeves were sagging lines. I cannot stand it when the line sags so much in the middle that you can only put small children's clothes on it! What good is a line like that?

I have to say, I've never seen another clothes line like it. The Hubs used all sorts of scary looking hardware and rigged up a design that allows him to tighten the line if need be. It's awesome, for real.

The Hubs is a rock star.

I am blessed.