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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Long Road Home

It was a day 10 years, 6 months, and 2 weeks in the making. From the moment they placed little baby Bug in my arms, I knew I belonged at home. There were so many times I didn't think it would ever happen, but finally  here I am - I worked my last day yesterday. It is tempting for me to talk about regret, about all the things I wish I would've done differently, to list all the mistakes and heartache, but that would be such a waste. Because there have been lots of bright spots and lots of lessons learned on this road home. For instance, I've learned:

There is ALWAYS someone worse off than you.

I have cared for those struggling to live...and those struggling to die. I've held impossibly small babies and the hands of lonely old women, with no family left. I've cared for extra children for 16 hour days so that their exhausted single moms could go to work. I've complained loudly only to be humbled by another's harder story. I know without a doubt that these years had to happen so that I could open the door to the Heap and not run screaming the other way. Is it bad? Yeah. Is it the worst I've seen? Not even close.

I am absolutely, 100% sure, we're doing the right thing.

The thing about working for 10 years for something is this: there's no way you're getting there if you don't believe in what you're working for. I have worked from 7p.m. to 3a.m. so I could be home with my kids during the day......even if I was operating on 3 hours of sleep. I have worked weekends while the rest of the family went off to do fun stuff like go the zoo or the lake. I have juggled 2 and 3 jobs at a time, trying to get a new business going while still bringing in an income for the family. I have cried all the way to work and then all the way back home. It would have been easy to just stop the struggle and work a normal, full-time job- to accept life for what it is instead of what it should be. I have had plenty of time to think about it, to decide if I really believe in this lifestyle.

I do.

You can never give too much, but you can only give what you have.

I love to give gifts... to my family, to my friends, to complete strangers. I have been known, many times, to give away something I was still using because someone else needed it- and then turn around and get myself a new one. It has taken a lot of years for me to realize how foolish this is. I have been wasteful and irresponsible with money over and over again. As painful as it is for me to admit, I know that these past ten years were absolutely necessary in order for me to learn what money is, what it is for, and what it can really supply. I will never miraculously turn into someone who doesn't give, but now I understand what Gandhi meant when he said, "Live simply so that others can simply live." I can't have everything I want and still have enough to bless others, but I can certainly have everything I need and have plenty left over.

Organization, Time management, Biblical womanhood, Patience (okay, still working on that one...), the list could go on and on......so much growth, so many things that have made me who I am today. These past 10 years were essential and valuable and I am grateful for them.

And now, I learn what I've been waiting ten long years to learn.......

.....how to just be Mom.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Anticipating the Garden

One of the bummers of this year has been the fact that I wasn't able to plant a garden. We had a lovely raised bed garden at the McMansion, but I didn't want to plant it and then sell the house and have to leave it behind so I left it empty. We came to the Heap too late in the summer to start a garden here so it's been a much anticipated job to get a garden spot picked out and prepped for next year.

I chose to start fairly small for a homesteading garden because I know how much work a new garden can be. This garden will be a lot different from my previous one because it will not be raised and I know that a change like that can bring a big learning curve with it. So, I tried to tame my enthusiasm and be realistic......we'll see how that goes....

Finding a suitable location was harder than you might expect. There are a lot of trees out here- a problem I didn't have at the McMansion. I did find a place that will work, but even there we'll have to take out some trees so that they don't grow bigger and shade the plot too much.

Once I found the spot, I decided how big I wanted it and laid out paper right on top of the grass. Special weed barrier paper is available at nurseries and similar stores and that would have worked great, but I found a big roll of contractor paper at Lowes that was the same price as a much smaller square foot amount of the weed paper so I went with that. I also got some special lawn staples that are made to hold weed paper or fabric in place- turned out those didn't really work all that well with the paper I got.


I'm using a lasagna garden method. The general idea is that by putting a layer of organic material right on top of the ground you can kill off the grass and weeds and have a plot ready for planting in the spring. Some people do not till at all with this method, but I plan on tilling the ground before I plant- I just want to get rid of as much grass and weeds as possible before I do. I ended up with a plot that measures about 19 ft by 7 ft- more square footage than I had at the McMansion, but not by too much.

Once I had the paper down I put some wood chips and things down first and then covered them with top soil. I will then put a good layer of manure on top of that once the Hubs is able to go pick up a load from a local horse owner who offered us some of his bounty for free. The hope is that over the winter all of the larger things will break down and feed the soil and in the spring I'll have a lovely, fertile garden plot to plant in.

I cannot wait for the first seed catalogs to start arriving in late winter. Picking what to plant is going to be so much fun!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Beauty and the New Babies

It's absolutely beautiful out here right now. Well, as long as you ignore the trash and the run down and the stinky....then, it's really, really beautiful.

I know, I know....it's been way too long since I posted anything and you're dying to know what we're up to out here and I'm going to tell you all that, I promise, but first just look....and breathe. Trust me on this- sometimes you just need to look around and see the beauty. So, today I did.

I love autumn, it's my favorite season. I love the colors, the way the air smells, the cool nights. I love layering on jackets and sweaters, and exchanging the flip flops for a sassy pair of boots.

I love the leaves on the ground. I love hearing the kids playing joyfully outside again after weeks of hiding from the heat. I love pulling out the cozy blankets and stocking up the hot cocoa and marshmallows.

God willing, someday soon autumn will mean harvesting and canning and getting ready for winter. I look forward to those days. For now, though, I'm just enjoying the view and basking in the fact that soon winter will set in and many of the outside chores will be on hiatus, exchanged for inside work and nights of knitting and snuggling with the kids.

It's been a long, hard summer, with a lot of ups and downs and more work than I ever thought I could handle. We are so blessed and grateful for everything we have, but we are also happy to see a bit of mandatory rest settling in on us. God knew what He was doing when He created the seasons, didn't He?

Thank you for sharing that moment of rest with me....now I will reward your patience with a little bit of Heap news....we have 3 new babies!

First up is Jess. She is a 3 y/o border collie who joined us a couple of weeks ago. She is very, very sweet and very, very timid. We've been working hard to get her used to all of us and accustomed to our land. At the moment she still spends nights and any days we are gone in the dog run. She has been able to run free while we are working and she loves that. She is very much like a toddler and likes to be able to come back and touch base with "Mom" every now and then. When I allowed her to run free while I was inside she became very nervous and ended up straying too far from home so we've had to slow down and give her boundaries again. She has bonded strongly to me, and I to her, so I pray we'll be able to get her comfortable with living here. I don't want to let her go, but I will if she can't handle farm dog life. Time will tell, I suppose.

Then we have Myra (the gray one) and Kai (the black one)....our new barn kitties, who, of course, are not living in a barn, or even outside, yet. We aren't sure of age, but are guessing they are about 8 weeks old or so. They came to us only partially tame so they are living in a large dog crate and getting lots and lots of snuggles and loving. We brought them home a couple of weeks ago and already they are doing so much better. They start to purr as soon as you touch them and they know exactly what feeding time means and do not dart off immediately anymore, but stay close, hollering loudly about how hungry they are. They are ridiculously cute. They are also absolutely disgusting. Kittens do not know to clean themselves yet and they have some pretty gross habits, like playing in the litter box and sleeping in the leftover food that's in the food dish. They have added a whole new element to our days since we now have the chore of feeding them twice a day and completely cleaning out their cage once a day. Thankfully, this is a temporary ordeal- soon enough they will be outside, catching mice, and we will just need to feed them once a day and pet them when they come around.

I'm starting to see just how busy I will be out here, taking care of our expanding menagerie...I'm not going to lie, I'm a little bit nervous!