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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Taking Stock

 The first snow is on the ground and we're finally able to stop for a moment and look back over the past few months and all that we've accomplished. I have to admit, before I sat down to write this, I was feeling like we hadn't done all that much. This working season has been about a lot of smaller jobs rather than one big project, but all those little jobs do add up to some significant movement forward.

 We raised three turkeys to butchering age and got them put in the freezer. It was exciting to eat our very first turkey for Christmas dinner and I have to say, it was also delicious. I was a bit concerned because pastured animals tend to be smaller and tougher than their factory farm counterparts, but it really is just a matter of learning how to cook them.

For the first time, we allowed broody hens to sit on eggs and raise the resulting chicks. We ended up with nearly all roosters, which was a bummer, but we learned a lot and were able to see that we truly CAN keep the flock self sustaining if need be. Plus, it turns out it is super cool to watch a momma hen care for her babies.

 Two geese made it to the freezer. It remains to be seen if we even like goose, but they were fun to raise and by far the cheapest animal we've raised so far. They are very good grazers and got quite big and fat just on pasture, which makes them ideal for homesteading.

 Inside, the Hubs installed all new windows, a new front door, and built out our bedroom closet. It has been easy for me to get down about all that still needs to be done in the house, but if I'm fair, these improvements are huge for us. We can't hear the wind whistling through the house anymore and they really look nice. We've got a long way to go, yes, but we've come a long way too.

One of the big jobs that we've been needing to do finally got done this year. We had no idea where the septic tank was or what kind of condition it was in so we had someone come out and find it for us. Then the Hubs dug it up and had someone else come out to look it over and pump it out. We were thrilled to get the news that all is in good working order. Before it got buried again the Hubs put a riser on the lid- now it will be easy to find when it's time to clean it out again. It's one of those jobs that has no aesthetic value whatsoever, but it's a pretty important part of our life out here and it's a relief to know we don't need to worry about it anymore.

My garden was definitely a challenge this year, but despite that I was able to harvest a big crop of garlic, tomatoes, carrots, and green beans that I then put away for the winter. I also went to the produce auctions a couple of times this year with my friend, Holly, and we spent days canning. In the end, I put up about 300 jars of food this year, plus a bunch of things that I froze rather than canned. We've still got quite a way to go to be even remotely self reliant, but every year we make progress.

The Hubs has been working on creating a barn out of the existing loafing shed and putting animal pens and a corral up. He's getting close to having it ready for our next adventure- hogs! We hope to bring them home very soon.

In the midst of all the work going on here, I went back to working outside the home. After nearly 6 years away from nursing I'm back at it. I love my new job and the small hospital I'm working at, but it goes without saying that this has added a whole new layer of challenges to our life. The income is very welcome and allows us to start getting serious about some of the improvements that need to happen at the Heap, but the time I have available to help work on those improvements has been drastically cut. It's a balancing act that we're still trying to figure out.

It's been a productive and busy year. We're all ready for a little down time, I think, but we're already dreaming of spring and all the things we're going to work on next year!


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