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.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sharing the Love

We really love our little homestead and the self reliant life we're working toward, so we were excited to find out this fall that American Heritage Girls has added Sustainable Living to the badges girls can earn through their program. It didn't take us long to work out the details and invite our group of Pioneers and Patriots out to the Heap to learn more about what we're doing. Bug was particularly excited to share her life with her friends. Over two days the girls camped out on our land and learned all about homesteading and sustainable living. They had a great time and we loved having them here.

The beautiful pictures are courtesy of my sweet friend Michelle Geis. What a blessing it is to have a chaperon who also takes amazing photos!

 The girls started by setting up their tents in the area behind the garden.

  And, of course, they had to get a fire going.

Then, they took a tour of the Heap and our 3 acres, while we discussed why we moved out here and what sustainable living means. Next up, it was time for a yummy dinner cooked over the camp fire. We had chicken chili made from several ingredients harvested right at the Heap including the chicken, onions, and tomatoes.

Before night fell, the girls got a chance to help with evening chores. They fed the chickens, geese, and turkeys and helped move the tractors to fresh grass.

 The evening was full of fresh air and tween girl shenanigans. They ran all over the place playing lightning bug tag and took full advantage of the tire swing, zip line, and trampoline. Michelle and I sat bundled by the fire and waited patiently for the magic hour when we could tell them they had to go to bed.

 After a breakfast that, of course, included fresh eggs from the hens, the girls learned all about my food storage and tried their hands at making strawberry jam.

 We had saved the quarterly cleaning of the chicken coop especially for them so they got to experience the sights and smells of the coop as they scraped the roosts and shoveled out old bedding before replacing it with new fresh wood chips. It's not a glamorous job by any means, but it does do a good job of showing the reality of life out here and the responsibilities we have. The girls were amazing- not one of them complained or uttered one, "Ew" or "Gross". I was crazy proud of them.

 We also spent time talking about things that we aren't doing at the Heap yet. Some of them, like beekeeping and permaculture, are among our goals. Others, like alternative energy sources will probably never be practical for our life, but are still good to understand. The girls got a chance to meet the neighbors cows and pigs as well- and we talked about the housing and feed requirements for all the different animals we could keep. My friend and fellow homesteader, Holly, shared some honey with us and the girls got to taste the difference between real, raw honey and the stuff you buy in the store. I think they learned a ton and it meant a lot to us to be able to share our life and teach others about all that we're doing.

We had such a good time sharing the Heap that we decided to offer the experience to others who might be interested in learning about homesteading and sustainable living. We have two more camp outs scheduled for the spring and are hoping more groups will decide to book some time out here as well. We believe it's good for kids to see where their food comes from and how much work it takes to produce it. Even if they never decide to homestead themselves, they can live with a deeper gratitude for what they have. Of course, nurturing future homesteaders is good too...we love that.


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