Category Archives: Chores

Rags instead

Several years ago, we began the transition toward buying less of the “disposable” paper stuff. Needed to lower our expenses, so we could pay our bills + work on paying down our debt. At this same time, we cancelled our weekly trash pickup, too.

Everything we used to “throw away” was now separated into recycle, burn, or trash piles. When we first started, we’d have enough trash stuff for Mike to load up the truck and drive to the dump every 3 months. Then it was every 6 months. And now it is once a year! This was a huge blessing on two counts: 1) the price per truckload at the dump has risen EACH TIME, and 2) Mike DESPISES going to the dump, lol. Both of these were big motivators for us to remain diligent in reducing the “trash” pile. 🙂

Decided to cut up our old t-shirts…the ones with stains & holes – and use them for the same thing we used to do with kleenex and paper-towels. (Yeah, this is the same girl who just did a post about admiring old hankies – but that was TO LOOK AT, not keep one in my pocket all day, lol…) I wasn’t real keen on the thought of old-fashioned handkerchiefs (AT FIRST). In fact, they kind of grossed me out a little. So, the idea was born about making single-use but re-usable rags. Fashioned one of our kitchen drawers to be a “rag drawer”, and filled it with squares of t-shirt pieces.


Attached a basket to the wall in our basement stairwell where we throw our dirty rags and they get thrown in the wash with our other laundry.


Once we got into the new routine, it has been smooth sailing! 🙂

My goodness, I know we’ve saved a TON of money by not buying kleenex – we used to go through a box a week, easy! And, the rags are soooo much softer than tissues. In fact, we often DO carry our rags in our pockets now – yeah, JUST LIKE HANDKERCHIEFS, lol! Hmmm, what a good idea… 🙂

They are also great for kitchen clean-up. If there’s a spill or something I don’t want to use my crocheted dishcloth on, I just use a rag or two or three… If it’s something super yucky, I don’t feel guilty at all about throwing the rag in the burn pile, because I know we are blessed with an overabundance of future t-shirt rags – even plenty to share! 🙂


Do we still have rolls of paper towels? Yes, but that’s only because my dad bought us two packs of 15 rolls three years ago. According to my estimates, we use not quite 2 rolls A YEAR! His gift oughta last us another 8 years, minimum, lol. 🙂

The dark-colored rags usually go next door to be used in our dairy. (Makes it easy to tell which rags go where once they’ve been washed. (Or is that more of my control freakishness shining through…?) When we have enough dirty rags for a load, we wash them with homemade lye soap. Works great! 🙂

Our old, holey socks are also cut-up & have functions post foot-life. Top half works great for general cleaning & for a cotton ball substitute.


Bottom half, which never lies flat, gets thrown in a shoebox for the 3 boys to use in the garage. These are “disposable” rags for stuff like wiping up oil, paint, or other outside messes. They end up in the burn pile. 🙂


This paperless oddity has led to some funny conversations when new friends visit with us. “Where’s your trash can?” is answered, “Um, what kind is it – burnable, recyclable, or trash?” And “Could I have a kleenex?” leads to strange-but-polite-looks as we explain our single use/re-usable rags… 🙂

My 3 boys like to tease me about how much MORE money we could save by not buying toilet paper anymore, lol – but unless someone else takes over laundry duty, this lady’s gotta draw the line somewhere!! 🙂

Frozen dairy

We are a seasonal dairy. At about the second week of December, we dry our herd up & they are on “vacation” – preparing to have their calves beginning mid-March. They “chill” in a nice big field (Mordor), where there are hills & trees for shelter.

We enjoy the break, too. A time to really buckle down on our homeschooling and attempt to catch up on all the chores we let slack during the milking season. 🙂

During this “dry” season, we obviously don’t have “fresh” milk. To compensate for that, we prepare for our “dry period” during the previous “fresh period”…frozen milk, butter, cottage & ricotta cheeses, and NEW this year: frozen whipped cream dollops! With our thawed frozen dairy, we still make daily kefir & weekly yogurt.

There have been MANY learning curves in freezing our milk. One of the biggest lessons was the importance of not allowing the cream to separate from the milk before it’s frozen. On the days I am freezing milk, I set a timer to go off every hour so I remember to shake every jug & rotate them in our freezers. It is a burden at first, but once I’m in “my routine”, it’s not that big a deal. Normally, it’s 4-6 hours of shaking, because we don’t do super-huge batches at once. 🙂

In our opinion, thawed frozen milk (if shaken properly) does not taste much different than fresh. It is not exactly the same, but a change we are ok with so we can have our break, and not have to purchase any dairy off-farm. 🙂

We place the bull in with the cows in June for about 6-8 weeks. This puts our girls’ due dates to be about mid-March to the beginning of May. Our goal is to be able to begin weekly pickups for our herd-share owners by the beginning of April. It’s a chaotic “rush” as we jolt into calving & baseball season at the same time, but with deliberate, make-ahead meal planning & lots of anticipatory prayer, a very rewarding season! 🙂

Homemade Lye Soap from Alander’s Acres

We LOVE homemade lye soap from Alander’s Acres! 🙂

Here’s a link to their page on Local Harvest:

They are gracious enough to bring us large batches of soap so we can offer them to our customers as well.

In our effort to discontinue using toxic cleaners, this soap has become our “base” for so many things…bathing, shampoo, dish soap, laundry soap, general purpose cleaner – just to name a few! 🙂

We have been using it exclusively for over 2 years now. 🙂

As the concept of “our skin being our largest organ” has begun sinking in, we are thinking twice about what we lather on it.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this soap! 🙂

For laundry & dish soap, I shred the bars of plain lye soap. (The other soaps work fine, too, if I’m out of the plain…)  I fill up an old egg carton with 10g of shredded soap in each “egg hole”. Then I dissolve each one in 8 oz. of hot water as I need it.  I keep it next to my washing machine, so I’m good for a dozen loads, lol… 🙂

For laundry stains, like grass/mud stains on jeans & baseball pants, I keep a container of the small pieces of soap left from a full bar.  I place the pieces in a lidded container with a little bit of water in it.  I dampen the clothing that has the stain, get a small & wet piece of soap, rub it well into the stain, spray it with some white vinegar, let it sit a bit, and throw it in with the next load.  Works wonderful! 🙂

For dishes, Mike helped me make a soap dispenser from parts of old ones I saved… Click here to read the link on Jill’s post – it helped me with directions. 🙂

I have crocheted small, thick, square cloths from remnants of yarn leftover from past projects.  I made enough so I can use a new one each day.  I just squirt a few drops of soap on the wet cloth & wash – reapplying as necessary.  I have no complaints – this soap works GREAT!  It’s especially wonderful for removing “greasiness” from things like broth or butter – along with nice, hot water. 🙂

Celery + Cabbage + Broccoli = Colossians

Since it’s been so dry here, we’ve been faithfully watering our little plants twice a day. It was kinda funny to see the little green halo of weeds starting to grow around the plants…

Thought I should work the ground up around each plant & pull out the weeds while they were still tiny.

As I pondered how to keep my mind occupied with Godly thoughts as I worked, I decided on listening to the book of Colossians on my phone. There is this cool Bible app, called YouVersion, which was FREE to download to my phone. Here’s the link:

I like to listen to the audio Bible – NIV 1984. It is read by Max McLean. 🙂

It was a WONDERFUL way to pass the time as I weeded. Such a great Book!! 🙂 I got through the whole Book four times before I was done. I think I’ll keep that as my habit this season: Celery+Cabbage+Broccoli=Colossians.

Any suggestions for the other veggies?? 🙂

mud boot – left foot – size 7 (men’s)

I love finding uses for items that can no longer be used for their intended purpose.  (Like old t-shirts into rags, light bulbs into crafts, etc…)

But, alas, I cannot find a use for a perfectly good left-footed mud boot…

We all have a pair of these boots, and they are an important staple of farm-chore life.  They keep our feet dry & mud-free because they are tall & easily sprayed off.

After months of wear, I ALWAYS get a hole in my right boot where my foot bends.  Oh, I keep wearing my boots, hole & all, for as long as I can.  But once I feel like I’m walking on a sponge, if we have the funds, I get a new pair.  This always leaves me in a bit of a dilemma, though, because I hate to throw out a perfectly good left-footed boot!

So, I welcome any ideas for a men’s, left-footed, size 7 (women’s size 9) mud boot…

Or it sure would be fun to find someone with the same issue on the other foot –  we could do a mud boot swap, lol! 🙂


Have you ever seen debris on the ground and thought, “Someone should really pick that up,” and then walk right by it?  I HAVE

Have you ever seen debris on the ground and thought, “That would be a good chore for someone else to do,” and then forget to ask them but still not take care of it yourself?  I HAVE

Have you ever gotten irritated with someone else because they didn’t do what you never asked them to, but neither did you?  I HAVE

The Lord put me in my place this week.  As I settled in to do an undesirable task, I had the beginnings of resentment & self-pity brewing in my mind.  I was refilling our bird suet log feeders – a VERY MESSY job, and I was having some difficulty with it.  I knew the direction my mind was going was NOT GOOD, so I looked UP out of desperation AND for strength.  (A habit we are all trying to get into…)

Psalm 121

 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

 3 He will not let your foot slip—
   He who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, He who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

 5 The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   He will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore.

What did the Lord focus my eyes on as I glanced back toward my project?  THE DEBRIS IN MY DRIVEWAY THAT I HAVE BEEN NEGLECTING ALL WEEK!

Many vehicles come in and out of our driveway, and sometimes things fall out when doors open.  Well, there has been a plastic knife laying in our driveway, but I have been TOO LAZY to pick it up each time I have walked by it.  Instead, I would think about it, delegate it in my mind, and ultimately:  do nothing about it.  I couldn’t help but smile, as I realized that, yes, the Lord was using TRASH to teach me a lesson, lol!  You see, the problem I was having with refilling my feeders, had to do with breaking the replacement suet into small enough chunks to fit into the holes on the log.  The suet was still hard enough that I could not use my hands to break it up.  My hands were “suet-ty” and I didn’t want to go back in the house… SO, you guessed it – I went & got that plastic knife from the driveway, and it worked like a charm!  🙂

Lord, thank You for having such great patience with me!  I’m ashamed at how often I allow my selfish & lazy attitude to keep me from doing what I know is right.  I love Your sense of humor – that You can use “debris” to crack my stubborn pride.  Strengthen my hands, O Lord, to focus more on what I can change about myself to be more like Jesus, rather than how I think You need to change other people.  I also realize that unless I can progress in these “little scenarios”, You cannot entrust to me the larger tasks for Your Kingdom.  I can see the blessings in being refined – USE ME LORD, TO FULFILL YOUR WILL.  Amen.

Shards of glass…

It’s been awhile since we’ve broken glass in the “living quarters” of our house . Oh, we’ve broken plenty of canning jars in our basement or the milkhouse, but they weren’t that big of a deal – easy cleanup with a broom & a dust pan on the cement floors. Besides, we normally have our shoes or boots on in those spots & we virtually NEVER are on our hands & knees there…

So, how does it change when the shards land where you LIVE your daily life? Thus began our morning yesterday…

Paul went to get a bird book off a shelf & accidentally knocked over an old glass jar full of antique marbles. Even though I was in a different room, I knew instantly what had happened. On more than one occasion I had thought to myself, “I really should move those marbles…”. But, I hadn’t. I could tell Paul was holding his breath by the complete silence that followed the crash. Then I heard him apologize & kneel to begin picking up the pieces. Here’s the conversation going on in my mind: OLD ME – yell & scold Paul for not being more careful. Then be grumpy & resentful while I clean up & perhaps for hours afterwards… NEW ME – I already KNEW I should have moved that jar – and I KNOW Paul had no evil intention to knock over the marbles. Plus, he was trying to clean up his mess – what I needed to do was walk alongside him & help him pick up the pieces. THANK YOU, LORD! I count this as evidence the Holy Spirit is working in me…such a stark difference from my old ways. 🙂  1Corinthians 10:13 says:  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  I believe I was tempted by my “old ways”, and God provided me with an “escape route” through the TRUTH OF HIS WORD.  Funny, here I am writing about this event that happened 24 hours ago, and just this morning, I was led to this verse – sooo perfect!  I don’t know who said this quote, but I use it a lot:  “It’s not odd, it’s God!”  🙂

So, Paul & I are working together & it eventually gets to the point where I need to complete the task alone – just me & the vacuum cleaner. Even though we have carefully picked up the big pieces, and had used the broom & dust pan for the laminate floor part, I could see glassy powder all around & on the throw rugs. Alone with my thoughts, I began to feel a panic… “How am I EVER going to get this cleaned up enough – little ones crawl in these areas during church and fellowship – what if I miss a spot?? I would feel terrible if a toddler found a shard & got hurt!” I could feel myself being sucked into the pit of believing how inadequate I was & how I should let this circumstance determine my mood… BUT, thankfully, my mind was brought back to safety IN HIM. I’m not working for “man”, I’m working FOR HIM!! All I can do is the best I can with what I’m given. God knows my motivation – HE knows my heart. If I do this for “applause from men”, I will be disappointed, because we are ALL fallen. If I do this FOR HIM, I will NEVER be disappointed.  Colossians 3:23-24 says:  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Even if a little one DOES stumble upon a shard I missed, Jesus will still be walking alongside me, & we will handle it together!  Once that realization set in – that peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), this cleanup took on a new look. HE helped me to actually delight in this moment & I must say, I don’t think that area has ever seen such a thorough cleaning from me before, lol!  Thank you, Lord, for placing Your Spirit inside me. Perhaps this is progress in learning to be a Godly mother as the song states – “whose tender patience turmoil never bothers; whose calm & courage, trouble never dims…”

How does the Lord help you clean up broken pieces?

Yucky food prep

This morning, as we sat at our table listening to Michael read , I worked on taking meat off bones I had cooked all night in broth in my crock pot.  The boys were pretty grossed out – and I must admit, it is not all that pleasurable of a task.  The boys asked me, “Do you LIKE doing that?”  What a great spot for a life lesson, I thought!  While my “short answer” is NO, there is so much more to it…  I may not like the “process”, but I sure do enjoy the “end product”.  (And so do my boys, I must add,lol!)  I feel the same way when God reveals an error in my life:  the process of humbling myself is not all that enjoyable, but, BOY, THE END RESULT IS SOOOO WORTH IT!  It makes me think of Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Lord, I DO want You to lead me in the way of everlasting – may I embrace even the “messy parts” on my journey there.  Keep me focused on the “end product”, so that I don’t quit just because I don’t “like” a step.  Thank you, Lord, for never giving up on me.  AMEN

Have you ever prayed this scripture for yourself?  What did the Lord reveal to you?

Joy in dishes…

I have always struggled with my “wandering mind”.  Left in silence as I perform mundane tasks, it often wanders to criticizing others or allowing my self-righteousness to seep in.  I heard a sermon once about filling our minds with Jesus.  Matthew 12:34 says that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.  I want that to be the same with my thought life!  So, while I used to look at sinkfulls of dishes as a drag and a reason for being cranky, I now use the time to memorize hymns or Scripture.  Truly makes this task a delight now!  🙂  Thought I’d share what I’m memorizing this week.  (I’m a slow memorizer, so it may be awhile for this one…)

Here’s the same song again – added it to our shower – another great place to focus on my memorizing, lol!  (My boys all like to make fun of me for this one…)  🙂

Back to the kitchen now – Thank You, Lord, for food to eat, dishes to eat off of, and time & hands to wash them.  AMEN  🙂

What do you do to keep your mind from wandering away from Jesus?