We made a bold move almost 5 years ago now. We decided to make a change in our children’s educational plan which affected many areas of our family. What we decided back then was to make an about face, against all that we knew of the educational system, and walk a lesser trod path into the realm of homeschooling.
It may sound absurd, I realize this, but truly the lessons I have learned about raising children all have their roots (pun intended) in the garden. A child is not born with a handbook, this has been stated countless times and cannot ring truer because even if they did come with a handbook, it wouldn’t work for every one of them. There are things that your children teach you along the way that you could have never gleaned from a good read, however, the garden is where you can really get your hands dirty and learn.
My personal family posts have been a little lacking these days in favor of informational posts, I have gained a whole new slew of readers (readership has tripled in fact) but for those who have been around a long while...I thought I would update on the personal side of things.
This is me last week, we are just 6-1/2 weeks shy of meeting our new little farm hand at this point, I sure am feeling the slow down. One might laugh as I give puppy dog eyes to each of my children when there is something lying on the floor and I ask for help as bending...my body doubling in half these days is a bit more of a challenge.
We are again planning another homebirth, you can read about our previous experience here. (No worries it is NOT graphic at all).
Currently our newest batch of chickens has started to lay, though even with over 30 hens we are only averaging about 5-6 eggs a day, some of them are slower than others I guess, they are just now 6 months old. My boys love to pick up and love on the Chickens, and roosters too, so far there is only one rooster that won't allow it. The picture below of my 4 y/o with the gray silkie, well thats a roo and he has to be the nicest one yet. This same 4 y/o has not figured out that he is not supposed to enter the chicken coop that way yet!
Our pigs are very close to the point they will be ready to fill the freezer. They have been a lot of fun to raise and I believe that we will likely do this again. Hubby is planning on butchering them along with our neighbor (who has a butcher shop) and they will be doing 5 pigs altogether (3 of theirs and 2 of ours) I love the camraderie of country neighbors!
I will be updating on whether this was a cost effective venture or not, so far I do believe that we will come out ahead if we aren't paying the butcher fee, we shall see. If nothing else we will break even and have had a great learning experience!
Thanks for stopping by, I will try to update the personal side of things a bit more often in the coming months, do give me grace though, life is going to get even busier around here when our newbie arrives!
According to Merriam Webster:
The Word "Elixir" has roots in the practice of alchemy; it was used in the Middle Ages as the word for a substance believed able to alter base metals into gold. Its later use for a drug purported to prolong one’s life led to its use in the names of medicines of mostly questionable effectiveness. Today, it is often used generally for anything thought capable of remedying all ills or difficulties, be they physical or otherwise. The word came to us via Middle English and Medieval Latin from Arabic al-iksīr; it probably ultimately derives from a Greek word meaning "desiccative powder."
Interestingly you can see that from a history of the word, it does have its roots in some crazy ideas, some might even argue that the roots of the word are a bit dark and foreboding. Live forever, turn metals to gold and love potion elixirs were all very popular beliefs associated with the term during Medieval times.
Just as we have come a long way in our understanding of medicine since those times we have also cast of ideas of turning random metals to gold and attempting to live forever. In modern times the word “Elixir” refers to a medicinal concoction or a sweetened liquid usually containing some form of alcohol that is used in medication as a flavoring or for its medicinal compounds.
Typically today one can find elixirs in the cough and cold section of your local pharmacy and interestingly enough if you take a stroll down the beauty aisle you will still see the word thrown about on a variety of anti-aging lotions and serums marketed to the woman who wants to look forever youthful.
I do want to stick a warning in here, I am a Christian and therefore careful where I source my information, I say this because there are many in the realm of witchcraft who also practice the use of homeopathic medicine and herbalism. I do not give any credence to earth worship or potion power but do recognize that God created everything on this earth, some plants he created with medicinal properties for humans to use. That being said often when you search the internet for recipes of herbal elixirs, the sites that come up have an undertone, if not outright declaration of association to some realm of earth worship or witchcraft. Just be careful is the warning, I only share information as it relates to keeping you and your family healthy in a natural manner and I choose to avoid sites like the ones I have mentioned.
So, how do you make an elixir as it relates to homeopathic medicine? If you read my previous post on Tinctures you have a base idea already. A tincture is made by extracting the medicinal properties of a plant or herb through the use of alcohol distillation. A basic elixir is similar to a tincture but with the addition of a sweetener, in herbal medicine most often honey. Many Elixir recipes also add water (distilled) to do a bit of dilution to the mix. The honey can often act as a stabilizer in your elixir and can sweeten things up a bit making an elixir a bit easier for children to stomach. I think of Mary Poppin’s song here..,”Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down...”
Do know that some Elixirs can cross over into cordials, I often think of the scene from Anne of Green Gables where Ann and her friend, Diana were to be drinking a non-alcoholic version of Raspberry Cordial but mistakenly consumed Mariella’s currant wine.
A true cordial is however made with berries, sugar and alcohol...little medicinal value really but you can see that a natural substance (berry), an alcohol preservative, and a sweetener (sugar) are similar to an elixir. There are also modern versions popping up as elixir recipes and many of these are just honey infused combinations of herbs with medicinal properties, though useful they do not seem to stay true to the definition of an elixir but rather rely more heavily on the idea that elixirs are mixtures of anything beneficial or seemingly healing agents.
Back to Elixirs. One can make an elixir with a simple syrup recipe by adding alcohol as a stabilizer or one can make an elixir by adding honey to a tincture. (Typical ratio of tincture to honey is 2:1 in favor of honey. Either is fine really as long as you are not heating the alcohol as that destroys some of its components that make it a good preservative for your herbs. I could easily adapt my Echinacea Elderberry Cold & Cough Syrup into an elixir simply through the addition of alcohol to stabilize the mixture. (I would then not have to keep it in the refrigerator and could instead keep it in the cabinet) However, I choose to make mine a syrup more often than not as I use it with my very young children.
On to how to make an elixir...
Here is one for a winter immunity booster elixir
Here is a list of medicinal syrups and elixirs.
Now that you know about the basics, alcohol as a preservative, honey as a sweetener
and a variety of herbs or flowers selected for their medicinal purposes, have at it! Leave a comment and let me know which you intend to try making first, or if you have a tried and true recipe, leave that as well.
NOTE: I am not a doctor. I am not suggesting medical advice for any of your specific ailments so please use common sense and research whatever you choose to make for yourself or your family.
If you have to purchase your herbs online, consider using my affiliate link to bulk herb store, it doesn't cost you a thing but helps me maintain this website. Thanks!
This is the month of apples here where our little piece of heaven resides. We love em’ and purchase them by the bushel. I have a local apple farm not 2 miles away where I am able to buy “seconds” at $15 per bushel. Seconds basically means that the apple, though perfectly fine to eat, may be just slightly less than beautiful. It might not be the biggest baseball sized apple, it may have a slight scuff or other imperfection which renders it unable to be sold for the $10 a ½ peck that the orchard can demand from its perfect cousins.
I will share a secret with you though, if money is super tight, or if you are not fortunate enough to have an orchard down the road, HERE is a post on how to score some free organic produce.
What I get for my $15 is usually around 40lbs of apples, we eat them fresh, store some in the refrigerator, and as time goes on and they may start to get a little old, we start using them up for things like:
Apple Pie Filling
You get the picture. I will say that all of this apple love does require a bit of homesteading know how and a few good tools. Hence, the Homesteader must haves for October. I have been blessed that my mother has often shared tools with me that she has owned and is no longer using, or ones that she has found a fantastic deal on and given to me.
My mom loves to encourage my love of canning, food preparation and homesteading nature. As time goes on I think sometimes she really enjoys seeing me become excited about some of the things she first loved about the country, even though I was once quoted as saying, “I will NEVER live in the country.” Yes, I have eaten those words many, many times over now.
So what does a farmgirl need for all these apples? Lets get started
(Note: I am an amazon affiliate, the pictures do link to Amazon's site and if you decide you NEED one of these products as much as I do, well then I get a small commission from Amazon because you saw it here and clicked through, by the way...thank you. The small commission helps with the cost of running this blog site).
ITEM #1- THE APPLE PEELER
My favorite tool, and my children’s, is the apple peeler, corer, slicer gadget. I LOVE this beauty. I have had mine for about 10 years now and it still works perfectly. The kids love it for fresh eating because as it peels, slices and cores, it makes what they call “apple spaghetti.” Never one to have peeled apples for my little ones, they get to eat the peels this way, and they find it super fun because it is different. This is also the tool I use for making apple pies and chunky applesauce and it works for potatoes too (think curly fries).
ITEM #2- THE FOOD MILL
The homesteader must have for perfect applesauce is a food mill. I have tried a number of them, but this is hands down my favorite one. I use this for applesauce, tomato sauce, tomato juice, salsa, baby food, and really any other need I have to remove seeds, stems, peels, etc. This tool allows me to make apple sauce by doing nothing more than washing fresh apples, cutting them in half and tossing them into a large stainless steel pot with some added water. I cook it for 4-6 hours (seeds, stems, peels and all) then when all of the apple mush is…well mushy, I run it all through the food mill and I am rewarded with perfect applesauce that often does not even need much added sugar and is now ready to be canned.
I do find Amazon's stock photo of their applesauce kind of funny, you can't put fresh, uncooked apples through a food mill like the picture shows, trust me, it doesn't work, you have to cook them till they are mushy first.
ITEM #3- THE DEHYDRATOR
Another super healthy snack that my kiddos love is fruit leather or dehydrated apples. I have to admit that though these are quite loved around here, they never make it long enough to really savor because I have to be careful to keep my children’s hands out of the dehydrator (they sneak the tasty morsels of apples as they are drying). I just can’t dehydrate them fast enough! Not just for apples either, I might add, you can dehydrate any veggie or fruit, we use it for all kinds of other things too.
ITEM #4- THE CANNER'S BIBLE
Lastly, if you don’t already own a copy of the “canning bible” from Ball, this is a must have. It was my most referred to treasure for the first several years I began preserving food and not much has changed, with the exception that now my copy is tattered and worn from many years of love and use.
There you have it, 4 MUST HAVES for the homesteader during October, if you don't already own these products, they make life simpler while preserving your food and they will hold up for years to come. I own all of these and have had each one for over 10 years, I would say I got my money's worth so far!
What do you think, is there one I missed for October? Leave me a comment
In the world of Herbalism and natural medicine there are a number of terms that you need to learn if you want to really understand how natural medicine works. I know I was often confused by terms like “Tincture, Elixer, Extract and Infusion.” They all sounded a bit daunting to me but as I have been interested in making some of our own backyard medicine, I have done quite a bit of research so that I can understand it all a bit better. This will be a weekly series for a bit here, so that you too can learn some of this great terminology as well as how to make your own medicinal products at home.
Let’s remove some of the mystery and get down to business, herbalist style.
What is a Tincture?
A tincture is an herbal preparation made by using some form of consumable alcohol as a solvent and preservative. In the modern world think of things like cough syrups that have a base of alcohol to stabalize and preserve the synthetic drug for a longer shelf life in your local pharmacy.
In our homes however, a tincture would be made by finely chopping up a dried or fresh organic herb and steeping it in alcohol (only consumable alcohol). A tincture is generally recognized as 1 part herb to 3 parts alcohol when the preparation is made. The alcohol percentage used for most tinctures should be between 40% to 70%. There is a great table from Mountain Rose Herbs Blog that shows us how this should best be used:
40% – 50% (80-90 proof vodka)
• "Standard" percentage range for tinctures.
• Good for most dried herbs and fresh herbs that are not super juicy.
• Good for extraction of water soluble properties.
67.5% – 70% (½ 80 proof vodka + ½ 190 proof grain alcohol)
• Extracts the most volatile aromatic properties.
• Good for fresh high-moisture herbs like lemon balm, berries, and aromatic roots.
• The higher alcohol percentage will draw out more of the plant juices.
85% – 95% (190 proof grain alcohol)
• Good for dissolving gums and resins – but not necessary for most plant material.
• Extracts the aromatics and essential oils bound in a plant that do not dissipate easily.
• The alcohol strength can produce a tincture that is not easy to take. Stronger is not always better!
• Often used for drop dosage medicines.
• Will totally dehydrate herbs.
The process of making a tincture is not one to be completed in an afternoon on a whim, you need to steep your herb in the alcohol for 6-8 weeks and remember to shake often and check for evaporation (you don’t want your herbs exposed to air, they need to remain submerged). At the end of the process you need to use a cheesecloth to strain the herbal bits out and the colored liqud you are left with is your tincture.
Keep in mind that the medicinal herbs that you have extracted with the alcohol are now in a very strong base. I do not consume alcohol at all, with the exception of in a medicinal dose, so I must share that the doses of tinctures are not meant to be consumed as cordials, they are often used in dropper or teaspoon form strictly for their medicinal value. Think about it like this, the vanilla you use in your kitchen is actually a tincture, it is made by steeping vanilla beans in alcohol and is used to add the flavor of vanilla to your food, you wouldn’t drink this straight up though.
What kind of tinctures would you want to make and what can you treat with tinctures?
Here is a recipe for Chamomile Tincture that can be helpful for headaches, toothaches, stomach upset and colic symptoms as well as teething.
Valerian Tincture recipe for restful sleep and calming.
Echinacea Tincture for boosting immunity during the winter months when cold and flu season is in full swing.
Hawthorne Berry tincture to promote healthy blood pressure.
Migrane tincture made with feverfew, lemonbalm and peppermint.
Have you made a tincture and want to share the recipe? Leave it in the comment section and come back next week for part two (Elixers).
Update: Related post What is an Elixer and How Do I Make One? and Best Ever Elderberry Syrup Recipe (with Echinacea & Slippery Elm)
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I have shared with you all that we are expecting our 6th baby. It was with baby #4 that I began looking into using a midwife but it wasn't until baby #5 that I was able to convince hubby to get on board with a home birth. In my state (as in many in the country) this can be a bit tricky. Where I live if you hold professional certification of any sort you cannot attend a homebirth as a midwife. What that means for me is that I have to locate a midwife who is skilled in her trade, has medical training, clinical skills and is flying under the radar. Other states are different and for a mom planning a homebirth it requires a bit of self-education.
When an expectant mama is new to this whole realm she is often confused about who to ask for advice, how to interview a midwife and what to ask. I have been there myself and it was a sheer stroke of luck that I found an amazing midwife with my first interview. If I had been in the position of having to interview a few different ones, it might have been trickier. There are questions you should definitely know the answers to, there are things you should be observing, all of this comes with experience but I am going to attempt to take some of the mystery out of it.
First and foremost you need to identify your own philosophy on birth. Do you want someone who takes control while you ride shotgun and tells you what to do and how to do it? This is typically the stance of most OB/GYN professionals so you may be perfectly comfortable seeking out an OB who practices with midwives in a birthing center type of environment.
Do you want a midwife who walks alongside you offering suggestions but allowing you to hold the reins?
Do you want a very hands off midwife or one who is more hands on?
Do you want a midwife who performs physical exams (I am not referring to your belly girls) or one who does not?
Do you want a midwife who welcomes the assistant of a doula, or one who works alone?
There are so many things to consider so the first step might be brainstorming what your perfect birth would look like for you and then ensuring that you discuss that when you are interviewing a midwife.
Once you have located a midwife (or a few) to interview pay close attention to how she makes you feel.
Do you feel warm and safe in her presence?
Is this the kind of person you could imagine being friends with?
How does she respond to your other family members and what kind of a sense do they get about her?
You also need to be asking what her hospital transfer rate is and what types of situations she feels would necessitate a transfer.
In addition, there are some pretty standard things that most midwives avoid you need to think about how you feel about them also. This might include things like onset of labor prior to 37 weeks, certain high risk factors for your health (I’m old, that’s a “risk factor” in typical OB practices, but that is not what I am referring to). Multiple prior C- sections, etc.
Cost is of course also a factor you should be asking about as well as post natal care. In addition to these questions, you will have some of your own to ask, I even pulled together a quick printable sheet you can use to really help stay organized. Use it to record notes, feelings and interview a few midwives before you settle on the one you want to attend your birth.
Where do you find these midwives? Start with a Google search of Midwives in....(whatever state you live in). Look on facebook, there are HUGE homebirth groups you can join with members all over the US and abroad. I like this one on facebook called "Homebirth & Waterbirth." ask around and ask moms why they liked a particular midwife.
Now that you are well versed in what to ask, go get organized and start interviewing. Want a great resource to use? I've pulled together a great interview sheet for you to use, it is totally free for you to print when you subscribe to blog updates (you know all the crunchy mama stuff). This is a 3 page printable with space for notes and midwife specific information. Simply use a binder, hole punch and you are organized! For a copy of the free printable just sign up here:
CHOICES IN CHILDBIRTH,
5 WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF A NATURAL CHILDBIRTH
5 REASONS TO CHOOSE A MIDWIFE OVER A TRADITIONAL OB
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Soap Making is one of those skills that I had been wanting to learn for a VERY long time but I was always so intimidated by the process. This was the year of learning new things, thanks to my friend over at MyshireFarm. I am such a hands on learner that I needed some encouragement.
I have made a few batches of soap now and I honestly feel a lot more confident in the process (it wasn't nearly as scary and difficult as I had thought). So, here is a roundup of some great tutorials and recipes out there, I know what I will be busy doing all winter!
Let's talk vocabulary first, there are two MAIN types of soap making:
COLD PROCESS: Cold Process soapmaking is the act of mixing fixed oils (common oils include Olive, Coconut and Palm) with an alkali (Sodium Hydroxide or Lye). The result is a chemical process called saponification, where the composition of the oils change with the help of the lye to create a bar of soap
HOT PROCESS: Hot Process soapmaking is very similar, however, it is called hot because during the saponification process heat is added, usually in the form of a crockpot or double broiler. There really is no one way that is better, it is simply a matter of preference and also based on the type of recipe you use.
If you feel still a little lost when looking at soap recipes, this Glossary of terms may prove helpful to you. (though it is admittedly pretty technical).
What do you even need to begin? Here is a great tutorial post from Oak Hill Homestead on just that.
Starting here with a FREE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO SOAP MAKING
Oh, and just in case you need some supplies before you get started, here are a few to consider. (yes there are affiliate links in here)
There, now that you have some amazing recipes to try, are you the scientific type, want to know more about the science behind the soap? Check this out:
The Science of Soap
If you thought that there were only a few ways to make soap, boy were you wrong, here is a post on 23 ways to make soap! Who knew???
If you are scenting your soaps, you should also check this out:
How to prevent the scent from fading in your soaps
Still concerned about using lye? You really shouldn't be, but just in case, here is a post for you: How to make lye free soap
Lastly, here are some great free resources for printing labels for your newly found hobby. FREE FREE FREE, I love that word. Free Printable labels:
Do you feel sufficiently educated yet? Will you try at least one? Remember my post on the Lost Art of Homemaking Skills? Soapmaking was one of those skills. Also, if you have a recipe to share, leave me a comment with the link and maybe I will add it in too!
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Canning Season is winding to a close, save for the bushel or so of apples I still need to put up before winter. My shelves are lined, my winter prepared for, but if you are like me and have some empty jars lying around, they should be put to good use. Mason jars work as EXCELLENT storage receptacles. Everything from lining your counter with your flour, sugar and oats to packing lunches with a plastic alternative container for condiments and dressings.
I have learned, through much trial and error, that when not sealed with a pressure canner or hot water bath those lovely 2 piece ring and lids don’t secure tightly enough for the rough and tumble some storage requires (think laying a jar of liquid on its side in your refrigerator only to find homemade syrup spilled all over the shelves). Enter in Mason jar accessories. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the plastic white caps for sealing up everything from salad dressing in a jar to chicken salad in a lunchbox. I always have plenty of mason jars in all manner of sizes so they are a perfect accoutrement to stored food, even if not long term storage. I use the mason jars to store rice, beans, and all manner of dry goods as well. The best part about the lids? They are SUPER cheap and durable too.
Unfortunately, I found that there are not only mason jar screw top lids but so many other accessories you can purchase to repurpose your mason jars, oh boy. There are screen type lids for straining, there are wire lids for flower arranging, there are hole top lids for drinking, you name it and someone has thought of it!
I bet our grandmothers would have loved some of these handy gadgets to use. I also find that when I break the seal on a much love labored jar of my home-canned goods and the entire jar is not used (applesauce for example) using the plastic lids seals the air out better which means longer storage life in the refrigerator. I write directly on the plastic lid with a black sharpie so that I can have the date handy that the item was opened and subsequently stored in the refrigerator, this is so much easier than dealing with peel and stick labels and the best part? The sharpie washes off when you are ready and the lids are all dishwasher safe!
Alrighty, get to storin’ (just don’t forget to get yourself both wide mouth and regular sized lids so that you can use all your jars for storage!)
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I must admit that my children are starting to tell me I am old, I remember doing this same thing to my mom, she probably did it to her mom as well. In some ways, yes I guess I am getting older. I have an affinity for the less than new, and picture books are no different. I was one of the lucky children who had people reading to me all of the time and then once I could read myself, I was hooked. What is funny is that I remember so vividly some of the illustrations in my favorite children’s books. I could get lost with my imagination while looking at those pictures. There are some great stories that have come out in recent years, I have a few of those that are fast becoming timeless treasures for my children and I, but nothing will beat the picture books from my youth, the ones my grandmother read to me over and over, the ones my mom would let me curl up next to her and look at, those books. You need to read those books to your children, here is my list of favorites, they are oldies, but oh so good!
Harry the Dirty Dog… all about a dog who goes to extremes to avoid a bath
Eighteen Cousins…19 young children and a lot of farm animals, made for laughs!
Miss Suzy…A lovely squirrel who loves being a homemaker, until…
Devin and Goliath…A curious boy, a large turtle and some fantastic illustrations
Blueberries for Sal…A little girl picking blueberries and a bear cub.
The Story About Ping…a duck with an amazing adventure, luckily he makes it back in time.
Make Way For Ducklings…A very protective mother duck makes sure her babies are safe.
The Snowy Day… A boy, the snow and nothing else.
The Giving Tree…makes me cry EVERY time.
Are you my mother?...The poor bird looks high and low and everywhere in between.
Where the Wild Things Are…Let the wild rumpus begin!
Corduroy…If only he could find his lost button someone would want to take him home.
See, I'm showing my age here. My grandmother had most of these books in the library of the preschool she ran for over 20 years. I believe though that anyone born in the late 70's to 80's and beyond may be familiar with at least a few of these titles, they are the best!
This post contains affiliate links which costs you nothing but helps with the operations of this blog when you purchase books through clicking on my site.
We are expecting our 6th baby in just a little over 2 months, that led me to expound upon a topic that I am very passionate about. Women who choose natural childbirth are not saints or martyrs. We can all choose this path successfully but here are a few ways I have found to make sure you have the experience you desire. Keep in mind, I am not a doctor, just a mom who has done this a time or two. Birth does not scare me, nor should it scare you.
Women seem to fall into one of two categories when it comes to the end of a pregnancy. The two camps are often so vastly different that there doesn’t seem to be much gray area in between the black and white. These two opposing views are that of the natural minded gal who truly desires a medication free birth and that of the give-me-whatever-it-takes to-be-sure-I-don’t-feel-a-thing kinda gal. I have been on both sides of the issue from my first birth to my pending 6th birth and I am here to share some tips on ways to increase your chances of having an all natural, medication-free birth.
First and foremost a woman must know what her desirable birth looks like and why she feels that way. The unfortunate part about birth in this current day and age is that the majority of women are scared. Wait, before you argue with me on this point, talk to a new mom. There is a fear surrounding birth that has been perpetrated for about the last 75 or more years. This seems to have really come about since the invention of medications meant to relieve pain during childbirth and the subsequent thought that those are so essential, no woman should have a baby without them. Ladies, I am here to tell you that may not be accurate. With the addition of each different medication meant to relieve pain during childbirth there have been side effects. From twilight sleep in the early 1900s, to narcotics and epidurals, they all carry a level of risk for mom, and for baby. So if you want to have a medication free birth, here are some things you must know.
1. KNOW THAT YOU CAN DO IT
Guess what, God designed your body. God designed women to have babies. It is as simple as that. For literally thousands and thousands of years women have been giving birth. Many of whom were back to tending the house and working in the field shortly thereafter. Do you know why? Without medications our bodies actually recover more quickly, as do our newborn babies.
2. DON’T ALLOW AN INDUCTION
The drugs given to women to bring on labor such as Pitocin, Oxytocin and Cervidil to name a few are synthetic. That means that though they are designed to mimic the body’s natural hormones that bring about labor, they are not natural and they bring about contractions that are significantly stronger, faster, and more unbearable than a woman feels if she goes into labor on her own. Many women do not even realize that they have the option of refusing an induction. Though there does seem to be a swing in the other direction, for a number of years inductions were studied as they were on the rise. Lets face it, the scheduling of birth and delivery is much easier for both mom and doctor than random middle of the night labor. However, when hospitals began seeing an increase of over 40% + inductions there were some studies that came out and actually did show that many of the inductions were more of an elective nature than a seriously necessitated one. (article here) What that means for a mom with a natural bent is that you SHOULD NOT ALLOW AN INDUCTION.
Do some research mama, those dates are not exact and your baby will be born when he or she is good and ready. It took me years to realize this one, and 3 waaaay to early inductions to figure out that I was making poor choices by allowing them. My subsequent children have all been born without synthetic hospital inductions, there are a few herbal supplements designed to help a woman in labor, I do use and recommend those but they do not bring about labor (trust me as a mom who has gone over 40 weeks with babies #4 and #5).
3. HIRE A DOULA
Unless you are totally crunchy and old school like this girl here who loves and touts homebirth for normal healthy pregnancies you will be in a hospital setting. Look into the service of a doula. They are worth their weight in gold and if you cannot afford one get a hold of the certification agency DONA and ask if there is one in training who needs to attend births for her certification, you just might be able to score one for little to nothing out of pocket this way. What in the world is a doula anyway?
“The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.” -DONA international
In short, imagine if you had someone you felt extremely comfortable with whose sole goal while you were laboring was to serve you. Almost a handmaiden of sorts, she would use therapeutic touch (sometimes pressure on lower back during a contraction) she would help your partner with suggestions to calm and soothe you, she would help make sure your birth plan was followed, she would wipe your sweaty forehead with a cool cloth, I’m telling you it's like being a celebrity in the birthing room. SO WORTH IT especially if you are seeking a natural birth. The two best things that mine does for me is ease the pain in my lower back during contractions and gently get in my face when I need to be reminded to breathe through a difficult contraction, sounds simple enough but without that I may well be a squawking banshee.
4. TALK TO YOUR DOC
Seriously talk to your doc. Find out what his or her stance is from the get go. There are some doctors who insist that women need pain meds, if you want a natural experience, this is not the doc for you. When you are in the heat of a rough peaking contraction you are VERY susceptible to someone telling you that you NEED pain medications to calm you so you can have your baby…don’t buy it.
5. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE
This may be the hardest one yet because for some reason when the subject of birth comes up every woman is passionate about her own story, and often wants to share about the 30 hour long labor, the horrible episiotomy, the excruciating pain, etc. Leave those conversations immediately because often what we expect is what we get. Instead surround yourself with women who have had positive, natural births. If you don’t know anyone personally there are a ton of groups on facebook and other social media sites with the sole purpose of answering questions and offering support to mothers wanting a natural birth. Seek those out and jump in with your questions. Watch the documentary, The business of being born and read positive birth stories. They are out there. I personally had 3 less than desirable births before hitting my stride and learning enough to realize that natural birth, whether in the hospital or home setting, is far superior and allows mom and baby to recover so much more quickly than medicated birth.
There you have it mama. It can be done, it is worth it, you will be on a high that no drug could ever give you and you will be empowered. If natural birth is what you seek, go for it and know that you can do this.
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I pulled this one out of the archives, if you haven't read and are curious, this is how it all began just 4 short years ago.
So I have an AMAZING story to share...
My journey to becoming the "incidental farm girl" is a pretty cool one. Rewind a few years and I was working full time, as was hubby, opposite shifts of course.
But, we have the best of it all right? Two incomes, no childcare. Check. But, now we want a farm, some land, you know a place for our kids to enjoy growing up outdoors with the horse we were boarding. We had 3 children (expecting #4) and wanted them to experience countryliving. So, we found the perfect farm (like 4 different times!) And the last one we found seemed to be an open door. We put our home on the market, entered into a contract and sat back to pray...Then there it was, we got an offer on our home and we were set...just had to wait a little longer. Felt like green lights and open doors all the way...
Interestingly enough God was working behind the scenes at the same time. We were thinking of making some educational changes (in my mind that meant possibly private school) for our children, however, after many heart-to-heart talks with hubby and lots of prayer I felt that God was calling us to homeschool our children. Something my husband later confessed to me that he had been praying for me to decide to do for years.
But wait...I worked full time! And we were going to be buying a very expensive farm that meant I REALLY DID HAVE TO WORK...LOTS! Oh and I kinda thought homeschoolers were...well, you know...weird. There I said it. I never intended on homeschooling our children, we lived in a good school district, why would I? But, I have learned (through much trial and many errors) that when you feel God calling you to action, whether you want to or not (and I did not) you had better do it. So, there it was, there may have been a slight sigh of relief when that contract fell through on the homes as our buyer could not sell in the alotted time. So, that meant we weren't buying that expensive 15 acre farm...that I soooo wanted...insert frown. Hubby then says..."with this housing market we would literally have to have someone knock on our front door and ask to buy...because we are never going to sell our home." With that we took the for sale sign down.
Okay, so we move forward right. Hubby has so much faith in me that he thought that I would just be able to keep right on working full time and start homeschooling. I knew better. So, I began to pray, I prayed for God to lead my husband to want me home, like not working, like no second income...you feeling me? God is amazing and shortly thereafter it became my husband's idea that I should come home and we should quit this madness of working opposite shifts, never having calm family time and chasing the American dream of what I like to call "Bigger,Better, Faster." That also meant give up the farm dream again. So we did. We made a 6 month plan and I worked like a madwoman at my job, lots of overtime all the while with a new baby at home...and then...I quit my 15 year career as a social worker.
So, we settled into a routine. I was finding my groove homeschooling a 7th grader, 3rd grader and 1st grader while managing a 1 year old and when we learned we were expecting again, We were thrilled. Because, for the first time I was free to fully be a wife and mother...something I really enjoyed doing when I did not have a full time job pulling at me. And the homeschooling thing? I really liked it, my kids really liked it, I felt like I was getting so much more in tune with my children, my husband, and life. We were rolling along and life was good, we had learned to be content in what God had for us, maybe he wasn't planning a farm in our future, but what he had led us to was very fufilling.
We had another valley to pass through though. We lost the baby I was carrying around 13 weeks in. It was winter and though I was still relishing my role as homeschooling mother, I was crushed. We prayed, we cried, and I asked God for a peace and to get me through. He is faithful because he gave me a peace about that loss...and he comforted the hurt.
Another month goes by and on a cold February day there was a knock at the door. Do you remember my husband's comment? There stood the former owner of our home, we purchased the home from them 10 years prior. And with the former owner, a full price cash offer to purchase our home. WOW! All because.. you know, their daughter had moved in across the street and they had really good memories of raising thier children in our home. WOW!
But wait...We only have half of what we had before, I am not working, where will we go? God was not done yet. I look back now and I cannot believe how little faith I had. I mean, God has a sense of humor and he sent the "knock at the door" but I didn't rust that he already had it all worked out. Hubby and I started scouring farms, land, anything and kept coming up short. I was afraid that we were going to end up in an apartment with homeschooled kids and a hubby who worked nights...scary huh?
So on day #7 after we had the offer in writing for the purchasers of our home we looked online at real estate ads again. I hit "refresh" and there it was. Just listed, in our price range, almost 6 acres, and less than 5 minutes away! We called about it and saw it within 2 hours. It was perfect. We made the offer, it was accepted and we were approved to buy!
So, now I am the incidental farm girl. It is so amazing when we yield to what God wants to give us instead of spearheading our own plans.
This article may contain affiliate links, this costs you nothing but does help with the costs of running the farm and feeding the chickens.
We can text, email, blog, facebook, tweet, instagram and be all things supermom. Often times we work outside the home, run the kids to practice after and still manage to procure a semi homemade meal from the quintessential crockpot. We are the doers of our generation, we seemingly can balance it all and still nurse the baby. But there is a down side to all of this motion. We have relied on technology and our own wits for all too long and some of the most basic of homemaking skills are being lost to us. I used to be in that bustle (some days I still feel “bustled about” although these days its in flip flops and yoga pants, no longer in heels and designer bags). I traded it in for a slower paced life, one where I could procure the knowledge of my grandmother and her grandmother of the way life used to be. Truth be told, other than blogging about this life I could almost do away with most of the technology that is supposed to make our lives simpler, I think it complicates things in the pursuit of BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER.
What skills is that that I am suggesting we are missing out on? Some of us are missing the basics, some of us have mastered those but lost the more refined. Here are some of the ones that I think are the most important skills that we need to revisit.
1. Bread making
Panera and other bakery type places have bailed us out on this one but there is nothing, I mean nothing that compares to a homemade loaf of bread that you created with your own hands.
2. From Scratch Cooking
It has become all too easy to run to the grocery for a jar of spaghetti sauce, canister of cocoa, box of granola, or a jar of pesto. If you just stop to think though, all of these things are “pre made” which means they have to be pumped full of preservatives to get them to your table. When you learn to make some of these things “from scratch” you are not only saving money but you are also eating healthier.
Likely your grandmother or great grandmother new how to do this skill. Even if you start simple, like sewing a burp cloth for your baby or a few throw pillows for your couch you will feel a great sense of accomplishment.
You can start small, even a tomato plant in a container or a few herbs in the windowsill but the fact that you start is what matters.
This is a skill we should all possess. Even if you don’t regularly can hundreds of pounds of produce you should know your way around a hot water canner.
6. Handwritten notes
This is not so much a skill as it is one of the lost arts. With email and texting (and of course the rising cost of stamps) there are very few handwritten notes being sent. I am too guilty of this one as well, but there is nothing like a quick note, on real paper with actual penmanship to make your friend’s day.
7. Handmade Gifts
We often cite time as our enemy on this one, or we feel that we somehow need to live up to the unattainable Pinterest image we have in our mind’s eye. We then fail to even attempt handmade gifts because we feel that they are not “Etsy ready.” Just think yourself though how much a thoughtful gift means to you when crafted by a friend, be it a hand lettered coffee cup or a homemade sugar scrub.
8. Herbal Remedies
I talk of this one often. Our ancestors knew plants. We are lucky to know the difference between straw and hay. There is so much knowledge that we are losing because we don’t know where our food comes from, we don’t make time to talk to the older generations and we don’t delve into herbal remedies that are right under our noses.
9. Soap Making
I’m not talking about the cute little kits from craft stores I am talking about some real old fashioned lye and fat soap making. It isn’t that hard and we have become sissified in our fear of using lye, something that may burn our skin. Let me tell you if you have ever cooked a meal, the stove might burn your skin too, not that big a deal.
10. Line Drying Clothes
This may be the simplest start on the whole list. We are just too darn busy to be bothered with drying our clothes outdoors. Let me tell you though, you haven’t lived until you have slept on some fresh line dried sheets in the summer sun, really, it’s true. Oh, and don’t forget the fact that it really does save on electricity, I average about a $30 a month savings this way.
How many of these basic skills are you missing? Do you have them in your homemaker's toolbox, if not, start small and start trying and learning.
Related Posts: Backyard Medicine, Homemade Coconut Oil Soap, From Scratch Snacks, 10 New Gardener mistakes, Handmade DIY.
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After a long gardening season and hopefully a bountiful harvest it is almost sad to see the fall approach with its cooler evenings and occasional nippy mornings. What does often happen this time of year is that previously stunted herbs begin to be revitalized and you may find yourself swimming in Basil, Oregano, Rosemary and some of the more hearty herbs.
I don’t know about you but I often am mentally “finished” with the preservation process by this time and I have a tendency to feel slightly overwhelmed with more tasks on my plate than hours in the day. However, never wanting to waste a beautiful harvest of herbs here is a fast and super simple way to preserve the hearty and savory herbs you may well use for cooking all winter.
I am not kidding when I tell you that this method literally takes 5 minutes of your time so even the busiest of us can manage it. And yes, it really does work just as I explain it though I too was skeptical the first time I tried it.
1. Harvest your hearty herbs
2. Wash and pat dry
3. Tear and stuff herbs into the molds (notice I did it backwards in the photos which led to some overflow)
4. Fill your containers (mini muffin molds or ice cube trays work fantastically) with Olive oil covering the herbs
5. Freeze for 24 hours
6. Viola! You have success. You can either remove the cubes and place in a freezer bag or you can leave in your container until you need to use them.
A word of caution, once frozen these will thaw quickly so if you are removing them to put into a freezer bag do so quickly. You can then use these in your sautés, sauces, soups and savory dishes. Anything that requires herbs and olive oil. My favorite recipe is here: Tomato Basil Chicken
Though fresh is always best, this is a fantastic alternative in the winter months to use up that fresh herbal goodness!
I really like to make my own products, whether it be skin care, cleaning products, soaps, whatever there is some serious gratification in self sufficiency. That being said I also really like to be in control over what I am putting either on or in my body when it comes to products and medicines. I prefer to "go au natural" with my remedies for the common illnesses and to do the same for my family.
That being said I have a few favorite recipes from older blog posts I have done as well as a round up from the web to share with you all today. It's time to get busy before winter is upon us, that way we are all stocked and ready for cold and flu season as well as that dry itchy skin that is a product of being indoors with a furnace running full blast or out doing farm chores in the bitter chill of winter.
Please let me know if you too have a great herbal remedy that you use and make at home, maybe even one your learned from your grandmother...I know mine has talked alot about the old mustard plasters she had to endure as a child.
Do you like to read about homesteading? There is a great roundup that I love to read from a whole lot of like-minded homesteaders...be sure to check it out!
I love my farm life. I love caring for and watching my livestock. I love canning, gardening and all the craziness that comes from living on my little homestead. I have a secret though, the only place I would trade the farm for might just be a place on the beach, too bad this gal can't have both...Nirvana is what that would be. Instead I have to enjoy a getaway to the ocean every few years and hold on to the pictures and memories of ocean waves lapping the shore to get me by until next time.
We recently just had such a luxury. A beachfront getaway to my favorite spot. I must digress that when I tell you why this is my favorite spot it may turn some off, I have sent friends here and they became "bored" because well...there is just a beach, an island if you will, a state park at one end and a bay to the opposite side of the Gulf, and tons of wildlife. There are a few hole in the wall places like my favorite Oyster Bar and Pizza dive. But, that is it. No boardwalk, no hubub, no crowds. For me that is the epitome of beach perfection.
This is my "secret" spot. The secret is out...it is the "Forgotten Coast" of Florida and was actually voted in the top 10 beaches in the USA twice in the last few years. St. George Island is hands down the third on my list of best beaches EVER (the first is Playa Del Carmen in Mexico and the second being Maui, neither of which is very affordable for a large family to visit).
The Gulf beaches are white sugar sand and not crowded. The bay side has an entirely different Ecosystem just 2 miles across the island from the Gulf side and makes for fabulous education for the kids. In past years we had the opportunity to go oystering, crabbing and fishing on the bay side, so much fun! The entire Island is approx 21 miles long and 2 miles wide. The north side of the island is 6 miles of uninhabited Florida State Park that you can get into for a mere $6 a carload and it has some AMAZING shelling and driftwood finding. This treasure is right off of the panhandle just a 10 minute drive from Appalachicola, Florida and about 1.5 hours from the overpopulated Panama City Beaches.
The best part of this beach is the amazing amount of life that can be found. Every time we come we see how many hermit crabs, sand dollars, starfish and beautiful shells we can find...we never have the heart to keep any of the live animals of course, but it is neat to play with them!
After a few long days at the beach when we did decide to take a break and "find something to do" there is the awesome and totally free nature center right off the island, it is open Tues-Sat from 9am-4pm and is a fantastic place to cool off and learn a lot with hands on stations for the kids. Check it out here.
Then the town of Apalachicola is fun for doing a little bit of touristy shopping and oyster eating as well as visiting my favorite soap shop. It is a short 5 mile trek across the bridge that connects St. George Island to Eastpoint and then over another bridge to Apalachicola, 10 minutes in all.
If you ever get a hankering to go and visit this gem, here are a few tips from yours truly...
-Pack your water, the entire area of Florida here has funky tasting water
-Stop at the Dollar General just before crossing the bridge to the island, cheap water toys and sunscreen
-I favor staying on the ocean side vs. the bay side due to mosquitos at night
-The Island Dog store rents bike boards for $10 a day, lots of fun!
-Eat at BJ's pizza on the island, its sooo good!
-For a large family, or just some good ol' southern cooking you can't beat the food or prices of Hog Wild BBQ in Carabelle
-Stop in to the Old Time Soda Shop in Apalachicola for some souvenires
-Be sure to get a Gelato at the Apalachicola Chocolate Company (Amaretto is divine!)
-Look up the legend of Tate's Hell State Park and go for a hike after...I dare ya!
Homeschooling can cost as much or as little as you want it to...and guess what? It doesn't matter how much you spend according to statistics, you will still be cranking out amazing kiddos. Statistics have shown that the income of parents who homeschool in no way reflects the education the child receives. However, some of us have tighter budgets than wish lists so here are a few sound tips for saving money and homeschooling on a budget.
1. SHOP USED
Just like I learned years ago in college, you can spend a lot, or a little on your textbooks and the only difference seems to be the amount of money left in your wallet. Used textbooks or curricula are the way to go when you are on a budget, let someone else take the depreciation hit (kinda like when you drive a new car off the lot and it drops a few thousand in value). Some of my favorite places to pick up the curricula I want for my kiddos are:
-Local Facebook swap groups
2. Join A Group
If you are not already part of a homeschool group, now is the time to start. Some families link up with others in their church, their friends, or even their community. If your group doesn't already swap or rent books to one and other, head up the movement. All it takes is a bit of organization and a "librarian" to keep tabs on things. You can nominate someone to record who borrowed whose books and viola, you are in business. If this doesn't work you can opt for a rental program among friends as well.
3. Check out Free Online Resources
If all else fails, you can homeschool virtually free, with a printer and a little leg work. Here is a fantastic list of places to look for free curricula, unit studies, or topics of interest...(Including some free planners here)
-The Frugal Homeschool Mom
-Easy Peasy Homeschool
-Homeschool Free For Shipping
-Schooling a Monkey
-Year Round Homeschooling
-Free Homeschool Deals
4. Combine Grades
If you have more than one child that you are teaching and your children are only a year or three apart, consider teaching them the same subjects together so you aren't buying individual grade levels. I also don't ever buy grade level kits. The beauty of homeschooling is that we don't have to use the same guidelines as a public school, who says your child who is 7 can't learn alongside your 9 year old when reading or doing science?
5. Don't Spend $ on Pre-K or Kindergarten
This is too easy to just do for free or next to nothing so don't waste your cash on curricula for this age. Let them play and incorporate reading to them, file folder games (you can print tons free or make your own), use what you have around the house and don't stress about it. Here are a few of my favorites:
-Itsy Bitsy Fun
-From ABC's to ACT's
-Playdough to Plato
So see, its not so hard to save some cash and still homeschool. It is all about the creativity and your willingness to think outside the box. Here's to a great homeschool year!
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Do you see that smile? Its almost contagious. She was jumping up and down and just plain thrilled. She worked hard, she memorized A LOT (way more than mom could retain) and she won 1st place in her age and 1st place in her division for Showmanship. That means she beat out about 50 other excellent showman to attain this award. She was asked questions such as:
-What type of fur does a Dwarf Hotot rabbit have?
-How many recognized breeds are there for ARBA? (American Rabbit Breeders Assoc)
-What is a dewlap?
-What are the long hairs on a rabbit's coat called?
She knew all the answers thanks to loads of studying and even some helpful worksheets given to her by another adviser in our 4H group.
To say I am a proud mama is a bit of an understatement. The best part was her sheer surprise at the whole thing, she is a great sport and was helping and congratulating her competitors as well.
My 10 year old son wound up with a 2nd place ribbon for his showmanship of chickens, he also did an amazing job and was also asked some pretty difficult questions but the one that knocked him out of first place was concerning a breed of bird (turkey) that he was not showing and did not know much about. He still did excellent and learned so much.
The experiences they had for this, their first year in 4H, were amazing. They are both eager to compete and show again next year and their quest for knowledge makes me proud, this is how learning should occur, with a zeal, a zest and a desire to learn more.
If you haven't looked into 4H for your child, you are really missing out. Not all of the projects are livestock ones and I am very impressed with the amount of detail and information that these kids learn whether they are doing a project on healthy snacks, sewing, cooking, lizards, robotics, gardening or even CPR. Read my post here on why you should get involved.
Many kids are already back in school, so take a moment to look back and check out this list to see how you did. If you didn't complete them all, sneak a few in before the weather turns cold or just start your bucket list for next year!
Did I miss any? These are some that come to mind when I think of the way I grew up, that was way before digital media took a huge toll on our children, these are some of the things I want my children to experience, regularly. How about yours?
You’ve thought about homesteading, you’ve perused land, you may even be well on your way to purchasing a farmhouse. On the other hand, you may live on some land already but feel a bit overwhelmed at how to start the process of homesteading and becoming more self sufficient. You have come to the right place and I am here to help.
It has only been a short time (we are in our fourth year) that we have had our own little homestead. I call it little because we live on just shy of 6 acres, not grandiose by any means but definitely large enough to raise some livestock, garden, can the bounty and feel like I am at least on the road to homesteading. Looking back though, I realize that this is a journey that I really began years and years ago when I started wanting to be more in touch with the way my grandmother and mother grew up. I wanted to learn some of the old skills, the ones we would now refer to as “self sufficiency skills” it is more of a pop culture word now but what it really means is that we can do for ourselves.
Many of the skills of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents for that matter are becoming lost to so many generations because we feel that they are antiquated, there is a growing movement happening though. It is a bit of an enlightenment really, some of us are starting to realize that when those previous generations are gone, the skills and knowledge that they have are also lost, forever. Unless…we get busy and begin learning now.
It is all to easy to feel inadequate if you look online at homesteaders who are blogging about their great accomplishments and adventures, but just know that we all start somewhere and we all are on a journey, I know I still am and there will always be someone further along that journey than me. (I have a post here to give you a healthy perspective) We all have to start somewhere though.
Where do you start though? Here are some great tips to get you going.
1. Check out the print
There are a number of fantastic books out there where you can begin to glean information even if you haven’t purchased that land yet. The skills you can read about and learn are an education that cannot be taken from you so get busy!
2. Read About Other's Journeys (not to compare yourself but to learn)
Here are a few of the bloggers I love to read...
- The Farm Barbie
- Oakhill Homestead
- Simple Life Mom
-Not So Modern Housewife
-The Chicken Chick
3. Start Small
This relates to ANY topic be it Gardening, Animal Husbandry, Canning, Sewing, Homeschooling, From Scratch Baking...any of them. Start where you are and start small. Master a few areas through some trial and error and you will feel even more confident about your ability to move forward and on to the next area of interest.
4. Keep a Journal
Many of us start down the homesteading path and become easily discouraged when we have a few fails (and you will). Keeping a journal of what you are doing, what is working and what is not is very helpful. Also, if you are venturing into livestock KEEP NOTES.
This is so important because in the excitement of getting those new chicks, piglets or any other animal you will forget. However, many months or even a year down the line you may want to know what all of your hard work is netting you in your pocketbook, without good records of the amount of cash you spent up front, and the amount you regularly spend on feed, there is no way to go back and get accurate facts.
5. Connect with Mentors
None of us can do this alone. You will find (if you haven't already) that many a farmer, gardener, or homesteader will relish sharing their knowledge with a fledgling newbie. Just be respectful of their time and compensate them when possible (a homemade loaf of bread, some fresh cool new variety of veggie you grew, a dozen eggs, you get the picture).
I find that the BEST advice out there is that which comes from the crowd of folks over the age of 70 years old. The older the better actually. They have lived this life, they have years of experience that is worth its weight in gold, go out there and get some for yourself. If you aren't sure where to find someone, look for a local farmer's market and find the oldest gent or lady there. If that isn't an option, look around you, find some farms and go introduce yourself, taking along some goodies from your place for the introduction never hurt either.
Want to read more posts by other homesteaders? Check out these roundups that have tons of fantastic information!
Wife to a wonderful husband, Daughter of the King, Mother of 6 (one with an xtra chromosome), and an incidental farm girl.