Cutting Back on Custom and Starting out on our Mini-Farm/Homestead

With lots of turmoil in the stock markets, government debt off the charts, the banks doing stress tests to see if they can handle negative interest rates, the price of oil in the toilet… we are entering very uncertain financial times.  You might imagine my tinfoil hat is too tight if you haven’t looked at the news lately.  But it you have read the news perhaps you are thinking of ways to protect yourself from the uncertainty, also. The good news is that there is plenty you can do to make your situation better and make the ups and downs better. Well for our family the idea of growing some of our own food and raising chickens for eggs seemed like fun and also a very good plan. We are super excited to plant our first garden on our recently purchased property.

Chickies in the Run

Chickies in the run

This past year my jewelry sales weren’t very strong but I did teach some super talented students, which was awesome and super fun.   After doing my taxes and looking at the numbers it decided it doesn’t make sense to keep doing things the way I’ve been doing them, such as taking every custom request that comes my way.  So, I’ve decided to take a break from doing labor intensive custom jewelry in order that might have that time dedicated to pursuing jewelry as an art form.  If I’m going to be making starving wages I might as well be enjoying myself.  So I’ll continue teaching and doing whatever jewelry projects I design and that bring me joy.  I am blessed to have the freedom to follow my bliss to the best of my ability thanks to my hubby holding down a “job in town.”

There isn’t enough time in the day to make custom jewelry and art jewelry and get all my work-at-home homestead mom tasks complete.  What I mean to say is that I haven’t had any time to be a real jewelry designer with no-one directing me. I suppose a jewelry designer could take direction from someone else… Maybe I should think of myself as being a jewelry artist instead of a designer. No one ever told Picasso what to do. He probably would have kicked that unfortunate soul right in the butt and right out of his studio.

Apparently these days it’s hard to find a silversmith who will take your precious coin, rock found during your spiritual journey in Tibet, mother’s diamond, or tattoo and make it into a jewelry piece. I accept the blame for never charging enough money to make a living wage.  I couldn’t figure out how to do it and still make sales.  If I was raking in 6 figures to do it I bet I’d be able to find some joy in that. Maybe even 5 figures… but I wasn’t even able to figure out how to make minimum wage at it. It’s hard work and takes perseverance and talent. And then some more perseverance.

So today I marked all the items that I don’t want to make anymore as SOLD OUT on my website. There are still a few items for sale on there. Soon, I’ll be deleting those “SOLD OUT” items and adding my own original (undirected) designs. But not today as I’m on HIATUS! It feels good to be on HIATUS.

Regrown Bok Choy

Bok Choy regrows from store bought stump

On my first day of HIATUS (that was yesterday), after a trip to the gym for 30 minutes of cardio and some weightlifting, I hit Aldi (the super cheap grocery store) for some perishables and snacks. My three sacks of groceries didn’t want to fit nicely into the pantry. So I took everything out and did some reorganizing.  Now I can function.  Organizing my pantry clears my mind.

Seven months ago when we bought this house we thought it was equipped with a generous enough pantry for the average family but, we are not average. I’m going to have to find a nice cool dark place to store my home canned items once the garden starts producing.  There’s another task for the To Do List.

My friend Mark, a master of the canning I suspect, gave me some pickled green tomatoes peppers and onions that he had put up last summer. They were amazing. Firm but sweet and spicy. I’ve been trying to shed the extra holiday pounds I put on so having them on my salad yesterday fit into my plan perfectly as they clearly have no calories! You know if a jar has no label there are not calories in it *fact*. I ate my salad outside in the beautiful near 75 degree weather on February 1st while being entertained by our six chickens.  Oh, I do so love HIATUS.

Hen House Chickens in Run

The six chickens at 13 weeks old.

Today we were down to our last jar of greek yogurt. I always save the last one as a starter for the next batch of yogurt. So making homemade yogurt was one of today’s projects along with burning the crap out of a batch of chex mix, cooking chicken in the slow cooker for tonight’s chicken taco dinner and making a loaf of bread. I also dehydrated some fresh cilantro purchased last week at Aldi for only 44 cents. I used it with a couple of meals but it wasn’t going to keep and it didn’t fit into this weeks meal plan. I recently checked the prices of dry herbs at our local Brookshire’s and the sizes range from .18 ounces to .62 ounces for a bottle of dried herbs. Prices were from $2 to almost $8 depending on the herb.

All the leftover fresh cilantro stems went into the chicken run as the chickies love fresh veggie scraps. Another reason to be excited for the spring garden is all those veggie scraps we’ll be creating for the hens.

So I  am patting myself on the back for being frugal and saving those extra dollars by drying my own herbs. It’s really a simple process. If you want to know more about it leave a comment or you know just google “drying herbs in the microwave.”

More about my careful meal planning in another post, hopefully.

Good info for you chicken farmers… chickens will eat slightly overcooked (burnt) chex mix. I mean so far so good, none have keeled over at this point. Yay!

Antique Window in the chicken coop.

This past weekend the chickens got an upgrade on their housing. We got an antique window installed.

So the extent of our homestead/micro farm at this point is: 1 acre of partially wooded land, 1 compost tumbler, two rain barrels, one 15 by 30 foot vegetable garden. Three very impressive flower gardens. 4 planted fruit tree and some wild American Plum trees. We’ve got blackberries and wild and domesticated grapes. I’m thinking 4 varieties off the top of my head. We have 2 dogs and a family of three humans with various extended family around and all over the map.

Our Chickens in the coop
Chickens in the Coop

I just had to go run to the back door because all six birds were standing on the threshold ready to invite themselves into the house. Yuck! They were either looking for me or wanting the dogs to come outside and play with them. I left the door open so the dogs could run out in case the chickies needed protection while they were free ranging. We’ve had a couple of neighborhood dogs come for a visit recently and if random dogs get into the yard things could go badly for the chickens. I ran to the door, carried one bird back to the chicken run and then told the other hens to “go home”  They are seriously dumb animals sometimes, but just now they made me very proud.

My Dog Henry

Henry: A pretty good dog.

So in conclusion, in these uncertain financial times… I’ve decided that my time is money and I’m going to spend mine wisely. Working for my family’s sustainability has to come before slaving away doing something that has lost it’s joy. I’ve got to love being a jewelry artist to do my best at it. So please wish me the best in this journey. And I do apologize for not making your tattoo into a pair of earrings and that it’s incredibly hard to find anyone who will.

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