Category Archives: Life Skills

Building Beds

Well the big boys have outgrown everything, including their beds.  

They have asked for loft beds.  We searched everywhere for the right beds and couldn’t find an affordable option that could hold their “near adult” size.

So we set out to design and build our own loft beds custom made to fit each one.

Here are a few pictures of Daddy teaching the boys the beginning steps in how to build their beds.

Sanding boards smooth is a lot of work.  It took more time to sand than most of the other steps.

The boys are learning hands on carpentry skills from a master carpenter. These lessons will last a lifetime.

Be sure to check out the next story about DIY Loft Beds.


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Make Do

So what do you do when you don’t have XYZ?   You MAKE DO!  

Let’s face it, you can’t always get what you want when you want it.  Or haven’t you learned that yet? 

I learned this lesson at a very young age.  My dad used to frequently tell me “Don’t sweat the small stuff” meaning don’t worry about things I can’t change and things that in the bigger picture of life really are not that important.

I want my children to learn this lesson while they are young too. I hope that by teaching them while they are young, and leading by example, and as they watch me and my husband cope with difficult circumstances in our adult life where we have no choice but to go without the things we want, or making do with what we have (and do it with a joyful heart), will make a positive impact on them and give them coping skills to handle whatever situations they face in their life.

“It’s healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up”.
                                                                 Proverbs 14:30

Sometimes accepting that I will have to “make do” means saving my sanity too.  No point in throwing a fit about it.  Just accept it for the time being, “make do” or make the best of the situation and the resources I have, and go forward.  If I waste my energy on pouting or throwing a tantrum, I miss my blessing.  I tell myself that someday I will improve the circumstances if I am able, but until then, be happy.

Our current season of life finds us “making do” with what we have and living without what we don’t have.  I won’t mention all of the wants, but one want / need we have is a backyard grill for our large family of eight people.  We would love to have a grill to enjoy summer cooking outside. 

About two months ago, we moved from North Carolina to Indiana.  The old farmhouse in Indiana is hot this summer.  I leave the kitchen door open most of the time, because it is so hot in the kitchen.  The kitchen is small.  It was a porch at one time in history, before indoor plumbing, and then was enclosed and plumbed probably in the 1930’s or so to become an indoor kitchen.  It is somewhat frustrating for me to cook in it as I was used to a big modern kitchen, with nice appliances, and lots of counter space for food prep with room still leftover for several small appliances in my previous home.  I also had a separate but adjoining dining room so the food was prepared in one area, and eating could take place a few feet away.  We enjoyed this lifestyle as homeschoolers, because we use our table not only for eating, but also for school work too, so I could cook or prep food in one area and all six of the kids could study and or play at the table and we had plenty of room for everyone. 

I am not complaining, but just pointing out the facts as they are.  Being in the small kitchen cooking, or at the kitchen table, means we are all on top of each other.  Literally, we are elbow to elbow in the kitchen.   I find myself in a very old house with almost no electrical outlets, poor lighting, and the kitchen feels like a dungeon.  It is not convenient at all. 

I have two feet of counter space to the left and to the right of the sink, and I bump into the table behind me every at every turn.  And sitting at the table means your back is to the wall on one side, and bumping into the oven door or fridge door when they are opened on the other side.  I currently can’t even imagine how I am going to use the table for school work too.  I feel like I am in a camper with the burden of cooking for a large family and don’t have access to what I need.  By the time you have the coffee pot, a mixer or bowl, and if there are any dishes on the counter to be hand washed, there is no room left for food prep.  There is no dishwasher, microwave, or nice appliances, and gasp. . . no ice maker or water dispenser in the fridge door either.  Nope, NADA!  

And did I mention it is HOT!??   It makes more sense to cook outside than inside right now in the hot summer.  But we don’t have a grill and we don’t have the budget for one at this time either.   What little money we have had has gone to cover basic needs for food, gas, bills, and the garden seeds, and a few fruit trees / plants for the orchard.   In this season of our life, there are many needs and plenty of wants going unmet. 

One thing is for sure, when you accept your circumstances, you can deal with them better.  If you fight, pout, and are frustrated about your circumstances, it makes it all that much harder to live with.  

I am so thankful for my family, even with the demands of caring for a large family.  My kids can be a great source of encouragement in this whole thing, because they are resilient, and optimistic.  They may need a little “get over it” time too, but eventually they come around to the idea of let’s “make do”.  As long as you are together, and have each other to build one another up, you can get through it. 

It is tough!  I am not going to lie!  It is not easy to set aside your wants.  And it is hard to watch those you love suffer, struggle, or go without.

Evaluate What You Have On Hand To Use

So. . . what to do. . .what to do. . .?

First I need to look at the resources I have on hand, and then I can MAKE DO! 

If I want to cook outside, but don’t have a grill, why not cook on an open fire?  For thousand years my ancestors cooked on open fires.  They didn’t have grills, gas ovens, crock pots, or electric stoves.  Yet they succeeded in feeding large families with the resources they had.

Well, in theory that sounds good, but in practice cooking on an open fire presents some challenges: a steep learning curve if you have never cooked out in the open, safety for the cook, safety for the bystanders, keeping a constant source of heat or temperature, preventing food from burning, and food from falling into the fire and being covered in ashes, etc.  It is definitely challenging, but if I can manage those challenges then I can “make do”.

Resources I have on hand to cook a meal outside:

            -open space in the backyard
            -shovel to maneuver hot rocks, hot bricks, and charred wood that is on fire
            -tree limbs: maple, apple, mulberry, etc.
            -matches to start a fire
            -foil to provide some protection for food that can burn easily or food that
                 needs to steam in its own juice
            -a pocket knife to whittle wooden spears to hold food over the fire
            -fresh garden produce
            -bread and buns

With these resources we were able to build wonderful camp fires in the evenings when daddy got off work, and cook fresh food for several delicious and fun family dinners. 

In the meal pictured below, we roasted fresh corn on the cob, roasted fresh red potatoes with onions and zucchini that was just harvested from the garden before going on the fire, and uncured all natural beef hot dogs cooked by the kids skewered on our wooden spears.

Within a few weeks of learning to cook on the fire, we acquired a new resource: a grate to place over the open fire to cook on.  I was so excited about this “step up” !   I had looked and looked at newspapers, online sources, etc. to try to find a free grill someone was getting rid of, even if nothing on it could be used except the grate, or one that could be bought very cheap. But as the weeks went on through the summer, I could not find one, not even one to recycle.

After a few times of cooking on hot rocks and bricks and spears made of sticks, we finally acquired a grate we found on clearance while grocery shopping.  We now have a wonderful grate to put over the fire for under $10 and and a couple of metal
spear/forks for $2 to spear the food if desired, and this made cooking over the fire much easier.  Total investment was around $14.  We had the bricks already on hand from an old foundation we recycled that was under a shed we took down on the farm.  We made side walls with the bricks by stacking them two bricks high and the bricks helped to keep a hot fire going by retaining a lot of the heat and preventing the fire from spreading out to much, and also helped to hold the cooking grate.  I am very thankful for the upcycled bricks.


Cooking over a wood fire is lots of work!  It takes diligence to gather sticks to build the fire, and constant stoking the fire, and time to monitor the fire so it is just right to cook on.  About an hour or more of work goes into making the wood fire before we can place food on it.   And there are a few dangers to keep in mind at all times, especially with young kids around, and if the fire flairs up unexpectedly while you are leaning over it!

Though we have been “making do” without a modern grill this summer, we have a good attitude about it.  We are enjoying our time together, and enjoying learning the ongoing process of getting by and making the most of what we do have.  We are especially enjoying learning the delicious art of cooking over a wood fire outdoors.  No grilling we have ever done EVER, has tasted this good! 

The food is juicy and has a delicious flavor infused with the smoke from the apple, maple, and mulberry tree limbs we are burning.   If you enjoy apple wood smoked bacon, smoked meats like maple wood smoked turkey or smoked brisket, then you will enjoy the flavors of this style of cooking.  It is very exciting to the nose and the tastebuds.

All of the ingredients in this dinner (except the bun, hotdogs, and the beef), were picked fresh just a few minutes before grilling them. 

The fresh
veggies in our meal include:
            next to the bun (potatoes, greenbeans, Jalapeno, Cilantro, shallots, acorn
            inside the burger (Jalapeno, Cilantro, shallots)
            and on the burger (lettuce leaves, sliced radishes, yellow tomato, and onion), 

Though this dinner was cooked outside over an open fire, this meal was restaraunt quality, there is no doubt about it!  Pictured below here is garden fresh red potatoes and green beans, acorn squash, and a delicious garden fresh sirloin burger.

Our country has been so blessed to have easy access to so much modern technology and appliances.  These modern conveniences have made cooking easier for our generation.  Past generations had a much more challenging time preparing foods and cooking delicious meals for their families.  Yet they learned to master the art of cooking both outdoors and indoors (in fire places) over an open fire. 

I am excited to post some upcoming stories about outdoor cooking over the open fire that we have been enjoying this summer.  Stay tuned and I will share with you some delicious foods you can easily cook in your own backyard with your kids and you can make them on the grill, in an electric skillet, or on the campfire. 

Meanwhile, I encourage you to embrace the circumstances you find yourself in during different seasons of life.  Give “making do” a go and I am sure you will get through the toughest of times.  It will inspire you and your family to keep believing that one day the circumstances will change and they will be able to get the things that are needed and wanted, but for now we can and will endure with with a joyful heart what we have on hand.  We can “make do”.

What ways are you making do in your life?  Have you shared this experience with your children?  Please share your comments below.  Thank you.

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Raising Homemakers
Sharing Time


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Good Eats

My kids and I love watching Good Eats on TV.

If you haven’t seen Good Eats, you don’t know what you are missing.  It is like watching a good comedy mixed with science, history, geography, common sense and food.   I love watching the host, Alton Brown, work his comedy style into learning where food comes from and how to prepare it.

Watching Good Eats is like going back in time to the best science show on TV called Beakman’s World, and putting his laboratory in today’s kitchen.   Alton is a wacky science teacher who is also a great chef!  Or he is a great chef who is also a wacky science teacher….anyway, he gets my kids, and myself, absolutely happy about cooking and food science.

How can you laugh while learning about lamb, chocolate, tea, cupcakes, etc?  Give Alton 30 minutes of your time and I am sure you will laugh and learn something new.  

Yes, we often learn about cooking and food sitting right in our living room, instead of the kitchen.  Later, in the kitchen, we talk about the things we learned through cooking programs and especially the fun learning we did with Good Eats.

Here my nine year old, and three year old, get ready for the Good Eats program to start.

Just before the episodes start, I serve the kids a yummy snack.  Then I call everyone to the living room to take a seat and get quiet. 

Here is my 11 year old, holding his baby brother, and sipping on a homemade glass of Mocha Frappe as he enjoys today’s episode of Good Eats.  He plugs away at his school work all morning to get it done in time to watch the show.  He really “gets” the comedy and science that Alton Brown teaches in his programs. 

Today we learned about lamb, its history, how it is raised, different cuts of lamb, and how to prepare the rack of ribs into the shape of a crown.   Alton took us to the farm, to the butcher, to the supermarket, and to his kitchen.

Alton is very funny.  In the next picture I’ve posted he is impersonating the food police.  He often disregards the USDA suggestions on cooking temps, eating things raw, culturing, etc.  I think that is one reason I like him so much.  He uses experience and common sense to guide him and doesn’t rely on everything the government says is right or wrong in preparing food; much like the Weston A Price foundation in many of his suggestions.  Though he does not totally live by the suggestions of Weston A Price either; and thats another reason I like him.  Though I love much of what the WAPF teaches, I don’t agree with everything, nor do I implement everything or live by a strict set of cooking rules as they do.  Many times when  I owned my healthy food store, folks who were devout followers in the WAPF movement would ask my opinion on things, and I would tell them that they needed to remain flexible and do what worked for their family and not get stressed out about eating everything 100%.  It can take an incredible amount of time to soak all the grain and nuts you use, or ferment, or only use organic, etc.  This is not always feasible.   Alton is flexible and he goes with what works, what is healthy in moderation, and makes life fun and interesting.  He is my kitchen hero!

In each episode, Alton takes us various places to learn amazing facts about food.  Sometimes we are in a foreign country, a super market, in his oven, microwave, cabinets, the sink, the freezer, and other obscure places, or we might even find ourself in a petri dish with other molecules.  He places the camera from different vantage points and you really feel as if you are right there in the refrigerator with him.  Some parts of his episodes are like being at a theater or in a play. Characters dress up and take you on an adventure.   I love his style of communicating and teaching. 

Today’s lesson on selecting, preparing, and cooking a Rack of Lamb, which is a very expensive dish at restaurants, became a simple process that you can easily make at home, and Alton showed us how.

Here are some short video clips of Good Eats that I found on YouTube.  These episodes will give you just a taste of what Alton’s “comedic science in the kitchen” is all about and how he takes something that seems complicated and makes it simple to understand and recreate in your own kitchen.

Learn History and Science About Brunch and Eggs Benedict. 
Part 1  Learn how to make English Muffins.

Learn History and Science About Brunch and Eggs Benedict
Part 2  Learn about eggs. 

Learn Science While Making A Pound Cake

Science of Fish and Eating Sustainably

Learn the Science and Method of making Banana Pudding

I am using this Good Eats program as part of our life skills training in our homeschool.  The program is only 30 minutes long and comes on TV Mon-Fri. on the Food Network at 11 am in our area. We try to watch the program two or three times a week.  

But if you don’t have this channel, or don’t have TV, check out the huge variety of FREE Good Eats videos on YouTube or on the Food Network online.  You can also find Alton Brown’s cookbooks in stores. 

Homeschooling in our living room with Good Eats is great!  Thank you Alton Brown for making food science entertaining and memorable.

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French Toast

                                French Toast with Kids In The Kitchen

This is a simple meal my son, age 9, and I prepare at least once a month, that the whole family enjoys.

He loves to flip french toast, pancakes, and just about anything in the skillet.  He really does enjoy cooking.   He cooks with me at least two or three times a week. He is learning to read recipes, measure ingredients, technique on mixing ingredients, opperating kitchen equipment, being careful, cleaning up the mess afterwards, and being a servant in cooking for his family.  His favorite cooking activity is baking and he can make a batch of cookies almost independantly now.  Though most of the recipes we still make together.  He especially loves making cookies, cakes, cheese cake, and more. 

Food science is so important to learn.  How do you pare up/combine nutrients to make a complete diet? How long do you cook an egg or heat milk before killing the nutritional enzymes, depleting vitamins, or changing protiens. What makes food fluff up? What gasses do foods give off? How high can oil “A” heat before it burns, how high can oil “B” heat before it burns? Which oil is the best choice for which recipe, etc.?

We are both really proud of his kitchen skills he has developed.  Teaching this life skill is such an important part of growing up because it teaches many skills and cognitive awareness.  It also teaches safety, food science, as well as planning, and nutritional awareness.  Plus he can have confidence that he is able to cook for himself and for his family.

French Toast

Any Sliced Bread.  (we use a variety of whatever we have on hand: Texas style, honey wheat, french, sourdough, cinnamon raisin, homemade, etc.)
Eggs (about two eggs for every 8 slices of bread you want to dip)
Milk (about 1/4 cup for every 8 slices of bread you want to dip)
Vanilla (about 1/8th tsp for every 8 slices you want to dip)
Cinnamon (about 1/8th tsp for every 8 slices you want to dip)

Heat skillet on medium heat.  Make dip for bread.  In a bowl or pan with low sides, with a fork or whisk, mix together eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Dip slices of bread in the bowl and gently place on a non stick or lightly greased pre-heated skillet.  Cook until lightly golden brown on one side.  Flip.  Cook until lightly golden brown on other side.  Remove from heat and serve.

Nutritional Data:
Per slice of cooked french toast: Calories 102 ; Fat .8 gm; Protein 5 gm; Fiber 1 gm; Calcium 24.1 mg; Iron 1.2 mg; Selenium 10.6 mcg; Folate 48.1 mcg; Niacin 1.5 mg;  Magnesium 10.7 mg;  and traces amounts of numerous vitamins and minerals.

Serving ideas to compliment the nutrional values:
Organic maple syrup, cooked fruit toppings like blueberries or apples, or raw fruit toppings like strawberries, powdered sugar, whip cream, chocolate syrup, etc.

My 4 year old daughter helped set the table.  She loves to have a job in the kitchen too.
Our French Toast Meal was served with organic maple syrup and whipped cream, turkey sausage links and turkey bacon, peeled oranges, blueberry pomegranate juice, and
homemade hot chocolate with more whipped cream on top.

We use a variety of things to give us the best possible nutrition in this meal including: raw milk, free range eggs, coconut oil or grape seed oil to grease the pan, Applegate Farms sausage and bacon, organic maple syrup, organic cocoa powder, organic evaporated cane juice or succanat sugar, organic vanilla, etc.

Nutrtional Data for a complete meal:
1 slice of french toast with organic maple syrup
2 turkey sausage links
1/2 fresh naval orange
1 cup homemade hot chocolate with whipped cream

Calories 307; Fat 6 gm; Fiber 4 gm; Protein 7.9 gm; Vitamin A 315 IU; Vit C 48.9 mg; Niacin 2.8 mg; B6 .1 mg; Folate 78.1 mg; Calcium 94.1 mg; Iron 2.5 mg; Mageisium 52 mg; Potasium 362 mg; Zinc 1.8 mg; Selenium 11.5 mcg; and many more nutrients. 

This meal cooks up in a SNAP! 
We can cook all of this up and serve it in about 15 minutes for everything, start to finish, for our large family.

Kids love to eat it. 
It is nutritious. 
And It Is Delicious!

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No Time For Flashcards
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers

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How To Make Jerky

Making Jerky With Kids In The Kitchen.

Do you like Jerky? 

My husband and I have made jerky every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, for as long as I can remember.  I don’t think we are very traditional folks, or have many traditions, but this would have to be one.  Now we have passed this tradition on to our kids.  They enjoy making, eating, and gifting jerky as much as we do.

Jerky is basically dried and salted meat.  It can be seasoned with additional dried spices, or dried fruits to change the flavor or nutrient content.  A lot of water/moisture is removed in the drying process.  Drying the meat allows it to be stored or transported without refrigeration.  By removing the moisture, and salting it, you greatly reduce the possibility of mold or bacteria ruining the meat, resulting in a long storage life. 

The great thing about making it at home, in less than 24 hours, you have something delicious and nutritious you made yourself, and you can control the ingredients and the flavor too.  I personally like to make my jerky preservative free.  However, most jerky is made with preservatives to help prevent it from spoiling, and give it a longer shelf life. 

I have made jerky in a simple process from roasts I cut into very thin strips, soak in soy sauce, salt, and sugar, and then letting them dry in a warm oven overnight.  But by far, the jerky we like the best is made from meat we grind into burger before seasoning it, and dry with our dehydrator.  Either way, after seasoning it, let it marinate for about 4 hours in the fridge to distribute the flavors, before drying.

I usually get about 1/4 lb of jerky for a pound of meat.  Jerky in 1/4 lb to 1/2 lb packages makes a nice gift to give away at the holidays.  My dehydrator will hold about 4 lbs of fresh meat at a time.  But there are plenty of dehydrators on the market today that will hold a lot more.

History and Science:

This is a great learning opportunity to involve the kids.  There is so much to learn about the history and science of making jerky.  Questions to ask as you go along might include what is dehydration, why do we use salt to preserve food, what is the nutritional value of various kinds of jerky, etc.   The history of jerky and civilization is facinating.  Jerky is packed so full of nutrients, that many generations of humans survived on it. 

The Native American Indians would salt and dry the meat, then powder it, and add dried fruit and additional fat back into it, to make PEMMICAN.  It was a very nutritional source of proteins, fats, and vitamins, especially vitamin C which helped them stay healthy and strong through the long winter months.   You can read here and learn more about PEMMICAN.

Dried meat can be soaked in water for soups, stews, casseroles, and other recipes.  It is not just for Jerky. 

We have made jerky from:

Jerky can be made from a lot of other meats too, and in stores, I have purchased Turkey jerky as well.

Using Deer To Make Jerky

In the recipe below, I am using ground deer.  My husband is a hunter and we often have wonderful deer in the freezer.  But you can substitute beef, or other meat, for the recipe.

My family loves to use deer.  It is naturally lean, tender, and tastes great in everything I make with it.  We typically will use a doe or young buck for our food.  I usually have the whole deer ground into burger, but we also like to keep the tenderloin steaks and grill them up just like I would a beef fillet.  Besides eating them as steak, they are great for fahitas, or in any dish you would use with beef steak.

I usually use ground deer just like we would use ground beef or ground turkey:
            sausage for biscuits and gravy, 
            sausage for sausage, egg, and cheese burritos
            summer sausage,
            and of course JERKY

I do not like eating an older “trophy” buck.  Forget it.  The meat is rank with his scent.  However, you can still make jerky or sausage with an older buck, and it will taste good, as the spices hide the scent.

Kids In The Kitchen
How To Make Jerky:

Here are some recipes using different cuts of beef (you can substitute other meats) from around the web:

Flank Steak Jerky

Eye Of Round Jerky

Hamburger Jerky

Smoked Hamburger Jerky

Brisket Jerky


Pemmican with fruit

Here is the process my family uses to make our deer jerky

My family really enjoys the ground meat version of jerky better than using roasts or brisket.  Our next choice is to use a very tender and lean cut of steak, either sirloin or new york strip.  Most folks would think that is a waist of a good steak, but it really is up to you what cut of meat you want to make your jerky from.
To make the process easier, have your butcher grind or slice the meat for you.  Most butchers at the grocery counter will do this for you if you ask.  Or if you have an animal butchered at a butcher shop, they will process the meat however you request it.

Also, when making jerky, remember that each dehydrator, or oven, is
different and times needed to dry the meat can vary according to the appliance you are using.

For our jerky, we start with ground deer burger (you can use beef or whatever you choose).  We have our whole deer ground and packaged by the butcher shop.  He puts the meat in 1 lb packages for the freezer, and we just pull meat out of the freezer whenever we need it. 

Measure spices and salt according to how much meat you are preparing. 

Look around the web to find a recipe you would like to try.  Be sure to measure everything well.

Mix ingredients, according to your recipe, by hand to distribute everything evenly.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the mixture marinate in the refrigerator for about 4 hours if using ground meat, and longer according to recipe if using sliced meat.

When ready, if using ground meat, put ground mixture into jerky gun and fill your trays or cookie sheets. If you are using sliced meat, then lay the slices out flat on each tray or cookie sheet.  My dehydrator holds 1 lb of meat per tray.  Cookie sheets will hold more.

Put the cover on and set the timer on your dehydrator.  Or follow directions for using an oven.

For my dehydrator, I plan 6 hours, plus an additional 20 minutes for each additional tray.  So for four trays of ground meat, it takes approximately 7 hours and 20 minutes, or a little more.   Sliced meat takes longer, depending on how thick it is sliced, and the temperature you use to dry the meat.   If using an oven, follow directions in the recipe, as ovens usually take longer.  Dehydrators work faster because they are blowing hot air around the product they are drying, so it greatly reduces the drying time.

When done, remove the jerky from the trays and place between paper towels to absorb any fat or moisture that might remain on the outside of the strips of jerky.

Package in zip lock bags or in jars.  It will keep longer if packaged in air tight packages.  We store our jerky in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. 

And there you have it. 
DEER JERKY ready to enjoy, take to a gathering, or give away as gifts.  And a great “tradition” to pass on to your kids!

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Raising Homemakers
Science Sunday

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Build A Campfire

This is the third story, in a three part series from our Camping Workshop, promoting life skills and learning fun.  

The other stories are:

Build A Tent
Build A Camp Stove

Our guest speaker, Gary Eblen from Diamond Brand Outdoors, brought a portable campfire pit with him.  This was basically a large wash tub, with fine sand in the bottom.   

To the fire pit, he added a few pine cones.

Next, he added some dryer lint that he had saved.

Then he added some small twigs.  As he added each layer, they took on a pyramid shape.  This is the best shape for starting a fire.  I plan to do some fire science with my kids soon,  and we will study why this is the best way to build a fire.  Stay tuned for some more stories about fire science.

Next, he lit the dryer lint with a match.  At first it smoldered slowly and was hard to see the fire happening. 

But as he gently blew on the lint, and added more twigs, the fire quickly grew.   Now the fire was hot and was very easy to see.  

Knowing how to safely build a fire is a very important life skill to have.  It will be very useful for cooking food, staying warm, sterilizing things, during camping, power outages, natural disasters, and more.  It could very well save a life one day.

While the fire was maturing, we headed over to the tent building area.  You can read about building our tents at the workshop here.

Meridith, Gary’s assistant, stayed with the fire to continue to feed it firewood and get it ready for cooking smores later.  It was also important to convey to the children that you never leave a fire unattended. 

Finally, after we had tons of fun learning during our Camping Workshop about how to build a campstove, boil water on a campstove, build a homemade tent, build a backpackers tent, and learn what was in the backpack, and had some free time to play in the park, we were ready to enjoy making smores on the campfire.

More Smores Please!

The fire had died down and matured into hot, black, charred wood that barely danced with a flame. 

The kids took turns roasting their marshmallows, then adding it to a graham cracker square topped with a milk chocolate bar, and then another graham cracker square.   Some marshmallows got a little more toasted or charred than others.

Basically, a smore is a warm, toasty, marshmallow & chocolate sandwich.  Pure YUM!

The families continued to make smores until the fire had almost died out, and their tummies could hold no more.  I heard some of the kids excited to say they ate 4 smores.  Oh my!

Even parents enjoyed some smores.  I get so busy organizing the program and taking pictures that I often don’t indulge in the refreshments.   But one of the teen girls was very observant and considerate, and she offered to make me a smore.  How could I refuse?  She lightly toasted the marshmallow to a golden color.  Then instead of adding a milk chocolate bar, she added a dark chocolate bar before topping it with a graham cracker. 


Wow, I really enjoyed my dark chocolate smore.  I was a good girl and only ate one!  But next time, that is the way I want my smore.  There is something really special about the taste of dark chocolate on the smore! 

But don’t tell the kids, they are just as happy with milk chocolate, so save the dark chocolate for me

If you would like to read more about Take Action Tuesday and our fun learning adventures outdoors, please read here.

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Build A Tent

This is the second story in our Camping Workshop we hosted in October. 

You can find out about the other Camping Workshop stories by clicking on these links:
            Build A Camp Stove
            Build A Campfire

Our guest speakers Gary Eblen, and Meridith McBride, did a great job conveying to the kids and parents how much fun camping can be.

When building tents, Gary discussed two kinds.  One was a pre-made hiking tent, that is easy to transport in your hiking and camping gear.  The other tent was homemade from a simple sheet of plastic.  If you don’t have a premade tent, you can still camp in a homemade one!  Who knew?

When packing your backpack, you need to keep it light weight, but still have the right essentials to protect you in the elements and meet your needs.  Gary unpacked his hiking backpack for the kids to investigate what he had inside.  Some of the items in it were a tent, a sleeping bag, a pad, a hat, gloves, a tarp, a jacket, and it would also contain some survival gear such as a first aid kit, small tools, matches, food, and water.  We hope to have Gary back again in the near future to do more hands on learning with backpacks, safety, and survival.

Gary shared some stories about sleeping in his homemade tents over the years, and says that they work great. 

First, he had the kids help him spread out his sheet of plastic.

Then he had the kids stretch some cord between two trees.

He tied the cord around the trees.  He called the knot he made around the tree a taught line hitch.

Then he had the kids place the plastic over the cord.

Next, he had the kids find six acorns.  He placed an acorn under the fold of plastic near the cord and tied more cord around it.  He called the knot he made around the plastic and the acorn a half hitch knot.  He repeated this at the other end of the plastic sheet too.

Next, he placed four tent stakes in the ground, and repeated the acorn and knot tie to hold the four corners of the plastic sheet.

All the kids took turns crawling through the tent.

And some climbed into the sleeping bag.

Next, he had the kids help him build a three person backpakers tent.

First, he laid out a tarp on the ground to protect the base of the tent.

Next, he laid out a tent on top of the tarp.

He attatched the tent poles into each corner of the tent.

Then raised the center of the tent and attatched the clips to the poles.

This tent went up in less than five minutes.  A very quick and easy tent for kids to set up and be ready to use instantly.

Gary really encouraged families to try this at home in their own backyard.  He shared stories about sleeping in the backyard, and enjoying some quality family time and nature, including observing the stars in the sky.

Learning how to set up a quick and easy shelter is a valuable life skill to have.  Besides needing a tent when you are out camping, there may be other times you need to know how to build a shelter, such as after a natural disaster.  

Thank you Gary and Meridith for these great hands on lessons in camping and life skills during our Camping Workshop.

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Build A Camp Stove

We hosted a Camping Workshop in the park today.  It was the most beautiful fall day, almost like an early summer day as the temperature was 70 degrees and sunny.  But is was definitely fall as the trees were all changing colors, leaves were falling and crunchy under our feet, and it was so pretty.

The Camping Workshop was a life skills program hosted by Take Action Tuesday. 

Take Action Tuesday is a free homeschool program that encourages outdoor activity, PE, socialization, and each month of Tuesdays hosts several learning programs that focus on science, life skills, sports and games, and community. 

We started off the day with some free time in the park, to get the “wiggles” out.  This is so good for the children to play, stretch, run, jump, and move.  Some use their imaginations and others make up games too and invite friends to play.

Some like to explore and make great discoveries.  There is so much to learn and do outdoors!

Camping Workshop

Our guest speaker for today’s workshop was Gary Eblen from Diamond Brand Outdoors, and his assistant was Meridith McBride from Frugal Backpackers.   

Gary especially wanted to convey to the children and parents how easy it can be to camp in your own backyard, and really enjoy the experience.  They did an awesome job, and I want to take a special moment here on the website to say thankyou!

We had 56 homeschoolers (42 kids, and 14 parents) attend.  It was a great turnout!

I took 117 pictures and there is no way I can convey it all to you in one story, so I am dividing the Camping Workshop and our time in the park today into three stories. 

                Camping Workshop:
                How To Build A Camp Stove.  And cook on it too!
                How To Build A Tent. One easy up, and one homemade.
                How To Build A Campfire. More Smores Please!

How To Build A Camp Stove

Start with an empty aluminum drink can, this one previously held lemonade.

Cut out the top with a can opener, and use pliers to mash down any sharp edges.

Fill with cooking water for cooking (or soup, broth, tea, etc.) to be heated.

Next, using a small can such as a single serving cat food can, punch two rows of holes with a hole punch near the top half of the can. 

Do not punch holes in the bottom half of the can.

Into the bottom can with holes, pour in methanol, a woodbase alcohol available in hardware stores.  Light the methanol with a match.

Place can of water on top of the bottom can of lit methanol.

It is boiling when you see bubbles in the bottom of the can of water.  It boils quicker if you use a lid.

Always use gloves to handle the hot camp stove.

Watch carefully, and you should have boiling water in two to three minutes.   A very handy skill to have to know how to boil water, and even more handy to know how to build your own stove that you could boil the water on. 

Great hands on knowledge for a power outage, natural disaster, as well as for camping, and this life skill could possibly save your life one day. 

If you would like to learn more about building homemade camp stoves, check out these links

More Homemade Camp Stoves

Hobo Campstove, by Instructables, using three cans.  Very involved project, but looks professional.  They used beer cans in the project but you can substitute soda cans.

Camp Oven, by ehow, using foil and a cardboard box.

Homemade Camping Gear, by   This is a great website with a plethora of do it yourself camping gear “how to’s”.  Over on the left side of the webpage, find “stoves” and there is so much great information including some with tests on which ones boil water more efficiently comparing fuel use, etc. (might make a fun science fair project too).

Camp Stove Videos

Penny Stove

Build a wood burning “Rocket Stove” out of coffee can.

Build an insulated Rocket Stove


Cooking Beans on an alcohol stove

Cooking Eggs on an alcohol stove

Cowboy Coffee Video

Wild Recipes

Fish Soup and a Berry Drink by Trapper Jack

This post will be linked up with
No TIme For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers
Play Academy

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Bye Bye Bunny

            Saying Goodbye To A Pet

Saying “Goodbye” to a beloved pet can be a difficult for children.  Depending on the circumstances, whether the pet is given away or dies suddenly, children can have a range of responses.  But parents can help the process of grieving and acceptance go easier for the child.  

We have given away, and sold, many animals in the past.  We used to live on a farm, and though we had lots of animals, some of them in particular were “extra special”.  If an animal died suddenly, it was hard for the children, and for us parents, to deal with.   Also, the children would always become quite attached to our bottle fed goats, calves, our horse, our dog, kittens, our beloved turkey, and special favorite chickens.  Selling them or giving them away was a sad time for everyone.   It has been 3 years since we said goodbye to our farm animals, and though the children have moved on for the most part, our whole family still grieves the loss from time to time.

We currently have dogs and a bunny rabbit.  Having a pet to care for is a really good experience for the whole family.  It teaches many life skills.  It teaches responsibility.  It also helps with character development.  There is a lot about animal science, and life in general, that children can learn when it is hands on, and observations are daily and more real to everyday life. Having a pet to care for daily really helps children understand this much better. 

About six months ago, we sold a year old puppy dog to someone who just happened by and asked if we would sell one of our dogs.   The kids did not have time to process what was happening, and after the puppy was gone, it was very sad for the children.  They grieved for weeks.  In many ways it brought back the pain of saying goodbye to their animals on the farm.  It was hardest on our oldest son, and for several days, he cried quite often over it.  For the past year, he had walked the dog twice a day, fed it, watered it, and taught it to play fetch.  It was special to him, and somewhere along the way it became “his” dog.  Even though we kept in touch with the new dog owner, and got several updates on how the dog adjusted to his new family, it was still hard for my son to move beyond his grief. 

I realized I did not handle this situation as well as I could have.  I did not prepare the children for the emotions they would feel and go through.  This sale happened fairly suddenly for him, even though they knew all along that we would sell the puppies, they had become attached and loved their dear pets, and needed more time to know who was buying the dog and have a chance to say goodbye ahead of time.  So learning from experience, I decided I would go slower if we sold more puppies, and I would try to help the children process their feelings and information as much as they can ahead of time.

Our family recently made the decision to give away a beloved pet, our bunny rabbit.  This could have been traumatic for the kids.  Thank God for time, and for learning from past experiences.  It went much better than when we sold the puppy dog.  

We decided to give away our bunny rabbit for several reasons.   First, we only had a small cage for the bunny rabbit.  We kept it in the living room.  And being in the living room, he was right in the middle of life everyday.  The kids observed his habits, how he ate, drank, slept, pottied, etc. daily.  The observed his feet, his movements, his curiosity, etc. daily too.  He was a daily companion and soft and cuddly to pet his fur.

He was well cared for.  They fed and watered him everyday. 

He often needed his small cage cleaned, or it would make the living room smell unpleasant. (I am pregnant and the smell would sometimes just make me avoid the living room altogether, though it did not seem to bother the others).

When it was time to clean his cage, we would take him outside and let him hop around in a small dog fence.  The kids would take turns getting in the pen with him and petting him.  Then we would wash out his cage and re-bed it with new bedding, and bring it back inside. 

Overtime, we came to the conclusion that we should find a new home for the bunny for several reasons.  The cost of caring for the bunny, buying a constant supply of feed, hay, rabbit chews, and new bedding, was something we decided was not in our budget.  Another factor for our decision was the small cage it lived in.  We had hoped to buy or build the bunny a larger cage, and be able to keep the bunny outside, but that did not happen and we did not see it happening anytime soon.

Another local homeschool family was looking for a bunny rabbit to give their son for his birthday.  They already had a huge multi-story pen outdoors just waiting for the right bunny to call it home.  Their son is a teenager and wanted to raise rabbits.  This seemed like a good place for our bunny to go and live and make another child, actually several children in their family, a good pet.  


We discussed this with our kids for about two weeks while the other family processed also whether or not they wanted our bunny.  When they made their decision that they wanted this rabbit for sure, our children were well informed of what was going to take place and had plenty of time to process the information. 

On the day the other family was to pick up the rabbit, we took him outside and placed him in the small dog pen in the grass.  Each of the children took turns climbing in the pen with him and holding him, petting him, and saying goodbye.  No one was rushed.  It was a slow process and the kids could take as long as they needed.   Even three of our neighbor kids came over to say goodbye too.

Finally, when they were ready, they came out of
the pen and played with their neighbor friends until the other family arrived to take the rabbit home with them. 

They said goodbye one more time, and it was over.  They had time to process their emotions, and though it was sad, there were no surprises.  Acceptance came much easier this time.

“Bye Bye Bunny.”

How do you help your child say goodbye to a beloved pet?  Leave a comment below, thank you.

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers

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National Hunting and Fishing Festival

We attended the Pisgah Forest National Hunting and Fishing Festival on September 24th.

The first thing we did was stop at a booth and picked up a map showing us where all the activities were, and they gave us bags of free fish food, and some camo backpack gift bags, donated by a local church. 

Inside these camo/hunting type gift bags were snacks such as trail mix and beef jerky, hand warmers that hunters use in cold weather, a bottle of water with a scripture label on it, and a new testament bible.  The kids were thrilled!

The next thing we did was feed the fish in the hatchery.  Pisgah Forest Hatchery raises two kinds of trout: 

Brown Trout,

and Rainbow Trout.

We were all given bags of free fish food and the children had so much fun feeding the fish. 

Daddy had fun too……

Each tank had fish grouped by sizes.  Some tanks had babies, some juveniles, and some are adults ready to be released into the mountain streams.

OK, don’t laugh!  My husband thinks it is great fun to get the camera away from me and take some “end of the pregnancy” pictures.  Only three weeks left until my due date.  I feel like a duck carrying a watermelon.  I waddle like a duck too!  I wish I had worn a more flattering outfit, or something….. But what are you going to do?  He said it was only fair to include this picture, because I take so many pictures of him.  I am really looking forward to holding our new baby soon, and hopefully getting some of my girly figure back.  So stay tuned for some healthy mommy, post delivery stories!

The next activity the children did, was practice casting fishing poles and catching rubber fish with a rubber bait.  It was more fun than it sounds. 

The children could cast out their line with the bait on it pretty far into a grass field.  The goal was to get their baited line as close as they could to the fish in the grass.  Then if they placed it just right, as they slowly reeled in the line, the rubber bait would catch hold of a raised lip on the fish and “catch” the fish if they were lucky. 

Then they were to reel in the fish the rest of the way and unhook it, then throw the fish back out into the grassy field for the next cast.  This was really good practice for casting and aiming their fishing lines.  After a couple of tries, they really got the hang of it and captured several of the fish.

Next, we headed over to the shooting range.  It was set up with bow and arrow activities and bb gun activities.

The targets for the bow and arrow were a bear and a deer.

Even my four year old got hands on experience with the instructor, learning how to shoot the bow and arrows.

My eleven year old son is a natural at shooting the bow and arrows.

He got off some great shots, and on his last shot he hit the kill zone bullseye.

The targets for the bb guns were bullseye paper targets.  The kids really enjoyed the shooting range activity and learning from the various instructors.

The next activity was an indoor laser shooting range.

Next, the kids took fly fishing lessons and practiced aiming their line into the hoola hoop in the grass.

And they learned about making fly baits and jigs with feathers, hooks, and more.

And watched skilled fishermen fly fishing in the river.

Next, the kids went into a hunting and trapping area.  There were several booths set up.

At this first booth, the kids learned about taxidermy, and various animal structures.

Then, this fella gave a demonstration on using different kinds of duck and goose calls when hunting wild ducks and geese on a lake.   He also shared about rabbit hunting with his hunting dogs, and h
is experiences wild hog and deer hunting.

At this booth by Haywood College, the children matched the foot prints with the scat, or poop, of the animal that it belonged to.  All of these animals can be found in the forest and it is important to know how to read the signs (scat and tracks) left behind by the animals. 

At this booth, they learned about trapping, skinning, and tanning hides.

At this booth by the Forestry Department, they learned more about animal skins, and bones.

They were each given a deer jaw bone to take home with them.

Then these local hunters gave the kids a lesson on how to determine how old the deer was by looking at their teeth.

Next, we tried some delicious deer stew.  It was made with ground deer, water, potatoes, carrots, thyme, salt, milk, (and maybe other delicious seasonings I have forgot), and cooked for 6 hours on an outdoor fire.  It tasted better than any gourmet soup from a restaurant, and was full of great nutrition.  Our chef was a deer hunter and had caught the deer himself and had a local butcher grind steaks for him to use in this delicious recipe.

We also enjoyed Italian spiced, deer smoked sausage, which disappeared faster than I could snap a picture.  It looked just like polish or smoked sausage from the store, but it was made at home with the loving and skilled hands of a deer hunter.  The kids loved it!

We had a great day with hands on learning at the Pisgah Forest National Hunting and Fishing Festival.

Hunting, Fishing, and Gathering is a part of our human heritage.  Our family wants to preserve and pass on this heritage to future generations before the knowledge is lost due to modernization, or outlawed due to activists who don’t value this heritage. 

Having life skills to know how to acquire food, the opportunity to actually go out and hunt for it, and to know how to prepare the food for consumption and survival, are valuable life skills.  Only until the recent two or three generations (less than a hundred years), have men and women not been dependant on hunting, fishing, and gathering to provide for some of their daily or seasonal food needs.  Modernization of our foods and farming, has caused many to become ignorant of the skills that the human race needed since the beginning of time, to hunt and fish to feed themselves, and their family.  

Thank you Pisgah Forest Education Center, and all the wonderful volunteers, for helping to preserve this hunting and fishing heritage through this fun educational program.

How do you teach your kids valuable life skills and survival skills so they will know how to gather or hunt for food if the need arises?  Please leave your comment below, thank you.

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers

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