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Shepherd’s Purse – Tincture Blend

This one is new to my personal use.  But it’s one that I’m in the middle of adding to my apothecary now.  I’ve been learning a lot about Shepherd’s Purse, and have noted that it’s a blood coagulant and vasoconstrictor, traditionally used immediately after birth to control potential hemorrhaging and to promote blood clotting.  This website had an extremely useful blip about mixing it with Motherwort, Black & Blue Cohosh for a tincture useful to promote uterine contractions (never to be used pre-birth), help uterus clamp down, and stop bleeding quickly.  Would be a very useful tool in your labor or birth bag.  Brewing some up in my cupboard.

After Birth Soup

This one is a real treasure, and is as good as hidden gold.  My Aunt made this for me right after I gave birth to my first babes.  Her midwife had made it for her.  It’s so full of all of the important – and depleted from birth – minerals and vitamins a new Mama needs.  This isn’t something that can be purchased or stored or begged, but rather is a gift of love.  If it’s something you want to make to minister to your new mama friends, consider making a bone rich broth.  Don’t skimp.  Simmer for 72 hours (or pressure cook for a minimum of 4 hours) using quality grassfed bones with joints, eggshells, vegetable scraps, herbs like astragalus and garlic and parsley.  Home make herbed noodles with quality, fresh-ground grain and pastured egg yolks.  Add high-quality pasture raised chicken, as-fresh-as-possible root vegetables (reddish colored root vegetables like carrots, beets & yams are great galactagogues!), and fresh herbs such as black pepper, basil, leaks.  The recipe I make is a cherished, passed-down secret – but with some sweet thought and lots of love, you can create your own to pass on for generations to come!

hanging pasta

Traditionally, before we got all picky and squeamish with our palate, women consumed their placenta’s.  Not only does it replenish minerals and nutrients lost during labor & delivery, it can offer a real maternal boost as well as balance hormones that can otherwise go nutty.  Some women have theirs dried and encapsulated (often adding supportive herbs) to prevent their mind from wandering to the grotesque part of it all.  If encapsulating, one would take several a day just after birth, tapering down to last up to 4 weeks postpartum.  Many swear that this keeps the baby blues at bay!

Goldenseal

Goldenseal is known to be a potent antibiotic and is excellent in fighting infections. It has been used on scrapes, burns, hemorrhoids – and a slew of other things, but these are the ones that are significant to this season of application. Because of overharvesting concerns (it’s native to the northeast U.S. and Canada), it’s an endangered plant (and not a cheap one!). Use minimally and responsibly.  With our first couple of babes, we used alcohol around their umbilicals until they were dried and sloughed off. In my last birth kit – with Aury – there was a tiny envelope of powdered goldenseal root to use (some come with 3-4 capsules, more than enough). Genius. This made so much more sense from a holistic standpoint! His umbilical never smelled (the others: like death – cuz let’s face it, it’s literally decaying flesh), and fell off in a matter of days vs. over a week. This, paired with a cord ring instead of clamp made a huge difference in umbilical healing. Swift and easy. No challenge or guck. I’d recommend it!

 

miniature things for gigantic postpartum health

 

Nest Tea

It’s so important to stay nourished during the precious times after birth.  Make sure to consume lots of good fats and protein, fruits and vegetables.  Don’t forget that you are still supporting your baby nutritionally 100%, even tho’ she is now on the outside!  There are many teas on the market that support these after-birth times.  Be sure to get one that has some (or all) of the following: red raspberry leaf, nettles, oatstraw, alfalfa, lemon balm, red clover flowers & herb, rosehips – these are women-friendly herbs that serve as a tonic, a stimulator, a milk-booster, and an over-all nutritive booster for you. IF you need additional lactation support, consider checking out this post in my Nursing Tips series of a list of herbs that may be helpful, and/or consider purchasing a tincture for quick help.  As always, a lactation consultant can be your best friend in times of trouble.  Often a simple pointer may be all you need!

Sweet Relief

This tea is for external use after birth (hemorrhoids, tears, swelling, stretching).  It’s incredibly healing and soothing to sore parts. I soak a thick feminine pad (or flannel) generously with some tea, and wear it on top of a winged pad while nursing or sitting or any other time — 15-minute bouts every couple of hours is soothing, a cleanser and healing. It has a ton of herbs in it. I try to keep things simple, but there are SO many good healing ones that I got carried away when I made my own: calendula, comfrey leaf, plantain leaf, rosemary leaf, yarrow leaf & flower, myrrh gum powder, self heal, st. johns wort, gota kola, marshmallow root.  There are oodles of recipes online, but this is my favorite.  I find when I make things myself, I understand them better.  Also, several purchasable teas online are more simple, and tend to miss some of the ingredients I really like added, and aren’t always made with top-notch ingredients.  Make some tea (1/4 cup herbs to a quart of boiling water). Sit overnight. Strain. Keep in fridge for three days before making new, or when needed.

Coconut Oil

A tablespoon a day of coconut oil keeps things “smooth”. Be sure to get extra virgin, expeller-expressed, high quality oil.  Add it to your hot beverage, put it on your toast or mixed with some peanut butter, eat it in a “fat bomb”.  Lots of ways to get it in without having a swallow a spoonful of oil *gack*!  If you’re struggling with that first elimination (nerves or consistency), or any after, considering eating more fruits & vegetables, too.  Also considering drinking a tea with ginger or marshmallow to keep things moving nicely.

Coconut oil is my #1 favorite nipple cream.  I used to swear by lanolin, but after my struggles with Aury, I switched to coconut oil and noticed instant results.  It was much more soothing and didn’t stick to nursing pads (which can be hellacious if you’re having any troubles).  And it’s nutritive and good for baby too!  Lanolin is my runner-up, but only in moderation, and if neither of us are having any trouble.  I used it exclusively for my first several seasons of breastfeeding, and then didn’t use it once with Aury.

If your newborn develops cradle cap, coconut oil will be a huge helper rubbed on babe’s scalp.

Lastly, coconut oil is a great slippery aid to getting your nookie game back on when the time is right!

*****

If you’re interested in any (or all!) of this in a kit without having to shop for the best quality, contact me!  I’d also happily give you pointers on your After Birth Soup, and have encapsulated placenta (w/ or w/o herbs) as well.

Our Last Years

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. ~ John Quincy Adams

Our family has really focused this month on getting our Christmas hygge on.  One of the most obvious things we’ve done is that we’ve bailed on most of our regular social routines.  I didn’t know we were needing at first, but we just started creeping away from the busy, and bailing on things that weren’t directly related to quality family time together.  Even projects got stuck on the back burner.  Cuz, meh!  January will be filled with endless days – heck, up through April… sometimes the coming months go a little slow.  So we may as well really hunker down and *delve* into this one without extra nonsense that can be saved for ‘boring’ months ahead.  Eh?

Scott has split up a week of vacation to take 3- and 4-day weekends all month, giving us the opportunity to really focus on slowing down, be it making candies at home, hunt down Christmas lights, hit lots of holiday performances, or spontaneously drive to the Olympic Penninsula to crab.  The latter was such a lovely experience!  We had the car loaded and out the driveway in 2 hours time from when the decision was made.  The drive was perfectly scrumptious.  Music and chat – it slipped by so quickly and then we were there!  At a quaint, safe-looking, funky strip motel that sported a fish cleaning, fire-burning gazebo and all!  The room was perfect.  We got us some pizza and brewery-made root beer in a growler and plopped down for a late-night Christmas flick.  Aury is a man of routine, so tho’ he loved the entertainment, was not too keen on a long night sleep, so we got up early (crazy early for our night owl family!) and bundled up for a day on the docks with a thermos full of hot cocoa.

Everyone was so friendly and helpful.  Everywhere we went folks freely gave advice – good advice!  So unlike the fishing environment down here in SW WA, where everyone holds their secrets tightly.  The town was clearly a crab-town, and quiet of tourists, so we felt like part of the community.  We had a commercial crab pot and a set of rings that kept us checking and catching. Lots of cute crawly crabs in the traps kept us feeling successful, even tho’ we had to give the many wee ones back.

We had to be careful, as a mama sea lion and her pup were hanging around the docks as well.  Mama was perfectly fine letting us know that we were in her space, and she would be watching us.  We did the same.  Things can go south quickly in this scenario, so we moved pot-throwing to the raised boardwalk, where our littles could play more freely and safely.  We had such a wonderful time.  The weather was perfect.  Overcast but not windy, chilly but bearable.  Peaceful but energy-filled.

Investing in more memories, less stuff.

A lot of times I’m the one who hunts adventure.  Scott is always up for the fun, but not always the instigator.  But this trip was all him.  My heart just melts seeing him so enthusiastic about it.  Even better, the trip was a success instead of the typical “learning curve” that a first attempt often is.  And another new hobby that we can do as a family, and doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  AND concludes with good eats.  Perfect!

In November, we both separately felt the pull to step away from some of our “busy” and to hone in on our wee family.  Perhaps it was because he’d been working long hours for just a smidge too long.  Perhaps it was because we were struggling to find much time as a family during the week without other needs calling louder, keeping us focused elsewhere.  Perhaps it’s because we had to cancel our Christmas travel plans because – for the first time – we had to consider our kids’ schedule which conflicted with Scott’s potential days off, leaving us traveling without our family intact if we left.  One night I was crying and sharing with him how I had a sudden realization that our time is so very limited with our little people, and that I wanted to cherish and prioritize our little bits together just a bit more.  He said he was so glad I said it, because he was feeling the same.

It’s just so easy to get caught up in things.  Things that matter a lot!  Each season requires something different from us, I’m certain, and this one seems to be pulling us to our family first, everything else after that, no matter how much we’re tugged at.  We’re not a family that is big on going separate ways, and knowing the time is coming soon enough for this, we’re just soaking each other up this Christmas season.  Even bailing on other things that perhaps we wouldn’t usually.  And we’re okay with that.

Another thing that was unspoken but we’ve all sort of implemented somewhat subconsciously this year: Less presents.  If something doesn’t jump out at us for someone, we just haven’t bought it.  So friends, tho’ last year we got something for each and every one of you pretty much – and may again next year – or heck, even midyear randomly because we love gifting – don’t expect much in the way of wrapped goods in the next week or two.  But I guarantee you’ll get holiday cheer and love from us when we see you.  Because we adore you.  We’re so thankful for the people we are surrounded by.  We are so very blessed by our village.

We’d rather people than things any day of the week.

A sign of welcome, inviting all to enter in… a reminder of Christ’s invitation for all to come to Him. – Holly Gerth #heisthereason #reminderseverywhere #allarewelcome #noturningback

Prepping for Holiday

ColbySanta

Christmas 2015

‘Tis the season!

You’ll want to give cold pressed homemade soap a minimum of 3 weeks to cure, so now is the time to gather your ingredients and consider making it for holiday gift-giving.  My go-to nearby to find all kinds of oils (palm, coconut, etc), butters (mango, shea, etc), and lye is Shay & Co. in Portland.  Shipping can be a real doozy, so this is a great resource for those in the area.  Remember to store your oils in a cool dark place.  Some go rancid faster than others!

Snap up your 18-pound box of black olives from Chaffin Family Farms* in California if you’d like to cure your own olives for holiday eats.  They are my favorite place to get high-quality olive oil, and I’ve used their green olives for curing before with great success.

Marinate your feta in olive oil & herbs to last you through the cool months until spring cheese comes again!  Some of our favorite herbs: chili or paprika, basil, thyme, rosemary, winter savory, black pepper.  A mix or any single.

Order some deliciously fabulous vanilla beans from Mountain Rose Herbs to make homemade extract for gift-giving and holiday baking!  This is my favorite place to get conscientious, organic, safe wild harvested herbs and spices – and much more!  Their vanilla beans (and loose tea bases, etc) have far surpassed the quality of any other company I’ve bought from.  I’ve been spoiled.  We often place a big enough order to get 30% off.  Connect with me if you’d like to join in on that.

Rosehips

Start your cordials and dessert apples & pears in sweet vinegar for sharing with your mulled cider!  Can up some apple pie filling!  Make some rosehip & elderberry syrup while they’re ripe and ready for picking!  Hunt down some cranberries from Oregon at the farmers markets!

And my favorite: Use up all of that last-of-the-garden eggplant and pickle it for winter time pizzaz!

Indian-Inspired Pickled Eggplant

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 T. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 T cumin seeds
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (approx. 1 small head)
  • 1 dried red chili, mashed
  • 1/2 t. mustard seeds
  • 6-10 curry leaves
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 T. salt
  • 2 medium-sized eggplant, cut into small cubes
  • 2 inches ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 T. turmeric
  • 2 fresh green chili, cleaned and sliced

Heat the olive oil in a thick pot, add fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds.  Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, then add garlic until light brown.  Add red chili, mustard seeds & curry leaves.  Fry while stirring over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes.  Add vinegar, water and salt.  Stir.  Add eggplant, ginger, turmeric and green chili.  Let it boil for at least 20 minutes.  Cool and pour into glass jars.  Store in fridge.

*The links are affiliate-free.  I do not gain by sharing my favorites with you all.  ❤

Woven Ties

I just keep going deeper.

When my babies are newborn, I use a wonderful jersey wrap that my midwife told me about when I had Adyn. It’s simple, it’s cozy, and it’s perfect. I can wrap them on in any way I can imagine, and we feel like one together. I can nurse in it. I can walk all day in it. I really do love it.

Our babes usually graduate from the jersey wrap to a Mei Tei. When Kendra was a toddler, we traded a pasture raised turkey for a homemade one from two lovely ladies who called their business Silly Goose. They have since stopped making them, but their pattern worked exactly for us. These lovely ladies sent me a fullly-descriptive step-by-step pdf that I passed on to a local seamstress (and dear friend), who crafted me a new one when Flynn was born. My other had been well loved, and beat up as snot. Now fast forward to Aury. Aury, our moose-sized baby. He skipped a year of his life somewhere in there, cutting teeth months ahead, walking long before any of the others, and hitting 20 pounds a good 12 months before any of the other 4 did. He’s healthy and happy and we couldn’t be more proud. But for some reason, our regular go-to wraps aren’t jiving as well.

I’ve shopped long and hard in the day, and again recently, looking for a perfect fit for us. There are oodles of brands and styles nowadays. As other things (like homeschool curriculum), it’s a bit overwhelming. But the good part is that most just don’t work for us. I’m pretty short, and a lot don’t accommodate a shorter torso. That keeps things limited. But as I shopped around a couple of weeks ago, my mind kept returning to this beautiful picture of my friend Kileah, wearing her baby super high up on her back, just like I’ve only dreamt about with Aury. It was a woven wrap. It looked snuggly wuggly, like my newborn wrap, but strong enough for a tot. That seemed so dreamy. Is it possible?

Kileah held my hand as I asked a dozen questions, her husband chiming in as a semi-professional (ha!) babywearer as well. The one nagging question I couldn’t get past, being a you-can-make-everything-yourself-er is: WHY would I spend bookoo bucks on a piece of fabric instead of buying and making my own? I found the answer. After a couple of sleepless nights that I spent YouTube’ing for – literally – hours, I was inspired. The cool ties and positions. The great versatility. And ultimately, the perfect fiber and often hand-loomed goodness.

I had by now gone to multiple fabric stores thinking I’d snap some up and call it a day only to be discouraged and dumbfounded. The only thing even slightly close to what I was looking for was in the upholstery section, and they were $60+ per yard… And I needed 3 yards! Suddenly shelling out the asking price for a new one – mind you, spun and hand-woven with perfect, conscientious fibers on a loom with babywearing specifically in mind – was a no-brainer. I did go ahead and buy some cotton fabric to craft one for now. The design was irresistible, and I knew it’d be a nice temporary one until I purchased a “real” one. Then I ordered the woven.

Tekhni Galene Fathom

It’s been four weeks since I drafted this post.  Four weeks of loving my used (not too $habby on the pocketbook) Tekhni woven wrap (size 6).  Aury gets excited simply at the sight of it.  He’s a snuggler at heart, and likes being part of the action from a higher vantage point (tho’ since he’s learned to walk, has become quite the self-entertainer, too).  We’ve learned together several basic wraps, and continue to try new ones.  I absolutely love the wrap.  There are no obvious pressure points, which just blows my mind.  I’ve worn him for hours on end – like a couple of weekends ago when the family took a leisure trip to Seattle and played out and about all of the day.

The only downfall I see is that it’s just… chunkier… than I’d prefer.  Being smaller, and a semi-claustrophobic person in general, it’s a little more than I want.  I’m loving it right now since it’s fall, but I’m completely positive it would not do in warmer conditions.  I always run toasty, and we’d both melt in it above sixty-five degrees, I suspect.  So I got on the handy dandy Facebook swap sights and found an excellently used Girasol for an amazing price.  I like the size 6 a lot because it offers great versatility in positions and wraps that we can do.

Girasol Sol y Mar, fresh & bright, and manly enough for everyone to wear.

I could see a shorter wrap being handy.  I remember a day spent in Portland with Papa (we had boated down the river and were window shopping for hours) when 3-year-old Flynn fell asleep in my arms.  I was toasty and muscle-craping, so I bought two sturdy scarves in Portland on a sidewalk clearance rack and crisscrossed him on.  It was easy, cheap, and a huge relief for this tired Mama!  And definitely would have been a “short” style of wrapping.

This one is our deeply discounted (slightly imperfect), great condition Girasol Barefoot Rainbow, size 5.  Lovely autumn colors, but still bright and cheery.

Initially I wondered (I’m so shallow) if there were any that didn’t make you have the overall appearance of a true hippy.  I was super pleased to find that there are lots of patterns, many very trendy and not as earthy as others.  Something for everyone.

Needless to say: We’re both loving the woven wraps.  Too much, probably.  I’ve unfollowed the swap sites so I no longer ‘have’ to look at them.  I’ll tell you now, though, I could see me adding one more to the fleet next late-Spring.  I’ve been watching the Oscha brands that are 100% linen, and they look very thin, sturdy, and temperature-friendly for these sweaty folk.

By the way, the cloth diaper is going swimmingly!  Success!

Not doing weekly deliveries for 3+ years (which provided us a wonderful plethora of ease of access for wonderful wholesome foods), and not growing as much ourselves, we have changed some things about how we peruse food.  Let’s face it: We got lazy.  For the last couple of years, I’ve tried hard to make a routine for our family’s groceries.  Though we generally avoid the middle aisles of processed food, and shop at some of the facier ones, we definitely have been taking lots of shortcuts, and not doing things the way we’d rather.

In an effort to pep up the experience, I have even tried some of the hypes.  Heck, just this week I got all involved in seeing if I could make our towns big box grocery delivery program (and touted amazing online couponing) work for us.  But let’s face it: it’s not the food we’re looking for.  And it’s not an area I want to do as cheaply as we can.  The cost is too high.

I have been really disappointed in grocery stores.  Grocers don’t meet our needs. They’re so full, and yet lack so much. Every time I go, I’m sad. I’m discouraged. I’m disgusted. Where is the real food?! Where are the flavors, the freshness?!  This isn’t working for us.  And so I’m leaving them. I’m kissing them goodbye. Again. With newly found inspiration and goals for my family. I want more for them. Time to get back on track to this aspect of being a good steward with our food – our time, money, health, and human-growing responsibilities.

I’m so filled with peace (and anticipation!) just making this decision!  It’s such a RELIEF!

First step: Stop by Matt’s Custom Meats tomorrow to pick up our portion of a steer that was raised 3 miles down the road from me by people I love.

Second: Ordering a grain and legume restock from Azure Standard for next delivery.  Moving away from stored ground flours to whole berries that I can cook, sprout or grind fresh for use instead.  Exponentially more nutritious.  And can choose heirloom grains that are lower in gluten and higher in all good things.

Third: Sign up for an autumn share of one of the several awesome Autumn CSA share options (fresh produce from local farmers!).  In fact, here’s Hunters Greens ad in case you’re interested:

Hunters’ Greens will offer its “Winter Storage Vegetable Share” on Saturday, November 18 and Sunday,  November 19, 2017. Customers may sign up by calling or texting Diane at 1 (360) 218-8280. Payment is due on the day of pick up, and the cost is $150.

The winter storage vegetable share is an opportunity to stock up on storable produce for the winter season. The share is anchored by such storables as winter squash, potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic. In addition, we offer a selection of winter greens with a shorter shelf life. You will be proud to offer many of these farm fresh items on your Thanksgiving dinner table and are able to tell your guests precisely where they were lovingly grown.

Some time between sign up and pick up we will contact you to schedule an appointment on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. We will provide you in advance with a list of the available items, their prices and the amount available to each customer. You will bring your list, select your items, pack them in your car, pay us, and be on your way. The process takes less than a half hour.

Hunters Greens advert photo

With a basement of herbs and the plethora of autumn wild greens and nuts, these steps alone cover meal after meal already.  And at a very affordable price, for those watching their tab or think it can’t be done.  I bought an Instant Pot recently after a year and a half of resisting – despite my girlfriend Bethann’s continual praise and adoration of it – and now I am using it almost daily.  It sure makes food prep a breeze.  Solid, gelatinous bone broth in 240 minutes?  Easy to peel fresh homegrown boiled eggs? Game changers.

I ordered fertile quail eggs for more meat & egg production at minimal work/feed output. We dispatched of our older ones this spring and committed to waiting until fall to replace them.  I love them – and their cricket-like sounds!  They take 6 weeks from hatch to maturity for harvest, or to begin egg-laying.  Their eggs, darling and petite, are 5+ times more nutritious than chicken (tho’ we have chickens laying for us now as well – and our geese have surprised us with 2 eggs a day these last few weeks!).  The nice thing about quail is they take little space, require hardly any labor, and are very inexpensive to feed compared to other egg-layers.  This project goes hand in hand with our homeschooling, giving us a great science project as we hatch them!  We’ll sell chicks to cover the cost of the initial eggs and the first bag of feed (which should last 90+ days after hatch).  Free food.  Better food.  Saving money, time, health.  Beat that Big-Box Grocery – and all of your bells & whistles!

I’ve purchased a Carey (Chard) electric pressure canner that will arrive soonly. This is also Bethann’s fault.  Though I suspect, like the pressure cooker, I’ll thank her instead of curse her.  I really love what she told me recently: A jar full takes as much room as a jar empty.  This keeps my purge-everything, minimalism desires out of that section of storage – and moves my jar-hoarding issues to actually work for me and our family.  This canner does only a few jars at a time, making it less daunting with potential prep-work, and allows small batch left-overs to be canned up for quick meals later – freeing up precious (and pricey!) freezer space.  Since I’m so familiar with my pressure cooker now, I also think my fears of this style of pressure canning will not hold me back.  I’m even considering selling my larger pressure canner since I’m motivated to have less stuff, and focus on what I actually use. And I think the Carey will become a very often-used, somewhat alternative, pressure canner.  Though it cans less in quantity, I suspect I’ll preserve much more than I ever would have with the large-batch canners.  Just part of weighing what works for us.

I’m excited to leave grocers – once again – to the birds.

Back when my sweet niece Zoey was in her Mama’s belly, we threw a grand party to celebrate her soon arrival.  Shortly before her birth, her parents had spent 8+ months in Australia on business.  Using a little overseas inspiration, we made mini hand-sized Pavlova’s (meringue-esque with custard and fruit).  I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so took a few recipes and made them into my own.  Now that Zoey & her family are back in Australia indefinitely, we’ve pulled the recipe back out and are making this yummy dessert again.  This time, I figure I better keep the recipe somewhere I can dig it back up more easily!

Pavlova’s

  • 4 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, blended into fine powder
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1 t. white vinegar

Beat egg whites on high until soft peaks form, looking like whipped cream.  Turn to low speed and add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time.  Resume high speed for 7-10 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved completely.  Then add cornstarch and vinegar, mixing well.  Spoon onto parchment paper, making 4″ (ish) flat “bowls.”  Bake at 300 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes.  Move to a baking rack to cool.

Custard

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup milk

Mix all ingredients well, then move to a pan on the stove.  Heat at low setting until almost boiling, whisking all the time.  Let cool.  Spread on meringues.

Top with fruits such as daintily sliced kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes… Really, anything!

Skool-time Goals

A couple of weeks ago on a Friday evening, friends and I were talking about purging.  We’ve been doing a great job in the house, but as Autumn is falling in our laps, I’m starting to feel a strong nudge toward purging excess outside loot.  While discussing, I shared my emotional ties to our commercial processing trailer, all the while admitting it was no longer needed, and was worth quite a lot.  Our good and logical friend Peter said: Well, why don’t you sell all of that, and continue your progress on the bus?  His plan was perfect.  Let’s invest now in the things we are actually pursuing, instead of holding on to things of the past.  Funny how sometimes it just takes someone else stating the obvious to act.  We spent the next day taking photo’s and posting to various homestead groups and sales lists, and got quick response!  Instead of being sad as it left the farm*, I was excited because each dollar that comes in means we can work on the next project in the bus.  Projects I figured would be several months off, at best.

You see, we choose to upgrade the school bus debt-free, and not dipping from the “family pot” either.  This means that we earmark things we sell/purge to go toward the next project in the bus we’d like to do, then do it only when the pot is big enough to cover it.  It’s worked really well so far.  But this means we do a big project every six months or so.  No problem – truth is, Scott’s been working a lot, and we don’t always have time, so it’s all good.

Well, this last summer traveling to Alaska really inspired us to be creative as a family and find a “business” that would help us continue exploring this earth and visiting family – one particular potential trip for 2018, but with the long-term goal of others.  Our plan: Finish up a few things on the bus to make it completely functional (remember we took the toilet out to replace with a more efficient one?  Well, right now it’s toilet-less.), then rent it out two weekends a month starting in the Spring.  With the income, we’ll divide it in two: half back to the “bus pot,” and the other half toward our “Adventure Fund.”  This way the bus will continually be improving, will be used, will stay clean and tidy for upcoming guests, and will pay for itself along benefiting the family.

One of the rules I have for myself when I blog is that I never talk about future plans.  Until something actually is happening, I don’t want to jinx myself.  Or fail y’all (or us) by changing courses or dawdling.  But here I am, sharing a pretty exciting new adventure that we’re really motivated and excited to be working on.  We’ll do a soft launch of it sooner than later, then our Airbnb ad will go live in the Spring.  At least that’s the goal!

So what does this look like right now?  It means we’ve spent the last couple of weeks preparing.  We officially got a coat of primer and one coat of paint on the entire exterior last Sunday – the last slated sunny day for a while!  Goodbye school bus yellow!

Did you know in some states it’s illegal to drive around a non-government school bus without having painted it a different color?  In Washington State, it can be the original color, but the words “School Bus” must be removed, along with a few other minor changes.  After these changes, a lot of folks will have the Department of Licensing convert the title to a Recreational Vehicle.  One reason is so that the driver will not need a Chauffeur endorsement on a CDL license.  Another is so that they will not need a CDL because of their air brakes (not always on a school bus).  It will also help you when you’re looking for insurance being an RV vs. bus.  We have chosen to paint the bus 1) because the color was quite faded over the years, and 2) to comply with other states in the event we end up traveling and 3) for fun.

Holy smokes, guys.  Choosing a color of paint?  Impossible.  So many great ideas, yet I don’t have a solid enough preference to commit.  No joke, we drew a “coloring page” and passed them out to friends to get their ideas.  It literally took several weeks for me to stop squirming and just make the purchase.  Heck, it’s bound to look better than it started.  Probably.

The details:

  • $300 commercial equipment paint (with friends’ business discount) from Forrest Paints in Portland
  • $75 in paper & tape (with different friends’ business discount) from Miller Paint
  • $100 in automotive caulk, Bondo, face masks, gloves, sandpaper, new stainless screws for sheet metal, and other prepatory supplies

Our bus is no spring chicken.  Though it came from a school district 5 short years ago in dry-land Oregon and is in ship shape, the paint was tired and fading, the lights dingy and screws rusty.  If we’re going to paint the inside, all of the outside’s got to get a facelift.  Shopping around, we found that eTrailer.com had the best price for 7″ school bus lights.  8 of both amber & red, we paid about $180.  Half the price of any other company.  Thank goodness for skoolie forums and experienced advice!  We have yet to purchase the remaining lights (but will in the coming week or two).  I imagine they’ll be another couple hundred.

This makes our grand total to spruce the entire exterior of the bus – with all professional quality items – $855 so far.  Though that seems really high, I think it’s fantastic.  10+ years ago we had an 8’x18′ trailer professionally painted (no new lights or anything else) and it was $2500.  So I feel pretty great about our number for the bus.  As for our plan of attack, we

  1. pressured washed the entire bus, top to bottom.
  2. stripped down the outside, removing all lights, caulking, vinyl, steps, “STOP” sign, hinges, etc…
  3. mixed Bondo and filled in cracks and holes and imperfections, then sanded and perfected.
  4. used a flat head screwdriver and stripped away old crackly sealant and caulk from every seam.
  5. removed the side door, back door, and hood (and will paint separately in enclosed space)
  6. sandblasted rusty spots around rivets, cracks, under the back door, etc…
  7. sanded the entire bus with a 6″ <rotary> air sander, 220 grit.  We used about 15 disks total.
  8. wiped down the entire bus with soft cloth.
  9. papered and taped exposed windows, doorways, outlets, etc…
  10. primed with commercial equipment white base using an air sprayer.  We used 1 gallon for the entire bus.
  11. soft-spot sanded any imperfections caused by paint dripping while we perfected our technique.
  12. painted final color using the air sprayer.  We used 1.2 gallons per coat (we bought 4 – oop$).  This particular paint takes 30 minutes to be dry to the touch, 8 hours to harden completely.  It has a “floating gloss” that rises and “clear coats” as it cures, alleviating the need to put a final protective coat on.  It’s great quality, we’re finding, and worth the price tag!  It has UV protection and should keep it’s brilliance and durability for quite a long time.

We covered the bus with a big sheet of greenhouse plastic anytime weather looked sketchy.  This list took us several weeks to complete, so we wanted to make sure it stayed clean and dry in between steps.

We will paint the hood and doors in an enclosed space soon, as well as hinges and accessories that are on the exterior.  We’re also going to be putting lights on over the next short while.

Our school bus has always been – and I suspect will always be – a community project.  We in no way could have done half as good a job without the expertise, equipment loans, and business discounts that our friends shared with us.  Not to mention the hours on end that they labored with us as we prepped.

painting in progress

*Someone asked us a great question: Seeing young people (us) leave the industry, especially from a reputable, thriving farm, concerns us that it’s not viable.  Do you have any advice?  Absolutely!  Though it looks like we’re ridding the farm, almost everything that we are selling we have kept some of, or have doubles of.  We are prepared to farm again, but perhaps not on as large of a scale.  Not because it wasn’t working financially, but because our life has shifted, and this season is meant for different things.  I’d recommend farming to anyone – and am happy to walk you through what/how/why we farmed, and will happily encourage and support your endeavors!