News & Book Review: Holy Labor

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Quite a bit has occurred since the last time I've written. I'm still unsure of where I'm wanting to redirect this blog, but that will come in time. We have been quite overwhelmed and underwhelmed at times and because of that, this site has taken a backseat. Which is totally ok! But I have missed it, I've been so quiet lately. So to get back into things, I'll start with some news and then a book review...

First, the news. Over Independence Day we announced that we are having another little blessing! And just the other week we found out it's another boy! We are halfway right now and due the end of January. I'm still figuring out insurance and provider things, but that will come in time, I'm not worried. I didn't feel peace about where we were with that beforehand which is why it is changing, and knowing that we didn't see the provider that delivered Taylor until  I was 34 weeks along (another few months from now).. well, I'm not worried. It's incredible the kind of peace you can find in situations that would drive others crazy when you find that true joy and assurance in Christ, above all. (I just have to remind myself of this often)

That's another thing. We have had a hard year, and last year, too. Remember we lost two babies? It's incredible to know that this little one has made it and is growing and on his way to us! It is a true blessing. I'm already getting looks and comments from some we know and complete strangers at the grocery store about "having my hands full" and "being too young" or "not knowing what I'm doing." How obnoxious, right? And downright disrespectful, among other things. Note to all reading: never disrespect a mother by telling her she is inadequate or overwhelmed or anything of that nature! Encourage her, instead! Children are a blessing and should be treated as such! We are so grateful to have this child to come, what a blessing and promise fulfilled after such a long, hard year of losses we've had. Never say those things to an expecting mother, because you never know what she has gone through to get to where she is today. It truly is insensitive. And if you knew what we went through, then I know you'd think twice about saying things like that. God chose this little man for our family at just this time for a purpose. We are so, so thankful. And Taylor is oh so excited for his "baby brudder!"

On to the book review. I am so excited about this book. I didn't even know about it until I received an email from the publisher, but oh, I was so blessed to receive it. I received this book in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I'll be doing today! So here it is:

Holy Labor: How Childbirth Shapes a Woman's Soul by Aubry G. Smith

Where do I begin? This book has been much needed.. and is probably the only one like it. Seeing childbirth from a Christian perspective, deep in theology, is life-altering. It truly is. Growing and birthing a child is not just a "medical event," "curse," or something to simply endure. It is a gift, and a window into God's own experience of birth and creation throughout all time. Childbirth is a deeply personal and spiritual experience, and the author shares that in many different ways throughout the book. After all, a little disciple and future world-changer for Christ is born at the end of it!
The author presents a beautiful theology of conception, pregnancy, birth, parenting and more. Even loss and birth trauma are handled with care and grace, which is something I really appreciated. It helps you to see the hand of God in knitting together your little one and the scriptural and doctrinal evidence for the sanctity of the growing life. One thesis is that childbirth is not fundamentally God's punishment on women but an area of redemption and growth---as it can teach us much about God and His grace. Birth is not necessarily a medical event and should not be feared. Birth is not an emergency, it is a happy day! One thing Smith touched upon greatly is submitting ourselves to God's design, becoming fearless in childbirth because He holds all things together. In this process of releasing control and trusting Him, we will not be disappointed if things in fact do not go our way. Birth trauma is real and lasting, yet so many just don't know the impact--- by placing our trust in God, we can have peace about birth no matter which way it happened or didn't happen. Like I said, handled with care and grace. What a saving perspective!

A beautiful excerpt:

Childbirth brings us to God in a very unique way: in wonder and awe, in fear and sometimes agony, in loss of control and anchoring ourselves to Him. It can be traumatic, transformative, pain, agonizing, anxious, beautiful, and messy. Childbirth is complex and unpredictable. And God uses it as grace in our lives to make us more like Him.
At the end of each chapter is a list of spiritual disciplines that coincide with the topic, as well as different ways to exercise them. I enjoyed how this book not only covered all aspects of all types of birth and the narrative of birth in the gospels and Christ yet also paired the teaching with disciplines to aid in learning and internalizing the truth.
For instance, Chapter 1 is about retraining our hearts and minds in the whole gospel, focusing on the fact that in Christ (with Christ in us), we become a dwelling place of God's presence; therefore we train ourselves to be attentive to His presence in this current age of media and distraction. Spiritual disciplines to right this narrative include solitude, meditation, and prayer: lose distractions and rest with God and His Word, imagine God knitting the child together in Your womb, pray for any concerns about childbirth and ask Him about the details, meditate on God's great love and mercy for you in the places you've seen him working.. Listen. Rest. Journal the Word. It's incredible, applicable, and practical---what a way to truly dwell in the miracle that is pregnancy and the impending childbirth!
I'll end this with the last chapter of the book, another except, because it is just so, so good. This book is for all types of mamas, no matter where you are in your journey:
Ultimately, as image-bearers of God, our identity is not in childbearing, but in Christ. Women who never become mothers--by choice or not--are not inferior, unfulfilled ,or lacking. Women who are mothers are not merely successful uteruses, solely defined by their children and their role as mother. We cannot fully understand God's providence over our wombs and our lives. But we can trust his goodness no matter what our circumstances may be or become, because we know that in all things, he longs to make us like himself, and he is working for our good. May our eyes be attentive to God's work in our lives and in this world as we await the birth of the new heaven and new earth and of our bodies that will grieve no more.


This is not your typical pregnancy and childbirth book. This book is a gospel-and-grace-laced reference for an eternally and spiritually minded mama who longs to rest with God, and experience Him in the transformative experience of birth and mama-hood. I am so grateful for a free copy to review and will definitely be recommending it to all the mamas I know!

*This is a sponsored post. I received a free book in exchange for honest review and promotion. All opinions expressed are my own.


5 Steps To Spring Cleaning Our Life

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Even though it's starting to look like summer, we are still enjoying the abundance of spring. And with spring comes spring cleaning! I have been on a big kick lately of cleaning out the garage, our little house, the trash left on our property when we moved in, and the products we use in our home. It's really a simple yet profound concept - back to the basics.

Here are some ways we've been spring cleaning different areas of our life:

*Decluttering. If that sounds intimidating, just pick 5-10 items each day that you don't use or like or want, and get rid of it. We are always adding to the pile in the garage for a yard sale... It consists of nearly 3/4 of the items in our garage! It feels so good to be getting rid of stuff, yet we still have more to go. We cleaned through our closets, and now need to go through knick knacks in the tiny house. (If you are still on the fence, watch the show Hoarding: Buried Alive, and try telling me afterward you want to keep everything in your house!)

*Buying wholesome. I've been looking more and more at the labels of items, rather than just the price. It makes a big difference. This includes dog and cat food, laundry detergent, body wash and shampoos, and even looking at where our clothes are made. In fact, I have something exciting to share about this soon!

*Slowing down. This basically means that we don't overplan our days and weeks. We hardly plan them at all. Specifically it means that we only have a handful of places to go and leave the rest to come. This creates less stress, more time comfortable at home, freeplay outside, etc. Just knowing there isn't anything planned is freeing because you aren't caught up in trying to keep it. So we read, play, fish, walk, paint, just simply enjoy our "free time"!

*Nutrition. This includes looking specifically at labels and ingredients in daily vitamins and buying whole foods, rather than microwaveable quick meals. Yet, this can also include buying smart: frozen veggies, fruit or meals from wholesome brands to steam, fresh produce on sale, etc. I stick to the necessities and try to get as much fresh as we can. This is where the frozen veggies & fruit come in handy for daily smoothies!

*Know Your Yes. To me, this little phrase means to know what (+why) you are saying yes or no to, and don't respond a certain way just to please or for the sake of. Make smart decisions about what activities you agree to or what place you agree to go to lunch during your break. Not just for the sake of it, but thoughtfully: does this take away time or resources from something more important? does this benefit my physical, emotional, spiritual wellbeing? does this contribute to x, y, and z as I'm told? will this build me up or tear me down?

There are many more ways to simplify different areas of your life into the kind that you are excited about... Don't get stuck in the day to day mundane. There is no reason to! If something isn't right, there is never a better time than now to change that. This list of mine is just a start. it is by no means extensive..... And I know in this learning of slow living there is more to come!

I wonder... what would you add to this list?

The Joy Of Complete Vision (+ A Coupon Code!)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Something happened a few weeks ago. We went to visit family near the gulf coast and did a lot of fun things. We went to the Houston rodeo expo fair, looked at some boats, and had a relaxing time with family. Taylor loved saying hi "kikiki" to the giant bunnies and "moo'ing" at the abundance of cows at the expo. We had some fair food (what we could find that wasn't fried... tacos) and perused the booths of things and lifestyles for sale. It is a huge ordeal, and quite a big deal. If you know anyone that lives in Houston, they have likely been to the rodeo before.... Sometimes just for the fair, sometimes just for the market, sometimes just for the livestock shows, sometimes just for the concerts.... There is loads to do. We had fun!

But back to the main story. Something happened. And it wasn't at the rodeo, it was near the boats. It was frivolous of me to do it, really, but I didn't think ahead. We were touring a boat that my parents were looking at. They actually just put their house on the market and are going to buy a boat to live on --- downsizing over 2,000 square feet and who know how much stuff in the process --- does that sound familiar? I may share more on that later. Anyway, back to the main story.

We were on a boat. I did something silly and leaned over the edge to see how far down it is to the water. And guess what happened? My glasses fell into the water, lost forever in the sea. It was a couple dozen feet down, and the gulf water is so dirty, there is no hope getting them. And those glasses, I loved those glasses. They were "all me." Purple tortoise, mix of round/square lens, UV coating for being outdoors, they fit me well. I got them a few years ago at the exchange on base at Camp Pendleton, and fell for them immediately. I wear my glasses all of the time - contacts give me headaches, plus I get dirt in them easily with baby hands around - so I had to find a pair that I was comfortable in, had large but not too big of lenses, and were cute - would go with any outfit.

So you can imagine how I felt when those glasses fell. I was also being a bit overdramatic, looking back on it... At the time it felt an adequate consolation for the literal hours I spent poring over frames trying to find just the right one.

It was a blessing when I arrived home and saw an email pop up from

While I already bought new glasses from another company online, this one was giving me glasses in exchange for a review! Woohoo! That means I will now have two pairs. Two fun pairs.

So here is what I picked:

It is their Baton Wayfarer frame. It's kind of tortoise-like, with blue and pink blending together. I love that they are still colorful and somewhat subtle. It's not screaming as glasses with white in them to any degree would do (my other pair has white in them). I wanted something a little more subdued and "professional" yet still unique and fun. I'm really not sure how professional you'd call these, but they fit me well.

And the fit is perfect. The lens is large enough I'm not squinting or feel like I'm constantly looking around the frame for what else is right in front of me. They are very comfortable and the measurements I sent in from the optometrist are exact for what I need. Buying glasses online may be a nervous experience, but this was far from it.

I love how unique they are. Once I picked the purple pair a few years ago, I just can't bring myself back to picking a plain black or brown pair like I had in middle school, when I learned I needed glasses. There are so many fun options out there! You can get a few different pairs to better suit or complement various facets of your wardrobe! It's definitely worth it to have multiple pairs, too (backups if one gets lost!)

Why, you ask?

Because they are for a GREAT price. Plus, I have a 50% off coupon code for readers! Just imagine that! Simply type in GSHOT50 at checkout for a wonderful deal. This will give you 50% off for all eyeglasses and sunglasses with free lenses, with the exception of sales frames.

All you need to get started is a current prescription (and your eyes do change over time, so I'd suggest getting a new one every other year or so) and the coupon code. Simply search the website for the frames you like, enter your details, and checkout! has eyeglasses, reading glasses, prescription sunglasses, clip-ons, in all sorts of styles: for women, men, and kids! Some of those are cat eyes, rounded, tortoise, and vintage-inspired--- if you are looking for something unique.

They fit any budget: From $6.95 to $45.95 for the frames, you can find exactly what you are looking for. (lenses are an additional cost, and that varies depending on the type)

It's simply wonderful to be able to see the world in full complete vision, if your eyes lack 20/20. We take our vision for granted many times... when you lose your glasses or your contacts tore and can't be worn, it's definitely a humbling experience. And, buying your eyewear online sure makes life a little simpler by skipping a trip to the optometrist!

*This is a sponsored post. I was given prescription glasses in exchange for review and promotion. All opinions expressed are my own.


Learning Joy in Simplicity

Friday, April 28, 2017

There's been a theme in our lives these past few weeks: What do we really need? Whether we are looking at what's really necessary in keeping the garden going, how many rainy days we are counting on, how little of my closet I actually wear, what food we actually eat that we bring home from the grocery store.... What is really the most valuable? That's what we need to keep.
I seem to get flustered, overwhelmed easily. So I compartmentalize and take things one step at a time. I put on this fa├žade that everything is going alright, meanwhile, I make ten different lists and lose them umpteenth times and never know what I really should be doing. It's a big reason why I haven't written much lately. It's a big reason why we are here where we are right now. Other than knowing this is where we are meant to be, that "trait," if you will, of mine caused us to get here in a way we didn't really plan on.
So we streamline. We move into a tiny home. And over the past 4 months we've learned what's really necessary. What are we doing that we shouldn't be, things that are killing our joy? What should we be doing, things which are life-giving, give us meaning and passion?
Well... things.... we don't need these "things." That's a big part of this process. I have learned that living tiny resonates so much more with a happy, abundant life, than living in a 1600 square foot house (Still a "small" house, relatively speaking in the U.S.) Why? It causes you to purge, to get rid of stuff. Or at least, out of sight, out of mind, for the time being, as everything is in boxes in our garage. We've lived without it for four months, we probably never needed it in the first place.
So we simplify. This past week I have taken who know how many items out of my closet because I never get around to wearing what I have. We are creatures of habit, after all. I wear the same shirts, skirts, pants, week after week. And nobody really cares if you wear the same shirt two days in a row.. Right?! Simplifying my closet is one step. I'm thinking about a capsule wardrobe to continue to streamline the clothes... We will see...

Taylor saying "hi" to the flowers in his own garden

Taylor pulled a radish from the big garden
to see how it was doing!
Rows of beans! (Ignore those weeds. It's a process)
Another step is to not fuss over trying to get into even more debt getting the newest tractor on the line with the best implements - RIGHT AWAY- so that we can from the get-go feel on top of this whole farming thing. And I say that, but it's so much more than that. We can't right now, and we don't need to. We are learning a simpler way of doing things, and sometimes it seems like it's all for naught. And then on a day like yesterday, Taylor pulls out a baby radish, a baby carrot, we see a green tomato growing on the vine, and it's still growing. The abundant rains we've gotten lately, the sunshine... this first season on our farm is still going to come. It just looks a little different than we'd like. But then again, that will likely always be the case. Although it would help, we don't need the fancy machinery right now, we just need to rent a tiller for a day, and use some good old tools by hand... And now as I look out on our quite large patch, I think I have a deeper appreciation for what's there, rather than the slim satisfaction you'd get if a machine did it for you. There's so much joy in that.
Speaking of machines, our laundry routine is different. And I am actually loving it. I find joy in washing our clothes and Taylor's diapers in the tub, rinsing and swishing the soap, doing laundry the way it was done decades ago, because there was no other option. Getting clothes down from the line is therapeutic. Even hanging them up is. And Taylor loves those clothespins as much as I do, as he pulls them apart when they fall every so often..
We've learned to find joy in doing things just a little bit different than one would expect, maybe different from everyone else. Maybe it just comes when you do laundry this way, look at your closet that way, clean the garden another way, for over time and you don't see a need for the "conventional" way of doing things. Even though this may take more time and is more hands-on, there is more joy that comes in the work and the end result. There is so much freedom that comes when you are not attached to a washing machine to do all the work for you, as you know more of what it takes to get your clothes clean, and you appreciate the clean clothes that much more. (It also leads to purging your closet, leaving less clothes to clean!)
Taylor reading his books. Another part of this
whole thing: Taylor has more books than toys,
or anything else for that matter. Stick to what's
Living with a little less space and stuff is freeing. It's just a bit simpler, but it's a good bit, too. I am much happier in our tiny house than we were in a 1600 square foot house. Maybe part of that is because we are closer to town and we are on our property -- I don't have to drive 25 minutes to the store anymore, it's just around the corner. But a bigger part of that is because we are happy with less. We don't need more things. We need to get rid of more things. I've found so much joy in getting rid of things lately. Every time I take a bag or box of stuff into the "sale/donate" side of the garage lately I breathe a little easier. Every time I look in the closet and see a couple dozen more empty hangers I smile! It's really freeing having less clutter and less things biding your time and resources.
And once you start, it's hard to stop... Simplifying your life in turn gives you your life back. Things no longer rule you. It's really an incredible concept. You don't need a bigger house to be happy, you need less stuff. There is so much JOY found in simplicity (even as a process). Isn't that incredible to think about?!!

Crafting the Life We Want

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I've been a little bit taken by quotes lately. In fact, I have loved searching for ones that resonate so much, that I've attached them to pictures I've taken of our travels over the past 5 and a half years and shared them with those who follow this little blog on my Facebook page for it. I know it may not mean much to somebody else, but I sure thought these words were enough to share with others. And here is something else I found that I'd like to expound upon, as it pertains to everything we are doing here on our land: tiny living, owning property, starting a farm --- all of that. Here it goes.

The first step in crafting a life you want is to get rid of everything you don't. Joshua Becker

Did you get that? A life that you want? Not just tolerate, not just go through the motions... But what you've dreamed of? It's simple. Give up some things. (Keeping your faith + morals in check)

To us, most recently, this means downsizing. We went from 1600 square feet to 288 square feet at the new year. We have a garage full of stuff I am tired of looking at.... If we don't come up with a yard sale by the summer, I think I'll just haul it off already! It's just stuff. This is a big part of it... Getting rid of stuff we don't want.

Another part of this is to "get rid of" the house we didn't want. We loved the house we moved from, but it was time to move on, if you get what I mean. We tried for a while to sell it, then we tried for a while to rent it... And at the last possible minute, we have renters. So it's not "gotten rid of" quite yet, but in theory, it is. We have moved out, found a way to cover that mortgage, and moved forward. We are getting rid of "stuff" we don't want.

This part is kind of touchy. We have been getting rid of things financially that we don't want. It comes in time, but it comes in various forms: medical bills, taxes, credit cards, various cancellation fees... The house is also a part of this, because now we have rent to cover it. But in all honesty, we have been slowly going through things financially to get where we need to be. And it takes sweet time. But we have gotten rid of (or currently are ridding of) expensive phone service, poor internet service, broken healthcare coverage, tax surprises.... You get the picture. Step by step.

Getting rid of things feels freeing. Every time I call in a bill, it's one less thing to think on. It frees some mental space. Every time I sell an item, it's one less (little) thing crowding our garage. It feels so good! It really does. Getting rid of stuff in your life you don't want.... It just makes sense. Why wouldn't you?

I know why I wouldn't, at times. I just feel stuck. But becoming unglued is the only way to move forward and create the life you want and need. Keep listening here.

It took some sweet time of conversation, convincing, blaming, excuses, and maybe even dumb luck to take that first leap into creating the farm on our land. We didn't really prepare anything. Not like that list of first steps I shared, at least. Well, a bit of it was done. The fence was built. The tractor was fixed. The pasture was mowed. The soil was tilled. But some things we didn't do....We didn't get a soil sample or add any nutrients in, we didn't use the well, we didn't order seeds (we bought them locally).... and we're not quite sure about preparing for markets yet, either, which start here in a couple of weeks. Gulp.

But we did it. We took the first big step, and it looked different than we thought, but we did it. We are crafting the life we want. Starting the farm ever so slowly (but is it smart to jump in like this? that's another story, ha!), living tiny and getting rid of stuff, moving onto our property and feeling more a part of the community. We are crafting! Is that a thing?

Well yes, yes it is. Crafting the life you want is about taking those first steps toward what that looks like... Less time chasing things, more time spent with your people. Maybe you need to switch your cell service, get rid of the TV, move into a camper, move cross-country, find a new job, chase that dream somehow, some way...  Learning about what truly matters in this life....

Taking that first scary step into creating (or crafting) the life you are looking forward to and want and need and love and feel at peace with is so, so, so worth it.

Daily Life In 288 Square Feet

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When we first decided to get a tiny house, we were mostly focused on the cost aspect. Along with either selling or renting our house so the mortgage is taken care of, the tiny house will be a relief of an otherwise huge financial burden monthly - smaller payments means more that can be allotted to our property and farm. It was a means to an end, but we embraced it, because it was also a push into this long-winded "dream" we had of having less and living on our property. The biggest part of which, was to live on our property.
And to avoid redundancy in this part of the conversation, it just made sense for the point we were at in our lives. Last October, we needed to make a decision. We bought a tiny house, with help. And finally, months later at the new year, we moved in. It's been three months since we moved into our 288 square feet of love on our 46 acres. Before I've shared lessons we learned in the first month of tiny living... But now I want to share about daily life in 288 square feet. How do things work, in a 12x24 ft house... With a one and a half year old?! It's actually not as "bad" as you may think. In reality.... this small space is a huge blessing.
To start on the topic of daily life in a tiny home... Here is a rough list (not schedule, but simply a list) of everything we do during the week in this space:
  • Wake up + make breakfast
  • Play, read, clean
  • Do laundry in the tub
  • Go outside to play, clean property, and hang laundry
  • Nap time! During this I clean, read, write, take care of grown-up things like bills, etc
  • Snack time + play outside when Taylor is up again
  • Watch our shows or read + relax once Taylor is asleep for the night
  • Eat, eat, eat.
The weekend looks a little different: we spend the majority of it outside on the property. Sometimes we go to a local festival or market, sometimes we go out of town for the day to see family. But we keep it all pretty simple. And we like it like this. Right now, things are fairly slow.. But we know that will change soon, when we start really going with starting our farm.. We will be at markets on the weekends and planting, cultivating, or harvesting the produce on end during various seasons. So we are enjoying now, because we know life comes in seasons, and it won't always be this way.

But back to tiny living a bit. With a few pictures for reference (and a reminder of the Q+A tour I gave of our home the other month) here is how we have things situated...

Everything is pretty much one big 288 square foot room. It truly is, but it really isn't. And here's what I mean. You can tell that there are different spaces. For instance, the kitchen is against a wall. The closets are across from each other. Our beds are next to each other. And the bathroom area has the same curtain color for the whole length.

If that doesn't make any sense, hopefully this does: we have a space for everything. The entire house doesn't feel like our bedroom, because we have a comfy chair and a dining table to divide up the space. The entire house doesn't feel like a bathroom, because we have beige curtains over the whole area so it blends in to the walls. The entire house doesn't feel like a kitchen since it's along a 12 foot wall, and an island or pantry doesn't protrude into the rest of our space. And the entire house doesn't feel like our closet because we have patterned curtains and storage cubes to make it decorative and functional.

Daily life in a tiny home is pretty simple... which is in reality a huge blessing and comforting change of pace... and we like it that way. And, 288 square feet? It sure doesn't feel like it. It feels bigger, though I'm not sure how much bigger, come to think of it. There is corrugated metal on the curved ceiling, which makes the house (room) feel larger. I don't think of it as 288 square feet. Or if I do, I reference it as our 288 square feet of love!

GUEST BLOG: Small Beginnings For Natural Living

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Today, Bella from Over the Teacup is taking over the blog to share about how she has taken small steps to begin natural living. You see, you don't have to have grand plans to start a fully functional farm and you also don't have to even have a backyard to search for ways to live more simply. Sometimes, all you need is an itch for your own garden- be it herbs, vegetables, fruits, or flowers - and to find a way (or a window or balcony) to do it. As Bella shares, you can begin to see how you can start small in your own way--- and maybe get some ideas, too!
Small Beginnings for Natural Living
When I was a little girl, my family lived for three years in Hobart, Tasmania. One thing I remember vividly about my time there was our backyard. The house we stayed in had this garden with all varieties of fruits and vegetables – strawberries, apples, peaches, cherries, spinach, potatoes and beans. I was also given a little patch of ground to call my own, where I planted carrots along with snapdragons and sunflowers. And so, a love of gardening was born.
Fast-forward to the present day, and my garden isn’t looking as spacious or plentiful. You see, the only place my husband and I can afford at the moment is an apartment. It’s a nice apartment, I must say, but the balcony is tiny. Pitifully tiny, I mean hardly any space to stand up. So the potential for tending a garden or growing my own food is rather limited.
In my current situation, I can’t grow my own vegetables or collect scraps for a compost heap. I can’t create a wildflower garden or plant trees. But, I’m not left with nothing. Around two years ago, my mother gave me a beautiful gift. Some planter boxes, some soil and a few herbs. I planted these herbs – parsley, thyme, mint and oregano – and I had the smallest beginnings of a garden again. Since then, my garden has grown to include quite a few more herbs, some aloe vera and cat grass (my cat loves it as a special treat!). I’ve also planted a fern garden for that part of my balcony that gets no sun.
I may not be able to eat home-grown fruit and vegetables yet, but I love using my herb garden when I’m cooking. If I’m making a pasta sauce, I can just pick a few sprigs of basil and oregano, or put some fresh rosemary leaves in a casserole. I give them a little wash to rinse off any dirt, but I know they don’t have any nasty chemical surprises. Fresh herbs taste so much better than dried ones, and growing my own works out much cheaper than buying them from the supermarket. Creating a little corner of greenery in a concrete maze is healthy for my soul, too. Looking out my window and seeing a garden brings peace, if only for a moment.
Do not despise small beginnings
It says in Zechariah 4:10 do not despise these small beginnings. We hope one day to buy our own home, a place where I can expand my horizons when it comes to gardening and natural living. I’d love to grow my own vegetables one day. But that may still be a few years off. For the moment, I have only my herb garden – it is a small beginning, but it’s something.
Maybe this is you as well. Maybe the idea of self-sufficient, natural living appeals to you but circumstances just don’t allow it at the moment. You may not be able to do much, but there may be some small, humble ways you could make a start.
Just a few ideas include:
  • grow a herb garden on your balcony, window ledge or wherever your little plants can get some sun
  • cook from scratch using natural foods – the food will be healthier and you’ll cut down on pre-packaged waste
  • make your own skincare products using natural ingredients
  • start a small compost heap if you have your own backyard
  • set up a drying rack on your balcony instead of using an indoor dryer
I am determined to grow and tend my little corner of nature. Even when the hot Australian summer has parched the soil and caused the leaves to wither. Even when my heart longs for open space. It’s not much, but these are my small beginnings.

Bella is a newly married Christian woman living in Sydney, Australia. She loves God, her friends and family, tea, gardens, books, and food. She is a part time Special Ed teacher, housewife, blogger and small group leader--- living to shine God's light by His grace. You can get in touch with her at her website, Over the Teacups, or on her blog's Facebook page.

Cloth Diapers: Why + How We Use Them

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Y'all, there are so many facets to living naturally in this home that I am going to cover on this site. There will be a lot about the farm, a lot about living simply in a tiny home, and a lot about making the most of our resources and things. One way to cover this last area mentioned is the use of cloth diapers at home. Yes, I said cloth diapers. And as you recall.... we don't have a washing machine. I'll get to that part too!

So, why + how in the world do we use cloth diapers?! It's a lot simpler (+ easier) than you may think...

1. Cloth diapers are better for baby's sensitive skin.
Cloth diapers are just that... cloth.. and they don't contain any harsh chemicals. They don't contain little balls of gel that expand when wet, and if wet enough, seep out of the part of the diaper onto the skin (yes, this has happened before. Regular diapers have exploded because of Taylor playing in his pool before. Where did that goop on my baby's skin come from, and what is it made of? Terrifying!) Also to that, cloth diapers double as swim diapers!
Taylor's first cloth diaper at 2 months!

2. Cloth diapers produce less non-biodegradable waste.
You do not throw away cloth diapers. You wash them. So in that... well... there's no trash. For disposable diapers, every single diaper goes in the trash, every single day. That's a lot of waste which just goes to a landfill, or maybe burned. For cloth diapers, you just dump solids in the toilet or compost (depending more on how whole baby eats) and throw it in the hamper, then wash when ready. The only waste would be the water you use to wash it, although you'd be using that same water for laundry anyway. It's incredible, when you think about it, how much trash we are saving each year, by using cloth!

3. Cloth diapers are incredible for our budget!
We have about 6 covers and 30 inserts. We go through them all in a few days time, meaning we wash all the diapers generally twice a week. Y'all. Go to the store and buy two bags of 30 diapers twice a week, every week, until potty training. Diapers are generally around 50 cents each, which comes to $15 a bag. You are spending $30 a week... 52 weeks in the year...That's over $1500 a year that isn't being spent!

The initial investment: It really isn't as bad as you may think. I mean, what is the initial investment for a crib, or for baby clothes? Cloth diapers are an investment and it lasts, unlike disposables--- it's not just something you use and throw away every day. Each cover we have gotten cost around $10-20 and inserts cost around $3 each, depending on the brand. There are so many brands out there, so do your research for what best fits your life + budget. Although I've found that the more initially invested, the better the product kept up and longer it lasted (one and a half years later!)... so it may be a good idea to go for the couple extra dollars. We have about 6 covers and 30 inserts, which means... the initial investment is around $150 for cloth....and from then on, its simply the cost of water to wash. Seriously, look at the numbers---in just under a month and a half, you are spending more on disposable diapers than you would on cloth diapers for over a YEAR! Wow!

Taylor at 5 months, happy in cloth!
4. Cloth diapers are more absorbent --- especially when you add an extra insert
Because of this, they can also be used as swim diapers!! A little more on #1, they double as swim diapers and the gel or stuff in the diaper that would regularly expand in water and get on your child's skin.. simply wouldn't! For everyday use, we have less cloth diapers a day as opposed to if we used disposable diapers at home. They last a little longer each time because there is more material that immediately soaks up the wet. Inserts are very useful to use for overnight (with a thick liner as well) and don't cause Taylor to wake up every time he goes through the night. So helpful.

5. Cloth diapers are much cuter!!
They come in cute patterns and they work essentially the same as disposables :) Although there are now diaper brands that have cute patterns, the cloth ones you can use (+ enjoy those adorable patterns) again and again. Disposables-  you can't! I love the patterns that the Thirsties brand has, best. (Also, the best brand in my opinion!)


1. We wash our diapers in the bathtub
Yes, you read that right... We wash our diapers (and all our laundry, for that matter) in the tub. For diapers, as mentioned before, I generally wash all the diapers twice a week. That's maybe 3 or so covers and 10 or so cloths. First I fill the tub with hot water and soak the diapers, using our washing wand to rinse through them (Taylor LOVES to help with laundry! It makes it more fun and less a chore for the kids when there is actually something to do, rather than let the machine do it for you. If you have trouble in this department, try changing the way you do the laundry - or any chore, really- and see how it changes things) The water looks kinda nasty at this point, so once a good first soaking is done, I drain the tub. We repeat again, just rinsing with hot water, a second time. Then when we fill the tub again we add the detergent and give it a good plunging. I may do this another time depending on the condition of the diapers. Lastly, we fill the tub again for a good rinsing and to be sure the soap is out. When it's done, I drain the tub and squeeze any excess water out of the diaper before I put them in a plastic bag to take outside to dry...

2.We hang dry the diapers on the clothesline!
Taylor loves this part. When I'm putting the diapers in the bag, he reaches in the tub and keeps handing them to me. So we take them outside and just clip them on the clothesline. Today I actually took down a load of diapers from the clothesline. Depending on the weather, they take half a day up to a full day (or night) to dry. Last week, it rained on the diapers on the line, so it took an extra day and a half to dry since they were soaked - yet very refreshed! I don't mind the extra dry time when it rains on the line because that just means the clothes are getting an extra good cleaning thanks to nature itself. I am considering getting more line for outside so I can do more laundry at once, since now we have a system down and it's going a lot quicker...

3.We use cute covers + thick inserts.
The covers you can use again and again (until #2 appears on the covers!) and each diaper change you simply change the insert. This means that if we have 6 covers and 30 inserts... We usually run out of inserts before we run out of covers! The econobum inserts are very thick and as mentioned before, they generally hold a lot more, which means that we change less diapers a day. Overall, cloth diapering is a huge saver of waste and money! As mentioned before, I LOVE Thirsties brand diapers- from the 4 brands we've tried, they hold the inserts and everything the best, and they are the cutest, too! I get all my diapering things on Amazon, as well.


Lauren @ Bellows in the Berkshires: I LOVE using cloth diapers. It's my favorite. I simply used them because of money but I ended up loving how they looked, felt, etc.... It took a huge burden off of us financially. We had three in diapers once with foster care and the cloth saved our bottoms when we had a sudden placement and no time to buy disposables. I love cloth so much. It is cuter and they were cheaper for us!

Rebekah @ Surviving Toddlerhood: I have a bunch of kinds. I love my Kawaii brand for pocket diaper but I also have flats and prefolds- i don't remember the brand but they are organic cotton- with an assortment of covers. Some are from different etsy shops and other are branded. I love them all for different stages of baby and toddlerhood.


Rebekah's post on cloth diapering in cold weather @ Surviving Toddlerhood.

6 reasons why cloth diapers are better than disposables @ Mama Natural.

What do you think.... could you cloth diaper your little one?!


First Steps To The Farm

Saturday, February 25, 2017

So, what do we actually DO in starting a farm.. from scratch.. on a large chunk of land?! If you were curious in what actually needs to happen, well, this list is it! The first steps toward production... the first steps toward starting Newsom Natural Farm:

1. Cross fence the pasture to separate cows + crops

Done! The boys did this gradually over the last few weeks. Marshall worked on fences for the first few months once we moved back to Texas the other year, the season which Taylor was born. He knows all sorts of stuff about fences! The only issue we had was pulling the barbed wire on it too soon, before the posts set in the concrete. This has to be redone last weekend, but now we are good to go! Our family will be getting cows out here soon!

2. Order tractor parts needed + fix tractor

Happening this week! We know what is needed and just sold some furniture, which means Marshall will be ordering what's needed this week! We also have the manual for the tractor which is a huge help (I dug it out of the garage the other week). We are so grateful to our granny for the tractor she had on "the farm" that we inherited! And once its fixed, then the real work begins...

3. Mow the pasture

Once the tractor is fixed the mowing will commence! This will be a PROJECT! All this land needs to be mowed!!

4. Send a soil sample to the local Ag extension office to see which nutrients we need

This is actually something we can do anytime. The Ag office for the county is just in town (it sits in the county seat for EVERY county in Texas---254 counties in the state, to be exact---all to support local farmers and ag workers! Each county in each state has one too!). Once the report comes back we can add what we need to the soil for a productive crop. We are starting with sandy soil out here which is such a GOOD thing!

5. Order seeds!!!

We are gradually coming up with a plan on the seeds: how many, which produce and varieties, things like that. Think heirloom & unique! Once they are ordered, we will keep everyone in the loop! This little blurb explains a little more (generally) of what we plan on doing:

"We're a new family farm dedicated to providing East Texas with unique, locally grown produce through responsible, innovative, sustainable agriculture."

6. Get the land ready + PLANT!!!

Another PROJECT! After mowing we will need various implements on the tractor to till and break up the soil, add whichever nutrients, and get the rows ready for seeds! It is also raining a bit lately, which is good for this as well!

7. Utilize the well for watering!

We need to find an efficient way to utilize our well over the acreage of land we are starting on! There are actually 3 wells on our property, and we are planning on using one concrete well for this first season. Some sort of irrigation system will have to be implemented, and that is another project we are thinking on.

8. Support + Grow + Prepare for Markets!

Farmers Markets start up in April & May and the season runs through September & October. There are 6 quality markets out here (greater Tyler area) we have found and we will likely just go to 2 of them.. Those most local to us. We will be concentrating our efforts on Wood County.. That's still a lot of people to reach! Over 42,000 potential customers! We will be applying to the markets in the coming weeks! Also in this: business cards + a sign for our table are needed!



Why We Are Starting A Natural Farm

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When Marshall decided to get out of the Marine Corps earlier than initially planned the other year, the question was bound to come up: why? There really is a lot of security in the military, as in a steady predictable paycheck, a set contract, and benefits such as the discounts you can get nearly anywhere plus the healthcare, etc. It seems frivolous, sometimes, to choose to leave that security, and go somewhere to do something you never have before. Especially considering that we were entering the third trimester with Taylor at the time. "Why?" came up a lot. Why move cross country, less than three months before your baby is due, with land but no house, leaving the only job you've had, to choose a hard and severely underrated career path.... and something essentially unknown?

Because we wanted to. This is where we need to be. Remember I shared the story behind our land the other week? It is incredible everything that came just at the right time for exactly what we needed the past few years. Buying 40 acres in east Texas over 4 years ago, while we were living in another state with no immediate (yet eventual) plans to move back in no concrete time frame... That sounded like a risk to so many. But we were able to, and we did. We knew it was the right choice for our future. This land is our future, and our present. So we have this land to start a farm... Because we want to. Even with this explanation.... it's such a foreign concept to so many! (We hear that a lot)

It may be as simple as that. Because we want to. Marshall studied horticulture while at Texas A&M, and he just wanted to grow food. Even more than me, he is the kind of person that does well doing what he needs on his own terms... Meaning... Working for "the man" is never a long-term thing. Having our own business truly is. Being his own boss and doing things on his terms, growing food the way he sees best, while providing a need to our local community, is huge. I mean, it's a big deal, starting a business and owning a farm. We want to, we see the value in the land, we see the value and need for local produce in this area, and well... we want to work for ourselves in doing this (and one day, we will be there!)

We even want to eventually become, perhaps, a cornerstone in the community. Newsom Natural Farm will one day be our full time thing, a destination, where we can have seasonal festivals, a weekly shareholder program to pick up your own produce, maybe even being a catalyst to start another farmer's market right here in the county seat... Our name can be on Taylor's little league teams jerseys, and we can sponsor the local sports teams in their big games. Finding the right parcel of land decided the rest of our future for us - our home, our work, our livelihood. We want to be a part of the community in this farm, and that's just what we plan to do!

Why natural? I mean, what does the difference in all these labels actually mean? Well, I know this may be it's own blog post one day: natural, organic, conventional, etc. There are so many different terms we find on our produce at the store and the market that we don't exactly know a clear definition to. So I'll get to more detail on that another day soon. But for us, natural means back to the basics. This is where cows are important: their waste provides nutrients needed for growth... natural fertilization. It keeps it simple. Natural is a generic term that doesn't require certification like organic does. So it's true meaning can differ between various farms which use the term. By coming back to the basics, it means no or minimal chemicals, droppings as fertilization, and focusing on soil health, plant health, and nutrients needed. We will be looking for natural, sustainable ways to grow our crops, rather than looking first to the newest chemical sprayer on the agricultural market that will "easily" get the job done. There is a right, natural way to do it, and that's just what we plan on doing.

Also on this- in our area, the organic label isn't necessarily expected to be as big of a deal as if you were in Dallas. There is so much cost just to being USDA Certified Organic, that it wouldn't be worth it in certain areas. The further you get from the city, we feel that the happier the community will be to buy local, whether you pay for the label or not. We plan to be open about our process and what is in the produce you are eating - we have nothing to hide - so in that respect, paying for the label may not ever be in the cards for us.

We want to do this farm the right way, and the way that we are comfortable with. We want to become a part of the community and share the process of growing your own food and what that means. We also want to avoid the laws and government interference that can come when you use all sorts of chemicals and pesticides to regulate the crop..... Although more common in large-scale production farms. We just want to stick with the basics. This also means we are going to be particular in choosing seeds, I mean, this is where the crop starts! Seed selection and ordering seeds may even have a post all their own. This is something we are looking into right now & are very excited about! We will be looking specifically for specialty, heirloom variety seeds!

So... why are we starting a natural farm? It's simple. We want to.

first month (+ then some) of tiny living: lessons learned

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We have now been living tiny for a month + a half! Time sure flies. In all this time, we have made this tiny house a home, finished the fence in the pasture, completely reorganized the garage in preparation for a yard sale, and looked into ordering seeds! You know what that means!!! Yet this post is about tiny living.... So here are some things we have learned in our first month + then some of living in 288 square feet:

Much of the "stuff" we are getting rid of! Feels good! Except Scruffy!!

1. We had too much stuff (It was a chore to pack and move in our two cars and trailer.... Literally we were "moving" for months before we moved in!)

2. We don't use all the space we had, therefore we don't need it. Also, you don't need so much "space" in a home in order to have "personal space" ... personal space is rather, a state of mind. It all comes down to how you look at it. For tiny living, you must look at things with a "half glass full" mentality. And even if we did want more space... well, our backyard is 46 acres of space! If you were to live tiny, I'd suggest to do so on wheels or on a piece of land! One more thing on this: being intentional on your use of space is an absolute! More on that in a minute..

3. Not having a washer and dryer isn't the end of the world. We do laundry outside the old fashioned way, or go to a friends for a playdate + laundry day. 

4. A dishwasher, though, is a game-changer in tiny living!

5. We are much happier with less things. Less clutter. Less items. It's freeing! (If you don't believe me, try counting the number of individual items you own and tell me how that feels. Even the pens. It is incredible..)

6. Taylor has less toys and is much happier! The only ones you really need are blocks, legos, crayons, and books....Even the closet curtains! Ha! This creates less clutter too! 

7. Walk-in closets were extremely overwhelming... We don't even wear half the clothes we have now---in a fifth of the closet space we used to have. Again, we don't need that much to survive. A closet about the size of our shower is just perfect. I'm thinking of a capsule wardrobe next...

8. Less space inside intentionally means more time outside! Yes, this was thought about. We sit on 46 acres in a 288 square foot house, and we spend all our time outside anyway. We are really inside just for food, sleep, and when it's dark. And we don't mind one bit. Yes, again,, we wanted this! It was a bonus of having to find a cost-effective way to move on our land when the time deeded it last fall.

Now more general things....

9. Keeping a clean home is so important! Less clutter falls into this idea. This means more constant sweeping and although it takes less time than before, it makes a huge difference in your own peace of mind. More clutter or an unkempt tiny space makes for a grumbling living experience.. you know, more chaotic. Keep it simple. Trust me. (And yes, still learning this!)

10. Listen to your parents when they tell you to make your bed! Living in one open room that shares all functions of a home causes you to learn this lesson quickly. It makes a huge difference just in your own peace of mind. I'm finding myself more aware of these little things now.

11. Space is a luxury. Even just a few square feet make a major difference. We recently took the pack n play out to replace with Taylors actual crib, and in the process had to rearrange our dining table arrangement to best fit this... while it takes up more space, it sits under the window (yes, he's right next to us) and altogether just moves our table over a few feet. We still have a large open living area between the cube organizer and the closet. The space by the table, crib, and bed is just the bathroom area, and it's really a better use of that space which we don't spend much time in. Except, you know, for the bathroom, or to sleep. But in all this, we clearly know space is a luxury. And we love this new use of space!

12. Anything can be your home.. after all, home is where your people are. Not your things, but your people. Relationships are what last! Invest in your relationships. All that to stay... we live in a storage shed. Yep, that's right, our house was originally a 288 square foot storage shed. It's not even a third of the size of the average garage.. it couldn't even store everything we have in our garage! With that said, home is where you make it. It doesn't have to be fancy with all the finishings, it doesn't have to be a certain size or in a certain neighborhood, it simply has to best fit you + your people + your life. This little "shed" is our home.. our tiny home on our property. And that's just how we like it!

Side note: it took over a month of living here for the mailman to realize that we live in the "shed" rather than the old nasty house that sits next door! They were knocking on the door of that house to deliver a package... for 5 whole minutes.. before they thought to check the tiny home! Ha!

how we fit our life into 288 square feet: downsizing process

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

On that day last fall when I resigned and picked up Taylor early, I went home to just sit.. and enjoy... (just for a moment) not to have to worry about anything else. Then I looked around...and soon came to the conclusion that we just had too much stuff. Although, I know Marshall knew that a long time before. I just didn't have, or take, the time to do anything about it. We didn't "need" it all. I didn't even know everything we had. And once I realized what would likely come from this event- having to find a way to move on our land nearly immediately (though it did take months to get the tiny house ready) I knew that we needed to start sorting through everything that we had. Hence the downsizing..

We had to move this 1600 square foot house..
..into this 288 square foot home!!

At our other house we had a barn, and that barn wasn't really used for anything except storing tools. So I figured this was a perfect place to put things as we go through our belongings - "out of sight, out of mind," right?

So it begins..

And it happened gradually, because we never really knew the real "timeline" of when anything would happen. There was a lot of waiting last fall, but we have gotten used to waiting over the years --- does the phrase "hurry up and wait" mean anything to you? Military life (and transitioning out of such) sure gets you acquainted with the waiting process (orders, trainings, moving, house-purchasing, limited time home... etc). Remember, we've moved 5 times in the past 5.5 years of marriage (yes, that's right!!) so we are used to waiting for our stuff to be moved into or out of storage. So it began gradually.

Every day I'd take Taylor around the yard and to the barn, back and forth, in his wagon a few times. I piled up some stuff and sat him next to it all. He enjoyed getting an abundance of wagon rides while getting to play with whatever I set in front of him - just being outside - and I enjoyed seeing our house empty over time.

It was really happening! Everything we went through in the fall called for a huge change... We were getting rid of stuff! (Well, out of sight, out of mind, at this point in the process) Repeat the above scenario maybe four times a day, nearly every day for two months, and you come up with a barn packed full of stuff. You could barely walk around the piles.

And then we had to move it all. We started emptying the house and barn to get it "show ready" so we could try to sell it, and all this stuff had to be moved 23 miles to the garage at our land. This happened over time as well... I packed our Escape up as much as I could, and drove three loads a weekday (or every other day) for a few weeks over to the old house on our land...As much as Taylor would let me drive him around, that is!! Keep in mind, the houses are 23 miles apart, so that's an hour of driving per round-trip. It was a LOT. At first, I couldn't find the garage door key, so I put it in the back of the old house add-on. Then once we found the keys (they were just sitting in the old house, we were never given the keys when we bought the property), we had to move everything from the add-on into the garage, just a few yards away.

Once we were actually moving in and getting all of our personal things out of the house, we had to decide what we were going to store in the garage. And I had to make sure we had two separate sides to the garage - storage and sell. Let's just say our garage is packed right now!

After living in our tiny home for a month (today! one month!) we've found that we really don't need that much stuff. And then I walk into the garage and think... Where did all of this come from?!?!?!

We still have a lot of work to do in the downsizing department, when looking at our garage full of stuff... But we did it! Right now in our tiny abode, we have just what we need (ok, maybe a little more, but not much more) all in 288 square feet... It's hard to imagine that we have anything else in our possession, until we walk through the garage, that is.

Whenever I open the door, a few things comes to mind...
+Why do we have so much stuff?!
+Where did all of this come from??
+Oh, I've been looking for that!
+I'll probably need that one day...
+I just can't get rid of that yet!
+Let's just have a yard sale right now and be done with it all!

..And then I walk back into our house and "forget" about whatever that "it" was. It is such a nice thing having the majority of our belongings in a garage. "Blessed forgetfulness," if you will. But really, we need to get rid of it. Sorting out what we are storing from what we are selling or donating is a big start. So far, all we have is the mess of things (see above photo) and a small pile of stuff to the side that needs to be boxed and donated. This weekend we will really get down to business on sorting through it all, which leads to the next step---

The next step is to box everything up and label it, even briefly. I personally feel like I won't be able to relax about the situation in the garage until everything is tucked into a box.... Piles of boxes are easier on the eyes than piles of things, after all. We will get there. And soon, likely a few months from now, we will sell or donate the rest.

So, how did we move everything from 1600 square feet into 288 square feet? Simply put, we first put everything into the garage. And when we did move in at the new year, we brought just the "essentials," which consists of sheets, toiletries, clothes, whatever food we had, and the appliances we needed. As we figured we needed or wanted something, be it books, toys for Taylor, or additional pans or mugs, we just went into the garage to find it.

In all, I don't necessarily have a step-by-step process of how we "downsized" everything we had. All I would suggest to others who may be in a similar situation, or maybe who just want to find a way to get rid of stuff, is this: keep note of what you use, and if you haven't used it in two weeks, put it away - out of sight, out of mind. Walk through your house, and anything you think or know you can live without, put it away - out of sight, out of mind. If anything comes up as a maybe, it's probably not essential, and is likely something that can show up at your garage sale down the road. Now there are good things to store away in the garage, like in our case, things that won't fit into the house - family furniture, file box with important documents, winter coat and boots, fishing poles, ladders, etc. But a lot of it, it can go. I'm not sure how we acquired things, but after 5 and a half years of marriage plus a baby, it happens.

Getting rid of stuff, or at least having it somewhere else in storage, is completely freeing. We walk into our tiny house now and think it is just the right size. I mean, we have 46 acres to wander around and play on. We spend most of our days outside anyway, in the pasture, by our ponds.. We don't need that much room inside, and even so, its all the room we need!

A tiny place means less things and more us.
A tiny place gives us the freedom to be on our land, which is where we feel at home.
A tiny place also means utility bills a quarter of the price they used to be!
A tiny place means we can have a nicer place for less than we had before (because duh, there is less square footage for those nice features and finishes to cover, which is less cost)

A tiny place means we are on our land... starting our farm here in the next few weeks... and we are home!

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