Affordable Summer Reading Motivation For Your Child

With summer fast approaching, many parents are left searching for ideas to keep their children engaged in their education. As a parent, it is my belief that reading is one of the most important ways that children learn. Reading not only teaches facts, but fosters your child’s imagination. Reading is one of the best ways to keep your child’s love of learning alive while their brick and mortar school is out for the summer.

A child can easily go through numerous books in a day, much less a week or a month. This means that purchasing your child’s books for the summer can be an unaffordable venture. The natural choice, is then to go to the library. I am a huge advocate for taking your children to the library, and I believe that it should be done whenever possible. However, with work schedules, gas prices, and library hours, attending the library is not always possible on a regular basis.

This is where Amazon has stepped in to fill the gap. My family was very excited to find Amazon Free Time Unlimited! This service offers age appropriate books, movies, educational apps, games, and TV shows for your children.


Amazon Free Time Unlimited breaks down their products into three age groups. The first groups, ages 3 to 5 include things like Doc McStuffins, Super Why, Dora the Explorer and more! The group for 6-8 year old children includes apps for learning math and times tables, beginning chapter books, and more. The oldest group, for 9-12 year olds has educational videos from Nova, chapter books, literary classics, and even fun games like Ninjago.

This service is available on Fire Tablet’s, Fire TV, and other Kindle eReaders. For the younger children, be sure to check out the Kid’s Edition Fire Tablet. This comes with special parental controls, and a shock and drop proof case.

Sign up for our email service to receive a free book record sheet. This sheet will help you to document all the books that your child reads through the summer. This can be used in their homeschool portfolio, or turned into their teacher at the beginning of the year.

The best part of the whole deal is the price. As a mother of four, memberships, and fees can quickly add up to an unaffordable cost. For the Amazon Free Time Unlimited, there are several options for different packages, including a family plant. An Amazon Prime member can buy a family plan that offers this program for up to four children at a time for only $6.99.  For a single child, a monthly membership is only $4.99 for non-prime members, and $2.99 for Prime members.

All in all, this is a great tool for my home. I use this program for my kids that I homeschool for their quiet time. Since I have control over the time they spend on their device, the apps they use, and more, I do not have to worry about them getting into things that they shouldn’t. I also use this program for those times when it may be tempting to use the television as a “babysitter”. This way, I do not have to feel guilty, as I know they are learning, while having fun, and allowing me to do those chores like cooking dinner. This is a great fit for our family, homeschool programs, and those looking for how to keep their children engaged during the summer.

 

Does Your Homestead Need “The Homestead Box?”

What is “The Homestead Box”?

Monthly subscription services are all the rage right now. After all, we all love to get mail (as long as it isn’t bills!). What could be better than a regularly scheduled package filled with timely items that you can use on your homestead?

The Homestead box is not like other subscription boxes that are filled with lots of useless fillers, and sub par products. The Homestead Box is designed by homesteaders, not big corporate companies. The fact that the monthly boxes are designed by professionals with experience in homesteading, means that your box will always be full of relevant, and useful items.

April’s Homestead Box Content List

Let’s take a closer look at some of the items that are in this month’s box.

 


Cobrahead Weeder and Cultivator: Seriously, I am in love with this tool! To me, this tool is the star of this month’s Homestead Box. I have seen a lot of small hand tools that had big promises, but all fell short. I wasn’t expecting anything great about this. Despite my reservation on this tool, I actually love it!
I took the Cobrahead out to my garden to give it a go. Right away I was impressed with the materials that this tool was made of. It wasn’t one of those typical cheap, flimsy tools that you break in the first season. There is obviously a lot of pride and craftsmanship in this.
One of my foes here on our farm is the grasses in my perennial beds. It is a pain to get rid of, and no matter how you pull it, you always seem to miss some roots. A few days later, its back. Cobrahead had no problem getting to the “root” of my grass problem. It quickly and easily popped the offending grass clumps up. I was able to weed my whole area before I knew it.
At this point, I am thinking that I could end up pretty fond of this little tool. I decided to try it on my biggest foe… pig weed. You guessed it, no problem for this champ! After doing some more research on my new favorite garden gadget, I found that the unique shape of the head allows for removal of weeds right up by other plants. I can’t wait to be able to use this when my vegetable gardens get up and going for the year.

Hoss Tools Garden Planner: Are you stumped when it comes to when to start your garden? This handy, and simple planner will take the guesswork out of your gardening ventures. Designed for both spring and fall planting dates, this is a great tool for new, and old homesteaders alike. Since we just moved to a new location, this is going to be invaluable to help me get my new gardens off to the right start.

Worm Castings Compost: You do not have to be a master gardener to know that worm castings are a valuable tool for building soil in your gardens. Worm castings are great to add to soil, whether your are building up the soil in a new bed, or working on an existing garden space. This is an amazing addition to April’s Homestead Box!

Pro Tape: Ok, so it may seem silly to be excited about a tape measurer, but this is a REALLY heavy duty product that will last. On homesteads, we use tape measurers for a multitude of tasks. From gardens, to fencing, to building, the list is endless. This is hands down, the most heavy duty tape measurer that I have seen. We have had others that were “like” this on our farm before and they never measured up (forgive the pun). This will be able to handle being dropped, stepped on, and the general abuse that comes to tools on the homestead.

 

Review Conclusion

When initially viewing the website, my first thought was that the price of the boxes seemed a bit high. However, after getting my Pioneer Box, seeing the quality of the items, and pricing them individually, I can say that the price is not excessive. Not only are the products priced under what you would pay for them individually, but the fact that your packages was designed with a specific intention to help you achieve a homesteading task is invaluable.

I really wanted to reiterate that I am impressed with the thought that went into selecting the items for this box. The selection was timely for the homesteading needs for our area. This fact alone will make the Homestead Box a great asset to new homesteaders especially. Having timely, and appropriate items arrive at their doorstep will help to keep them on track with what needs to be done at certain times of the year. With a subscription to The Homestead Box combined with our monthly homestead resolution list, a fledgling homestead can be kept on track through the year.

How to Order

If the Homestead Box sounds like it will fit the needs of your farm or homestead, you can sign up for the monthly service at The Homestead Box. Currently, the company offers two options for your monthly subscription. The Pioneer Box, is a larger box, and runs $99.99 a month. The Classic box, is slightly smaller, and is $49.99 a month.

Disclosure:

The Homestead Box gave me their Pioneer box to test, and review honestly. However, this does NOT affect my review in any way. As a military family, we know how important it is to not waste money on products that are sub par or will not fit into your homestead’s needs. Due to this, I would never recommend any item that I was not impressed with myself. My review of this, and any other products on my website is unbiased.

Caring Landlord or Slumlord, What Is YOUR Beekeeping Style?

I wanted to preface this article. This may make some people mad. This is not my intention. With the rise in the popularity of beekeeping, sloppy beekeeping, and cutting corners is becoming more common place than proper practices. I hope that this article will shed some light on the issue, and inspire people to evaluate their apiary to see if there are some adjustments that they can make to their beekeeping protocols.

You just moved to a new home! It seems great… at first.

Not long after you move in, you notice the roof leaks. The walls can’t help you maintain the temperature. Your family is not in an area where you can get food easily. You do not have water provided. There is a pest problem that goes unresolved. Your house is rotting, not painted, and patched together. You even have intruders that come in and rob your home. It wouldn’t be long before you would be looking to move right? In fact, you’d probably call your “landlord” a “slumlord”.
Obviously, bees aren’t humans, and they will not be reporting you for violating landlord tenant laws. However, they will vacate an unsuitable residence. As living creatures in our care, we have a duty, as their keepers, to provide for the needs of the animals in our charge. We have the choice to be slumlords, or proper landlords.

Hive Size


Lately, I have seen beginning beekeepers assured that they do not need to waste money on proper housing for their bees. What I mean by this, is that there are people stating that you can keep bees, in cardboard transport boxes, as their permanent home. Please don’t. Even the “wax coated” boxes are not meant to be permanent homes, but transport boxes. They are not able to regulate temperature as well as wood, overheat easily, and do not have adequate ventilation. Also, they are NOT impervious to water damage!
Additionally, people are rushing to put package bees, and small swarms into deep hive bodies instead of giving them time to adjust, and build up their numbers through a nuc. In theory, this is done to save money on equipment. However, that $16.00 nuc, is not worth your bees health! Putting bees into a hive body that is too large for them is setting them, and you, up for failure. At this stage, the bees do not have the numbers to protect the hive from pests and predators, or regulate the temperature.

Mismatched or Missing Frames

Having extra gaps in the hive allows for more open space that the bees need to protect. Additionally, having smaller frames in medium or deep supers means open air pockets. These air pockets will alter with the temperature of the hive. That air pocket will need special consideration by the bees as they work to maintain consistent temperature throughout the hive. This means that more effort has to be expended on the bee’s behalf. This is energy that could be spent doing other duties to help protect and grow your hive.

Also, improperly sized frames also mean that you are not allowing the bees the room they need to lay brood, or honey. The size difference between the two frames equals a lot of brood, or honey for winter stores that is lost.

Although frame sizes are an obvious discrepancy, some people often overlook other differences in foundation. For our personal hives, we run wax coated plastic foundation. We have found that the bees are consistent with it and it seems to be less attractive, or prone, to wax moths. However, bees can be picky about their foundation. That is why consistency, is key. If you mix in regular wired wax foundation with plastic foundation, this can cause issues with laying or comb building patterns.

Likewise, many foundation types offer varying cell sizes. Just like you need to stay consistent in your foundation type, you should also stay consistent with the cell sizes that you run.

Poor placement

 

Hard at work catching a swarm!

You wouldn’t want your home in a bad neighborhood. Neither do the bees. While a bad neighborhood to bees will differ from our ideas, the consequences can still be just as bad for them. Placing the bees in an area that is under a lot of trees and shade may seem like a good location at first. However, when you place your hives directly under trees, it makes it easier for pests and predators to gain access to the hives.
In particular, hive beetles seem to be more attracted to hives that are situated in this manner.

It is also advised to place your hives facing the southeast. This will allow for the bees to get the first bit of daylight and warmth. In many cases, this also keeps the hive’s entrance out of harsh wind patterns.

Another key piece of advice that people forget is to angle their hive slightly, so that the front entrance is slightly lower than the back of the hive. Doing this prevents rainwater, and even dew, from sliding in, and staying in the hive. This simple step can help prevent moisture and mold problems within your hives.

Not by a water source

Water, water everywhere? This is an important aspect for bees. Although we talk in depth about the importance of water for your apiary in some of our other aritcles, this vital aspect is worth mentioning again.

Bees just need a few things to be content. Food sources, water sources, proper shelter, and protection from predators and pests. Although that should seem like basic information, (honestly it is what all animals need to thrive and survive), we often overlook the importance of water!

We had one customer that purchased nucs from us. For the life of him, he could not figure out why his bees (purchased from others before he met us) kept always leaving! Understandably, he was frustrated. We went out to visit his apiary and quickly noticed that he was missing a major component. Water. After moving his hives out from being directly under trees, and providing a proper water source, he purchased bees from us. He is still to this day, happily, and successfully raising bees. This simple detail can truly make that much of a difference!
Additionally, if you do not provide water for your bees, they will seek it out anyway that they can. This is why we often get calls from frantic residents that the bees are taking over by their faucets, well heads, or water meters. Not only is providing water important to the health of your bees, but it is also important as a good neighbor. As beekeepers, we want to make sure that our actions, or lack thereof, does not cause problems, or reflect badly on other beekeepers.

Pests

“I don’t see pests in my hives, I am good and do not need to test or treat my bees.”
I am not going to lie, we said it too when we had just started beekeeping. We were wrong. Yes, we were the idiots that poopooed the advice of the multi-generational seasoned beekeeper that told us this. Take my advice here. What you think you know about pests, you truly don’t.
This is one more instance when bees are like larger livestock. You do not have to see worms in their manure to know that they still have parasites. Many people choose to treat preemptively (because they know that even through this method, they will STILL have some parasite load). Others choose to do fecal testing so that they can do targeted treatments when a parasite load gets to a certain level. Once you see those outward signs of a parasite infestation, you have a real problem.

It is the same thing with bees.

Some people treat on schedule. As long as the treatments are properly carried out, and at the proper times of year, there is not an issue with this. However, some beekeepers fall into the second group, testing and monitoring the parasite levels before taking action.
If you are dead set against treating your bees, it is even more important to take action to closely monitor your parasite levels. By this, I mean much more than a simple hive inspection. To do this, you will need to make proper boards to do mite drop tests, do sampling to check for mites, and even have your bees tested for nosema.
Often, people have a tendency to use “what will work” for their bees, not what they need. This can be due to lack of finances, lack of proper planning or even a lack of education on their bees. No matter the reason, this is a mindset that needs to be changed. Just as we would not imagine not providing for larger livestock, we need to ensure that we are caring for our apiary responsibly as well.


Learn the Basics of Catching A Swarm of Bees

Beekeeping in itself is an art. With that said, like other artists, we all have different techniques. The methods itself should not be put under a microscope, as long as it still results in the same beautiful painting. Similarly, every beekeeper has different methods to managing their apiary. Although the techniques may slightly differ, as long as your result is a healthy, thriving apiary, then you have created a masterpiece.

One of the strokes that the artful beekeeper must master is catching swarms. One thing that makes catching swarms difficult is that they can be in a variety of locations. From a fence post, tree, or inside a wall or water meter, this means that the beekeeper must learn to be thoughtful and precise when catching any swarm.

Keeping It Simple

Hard at work catching a swarm!

As with anything, people have a tendency to complicate simple matters. Gimmicks and products abound to help you catch swarms. From special vacuums to fancy baits, and more. While vacuums may be useful in extreme extractions, most swarms will not require them.

When bees swarm, they are looking for a suitable home. To keep them from leaving, or at least to offer them the best accommodations possible, we need to make sure that we provide the basics. Food, brood, and quality shelter.

The best thing for swarms, unless they are truly large, is to be put directly into a wooden nuc. Many people tend to cut corners and save money by putting them into cardboard nucs. This is not advisable! It automatically voids the specific housing requirements that the bees are looking for. Wooden nucs give the bees more control over their environment and are not susceptible to the elements like cardboard ones are.

From here, we will “rob” another of our strong hives of a frame or two of brood and honey. By placing these into the nuc, and replacing the empty frames with them, you are showing the bees that this is a suitable home that can sustain their needs.

With this said, do not rob a hive of honey or brood if it is not strong enough on its own! It is never advisable to risk losing TWO hives instead of one. A VERY IMPORTANT part of being a beekeeper is knowing when to, or when not, to push your hives!

The Basics of Catching A Swarm

Generally, without a hive to defend, swarms are extremely docile. General swarm presentation is in a “ball” with the queen protected at the center. The key to successfully catching a swarm is capturing the queen.

When a swarm presents in the typical ball form on a limb or fence, you can often gently “shake” the ball of bees off into the nuc. They often fall into the nuc in one big clump. This is the easiest method and usually results in getting the queen. From here, we cover the box, and then leave it at the location (if possible) for a while. If the queen is inside, the other bees will march into the box. Once most of the bees are in, you can cap off the nuc, and then transport it to your apiary.

If the swarm is in a location that does not lend itself to shaking the bees into the box, or if they’re not in the typical ball, there are a couple of options. The first, and easiest option is to simply scoop up the bees and place them in the box. Of course, be sure to use your beekeeping gloves! With calm, steady hands, even some more aggressive bees can usually be easily, and quietly transferred in this manner.

The second method for really difficult removals is to place the nuc in front of the swarm. If the nuc has the scent of a hive, brood, and honey, it won’t take long for the bees to begin investigating. If they find it suitable, they will move into the nuc. Although this method is not guaranteed, it does have a good success rate. However, the possibility is there for the swarm to simply move on.

Again, beekeeping is an art. As such, we all develop our own techniques and methods. With that said, the biggest mistake that we see made by new beekeepers is not properly preparing the nuc for the bees. As the “landlords” for our bees, we need to make sure that we are not “slum lords” and offer the bees the safest, and best accommodations possible.


Poultry and Zoning

Does your town not allow backyard poultry? Here is what you can do to be an agent of change!

Backyard flocks are becoming more and more popular. However, with their popularity, many people are finding themselves at odds with zoning laws and homeowner association restrictions. To those that know all of the benefits of keeping poultry, this can be a major disappointment. Despite current regulations, there are ways that you can work to affect the changes in the zoning laws for your area. Poultry and other livestock are often viewed as a nuisance in our suburban society. We have traded our self-reliance for “progress”. Once these progressive changes have been made, they are often hard, but not impossible, to overturn.

Taking The First Step

Sometimes the first step can be the hardest. This is often the case when someone is seeking to change zoning restrictions or ordnances. Finding the proper person to contact to begin the process is crucial. Do not be discouraged if you get the run around! Sometimes this may be intentional, but often it is due to many people simply not knowing the process themselves. Even if you are getting referred to numerous offices, remember that a good attitude will encourage others to want to help your cause. Losing your temper or venting frustrations will not do anything to help your endeavors succeed.

When starting out to try and affect change, the first step is to have full knowledge of what exactly needs to be changed. This will also help you get in contact with the correct people. In some cases, zoning laws do not prohibit a backyard flock yet a homeowner’s association has rules against it. In cases like this, it would be pointless to try and change these through your local government officials.


The first step in changing a homeowner’s association (HOA) ruling is to contact the governing board for the association. Generally, you will need to request a meeting. When requesting a meeting, be sure to have all materials prepared ahead of time. Sometimes a HOA will require a petition while others may only require you to convince the governing board. Either way, go into the meeting fully armed with all needed information. If similar areas in your county have HOA that allow poultry, it will not hurt to bring a copy of their ordinances, or even a member that lives in that community to speak to the board.

If the situation requires changing to official zoning, there are usually a couple of options for you to pursue. The easiest option for this is often to request a variance. A variance is a clause that would allow you to use the land in a way that is not generally permitted by current zoning restrictions. To get this, you need to approach the zoning board in your county. They will then provide you with the proper steps. Generally, you will need to provide a detailed listing of your needs. In the case of a backyard flock, it would be a good idea to have housing plans for your flock, and a number of birds requested. With variance requests, these generally require signatures from the immediate neighbors stating that they will not be bothered by your request.

Go Grassroots

Jeffers Pet 160x600Changing the actual zoning for your area is a harder and longer process. Zoning laws are generally established by the developer for the area and approved by county commissioners after passing the zoning department. There are a couple of different options when it comes to trying to change a zoning ordinance. Often in these cases, majority rules. Commonly, one of the first steps will be to get a petition signed by your neighbors. In most neighborhoods, officials generally want signatures from approximately 25% of the residents. Depending on the size of your area, this may be a hard thing to accomplish. However, there are options! Through doing this, you show that the current zoning laws do not fit the desire of the community. This alone may give you a strong case that cannot be denied.

When it comes to petitions, visibility is key. Placing petitions in relevant public places will give your efforts a major boost! Not only will this get the needed signatures, but this will also help spread awareness for your cause. Feed stores are generally very receptive to allowing petitions for matters like this to be placed at their locations. Not only will this help you to reach your targeted audience, but this will in turn help out the feed store by boosting their sales if the zoning changes are passed.

It is not uncommon for other people to get involved once they hear that a movement is underway! Generally, this is due to people not knowing where to start, not that they want to ride the coattails of your work. This is also where knowing your community really comes into play. If you have other people to work with, this will divide your work and show that you have support for your request.

Another option may not be applicable for all parties. This option involves an actual challenge to the zoning laws, essentially citing them as unfair. This is often done if the zoning was pushed through without ample time or notice given to the public to react to the proposed changes. In cases like this, zoning can be challenged out of fairness to all parties. However, be prepared for developers to possibly try and combat these challenges if there is any chance that it will negatively impact their future development plans. This is not a method to be taken lightly, and without proper research, documentation and community support.

Hurry Up and Wait

After you have done all of the work, the hardest part of the process is generally the wait. Regulations are not changed overnight. Often, data needs to be analyzed, sources verified and meetings completed. While you should remain in contact with the officials through the entire process, there is a fine line between being available and bothering.  A good position to take at this point is to ensure that you are at any meetings, and that everything is progressing to the next step.

If there is a delay or hold up at a certain point, then step in and try and get things back on track. By helping to facilitate change in this manner, you will be seen as an asset to your community not, a bully trying to force your will. Fair or not, often it is the way that you present yourself that can be the deciding factor in your results.

The wheels of progress may turn too slow for our likings occasionally. Due to this, it may be tempting to just go ahead and sneak in that extra hen, or the one rooster. While this may not be a big deal, it can cause problems in the end. Whenever you are the person that is leading a charge for change, there will be more focus on you than normal. If choosing to stand as the leader of a movement like this, you need to be a good example of the poultry world. Always remember to show that that you are a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. This will go far with establishing credibility.

Sometimes there is a tendency to wait on others to change things for us. Often times, this does not happen or work out in our favors. Occasionally, we have to stand up and be the agents of change. When it comes to agriculture and livestock, there are so many misnomers. When homesteaders stand together united, and support their stance with facts, clarity and character, we can usher in the changes that will preserve our way of life for future generations.


Learn The Qualities of a Successful Homesteader

Homesteading success doesn’t just happen by chance. A successful homestead requires a combination of personal attributes.

When it comes to farming and homesteading, we often tend to take things for granted. If we have a problem, we can just go to the store, or search online to find the answer in moments. While this is a tremendous advantage, one has to wonder if all of the advances have pushed us forward in one aspect, while letting us lose touch with the true personal attributes of a homesteader.

We live in a world of modern conveniences. This begs the question, “why would anyone want to do all of that work to homestead?” After all, we can simply go to the store to get our food, clothing and any supplies that we can dream of. In the rare instance where we want something that we cannot drive to get, we can simply order it online with one click. With all of this at our fingertips, it takes a pioneering spirit to break the mold of modern society and choose the life of a homesteader. It does not matter how large, or small, your farm is, a pioneering spirit is an essential aspect of any successful homestead.


A successful homesteader is made through the combination of many attributes. Sadly, many of these personal attributes or qualities are being lost through time. However, we can learn many lessons by examining the homesteaders of the past. What made them successful? Clearly, they lacked the modern machines and conveniences that we take for granted now a days. How did they do it? Often, there is a tendency to simply study their land layouts and farming practices without looking at the personality traits, and values that made them so successful.

Planning

In our modern time, we tend to take things for granted. As a society, we have gotten used to instant gratification. If we decide we want something, we go for it, and we want it right away. While the excitement and fire for homesteading is something to embrace, you have to make sure that you begin your homestead ventures out on the right foot. All too often people jump into farming or homesteading with grand ideas and no plans or concrete direction. This often leads to failure, and ultimately to resentment of this lifestyle. It was not long ago that your family, and even community, relied on the success of your farm or homestead. During these times, if you failed to plan and your homestead failed, your family failed to eat. Due to the life and death nature of a farm’s ability to produce, proper planning was vital and not to be skipped over.

Also during these times, many people, including homesteaders kept journals. These journals contained knowledge that was given to them by others, as well as success and failures of their own. This is a good idea to follow. These journals would not only help you repeat success, and avoid more mistakes, but could be passed down to the next generation. Everything relevant, no matter how small, was noted in these journals. Everything from planting varieties, dates times, weather, to crop success or failure. No matter how seemingly insignificant the information, it was all included and learned from and then ultimately passed on.

Community outreach is a vital aspect of agriculture. Whether you are the one sharing your knowledge, or gleaning information, a community is what keeps agriculture alive.

Community

While the internet has allowed us to connect with people all over the world, it also seems to have made us grow further from those that are the closest to us. We tend to embrace those long distance people that we cannot have a real relationship with and neglect the ones next door. Do you even know your neighbor’s name? When homesteading was a way of life, there was a strong sense of community. For the most part, gone are the days of barn raisings, families helping out during planting and harvest seasons, and even families getting together to help watch and care for children!

Our attitudes have shifted from, “how can we solve this together?”, to “how will this benefit me?” While our attitudes may have strayed from deep community roots, it does not have to remain this way. The shift will need to start somewhere and there is no better place for it to start then at your own homestead. Next time you hear someone in need of help, be it with fencing, harvesting, or even branding, ask how you can help. Maybe you are not skilled in that area of homesteading, but that does not mean that you cannot offer your services in other ways. During harvest and planting season, a hearty meal is always appreciated! Small acts like this make huge impacts.

 

Respect for elders

 

Back during the generations before, there were no articles, readily accessible colleges, blogs or any of the other resources that we take for granted. In order to survive, you had to listen to the wisdom that was passed down through the generations and from your elders. Those with years of wisdom that surpassed your own were to be regarded and respected, not tuned out with television or ear phones. Oftentimes, the ability to heed the words from the elders made the difference between the success or failure of your homestead.

We may jest about our elders starting their stories with, “back in my day”, yet this is exactly the information that we need to embrace. Respect for our elders does not just stop by learning from their stories. Care of elders is another key aspect of building and knowing your community. By taking the time to assist the community elders, you not only give back, but have the opportunity to grow in your own knowledge and skillset as well.

Respect for food

 

The mindset of waste not, want not has become all but lost on the modern disposable society. Whether it is an item of food, clothing, or used farm equipment, we have become a society that would rather replace then repair.

Excess food was not simply allowed to waste in a refrigerator or be discarded in the trashcan. Excess food was canned, smoked, or preserved in a variety of methods. Not only will this save you money on your grocery bill and time in the garden, but it will eventually carry over to other aspects of your daily life. When you start looking for ways to preserve things, you will put more time, effort and care into what you already have.

Have a skill or trade

Another aspect of life in days gone by was the understanding that everyone needed to have some type of skill or trade. Truly, it is impossible to know and perfect all aspects of farming, homesteading and providing for a family. That is why the community rallied together and combined their unique specialized, and often passed down, trades and skills. Today, this is sadly no longer the norm. Perhaps this is due to the removal of shop classes from schools, or the rise in the idea that trades are too “blue collar” for today’s “aspiring” youth but regardless, it is vital to escape this mindset. Knowing skills and trades, even to a small extent, is vital for a successful homesteading venture. If you have livestock, you will need to have at minimum a basic understanding of carpentry. For the farmers using implements and equipment, mechanical skills are vital. Even the homemakers have skills that must be learned to keep the homestead running. From how to sew, to how to process game and livestock to cooking from scratch and with whole ingredients. All of these things were once common knowledge and simply passed through the generations. These trades and skills are nothing negative, gender specific or demeaning, they are a step towards self-reliance and the success of your family’s homestead.

Understanding of nature.

As we have gotten more in touch with technology, we have lost our connection to the natural world. Signs and behaviors from animals were often used by early homesteaders to influence their land management decisions. This could be something as simple as watching the behavior of birds and bugs to anticipate weather. Homesteaders in the days past sought this connection with the land and they achieved it. It was through time invested outside, and keen observations that they are able to discern these patterns and use them to their advantage. Often times these “old wives tales” are dismissed in our modern era of science. However, when you take a scientific look at many of them, there are legitimate reasons for the behavior of these plants and animals. Modern homesteaders need to embrace these forgotten signs, and use them to benefit their farm.

Value of others

During times like the Great Depression, everything was scarce except the will to succeed and provide. With so many things being hard to find, money was no exception. Times like this are when the barter system truly shined. Now a day we have a tendency to see value in only money, but not in the skills, time and deals that can be worked out with others. No matter how hard we may try, a homesteader will never be able to master all skills. This is where the sense of community and knowing your neighbors really comes into play. By knowing people, and what they excel at, you can implement a barter system that will be of benefit to all.

While the physical act of homesteading may be kept alive through your actions, we all have to work to keep the innovative, caring, and strong homesteading spirit alive as well. Homesteading and farming is far more than a physical act of growing things, it is a community, a mind set and a way of life that should be preserved. We can learn information from the internet, but we cannot learn the value of the ways of days gone by. The best lessons come directly from the people that we have a tendency to overlook. We all have much to learn, and not much time left to embrace these inspiring homestead pioneers. It is time to take the initiative and glean all that we can before all we have left is their old writings and nostalgia.

 

 


Top Ten Family Destinations For Cannon Air Force Base!

Like any base, your experience at Cannon will be what you make of it. As a military family, you have two choices, you can sit at home and complain about the area, or you can get out and take advantage of the rich Southwestern culture that surrounds you!
1. Palo Duro Canyon:
For proximity to Cannon Air Force Base, combined with outdoor adventure, you cannot beat Palo Duro Canyon in Texas!

Personally, Palo Duro is a favorite place of our family. You can read more about our first Palo Duro camping adventure.


2. Valley of Fire:

36 miles outside of Ruidoso, the Valley of Fire offers visitors a unique glimpse into the tumultuous geographical history of New Mexico! Camp right on sandstone cliffs that overlook old fields of lava flow areas! This is an area packed with geological marvels, wildlife, and fantastic stargazing!

3. Carlsbad Caverns:

With 119 caverns, there is no shortage of things to explore at the Carlsbad Caverns! This is a unique, family friendly, destination that offers fun, and educational opportunities. Carlsbad Caverns offers Ranger guided tours. For the more adventurous spelunkers, you can choose to participate in self guided tours.

Carlsbad Cavern also offers the free bat flight program and guided night sky tours as well!

4. Gila Cliff Dwellings:

For thousands of years, nomadic people used the Gila Cliff Dwellings as shelter. These dwellings provided a safe sanctuary for those that lived off of the scenic, and productive Gila river. The Cliff Dwellings are not only beautiful, and an amazing part of New Mexico’s history, but are unique in the fact that you can actually climb up to, and tour them!

This area offers endless hiking opportunities, fly fishing in the Gila river, Horseback riding, camping areas, and even corrals!

5. Caprock:
Want to see the west as it was? Do you dream of showing your family a place where the bison still roam? Caprock is a short, and easy drive from the base. At Carprock, numerous camping and hiking opportunities abound.

If fishing or geocaching is more your speed, this park also offers this!

6. Petroglyphs National Monument:

How many places offer hiking through a landscape that was decorated by Native Americans and early Spanish settlers? Not only is this an amazingly beautiful and unique area, but it is awe inspiring. Few places offer you the opportunity to truly immense yourself in history and culture the way that Petroglyphs National Monument does!

This is a great place to take your family! Your kids imagination and curiosity will run wild!

7. Ruidoso:
If you enjoy skiing, camping, hiking, mountain views, wildlife watching, horse racing or shopping, Ruidoso is the place for you. Less than three hours away from the base, this is a great place to catch up on some R&R and recharge!

8. Oasis State Park:

This one is right up the road! Oasis state park may not be a huge park or a major destination attraction, but it is a great place to get your family outside. Since it is so close to base, this is a place that you can enjoy, even during the work week!
This park often hosts youth fishing tournaments, campouts and other educational programs. It is also near Blackwater Draw, an archeological site that is also well worth the visit!
9. Fort Sumner:

Fort Sumner’s main attraction is its large lake. This lake is a fishing hotspot! From bass, crappie, channel catfish, and walleye, fisherman won’t be disappointed! If fishing is not your style, camping, and hiking abound here as well!

While you’re in Fort Sumner, be sure to check out the rich history! You also don’t want to miss checking out the Billy the Kid Museum!
10. Grand Canyon:
The Grand Canyon truly needs no introduction! This one is a bit further than the rest but TOTALLY worth the drive! The Grand Canyon is an amazing place. Opportunities abound on different ways to explore this vast area. There are numerous hiking trails, camping areas, cabins for rent, Jeep tours, and even mule rides through the canyon!
Some trails and areas can be closed or booked, due to time of year of number of guests, so be sure to spend some time planning before you head out.

BONUS…

The hardest part about creating this list was choosing only ten places! There is so much to do in, or near, Cannon Air Force Base, that it is truly hard to limit my recommendations! Even still, I felt that this great park needed to be mentioned, even if it didn’t fit into my “top ten” listing!

Bottomless Lakes State Park:

This is a great day trip (or longer if you want to camp!). These lakes are amazing, and you’d be hard pressed to beat the scenery. The amount of birds in the area is amazing, and its a great birding destination! The camping areas are well maintained, and hiking abounds. For those that want to stay closer to a large city, the park is only a short drive outside of Roswell!

Honestly, you are doing yourself and your family a great disservice if you do not get out and enjoy all that Cannon Air Force Base has to offer! Very few bases offer so many amazing destinations within such close proximity. Cannon is truly a base for the outdoor enthusiasts, adventurous, homeschoolers, and anyone that has an appreciation for nature!

Do yourself a favor, before you complain about your orders to Cannon, take time to count your blessings. How many can say that they have the amazing opportunities that we do living in this area? We have a unique opportunity to experience, and let our children experience, some of our nation’s marvels. This is America, this is what we protect through our military service or our support as a military family.


Why Your Child Needs To Become A Beekeeper

It is no secret that I am a staunch supporter of youth involvement in agriculture. Whether it is on their own, mentored, or through programs like 4-H and FFA, the benefits to you child are undeniable. When we think of getting our children involved in the wide world of agriculture, we often think of larger animals or the horticultural aspect. While the benefits from these aspects should never be downplayed, I want to present another aspect of agriculture that many people never consider for their children.

Beekeeping.

Yikes! That sounds scary! Although as parents we tend to think in worst case scenarios, beekeeping is not as dangerous as it sounds at first. When we think about it, every animal that a child is around could potentially harm them. The point is, we cannot let our own fears, or misunderstanding hold back our children from gaining knowledge and life lessons.

But, why bees?

I will admit, you do not see many young beekeepers so the thought is pretty foreign to many of us. While we have adjusted to seeing children with dogs, or horses, bees, well that’s just not normal.
When we initially purchased our bees, we watched my son’s fascination with them grow. We too didn’t think of him as a beekeeper or this as a potential point of interest for him.
It wasn’t long before I found him glued to the window or sneaking outside to watch his Dad work the hives. One day, he grabbed our extra beekeeping veil and disappeared into his room with it. A few short minutes later, he came back out with a heavy hoodie to protect his chest, jeans (complete with bandanas tied around the worn holes in his knees to keep out the bees) and the veil. When we saw his homemade “beesuit” we knew that he had the “bug”.
When he debuted his homemade suit to my husband, he was called over to learn and watch.
The seed was planted and his admiration for the bees was set.

Beekeeping is Therapeutic


Even adults quickly learn that you have to control your emotions when working bees. Bees have a way to literally force you to calm down. It does not matter if you have had a bad day, or if you are upset with someone, your emotions need to be checked before you can work with your hives.
Bees sense that agitation, and return it. Children quickly pick up on this and learn methods to calm themselves before they work the bees. Also, focusing on the mood and the behavior of the bees is a great way to distract you from your own bad moods!

Teaching kids to slow down

Beekeeping as rewarding and profitable. However, you have to make sure that you provide for all of your bee’s needs.

You can learn the basics of beekeeping from any good book. However, there is no substitute for experience. With so much to look for each time you crack open a hive, your child quickly learns to slow down and make detailed observations.
From searching through thousands of bees for the elusive Queen to closely examining the hive and bees for parasites, beekeeping teaches the true value of observation.

You can’t show bees

When it comes to choosing an animal to do a project on for 4-H or FFA, bees usually are not the top choice. After all, you can’t lead your bees around a show ring in a halter. However, that does not mean that your child is left out of the chance to win. Most fairs have different competitions that focus on different aspect of agriculture and handicrafts. Due to this, many have contests for honey! Honey is judged on many factors, from color, clarity, lack of bubbles or crystallization to taste. There is a lot more to judging honey than you would think!
The handicrafts are another great way to showcase the skills that your child learned through keeping bees. Numerous items can be made from the wax collected from the hive. Also, this is a great chance to learn wood working skills as you can make your own beehive and equipment! They can even sew a beesuit!
Another way that your child can benefit from bees through programs like 4-H and FFA is to keep record books of their apiary. These books can be turned in at the end of the year and are judged.

Finances

Hard at work catching a swarm!

In less than a year, my son went from his homemade beesuit to being able to work the hives on his own and even catch swarms. Since many swarms happened while my husband was at work, my son got the luxury of being able to catch them himself. (This was no big deal since we homeschooled. We would simply just adjust the day around the bees when needed).
The rule on our home was, “whoever catches the swarm keeps it”. Through this, he was able to get a great start to his own apiary that would be profitable for him in the future.
We are friends with a dear family, actually the ones that taught us beekeeping. Their son began beekeeping at a young age too. He is now one of the top beekeepers in our area, and many older and experienced beekeepers turn to him for advice.
What is even better is the market that he has created. Through selling bees and honey, he was able to pay for his college education, purchase a vehicle, and cover gas and insurance on his own.
Beekeeping can be a very profitable endeavor for your child. It is a great, hands on, real life way to teach your child money and business management. From the aspect of purchases, sales, and even marketing, beekeeping can provide a well-rounded course in finances.

I’m in, now what?

Getting started with beekeeping can be overwhelming for an adult, much less a child. The best thing is to talk to your child and make sure that they are on board. If they want to begin learning, the best idea is to locate a mentor.
In general, most beekeepers are happy to share their information. Finding a mentor will allow your child to get hands on experience with a hive, learn what to look for, and signs of common problems. Learning this is a good idea before they get their own hive(s) that they have to be solely responsible for.
To find a local beekeeper, the best option is to contact your local extension office. The extension agent should be able to provide the names of local, reputable and experienced beekeepers.
When choosing a mentor, make sure that they have been keeping bees for several years. There is a steep learning curve to successful beekeeping, and you do not want an inexperienced beekeeper that will teach your child bad habits with apiary care. After all, it is easier to learn something correctly the first time, than to try and relearn what has become a habit.
Beekeeping is rewarding for anyone. It is a shame that we rarely think of it as something to teach our children. It is time that we break down the barrier of what is accepted as “normal” activities for our children and start pushing them for more. It is amazing the huge lessons that can come from such little creatures. Do not deny your child the experience, and the opportunity to get involved with the art, science and skill of keeping bees.

The Beginner’s Guide to Assembling Your First Bee Hive!

Congratulations! You have finally decided to get bees and start your apiary! For a new beekeeper, this is an exciting, and also nerve-wracking time. With so many differing techniques and opinions, it can be overwhelming.
Getting started in beekeeping is not a cheap endeavor. It doesn’t take long for the equipment and bees to add up. Our article highlights some of the expenses that a new beekeeper faces to give you an idea of what to expect when you’re first starting out.
One of the ways that beekeepers save money is to purchase unassembled hive bodies, and supers. This offers beekeepers a chance to save on start up in exchange for a light elbow grease. However, this also leads to some questions on proper assembly methods.

Proper assembly

I like backup plans. Perhaps it is because I worry too much, but when it comes to hive assembly, I want to make sure that it is done right. When assembling all parts of the hive, from frames to supers and hive bodies, I use both nails AND wood glue!
You have to keep in mind that these parts are going to be responsible for carrying a heavy load. Even a full frame of honey weighs several pounds! Due to this, I never skimp on assembly.
When assembling the pieces, ever joint gets not only nails, but wood glue. This reinforcement gives me piece of mind, and it has saved us from problems before.
The cost of quality nails and a small bottle of wood glue, is a worthy investment when it comes to protecting your bees and your equipment.

Choosing Wood


Most hives that you order are made from pine. Generally speaking, pine is a fast-growing wood that is cheap and readily available. Many companies will also have varying “qualities” of pine products that you can order. The higher priced premium hives are generally free of large knots and defects. On the other hand, the “commercial” line usually have larger knots and may not be premium boards. In most cases, commercial hives are still perfectly fine to use, especially when protected.


Aside from pine, hives often come in cypress and cedar. Cypress hives are our personal favorite here on our farm. Cypress, while more expensive than pine, is a harder wood, generally more free of knots and weak points, and tends to hold up better in the long run. Even then, cypress hives still need the protection of paint.
The top of the line option for your hive is cedar. Generally speaking, cedar hives do not require painting. However, cedar hives are more expensive than the typical commercial hives made of pine and cypress. Due to the added cost, we have never personally used or tested cedar hives on our farm. Some people claim that the smell from the cedar hives are a deterrent for common hive pests. If you plan to just run a couple of garden hives, and can spend a bit more for startup, cedar hives may be a good route to explore.

Painting

In a majority of cases, you will need to paint your hive, supers, top board and bottom boards to protect your equipment and investment. This step will help to protect your equipment from the elements. In a hot and humid location, it is amazing what the weather can do to a hive that is not properly cared for!
When purchasing your paint, be sure to get outdoor or exterior paint! Interior paint is not able to withstand the elements as well.

What Do I Paint?

One of the most commonly asked questions from new beekeepers is what parts of their hive to put the protective paint on. Simply put, you will only need to paint the parts of the hive that will be exposed to the elements, not the inside!

Paint Color

White is boring. With the rise of many urban beekeepers, many people are wanting their hives to look more like a work of art than a typical commercial hive. Generally, this is OK. However, there are a couple of reasons why hives are generally painted white.
White is cooler in hotter climates. The reflecting power of white is pretty much undisputed. Beehives get hot on the inside. With so many busy bees along with being in the sun, it is no surprise that the temperature can rise quickly. With that said, beehives also need to have their temperature regulated. Bees will cool down their hives if the temperature gets too hot. Bees that are cooling a hive, are not bees that are collecting pollen or making honey. As a beekeeper, part of our job is to make life as simple and easy for bees as possible.
In cases of extremely high temperature, you may see your bees demonstrating “bearding behavior”. Bearding is when your bees pile on top of each other outside of the hive entrance. The effect literally looks as if your hive has a beard! This is a sign that your bees are too hot. When this happens, you can temporarily crack the top of the hive to let some hot air escape and to cause a cooling effect.
With that being said, it is OK to get creative with your hive colors. Just make sure that you keep the colors light and climate and temperature friendly!

Mom tip: Let your kids have fun with this! We often forget that we need to encourage kids to participate in all areas of agriculture. Turn your kids loose with a paint brush and some paint. Let them slap on some artwork! Pretty flowers, busy bees, heck even their name. Their doodles won’t make enough of a difference in the temperature. Let them be artists!
I do have to warn you, beekeeping is addictive. It is an amazing thing to be able to care for the bees. As a beginner, these tips will help you get off to a good start with your hives.

 
I do have to warn you, beekeeping is addictive. It is an amazing thing to be able to care for the bees. As a beginner, these tips will help you get off to a good start with your hives!

Why I Stopped Homeschooling My Son

The two biggest decision that a homeschooling parent will make is when to start homeschooling, and ultimately, when to stop. For some families, the decision to stop only comes after graduation. However, that’s not always the case in every family. If I stop homeschooling my child before graduation, doesn’t that mean I failed?

Not necessarily.

When I started our homeschooling journey, it was not particularly received well by my family. I was even asked when I would stop “playing around” and send him to a real school. That hurt. Almost everyone in my family was a teacher in the public-school system. Although teaching is seemingly “in my blood”, taking up homeschooling seemed to be a slap in the face to them as it was “against” the establishment that they had dedicated their lives to.


I had always been seen as a bit of a “rebel” within my family, and this was viewed as a mixture of rebelling against the family’s profession and having to challenge the social norm. In reality, it was nothing of the sort. My family consists of the rare jewels of teachers, the ones that cared, the ones that embraced every child that passed through their doors, and took their education to heart. Sadly, not every teacher has this same passion. In our case, my son had a bad experience with a teacher who lacked the desire to truly embrace her job. It caused a problem that needed to be healed through homeschool.

And it was. For a time.

While our homeschool relationship was not always rainbows and unicorns, as the years progressed, things changed. I came upon the realization that this was no longer the best route for my son. As embarrassing as it is to say, when this realization struck, my first thought was “great, now my family will think that *I* failed.” The hard truth had finally emerged, I was flailing, but holding onto homeschool for me, not for him.

As cliché as it sounds, to everything there is a season.

Every day became an argument. He did not want to do his work, I got to where I resented dealing with it at all. In fact, he spent more time trying to get out of his work, or finding short cuts, than it would have taken to just do it. My children are nothing if not persistent (they must have gotten that from their father…). The constant head butting was causing resentment, and stifling his growth. The rebellion transferred to other areas of our life. Something needed to change.

To be clear, this was not a case of me failing to adapt to his personality and needs. I had tried it all. I spent tons of money on new curriculum that I thought would “fix” the problems we were having. Usually, this would fix things, for a few weeks. Once the familiarity set in, the same habits and troubles once again immerged. This was not a reflection of the curriculum, but of the entire dynamic. Yes, he was passing his grades, but that was not an accurate reflection.

I gave up.

But did I? Did I truly give up or did I grow up? Did I mature in my realization that this was not what was best in this particular situation? I believe I did. I am not going to lie, it felt like failure. It hurt. Badly.

As much as I would relish the ability to enroll my son in private school, it was unfortunately not financially in the cards. At the same time, I knew that just dumping him into public school, in middle school, would result in serious shock and failure. Even if I felt like a failure, I did not want to set him up for something similar. In the end, we chose to do a “hybrid” school. In our state, we are offered the option of enrolling in public school, but online. Through this, he will have teachers, tutors, and appropriate curriculum. For us, it was a good mix. This forced him to be solely responsible for his own actions.

No longer could he make it my problem. Maybe it is tough love, but sometimes you have to force them to take responsibility for themselves. By eliminating the wild card, myself, from the schooling dynamic, he lost the opportunity to place the blame where it did not belong- on me. There was no more guilt carried by me, just the knowledge that I had to instill in him responsibility, even if it hurt my own pride and ideals. I could just imagine the future failures that would be instore for my child if I did not get this instilled in him now. You are responsible for your own choices in life. Too many people these days already cannot grasp that concept, I was not going to have my child add to this generation of snowflakes and participation prizes.

A Fresh Start

An amazing thing happened, the entire dynamic of our relationship changed. I went from teacher, principal, and “mean Mom”, all roles of authority and “discipline” back to being just “Mom”. I was no longer the one that handed out all of the awful work, but the savior that could come in and help if requested. Once again, I was the one that took him riding, to 4-H, or did other things. I was able to take a step back and restructure and rebuild our entire relationship. It didn’t happen overnight, and don’t kid yourself, he is still a hardheaded preteen and full of attitude.

Let me say that homeschool is an amazing thing. I truly believe that! However, every child is different and every family has a differing dynamic to their relationships. I am still homeschooling my other children. I do not regret the choice to homeschool ANY of my children. It has not only forced me to grow, but my children also. I also now know that I have the strength to do whatever I need for the best interest of my children, even if it hurts. No matter what people may erroneously think, or what doubt you let creep up, it often takes more strength to choose change if it is what is best for your child.