The Buffet of Life

Grandma and Poppy have been with us for several weeks.  They arrived to escape Hurricane Irma and decided to stay until Brett and Mason’s engagement party since it didn’t make sense to drive back to Florida just to turn right around again a few days later.

Poppy took the whole family out to China Garden Buffet last night because he tries to make my life easier and taking care of dinner is a great way to do that! (Thanks, Poppy!)

We always go to the same Chinese Buffet place near our old home in Charlestown.  It’s our favorite Chinese place and the owner knows us and takes good care of us.   When she sees us coming, the first thing she does is head back to the kitchen and tell them to bring out more chicken and brocolli and General Tso’s chicken.

General Tso's Chicken

The children, of course, empty both of those trays of whatever they have and make a sizable dent in many of the other offerings including the ice cream.  I don’t let my children (as a general rule) drink soda, but years ago Jim started the tradition where we all make vanilla ice cream and root beer floats.

As I was sitting with my root beer float (Hewitt accidentally put strawberry ice cream in and it tasted very strange!) and chatting with Poppy, I started to think about how life is like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  It can be very satisfying or it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable.

So I decided to share some lessons taken from the Chinese buffet and applied to life.

Limit your choices.  On any given day, we have a seemingly unlimited amount of choices to make because we have access to opportunities that were unheard of a generation ago.  While choices are good, they can be overwhelming because they require us to make decisions.  One mistake I see a lot of people (including myself at times) making is to say “yes” to too many opportunities.  It is so important to learn to say “No” and limiting your choices is a great way to start.

Set expectations.  At the Chinese buffet, my children know they have to eat a certain amount of broccoli (or other vegetables) and protein before they can choose some of the fried foods and desserts.  That’s why we always empty the chicken and broccoli dish – because that is the children’s favorite vegetable dish.   They also know how much “real food” they have to eat before they can finish with their root beer float.  By having some boundaries, it makes the experience truly enjoyable.

Try something new.  I always encourage the children to try something new – whether it’s a new dish at the buffet or a new way of doing something or a new event.  We should never stop learning and part of that is always being willing to try something new.  Experimentation often proves that what we’ve always eaten or the way we’ve always done something is the best.  But every once in a while you’ll find something new that improves your life.  Never be so set in your routine that you aren’t open to new experiences.

Choose wisely.  How often do you go out to eat and say you are going to choose something healthy only to end up with something that tastes super good but you know is not a healthy choice.  While I believe that’s ok to do once in a while, it’s not a great life time habit.  Everything you choose to eat at the buffet leaves less room for something else. (Remember opportunity cost?) Choose wisely when you consider what to put on your plate in your life.

Don’t take too much.  If you ask people today how they are doing, many people will respond, “I’m busy.”  Just as we’re tempted to eat too much food at an all-you-can-eat buffet (because we paid for it), we’re tempted to do too much in our lives.  There is value in just doing nothing.  By not filling your plate with tasks you have to accomplish or places you have to be, you are leaving room for the spontaneous moments of life with your loved ones that are often the most precious and memorable.

Know when to stop.  Jim will often laugh at me because I literally leave the last one or two bites of food on my plate.  He thinks it’s silly that I don’t finish it since I’m so close, but I know that last literal bite will push me from feeling “pleasantly satisfied” to “uncomfortably full”.  So I stop.  We also need to do this on our lives.  We need to know when that one more little thing is too much.  For example, I like to clean up the kitchen before bed.  Usually this is pretty easy and quick, but often sometimes there is a big mess.  I’ve learned that if I do too much at night, I don’t get enough sleep and it throws off my next day.  So instead of cleaning it up the way I want, I just tidy it up so it is ready to be cleaned the next day.


Like everything else I talk about, it’s all about finding what works for you.  There are times you need to learn to say no and there are times you need to learn to say yes.  It’s not always easy to understand the difference.  A lot of it comes from wisdom that you gain over time.  That’s one of the reasons I take my parenting so seriously.  My children don’t have any wisdom when they are young.  I not only need to teach them to listen to my wisdom, but I also need to teach them to want to listen to my wisdom. (But that’s a topic for another post!)

What about you?  Got any other ideas how life is like a buffet??






Your Child’s Future

Have you ever heard (or said yourself) the words, “I want my child’s future to be full of possibilities.”  I understand the intent behind those words, but I’m not so sure I agree with them.

As a homeschooling Mom, I kinda think it’s my job to limit my child’s future possibilities.  For example, Brett is barely 5 feet tall.  I’m sorry to tell her, but she’s never going to be a woman’s basketball professional athlete.  That possibility really isn’t open to her.   And while she’s good at math, she doesn’t really enjoy it.  Working as a NASA scientist is probably not a good career choice either.

The more I learn about my children and study them, the more I see possible career paths that are good choices and ones that are bad choices.  The more I can narrow down the possibilities for them, the less overwhelming the “what do I want to be when I grow up” question becomes.

Another example – Hewitt for the past few years has said he wants to be a fighter pilot.  My brother was a pilot in the air force and I know just a little bit about what that requires.  While Hewitt doesn’t have asthma, he was hospitalized with double pneumonia when he was three, and when he gets sick, it tends to settle in his chest.  I will also catch him wheezing once or twice during cross-country season.  In talking with some people, this would probably wipe out his chances of being accepted as a fighter pilot since they need to be perfectly healthy.

F-16 at Scott AFB Air Show

So do I encourage Hewitt in his desire to fly fighter jets?  Nope.  Do I discourage it?  Not actively.  Do I encourage him in other directions?  Yes, definitely.

I personally believe that no parent or adult should determine what a child should do as a job/career for the rest of their lives.  But I believe children and teenagers need a lot more active direction than they are currently receiving.  That means that I am purposely limiting the possibilities that my children consider open to them.

Years ago, I spoke with an older teenager who wanted to be a police office.  I asked him about his reasons.  He gave me some very good reasons and a few unimportant ones. Then I asked him about what he envisioned his family life looking like.  He went into great detail about having a wife and a bunch of children and how they would spend their days.  The differences in his answers were astounding.  He was very logical in talking about being a police officer.  He was very animated and emotional when talking about his possible family.  I then asked him this question, “How do you think your future family will feel about you being a police officer and how will it affect their lives?”  He just stopped, looked at me, and said, “Nobody has ever asked me that before.”

We talked a few more minutes before he had to leave.  I never found out what he ended up doing with his life (he was a stranger I met at an event).  But I’d like to think that whatever he chose to do as a job/career, that he made that choice with his future family in mind and not just his teenage self.

My children probably don’t realize it, but I am always working in the background trying to help them figure out at a relatively early age what they should do with the rest of their lives.  To me, how it impacts family life is a priority and how much potential income it makes is not.

If you ask Emery what he wants to do with his life, he says he would like to deliver baby goats year-round.  Since that’s probably not going to happen, I’m trying to find out what else he’s passionate about. Right now, at Goat Milk Stuff, Emery is making all of our candy (fudge, toffee, caramels, etc.), all of our breads (baguettes, rolls, bagels), and our baked goods (cookies and muffins).

Emery is the Muffin Man

A few months ago I signed us both up for Bread Camp.  I did this for several reasons:

  • I’ve always wanted to cook on a wood burning oven and I wanted to see if this was something I actually enjoyed.
  • I love learning and improving my skills.
  • I wanted Emery to see if he was passionate about breadmaking.

Right now, he’s just following my bread recipes.  I wanted him to find out for himself whether he was as passionate about creating new breads as he is about creating new chocolates.

We had an incredible time at Bread Camp.  It was very special for the two of us to do something together.  I really enjoy Emery’s company (and he acts like he enjoys mine!)  We had great teachers and our fellow classmates were a lot of fun to be with.  We learned several new recipes and lots of techniques.  And we got to make pizzas in the wood burning oven.

PJ & Emery at Bread Camp

I am definitely going to get a wood burning oven* some day.  The chief takeaway for me with it is that my plan to put it by my firepit would have been a huge mistake.  I need it closer to my kitchen.  So when we build our deck (don’t ask me when that will ever happen), I will incorporate the woodburning oven there.  I’m also planning at some point to somehow incorporate a wood burning oven into Goat Milk Stuff so we can offer artisan pizzas with goat cheese.

As for Emery, I think he’s excited about becoming a better baker and exploring what he wants to do with it.  He was very competent at camp and I think that made him feel very good.  Right now, he’s hoping to launch a CSB (Community Supported Bread) program.  He’s thinking of starting with a 6 week program.  He will make 6 different breads and every member of the program will get 1 loaf a week.  Knowing ahead of time how many he has sold will help him to know exactly how much he has to bake.  This will minimize waste which is helpful because wasted bread is discouraging.

Whether or not Emery decides to do something with bread, we had a wonderful experience together and he will either be able to add bread baking as a possibility as a future career or rule it out. But the main point is that Emery had the opportunity to learn and experience what a professional bread baker’s life looked like.

Emery Preps Pizza Dough

This hands-on experience is so important for teens to help them know whether or not they want to make something a career.  I have a lot of friends who went to college to study a subject, only to graduate and find out they hated working in their field.  Was their education a complete waste?  No, learning is never a complete waste.  But it had a huge opportunity cost for them.  I’d much rather guide the children into narrowing down the possibilities and give them some real world experience before they commit to a college degree in that field.

What about you?  Were you given good advice when you were a teen about job possibilities?  If you’re a parent, do you think everything should be a possibility for your child?  Or are you trying to help your child narrow it down?





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It’s Not All About Me

Have you ever said hello to someone and have them ignore you?  If you’re like me, the first thought that jumps to my mind is something like, “What did I do wrong to make them mad at me?”

Or how about you ask somebody a simple question and they respond to you in anger?  Again, I wonder, “What should I have said differently?”

Do You Get Defensive?

Or maybe I send somebody a text and they don’t respond.  And I think, “Are they ignoring me on purpose because of something I did or didn’t do?”

What I have learned over the years, is that my first response is to think that the issue is all about me – that I did something “wrong” to produce that outcome.  But I have found this usually isn’t the case at all.

Quite often, something is going on in the person’s life that has nothing to do with me.  Perhaps they had a fight with a family member.  Perhaps they didn’t sleep well and are exhausted.  Or perhaps they’re simply thinking about something important to them.

In fact, the older I get, the more I realize that very little of it is actually about me.

One evening I asked one of the boys to wash the dishes.   I did some other chores and returned to the kitchen to find only half of the dishes washed.  I went searching for the child and found him in his room reading a book.  I was very close to saying something like, “I asked you to wash the dishes so I wouldn’t have to do it and you ignored me.”  (Notice how many times I would have said “I” or “me”.)  But instead I said something like, “You only got half the dishes washed, what happened?”

Systematic Dirty Dishes

The child immediately jumped up and said, “I’m sorry, Mom!  I had to go to the bathroom and I got distracted.  I’ll finish them right now.”  To which I simply responded, “Thanks, [insert child’s nickname].”  He wasn’t trying to ignore me.  He was simply being a kid and didn’t finish.  It wasn’t about me at all.

Another time, I was at a family event and we were telling stories about our childhood.  My brother kept telling stories that painted me in a very unflattering light.  After two or three of them, I wasn’t laughing and wanted to respond with a few negative stories about him.  But I looked at him and he looked really tired.  So instead of doing what I wanted, I contributed a few stories where he was the hero of the story.  A few hours later, he said to me, “Thanks.  It’s been a rough week at work.”  Once again, it wasn’t about me at all.  He was struggling at work and was simply in a poor mood.

I am very active on our Goat Milk Stuff Facebook page and am familiar with a lot of our regular commenters.  I had an instance once, where a normally very nice woman started attacking everything I said on Facebook.  It was very unusual behavior for her, so I ignored it the first time, and the second, and the third.  But it got so bad that I had to send her a private message asking why she was being so negative.  She immediately apologized and told me that there were some unfortunate issues occurring in her life and she was on edge.  Her behavior reverted to normal and has never been repeated.  It was not about me at all.

And it’s not just people! Some of the pregnant goats get really cranky during kidding season.  They try to take their bad moods out on us, but despite their crankiness, we still take good care of their needs and make them as comfortable as they can be.  After all, it’s about them, not us.

How we respond to issues is so instrumental in how the situation resolves.  When we believe that the other person’s behavior is all about us, our response can be inflammatory, which can often escalate the situation.  Or it could put the other person on the defensive.  And someone who is defensive rarely says the right thing.

Instead, we need to recognize that our first reaction (believing that it’s all about me) is often incorrect.  If you can train yourself to realize that it might not be about you at all, you will find that you react better to situations.  So how do you train yourself this way?

  • Pause.  Most people react too quickly.  They feel like they are being attacked and they say the first thing that comes to their mind.
  • Think. Use that pause to think about the other person and not your own feelings.
  • Ask yourself what else could this be about instead of me.  Don’t assume that the other person is reacting to something you said or did.  What else could be going on in their life?
  • Do not get defensive.  When we feel we are being attacked, we make the situation about us when it often has nothing to do with us at all.
  • Lead with a question and not a statement.  Don’t assume you’ve figured out what is going on that caused the person’s actions.  Ask them what is happening, with a focus on them and not on you.

Those sound like such simple steps.  And while they are simple, they’re not always easy.  Emotions and words are tricky things and when we respond with emotional words, they can often get us into a lot of trouble.

Remember that when somebody hurts you with with their actions or words, quite often, you are just the vehicle for them to try to release their own feelings.  It’s not always about you.  Make it about them and you can often resolve the situation.

What do you think?  Are you quick to make issues about you instead of the other person?  How do you handle conflicts where you are feeling attacked?




Setting My Children Up for Success

I want my children to be wildly successful in their lives.  Not perfect.  But successful.  By successful, I don’t mean materially successful.  Instead I define a successful life as something more meaningful.  I want them to excel in their marriages, their parenting, and their chosen vocations (whether that is goat farming or something entirely different).  I want them to stand out in their culture and generation as individuals who have their priorities in the correct order.

With this theme in mind, I decided to read the book Outliers* by Malcolm Gladwell for the second time.  The first time I read it, I was thinking more about myself.  It came out in 2011 and I was still doing a lot of reading to improve my ability to make Goat Milk Stuff a success.  But now that my children are older, I wanted to re-read the book with the children (and their success) in mind.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I like to underline meaningful passages and there were three sections that I underlined in the book while I was reading it. (Ok, I underlined more, but these are the ones that apply to this topic.)

1. “Successful people don’t do it alone. Where they come from matters. They’re products of particular places and environments.” (Gladwell, 119)

If I want my children to be successful, I need to pay attention to the places and environments into which I put them.

Over the years, I’ve worked very hard to provide my children with an environment that fosters creative thinking, problem solving, and hard work.  For those of you who don’t know us personally and only read the blog or watch the videos, it may seem like all my children do is work.  But this is far from the truth.

I’ve always made sure the children have lots of free time to read, think, draw, play, or do whatever they wished.  The juxtaposition of hard work and free time fosters an environment that is conducive to long-term success.

On the flip side, I also work hard to keep my children away from environments that I believe to be detrimental to their success.  The first thing that comes to mind when I think about negative environments is video games.  I do not allow my children to play any type of video game while they’re living in my house.

Why do I feel so strongly against video games?  My main reason is because I believe they are designed to be addictive.  For those who would argue otherwise, let’s agree that they at least may lead some children to compulsive behavior. In any case, the opportunity cost to video games is huge.  I’d rather my children be running around playing with their friends or reading or building or creating or doing anything other than play video games.

I’ve been challenged by other parents that children can learn a lot of good skills from video games. We could sit here and argue that, but I will always believe that whatever good skills they can supposedly learn from video games can be learned from other endeavors that are healthier for them.

And remember – every family is different.  I’m not saying that every family needs to banish video games for their children to be successful.  What I am recommending is that you be intentional about whether or not you allow them.

Bottom line – as a parent, I can play a part in determining if the places and environments in which my children reside are helpful or detrimental to their ultimate success.  And so can you.

2. “outliers always have help along the way” (Gladwell, 120)

Don’t you love that?  People who are truly successful have had help.

I want my children to understand that their hard work and their effort matters when it comes to their success.  But it’s just as important that they realize they have not done it alone.  I don’t ever want the children to become puffed up and proud about their success.  I don’t want them to ever think that it was because of how special they are that they are successful.

Successful people attain their success in part because certain people were in a position to help them along the way.

Get To Know Your Banker

Can you control this?  Not directly.  But you can put yourself or your children into situations where they can meet other people.  I never introduce my children to people with the expectation that they are going to help.  But I do introduce my children to people whom I admire for what they have done with their lives.  And if down the road, that relationship improves the success potential of my children, that would be wonderful.

But I do caution my children to never expect help and to never take on too much help.  As with most things in life, it’s a balance.

3. “The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents.  It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.” (Gladwell, 137)

I know lots of people that struggle in this life.  They struggle with financial success.  They struggle with relationship success.  They struggle with vocational success.  Despite hard work and effort spent trying to become successful in their lives, they don’t ever seem to achieve it.


I don’t know for sure.  But one possible reason may be the fact that their backstory takes place at a time that is not filled with easy opportunities for success.  Children of divorce are more likely to be divorced.  Children of poor money managers are less likely to be financially savvy.  It takes effort to break out of our backstory.  There are times when this is easy and times when this is harder.

One recent example was the difference in employment opportunities for those who graduated college during the 2008 Great Recession.  They had fewer “particular opportunities” than those who graduated a few years earlier.

In our particular example, we couldn’t have started Goat Milk Stuff at a better time.  The internet had been around long enough that people were comfortable with purchasing online.  Amazon was still just a book seller and not dominating online sales. And goat milk soap was still pretty new to people.  We were able to give them a sample and when they realized the difference it made for their skin, they were hooked.

Jade's Hilarious Free Samples Video

Because we started Goat Milk Stuff in the year we did, we were able to achieve very rapid success.  Was that success because of our hard work?  Yes, hard work was necessary and played a big part. But I don’t underestimate the fact that a large part of our success was because of the opportunities available to us at the particular point in history we began our business.

I’m also teaching my children that they can’t get so caught up in the work they are currently doing that they lose sight of what is going on around them.  It’s super easy (especially when you like what you do) to get complacent.  But you can’t, you have to constantly pay attention to the opportunities that are currently available to you.

That was a big part of why we became a Grade A Goat dairy.  We saw that we had an opportunity and that there was a need.  We’re taking advantage of it because we know that success doesn’t only come from our hard work.  It comes from “the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with” (Gladwell 137).

Indiana Goat Milk

Another way we’ve paid attention to the opportunities around us is to notice that we no longer have to teach people what goat milk soap is.  Instead, we’ve recognized that our opportunity now is to show people that not all goat milk soap is created equal and that ours is much better than what they can find on Amazon or at their local farmer’s markets.

So those are three of the sections I underlined in the book.  To summarize them in my words:

  1. I need to put my children into environments that can increase their chances for success.
  2. I need to help my children learn that they can’t be successful completely on their own.  They need to connect with people and be willing to accept help.
  3. Opportunities are more available at certain points in time than others.  The children need to be aware of the opportunities that are available around them.

And of course, even though I read Outliers* with the children in mind, these same takeaways also apply to ourselves.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think hard work alone guarantees success?




*Amazon Affiliate Link


My Favorite Things – The Ringer

Emery and I are at bread camp this week.  The two of us are learning how to make bread in a brick oven.  We’re having a blast.  But it’s all day, every day for a week, so I haven’t had a lot of time to think about blogging.

So today I’m going to share with you one of my favorite things.

Most of you know that I cook mostly with cast iron or stainless steel and that I avoid non-stick cookware.

Cast Iron

The reason non-stick cookware is so popular is because of how easy it is to clean.  Cleaning stainless steel (and occasionally cast iron) can be difficult if the food gets burned or stuck on.

I have found the best solution which makes clean-up so easy!!  It’s called The Ringer*.  This thing rocks!  I use it multiple times every day because it makes cleaning so much easier than anything else I have ever found.

Cast Iron Cleaning Ringer


I figured it would be difficult to show in photos, so I decided to let Fletcher make himself some scrambled eggs.  You see, Fletcher likes his scrambled eggs cooked really, really well til they are brown and dried out.  He always manages to get the eggs completely stuck to my cast iron.

So I took a video of him cleaning the cast iron skillet with “The Ringer” to show you how easy it is to use.  It’s a boring video, but you can see how well it works.  I would have been able to clean the skillet in half that time, but I chose to hold the camera instead of doing the washing. LOL

It’s that easy! We don’t use any soap and once the skillet is clean, we dry it off and rub some oil or fat thinly over the surface.  (I keep a bowl of fat and paper towels where the cast iron gets stored.)

It works really well on stainless steel pots as well.  We have a bad habit of burning our chili and it gets stuck to the bottom of the stainless steel stock pot.  The Ringer* is the best way I have found to get it off.

Ringer Cast Iron Cleaning

Oh – and one piece of advice – don’t let the ringer fall into your garbage disposal*.  That would be bad.




*Amazon Affiliate Link


Last Saturday morning I went food shopping.  As usual, it took two carts (sometimes it takes three) to get everything on my list.  All the children and Jim were working, so I emptied the Beast of all the groceries by myself.  I put a John MacArthur sermon on to listen to while I put the groceries away.  I only got about a quarter of the groceries put away when I started getting really hungry.  I made myself a cabbage salad (recipe below) to eat.

While I was eating and listening, John MacArthur made this statement, “Be content with little.”

I looked up at my kitchen and it was covered in food.  There was a speed rack* full of tomatoes and onions and peppers and potatoes from my garden.  There were all sorts of veggies and fruit. There were lots of spices and good olive oil and vinegars.  There were a variety of nuts and seeds.

It wasn’t “little”.  Instead, it was quite abundant.

Tomato Harvest

I finished eating and went into the school room/office to answer a few emails at my treadmill desk before finishing the food.  I looked at my bookshelves.  They’re covered in books.  It’s not “little”.  It’s quite abundant.

Let me be clear, there isn’t anything wrong with having a stocked pantry.  In fact, I think there is quite a lot of wisdom in keeping a full pantry.   There also isn’t anything wrong with having a lot of books for you and your children to read.  The right books encourage reading and growth.

School Room Bookshelf & Treadmill Desk

But that’s not the issue.  It’s not the items themselves; it’s your attitude about the items.

The main issue is could I be content without them.

I started thinking about everything I take for granted.  The list is quite long, but here are a few conveniences that came to mind:

  • running water
  • hot water
  • refrigeration
  • air conditioning
  • gas to run my vehicle
  • stocked grocery stores
  • electricity
  • lights
  • clothes I don’t have to make
  • sneakers

I’ll stop there, but you get my point.

In America, most of us are surrounded by plenty.  We’re used to it and we take it for granted.

My question is does our over-abundance of stuff cause us to be discontented?  More specifically, does an over-abundance of stuff cause my children to be discontented?  I don’t have any supporting data, but I believe it does.  I have always found that the more I have, the more I want.

So how do you become content with little?

Declutter.  If you ask my husband and my children, I’m notorious around here for getting rid of possessions whenever anybody isn’t looking.  I spent quite a lot of time podcasting about why I think clutter is such a negative influence on our lives.  The older I get, the more firmly I believe this.

Value simplicity. It takes constant effort to keep things simple because it is much harder to make a simple system than a complex one, and entropy is always working to introduce chaos. But I have learned to truly value simplicity.  Simple pleasures.  Simple meals.  Simple recreation. A game of watermelon football is a fun example of combining all three (simply, of course).

Watermelon Football

Value quality.  I would always rather spend more money on something that is high quality and will last for years than to fill my house with cheap junk that regularly breaks and needs to be fixed or replaced.  Jim and I have spent decades slowly purchasing high quality cutco knives*.  They aren’t cheap, but every year when we go on vacation, we send the knives in for resharpening.  They come back cutting like new (in fact, over the years, they’ve actually replaced a knife if they couldn’t sharpen it properly).

Value people more than stuff.  I have always found that I can spend my time on my things (whether purchasing or maintaining or shopping for more) or I can spend my time on people.  The older I get, the more time I want to invest in people.

Value experiences and memories more than possessions.  I do not get my children many (if any) birthday or Christmas presents.  Instead of focusing on items to unwrap, we focus on memories we can make.  We put together a video about our Christmas events one year.  You can watch it here:

I don’t want to make it sound like I could honestly say that I am content with little.  I’d like to be able to say it.  And I could say it more truthfully now than I could ten years ago.  But I’m not sure I’ll ever be at the place where I could say it and completely mean it.  But I have learned how unimportant my wants are.  And while I still have wants, I am learning to be content if they are never fulfilled.

What about you?  Do you struggle with being content with little?




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Cabbage Salad Recipe

Like most of my recipes, I don’t have any measurements for you because most of it comes out of my garden and I just use what I have.

  • Shred cabbage (I use a mix of purple and green cabbage.)
  • Dice peppers (I like to use colorful peppers if I have them. Approximately 2-4 peppers for 2 small heads of cabbage.)
  • Chop green onions (You can also use red, but the onion taste will be stronger.)
  • Toss with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper (To taste.)
  • When ready to serve, add sliced almonds and salted, hulled sunflower seeds (I use about 1/2 -1 cup of each for 2 small heads of cabbage.)

If you are trying to get somebody to eat it who isn’t a fan of cabbage, you can also sprinkle sugar on it.  I do this for the children, but I don’t eat mine with sugar.  You can serve it cold or at room temperature.  You could even add grilled chicken to it if you wanted to make it a more substantial meal.

Blessed To Be a Blessing

As I’m writing this, I have a kitchen full of Hurricane Irma escapees processing tomatoes in my kitchen.  This includes Grandma, Poppy, my brother, and his wife.  My brother’s three children are picking more tomatoes and bringing them back to the house.  While I’m not happy for the reason they’re here (Hurricane Irma), I am very happy to have them here building memories and having fun as a family.

My parents’ house is outside of Orlando and will hopefully be fine.  Even so, I encouraged them to evacuate early because there was no reason for them to stay.  They’re retired and don’t need to worry about staying for a job.  And their house is either going to be fine or it isn’t.  Leaving Florida early meant they wouldn’t exacerbate the problems associated with so many people evacuating such a large area.   They wouldn’t have to be part of the lines of people trying to purchase limited amounts of food or water or gas.  They wouldn’t have to worry about power outages or medical emergencies. Thankfully, they decided to start getting ready to make the trip.

My brother, however, lives a mile from the coast in Southern Florida.  We had encouraged him once before to leave during a prior hurricane and come stay with us.  He had chosen not to because it is very difficult for him to leave.  He has three children (two of whom are in school).  Plus he and his wife run their own business – Organic Grown Direct – that delivers organic food directly to homes from Jupiter to Miami & all of Florida.

On Wednesday morning, I texted him: “You know that if you need to evacuate, you are welcome here!”

He texted back: “Ok, we’ll pop by for a real quick lunch!”

I thought he was joking and texted back: “You a funny guy. ;)”

Five hours later he texted me a photo of his family in our farm store with Jade and Colter and said: “Did we miss lunch?”

He’s always texting me photos of his family and their visits here and I thought it was an old photo.  I had no idea he was here and joked back: “I’ve got leftovers.”

Surprise No Joke Text Message

Five minutes later, Mason came back to the house and told me they were actually here!

It turns out he “knew” (his words) that I was going to offer him a place to stay.  He had a bad feeling about this storm and put his family into their car Tuesday night (the night before I texted him) and started driving.  He knew we would love the surprise and that we would welcome them with open arms.

They left with very little (there are 5 of them and not a big car).  They made the decision to leave quickly and he drove through the night to get his family to safety before getting out of Florida became difficult.  They hit relatively little traffic and didn’t have any worries about getting gas.

My parents (who were going to leave on Thursday) decided to move their departure up to Wednesday.  They hit hours of bumper to bumper traffic, had concerns about refueling, and couldn’t locate a hotel room to stay overnight until they passed Atlanta. They arrived here yesterday (Thursday), road-weary and glad to finally be here.

My brother is a praying man and is praying hard.  Not only is his house at risk, but so is his business.  He has heard predictions that their area could be without power for a month.  If that is the case, he will lose all his inventory (he has walk-in freezers with organic meats and seafood) and maybe even his business depending on if his organic Florida farmers are also wiped out.

We are joining him in prayer for not only his business, but for everyone in harm’s way from Hurricane Irma (just as we did for all those affected by Hurricane Harvey).

In addition to prayer, I talk a lot with my children about what they can do to help others.  I teach them:

Be aware of others in need.  The first step is to focus on others and not just yourself.  We all have our daily stresses and struggles.  Sometimes those stresses and struggles are greater than at other times.  But it’s important to be aware that there are other people out there in need of assistance.

2012 Henryville Indiana Tornado DestructionWhat was left of our friends’ house after our 2012 F4 tornado.

Be open to helping others.  I can’t tell you how good it made me feel that my brother “knew” we were going to offer him shelter.   I’ve always taught my children how important it is to keep your home open to people in need.  We’ve done that whether we had a small home or a larger home.  It’s not the size of your home that determines whether or not you can help.  It’s the size of your heart.  I have a heart to help others and I want my children to have the same open heart.

Offer that help.  Many people are too independent to ask for help.  You need to make them comfortable that you are willing to be there to assist if needed.  This doesn’t happen suddenly in an emergency.  This happens over years of making offers (that usually aren’t accepted).  But keep making the offers – some day they will be needed and accepted.

Donate your time.  Opening your home is a great way to help, but you can also donate your time.  I’ve always wanted to take the older children to a disaster area to donate our time helping with cleanup. Right now because we have to milk our goats daily, it’s difficult to leave and donate our time.  But honestly, I think that’s just an excuse.  If I can make arrangements to leave and take a vacation, why can’t I make arrangements to donate time helping cleanup?

Carefully donate money if you are able.  I’ve mentioned before that on the 2nd of March 2012, we had a devastating F4 tornado tear through our community that resulted in loss of life, many injuries, and extensive damage. There were many people who volunteered their time after the tornado. There were also various relief agencies that came in. Some of them left a sour taste in our mouth and I will never donate to them again.  By far, the relief agency that made the biggest difference in people’s lives after the tornado was Samaritan’s Purse.  If you are desiring to donate money to help, I can strongly recommend donating to Samaritan’s Purse as I have seen first hand the good work they do. While other relief agencies brought their aid (which was needed), Samaritan’s Purse not only brought aid, but found out what individual needs were and found a way to meet those needs.  As with anything, do your due diligence before you send money to any person or organization saying they are going to help people in need.  It’s a sad fact that there are many people profiting off the disasters of others.

2012 Henryville, IN Tornado DamageOur old church after the 2012 F4 tornado.

Don’t forget.  Helping others should be an ongoing event in your life.  While natural disasters get media attention and make us focus on large groups of people who are in need of help, the truth is there are people who need assistance every day all around you.  Keep your eyes open to these people and don’t forget when the media stops blaring about a specific disaster that people still need help.  Bad things can happen to hard-working people.  These people may need help to get back on their feet.  Not everyone can afford good insurance.  If my brother loses his business, we will help him however we can to start over.  And there are thousands others just like him.  They don’t need charity, they just need a helping hand.

Act wisely. There is a documentary called Poverty Inc* that I highly recommend watching yourself and with your children.  It is very eye opening on how sometimes what we think we’re doing to help actually makes the situation worse.  Make sure you’re acting wisely and considering the ramifications of your efforts to help.

I am beyond blessed.  I have eight amazing (and healthy) children.  I have an incredible husband.  I have a beautiful farm.  I have a successful business.  I thank God every day for all my blessings and I never take any of them for granted.

Because I recognize that I am beyond blessed, it makes me want to be able to bless others.

What about you?  Are you teaching your children to be aware of others in need and to help others in a responsible way?




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Why We Assist With Goat Birthing

Knowledge is very important to me.  It’s one of the initial reasons I chose to homeschool my children – because I wanted them to gain knowledge and I thought that was better done in a home environment where their individual intellects could be encouraged.

I’ve realized that I don’t want to just educate my own children.  I want to share my knowledge with others because I have learned a lot over the years.  It’s one of the reasons I blog and podcast.

When it comes to the goats, we made the decision last year to Facebook Live the goat births and deliveries.  This wasn’t an easy decision because whenever you share what you are doing in your life, it opens it up for the world to criticize.  But we decided it was worth it because we wanted to share the miracle of baby goat births.  But we also wanted to educate others.  My children take for granted the fact that they are exposed to as much knowledge as they are.  They have trouble comprehending that there are so many people out there who have never witnessed the birth of an animal.  So we Facebook Live the births for these people.

Facebook Live Goat Birth Video

But there is a second group that we Facebook Live the videos for – and that is goat owners and people who would like to some day own goats.

I remember my first kidding experience and how nerve wracking it was because while I had read about it, I had never witnessed it. Fortunately for the goat (and me), everything went very smoothly and Sassy delivered a healthy doeling and buckling with no assistance from us. “HA! How amazing is the wonder of natural birth! Why was I worried? This is easy-peasy!” I thought.

Baby Nubian Goat Kid

But four weeks later, Melody went into labor and it did not go well.  She delivered a buckling pretty easily.  But then she started pushing and pushing and pushing.  And nothing came out.

I washed up and went in to see if I could figure out what the problem was.

I felt a leg and then another leg.  And nothing in between.  There was no head.  Now, when I say there was no head, I don’t mean the baby goat didn’t have a head.  I mean I couldn’t locate the head.  But there was also no butt.  I was totally confused.  I felt around as best as I could and still felt nothing but two legs.

Meanwhile, Melody is still pushing and pushing and pushing.

So Jim went in and found the exact same thing.

Melody is still pushing and pushing and pushing.  The baby is alive at this point because he keeps moving his legs.

My Mom was there and she even went in and couldn’t locate the head (my mom is not a farm gal, so this was a big sacrifice for her). In case you don’t realize, there is no way Melody could deliver the goat like this unless we found the head and moved it into position.

By this time about an hour had passed and we were really starting to panic.  Melody was in a lot of pain and we couldn’t deliver this kid and she kept pushing and pushing and pushing.

We started calling vets, but of course, it was a Sunday and nobody would come out.  We called other goat people we knew and two of them came out.  They each tried to find the head and couldn’t locate it or deliver the kid.

Now two hours had passed.  Melody was still pushing, but she was clearly getting weaker.

Another farmer came out.  Then another.  Neither could locate the head or deliver the kid. (And just so you know, yes, we did try pushing the legs back to give us more room to work, but with all that pushing, Melody was very swollen.)

Three hours.  No vet.  Melody was weak, but still strong enough to push.

At around the four hour mark, we were still calling every vet we could, but we started talking about if we had to put Melody down to put her out of her misery, how we would do it.  By this point, there is no movement whatsoever from the kid.  We sent the children into the house when we started talking about putting her down.

I would like to remind you that we had owned goats for a total of about 3 months at this point.  But with the people we called in, we calculated there was over 100 years of goat experience in the barn.  And none of us was able to deliver the kid.

Closing on five hours, we finally located a vet an hour away who was willing to come out. She arrived at about six hours past when this ordeal began.  Melody was still contracting, but mostly she was just lying on my lap, completely exhausted.

The vet goes in up to her shoulder to locate the head.  It turns out the kid’s neck is stretched out over its back and the head is then turned away.  She pinched hard between the eyes to get enough leverage to work the head around into the proper position.  It took her about 20 minutes of very strenuous effort, in up to her shoulder.

Melody and the vet deliver a dead kid.

At this point, none of us were surprised the kid was dead, but it was still devastating.  It was a boy.  The older children (we let them come back to the barn when the vet arrived) were crying.  I was crying.

I then spent the next forty five minutes grilling the vet with questions on what we should have done differently.  She answered all of my questions and gave me a lot of advice while she worked on Melody (who survived her ordeal and went on to have more kids in subsequent years).  She said that this was the hardest delivery she’d ever dealt with that did not end in a c-section.

That conversation with the vet and what I learned changed my outlook on goat birthing completely.  I always thought that goat birthing was a natural process, and I just needed to be there to wonder at the miracle of birth and tell the momma goat she was doing a great job.  But the experience we had just gone through and the vet’s wisdom proved to me that complications in goat birthing is fairly common.  The vet confirmed that had I been proactive, I could have saved that kid.

Following the vet’s advice and the experience we have gained over the years, this is what we now do for every birth.

Confirm that all is as it should be.  When a doe starts laboring, we glove up and check to see how dilated she is. Once she’s mostly dilated we check the position of the kid. We check the position BEFORE the doe has pushed the kid into the birth canal. If the kid is in the proper presentation, we back off.

Goat Delivery Check for Proper Position

Reposition early if needed.  If the kid is not in the proper presentation, we work to reposition the kid before it is in the birth canal.  Once the kid has been pushed into the birth canal, it is a lot harder on the kid and on the mom to reposition. This was our mistake with Melody.  We realized there was a problem too late.  The kid was already jammed pretty far into the birth canal.  If the mom is pushing and can’t deliver the kid, every push causes swelling which makes it more difficult for everyone.  If you reposition before the kid is in the birth canal, you’ve increased your chances for a successful delivery.

Goat Delivery Reposition

Give assistance as needed with the delivery.  Once the kid is properly positioned and in the birth canal, we grab the legs and assist the mom with downward pressure on the legs every time she pushes.  This assistance isn’t always necessary, but we have found that by helping the mom, we are conserving her strength so that if she has another kid that’s all tangled up, she has plenty of energy to push when the time comes.  This is especially important if the last kid is breech.  When delivering breech, you run the risk of the umbilical cord breaking before the kid’s head is delivered.  As long as it is a quick delivery, the kid will be fine.  But you don’t want the mom’s contractions to be sluggish because she’s worn out, which could result in her delivering the breech kid too slowly. If that happened, the baby would suffocate in the birth canal.

It is important to state that you should never try to intentionally pop the bubble unless you have a specific reason.  Leave the sac intact until it breaks on its own.  The exception to this would be if you have a kid that is too large and the mom is having trouble delivering a properly presented kid.  If she has been pushing for a while without much progress and you feel you need to help her, and the bubble is already outside, you can pop it to get a better grasp on the legs.  You do not need to pop the bubble to try to get the kid to breathe.  That is not necessary as long as the umbilical cord is still attached.

Goat Delivery Gently Pull Down

Check that there are no kids left to deliver.  It is important that you are sure that there are no kids left in the uterus.  If there is a live kid left, it will make its presence known pretty easily. But if there is a deceased kid left in the uterus, it may not be delivered without assistance.  If you miss a dead kid and the cervix closes, you have a problem.  Several years ago, we had three goats in labor at the same time.  I don’t remember the name of the two, but Myna Bird was the third.  Myna delivered twin bucklings very easily and so we focused on helping the other two moms, one of whom had tangled kids.  Several hours later, Myna was acting very strange – head down, kinda lethargic.  I asked Jim to go in and check and sure enough, there was a dead triplet buckling.  Myna wasn’t contracting, but fortunately her cervix was still dilated so we gave her oxytocin to get the contractions started.  (Important! – NEVER pull a kid out without the mother contracting.  You will really hurt the mom.  And never give oxytocin with a closed cervix.)  It was after our experience with Myna, that we began routine checks to make sure we didn’t feel any kids left after we thought all the goats were delivered.

Goat Delivery Check for more Kids

Please understand that these techniques and tips have been developed over years of goat deliveries and are highly effective, but may not translate very well through text and photos over the internet to your farm. If what you end up doing with your goats doesn’t work out like it does for us, don’t sue us. We’re not veterinarians and none of what we are sharing should be taken as medical advice.  As always, consult with your veterinarian if you have questions or problems. That being said, we have found that these methods are gentle, humane, and result in quick and comfortable recovery for does and kids alike, so I hope you can follow our example successfully!

When we post the Facebook Live videos, most people who watch are wonderful.  Unfortunately, we regularly have some unkind people who come on and tell us that by “interfering” we are abusing our animals and we need to stop what we are doing immediately. If you ever watch one of our deliveries on Facebook Live and don’t understand (or don’t like) what you’re seeing, please ask us instead of accusing us.  We’ll be happy to explain and to educate.

I’d just like everyone to understand that we love our goats.  We love our goats more than anybody who is watching a Facebook Live video does.  We want what is best for them.  We know their history and we know when they need help and when they don’t.  We have the blessings of our vet in how we deliver and he is amazed at our high successful live birth rate and our low rate of postpartum problems with our moms.

You don’t have to agree with us.  You may believe all deliveries should be unassisted. You may be a goat owner and have had different experiences.  I pray nobody EVER has to live through an experience like we did with Melody.  But we’ve delivered over 500 baby goats and we’ve experienced more births than the average goat owner.  So even if you disagree, please do us the honor of acknowledging that we are doing what we feel is best for the health of our animals whom we love and are responsible for.

Goat Delivery Success

Thank you for your consideration, for joining us on Facebook Live, and for sharing our content so more people can learn and enjoy. Healthy baby goats make the world a better place, don’t you think?




Flexibility is Key to a Busy Mom’s Sanity

I’m a naturally organized person.  Which is helpful, because the more complex my life becomes, the more important it is to stay organized if I want to be efficient, get all my work done, and stay sane and happy.

But you don’t have to be a naturally organized person to successfully manage a busy household.  As I’ve mentioned many times, you simply need to spend some time creating systems and maintaining those systems once they’re in place.

But I do want to be clear that even for a naturally organized person, it takes hard work to keep a busy household organized.  The simple truth is that a busy life challenges organization.

The more moving parts you have in a system, the greater the potential for points of disruption.  For me – my husband, children, employees, customers, goats, chickens, rabbits, dogs, and cats are all living creatures that are bound to throw disruptions at me non-stop.  And that’s ok, because I want all of them in my life.  A life without them would be more simple, but it would be very barren.

So while it is important that I have an organized framework within which to operate, I need to be flexible for the many times that framework is interrupted.  And so should you.  Because the more complex your life becomes, the more your systems will be challenged.

For example, after church on Sunday I had lots of plans.  I had a customer stopping by, I had somebody picking up a goat they purchased, and I had to do payroll for the business (since my plan to do it on Saturday didn’t come to fruition).  I also had a lot of wants – I wanted to clean out the laundry room, I wanted to process the remaining tomatoes, I wanted to make homemade chicken soup, and I wanted to take a walk with Jim.

So I sat down with the family and made a list of what I wanted and needed each child to do before they had the remainder of the day free to themselves.

Do you know what happened about five minutes after we all dispersed to get our chores done?

Crescendo decided to go into labor and have triplets! (The sac was really thick so the boys had to help break it open so the baby wouldn’t suffocate.)  You can watch the birth on Facebook Live.

Nigerian Dwarf Goat Birth

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not at all upset that Crescendo chose a nice, sunny day to deliver her healthy triplets.  I always enjoy it when new life comes into this world – especially if it is an easy birth and everybody does well.

But it certainly messed with my organization and my plans.

All of a sudden, everything that everyone had planned for the day had to be stopped.  Did we all need to be at the birth?  No.  Did we all want to be at the birth?  Yep!

So, it wasn’t just my plans that got disrupted, but everyone’s plans were disrupted.

I have learned that when my plans go awry, I have a choice to make.  I can choose to freak out, wonder how I’m going to get it all done, and take the stress out on my family.


I can embrace the interruption, be flexible, and adjust my plans.

Nigerian Dwarf Buckling, "Treble"

Obviously, the latter is the preferred choice.  But the trick is learning how to react with the latter emotions instead of the former.  Here are some ways I’ve been able to implement this in my life.

Trust that the interruptions are from God.  I’ve learned (and fully believe), that those interruptions are chosen by God for my life.  They are opportunities for me to give up my (perceived) control of my life and accept what God has for me.

Recognize that often the interruptions are for someone else’s benefit.  Normally the interruptions provide a way for me to minister to somebody else.  I’ll be honest, I don’t always WANT to minister to somebody else.  There are lots of times I’d rather just get done what I feel I need to get done so I can sit and do nothing for a little while before bed.  But God’s plans are always better.  By interrupting my day and “forcing” me to focus on the needs of somebody else (whether it is one of my children, a customer, or a goat), I spend time on what is truly valuable and not what I perceive as more important.

Remember there is always tomorrow.  Does it really matter that my laundry room still has clutter in it?  Yes, actually, it does.  (Decluttering is very important to me to keep my life simple and functioning well.)  But it doesn’t matter that I didn’t get to it today.  There is always tomorrow or the next day or the next.  Because while it needs to be done, sometimes my attention needs to focus elsewhere first.

Know that your children are watching.  The frustrations and interruptions that we encounter can be the best way to teach our children how to handle the frustrations in their lives.  We need to model flexibility and a proper response to a change in our plans.

Understand that importance is relative.  What you perceive as important is not necessarily what others in your life perceive as important.  I would rather build the relationships in my life with the people I love than accomplish everything on my to-do list.

Recognize that interruptions will happen.  If we are too rigid in our organization, our systems, or our expectations, we can react poorly when disruption occurs.  But if you recognize that in a busy life, interruptions will routinely and regularly happen, it becomes easier to adjust.  It’s not that we will always manage to embrace interruptions (except perhaps for the really good ones), but we can learn to anticipate interruptions and build in room for them to occur.

Put it in perspective.  It’s really important to recognize that usually the interruption you are dealing with is a minor inconvenience in life.  I’m always thankful to God that if something doesn’t go according to plan, it wasn’t anything more devastating.  I was very thankful that my disruption yesterday was three new healthy baby goats, and not an emergency trip to the hospital with my child.  I’m always thankful when I’m stuck in construction traffic that I wasn’t in a car accident or had my vehicle break down on the highway.  I’m always thankful when I have a mean customer that I even have a customer service business that supports my family.  If you can train yourself to the attitude of – “If that’s the problem I have to deal with today, I’ll take it!” – then those interruptions become less frustrating.

Nigerian Dwarf Goat Doe and Kids

Those are a few of the ways that I’ve learned to deal with the disruptions that come with a busy life. What about you?  How do you handle your plans being interrupted?





Benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron

We do a lot of cooking around here and have lots of pots, pans, skillets, and other cooking supplies.  If you take a look at our cookware, you’ll notice we use predominantly stainless steel and cast iron.

Whenever possible, I’ve always tried to avoid Teflon coated or non-stick cookware.  Sure, it’s convenient, but how can anything that gets scratched, flakes off, and gets eaten be healthy for us? Since that’s not a very scientific answer, I did a quick google search and turned up this quote from in relation to non-stick cookware made with perfluorocarbons (PFCs):

Health dangers: When you breathe kitchen air polluted with fumes from overheated Teflon, you’re at risk for developing flu-like symptoms (yes, “Teflon flu”). The long-term effects of routine exposure to Teflon fumes, and from Teflon flu itself, have not been adequately studied.

PFCs have been found in nearly all Americans tested by federal public health officials. Chemicals from this family are associated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation and weakened immune defense against disease.

Environmental hazards: Manufacturing PFCs and the consumer products that contain them poses great risks to the environment and wildlife. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says PFCs present “persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree.”

So there you have it.  I will stick (pun intended) with my decision to avoid non-stick cookware.  I’m going to continue using cast iron as my preferred cookware.

Cast Iron

Other than avoiding non-stick, here are some of my reasons:

Naturally non-stick.  Once a cast iron pan has been well-seasoned, it behaves in a very non-stick manner (the more you use it, the better it gets).  The cast iron pan I use to make fried eggs and omelettes is so non-stick, sometimes I have trouble flipping the eggs because they’re sliding around so much!

Provides trace amounts of iron.  When you cook with cast iron, a small amount of iron leaches into your food.  This is healthy and can be particularly important for women of child-bearing years or anyone struggling with slight anemia.


Safe on an open fire.  One of my favorite reasons to keep a wide range of cast iron cookware is because it can be used over an open fire.  We will often take the cast iron out to our firepit and use it to saute onions or bake beans.  Plus, it is a comfort to know we can cook over an open fire when we lose electricity.  This has happened to us regularly over the years and the children think it’s great fun to start a fire and cook outside (or in the fireplace in the house if it is winter).  I wouldn’t want to have to cook over an open fire every day, but it’s nice to know we could if we had an extended power outage.

Open Fire Cooking

Retains heat.  Cast iron skillets can be heated to high temperatures and they retain that heat for a while.  I will often serve whatever I am cooking in the cast iron and it will still be warm at the end of dinner.  You do have to be aware of this characteristic if you want to immediately stop the cooking on whatever it is you are making (such as fried eggs).

Long lasting.  Cast iron improves as it ages and is regularly used.  It can be passed down to younger generations (especially if they appreciate what they are getting!)  This is in big contrast to non-stick cookware that should be replaced every year or as soon as it gets a single scratch in it.

Versatile.  Cast iron comes in many shapes and sizes and can be used for most cooking.  Our Dutch Oven* is great for baking biscuits, cornbread, or baked beans. We use a tortilla griddle* for crêpes, and our reversible griddle* for bacon. Skillets* are the most versatile and can do most everything from stir fry, to casseroles, to fried eggs.

Cast Iron

Relatively easy to clean.  Cast iron is easy to clean when it is well seasoned.  If you have a newer pan, cleaning can sometimes take a little bit of time, but don’t give up – it’s worth it to spend the time seasoning your pan!

Relatively inexpensive.  Compared to high quality stainless steel or ceramic cookware, cast iron is fairly inexpensive.  Of course, there is a wide price range depending on what you are looking for.  We’ve found most of our cast iron from people who just wanted to get rid of it (because they didn’t know how good it was!!)  Plus, because they’re nearly indestructible (you can crack it if you expose it to high heat for extended time periods with no food in it), you’re saving on the cost of replacement which is very high when you’re replacing non-stick cookware regularly.

For me, there are only two disadvantages to cast iron.  The first is that it is very heavy and the second is that the handle will get hot.  I spend a lot of time teaching my younger children to cook.  Sometimes I use stainless steel if I suspect this might be a problem.  But mostly I simply train them to use an oven mitt* until the point that it becomes second nature.   You can also purchase handle covers* if oven mitts aren’t working for you.

As for the weight of the cast iron, if it is too heavy then we either scoop the food out (instead of picking up the pan to pour it out) or we grab somebody stronger than we are.

Cast Iron

What about you? Do you use cast iron?





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Goat Milk You Can Trust

As a Mom, I’m always careful to make sure that my family can trust the products we’re using or the food we’re eating. I make and grow everything I can.  And for the rest, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is trustworthy!  This is hard work because you need to get past the marketing to the fundamentals.

At Goat Milk Stuff, we work very hard to be a trustworthy company.  This is especially important when it comes to our goats since our goat milk is the foundation of everything we make.

In 2015, we decided to move into sharing our goat milk food with others and so we sought our dairy license.  This license is independent verification that you can trust our goat milk to be as healthy as we say it is. We are very proud of the fact that we are Indiana’s first and (and currently only) Grade A goat dairy and that it independently verifies we are supplying people with the highest quality goat milk from proven healthy goats.

What exactly does it mean to be a Grade A dairy?

There are two classifications – Grade A and Manufactured Grade (commonly referred to as Grade B).  Grade B means you can legally make and sell cheese and gelato.  Grade A means you can legally produce fluid milk products such as milk, chocolate milk, and yogurt in addition to cheese and gelato.

Indiana Goat Milk

We chose to get our Grade A license because, well… we’re Goat Milk Stuff.  And that means people should be able to legally purchase goat milk from us, right?

It takes a lot of work to not just achieve Grade A status, but to maintain Grade A status.

Meet Facility Code.  There are dozens (hundreds?) of pages that describe what is required in a Grade A facility.  When we built both the milking parlor and our Grade A processing facility, we printed out multiple copies of these regulations.  Our contractor had one copy, we had several copies, and the pages were referred to over and over again.  From easily cleanable walls and ceilings to the color of surfaces to drainage, it all had to meet code.  Our state Board of Animal Health regulators were involved from the beginning with the initial plans and came by for inspections to ensure we didn’t build anything incorrectly.

Farm Inspections. All of our barns and the goats are regularly inspected.  They check the health of the animals, the cleanliness of the barn (including cobwebs), and manure management.  They look for anything that could possibly cause a problem with the health of the goats.  During kidding season, they also investigate if we’re having any problems which might indicate an underlying health issue with the goats.

Goat Milking Equipment

Milking Parlor Inspections.  There are two separate groups that do inspections – the farm side and the processing side.  Both groups inspect our milking parlor regularly.  This is where the milk comes out of the goat and goes into the bulk tank where it is immediately chilled.  They are inspecting our temperature charts to make sure that the milk is cooled in a timely manner and doesn’t warm back up again.  They are looking for dirt and milk protein stains on the stainless equipment.  They are looking for flies and anything that could cause the milk to be unhealthy.

Goat Milk Bulk Tank

Facility Inspections. The kitchen where we bottle our milk and make our cheese, gelato, and yogurt comes under regular, intense scrutiny.  That means flashlights checking the drains, the cheese molds, and all the equipment.  We have to use approved acid rinses on all the stainless steel equipment to make sure there is no milk protein buildup because if there is protein buildup, it could harbor harmful bacteria.

Stainless Steel Bowls

Milk Testing.  We send our milk in monthly for testing.  They test for the presence of bacteria and other nasties, the presence of antibiotics, and the somatic cell count in the milk which can indicate whether the goats have any underlying infections.  Additionally on the farm we are required to test each batch of milk to show that no antibiotics are used.

Approved and Calibrated Equipment.  All our equipment must be approved by the state and goes through regular calibration with the state to make sure that the required pasteurization temperatures are being achieved.

Process Inspections.  They also inspect how we make the cheese to make sure we are following proper and safe handling such as wearing hair-nets and gloves and properly washing hands and cheese utensils and milk equipment.  Every temperature chart is analyzed for every batch of product we make to ensure it reached safe pasteurization temperatures and was cooled down properly.

Pasteurization Chart

Product Testing.  The state takes regular samples of every single type of product we make and tests it to make sure it is safe.

Meeting the PMO. The PMO stands for Pasteurized Milk Ordinance and is an entire book on the information you must meet in order to safely make dairy products available to consumers for sale.  It’s important to know the regulations in the PMO and strictly adhere to it.

FSMA.  The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is a law that governs anyone producing food products for human (and pet) consumption.  This law is hugely complex and requires a lot of compliance.  It sets forth the practices and safety plans that need to be followed.

Does that sound like a lot of work?  It is.  Does that sound like it is expensive to comply with?  It is.

Is it worth it?  We think so.

Our Grade A license provides independent verification that our milk is healthy and of high quality.

We have always been completely open and honest about what we do and how we do it.  We have viewing windows into all of our production areas so customers can see where their food is made.  We do Facebook Live videos where you can watch how we take care of our goats.  We honestly answer all of the questions our customers have.  And most importantly, we’ve modeled integrity for our children and taught them that one of the most important characteristics they need to develop is integrity.  I define it for them as “doing the right thing even when nobody is watching.”

Farm Tour Viewing Windows

Whether we have our Grade A license or not, we would still do everything possible to make sure our goats and their milk are healthy.  Not only does Goat Milk Stuff turn it into wonderful products, but my children (and some day my grandchildren) drink our milk raw.

I’ve been to other goat farms where there is no way that I would allow my children to drink their raw milk.  I say that because I know what I am looking for.  The average consumer doesn’t.  Having Grade A certification is one more piece to building trust and knowing that the milk supply is healthy.

I personally know of many goat farmers who sell their milk, cheese, and other dairy products illegally.  It makes me sad to see this because goat milk is a wonderful product and I think it needs to be more widely available in America.  But every time a goat farmer illegally sells their items, it hurts the rest of us who are trying to do it honestly and the right way.

(That’s something else I teach my children.  You don’t have to agree with the law. In fact, you can work to change laws you don’t agree with.  But despite your feelings about the law, you still need to obey the law.)

I hope that everyone realizes when they are buying Goat Milk Stuff items – whether it is soap, cheese, milk, gelato, or candy – we are doing everything we can to ensure that the milk that is used is the healthiest milk possible.  Our Grade A license is independent confirmation that you can trust Goat Milk Stuff.

What are your thoughts?  Does it matter to you that we are a Grade A dairy?




What Would You Do With An Extra Hour?

I was asked the other day on a podcast interview what I would do if I suddenly had an extra hour in every day (if I had a 25 hour day instead of 24 hours).  I thought it was a great question.  I didn’t have to think about it too long.  My answer was…  I would do nothing.

I don’t need another hour to get more work done.  Is there more work that I could do?  Of course! I am, after all, a very busy mom.

But I personally believe that too many of us are running around constantly spending our time “doing” and not devoting enough hours to just “being”.  In our technology age, many of us no longer know how to be bored.  The moment we have some down time or a few free minutes, we pick up our technology of choice and entertain ourselves.  Whether it’s a youtube video, a blog post, a podcast episode, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting, music, news headlines, or something else entirely, we’re regularly distracting ourselves with technology.

Not that any of those are bad in and of itself (afterall, I create a lot of those items myself).  But it can be bad if we’re spending too much time on them and spending it too often.

I’m as guilty as the next person of picking up my phone if I’m “bored”.  But it is something that I am aware of and constantly work to minimize.  Why? Because it is important to do nothing and just be alone with our thoughts at times.

One of my favorite sayings is from St. Francis de Sales, who said “Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, time spent doing nothing can actually make us more productive. I know that sounds crazy, but it really is true.

How do you actually make this happen in your life?  It might help to take a lesson from Winnie-the-Pooh* and create a Thoughtful Spot of your own where you go to do nothing.

My Thoughtful Spot has varied over the years.  Sometimes it has been the kitchen table, sometimes, my bedroom, and quite often it has been my closet.  And then about a year ago I did something different.  This was difficult for me because I rarely spend money on myself, but I bought myself a writing desk.  And then Jim surprised me with a nice, comfy chair (instead of the hard plastic one I was using).

Writing Desk

I was very intentional about my writing desk*.  There is absolutely no technology allowed anywhere near my writing desk –  no phone, laptop, or anything.  At my writing desk I have my journal, my Bible, some pens, and stationary for writing to people.

I try to get to my writing desk every single morning.  It doesn’t always happen, but it happens more often than not.  I have a routine while I’m there, but it’s more of a loose frame work than it is a set of steps that I follow.

Journal.  The first thing I do is pull out my journal* and write down the day of the week, date, and time.  Then I just start writing whatever comes to mind.  This can cover anything from what happened yesterday to what is happening today to my feelings and actions and thoughts.  It can take anywhere from five minutes to thirty minutes and cover a quarter of a page up to several pages.  The most important thing I keep in mind when I’m writing is to keep it positive.  I do not ever use the journal to complain. Ever.  Even if I want to.

Bible Reading.  I then open my Bible and start reading.  I don’t have a set amount I read, it depends on the day.  Right now I’m in the Psalms.  I generally read until something jumps out at me.  Once I find the “right” verse, I write it down in my journal.  Then I write down my thoughts about why that verse is important to me and how I can apply it to my life.

Give Thanks.  After the Bible verse, I write in my journal “I am Thankful for” and list at least three things.  I try to make these specific to what is going on in my life.  For example, I wouldn’t write, “my husband”.  Instead I would write, “I am thankful my husband loves me enough to want me to be comfortable and spent his time locating the perfect chair for me*.”

Think About Today.  Then I write in my journal “What would make today great?”  This one takes some thinking.  Usually I lean back in my chair and try to figure out what I want the day to be.  Sometimes they are very structured business goals I am trying to reach (“having x new online customers”).  Sometimes they are tasks that are hanging over me (“getting all the tomatoes picked and processed.”)  And sometimes they are more relational (“get a specific child alone to help with his/her current struggles.”)  This is very powerful for me as it helps me to think about what is really important in my life right now.

Pray.  Once I have done all this, then I spend time in prayer.  Sometimes I write down in my journal what I am praying for or about.  But more often I just talk to God.

Sit quietly.  Before I get up, I spend some time just sitting in my chair.  Sometimes my eyes are open, sometimes they are closed.  During this time I may try to meditate (focus on my breathing and empty my mind) or I may just reflect and ask myself specific questions or I may let my mind wander and see whatever comes up.  It is during this time that I find I often get a lot of ideas and new angles on problem solving.

After this time at my writing desk I am almost always excited to live a new day and see what will happen.

I always aim to sit at my writing desk in the morning because it has the greatest impact on my day when I fit it in at that time.  But life being what it is, that doesn’t always happen, and I will try to fit it in at some point during the day (typically after lunch).

Some days I’ll sit at my writing desk in the evenings before bed, but that is my least preferred time.  I find that in the evenings instead of enjoying the time at my writing desk, it is more of a chore I have to check off before I go to sleep.  So I often skip it rather than forcing it to happen.

I don’t have a specific amount of time that I spend there. Sometimes all I can manage is ten minutes.  On these days I’ll generally not write anything, but just sit and think.  Twenty to thirty minutes is more often what I am able to accomplish.  But there are days where I’m able to spend an hour or longer.  These are the days that are most meaningful and have the biggest impact on my life.  But even so, I’d rather have a month where I get ten minutes every day than getting two hours only once or twice.

My children are a lot older now (ages 10 – 20) so it is easier for me to do this and be consistent about it.  But I’ve always made it a priority in some form.  When  the children were younger, we always had “Quiet Hour”.  This was typically at nap time.  The baby and toddlers would nap at the same time.  The older children had to sit on their beds and be quiet.  They could do whatever they wanted (read, color, or rest) as long as they made no noise.  They were also not allowed to get out of their beds for any reason.

Kids Meditating

If you ask my children, the older ones will tell you that this time was sacred to me.  I never spent this time cleaning the house or doing chores.  I spent it pretty much the way I just described. Even though I didn’t have a writing desk, it was easily accomplished in my bedroom or at the table.  I do admit, there were a lot of days I fell asleep during Quiet Hour, but that’s ok too.  I think maintaining quiet hour was also easier for me because we didn’t have technology.  I had no cell phone.  We had no television.  I wasn’t on social media.  I had a desktop computer and that was it.

I spend a lot of time trying to help busy moms spend their time more efficiently.  But please remember that it’s more important to spend your time wisely.  And this requires time spent not doing anything but thinking and reflecting.  If you are able to make this a part of your daily life, I think you’ll be amazed at how your overall productivity increases.

How about you?  Do you spend time doing “nothing”?  Do you want to?





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A Day In The Life – Brett’s Tuesday

Life as a Jonas means one thing: there is no such thing as a typical day. However, so many people have asked what a day looks like for our family that we decided we’d try to show you.  This is what Tuesday looked like for Brett.

7:45 AM

I wake up ten minutes before my alarm goes off and sit up, but don’t get out of bed for another ten minutes. I like waking up before my alarm goes off – it feels more peaceful.

8:15 AM

I read my Bible as I finish brushing my teeth and hair, then grab my laptop and settle down to answer a few personal emails that came in overnight. While I’m at it, I check the GMS inbox really quickly – there’s nothing that can’t wait for when I get to work, so I close that tab and go back to my own inbox.

9:50 AM

I grab my walkie talkie, slide my laptop into my backpack, and hurry downstairs to refill my water bottle. I snag a few blackberries on my way out the door. They’re super fresh (even if they are a little bitter. lol)

9:58 AM

I walk into the Sweet Shop with two minutes to spare, and put my stuff down at my desk.

10:00 AM

I check the calendar and notice that there are no scheduled tours. We encourage people to sign up for farm tours online, but since they don’t always, I wait five minutes to make sure no one comes. While I’m waiting, I check to make sure that all of the napkin dispensers are full.

10:10 AM

When my walkie talkie is silent for ten minutes, I finish refilling napkins and tell Indigo that I’m going up to the soaproom. We sold two goats, and they’re going home today, and I need to find their paperwork and get it ready.

11:30 AM

I finish sorting through a pile of goat paperwork that I’d forgotten about and grab the paperwork for Fantasmic and Jericho, the two goats that we sold. I print off the invoice that we keep for our own records, fill in the new owner’s information, and put it in the sheet protector with the two pedigrees.

11:31 AM

I get a phone call from Mom, asking me to meet her in the office as soon as I can.

11:33 AM

I find Mom in the office with our contractor’s wife, Karen, and we talk about wedding stuff for about thirty minutes.

12:05 PM

Indigo comes into the office asking when she can take her lunch break. I take over the Sweet Shop so she can go grab some lunch.

12:45 PM

Indigo and I switch: I go grab some lunch, (some really great leftover pasta!) and she watches the Sweet Shop.

12:54 PM

Fletcher comes on the walkie talkie and says, “Brett, you have a one o’clock tour.”

12:56 PM

I check the calendar – no one was scheduled, so the group waiting for me in the Farm Store is a pop-up tour.

12:58 PM

I finish the last bite of my food and gulp down a drink of water.

1:00 PM

The tour starts, a toddler and his parents, and I can immediately tell that it will be a fast one. We’ll be moving “toddler style” – AKA fast.

1:03 PM

The toddler is already bored with the soaproom. I hurry through, pointing out the most interesting things to Mom and Dad, trying to keep up with the toddler eager to see the “doats”.

1:07 PM

The rabbits have distracted the toddler for a moment, so I answer the questions that his parents have for me.

1:23 PM

We make it through the whole tour in record timing, toddler style, and I leave my tour group with Hewitt for a Baby Goat Experience.

3:30 PM

I check my email again and notice an email from our cross country coach – tonight’s meet has been postponed until tomorrow, which drastically changes my evening. I use the walkie talkie to relay that information to the rest of the family.

4:13 PM

A really cute baby comes into the Sweet Shop, and Indigo and I grin at each other. We love seeing cute kids in the store!

4:30 PM 

The rest of the afternoon passes smoothly in the Sweet Shop, and half an hour before closing I start my cleaning up routine. I wrap cookies and bagels, wipe down tables and chairs, clean glass, wash the gelato scoops, empty garbage cans, check the bathrooms, and refill napkin and utensil dispensers.

4:59 PM

I radio the front store that I am ready to close, and Jade responds that she still has a customer in the store.

5:01 PM

I try again, telling Jade that I’m ready to close.

5:08 PM

After seven minutes, Jade finally responds, telling me that the last customer has pulled out of the parking lot. I lock the doors, shut off the lights, grab my backpack and drink, and head back to the house.

5:10 PM

I walk into a house that looks like it exploded. Apparently Emery and Mason have been processing tomatoes and making gallons of tomato sauce and gallons of salsa. (They’re both great cooks, but neither is the best at cleaning).

8:30 PM

After over three hours of cleaning and making salsa and cleaning and making salsa and washing dishes and cleaning and making dinner, I finally get to sit down and eat dinner.  I love all the garden we food up during winter time, but actually putting it up can be exhausting.

8:32 PM

Mason’s cousin calls, and tells us that Mason’s got another calf to bottle feed, since its mother doesn’t have enough milk.

8:34 PM

We decide to bring the bottle calf here, since Mason is here all day and it’s easier to feed the calf if he’s here. Isn’t he adorable??

After that, the evening was a blur. I remember the calf arrived, we took care of it, and checked on the miniature goats that were supposed to have babies. I went back to the house and folded laundry, helped clean up after dinner, talked to Mason for a little while, and then went to bed. The next day was probably going to be just as busy, and I needed to get some sleep!


It’s Your Choice

Many of you know that my oldest daughter, Brett, just got engaged.  The other night we were discussing how important it is that you marry a person accepting him exactly as he is.  You don’t get married expecting your spouse to change.

Now, we all know that change is going to happen.  But too many engaged couples (in my opinion) get married thinking they will be able to change their spouse.  And that is very foolish thinking indeed.

Anyway, as Brett and I were talking about changing as you grow up, I told Brett that one of the biggest ways that I have changed is learning that while I can’t change others, I can (and need to) change myself. More specifically I can change my response to everything that life throws at me.

It doesn’t matter whether it is an event (positive or negative), a person (kind or unkind), or an emotion (anger or worry) – the main thing I can control is my reaction.  My reaction is a choice.

Life is full of incidents that don’t turn out the way we desire.  Let’s say, for example, you are out with your toddler grocery shopping, and your toddler starts screaming.  How are you going to react?  Will you get angry? Or embarrassed?  Will you turn mean? Will you stay patient?  Will you worry what others in the store are thinking about you?

Grocery Store Toddler

It’s difficult to change our thoughts or feelings.  But we can change our actions.  How you choose to react is up to you.  And it is that reaction that is important because it is what will be remembered.

A screaming child is cause for embarrassment.  But don’t react to your child because you are embarrassed.  Your embarrassment is YOUR issue.  It’s not your child’s issue. As a parent, your children will always, always do things that embarrass you.  (Don’t worry about it – you’ll get your “revenge” by embarrassing them when they’re teenagers.)

Deal with your embarrassment later.  At the moment it is happening, focus on your child – not the other people in the store and not your own personal feelings.

Do what you can do to calm the child quickly (for me it usually involved picking the child up and holding them tightly).  If the child doesn’t calm quickly, abandon your cart and leave the store.  I’ve had to do that in the past.  It’s not fun, but it’s hard to maintain discipline over your own reactions with a screaming toddler and people looking at you.  Go to your car and get control of the situation.  Once the child is calmed, go back and finish your shopping (usually the cart is still waiting for you).  If not, go home and try again later.

As another example, let’s say that you’re running late for an event.  You’re trying to leave and all of your family are not ready.  How are you going to react?  Are you going to start screaming at them to hurry up?  Threaten to leave them?  Get worried and stressed out?  All of the above?

Again, take a moment before you react.   Take a deep breath.  Gather everyone together and get them to all take a deep breath.  Calmly state the minimum that needs to occur before you can leave – hand out assignments and finish up.  When everyone is ready, then you can leave.

I know, all of that sounds much easier to say than to actually implement.  And none of us will ever react perfectly every single time.  But you can learn to control how you react to certain situations and you CAN make poor reactions the exception rather than the rule.

Here are some steps you can take:

Study Yourself.  As I mentioned, life will always through you curve balls that you don’t want to deal with.  You need to study yourself to figure out what are your specific problem areas.  Do you get angry too quickly?  Are you impatient?  Do you use unkind words that you can’t take back?  While we can each deal with some of these issues, most of us usually have one or two areas in which we really struggle.

Evaluate Your Triggers.  We all have them – those things that push us past our control.  For me it is lack of sleep (which is a big part of why I make sleep a priority).  If I haven’t gotten enough sleep I can be very cranky.  For you it may be the weather, dehydration, your hunger level, or any number of things.  Try to figure it out.  Keep a journal* if that helps, jotting down when you lost your temper and what was going on or why.

Create a Plan to Minimize Your Triggers and Their Impact.  Once you’ve identified your triggers, what are you going to do about them?  You can’t always make them go away completely, but you can educate yourself and others.  If hunger is a problem for you, keep a bag of almonds or a granola bar with you at all times.  (I always keep almonds in the car and around the house because I don’t do well if I get too hungry).  Talk to your children and your spouse.  If you’ve recognized that lack of sleep is an issue for you, warn them when you’re feeling tired and do whatever it takes to get more sleep.

stress management

Reduce Your Stress.  Oh yes – stress.  Isn’t this something we all want to do at some level – to reduce our stress load?  Of course it is.  Well you know what?  If you start to study yourself and learn about your triggers and start to reduce the triggers, that will improve your stress.  But you need to move beyond that.  You need to identify your biggest source of stress and then come up with strategies to minimize the stress.  Do you know what mine is?  Decision making.  I have so many decisions to make every single day.  Sometimes they’re small decisions (what to make for dinner, what to plant in the garden).  And sometimes they’re HUGE decisions that affect everything we do (should we stop being only a bath & body company and start selling goat milk food items as well).  Whatever I can do to reduce the amount of decisions I need to make, the better my stress level.  This is part of why I put so many systems in place.  Following systems really reduces the number of decisions you need to make.

Build Margin Into Your Life.  Margin is the space between our normal load and a state of overload.  None of us function when we’re overloaded.  You need space.  And that often times requires you to say no or discontinue some of the good things your’e doing in your life.  If you want more information, I did a podcast on this issue that I highly recommend if you don’t have time to read the book Margin by Richard Swenson*.  (This book has been hugely valuable in my life and I highly recommend it as well.)

Find A Good Role Model.  This is always easier said then done.  But if you can find someone in your life that you can watch and see how they handle events it is so helpful.  Even more helpful is somebody you can talk to and get wisdom from.  That is one of the reasons I take the time to podcast and blog.  Because I know the importance of finding older women who have been through it who can help (yes – I’m old! LOL)

Give it to God.  And finally give it to God and pray about it.  God doesn’t want you to worry.  God doesn’t want you to get angry.  God doesn’t want you to be overly stressed.  I know that God loves my children even more than I do.  I know that He loves me.  The events that happen in my life that I don’t like are used by God to help me to grow more like Jesus.  As much as it is my job to raise my children, the best way I can raise them is raise myself to be the absolute best role model that I can possibly be.

Please remember – you can’t control what’s around you and what happens to you.  But you can control how you choose to react.  And that’s important because your children, your spouse, and even strangers are watching your reactions.

So do what it takes to help yourself learn to control your reactions.  It’s worth the time and the effort!

What about you?  Do you think your reactions are a choice?  And if so, where do you struggle?





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As a side note – I used to practice grocery shopping with the children.  We were a well-oiled machine because I put in the training so they knew what to expect and how to act.  They knew not to ask for anything extra (if they asked they would never get it).  They knew when they were little to keep one hand on the cart.  I had my shopping list organized by the store so we went up and down only the aisles we needed.  But more importantly, I didn’t go food shopping when my children were tired or sick.  Tired or sick children are almost always guaranteed to cause problems.  I also kept a well stocked pantry and never waited til the last minute so that I didn’t have any food left.  And even with all that, I still occasionally had to leave the store, but those times were few and far between.


Systems are Key to Increased Productivity

I got my Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia.  People often think that the ‘systems’ refers to computer systems, but in fact it refers to large-scale systems.  I put my degree to good use working in Corporate America for 3 years before Brett was born.  When I left the work force to be a stay at home mom, several people told me I was wasting my education.

Systems Engineering Degree

I have to laugh at that.

My life is one huge large-scale system.  From the farm to the business to the garden to the house to the children to my husband, all aspects of my life have so many moving and changing parts, that it is all very interwoven.  A change in any piece of that framework has implications for all the other pieces.

One of the main reasons I am able to accomplish as much as I do is because I’ve set systems in place for how everything should work.  That doesn’t always mean that all the people in my life always follow all the systems I’ve set in place, but for the most part it’s easier to follow the system than it is to do something else.  Especially because I strive to make the systems as efficient as possible.

People often ask me if I have a lot of documentation for my systems.  I should, but I don’t.  (This drives Jim crazy – he spent three years as a trainer in Corporate America and he hates the fact that we don’t have written documentation for our systems.)

In my ideal world, I would write down all my systems and put together an entire manual.  And I may do that at some point in the future and turn it into a book.  But the reality is that I simply don’t have the time right now.  While written system documentation would be helpful because it would all be written down in one place for anybody to follow, the reality is, my systems are always changing.

And my systems are always changing because life is always changing.  I have to constantly revisit my systems to see what needs to be modified and improved.  And taking the time to improve my systems is more important than taking the time to document those systems.  Especially because I am interacting with my children and employees when I make those changes.

I think that everyone should have systems in place in their life.  Is it time consuming to set up the systems?  It can be.  But the time spent developing those systems will bring huge time savings down the line.

Let’s talk about some practical systems for the house.

Washing Dishes. In our home, all the dirty dishes go to the left of the sink and all the clean dishes go to the right.  All the silverware, plates, bowls, and glasses go directly into the dishwasher without being rinsed off (I’d rather hand wash a few afterwards that didn’t get clean than to rinse all of them beforehand).  All of our big knives* go closest to the sink to be cleaned first. The wooden cutting boards get stacked.  Pots get filled with water to soak if they are not being washed right away.  Big glass and stainless bowls also get stacked.  Cast iron* gets placed on the stove so it can be washed and oiled after everything else has been done.

I’d love to say that everything gets washed right away.  But it doesn’t.  We do a lot of harvesting, processing, and preserving from our huge garden.  This not only uses tons of pots and bowls, but it can also lead to quite a mess.  Having a system for where everything goes helps us to save counter space and keep the washing dishes system functioning really well.  It also gives me a way to divide the washing if there is a ton of it. (e.g. Indigo you wash the cutting board stack, Fletcher you wash the pots, Greyden you wash the cast iron, and Jade you wash the bowls).  And don’t forget the fact that you know where to look for that dirty knife you can’t find!

Systematic Dirty Dishes

Laundry.  We have two laundry rooms in our home (I’m blessed, I know!).  The children mostly use the upstairs washer and dryer*.  There was a lot of bickering going on because people would start their laundry and then abandon it.  The system I created now has every child having 2 laundry baskets.  I took a permanent marker* and wrote their names all over their laundry baskets.  When a child starts a load of laundry, they have to leave their laundry basket in the laundry room in front of the machine their laundry is in.  The rule goes that if you want to start a load of laundry, you have to “advance” everyone else’s laundry in the system.

So it would look like this:

  • Jade starts a load of laundry (using our laundry soap, of course) in the washing machine and puts her “Jade” laundry basket in front of the washer.  Then she goes to the soap room.
  • Hewitt finishes feeding the baby goats and wants to start his laundry.  Jade’s wash cycle is finished, so he puts her laundry into the dryer, starts it, and moves the Jade laundry basket in front of the dryer.  He then puts his laundry in the washing machine and puts his “Hewitt” laundry basket in front of the washer. He goes back to the barn and starts cleaning out a stall.
  • Emery finishes making all the morning bagels and breads.  He comes back to the house and wants to start his laundry.  Both the washer and dryer are full but finished.  He takes Jade’s laundry out of the dryer and puts it in her basket.  He then puts the basket on top of her bed (on top of the bed means it is clean).  He moves Hewitt’s laundry from the washer to the dryer and moves the Hewitt basket to in front of the dryer.  Then he starts his laundry and puts his “Emery” basket in front of the washer.

Systematic Laundry

Make sense?

The system works really well.  And you may have figured out (as my children did quite quickly) that the person who gets their laundry started first does the least amount of work!

The hard part is for the last person to remember to go back and switch their laundry to the dryer on the same day.  That’s the weakest link in this system.

Those are two of our household systems.  I also blogged about our packing system and podcasted (in detail) about my pantry and food shopping systems if you’re looking for other examples.

Sometimes setting up the system takes money if you have to purchase items like extra laundry baskets*.  But quite often it doesn’t cost any money at all.

The important thing to remember is that setting up systems does always take time – time to create the system, time to train others on the system, time to review the system, and time to improve the system.  But don’t underestimate the amount of time (and money) you will save once the system is in place and everyone has been trained on using it.

With good systems in place, you will find that your productivity soars!

So those are just a few of my systems.  Do you have any systems in place that work really well for you?





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