Monday, March 15, 2010


How an average suburban mom has transformed her average life to one of simple joys and basic living. Or, how I became sewing, canning, gardening, organic eating, flour milling, cracker cooking, bread baking, deodorant, hairspray, lotion and lipbalm making Mama.

Awhile back I wrote about the changes we have made to simplify our lives. That post is here with an update here. Those posts are more about what we've changed and why. This post is more of the how. We have continue to grow and change and add more things to our lives, usually in the way of removing something else. In others words, instead of buying things we are making more and more ourselves.

So much is so different than even two years ago. If you had tried to talk to me then about canning or preserving food, or simple cleaning products, I would have smiled and been clueless. I even remember a mom speaking at Mops around then of all the natural things they did and used. I only half listened, one because I was holding my newborn and two because I thought a lot of the ideas were too different. I didn't know anyone doing those things, wasn't raised that way, didn't much care, and generally was just busy doing my own thing.

We figured we were doing fine happily raising our family doing a lot of what we saw everyone around us do. Not having television and having babies at home had already set us apart from a lot. For us, when the change came, it came quick and took over.

I've been asked several times about how we started doing all these things. By "all these things", it is usually meant all the things I make here at home. So much of it has been just absorbed into my daily routines I hardly notice it until someone mentions it. Then it is sorta funny to me to remember that not everyone is excited to preserve 120 pounds of apples, 80 pounds of tomatoes, 40 pounds of peaches, nor pickle at least two bushels worth of cucumbers. Not everyone loves an afternoon of making healing balms, lip balms, lotions, and deodorant. Not everyone thinks about how many loaves of bread should be baked, or what style of bread we'll need for the next week or so.

I'm not writing this to say look at all I do! I write it to see if someone will come help with the dishes. No, not really. I write this to encourage and maybe inspire others to look at the type of life they want to live and to see what they can do to begin achieving it right now. I'd love to live out on forty acres in the country. To have a cow, some goats and a flock of chickens. I'd love that. I'd love to have an orchard, for the boys to have room to run and play and build and grow. Reality is that I live in an American suburb and I drive a minivan.

Some of my favorite blogs lately have been trying to field the question of how to begin living more simply. Most write a lot about baby steps and the need to not get discouraged. That's great. One thing I think that is important to realize is that a simple life is not necessarily an easier life. It would be easier to drive through Mc Donalds. It would be easier to live at the mall, or to just stay in my air-conditioned cocoon. It is a lot of work to plan ahead for a handmade Christmas, to all the gardening and preserving, to try and live according to the rhythms God has made in our world.

I sometimes think it is more of a natural life than a simple one. And it has become a foreign one in this country. Taking a step back is hard and sometimes lonely and more than once I've felt like a total dork because I have no idea what everyone is talking about that happened on the television the night before!

But, aren't we supposed to be different? To be in the world, but not so wrapped up in it? Now, I believe salvation is through faith alone in Christ Jesus. I am not going to spend eternity with Him because I live like this. Living like this though, helps me to draw closer to Him in this everyday life.

Slowing down, living at a gentler pace, allows me to stop and listen. To praise Him while I'm working in the garden. To worship the wonder of His creation as I kneel, humbled in the dirt. Thanking Him for His hand in all I see. Looking at the absolute variety in something as simple as the lettuces, or the bugs. Cupping a frog in my hands and staring at its ugly, amazing face. Tuning out the other sounds to focus on the birds, or the rustle of the breeze in the cornstalks. To feel the golden autumn glow, gently warming my back as I dig up yet another weed.

To understand the verse that says, “Unless a seed falls t o the ground and dies....” and seeing how dying to myself and my constant struggle to pour my life out for others when all I want is to be left alone. It is in that dying I will live.

Lessons appear not just in the garden. “Give us this day our daily bread,” somehow means more when I'm praying while kneading that bread. The rhythm of grating the soap to make detergent is relaxing. Knowing that He has made plants for us to use for healing and finding them to mix into a balm that will soothe a scrape, or a rash, is amazing to me.

So, how do you get started? For me it was looking at all I was buying and seeing what I could make myself. Google is an amazing resource. I would see something I knew we used or ate a lot and started looking up directions and recipes and adapting these to fit us.

Reading blogs from other women who were trying new (to me) things and learning from them has been an enormous source of wisdom. It wouldn't have occurred to me that laundry detergent or deodorant was even something you could make at home if I had not read about someone else doing it! I always figured everyone used shampoo and conditioner until I read about several women who don't and who explained how to use baking soda and vinegar instead. Their promises that I wouldn't walk around looking like an oil slick or smelling like an Easter Egg made me willing to try it for myself.

Rhonda has oodles of amazing ideas for homemade cleaners using mostly baking soda and vinegar as well. She's just full of easy tips and shares her knowledge in such a wonderful way that you feel as though she is just across the kitchen counter, not around in the world somewhere in Australia. Her Co-op pools great posts from all sorts of writers globally who love to share the things they do in their own lives. They write about what works and sometimes even more importantly, what doesn't. A few of the writers are not as interesting to me, but overall there are some wonderful articles.

I look up things on You Tube as well. There I learned how to easily peel tomatoes for canning, and how to sew bias tape without cursing. (Thank you Amy Karol!) I am not linking to You Tube, nor endorsing it for random viewing. I am jut suggesting it for those of us who need to see something to get it. Although, I still haven't managed to follow the video on teaching myself to crochet.

If something helps, I do it. If I can find an easier way to do something, or a simpler recipe, I switch. I've grown to not be afraid of failure. An awful result is rarely permanent.

So a batch of body butter isn't right? Remelt it and add more stuff. A seam seems wrong? Get the seam riper and remove it the right way and do it again and again if necessary. Stuck on a project? Stop, make a pot of tea and then try again, or try another day when things are better. Bread doesn't rise? Eat it flat and next time make sure the yeast is fresh, the water warm enough, the dough is kneaded longer. Whatever. Don't be afraid of failure! You can learn a lot, certainly a lot more than if you had never tried in the first place.

I already enjoyed baking French bread for dinners, so it made sense to expand that to making sandwich bread. That done I moved onto pita bread, tortillas, flat breads, and crackers. Why keep buying the frozen Eggo waffles Sweetheart ate every morning? Find a recipe, bake huge batches and toss them in the freezer so he can happily toast what he wants each and everyday.

Making all these things requires a lot of flour. Why keep buying it in 10 pound bags? We bought a mill and I started milling the wheat myself. When the price of wheat went up at the grocery store by 70% in one month, we found a local source of 50 lb bags of wheat berries and stocked up.

I read a lot and the more I've read the more I thought about the food we buy. Our organic farm up the road led me to pay attention even more to how our food is grown and all the chemicals and pesticides on it all. So I began to seek out alternatives. I found a store that sold a lot of organic foods and natural meats. They have a wonderful bulk food section as well. I now drive across town every few weeks and load up. All the bulk purchases led to the next thing and I sewed up a ton of cloth draw string bags for all my produce and bulk things. Those little bags are also great to use instead of ziplocs and I also fill them with all sorts of little things whenever I need them. A quick trip through the wash with the homemade detergent as needed means they are always ready to go, either waiting by the front door or in the van with all the cloth shopping bags.

I grew extremely sensitive to smells and chemicals when I first became pregnant. That sensitivity has remained. When we began to change our food I knew it made no sense to eat organic and then continue to turn our house into a chemical vat every time I cleaned something. First, I transitioned to more natural cleaners having read about several people using Mrs. Meyers . Her products do work well and because of their concentrated nature ended up not being any more expensive than the regular things I had been using. As I ran out of things though I decided to see what else I could use their place. Though better, I still found them somewhat irritating.

After more reading and Googling, I've found that I can clean almost anything with vinegar and baking soda. I just pour white vinegar in a spray bottle. To clean the bathrooms I just spray pretty much every surface with the vinegar and wipe everything down. I poured baking soda and salt in a canning jar and had Sweetheart drill some holes in the lid. I shake the powder onto any surface that needs scouring. It works great on porcelain, laminates, and even stainless steel. You can add essential oils to both for fragrance, but I usually use them plain. A shaker jar, like for parmesan cheese, works, too. I just use what I have on hand. Arm & Hammer does sell a plastic container with holes in the lid, but it is not reusable and costs a lot more.

So far, I have been very pleased with my natural cleaners. I stopped using regular furniture polish because the aerosols bothered me. I used half olive oil and half lemon juice in a jar for awhile. Most of the time it worked great, but I did find that if I used too much olive oil the wood was a bit sticky. It isn't always perfect and that's ok.

I share these links and ideas knowing that some people will find them useful and some people will find them pointless. Maybe someone will file the ideas in the back of his or her mind for later. Maybe you will run out of something and not want to go to the store and decide to try to just make what you need. I hope this inspires you!

My goal is never to make someone feel bad for what they do or don't do. NEVER! I am just sharing my life because I have found ideas and inspirations from others sharing their lives. I tried to link to a lot of the directions for things, but if you are not finding what you are looking for, try the search box in the right column, or leave a comment and I will hook you up.

I wrote out most of this blog awhile back, but knew I needed to edit it and add the links. Today seems like the right day to just call it done and publish it. Maybe it was all the driving around in the country this weekend looking at farms, or maybe it is just because I am starting a new year today, but I want to get this out there.

If you have any questions or comments, be sure to leave them and I will get back to you. Also, do you want to read more along these lines? Are tutorials helpful? Any ideas strike you as something you would try? I am just curious. :)


Bonnie said...

Fantastic post Kimberly! You seriously make it sound easy-breezy, even though I know its not when you first get started. Glad you decided it was ready to be published, I enjoyed it immensely! You put into words very nearly my exact thoughts, something I'm not always very good at!

P.S. Picked a mid-wife yet?

TopazTook said...

I enjoy reading about all the things you make. Other than (sometimes) cleaning with baking soda and/or vinegar, I haven't done these things yet, but they're in the back of my mind for...someday. And you present everything so beautifully and inspirationally on your blog!

Anonymous said...

An awesome post. I started reading your blog a little over a year ago and you inspired me to make my own laundry detergent and household cleaners. I still make them now! I also have no television! I have plenty of time to cook and bake. I am going to start going organic slowly. I am getting a freezer and I am going to buy from a local organic co-op! Thanks for being an inspiration to others. I love you blog. Sincerely Diane A.

tonia said...

Such a wise and helpful post! I can't believe you've only been doing these things a short make it look easy!

Your determination and resolve are so inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

Bonnie said...

I just made the cheese crackers- SO GOOD! I doubt these will last 'til tomorrow!

6512 and growing said...

I've been gardening, canning, preserving, making herbal medicine for awhile. I recently added bread-baking and yogurt-making to the list. I'm finding I love having something to do inside while my children play (and fight and make their own messes).

Kelly @ Primally Inspired said...

Hi Kimberly! I came across your blog from a comment you left on my blog. I really enjoyed reading this post and love how you transformed into an organic loving, sewing, natural, superwoman :) I especially loved the part that said that you found living more simply allowed you to become closer to Christ. I, too, am a Jesus lover and I feel the same way. I feel the closest to Him when I am outside in his amazing creation. Mainly because I am in awe of all the beauty that He created for us to enjoy. I loved the way you wrote about that, too. Take care!! :) ~Kelly
ps. I may have to look you up in year or so. My husband and I are seriously considering an across the country move to Idaho. We know no one there or have nothing there - we just love adventure and Idaho seems to fit our lifestyle very well :)

Katrina @ Jewels in the Rough said...

Hi Kimbery!
I just stumbled across your blog while searching for a DIY Vicks Vapor Rub. And like with all super fun blogs, I did some serious rabbit-trailing! But just wanted to say that I quite enjoy your blog! It's great. Thank you for sharing all the great recipes and ideas. I can relate to you and your story as well! A few short years ago I would have laughed at the mere thought of making my own deodorant! And now...I've become that crunchy mom! LOL So I'm trying to get a blog going to share some of my discoveries as well! Blogs such as yours have been so helpful to me and I really want to pass that along!

jamie said...

Fabulous blog....and I do not say that often. I will be back when I have more time to browse. Right now, I am making crackers for that homemade chili I have been cooking on the stove for hours.

Keep up the wonderful work you are sharing with other mothers and fathers. You make the world a better place.


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