Saturday, January 7, 2023

How to be a parent A fertility story and loss.


        Some of you may know that I have struggled with infertility for more than 20 years now. When Gary and I were married in February 2000,we knew we wanted to start a family as soon as we could, because we had an 18 year age difference, and have tried for a family for all of these years, sometimes with medical intervention, and most of the time not. Sometimes we had great health insurance, for a few years after Gary retired we had none. I have done so many fertility tests, and I have had all of the diagnostic procedures you can have to make sure that my reproductive organs were functioning like they should. All of the parts were good. I was told my horemones were not good and that's why I didn't have a regular period, I would need help to correct my cycles. I responded to all the drugs, my body produced eggs when the drugs told them to, and when it was time to release them we had a trigger shot and timed intercourse, we assume they did release from blood work, but cycle after cycle we did not become pregnant.

        We went along with our daily lives outside of the home, Work and gatherings and family events. We did this as long as we could, until we decided to just let nature take it's course and if it was going to happen it would. Without intervention, without monitoring. But we never did. We tried to live life for each other and we chased other dreams all the way to Maine! But we still felt the family we had always wanted wasn't complete.

        The pandemic had us really soul searching as I am sure much of the world was doing, and we decided in September of 2021 to check on my health and his to see where we were, in terms of our fertility. My clock was ticking very loudly. Gary was totally great at 62/63. My hormone issues were just as messy as they always have been, still at 44, and I expected that. So in march of 2022 I was sent to an Endocrinologist again for answers, and boy were there answers.

        After 20 years of tests and more tests, medications, and treatments, this doctor didn't think the new test results she was seeing matched what I was told I had over 10 years ago.(NCCAH) Non Classical Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia as well as PCOS. I actually didn't have NCCAH. Yes, it was still my right adrenal gland, and by chance in a CT scan to check on my adrenals, also a small mass on my right kidney. There were other trips to doctors, for how to aproach this new medical issue, and taking into account I would still like to try to be a mother, because I am so young, the doctors felt the best course of action was to remove the very small mass from my right kidney and the adrenal gland, and I was lucky enough to have been reffered to one of only two doctors in the State of Maine who could do both, robotically, at the same time. It felt like a true whirl wind of things that have happened since then.

        In June 2022 I had this life changing surgery and a 3 day stay in the Hospital. Gary was with me the whole time. Our beautiful friends and neighbors let him stay at their condo in Portland and my amazing Mother stayed here at the farm to care for our chickens and dogs while we were gone. My heart was so happy that we were so loved and cared for by our family and friends. When we came home I had several weeks of recovery time when I wasn't allowed to do any heavy lifting, bending or gardening that could tear my internal sutures, or cause me to develop hernias. So I was good and did my best by just watering here and there and resting. That was hard. I really love to work in the gardens, but It was hot and I needed rest still. The pathology showed that the mass on my right kidney was a cancerous clump of cells, but they were able to get it all out and the margins were all clear. The adrenal gland mass was benign but was the cause of my high aldosterone, as well as my Hypokalemia and my Hypertension.

        In July I was cleared by the doctors. I was off of all medications. My Blood pressure was now normal again, I didn't need high doses of potassium any more either. And we were also cleared to start trying for a baby. After all that was our original reason for starting this crazy journey in the first place.

        Rewinding to the day we left the hospital. I actually started my period that same day. We already had decided we would keep track of this cycle to avoid my fertile window, and wait for at least a month for me to heal. So we were just focused on that, my healing, doctors appointments etc...
So weeks go by and my fertile window was just over, we thought my LH surge was done and we just went about life. What I didn't know was that first peak, was a failed surge and I had a second peak a couple of weeks later, when I should have been starting my period. But no, I was already somehow, Pregnant!

        I did the first test, and was just completely shocked to my core to see an ever so very faint line, I then did a second test the next day because I thought the test might have been wrong. But It was ever so much slightly darker this time. So this time I did a third test, with a different brand, and it was positive also. I just have to say that I have never in my now 45 years of life, never had this happen before. I was ecstatic, I told Gary and he was also so happy.

        But here's the thing, the very important thing, you need to know about this news. The fact that I was pregnant, was a great shock and I had zero symptoms. I was feeling normal. We called my OB/Gyn and asked for a blood test etc. and it was early, but it was positive.
August 8th, 2022


136.2 mIU/mL

A week later I had a second draw.....
August 16th, 2022


3,470.0 mIU/mL


11.50 ng/mL

        Now here is where I have to say I was not very happy about the term Geriatric Pregnancy, because I am considered high risk, mostly due to my health history, but also because of my age!
We had our first US August 17th, 2022 and there was a pregnancy and it was in the right place. But it was still too early and I would have to come back in a week for another one. I was measured at 5w1d.
August 25th, 2022 At the second US
The uterus contains a single gestational sac with a single fetal pole. A yolk sac is identified; 5 mm in maximum diameter. There is normal fetal motion and cardiac activity. A heart rate of 134 beats per minute was obtained.

The crown-rump length is 0.4 cm, which would correspond to a gestational age of 6 weeks, 1 day and an EDD of April 19, 2023.


28,053.0 mIU/mL


8.69 ng/mL

        I was assured all was well. But I was worried about my Progesterone being so low and I asked for another test to make sure it was going up as well as suppositories to support my pregnancy. As an older woman I have read quite a lot about this in particular being something that causes women my age to loose an otherwise viable pregnancy, So I advocated for this as a support. It took another 5 days to get it. Above you can see it was indeed lower than it should have been. It should have been a red flag to my doctor, but because she had already prescribed the Progesterone to me at the highest dose, she never even mentioned it. She also declined to do any further testing of my Progesterone.

        My next appointment wasn't until I was 7w6d. At this point we were in love with this little life we had made. I was super tired and had tender, growing breasts, but that was it. No other symptoms to tell me I was pregnant.
By this appointment I was taking the progesterone, but I wasn't being reassured all was well with more tests. This confused me as I thought I was considered high risk, so why no more testing? I wasn't even due for another US until 12 weeks.

        But at 10w2d I had a little cramping and a little tinge of pink when I wiped, after going to the bathroom. So I called the doctor and she had me come in.

        Friday, September 23rd 2022 4 weeks after my US with my peanut's heartbeat was detected.

INDICATION: 45yo G1 at 10+2 by first trimester US - bleeding. Request US for viability, NT if possible. Thank you..

TECHNIQUE: Transvesical and endovaginal scanning is performed.
FINDINGS: There is a single intrauterine pregnancy. The gestational sac has a regular shape and contour. The mean sac diameter is 3.69 cm corresponding to an estimated gestational age of 9 weeks and 2 days. There is no evidence of subchorionic
hemorrhage. A fetal pole is identified with crown-rump length of 0.99 cm corresponding to an estimated gestational age of 7 weeks and 1 day. No fetal cardiac activity is identified. There is no yolk sac.

No heartbeat was detected. We had suffered a Missed Miscarriage. My OB was called to talk to us and came to the US room to express her sorrow at our loss, but just to be sure we would have to have another US in a week to confirm this US. So on Monday, October 3rd, 2022  in my OB's office I went alone to confirm our little Peanut was really gone. We discussed my options for how to further the progression of my miscarriage. At this point nothing more happened in the week after we learned about the MMC, I was ready to move the process on so on Friday that week I went back in to my OB's office and I took the Mifeprostone in the office and got the Misoprostal at the pharmacy on the way home. I asked my Dr. if it was possible to test the tissue to give us some clarity as to why I miscarried, so she sent me home with a sample collection cup and one of those halfmoon collectors you put on the toilet to collect your sample in, scheduled a follow up US for the next week to make sure I passed all the “products of conception” and to reassess my next steps.

That weekend I had the first part of three phases to my miscarriage. It felt like contraction like cramping low in my uterus, followed by the need to push. It was hard physically, and emotionally to see the clots each time I pushed. It was so hard to wonder what it was I was looking for in the mass of blood and urine I had to sift through to find what might be placenta or fetal tissue that we could send to the lab for testing.
After about 4 hours of this I finally stopped having the contraction like cramps. I placed what I thought might be the fetal tissue into the specimen cup and in the morning the next day I walked it into the hospital and down to the lab and gave them what I thought was my baby to test for what might have been the reason for the miscarriage. I was greeted with a lot of empathy, and sorrys from everyone I spoke to. Which made me feel cared for as well as sad.

At 13w1d on October 13th, 2022 I went back in to My OB's office for another US and there in the office was phase 2 of my miscarriage. It was another transvaginal US and she saw there were still tissues in a clump near my cervix, so my miscarriage was not complete. After the doctor took the probe out of me I started bleeding onto the floor. So quickly she and the nurse had to pivot to a full on examination. I hardly had any time to process that I was still miscarrying, before the cold metal clamps were opening me up and she was going in to see what was happening.  It took about 20 min of suctioning and swabbing, and cramping and lots of heavy breathing on my part to get through that, At the end of it she had collected a second sample of tissue and clots to send off to be tested(*more on that later) then told me I needed to go right to the Main Hospital for a second US, again to try to confirm that all had finally passed. They gave me a pad and a bottle of water to drink for the US. She asked me how I was feeling, and I mean what do you say? I'm not that great. I cried some more, maybe for the second or third time in her office in the past few weeks. More apologies.

     We headed to the hospital entrance side, I checked in at reception, only to be told I didn't have an appointment for an US. In fact I just had one. I had to go through the whole story of what had just happened in my OB's office, and that she called right in to radiology to get me in, if she would just call them to confirm it. So 15 min later, more apologies for my situation, and the confusion, I was off to have my second probe of the day, only to be told there was still tissue/mass left. My OB called me later that evening to instruct me to take a second dose of the Misoprostal to try to complete the process. There would be another US to follow.

     I went home, tired, super sad and too tired to go through the pain and cramps that night, so I took the second dose of the Misoprostal the next day. The cramps weren't quite as bad as the first time, but I still had the urges to push. I passed more clots and tissue that I collected in a baggie and stored in the fridge until the next day. No one had thought to give me a collection cup, or ask me to but I did it anyway because, at this point the first sample I had collected had no fetal tissues to test. The second sample was never tested, because the first sample had not come back yet, and as it turns out the third sample that was tested, also had no fetal tissues to test. So I believe they were in the second un tested sample, and it was heartbreaking for me not to have any closure on this at all.  I am assuming it was just an old egg with chromosomal abnormalities and that was why we miscarried, but we will never know. 

On Wednesday, October 19th, 2022 @ what would have been 14w pregnant,  I had my last US that finally confirmed the completion of my MMC. I would have just entered my second trimester. I would have been anxiously awaiting my 20 week scan. The one we were waiting for to tell everyone we were Pregnant. That was our goal for sharing our news. Instead I saw this in my visit notes. It was finally and completely over. 


INDICATION: Follow up s/p medical management.

COMPARISON: Pelvic ultrasound examination of October 13, 2022

TECHNIQUE: Transvesical and endovaginal scanning is performed. 2-D grayscale and color Doppler images were acquired.

FINDINGS: The uterus measures 12.5 x 4.9 x 6.3 cm. The uterine contour is smooth. Uterine architecture is heterogeneous.

The endometrial stripe measures 8.4 mm in maximum AP dimension. A small amount of fluid is identified within the lower endometrial and the endocervical canal.
The previously demonstrated soft tissue collection at this location which measured up to 4.1 cm
in maximum diameter is no longer identified.

        At 13w2d I finished passing the "products of conception". Quietly at home, with Gary and my puppies by my side. Every Wednesday since then, I am sad.  Wednesdays were my weekly markers for how far along we were. For almost 11weeks I loved Wednesdays. Now they are just a sad reminder of what we lost. 
        On 1/4/2023 we would have been 25 weeks pregnant. We would have been frantically figuring out where all the future baby things were going, I would be filling our freezer with postpartum meals to make our life easier. I had plans for every week until our due date. I was so happy for 11 weeks. 

        Unfortunately I have been unhappy for 13 weeks. Longer than I was happily pregnant. How long will I be holding on to this sadness?  I will always have it inside me as I know every mother who has lost a child does. But mostly I have thought about how my story could help others through this in the future, or could stop this kind of thing from happening at all.

        When I was 18 years old I was told I had PCOS. and I may have, but it was much more than that. I was never counseled about my fertility future. No one sat me down and said you will have a long road ahead of you of infertility. Was it because I was unmarried? Was it because they were hoping for a long future of  me paying into the medical system for their "help"?  I don't know. So here is what I wish someone told me at 18 or 23 or even 35 when I still had younger eggs and better odds of a healthy egg.

        Insert your name here__________ , as a woman you have been born with all the eggs you will ever have in your life. As you age so do they. you don't have to decide to have children right now. but in a few years time it will be harder to have a baby with older eggs, and the older you get the older they get. Yes you can get pregnant at any age up until you go through menopause, and with expensive drugs and a good fertility clinic, and good health you could prolong that time with a donor egg.  But as your friend / medical professional/ family member I need you to hear me. Bank your eggs now. Save them for a day when you are happy, financially stable, with a partner or on your own, in a healthy and stable mental state, a safe home, or have the career you have always wanted. Whatever your reason is to put it off, bank them. Live your life, travel , excel in your career. But don't put it off. And one day if you decide you don't want to use them, you could donate them to a friend or family member who is struggling with infertility. But don't put it off. Because one day when everything is finally the way you want it to be your eggs will be older, and the trials you will have to go through will be hard, devastating even, and I want to save you from that pain. So do this for the future you. Or the future you who might give the gift of life to a sister or brother, or a cousin or a friend, or even a complete stranger. Or no one at all. But don't let your fertility slip away from you.  You may not have a medical issue that is challenging you right now, but think about Cancer, or other things that could happen in a lifetime. This is a real solution to a real future problem. I truly wish someone, anyone had explained this all to me when I was so much younger. Even 10 years ago.

        Right now it isn't much cheaper to bank your eggs for the future than it is to go through IVF.
The average cost for an IVF cycle with fresh eggs is around $15,130, while a cycle with frozen eggs is slightly less expensive at $13,180. The average cost of a new patient consultation is roughly $350, and additional fees for medications and fertility testing.

"Studies suggest that women who freeze their eggs before age 35 have a better chance of a successful pregnancy than those who freeze their eggs after age 35." This is because the more eggs retrieved and frozen, the better the chance of a successful pregnancy.J

Generally speaking, women over the age of 43 are not advised to undergo IVF with their own eggs. Instead, reproductive specialists recommend using donor eggs, as older eggs have a higher chance of being chromosomally abnormal. These abnormalities can lead to miscarriage, disease, or problems in growth or development.

It is a similar process, and one day it is what you will have to go through to use your banked eggs. The process is taxing on your body to make it produce many eggs when you are in your 40's and most women have such a small reserve at that point, they almost never get a golden egg from a single retrieval. Imagine having to pay tens of thousands of dollars to try to get a good egg and still end up having to go with a donor egg. Many women do that, just to experience becoming a mother. Some have issues maintaining a pregnancy and have to have a surrogate. All are equally good ways to become a mother. I applaud all of them, and adoption and fostering to adoption as well. All viable and wonderful ways to be a parent. Just make sure that you think about all of your future options while they are options for you. Because some day one or more of them will be off the table due to unforeseen reasons that you couldn't plan for. 

        I wasn't sure I would share this story with anyone other than a few women in my life that helped me through some of this. But I feel as women we need to have these conversations, and have people to lean on and help us through this. I truly felt so alone. I had no one to tell me what was going to happen, or how I was going to feel. So I do this for all of the future women that read this, and want to heal and move forward, or make plans for a yet unknown future. 

        We are strong. we have each other, and we are not alone.  

My positive Pregnancy Test.

My Peanut at 6w1d HR 134

The announcement we never got to make.

        We are moving on to the next phase of this process. We are trying to mend our hearts, love each other, and hope that we might still have a child. Our options are few, too costly, and none are guaranteed. Life is funny that way. Nothing you plan happens like you think it will. 

        I am here for anyone who needs me. I am okay to talk about it, and I am okay to listen to your stories as well. Just know you are not alone. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Homestead hardships and how you choose to handle it.

Happy New year!
This is my first post for 2019 .
Yes, I know it's
I felt it was good and would shed a light on the way we make mistakes and learn from them!!

House was almost sold...
Processing our chickens...

You might have a decidedly romantic notion about homesteading. But let me tell you what it takes to make your homesteading dream  come true, if your not rich.

When Gary was fired from his job after working there for 40 + years, we had to make some serious decisions. That took us almost a year to implement. Looking back I think we would have done a great number of things differently. But hindsight is funny that way.

1. We would have sold more of our stuff, purged more of our stuff and given away more stuff. Before we moved.

2. We would have found out more about what we needed to do to sell our house( we have a deed restriction) before we started the process.( can't sell the house for 15 more years!)

3. We would not have moved forward with the purchase of our Homestead. Not before we had all of our debt paid off.

4. We would have paid more attention to the local laws about building codes and their enforcement.

I look back at all the early mistakes we made in our rush to start a new life here on the Homestead, and those are the most obvious mistakes I feel we made.
I hope that this will help someone elses transition to a homestead life a bit easier than ours has been.

But once we were here we had to start from scratch almost entirely.
We did make sure there was a building, a drilled well and septic. Other than that we were at square one with this property.

So we dug right in and started to create our living space in the garage. We partitioned off a portion of the garage for our little one room apartment. Then we started building an addition for a bathroom.
To this day it is not complete, but that is not because we don't want a bathroom, we just won't be able to build it where we planned to. Again we had to roll with the situation. It was about the local plumbing laws this time.
So we changed our plans and kept on moving forward.
I have spoken about this at length on my Vlog on youtube if you want to check it out here:

As we moved forward with the infrastructure on our homestead we made sure that all of our structures were small enough to not need permitting.
We built our chicken palace first.

We are not done yet with the exterior, and there are a few more things I want to do inside as well, but we have come pretty far in the past 2 years.
Last year we raised 24 chickens and 2 turkeys.
12 chickens were meant to replenish our laying flock and we made a few mistakes there as well.
1. We ordered 6 straight run Black Australorps so that we would get a rooster. What we didn't expect was 5 of the 6 would be roosters!
2. We ordered 6 sexed layers and 1 turned out to be a rooster!(odds are 1 out of 10 will be even if sexed)

If you're keeping count that makes 6 roosters out of 12.
That is not really a laying flock at all! So again we had to roll with it and figure out what to do with all of those roosters we ended up with!
All 4 of the extras went to good homes with flocks of their own, instead of processing them into stock and dog food.
I didn't want to do that because I raised them and handled them daily so that they would be sweet boys.
But nature has a way of taking over and that many boys in one space means that they fight and become territorial. We have enough hens to comfortably keep 2 roosters, but not 6.

This is Lancelot our Arcauna Rooster.

This is Danny Kaye our Black Australorp Rooster.

Speaking of processing chickens...we ordered 6 Cornish X
and 6 Freedom Rangers for meat birds as well as 1 Bronze turkey and one white (like the butterball).

We had a really bad experience killing the first one of the Cornish X and neither of us could do it again for several days after that. (Gary is the designated Artery cutter now)
All I can say about that is no matter how many videos you watch and books you read you will not be prepared for taking a life, no matter what you think it's going to be like.
It was hard. Very hard.

But I had made the decision to do this, I had all these birds that HAD to be processed, because they were getting too big very fast.
You can't ethically raise and care for an animal that is 100% meant as food, and then decide to keep it. It is cruel to the animal.
So we soldiered on. We have processed all but 2 of the Freedom ranger as of today. ( doing very well despite their size, and laying eggs)But they are on the schedule for this spring.

We realized that we were not going to be able to process our turkeys here on the homestead. We don't have the proper pots (large enough to hold a large turkey) to dunk the turkey in to get all the feathers off easily.
So we took them to be processed at a local farm that does it for you. It cost $.69 lb. to do the deed. $40  total, you do the math!
I did find this sad in a couple of ways.
1. I really loved their personalities. They were so much fun to watch and the white one was such a sweet girl.
2. But as I said before about the chickens, they are bred as a meat bird and must be processed at a specific age or weight. I do not want them to ever suffer.

I talk about all of this because if you were not raised on a farm or homestead, hell even in a farming community or rural area, you just are not prepared.
You don't know what it takes to eat. You don't know how long it takes to grow food, to raise birds for eggs or meat. How it feels when it is time to kill that animal and eat it. You saw it the day it was born and you knew what it was like to snuggle it and talk to it. To have it's little eyes looking at you, and If you believe that they have emotions, loving you.
All the while knowing that one day it will nourish you.
You have to be able to keep your humanity alive during this entire process.
You can't divorce yourself from any of it.
You must care for them. Nourish them. In the first week of their lives I watch them like a mama hen. I clean their little butts, so they don't get pasty butt. I keep their pen/box clean. I change their water 4 to 5 times daily. I make sure they are snuggled and loved.
I am the only one keeping them alive.
It is a very loving and sad decision that we made.
To only eat what we raise. To have complete control of what we eat. To take on the care, and the very long process of growing our own meat.

It is hard. But it is what we choose to do.

I hope this is helpful to you and gives you a better understanding about why we do what we do, and why we do it the way we do.

There are so many more lessons for us to learn this new year.
And hardships and hurdles to get past.
Please follow along with us as we grow our homestead and share what we learn!

With love from the homestead!
Gary and Victoria

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Keeping a Homestead Binder

Homestead Binder

It has been a long time in the making, this binder.  I started with just a simple journal page.   

My goal was to keep track of  the weather, egg counts and harvest amounts. Simple stuff..... Things have a way of morphing into something else once you get going.  It only took me a little time to add multiple categories to what was once a simple journal style page.  It became what you see above. A two sided daily journal for all the things we could possibly do on the Homestead each day, year round.

But then we started our  MOFGA Farm Beginnings course in the fall of 2016 and we started to realize that we needed to track so much more.

The next thing that started the wheels turning for me was one of my favorite fellow You tubers, Esther Emery of Fouchomatic Off Grid.
She started a year long homestead skill of the month club.
Find that series here
The first month was on planning and preparedness.
What caught my eye was the homestead binder that she uses. It was used in a similar way to mine, or what I would like mine to be, but also not quite all that I needed.

So I worked very hard to emulate her binder, as well as add all that I needed to it, to make it my own.

The first thing I did was make up our Homestead Goals for 2017

I think some of them are lofty goals, and I most likely will not get a garden shed, or an outdoor kitchen this year. But it is a place to start from and build on!

This is at the front of our binder, in a place of honor to keep us moving in the right direction.

Next is our weekly goals and lists. Where we each write down our good intentions for the week ahead. We might not get it all done, and that's okay. If there are items left we just move them to the next week and try again! It helps to keep us accountable.


Next we have scheduled things, daily, weekly and monthly appointments and scheduled events that we know about ahead of time. I also will use this to schedule days for myself to work on my YouTube videos, blog posts and website design. I need to schedule it to make it happen, otherwise I won't make the time for it.


Next are our financial tracking and accountability worksheets.  We have never done this before and we are suffering for that now. Let me clarify. We check our accounts and make sure that we have all the money going where it needs to go( no bounced checks ever!).
What we didn't do was keep detailed records of every purchase we made and what it was for.
We never stuck to a budget that we made.
We didn't keep records of all of our infrastructure projects we did on the homestead or our house on Cape Cod.

Since taking our Farm Beginnings course we now know how very important it is to plan and track everything we spend money on.  I keep every receipt, and I even print out receipts for anything we buy online. I keep each months receipts in envelopes so they are easy to find if I need them.

Now that I have this new information I have added it to our binder.
All of these worksheets are created very simply with Open Office spreadsheets.
I have to say that many of the worksheets I created, once in use for a week or month, do need to be tweaked. There is always room for improvement so don't fill your binder with your first drafts. Use your first draft for a week or month and then remake it to work better for your needs.

The next chapter in the binder is about Meal Planning and grocery lists.

Monthly Menu Plans

Month's worth of grocery lists.

I have to say that we have tried doing this a few times before but I never followed through.  I have never gotten the satisfaction from meal planning as I have this time around.
We have been following our monthly meal plans almost to the letter since mid January and I am so proud of that.
This degree of planning is made easier because of the amount of food we have on hand in our pantry and freezer.
In our Pantry we have bulk foods, home canned foods and commercially canned foods. In the freezer we have meats(our own and localy raised and some store bought), cream, cheeses, many pounds of butter, and gallon and quart sized bags of fruits and veggies( mostly from our gardens).
Without this food storage our food budget would be close to $600 a month!
As it is I strive to only spend $300 a month. That is for replenishing our bulk storage and for fresh organic veggies and half and half and other things that we use on a weekly basis.  Some times we do go over budget, but I am working on fixing this.
As we plan our monthly menu I will also make up the weekly food shopping lists and use our past receipts as a guide for figuring out how much we will spend each week on fresh foods from the grocery store.  This makes our shopping trips easier, as well as shopping sales flyers for what we need to restock our pantry with.

This month we are going to spend a hefty amount of our grocery budget on corned beef brisket.
Every year for the last three years we have canned our own corned beef hash for our pantry. Every year we make more and more, so we have enough on hand to have a jar a week. It is our special Sunday breakfast. We look forward to it all week!
Filling our jars with potatoes and corned beef cubes.

Our canner holds 7 quart sized jars at a time.

Corned beef hash from our pantry, eggs from our chickens, spinach from our garden and avocado from the store(for now). Our regular Sunday brunch.

This year we are planning on buying 12 corned beef briskets to hopefully make 52 jars or more for the pantry!
By doing this every year, we are adding shelf stable long term food to our pantry. Even though we are spending a large amount all at once to buy the briskets and potatoes, we are spreading the meals out through the year, as well as the initial costs.
I would have to buy a couple of cans of the commercially canned corned beef a week to replace what I am doing myself, all at once this month. That would add about $6 or $7 to my budget a week. That's $364 a year I won't spend at the store.
I have calculated that I will be spending about $188.72 on 12 corned beef briskets, 1 case of jars(an investment I won't have to make next year), 4 new sets of single use canning lids, and 16 lbs. of organic potatoes. Total per week over a year is $3.63.
This way, I have control of what is going into my food, and I am saving money over the long run and adding to my food storage all at once.
This is what meal planning, budgeting and cost sharing over time can do for you.
It seems like a lot of work, I know. But this is a way I save money and prepare for our future. I am a homesteader and I need to be able to save where I can so I can spend where I need.
It has given us a sense of pride and joy to see all of our food on those pantry shelves. We know we are feeding ourselves good food and we will be secure in the future. Planning is the key!

Next we have our Food Storage records......

As we do our canning we add the name of the food, size of jars used and number of jars we made to our list.
When we do our corned beef hash this month, it will go on the list.
As we eat our food we can determine what we need to replace and what we need to try to can more or less of for the next year.
When you are canning the foods you grow, or what is only available to you seasonally, it is important to have these records.
Last year, for example, I canned 14 half pint jars of nectarine preserves. This year I will double or even triple that amount, because we loved it so much!
But we are still working on our strawberry rhubarb preserves from last year so we won't make as much of that this year.
Without this sort of record keeping you could end up with more of the things you don't eat as much of, and less of the things you love.

Now since we are talking about food lets move on to where so much of it should be coming from, or we would like it to be coming from...The Garden!

This is a plan of where all of our garden beds will be this year.
This is how we plan our planting schedule by plant.

This is how we plan out our planting schedule by date.

This is how we plan our planting schedule by month.

First we organized all of our seeds.I have plastic baggies, paper envelopes and mason jars full of seeds that we have either ordered or saved ourselves.  In line with our getting super organized, we needed a good picture of what we actually have and what we were going to need to order for this year.

So I spent a few days this winter going through all of our seeds and getting rid of all the seeds that were older than 2013. Then I made baggies to hold each type of seed or a category of seeds, like all kitchen herbs, all medicinal herbs, all flowers or all tomatoes.
You get the idea.
Once that was done, we were able to see clearly that we did not need to order very much at all this year.

So then, with our list of seeds to plant, we went through each seed packet and using our first and last frost dates, a calculator, a calendar and a pencil with a good eraser...we started to map out our seed starting journey.

This was all done by the end of January.

Then with these lists in hand we mapped out what would be started indoors each planting day, what would be directly sown in the ground and when we would be planting all of the seedlings that we should have. We also have plans to move as much as we can out to our greenhouse, when it is ready, in early spring.

Which brings me to our next set of records.
Planning for your homestead projects.
I know, sexy right?

This is our second draft and it is still in need of some tweaking.

Here is a filled out sheet for our greenhouse addition to our chicken coop!

Now let me say, if you are a homeowner looking to add value to your home for resale, this is a good thing to do.
If you are a farmer looking to make capital improvements to your farm, this is essential to do.
If you are a homesteader, making an improvement to your property is essential to the future of your family.

 Things like gardens, garden fences, chicken coops and runs, goat houses and runs, barns, greenhouses and many, many other things that will come up as you grow.

Each of the projects that you are planning need to be thought through before you start.  Think about the process of building your own house.  Now realize that most of the time as a homesteader you are going to be the designer, engineer, contractor, electrician, plumber and builder.
Now you have to draw out the plans, figure out all the dimensions and measurements, all the materials that will be needed to build with.
Every step of the project must be considered and calculated.
If you are building it all yourself, you have to consider the time that it will take to build it.
If you study our worksheet we have listed each step of the building process, each material with dimensions and quantity, then we have listed the prices to get an idea of what it will cost and each step has an amount of time we think it will take to complete. That we add up to get an idea of how long it will take to complete the project.

Why is this so important?
It is important for homesteaders in areas of the country that have a long winter. Therefore we can only build in a limited time of the year.
When there are so many other things requiring our attention on the homestead, like animals and gardening,food preservation and time enjoying friends and family, this type of planning helps us to decide what is most important for us to get done each year, how much it will cost and how long it will take to complete.
Again, planning is the key, not only to helping you control your costs, but also to help you plan your time.

Next is something most of us never do. We never did. That is keeping track of the maintenance we do on our homes and out buildings.
Keeping track of things like cleaning out your chimney, replacing your water heater, replacing your water filters or painting a room.I call this Home keeping.

Home keeping records, this month we will be installing our hot water heater, last month we cleaned the chimney.

All of this record keeping serves to keep you organized and on track.
We want to make our homestead as efficient and smooth running as we can. To do that we don't want to forget doing something that is important and or waste time or money doing things that have already been done.

By keeping maintenance records we know that we may need to start saving money to replace things that are getting older. We will know this because our records are telling us that things are starting to need more and more repairs done.

If you have things that need to be maintained on a yearly, monthly or weekly basis, these records will keep you on top of those things.

This type of record keeping will keep you on track and help you get the longest life out of your property.

The next set of records are all about our Livestock.
Since all we have are chickens, that is what we are keeping records on.

Chick order for this year.

Co Op Chick order for this year.

Last years chicken records.
This section of records are to help us maintain our layer flocks and our meat flocks.
Because we have decided to raise a special meat flock or two this year we are keeping detailed records on their development, so that we can keep good records on the amounts of feed they consume, how long it takes to get heritage breeds to a good weight, and then future breeding records.
It is a lot of information that we need to successfully raise our food.
Just like we do for our gardens, we need this data to be efficient and successful.

For our layer flock I keep records of hatch dates, and when they start to lay. I also keep track of our daily egg counts and the amount of feed we buy. These numbers help us to budget our feed costs for the year, our egg production from our flock, which helps us to decide how many to cull and how many to hatch each year. It will also help us to determine if we are selling our eggs at a fair price and if we are making money or just getting our name out in the community. ie. they are a marketing tool for us, because we don't make money from selling our eggs. We consider them to be a loss leader for our farm business. Without these records, we would be ignorant to all the costs associated with raising our own eggs and meat. So they are very important to us.

Last but certainly not the least is our daily journal.

Side one

Side two.

We end where we started this journey. With the page that launched a 3"- 3 ring binder of record keeping, and has changed my life.
No I am not exaggerating.
It has changed my life.
I am more focused.
I am more conscious.
I am more organized.
I have important information where I can find it easily.
I have a sense of where we are going with our homestead.
I have an immediate knowledge of our finances.
 I have time for things I want to do and I know when I need to do things.
I have a set of goals I am working towards and the pre planned means to do them.
I know what my limitations are as far as weather and time and finances are.

When we started this homestead journey so many years ago I would have liked to have known about this sort of a planning guide.
I would have paid money for this tool.
Hell if this was a class in college or even high school, I would have taken it.
Homestead Binder Keeping 101.
I think we would have been here much sooner. With more money, and a different method of execution.
But now that I have the skills and the tool I am hoping that I can help even just one other person to get to their dream a little faster and better armed than we were.
I mentioned before how easy it is to build your own spreadsheets using the free open office program.
But if you don't know how and or don't have the time to spend the many, many hours designing your own, then I hope you will consider helping to support our Homestead, and purchase the Homestead Binder System from us.

If you would like to buy our
Homestead Binder System
It includes

  • A customizeable title page

( just email me your logo or farm name)

  • Each Chapter Section Page (also customizeable)
(10 sections in total, but more to come in the future)
  • Each Sections worksheet/s                                                        (20 in total) And 4 future updates.

  • The yearly calendar at a glance and the blank monthly calendar for menu planning, egg tracking, garden planting, planning and anything else you can think to use a blank calendar for.
I have worked very hard on this Binder system since last fall and have many hours of time in this.
That being said I really want this to be accessible to anyone who wants to live a life that is more sustainable and fulfilling to them.

This Homestead Binder is not just for those living on a large piece of property. It is for anyone that needs to be more organized and keep track of a life they are living now, or plan to live in the future.

Like I said before, I wish I had this when I was a teen or young adult. I would be so much further ahead than I am now if I did.

I am offering this system to you for $10.00

I will do all the Logo and Title customization's for you and send you the documents to print out and fill your binder with.

It will only take me 24 hours to get them to you once payment is made and you send me your Logo or desired Title in an email.

If you would like this Homestaed Binder System
I accept Paypal for now. I will be accepting other forms of payment in the future from our website.

Email me at
for more information and to get the ball rolling.

With Love from our Homestead to yours.