Winter Workshops Anyone??

The NICE FAMILY HOMESTEAD LLC is looking to branch out this winter and host a few homestead themed workshops for ADULTS, and fun farm days for CHILDREN.

Would you please help up decide what classes to offer by completing this short 10 question survey?


Mama Nice

The Story of Charlie… The Best Dog Ever

The story of our dog Charlie begins with the sad ending of our first dog, Marty. ¬†Almost immediately after Papa Nice & I got married, we adopted our first dog – Marty. ¬†Marty was a 7 month old Australian Shepherd that had made his way to the SPCA. ¬†The shelter didn’t have much information about why he was given up, but after we brought him home we soon learned that Marty had some… “issues”. ¬†We worked hard to help Marty overcome his struggles and for the most part he was a family dog that loved us all (in his own way and in his own time). ¬†In our minds, Marty was the dog our kids would grow old with.


Our Marty Dog

One night we came home and found Marty collapsed on the floor with a scared look in his eyes. Marty¬†had a heart condition¬†and there was no cure. ¬†At age 7, we lost our Marty dog. ¬†The heartache of losing our first dog was immeasurable. ¬†There was a huge void in our family and we weren’t sure when we would be ready to open our hearts to another furry sidekick.

As time went on, the kids and I just couldn’t take it anymore. ¬†We needed a furry critter to cuddle with. ¬†The kids needed a pet to hug when they were sad. ¬†Never in my life had I been without a pet in my home, it felt so empty.

Papa Nice, being the softy he is, brought home a cat (much to his dismay, but he wasn’t ready for a dog yet). ¬†“Abby Cat” filled the void for about 3 months, but ultimately only a dog would do.

We found Charlie on through an online adoption site and I immediately went to see him. ¬†His profile said “Australian Shepherd Mix”. ¬†We are “Shepherd” people (you dog lovers know what I mean) and I had to be sure he wasn’t part Lab (no offense “Lab” people, but I just can’t take the energy). ¬†We needed a dog that was friendly and smart. ¬†He had to be good with other animals (since we now had a cat),¬†good with children and a low prey drive¬†(since we were starting to build our Homestead and we didn’t want our feathered friends to become our new dog’s dinner).


Our first impression upon meeting Charlie was…”He’s huge!” ¬†Australian Shepherds are typically medium sized dogs, and we had small children in a small house. ¬†Charlie’s mom was an Australian Shepherd, but no one knew about his Dad. ¬†Charlie was a tall, 75 lb fur-ball and I FELL.IN.LOVE. ¬†This was the dog for us! ¬†Everyone else in the family wasn’t so sure. ¬†The kids were a little scared of his size and Papa Nice wasn’t sure he would fit in our house. ¬†But Papa Nice saw the look in me eyes and knew there was no turning back.


Beautiful day with a beautiful dog.

Charlie became a part of the family immediately.  He loved us all.  He played with the kids gently.  He wrestled with Papa Nice.  He went on jogs with me.  He played with other dogs.  He guarded the new chicken coop.  We soon learned that Charlie was meant to be our family dog.


Tuckered out after a game of Fetch.

We have since moved to the new Nice Family Homestead and Charlie continues to be the BEST DOG EVER. ¬†Sometimes I just look at him siting among us all and tears fill my eyes. ¬†He surprises me with every new challenge we present to him. ¬†New animals on the farm? ¬†No problem, Charlie will love and protect them. ¬†New kids coming to visit? No problem, Charlie has cured many children of their fear of dogs. ¬†Strangers knocking at the door? No problem, Charlie’s enormous bark will keep them away. ¬†Front door left unlocked and the door left open while we are away (not joking, this happened)? ¬†No problem, Charlie will sit at the door entrance and wait until we get home.

I’m not sure the words I write could do him justice, but maybe the following pictures will help you seen his awesomeness.


Charlie went camping many times, slept in a tent with us and rode in a canoe.

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Charlie is the perfect study buddy, porch companion and loves to nap with his family.

Charlie thinks the ducks want to play. ¬†They are really trying to show him who is “Boss of the Barnyard”, but Charlie doesn’t care.¬†



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A boy and his dog…going for walks, taking naps and waiting for belly rubs.


Patiently playing “Ponies” with the girls.


Saying hello to the new pigs.


More cuddle time…it’s never enough for Charlie Dog.


Taking a nap in the sunshine with his “Fur Siblings”.

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Playing outside in the snow.  Charlie even tries to hop on the sled and ride down the hill.

We love you Charlie Dog and hope everyone finds their own BEST.DOG.EVER. to be a part of their family!

ūüôā Mama Nice

The Duck Saga Continues…

Guess what??? Our Runner Ducks are MALE!!!! ¬†Soon after I wrote the last post about our First Adventure With Ducks, our ducks developed a small curl on the end of their tails. ¬†This was a sure tell sign that they are in fact….male. ¬†So now I have 2 non-Pekin, non-Khaki Cambell, non-female ducks. ¬†Great. ¬†Just great. ¬†The boys (now named Fudge & Rupert) will still eat bugs around the yard and the kids can occasionally catch them without much of a fight. ¬†At least they are bringing joy to someone…

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As the summer went on, however, the “boys” became more aggressive. ¬†They started to run after the dog and anything else that came near them. ¬†They would only run after you when your back was turned and would immediately stop if you turned around and looked at them, but still…not the fat friendly ducks that I had imagined.

“No problem”, I thought. ¬†I had a new plan. ¬†I would buy 2 white female ducks that were that same age and proven to be female. ¬†So off I went to a local farm where various fowl ran a muck all over the property. ¬†Chickens, ducks, turkeys, guineas hens…all living in harmony. ¬†I picked out two big white Muscovy females and brought them home. ¬†I put them in a small pen so the “boys” could check them out without hurting them. ¬†Only….Muscovy ducks can fly. ¬†Duh. ¬†The “girls” flew right over the pen. ¬†Charlie Dog ran over to meet them and they flew the fence and down the street. ¬†Off I went running after my new ducks. ¬†sigh. ¬†I caught them and brought them back to their new home, put the dog inside and left the the “boys” and “girls” alone to get to know each other.

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It was like watching a middle school dance.  The girls were so excited to meet their new flock and would walk over to the boys all pretty like, and the boys would spin in circles talking to each other and not knowing what to do!  The girls kept trying, and the boys would either run away or chase the girls away.  Not the harmonious duck family I was hoping for.

This went on for a few days. ¬†The girls were even bold enough to go in the duck house with the boys at night. ¬†But when morning came, the boys were still….boys. ¬†The girls gave up and decided to live with the hens. ¬†The “girls” are all very happy together and yesterday we found 2 duck eggs in the coop! ¬†Yippee!!


The boys? Well….they go over to the hen house each day and check them all out. ¬†However, the last time I let the girl ducks out they attacked the boys and pinned them to the ground. ¬†I’m guessing baby ducks are not in my future. ¬†“Diamond & Pearl” are here to stay…”Fudge & Rupert” might be looking for a new home.

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So after spending $30 on 4 ducks, $70 repairing the Duck House, $10 on a duck pool, $10 on wood shavings, and $50 on duck feed…. I finally got 2 duck eggs, 2 male ducks that live in the fancy duck house and 2 female ducks that live in the chicken coop.

duck eggs 2

I would not call this a profitable adventure, but it was a learning experience for us all!

Anyone want 2 boy runner ducks? I’m not joking.

Blackberry Jam – Easy Refrigerator Recipe

We planted several berry bushes on the Homestead this year, but the only bushes producing a decent amount of fruit this year is the 2 blackberry bushes we planted last year. ¬†I love watching all the kids go out for a mid day “snack” as they stand at the berry bushes and eat the blackberries right off the plant. ¬†The berries were disappearing like hotcakes and I thought the kids were eating them all. ¬†Turns out, the birds were enjoying the berries just as much.

We covered the bushes with some netting and viola, enough berries to make a small batch of jam. ¬†By “small” batch I mean literally…1 jar. ¬†I found this super simple non-canning recipe¬†from and we got right to work.


Step 1:

Pick 3 cups of ripe berries and wash.  Put a plate in the refrigerator to chill.

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Step 2:

Mash the berries in a small stainless steel pot until you reach your desired jam consistency (we like a little bit of chunkiness in ours).

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Step 3:

Add 1 1/4 cups of sugar (we used organic raw sugar), put on the stove and heat on medium until all sugar is dissolved (this happened almost immediately).



Step 4:

Raise the heat to medium/high and boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.



Step 5:

Test the jam by putting a little bit on the chilled plate and see if it stays in a mound. ¬†If it does, you’re done! ¬†If not, keep boiling.



Step 6:

Poor into a glass jar, put the lid on and let it cool.  Once cooled, put in the fridge (or open it up and enjoy warm jam on homemade zucchini bread, mmmmmm).  The jam should last several weeks.



Super easy right??? ¬†I can’t wait to try all the other berries next year! Anyone else have good easy jam recipes to share?

Mama Nice

Our First Adventure With Ducks

“Ducks are cute”, I said.

“Ducks would be a great addition to the Homestead”, I said.

“The kids that visit will love them”, I said.

“I heard ducks are friendlier than chickens and will bond to their owners”, I said.

Papa Nice just smiled and I was on my way to researching duck breeds, how to care for ducks, and repainting an old coop to make a duck house.

Step 1: Take an old, flimsy coop…add a new roof, new paint and new hardware. Viola!




Step 2: Research duck breeds.

I decided I wanted Pekins.  Pekins are big and friendly.  The chances of a hawk picking them up out of the yard would be rare.  So I called the local feed store and ordered 2 female Pekins that would look like this:

pekin duck

Step 3: Pick up ducklings from feed store.

Off I went to the feed store, with 5 little kids, to pick up our 2 female PEKIN ducklings. ¬†But when we got there, the feed store ordered Khaki Campbells and didn’t have any Pekins. ¬†It would take WEEKS to get them in. ¬†When you have 5 little kids excited for ducklings and 2 ducklings that now don’t have a home, what do you do? ¬†You take home the ducks that you didn’t order. ¬†“No problem”, I said, Khaki Campbells are nice ducks too…I think. ¬†I’m not even sure what they look like though. ¬†I guess these are Khaki Campbells and the kids love them. ¬†They are so cute….

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The ducks have grown a lot since we got them back in April. ¬†Only…. they are much darker than Khaki Campbells and they are more skittish than any duck breed I had researched. ¬†Alas, I have discovered that we do NOT have Pekins (which I ordered), or Khaki Campbells (which I was told I was given), but rather Black Runner Ducks. ¬†Good layers, but skittish, flightless and not very big. ¬†Sigh. ¬†I don’t even know if they are both female. ¬†Apparently they will lay a lot of eggs (if they are female) and I hope that they will settle into the Homestead and become more friendly and comfortable with us.

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For now…”Ruby” and “Fudge” will continue to have free reign of the backyard and will spend their day’s swimming in their pool and eating bugs. ¬†Maybe I expect too much from my animals. ¬†They are ducks after all. ¬†Ducks that now have a great life at the Nice Family Homestead.


ūüôā Mama Nice

Think Before You Speak…

I struggled to find something to write about this month….do I write about the new ducks? Choosing homestead animals? Update on the garden? Pest control? There are many ideas floating in my head, but at the moment my mind is not on Homesteading. ¬†Instead, my mind is fixed on how to train my children to be thoughtful, considerate, kind, loving and generous human beings.

I grew up with a sister and I had no idea what it was like to have little boys in the house.  God has a sense of humor though and blessed us with 2 boys and a girl.  To top it off, they have two boy cousins down the street, and 2 boy cousins out of state and the boys out numbered the girls quickly.  Add to that the fact that I babysit little boys and most days my house is full of yelling, fart jokes and someone crying because their teeth just got knocked out on their cousins head (true story).

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I realize that “boys will be boys”, but I’m also learning that boys especially need training¬†to be polite, considerate and loving. ¬†Those characteristics don’t come easy to them (at least not the ones I have). ¬†Sure my boys love to cuddle (even at age 10) and they prefer time with the family over friends…but their natural way to communicate and bond is through roughhousing, inappropriate jokes and amping each other up to the point of injury. ¬†The other thing I notice is that there is a constant need to be “first” at just about everything! ¬†First to brush teeth, first to make a joke, first to pick a bugger….a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. ¬†This leads to a lot of arguing over “who was first” and the result is a bunch of mean, insulting comments at each other. ¬†Not so loving…

What’s a mom to do? ¬†Well…. I continue to read the books on raising boys and on my best days I put the professional suggestions into practice. ¬†However, our boys are bombarded with inappropriate joke telling, abrasive and downright rude TV shows. ¬†Not to mention the political figures in our country can’t be nice to each other, or the sports stars, or the musicians…and they are supposed to be examples for our boys to look up to!

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I know that what we do at home matters so much. ¬†The influence we have on our boys in their everyday life has the ability to overpower the media and peer influences. ¬†As I was searching for more ways to train my kids, I came across something so simple. ¬†The idea to THINK before you speak. ¬†Is what you are about to say True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary or Kind? ¬†It so simple, yet so powerful. ¬†It’s easy enough for my boys to wrap their heads around and put into practice.

I created my own version of the saying below.  The idea is so simple (thank you to whoever came up with it) and yet if we ALL followed these 5 simple rules before we spoke, the world would be changed.

THINK chalkboard poster

To print click here: THINK chalkboard poster

Would you consider trying this in your homes and working together to make the world a better place? ¬†Let’s raise kind, truthful, inspiring and helpful boys!

ūüôā Mama Nice

Summer Fun On A Budget

It’s hard to believe that summer is only a couple months away and before you know it, the kids will be home from school. ¬†For some parents, that puts you in a panic of “what am I going to do with my kids all summer?!?!?” ¬†Here are a few ideas and tips that I have used over the years that have made the summertime enjoyable for both myself and my kids….oh yeah, and I didn’t break the bank either!


  • Create a Daily Schedule: ¬†Although the idea of sleeping in and waking up whenever you and and your children feel like it all summer long, the reality is that more chaos will ensue unless you plan properly. ¬†Creating a Daily Schedule will help you keep your sanity and your kids will actually feel less stressed knowing what the day will bring. ¬†NOTE: It doesn’t have to be the SAME schedule each day, but consistency certainly helps.

summer fun picture chart

  • For younger kids, use pictures like this one:(free printable picture cards here)
  • For older kids that can read, simply use a chalk board or dry erase board and write the schedule each day.
  • Sample Schedule:
    • Breakfast
    • Chores
    • Free Play Time
    • Project (craft, cooking, science, etc.)
    • Snack
    • Games & Outside Play
    • Lunch
    • Water play
    • Workbook/Quiet Time/Reading Time
    • Free Play
    • Snack & Short TV Show
    • Dinner

Summer Chores

2015 Chore Chart


  • I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to fit chores into our daily schedule¬†during the school year. ¬†The kids are swamped with homework and activities and at the end of the day I just want them to relax and be kids. ¬†I want them to go outside or play a game. ¬†So…when summertime comes around, it’s time to instill those good habits of completing chores and participating in the general upkeep of our home.



  • Use what you have around the house to come¬†up with projects. ¬† It’s amazing what you can do with plastic cups, paper plates, straws and a camera. ¬†Some of our favorite projects:
    • Cooking (Popsicles, smoothies, cookies, trailmix and of course cheerio necklaces)
    • Bubbles (giant bubble wands, colored bubbles on paper, bubble popping)
    • Crafts (painting with colored ice cubes, giant chalk drawings, cards and letters to send in the mail)
    • Check out Pinterest for lots and lots of budget friendly ideas!


  • We love a friendly game or two in our house. ¬†Keep it simple and enjoy the time connecting and having fun!
    • Scavenger Hunts (Photo Hunts, Treasure Hunts, Collections)
    • Obstacle Course (time each other for those that are more competitive)
    • Backyard Maze (grass getting long? mow a maze and run through it before mowing the rest of the yard)

Water Play


  • You don’t have to have a pool to have water play time! ¬†The hot afternoon is a great time to get wet and cool off. ¬†We have a small pool, but here are some other ideas:
    • Water Balloon Toss
    • Water Balloon Baseball
    • Limbo using a hose
    • Sprinkler
    • Water Bottle Squirt Tag
    • Car Wash
    • Bicycle Wash
    • Wet Sponges and Targets

Quiet Time


  • We order the Summer Bridge Books every year and the kids complete 4 pages a day. We also participate in the local Library Summer Reading program where the kids earn prizes for reading (reading together as a family or listening to a book in the car count too!)

Field Trips


  • The summertime is a great time to see new sights and try new activities. ¬†There are lots of inexpensive places to check out when you’re ready to tackle a “Field Trip” day:
    • Creek Stomping (pack a lunch, wear a bathing suit and go walking in a creek)
    • Playground Review (visit different playgrounds and have the kids journal their reviews)
    • Library Programs
    • Get a group together to visit a zoo or museum and get the group discount rate
    • Check out Kids Bowl Free and find a local bowling alley
    • Try a real treasure hunt and go Geochaching

Got any good Summertime¬†Boredom¬†Busters? ¬†Please share in the comments!ūüôā Mama Nice