2015 Garden Planning

Last week the sun was pouring across the backyard and into the kitchen.  I love these days. It’s like a little glimpse of spring (Charlie Dog thinks so too).


My yard in the winter is an ice-skating rink.  Literally, my kids go out and skate on the ice that overtakes the backyard.  I can’t even move some of the fence gates because there is an inch of ice keeping them frozen in place.  Going out to the chickens is a comedic adventure as I walk like a penguin hoping to stay upright.  My poor dog is depressed that he can’t run freely, so he mopes around and is gaining weight each day. When the “big thaw” begins, there is a river about 6 inches deep that begins to drain around our house.

As I write this post the sun is shining and Papa Nice and I just finished planning the garden for spring and I’m thinking warm thoughts.  We are more than doubling our raised beds and I’m so excited to see how much food we can grow for our family.


We are pretty picky about our seeds and we like to order from Heirloom seed catalogs. Most of our seeds are organic, but for those that are NOT organic – at least we know they are non GMO.  For the last several years we have ordered from Seed Savers and this year we are going to order from Johnny’s Selected Seeds also.

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We use raised beds in our garden and this year we are going to try hay mulching.  Here is our garden layout and seed planning list.

2015 Nice Family Homestead Garden Layout

2015 Nice Family Homestead Seed Planning Guide

I hope the ideas and comments are helpful as you plan your 2015 garden!

🙂 Mama Nice

Getting Organized in 2015 #4 School Binder & Entryway

Does anyone else have bulletin boards covered in school papers or a refrigerator covered in chaos?  I just couldn’t take it anymore.  We have limited wall space in our kitchen/entryway area and this is the where everyone drops their stuff and where reminders are posted.  Although the space was “functional”, it was lacking “flow” and “style”.  I’m a visual person as well as practical and the whole area was giving me a headache.





First I took down most of the bulletin boards and created a “School Binder”.  I keep all the important school papers for each child in one binder.  At homework time I pull out the binder for reference and to update papers.  I also created this form for each child as a quick reference.

School Binder

Next, I moved our “shoe bin” to the central drop location.  These bins hold winter gear and shoes.  I added the fruit basket to hold keys, wallets, mail, etc.  The picture frame can easily be turned into a white board to write notes.

Entryway Makeover

On the other wall I still have the family calendar.  I added the hooks for the kid’s school bags and got this great wall verse from Amazon.

This area is not the “Main Entrance” to the home, but it’s where we come through the garage and enter as a family.  I think this awkward space works much better for us now and it’s much more visually pleasing.  I can’t wait to add more artwork and accessories in the future! 🙂 Mama Nice


Creative Clothing Patches

It’s winter.  Yup, it’s winter.  My family spent the past week sick in the house.  I spent the past week finding things to do while taking care of my sick family.  I know what you’re thinking…. why not sew patches on my kids’ clothes??? I’m sure you were thinking that too, right??  If not, maybe after this post you will be inspired to sew yourself.

I happened to see some cute patches on Pinterest (of course) and thought I would try to turn the many torn up kid pants into something cute (because at this point 50% of the pants for my children have holes in the knees).  My youngest has tried to convince me he put the holes there on purpose to “air out my legs”, *sigh*.  I personally don’t care if my kids wear pants with holes, but it IS winter and I want them to be warm.  I got to work, and my daughter chimed in to design her Owl & Branch patches (I’m not even sure there was a hole to start with in her pants.)

I used a combonation of sew-on patches and scrap fabric.  I found that for the patches I only ironed on, they peeled off after one wear.  Lesson learned, sew on ALL patches. Getting the sewing machine around the patches can be tricky and I needed to sew some of them by hand.

What do you think?

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Getting Organized in 2105 #3 Boredom Busters

Hi there, just a quick little tip today.  If you are living in the cold part of the world, then your kids are likely bouncing off the walls and begging for more screen time.  At least mine are.  They are BORED and the first thing they want to do is watch T.V., play video games, play computer games, etc.  The thing is, when they are engaged in screen time activities, I get stuff done and the house it quiet.  However, I know it’s not good for them. So…… I made a list of non-electronic BOREDOM BUSTER activities.  I have mine posted on the fridge and if they are bored, I direct them to the list to find something to do.  I hope this gives you all some good ideas too!

🙂 Mama Nice

Boredom Buster


Getting Organized in 2015 #2 Budget Binder

I must admit that I am not the biggest fan of technology.  I still like to have paper lists, paper calendars, paper schedules, I could go on.  There is something about being able to look at everything sprawled out on a table in front of me, with a highlighter in hand, that just makes me giddy.  The whole idea of using binders to organize is just so exciting to me.  I don’t know why God made me that way, but I’m going with it.

This week I tackled the School Binder and Budget Binder.  This post covers  the Budget Binder.  The School Binder is coming soon though!

My husband and I have tried various ways to keep track of our budget.  We tried the cash in envelopes method, computer spreadsheets, mobile apps and plain white paper.  Each system worked, in its own way, but at the end of each month I would stash the receipts and paperwork somewhere in the office.  It was hard to go back and compare month to month and therefore not intentionally setting goals.  I hope the madness stops this year.

Onto the HOW TO.  I assembled our Budget Binder with forms for the ENTIRE YEAR.  Here’s how it works.

2015 Budget Binder Graphic

  • The front of the binder includes a copy of our monthly budget goals and monthly budget tracker.
  • The front pocket has stamps and envelopes for bills that need to be paid via snail mail.
  • The next divider contains the forms for the current month with a pocket for receipts.
  • The last section contains forms for the rest of the year

Here are some free forms for you too…

My goal is to sit down each week and record our current spending in hopes that I can stay on top of our budget.  Wish me luck and happy budgeting!

🙂 Mama Nice


Getting Organized in 2015! #1 Chore Charts

Hello 2015!  We are pretty much settled into our new homestead and it’s time to get serious about the future of the homestead.  So I decided that 2015 will be the year to get fully organized and put a plan in place.  Of course I’m sure that plan will change as it always does, but if you know me, you know that I can’t function without ORGANIZATION!

In order for me to focus on the growth of the outside homestead, I need the INSIDE homestead to be running efficiently.  I found several great websites that offer practical suggestions and methods to get your home running smoothly.  I will be sharing these tips in a series of posts.

First up – CHORE CHARTS.  woot woot!  I love my kids, but if I’m not on top of them to get things put away, it won’t happen.  I’ve been guilty of doing all the chores on my own because I know I can do it faster and, ahem, better.  It’s true, but that doesn’t make it right.  I need to teach my children responsibility and good work ethic.  I want them to be a part of the work in this family.  That said, here is the chore chart system I came up with.

2015 Chore Chart

I used this template for my chore pages.  I printed these chore cards to use.  I then laminated everything and used velcro dots to interchange the cards.  Each day the kids have morning chores, evening chores and chores to earn money.  The cards are removed and placed in basket when complete.

At the end of the day I count the money cards and put the money earned into their piggy banks.

When the piggy banks are full, we will count the change, exchange it for paper dollars and records in their money tracker books.  Here is the money tracker plan I followed.

Happy organizing!

Mama Nice 🙂



2014 Canning & Freezing Recipes

It’s October here on the homestead and I’m still canning and freezing.  I just finished up the apple recipes and my remaining green tomatoes have turned red and are ready for processing.  I’ve made several different recipes this year in hopes of finding some favorites.  The following list are ones we think are worth repeating next year.  Enjoy!

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Tomato Recipes

Cucumber Recipes

Pepper Recipes

  • Hot Pepper Jelly (Hint: if you leave the seeds in, the jelly will be nice and hot for those that love a lot of heat.  Take the the seeds out for a more mild jelly that still has a little kick). 
  • Freezing Onions & Peppers

Apple Recipes

  • Apple Pie Filling (hint: when you are ready to make a pie, first mix your canned filling and some flour to thicken the sauce before adding to the pie crust).
  • Jewish Apple Cake

~Fall Is Here~

We have had a very busy summer.  Our garden kept us on our toes as we learned to make organic bug repellents, mold killers and more recently – learning to can a variety of recipes.  I hope to share some of the those recipes with you soon.  For now, I’m getting inspired by Fall.  I started to decorate and wanted to share some pics with you.  Maybe you will be inspired too!

Front entrance.  I made the wreath from supplies I bought at the craft store.  I also painted the rock with a chicken a few years back.  The two mums will hopefully tie it all together once they bloom.

IMG_7709The entryway has our “Shoe Bin” and “Hats & Gloves Bin”.  I topped that with a family photo, cornucopia stuffed with fake flowers (thrift store special) and added some leaves to the large mirror.

IMG_7671Our Family Room gets the most use out of the whole house.  We watch T.V., play games, drink morning coffee and spend time together.  I try to keep it free of clutter, but still cozy.


This is a little corner cabinet in the Dining Room.  It’s an old record holder I picked up at the thrift store.  I use it to hold art supplies for the kids.  The wicker watering can on top is decorated with fake leaves and the two photos in front are from autumn memories from years past.


Hope you enjoyed those few pics.  Now back to canning Hot Pepper Jelly and freezing carrots.  Happy Fall!




Spring 2014…. Our Growing Homestead

This is our first season with our new garden on the new homestead.  When we first started planning our projects for the summer, I thought we were undershooting.  I wanted goats… like, NOW.  I wanted acres of corn… NOW.  I wanted to double the chickens and raise meat birds…NOW.  But alas, we did not accomplish all of that and I am so…GLAD.  What we have taken on has been more consuming than I thought.  The picture perfect dream of a productive homestead where I would go out to the garden in my perfect homesteading outfit (with apron of course) and harvest the produce, cook and can and blissfully appreciate all the God has given us is well….. not exactly how it all works out.

I’m learning that in the midst of our busiest days we find ourselves harvesting carrots before they rot.  On the rainiest days, a chicken gets sick and has to be tended to.  The beautiful sunflower hideout is infested with caterpillars that need to be picked and squished.  Yes, that is the reality of homesteading.  Oh, and my homesteading outfit?  How about pajamas, uncombed hair, glasses, chicken poop shoes and a cup of coffee.  Ha!

However, amongst all the chaos and imperfections I do find myself appreciating all that God has given us.  There are those moments of beautiful sunny skies when I see my kids picking produce or running with the animals, and I realize this is the dream we set out for.  Little by little, our dream is becoming a reality.

Here is a sneak peak of what’s been going on around the homestead this season.  In a perfect world I would post amazing pictures of the carrot muffins I made, or the best way to hardboil our fresh eggs… but when I start baking and cooking the kids in my house go wild and taking pics is the LAST thing on my mind.  So enjoy the pics I did manage to take 🙂


Our new shed/chicken coop in the works…

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The garden…

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Peach Tree                                   Apple Tree

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Tomatoes                                    Carrots

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Beets                                            Peas

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Peppers                                             Raised Beds


Blackberry Bush


Our sunflower hideaway is growing nicely…

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Our first carrot harvest….

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Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for more updates (and hopefully recipes)!

🙂 Mama Nice

For Those That Care For Children….

before the school bell ringsI can remember the day  I picked up this book.  I was in college, walking out of class and noticed a pile of books sitting in the hallway that were free to take.  I picked this one up because #1 – my major was Elementary Ed ,#2 – it was super skinny and looked like an easy read, #3 – I was a nanny at the time.  I wanted as much advice as I could get – but I didn’t like to read.

This book has sat on my bookshelf and traveled with me for 12 years and I finally got around to reading it.  What a WONDERFUL little book!  If you are a parent of a preschooler, volunteer in the church nursery, babysit the kids down the street, have grandkids or are planning to have your own kids – READ this book!

A few quotes from the book:

“Every question a child asks is  a real inquiry and needs an answer.”

” Children learn most effectively in a place where love abounds and people feel connected.  They learn best in a place where they don’t feel rushed, where they are cradledin stretches of time.”

As a busy mom of 3, I know it’s easy to lose touch with what’s best for the kids in an attempt to stay afloat in our culture.  This little book reminded me what is really important.

Enjoy! 🙂 Mama Nice