IMG_3307

Last week it rained a pleasant, easy rain for nearly two days. Our living spaces and the walkways between were transformed thereafter into various shades of mud, dirt, and slippery. We waited several days before being able to drive on the dirt roads. But we didn’t really mind; rain is always welcome here.

One of the greatest joys and biggest struggles we’ve encountered since moving to the land is the exposure to the elements, especially as shelter is still in progress. We live both indoors and out most days and that makes the weather a constant companion. I’ve heard the term indoor-outdoor living framed in such a way as to make it seem glamorous. Maybe it is in the magazines, where mulch is plentiful, grass abounds, and there is central heating and cooling to escape into.

But this isn’t Better Homes and Gardens, y’all and I’m pretty sure their editors won’t be calling anytime soon, what with the composting toilets, rain-induced mud slicks, and calf fries I found in our cooler one morning last week. (There usually aren’t calf fries in our cooler. We got some organ meats when our neighbors butchered a cow and they made their way into our meat box as a little pre-coffee surprise.)

IMG_3298

I think the most interesting part of this exposure to the elements is realizing how disconnected I’d always been to it. I grew up somewhat in the country, but never with this sort of raw connection to the surroundings. It is now intimately woven into our days, these shifts in weather and consequences of temperatures.

I wonder now what it would be like to live in Minnesota again without the buffers of electricity and central heating. I find Texas harsh and unpredictable with sweat-inducing heat one week and the blowing in of winter the next. The wind-shaken walls around us and the chill at our feet urge us on in the hauling and stacking of firewood here in Texas. We fill buckets with water to mitigate against frozen hoses and solar water pumps. Having a shelter with insulation this year is almost a shock of comfort and ease I’m not quite yet acclimated to.

So I wonder if I’d really find my home state as inhabitable in its raw form as it is in this memory of mine that so often betrays me. And would I long for the cedar and dynamics of this new home as I do the pine and familiarity of the old?

IMG_3302

While we’re still long from truly living off the land, we are connected to it and made vulnerable along with it. The wind-swept soil and eroded roadways surround us as we again build shelter in the face of a coming winter which seems to have already blown in. Months of firewood and bundling little ones and keeping warm await us but we know that not long after the last fire will come the brutal heat of summer, which is almost unfathomable as I watch my breath and type with numbing fingers.

Maybe it is that vulnerability to the elements here that makes this place at once an antagonist and an ally in this back-to-the-land story of ours.

IMG_3293

Every once in a while we make contact with small business owners, not unlike ourselves, whose products and interests closely connect with our own. When we do, we are happy to welcome them as supporters of this space and our family. We also want to share with you the cool things they are making and helping others with, usefulness being key to whether or not we a product seems worth sharing.

Today I’d like to tell you about one such product, Mama’s Notebooks.

I mentioned before that I had a planner that was working fairly well for me to keep track of home, school, and work all in one place. The truth is, a planner helps me to take everything out of my brain before it gets lost. It is much like writing for me – a means by which I organize my thoughts and make sense of my surroundings.

So when Heather, a reader here for sometime and creator of Mama’s Notebooks, asked if I was interested in trying them out I was both excited and apprehensive. I said yes with excitement because the planners looked and sounded really great and I thought they might be helpful in what is my biggest challenge in my role as mother and homemaker – organization and planning. I was apprehensive because, as previously stated, I already liked my planner and I thought it was working well for me.

I’ve been using both the Mama’s Notebook Planner and the Homeschool Weekly Planner for the past month. When I first received them I was a little shocked. The fullness of these notebooks cannot be overstated. Clearly Heather is a Mama who understands both the specifics and the breadth of this job and the need for the organizational space to get it all done.

Mama’s Notebook Weekly Planner & Organizer

IMG_3273 IMG_3277 IMG_3283

This weekly homemaking planner includes two pages – both the calendar and an open page for notes. For me, this is an excellent idea. For one, that open page allows me to brain dump lists of various types: deadlines, emails that need attention, homestead projects that need doing, ongoing grocery lists, community events, and any other projects I need to remember. From there I can transfer these organized lists into daily tasks on the calendar page.

Each day is broken into AM, PM, and Evening slots. This has been really useful for me as I block out half days for school, work, or household tasks. Then evenings are open for meals, family time, or whatever urgent homestead stuff that needs doing. Also included in this calendar is a space for meal planning. I plan meals only 2-3 days ahead of time at the most, depending on what food we have on hand, and this space allows me to jot down ideas for the coming days’ meals without feeling stuck.

The Mama’s Notebook Planner is a great fit for me in that it provides the space needed for organizing the different aspects of home life that I juggle, and frankly struggle to keep straight. The spacious pages and master lists and chore charts at the back are great for keeping it all in one place.

Homeschool Weekly Notebook

IMG_3268

IMG_3263

IMG_3290

I actually didn’t think I needed a separate planner for homeschool. We are fairly relaxed about school in that we do it year round as it fits into the rest of our life. Even so, I didn’t quite realize how unorganized my take on school was until I actually attempted to organize it.

I struggle to create organizational systems from thin air. This shows both in our home and in the way in which I educate the children. I work better with flexibility but I know not all of our family does, and certainly not all of our children. So finding a balance between flexible and strictly scheduled has helped, and that’s where this planner comes in. And it really fits our homeschooling style, the completely blank pages allowing us to skip weeks of school without wasting a page of the calendar.

The Weekly Homeschool Planner has all of the organizational systems needed built right in. A weekly two page calendar allows me to write down which lessons we need to get done while the at-a-glance monthly pages provide a place for writing out goals and needs. Our boys are just beginning to really dig into their education and the lists in the back of the notebook for chores and resources and books will be a great asset for years to come as I jot down ideas as they come up and keep track of what works with our oldest so that I might remember it for his brother and sisters.

I am grateful for people like Heather, women who pull the chaos together to create something orderly, something that works. I have these women in my life here in the community, in my extended family, and now I feel a bit like there is one with me every day, just waiting for me to jot down what needs remembering or doing.

Giveaway!

Heather has generously offered to give one of our readers a free Mama’s Notebook of their choice. Besides the aforementioned Mama’s Weekly Planner and the Weekly Homeschool Notebook, Heather has also created…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, Mama’s Notebooks, for creating such a helpful addition to our home, and for being a supporter of Nourishing Days! If you or your small business are interested in becoming a supporter of Nourishing Days, feel free to contact me.