A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: November 2013

Pioneerification: Homemade Facewash

As a female that has struggled with skin care her entire life I feel as if I have discovered the elixir of life. I was that teenager. You know, the one with the oily skin and a constant mess of breakouts. Unfortunately adulthood wasn’t the cure everyone promised, my greasy face led to terribly sensitive skin.
I tried everything over the years. Any brand within my price range and even a few outside. I resorted to oral medication. Nothing helped.
So why do I now feel so comfortable wearing no makeup in public?
Clear skin my friends.
My skin care regimen was a chance find. We are always looking for ways to replace pre-packaged products and food with homemade. I’ve already shared our homemade vegetable stock and DIY laundry detergent, which are friendlier to the planet and our bank account. Want soft supple skin on a dime? Try the oil method.
I know what you’re thinking: You can’t wash your face with oil crazy country lady!
Ah, but you can and you should.
The Internet holds dozens of blogs that discuss using the oil method, but these are the combinations that have worked best for us:

  • Normal skin: Equal parts castor oil and avocado oil
  • Oily skin: 2 parts castor oil to 1 part avocado oil
  • Dry skin: 1 part castor oil to 2 parts plant-based oil

If you’re not sure which skin type you have, start with the normal skin formula. As long as you always use castor oil for the base, you can switch out most any plant-based oil for the moisturizing part of the combination. For example, in the winter I like to use flax oil instead of avocado oil since my skin tends to run drier, but flax oil is too much for summer.  If you feel that your moisture content is too little or too high, stick to a ratio and switch out the secondary oil before resorting to a different ratio.

  • Light oils: sunflower, avocado
  • Medium oils: flax, olive
  • Heavy oil: coconut (this will stay mostly solid on the counter, you will have to warm under hot water to turn to liquid)


  1. Combine the oils in a new travel-size empty shampoo bottle and store in a cool dry place.
  2. Shake gently before using. Put a dime-size amount in your hand, then massage into your skin. 
  3. Place a hot wet rag over your face to steam for 1 minute and use rag to gently wipe away excess oil

I usually do this only at night and simply splash water on my face in the shower the next morning. You’re wondering if I’m forgetting something.

Oils you keep in your bathroom and not your pantry.

I’m not. There’s no need for a separate facial moisturizer.
How much does it cost? Castor oil is $2.64 for 6 ounces at the big box stores. Avocado oil is $4 for 8.5 ounces from health food suppliers. So $6.64 for about one year’s worth of face oil.
If you want, you can put a really pretty label on the bottle and let your spouse keep thinking that great skin costs a fortune. Then go buy some new shoes.

So simple.

Deep Thoughts from Little People

If you were given two choices as a parent, which would you choose?

  • Take a long car ride with your children.
  • Get your teeth pulled out with a pair of rusty pliers and no painkiller. 

Most parents might ask some questions before answering.

  • Are there video games or a DVD player in the car?
  • Do they have something to read?
  • How many kids are we talking about?
  • Is there 3-inch-thick, soundproof, bulletproof glass between us?

What if there were no distractions and only one child during a calm drive through the country?

Stop laughing, that could really happen.

In fact, it did happen recently when Middle Son and I were returning from an hour-long library visit. As we passed under the changing leaves on the county road, his voice broke the sound of the tires on the uneven road.



“You know what I think the most destructive thing in the world is?”

Monster trucks? A fight-to-the-death between Bizarro and Superman? All of the Oreos being plucked from the world by chocolate-loving aliens?



Wow. That was really deep. He’s going to go places someday. Maybe I will get that red Jeep I’ve always wanted when he’s famous. “Regret?”

“Yeah, that or sugar.”



Refinishing Old Lockers wtih Chalkboard Paint

I scoured the Internet for ideas when planning out our homeschool room. Bloggers of all styles and backgrounds gave great advice about what worked in their school rooms and what didn’t.

Keeping budget in mind, I searched the house for reusable furniture items. I stumbled upon a set of old lockers in my husband’s basement workshop. They were dented, rusty, and just plain ugly. I turned back to the Internet for instruction about refinishing the lockers and got inspired to use chalkboard paint.

After a layer of auto-primer on the hinges. Rust and the original finish is still visible on the doors.

 There are several steps to refinishing old metal, but the result is well worth the time. Each step only takes about thirty minutes.


  • Respirator, disposable painters’ overalls, and latex gloves
  • Small electric hand-sander with medium, fine and ultra fine grit sandpaper
  • ShopVac
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Gray auto-primer spray paint
  • Chalkboard paint: one can of spray paint and one can of liquid paint


  1. Move the lockers outside on a calm overcast day. Suit up in a respirator, painters’ overalls, and latex gloves. This may seem like overkill, but you probably don’t know how old the lockers are and what kind of paint was originally used, so protect yourself.
  2. Using a small electric hand sander fitted with medium grit sandpaper, sand every nook and cranny. Pull out the ShopVac and suck up the debris before using a wet microfiber cloth to wipe down the lockers. Let dry.
  3. Place a fine grit sandpaper on the sander and go over every surface. Sweep up the dust and wipe down again. Let dry.
  4. Spray with a gray auto-primer. Let dry.
  5. Using an ultra fine grit sandpaper, sand the surface of the lockers, sweep up dust and wipe clean. Let dry.
  6. Now comes the fun part. Move the lockers into a garage or shop and spray crannies, handles, and hinges with the chalkboard spray-paint. Let dry.
  7. Repeat step 6.
  8. Using a foam brush, gently paint the lockers with the liquid chalkboard paint. Lightly brush over the spots that were spray-painted to even the finish. Follow paint directions for drying time. 
  9. Repeat step 8 until the finish is dark and even.
  10. Allow the paint to cure for at least 3 days before handling. The finish should be rock hard.

I anticipated that painting the lockers would be hard, but moving them into a loft reached only by a spiral staircase proved much worse. Thank goodness for the strong muscles of Husband, Dad, and Brother.

I didn’t even have time to snap a picture of the finished product before the boys drew all over the lockers, but they turned out great!

The lockers were finished and in place one week before school started. Our boys were beyond excited about having 5 small lockers each to house their books. I also gave each boy a small luggage lock and keys with instructions that they could lock one of their cubbies if they wished.

A private space in a house of 5? A miracle!

Burying the Bodies

The trench saga has finally come to an end.

The original idea was to have Oldest Son use the tractor to fill in the trench when we finished the line, but the dirt was too close to the barbed wire fence to use the heavy machinery. Which led to us using rakes to hand-fill the 700-foot long-hole.

We rationalized the effort as much needed exercise and completed half the distance the same day that we ran the line. Then we spent the next evening at Six Flags waiting in line for one thrill ride after another with the other two million people that attended that night.

Until we got a weather alert at 10:30 pm warning of impending rain.

Rain and loose dirt in your pasture don’t mix well. So we did what any other farmer would have done. We loaded a tripod light, rakes, and a generator onto the trailer, hitched it to the tractor and headed for the back pasture…at midnight.

Oh yeah, this really happened.

I heard the unmistakable sound of more than one plane fly over our position. I know that they were looking for the bodies, because no one in their right mind fills in a trench at 1:30 in the morning.

No pain no gain.

But we were desperate. The ridiculous action seemed far better than trying to re-dig and re-fill the line after the rain. The only problem? It. Never. Rained.

That weatherman should be fired.

Wait for me! The camerawoman is like the straggler in an antelope herd: the most likely to be eaten.


Trailer-School goes to Port Aransas

I’m almost afraid to spill the secret, to release my new-found knowledge to the world.

Texas beaches are deserted on the weekdays in September. There, I said it, now you know.

We pulled the trailer south from North Texas and settled down in the beautiful Gulf Waters RV park. With our slide-out rooms only feet from the boardwalk, we slipped off our shoes and scurried to the soft sand beach. We spent a glorious week in Port A in late September and the closest people on the beach were half a mile away from our spot.

Schooling in the mornings left the entire afternoon and evening of each day to learn from the world around us by:

  • building sand castles (engineering, architecture, tides and erosion)
  • digging up Coquina Clams to watch them burrow under the sand again (biology)
  • spotting and identifying migratory birds passing through Texas on their way south for the winter (biology)
  • flying kites (physical science)
  • grilling locally-caught fish/shellfish for dinner (ecology, math and lifeskills)
  • and last but not least, watching the sun set the sky on fire as it set (astronomy)

Port Aransas offers many free educational opportunities as well as family fun. The UT Marine Science Institute houses a small museum where you can spend thirty minutes to an hour learning about the local ocean and wetland habitats. Youngest Son loved watching the sea horses maneuver in a tank while the other two boys enjoyed comparing the sizes of the whale bones on display.

The Port Aransas Museum offers a view local history as well as visiting displays, while the Leonabelle Birding Center is a great place to view many of the migrating birds and their website offers a checklist for visitors. Or you can grab a copy of a field guide for North American birds from the library and hit the beach like we did.

American Oyster Catcher

 You can also take the free ferry to the mainland and drive to nearby Rockport, which houses the Texas Maritime Museum and The Rockport Aquarium.

Forty-five minutes the other direction will take you to Corpus Christi, home to the USS Lexington, The Texas State Aquarium, The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, and dozens of other wonderful adventures.

USS Lexington from a previous trip to Port A.

With so much to offer and so few people to fight for beach space, Port Aransas in the fall is a gift to homeschool families.

Hi-Ho-A-Trenching We Will Go

If you live outside of the Lone Star State then you probably associate Texas with heat. But more troubling than the heat for Texas farmers and ranchers is the way that rain clouds avoid our skies like bare feet avoid fire ant mounds.

Remember all those pecan saplings that we recently marked in preparation for replanting in the orchard? Those baby trees are soaking in the cool wet weather now, but they will undoubtedly be roasting in under the sun come next August. So more than anything else, they’ll need water.

Thankfully, Hubs already ran a water line to the back pasture for the stock tank when we had cows. Unfortunately it stopped at the gate, which is at the north side of the future orchard. How do you get the line south?

See that tree line waayyy back there? That’s the end.

You have to dig the trench, which we did all day on a Saturday. Oldest Son and I took turns driving the trencher while Hubs guided us and hand-dug the shallow parts. Then we had to lay, prime and cement 700 feet of PVC.

No that was not me joyriding in the go-cart around the pasture while Oldest worked, somebody else must have been wearing my sparkly ball cap.

Hubs and I had matching purple fingers from the primer. If that’s not romantic, then I don’t know what is. Amazingly enough, Oldest Son was a great helper and, at 13, can drive a trencher and cement PVC  just as well as his dad.

I knew throwing-up for 9 months would pay off someday.