Monday, November 19, 2012

What to Do With An Egg-Eating Hen

I’m a real Homesteader now!
We adopted two older hens from our new neighbor. He’d complained that he only got one egg per week. Well, it took me a few days, but I figured out why.
One (or both) of them was eating the eggs. I found one eaten egg inside the coop, did a little recon, and found a clatch of eaten eggs in the bushes.
Egg-eating is contagious. Or rather, teachable. The offending hen will teach the others how delicious eggs are, and how to eat them.
She had to go.
I didn’t know which one it was; they were identical Black Australorps. So I chose the biggest one.
It was my first time butchering a chicken. I was amazed at how docile she was. It was as if she knew that chickens were made to be food. She calmly lifted her head and didn’t fight or struggle or make a sound. It was peaceful. But not fun. No, I absolutely did not enjoy it. But I can do it. I am happy to report that I can provide meat for my family if I have to.
Since she was two years old, she was destined to be a stew hen. Because she was too tough for frying, I took the easy way out and skinned rather than plucked her. Then I made healthy, flavorful chicken & rice.
Isn’t this a cute pot? I inherited it from Ben’s Grandma Pat.
Thankfully, I got the right hen. I was sad to lose her gorgeous bright sky-blue eggs. But I wasn’t the one getting them anyway. The remaining Black Australorp is very sweet and happy to be in our flock. She lays about 4 very pretty pink eggs each week!
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Monday, October 15, 2012

New Plantings- The Mulberry Tree

On our 9th wedding anniversary, our first anniversary on our new homestead, we planted this mulberry tree. It was a gift from one of our beach neighbors. It lived in a 5 gallon bucket for two years, just waiting for us to find a homestead.
Here we are. Lyli is 5, Loral is 11 months.
We look forward to God’s Continued Blessings while we watch our family, our homestead, and our tree grow.
Blessings to you all!
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Monday, October 8, 2012

New Life for an Old Ottoman

One of the wonderful things about having a home again is having all our stuff in one place. I can finally work on some projects that have been delayed for too long.


We bought this storage ottoman before Lyli was born. We stored movies in it. Then it was a toy box for a few years. Last year I stocked it with old magazines and my favorite reading blanket. But the straw top was fraying badly. It didn’t like being used as a footstool I guess.

Finally, my fabric stash, stapler, and the ottoman were all in the same place. I organized my stash and remembered my unfinished ottoman project…

Ta Da!

I love the country blue fabric.

Happy Homesteading!

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Through a Child’s Eyes

I love to see through Lyli’s eyes. There is such wonder, joy, peace, and faith.


Do you see the star?


She had to point it out to me, too.


A Quick Message From Our Father


I love it when God sends me a postcard to say He loves us.

My Brother, Jesus, is quick to remind me of His love.

Our Comforter, the Holy Spirit, is always here, and never leaves us.


Ben and I received this cross as a wedding gift. I hung it up a few days ago. Then yesterday morning, God graced it with a sunbeam.


-Phyllis Fekula

Monday, October 1, 2012

Homestead Plantings- Banana Trees


I didn’t know that bananas would grow in north Florida. I’ve seen the banana trees that look like pretty palms but don’t produce fruit. When Ben brought these home from some wonderful people at Chick-fil-A, I thought, “Why would I want a pretty but useless plant?” (I’m pretty big on utility rather than beautiful uselessness.) But he and my Dad assured me that there are banana trees that grow bananas in our area. In fact, my Dad told me that one of our neighbors had one and harvested bananas each year. I was amazed.

This weekend, my darling husband worked SO hard cleaning up the destroyed ramp (and saving the wood for future projects of course). He also removed the strange piece of clothesline from the backyard. YAY! We plan to use a drying rack from

1327773921 Homestead Drying Racks.

(It can be moved indoors in front of the fireplace.)

AND he planted our banana trees.

… our Homestead begins to take form.

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A Home Is Born


It’s so easy to love it here. The views of the land and sky always amaze me. And we are far enough out of the city to see the stars!

Oh, how I’ve missed the stars.

Now here are some home pictures for those of you who’ve asked…


I’ve always wanted a tub like this. The fact that I share it with my 2 kids just makes it all the more memorable.


Here’s a close up of my bath-time decorations. This is a set of coasters that my darling Nan gave me. They say, “Find time for things you cherish,” “Cherish those you love,” “Love the things you grow,” and “Grow beautiful things.”


You can see that we haven’t yet hung up the towel rod and hand-towel-holder. But my hermit crab shell and Lyli’s seahorse and sea star are in place. Important things first, right?


I got this for a house-warming gift for Ben and myself from Beall’s Outlet.

God is SO good!


Messy kitchen shot! But I love this kitchen.

Actually, this is my clean kitchen shot!


The glass-front cabinets beside the stove-hood showcase some of my favorite canisters, coffee cups, and vases.

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I first found three blue canisters at Goodwill. Then Ben found four more abandoned in a trash pile beside the street in our old beach neighborhood. (That was the best thing about that place- people put free stuff out by the street. They do that so regularly in that neighborhood that men with trucks and trailers often drive up and down each street.) And I recently found the green ones at an antique shop in Live Oak. They go so well with my Jade-ite mug and pink pitcher from another junk shop in Live Oak.


More of my coffee cup collection.


Homeschooling is FUN. We decorated the walls in Lyli’s room while learning about planets, galaxies and nebulas. Then we put the planets up in the order of distance to the sun. When we get to the letter “S”, Lyli will draw a big sun for the wall. It’s a bit beyond kindergarten, I know, but we both had so much fun.


You might remember from my “Beach Cheap” blog that this Jesus plaque hung in my bedroom all my life. It was the first thing I hung up in Lyli’s nursery when I was pregnant. It was the first thing I hung up in the beach house, too. It wasn’t the first thing I hung up here (I’ll get to that in a minute), but it’s up.

It says, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”



The moon is the first thing I hung up in Lyl’s room. It lights up in crescents, from new, to crescent, then half, then full, then back to new. I love it. It’s beautiful AND a learning tool. The stars were already on the ceiling in here, and the gorgeous fan is a gift from Gaga and Papa.

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This is the girls’ bathroom.


Even the chickens are happy here. They come out to hunt and peck and scratch whenever we are outside. Only two of them are laying. They are still acclimating to their new home.



-Lainie (Phyllis) Fekula

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Becoming A Homestead

 A lot of work is involved in creating a homestead out of something that was an abandoned home. It’s important to find and appreciate the small (big?) joys. On one of my first mornings here, a Mockingbird perched atop our chimney and sang to me while I worked. On another early morning, I spotted this wild morning glory blooming along the remains of what had been a ramp.
And Lyli and I found a dragonfly playing in our sliding glass door. We observed him for awhile and took his picture. Homeschool at it’s best!
I must continually remind myself that creating a homestead is an evolution. You see, I want everything right now. I bet I’m the only person who does, right?
But we must be patient with life, just as God is patient with us.
And besides, the joy is in the journey.
Here’s a view of the backyard:
Now, when I look at this, I see what needs to be done. (You can’t see from here what I see when I walk around.) :) But I also see the happy kid and the pretty plants and I try to focus on that.
We’ve fenced the backyard, and fenced the garden area (the chickens are preparing it for me at the moment). The porch swing is waiting for us and our coffee (on the swingset because there is no porch), and we put up the swingset from our old house, too. The deck is almost finished. And I hauled away a lot of yard trash.

Evolution of a Farm Girl is an ongoing process. And the evolution of this homestead is, too. Check in next week to see our progress and hopefully find inspiration and humor for you to use on your life’s journey.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

We Found A Home

We purchased a 2005 manufactured home on 2 acres. It is just far enough out in the country and within 10 minutes of a wonderful library. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the library?) It has well water (which we love) and a small barn.

Now for the “before” stuff.

*Swamp. Yeah, it’s a bit swampy. The soil has a high clay content and holds water because many of our neighbors have built up their properties with truckloads of fill dirt. But no worries, we have a plan. A plan that will have to wait until the ground dries out some… but a plan nonetheless.

*Repairs. The new A/C is the biggest repair that was needed. People tend to strip all they can from foreclosures. This one was spared most damage because of the tight-knit community of watchful neighbors. But still- new A/C, new back steps/ramp/deck, replace ceiling fans and light fixtures (all the nice ones were gone), our new friend, Gary the Electrician, fixed our wiring problem, our new friend and neighbor, Michael, helped with the electricity-to-water-heater problem. And my Dad has been extremely helpful! Putting up ceiling fans, repairing the kitchen cabinet, installing the stove. Ben and Ed worked on the kitchen, too, cutting out a place for the stove to go.

We still have to install door knobs (they stole all the door knobs!) and put up some trim around some doors (they stole the trim!).

*Cosmetics. I don’t know about you, but almost every time I move into a place, I like to freshen it up with a new coat of paint. This home had a decent paint job, but alas, it was too dark a color for me. So we painted. My father-in-law Pat and mother-in-law CynDee helped a lot with this. So now the kitchen and laundry room are a very light and fresh green (Delicate Winter Melon- WalMart), the living areas and our bedroom are a light peachy white (Whispered Peach- Better Homes and Gardens for WalMart), and Lyliana wanted a dark blue for her room. We compromised with a light blue- Aqua Inlet by Better Homes and Gardens for WalMart.

*Fence. The property next door has two ponds on it, so we needed a fence to keep our kids and dogs in and safe, and keep the neighborhood dogs out. I wish it would keep the deer out of my garden, but we’ll have to come up with something before planting time.

Before Pictures:

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Some of the cabinets have been ripped. I will cover this with stain and hope no one ever notices. :)

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The laundry room has a deep wonderful mop sink. LOVE IT! And you can see the destroyed deck/steps/ramp in the back yard. Our new friend Larry is going to fix this for us.

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Ben and Chris smoothed out and trimmed the carpets. Not sure why they were like this, but they’re fixed now. They look great. There are a few stains, but I’ll cover them with area rugs.


Friday, June 22, 2012

House Hunting Tips

We have a history with real estate. I’m a real estate broker, was an appraiser, was a mortgage broker, all in the State of Florida. And we’ve bought and sold a few properties.

The main lesson I want to share is: Do your own research. You simply cannot rely on what another person says; it does not matter if they are a Realtor, Banker, Appraiser, Surveyor…

Here are some quick tips that we’ve picked up. Hopefully, they will be a help to some of you.

  • Look up the property on the county appraiser’s site. Search “name of county property is in” property appraiser {Duval County Property Appraiser}. Once on their site, click “property search” You can usually find it by address. This will show you previous sales as well as the taxable value and even a building sketch and list of site improvements. There’s also usually a link to the tax assessor’s office so that you can see what the current taxes are and estimate your property taxes.
  • Then search the property on Google Maps. Check out the satellite imaging. {We didn’t want to be very close to high tension power lines or train tracks, so we googled every property before we spent the time and gas money to go see it in person.}
  • Most of the properties on the market today are foreclosures or short sales. Be prepared. The majority of properties have problems. We’ve seen holes in walls, destroyed flooring, wiring that’s been stolen, AC units have been stolen, a foundation that was literally washing away, and cabinets that had been ripped apart so that the wall oven and stovetop could be stolen. Just brace yourself. And start a savings account so that you can make repairs on the property you buy.
  • HUD homes. If you are interested in a foreclosure, the HUD HomeStore is a good place to start. You can search for properties and read the addendums (including the PCR- Property Condition Report- that will reveal any major known problems) all from the comfort of your home. Of course, in our experience, these inspectors can miss some things. Let the Buyer Beware. A note- HUD properties are listed with a Realtor and will be on the MLS as well as and You don’t have to know somebody to buy one.

In most cases, you cannot simply buy a HUD owned property. You have to bid on it. For this, you need a HUD registered real estate broker who can place your bid for you. This can be tricky. Many HUD properties seem to be listed below Fair Market Value, but if you bid above the list price, you must have cash for the difference. No bank (in my experience) will finance a loan amount above the listed price. Then again, if you make a full price bid, someone with cash might outbid you. C’est la vie.

  • Financing. Find a loan officer you like and make application. Then ask them if you qualify for a USDA 100% loan (No Down Payment Required). If not, ask them if you qualify for an FHA loan (As Little as 3.5% Down Required). Qualifying for these programs is more hassle, but less cash. You decide if it’s worth it.
  • One more personal bit of advice: ask your loan officer what is the maximum amount you can finance. Then divide that by 2 and shoot for finding a property at that price. Maxing out your credit is a good way to get stuck with a home you cannot afford to live in. {Speaking from personal experience here!}

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Making Baby Plants - Rootings


Did you know that cuttings need darkness to root?

Neither did I.

When I bought my English Lavender at the Farmer’s Market, I asked the farmer if it was easy to grow/root/take care of. He said ‘Yes.’ He said to take a cutting of new growth (green and flexible – not woody and hard) and place it in a glass of water in a sunny window.

So I did. The lavender cutting was healthy. It was happy. It even made a flower. But it did not grow roots. Eventually, I switched it from the glass to this dark blue vase. I thought the dark blue would look pretty with the lavender flower.


After about a week, I pulled it out to change the water and found roots! Voila!

Since then I’ve made another cutting, a woody one this time. Placed in the blue vase in a sunny window, it rooted as well. Then I cut two pieces from it and now they are growing roots in the blue vase.

I adore this little guy.

Okay, so I’ve admitted that I had no idea a simple clear glass would not work.

Who knew?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

FarmGirl Crafts – The Sock Monkey

The Sock Monkey is an American classic craft that emerged during the Depression. The Sock Monkeys with the iconic red mouth were made from worn out Rockford Red Heel socks. You can buy these classic socks from Fox River Mills. Each pair of socks comes with instructions for making sock monkeys.

Lyli spotted a bright sock monkey in Bealls one day in 2010. The $30 toy didn’t fit into our budget, so I ordered a pair of socks and made one myself.


Here she is sleeping with it in 2011.


Loral likes it too.


I’m happy to say that the monkey has survived for a couple of years, even though Lyl removed his red hair and blue bow-tie that I had made.


I hope to make more in the future, using the Fox River Mills pink socks and other unique socks that I’ve collected.