Not one crumb left behind.

My mom comes and visits me her granddaughter almost everyday on her lunch break. She for the most part maintains a gluten free diet unless she stumbles across warm homemade bread (like she did yesterday). There’s something about freshly baked bread that will make the strictest crumble. Despite knowing her rules about gluten I offered her a hamburger bun that I made a few nights ago. Mainly because it was sooo good and I knew she’d love it, but also because I want to make her proud. She didn’t believe that I made them! Now, I could take that as an insult as if she’s implying that I can’t cook, but she knows better. Instead, I laugh because my husband said the said the same thing the night I made them, “Wait, you made these?”. Yes, yes I did.

DSC_0332After she pinched off pieces of the bread and wrapped it back up (talk about will power) with her mouth still full, “You need to write a post about that! Take pictures! That’s so good.” [Wipes hands] My job here is done.

DSC_0329DSC_0336Okay, I need to give credit where it’s due – The Clever Carrot. She posted this recipe and it came out beautifully for me. So if you’re looking for an amazing homemade hamburger bun recipe check out her blog here.

We’re going camping this weekend and I needed a loaf of bread to take with us. So why not make a loaf adapted from a recipe that already worked for me?! There really isn’t anything like fresh bread. It’s also pretty awesome saving money while eating bread better than you can buy. If you’re like me you’ll also enjoy the sense of “providing”.

For this recipe you’ll need:

• 1 cup warm water

• 3 Tablespoons warm milk

• 2 Teaspoons active dry yeast

• 2 1/2 Tablespoons sugar

• 2 fresh farm eggs

• 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour

• 1 1/2 Teaspoons salt

• 2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened

• Olive oil for greasing

• Cornmeal for dusting

 

Okay, here we go!

Combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl. I use my good ol’ glass Pyrex measuring cup. Add your water, milk, and sugar then sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for 5 minutes.

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While that’s resting, mix one of the eggs and set aside. The second egg will be used later in the recipe.

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That little egg shell better go into your compost!

Now in your stand mixer, combine the remaining ingredients. Attach your paddle mixer and mix on low until the mixture looks slightly crumbly.

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Now you will add your yeast mixture and your mixed egg to the bowl. Using the same paddle you’ll mix this on low until it forms dough. I could tell you a time but every mixer is different and I normally just eye it. Just look for that slightly elastic texture.

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At this point you’ll need to switch from your paddle to your dough hook. And set your mixer again on low and let it do its thing until it forms a ball of dough.

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Now, you’ll need a extra large bowl let let your dough rise. You’ll want to coat it with olive oil so it won’t stick and find an area that is warm and free of drafts. Cover with a kitchen towel and wait until it doubles in size. This should take a few hours but then again it depends on its environment.

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After it has doubled in size, punch it down and transfer it to a slightly floured surface. I used the same method that was used in The Clever Carrot’s hamburger bun recipe. I folded the outer edges to the center then pinched them all together (this will be the bottom of the loaf).

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Then transfer it to a non floured surface (like a silicone baking mat) belly down to rise for a second time. Gently shape it into the shape of a loaf and let it sit for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, you’ll want to get out your good ol’ stoneware bread pan. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and slide it in there and let the pan warm up with the stove. Putting cold stoneware in a extremely hot oven could shock it and cause your pan to crack. We definitely don’t want that. Also, putting a smaller oven safe dish on the lower rack with a little bit of water will keep moisture in the oven.

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Once your oven is up to temperature take out the bread pan and coat the inside liberally with olive oil then dust with cornmeal. My fear is for my bread to get stuck in the pan. Doing this step made my bread come out with ease. Not one crumb left behind. For me putting the dough in the pan was awkward. I burn myself a lot and I’m sure that was a big factor in the awkwardness.

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Remember that long lost egg? Get it and wisk it up adding a splash of water. This is your egg wash that will give your bread a nice golden sheen when it’s finished. Baste the top of the loaf and slide that jewel back into the oven for about 35 minutes.

Being that each oven varies, what you’re looking for is a nice golden brown top and when you tap on it the bread sounds hollow. That metal spatula there is a huge help checking the sides to make sure they’re done as well as getting the loaf out. If you have one go ahead and get it. You can thank me later.

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Okay, so I bought my loaf pan warped at a discounted rate because these puppies are expensive. So my loaves are never perfectly shaped. So what. I’m not trying to win an award here. Ha.

Place your pan on a wire rack to cool slightly before getting your loaf out. I’d say 10-15 minutes. You don’t want to leave it in there to cool completely because stone holds heat and will continue to cook your bread.

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Place them both on a wire rack to cool. When you can’t take it any longer slice that loaf up and call that special someone (with bread still in your mouth) to let them know what just came out of the oven. For me, it was my mom.

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Transplanting – Regrowth and Rebuild.

I can always remember having blueberry bushes growing up as a child. I also remember my family dabbling in strawberries, peach trees, and blackberries. There were only two fruits that grew effortlessly and vigorously, blackberries and blueberries. I don’t remember much about our strawberries production. Maybe because the experience was so short lived due to the very reason of poor production. Or maybe it was too much maintenance. I’m not sure. But the peach trees did produce. Just not the plump fruit that when bitten into juice runs out and down the corners of your mouth. They were small, very small. I’m sure the pit made up 75 percent of the fruit. They made great throwing objects for me and my brother. Often at each other. However, I do remember a family member collecting what little fruit those trees were able to produce to make wine. At least they didnt go to complete waste.

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For me, summer just wouldn’t be the same without blackberries and blueberries. Our blackberries grew wild along a fence separating our property and a neighbors pasture. Over time they have grown full and hearty. Not only the bushes but the fruit too. Goodness, some of the berries measure from fingertip to knuckle. There’s just something about fresh picked wild blackberries that make this country girl want to get out the flour and rolling pin! In the summer my dad will call and say, “Ashley, I’ve been picking blackberries this morning. I picked over a gallon. Want me to bring it over?”. What he really means is, “Ashley, will you please make me a blackberry pie?”.

Ohhh the blueberries. I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to be called bushes but ever since I was little our blueberry bushes just kept getting bigger and bigger. My dad is 6’7″ and these bushes now tower over him. Goodness at what point are they considered trees?!

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These three bushes produce so many berries it’s crazy. It doesn’t seem like 3 bushes could provide that much fruit. Although, our neighbors and friends pick off of them and they still provided us with a bountiful supply. Each year you will see new shoots peaking out of the ground beneath the lowest blueberry limbs. Their mint green and gorgeous purple stem cannot be mistaken. Ahhh they are so pretty. Each year they’d come up and each year my dad would clip them.

Ever since I got married these traditional summer pickings became next to extinct. That is until we started transplanting blueberry shoots from a mother plant of one of the three plants from my dad’s house. We started with transplanting just one shoot maybe 2 years ago. I told Daniel it probably wouldn’t start providing fruit for 3 years. I was wrong. It started bearing fruit last year. While not a lot but setting the bar a little higher each year to come. This past weekend we transplanted 6 shoots. I’m pretty sure I saw that at the hardware store they sell blueberry bush transplants for almost $7 each. Wow, we are already in the ‘good’ with a savings of around $42. Perfect! I can only hope that these will take hold and flourish as the bushes did back at home. For these bushes to grow abundantly and provide my growing family with fresh juice, jam, and treats would sure be a God send. Not only be a potential source of income for our homestead.

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If you’re interested in transplanting blueberry shoots this should be done in early spring before (as my dad would say) the sap is running. If you’re unsure when that is you can always look up transplanting blueberry shoot recommendations for your area online.

Next you have to find a mother plant.

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Hopefully, a friend or family member has a mother plant with available shoots for your picking. Of course this would save you money. Once you find a mother plant with shoots you’ll want to take a shovel and go out from the base of the shoot about 6 inches to a foot.

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Then dig up all the way around the shoot keeping that same distance from the base to loosen the shoot free. You will be cutting through its root system at this time. Don’t worry they should take hold once you get them back in the ground.

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Okay, you have your shoot(s). Find an area with full sun for your transplant. Now you’ll need to dig a hole double the depth and width of what you dug up with your shoot. This allows fresh loose soil for your newly cut roots to move more easily through.

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At this point you’ll need to fill the hole with loose dirt until your transplant sits flush to the ground. Once this is complete you’ll want to fill in around the plant with soil. Viola! You have successfully transplanted a blueberry shoot! Now it’s very crucial to water your transplant. Don’t wait. Water heavily the day you transplant. If you can’t transplant the day you dig up your shoots you may be able to wait a day or so if you wet the roots and soil then wrap it up with a plastic grocery bag. Planning ahead and doing it in the same day is best. Now you can mulch around the base to hold in moisture and your done!

Happy transplanting!

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1 Tomato, 2 Tomato, 3 Tomato… 42???

For the past 4 years Daniel and I have had a garden and it NEVER fails for me to over buy, over plant and over crowd. I start out with 4 tomato plants and end up with 12. Always against Daniel’s better judgement, I buy a wide variety. Variety isn’t bad. In fact I encourage it but when working with limited space you can’t buy one of everything. Especially if you’re a family of two. You simply dont need it. Yes, this is me owning up to doing this. For four years now. Daniel was right. I was wrong. But this year… this year is going to be different!! 2015-03-12 15.06.13-1 I’ve started a small lettuce bed within our front garden. We also have 6 raised beds in the back yard that will migrate to the front yard as soon as we find time. Being that I’m staying at home now Daniel says my job is to plan and take care of the garden and of course can our veggies. Are you serious?! My dream job!

Okay, so from left to right I’ve planted two rows of Organic Butterhead Lettuce, one row of Organic Redina Lettuce, one row of Organic Italian Lacinato Kale, one row of Organic Red Winter Kale, and two rows of Organic Bloomsdale Spinach. I also planted onions horizontally on the backside of these rows. Onions when planted close to leafy greens ward off insects. The same goes for Marigolds. They’re so pretty but also work for you.

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Organic Kale
Organic Redina Lettuce
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Organic Butterhead Lettuce
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While I was planting the other day I noticed these fellas growing beneath pine needles. What a surprise considering we planted these late last fall!

Anyways, it’s supposed to get up to 75 degrees today in the Yadkin Valley. It’s going to be beautiful today and I’m planting Eggplant, Snow Peas, and Fava Beans! 

As you’re planting your garden this year just keep in mind how many people you’re needing to feed, the space you’re working with, and what plants you consider staples for your family. Taking these into consideration should help with preventing overcrowding. Planting according to the recommended guidelines on the back of your seed packet will help allow your plants to grow to the best of their ability. They need a certain amount of space in each direction.. even depth. So be sure to read your seed packet to its entirety before planting.

2015-03-16 14.12.57Here’s some fun from yesterday!

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What the Cluck?

Yep. That’s what it was called.

“What the Cluck?” was the coolest workshop we took while at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC last April. Apparently everyone else thought so too considering people were sitting on the floor and holding up the walls. Jessi Bloom was able to paint this beautiful picture of how to incorporate chickens in your garden. We were flooded with useful information that we could take home and apply to our homestead. We seriously couldn’t get home quick enough.

She showed us how we could use our flock to weed our garden, help fertilize, and even accelerate composting. Not to mention they can provide our family eggs and meat. Once we got home, Daniel and I built a chicken tractor. A very simple pvc pipe chicken tractor. We zip tied poultry netting around it and then a tarp over one end to give them shelter. We built it just wide enough to fit in between the rows of our garden. Josie, Clint, and Eastwood sure kept our rows crisp! We moved them every day to expose more weeds and soil to them. It didn’t take them long to pack down the dirt inhibiting new weeds from flourishing. They helped us through our garden season and then mother nature impeded. Just as we knew it would if we weren’t careful. Chickens have so many predators from your common raptors to your family dog. So if you’re considering adding chickens to your homestead be aware of where your flock is at all times and take the necessary precautions to building them a safe coop. FYI dogs that are not trained properly see chickens as their most sought after squeaky toy and are capable of tearing fencing apart to get to them. Jessi explains just this in her book, Free Range Chicken Gardens. I highly recommend this book to anyone with or considering chickens!

Lets face it… unfortunate things happen to all new farmers. Its a part of the experience in my opinion. We have to learn from it and put it behind us.

The 2nd annual Asheville Mother Earth News Fair is approaching us quickly. Like.. really quick. Why is it that as a child time creeps by? But as an adult if you blink you can miss some precious things? Last year the MENF made us want to live more simply. We are really excited for this year’s fair being that we are more established with our homestead and have a better idea of what direction we’re going with it.

I don’t mean to air out my dirty laundry…

      I’ve never been a fan of someone airing out their dirty laundry online but here we go…

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While I was pregnant, my husband and I decided that we wanted to try cloth diapers (CD). Just saying it sounded dirty and like hard work. However, we knew it would save us money, be better for our baby, and help the environment. Having said that… we were all in!

We started doing some research on cloth diapers and how they actually work. To this day (a week into it) I’m still not sure we’re doing everything right.

My husband is an avid Craigslist searcher; always on the look out for a good deal. He found an add for a local yard sale that advertised a lot of baby items and being that it was warm weather we headed out to see what we could find. As we arrived, it didn’t take me long to realize a laundry rack on her front stoop dressed in colorful cloth diapers and liners. I couldn’t help but to notice that her liners and diapers were… white! When I think cloth diapers I can’t help but to picture them stained and grungy. Nope. Not from this gal. I had questions!

It was a young couple with two boys. She told me that they had put both of their kids in CD. So the liners that I’m looking at have been used for 2-3 years and still going strong! I’m impressed. She recommended a diaper sprayer (already decided I’ll register for that because they’re kind of pricey) but to be careful letting the husband get a hold of it because apparently hers sprayed poop all on the walls. Noted. She reassured me that the smell wasn’t bad. Sorry that’s just something I needed to find out for myself (I can’t imagine poop not having a smell). I asked her what laundry detergent she used and she said she made her own. Well, I do too but don’t know that it’s fitting for diapers. Anyway, she said line drying is a must as the sun works as an antimicrobial to work stains out. I can do that for sure!

We had an arm load of stuff that we wanted to purchase and she told her husband to go inside and get a certain diaper. He came back out and handed her the diaper. Then she with a smile handed me our first cloth diaper. How sweet was that?! By the way, cloth diapers are not cheap (but cheaper than disposables)!

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I quickly realized CD properly taken care of will last a long time! We started looking on Craigslist and found out pretty quickly that they really hold their value! We found a lady with an array of Rumparooz. I really like this brand. A pocket diaper with a gusset lining to catch any blowouts! We ended up buying four CD and 8 liners. Four of the liners are newborn size and the other four are as your little one (LO) gets bigger. Or the two will snap together for bedtime if your LO is a heavy wetter. Our first purchase ran us at $80. They were a few years old, used with several kids (I forget how many she had), and still only $5 shy from the price of a brand new diaper. Okay, so we saved $20… a saving is a saving.

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From there, we started purchasing a few from our local Babies R Us. Sadly, they didn’t have a broad selection. I guess we can blame that on supply and demand. People start cloth diapering! 😉 Thankfully by this time, we had a few gift cards that we were going to use. I’ve read from many blog posts that the bumGenius 4.0 OS (one size) with snap closures are some of the best CD. Good deal because that’s all that they sold. The 4.0 is pretty darn awesome. They’re also a pocket-style diaper and will fit  newborn to toddler with adjustable snaps.

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One thing the yard sale lady mentioned was that the velcro closures are nice but they do wear down and lose their stickiness. So I made my mind up and was going snap closures all the way! I also found a lady on Etsy, Momgaroo, that hand-makes CDs that resemble the 4.0. I love the look of her diapers. There’s no telling how many pages of reviews that I read. I kept reading the same things: how well made they are, how well they work, how if you like the bumGenius 4.0 then you’ll like these. They were cheaper than the 4.0 at $39.95 for 3 cloth diapers with organic hemp inserts versus $18 for one 4.0. Mint green, light pink, and white – sold. Just like that.

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Okay, let’s fast forward through baby showers, CD purchases, and the delivery of our beautiful baby girl. After Oaklee arrived, I was changing diapers way too often for it to be sensible to switch her to cloth. Fast forward a little bit more. She’s 6 weeks and 2 days and I’m doing it!

This is what I had when I switched:

Around 20 cloth diapers
40 ish liners/inserts
A diaper sprayer
2 sets of heavy duty gloves, his and hers
A food grade storage container from Walmart bakery
bumGenius laundry detergent

So I’ve been doing this for a week now and would you believe me if I said that it really isn’t that bad? In fact, I really enjoy cloth diapering. All of ours are one size pocket style that should fit our LO from newborn to toddler with the adjustable snaps in the front. With the new diaper inserts, we had to wash them several times for them to reach their full absorbency potential.

Here’s how it works: you stuff your insert (I’m currently using newborn) into the pocket. With most brands when you purchase a diaper you will get two inserts, one small and one large. The two will snap together for your heavy wetter or you can use them separately (like I said earlier). Okay, so it’s stuffed and sitting pretty on my changing table…waiting. It’s time! Now what? It’s simple, you use them just like a disposable. I take off the soiled and replace it with a clean CD. I take the dirty diaper to her bathroom where we have the diaper sprayer hooked up to the tank of the toilet and our $1 food grade container (our wet pail) in the tub. Slip on some heavy duty gloves and I’m ready to go. I unsnap the front of the diaper so when it goes into the pail it’s ready for the washer. Then I pull out the insert and spray it off then wring out the excess water and toss it into the pail. Lastly, I get the CD and put my hand into the pocket and hold it in the bowl and spray, wring, toss. It’s pretty simple especially if you don’t mind a little extra work. With me being a SAHM, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to do this.

I wash diapers every other day. I have them all unsnapped and back to their original state. I throw them and the liners in the washer with using 1 scoop of bumGenius diaper detergent. There are many approved detergents but being that I’m new to this, I didn’t want to make a mistake. So I went with what was recommended. **Do not use additives** You spend way too much money on these to ruin them; so no vinegar, no baking soda, and no fabric softener. However, it is recommended that you use 1/4 cup of bleach through your hot cycle once a month. Her diapers are in the wash, detergent in the drawer, now pre-rinse (no spin needed), hot wash, rinse, extra rinse and spin. You can tumble dry your inserts but your CD should never go in the dryer. If you can’t hang them outside on a line hanging them in your laundry room should do just fine.

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Having said that, you should now have clean diapers and one happy baby! By cloth diapering, it’s an initial investment for sure but in the long run you should save quite a bit of money (that will be another post). Not to mention you already have your diapers for your next LO! After a week of cloth diapering, I couldn’t be happier with each brand of diaper. Not one has let me down. Each rinse out easily, fit snug around the thighs, and we haven’t had any blowouts. We were leaving to visit family in Norfolk today and we decided that disposables would be better since we were traveling for the weekend. She has had two all but blowouts and her bottom is already red. Take my word for it. CD are worth the money, time and effort that you invest in them. Get a few and try it out. Heck, if at that point you decide it’s not for you, you can sell them. You already know they hold their value! After the wash they are clean, looking good as new, and the only smell they have is clothes line freshness.

Huh, I guess the laundry wasn’t so dirty after all.

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Welcome to our homestead!

Welcome to Hardison Homestead, where I’ll be taking you through my life as a SAHM and homesteader. image Whether you’re looking to live more simply, save money, or already a homesteader – I’d like to share with you how we do it here on our homestead! My hope and goal is to share information and ideas on how homesteading can help your family be healthier (and save money too!). image Some may say “I don’t have time” or “that’s too much work”. Trust me I’ve been there myself. There have been days and even weeks that I was ready to throw in the towel along with the responsibility, and in a sense we did take a break. image At one point we had around seven dairy goats and my husband and I were sooo excited. We started with 3 babies, two Lamanchas (Maizie and Peanut) and one beautiful Alpine (Basil), both being dairy breeds. We were bottle feeding them several times a day. Waking up early to give them a bottle and getting in late from work – going straight to the pasture to feed soon became our song. We loved it. They quickly learned who we were. We would walk by the pasture and they would hop through the grass to meet us. It was great. image image We got in a routine and although our goal was to raise a dairy herd and eventually milk our goats, we couldn’t wait. So we bought our milker, Aunt Bea, a Lamancha, who had just had her first kid. Perfect! We have milk… now we just have to get it. Learning to milk a goat didn’t take long for my either of us. We could milk her out in about 15 minutes with my husband on one side and me on the other. Once we became acclimated, we were able to milk her without the other person (unless she decided she wasn’t milking that night and kicked her way off the milk stand and back into the pasture). Milking soon became my job. I could milk her out in less time than what it used to take both of us to. Farming was great. image image We loved what we had established and eventually purchased two twin Alpine kids, Saber and another one, whose name I honestly can’t remember. We had great breeding plans. A plan to build our herd with hopes of milking to supply our immediate family with fresh milk within a years time. I mean we did our homework. We were worming them the way we needed to. Checking their eyelids: pink=healthy white=you needed to worm; asap. We were giving them a preventive herbal wormer that we mixed with molasses and rolled into balls and gave them as “treats”. But then came rain. And a lot of it. image image We quickly learned about barber pole worms. A parasite that when the soil is so wet climbs the blades of grass to get away from the moisture. At that point they become ingested by your herd. For some reason barber pole worms don’t affect cows but they will kill a goat. We started seeing some in our herd with the scours (a good sign of worms).

Wait! They can’t have worms we gave them preventives! Once they get scours you have to treat them and resolve the issue quick our you’ll lose your animal. We did everything we could. Things would get better then a few weeks we’d be right where we started again. After exhaustion, tears, and heartache we decided to move our herd into Daniel’s parents pasture. We needed a break from dairy goats. image Did I mention that homesteading is hard work? Just remember hard work, high reward. Heck, you don’t have to go buy a dairy herd in one day and milk tomorrow. You would actually need to milk them today too but anyways! Let’s face it… Things don’t happen over night and it’s best not to rush things. In the end, you will sit back and have this amazing feeling of self reliance. And when you can give or do more for your family than any store can… that’s the best feeling of all. image