We are back!

As you can imagine things have been moving quickly here now that Iona has joined us. We have been very fortunate to have such a calm, easy to please baby girl.   I have been nursing constantly and as I write this post I feel like I am in a hostage situation hoping the baby will  continue to sleep so I can type.  As we are currently on maternity leave from life I have a very relaxed schedule, however, I am struggling to get into a rhythm with my routine. How about you, have you changed your routine at all this year? How’s your temporary, possibly permanent schedule working out? What are you looking forward to this spring?

Does your Schedule seem off?

As I look at my routine, I like to use bullet journaling to keep track of to-do lists and routines, I have been asking which is the most productive method. The night before the baby was born I  was drawing this page which had a routine for the future, after the baby is born, after we build our yome, after we move out of the cabin….sort of a hypothetical perfect world daily routine. Hygiene, breakfast, home school, animals, dinner.  That seems a little unrealistic since  we are not there yet.  We collecting tools and materials to build a deck for our yome,  but we have been harvesting our own cedar timber due to lumber costs, with the current market maintaining unprecedented high prices, our trees were  growing in our ponds, so they had to go.

The second example is an 8 day spread that easily fits on paper, which is not as pretty but should help me focus on the now rather than the hypothetical. However, this post isn’t a tutorial on bullet journaling;  it is more of a confession of years and years of making these schedules, not keeping track of them, trying again, and  not keeping up with writing in  the schedule. Another strange thing about this post is that it offers no solution, it isn’t a “how to be more effective with your planner” post. I am simply looking at this planner behavioral pattern and asking…why? I guess the only problem I see with this cycle is the guilt I impose on myself when I don’t write in or fill out the schedule.  Why does this have to be so difficult? Leave it to the new mom to write a blog about giving ourselves grace when we look at our accomplishments vs schedules. Why do we feel the need to do the same thing every day, check the boxes and multitask perfectly according to our scheduled itinerary. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you live by the seat of your pants and love it. Let me know in the comments what do you do to schedule or unschedule your routine? How has your routine changed this year?

 

So, what’s the plan?

We have made some decisions about where to put our Yome, how we plan to live, and our next steps this February.  Now that He has given us Iona, we can really focus on what we need to do together to make our homestead a reality.  With the final frost coming soon we are ready to purchase supplies to build the deck our yome will sit on, nestled next to a row of cedar trees down in  the center 1/3 of our hillside, as you approach the spring.  This space will be less windy and offer a more stable temperature as weather falls on our farm. We have decided to take advantage of the space and privacy we have available on this property, there will be a price, it is further down the hill.  

Future Blog Promises…

Now that Iona is 3 weeks old I am going to commit to creating  2 new posts  each  week, and continuing to improve our website, and update you on our homestead progress. I will also post information about the animals we are raising, random opinions about life as a  mom, recipes, and continue to journal our family’s experience  here in ARKANSAS!

 

Separate Places for Separate Purposes

During our time rebuilding the spring and setting up our base camp we have been able to study the grade of the land and have a better idea of what we plan  to do with our Yome. The Yome will be a tiny home(19 feet actoss) with a stove and living space for us near the woods, close to the natural water source.  We have a “dig site” which is the same size as the yome dug into the side of the hill higher elevation closer to the road. Our root cellar and kitchen may be an open concept kitchen, with a walk out covered awning to serve dinner at a picnic area with natural stone tile.  We have to build a deck for the Yome first, and raise the Yome this month.  Our new home is currently in boxes in our green house.   I love the cabins we have been staying in at Silver Run Cabin’s in Yellville, AR. We have been collecting all the inspirational details we love from Silver Run, Tyler’s Bend and everywhere along the way in Arkansas to piece together our decisions on moving closer to the woods, using natural stone features, harvesting our cedar from our “holler” and using our spring the most effective  way by locating our shower house close to our natural water source. At this point we are still on target to maintain our home with solar power and natural spring water, we may be able to combine solar and wind  to harvest energy to run the pumps that will move water from our spring to 3 tanks we will place on each of the 3 separate pastures for livestock.  We will test the water for purity before we feed it to our family or animals. With our deck standing around five feet off the ground on one side of the hill we will have space under the deck to build 5 foot tall a crawl space for our composting toilet. By building farther into the property we will really be in the hills but also very secluded from the road.

 

Josie and Bruce

These two are clearly entering the strange stage that is “being 7,  I recognized it as a grade-schooler, there is an awkward phase 7 year old;s face that includes feeling insecure and awkward which makes me sad for my sweet babies but I have no choice but to watch them grow and continue to face this world we live in together.  With all the changes  we have faced as americans, humans, as a family moving to our new habitat, we have been surprised at how positive, upbeat, and truly motivational these two have been. 

     When we are feeling defeated and doubting ourselves they will loudly proclaim their love for our new life here in Arkansas and remind us of why we came here, and the future we are creating for our family. Who would have thought our 5 and 7 year old’s would be our walking examples of bravery, selflessness, and open-minded easy going little adventurers. They are constantly reminding us of how blessed we are.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Iona has plans to be a dairy expert when she grows  up, she believes dairy should be everyone’s priority, all the time.

 


As a teacher, I am excited to learn new material and to share this experience with my family. This farm gives us plenty of new material to learn about animal husbandry, nutrition, behavior. Arkansas also gives us a new set of information to learn about the environment with different plants, soil, weather and culture. I look forward to sharing our story with you and reading your feedback, remember, your feedback is very informative, helping me to understand other peoples perspectives, so don’t hold back!

Donna Ervin, Ervin highland farms

  • First and foremost, the meat is good.
  • Secondly, rabbit has an inexpensive initial investment.
  • Thirdly, they are clean, hearty animals, who can thrive almost anywhere while making awesome compost for our garden.
  • Fourth, my children can learn about the miracle of living things, the reward and responsibility of meeting an animals needs, plus animal science (we are homeschoolers.)

What the rabbit?

Many of you are probably wondering why would they choose the cutest animal known to the holiday schedule, and consider it for food.  We don’t see rabbit at the market in the U.S. very often, unless you shop at a nice local butcher shop that sells unusual meats, like Magro’s in Springfield.  The other way to taste rabbit is if you are friendly with a hunter who is willing to share his hard earned delicacy with you. I recommend the market method, hunter’s are people and people have expectations, plus the meat may be tougher and have a stronger flavor often described as “gamey.” I love all wild game and have not known a “gamey” flavor.

 


  1. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the why…..mostly the meat.  Did you know that rabbit is usually all white meat? It is leaner, higher in protein, and lower in calories than chicken. Yes, before you ask, you guessed it, it does taste very similar to chicken.  Also, any chicken recipe, can basically be converted into a delicious rabbit dish.  I found a recipe for sweet and sour rabbit that has pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges and is served over rice, rabbit and dumplings, fried rabbit with gravy, of course you can continue listing rabbit dishes like bubba gump, we can make rabbit chili, rabbit cacciatore, rabbit stew, rabbit tacos, rabbit kabobs…. ok I’ll stop.  Another advantage to raising our own meat, is that with the supply problems the grocery stores experienced this year in particular, it is nice to have a legendarily prolific creature happily replenishing itself in our back yard.  Eating a diet high in proteins can help you maintain a steady blood sugar level, which makes you feel better, physically and emotionally.
  2. Compared to other livestock options rabbits are very affordable. Clearly, the idea that they multiply rapidly, with mother ready to start another litter when her kits are 4 weeks old.  This allows for her to easily have 5 to 8 pregnancies each year. Here comes the multiplication, with each litter producing an average of  7 additional rabbits, 1 mama can produce around 200 pounds of meat each year. 
  3.  We are making our own dirt to grow our garden.  Although Northern Arkansas is very lush and green with plants and forests thriving for miles between every destination, the actual ground is pretty rocky.  How do these forests thrive with such dry soil? Mother nature takes care of that by turning all of those leaves into a rich mulch that holds moisture and makes a rich compost on the forest floors. Fresh dew covers our land every morning, which makes the mornings feel freshly cleaned, and new, yesterday a distant memory, but makes your feet feel wet, bring your rubber boots.  The nitrogen and phosphorus in the rabbit manure are higher than any other livestock manure.  It can be used directly from the rabbit to the garden without composting. Plus this organic matter actually improves soil structure, moisture retention, and drainage, all very beneficial to the soil on our farm.
  4. Finally, it’s for the kids! Actually this whole experience is for the kids, however, the rabbits are soft and cute and all kids love them.  We were able to purchase Peter and Mrs. Cottontail for a low, no haggle price of only $20 each, with nice cages included from a local farmer as well as feeding trays.  All while getting the credit for Christmas and establishing an awesome daily reward for finishing their school work- 30 minutes of rabbit time for Bruce, Josie, Peter and Mrs. Cottontail, petting, snuggling and feeding veggies. This is also good for keeping the rabbits friendly.

Peter Rabbit

Bruce’s Rabbit is Peter, a friendly father, ready to spring into action when nature needs him.  Yes, my 5 and 6 year old are learning a lot about reproduction.

Here is a link to a website source for some of our rabbit facts plus ideas for raising rabbits in a colony.

SELFIE With Mrs. Cottontail

A big thank you to the people at Troll Mountain Farms who sold us this amazing pair of Giant Flemmish/New Zealand Cross bred parents.  Mrs. Cottontail is expecting 1 week before me, challenge accepted.  Josie and Bruce had a blast at the rabbit farm to pick these bunnies up with me, in Witt Springs, Arkansas, fairly close to home.

Link to Troll Mountain Farms

We already have a chicken coop/ office/ Tool Shed!

This was the first time we walked the property before we decided to jump in and swim into this adventure. I was excited to see there was a chicken coop, it is actually really well built so it has been very useful. It will be Ervin Highland Farms HQ.  We plan to add the rabbits to the outside of this opening, so that we can bring the rabbits inside to snuggle and play with the kids and I, in an enclosed space.

Link

Peter at the rabbit Farm

We are so blessed with this opportunity to raise our own food, teach our children, and live in the beautiful country of the Ozark Mountains.   Let me be clear that we are not driving this crazy train. We have decided to follow where He leads and are constantly praying and listening to his voice inside.  There are parts of our journey that I will share that have been a lot less glamorous than bringing home fuzzy bunnies.

Donna Ervin

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

 

@ Silver Run Cabins

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

Donna Ervin

Christian, Wife, Mother, Teacher, Homeschooler, Homesteader, Blogger

 

Josie and Bruce

My blondes

 

William Thomas Ervin

Christian, Father, Husband, Craftsmen, Arkansas Farmer

He is with us

Blessings

   This week my family has been blessed by being welcomed to stay in a cabin for the next few months.  Since September 25th my husband and I have been camping with our 5 year old Bruce, and our 6 year old Josie.  We sold our home in Illinois and have been establishing a base camp since we closed on our property October 9th. We camped at Tyler’s Bend Campground for about two weeks between selling and owning 38 acres of a “holler,” or two steep hills meeting in a forest valley with a year round spring.

    We started with an outdoor kitchen and bathroom, two tents, and two huskies. Recently, we added a greenhouse, put our camping tent inside, and had been heating our space with a small “Mr. Buddy” heater.  Before we moved to Arkansas, I had looked into homeschooling Co-ops near Marshall, and found “Legacy Christian Home school Co-op” out of Yellville, which is about 30-40 minutes from our new farm property.  We started meeting our new Co-op the first week while we were still camping at Tyler’s Bend in October.  

   Due to our governments response to the flu this year, the campgrounds have removed the nozzles off the shower heads to eliminate the possibility for campers to shower or share germs, except toilets were operating and there was an outdoor sink  I could wash dishes in.  We now have plenty of fresh spring water near our property, however, it has been difficult to find shower options.  I found a laundry mat in Harrison AR, 1 hour north of Marshall which offers $5.00, 5 minute showers;  and a campground which sells showers.  The Harrison campground was our better option because they would charge me 12.00 and I could shower myself and the children for as long as we liked, with nice hot water, plus there was plenty of space to comb our hair, dry off, and get dressed.  Unfortunately, the last time we visited the campground, the woman told me her son was planning to shut down the showers from December thru February because the winter campers have their own showers in their RV’s.   

    As last weekend approached, we were ready for showers and my friend from Co- op had offered for us to use her shower once in the past, she lives at the back of a cabin campground in a beautiful log cabin home with her husband and family.  Not wanting to interrupt her homeschooling routine this week, I asked if we might be able to use a shower in one of the cabins her parents rent out.  She messaged me back that we could definitely use a cabin that day to clean up and I was excited to bring my husband to meet her father and see the cabins and spring swimming hole he built with his own creative hands.

When we first met, my friend Kara had mentioned that she couldn’t wait for my husband to meet her dad because they both have very similar traits.  They both like to build and create with their hands and she thought they would be kindred spirits.  She was right.

After we had showered we went down to see her kids and family and my husband was finally able to meet her dad and see his incredible spring/ cabin craftsmanship.  He had mentioned to me when I was at Kara’s a month before that we should consider staying in a cabin, and although it sounded wonderful, it seemed unlikely, or too good to be true.  I dismissed the thought because we were living in a greenhouse tent on the side of a mountain/ hill in Arkansas, and I was trying to persevere.  We were reinforcing our base camp with tarps, creating a comfortable bathroom space and preparing for the cold weather that has now come.  I didn’t want to allow myself to believe we could ‘switch horses mid-stream.’

   However, after my husband met her father, checked out this mans amazing life’s work of building these amazing, unique, original cabin and spring creations, he was inspired.  He said to me that night, “the man said to me not once but twice that we should stay in one of those cabins.”

He was acting as though he were talking me into this plan! So I was able to respond with a strange false hesitation like, “Well if YOU think it’s a good idea, I suppose we could…”

So we have been at the cabin for over a week and it has been wonderful. Bedtime stories, warm delicious dinners, served hot on glass plates, cold drinks, hot coffee, a wood burning stove, all of the cozy luxuries we are so grateful to have.

   I am 36 weeks pregnant as I am writing this and very grateful God has his hand on my life. I have found a local church and neighbors and hope to become a part of the community. The library is awesome in Searcy County and I am thrilled to be substitute teaching at the local elementary and intermediate schools. 

 

 

I have had fun teaching art K-6, kindergarten, 3rd,5th, & 6th grades this first year as a new teacher and appreciate that it will give me great experience with the local community while I am able to home school Josie and Bruce with a more custom curriculum in my fathers world and free play chasing salamanders while dad works on the spring and builds our Yome basement. I will be sharing more about our yome while living in this gorgeous cabin the kids have named “our home before the yome.”IMG_2297 (1)

If you ever need to rent a cabin…

Recipe for this 1 pound cubed beef steaks, flour, bread crumbs, crushed crackers, seasoning salt, eggs, milk, pepper, vegetable oil, fry in cast iron skillet after double dipping from egg to flour mixture not once but twice, no milk in egg wash. press flour into cube steaks cook in cast iron skillet for 7-10 minutes flipping once. serve with mashed potatoes and gravy aka country fried steak

Our new home school co-op