Monday, November 30, 2009

Why I love my 2 year old

Today, Jack (my 2 year old) was in the bedroom with me when I hopped on the scale. I stepped off a moment later, feeling triumphant after the Thanksgiving weekend. Jack wondered about the number on the scale and, being his thoughtful self, asks 'Was is $4, Mom?' Classic. I love my toddler. :)


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Random thankfulness

The kids slept in their own beds last night. It was a rare and celebratory occassion. My husband has a few days off surrounding Thanksgiving. Not only can he take time off, he still has a job to take time off from. (i realize i am using poor grammar) In the state with the highest unemployment, I am very thankful to be so fortunate.

My children are happy, healthy, and fed and loved. (1 in 5 American children go hungry, 1 in 3 in some Midwest states.) They are growing in kindness, generosity, imagination, knowledge and faith.

I hauled in a load of wood in our lawn cart (one of my favorite pieces of yard equipment we've borrowed from my in-laws). I stacked it on the porch so it'll stay when the rain and snow hit later this week. Our home is safe and warm. Heated with wood from a large, dying oak tree cut down by a friend.

I'm drying apples I bought at the farmer's market with money I made from selling homemade soaps. The peels will be make news jars of vinegar. The home preserved food and fresh made vinegar is beginning to outnumber the store-bought items in our pantry. This one of the neatest things.

I gave the chickens fresh straw and collected their eggs, sure to thank them for their contribution to the household. They like the straw and seem to think it a fair trade. The eggs are boiling on the stove. The shells will be baked and crushed for the chickens to suppliment their calcium intake. Cyclical, always cyclical. :)

My homemade soap business is doing well and continues to increase in sales. Much to my amazement. I am thankful and humbled by the response to my soaps and salves.

Our amazing family, church family, and savior Jesus the Son of God.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The big 3-0

Yep. That's right. I turned 30 yesterday. It was a great time. The virtual facebook birthday wishes began Saturday night and continued on into Monday. Wonderful cards from my husband and kids, the coolest travel tea cup I've ever seen (plus the promise to order some bulk herbal tea), a painted chair from my mom for my soap/work room with the kids' handprints on it (I was in tears), a super fuzzy and warm blanket of my own from my in-laws and more. We had a dinner at church and then a bonfire with family in the evening. It was a little strange to have a party just for me. My sister-in-law Amanda's birthday is the day after mine so we usually celebrate them together. We love that we get to share birthdays! This year we both have big birthdays (30 for me and 16 for her) so we each get a day to ourselves. My really awesome little brother baked my cake and Carlie frosted it. It was nice to spend time with family and just chat and hang out and not have to work or build or clean or do anything. I think my 30s are off to a nice start. :)

Sitting in my new chair enjoying some birthday cake...

~jill (who is still stuffed from overeating yesterday)

The Chicken Condo

It's been finished for a week now and the girls love it. We're getting 1-2 eggs a day and are so thankful. I'm amazed each time I go out and find another one...
The pictures I promised:


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

This year, I hope people realize it's Veterans Day before they notice flags lining the street or the fact that the post office is closed today. Take the time to honor a veteran, thank him or her for his or her service to our country. Without the courage, strength and self-sacrifice of generations of patriots - the United States of America would not even exist. Shake hands, give hugs, send a card or an email. Say 'Thank you' and really mean it.

Thomas Jefferson said, "Patriotism is not a short frenzied burst of emotion, but the long and steady dedication of a lifetime."

Or, "Once a Marine, always a Marine." :)

Semper Fi, Ooh Rah, Thank you and God Bless.


Monday, November 09, 2009


Our first egg! As you can tell, we're pretty excited. We've had the girls since May (they were itty bitty fluff balls back then) and we've been patiently waiting. Okay, well, mostly patient. I gave them a stern talking to about earning their keep and laying some eggs a few weeks back. At least someone took it to heart. :)

Pictures of the new coop coming soon!

Saturday, November 07, 2009


We were blessed with a bushel basket full of apples from some church friends. Bruce, the kids and I had the chance to go to their house one Sunday evening and get some old wood to use for our new chicken coop. Our wonderful friends gave us a tour of the house and property, showed up their garden and trees. I was thrilled when I saw the apples hanging from the trees and covering the ground. Her father had planted the trees years ago, she doesn't even know what kind they are. We ended up with wood, apples, a few grapes, a wagon and a few more gifts. Such kind people!

The apples were very tart and not the best for eating fresh. I dried about half the apples in the dehydrator. The rest were used to make apple sauce. I canned some and we ate some right away. I gave a bunch to Mary since she was generous enough to share her apple crop with us. The kids and I eat the dried fruit for snacks and I use it when I make granola. I gave my mom some of the apple sauce.

We have some of the apple peels and cores to the chickens. The girls love anything fresh and I prefer not ot give them chicken feed if I can. I used the rest of the apple peels to make vinegar. It was a lot easier than I thought. Put the peels and cores in a jar. Fill it water. Cover with a cloth. (I used a canning band and a wash cloth.) Don't use a canning lid. The microorganisms need the oxygen to work their magic. Otherwise, you'll end up with a foul smelling mess. That's what I made on my first try. :) Let it sit for 2 weeks and voila! Vinegar. I use the vinegar as a rinse for my hair. It takes out any residue from soap or styling products. I don't use shampoo, I use my homemade bar soap on my hair. We have hard well water and sometimes it doesn't rinse really clean. Commercial apple cider vinegars were a little harsh on my hair and left it feeling yucky. My homemade version is much more mild (and fruity smelling) and seems to work better for me.

We're thankful for what we have and are given and try not to waste an ounce.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Branching Out

In honor of my new blog layout, living life to the fullest, recognizing the Lord's wisdom and life lessons inherent in the natural world He created, and the value of a sense of humor - I present to you a song. (not that I needed any reasons, I like this song regardless) :)

Branching Out - by John Gorka

When I grow up I want to be a tree
Want to make my home with the birds and the bees
And the squirrels, they can count on me
When I grow up to be a tree

I'll let my joints get stiff, put my feet in the ground
Take the winters off and settle down
Keep my clothes till they turn brown
When I grow up, I'm gonna settle down

I'm gonna reach, I'm gonna reach
I'm gonna reach, reach for the sky
I'm gonna reach, I'm gonna reach
I'm gonna reach, till I know why

When the spring comes by I'm gonna get real green
If the dogs come by I'm gonna get real mean
On windy days, I'll bend and lean
When I grow up I'm gonna get real green

If I should fall in storm or slumber
Please don't turn me into lumber
I'd rather be a Louisville slugger
Swinging for the seats...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


From today (Wednesday the 23rd) til Sunday I'm offering free shipping on all the soaps, salves, babysets, and such in my ETSY store. You can view and order products here:

Happy shopping and thanks for looking!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Winding Down

Many apologies. We've had a such a busy summer I haven't been keeping up with the blog. (okay okay okay, I don't keep it up well anyway...)

I've had an amazing time selling my soap at local farmer's markets and other events through out the summer. The interest and the feedback has been really fantastic. We added nice crochet washcloths, handtowels, and babysets. I'm looking to do a big online push for winter and the holidays thru my website ( and my ETSY page ( If you are interested in free (free!) all natural soap and would like to write a review on your blog and say something nice about me - please comment or send me an email. I would really like that.

We had a slightly scary encounter with a bat and the entire family has had to endure the series of rabies shots. We awoke to a bat in the bedrooms. Since we were sleeping when the encounter occurred we are to assume we had some kind of contact with the bat and need the shots. If we were smart, we would have caught the bat and had it sent out for testing. Unfortunately we just shoo-ed him out the front door and went back to bed. We get our final vaccination on Carlie's first day of kindergarten. Awesome.

Our garden has been pretty fantastic despite some really crappy weather this summer. It's been pretty cold and wet in this part of Michigan and it has taken far too long for things to ripen. We've already pulled the onions and are waiting on the potatoes, carrots and pie pumpkins. I planted the carrots late for a fall crop and we just put in some more lettuce a few days ago. The popcorn and oats we planted are drying nicely. Our freezer is full of shredded zucchini and we still have some waiting on the counters. We have tons of tomatoes now that they're turning. I've been canning a few times a week as things come in. I'm hoping we'll have enough crushes tomatoes to get us through the winter. It'll be close. I canned some jam this year too. It was my first attempt. It was a lot easier than I expected and everyone loves it. I'm hoping we don't eat it all before the snow flies! :)

Tonight is my brother's first football game (marching band!), school begins next week, the farmer's market winds up a week from today. The weather is cool and fall is in the air. I've been knitting fingerless mittens for the past few weeks. Bruce has been chopping the last of the wood and fixing the wood stove. Everything points to a change in the seasons. A time to unwind, slow down, cuddle up, and take it all in.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Independence Days week 2

1. Plant something: tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, more popcorn, chick peas, great nothern beans, pole beans, more onions.
2. Harvest something: Lilacs and spinach.
3. Preserve something: Dehydrated mangoes.
4. Reduced Waste: Feeding scraps to chickens. Carlie's teacher is giving us her old straw bales for bedding. She didn't know how to get rid of it and I gladly accepted her generous offer. I don't have to buy any soon. We both win. :)
5. Preparation and storage: Husband Bruce finished up the chicken coop, the girls are enjoying their new home. Thoroughly cleaned the kitchen and made room for the dehydrator on the counter. Rearranged my soap room so it's more efficient for storing supplies and drying soap.
6. Build community food systems – worked in my mom's garden
7. Eat the food: Um, hmm. We've going through the fruit and veggies like crazy. Not a lot for us to harvest yet. Spinach salad tonight.

That must be it! I have a few more things to plant this week (oats that are going in late, herbs and flowers) and lots of weeding. The veggies we planted earliest have all sprouted and are looking good. I'm looking forward to all the rain we're expecting this week!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Great Escape

We have 6wk old hens livng in a giant bin on our kitchen table. The 5 girls are just about ready to make the move to their outdoor abode. After the last few days, I'm more than ready!

A few chicken stories :
Okay, one of the hens got out of the cage yesterday. Good thing I was standing in the kitchen and saw it. I was able to grab her while she was still on the rim of the blue box and before she flew... whew. I'm not sure who was more surprise by the whole thing - me or her! I think they're ready to sleep outside!!!

Today Jack let one of the hens out. He just lifted the top so it could fly out. Truman (our labradoodle) was right there and didn't even care. We're so blessed to have such a mild-mannered dog!

Jack informed me he is the 'birdie papa', Carlie is the mama, and I am the big mama. I'm glad he really likes the chickens, but this does nothing for my sefl-esteem.

We'll make the final adjustments to the coop in the coming days and our 5 beautiful girls will move outside.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Independence Days

1. Plant something: broccoli, pumpkins, popcorn, zucchini, cukes, onions, plum tree, cherry tree, 2 pecan trees.
2. Harvest something: Lilacs for the jars on the table.
3. Preserve something: Nope.
4. Reduced Waste: I've been doing better about saving leftovers and turning them into something else the following night. Putting more in the compost and soon will be giving scraps to the chickens.
5. Preparation and storage: Received some summer clothes and pants for Carlie from my cousin. Stored the items that are too large and sorted out her drawers so we know what doesn't fit.
6. Build community food systems – worked on church garden with youth - planted and discussed how we'll be sharing the food.
7. Eat the food: We've bought some local asparagus and rhubarb. Made rhubarb sauce (my very first attempt) to go with some angel food cake. Very yummy.

Where I'll be

Hilltop Soaps will be sold at a number of local events and markets over the coming months.
Memorial Day - Genesee Family Fun Festival from 11am-6pm
June 5th, 19th - Clio Farmer's Market 10am-5pm
July 3rd, 17th - Clio Farmer's Market 10am-5pm
August 7th, 21st - Clio Farmer's Market 10am-5pm
August 15th, 16th - Flint Bowman's Club Annual Fall Shoot (tentative)
Please visit the website for further news, details, and product information.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hilltop Soaps

I've been making all-natural homemade soap for sometime now and have decided to sell it online (or in person if you are close by). The website is

Here's an excerpt from my brochure: "All our soaps have the same basic ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, castor oil, distilled water, and lye. We add the essential oils, herbs, spices and such to that base. Any coloring or fragrance comes from these all natural ingredients. This is in stark contrast to commercial cleansers (which aren't soaps at all) that are full of detergents, chemicals, dyes, and perfumes." This means the all-natural soap is gentle and nourishing for you skin and great for those of you with allergies or sensitive skin. It's also better for the environment. It contains no parabens (cancer-causing preservatives), no petroleum by-products, and no phosphates (which create problems with our water supply).

All bars come wrapped in brown paper and is labeled with name and ingredients. The brown paper wrapping is biodegradable and can be added to your compost pile. The commitment to being eco-friendly and all natural should come as no surprise to most you! Please, pass it on to friends and neighbors you think may be interested.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

25 random things about me

1. Have 1 husband, 2 children, and no pets.
2. We're getting chickens in the spring.
3. I like to garden and grow our own food.
4. Last year we grew things like corn, carrots, and tomatillos.
5. This year I want to grow popcorn, potatoes, and maybe a grain (like oats)
6. I have a degree in biology but I'm a stay at home mom.
7. I'm a soapmaker.
8. Occassionally I teach after-school classes about archaeology and we run a mock 'dig' site for the kids.
9. I cannot ride a bike.
10. Or whistle.
11. My name is Jill and my son's name is Jack.
12. That was not my idea - his sister named him.
13. I met my husband at a bible study.
14. My husband, Bruce, and I teach the teens at our church.
15. I read a lot. Usually more than 1 book a week.
16. My goal last year was to learn to make bread from scratch.
17. We no longer buy store-bought bread.
18. I have a younger brother. I'm 15 years older, but he's 4 inches taller (so far)
19. My sister-in-law taught me how to knit.
20. I like to makes lists. My family and my youth kids tease me about it.
21. I like to walk my daughter to and from school.
22. When I was young I wanted to be Indiana Jones.
23. I don't like to drive.
24. My daughter claims my favorite color is green.
25. I like green, but I like red better.