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Ducks, Again?

I tried having ducks in the urban farm – was it three years ago? Four? Five? – and it didn’t work out. They were the cutest thing ever:

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Even after they grew up. I love Indian Runners.

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But there were three major reasons why, after a year and a half, I ended up rehoming them on a farm with a pond and a garden that needed a slug patrol. They were a bit too noisy (especially before I added the drake – girl ducks are sex-crazy beasts!), way too messy, and hard to protect from predators.

The last two reasons were really the same issue. Their coop needed to be completely rat and raccoon proof, but such a coop means that it is stationary. Which means either you are out there cleaning it out all the time, or it very quickly gets stinky and messy. Ducks have very wet poop, and they are into water all the time. Stinky messy coops are not how I keep animals. I tried a few different methods (gravel, shavings, wood chips) and finally gave up and said ducks just aren’t for me, in this particular place.

But I miss having ducks. And I miss duck eggs, which are the best eggs in the world. Seriously. So good.  So I started looking into other kinds of duck-like critters, including having a single goose in with the chickens as a livestock guardian and producer of eggs.

But then I started coming back to Muscovy ducks. I had explored having them before, but I wasn’t sure how I’d keep them along with the chickens. People have different experiences, but I have heard a number of people say the Muscovy drake (which is a very large, goose-sized bird at 15lbs) killed or harmed their hens. I can’t risk that. I love my hens.

But the good points of Muscovy ducks balance out exactly the problems I had with regular ducks. Muscovies are nearly silent. The males hiss and females make a low whistling, trilling sound. They are much larger than other ducks, and although I’d still want to protect them from raccoons, they apparently actively look for rodents to eat. Yes, eat. I won’t have to worry about rats!

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Not worrying about rats means I won’t have to wire in the bottom of the pen with hardware cloth. Not wiring in the bottom means that I can build a light-weight moveable pen, similar to a chicken tractor. Being able to move the pen means that before it gets stinky, I can move it to different ground, and won’t have to clean it out.

My chicken run area is large, and I already have it divided off into different areas with fences and gates. To protect the hens from the Muscovy drake (at least until I know if he’s going to behave or not) I will let the Muscovies have the south end in the summer, and the north end in winter, the opposite of where the chickens are. Switching them back and forth will keep the chickens happy, because they’ll have new area to scratch around in every few months, and still the ducks plenty of room.

Plus, Muscovy ducks are famous for being fly-eaters. If you have these ducks on your farm, you’ll have around 80-90% less flies.

They are also a very sustainable source of backyard meat. Muscovy breast meat tastes very similar to a sirloin steak, and the females are wonderful and prolific mothers, willing to hatch and raise more than one clutch a year, if you let them.

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The biggest con with Muscovies is that they fly. Very well. They like to perch on house roofs. As I live in a urban area, I can’t have my ducks flying into my neighbors’ yards and perching on their roofs. But I found one mail order place that will ship day-old duckling with pinioned wings (the very tip of their wing clipped off, so that they will never be able to fly well as adults). Some people think this is cruel, but actually many states in the USA demand that domestic Muscovy ducks be pinioned, so they can’t escape into the wild and cause problems. Just-hatched ducklings have wings that are mostly cartilage, not bone, and the part they snip off is very tiny. I watched a video of it being done, and the ducklings didn’t even seem to notice. The wings didn’t bleed, and as soon as the man put them down, they ran right back to eating and drinking as if nothing had happened.

The minimum order is 15 ducklings, so if all 15 survive, I’ll either sell a few or stock the freezer. I plan to keep just three: a drake and two hens. If I like them, and don’t mind the process of butchering them, I’ll let them raise a clutch of ducklings every year for the freezer. I’ve never had Muscovy, but duck is my favorite meat, and I’m very intrigued by the idea that the breasts resemble steak in taste and texture.  I love the idea of adding more sustainable sources of meat and eggs to the farm, particularly when they come with advantages of fly and rodent control.

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Of Pigs and Pigeons

The plans to get Muscovy ducks is moving along. I called the farm I want to buy them from, and confirmed that they can ship to me. Actually, they can’t ship to me, because my city is too small for one-day shipping, but they can ship to the larger city right next to me, and I can go pick them up at the post office there. I think I’ll have them sent in May. The weather will be nice by then, so I can move them asap out of my house (ducklings are incredibly messy) and out into the grow-out coop.

Brand new on the agenda for this year is pigeons! I have this wonderful pen that has never really lived up to its potential. I’ve had quail in it, rabbits, and most recently, guinea pigs.

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It’s wrapped in plastic right now because of the guinea pigs. None of these critters use the entire space, ground and upper flight areas, which is a shame. So I moved the pigs into a vacant quail coop that gives them ample floor room, freeing up this pen for pigeons. And I’m planning to wire over the rooftop garden, incorporating it into the cage as even more space for the birds.

I’ve long been interested in pigeons because I love pigeons, but I have a little hawk that lives in the field next door, and I’ve watched her take down the wild pigeons in my yard. While I definitely don’t begrudge her a dinner, I don’t want her dinner to be my animals, which has kept me from getting homing pigeons. The whole reason to have those is to let them fly free, which they couldn’t safely do in around my house. But recently, I stumbled across a website about utility pigeons – pigeons raised for eggs and meat. I had pigeon when I was in London, and really liked it, and I like the idea of having animals that are useful in several ways. Plus, pigeons helped many people make it through the Great Depression – and since we’re headed toward even worse times, another source of sustainable backyard protein is highly appealing to me.

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These are king pigeons, the variety I would most likely get. They are extremely domesticated, calm, and gentle. They are heavy enough that they don’t really fly well at all, so being kept in a pen is preferred for them.

And how are the guinea pigs doing? When I first got them, all the American websites said you absolutely cannot keep them outside. The British websites were full of people doing exactly that. So of course, I went with the British way of doing things…with the knowledge I may have to bring them inside during the coldest parts of winter.

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I haven’t had to do that. I wrapped their run in plastic both to warm it up slightly, and to protect from wind and rain, and they’ve been happy as two pigs can be. When I open the door, they come running for treats.

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So yeah. These are definitely outside pigs now.  I did, as I said above, moved them to a smaller pen, also winterized in plastic for the winter.

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You can just barely see Freddie in there.

We’ve been having some decent days lately, and the past couple of weeks I’ve been out working in the garden. Last year, I moved one of the quail coops out of the garden, and where it used to be, I built a small wall out of mason blocks, and added a new garden bed behind it.

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The wall both adds a bit of privacy and definition to the garden, and it also provides some protection for the mini fireplace in front.

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I also moved a couple of cold frames behind the greenhouse, and put in a larger raised bed where the cold frames used to sit. It’s a prime “hot” area, and will be terrific for tomatoes.

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All winter long, I’ve been dumping the rabbits litter boxes into the chicken’s compost area, and now I’ve started shoveling that out into my veggie gardens. It’s great stuff – even fresh, rabbit poo won’t burn plants, and this is partly composted and full of worms and other beneficial stuff.

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Just about a month left, and I’ll be able to start planting! The garden is ready for spring. The trees are budding out, the roses are sprouting leaves, and the bluebells are green.

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Now the race begins…which will happen first: spring or the rapture of the church? Hopefully the second, but at least if I’m stuck here on earth a little bit longer, I have ducklings to look forward to!

Beginning to Prep

One of my three goals for this year was to begin seriously prepping for a disaster/emergency. If you’re paying attention at all to what’s going on in the world – the increasing major earthquakes and other natural disasters, the stock market teetering on the edge of collapse – you know something’s coming. China’s president told his generals to prepare for war with the USA. Russia has repeatedly threatened us. There are riots and marches in the streets. It’s all happened exactly as the Bible foretold, but even if you’re not a believer, you can see the odds are extremely high of something bad happening in your part of the world, fairly soon. We had a windstorm here before Christmas that knocked out the power to some areas for three days. Now imagine the power is gone for weeks or months – our government is warning us that the power grid is old and vulnerable, and warning us to have supplies to care for ourselves for a minimum of two weeks…but possibly much longer.

With everything that’s going on, it only makes sense to prepare. Does this mean digging a bunker in the back yard and stocking it with gas masks and military-style instant meals? No, there’s a much easier way.  I’m making it a goal to put part of every paycheck into buying a few things.

First, and most important is water and food. If you’ve done nothing else, buy a few $1/gallon jugs of water from the grocery store and put them away in a closet or under your bed. Better still is to buy a few five gallon water storage containers from Walmart. If you’re using treated tap water, all you need to do is fill them. If you’re using some other water source, such as well water, you need to add eight drops of bleach per gallon to kill potential bacteria. They say you need about one gallon of water per day in an emergency to drink/cook/wash with. And don’t forget, in a pinch, you can use the water out of your water heater! Because I live in an area with abundant natural water, beside using storage containers, I also bought some water purification tablets. These are super cheap from Amazon.

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A water filter is also good. I’m checking into one of those.

For food, I do like some freeze-dried, insta-meals, but I really prefer just stocking up on things I already eat on a regular basis. Instead of buying one can of tuna fish when you go to the store, make a habit of buying at least two, one to eat, and one to store. Make this kind of shopping a regular thing, and you’ll increase your store of food easily and naturally. But if you have the money, watch for sales, and stock up! Buy things you will eat, but things that have a long shelf like. Canned meat, vegetables, and fruit, peanut butter, apple sauce, oatmeal…spend a few minutes walking through your grocery store and looking at the expiration dates. Pasta, beans, and rice are good, as are extra flour and sugar if you normally bake. And then, when you have the food in your pantry, don’t just leave it sitting there, untouched. Eat it, but replace it as you do, and put the newer purchases at the back of the shelf.

But there are a few types of food I do buy in the freeze-dried survival packages. Powered milk, for instance. I’m probably not going to eat this on a daily basis, but it has a long expiration date, and it’s worth it to buy a few boxes or tins just for an emergency. I like Thrive instant milk – it almost tastes like fresh milk, and in cooking you’d never notice. There is also powered eggs, butter, and cheese. Haven’t tried these, but these are all foods that you can’t preserve fresh, and they would be really hard to get in an emergency. Other foods that would be good to have extras of are spices, salt, baking powder, and condiments. You can actually buy the little foil packages of mayonnaise and ketchup that the restaurants use – and unlike the big jars, they don’t need to be refrigerated once opened!

Once you have some food and water, start thinking about other things you might need. If the power went off for weeks or months, what would you need? Heat, light, and a way to cook. I have a wood stove, so I’m good on heat, but having some extra blankets would not go amiss. Buy some lanterns, don’t just rely on flashlights. (Although flashlights are definitely good to have. Hang beside every door in the house. If the lights suddenly go off, you don’t want to be hunting all over to find one!) You can either get battery powered lamps (don’t forget to stock up on extra batteries)

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Or oil lamps. (And again, don’t forget extra oil, wicks, and matches!)

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Being able to cook hot food is huge. In a pinch, I could cook over my wood stove, but I also have a grill outside (and I’ve stocked up on charcoal), and I just this week purchased a camp stove. This one is good, because I can burn twigs and small pieces of fuel.

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It comes apart and packs in a very small box, which is nice.

Another thing to consider is sanitary issues. If you have no running water, and no toilet, keeping clean becomes a priority. Disease was rampant in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I bought extra bleach, anti-septic cleaning products, latex gloves, and wet wipes. I also put away a box of extra heavy duty plastic garbage bags for if things get really desperate….

Also important is a first aid kit, along with any medicine that you normally or occasionally take. Extra pain meds, allergy meds, etc. Keep as much necessary prescription medication on hand as your doctor will allow. One thing to add to your first aid kit is a bottle of super glue. In a pinch, it works to seal together wounds that otherwise would require stitches. Remember, in a true disaster, emergency services will not be available to you for days, if not weeks.

If all of this seems overwhelming, just take it one thing at a time. Every time you shop, buy a few extra things. And make sure you store all your emergency supplies (lamps, batteries, camp stove, etc) in a place where you will be able to find them. Someone I know had his power go out unexpectedly, and couldn’t remember where he had put his candles. It’s hard to rummage through closets and storage boxes when you have no light!

 

Best of 2018

Normally I do a ‘Best Books I Read in 2018’ post. This past year, however, instead of reading my usual 150+ books, I only read around 30 – and most of those were early in the year. By the end, I wasn’t really reading anything at all other than the Bible. I just can’t get interested in books or tv anymore. They just don’t seem relevant to my life anymore, and real life is so much more exciting and wonderful – how can I be drawn into fictional worlds when I know this world is about to suddenly and violently change, God is about to reveal himself to the world, and the rapture is going to happen absolutely any moment now?

So what I’m doing a modified list instead. Three best books I read this year, plus three best things I did, plus three things I’m working on this year.

Three Best Books I Read in 2018:

  1. Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

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This woman writes so well – and these re-imagined fairy tales are utterly fantastic.

2. The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion, by Amy Fewell

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I’ve long been interested in using more herbs and essential oils, for me, and for the livestock. This book covers all of that, and makes it simple, reassuring, and practical.

3.The Rapture, by Chuck Missler

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Love Chuck Missler, loved this book. I cannot wait!

The Three Best Things I Did in 2018:

  1. Got meat rabbits. I love these critters, and they are so easy to care for, and provide so much good food. I cannot support the horrors of factory animal farms, but I can’t afford to get all my meat from sustainable, grass-fed natural farms.  This is something I can do.

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2. Started using reusable cloth pads. Seriously. These are THE BEST. I cannot believe I waited this long to try these. I mourn for all those wasted years! I’ve been using them for about 4-5 months now, and I love them more every time. My periods are so much easier to manage, less pain, no discomfort, no expense, and unlike regular disposable pads, I haven’t had a single leak or ruined a single pair of panties!

3. Started cooking from scratch more. I always did cook, but I tended to do the same old quick and easy recipes over and over.  This year, I decided to stop just pinning things to my Pinterest boards, and actually start making them. I discovered I really like cooking, and I really like trying new things. Using different cuts/types of meat, using fresh herbs, etc. The goal is to stop using canned/packaged items, and use all fresh, real foods.

Three Things for 2019:

  1. Get Muscovy ducks. I’m not going to go over this again, because I just did.ducklings-1588915_640

2. Start making my own herbal medicines. I’ve been interested in this forever, but this is the year I’m finally doing it. I already bought a bunch of dried herbs and a big bottle of vodka, and am planning to plant a lot more herbs this spring, as well as start harvesting and preserving them. I am not a big believer in modern medicine. Sure, there are times you need it, but for ordinary injuries and illnesses, you’re far better off staying far, far away from doctors and their drugs. Not to mention that the miracle age of using antibiotics is almost over. Within a very short time, they simply will not work any longer, and it will be a new age of superbugs and a return of illnesses we thought were gone forever. spices-2548653_640

3. Start seriously prepping. Everything points to terrible times coming for the USA and the world. There is going to be a complete financial collapse, and catastrophic natural disasters. Everyone who hasn’t got their head buried in the sand knows this. Everyone is warning of it – two different branches of government (military and Homeland Security) put out reports warning of things like power grid collapse and the advising citizens to have enough resources in their home for at least two weeks – and more probably, up to six months or longer. While I think most, if not all, of these things are going to hit the USA after the Rapture, there are no guarantees of that. Natural disasters and financial chaos can hit at any time, and so I am doing my best to ensure that family is prepared. Just last month, my area had an unusually severe windstorm (including a tornado – and we just don’t get tornados here!) that knocked out the power in many areas for days. My power stayed on, but one of my friends had her power off for three days. If you’re not putting away some extra groceries and needed items – and figuring out a way to provide heat and cook food, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in the world right now. Not sure how to start? I love Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford – and also check out this video:

Frosty Garden/Planning for Next Spring

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I went for a walk through my garden before Christmas. This time of year is when I dream. It’s easy to make grandiose schemes when the ground is too frosty to actually do any work.

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The meat rabbits have worked out extremely well (they are definitely the easiest critters I’ve ever kept and from the last batch of fifteen grow-outs, I harvested enough meat to make 36 meals, plus I had three gallon bags of bones to make stock). Last year was all about building their housing and getting them settled, and figuring out how to manage them. Now, though, I’m ready to add some new critters.

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I think this is the year for Muscovy ducks. I’ve considered them before, but wasn’t quite sure how to wrangle them with the chickens. Some people keep a mixed flock quite happily, but I’ve also heard horror stories of the Muscovy drake killing chickens. I value my hens; I don’t want to risk their lives. But my hens have a much larger area than they actually need, so I’ve worked out a way of dividing the chicken runs, so that they will rotate through different areas with the ducks. We’ll see how it works. The ducks, being non-diggers, will also get access a lot of the time to the garden. I miss having a devoted slug patrol!

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The things that are awesome about Muscovy ducks is their extreme quietness (always valued in an urban farm) their fly and rodent catching abilities, their devotion to motherhood, and the fact that their meat is more like red meat than regular poultry. It’s said by top chefs that their breast meat in particular tastes like sirloin steak! Since there is zero chance I will ever be able to raise sirloin steak in my backyard, I’m all about this. The downside is that I have to order a minimum of 15 chicks from my hatchery of choice.

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So I’ll keep the trio of ducks I want (1 male, 2 females) and either butcher the rest, or possibly sell a few ducklings. Ducklings! I’m so excited to be getting ducklings again. They are seriously my favorite kind of babies.

I’m also making plans for the new trees and plants I’ll be ordering. Not so many trees this year, but there are at least a couple I want. It’s weird, though, making plans this far ahead, because I know I won’t be remaining on this world much longer. Literally any moment now, Christ is going to return and take his children away. It’s 100% going to happen, and happen soon. But just in case I have to wait a couple more years (rather than the weeks or months I think it will be) I have to keep doing what God wants me to do. The Bible says to garden, and provide for my family, and live a quiet life while working with my hands, and that’s exactly the life I desire…while I’m here on earth.

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But I cannot wait for the moment when I finally get to fly away and meet my Savior in the air!

The World in 2019

Everyone sees it. The financial CPAs and stock gurus are preparing for the largest crash the market has ever seen, and the rich are building bunkers – a guy who builds bunkers for a living says he normally does two or three a year, now he has a wait list of thousands. The news is jam-packed full of disaster stories using the words “apocalyptic” “biblical” and “unprecedented”. World records are being made for flooding, fires, earthquakes, and storms. The USA is staggering under debt and division. It’s only a matter of time before we collapse, and when we go, it will have a huge impact on the rest of the world. The Economist, known for its colorful predictive covers, has only this to say:

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And that’s only if America survives long enough for a financial or civil collapse. There are several powerful natural events that are overdue. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is locked and ready to go at any moment. I know a guy who is doing a documentary on it, and he’s interviewed most of the seismologists and local scientists (including Chris Goldfinger) and they all say it’s going to go. Soon. Some of them have to say it off the record, because they’ve been told not to ‘fear-monger’, but they all say it. He also interviewed FEMA employees, who said this area is completely unprepared, and there will not be help for the people who live here. The Northwest will be almost completely on its own. If you don’t have basic survival items, food, and water, on hand, you’re not going to make it.

And that’s just one natural event that’s poised to happen. There are many others, and there is now evidence to suggest that if one huge fault gives way, others would be triggered and also give way. This includes the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone, which is showing some alarming signs of waking up all on its own.

Things are beginning to happen in the world, things we have not seen before. But thousands of years ago, it was prophesied and written down in the Bible, the only book with a 100% track record when it comes to prophecy. There are over 300 prophesies concerning the first coming of Jesus Christ to earth, and each of those was fulfilled in exact and perfect detail.  The Bible says he is coming back again, and gives equally precise details about how the world will look right before he comes, and what will happen – and every one of those precise details is either happening (right now!) or else clearly in the process of coming together.

You think it’s bad now? Just wait. It will get so much worse. Unbelievably worse until the majority of the world’s population die from natural disaster, famine, disease, and war. But before those final seven years of horror, Christ will remove all his people from the earth, to protect them from that time. No one has to stay and experience that. God doesn’t want that. He loves every single person on the earth so much that he died a humiliating, horrifically painful death to pay the price of mankind’s sin. Of your sin. And because he rose again to eternal life, he can give that life to you.

But it’s a gift. Just like you can’t be perfect enough to earn your own way into eternal life, you could never do enough to earn God’s gift. In fact, God says that if you try to earn it with good works, everything you do is like ‘filthy rags’. He alone can give you perfection to wear, his perfection. Never yours.

I think the reason so many people try to earn their way to eternity is because God’s way seems far too easy. Just believe? Just trust? That’s all? But what about people who accept Christ, and then do bad things? How can they possibly be worth of heaven?

It simple because God loves us.  He wants all of us to be saved, and he doesn’t want it to be hard, or wearisome, or a heavy burden. Plus, he knows us. He knows our current bodies are formed of dirt, and that our nature is always going to be fundamentally selfish, prideful, and self-righteous while we are here on earth living in those dirt bodies. All he demands from us is our trust that he will eventually change our bodies into perfect ones, and our willingness for him to transform us into perfect people, filled with joy and made complete. Does this mean we can accept Christ and then do whatever evil we want? No. Once you’re saved by Christ, you will be a different person. You will feel differently, think differently – and your eyes will finally be opened, and you will see the world around you as it truly it. You will never be the same as you were before.

If you were with a person who you truly love – husband, child, parent – would you think to yourself, I love this person, and I know they love me, so I can do whatever I want to them, and it’ll be ok. I can cheat on them, and abandon them, and ignore their wishes, and be however selfish I want. Because we’re together. No. If you love someone, you want to do good for them. You want to be kind, you want to make them happy. Your relationship with God is no different. You want to do things to make him happy and proud of you…but not because you feel you have to constantly prove yourself and earn his love. On earth, that would be a bad relationship, and it’s no different with God. He loves you, and just like a good father, he will continue to love you, no matter what you do. Once he has adopted you into his family, he will never abandon or abuse you. And you, if you are a good child, will try to earn his praise – but you can never earn or lose his love. You are eternally secure, and bound for more pleasure and happiness that you can ever imagine.

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Fun With Subscription Boxes

I love getting fun things in the mail. Periodically, I’ve signed up for one of those monthly subscription boxes…they have one for virtually every interest. I haven’t had one for awhile though, so last month I decided to treat myself and signed up for two.

One of them is called Lip Service.

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I love lip balms, especially ones from sellers from places like Etsy. Ones with unique flavors and natural ingredients. I’m also a bit of a snob when it comes to lip balms; they need to have a very smooth, non-greasy texture or it’s a no-go for me. The first one they sent I ended up giving to mom – it had a nice smell, but was too grainy for me. This month’s was a keeper, though.

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It smells just like cake, and is very smooth! I also like the surprise extras they include every month. Well worth the small fee.

The other box is a snack box. I’m always fascinated by candy/snacks from other countries, so I got the Universal Yums Box. Can you guess where the first box came from?

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Love the packaging!

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There was also information sheets about Russia, and about the snacks I was getting.  This would be such an excellent thing for a homeschool family!

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The box is guaranteed to have at least six different snacks, and usually has more.

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Reading the reviews of the Russia box online afterward, it seems to have been one of the least favorite boxes offered. I can say that there were definitely some strange and unusual flavors! The meat jelly one…ick.  But I did really like the grapefruit and chocolate, and the one with currants and marshmallow!

I’m looking forward to next month’s. If you’d like to give this box a try, sign up through this link, and you’ll get $5 off your box.