Review: Amazon Fresh


If you get to know me a little bit, you will know that I am a huge Amazon fan.  In fact, some might even call me addicted…  While I might have to agree with them, I would defend myself by explaining the ingenuity of the company (and no, I was not paid to say that)!  We are Prime members and we enjoy the free shipping, use of Subscribe and Save and the video offerings, among other things.  I will not bore you with how much I love Amazon…  So when I saw Amazon Fresh pop up online a few times, it peaked my interest.  I had not thought to really explore it though until a Facebook friend who lives in my area gave it a positive review.  There was a free month trial, so I decided to try it out!

In case you are unaware, Amazon Fresh is a grocery subscription service that can be added on to a Prime membership.  The idea is that you choose a delivery window, shop for groceries, place the order and *VOILA* you groceries appear on your doorstep.  After a free month trial, it is $15/month and you can have as many orders as you like with free shipping on orders of at least $40.  Here is my review of Amazon Fresh…

Positives:

  • Groceries delivered to your door step!
  • Ease of ordering
  • The fresh produce – really!  All of the produce has been fresh, ripe and tasty.
  • The option of being home to receive the order or of having it dropped off unattended within a window of time.
  • Nice selection of organic or natural meats
  • The amazing customer service and the ease of contacting them
  • I spend less money – just by not stepping into a grocery store

Negatives:

  • Both of my orders were missing items
    • The first time, I ordered a box of Larabars and instead received one bar instead of the 16 count box.  Customer service easily refunded my money and I was able to order them off of Prime.
    • The second time, I ended up having an entire tote go missing with 14 items.  Again, customer service was great at refunding my money (she saw that a tote was missing, which gave me some confidence in their process) and they even credited us $30 for the inconvenience.  The problem is that I still have to either re-order my items or go to the grocery store to get what’s missing.
  • To restate:  when you have a missing item, it gets cancelled and refunded, so you either have to order it again or go to the grocery store…
  • While the totes do the job of keeping everything cold or protected, they are bulky and you have to wait for your next order to have them picked up.  (I did just see on their site that it’s ok to collapse them down which will save space until the pick-up.)
  • The selection of items isn’t as wide as I would like.  I am sure this has to do with distribution centers, but it means that I may have to go to the grocery store to get the one item I can’t get on Fresh.  (This happened with my first order.  I needed an item that wasn’t available, so I ended up at the grocery store to get the one item and of course, who ever walks out with one item???)

Overall, I think this is a brilliant idea and while I really want this to work, I am going to cancel my subscription to Amazon Fresh after the trial period.  I like the that it’s easier for me to stay within budget, but I’m not happy with the fact that I had to go to the grocery store with both orders anyway.  I will go back to my previous routine of using Amazon Subscribe and Save, which I use as a supplement to grocery shopping.  (I get all of our bulk items like toilet paper, paper towels, dog/cat food, etc. and end up saving money on them either from the discount or because I didn’t have to drive to a store to get them.)

In the end, I do think that Amazon Fresh has the possibility of being a great service, but at this point I don’t personally see enough of a time and money savings to continue with the subscription.  If I were in another situation like working full-time or having small children at home, I would probably continue using the service.  I would just want to be diligent in making sure each item came as it was supposed to and I would order enough in advance so that I could deal with the negatives that I listed.

 

Spring Planning

I love this time of year while living on a homestead.  It’s the planning time for the coming warm season.  There’s always a fresh newness that comes with Spring and looking forward to the projects, new animals and garden is my favorite!

GROWING:  Over the last couple of weeks, I have started growing fodder for our chickens and rabbits.  I’m using barley seed and am growing it over a 6-9 day period.  I found a great plan for growing small amounts of fodder here:  https://www.peakprosperity.com/wsidblog/80359/diy-home-fodder-system  I’m sprouting the barley seeds for the first 4 days in our laundry room and then moving it down to the basement where I have a shelf next to the sliding glass door where it grows into barley grass with a root mat.  So far, it’s doing great!  The shelving unit will also hold our seedlings for the garden!  I’m hoping for a much better experience than my failed attempt at starting from seed last year!

As I said, we will be starting our garden from seed again this year and we will also be planting in straw bales this year.  Our hope is that this straw bale system will help us to not get so overwhelmed with weeding.  Maybe we won’t want to throw the towel in half way through the summer!  We’ll see how it goes!

ANIMALS:  Last year we had our two pygmy goats, Ginger and daisy.  We decided to find a new home for them since they were so social and we just didn’t have enough time to give to them.  They moved to a home where they will have a ton of brush to help remove and younger children who will love on them!  With the goats moving on, we were left with their pen and house.  So one of our projects this Spring will be to make the goat pen work for meat chickens and a flock of guinea fowl.  We will be ordering a handful of chicks to add to the egg layers (they will be in the chicken coop/run) and then we will be buying Freedom Ranger chickens for meat.  We will also be getting some Guinea keets because our bug population was up again.  We just have to find the right flock size balance – where we have enough food on our property so that they don’t go bugging our neighbors!

Kevin has spent a lot of time this Fall/Winter working on his wood shop.  One of the new additions is an Alaskan saw mill.  This system allows him to mill the trees that we have from our property and from friends/other sources into boards that we can use for projects and for our Esty shop.   Part of this new improvement was finding space for the wood to dry and be stored.  This has taken over our shed, so the project we are currently working on is a new shed for our animal storage and for brooding chicks/keets.  The excitement of baby birds is growing!

Of course the chore lists start getting longer, but the new possibilities are exciting and outweigh the work!

Bee Woes

This past Spring we started two colonies of honey bees.  It has been an experience with it’s ups and downs.  This last down was pretty devastating though.  A couple of days ago, we had a day in the high 50’s and were able to get into the hives to do a little work and make sure they were okay.  We found that one of our hives was completely dead. 😦  As I “autopsied” the hive (went through it frame by frame), I found the majority of the bees dead on the bottom screen and a ton of honey along with a fair amount of pollen/bee bread.  I also found a couple of frames with dead bees, facing inward in the cells (in other words, the backsides were sticking out of the cells).  This means that the bees starved and froze in the cold. 😦  It’s so hard to see a whole colony die when there were plenty of provisions a few inches away!  This is a hard lesson for us because what it really means is that we had a weak colony with low numbers going into the winter and so they were not able to keep warm enough to move their cluster to get to their food.  Thankfully our second hive is thriving!!!

As I’ve said before in this blog, we tend to do things the hard way.  I think in this instance, I was too timid with the bees and didn’t do things in a timely enough manner.  Lessons are tough to learn sometimes!

Bees are such incredible creatures!  As some of our friends and family can tell you, I can get talking (and TALKING) about bees!  The biology of bees is an amazing orchestra that not only results in the production of so much of our world’s food supply, but the sharing of their energy/food source – HONEY!  So although this was a sad day for us, it also meant that we had all of the honey left behind to process!  This was a great thing because – HONEY!  But it also meant that the next several hours would need to be cleared and devoted to getting the honey from inside the honeycomb to inside usable containers.  This was our first time having to deal with honey from our hives because the first season’s honey is only for the bees to use over the winter.  It was also not how we had expected to harvest our honey because we have invested in the FlowHive system – a post for another time!  All of this to say that we’ve been busy separating honey on the cheap! 😉

We are looking forward to the Spring and are crossing our fingers that the strong hive is strong all through the winter!

 

2016 In Review…

This year has been a very busy one!  Some of it has been exciting and other parts have been not so fun.  Here’s our quick run down of 2016:

  • January
    • Andrew turned 15!
    • At the end of January, we experienced a huge snow storm (by Maryland standards)!  The kids were out of school for a whole week, we learned how crazy it is to have to dig out with our driveway and to the animals.  We also learned the difficulty of living on a busy road!  We were plowed in for 2-3 days before we could break through!
  • February
    • Why does the shortest month always feel the longest?
  • March
    • Amy was able to go back to Michigan for Faith Church’s Women’s Retreat.  It was a great weekend with amazing friends and a little bit of closure!
  • April
    • Grandpa and Grandma visited from California.
    • Andrew went on a band/chorus trip to Nashville, TN.  He had a great time seeing all of the sites!
  • May
    • We started two bee hives on our property!
    • The whole family (including Grandpa & Grandma) made the trip down to North Carolina for Memorial Weekend to see our niece/cousin Emma graduate from high school!  It was a great time with family and it was the first time we all left the animals in the hands of friends!
  • June
    • For the last part of June and beginning of July, our friends the Glasscoe’s came for a fun visit.  Unfortunately, our pool was still down, so we found things to do like going to Gettysburg!
  • July
    • Our pool was finally fixed after a change in contractors!  We had made a family decision to forgo air conditioning in order to pay for the pool fix – this was a big test for our family with a fairly hot and humid summer!  The pool was well used for the remainder of the summer!!!
    • Kevin and the kids spent a weekend up in Pennsylvania camping with Hoover relatives for a second year in a row.  The NC Wingerds came up as well, which made the weekend all the more!  Amy and Marcia snuck in an overnight girls night while the guys and kids were gone.  😉
    • Kaitlyn went with the middle school youth group at church on a missions trip to Philadelphia to work with kids at a boys and girls club.  She was gone for a week and had a great time with the kids!
  • August
    • Andrew had band camp and Amy spent most days volunteering.  Damascus has an amazing band director who really invests in the kids!
    • We said goodbye to our sweet husky Lola.  She was ~12 years old.
    • As the cycle of life goes, soon after we said goodbye to Lola, we welcomed two kittens into our lives.  We had decided 8 weeks before (the day they were born) to adopt them.  Sage and Rosemary have brought a new dynamic to our home!
    • Andrew started 10th grade and Kaitlyn started 8th grade at the end of August.
  • September
    • A super busy month!
    • Amy started a nurse refresher course, which is a requirement to get her license since she hasn’t worked as a RN in over 7 years.  It was 2 nights per week for 3-4 hours for ~ 11 weeks. (The clinical rotation will be in January/February)
    • Kevin and Amy were part of the leadership team at church to start Alpha, which is a program that gives people a place to explore who Jesus is without pressure or expectations.  
    • Amy had started an Etsy business a while back, but our friend Matt joined the LMnA Designs team and we did our first show at the Damascus Art Festival.  You can check it out at http://www.lmnadesigns.com and at http://www.facebook.com/LMnADesigns
  • October
    • Grandpa and Grandma visited from California.
    • Kevin and his work group (JVAP) worked super hard on a trebuchet that launched pumpkins.  They entered into a competition with other groups at Ft. Detrick and landed 2nd place by launching their pumpkin 95 feet!
    • Andrew got his driving permit!
  • November
    • Kaitlyn turned 13!
    • Kaitlyn went to Ocean City with the middle school youth group for a conference.
  • December
    • Andrew went on a weekend retreat to Pennsylvania with the high school youth group.
    • Andrew was able to march at his second state championship football game.  Damascus High School won the 3A state title for a second year in a row and Andrew got to march on Navy’s field!
    • LMnA Designs had another show at Elk Run Winery.  It was a small event but some great connections were made and many lessons learned!  We’ll get this show things down someday!

Those are our 2016 highlights!  Happy 2017!!!

❤ Kevin, Amy, Andrew, Kaitlyn and the menagerie

It’s Been a While…

It has been a long time since I blogged and that is for multiple reasons.

First, life on a homestead – even one that is small – is hard work!  We’ve had a lot of life stuff get in the way and just like paper piles in the house, the work outside can become quite ominous if it’s not kept up on!  Also, our spring and summer wasn’t great as far as our homestead went.  Our pool needed some work and so financial resources went to it instead of other things that we could/should have done on the property.  We found that we had over-extended ourselves with animals, so we made the difficult decision to find a new home for our goats.  We tried hard to start our garden mostly from seed and then had failure upon failure that led to a not so great garden and we gave up on it.  This meant that we didn’t can much for the winter.  Our male rabbit ended up with some sort of wasting disease and so we didn’t get a jump on our breeding program.  And our chickens took a big hit from foxes and hawks.  In reality, this list is all part of this kind of lifestyle and it was especially augmented by the fact that we jumped into so many new things at once when we first moved here.  The good news is that we still like our lifestyle and many of these things are fixable with some time and elbow grease!

Second, I am trying to get my RN license in the state of Maryland and although I have two active licenses, they are not in compact states with MD and to add to the mix, I haven’t worked in over seven years.  The requirement of the MD Board of Nursing for someone who has been off of work for more than five years, is to take a refresher course before an active MD RN license can be obtained.  So I am in the middle of taking a “nursing refresher” course, which consists of a semester of classwork and then a clinical rotation.  Going to school for 3-4 hours per night, twice a week, has made life very busy!  I finish the coursework in December and will do the clinical rotation in January and February.  I am REALLY glad that I started this process way before I needed a job because it is a lot more involved that I thought it would be!  When I tell people what I’m doing, I get congratulated on going back to work.  I will be honest – that has been the hardest part of all of this!  First, it took me a little over three semesters to get through nursing school originally (after I had my BA in pre-med biology).  So in way, this feels like I’m back in nursing school again and that doesn’t feel great.  Second, quitting work originally was hard for me, but going back after seven years of not working as a RN is a lot harder!  I know it’s good for me and that it will be worth it in the end, but I don’t think I will feel that way until it’s done!  🙂

The last thing that has been taking up a bunch of time and energy is the successful restart of my little business that started on Etsy.  I originally started a yarn and wood burned art store on Etsy in partnership with my mom.  If you look on Etsy, we have sold one item and it was to one of my wonderful aunts (thanks Aunt Yvonne!).  That doesn’t sound successful, I know!  But about nine months ago, Kevin and I found an amazing couple at our church and they have become dear friends – Matt and Jessica.  Matt has a woodworking hobby, Kevin enjoys woodworking and I have a passion for pyrography (the art of wood burning)! After some discussion, we decided to partner together for an art festival in our little town of Damascus.  It was a one-day event, and not only did we have a blast, but it has led to another event in December! Plus, we are at the beginning of a partnership with another amazing and successful artist friend!  So the past couple of months have been a flurry of activity, which may lead to an active side business!  You can check out our Etsy store at http://www.LMnADesigns.com !

My hope is that I will be able to consistently update this blog!  Writing is a very cathartic activity for me and it’s fun to keep our long distance friends and family connected to us! 🙂

Spring is Coming

The air is getting warmer for the most part and so the projects are ramping up around here!  As mentioned in a previous post, we are gearing up for bees and rabbits, but we also have some chicks that are growing in the brooders, an orchard in progress and some tiny seedlings sprouting inside in anticipation of a summer garden!

Our bees should be ready for pick up in early May, so right now we are getting the boxes and frames assembled.  We have purchased our boxes through http://www.beethinking.com because they are made out of cedar and will go with our equipment from FlowHive.  We are also trying to plant or plan to plant more bee “friendly” trees and flowers.  We will be putting in a patch of wildflowers and we have situated our orchard close to where the hives will be placed.  We have learned that Maryland has a short “nectar flow”, which is the period of time that nectar is readily available.  So our goal is to plant a lot that will bloom in August through October so that we can lengthen the season for our bees!

We have planted 12 trees in our orchard.  We have Honeycrisp Apple, Cortland Apple, Hale Haven Peach, Majestic Peach, Bartlett Pear, Kieffer Pear, Bing Cherry, Montmorency Cherry and Rainier Cherry trees.  Our hope is to also add some apricots and a couple of pomegranates that do well in our zone.  We look forward to what these trees will provide in a few years!!!

Kevin has been busy building the rabbit hutches.  He has built the doe apartment above our original chicken run.  This was a bit of wasted space and will work well for everyone.  The rabbits will eventually be able to go into the chicken run, so they will have ample space to hop around and exercise!  We have planted barley seed under the hardware cloth in the chicken run, so hopefully we will have a nice barley lawn for everyone to enjoy.  The buck apartment will be a little bit bigger and will not connect to the chicken run so that we can be in control of the breeding.  As a clarification, we will have two females (does) and one male (buck) that will be our pets/breeders.  The offspring of these three will supply meat to our family.  We’ve had a lot of mixed reactions to this, so I will address it here. Rabbit meat is healthier than chicken and it can be used in place of chicken or pork.  We’ve had some backlash about the idea of eating something that is more in the “pet” category.  We’ve had some backlash about eating our own chickens.  I just have to gently remind people that most have no trouble going to the grocery store and buying whatever meat they want to eat, including beef, which comes from mammals. It’s easy to pick up a package of meat and forget that it came from a living being.  But to get to that package, a lot of things had to take place and sadly, a lot of it didn’t happen in a good way (see the documentary Food Inc.).  We have the ability and have made the choice to raise more and more of our own food.  With that choice comes a lot of respect for the animal and for the process.  It’s not an easy thing to do, but it feels more honest, if that makes sense.  It’s always easier for someone else to do the hard work!  We are just able to feed our animals what we want them to eat and we are able to raise them and dispatch them in a humane manner.  As far as the “pet” thing goes, we have had rabbits for pets a few times.  They are sweet animals and we look forward to having the trio as pets.  But the fact remains that we eat meat and this is one way we can do it on our homestead.  We’ve learned to not become attached to the chickens that are planned for eating and we will do the same with the rabbits.  Ok!  I look forward to more fun posts in the future!  😉

Upcoming Homestead Projects

With the Spring coming, we will be adding to our homestead.  Can you tell what one of our projects will be???


Bees:  As you can probably see on our lovely outfits in the pictures, we got our beekeeping suits from Flow Hive.  We have purchased a Flow Hive beehive, which was a very successful Kickstarter program out of Australia.  The Flow Hive was definitely the thing that inspired us to attempt beekeeping.  We are inspired by new invention and try to support it when we are able to do so.  I do want to make it very clear that we are aware of the work, time, effort, etc. that goes into beekeeping - we did not jump into this adventure blindly.  I have already noticed that beekeepers can be very opinionated and have found many who turn their noses up at the Flow Hive.  I get it and am sure that many people have jumped into beekeeping without knowing what they were getting into because of the publicity that the campaign brought with it.  It happens all the time in many different things!  While it inspired us to jump in, we don't have any expectations that it's going to be easy!  
Ok!  Now that that is out of the way...  We have our bees ordered and I start an intro class to beekeeping on Tuesday through one of the beekeeping associations in our area!  We have ordered a nucleolus of bees from close by in Maryland and we should be getting them at the beginning of May.
Rabbits:  We are going to be raising rabbits for meat.  I putting that out there first thing so that it's clear.  We plan on raising Silver Fox rabbits.  We are going to start with 2 females and 1 male, and then we will raise their offspring for meat.  We have been through a cycle of slaughtering chickens and are prepared for this new venture.  We have had rabbits for pets in the past, so at least we know what goes into raising them!  As an added plus, when we are able to grow fodder, we will be able to streamline feeding our goats, chickens and rabbits!
We are gearing up for a busy spring season!  Here are a few pictures of our new chicks (The black chicks are female Silver Laced Wyandottes, Golden Wyandottes and Cuckoo Marans, which we will raise for eggs.  The yellow chicks are male Buff Orpingtons, which we will be raising for meat this time around.)  Side note:  The brooder in the background of the last picture has our chicks that we got as eggs from our chickens, incubated and raised!  They are in their awkward "teenage" period and when the weather is warmer, we will be transitioning them over to the chicken coop.