• Homemade Dried Cranberries (Craisins); Cheaper and Less Sugar

    As the winter weather has arrived in Kentucky,  I have had a little more time to try some new things in the kitchen.  One of my Christmas presents this year was a new dehydrator, a COSORI Dehydrator.  I was thinking I would have to wait until summer or harvest to try using my new dehydrator.  However, back in November I found bags of fresh cranberries for less than a dollar.  Cranberries are super easy to freeze, you just through the bag and all in the freezer.  I made a batch of Christmas jam and had several bags of frozen cranberries leftover. 

    Prior to making the craisins,  I dehydrated some oranges in the oven.  The process of dehydration in the oven meant I could not use my oven for several hours and they stuck to the parchment paper and ruined one of my good cookie sheets.  I was hopeful with a dehydrator I could avoid the mess in the oven and simplify my process.  Here are the easy steps to homemade low sugar craisins.  

    List of ingredients:  3,  12 ounce bags of cranberries (frozen or fresh) 

                                    3   Tablespoons of coconut sugar

    You can use fewer bags and of course that means one tablespoon of coconut sugar per bag of cranberries. 

    • Step One:  put frozen or fresh cranberries in pot,  pour enough water to float berries

    Cranberries getting ready to pop
    • Step Two:  bring cranberries to low boil, stir until you hear popping of the cranberries
    • Step Three:  remove from heat and drain the water
    • Step Four:  place cranberries on paper towels to remove a little moisture
    • Step Five:  put cranberries in bowl and sprinkle in coconut sugar
    • Step Six:  gently stir cranberries to coat with sugar, trying not to mush the cranberries
    • Step Seven:  pull out trays of the dehydrator and put cranberries on racks 
    • Step Eight:  put racks back into dehydrator and turn it to 130 degrees Fahrenheit
    Cranberries loaded and ready to become craisins
    • Step Nine:  set timer for nine to ten hours,  I checked on berries and moved them around on trays at hour five and then noticed them ready at hour nine
    • Step Ten:  leave them sitting in the dehydrator (turned off) for another hour and let them cool
    • Step Eleven:  place cranberries in mason jar with airtight lid for storage

    I have enjoyed these homemade dried cranberries in my granola, oatmeal, and in my plain greek yogurt.    

    Beautiful homemade craisins

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  • The Struggle is Real; More About My Struggle with Gardening and Homesteading

    To be honest if you are gardening and/or homesteading: you are struggling. It’s even biblical, …. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.”  Genesis 3:17.  So there will be a struggle even if you read all the right books, use all the right techniques, and/or have a green thumb.   I think that is one of the reasons it is so rewarding to garden/homestead; when you succeed it is even sweeter.  There are times we struggle more than others with things like unexpected pests, weather, or life events that keep us from working.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that 2017 was definitely a struggle for me.  If you haven’t read my blog, “Heritage of Homesteading,” my homesteading and gardening problems didn’t start in 2017.  

    Almost every home we have lived in, I have figured out how to grow some food. I remember moving into a little house after our pink trailer. Our little house was in an urban area, but I figured out how to have a small raised bed garden. Our neighborhood had our street yard sale every year. I would sell tomatoes I grew in my backyard and, after a very generous cash offer, a bouquet of red zinnias. My homesteading husband said, “You’d sell anything not bolted down.” We moved again to a more rural area, and I had lots of flower beds and several raised beds were built for me. After outgrowing our one bathroom ranch (adding three boys will do that) we moved into a subdivision. I picked out the house after seeing a nice size backyard with a corn field backing up to it. I assumed the soil and conditions would be great. But, I couldn’t grow a thing. The wind whipped through the area so badly that my plants would break or just get wind beaten. I also had a very active toddler at the time, who thought that all green tomatoes were balls. There was a definite struggle. I remember my Mom trying to help me work through the gardening depression. She said, “You have a baby. Everything is harder with a baby”. I put my pressure canner on a shelf and let my Mom bring me the rewards of her hard work. There was still reading and research going on and planning in my brain about how to deal with the wind and my toddler. I had not given up. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the classic movie, Chicken Run, it’s a homesteaders must-watch movie.

    Back yard gardening

    Rocky: (the rooster)  You see, flying takes three things: Hard work, perseverance and…     hard work 

    Fowler: (the old rooster) You said “hard work” twice.

    Rocky: That’s because it takes twice as much work as perseverance. 

    That quote has become one of our family mottos over the years. I think during this stage of my homesteading it was more about persevering through the challenges. There were more challenges and definitely double the work coming in my life, I didn’t know it yet but almost everything was about to change for my little family.

    My Mom and my oldest son cooking

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  • Five Easy Steps Towards Your Homesteading Dreams, One Step at a Time

    Five Easy Steps Towards Your Homesteading Dreams, One Step at a Time

    Sun setting on my snowy homestead

    Wikipedia defines homesteading as a lifestyle of self sufficiency.  If we are being honest none of us are completely self sufficient.  We all depend on something whether it’s industry, community, or government.  There are varying levels of that dependence and in turn varying levels of self sufficiency.  Obviously,  since I am homesteading I have the desire to do more on my own. I would like to buy less and make more.  I am hoping this list will help those just beginning or those already established.  We can all improve and make steps toward progress. 

    1. Ask yourself:  What is it that I really want to accomplish … Do I want to sew my own clothing, grow my own food, raise a source of protein, produce an income, improve my community, help the environment and/or etc. 
    2. Make reasonable small goals.  You know your life better than anyone.  You know your strengths and weaknesses.  There will always be obstacles and challenges along the way to achieving your goals.  For example: If your goal is to produce enough eggs to no longer need to buy store bought eggs and you I don’t own any chickens at all that could seem like an impossible goal.  Ask yourself what can I do this year to start raising chickens ?  If I take myself for example … I knew I needed to work toward a shelter for the soon-to-be my goats and save up enough money to buy goats.   I didn’t start out one day with a herd of goats and a whole goat cheese factory.  
    3. Make a five year plan.  Do you want a goat cheese factory?  Do you want to be a stay-at-home, goat mom ?  Now is the time to dream.  You probably wouldn’t be a homesteader if you weren’t a dreamer.  
    4. Make a plan … I would like to include “do your research.”  We have an abundance of resources with the internet, books, blogs, and YouTube.  Find someone already doing what you want to do and read what they wrote or watch their videos. There are probably local experts all around you too.  I enjoy talking to my more experienced homesteading friends.  We often share successes and areas that we could improve.  Often my homesteading friends offer advice with practical things that worked for them.  (You can’t always trust your Pinterest ideas. So, getting real-world advice is good.)  
    5. Grow something or grow more of something:  Now is the time to plan.  When people talk to me about gardening they are often intimidated to try. As humans we often look at what we want things to look like instead of small steps that can get us to a long term goal.   If you haven’t grown anything at all … take baby steps.  Plan to grow something easy,  a potted cherry tomato plant, basil in a pot, or marigolds.  Maybe you have gardened but on a small scale and you would like to preserve some food.  Plan to grow more, ask around and see how much space or plants you might need to make a larger harvest.  Explore freezing, canning or both.  (Honestly, sometimes I freeze to can later.)  There are so many options.  

    In closing I would say offer yourself some grace.  Sometimes, I give myself a hard time about what I have not done or what I did wrong.  It took me three years to have a successful popcorn crop,  which to some seems silly.  In reality popcorn is very easy to grow; however, I had a learning curve with the process.  Sometimes it is ok to move on and sometimes it just means you need to try again.  Be kind to yourself and you are more likely to succeed.  

    Lots of beautiful home grown popcorn

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  • Snow Day Fun:  Easy Use What You Have, Snow Cream,  Accidentally Dairy Free

    It’s cold

       Here on the homestead we recently experienced a nice accumulating snow.  It has been a couple of years here in central Kentucky since we have had more than an inch or two of snow.  Needless to say, the roads are bad and we are staying warm by our wood burning stove.  I have always felt like snow was one of the very few graces of January. When it doesn’t snow around here in January it usually looks like a giant gray mud pit.  We ventured out today briefly to do chores and collect some clean snow to make snow cream.   I do not have any cream, half and half or milk in the refrigerator, so we used coconut milk.  The critics said the recipe passed and they enjoyed the sweet treat of snow cream.

      Here is a simple but fun recipe for snow cream.

    • Step 1:  Find a nice big bowl to collect clean snow.  Stay away from the dog’s area to collect your snow.  I prefer using my very large stainless steel bowl.  
    My collected clean snow
    • Step 2:  Skim the top of the snow as to collect the cleanest of snows, it works better if you are in an area where no one has walked yet.
    • Step 3:  GO INSIDE !!  It was about 15 degrees fahrenheit when we were outside.  
    • Step 4:  Find a normal size mixing bowl and fill it at least half full with snow (you have to do this quickly so that the snow doesn’t melt)
    Ready for milk
    • Step 5: Mix in one cup of milk (cream and half and half work lovely) but if you are out of milk you can use almond milk or coconut milk. I had a mixture of almond and coconut milk. Slowly mix in the milk and make sure you don’t make it too mushy.
    • Step 6: Mix the snow and milk together, it works best with a big metal spoon, we tried a whisk and it just didn’t work. The mixture should start to resemble ice cream or a more solid consistency of snow.
    Ready for some sweet stuff
    • Step 7: Scoop snow cream in a bowl and add maple syrup or honey til you get your desired amount of sweetness. Considering the cost of honey and maple syrup, I do the pouring of that liquid gold in our house. My boys like to add Christmas cookie sprinkles to the top
    Yummy
    • Step 8: EAT IT FAST !! Yes you will get a brain freeze but it is going to melt !

    Enjoy your snow treat and stay warm.  Please don’t forget to like my blog and subscribe below. Thank you for all your support.

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  • Snowy Day on the Homestead

  • Heritage of Homesteading, Self Sufficiency in my History

    I definitely have homesteading in my DNA; let’s be honest most of us do. When I think about my grandparents’ generation or my great grandparents’ generation, most of them gardened, raised some source of meat, and had home food preservation. The generations before us were homesteaders out of necessity. I remember my father telling me stories that his grandmother told him about surviving the Great Depression. He told me stories about how she shared one pair of shoes with her siblings and how they made clothing out of flour sacks. As our society has developed and our prosperity increased, we have shifted away from homemade and more toward convenience. I will not slam convenience – there are certain things at this point I either don’t have the skill to do or the time to commit to learning. So in other words, I will be buying my kids’ shoes.

    Hettie cooking

    My dad loved his grandmother fiercely and would often tell me stories of spending summers on her homestead. He admired the way she cooked from scratch and could wring a chicken’s neck. I am named after her and have always been honored to be given the name of one of my Dad’s favorite people who walked the earth. My Mom described admiring her Grandmother who cooked for all the farm men and then joined them working.

    My homesteading family in the early days

         My parents continued a path of partial self-sufficiency during a time where most were moving away and opting for convenience.  My mother was a very talented woman with a heart of a pioneer.  My parents decided early on that my Mom would not work outside the home during my childhood.  My Dad also had big dreams of living on a farm.  So somehow my parents fell into that category of, “we just bought 20 acres and a cow, now what ?!”  With the combination of limited income, farmland, and my Mom’s pioneer spirit, my parent’s became Christian hippy, homesteaders.  I grew up with home sewn dresses, homemade bread, and picking green beans. 

    My Mom and I fishing on our family farm

    I’ll be honest, my brothers would have voted me least likely to homestead. I often was jealous of the city lifestyle, I wanted air conditioning and cable TV. After getting married and starting my own family, we lived in trailer parks and subdivisions. Funny enough I had all the city life I had thought I wanted and felt like a part of me was missing. I remember being newly married, living in a cute little pink trailer (in a very crowded trailer park)and having the desire to have flowers growing in our postage stamp yard. I missed being able to go pick a tomato when I wanted one. My husband had homesteading in his roots too, but had grown up as a “city boy”. My Dad would always say, you could tell how much my husband loved me by all the wild ideas he would help me try.

    One of my homemade dresses in front of a cedar tree cut from our farm

    So in my cute little pink trailer, with my homesteader husband’s help, I began experimenting with container gardening.  My husband would comment about how impressed he was with the amount of food we could produce with our limited space.  He noticed the reduction of the grocery bills during the growing season.  I still had the benefits of my parents’ homesteading efforts and was often gifted home canned goods along with home grown beef.  

    My Dad and I in our backyard, apparently I have always liked red socks

         In 2017 I lost my parents suddenly in a tragic accident. It was a long difficult painful year without a harvest.  I really thought it would be the end of homesteading for me.  I will blog more about my journey to now; it was not all sunshine and roses.  I will end this blog saying, I am thankful for the spirit of my parents and those before them.  I am thankful I can grow green beans, make my own candles, and raise my own popcorn.  My homestead is alive and growing, just like my life. 

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  • Healthier Treats, Yummy Spelt Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Like many of you, my goal for the new and every year is to improve my health by making healthier choices. A couple of years ago we found out that my homesteader husband is diabetic.  We changed several things about our lifestyle in order to help him manage his diabetes.  One of the things I changed was how I cooked.  My husband has always loved cookies and desserts, needless to say we cut way back on having treats.  I began to realize that I could make some of his favorite treats in a healthier way.  We still limit treats, as my Mom would say, “too much of a good thing, is a bad thing.”  I have several recipes that I have reworked and I feel we have not had to give up taste.   I frequently experiment with healthier substitutes like sweeteners and/or flours.  I lean on the all natural side of substitutions and tend not to avoid the, “to good to be true,” substitutes. 

    I recently discovered Spelt flour and read several things about it nutritionally, which interested me.

    Spelt flour I bought from a local store

    I decided to try making a healthier cookie. Here are the instructions for my Spelt Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies, the cookies turned out wonderful and were fully endorsed by all the men in my house.

    • Step One:  Cream ¾ cup of coconut sugar with one stick of melted or softened butter
    • Step Two:  Add in one teaspoon of vanilla extract and one large egg, (check out my lovely homestead egg)
    • Step Three:  mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl: 1 ½ cups of spelt flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, ¼  teaspoon of salt , and 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon (I added this after my video and found it added a lovely layer of flavor.  You choose how much cinnamon,  I love cinnamon and often double the amount in recipes.  There are also health benefits to cinnamon.)
    • Step Four:  Slowly add dry ingredient until blended with creamed sugar mixture
    • Step Five:  Fold in ¾ cup of dark chocolate chips (which naturally have less sugar), and ½ cup of chopped walnuts or pecans.  Make sure you are not using the mixer because you do not want to over blend spelt and ruin the nice texture of your cookies
    • Step Six: Cover bowl and chill in refrigerator for hour or freezer for 15 minutes
    • Step Seven:  Scoop out two inch cookie dough and space about two inches apart onto parchment lined cookie sheets
    • Step Eight:  Bake cookies at 350 for around eight minutes
    They turned out yummy, soft, chewy, and crispy (everything you want in a cookie)

    I hope you enjoy your cookies, I am including a youtube link of me making my first batch of these wonderful cookies.

    Thank you for watching

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  • Happy New Year

    From Hettie’s Homestead

  • Goat Prepping, Getting Ready for my Baby Nigerian Dwarf Goats

         So Christmas is over, which is usually very anticlimactic for me personally.  However, the imminent  arrival of my goats and an unusually warm Kentucky December day have inspired me to goat prep.  I have been researching goat ownership for over a year at this point.   Sometimes in order to achieve a goal you have to make your steps achievable.  I knew early on that ideally I would have more land and a nice goat barn.  Let’s be honest, ideally I would be a stay-at-home goat Mom and skip through the daisies with my cute little goats.  When making my plans I realized if I waited for the ideal, I would probably never own goats.  I started looking around at my current resources and researching affordable ways I could own goats.  

         My first obstacle that I noticed was housing my cute little goats.  Nigerian Dwarfs are one of the smallest of goat breeds, which means I don’t need a big barn.  I watched several youtube videos and discovered that pallet sheds could be an option.  I am not a “handy” person and have never really built anything.  I was really nervous to even attempt building a shed.  Once again it came down to “no risk it, no biscuit”,  which happens a lot in homesteading.  I found some pallets and went for it.  

    With a little help from the men in my life, I actually built a pallet shed. My type A homesteading husband got involved towards the end. He usually sits back until he can see if I have any hope at all of pulling off my wild and crazy homesteading plans. He always encourages me and rarely criticizes, though sometimes he will say, “No, there is no way we can do that.” This particular time he drove me to some questionable areas and helped me pick up pallets.

    Pallet Shed in progress

    However, after finding that my goats are coming soon, I learned that my pallet shed will serve its purpose in the spring/summer months, but my young goats will need a more airtight option for cold nights, especially while they are young. We happen to have a shed addition close to our house that will serve as an overnight option for my goats, until maybe I can have something more permanent built. I didn’t anticipate having baby winter goats, so another golden rule of homesteading is: be flexible.

    Completed Shed with my fancy rooster Bobby

         One of my golden rules of homesteading is: use what you have.  We soon discovered that an old unused post in our field made a perfect corner post for our pallet shed.  With some effort and sweat we actually erected a shed.  I have been slightly impressed with my efforts, as the shed has actually held up during storms and winds.  I completed my project for about $50-60, whereas pricing sheds I could not find anything less than $1,000.  

          I worked today to clean out our shed room and to make our pallet shed more airtight as well.  After working an afternoon with more plywood and plastic, I was pleased with the wind reduction inside my shed.  I am thinking it will be a perfect daytime shelter for my baby goats to get out of the rain, wind, and cold.  I made a youtube video (my first) about the construction of the shed.  I now wish I had videoed while I was building, which ties to another homesteading golden rule:  you never know when you will succeed.  I am including a link to my most recent youtube video.  My media manager is working on some more youtube content but he has to take a break to study for his driving permit test.  I am getting closer each day to being ready for my baby goats.  Coming soon,  I will let you know what names I picked out, along with some other homesteading content.  

    A day of work on my little homestead
  • DIY Beeswax Candles- A Great Way to Support Local Homesteaders, While Shopping Local

    Very local beeswax candle

    Like most homesteaders, I have big dreams on my little homestead. I often hear, one dream at a time, from my homesteader husband and my sons. I plan to eventually add a couple of beehives to a corner of our little homestead. However, in the meantime I can enjoy the honey produced on my homestead because of a local beekeeper. There are several beehives very close to our homestead. I love hearing my trees hum in the spring and seeing busy bees on my flowers. A couple of years ago, I contacted my favorite very local beekeeper and asked if he had beeswax. Because he is a wise beekeeper and makes the most of his bee business, he did in fact have beeswax. For a very reasonable price I purchased several pounds of wax. I originally just wanted to make candles from wax that was a direct result of our homestead. However, later I compared prices in Hobby Lobby and Amazon and found out I actually saved quite a bit of money. So not only am I actually supporting a local homesteader, I am also saving money. When I started the process of making candles I was pleased with how simple and easy the process was, while producing a very nice product. I have enjoyed gifting a little piece of homestead to my friends and burning my lovely candles in my home too. Here are a few steps to process along with a few tips:

    The first tip or step is to make a double boiler.  I read that you do not want to use a nice cooking pan for your beeswax, as you can imagine it is sticky and slightly messy.  So I decided to make a local thrift store trip and I found the perfect double boiler pot,  an old fondue pot top.  I paid a whopping 1.00 for my candle/soap making pot.  It has quickly become one my favorite thrift store finds.   

    My fabulous find fondue candle making 1$ pot

    While making your double boiler make sure you only fill the bottom pot up about half way, you don’t want it to boil over as you are melting your wax.  Put your double boiler on medium high heat, after the water is warmed and at a low rolling boil you will need to turn it down to medium.  

    Next depending on the size your beeswax is in you may need to break it down to fit in your double boiler. I use a small hammer, ignore my picture and don’t do this on your glasstop stove. Sometimes my ADD gets the best of me and then I think … hmm maybe I shouldn’t have done that. I buy my beeswax in one pound disk, so for every pound of wax I am melting I add a half cup of coconut oil. Now melt away !

    Prep your jars while your wax is melting, it really requires very little attention while it is melting, no need to stir. I use a hot glue gun and glue my wicks down on the bottom of the jar. If your wicks are long you may need to use a wick holder as your wax solidifies.

    Ready for wax

    When your wax is completely in liquid form, without any chunks or floating pieces, you are ready to pour your candles.  Some choose to add essential oils for scent,  I find the beeswax itself smells lovely.   Put down a paper plate or something that can be thrown out under your candle jar, and pour.  Make sure you leave enough head space on your jar,  do not pour all the way to the top.  After you have poured make sure your wick is stable and centered (this is where wick clips come in handy .. hint, hint maybe that would be a good Christmas gift for me).    Try your best not to move the candle while it is solidifying because it can lead to cracks and your wick moving off center.  

    Now it is just pure simple waiting. I usually leave my new candles untouched for a couple of hours. Follow up with a trim of the wick, make sure you don’t do this too early because you will ruin your beautiful candle.

    Waiting candles

    I have enjoyed this year adding a twist into my candle making. I love to thrift shop, and I recently found several cute pieces that made unique candle jars. No worries if there is already a smelly store bought candle in the jar, if you like the jar you can melt the old candle out and start over. This gift is affordable, fun to make, and a unique touch of homesteading. Merry Christmas, it is not too late to make some candles.

    Ready for gifting

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