• Becoming a Homesteader, My Journey of Growing, Preserving, and Discovering

    Becoming a Homesteader, My Journey of Growing, Preserving, and Discovering

    As humans I think we want immediate results and instant significant progress in whatever we undertake.  We have goals or dreams and think they should be accomplished with just a little work or during a short amount of time. I came into 2018 studying my seed catalogs, thinking  I’d have a fruitful garden in no time. I was determined to at least have a garden for a hobby.  My thought process was that I might do some canning, but on a limited basis.  I love to cook and love using fresh organic top-of -the-line produce. My budget hasn’t supported that desire at the grocery store, but my garden certainly has.So I picked out some over-priced fancy seeds and ordered them, dreaming of a lovely harvest.  The growing season came, and I got to work.  I planted, watered, weeded, and weeded some more.  Since the garden had gone mostly untouched the year before, the weeds were back with a vengeance. Our garden had developed a large crop of horseweed, in particular. Which is a weed if left untouched, can grow taller than me. Not only that, one plant of horseweed can actually produce 15,000 more plants!

    A field of horseweed, this makes me cringe

    We were overwhelmed.I involved my two teenage sons in the pulling and digging of weeds.The garden mantra became,“no weeds taller than Mom”! My homesteader husband at this point was still on the sidelines. He was encouraging, but he did not get involved in the gardening process.  Our old tiller broke, which further complicated things, and life felt like the old Hee Haw song, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”  Yet in all the struggle, somehow I managed to have lettuce, tomatoes, and squash grow. Our tiller breaking was actually a game changer for the garden. My homesteader husband and I picked out a first-rate tiller (it’s BIG) , not one of those cute little city tillers.  We don’t own a tractor, and our garden is of good size and we needed something substantial and tough. It turned out that the new tiller would become a garden game changer in 2019.  

    Garden Game Changing Tiller

    Even though there was progress that year, I was incredibly hard on myself.  I felt like I should be canning enough to support my family through the winter.  I hated that there were still weeds and less produce than I should have been getting. Yet as disappointed as I was with the garden in 2018,  I learned things from it that helped my 2019 garden tremendously. One of the things I learned was that my feed store green bean seeds were superior to the overpriced fancy seeds I had ordered.  My parents bought their seeds from the feed store but I kind of thought I was upgrading by ordering mine. I was wrong. Gardening can be humbling. In 2019, I bought the humble feed store green bean seeds in a brown paper sack. The brown sack beans tripled my harvest from my snobby mail order green beans. I dusted off the canner and got busy snapping! My husband was getting more and more involved. He enjoyed using the new tiller and it greatly benefited me. I began to notice that I was able to control the weeds with his help. There were other things on the homestead that were beginning to show progress too, like my chickens.  I was developing my own flock.  After several trips to the Chicken Swap, I purchased a rooster and several young hens. Side note, if you don’t know what a chicken swap is, envision a large yard sale. Instead of this yard sale selling; old tupperware, bowling shoes, and leaf blowers, they sell lots and lots of chickens! We weren’t getting many eggs yet but I was keeping my chickens alive.  There was something so satisfying about knowing that the flock was hand- picked by myself and my little family.  I began to have chicken goals, too. I wanted to have an egg carton full of eggs like the rainbow, with all the different colors. 

    Rainbow of Egg Colors, #goal achieved

    The year 2018 showed me that the progress I wanted to make might be slow in coming, and 2019 added to that feeling because in spite of my increased success, it was a big year of change for my little family. My oldest son left for college,so I lost my chicken help and one of my ace weeders. He is such a good weeder,- my Mom helped me train him well from the time he was little. If his whole medical career doesn’t work out, he can come home and weed! That in and of  itself might motivate him to keep his GPA up. Of Course my family budget changed significantly, too. Having a college kid is not cheap. I began to think about growing more, preserving more, and discovering more ways to make the most of my little, just under two-acre, homestead.  

    “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe 

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  • I’m A New Goat Mom

    I’m A New Goat Mom
    Me and Minnie

    So I brought my cute little goats home, their names are Minne and Denver.  Minnie and Denver are both Nigerian Dwarf goats, they are a couple of months old.  My first hours owning goats have been very exciting.  They are of course super cute and don’t mind being picked up.  Denver, the little boy goat, or technically a wether, is larger than his sister, Minnie.  Denver seems to be a little more shy around people and less interested in interacting.  Although, he is a wonderful companion for his sister.  Minnie often follows Denver around the stall but is curious if I stay for very long.  She often comes out and licks my boot or sniffs my pant leg.  My nine year old son has an affection for Minne and loves speaking goat to her; Minnie is always delighted to answer him with a sweet little bleat. We have been spending a lot of time in their shed and checking on them several times a day. A couple of weeks ago we noticed that our once faithful older barn cat had gone missing. Nipper was several years old. My older sons remember playing with her while visiting their grandmother, when they were much younger. Nipper was a good friend of my nine year old son. We decided Saturday before picking up the goats that a cat would make a good stall mate for the goats, a pet for our youngest son, and a helper on our homestead. After a failed attempt to rescue a cat, I remembered a friend of mine (a fellow homesteader) was giving away some older kittens. Sweetly, she agreed for us to take the cat home. Our little homestead gained three new members on Saturday: Minnie, Denver, and Winston the cat.  Winston was well loved and socialized, he is not afraid of the goats at all. In fact Winston enjoys playing with the goats and rubbing up against them.

    Minnie, Denver and Winston the cat

    The next couple of weeks here in Kentucky are looking like they will be cold, which of course makes this new goat mom very nervous. The goats are temporarily in a shed that I have lined with shavings and hay. I noticed my sweet little goats slightly shivering, so what is a goat mom to do? Well YouTube to the rescue, I found a video instructing me on how to make goat jackets. The lady on the YouTube video recommended using old sweat pants. I successfully made goat jackets and have made a trip to Goodwill for more goat jackets to be made. Maybe we will have a goat fashion show? Here I am hoping the weather warms up and my goats can romp around in their field getting to know all the characters on our little homestead—like Bobby Brown, the rooster.

    Bobby Brown

    Make sure you check out my cute little video with Minnie ❤️. The link is above

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  • My Goats Are Coming Home Tomorrow!!

    Hey, in case you forgot my goats are coming home tomorrow! I am beside myself with excitement. It’s actually coming true, I am going to be a goat Mom. I’ve been distracting myself lately with cookies, cranberries, and homemade dish towels. At this point, I am waking up and thinking,“What have I not done yet ? Am I ready?” among other questions. I’ve prepped a warm, dry space. I bought food, treats, and dewormer. I also bought cute little goat halters on Etsy and even looked up how to make goat jackets. It’s not great timing for them to arrive, because the weather will be cold and I will be at work during the day instead of at home pampering my new goats. There are things that I will have to start doing, like getting up earlier in the cold and taking care of my baby goats. The cold weather will mean they will need to be inside more and monitored more closely, which in turn means more poop shoveling. On the homestead when you get animals the chores don’t stop for snow, rain, or cold weather. In fact bad weather often creates more chores on the homestead. I have done my best to get ready for the goats arrival. I am sure there are things I am not ready for and things I have prepared that won’t work out like I think they will. I will share lots of pictures and let you know about my experiences being a goat Mom soon.

  • Going Home, and Failing ?

    Going Home, and Failing ?

    Sometimes you don’t succeed.  I have been processing this blog mentally and emotionally for about a month.  In mid May of 2017 my family experienced a sudden traumatic family loss.  I lost my parents in an accident. Honestly my parents were both very active and healthy,  I thought I would have them for several more years. All four of my grandparents had lived into their 80s and a couple in their 90s.  Every time  there was a thought of losing my parents, I would push it back in my mind and tell myself it was something I didn’t need to worry about yet. My relationship with my parents was sweet in nature.  I called them almost daily and loved to hear my mom almost sing when she answered my phone calls. I leaned on them for support, emotionally and physically. They often gifted me with homegrown beef, home canned goods, and fresh vegetables. Frequently I would visit during the summer and help my mom weed, pick, or preserve.  My two older sons grew up spending summer weeks on the farm learning the value of hard work and raising your own food. Their home was a wonderful place for our family.  I always enjoyed “going home”.

    Sweet Farm Days with my Dad

    My Mom preparing one of my boys for the barn.

        When the accident happened, I had been living in my community for over 14 years.  My life was well established there. We had a support system of friends through school, work, and church.  I strangely never felt at home in our new subdivision house (read more about that in my blog, “The Struggle Is Real”).  My parents’ death left me longing for home. 

         Against all the advice given to grieving people, we uprooted our little family and moved 45 minutes away.  For me it was moving back to the country, but for my husband it was an all new experience in one of the smallest towns he has ever lived.  I soon found out that even though I went “home”, I could never truly go home again without my parents.  It is not so much the place as it is the people in that place.  We moved in early July in the heat of the year.  My parents had already planted a partial early garden in May.  I would like to tell you that everything was so peaceful, beautiful, and fruitful the minute we moved, but …. It was not.  

         We moved into my parents home and were welcomed by an untended, out- of- control garden.  There were weeds in the garden taller than me.  Crops had failed and gone bad in the field.  As I planned to attack my garden and make progress,  I began to have some health issues.  I’m not sure if it was the extreme stress I was under or just something that happened.  As my physical problems progressed, my ability to work in the garden came to an abrupt halt.  I looked around and all I could see was failure.  It was such an emotionally deep pain for me,  I began to have dreams that my parents would come back and chew me out about all the weeds and no crops.  I would wake up grieving and disappointed in myself.   Furthermore, my chickens were not even laying and we had lost a bunch to a raccoon.  My health and my heart were hurting.  I was pretty sure I wasn’t cut out to garden or homestead. At this point I was making plans to put a playground for my youngest child on our garden spot.  I was thinking we could get some good use out of our large yard.  My physical problems progressed to me having surgery in the fall.  There were complications and healing took much longer than I thought it would.  Although more slowly than I hoped, I was gaining strength, not without pain, not without struggle.  I began to think, maybe I could at least grow some green beans next year and add a couple of tomato plants. Something just wouldn’t let me quit.  I am not really sure why I didn’t quit. Something I have learned in the last couple of years is that progress is progress, no matter how small.  I will blog soon about progress on my homestead.  

    “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

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  • More Winter on the ole Ky homestead

  • 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

    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

    Snowy Day on the Homestead
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