Lard: Let’s Call it a Come Back

Let’s talk lard. Using lard seems like a thing of the past; something our great-grandparents used but should never be consumed in this low-fat, no-fat society we live in today. Thinking of regular lard consumption brings on ideas of clogged arteries and instant heart attacks, but research is beginning to show that lard isn’t as bad as the reputation it has been given. Consumers have had vegetable oils, such as canola or corn, crammed down their throats as a “healthier alternative” when in fact these heavily processed oils are not our healthiest choices.

Pastured lard actually boasts several health benefits, including being a good source of vitamin A. It is also high in monounsaturated fat similar to olive oil. I know I would much rather reach for my home-rendered lard than use any other highly processed vegetable oil. Want to learn how to render your own lard at home? Follow these simple steps!

  1. Start with cold fat. I stick mine in the freezer until I am ready to make the lard. It is much easier to chop when cold.
  2. Remove any leftover meat that may be on the fat.
  3. Chop the fat into tiny cubes, the smaller the better. You can also use a food processor or meat grinder. I have chopped it by hand and used a meat grinder. I definitely preferred the meat grinder. If you use a processor, be careful not to process it too long. The heat from the blade can turn it into a giant sticky ball.
  4. Add 1/4 cup water to a Dutch oven or slow cooker. This is optional. It can prevent the fat from burning on the bottom before the fat starts to melt. I have never used water when I made my lard, and I have never had any problems. It will evaporate out as your fat cooks. Add your chopped fat into your pot or slow cooker.
  5. Cook on the lowest possible temperature. This is important if you want pure white fat that can be used in pastry. Cook the lard for a few hours stirring frequently. You don’t want it to over simmer or stick to the sides of your pot. If this happens, you can certainly still use the lard for cooking, but it may not be the mild flavored, white lard that is good for pastries.
  6. When the lard is finished, the bits left will float to the top. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Strain your lard, and pour it into quart jars. Lard is shelf stable, but I usually keep some in the fridge as well.
  7. You can save the remaining bits, fry and salt them. These are cracklings which people snack on them or use them to top salads.

I typically use my lard for biscuits or pie crusts, but it also makes the best friend potatoes! Would you give lard a chance? How do you use lard? Leave a comment below and chime in. Also, don’t forget to subscribe for updates from the homestead!

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In the Trenches

Sigh. Guys, usually I come to the blog filled with excitement to give you an update on what’s going on here, but today, I come feeling..blah. Usually I come with something I have already written that I have put some thought and work into, but tonight I come to talk from the heart.

It has been a day. It was one of those days where I was texting Chance by 10:30 am saying, “I am losing my mind.” As a rule, you shouldn’t be allowed to lose your mind before noon, yet there I was. For some reason, Henry’s listening skills have flown out the window the past few days, he was up at 5:45 am today, and Lillian has two molars finally coming through, so needless to say, everyone was not in the best spirits this morning. I am generally a very patient person when it comes to my kids, but I could feel myself reaching my breaking point. There were (and still are) mountains of laundry to wash/put away, a sink full of dishes, and a dirt covered floor, yet here I was telling Henry not to do something for the 100th time and picking up a wailing Lillian from the floor. I said a quick prayer of, “send help and coffee,” and attempted to charge through the day. No. Just not happening. I decided to give up whatever I was trying to get done in a desperate attempt to turn the day around. I tossed everyone out the door for a little fresh air and garden strawberries.

Did it help? Yes, but temporarily. After lunch, I attempted to get both kids to nap. Let me really put an emphasis on attempted. These attempts were met with more wailing and screaming. I needed the kids to nap, not only for my sanity (which is important) but also their’s for the rest of the day. Yet again, I gave up. I loaded them into the car for a quick drive. Both kids were out in less than five minutes. You all couldn’t do that at home? Really?

I know that there are those of you out there with kids who have experienced days like this before. A day where it just seems like you’re drowning under disaster after disaster, crankiness, ears that seem to not hear, and you’re just trying to keep your head above water. I have been there more times than I can count, especially with little ones! I’m not writing this post to unload my crazy day, although it does feel good to get it all out. I am here to encourage those of you with little ones (or maybe not so little ones) who are in the trenches just trying to get through the day. Hoping for a moment of silence to drink your coffee that you have microwaved three times. Who am I kidding? I just drink it cold at this point. Praying for patience as you break up another squabble or correct your child for what seems like the millionth time in one hour. I feel you. I am right there with you.

There are times when I feel like I cannot stand to say no to something one more time or deal with one more fight; times when I feel like nothing I am doing or saying with my kids is working. Then I look at the sweet faces of my children, say a prayer, and find the strength to keep pushing. To all the parents out there, find that strength. It won’t always be countless squabbles over a toy or thousands of Cheerios spilled into your couch cushions. Continue pouring into their little lives and training them up. It is the hardest, most exhausting job, but it is also the most rewarding. And know that you are not alone. Be encouraged and know that you are doing the most important job out there. Taking care of tiny people isn’t easy.

 

 

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

The Thief

I’m sure you’ve all heard the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I know I had heard it many times, but it never really resonated with me until recently. It can be so easy to scroll through social media (I’m looking at you, Instagram), and compare your life to other people’s perfect photos and feel discouraged. I know there have been many times where I have thought, “Wow, look at that homeschool room,” or, “If only we had more land like that and a barn,” and, “Gosh, she does it all, and here I am buried in 500 mismatched socks and dirty diapers.” I’m sure you’ve been there a time or two. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what seems like someone else’s perfect life that you can lose sight of what you have.

Take the homesteading journey for example. Right now, we live on two acres. We don’t have a barn or large fields of flat, lush pasture. We have rocky, clay soil that we are working hard to amend. We have been searching for a bigger place that would suit what we are dreaming of doing, but so far no luck. It can be difficult to have these dreams you want to accomplish right away, yet feel stuck where you are. There have been many moments where I have felt like we will never find the right place or we will never reach what we aspire to achieve.

Recently I had a ‘check myself before I wreck myself’ moment. I was so stuck in dreaming of our future plans and gazing at snapshots of other people’s lives that I had totally lost sight of the life we are cultivating now. I think back to a little over three years ago when we were preparing for our first flock of egg layers to arrive, and I see how far we have come and how hard we have worked in such a short time. We have already accomplished so much, and we have worked tirelessly together toward our goals as a family. And you know those picture-perfect snaps of the lives of those who inspire us? That’s exactly what it is- a nice photo. The people behind these photos are living a life just like us. There may be trouble with their animals, the house is a disaster, and the children are having melt downs-yet none of those photos will make it to your news feed. We have to remember that no one’s life is perfect no matter what you see on social media. Social media can be a gift or curse. You can be encouraged by the community you see or allow it to have a negative impact on you and discourage you. I am making a conscious choice to allow the social media community I am a part of to encourage me to continue working toward my goals and inspiring me to live a better life.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is like to be in need, and I know what it is like to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I am certainly well fed and living in plenty, and I am so grateful for that. It is my goal to practice contentment every day and trust in God’s timing. I am cultivating the life I have dreamed of with my incredible family, so I need nothing more. Plus the joy is in the journey, isn’t it?

What are you dreaming of for your life right now? How do you practice being content where you are? Share below, and don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date  on what we are doing here on the homestead!

Homestead Update

Hey all! It has been such a long time! I wanted to drop in and give an update on what’s going on here on the homestead. It has been tricky finding a good rhythm that gave me some time to work on the blog while taking care of the little ones plus everything else we have going on here, but we have settled into a good routine that will hopefully give me more time to consistently blog. So let’s jump right in!

  • We had two litters of piglets born last spring. We have since sold or butchered the pigs. We currently have one pig remaining here on the homestead that’s for sale… Only $350, and he’s ready for the butcher.
  • We have around 30 or so chickens running about! Truly, I’ve lost count. We now have two ducks because something got two of our hens, so we have a hen and the drake left. I am hoping to add some more ducks to the flock this summer.
  • We have acquired a pretty amazing herd of goats! Let me just say, I love the goats. I wish we had gotten them so much sooner. I’ll do a post introducing the herd soon.
  • Right now, we are heading into another garden season. We have so many new ideas and dreams for the gardens this year, and I am so excited to see how it all turns out. We have been putting a good amount of work into them already. It’s been so nice to be working in the soil again after what seemed like a never ending winter. This year, we have put a bigger emphasis on the aesthetic aspect of the gardens which has been such a joy for me. I’ll be writing on the gardens in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that!

I am so excited to be back in the blogging game and share what’s happening with you here on the homestead. I’ll be posting more recipes and DIY ideas, plus delving into family topics that are important to us. I hope we can all learn and share together on this homesteading journey! To stay up to date on what we are doing, don’t forget to subscribe. Also, follow me on Instagram @ abundantlifehomestead. You’ll see tons of pictures of our daily life on the homestead.

Summer Gardens 2.0

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Wow- it has been a while. I feel like I haven’t had a free second to write about what has been going on here on the homestead in so long. Chance and Henry got hit hard with a stomach virus for about two weeks, we had family visit, and then other summer projects and events have been keeping us so busy that I have had very little time to write. Plus we have been changing some things around here on the blog. Let’s start with a garden update!

After a long winter that seemed to last through April, we finally got our summer gardens planted. This year, we have the front and side gardens like last year (check out last year’s gardens here https://abundantlifehomestead.com/2017/09/01/the-summer-gardens/), but this year, the front garden is almost double in size. We are also using a lot of wood chips to keep weeds down this year instead of the weed blocking tarp we used last year.

This summer, we are growing tomatoes, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, chard, kale, turnips, parsnips, carrots, beets, lettuce, and arugula in the front garden. So far, things are growing well, and we have been able to harvest some greens, green beans, squash, peas, beets, and turnips. The greens and peas have been such a treat, but I won’t lie, the turnips were bitter as can be! I am assuming it has a lot to do with our soil quality which is something we are still working on. Has anyone had experience with this? Any tips? Anyway, our tomato plants are huge, and tomatoes are starting to appear. I absolutely cannot wait until the first tomato is ready. There’s nothing like a garden tomato! The only thing holding us back is how much rain we have had! It has been so wet that the tomatoes just haven’t been able to ripen yet. I plan to can as many as possible to store up for winter again once they are ready.

In our side garden, we did corn, green beans, squash, and cucumbers just like last year. It is growing really well, so I am hoping for a great harvest. We planted blueberry and raspberry bushes, but I’m not expecting anything from them this year. I think the stress of planting them thwarted any chance of fruit. We also planted a peach, apple, and pear tree, but like the berry bushes, they likely won’t produce this year. I am just excited to be taking steps toward producing our own fruit here on the homestead. Our strawberry patch was finished in June, and we had some delicious berries from that this year. I am looking forward to an even greater fruit harvest next year!

Overall, I am hopeful for our gardens this year. I thought we did great last year and am praying for another large harvest. My hope is that with each year, we continue to improve in the amount of food we are able to grow and continue to improve the soil quality here. I hope we are able to leave it much better than when we first started.

What are you growing this year? Do you have any expert gardening tips? What are your hopes for your garden? Comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe for updates from the homestead.

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Homemade Baby Food

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As you all know, I am trying to make more and more of our foods from scratch. Since we have started Lillian on solid foods, that means I’ve been in the kitchen whipping up some delicious homemade baby food. With Henry, I made almost all of his baby food, but there were a few things here and there that we did buy. Since then, there have been reports come out showing there are baby foods, formulas, and toddler snacks containing arsenic, lead, and BPA. According to this study (link here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/794291001), 80 percent of the items tested contained these contaminants!

This is not a post condemning all baby foods/formulas/snacks. I am sure there are good ones on the market, but these findings were pretty shocking. As parents, we want what is best for our kids, and if we are striving for the best, purest foods for ourselves, that should extend to our kids. So I have been making Lillian’s baby food like I did with Henry, but this time, I will be making all of it. Plus, it is so simple to do! Interested in doing some or all of your baby’s food, but not sure where to start? Let me show you how!

For this recipe, I used sweet potatoes since that is what we did for Lillian’s first food. Substitute whatever you would like to use for your baby!

  1. I took six organic sweet potatoes, peeled them, and chopped them into these fancy cubes.
  2. Next, I created my elaborate steaming station. I used a pot with a little over an inch of water and a colander. Just make sure the base of whatever you’re using to steam your potatoes isn’t submerged in the water. I also used a large lid over the top of the colander to help the process move along a little faster.       babyfoodsteamer
  3. Bring the water to a simmer.
  4. Add the chunks into your colander/steaming basket. Place the lid on and steam until soft and easily smashed.
  5. Put the steamed vegetables into a food processor/blender and blend until smooth. You may need to add a little water to help it reach the smooth baby food consistency. Use the water you steamed your vegetables with to add any nutrients lost in the steaming process back into your puree!
  6. Once you have your puree to the consistency you like, you can store it in the fridge to use immediately or freeze to use a little at a time. I filled up ice cube trays with mine which ends up being a nice portion size for her at each meal. I store the cubes in a freezer bag and just heat them up or thaw them as needed.

Other tips:

  • Steaming is not your only option. You can also roast whatever you’re using which really helps bring out the sweetness in the produce.
  • Some other vegetables I will be doing are turnips, beets, greens, peas, green beans, parsnips, carrots, and butternut squash. I will be doing fruits such as apple, pears, peaches, and berries. Your options are endless. Whatever you’re eating or have grown at home- give it a try! I know I am definitely excited to use homegrown produce for her foods this summer. You can even do meat purees, but they won’t be as smooth as vegetables or fruits.
  • You can gradually increase the chunkiness of the food to prepare your little one for starting finger foods.
  • When you have some different foods made, you can mix them for your own unique combinations. Look at the premade foods in stores for inspiration! There are a lot of delicious ideas out there.

Once you have made your simple baby food, come back and share your tips and yummy combinations! Let me know what your little ones think of starting solid food! I’m excited to try some of your ideas. Don’t forget to share and subscribe for updates on what we are doing here on the homestead.

 

 

New Addition

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There is a new addition on the homestead! Yes, we welcomed our beautiful baby girl six months ago, but we also got another sweet girl two weeks before Lillian was born.

Meet Chewie.

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We got Chewie in November right before Lillian was born because who doesn’t get an eight week old puppy two weeks before you’re having another baby? (As you can tell, I am really behind in updating you on things going on around here, but between kidney stones and two little kiddos, it is easy to get behind. I am hoping to be more on the ball about getting blog posts up!) Chewie (Henry is really into Star Wars) is a Great Pyrenees. We are using her as a livestock guardian dog. Livestock guardian dogs live with whatever livestock you have, in our case chickens, ducks, and pigs, and deter predators. Around here, we deal with the occasional fox, opossum, raccoon, weasel, and aerial threat. Before we got Chewie, we actually lost a chicken to an aerial predator, so having her here as an extra protector to our animals is very important. Interested in getting your own LGD? Here are some things to consider.

  • There are many different breeds of livestock guardian dogs. Great Pyrenees may be the most well known breed associated with livestock. Other breeds to consider are the Anatolian Shepherd, Akbash, and Maremma Sheepdog. There are many other breeds so research one that would best suit your family’s needs.
  • We chose a Great Pyrenees because they have been used as LGDs for a very long time. They can be aggressive toward a threat but are still a great family-friendly dog which is important to consider when you have children. They are also adorable and look like you have a polar bear, so who wouldn’t enjoy that? One drawback I have noticed is they bark most of the night to keep any predators away, so if you have neighbors close by this could be an issue.
  • When you choose your dog, bring them home and immediately place them with your livestock so they can bond with whatever animals they are guarding. Don’t expect too much from them as a puppy. They will likely want to play with your animals at first. I have read their instincts to guard really don’t kick in until about six months, but it can take up to two years. Chewie actually killed one of our older hens because she is still learning.
  • Make sure to provide them with a weather-proof shelter that is warm. We have also made her her own private area where her food, water, and shelter are located that the chickens cannot access. They may get territorial over their food, so we want to keep the chickens out of her space.
  • You may want to invest in fencing because these dogs are known for roaming around. If you have the room for that, great! In our situation, we have two acres and are right beside the road, so we need to keep Chewie safe. We use electric fencing, and Chewie does very well at avoiding it! We haven’t had any issues with her trying to run off.

So if you are interested in protecting your livestock with an adorable, hardworking furry friend, I would highly recommend a livestock guardian dog. Be sure to do your research to find what breed is the best fit for you. Once your dog is bonded to your livestock, rest assured that you have a fierce and loyal protector on your homestead and a life long friend.

 

A Rolling Stone

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Guys, it has been a rough month. Things were going great- kids were getting into a good routine, and we were gearing up for all our spring projects, then bam- I started having some health issues. Anyone who is a parent knows you have zero extra time to be sick. I was having urinary issues which can be painful and pretty unsettling. Lucky for me, I have a nurse on call all the time in my dear husband. I wasn’t in any pain, so we decided to wait it out.

I have a history of kidney stones, so we assumed that’s what it was. Three weeks later, I was still having issues, so I had a CT scan. And there they were- two stones in my left kidney. Ugh! At this point, I was completely pain free, but the next day that all changed.

By morning, I was writhing in pain. Like being stabbed in the back and side over and over pain. You know those pain scales with the little faces where you rate your pain from 1-10? Yeah, I was flying off that chart. I was in orbit. So we got an appointment with a urologist to figure out what my next step would be.

After an X-ray, the urologist decided doing a lithotripsy would be my best option. A lithotripsy is where they use high energy waves directed at your stones to break them up so you can pass them. I have had one lithotripsy before, but I didn’t have two little ones to think about. It was especially stressful for me since I’m nursing Lillian, but the doctors were great and were able to give me all nursing compatible medications throughout the process. That was a huge weight off my shoulders!

Getting the lithotripsy done was a bit of a hassle, but I am feeling 100 percent better. Thank God there are treatments like this available when you need them…and I really needed it! It is nearly impossible to take care of little kiddos when you’re miserable. I am so thankful to be back to my old self.

So, have any of you ever dealt with kidney stones? What were your experiences like? Any good home remedies you have used? I have been drinking a lot of water with lemon juice but would love to hear any other ideas you have! Share below, and don’t forget to subscribe!

Here are some pictures that have nothing to do with kidney stones but everything to do with cuteness.

We’re Back!

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Wow! Welcome back! It has been a while. We have been so busy in the past few months since I took a hiatus from the blog. Since my last post, we butchered two pigs (hello, pork!), celebrated Henry’s second birthday, and enjoyed the holidays with family. The biggest thing that happened during the break was the birth of our beautiful daughter, Lillian Ruth in November. I had a repeat c-section, so it was rough for a while, but the recovery was much easier than when I had Henry.

She is such a sweet addition to our family and already four months old! I can’t believe how fast time flies when they are this little. She fits in so well, and it’s like she has always been here. She has been colicky which has been difficult for all of us. It’s horrible when you feel like there is nothing you can do to relieve what your baby is going through! Have any of you dealt with colicky babies? Any tips? I would love to hear it because this was something I was clueless about and not prepared for! I think we are starting to see the light at the end of the colic tunnel as she gets older, but it is tough sometimes.

Henry absolutely loves his little sister. He loves her so much that we have to supervise said love because it can get a little rough for a little baby! I am so glad that he has done so well with her. We definitely went through a rough patch when we first brought her home in the form of a hitting phase, but things have settled down now. Think it’s easy to reason with a two year old about sharing his parents with a tiny screaming person? I’m sure you can imagine how that goes.

Now that Lilly is here, we have entered a season of diapers, nonstop messes, and interrupted sleep. We are settling into a routine and dreaming up new dreams for the farm. It’s chaos, but it’s our chaos, and it’s a blessing. Our hearts have are more full than ever. This is the definition of living abundantly.

Meet the Herd

There’s a reason that the acronym for greatest of all time just happens to spell goat. We had tossed around the idea of getting goats for about a year, but we finally took the plunge. Just like I expected, the goats have brought so much joy to the homestead. Let me introduce you.

We got Lucy and Ethel together. Lucy, the brown goat, is a Nigerian Dwarf. We chose Nigerian Dwarf goats because we had heard they had better tasting milk. Nigerian Dwarf goat milk is also higher in butter fat than other goat breeds so it’s creamier and sweeter. We believe that Ethel, the black and white goat, is a pygmy. Lucy and Ethel are two peas in a pod, and you rarely see one without the other. Lucy thinks she is the queen of the herd and is probably my favorite out of them all. She is so sweet and mild mannered. Ethel is a little shy and can be a bit of a bully to the others, but I love watching her scamper around and head butt the others.

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We got Rosie in April, along with her older daughter, Beatrix. Rosie also came with these two cuties that she had given birth to the week before. Hiccup (black with white ears) is a buckling, and Astrid (black ears) is a doeling. Can you tell our kids love How To Train Your Dragon? Rosie is so friendly and is always giving sloppy kisses to the kids. She is a great goat to milk and very rarely gives me any trouble. Her daughter from last year,  Beatrix, was pregnant when we brought her home and gave birth to a buckling named Tony a week later. On the other hand, Beatrix is pretty skittish. It has taken her some time to get used to milking, and she still gives me a bit of trouble. She is slowly improving and warming up to us, so I am hoping it will just take some time. Let me just say- baby goats are the best things in the world! I am convinced baby goat therapy should be a thing!

Getting the goats has not only brought so much love and excitement to the homestead, but we have also been getting their delicious milk! This is the first time I have ever milked an animal, so it took some getting used to, but it’s quickly become one of my favorite parts of the day. I can’t wait to share recipes with you featuring the milk, like how to make your own yogurt and cheese.

I am so excited to share more about our journey with the goats. We plan to breed Rosie, Beatrix, Ethel and Lucy this fall, so I’ll be updating you on that when the time comes. Plus, I’ll give you the run down on basic goat care and milking.

Don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date on the homestead news. Also, follow us on Instagram @abundantlifehomestead for a peek into our daily life!

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