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.

DIY Vanilla

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If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking. If possible, I like to make a lot of what we eat from scratch. Knowing what is in the food we are eating is the heart of why we do what we do here on the homestead, and I am striving to make more and more of what we consume from scratch.

Recently I have started making my own vanilla extract, which is something that I use a lot. Pancakes, waffles, cookies, you name it. Vanilla plays a huge role in my kitchen. Plus it is so simple to make! This DIY vanilla would also make a great homemade gift. Here’s how you do it!

DIY Vanilla

3-5 Vanilla beans

8 ounces of vodka (you can also use rum, brandy, or bourbon for a more unique extract)

1. Split your beans in half lengthwise.

2. Place your beans in the alcohol of your choosing. I used vodka this time, but I want to try another batch with rum. Make sure your beans are completely submerged.

3. Let it infuse for at least a month. My bottle is a little larger, so I let it go a little longer than a month. If I had to redo it, I would have added a few more beans to my batch.

As you use your vanilla, you can add alcohol to your existing bottle to keep your supply going. I would suggest adding more beans to your bottle as you go to keep up the strong vanilla flavor. I have seen people dry out their original beans and use them to make vanilla sugar. I will definitely be trying that, and I will post the process and results here.

So give this easy recipe a try, and show me your delicious results. If you come up with your own fancy home brewed concoctions, share your recipes here. I would love to try what you’re making!

Homestead Pigs

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Wow, it’s been a while! We have been so busy here lately wrapping things up before winter and getting ready for the baby. Chance recently butchered 48 cornish cross chickens to fill the freezer for winter, and we had a wonderful baby shower! There is still a lot on the to do list to get accomplished before the baby comes in 15 days, so I’m sort of hunkering down and trying to get everything together! But let’s talk the homestead…

They’re dirty, smelly, will eat anything, but so cute. No, I’m not talking about my husband and son! I’m talking about our homestead pigs! I have to admit, I had not planned on having pigs here. I figured we would stick to smaller animals here on our two acres like the chickens, ducks, and rabbits. The pigs were sort of a spur of the moment addition to the homestead. Let me tell you the story…

Our hillside is covered in brush and mess, and we were trying to figure out what we could do to cut the brush down and make the hillside better and more usable. The only option we could really think of was renting a brush hog for a day and doing what we could with that. Then Chance had a (crazy) idea: pigs. I thought he was insane. Pigs seemed like a much bigger project to take on, and I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. He kept going on about the pigs and what a good idea it was, and I started to give in a little and explore the idea.

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We figured up that the cost of renting the brush hog for just one day was going to be about $500. That seemed like quite a bit to me for one day. We then calculated the start up cost for four pigs we had found locally. Purchasing the pigs and initial set up for them was around or just a little over $500. The one thing that won me over? We can’t eat a brush hog. So, we ended up with four pigs. We purchased four American Yorkshire females, and our lives have surely changed since then!

If you have ever considered getting your own pigs or are just curious as to what having pigs is like, I’ll lay out some pros and cons for you.

Pros

  1. They are amazing at tearing up brush. Seriously. They make quick work of anything you might want plowed without having to use any equipment. I was shocked at how quickly they were able to tear through our brush.
  2. They yield a large amount of meat. We haven’t butchered ours yet, but they are pushing 200 pounds, which will end up being a lot of meat for us when we do so.
  3. They can be well contained with electric fencing once trained to the electric. Our pigs had never been on grass before, so it took a little time to get them used to the electric fencing around their paddock, but they are intelligent and have learned quickly. The electric has been great to keep them contained!

Cons

  1. They can escape easily if not properly contained. Prior to us setting up the electric fencing, the pigs got out a few times. They were running all over the yard and in the driveway! I was around 5 months pregnant at the time, so I could not chase after pigs to get them back into their paddock. They are intelligent animals, so if they aren’t properly fenced, they can escape. It is not fun chasing pigs to get them back to their pens, so I would advise starting out with electric immediately.
  2. They will tear up anything. I know I mentioned in the pros section that they are amazing at tearing things up, and I meant it. They can almost over abuse your land if you don’t move them to new grass/brush fast enough. Also, if they escape from their designated paddock you might end up with torn up landscaping. They are experts at rooting, and I have yet to see them discriminate against what exactly it is they are getting into.
  3. The breed we have is a commercial breed that relies more on grain for growth. We have had to purchase a lot of feed to fatten them up. There are other breeds that can thrive better on what they are grazing on.

Overall, I have really enjoyed the pigs. They are adorable and have so much character. It’s been amazing to watch them grow from six week old babies to pushing 200 pounds. They have also grown more accustomed to us, and we are able to pet them- even Henry! He absolutely loves his pigs.

This December, we will butcher one for our family, sell one, and keep two. We hope to breed the two we keep in the spring. As crazy as it sounds, I can’t wait to have little piglets running around! I think Henry will love having little pigs to help take care of, and it will be amazing to see new life begin on the homestead.

Speaking of new life on the homestead, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our daughter. We have a lot going on in these next two weeks before she comes, so my next post may be a bit delayed, but I will be back with an update as soon as possible!

Granola

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Crunchy, chewy, sweet, and even a little salty…I’m talking granola, people! We like granola, but we never really bought it at the store very often. The problem I found with store bought granola was that it’s usually very high in sugar (even the “healthy” brands), and they’re fairly expensive for a small amount. So I decided to do some research and come up with a recipe to make my own. I looked over a few recipes, and here is what I came up with. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s customizable so you can add whatever it is that you like!

Granola

7 cups oats

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup raisins

3/4 cup honey

4 Tbsp. coconut oil (or whatever oil you prefer)

**The general idea is that you want to have 10 cups of dry ingredients, so you could do less oats and add in more extras, like other dried fruits or seeds.**

Step 1. Prep and mix your dry ingredients in a large bowl.

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Step 2. Melt honey and oil in a pot over low heat until runny and combined.

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**I have also used maple syrup instead of honey, and it was delicious, too!**

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Step 3. Pour honey mixture over dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

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Step 4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the mixture in a thin layer. I usually use two baking sheets just so the layers of granola are fairly thin and toast quickly.

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Step 5. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly toasted. Stir half way through the baking time to allow for even toasting. Allow to cool completely before storing.

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There you have it! Homemade granola from a super simple recipe and from ingredients you may already have in your pantry! Add your favorite flavor and ingredient combinations- the possibilities are endless! Try it and let me know what you think. Don’t forget to subscribe and share!