Dreams for the Homestead

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Everyone has dreams and goals they wish to accomplish in life no matter how outlandish they may seem. I know I enjoy thinking about the future and what our little family will be up to in a few years. My dreams have changed and evolved especially since we had a child (plus have one on the way) and started the homestead. We have recently hit our one year mark for our homestead, and we still have many things we would like to accomplish. I am proud of what we have done so far, but some of our other homesteading dreams are:

To expand. Right now, we are living on a two acre wooded hillside beside the road. It may not be the ‘ideal’ homestead property (really, what is?), but we make it work for us. Sometimes, we can feel impatient about wanting to move on to the next goal and buy more property, but we try to the focus on being content with what we have and making it work in the best way possible. We are still learning, but the great thing is we are young and have plenty of time to perfect our systems and expand later on. In the future, we look forward to being able to purchase a larger piece of pasture to facilitate the rest of our dreams.

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Add more animals. I love the animals we have now, and they work perfectly for the set up we have, but we would love to have more. There is nothing better than looking outside and seeing the pigs rooting in their paddock or chickens scratching around in the yard. We hope to eventually add a milk cow, pasture-raised beef cows, goats, sheep, and more chickens. I would also like to add honeybees to the mix, but I think I need to talk myself into that a little more!

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To produce all of our own eggs, meat, and dairy. Within the first year of our homestead, we were able to produce all our own eggs which has been incredible. We also did our first batch of meat chickens, and I will never buy chicken at the supermarket again. (I will do a separate post on the meat birds soon since we just got a new bunch!) We plan on butchering one of our pigs this fall even though it breaks my heart to do so. It will yield a large amount of meat, but we aspire to do our own 100% grassfed beef and dairy for our family.

To produce more fruits and vegetables. This year was out first garden, and we basically planted and said many prayers that it would turn out. Like I wrote in my summer gardens blog, we were very blessed with our harvest! We didn’t produce much fruit, but my hope for the future is to plant a fruit orchard on our property. I am interested in edible landscaping instead of just landscaping for aesthetic purposes and hope to get into more of that next year. We would like apple, pear, and nut trees plus a variety of berry bushes.

To bring Chance home full time. This year, we were able to sell a fair amount of our extra eggs that we had which has been great. We have also been able to sell a pig for when they are ready to butcher, which will be a nice supplement to our income. We hope to eventually build up our business and be able to provide not only our family, but our community with locally grown, organic/Non GMO products. Ideally we would like the family to work the homestead full time.

As we wrap up our first year on the homestead, we have accomplished quite a few of our goals and added many more to work toward in the future. My main goal for our growing family is to live abundantly! I hope you will continue to join us on this wild ride. What are your dreams for the future? Expand your homestead? Jump into homesteading? What would your dream be if you need no limitations? Comment below and let me know. I would love to share in your dreams! Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to keep up with the latest on the homestead, and share with your friends!

Tomato Leather

We had an abundance of tomatoes from the garden this year which was such a blessing. We didn’t plant 48 tomato plants for nothing! Harvesting all the tomatoes left me looking for ways to preserve what we had and not let any go to waste. I canned most of the tomatoes whole or as sauce, but we decided to try another method of preserving. Enter tomato leather!

I first got the idea for tomato leather watching Rebekah Rhodes on YouTube. (Check her channel out here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2kLhmPwvHyoTB71njPx5Jg/featured) We love fruit leather and tomatoes, so I figured combining the two would be a great way to use up a big batch of garden tomatoes. It did not disappoint! It makes for a delicious snack almost like chips, but be wary- if you eat too much, it will tear your mouth up like when you eat too much pineapple! Here is the recipe I used. I made a lot, so you can customize this to fit the amount of tomatoes you’re using and your taste preference.

Tomato Leather

5 lbs tomatoes- I used a variety that we had harvested including grape, Roma, and Oxheart

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon salt

Step 1. Cut any stems or blemishes off the tomatoes. Blend in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into a large bowl or pot.

Step 2. Add the chopped basil, grated cheese, and salt. Be careful not to add too much extra salt because the cheese is already very salty. Stir until combined.

Step 3. Line the shelves of your dehydrator with parchment or silicon baking mats. I will link the dehydrator that we have below. It worked really well for this recipe.

Step 4. Spread the tomato mixture out onto each shelf.

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Step 5. Set your temperature to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Our dehydrator doesn’t have a timer, but we dehydrated this for about 15 hours.

Step 6. Once it is ready, remove leather from the shelves. It should easily peel off the parchment or baking mats. Break it into strips and store in a zip top bag or air tight container.

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**If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can also make tomato leather in your oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a baking mat, and bake at 150 degrees for 6-12 hours**

Enjoy! This has been a great way to preserve our tomatoes without having to go through the process of canning. Plus, it makes a tasty treat! If you would like to see more simple recipes, make sure you subscribe!

Our dehydrator:

The Summer Gardens

Wow! It’s September! Time is flying by, and summer is coming to a close for us in the mountains. I can already feel fall settling in on the homestead, and I am excited for a new season. Being six months pregnant in 85 degree weather was not working so well for me anymore! Where we live, it always seems like summer zips by so quickly, and winter drags on for months. With summer reaching its end, we also reach the end of our summer gardens.

This year was the first time we ever were able to have a full-fledged garden. Prior to moving into our house, we lived in a tiny apartment, but we grew herbs in pots and a few small raised beds. This year, we had three garden beds. The front bed had tomatoes, jalapeños, lettuce, kale, and our attempts at broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and parsnips. We had a bed of strawberries in our side yard and a bed of corn, green beans, cucumbers, and butternut squash in the back yard. We had no clue if our gardens would be successful. Here at the homestead, we have rocky, clay soil, but we gave it a go!

 

The front garden yielded a ton of tomatoes, kale, lettuce, and peppers. I was still swimming in tomatoes until recently. No surprise there because we planted 48 tomato plants! My peppers came on a little late because the ducks slipped into the garden and ate all the leaves off, so we basically had to start over with those. Our lettuce did amazing and just recently started to bolt within the past month. We still have multiple rows of kale growing as well. The failures (yes, it happens) we had were the broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and parsnips. I’m not exactly sure why we didn’t have much success with those. We think our soil quality had a lot to do with why our carrots and parsnips didn’t grow. We got a few small heads of broccoli and cauliflower after we thinned the plants out. We had planted them too densely so they weren’t able to grow well.

Our strawberry bed was a semi-success. We planted 40 plants, but we didn’t yield as much fruit as we expected. After doing some research, we discovered we had planted them a little late, and they would stop producing in June. We enjoyed the fruit while we had it (by that I mean Henry did because he ate almost all of them), and we learned our lesson for next year!

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By the time Chance got to plant the back garden, he was pretty tired of the planting process, so he basically tossed the seeds in and said so be it. We weren’t sure what would happen. We didn’t even fence the bed in to keep chickens, ducks, and other wildlife out, so it was a bit of a risk. I am happy to say our cucumbers and green beans turned out great! We also have quite a few butternut squash growing which we will enjoy this fall. Our corn grew, but the ears were pretty small. We think the soil quality had a lot to do with that as well, but we were able to harvest and freeze some corn to use later this winter.

Overall, our gardens were very successful for our first year. I was happy to harvest anything at all! It’s an amazing feeling to reap the harvest from what we planted and grow our own food. We were able to learn from what didn’t work out and make a better plan for next year. One thing we hope to do next year is use deep wood chips on our beds instead of the black garden fabric. Using wood chips helps cut down on weeds and retain moisture. This method also helps utilize the nutrients in the soil. We also plan to have the chickens and pigs till the beds for us this fall and winter by scratching in and fertilizing the soil. Amazing how your animals can help cut down your workload, isn’t it? I’ll do a post about this later once we have it set up and show exactly what we are going to do.

What did you grow this summer? What were your successes and failures? Favorite garden tips? Share below and don’t forget to subscribe!

Homemade Tortillas

I don’t know about you, but our family eats tacos for dinner at least once a week. It’s an easy, quick meal that we all enjoy, and when I am pregnant, I want to eat tacos every day even though I end up with awful heartburn. Pass the antacids, please!

Since we have tacos so frequently, we go through a lot of tortillas. When I looked at the ingredients in store bought tortillas, I was shocked. For a product that seems fairly simple, it had way more ingredients than I was comfortable with. If you have some, check the package. You’d be surprised! I decided to just make them myself so I can control exactly what goes into them and save some money, too. They are super simple to make, and the recipe can easily be doubled to make a larger batch. Seriously, the packs from the store have about ten tortillas. Those will be gone quickly around here!

Flour Tortillas

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading if necessary

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup warm water

3 Tbsp olive oil

 

Step 1. Combine flour, salt, olive oil, and water in a medium sized bowl. Mix together with your hands or a wooden spoon until a ball forms. I am a firm believer that hands are the best tool for this job.

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Step 2. Turn your ball out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll into a ball, cover with a towel, and let rest about 15 minutes.

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Step 3. Preheat your skillet or nonstick frying pan (I find cast iron to be best for this, but I love my cast iron) over medium heat.

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Step 4. Split your dough into equal balls. This recipe makes eight, but since it can be easily doubled, you could make more.

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**If you happen to have a tortilla press, bust that baby out and press your tortillas. If you’re like me and don’t have one, use this moment to hint to your family that it would be a good gift idea for the upcoming holidays or your birthday.**

Step 5. On your floured surface, roll the tortillas out to an 8 or 9 inch circle. I chose to roll mine in between two pieces of parchment paper instead of using extra flour because I have found the flour burns in the pan and makes it smoky in your house, and your family will get upset about the disgusting smell. My tortillas are always misshapen. They don’t have to be perfect!

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**Take a quick break to stop your son from eating his crayons. Oh, that was just my son? Okay, you can keep working.**

Step 6. In your preheated skillet, cook over medium heat for 30-45 seconds on each side. They may bubble up as you cook- that’s okay! Cook until they have golden brown spots on each side.

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Step 7. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool before storing. I usually store mine in a zip top bag, and if you put them in the bag before they are cool, you’ll get a lot of condensation in the bag. Yuck. Trust me.

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I recently started using whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour for our tortillas. The recipe stays the same, just substitute 2 cups whole wheat flour for the all purpose. They are a little more dense and the flavor is a little stronger than the white flour, but we all enjoyed them. I will definitely continue making them that way. I hope you try and enjoy these. Comment below and let me know what you think! If you’re interested in more simple, homemade recipes like this, don’t forget to subscribe.

Why We Homestead

“Why?”

“What for?”

“Are you crazy?”

These were many of the questions I heard when we decided to get into homesteading. We first started with our buff orpington hens for eggs, and many people thought we were nuts. “But you can buy eggs at the store. That’s so much easier!”

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Well, I suppose they are right, but we had a few concerns. So, why did we start homesteading? Here are our main reasons:

Health. Before we jumped into homesteading, we started learning about the commercialized food industry. When we discovered how the majority of our food was grown/processed, how the animals providing our meat/dairy were treated, and what they were eating, we got pretty freaked out. We realized the food industry does not have the consumer’s health and well-being at heart. We decided to produce as much of our food as we could and buy the best quality produce, meat and dairy that we could not produce. We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we have done well for our first year.

Self-Reliance. I remember grocery shopping one day and getting irritated that the store didn’t have the organic, grassfed beef I wanted. As I stood there griping about what I was going to do, I thought about something I had read in Folks This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin. (Link below) To paraphrase, we as a culture have become so reliant on the constant supply we have available from the super market, but this isn’t normal! Why was I holding the store responsible for providing my family with food when it is actually my responsibility? When I changed my perspective on this, the idea of being more self-reliant was a lot more appealing. It has been a lot of hard work growing, raising, and preserving our own food, but it has been so rewarding.

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To have a relationship with our food. When we purchase meat, dairy, and produce from the store, we have no relationship with it or anyone who has handled it. We have no clue how it was grown, raised, treated, or what it was fed. Growing and raising our own food takes a lot of effort and preparation, but we know exactly how our food was grown. We watch our animals grow and know exactly what they have been fed and that they were treated with love and respect. Plus there is nothing better than teaching our son where his food is coming from and watching him feed and love the animals or “help” work in the gardens.

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To work together as a family. Our culture seems so obsessed with a fast paced, productive lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with hard work and being successful, but our family wants to make it a priority to slow down and enjoy each other. (I will expand on this further in an upcoming post as it is something I am still working on.) Working together on the homestead has provided us with so many family memories just in the first year! We have cultivated a sense of teamwork as we all share in the homestead chores and work together toward our goals. Having the homestead gives us the opportunity to spend plenty of time together as a family and reap the benefits of our teamwork.

To change the system. Since we have learned about commercialized food factories and farms, we have tried our best to stay away from them. While we know our one homestead won’t cause these factories and farms to change their ways, we hope we can inspire others to educate themselves and take a shot at homesteading. You don’t have to jump straight into livestock. Just try growing something! Homesteading can mean something different to everyone depending on their circumstances. Every little bit counts and can eventually add up and change the food industry!

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Whew! That was quite the post. I didn’t realize I was so passionate about homesteading until I wrote out our reasons for doing so. I would love to hear from you! What are your reasons for homesteading or wanting to homestead? Let me know below. Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up with the latest news from the homestead!

Here’s the link to the book I referenced. Definitely check it out! You will learn a lot.

Welcome!

Hi! Welcome to the Abundant Life Homestead. Thank you for stopping by. My name is Kelsey, and I am a homesteading wife and mother in the mountains of West Virginia. I grew up in the city but am now dedicated to a simpler life on the homestead. I enjoy cooking, baking, learning about homesteading, crocheting, reading, and spending time with my family.

Let me start by introducing the rest of the homestead family. This is the fearless leader of the homestead, my husband Chance. He is an RN and an extremely hard worker. He jumps headfirst into our homestead projects (even when I need a little extra convincing-more on that later.)

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Here is our sweet son, Henry. He is 20 months old and loves life on the homestead. His favorite activities are chasing his “bock bocks,” listening to music, picking the garden harvest (even if it isn’t ready), collecting eggs, and feeding the animals. He is obsessed with tractors and hats. He will be blessed with a baby sister in November. We are very excited!

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Inside the homestead, we have a cat, Gus, and a dog, Freckles. They clearly are living a tough life here.

 

Now onto the critters outside…

We have 23 buff Orpington hens all named Margaret. When we got them as chicks, it just seemed like the perfect name for them, and it has stuck! Everyone we know calls them Margaret. We also have one Australorp rooster named Jethro. He is the newest addition to the homestead.

We have four ducks that are all named Bill although three are female. (Have you ever tried to take a picture of ducks running away from you while you’re six months pregnant and waddling? Yeah, it was my first time too.)

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Tulip and Lincoln are our rabbits that we purchased from Polyface Farm. We are hoping to breed them for meat in the future.

A few months ago, we added four pigs to the mix. At that point, I realized we are insane. They have been a great addition to the homestead (except when they escape their paddock!)

There is the homestead family! We are excited to share our knowledge and journey with you. We are by no means experts, but we hope to inspire you to start your own homesteading adventure and learn from you along the way! Thanks for coming along for the ride. Hope to see you again!

Wishing you an abundant life,

Kelsey