The first bird out of the nest.

For the past few months it was really quiet over here at HFH. The blog and my social media presence took a major time out. Back in March when I launched HFH I was really naive to think that I would have the time and effort to do this site justice.  Then in May it hit me like a ton of bricks, my first baby, our hard working farmhand, our precious daughter was graduating high school and leaving us.

I know that this is a hard time for many people in our situation. I made the conscious choice to just stay in touch through my Instagram page, and otherwise just soak up every minute left with my oldest under our roof. I’m happy to say that it was the best decision I could have made.

The summer months went by like days and the days went by like seconds. Before I knew it August was here and it was time to move my girl to school. I was sad because I would miss her, but happy for the exciting things that would happen in her future.

(One last picture after we set up her room and I left her on her own)

The days and the past few weeks that followed were hard on us for a few reasons.

  • Our house felt so empty (even though we still have one more at home and added another as a host family for a college student).
  • I was scared and worried for her safety constantly.
  • I worried that the “real world” would chew her up and spit her out.

(Her first day of college picture that she sent to please her mama.) 

She’s been there for a month now, and I’ve had some time to think about it and while I still worry because I am her mother and she’s only 17 and living 100 miles away from me, I’ve come to peace with it for the following reasons.

  1. She’s a farm kid. – One of the biggest compliments we heard about this engineering school is that they LOVE farm kids. They want them in their programs because they are hard workers and are able to problem solve better than kids who were not raised on or near a farm.
  2. Her incredible work ethic. – Farm/Homesteading kids have a great work ethic, because they learned from an early age that chores need to be done and done well before any fun begins. Animals, crops, family members, all depend on them getting their work done and done right.
  3. Trusting my parenting. – This was the hardest for me the first few weeks, but I’ve honestly come to peace with it.  My husband and I have spent the past 17 years parenting her and doing the best that we know. And now it’s time to trust ourselves and our parenting and let her navigate the world on her own.

I’m sad, because I miss her, but I know she misses me, or at least I think she does….enough to text or call me when she doesn’t know how to do something. I know she still needs me, and goodness knows, I still need her.

Best Damn Soup Evah!

It’s fall y’all! Well, not really but it is September, the month of my birth, the month that fall will begin, and the time when all things tend to get busy for me as a teacher, volleyball mom, cabinetmaker’s wife.  I talk often about putting veggies away for winter and #preppingforwinter, and I’m not talking about some random fierce winter because…. I live in Oklahoma. Next week the highs are supposed to be in the 90’s all week, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want something easy to fix for myself and my family on a busy weeknight. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t want to use all natural ingredients.

Enter….the best damn soup evah! What makes this soup so great? Well, it’s wonderful on it’s own as it’s a just a homemade vegetable beef soup, but what makes it even bettah’ is that every ingredient in the soup was either grown and harvested by me, or killed/butchered by us. I know where EVERY. SINGLE. INGREDIENT. comes from and since I’ve either frozen or canned all the ingredients, it’s super easy to make.

This is why I do what I do. Gardening, farming, homesteading, plus having a full time job is hard work, but it’s so worth it in times like these. In fact, when I said I was making this soup, my oldest farmhand (daughter), a freshman in college, decided to come home for the weekend so she could eat the soup!

***Hint – Want to make it even better? When serving plop down a nice dollop of your favorite grass fed buttah! Butter makes everything better, and enhances the taste even more.

Best Damn Soup Evah!

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts canned tomatoes
  • 1 quart canned green beans
  • 1 quart canned carrots
  • 1 quart canned potatoes
  • 1 pint frozen corn
  • 1 quart frozen cabbage
  • 1 Tbspn garlic powder
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp bail
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbspn salt
  • 2 pounds beef (I use elk, venison, axis venison, wild hog, etc)

Instructions

  1. Turn crockpot on low (7-8 hours) or high (4-5 hours)
  2. Pour tomatoes into crockpot, using an immersion blender to blend them smooth.
  3. Brown meat of choice in a pan. Keep all the drippings. When done browning pour meat and drippings into the crockpot.
  4. Add carrots, potatoes, corn, green beans, and spices into the crockpot.
  5. Thaw cabbage just enough that you can chop it into small pieces, and put into crockpot.
  6. Stir all ingredients together and leave alone.
http://houghfamilyhomestead.com/2017/09/13/best-damn-soup-evah/

Recipe: Cucumber and Squash Summer Salad

Need a good summer go-to salad? Something that is light, refreshing, and flavorful? Look no further than this fantastic recipe that we have tweaked. A few years ago, the girls and I began a summer tradition of “cooking around the world”. We have used the Olympics and Soccer World Cups as inspiration in the past. It has always been a fantastic experience and often some of the recipes that we try become quick family favorites. This particular recipe is a version of one that comes from the Ivory Coast in Africa.

I’m going to be completely honest. When I heard that I would be trying raw summer squash I flinched. I’m a southern girl who up until that point thought the best way to eat squash was fried with cornmeal. The first time we tried it, I was hooked and so were the girls. The combination of sweet, sour, and spicy was wonderful.

The tweaking that we did was adding garlic, less vinegar, and more red pepper. Feel free to tweak it as well! It’s quick and easy to make as well as the perfect addition to a potluck get together. I never worry that someone else will make it and I have yet to bring leftovers home! Also, if you find yourself, as I do, with a bounty of summer squash or cucumbers, this is a great way to make use of them!

Cucumber and Squash Summer Salad

Yield: 12

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper (flakes or ground)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder.

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl add cucumbers, squash, and onion.
  2. In a small bowl add hot water and sugar. Stir until dissolved.
  3. To water/sugar mixture, add vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper, and garlic, mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour liquid mixture over vegetables and then stir.
  5. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and stir before serving.
http://houghfamilyhomestead.com/2017/07/05/amazing-cucumber-squash-summer-salad/

Preserving Your Harvest: Freezing Broccoli

I know that I’ve been MIA for awhile. I’m learning how to balance this new life we’ve entered into. I can’t express how much your life changes when you add livestock to your homestead. Currently we have 28 chickens and have also added 4 hogs (meat hogs). However, I’m back on track. The garden exploding at an exponential rate and the harvest is coming quickly.

Many have asked how I preserve our harvest and have been begging for videos of how I do it. I’m new into the foray of videos, especially those I upload on YouTube. However, I have a series of them that will be coming this week. The first one is one of the easiest to do. You can use this method with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini and squash. It is simply blanching and preparing for the freezer.

Watch the video below. Let me know what you think and what you would like to see next!

The making of memories….Squash Jam (recipe)

This time of  year is when the garden typically starts to explode. I am feverishly trying to get all of the harvest frozen, canned, or dehydrated. But this is also the time where I tend to make memories. If you’ve been following me for any amount of time you have heard me mention Grandma Polly (my husband’s grandmother). I credit her, and her mother for teaching me just about all I know about homesteading. Grandma is getting older, and doesn’t do as much in the kitchen, as a result I am blessed to be able to do her canning and preserving for her.  Last year for her birthday I gifted her with her favorite Squash Jam. She eats it almost every morning with biscuits or toast. Last week she mentioned that she was almost out and hinted that she would like me to make some more.

Being able to serve and give back to the woman that has given so much to me is one of the greatest things that I feel like I can do, so of course I agreed. This is not something that I personally use or make for our family, as we don’t use much in the way of jellies or jams outside of apple butter. But it’s incredibly easy. One of the neat things about zucchini and summer squash is that it takes on the flavor of just about anything, which is why the secret ingredient to this is Jello! Want to make some easy jam? Here’s the recipe.

6 cups of squash peeled and ends cut off.  Using the food processor, I blend the squash until smooth.

Cook the squash, on medium heat, until completely soft and excess what has been evaporated. Be careful not to scorch.

Add 1 box of pectin, stir in thoroughly, and bring to a hard boil.

Add sugar, bring back to a hard boil. Remove mixture from heat and then add 1 box of Jello.  I used peach Jello for this recipe, but I have used strawberry as well in the past.

Spoon in to hot jars and then wipe the jars clean.

Place in a hot water bath and process half pints for 10 minutes, pints for 15 minutes, and quarts for 20 minutes.

Remove from the hot water bath and wait several hours until jars are sealed and cool.

Squash Jam

Yield: 12 half pints, 6 pints, or 3 quarts

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Squash grated or blended
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 box (3 oz.) Jello (I use Peach, but you can use pretty much anything else)
  • 1 box Sure-Jell Pectin

Instructions

  1. 1. Peel zucchini and/or summer squash.
  2. 2. Either grate, or use a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. 3. Place in a pot and under medium heat, cook until soft.
  4. 4. Add pectin, stir thoroughly, and cook to a hard boil.
  5. 5. Add all sugar at once, stir thoroughly, and cook again to a hard boil.
  6. 6. Remove from heat and stir in Jello mix.
  7. 7. Spoon into hot jars.
  8. 8. Place lids and bands on jars.
  9. 9. Place in a hot water bath. Process jelly jars for 10 minutes, pints for 15 minutes, and quarts for 20 minutes.
  10. 10. Remove from hot water bath and allow to cool and seal completely before storing.
http://houghfamilyhomestead.com/2017/06/14/making-memories-squash-jam-recipe/

Making time to homestead

As I’ve said before homesteading, to me, is a state of mind. Homesteading is making a home the way you want to. It means different things to different people and that is OK. However, when contemplating whether or not to homestead, or how much to dive into, I forgot to mention the most important thing that you must have… time.

The collage above, is just a small snippet of our homesteading adventure: gardening, cooking, preserving, raising chickens, tending to bees, knitting, herbology, etc. In order to homestead, you have to have the time to put into it. I’ll rephrase that, you have to MAKE the time. That means that some other things go by the way side. Unfortunately, when I launched this site back in March, I didn’t take that into account and instead of spending time here I haven’t been making the time.  When you become a homesteader, you have to make peace with the fact that you will be a life long learner. I learn something new every day on this journey. The most recent thing that I’ve learned is that I have to make time and learn to slow down a bit.

  1. Living things have their own time table. You must be patient but also ready at a moment’s notice. Whether it is chickens, bees, the garden, or my roses they all have their own time. You can’t rush things, but at the same time, you must be ready when they need you. Case in point is our bees. We are often asked when we are going to have honey for sale. I tell people, “Hopefully soon, but the bees will let us know”.  The answer is, I have no answer, I can only guess and that has to be ok with me.
  2. There is a season for everything and you have to be ready. People who don’t garden, don’t understand that you can’t grow everything all the time. You have to be prepared to eat seasonally ( like eating tons of asparagus in May, but no corn until late June) and be ready to preserve seasonally as well. Right now, my green beans, squash, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, cauliflower and onions are exploding in the garden. Time to get them together and preserve them now. Before I know it I’ll be knee deep in corn, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic.
  3. What deserves your time? This is a trap that I fall into at times. I feel like EVERYTHING is important and must be attended to. That is not the case. You must have priorities and set them accordingly. Last week I spent 2 days canning potatoes, green beans and carrots. It was fun and I’m proud of what I did, but during those 2 days, we had leftovers one night and then ate out another because I was just too tired and my kitchen was too busy with canning. You know what, it’s ok.
  4. Procrastination is the root of all evil…or at least weeds. When gardening and homesteading you cannot procrastinate because living things depend on you. It is much easier for me to go down the Netfl!x rabbit hole, than to get out and weed the tomato plants, but if I don’t get the weeds out, they will impede the growth of the plants ( having flashbacks of the morning glory infestation of 2015 *shudder*). If you don’t put the chickens up at night, a predator will get them, if you don’t get the bees their sugar water, they won’t make the honey you want. Quite literally you reap what you sow.

But I have also been selfish. I started this site in order to help others on their homesteading journey and in that I have failed. So buckle up, it’s about to get fun around here. The garden is hoping, the canner is going, and the recipes are starting to flow. I promise to share it ALL with you and to learn more from you all as well!

Fustercluck….aka how I became a crazy chicken lady.

So far in our homesteading journey we have conquered knitting, canning and preserving, gardening on a large scale, hunting/fishing for our food, and beekeeping. We have all wanted chickens for a long time, but it was never the right time. This spring has been especially busy with our jobs, the girls’ school and sports, as well as getting ready for my oldest’s graduation and such. It was the worst time of all.

So of course on April 12th a month ago from today, at the worst possible time, we got chickens. The chickens are a hodge-podge mixture of sex links, Rhode Island Reds, Sussex, and French Copper Marans. We started with 14. The girls were thrilled. Even Em, my oldest, who had no interest in the chickens besides eating them, fell in love immediately.

Like other experiences that we have had in the past with bringing home living things, it’s all amazing and fun until it wears off a week later. However, that has not be the case with the chickens. There has been a lot of chicken snuggling and playing. They have been living in a water tank in our garage for the past month. The girls talk to them and most have a name.

Both the girls and my husband were quick to start on the building of a coop out at our farm. Everyone was involved from the preparation, planning, building, electric, plumbing, heat/air (yeah it’s a pretty sweet place) the girls were involved actively.

There has been lots of playtime on their favorite blanket and a few are quite good models and love being photographed. However, my youngest is a little frustrated that they are not potty trained, no matter how hard she tries.

Part of homesteading is to use what you have, and make due. We wanted an “outdoor area” for the chicks that would be safe and help them learn about being outside. We decided to move one of our hot houses off of the raised bed and use it as a chicken playpen instead. To say it  has been successful is an understatement. I swear they look forward to it each day.

The coop is finally finished and is completely built of materials we already had on hand. We will be moving the chicks out to the coop this weekend and then adding more new chicks. The coop is a little on the large side, but with our family you go big, or don’t go at all.

This is a side by side comparison of the same chick. On the left is Einstein at a week old and on the right is a pic taken a few days ago at around 5 weeks. It’s insane how fast they grow.  This whole experience has been great, and not so great. In retrospect, we were not really as prepared as we thought we were. Just because we had all the supplies, we really weren’t prepared for how much time it would take to care for them. I am very thankful for the support and advice of others on how to proceed. I couldn’t have made it through without a few books that were mentioned to us.

Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally

Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, 3rd Edition

My biggest advice for taking on this journey is to think it through completely and research the amount of time that it will take. Overall it’s as with anything that is homesteading, it’s been an adventure, a trial, and definitely a fustercluck at times.

Easy Homemade Sloppy Joes

I could start by saying that this is the busiest time of the year for us, but I’d be lying if I said that. Our family is always busy. I’m not sure if it’s because we are all stress junkies, over committed, or that we call just enjoy having many activities, hobbies, responsibilities, or we are all insane.

Whatever the reason, at least 3 nights a week at our house finds us eating in shifts, or having little time for dinner. We LOVE our dinner times together. It’s the time that we connect, talk about our day, laugh, and de-stress before the next activity, appointment, responsibility. It is true that I try to cook 90% of the time. I also try to cook as natural as possible. But in full disclosure, there are nights that we are running through a drive thru, or eating leftovers.

 Coming up with something new and different can be exhausting and tedious. However, just tweaking a good old comfort food recipe can really make a difference.

We love sloppy joes. There was a time when we had them at least once a week. The can of processed M*nwich was a staple that I picked up each week on my grocery store trip.

 The rub happens, when you have a husband that doesn’t eat bread (of any kind), you have two teenagers that MUST have hamburger buns, and you yourself have to watch how much bread you eat.  The awesome things about these Sloppy Joes is that they can be a meal within themselves. You can eat them with buns the old fashioned way, in a bowl just by itself, or in a low carb wrap. It’s versatile and a little different from the traditional Sloppy Joe, but definitely an upgrade in my opinion.  Have you ever tweaked a comfort food? How did it work out? Let me know in the comments!

Easy Homemade Sloppy Joes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. Lean Ground Beef (or ground pork. turkey, or vension)
  • 1 cup Sweet Onion (red, white, or yellow is fine) finely diced
  • 1/2 cup Green Bell Pepper, finely diced
  • 1.5 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2/3 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Ketchup
  • Two 8 oz cans No-Salt Tomato Sauce
  • 1.5 tsp Mustard
  • 15 oz. can Black Beans drained, rinsed
  • 14 oz. can No-Salt Diced Tomatoes
  • 6 oz. can Tomato Paste

Instructions

  1. Cook first 5 ingredients in a large pot over medium heat until meat is browned. Stir to break up meat so it crumbles. Drain off any fat.
  2. Add water and remaining ingredients
  3. Stir well and bring to a boil
  4. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
http://houghfamilyhomestead.com/2017/04/21/easy-homemade-sloppy-joes/

3 Reasons why I’m a “Prepper” and why you should be too!

When people find out that we are homesteaders the first question I get is almost always (99.9% of the time), “Are you one of those Doomsday Preppers?”. I used to answer with, “No, not at all. We aren’t preppers!”.  But then I realized that I was lying to them and myself. Yes we are preppers and yes you should be too.

Why be a Prepper?

1. Sh*t Happens.  No I’m not talking about a zombie apocalypse, the grid going down, or a total economic collapse, but rather more like job loss or loss of income due to illness.  Yes we have insurance and savings, but those would be better used paying the house payment and electric bill. Having food storage that is from the garden, all natural, and free from chemicals as well as meat that was harvested from hunting and fishing sure makes me feel a little better that we wouldn’t starve and could still eat the same way we do.

2. Temporary Emergency. A few years ago there was an ice storm in our area that knocked out power to some homes for up to 2 weeks. Being prepared with fuel, fresh water, food, and other necessities makes it much easier if you are thrust into a weather emergency.

3. Being a good neighbor.  A lot of people who know us say, “If there is an apocalypse I’m coming to your house  and you can take care of me”. Yeah…. no. I’m not. However, a few years ago a sweet family that we love had a job loss in the family and was financially strapped for about 6 months. During this time we were able to give them food from the freezer and canning closet as well as fresh veggies from our garden. We were able to help them in a sustainable way and we were able to show our girls the meaning of being a good neighbor.

Being self sufficient and reliant is awesome and although we are only probably about 60% of where we want to be, it still give us an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that we have plans, food, and the ability to take care of ourselves and possibly others.

Now, I’m not saying that we, or you should go live off the grid in the bush somewhere, but definitely do some small things that will make you more sufficient, less reliant on commercial society, and keep your family safe in possible emergency situations.

What do you think of when someone talks about being a prepper? Are you a prepper? Have any tips?

Baked Chicken Caprese

One of the best things about growing herbs either indoors or outdoors, is having them at the ready. I used to cook with the dried herbs I found in grocery stores.  I thought it was the same thing, yeah….it’s not.

Whether it’s rosemary for Butter Butt Chicken, or oregano for my Herb Encrusted Pork Loin, there is no substitute for being able to grab fresh herbs for your recipes.

My favorite thing to eat in the summer is Caprese Salad, it just screams summer and deliciousness. I was looking for some new easy, but flavorful recipes to make for dinner. Our family loves baked chicken, and I love Caprese salad so I decided to combine the two and the results were phenomenal. Seriously, I had no idea how it would turn out. Every single person in our home loved it and begged for more (even my 17 y/o who is QUITE the picky eater). You can serve it with a side of roasted veggies or a nice side salad and it’s perfect for a busy evening, or even a nice Sunday dinner! Give it a try and let me know what you think about it!

Baked Chicken Caprese

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Entree

Cuisine: Italian

Yield: 6

Serving Size: 6

Baked Chicken Caprese

Ingredients

  • 3 large chicken breasts
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 1 package mozzarella pearls
  • 1 cup washed and trimmed (stems off) fresh basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Butterfly each chicken breast and then place between two sheets of wax paper. Pound thinly (I use a wooden rolling pin to pound the chicken).
  4. Lay each thinned breast on the cookie sheet.
  5. Layer each breast with basil leaves, sliced romas, and mozzarella pearls.
  6. Fold each piece of chicken in half (think hamburger fold).
  7. Sprinkle garlic powder, salt, and pepper on outside of chicken breast.
  8. Cook at 375 for 30 minutes.
  9. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
http://houghfamilyhomestead.com/2017/04/16/baked-chicken-caprese/