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/

 

What herbs should I grow? A guide to common herbs that are easy to raise.

When planning an herb garden there are many choices: an indoor herb garden in containers, outdoors in containers, or in a garden or raised bed. It all depends on what you have available and what works best for you.

The most important question is, “What should I grow?”. The answer is, “Anything you want to, but make sure you’ll use it”.  Here are a few herbs that are easy to grow and are commonly used in the kitchen.

Basil

 

Chives

Oregano

Cilantro

Rosemary

Thyme

You can start all of these plants from seeds, but it can be difficult if you don’t have heat lamps and an indoor set up. The easiest thing to do is to buy seedlings, which you can do from most garden centers. In fact, I saw that Lowe’s, Atwoods, and Wal-Mart had all of these available while I was out shopping for other things today.

All of these herbs are quite hardy, and you will find they need little care. No fertilizer is needed as long as you harvest from your plant often. An inch of water will do per week, and some mulch around the base will help the plant retain moisture (if planted outside) . One of the biggest mistakes people make with herbs is letting it get dry, which quickly stuns the plant.

All of the herbs above couldn’t be anymore perfect for planting in pots, indoors or out. Try to put one plant per 12 inch pot as you will find that the seedling can use all of the space. Be sure to keep your potted basil in a warm spot where it gets plenty of sun. If you need to, move the pot around as the sun shifts in order for it to get a solid 6 hours of warmth.

If you are new to herb gardening, like I said in the previous post, I would just stick to picking 3 herbs to start with and then add later, if you see some success. It is also important to not get too crazy with the planting. If you are not planning on preserving (through drying or freezing) or using your herbs as soon as harvested, then you really want to go small. These babies can get big and overwhelming to a new herb gardener quickly.

As with anything, moderation is key. My favorite part is the smell of these herbs. There is just something about them and how they immediately make me feel. Do you have any tips to share? Let me know in the comments, or over on our group Facebook Page.

 

The Beginner’s Guide to Homesteading

You have decided that you want to homestead, or you already do…. a little. Now what? Once you start looking at blogs, websites, journals, Pinterest, you fall down the rabbit hole of overwhelm. There is so much to do, to make, to be responsible for! The result, is that you don’t end up doing any of it and simply just wish you did.

Sound familiar? It does to me. I also came up with lots of excuses as to why I couldn’t EVER do THAT! I forgot about doing it, but that nagging little voice in the back of my head kept telling me that I should homestead.

Where do you start?  The key is to pick one or two small things to make a change. Then after 30 days or so pick up something else

Start a container herb garden with no more than 3 herbs. As they grow USE them in the food that you cook.

  

Start a small garden with no more than 4 types of vegetables. As they grow USE them in the food that you cook.

Re-purpose old items. Instead of buying something new all of the time, and constantly throwing things away, re-purpose them. That old mayonnaise container? Wash it out and use to to hold something in your craft closet. Old socks? Use them for dust rags. Old chicken feeders? Turn them into bee feeders.

  Make you own __________________. Laundry detergent. Soap. Jams/Jellies. Clothes. Dishcloths. Bread. You name it. Pick one thing that you can make to benefit your household and do it.

So think about what is easy or smart for you and your family. Do it for 30 days and then add something else if you feel inclined, or just do that one thing and perfect it.

I’m going to help. This week I’m going to be focusing on how to start an herb garden and how to use it. This is honestly how I started my journey and it’s a great baby step. If you’re way past that, then you’ll enjoy some of the recipes I’ll share with fresh herbs. It’s going to be a fun week. Stay tuned.

Easy Chicken Salad and Lunch Prep

As I continue in my quest in not eating out, I have to conquer the worst meal of the day…..lunch. It’s not that I don’t like lunch, but it is that as a teacher my lunch time is usually used for other things. I am known to grab something in a bag or a box or run through a drive thru instead of a healthy lunch of real food.

Chicken salad is not something that I’ve been a fan of. I realize that there are about a million recipes for chicken salad out there and I really haven’t found one that works for me. It’s either too bland, too mushy, even too chicken-y (yes that’s a word!).

This recipe is one that I altered after trying several different other kinds. The main thing that works for me is the zip from the chili powder, the sweet from the grapes, and the crunch from the almonds. I eat this with crackers, or in a whole grain wrap. It’s not just my favorite, but it’s also a favorite of everyone in the house. I now have to hide it in the back of the fridge to be able to make it last.

My Chicken Salad….

My Chicken Salad….

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups Diced Cooked Chicken Breast
  • 1/2 cup Green or Purple seedless Grapes, quartered
  • 1 Stalk Celery, trimmed, diced
  • 1/3 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/8 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. slivered almonds

Instructions

  1. Combine chicken, grapes, and celery in a bowl.
  2. Combine with mayo and chili powder (add salt and pepper if desired)
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before eating.
http://houghfamilyhomestead.com/2017/03/28/my-chicken-salad/

3 Things you should think about before starting to homestead.

Because it is a Monday, I’m in a sucky mood. I know, I know, “suck” is a bad word that a lot of people don’t like, but that’s how I honestly feel about Mondays. It has nothing to do with my job, I love it. It’s just because I have a psychotic love affair with my weekends and by Monday I’m just feeling resentful that Saturday and Sunday have left me.

Speaking of suckage (if that’s not a word it should be), I was recently listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and they were talking about “embracing the suck”. The were talking about prepping, but I honestly feel that it could also apply to decisions regarding homesteading tasks.

Homesteading is super cool! I’m not going to lie. Raising bees, or chickens, or goats, harvesting beautiful bounty out of your garden, making your own clothes through knitting and crochet, making your own soap, going off grid, it’s all AHHHmazing! You should do it, you totally should! But before you jump in headfirst there are a few things that you should think about.

  1. Will I MAKE the time? No matter which aspect of homesteading you decide to take on, remember that it takes TIME. Do you have the time to devote to it? This is especially a question that you should ask yourself if you are going to grow veggies or herbs, or if you are thinking about raising animals.
  2. Do I really want to do this? The answer to this question is almost always a resounding YES, however, the question you should ask yourself is, “Will I want to do this a month from now? A year?” Homesteading is a commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
  3. Am I ready to embrace the suck? This is the biggest question that you should think about. With all the cool and amazing things that come along with homesteading, are you ready to do the less cool things? Are you willing to weed your garden on a regular basis? Are you willing to tend to chickens (including wiping their butts? Yes this is something you will have to do), Are you willing to clean your hive frames after the season? Are you willing to get your hands dirty and add compost to your garden?

The fruit of your labors are going to be worth it, but are you willing to put in the work? If you answered yes to these questions then get busy and start today! If you aren’t ready to embrace the suck and make time just yet, then you can still homestead in small ways:

  • buy local produce
  • create home cooked meals with real food
  • garden in small containers
  • learn to knit, crochet, or sew
  • reduce your footprint (conserving energy, water, etc)

You don’t have to go all out to  be a homesteader, like I’ve said before it is a mind set.

Want to talk about it? Have questions? Come visit our Hough Family Homestead Facebook Page and join the conversation today!

Crock Pot Pork Loin and Butternut Squash

I have been struggling as of late. It’s that crazy nutso time of year for us called spring. With spring we have added responsibilities from the garden and the bees, but both of the girls are also in high school soccer and club volleyball. I noticed a few weeks ago that we had gotten into the slump of eating out WAY too much. I have always prided myself on the fact that we eat fresh and home-cooked meals 90% of the time, but we were barely hitting 50% because we were just so busy and honestly too tired to make dinner.

I reached out to some friends that have similar lifestyles to ours, as well as my facebook group for some ideas and I pretty much all got the same advice, suck it up.

Ok, ok, not in so many words, but the gist from everyone was to make the time, plan ahead, and make use of things like slow cookers, BBQ grills, and Instant Pots. I know this. I just didn’t want to. I stomped my feet around for a day or two, then pulled up my big girl boots and got crack – a – lackin’ in the kitchen.

I know why I didn’t want to eat at home, but I didn’t want to face it. We had all gotten bored with having the same cycle of food, yet I just was so tired and busy that I didn’t have the energy to come up with some new ones. Well, the rest of this month, I’ll be knocking your socks off with some great new easy, go-to, healthy recipes .

This recipe was a take on my Herb Encrusted Pork Loin, but one that could be done in the slow cooker.  I really haven’t liked to do pork loin in the slow cooker as I always thought it was super dry. After talking to a friend, she mentioned that if you sear the loin first, and then pour broth over it to cook (instead of water) it would help seal in the moisture! She was absolutely correct and I will honestly never cook a pork loin in the slow cooker any other way! The bonus with this recipe is that one side is already in the pot so it’s not too much more to think. I cracked open a jar of my home canned green beans and it was a perfect dinner for the 4 of us.

Crock Pot Pork Loin and Butternut Squash

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Serving Size: 6

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. cubed Butternut Squash
  • 1/2 tsp EACH: kosher salt, black pepper, pumpkin pie spice, garlic powder
  • 1.5 lb. boneless pork loin rosast
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 quart chicken stock or bone broth
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened apple sauce

Instructions

  1. Place cubed butternut squash into slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine all the seasonings. Rub mixture all over pork loin; set aside.
  2. Heat Olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. When hot, add pork loin and brown on all sides. Place the pork on top of the butternut squash in slow cooker. Pour broth and applesauce over. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours.
  3. Remove cooked pork to a cutting board. Portion out and drizzle sauce over pork and squash.
http://houghfamilyhomestead.com/2017/03/25/crock-pot-pork-loin-butternut-squash/

If you want more motivation and inspiration RIGHT.THIS.MINUTE, then here are a few resources that should help you find what you are looking for. Remember, recipes are just a guideline, they are not the gospel. Feel free to tweak and change things to make something that you know you’ll love.

The Healthy Make-Ahead Cookbook: Wholesome, Flavorful Freezer Meals the Whole Family Will Enjoy – $10.03 Paperback / $1.99 Kindle

The Make-Ahead Kitchen: 75 Slow-Cooker, Freezer, and Prepared Meals for the Busy Lifestyle – Paperback  $16.74 / Kindle $7.99

Make-Ahead Paleo: Healthy Gluten-, Grain- & Dairy-Free Recipes Ready When & Where You Are – Paperback $17.97 / Kindle $9.99