It’s hard to look back at this year and sum it all up in a single blog post. It has been a wild, emotional ride!
This was a year of change. A season of discovering hope in the most primitive places. A time of dedication to what we know as the truth. A period of difficulties and growing. Months of taking action. A year of forcing ourselves out of our comfort zone. A year of seeing setbacks and learning from our mistakes. But we arrive at the end of these last 12 months and we find ourselves thankful for this time of growth.
It seems like a lot of the days spent here we are unsure of what to do. There’s just so much to accomplish. We aren’t sure where to start and feel like we have yet to complete anything. We have been figuring out this whole homesteading thing as we go. It’s new to us like an unfamiliar road we are traveling through.
We left our “normal” life to pursue a dream as a family. We are from the city in Southern California. We didn’t grow up on a farm or around farm animals. We never grew up with a food garden. Heck the first chicken I held was 3 years ago when I took a processing workshop! My wife worked in the fashion industry in Los Angeles. I worked as a computer drafter before we left.
All of that was about to change after I was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago and we became passionate for educating ourselves about the food that we were putting into our bodies to keep us alive and healthy. From there it avalanched into really discovering where our food comes from. We read books, blogs and took workshops on how to grow healthy, sustainable food and work the land. We began getting rid of our stuff, living minimally and consciously preparing ourselves for bigger steps. The next thing we knew we were selling our home and looking for land.
What we didn’t expect to find when we moved here was to meet genuinely inspiring people. Not only on social media, but also a real life community of influential, likeminded folk that were on this very same road we are traveling through.
Seeing first hand other homesteader’s experiences in raising animals, growing food and even the way they live has been very encouraging and we have learned from them.
This has been not an easy year for our family, BUT it has been very fulfilling and brimming with joy. All year we have been given little glimpses of hope and encouragement to keep moving and trust that if we continue to keep at it all of our hard work will not go to waste. I do believe that this entire process of following what we know, as the truth always will be about the journey. We go into 2017 very hopeful and filled with determination to keep trying to find a way to live in faith, purpose and be open minded to different opportunities that this year might bring.
Bone broth is an abundant source of healthy minerals and amino acids and it is healing for our bodies. We believe that by consuming bone broth regularly we are boosting our immune system by replacing these necessities that our bodies lose with age, during exertion, and illness. Bone broth is also excellent for joint repair, digestive system and skin, nail and hair health.
We started making our own bone broth after reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. After my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we started changing our diet. This book is life changing, it’s a great start for those wanting to make a change and we highly recommend it!
There are so many ways to make bone broth and for those that are just starting out, it can seem overwhelming and confusing at first, so I wanted to share how our family makes it and hopefully inspire others to start making healthier choices.
On the video, we make our broth from pastured chicken bones, but you can make yours from any healthy, grass-fed animal bones. Just make sure the animal was fed healthy and raised on a pasture. Also in the video, I didn’t use all of the ingredients list below, as I mentioned, it can be made from very few ingredients and whatever you have on hand.
Here is the recipe that I follow on an average day, but like I said, there is no real formula, just don’t forget the apple cider vinegar to help draw out all the minerals from the bones.
Bone Broth Recipe (from Chicken)
**Please note some of these ingredients were not featured in the video because they were already cooked with the chicken bones and still remained in the bag.
2 celery stalks
1 yellow onion with skin on
1 head of garlic with skin on
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon oregano
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
10 whole peppercorns
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 whole pastured chicken carcass, feet, neck or wings
DIRECTIONS for slow cooker:
Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker.
Fill with water.
Simmer for 24 hours.
Cool slightly, then ladle strained broth into jars.
Use within 4-5 days or freeze.
DIRECTIONS for stove top:
Place all the ingredients in a stainless steel stock pot.
Fill with water.
Simmer for 24 hours.
Cool slightly, then ladle strained broth into jars.
Use within 4-5 days or freeze.
DIRECTIONS for Instant Pot:
Place all the ingredients in the Instant Pot.
Fill with water.
Press Manual button, adjust time to 130 minutes.
Cool slightly, then ladle strained broth into jars.
Use within 4-5 days or freeze.
When we first arrived to our home we became so busy cleaning and fixing it that we never thought we were going to have time to plant a garden. I thought by the time we started it would be too hot or too cold to plant anything. I was inside gutting the house out and all I could think of was MUST GROW FOOD! I kept on looking at the land and was really anxious to grow something. Back in California we had a few raised garden beds and did square foot gardening. But when we looked at our surroundings here it was so much more! When we were at a good stopping point with the house we began to mark out our spot for the garden. We had a general idea what we wanted to grow. Mainly foods that we know we will eat. Also, growing more than what we need so we can give away was something we wanted to do. On the other hand we didn't want to grow so much that we couldn't keep up with it. Being our first garden on this scale it is going to be a learning experience that will always be evolving.
We started by buying a box of seeds from Johhny's seeds online. Typically it would be nice to buy the veggies already sprouted but it would have been way above our budget. So, we bought seeds to plant in the ground right away. I first rented a tiller for a few hours to dig up the grass and man it was a workout! The grass is so thick and the soil is very compacted. After we tilled it we covered it with some black tarp for a few weeks so the grass wouldn't grow back. Then i started making our rows to plant I realized that I was going to need something to help the process. Being that the rows are 30' long it was taking me way more time to dig a hilled row with just a shovel and a rake. I didn't want to rent a gas powered machine either. I ended up purchasing a HOSS Wheel Cultivator that helped tremendously. It's a simple tool that our ancestors would have used back in the day and it just takes some muscle and sweat to move it. The soil that is on our land is very clay like so over time I need to add organic matter into the soil like compost. Before we started the garden we started a compost pile but it takes about 6 months for the compost to be ready to mix in the soil. After we hilled up the rows we began to plant the seeds. We also waited until some of our family came and visited us to plant. They were a huge help to get the garden going. Planting the garden was a nice break from gutting out the house. So, we ended up planting about a month after we arrived!
We really haven't grew anything since we sold our house about 2 years ago so we were really wanting a garden. Something about digging in the dirt planting these tiny seeds and watering and then watching them grow into healthy food that is simply amazing! When Penelope was littler she would walk out to our garden and snack on real food. I miss seeing that. Growing real food was one of the reasons why we are here. We planted a seed and said a prayer and now we watch them grow into something amazing. Must grow food!
We bought land with a mobile home on it. This was not my first choice.
The location nor the home.
After selling our home in California we made a small profit. We felt as though we could go any place we wanted to. But we didn't do exactly that. We stayed put and we prayed. We followed Dave Ramsey and his recommendations for debt free living. That kept us from going overboard. We diligently paid off our debt (mostly our massive school loans and a car loan). Then as we considered what to do with the money we had left, we reminded ourselves that we were meant to live within our means.
With our list of priorities in hand, we set out looking for land.
It needed to be:
1. Near a good church
2. Within a family friendly community for Penelope
3. Have farmable land
My husband and I both dreamt of a log cabin that he could build or even an Amish made one. We also toyed with the idea of living in a hooked up yurt. An old single wide mobile was never on our list of dream homes.
When Jason returned from his visit to North Carolina to find us a property, I began romanticizing about the historical books I've read where the men would leave their families to go find land. They'd return with wild stories about how fertile the new land was. The family would then journey together in a covered wagon and upon reaching their new land, Pa would build them a cabin made of logs...
Well this was not how it went down.
Jason did find some amazing properties while on his hunt (and also while we vacationed in New Mexico) but none of the properties met all of the priorities on our list, except for one.
The land with the single wide mobile home.
This was the one.
During the move I prayed that the home would be decent. I knew it needed work and a good scrubbing. I envisioned myself taking on the role of Mrs. Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life. This woman was adventurous, romantic and brave! She knew that her husband's work was important so she rolled up her sleeves and confidently made a home out of a falling down, window shattered house. Knowing the heart of her husband, she helped him fulfill his calling by making a home where he needed to be.
The day we arrived to our home sweet home, I didn't feel so brave. My adventurous side was conquered by dead bugs and a stinky carpet. Every room and hallway I walked down I could hear my inner voice saying,
"No. Please No..." and "I have to live here???"
I did roll up my sleeves and take charge, but my heart was scowling and frowning at every broken piece of veneer trim and the nasty tub that proudly boasted of its past use. That night I prayed, "Please change my heart God." It was more like pleading. I so very much wanted to be thankful for what God wanted for us. And I knew I needed to change my attitude.
I keep holding onto these dreams, these ideals of how life is supposed to be or how I want my life to play out. And my hands get full and my mind heavy. I am learning to let go of what and how I think life should go, and just go with what God gives me. It's called acceptance of my place. I exchange my weakness for God's strength. It's called surrendering my will.
And when I do that, I am in awe of what he has blessed us with and truly, truly thankful for what I am given.
It's with empty hands that I can receive. I receive God's grace and receive his blessings.
We had our own plans and our own dreams to follow. I am so happy that we went with God's plan for us. I keep finding myself stopping to thank him for everything. Like the location and for our home.
We are moving full speed ahead and almost done with renovating the mobile home. It's been exciting to see the changes we've made and how quickly it is turning from a single wide mobile home to our home sweet home.
8 different Whole Foods
1 flat tire
Our road trip to North Carolina went really well. We felt like we had been planning this trip for years. Everything about this road trip was planned. We knew that we wanted to not rush it and try and take our time. Our goal was to arrive in North Carolina on the ninth day. We planned on camping out in back of our truck a few nights. We ended up camping out one night and staying at a decent hotel instead. Seemed like it took forever driving through Texas.
Our little girl did very well on the drive. We basically took all her toys with us so she will have things to do. We were also thankful for a good friend that gave her a giant bag full of activities and small toys all wrapped in tissue paper with notes on them. By the way, she maybe slept just a few hours in the car the entire 9 days!
Before we left we mapped out the different Whole Foods Markets we can stop by. We nearly stopped at every single one. A couple of the nights we stayed at an AirBNB in Austin and Nashville. They both were great places to stay and cheaper than a hotel. As we were coming into Austin my front tire began to lose air. So we spent the first half of the day finding a place that would fix the flat quickly. Luckily we did! Standing in front of a tire shop while it began to rain wasn't how I wanted to remember Austin. But man we were having too much fun!
Towards the last couple of days we were ready to get home. On the last morning headed home I got pulled over by a state trooper. Said I was driving carelessly! Then he said he was going to have his police dog sniff around for narcotics! He was the nicest cop ever. He ended up giving me a warning and saying basically that he pulled me over because his dog needed stretch his legs. Only two hours from our house I got a phone call from our neighbor saying there has been some people driving through our property in 4x4 truck and destroying our property. We were expecting the worst! I mean we were two hours away and we get a phone call like that!
We made it to our new place in nine days! No signs of a truck trashing our place! Looked like just as I left it 6 months prior. The first 20 minutes we arrived we met 2 neighbors and saw a snake! Overall the trip was a success and we would definitely do it again!
Our Road trip to NC over 2,500 miles away is going to be the longest we have ever driven. Trying to stick with our clean eating habits on the road always give us anxiety and this road trip is no different. We don’t want to settle for regular cheap fast food just because we are on the road. I don’t want to have the road be our excuse. At the end of our trip we want to feel good that we ate healthy food and our bodies feel strong from traveling so many miles.
Being that we will be on the road car camping for most of the days we cannot pack an entire weeks of meals in our car. We can pack some essentials and a small stove to cook some simple food but for the most part we have to live day by day. Our go to homemade foods like date rolls will be a must and they don't need to be on ice. We stocked up on some non perishable items from Thrive Market. Which has discounted healthy real food to buy on-line. Our usual staples are Epic beef jerky bars and Bearded Brothers Bars to last throughout the trip. Another easy food item that we will be making is sandwich wraps. Thrive Market has these organic, gluten free, paleo wraps called Wrawps that don't need to be refrigerated. These work really well on the go and they taste great. Planning our route and where to stay the night was really based on wanting to see different areas of the U.S. and also based on what healthy grocery stores are nearby along the way. Luckily there is like ten different Whole Foods grocery stores that we will be passing by during our entire trip. Whole Foods was essential on planning our trip around because we know we can have real food instead of fast food.
Hopefully by planning our route, meal plan and doing a little research prior we can arrive at our destination feeling healthy and strong from our epic road trip to NC.
After I graduated college, I got married and began my career in the fashion industry working for a high end, Los Angeles based fashion designer. My lifestyle was, at that point, all about consuming. Work was competitive and stressful, days were long and I remember feeling empty, constantly hungry and eager. Eager for something that I didn't possess.
Outside of work, I collected vintage furniture, vintage and designer clothing, and stuff that fulfilled hobbies. I would attempt to ditch the stress by attending hot yoga classes but that just added one more task to my long schedule and brought me home later and less time with my husband. I grew bitter about not having enough time.
The days of going to church with my family seemed like an impossible to tradition to carry on and too late to start with my husband because we were already set in our ways and well, our schedules were already full. I believed in God. Wasn't that enough?
In 2009, when Jason was diagnosed with a lymphoma cancer we prayed together for the first time. But when Jason became in remission, we returned back to our busy lives as normal.
Then in 2014, Jason came down with another serious illness, an unexplained full body rash and night sweats. (Those are the same symptoms as lymphoma)
Maybe because it seemed like yesterday but I am always thinking about what we just went through and how he was so sick and how I just kept begging God to heal him...
and He didn't. For 7 long months he didn't.
I prayed for healing everyday. It just seemed that Jason was getting worse. I started praying so much that every breath was a prayer. Every foot step was a prayer.
At first I was angry with God. How could a God of love allow this to happen to Jason? How could he ignore my cries out to him?
So one day I just started praying differently about my trust and strength to get through this....
It was such a difficult and dark time. There were nights when I had to help him with his clothes but they didn't want to come off, so I had to peel the dried blood stained clothes off of his raw rashy skin. There were days when I hoped our daughter didn't hear his screams of anguish or of his cries wishing to end it all.
It was such a difficult and dark time. When I had to hush a toddler's happy squeals into a whisper because "daddy's sleeping" and keep her entertained when all my brain wanted to do was "fix" daddy even though there was nothing seven different medical professionals could do. Nothing.
It was such a difficult and dark time. Sometimes I heard him cry at night when he thought that I had already fallen asleep. I couldn't imagine the pain that he was going through. I just wanted to lay my head on his chest and listen to his heartbeat. But I couldn't. I couldn't even touch him. Then I would lay in bed at night and cry too, but not because I was tired, not because I was scared, even though I was all those things, I cried for him. I missed his funny ways. I missed him and the times we had together. Not the stuff I was surrounded with. I wondered if life would always be like this for us; if this was the new normal. I prayed and asked God if he wasn't answering my prayers of healing because he was going to take him from me. I begged him not to.
It was such a difficult and dark time. Lots of tears and crying from both of us. But I couldn't even hug him when he cried because his purple skin was peeling and bleeding all over. So sometimes I just hugged his head. And I prayed out loud over him, for healing and for strength to get through this.
It was such a difficult and dark time. I felt alone, as a wife and as a mother. There were family members offering help but I still felt like a single mom taking care of two infants in need. I couldn't see past the illness. It was bigger and darker than my eyes could see. How long had he been sick? Days? Months? It felt like years.
What I couldn't see was that we were changing. We were breaking. Our soils were being prepared. Like the way a farmer first breaks the ground, rips out the weeds, clears out a path and turns the hard ground into soft soil. Because you see the old dirt wouldn't have been ready to receive what was to be planted.
It was during these difficult and dark times was when I learned I was weak in my faith. I had doubted God and his plans for us.
It was during these difficult and dark times was when I felt the comfort and closeness of God in my heart because I allowed God to meet me in my darkness, because I was reading scripture, praying throughout the day, and earnestly seeking Him.
It was during such difficult and dark times was when I learned how to pray. I stopped praying for what I wanted, which was immediate healing. I started praying that God would give us strength to endure this painful and dark season. I started praying for the grace to benefit from it, and the willingness to let God use it however he sees fit in order to bring glory to HIS perfect kingdom. And the courage to tell others how God worked in our lives.
Jason still isn't completely healed, But he is alive. And we are changed because of our journey. I left my career in the fashion industry shortly after Jason went through cancer, chemo, then remission. Little did I know that just within a short time, this prideful girl would willingly strip down to nothing and surrender my belongings; my career, my car, my big beautiful home, my designer clothes, my time and my heart to have a real relationship with Christ.
Since this illness, Jason and I have sold most of all of our belongings and are in the middle of moving across the country to find land and build a homestead and live with less and live simply.
This isn't a story of how we became farmers but how God has worked in our lives. How our faith has been made stronger. Our hearts have been prepared, seeds planted and now as a married couple its up to us to keep our roots in Jesus and bare fruit for others to see God in our lives. It's up to us to use our story of how we grew our faith to share with others.