DIY

Homestead Fixer-Upper | Small Farmhouse Style Living Room

We set out on a journey to buy our first home in 2008, two years after we got married. We were ambitious little things, but we knew that the only home we could afford would be a “fixer upper”. The housing market had almost completely bottomed out, and almost every single house we put a contract on was snatched up right before we could get to it, or shortly thereafter. But in March of 2008, we bought our very first home. A quaint little rambler nestled in a wooded subdivision on a steep hillside. At the bottom of the hill, back in the woods, sets a little creek that runs through and hosts minnow catching children all summer long.

Back then I had no idea what I wanted our fixer upper to look like or be like. I was young, had never had to think about home decor, and wasn’t even a great housewife. Back then, the thought of a farmhouse style home didn’t really make much sense to me. But I also didn’t know that we would soon have chickens in the backyard and various other farm animals running around.

We’ve put a lot of sweat and muscle into our little home since 2008, and today I want to share with you one of our most recent projects that we’ve just about completed—our farmhouse style living room. Now, it’s  not quite a living room anymore, but it’s definitely a wonderful sitting room. It’s small and quaint, and finally, I’m in love with it!

Before I go any further, these pillows above. My goodness, how I love them. I love all things from The Rustic Mod home decor! They have the best items for farmhouse decor, too.

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All Natural Dryer Sheets | Wool Dryer Balls and Essential Oils

I feel most nostalgic during the fall and winter seasons. Holidays are so important to me, and some years it’s hard to find a balance between carrying out old traditions, and creating new ones of our own. Recently, though, I’ve been trying to find nostalgia in scents. The wood stove starts this for me every single year. The smell of cedar wood burning, or just the essence of smoke rolling down to the ground.
Sometimes it’s not the woodstove. The woodstove nostalgia carries over into sugar cookies, or pies, or turkey or ham — or those scented pine cones everyone loves.
In the spring months, it’s tulips or the smell of fresh water in a river bed. Light and airy scents keep us joyful and the sun shines bright and beautiful. I love those smells. I want to take them everywhere with me all year long.
I love scents, I just love them. Candles, wax burners, detergent, dryer sheets. But I found that I was using dryer sheets more often than not. And as many of us know, dryer sheets emit strong harmful chemicals into the air, and essentially, right up your family’s nostrils as they put their clothes on. While you might smell delightful, you might not feel so delightful. Studies have been done that show high amounts of chemicals being released, and some have even speculated that they can be linked to Alzheimers, neurological disorders, and even cancer.
In an effort to reduce our carbon foot print, and to created a healthier living environment, I recently discovered wool dryer balls. And let me tell you, I am absolutely in love with them.

I was strolling through the store a few weeks ago and out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of some wool dryer balls. As with anything, I automatically take my phone out and say to myself, I bet I can find these cheaper on amazon. Yes, of course I can. And I even found organic ones!

So I went home, hit that order button, and in two days I received my 6 organic wool dryer balls. Awesomesauce.

Dryer balls are not only a good alternative to scented dryer sheets, they also naturally soften clothing without leaving behind a residue. I can honestly say that my clothes are the fluffiest they have ever been since using these dryer balls. They are so soft. My towels are actually fluffy again!

Since I already have essential oils (EOs) on hand at all times, the EO part was easy peasy. But it was especially easy for me to choose which EO I wanted to start with. I started with the beloved Cedarwood.

I chose Cedarwood simply because it is uplifting. It also reminds me of my grandparent’s old house in the winter months, or the old cedar chests that my grandma used to keep winter sweaters or old blankets in. When she would pull them out, everything smelled like cedar. Everything. It was lovely. The best part, however, is the cedarwood also promotes a clear mind, relaxation, and focus.

The best thing about dryer balls is that you can switch up the scent whenever you want to. Maybe one day you could do peppermint or clove for the winter months—this also helps rid clothes of any sickness yuckies floating around on clothes. In the spring and summer, you can do tangerine or citrus scents. Don’t forget that EOs are dual purpose as well, not just for scent, but for aromatherapy. While the EOs won’t linger long, the first initial pull on of a shirt can fill your airways with aroma that could bring joy, happiness, peace, relaxation, motivation, or just a cleared mind. Choose blends like Balance, or Elevation, if you’re hoping to rejuvenate yourself each morning.

There are blends such as Purify, that are natural cleansing blends, which I highly suggest as well.  Purify is an exclusive combination of essential oils that purify and eradicate odors in a natural, safe way. This uplifting blend combines citrus and pine essential oils that leave an airy, fresh scent on surfaces and in the air.

So, here’s how you do it…

6-8 drops essential oil
1. At first,  your dryer balls may have a plasticy smell to them from sitting inside of plastic shipping for such a long amount of time. You can simply toss them into the dryer for 20 minutes to release that smell, or you can add the EOs and dry them for a few minutes.
2. When you’re ready to dry a load of laundry, simple place 6-8 drops of the essential oil of your choice on one dryer ball. Make sure you space them out all over. Do this for each dryer ball that you choose to put into the dryer. The more dryer balls you use, the more scent you’ll have, and the quicker your clothes will dry. I typically only use 4.
3. Set aside.
4. As you place your wet laundry into the dryer, layer your dryer balls, with the last ball  being place on top of the last article of clothing. This layer helps the dryer balls float throughout the entire load, rather than just around the outer edges.
5. Once your laundry is dry, pull out the laundry slowly, and collect the dryer balls as you see them. I place them in a little basket in my laundry room until they are ready to be used again.
Your clothes will not be riddled with scent, but just a light airy scent. You could, of course, add more EO to your liking, but we like to keep it airy.
Essentially, you could use the dryer balls twice in a row. My dryer balls smell just as good during a second use before adding more EOs, but it’s just not as potent on the clothes.
…and that’s it! Easy peasy…done!
If you’d like to join my essential oils family, please contact me. We have lots of fun in our group, and I’m here to help get you started with which oils could help whatever is ailing you specifically.

 

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Canning Peaches With Raw Honey

Canning is hard work, people—let me tell you. I do a little canning each year, but nothing like what my great Aunt used to do. When I think of a garden and canning, I automatically remember Summertime at Great Aunt Vergie’s house. That woman, she could can. Between her and my Great Uncle Al (who was married to my Great Aunt Rose who deceased very early in life), they must have had a 2 acre garden on Aunt Vergie’s property. They shared the space and worked together. Uncle Al lived all the way up in the big city, and he would come down and garden on the weekends.
Between the two of them, their gardening and canning was simply a way of living. And a pretty darn good way of living. They didn’t have websites and you tube channels. They just….lived.
And over the past few years, I’ve learned to just “live” too. Learning what I can , growing in knowledge, and experimenting with new things.

Because of this, last year was an experimental canning season for me. I’ve been canning for a few years now, but last year was the first year I had used raw honey in place of sugar. I specifically tried canning peaches last year. And here’s what I discovered.

Tip number one….old jars aren’t always reliable.

These jars actually came from my Uncle Al, God bless his soul as he rests in peace. A couple of them had hairline fractures apparently, and burst open in the canner. Now, this isn’t something to be scared of. Since they aren’t pressure canned, no glass shards when zooming through the air!
So, moving along…
Do you have to add sugar to can peaches?
No, absolutely not. You can can peaches (and any other sweet fruit) in water and do just fine. However, without a preservative, they can turn brown and lose some of their sweetness. Some people simply add lemon juice to retain color, but the honey (in this particular fruit) did the job of both. I didn’t want to add refined sugar (though, I could have used raw sugar) so this past year I opted for a cup of raw honey.

Here’s how you do it.

1. Start with a pan of boiling water. You’ll want to get the skins off of the peaches without cooking them. You do this very easily by scalding the outside of the peaches in boiling water for 2 minutes, and then dunking them in ice cold water. This is the easiest way to peel peaches without the trouble of using a knife, and without being wasteful. This is easier when the peaches are very ripe
2. After the skins are removed, bring 8 cups of water and 1 cup of raw honey to a boil in a saucepan. 
 

3. As that is coming to a boil, cut up your peaches in slices or just in half, and remove pits. Make sure you also remove the hard red edges on the peaches, as these can sometimes cause issues with the preservation later down the road. Make sure you also remove any really soft brown spots in the flesh as well.

4. *This step is optional. If you’d like more of a spiced peach rather than regular peaches, you can add a cinnamon stick and nutmeg (etc) to the bottom of your jar.

5. Pack sliced peaches in jars tightly (preferably pit side down), up to the bottom (and even a little above) of the mouth.

6. Fill the jar up with the hot honey/water mixture, leaving a 1/2″ head space.
7. Place lid on and ring on with finger tip tightness. Process in hot water bath canner for 20-25 minutes. Once processed, remove them without touching tops of lids, and place them in a level area where they can cool.
Keep in mind that these peaches, once cooled, will have cooked and sank down into the jar a bit. That’s why we always pack as many into our jars as possible.
Once cooled, if any of the lids have not sealed, place those jars in the refrigerator and eat first.
These are delicious to use later in the year for cobblers and pies, or on oatmeal and ice cream!
Now, one year later, I am still just as impressed with the taste and the preservation of the color and sweetness. Also keep in mind that the sweetness can be adjusted by adding more or less honey during the canning process.
Enjoy!

5 {Quick} and Easy Changes You Can Make To Promote Healthy Living

 

Sometimes I get asked the same question over and over again — “How did you get started with a more natural lifestyle?” And honestly, we’re not completely there yet. I still have guilty pleasures like oreos, ramen noodles, and chocolate….just to name a few (stop judging). The road to trying to live healthier hasn’t been a bummer at all. In fact, I have really enjoyed it. It has caused me to do things I’ve never done before. It allows me to make home made things for my family, which I know they thoroughly enjoy. But most of all, it has caused me to realize that I can take control of my family’s health, and ultimately, for almost all (non-life threatening) mishaps or sickness, I can tend to my family without ever having to step foot into a doctors office.
While I am for holistic medicine, please understand that I completely realize there may come a time when we have to make a doctors visit or ER visit. Though, I hope it isn’t anytime soon.
None-the-less, it’s always the same look and questions, followed by the elephant in the room, “how do you afford it?”
Believe it or not, not everyone you know shells out an arm and a leg for a more natural lifestyle. We pay what we can and leave the rest for the following week or month. We do the things we can and we settle for that. Because in the long run, a few healthy changes are better than none!
Here are five quick and easy changes that you can make to promote healthy living in your home. Keep in mind that you might have some kick back and grumbling from others who might be living in your household, but eventually, they will come around…maybe!

1. Start cooking from scratch rather than eating frozen meals/at restaurants.
I was amazed by how much healthier we ate when I cooked a meal from scratch rather than a freezer container. Sometimes this meant breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other times, it just meant dinner. I grumbled and complained at first, but eventually I came to really enjoy what I made, especially when we quickly realized that it tasted so much better than the other stuff. Now that I cook more often, many times I’m disappointed with restaurant food, and I’ve noticed my husband is as well. There have been numerous times when he’ll say, “this is disappointing, you could make this better at home”. We’ve grown to realize what “fake” tastes like, and it’s amazing and disappointing all at once. There are certainly still our guilty pleasures which we know aren’t the healthiest decisions for us, but darn it, we like them!
People often think cooking from scratch is more expensive than buying frozen or eating out. In some cases, it can be. But when bought in bulk (flour, sugar, herd and meat shares) it is often less expensive. Most of our meat is venison, which we kill ourselves. The remainder of our meat either comes from our backyard or from herd shares with other homesteaders. With that said, I understand that raising your own meat might not be possible for you right now. However, going in halves with someone else on a cow, or buying a whole hog from another farmer will typically last a family of 3-4 for 5-6 months. If it’s a large cow, it will last much longer and will be much less expensive and healthier than buying meat from a store. Many times, even a specialty store or farm store can be much more expensive than buying meat directly from a farmer and having the animal processed yourself.
2. Start using essential oils (EO’s) and herbal remedies more often.
Start little. Don’t take it on all at once. Start with everyday nicks, bumps, and common ailments. And remember that you’ve spent a lifetime putting bad things into your body. Switching to all natural remedies and EO’s might not necessarily work miracles right away. Prevention, however, is key when going completely herbal. While EO’s and herbal remedies can heal just as well as antibiotics in some cases, their biggest miracle happens when you begin using them as prevention to illness and disease.
In any case, please do not douse yourself or your family members in EO’s everyday, it’s not healthy when using for prevention. I always tend to try herbal remedies before automatically going for the EO’s. EO’s are so potent and should be used sparingly unless actively treating an ailment.
We could talk for days about which EO brand to use, but ultimately, it’s whatever your budget can afford and what is the purest. I tend to stay away from large multi-level-marketing companies just because there is too much hype around them. I have, however, used many of them and loved them. I do prefer doTERRA oils.
3. Make your own toothpaste and deodorant.

I absolutely love my homemade toothpaste. I’ll admit, when I first tried it, it took a bit of getting used to. But now, I couldn’t imagine using regular toothpaste. In fact, I’ve tried, and my gums literally burned for about 3 hours after using it. That, my friends, is not healthy at all. The base for my homemade toothpaste is coconut oil, which has many benefits within itself. Coconut oil is believed to pull toxins from your teeth, gums and mouth in general. It also naturally cleanses bad bacteria in your mouth. Read more about my experience and recipe here.

Did you know that most deodorants (for both men and women) contain harmful chemicals and aluminum? Many of them have been proven to promote memory loss, Alzheimer’s. and cancer. If you know anything about simple science, then you know that these claims can be very much true. And I can attest to the theory of “clogged pores that hold toxins”. One of the biggest issues I have had when using regular deodorant is that I have this awful brown skin under my arms. One of the major deodorant companies even made a new deodorant that was supposed to “get rid” of the brown skin that supposedly comes from shaving your arm pits. It worked, or did it? It certainly lightened my skin, but the brown never completely went away.

Fast forwarding to my very own homemade deodorant. The first three days of using it were horrendous because my body was literally ridding itself of the toxins that had been trapped beneath the layers of gunk that had built up in my pours. And guess what. After stopping the use of commercial deodorant, I no longer had brown marks under my arms. Amazing! I would eventually come to find that your arm pits shouldn’t naturally “stink”, and that the smell comes from toxins in your body. I started to take notice, and it was absolutely true. When I ate real, healthy home cooked meals, my underarms never stank (without deodorant). Whenever I ate something overly processed, or drank soda, I literally couldn’t stand myself.
Since I am home all day (I work from home) I actually don’t really ever use any kind of deodorant, and I don’t stink…imagine that! However, when we go out, I tend to put a very thin layer of non-aluminum based all natural or homemade deodorant. You can read more about my homemade deodorant and how to use it here.
4. Add Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to your diet.
Awhile back I read a book titled Folk Medicine, by Dr. D.C. Jarvis, M.D. (click on link for my book review) I literally sat there with my mouth open most nights while reading it. I had often heard that Organic ACV (with the ‘mother’) was a healthy way to keep your body processing properly. But I never realized all of the other benefits and success stories. Many people I know take a small shot glass of ACV each day. A friend of mine recently started taking it when he found out he had an issue with his colon. He told the doctor to hold off for a few weeks before proceeding with anything, and he began drinking ACV each day (just a small cupful). When he returned back for his checkup and treatment options, the Dr was astounded to find that my friend was completely healed and there was absolutely nothing wrong with his colon. Incredible, huh? This isn’t just a “story”, this is truly a success story from a dear friend!
5. Rest more often.
Did she really just say that? Did she really just tell me to sleep? Yes, indeed, I did! Of course, don’t be lazy. In the same respect, get on your feet and do something during the day and throughout the entire day. But keep in mind, our bodies were created to rise and sleep with the sun. Imagine a world without clocks, as our ancestors didn’t have them. They rose early in the morning, as the dawn slowly came to meet the horizon. They worked during the day, and yes, sometimes they even took naps around lunch time. They continued working until the sun started setting. Then they came home, ate dinner, and guess what happened next…..they rested. It doesn’t mean they went to bed right away, but they did rest, and yes, many times they went to bed.
Now, I cannot imagine going to bed at 6 pm in the Winter time. But I will say that when I force myself to go to bed at 8:30 pm rather than 10 pm, I am much more rested in the morning when I awake. And when I wake up at 6 am instead of 7 am, I’m much more prone to fall asleep quicker in the evenings, and am much less restless. Our bodies are the closest thing we own to all natural nature. Most of the time, it knows what it’s doing. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re not tired, don’t rest. Some of us need more sleep than others, some of us need less. But in the end, your body will literally start flying on auto-pilot if you don’t start resting the proper amount of time that you should. In which case, you begin to open yourself up to colds, viruses, and bacteria, because your body is much too tired to fight them off.
All in all, making just a few simple and easy changes in your life can (and most likely will) eventually lead up to bigger changes in your lifestyle. The things listed above are simple everyday things that you do. They are not expensive and take little to no time to change. Your biggest change will be cooking from scratch more often, if you don’t already. But while it may take a bit more time, you will thank yourself, a hundred times over, in the long run!

Homestead Cooking | {Fresh} Homemade Lemonade

Last week, the backwoods kid and I spent a day at his grandparents farm. As always, everything at grandma and grandad’s is better than what’s at home. And it just so happened that today, it would be lemonade. That child can drink the heck out of some lemonade. So, being on our journey of “all natural” and less processed, I thought it would be fun to make homemade lemonade at home for him this week. He was pretty excited about it too.

Let’s forget about the fact that lemons aren’t native to Virginia.

Let’s forget about the fact that you just absolutely cannot find “organic” lemons at the grocery store, and especially not the farmer’s market.

And let’s just pretend it’s completely pesticide free, okay?

Ok, now that I got that off my chest…..whew….

 

Lemonade is OH so easy to make, and with just 10 lemons, a cup of sugar, and some water — it makes an entire gallon of yummy goodness.

I can remember, several years back — before the little guy was born — when my husband took me to one of his Hispanic friends houses for Easter. They had the best homemade lemonade I have ever tasted in my entire life. Who am I kidding….they had the best everything I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. I am grateful that God placed me with a husband who is equally as hungry for Hispanic food as I am.

We started by squeezing 9-10 lemons, by hand, over a mesh strainer, into the gallon jug that we would be using.

 

Then, we mixed one cup of regular sugar with the hottest of hot tap water. You could boil it down on the stove if you prefer to make a “syrup” with the sugar and water, but honestly, it’s fine just dissolved in hot water.

We added the sugar water mixture to our gallon jug, mixed well, and then filled it up the remainder of the way with cold tap water.

You’re done. That’s it. Easy as pie.

Actually, ten times easier than pie. And less messy, too!

Jr really enjoyed helping me squeeze the lemons and stir all the water in. After we finished combining everything we threw a few of the squeezed lemons into our jug for extra lemony flavor.

Place it in the fridge to chill, and enjoy a nice fresh glass of lemonade on these hot summer-time days! Husband especially enjoyed it when he got home from work.

Next time, I’m looking forward to fermenting our lemonade (along with the rest of the fermented things on our counter top!).
{fresh} Homemade Lemonade
10 fresh lemons
1 cup of regular sugar
1 gallon of water
1. Squeeze lemons over a mesh strainer into a 1 gallon jug
(or use a juicer and place juice of lemons into jug)
2. Mix 1 cup of sugar into a large jar of very hot tap water.
Mix until it dissolves completely.
3. Pour sugar water mixture into gallon jug, stir.
4. Fill remainder of gallon jug up with cold tap water. Stir.
5. Place 2-3 of the squeezed lemons into the jug for extra flavor.
Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Enjoy!
amy

Homestead Cooking | Homemade Strawberry Shortcake {Seasonal}

Let’s just take a moment to wallow in the pity together, shall we?

The horrible realization that strawberry season is quickly coming to an end…..oh, the horror!!

But with strawberry season ending, that means so many yummy veggies, peaches (one of my fave seasons!), and eventually apple’s (another fave, even better than strawberries and peaches) , are well on their way into our kitchens!

With that said, I thought it only fitting to have a strawberry recipe as strawberry season slowly begins to die out this year.

You’ll have to excuse me, I was a bit under the weather yesterday, so I didn’t take a lot of photos. But this recipe is so easy that you don’t need them.

I was also torn between the “southern style” shortcake or the “take me back to my childhood” shortcake. Clearly, I chose childhood. Plus, it was the easiest for a sick mama who just went strawberry picking that morning!

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

 

(recipe altered from a Food Network recipe ages ago)
serves 4 people

 

You’ll Need:
Strawberry “filling”:
1 qt fresh strawberries
+ 1-2 tbs sugar

Shortcake:
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbs sugar OR 3 tbs honey
3/4 tsp salt
1.5 cups heavy cream

Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
sugar
vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400*.
– Wash, top and quarter your strawberries. Place them in a bowl, toss with 1 tbs sugar. Add more if you’d like, but 1 tbsp is generally enough for fresh picked  strawberries.
– Set strawberries in fridge and allow to set for 30 mins (at least).

– Combine the remainder of your dry ingredients. Stir together.
– Add heavy cream to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
– Place mixture into an ungreased 8-inch square pan and bake until just barely golden on top (15-20 mins).

– Place heavy cream, sugar (start with 1 tbsp) and vanilla (start with 1 tsp) extract into a bowl. Whisk or mix with a hand blender until fluffy. I prefer the whisk, as it only takes about 5 minutes. Add more sugar and vanilla to taste if necessary. We prefer a less sugary whipped cream.

– Cut shortcake into squares. Place strawberry mixture on top of shortcake, and top it all off with some whipped cream.

Ta-da! You’re done! How easy was that?

Happy Eating!

 

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*Disclaimer: While I am an herbalist, and herbalism is not regulated by the FDA, I am not a medical doctor. The recipes and tips on this website are geared towards those who want to live a more natural lifestyle.
Please use all herbal remedy recipes on this website only after doing thorough research in regard to your own health needs, and after seeking medical attention if necessary. 
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