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Take a Tour of Our Farmhouse Kitchen {Video}

We took this drab kitchen and turned it into a fab farmhouse kitchen! Even though we live in a little rambler in the middle of a wooded subdivision, we brought the farmhouse right inside and livened the place up a bit. Since my entire theme for this home has always been “farmhouse”, it was natural for us to eventually float over to brighter colors and a more modern farmhouse look. We recently did this when we renovated our sitting room.

The kitchen was a horrible part of the home. It was ugly, dingy, straight out of the 1980s. But we quickly turned it into something that is inspiring and beautiful.

The Farmhouse Kitchen Cabinets and Hardware

We started by ripping out the old and dingy cabinets and replacing them with new white cabinets. We found the hardware online for a fraction of the cost that it would’ve been at our local big chain store. Overall, we saved $161 just finding the hardware for the cabinets online! It was a steal. I love the white cabinets and how much they brighten up the small kitchen. And the cabinet hardware really brings a sense of classic farmhouse charm with a modern twist.

The Farmhouse Kitchen Faucet

The faucet we chose was a no-brainer. It was non-negotiable. I wanted this faucet, and I was going to get it! It is so convenient when fill up pots, a water bath canner, or just cleaning the sink out. It truly brings that touch of farmhouse charm to the kitchen, and it’s efficient too!

butcher block counters

The Farmhouse Kitchen Butcher Block Counter Tops

We went back and forth on formica or butcher block counter tops, and eventually decided on butcher block. We love our butcher block counter tops, though it does come with some maintenance, which you can learn all about butcher block here.

farmhouse pantry barn door

Overall, we’re so pleased with our farmhouse kitchen. Watch the video below to see the rest of the kitchen, including the sliding barn door, flooring, and more!

 

Take a Tour of Our Kitchen!

When God Pursues You

I woke up that morning with more heaviness on my heart. It’s not uncommon for me to have dreams, especially since I’m normally in and out of sleep constantly during the night. But this was just one more dream to add to the list over the last few weeks that had the same theme over and over again. What did all of this mean? 

I’m not one to dream about my family or myself. I often dream weird dreams that make no sense, and they remind me that I shouldn’t eat chocolate cake before bedtime. Yeah, those kind of dreams.

But these were different.

In the first dream, that I can remember, I was running away from something and taking my family with me (my husband and son). I was frantic, but they didn’t seem too bothered about it. They were calm and peaceful, and I was a frightened mess.

In the next dream, there was a new person. A person from my past. Someone I hadn’t seen in years. What on earth is this guy doing here, I thought to myself. But even he was pretty calm and collected.

Several dreams came and went, all of me and several people in my life (family or past friends) running and hiding somewhere. Trying to get away from someone or something.

But I can remember one of the final dreams vividly . . . because I was suddenly running all alone.

In this dream, all of these people were gone. I was the only one running. All by myself.

I woke up. And even though I knew it was just a dream, I sat there and wondered, why did everyone leave me? And even more so, what on earth am I running from?

I knew I was running from “someone”, but I could never figure out who or, maybe more importantly, why?

It upset me. This was torture. Never in my life have I ever had so many dreams one after the other after the other, with the same theme, different locations, random people, but very much all about me. I had come to the conclusion that I was either eating something totally wrong before I went to bed, or my mind was in a state of stress from all the things I’ve been doing. I mean, it’s not like writing two books in a year, planning a major homesteading/farming conference and fair, being a wife and mom and boss, weren’t overwhelming enough. Now, I had this weighing on me?

The next day was Sunday. Good. Time to go to church and start a brand new week all over again. Except recently I’d found myself thinking more about work and things I had to get done while listening to a sermon, rather than focusing on the sermon that my soul so desperately needed.

I shook my head a little bit, as if to wake myself out of the brain fog, and abruptly started paying attention to our amazing pastor and the sermon he’d prepared for us that day.

“…and sometimes we don’t think God is talking to us, but did you know that God can talk to us in dreams?”

Whoa hey, mister, get out of my head! I looked around, almost as if to see other people’s reactions. It always gets a little weird when we start talking about God talking to us. Our poor Vice President Pence was recently told that he had a mental illness because he believes the God of the universe speaks to him.

But it was just me. I was the only one looking around, as best I could tell. It was as if I was in a room and everyone else was standing still. It was as if God was talking directly to me, all of a sudden.

It wasn’t weird for me. I totally “got it”.

Call me crazy, but I’ve had plenty of dreams where I have gone to people I’ve dreamed about (and not the everyday average dream), told them about it, and had them fall apart and tell me how much they needed to hear about that dream right there in that moment. There have been other times where I’ve shared a dream and it didn’t make any sense at all, until years later.

But why, here, in this moment, was I so absent minded that these dreams could actually be for a reason? Dreams for a purpose? This torture of a dream that I’d been walking through, could it have been torture because I just wasn’t “getting it?” Because I wasn’t in-tune with what was happening?

You’d think, wouldn’t  you, that I’d go home and I’d “get it” and I’d pray before bed that night and everything would be grand. But no, I didn’t.

We went to lunch, we went home, and that evening I didn’t pray. In fact, I hadn’t been praying much at all in recent weeks. Instead, my thoughts were filled with things I needed to get done, things that didn’t get done, places I needed to be, things I needed to create and do and . . . and . . .

. . . and there seemed to be less and less time for God.

A week or so passed, and this trend continued. I’d find various quiet moments where I’d say a little prayer throughout the day. I’d even fit in talking with God like, “dear Jesus give me strength before I smack somebody,” type of talking to God. It was always on my time. It was always when it was convenient. And that was ok, right? I mean, God knows I love Him and cherish Him and, yeah, like, Jesus is my homeboy.

But no, no, it wasn’t good enough.

I wasn’t connecting with God anymore. I had become, what the Bible calls, “a babbling prayer.” (Matthew 6:7)

Nighttime came, once again. Another dream came, once again. But this time, it wasn’t anything I was running from. This time, it was something I was running towards, and it wasn’t something I should’ve been running towards. Something I had seen in a previous dream. A hindrance. An idea or minuscule thought that was leading me into comparison, disconnection and yet, unnecessary connection, and ultimately, a vivid image of being lost. An imagery of choosing one thing over the other. The imagery of being alone and vulnerable. The imagery of not allowing myself to be pursued in the dreams before it—of being pursued by God.

I opened my eyes, sat up in bed, and that’s when it all made sense.

I was being pursued by a God who doesn’t force Himself into your life. Who doesn’t force you to connect with Him and share your life with Him. But who pursues you, constantly, until you simply choose not to be pursued any longer.

And even then, He still calls to us. He still wants to draw near to us.

…he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us… [James 4:5]

He was quietly calling for me the entire time. Ushering me into His presence. Begging for His child to call out to Him, to spend time with Him. And all this child did was keep running. Running to the next project, running to the next job, running to the next batch of laundry that needed folding, running to the next chapter of the book that needed writing.

And eventually, with each new run, He got further and further away. I was aimlessly running further and further away, and I had no idea just how far I’d gotten. Like a kid in a store that runs away from a parent . . . I was losing it.

Scripture tells us that when we draw near to God, God will draw near to us (James 4:8). But even more so, scriptures tell us exactly how God speaks to us, how he draws near to us…

In the sermon that morning, a few Sundays back, our Pastor focused on this passage from the book of Job, and to set it all in place, I want to share it with you now.

For God does speak—now one way, now another—
    though no one perceives it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
    when deep sleep falls on people
    as they slumber in their beds,
he may speak in their ears
    and terrify them with warnings,
to turn them from wrongdoing
    and keep them from pride,
to preserve them from the pit,
    their lives from perishing by the sword.
[Job 33:14-18]

One of the most beautiful scriptures of the way God pursues us is Psalm 139, where it says, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”  (Psalm 139:7-8) And the truth is exactly that—that no matter where we are, or where we go, God is right there pursuing us. He’s right there waiting for us to talk to Him; waiting for us to come unraveled into the hands of the Almighty Savior of the world, who never once asked us to do life all on our own. 

In fact, He knows we can’t do life all on our own . . . and He’s never wanted us to.

And so, I prayed. I prayed like I hadn’t prayed to Him in weeks . . . because, well, I hadn’t.

Imagine that—a woman who seemed so “put together” and on the right track in this Christian life, and even she was in the midst of focusing on so many things, other than God.

Friend, whoever you are, and for whatever reason you’re reading this, I want you to know that God is pursuing you. He has never stopped pursuing you.

He is pursuing your mind, and your heart, and quickening your spirit. Even when you are ever so close to God, even still, He pursues you. And even if you are so far removed from Him that you think, He could never take me back, I promise you, He’s already right there, pursuing you.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s us who need to stop running from the pursuit. Because this pursuit is one that you don’t want to run from.

Embrace it in all it’s glory, in all your mess. Because grace sure can be messy, but oh, how beautiful it is to finally be caught up by the God who relieves our burdens, gives us peace, and loves us no matter where we are.

And maybe, just maybe, He’s been speaking to you all along . . .

 

Want to listen to the sermon I talk about in this blog post?

Click here to go to the sermon page, and then click on the sermon titled 
“Struggling to Hear”

 

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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Inexpensive Photography Backdrops & Tips for Homestead Bloggers

Over ten years ago, I began my blogging journey. In the beginning, it was just words. I allowed words to flow out of me and used stock photos if I needed them. Sometimes, I didn’t even use photos. The people who read blogs back then were people who simply enjoyed reading—with or without photos. They were people who enjoyed connecting with pleasant words and stories, like on the pages of a novel. But fast forwarding to today, now days, you have to be a photographer in order to have a successful blog—or at least take exceptionally good cell phone photos.

Seeing as I’m a professional photographer, this isn’t an issue for me. Though sometimes, it can be frustrating to have to break out the “real” camera. Even so, I still need inexpensive ways to make my photos look great.

As a homesteader, we try to be self-sufficient and recycle whatever we can. The same goes for our blogs and photos. No one wants to see a photo of your freshly made perfect pie on a dark dirty oven top caked in flour remnants and last nights dinner. I mean, I do, because that’s real life, but if you want to get any actual “hits” on the post, you better clean up and tighten up that lighting! As a homesteader, who the heck has time to do that? You just want to throw down a backdrop over top of it all or in front of a window, and let the world think your house is in order when it’s really dirty as all get out.

Yep, you know it. I said it. Amen.
As a photographer and homesteader, I’ve found some pretty cost effective and beautiful backdrops to use over the past few years, and I decided I’d share some of them with you!

Use What You Have

One of your greatest assets is that you’re a homesteader. This means you have all kinds of junk laying around. You probably have some old barn wood pieces, some clean flour cloth dish towels, or maybe some antique wooden crates.
That’s what I used in the two photos above. Just two old wooden crates, side by side, in the first photos. The first (main) photo will actually be the photo wrap for my upcoming cookbook. In the second photo, I used two different crates, and stacked one behind the other. You can find these super cool brew or kombucha bottles here.
Here are some of the things that I typically have laying around that I use the most.
  • wooden crates
  • barn wood or wood remnants
  • Flour Sack Dish Towels
  • Vintage Dish Towels
  • antique plates (ex: blue willow)
  • my tile floor in my kitchen
  • old baking sheet
  • your own wood flooring in your home
  • my deck and/or stairs (wood)
You can spice things up by adding herbs, branches, leaves, berries, and more—scattered about.

Purchasing Inexpensive Backdrops

If what you have laying around doesn’t work for you, then you can purchase inexpensive, and multi-use, backdrops from your local hardware or specialty store. One of my favorite things to use, as seen above, are scatter rugs. You can purchase different types and colors of scatter rugs very inexpensively at your local big chain hardware store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. I purchased the above rug for less than $6 on sale. So, I bought two! They are thick and durable, and easy to clean.
Another option, along the same lines as the scatter rug, are table runners. Table runners are a dime a dozen during the holidays. You can get some pretty exceptional runners on clearance after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Actually, I bought the table runner in the photo above out of the $1 bin at Target this year. It allows you to add dimension, be it on a wooden kitchen table, or on a different kind of backdrop.
Here are some item’s I’ve purchased inexpensively to use as backdrops.
  • Burlap (from your local craft store or online)
  • Cheese cloth
  • Scatter Rugs
  • Slate pieces
  • Bricks

Lighting, Editing, and Camera Equipment

While backdrops are inexpensive and fabulous, they won’t make a bit of difference if you don’t have some knowledge of lighting. And if you’re looking for a true pro look, you may even need to invest in some camera equipment. If you already have a DSLR camera (or are thinking about investing in one), this section is for you.
When taking a photo, I always use natural light. I have never had to use artificial lighting in any of my photos. Ever. Not once.
I accomplish this by taking all of my photos next to a large window where lots of light comes through. If the light is too much, you can drape a white sheet over it, as I did in this photo above. This creates an illuminating effect, and produces beautiful shadows. There is a common misconception that your product or subject in the photo has to be fully illuminated, and that’s just not true. The best photos have depth, and shadows are necessary. In the photo above, the window is off to the side, which creates shadows for the eggs and other food. Drawing your focus in on the center of the photo.
You can also note the depth of field is very shallow. For people who aren’t photographers — “that blurry stuff there in the background.” Most people want to learn how to create a depth of field, meaning having the focus on one thing, while all other things begin to blur out. This is naturally created through the camera lens. You can manually create it while editing, but the effect is not the same, as it creates no depth, just focus.
Your next important step is editing. Many people enjoy editing through free photo editing apps and programs. But if you’re serious about your photos, I highly suggest investing into Photoshop Elements. It is not nearly as expensive as other photoshop programs, and it is a one time fee. You can even find an older version—I use version 10 often, simply because I’ve never upgraded.
I would also encourage you to shoot in RAW with your DSLR instead of jpg if you plan to edit your photos. It allows you to easily manipulate the lighting and doesn’t compress the photo as bad as a jpg. And I would also encourage you to learn out to shoot in manual mode, allowing you to focus where you want to focus, and more.
Here are some equipment recommendations.
Ultimately, making sure that your lighting is correct, and that your backdrop is pretty or interesting—creating depth with layers—are the two key components you need to a beautiful homestead blog photo. If you can nail those, you’re on a pretty good path to becoming a little more involved in your photo taking skills for your blog!
Enjoy the little things, and remember every now and then to show the real mess in the midst of the pretty. Because, while beautiful photos get lots of traffic on websites, being raw and real every now and then gets even more.

How To Properly Use and Season Cast Iron

I believe my mom cooked more with cast iron than my grandma ever did. At least, in my lifetime. Growing up, I didn’t really understand that cast iron needed tender, loving care. It’s like a living and breathing extension of your kitchen. One that I now thoroughly enjoy as an adult in my very own kitchen.
But keeping cast iron seasoned and non-stick can be challenging for some. It was challenging for me at first, and sometimes, when I’m lazy (oh yes, I can be!), it still kicks me in the teeth and says “ha ha, you’ll have to season me again!”
Most  of the time, however, when I bring my cast iron skillets and pans out, I am greeted with a deep, rich, black blanket of color that could put a smile on any homesteaders face. And here’s why…

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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!

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