Why This Lifestyle

Living a homesteading lifestyle is not necessarily an easy lifestyle. There is daily work, manure, animals who depend upon you for everything and even the risk of losing animals.

Why would our family choose a lifestyle that involves more work, mess and potential heart ache when we could continue living a simple, quiet little life on a small lot with no extra responsibilities?

Before we married in 2006, we talked about what we wanted our life together to look like. One thing we knew for certain was that we desired to have a family and for me be able to to stay home with our children. The other desire of our hearts was to live on a farm.

While we dreamed of living on a farm, it was over a decade before that dream finally became our reality. In the meantime, we did what we could where we were.

Container Gardening – 2008

In our first apartment after college, we raised a few vegetables in containers on our deck.

Our first garden – 2009

In our first house, we had a large lot and had a nice sized garden raising tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe and other vegetables.

Backyard garden – 2016

The house we lived in previously to this one was on an acre and we had several raised beds, fruit trees, strawberries and even had chickens for awhile by using the adjoining 5+ acres that belonged to neighbors.

When were first married, we were eating a standard American diet (SAD). We thought nothing of drinking sodas, eating fast food, candy, cereals, packaged snacks and frozen dinners because that’s what we knew from growing up. As we began reading and studying about healthy lifestyles, especially after the birth of our first baby, we began making dietary changes, cutting most processed foods and sodas. As we learned more, we made more changes. We began to value pastured eggs and meats and local produce for their freshness and nutrient density. Then we began to desire the ability to raise as much of our own food as possible to nourish our growing children with the highest quality foods.

And as our children began to get older, our desire to live on a little bit of land grew stronger and we spent a couple years looking for a place that would fit our needs. We found a couple places that we really liked but we weren’t able to purchase.

When we found our property in 2017, it fit our needs. It was less than 20 minutes from John David’s work, a little over 5 acres that were mostly cleared and perfect for pasture, an existing barn, and a house that was under 2,000 square feet.

After purchasing our property and actually living here, we began to realize that all of the work that goes into raising our own food is worthwhile, meaningful work.

Arrow Hill Homestead garden – 2018

While homesteading isn’t easy because something always needs to be fed or watered and there’s always weeding and maintaining, it’s deeply fulfilling work. We are meeting our basic needs. Our efforts are rewarded with quality foods to nourish our family. Our goal in life isn’t just to do the least amount of work and live an easy life, we want our work to be meaningful.

As we’ve dreamed more over the past two years that we’ve lived here on our homestead, we realize that we desire to provide others with high quality foods and we’re beginning to do that with Weston’s egg business and we’ve also sold a few pastured meat birds.

There is also the desire to teach others to do what they can where they are and to share the things we know about raising food.

Examining a snake skin that Weston found.

In addition to raising our own food and the work ethic that is developed, we also choose to live on a homestead to provide our children ample room to play, explore, create and learn.

We are educating our children at home and have a desire for them to love learning and we believe that time spent in nature and in connection with the rhythms of the seasons provide an excellent educational foundation for young children.

The homestead lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It is a lifestyle of commitment and work.

But, it’s just the right lifestyle for us.

April 2019

April is one of my favorite months. The days are warm, everything is blooming and getting green and we just want to be outside.

We leveled some dirt with the plans of turning this area into a little family garden with raised beds, a fire pit, benches and our picnic table. The kiddos are picking up the excess rocks.

I shared this picture on my personal Instagram with the caption “So thankful this is what 3:30 on a Thursday looks like. Hummus and pickle snacks while watching the boys baseball game. Staying home with these 4 is such a gift. Worth every bit of living the budget life, driving 15+ year old vehicles and buying nearly everything secondhand!”

I really am so thankful that I am able to stay home with these precious children and that we are able to live surrounded by plants and animals with a little bit of room for them to explore and play.

Laura adores her daddy and especially adores tractor rides with him.

The kids have their own space for gardening this year. Weston found several volunteer plants (we’re not sure just yet whether they’re watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin or squash!) He made a nice little rock bed around them.

Moving wood and enjoying a lovely spring day.

Our seed starting spot this year was upstairs. It worked pretty well and kept everything out of Laura’s reach.

Weston found his very first four leaf clover. Just a few minutes after he found this one and excitedly showed it to me, he found another one!

Our family enjoyed a picnic lunch and playing at a local park. They have these fun swings where the baby swing is connected to a regular swing so parent and baby can swing together. It was fun. Laura loves swinging!

Two of Weston’s new egg laying chicks.

A few of our egg laying chicks in our brooder pen.

One of our Salmon Favorelles. These are very docile birds with feathers on their feet – so adorable!

Our upper garden as it looked on April 13. All of the beds here had either been planted or were ready for planting.

Laura loves helping – here she is weeding.

Paxton turned 9 on the 16th! He’s such a fun kid and such a gift to our family.

He used leftover Harry Potter decorations from his aunts baby shower to decorate the house with for his Harry Potter party. We’ve been reading the Harry Potter books for the past few months and we’re all enjoying them.

We keep birthday’s pretty simple with family parties. We had grandparents, aunt and uncle over for dinner and cake.  Paxton chose sandwiches and chips for his birthday dinner.

Paxton’s cake. He and his Mimi made the cake and she supplied the frosting and Paxton decorated it with his Harry Potter minifigures.

Laura. Her papaw snapped this picture and I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite picture of her ever!

We went to the local FFA Chapter’s plant sale and bought tomatoes, peppers and a few herbs. We bought all of these plants for $25!

We celebrated Easter with church, lunch with family and then a little Easter egg hunt.

Laura loves to help ‘stir it’. Here she is helping me pound sauerkraut.

We planted our tomatoes and peppers on April 22. Planting is such an exciting time full of so much hope and anticipation of the gardening season ahead.

I made a batch of activated charcoal soap. I can’t wait for this one to cure and try it out.

Steel.

We put the meat birds out on pasture on the 26th. They are doing great and seem to enjoy all the green grass.

Love him.

John David and his dad picked up a couple of loads of wood for firewood. Now that we’re finished burning wood for the winter, it’s time to start stocking up on wood!

The lower garden on April 26th. There are tomatoes, peppers, green beans and cucumbers planted here. Looking forward to watching this space over the summer.

We’ve been using the sheep to help keep the kudzu at bay that is trying to take over on the edge of our property against the road. It’s been fun to watch them work.

Life on a homestead can be quite messy. Dirt, mud and even manure. Projects going on here and there. Plus boots that belong to 6 people that tend to get scattered everywhere. Our screened in porch was quite disheveled. It took me about 30 minutes to return things to where they needed to be, pick up trash, sweep and tidy up the space.

After. So clean and perfect for using this space to do schoolwork on these beautiful spring days when we just want to be outside!

 

 

 

March 2019

March was a fun month – full of celebrations with two birthdays (mine and Cecilia’s), the first day of spring and baby chicks!

I always have a helper in the kitchen – both boys enjoy cooking as so do my girls. One of Laura’s often heard phrases in the kitchen is “me stir it”.

I’m at the point with the big kids that their kitchen knowledge has become very helpful. They can peel, slice, stir and all kinds of helpful things really make a difference.

Laura has loved being in the cab tractor while daddy fences but sometimes a little girl just gets sleepy in the warm sunshine and dozes off!

We started seeds in March. It’s such an exciting, hope and anticipation filled thing. These are mostly tomatoes, a few flowers like butterfly weed and lupine as well as some new to us plants this year – tomatillos, ground cherry and sunberry.

I love the month of March because it is my birth month, it’s the first month of spring and because of daffodils. I just love daffodils!! There are several daffodils growing around our homestead – some we planted and some that were here before us and my boys keep my kitchen with a fresh display of daffodils as long as they’re blooming.

On March 16, we got baby chicks! Such an exciting day. Weston and I both both several hens to add to our flock and Paxton bought one.

Our new baby chicks include 9 Ameraucanas, 4 Golden Sex Link and 3 Midnight Marans that are Weston’s. 5 California White, 5 ISA Brown and 2 Amberlink chicks that are mine and Paxton bought a Black Speckled Sussex.

The weekend we bought chicks, John David was busy converting a trailer with a roof into an egg mobile. He added in salvaged nesting boxes, reused roost bars from our former hen house (now the brooder) and made the entire thing basically from scraps of metal and such that we had lying around.

The finished product! It looks great and functions well. I’m amazed at his vision and skills to create things like this.

Paxton with one of the hens. He’s not as into farming as Weston is but he still enjoys it.

A small rainbow of eggs – a white, light teal, pink, brown and dark brown. Collecting eggs is such fun when you have a variety of colors!

All of our little farm kids. Excuse Laura’s pacifier – it’s only supposed to be used in the car but she snuck it out!

Laura has been a bit afraid of the chickens in the past couple of months but having the new batch of baby chicks has made her less afraid and she’s been wanting to pet even the big hens.

Cecilia turned 5 March 20th and we started her birthday celebrations with homemade cinnamon rolls. They have way too much sugar but they’re so very delicious! 

Our precious birthday girl designed and decorated her own cake with her Mimi’s help.

My helper. This one is always eager and excited to help.

One evening when daddy had to work late, we went to a local park to play and walk around the  pond. We spotted duck eggs and enjoyed watching the ducks in the water.

Steel likes to sleep when Laura sleeps. Most afternoon she curls up under our bed while Laura naps in her crib. This night I spotted Steel curled up right next to Laura’s crib.

Weston’s grandparents picked him up a Chick Days sticker from Rural King. It had the rural king logo on it and he promptly cut off the logo and stuck the remaining sticker outside of the brooder. It’s one of those sweet things that kids do that you just want to remember.

On March 30, we went to a friends skating birthday party (so much fun!) John David had to stop by the church to do a bit of work so the kids and I walked around downtown. It was such a beautiful day and I enjoyed making memories and snapping a few pictures.

We enjoyed March and all of the beautiful days and fun we had. We’re looking forward to spending even more time outside in April as we prepare for meat birds and gardening.

February 2019

Once February arrived, we started working on a big fencing project. When we moved here in 2017, we talked about perimeter fencing our property for security – to keep predators out and to keep our animals in. Even if they get out of their electric fencing, they will still be contained within our property.

We set aside the money and John David has been planning and researching the best fencing materials. We finally got started and have made quite a bit of progress this month thanks to some nice days.

My big project for February was wood chipping around our pool. We have trees and bushes planted there and I spent most of my outside time laying down cardboard or newspaper and wood chipping.

On February 5th, we welcomed a new puppy to the family! Meet Steel, a Blue Merle Aussie.

While it may seem crazy to add another dog to the family, we’ve been talking about adding a second dog as a companion for our Aussie, Copper, for over two years now.

Steel is being cared for mainly by Weston who is doing a great job feeding her, taking her out and cleaning up accidents. He’s proving that he is indeed capable of owning a dog of his own.

Sweet Steel. She was 11 weeks old when we got her so she was already crate trained and the house breaking process had begun already. She’s been pretty easy as far as puppies go.

All of the kids are enjoying the new dog.

Just hanging out in our command center (the kitchen/dining room). The white board behind these two helps us keep up with our monthly goals and to-do’s here on the homestead.

Our two Aussies. Copper has done very well having an energetic puppy in the house.

The fence is really coming along and looking great. The long stretch up the road is completed and looks great.

Another view of the fence up the road. John David and his dad, David, have done an excellent job constructing this fence.

Chilly February mornings are best spent in the living room in front of the wood stove. This particular morning, the kids were playing church and Paxton was reading to them from the Bible. Love these moments.

My big ‘inside’ project this month was finishing our FFA t-shirt quilt/blanket. For a couple of years I have wanted to take our old FFA shirts and turn them into a quilt instead of just hoarding them in a box that takes up space in our attic. Several months ago, I laid them all out and cut out the squares and this month I finally made the time to sew it all together.

It’s far from perfect and professional but it cost very little. The backing and binding is from a queen size flannel sheet I found at a local thrift store. We’ve all enjoyed snuggling with this blanket and I love all the memories these t-shirts bring back.

It’s feeding time. The sheep are up in the barn for the winter and enjoying their hay.

Now that the days are getting longer and a bit warmer, we’re getting more eggs. The kids are enjoying checking for eggs each day.

Laura loves the tractor. While daddy and papaw work on the fence, she has been hanging out in the tractor. We found her like this one evening. Hard work makes a little gal tired.

We’re looking forward to longer days, the official beginning of spring and starting seeds next month!

January 2019

January was a pretty laid back month here. We enjoyed the long evenings gathered around the wood stove, slaughtered one of our pigs, set goals for our homestead and made plans to help us accomplish our goals in 2019.

John David helped our neighbor build two chicken tractors in early January.

We moved the little piglets from their paddock at the front of the property to the barn with the yearling pigs.

Laura helped daddy move the pigs – this girl loves riding in the tractor!

The sheep are all at the barn for the winter, enjoying their cozy quarters and hay.

One of the exciting things for January was completing our driveway. When we moved here, the driveway was incomplete and we weren’t sure exactly where we wanted the driveway to go. We finally decided we wanted  a circular drive in front of the house. We’ve enjoyed having gravel, especially during this wet, wet winter. (This photo is before the gravel was put down – I don’t have a good ‘after’ picture.)

A delicious hot breakfast. We love breakfast so much that we have breakfast for dinner at least once a week – it’s delicious and everybody in our family enjoys it.

Weston was very proud of this omelet. The 5 (yes, 5!) eggs were from his chickens and he made it all by himself.

Goals for 2019

We’ve set a few goals for our homestead in 2019. Most of them are fairly simple goals to help keep us on track as we go about tackling projects for the year and a few of them are lofty, exciting goals.

  1. Improve pastures and garden soils
    • Cover crops
    • Manures
  2. Produce more of our own food
    • Garden expansion and cool weather crops
    • Can 150 jars (tomatoes, pickles, green beans, corn, etc.)
  3. Secure animals
    • Perimeter fencing
  4. Plant perennials
    • Invest in new trees and bushes
  5. Add new animals
    • Rabbits and turkeys
  6. Pay $10,000 towards the principal of our mortgage*
    • Attempt to make profits on some of our products

*Our mortgage goal is a combination of a personal goal and a homestead goal because our mortgage is both for our home and our land. This $10,000 goal will (hopefully) be reached by a combination of our personal income, tax return, any extra money we may make from odd jobs/selling things as well as any profits we may make from the homestead. We would love to begin to make some money off our our agricultural endeavors to help pay down our mortgage.

Our goals for 2019 have us excited about what the year holds and the learning and improvements that will happen here at Arrow Hill Homestead.

 

 

December 2018

December was a slow month on the homestead. We’re definitely realizing that this lifestyle is very seasonal and there’s not much going on in December other than feeding the animals. So, December proved to be somewhat relaxing for us with no major projects or work outside. We just enjoyed resting and Christmastime.

Little Laura is quite the little farm girl. She loves playing with tools and ‘repairing’ their play chairs. (She did receive a little play tool set for Christmas which she enjoys!)

Early morning quiet time for mama and Laura this morning. I was reading and nursing her and she was reading her book while nursing.

Weston and Copper joined Daddy for a tractor ride.

At 19 months old, this gal is in the busy, active toddler stage and is into everything. We found her sitting on the couch with my computer – apparently she’s ready to start writing blog posts for Arrow Hill Homestead.

Our sweet little ones. It’s such fun watching their excitement at Christmastime. While we keep Christmas pretty simple as far as gifts go, they still enjoy the season and festivities so much.

Frosty December mornings. We’re hoping for at least one snow this winter.

I sent Weston out one morning to feed and he didn’t come back when I expected him. I went out to see what he was up to and found him scratching around in the chicken pen looking for earthworms with and for the chickens. He said that the red ones are good salvagers and has named one of the red chickens H2 Earthworm. (He says H2 doesn’t stand for anything – children are such fun!)

Our Weston turned 7 on December 22!! While I can’t believe he’s already 7, it has been such a joy watching this boy grow and especially watching him being able to farm and raise his own animals.

Weston and Daddy went hunting while daddy was off work after Christmas, he was successful and got 2 squirrels all by himself.

John David added on to our woodshed a bit so we could store more wood. We were able to finish splitting and stacking all of the wood we had piled up so we’re now caught up on wood – until we get another load or cut a tree down!

And, this is probably the funniest and tensest homestead moment of the entire year which happened on New Year’s Eve.

We have a low spot near our garden which has standing water whenever it rains and it just stays wet. We had talked about creating a small pond in that area. This afternoon, John David decides to get started on that. It was a little too wet and he had Laura in the tractor with him so he wasn’t completely focused on the task at hand and managed to get the tractor stuck in the mud.

I walked out, saw that it was stuck, felt a bit hopeless and walked back inside and prayed that he could get it out easily.

He called our neighbor who came over to help and he suggested backing the tractor out which worked. So, so thankful for good neighbors and unstuck tractors!

It’s proven to be a good laugh and I’m thankful he took a picture of the moment.

We’re looking forward to what 2019 holds, we’ve set several goals for our homestead (which I may share) and are excited about all we plan to accomplish in 2019.

November 2018

There really wasn’t much homesteading going on in the month of November – no garden work or special projects but there was quite a bit of hunting. From hunting Papaw’s woods, with our neighbor at a hunt club and in West Tennessee with Papaw, the boys and their daddy logged quite a bit of time in the woods.

This was early one morning before Weston and John David left to hunt in Papaw’s woods. He was excited but still sleepy.

This little girl is into everything – climbing and so curious but she’s the cutest little bit!

We’re enjoying our long evenings together in the living room. Playing with toys and reading books are so fun and cozy.

Our hunters were successful a few times so we had a couple days of venison processing. The saying ‘many hands make light work’ is true. It’s fun watching the kids learning and helping with such a practical task. Cecilia is our package labeler – she takes the job quite seriously.

One of our favorite dinners is Breakfast for Dinner. The kids and their daddy love my biscuits. Add sausage, gravy, potatoes, apple and peach butter and we all have full and happy tummies.

John David had a sweet little tag along for chores this morning. This gal loves being outside feeding!

Cecilia is quite the little cook. Here she is helping me make a pot of oatmeal for breakfast.

Paxton and Weston were pretending to be sports analysts one evening at the bar so Cecilia and I were sitting in the middle of the kitchen watching them. Laura was a bit fussy so I started to nurse her so Cecilia joined in and nursed her baby too – such a sweet little mama! I love moments like this.

The view from our bathroom window just doesn’t get old. Especially when I have the privilege of watching my sweet man in his element doing what he loves.

All three of our big kids know how to cook eggs. This morning, Paxton made my breakfast. Not only did he make yummy eggs, he also plated them so nicely, silverware wrapped in my napkin and a sprig of lavender on the side – I love his attention to details.

Laura has been obsessed with books lately which I love because I love books and we read a ton of books in our family. She’s too sweet.

 

October 2018

October found us on the go most weekday evenings with football. Between practices and games, there was little time in the evenings for anything but football.

The boys enjoy football and while my introvert self who loves to be home in the evenings, I can manage a busy football season because I know it just a few weeks in the grand scheme of things.

It was such fun watching them play on the same team and watch them on the sidelines find each other and congratulate and celebrate!

Baby pigs enjoying the sunshine.

We decided last minute to enter a few things into the fair. Cecilia and Paxton baked biscuits – I oversaw the process and helped Cecilia with measuring but they did all of the mixing and cutting their biscuits on their own. Cecilia also baked Chocolate Cookies.

While we were baking biscuits early in the morning to enter, Weston was outside in the garden cutting flowers to make a flower arrangement.

Paxton with his biscuits in their display case at drop off.

Cecilia with her yummy cookies and biscuits.

Weston’s lovely flower arrangement. He did all of this by himself and I was so proud of his arrangement – maybe he can add selling flower arrangements to his little farm business!

The boys team won the championship for their 7/8 football league since they only had 1 loss this season. They also were invited to a bowl game against the 7/8 city league champions. We lost the game and that was tough but they were proud of their medals.

Weston enjoys old fashioned things just like his mama. We ordered some wicks to use up some beeswax that I’ve had for a while and made beeswax candles. It was a fun process.

Our lovely beeswax candles.

It finally started cooling off around mid-October and we started burning fires in the evenings.

We went to the fair one evening to see the results of their kids entries. Weston placed 2nd with his floral arrangement.

Paxton’s biscuits earned him a blue ribbon!

And, Cecilia’s biscuits and cookies both won blue ribbons. They were excited!

We enjoyed walking around the fair, looking at exhibits and animals and watching a couple shows.

I love this picture John David snapped one morning. I try my best to get up early in the mornings before the kids awake to have a quiet start to my day with prayer, Bible reading and reading a parenting book. Copper often joins me.

This one is too cute not to share – Laura is the best little eater. She apparently really loved dinner this night!

We brought Weston’s Schleich farm animals and barn downstairs and Laura enjoyed farming. This little barn was built by John David and painted by me as a 2nd birthday gift for Weston.

The larger pigs aren’t currently in the woods so we spend some time one afternoon picking up acorns in the woods to feed them – we think they appreciated the snack.

While we keep Halloween simple, the kids do enjoy dressing up and attending a Trunk or Treat at a local church. This year I told them we were dressing up using only what we already had – trying to keep the holiday eco-friendly and frugal!

The did an excellent job. Paxton’s falcon jersey, football pants and cleats make a fabulous football player. Weston pulled out his camo and blaze orange vest to be a hunter, Cecilia wore her favorite princess dress and I coupled a sweet little corduroy dress and owl hat that was handed down from Cecilia for Laura to be a baby owl.

I love their excitement for dressing up and having fun!

The prettiest little princess and sweetest baby owl I ever did see!

 

September 2018

We had a lovely September – savoring the last weeks of summer and starting to make preparations for winter.

On September 1, we processed a second batch of meat birds.

It was a fairly warm day and we had a shaded set up. We realized we much prefer chicken processing with friends – we had friends that processed with us back in May and that made the work almost enjoyable.

Laura tagged along for a little bit of the processing until it was nap time.

Copper enjoying a lovely late summer day.

Our four kiddos ready for church wearing something other than play/farm clothes!

Weston lost his first tooth September 2! He was so excited and proud to have finally lost a tooth.

Our boys are playing football on the same team this year. It’s fun watching them play together and they’re just too cute in their uniforms. They kicked off their season on September 8th with a jamboree.

The sheep have been proving a bit difficult lately with getting out of their electro netting. It always happens when John David is gone and more often than not happens when we’re needing to leave to go to church or an appointment. Hopefully we can get them to stay where they belong. And, each time they get out, I’m so thankful for Weston, he knows exactly what to go to get them where they need to go.

We purchased a log splitter this month to help manage our firewood supply. Splitting, cutting and stacking wood is a pretty enjoyable task. We’re all looking forward to cozy fall and winter evenings around the wood stove.

Ready for morning chores with little Miss Laura. She loves going outside visiting the animals and checking for eggs. I enjoy having her tag along with me.

We are currently rotating our layers on pastured behind the sheep. They are roosting and laying in a mobile chicken tractor and we have them fenced in with poultry netting.

Our lower garden as it looked on September 18. So many lovely flowers still blooming! I really enjoy this space.

I planted morning and evening glories all around our pool and the lattice around our screened in porch and they are just so lovely. Some are white and some are purple and this one was a blend of white and purple!

Celebrating the first day of fall with a dip in the swimming pool. It’s been quite warm so we’re enjoying the pool as much as we can.

I ordered 20 pounds of pears and 80 pounds of apples from Azure Standard this month so our kitchen turned into a pear and apple sauce processing facility. These kiddos are big helpers with slicing and dicing.

The fruits of our labors – applesauce and pearsauce. We’ll enjoy these sauces during the winter on sourdough pancakes or eaten alone.

John David spent a chunk of this month working on extending the roof off of our storage shed to make room for wood. It looks great and it’s been fun to split and stack wood and watch it fill up.

We separated 4 of the 5 piggies from their mama now that they’re old enough to be weaned. She’s not been the friendliest towards us since they were born and they’ve been very skittish. We’re hoping now that they’re away from us they’ll become much friendlier and realize that we’re friends.

They were too cute snuggled up together on a chilly morning.

We’re looking forward to cooler weather, starting the wood stove and enjoying the lovely month of October now that September has drawn to a close.