In todays world, the desire to get back to basics is becoming more and more desirable. Our hope is that you will find some of the knowledge we share a benefit to you, to get closer to your dream of a healthier lifestyle, less dependent on assembly lined, processed, manufactured items.

Our goal is to help you find ways to use modern conveniences to allow you to live the life you want to live, and raise your family with the traditions that are important to you.

Grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of tea, and join us as we share our lives, our family and our knowledge with you.

Thursday, December 31, 2015


Today has been a challenging day, to say the least.  As I sit tonight, on the last day of 2015, and think about the day, and the past year, I began searching for balance.  Balance has been missing for me for awhile.  It has been a trying year, full of wonderful events (the marriage of our daughter to her best friend), and some not-so-wonderful events (Papa was hospitalized twice).  I considered telling the whole story of our summer, but decided that the events of the summer are really not relevant to where I find my mind on this winter night, as I wait for one year to end and another to begin.  Suffice it to say, Papa had some diabetic complications that lead to a partial amputation of his right foot, changing his life and the way he does things forever.  I include this only to explain why I have been looking for some information on Balance....balance between positive and negative, balance between needs and wants, balance between dreams and reality.   

I never knew there were so many definitions for "balance".  When I looked it up, there were no less than 25 definitions of balance just as a noun.  These definitions were followed by many more with the term balance used as a verb.  No wonder balance is so hard to achieve.  There are so many aspects to that one simple word, that it seems as though it might be impossible to achieve it.

A Google search  "homesteading balance the inside with outside" lead to a post by Jill Winger over at The Prairie Homestead caught my eye.  I've been a follower of The Prairie Homestead for quite some time and the post, You Can't Do It all, struck cord with the way I've been living and thinking since the early summer.  I would never hold the expectations I've had of myself for someone else.  Jill shared how she came to realize what she was doing to herself, and I could definitely relate.  I don't know if it is just a "girl thing" or if it is an oldest child thing, or if it is simply a Nana thing.  Is it a thing inside of me that has somehow gotten twisted up and turned around and left dangling upside-down or do others share the same issue?  At least one does, and thank you Jill for sharing.  I am going to jump on the band wagon and share once again, in attempt to keep myself in check and perhaps help someone else that might be facing the same struggles.  Jill says, "You can't do it all."  I say, "It's time for some slack." 

Jill listed the things she expected of herself, and saw the list was crazy impossible, and followed with 5 tips to keep your sanity while homesteading. 

1.  make a list
2.  prioritize
3. cut it out!
4. out source
5. let go of perfectionism

I will share my list and my realizations, my tips for dealing with these unrealistic expectations and ways that I will try to hold myself accountable and break the old habits of trying to be perfect and trying to be everything to everyone. 

I have been expecting myself to:

1.    Do whatever needed to be done that Papa could no longer do on his own
2.    Maintain the yard by mowing and weed-eating regularly (with the neighbors yard this is probably close to an acre of mowed area.)
3.    Keep the gardens weeded and growing
4.    Can and process all that the garden produced
5.    Keep the flower beds cleaned out and mulched
6.    Keep enough chickens, rabbits, and pigs to produce our meat
7.    Organize and participate in all the butchering done on the farm
8.    Work a full time job (48-72 hours gone from home each week)
9.    Keep the house company ready
10.  Have guests over on a regular basis and serve from scratch meals, down to the desserts
11.  Never expect guests to help with prep, clear the table, put away food or wash dishes
12.  Keep the laundry done, folded and put away
13.  Cook meals at home to avoid the high cost of eating out
14.  Buy only the basics at the grocery store for healthier, budget friendly meals
15.  Make all cleaners, detergents, medications myself again, for a healthier, budget friendly life
16.  Be available to do my share when it is time to help friends and family with projects

I could go on, but I think that is enough to prove a point to myself that I am CRAZY! No one can live up to those expectations, at least not for very long without the stress eating them alive.  Some things are just a part of life, and I have to accept that there will be times that are stressful and chaotic.  But there are other things on this list, that are totally unnecessary.'s the deal....I'm going through my list, and deciding now, how to eliminate some of the stress of this list.  Deciding what is realistic for ME, with what God has given me at this time in my life.  I can continue to be crazed with trying to maintain perfection or I can enjoy life.  While I will begin to learn to accept that I can cut myself some slack, I will also start to expect more of others.  I will allow others to feel the reward of guests can learn how good it feels to help with the dishes and leave me with a clean kitchen after a home-cooked meal. 

I have been  trying to decide what types of things to post in the coming weeks and months.  I have several ideas, and will be sharing some simple recipes, traditions, and modern ways of doing old-time things.  But perhaps the most important of all will be the 16 musings I will write as I decide exactly how to adjust my thinking on the above list. 

Jill suggests making a list prioritizing to help keep the tasks at hand manageable.  Perhaps my biggest task and the biggest priority of all is dealing with my list above, giving myself permission to have a little slack, and allowing others to pick up some of that slack.  After all being a Modern Missouri is supposed to be rewarding and enjoyable, not confining and stressful. 

And I have just given myself permission to have a whole blog post without a single picture.

Happy New Year everyone. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Lessons Continue

Last spring we had the opportunity to buy a couple of Landrace sows well worth the money, so we bought one and our son and his wife bought another.  The plan is to have the sows kept at our sons and when the piglets are big enough to wean, they will be moved to our place to feed out.  We will buy a boar soon, that will also be kept at our place so that the workload is shared, the feed bill is shared and there won't be problems with the sows and boar "mingling" unless we want them to. 

The sows were bred prior to our purchase and all went well for about three months as they prepared to become mothers again.  We found a mix of feed that they liked, was cost effective and fairly close to home.  Our son made a pen behind a shed where they had plenty of shade from the hot summer sun and shelter from the rains we have been blessed with having so many of all summer.  A few weeks before they were due to deliver a pen was built outside his barn, and panels were put up that would allow the sows to be separated as they had their litters.  All was well and on September 9th JD woke to 12 healthy happy baby pigs from the first sow. 

Life was good and we were excited.  If the second sow had close to this many, we could sell the extras for enough to pay for the feed we would have in our own butcher pigs and enough to recoup what we had paid for the sows.  Our joy was short lived, as the mama managed to lay on and suffocate one piglet after another until there were only 7 left.  She is large. She is used to being in a confined space where she barely had room to lay down.  Now she is in a much larger area and has never learned to lay down gently so that the babies can scamper out of her way.  The planning for building farrowing crates in the inside space has already begun for next time.

On September 9th the second sow, began having hers and ultimately also had 12. Mama #1 had continued to have problems laying down without getting on top of her babies and we down to 4 from the first litter of 12.   Some of the excitement returned however, as we were now back up to 16 piglets which would be more than enough to make the plan to sell what we didn't want to butcher work out.  The excitement was short-lived.  The second mama was also used to being in a confined space, so she mashed 2 or 3 of hers as well. As disappointing as this was, the real grief came on September 12th. 3 days after she gave birth, Mama #2 grabbed each piglet, one at a time and bit their heads.  JD only got to witness the last one or two, and could not stop her actions.  All her piglets were dead.  So, from 24 piglets, we now have 4 left.  This represents an 84% loss.  As Modern Missouri Pioneers, frustrating, discouraging, heartbreaking can all describe what we feel about this.  But after considering the worst of the scenario I began to imagine how the Pioneers of the past would have felt about this and how it would have affected their lives. 

I have many other meat sources at my disposal.  We have rabbits, chickens, fish, beef, and venison all in the freezer at this time.  I will not starve with the loss that we've had.  I will be able to feed my family healthy meals all winter and not be reliant on braving the elements to hunt for deer or turkey.  There is no question where my next meal will come from.  While the loss is disappointing, our survival and livelihood are not endangered by it.  We still have enough for our family to butcher, barring any further loss.

It is time to learn from our mistakes. Time to find a good boar that will become a part of the farm. It is time work over the next few months to build appropriate farrowing crates, and have a safe place for the sows to have their next litters. A place where the piglets will have a space to retreat when Mama lays down to nurse them. It is time to research what makes a sow kill her own young and do what we can to prevent that in the future. And, if it can't be prevented, then when the cools some more, it will be time to make some whole hog sausage!  We have options, many more options that our forefathers did. It is a good time to learn from our mistakes and become even better Modern Missouri Pioneers.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

No Till Gardening

We have used several gardening methods in the past and this year we decided to go back to the one technique that proved to be the easiest to care for and appears to have provided the absolutely best harvests we ever had.  Two years ago we used a mulching technique that kept weeds at bay and then provided the best garden spot we ever had last year. We planted corn in that area and canned 110 pints, froze 20 dozen ears and gave away corn to several friends and family. Unfortunately we did not continue with the mulch, so we are doing quite a bit of work this year to catch up.  After this year, we should be set for the easiest and best gardening ever.  There should never be a need to plow or till the garden again, watering should be minimal, and weed control should be easy to maintain.  We have read the book "Lasagna Gardening" by Patricia Lanza and watched the video about Back to Eden Gardening which explains the gardening technique developed by Paul Gautschi.  I don't know that we are specifically following either exactly but using some parts of each.

This is what the area looked like in early spring. We planted in half barrels last year and decided that this technique is not for us. The watering requirements did not fit our schedules and we still had weeding that required much bending over. Considering that, we decided that going with mulching was best for us.  Many people are happy with barrels and other raised bed options. Isn't it wonderful that there are so many ways to provide for our families so that each of us can utilizes what works best for own families.


The beginning of prepping for this year, involved weeding out the barrels, raking out any roots missed by pulling the weeds. The composted soil is now ready to be layered into the garden.

We gathered mulch and additional compost and had piles ready near the garden site.  The mulch was free from the city close to where we live. It is from the chipping of brush that is cleared from the roadways each year. After the first year of decomposition, it is safe for our garden and in years after that it breaks down into nice black dirt that the worms love and the plants thrive in.

The compost is free from friends near us who own horses. They pile the manure outside each time they clean out the stalls in their barn. We try to get it after it has decomposed for a couple of years. It is great compost to add natural nutrients to the garden.

The last item to get together before the actual work begins, is a collection of paper feed sacks, cardboard, cardboard boxes, newspaper, etc. These are all free and friends are usually more than willing to give their "trash" to you and  are layered on top of the ground.  These work as the initial weed barrier to prevent the grass and weeds from coming up into the new compost/mulch layers. I will explain the wooden trough you see in the above picture in a bit.

Due to the weight of the barrels full of dirt, we found that dragging them into position with our UTV was the easiest for Papa and me.  The feed sacks were held in place with a few rocks until the weight of the compost could hold them in place. When you live on top of a hill, you get to enjoy a breeze all the time, but you also have to contend with things moving in that breeze so something to hold down the edges saves a lot of frustration and maybe even some ugly words!

This what the deep layer of compost looked like before any mulch was added. Let's take a look at the mystery trough on the right side of the garden area.

Papa built this box as a trial this year to plant some onions in. It was secured on top of the feed sacks and filled with compost. This will give the onions several extra inches of compost and will hopefully result in larger onions for the winter.

If there were any question of how fertile and healthy this compost/soil is, I think the size of this worm settles any question at all! 

Finally, a deep layer of mulch is added. It is hard to see in the picture just how deep this all is, but it is well above the head of the rake which is several inches tall.

This is what the rows of cool season plants looked like when first planted in the original area.  

Another friend brought some of these wooden pieces to me. They are bottomless, and hinged. The store nice and flat and don't require all the extra water that our old barrels did. I'm trialing potatoes, beets and carrots in them.  I'll update soon when we see how these vegetables are growing in them.

As long as we stay up on adding layers of mulch, we will not have to go through all this extra work again, and the weeds are few and far between. The weeds that do find their way into the garden are easily pulled and tossed.  The last layer of the process is one I didn't get pictures of. I added a layer of rabbit manure from under our rabbit pens.  This give the plants a nice compost tea drink everytime it rains or we have to water.  This process of the deep layer of mulching keeps the ground from drying out.  We have been blessed with rainfall so far this year, at times even more than needed.  One additional advantage is that the ground does not get muddy or soggy.  It might be a little spongy, but I can walk into my garden after a 6" rain with no fear of leaving footprints or even tracking mud into the house. 

This technique uses free and natural materials.  We did use our UTV to drag barrels and Papa used the tractor to move compost and mulch. The benefit of being a Modern Missouri Pioneer with this is that it saved some manual labor, aching backs and potential blisters. However, nothing about this technique relies on modern conveniences and could easily be done off grid with just a little extra labor.

Since the "big" garden area has been composted and mulched in years past, we decided to just till the weeds under and put on a thick layer of mulch to prepare it for the coming season. We will plant our corn, squash and pumpkins in this area this year and maybe change it up next year.  So far the weeding has been minimal and the corn and squash are growing great.  I need to take some more pictures and show some progress shots.  We planted our corn in intervals this year.  We planted five rows, waited two weeks, planted 5 more rows, waited 2 more weeks and planted 5 more. The plan is that we will not have all the corn ready to pick and process at one time.  So far, all of it looks good, except the last 5 rows. The germination of these seems to be inconsistent, and while it seems to be coming up well at this point, the germination has been very spread out.
The following pictures are some shots I snapped a few weeks ago in the garden. I'll take some more this week and do some current shots. 

Happy gardening! Hopefully each of you is having great success. The weather has been more cooperative than usual in SouthWest Missouri this year. :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's Milkin' Time!

It's taken me a while to sit down and post this, but Serena blessed us with a beautiful Jersey Bull calf on Mother's Day! Not only do we have a fine, healthy calf, that will eventually become steaks and hamburgers, but we also now have a massive supply of fresh, raw, MILK! The excitement is only dimmed slightly when the alarm sounds at 5 a.m. every morning...EVERY MORNING....we milk her at 5 in the morning and 5 in the evening everyday...rain or shine.  She is sharing a minimum of 6 gallons of milk a day with us...and feeding baby "Bullet". He is growing nicely...full of spunk!

You might wonder what in the world we do with 6 gallons of milk everyday....30 gallons a week.  There are days we wonder that, too!  We do offer it to friends and family for $3 a gallon, but still usually have 10-20 gallon each week that is not spoken for by others.  I use this to make yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, sour cream, butter milk, and cheeses. I am still learning the cheese process which has many variables but is actually a fairly simple process.  I will share posts with these processes as I learn them.  Separating the cream from the first step of many of these processes. We also drink the milk with most of the cream removed, reserving it for sour cream and butter, although Papa likes to eat his Corn Flakes soaked in cream rather than milk. :-)  I will show you my simple and inexpensive technique of separating the cream from the milk in the following pictures.

By using a siphoning system, I let gravity do the work an the only purchase I made here was the clear tubing, costing around 50 cents.

The surface for my original container of whole, raw milk is propped up slightly so that the liquid goes into one area. The end of the tube sits in the lowest point so that the milk is drained as much as possible without getting much of the cream.
Some of the cream invariably sticks to the side of the container, but can be scraped into the cream container when finished. If you look closely, you can see the line where the cream has risen to the top of the milk. The milk is siphoned from the bottom of the milk until only the creams remains in the container.
The milk is drained into another container for storage in the refrigerator or use for yogurt, cheese, cottage, cooking, etc.
I will share here the reason that you don't leave the milk that you are separating to take pictures of the cottage cheese in another pot! Took me more time than I want to admit to clean up this mess!  I still need to pull out the stove and check for the damage under it.

There's not much modern equipment that I use for this process, but there are some things that are a bit more modern when it comes to making our dairy products.  The whole idea of a milk cow and making our own dairy items goes way back to our ancestors' way of life and true Pioneering and I love every part of it.  I will post more products that I use our raw Jersey milk for over the next few days, adding more as I learn new processes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Oh, Lardy!!!

After butchering in March, we used a beautiful April afternoon and set things up to render the fat into cracklin's and lard.  A friend had her fat stored in the freezer, so we got together invited a few friends and had a good old-fashioned Lard Renderin'!  I use lard in my cooking on a regular basis. I use it as the starter fat for pepper gravy, use it in all my pie crusts, and for frying pretty much any meat.  I use much like shortening in any cooked dish.  It is additive free, wholesome, and FREE, as the fast is the "left-overs" from butchering hogs.  One of these days, when I get a bit of time, I will experiment with making soap from the lard, as well.  I've been told that lard or coconut oil make the richest lathers and best moisturizing soaps. But, that is for another day.  Let's move on to the rendering process.

After thawing, the large pieces of fat were cut into small pieces and ran through the meat grinder. This is not an absolutely necessary step, but it saves many hours of cook time in the rendering process.  We had ground ours before freezing, but our friend had not, so we whipped out the grinder and got it ground down in just a few minutes.

We have a large cast iron kettle that sets up on a steel frame with four legs. To get some extra height, and be able to make a larger fire, we put the legs up on concrete blocks, allow more wood underneath. After warming the kettle, and wiping it out, we added a cup of water. This prevents the first fat from sticking and scorching as the higher temperature is reached.  The fat was added in two different bunches, which gave it time to melt some down before it was all added, again, preventing scorching.

The length of time the process of cooking out the water, and melting down the fat varies. As the fat heats up, you see the water rising to the top and "boiling off" in the form of bubbles that almost looks like foam.  On this batch, we lit the fire at noon, and finished up.....had cracklin' cornbread and apple pie with lard crust.....and were pretty much cleaned up by 5. The wind kicked up so we had to improvise a wind break with a couple of our tables.  This worked pretty well and is something I will try to remember for the next time we need a wind break on a fire.

We spent the afternoon visiting, watching the kids play and planning future projects. Here are a few pictures of the time spent waiting for the water to boil off.

Papa appears to have Justin and Melody's complete attention for one of his many stories of the day.
Papa used some of the wait time to clean some beehive frames. Cheryl will be boiling the beeswax to clean it and use in her homemade lotions.
I'm not sure Rhonda and Kristin had any idea what they were getting into when the came to Miller to join us for the first time.
 Justin, JD and Bruce are hatching a plan for mischief, I'm certain of that

 Owen and Aden enjoyed an afternoon on the Farm.
Rastus and Maddie enjoyed each others company. 
 Aden and Owen are nearly the same size.  This Nana thinks there should be a teeter-totter built this summer.
 Jayde, Gabby and Erin had a lot of running and playing fun, too.
 I'm not sure how Casey got all the kids still and in one place at the same time, but this is a great picture of them. 
 Bruce and Justin had time to discover what treasures Bruce had recently purchased from a sale on the internet. 
Kristin, Jenny, Melody, Rhonda and Justin anxiously awaiting the removal of cracklin's. 

As the water is boiled out, the cracklin's cook, darken and settle to the bottom.  The cracklin's are dipped from the bottom by a metal strainer.  We have decided we are going to watch for a large metal mesh strainer and put it on a long handle.  This should save some back ache and burns!

The cracklin's are spread on baking sheets to cool and drain before packaging.

We have two aluminum pitchers which work well for pouring up the lard into the containers.  It must be strained to remove any cracklin's and other residue before the final cooling.  We use white flour sack tea towels to strain. The towel was placed into a metal strainer which just fits on the tin container.  Always be sure to all metal at this point, as the temperature is hot and will melt anything that is plastic.

I use popcorn tins to hold our finished lard for the final cooling.  Cheryl bought unused paint cans for hers.  Great idea, as I will have to repackage mine into something more freezer friendly, while Cheryl's is ready for the freezer as soon as it cools.  There are mixed feelings about storing lard in the freezer/refrigerator or out at room temperature.  Perhaps our ancestors used the lard more quickly than I do, but I learned that if left at room temperature, the lard will mold and be wasted.  I keep mine in the freezer for long term storage, then place in the refrigerator as needed for use.

The final product looks dark in the tin container, but as it cools, it becomes much lighter in color, almost white.

I prefer to package our cracklin's in resealable plastic freezer bags. This way we can remove what we want to use and re-seal the others for later use.
After the hard work of the afternoon, we enjoyed some cracklin' cornbread with hot dogs over the fire, and apple pie with good old-fashioned lard crust.  I love using my iron skillet for cornbread; it comes out perfect every time.  One of these days I hope to find a cast iron pie plate. I'm not sure there even is such a thing.  That makes me wonder.....could I make a deep dish pie in my cast iron skillet?  Something new to try.  I will let you know how it goes.

So, lard for another year has been rendered.  Once again, we adapted a basic pioneer necessity to become an easier process by using some of our modern utensils and storage, my definition of Modern Pioneers.