Are you loving these 20 Questions Homesteading Style posts as much as I am? Today we have Michelle from Simplify Live Love answering 20 questions all about homesteading, and I cannot wait to dive into them!
20 Questions Homesteading Style: Michelle @ Simplify Live Love
Please introduce yourself & your blog.
My name is Michelle Marine and I blog at SimplifyLiveLove, a lifestyle blog that focuses on farm-to-table recipes, healthy living, homesteading, and family travel.
My husband and I have four kids and live in Eastern Iowa. I was raised in a military environment and my husband Dan was active duty Air Force we we married. The 13 years we’ve been in Iowa are a record in one place for me, so I guess I can call it home now!
I’ve been blogging since 2010 and really enjoy the online community I’ve built over the years.
How did you start your homesteading journey? How long ago was that?
That’s a complicated question. 😉 My husband and I moved to his hometown in Iowa in 2006 to raise farm kids and start a construction company after he separated from Active Duty Air Force. Homesteading was a slow process for us because shortly after we moved to Iowa the economy collapsed. It took a lot longer to establish our home building business than we thought it would.
We bought our five acre homestead in 2008, but weren’t able to move to it until 2013. We lived in town for the first several years remodeling and flipping a couple of houses, saving money, and slowly getting our homestead liveable. When we bought the acreage, the only building on it was an unusable silo. Over the years we moved a barn and several other smaller outbuildings to our homestead, and built a house. In 2013 we were finally able to move out to the homestead, and we lived in the barn for the first two years.
The barn has a pretty interesting story. We got it free from neighbors who were going to burn it down, moved it to our homestead, and rebuilt it to be our remodeling company offices. It took several years to rebuild. When we had time, we had no money, and when we had money, we had no time. But we finally got it done and decided to move into it “temporarily” instead of using it as offices.
Our “temporary” barn stay ended up lasting over two years, but we finally moved into a real house again, a stone farmhouse we call the Passive-Aggressive House. Dan a home builder focused on energy efficient homes, built the home. Our home was the first ultra energy-efficient passive house built in Iowa. It uses about 85% less energy than a more traditionally built home, and we generate around 75% of our electricity with a 7kw solar panel system we also have on our homestead.
So, while we’ve had vegetable gardens everywhere we lived, we didn’t really start the homestead until we moved to the country in 2013.
How big of a property do you currently have for your homestead? Do you think that is ideal for you or do you dream of changing that one day? Why?
We have five acres currently. It’s a lot to handle, but it’s not enough. Our big audacious goal is to buy as much as we can of the surrounding 80 acres. Sadly, it’s not for sale, but we’re hopeful we can add a few more acres someday. I’d love to have 20 or more acres.
What is your favorite thing about the homesteading lifestyle?
I love being out in the country. It’s satisfying to take responsibility for some of our food and it’s amazing to help our kids learn how to do things I never did when I was growing up. Farm fresh eggs and watching chickens is a lot of fun, and not much beats making a chicken dinner with chicken I raised myself and vegetables we grew in our garden.
What is your least favorite thing about the homesteading lifestyle?
I’d say every year is different. Just when I think I have something down to perfection, a new challenge arises to make it hard again. We also love to travel and the more animals we add to our homestead, the harder it is to leave.
What does a typical day on your homestead look like?
Right now, our typical day probably doesn’t look that much different from most other families. We’re pretty light on animals, so we don’t have many homestead chores. The kids go to school, I work on my blog or other projects. In the afternoon, I run my four kids to and from their many activities. We eat dinner and go to bed.
What animals do you have on your homestead, and what is their purpose?
We don’t have many animals right now. My eldest daughter has two sheep for 4H/FFA, all of kids have a 4H rabbit or two, we have two Great Pyrenees dogs named Nora and Harry, three cats, a pet turkey named Tarzan and a pet peacock named James. I also have one bee hive that I hope makes it through the winter. It’s my first hive, so I’m not sure exactly what to expect.
What is your favorite thing to grow? Why?
I love to grow most everything, but a few stand out as favorites – garlic, potatoes, and sunflowers. Garlic is amazing – I plant garlic in the late fall and it grows in the spring/summer with little effort. Potatoes are one of my favorite foods so I love growing them too. I plant them using a no-dig method that makes them very easy to grow. And sunflowers come back volunteer every year from the previous year’s sunflowers. They just make me smile.
I also love growing asparagus, raspberries, blackberries, and orchard fruit – anything that I can plant once that keeps coming back year after year is a winner in my book!
Are you a seed saver, do you order seeds, or a combination of both?
I save some potatoes and garlic, but I usually buy seeds too. I’ve saved flower seeds, and I almost always try to let volunteer plants grown in my garden, but mostly I buy seeds instead of saving them. I love ordering from Baker Creek and Seed Savers Exchange.
Are there any animals or plants you don’t have currently, but hope to one day?
We don’t currently have chickens because they were eaten by foxes, but I am working on a new coop and chicken yard and making big plans for spring 2019. We’re adding guineas this year and I’m excited to see how they help keep the bug population down. I’d also love to add pigs and goats someday. Horses would be the ultimate dream, but my husband says it would be better to dig a hole and dump our money in it. LOL.
What are some of your favorite things to make? Ex. soaps, salves, etc.
Other than bread which I make from wheat berries that I grind myself, I don’t make much. I hope to have stores of honey this year to do something with though! And I do can and freeze a lot of food, whenever there’s extra in my garden.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned on your homestead?
The hardest thing has been to raise meat chickens and then to butcher and eat them. The first year I only had a couple so we butchered them ourselves. That was not fun. The next two times I raised meat birds, we took them to a butcher. For $2.25 a bird, it was well worth paying someone else to do the butchering. Taking the lives of animals we have raised has been the hardest lesson, but a very important one I think.
What is your favorite recipe to cook from scratch?
I love to bake bread. My Grandma Shafer baked five loaves of bread a week for most of her life and I have the bowl she used for rising. My process is a lot different from hers, but I still love the fresh bread! I also really enjoy canning crushed tomatoes, salsa, and homemade pizza sauce!
What homesteading skills are you thankful for learning?
I’m glad I know how to raise and can food. And, I’m thankful I know how to butcher a chicken even if I don’t want to do it ever again. Being more self-sufficient is really an awesome thing, as far as I am concerned!
What homesteading skills are still on your list to learn?
I would love to learn to raise more animals, and I’m excited to learn how to harvest honey from my bees this year!
What is the funniest thing that has happened on your homestead?
The funniest thing on our homestead has been watching our turkey and peacock interact with each other. Both birds were rehomed here after needing a new place to live and they became fast friends. The first year with both of them, though, James the Peacock chased Tarzan all around. It was so funny, but I thought Tarzan was going to have a heart attack. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case and they’re still good buddies.
When you are having a hard day/week, how do you keep yourself motivated?
Obviously we have to take care of the animals, but I give myself permission to let other things go. My garden turns into a jungle of weeds almost every year, we’ve hired kids to mow, and we’re not afraid to go on vacation when we need to get out. There are still grocery stores after all. Every year though, I recharge after winter and look forward to spring and new growth again!
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their homesteading journey?
Do it! Learn as you go. Find a mentor or a friend to go through it with. Give yourself grace for the mistakes that will happen, and never give up.
When it comes to resources, what are some of your favorites?
I personally love instagram. There are so many homesteading focused people there who will help in any way they can. Other than that, I learn from Countryside Magazine, books, and by trial and error. For inspiration, I love Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. For practical knowledge, I love the Backyard Homestead series.
What are you most excited for in 2019 on the homestead and for your community?
In 2019, I’m most excited to rebuild my chicken flock. I’m also excited to harvest honey! One of my daughter’s sheep is pregnant and we’re looking forward to a baby lamb(s) in March if all goes as planned. And for once, I would love to actually grow a fall garden instead of just saying I will.
To learn more about Michelle, be sure to check out her blog!