Berry Muffins

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Muffins are our go-to comfort breakfast around here. This is a basic recipe that can be modified with various berries or fruit.

Berry Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg equivalent (EnerG or “flax” egg)
2 – 3 cups frozen berries (I used a 12 oz bag of blueberries and strawberries
1/2 cup almond (or other nondairy) milk
1/2 cup coconut oil

In  a mixing bowl, combine flour, soda, baking powder and salt.

Rinse frozen fruit under hot water to thaw slightly. Large pieces of fruit should be chopped into smaller pieces (blueberry size).

Combine frozen fruit, sugar and coconut oil and mix well using a stand-up mixer.

Add fruit mixture to dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Mix in egg equivalent and milk.

Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full.

Bake in preheated oven at 350F for 26-28 minutes.

Check with toothpick for doneness.

 

 

 

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Around the Homestead

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It’s hard to believe we have been living in our new home four months already. While we still have so many projects to do around the property and the house, I am still amazed at all we have done so far. When we first moved in, it was ROUGH living for a few weeks. But we tackled the barest of necessities (water) and everything has been moving up from there.
 

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We typically alternate between indoor and outdoor projects, depending on if we are going stir crazy and how nice the weather is. As we get closer to Spring, though, I have been trying to spend more time outside to get ready for gardening.

 This property is already set up for extensive gardens, with regularly spaced PVC garden sprinklers. Some of the sprinklers may need repair, but otherwise the system is in place. While we have a lot of space to work with, we are planning on starting small, since much of of the property is overgrown with weeds and needs some serious TLC. With that being said, however, our first year garden is still going to be much bigger than any we’ve previously done!
 

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One thing I am looking forward to is putting in fruit trees. We’ve been dreaming of our own fruit trees for years and finally have a chance to make it happen. We also have grapes in the middle of the side garden that hopefully will be bouncing back in the spring.
 

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In the front of the house, we are working to make it a little more functional as well as aesthetic. A simple circular drive addition has made my life easier, and I’ve gone a little crazy with pruning shears, working to tame the overgrown azaleas in our yard. We are working to make a safe and comfortable area for the children to play, and perhaps put in a small garden bed or two this spring. More shrubs that I’d like to count were removed and we had a lot of yard debris to deal with, but it has been so worth it! Finally we have a space where the kids can play and run around.
 

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For an indoor update:

To keep renovation costs low, we have decided to redo all the floors with plywood. We ripped out all carpeting when we first moved in, and have been tearing out all the particle board as fast as we can. After put down plywood, we are sanding, staining and sealing. Our dining room/classroom and living room are complete, and we are currently working on the study. This is the project I am most excited about! We will be putting in simple, custom-built bookshelfs and will finally be able to fully unpack our book collection!
 
A hopefully not-too-far-off project I will be starting is organizing our pantry. We have have two separate pantries, one with built-in shelves and one without. The one without shelves is currently housing the fridge until we redo the kitchen floor. While the extra pantry space is a nice change, it also requires a little more planning. The smaller pantry just off the kitchen, with the built-in shelves have been designated as short-term pantry space. Here is where most of our groceries go, along with a dedicated cabinet for herbs, oils and various natural products supplies. I am reserving the larger pantry for longer-term food storage. Here is where I have bulk rice and dry goods I have stocked up. I don’t need to battle bulk quantities for everyday cooking.
 
Stay tuned for upcoming projects around the homestead: Completing the Study and Rebuilding the Chicken Coop!

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pancakes

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I’m fairly new to the sourdough game. But after reading Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, I am motivated to incorporate it more into our routine. I am currently using Desem sourdough culture, which is a whole wheat culture available through Cultures for Health.
 
Sourdough pancakes are a great way to use excess starter left over after feeding. Typically when I feed my starter, I pull out all but 1/2 cup of my starter and this is my excess or discard. Rather than just toss it, I set up a second jar for pancakes the next morning.
 
Sourdough Pancakes
 
2 – 3 cups starter (I add 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup water to whatever excess starter I have and then let it go overnight.). In the morning I add:
 
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup almond milk
 
The almond milk really loosens up the batter so it can be spooned easily onto a greased griddle.
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We love pancakes around here but these are by far the fluffiest pancakes I have ever made!
 
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Natural Laundry Soap

laundrysoap1It’s that time again – with a larger family it seems like I am always doing laundry. I always chuckle when I read about folks with “laundry days” where they can bang out their laundry in an hour or two a week. I find myself needing to do one or two loads a day to keep up with the family’s needs. And to be honest I’m usually still overloaded with clothes and linens. If they aren’t dirty and piling up, they are clean and piling up, needing to be folded and sorted. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has this problem though!

Here is my go-to laundry soap recipe.

Laundry Soap

(add 2-3 Tbsp to each load of laundry)

1 bar soap, finely grated (I typically use Dr. Bronner’s Lavender)

1 cup super washing soda

1 cup borax

1/2 cup – 1 cup baking soda

I mix all together into a large jar and give a vigorous shake to combine well. I keep a tablespoon measuring spoon in the jar.

I do not use dryer sheets (they contain animal fats) or wool dryer balls. But for a little added scent (though the lavender soap works quite well for this), I may put a couple of drops of lavender essential oil on a scrap of flannel along with the clothes in the dryer.  

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I wanted to share a cookie I prepared recently. It’s super easy, and it stores well. Prep ahead and keep in the fridge until you are ready to bake.

4 1-ounce squares of unsweetened Baker’s chocolate
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups sugar
3 eqq equivalents (EnerG or flax work well)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 cup almond milk 
 
In a small saucepan or microwave, melt together the chocolate, coconut oil and peanut butter. Whisk together as you heat until mixture is completely combined.
 
In a stand-up mixer bowl, combine the chocolate mixture and 2 cups sugar. Add in the egg equivalent (I used EnerG egg replacer) and the vanilla, and mix well. Add in the flour. Dough will be crumbly and dry. Add in the milk and mix until the dough is moist. 
 
Divide in half, and put each half onto a large piece off parchment paper. Shape cookie dough into a log, with a diameter of 1 1/2 – 2 inches and roll up tightly in the paper. Fold down the ends and let chill for at least an hour allow the dough to become firm.
 
When ready to bake, preheat over to 350 degrees F. Remove dough just before baking, unroll parchment paper, and cut 1/2 inch slices from the dough. Spread on cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cook at least 15 minutes. Cookies will be soft, with an almost brownie-like consistency.
 
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After chilling for at least an hour, the dough holds its shape well. Remove just before slicing and baking.

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The shape of the cookie depends on the cookie dough log. Rounder logs make for rounder cookies. But they all taste just as yummy!

 

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Three Weeks In

We purchased a cottage on 1-acre in the woods of the Florida Panhandle three weeks ago. It’s a real fixer-upper, but each day we make a little more progress. The first week, running water was the biggest task. Some of the water pipes had cracked during the period the house sat uninhabited. The first few days, we would turn the water on just long enough to fill plastic tubs for washing and flushing.

Thankfully, we tackled that problem, and have functional plumbing now. This week, my husband rebuilt the hot water line so we could finally turn on the water heater. That’s right, for almost three weeks, I have had to heat water on the stove for washing dishes and bodies. The shower pipes leaked so we couldn’t use them for showering. And even if they hadn’t leaked, who wants to take a cold shower anyway?! So I used my large camping pot to heat water on the stove and lugged it into the shower, where we used a cup to pour water over us to wash. Very rugged, but it gets the job done.

Just yesterday we finalized the hot water pipe repairs and turned on the water heater. Thankfully, it works well and we’ve had hot water in the faucets. After a grueling day of plumbing repairs in the bathroom yesterday, our shower and bathroom faucets are now fully fuctional!!

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It’s glorious! Our fully functional shower, complete with a new sprayer attachment. Cups and pots of warm water work fine, but a hot shower just can’t be beat!

 Today was mostly spent on smaller tasks, but all add up to making this place our home. We finally put up a mailbox – I am sure the mailman will appreciate that! Mounting shelves, organizing the pantry, emptying the dining room so we can paint and redo the floors.

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Much of our stuff in still in storage, because we will be redoing all the floors, one room at a time. But school must go on, so I have bins of supplies in our unfinished dining room.

 It’s certainly a change of pace for our family. We have a long way to go to get this place where we want it to be, but we also have a family that has needs. Each day we have to juggle the demands of children, dogs, schooling, day-to-day errands, all while taking on major home repairs and renovations.

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One of my pantry shelves, freshly painted and stocked. It’s also high enough to keep circular saws safely out of reach of children.

Everyday I remind myself that it won’t always be this chaotic and messy. Soon enough our home and homestead will be in tip-top shape! In the meantime, I wake up each morning and smile because this life, even in this time of renovation and repairing, is exactly what we have wanted for years. We are blessed!

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Four Walls and a Roof

If you follow me on Instagram ( and I hope you do! – I share pictures and updates regularly there), you know my family has been camping for the past month. We have been bouncing around this idea of downsizing our home, getting some acreage, and living minimally for a couple of years now. We started putting this idea in motion a year ago when we packed up our house in Texas and put everything in storage. We put our house on the market, and we alternated between crashing at my parents’ house across the country and living in our empty house with no furniture. After our house sold, we thought we had found something that fit the bill for our next home. Smaller house, a larger lot, much cheaper sale price. In fact, twice we found something that seemed to fit the bill, and twice things fell apart. 

 
Things came to a head in September when our second opportunity fell apart literally hours before closing. We were forced to make some hard decisions and fully rely on God. We decided to step out in faith. We picked a town halfway between my parents and my husband’s parents, packed up our camping gear (and we haven’t camped since before our oldest was born almost 9 years ago!) and we set off for Florida. We decided on our way down that we would camp until we found our next home. 
 

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We still had the same basic criteria – a smaller house, a larger lot, and CHEAP. We decided to go all in with this plan and find something we could pay cash. We found a house that needed a lot of work but that was still livable, on an acre, and that cost exactly what we were hoping to spend. Closing went smoothly, and we have already started the hard work of making this our home. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are just taking it one day at a time, one project at a time. This could end up being our forever home (or at the very least our Long Long Time home) so we know we have time to do things just the way we want. 
 
We are in a rural community and I love it! Life moves at a different speed around here. I am so excited about getting involved in the community and meeting people – fellow homeschoolers, folks who love natural living and being self-sufficient. 
 
So our month-long camping trip has finally a come to an end and now we start roughing it in our fixer-upper. Our homestead. Our home.