I am wife to Stewart, mama of four, homeschooler, homebirther, home cook, fermenter, head dish-washer and chief fire-puter-outer. This is where I tell our story... of building a sustainable off-grid homestead in a Christian agrarian community... of raising this growing family of ours... of the beauty and the hard and the joy in all of it.
793 articles written by Shannon

IMG_8357 IMG_8147 IMG_8157 IMG_8265 IMG_8299 IMG_8354 IMG_8349 IMG_8169Golly am I ever grateful for this kitchen, especially during this, the hottest part of the year. Windows all around make it feel like an outdoor summer kitchen. And the food feels like summer too – colorful, cool, bubbly, and low-maintenance.

The tomatillos are trickling in and make it into Tex-Mex stews and fresh salsas. The yellow squash is starting to get old – or so I am told – so I’m going to dehydrate or ferment it from here on out. Speaking of fermenting, that lacto-fermented salsa is one of my favorite ferments right now. With this heat I have to stick to a few tricks for getting the fermentation right but we eat them up within days, so there haven’t been too many problems.

Lots of bubbly beverages are happening here now that we’re able to stretch out. They are so refreshing and hydrating – and just down right tasty – during these hot days. Gallons of kombucha are being brewed by Stewart and kept atop the wood stove, which clearly we have no need for at the moment. He’s been bottling grape kombucha, lime kombucha, orange kombucha, and more during the second fermentation.

I’ve been working with water kefir to make fizzy bottles like that one above. A few chunks of apple, citrus, or mango always seem to worm their way in. On a side note, for a couple of weeks I couldn’t handle the sugar in the bucha or the water kefir without a little tummy ache. I got my stomach acid in order with something that helped a long time ago and all of the foods that seemed to be bothering me were back on the menu.

Oh, and that view from the window and out the screen door is pretty good too. The girls are perfecting the art of the dirt pie and I’m afraid Ruthie didn’t get the memo that the dirt isn’t actually meant for eating. Oh well, it washes down nicely with some buch, she’d say.

The heat is on in the kitchen but it doesn’t seem to slow the appetite of my big and little people. Breakfast and lunch are meals as usual and supper is usually something in the realm of cool and refreshing. We had homemade bread, fruit, and milk last night – and somehow no one complained.

How are you surviving summer in the kitchen?

IMGP7135 IMGP7516IMGP7522 IMG_4012 IMG_4013

Neither Stewart nor myself had ever built anything of significance before we moved to the land. I’d watched my Dad, brothers, and Step Dad build homes and garages and additions ever since I was a little girl. In fact, the very first house I lived in until I was seven years old was built by my Father.

But we were trained in computers and chemistry labs and as such had no practical life experience or training in homesteading or building a house. I was blessed to grow up watching my parents and brothers just do the things that needed to be done and I figured we’d just do the same, even if it was a steep learning curve. When we stopped to visit family on our trek across the country to our new home they asked Does Stewart know how to build a house? to which I responded I’m sure he’ll figure it out.

IMG_3896 IMG_3911 IMG_3933 IMG_4011And he did. He built the cabin addition to the camper which he affectionately called the wooden tent. Both of our baby girls were born in that wooden tent and it saw us through for nearly three years. Over and over again I heard him say that if he had to do it over again, he would do it differently. He learned a lot from throwing something together with little resources and time as winter approached and his third child was on the way. The gems were in the process.

IMG_3363 IMG_3379 IMG_3495 IMG_1598 IMG_1625Like almost every other aspect of homesteading, our plans changed with time and resources and health. What was just a roof line to catch water became a 400 square foot cabin that we moved into last year. The kitchen addition originally planned for winter was completed this spring and I promptly spread my kitchen wares and messes over its 40 feet of counter space. I was a little misty-eyed those first few days in the new kitchen when I wasn’t struggling for just a foot of counter space three meals a day.

IMG_4015  IMG_7349

This morning I watched the children throw a tennis ball around from the new screen door. I thought of the days we poured the foundation for the sleeping quarters – the boys bringing water, my father-in-law mixing much of the concrete when Stewart was exhausted with adrenal fatigue. One night it was getting late and we needed to finish so I put down the dish towel and helped mix the concrete while Stewart poured it. Ruthie was born just a couple months later when all that there was of this new cabin were a floor and a roof.

My Step Dad and Stewart put the insulation in the ceiling not long before we moved in early last summer. Annabelle helped Stewart with the J-bolts on the new kitchen while I looked on with Ruthie in my arms. My Dad stood alongside Stewart and the boys as they put together the walls of the kitchen and then raised them up along with our neighbor. I remember my brothers and I swinging hammers with my Dad at that age and now he was working the screw gun with my own sons.

IMG_7474IMG_7475IMG_7477IMG_7478 IMG_8066 IMG_8083

During the girls’ naps I stood on a ladder and held windows while Stewart installed them. When the work was louder, he nearly always stopped to let his girls sleep in their beds just 20 feet beyond the cabin door.

Stewart and I tried to get most of our deadlines out of the way ahead of time this spring when my Mom and Step Dad came. I’d seen him build the cabinets in my childhood home and Stewart knew he could learn a lot from him. So Stewart picked his brain and let him take the lead and within a couple of days they had the skeleton of the 13 cabinets in place. After they left he had learned so much that he was able to finish them, add two drawers, and then craft two more hanging cabinets that now hold dishes and foods and herbs and supplements.


Most of the materials we used were the least expensive option. The painting was a little less than ideal with so many little hands involved. We threw up bedroom walls and an office the day before we had family staying on the land with us for several days. Most of it was built incrementally – as we had the money, the ability, and the knowledge to at least take a crack at it.


Besides the more dangerous aspects of the construction, I can’t think of a single thing that our families or the children – even Annie – weren’t a part of. While not a single thing about this house is what we had originally envisioned four years ago, the process of building – paying as we go, working together – is exactly what we’d hoped for.

And that’s been the very best part.