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I am wife to Stewart, mama of five, homeschooler, messy cook, and avid fermenter. 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.
937 articles written by Shannon

schooltwoFall is doing what it has often done in the nearly six years since we have inhabited this land – coming and going. While the last two years have seen that subtle day-to-day change in seasons, this year seems a bit like earlier years. It has been a little drier, a little warmer, and the first “cold front” a bit fleeting. Even so, the calendar says it is fall.

I didn’t realize how much time we were spending on various aspects of the garden until the fall garden was mostly planted and now here we are with a bit more time in our days. Since February it seems we have been out there most days planting, weeding, watering, and tending to these plants that feed us. All the while we have been holding a somewhat regular school schedule for the two oldest boys and, more recently, Annabelle.


Without the urgency of harvesting, preserving, or planting in our mornings, we are turning to the school books for a couple of extra hours every day. This transition reminds me of the many times I have read, but never quite fully understood, the words of the pioneers. The challenge of putting down the shovel or dish towel and tucking into the books is an ever present one, and even more so for them it would seem.


Truth be told, the children have never once been more enthusiastic about opening their books than heading out for homestead chores. But I suppose that’s why us parents decide which days are about dirt and which days are about long division.


I had a great sense of fear when I began homeschooling; that fear that if anyone was going to botch this, it would be me. But the Lord is faithful and has allowed the children to learn to read and to plant; to write and to weed; to milk and to multiply… despite my inability to organize, well, anything.

We eat beans or legumes nearly every day in our home. I suppose that is one way we feed this growing family of ours real food on a budget. Beans and rice, beans and tortillas, lentils or hummus, and bean soups are not all that glamorous, but they are inexpensive, nourishing fare that can go with a glass of Mabel’s milk and whatever we’re picking from the garden.

This Simple Black Bean Soup is something I’ve been making a couple of times a week as it is made with just a hand full of simple ingredients. Beans, water, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, and cayenne, to be exact. No bone broth, no blending or smashing; just a bowl full of beans in their own broth with plenty of flavor.

We like to top it with onions, avocado, and cilantro… or whatever else is hanging around. One of the most key factors in cooking beans, I have found, is to not add anything acidic to the pot until the beans are completely tender. The acidity seems to prevent them from softening further. So sample a few beans for tenderness before adding the tomatoes and vinegar. It can make all the difference.


A Simple Black Bean Soup


  • 2 lb dried black beans, picked over
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 quart diced tomatoes (or equivalent)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Water, as needed
  • Chopped onion, avocado, cilantro, or sour cream to serve, as desired


Soak the beans overnight in at least two quarts of water. Alternatively, perform a “quick soak” by covering the beans in two quarts of water and bringing to a boil. Turn off the heat and let sit for one hour before proceeding with the recipe.

Drain off the soaking or “quick soaking” water and cover the beans with fresh water to at least three inches above the beans. Add the garlic and cumin and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours or until beans are completely tender, adding more water if needed as the beans soak up moisture.

Once the beans are completely tender, add the cayenne, tomatoes with the juice, vinegar, and salt to taste. If the beans taste flat, be sure to salt them enough.

Serve beans with their broth in bowls with desired toppings.