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Weekly Top Posts: 2018-01-14
2018-01-14 05:00 UTC

  2. Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake with Ginger Candied Pecans
  3. Custom Homemaking Binder Printables
  5. How Long Do Seeds Last: 13 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability

How Long Do Seeds Last: 13 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability
2018-01-10 19:54 UTC by Quinn

The post How Long Do Seeds Last: 13 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability appeared first on Reformation Acres.

How Long Do Seeds Last: 10 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability Wondering how long do seeds last? These heirloom seeds have a long viability so you don’t have to throw the packet away next year if you didn’t use them all.

You won’t be gardening very long before you’ve got a fat stash of half-used seeds in packets with the tops rolled down, maybe all taped up an effort to re-secure them. When you get to that point in your journey as a home gardener, it’s time to start thinking about their viability and hardiness.

How long do seeds last?

The sad fact is that packet of 250 onion seeds you only needed half of last year aren’t going to grow too well this year. Onion seeds only have a viability of about 1 year so a germination test will show a great deal that failed to sprout. Many, like green bean seeds, will last longer, about 2-3 years. But there are others that will last 4 years… or more!

Knowing how long seeds last and will be viable is important for planning your seed purchases, cleaning up your inventory, and knowing how many to purchase.

How Long Do Seeds Last: 10 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability (These varieties are easy to grow too!)

Be Prepared with Heirloom Seeds

It’s not a bad idea to use this knowledge as part of crisis preparation plan. Seeds are inexpensive and buying some heirloom seeds with a long viability every 4 years or so specifically for the purpose of going into storage is wise. Hopefully, you’ll never need them and they can be used and replaced at the end of that time.  But it gives a peace of mind knowing that if there is anything that happens to your finances, the seed bank, the distribution channels, or our nation, you can at least count on eating well because you had the foresight to be prepared.

Now, I am by no means a “prepper.” I know, I’m an odd-duck among odd-ducks, right?  I have self-consciously decided to be optimistic because when I was worried about all of the “what-if’s” I was being ruled by fear and it was causing depression over a “maybe.” Generally, instead of preparing in cache’s I prepare in skill-sets and knowledge, but having a supply of heirloom seeds is one of the areas I do have stockpiled. If I ever need them, I have them and can harvest the seeds each year so long as I need to for a continuous supply.

Why not grow heirloom seeds all the time and not worry about it? 

For our family, I’ve learned (the hard way) that the ideology of feeding my family fresh, healthy, organic produce is more important than my ideology of growing 100% heirloom seeds. For years I tried with mixed success. There are reasons hybrid (note: not GMO’s- that’s different) seeds are used. They can be more vigorous, hearty, disease resistant, and productive. During our year of market gardening, I learned that I could grow so much more per plant of larger, more quality produce by going hybrid. It literally means that my garden doesn’t have to take up as much room! So if an heirloom like jalapeño peppers grows well for me, I will use it, but if I can grow better vegetables, like bell peppers, from hybrids than it’s Ace for me all the way!

These dates are good for all seeds regardless of being heirloom or hybrid. But if you plan to save your own seeds from one year to the next, they must be heirloom seeds to grow true to their variety. If you want to grow seeds with a long viability here are 10 that are easy to grow! I suggested some varieties for you to try that have done really well in my gardens!

How Long Do Seeds Last: 10 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability

10 Easy Grow Seeds with a Long Viability

• Lasts up to 6 years
• Try Paris Island Cos or Heirloom Iceberg

• Lasts up to 4 years
• Try Detroit Dark Red

• Lasts up to 4 years
• Try Red Express

Swiss Chard
• Lasts up to 4 Years
• Try Bright Lights

• Lasts up to 5 Years
• Try Cherry Belle

Winter Squash
• Lasts up to 4 Years
• Try Sweet Meat or Waltham Butternut

• Lasts up to 5 Years
• Try Boston Pickling

• Lasts up to 4 Years
• Try Brandywine or Principe Borghese

Summer Squash
• Lasts up to 4 years
• Try Black Beauty or Golden Zucchini

• Lasts up to 4 Years
• Try Red Russian or Lacitino

• Lasts up to 5 years
• Try White Egg

• Lasts up to 4 Years
• Try Early Red Vienna

• Lasts up to 4 years
• Try Bloomsdale

How Long Do Seeds Last: 13 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability (These varieties are easy to grow too!)

What to Do with Extra Seeds

How long seeds last depends on the expiration date on the packet and how well they were stored before planting.

How to Store Seeds

Seeds must be under stored 50 degrees with low humidity. A cool,  dark place like your refrigerator is perfect. The average years of viability in the chart above reflect those storage conditions. If you store seeds in less than ideal conditions, they may not last as long. If you store them in even colder temperatures (like in the freezer) they may last even longer!

Learn more about How to Store Extra Seeds

Germination Test

When it’s time to use seeds that have been in storage for a year or more, it’s a good idea to do a germination test. It’s simple and will give you an idea of how much you should over plant to plan for those seeds that simply won’t sprout.

You do a germination test much the same way you would pre-sprout or “chit” seeds like onions. Simple place 10 seeds between 2 wet paper towels and put it in a plastic bag in a warm, light spot for as many days as it should normally take the seed to germinate. (It varies greatly depending on what you’re growing.)

After you notice them beginning to sprout, give it another day or three. The number of seeds that sprout tells you what your germination rate will be. So if 5 seeds sprouted, your germination rate is 50%. Plant double for the number of plants you need to grow.

How Long Do Seeds Last: 10 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability

Vigor vs. Viability

While seeds that have been in storage for over a year may very well be viable, there is a chance they may not be as vigorous as they would have been if they had been grown when younger. (That’s why the packets have expiration dates.) While it seems wasteful to throw seeds away, you’re probably are saving more in the long run by not fighting to keep a week seedling alive. It’s just as frustrating investing all of that time and effort into starting your seedling only to lose it after a while.

Keep a Seed Inventory

Keeping good homesteading records, including an inventory of your seeds, is another part of homestead management that makes the simple life easier! It saves you a ton of time by not having to sift through seed packets. Or trying to remember when you purchased the seeds. When it’s time to make purchases in the winter, simply reference your Seed Inventory sheet and know exactly what you have in storage and what you’ll need to buy.

Seed Inventory and garden planning worksheets are part of the Homestead Management Printables! Load your Homesteading Binder with them today as part of your homestead management strategy. You’ll be amazed at how much keeping homestead records will give you a better overall picture of the health and efficiency of your homestead.

What are your favorite vegetable varieties?



The post How Long Do Seeds Last: 13 Heirloom Seeds With a Long Viability appeared first on Reformation Acres.

SmartSteader Digital Homestead Management Binder

Weekly Top Posts: 2018-01-07
2018-01-07 05:00 UTC

  2. Custom Homemaking Binder Printables
  3. Learn to Love to Eat Liver with Chard Caillettes Recipe
  4. Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know
  5. Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake with Ginger Candied Pecans

Healthy Multigrain Seed Bread Recipe
2018-01-04 12:45 UTC by Quinn

The post Healthy Multigrain Seed Bread Recipe appeared first on Reformation Acres.

Healthy Multigrain Seed Bread RecipeA healthy, multigrain seed bread made with whole grains like wheat, rye, oats, buckwheat, and quinoa and tasty pumpkin, sunflower, flax, and sesame seeds.

It’s inevitable. When I go to visit my Dad there’s going to be some food tasting involved. He loves to show me all of his Whole-Foods-Finds. And I’m cool with that most of the time. (Not so much of a fan when there’s a sauce or condiment on a spoon. I need to sample in context.) Last year he toasted me up a piece of “Seed Bread” he had been enjoying and it was darn skippy!

So good, I’ve been dreaming of Seed Bread ever since!

But I’ll be honest. I’m not really the bread-buying type. In fact, if we buy bread I’m usually angry about it and stewing over my mismanagement of menu planning. (Again.) And this was swanky, expensive bread. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get my new Seed Bread fix.


Healthy Multigrain Seed Bread Recipe

Not too long ago, I could stand it no longer. I needed Seed Bread in my life! And I was pretty sure I could make a knock-off myself for a whole lot less.

It took some practice and quite a few failed loaves, but I’ve got something I’m real happy to add to our Family Cookbook!

I don’t think it’s a true knock-off. There were some ingredients in there I wasn’t interested in trying. Fruit juices, I think. But my loaves don’t have the store-bread flavor behind them that’s gotta come from making the loaves shelf-stable longer.  It turns out, I actually like this bread better! (I think all store bread tastes moldy. Seems like I’m just a food snob?)

So you can bet the next time I visit my Dad, I’ll be taking some for him to try!

Healthy Multigrain Seed Bread Recipe

This healthy, multigrain Seed Bread is a fairly straightforward loaf of bread. I started to get all fancy pants with technique. But then I realized I would never make it if it was a pain. (Which is why the Quintessential Sourdough Loaf was such a game-changer for me.) Really, the only extra step above and beyond a regular old bread recipe is soaking the seeds and whole grains for at least an hour or more to soften them up. And rolling the dough in seeds if you want them on the outside.

You can totally make this recipe by hand, in the Kitchen Aid Mixer, or in the bread machine! The dough cycle on my bread machine turned it out beautifully! I even rebelled against the mid-cycle beep signaling for add-ins. Just add the seed and grain mix in before the flours.

You can skip the seedy crust if you’d like, but man, why would you? The extra step takes about 2 minutes and the toasted seeds on the outside are amazing! (Also, it’s kids favorite part!)

Finally, this bread makes a fantastic buttered toast! (Let’s qualify that. I need to distinguish cast-iron-skillet-bread-toasted-in-butter from counter-top-toaster-bread-slathered-in-butter-post-toasting. The two don’t compare and after that realization, I threw away my toaster.) I’ve been loving the toast with headcheese or a toasted sandwich! My little girls do complain that the crust is too hard and chewy for them to eat un-toasted. If you plan to eat it that way and don’t want the chewy crust, just skip the steaming part of the recipe.

Try baking your bread in one of these pans! I’m loving using silicone right now! 0% chance of the bread getting stuck in the pan and super easy to clean. The first middle one makes a batard and the second middle one makes a nice boule. (It’s the one used to make the round loaf in my photos in this post.) For a loaf pan, I usually stick with ceramic or stoneware but I’d love to try out the cast iron loaf pan!

Healthy Multigrain Seed Bread Recipe

Healthy Multigrain Seed Bread

Healthy Multi Grain Seed Bread

Yield 2 loaves

A healthy, multigrain Seed Bread make with whole grains like wheat, rye, oats, buckwheat, and quinoa and tasty pumpkin, sunflower, flax, and sesame seeds.


  • 3 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 4 Tablespoons flax seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons Steel Cut Oats, or Cracked Wheat
  • 2 Tablespoons Buckwheat Groats
  • 2 Tablespoons Quinoa
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon dry, active yeast
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup Additional seeds for garnish, optional, not soaked


  • Combine the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, steel cut oats, buckwheat groats, and quinoa in a small bowl. 
  • Stir in ½ cup water. 
  • Allow to soak for at least an hour. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yeast into 2 cups of warm water. 
  • Add the honey, whole wheat flour, rye flour, all-purpose flour, seed mix, and salt. 
  • Stir together to combine and then knead the dough for about 10 minutes. 
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until it has doubled. 
  • Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. 
  • Divide it into 2 pieces and form the initial shape. 
  • Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes. 
  • Grease the pans with soft butter. 
  • Shape the dough once again.
  • If you want a seedy crust, brush the dough with water and roll them into a mix of extra seeds spread on a plate. (About ¼ cup of mixed seeds per loaf. Feel free to add in some sesame seeds too! But I don’t recommend using the flax seeds on the crust. When toasted they taste a little fishy. Literally.)
  • Place the loaves into the baking pans. 
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap then allow them to rise again until doubled. 
  • Place an empty oven-proof dish in the bottom rack of the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • When the bread has risen, make ½”-1″ deep slashes across the top if you’d like. 
  • Place in the oven and close the door. 
  • For a chewy crust: Get about ½ cup of water and quickly pour it onto the hot, empty pan on the bottom rack of the oven to create steam. Quickly shut the oven door. 
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.
  • Turn out onto a wire rack to cool for as long as you can stand. 


Here are some other great homemade bread recipes to try!

Restaurant Brown Bread Dinner Rolls

Quintessential Sourdough Farm Loaf

Crusty Sourdough Dinner Bread

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread

No Knead Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Kulich

French Bread

Carrot Cloverleaf Rolls

Easy Sourdough Bread

Cheddar Bacon Rolls

No Knead Sourdough Rye Bread



The post Healthy Multigrain Seed Bread Recipe appeared first on Reformation Acres.

SmartSteader Digital Homestead Management Binder

Custom Homemaking Binder Printables
2018-01-02 17:51 UTC by Quinn

The post Custom Homemaking Binder Printables appeared first on Reformation Acres.

How I Set Up Homemaking Binder Printables and how you can get Custom Homemaking Binder Printables I want to share with you some of the Custom Homemaking Binder Printables I use in organizing my homemaking and homesteading binders,  free for the taking. Check these templates out and see if they might be useful in your Homemaking Binder as you try to get more organized while managing your home or farm! Simply enter your email in the box below and I’ll send you a link to the printables (including all of my favorite natural cleaning recipes) so you can get organizing!

How I Set Up Homemaking Binder Printables

I put my Homemaking Binder Printables in a simple pocketed 3-ring binder with a plastic sleeve cover for easy cleaning, in which I keep a decorative coversheet. It’s very similar to how I set up my Homesteading Binder. 

The front and back pockets are used for storing scraps of paper for quick note-taking, writing down ideas, storing important papers or business cards that I’ll need to file later.

Inside, there are 5 tabbed dividers: Schedules,  Home Education, HomesteadingFinances, and my Home Business. You could also have a section for managing children’s chores, health, and nutrition, cleaning, etc. In the back, I have a folder that I 3-hole punched in which I keep magazine clippings for decorating or project (sewing, knitting & crocheting patterns etc.) ideas. All pages are kept in sheet protectors for easy cleaning if necessary. (Tip: I also print on both sides of the paper to reduce thickness/bulkiness of the binder.)


My Schedules tab is most commonly used on a daily basis. However, I refuse to be a slave to the schedule. I use it as a guideline and outline for what I could ideally accomplish in a day. It helps me from getting too far behind on any one task so even if, say, for example, I miss one month’s organizing day because we went spent the day together doing something fun as a family, it’s certainly not as bad as if I let 6 or more months slip by. (Which has been known to happen!) While it doesn’t help me “get it all done” it sure helps!

Instead of having a cleaning day, I have found it easier to break up my household chores among Monday through Saturday. This eliminates having chores undone if something comes up on cleaning day. (And with 8 children, anything can happen to knock me off schedule!) This schedule is all on a Monthly Schedule page opposite my Daily Schedule page and is where I keep it open to all day.

My Monthly Schedule is broken down into 4 weeks, 7 days a week with Sunday being left blank for the Sabbath. To determine what week I’m on, I go by if it’s the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Monday of the month and I fly by the seat of my pants every couple of months when there is a 5th week to the month.

How I Set Up Homemaking Binder Printables and how you can get Custom Homemaking Binder Printables

My Schedule

It looks like this:

Monday– Mopping;  Launder sheets 1st and 3rd week
Tuesday– Clean Bathrooms
Wednesday– Grocery & Menu Planning; Clean the fridge; Shopping
Thursday– Ironing; Scrub-a-Room (I have a schedule for deep-cleaning each area of the home once every 6 weeks.)
Friday– Finances; Window cleaning; (Septic Treatment 1st week; Dusting 2nd & 4th week)
Saturday–  Clean cupboards inside and outside; Monthly Chores; Lesson Prep
I used to have a daily schedule for both Winter & Summer which basically only varied upon whether I was schooling or gardening. I am terrible at sticking to these schedules! Ever since Bill started working from home, it’s been nearly impossible to keep. My daily schedule had a list of reminders of things I should attend to before retiring for the night such as any planning that may be required for breakfast or dinner the next day and arranging our chore chart system, etc.

Next, is a Yearly Schedule broken down into major projects according to month? A yearly schedule is really helpful for those tasks that aren’t done on a regular basis and therefore easy to overlook.

Check out how I set up my Yearly Schedule and learn to set up yours.

How I Set Up Homemaking Binder Printables and how you can get Custom Homemaking Binder Printables


Get 115+ printable binder sheets for your 2018 homestead and garden–>> HERE

Gardening Expense Records (Or check out the SmartSteader Homestead Management app! It makes keeping gardening and homestead records even easier!)

Gardening Production Yields-  Record current & previous years production totals and record the difference to analyze homestead yields and growth.

Snag these homestead printables for free:

Seed Sowing Schedule & Template

Incubation Chart

Menu Planning

Menu Planner- Meal idea worksheet; 12 month/4 week Menu Planner; Price List, Pantry Inventory; Freezer Inventory

Grocery List Template



Home Education



Health & Nutrition

Menu & Grocery Planning

{Recommended Resources}


Home Economics: Vintage Advice and Practical Science for the 21st-Century Household Large Family Logistics Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House The Hidden Art of Homemaking

I hope that you will find them helpful in organizing your home or your homestead!


The post Custom Homemaking Binder Printables appeared first on Reformation Acres.

SmartSteader Digital Homestead Management Binder

Weekly Top Posts: 2017-12-31
2017-12-31 05:00 UTC

  2. Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake with Ginger Candied Pecans

Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know
2017-12-29 11:45 UTC by Quinn

The post Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know appeared first on Reformation Acres.

Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know (This is such great advice!)Starting a new homestead but don’t know where to begin? You’re not the only one! It’s easy to be overwhelmed. This is a great question and I’m going to share the lessons I’ve learned about where to start homesteading.

By God’s provision we were able to buy a beautiful 3 acre piece of land two weeks ago. I’ve always dreamed of living in the country and now that we are here I don’t know where to begin when starting a new homestead. Our property came to us completely fenced for goats and equipped with a small chicken coop and fenced garden. I guess my question to you is where do you start? I’m a little overwhelmed with the laying out of our little farm. I’m excited about all of it and don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. A homeschooler like you, I need to be able to balance all the work and feel like I should ease in.

It’s exciting when your homesteading dream first becomes a reality. You want to get in there and do everything straight from the beginning! It’s finally happening!!

But it is so easy to get too excited about all the possibilities when you get your first piece of land! The temptation is to dive into the deep end head first, not realizing you don’t even know how to swim.

This is a recipe for disaster. You run the risk of end up feeling overwhelmed, defeated, and, unless you’re of the most stubborn character, maybe even failure. We all grew up on Easy Street and this type of hard work isn’t in our nature (otherwise you’d see more folks doing it because it’s just so satisfying) and increasing accessibility to sustainable, local food makes it simple to pay someone else to raise our food for us.

So where do you begin when starting a new homestead?

Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know (This is such great advice!)

Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know

Learn the Land

One of the permaculture concepts is don’t do anything for a year,  until you’ve walked it, see where the water goes, see where the frost pockets are, see where the dry spots are. Let the land speak to you. Then start with something you like. What do you like to eat? What do you like to do? What fascinates you?  – Joel Salatin

Were I starting a new homestead, I wouldn’t make any permanent additions for the first full year. Each season you’d find me taking pictures, making notes, recording the first & last frost in my homesteading binder and all other relevant observations. Being armed with this information will increase your success the second year.

Let’s look at our orchard as an example. When we planted our orchard, the determining factor for deciding upon a location was, “Where do we have open space?” Our side yard seemed to have the most room and so that was where we planted. Thankfully, there’s southern sun in the winter and they aren’t shaded, but we didn’t think about that at the time.

Worse than that though was that the trees were planted in the fall and it wasn’t until the following spring that we realized just how wet it gets there. We planted half the trees in a very low spot where water sits for months in the spring. Fruit trees prefer to be 3-4 feet above the water table. Of the trees that survived that first year, their growth is visibly stunted. We have since built up the area and they’re doing better, thankfully, but careful observation would have prevented that issue.

I love that Joel suggests growing what you like to eat. Originally, we were planning on getting goats for milk production because operating on such a small scale we thought that was our only option. The problem was, we don’t care for goat’s milk and I really wanted to learn the skills associated with having a dairy cow- ice cream, butter, and cheese, etc… I’m very glad that we decided to go with a cow! While our cow doesn’t produce enough cream for ice cream and butter (which is one of the cons of having a Dexter cow), I have learned to make several types of cheeses and hopefully will one day have a cow capable of providing us with the others.

Avoid and Reduce Debt

When starting a new homestead don’t get too far into debt because you lose freedom. Do things that take time and not money and use your creativity to do for yourself. I would not recommend building your homestead by digging yourself into debt. Quite the opposite. If you happen to have debt, take that first year and try to get out of it. Reducing your monthly expenses will allow you to fit a new feed bill into the budget and ultimately give you so much more freedom to grow and expand when you are ready… not when the finances will allow.

Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know (This is such great advice!)

Start Small, Start Slow

For many reasons “easing in” is one of the wisest things a new homesteader can do. It prevents burnout, helps you stay out of debt, allows you to thoroughly do your research. Starting a new homestead slowly, building knowledge, obtaining experience, gaining confidence, and working towards mastering each new skill will allow much of the work to be done effortlessly and as a matter of habit. Going about these new tasks habitually will go a long way to improving morale when there is a bump in the road.

And there will be bumps.

Especially since, in this case, there already is a hen house in place, I think that a small laying flock is a wonderful place to start. A few chicks this spring will generate a great deal of excitement and feeling of productivity like you’re doing something other than waiting.

Despite a lot of what you’ll read out there, chickens are relatively adaptable and probably the most foolproof of barnyard animals. After 5-6 months of enjoying your young chickens, you’ll start being able to gather eggs. Get a few new chicks each spring so you’ll have fresh layers in the fall when the older gals are molting and over the winter. They’ll keep you in at least a few eggs when everyone else is complaining of empty nesting boxes. After the 3rd or 4th year, cull out the oldest hens who are no longer laying and they can finish their contribution to the homestead by providing your family with a wonderful stock. (I have some simmering away on the stove right now.) You’ll also get the benefit of a new skill- chicken butchering.

The second year on the homestead I would plant a garden in the spring. You could even start seeds in the late winter or early spring. I typically start my onions in January, peppers in March, and tomatoes a couple weeks later. I have found this to be a perfect cure for the winter blues and a fantastic and frugal way to extend the gardening calendar.

Make sure you mulch your garden. Mulching is a wonderful way to build soil fertility over time, reduce fungal diseases found in the soil from infecting your plants, and most importantly (for me at least) keeping the weeds at bay. Straw or hay mulching took weeding from a daily chore down to a once-a-week one that takes less than an hour of my time.

As to adding too much else beyond the garden and the chickens I would be hesitant to do so. It’s hard to be patient, but gardening and food preservation will take more time than you think.

Remember ease in. If you plan on putting in an orchard or berries, plant them in the late fall when the garden and all the related harvesting and food preservation isn’t consuming so much of your time.
For successive years… well, what do you like? What “stokes your boiler?” Do that.

Get Organized

There are many reasons to keep good homestead records no matter how long you’ve been homesteading, but it’s even more important when you’re starting a new homestead and learning new things every day.

Keeping records will help you know how much you’re growing and what it’s actually costing you. This information will help you make better decisions about the best breeds, what to feed, your favorite seed varieties and which yield the most. What amendments work best, how to tackle those garden pests, what you actually ate from the pantry last year. What’s buried at the bottom of your deep freezer, when’s the best time to start seeds, how many eggs did we get last year?

I’ve created several tools that have been a tremendous blessing in helping me remember all of this information, get a good idea of whether we’re saving money by homesteading, and to have a better system for scheduling homesteading tasks. They’ve helped me organize my homestead and they will help you too!

Homestead Management Printables– These are over 115+ printable worksheets for your homestead and garden binder! They’ll help you make and keep a schedule, keep records, plan a garden, and journal how your homestead works best.

SmartSteader Homestead Management App– Based on the Homestead Management Printables, this app makes keeping homesteading records even easier! They’re a math-free way to track your expenses and yields in every area of your homestead. The best part is you can take your binder with you wherever you go! It’s always on your phone, ready to use in a few taps. No more having to remember to write everything down when you get inside. This app is a game-changer for me and makes keeping homesteading records really, really easy!

Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know (This is such great advice!)

Build Soil Fertility

Assuming that growing food in the soil will be a part of every homestead, I would focus on building the fertility of your soil. Since I believe in doing so sustainably and organically, the way food has been grown for thousands of years heretofore, I would recommend doing so via mulching, cover crops, compost, and aerobic compost teas.

Test your soil, make necessary holistic amendments using compost tea, compost, and mulch. I highly, HIGHLY recommend a book I read this winter called Teaming With Microbes. It will give you all the science behind building your soil food web and then the tools and knowledge to test and amend your soil accordingly.

To this end, if you plan on putting in an orchard or berry patch in the first or second year, in The Holistic Orchard (another excellent resource), Michael Phillips recommends taking a whole year to prepare your orchard site for planting.

Fruit plantings happen in one of two ways. The go-getter turns the lawn under and, plop, the trees and assorted berries are in. No real transition toward the fungal state occurs prior to the nursery order being made and delivered. The soil biology can recover from such unbridled enthusiasm- it’s not “wrong” to do this- but soil preparation prior to planting offers certain advantages worthy of consideration. People with just a wee bit more foresight understand that a year of cover cropping and woodsy mulching not only offers the grower a chance to build organic matter and correct fertility imbalance but can also hasten fungal dominance.

Finally, having that new flock of layers will come in handy while you’re building soil fertility on your new homestead. Either by encouraging your free-ranging flock to congregate where you’ll be planting by laying down thick mulches for them to scratch through (and subsequently leave their contribution) or by proactively managing the manure of a contained flock via composting, the fertile manure of chickens will give your soil a big boost ahead of that first year of planting.

Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know (This is such great advice!)

Build Skills

All of this doesn’t mean that you can be actively homesteading. There is still much that can be done. My next recommendation is work on building your skills.

Food preservation such as canning, curing, smoking, experimenting with cheese or soap making will all go a long way to helping so that the future learning curve will be more focused on animal care rather than turning their products into useable goods. Learning to cook from scratch, if you don’t already know how will help you to know how to prepare the food you grow or raise.

You can spend your time reading and researching the ventures you plan on beginning with. Having that knowledge to draw on when you need it will be so helpful, allowing you to attack a problem immediately when it arises.

You could find a mentor. That’s not always easy, particularly if you raise your food unconventionally. If you find a mentor, gleaning from their acquired wisdom and experience, what a blessing that would be! When we started our homestead we didn’t know anyone like us. The community found on the internet has been a great benefit. One word of caution if you look to the internet for homesteading mentorship: Like the Titus 2 model the Lord gives women for godly female mentorship where the older, more experienced women are teaching younger women, try to look for homesteaders who are sharing wisdom and experience they have acquired over the years. 

Another suggestion for anyone starting a new homestead is to work out. This may seem odd since homesteading provides a built-in workout with all the chores to be done. I’m not talking about lifting weights or anything. While a cardio workout helps with endurance, if you’ll be raising livestock, stretching could prevent injuries that could happen while chasing animals, slipping in the mud, etc. I’ve been stretching twice a week with this workout, really enjoy it, and hope it will be beneficial I play a more active role around here in the coming months.

Check out these 30 skills you could be building while you wait for your homestead dream. 

Starting a New Homestead: What You Need to Know (This is such great advice!)

Build Infrastructure

If you don’t have the infrastructure in place, the first year, while planning, is a great time to work on it. (Without going into debt, obviously.) Having the whole year set aside to work on these projects will mean fewer impulse purchases. (Like when we bought a cow but weren’t ready for her. Who was supposed to be bred, but wasn’t so we bought a bull to breed her when we shouldn’t have. Who we then had to butcher because we didn’t have space for him which meant buying all the supplies to get that job done. She also wasn’t supposed to be lactating, but was- to the tune of 4 gallons a day! and there was that start-up expense. So much for having 6 months to prepare!)

And if you already have these things in place, you could buy high-quality tools and equipment. I emphasize high quality because the tools you get at a big box store are made for occasional use. If you don’t buy high quality, plan on making an annual expense of the most used tools. (We have more shovel and rake heads than I can count!)

Finally, from the homemaker’s perspective, think about getting a  mudroom if there isn’t one in your home. Our home doesn’t have one and without an addition, there is nowhere to put one. “One of these day’s” we intend to put in an access and use the unfinished basement as a mudroom. Right now there 14 muddy- and by muddy, I mean “muddy”- boots strewn about our schoolroom. Which doubles as the common entry into the home. The walls are often scattered and splashed with mud. I took down my lace curtains over the door panels because I noticed they were no longer ivory, but beige. The maroon rugs look more dark gray than anything. I could go on. Point being, do yourself a favor and have a mudroom.

Of course, in some situations, a mudroom might be out of the question. In which case, I HIGHLY recommend saving your sanity and all the time spent cleaning up after an unruly husband or children and investing in a pair of these. Maybe one for each door of your home even. I know I sure would have appreciated having them in the past!

Easing into starting a new homestead doesn’t mean that you can’t be busy building your new lifestyle. There is always much work to be done and, as you’ll soon find out, the work is never really done. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by all the knowledge to be gained. It’s a big responsibility to steward that knowledge to the next generation so it isn’t lost again. I really feel like because of trial and error it could take more than a lifetime to recover these skills. There is really no sense in rushing it. So relax and enjoy the simple life and all the blessings and challenges it has to offer.

Seasoned homesteaders, if you were starting a new homestead all over again, where would you share with someone just beginning? What lessons have you learned? 


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Learn to Love to Eat Liver with Chard Caillettes Recipe
2017-12-28 05:13 UTC by Quinn

The post Learn to Love to Eat Liver with Chard Caillettes Recipe appeared first on Reformation Acres.

Learn to Love to Eat Liver with Chard Caillettes Recipe

You guys! I’m so excited- I finally learned to love eating liver!! Chard & Liver Caillettes are patties made with a mix of ground pork and liver, onions, garlic, sage, and swiss chard. They’re so good you don’t even know the liver is there! I’m so glad I have an option for using that part of the animal beyond partially dehydrating and freezing it for dog treats.

Last month we helped a friend put a couple hogs in the freezer to feed her family for the next year or two. She’s a beautiful soul and passionate about her family’s health. Knowing how healthy liver is, she is determined to find a way they will all enjoy eating it on a regular basis. Last time she tried the frozen liver pill thing and it didn’t go well.

I get it. I did the same thing with our last beef liver and it’s still a giant frozen mass of bitty liver cubes buried in the recesses of a deep freezer. Despite flash freezing they still all stuck to one another. Sad to say, I haven’t been motivated enough to break out a chisel.

This year, my friend mixed a high ratio of liver into some ground pork and tested seasonings till they liked it and wrapped it in “Offalicious” packages. She inspired to do the same!

Then as I was searching for new recipes I wanted to try during our homestead hog butchering workshop, I came across another recipe (besides the amazing crockpot pork rillettes) in a cookbook called Country Cooking of France for Chard & Liver Caillettes. And guess what? They’re made with that mix of pork and liver we’re trying to learn to love to eat!

Last year at the workshop Andy made Crepinettes for everyone which are pretty much a pork burger wrapped in caul fat and fried in a skillet. As a pork-burger-lover I was a huge fan! Plus, say what you will, there is something so beautiful to me about the bright green herbs and the lacy white fat. Of course, they were delicious!

These Caillettes seemed like pretty much the same thing, maybe even better because of the stealth offal and leafy green vegetables.

Still, I was skeptical. They looked beautiful while preparing them but would they taste any good?

I was (very) surprised to find that I did indeed like them! (I would eat them here and there, say I would eat them anywhere. In a box with a fox. In a house with a mouse in fact.) Sorry. I’ve got lots of little kids. 20 years of reading Dr. Seuss will do that to you.

I tried freezing a few to see if they would hold up well to batch freezing and I’m giving that a thumbs down. The chard loses any texture it had and makes the patty feel “starchy” as my children described it.

Next year, I’ll simply do as my friend did and package up the “Offalicious” mix of ground pork and liver and add in the chard and other ingredients when I’m wanting to make them. (Did I mention I’m thrilled to have a new way to prepare swiss chard? It’s such an easy-to-grow vegetable, it’s so beautiful in the garden too. It’s just hard to find a lot of delicious ways to prepare it.)

Learn to love eating liver! Chard & Liver Caillettes are patties made with a mix of ground pork and liver, onions, garlic, sage, and swiss chard. They're so good you won't even know the liver is there!

Learn to Love to Eat Liver with Chard Caillettes Recipe

Learn to Love to Eat Liver with Chard Caillettes Recipe

Learn to Love to Eat Liver with Chard Caillettes Recipe

Swiss Chard & Liver Caillettes

Swiss Chard & Liver Caillettes

Learn to love eating liver! Chard & Liver Caillettes are patties made with a mix of ground pork and liver, onions, garlic, sage, and swiss chard. They’re so good you won’t even know the liver is there!


  • 1 large piece of caul fat
  • 8 ounces pork liver, ground, chilled
  • 8 ounces pork, ground, chilled
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • lard
  • 1 pound swiss chard leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 12 fresh sage leaves
  • ½ bay leaf, crushed
  • salt and pepper


  • Mix the liver and ground pork together and keep them chilled while preparing the remaining ingredients.
  • Saute the onions in a bit of lard until they are caramelized, about 10 minutes.
  • Add in the garlic and continue to cook for another minute.
  • Add the chopped swiss chard leaves and stir, cooking until they are wilted and bright green. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Mix the parsley, chopped sage, bay leaf, salt, and pepper to the ground meat.
  • Add in the onions and chard mixture and mix well.
  • Form into patties.
  • Lay out the caul fat.
  • Place a whole sage leaf on the caul fat, top with a patty.
  • Cut around the caul and wrap up the pate.
  • Repeat with the remaining leaves and patties.
  • Fry the patties in a cast iron skillet until they are cooked through and golden brown on the outside. 





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Weekly Top Posts: 2017-12-24
2017-12-24 05:00 UTC


How to Preserve Crockpot Pork Rillettes in Lard
2017-12-20 22:10 UTC by Quinn

The post How to Preserve Crockpot Pork Rillettes in Lard appeared first on Reformation Acres.

This is a delicious recipe for how to make french pork rillettes in a crockpot and preserve them in lard! Earlier this month we wrapped up our 2nd annual Homestead Hog Butchering Workshop we host with Hand Hewn Farm. This year I tried making rillettes with a recipe I had bookmarked in The French Slow Cooker. It turned out to be an incredibly delicious and simple way to make french pork rillettes in a crockpot. (And preserve them in lard!)

(You can see a recap of last year’s workshop here.)

When we first started butchering with Doug & Andy we were slapped (not literally) with the realization that butchering season had become all about getting the meat processed and into the freezer. ASAP.

The first few years for us had an intense learning curve as we muddled through the weekend, trying to remember what we had done before. When we became more comfortable with the process, the end game was about getting it knocked out before Monday so all we had left to do was manage the curing meat (a process you simply can’t rush.)

But these guys were taking their time.

They’d stop off and talk. Or go take a piece of meat and disappear for a while and come back with a perfectly cooked sample. They would work on making little extra things like rillettes that made it about more than turning half a hog into supermarket cuts.

Seemed like they were having more fun too!

This is a delicious recipe for how to make french pork rillettes in a crockpot and preserve them in lard!

Over the years of butchering with them, it is surprising when I think about how much our palettes have changed and become more adventurous! Seriously, there are some crazy things I never thought I would have tried that it turns out I love!

I was thinking about the food we made this year we would have been too scared to try before. Some because of laziness, some because they are poorly named. (Like Headcheese.)

Pork Butter, Morcilla (Blood Sausage), Headcheese, Pork Stock, Capicolla, Proscuitto, Guanciale, Nduja, Smoked Ham Hock Terrine, Crepinettes, Pork Dust Bread Crumbs, Lonzo, Pork Rinds, Pancetta, Caillettes, bits of offal like liver, kidney, tongue, Tonna di Maiale, Sanguinaccio dolce. (Which my mind still hasn’t reconciled with my mouth. Tasted just like chocolate pudding!)

And pork rillettes.

In fact, I’ve got a 5-year old in here right now with a box of crackers on her head asking me if she can have one with some of “that stuff” on it. Now you know 5-year-olds never lie. About what food they like, that is.

Whether you would try any of those things or not, you’ve got to admit, that’s all a huge jump from doing just bacon, dry cured ham, smoked kielbasa, using natural casings, and lard! (Which was the extent of our pre-Hand Hewn Farm experimentations.)

This is a delicious recipe for how to make french pork rillettes in a crockpot and preserve them in lard!

What makes pork rillettes so special?

It’s pork slowly cooked in white wine and it’s own rendered-down fat along with herbs and spices until the meat is literally falling apart it’s so tender.

On butchering day we use trimmings from the front leg or belly, but a shoulder roast cut into cubes would be perfect. Depending on how fatty your pig (or cut of pork) is you may need to add some cubes of fatback to the pot to make sure you get enough rendered lard. A little less than 3:1 ratio of meat to fat should be fine.

The meat is shredded and any un-rendered fat is “discarded.” (meaning it goes on to feed the chickens. Or dogs or cats.) It’s packed into half-pint jars then the white wine juice & melted lard-juice is ladled over the meat.

If properly covered with fat, pork rillettes should be shelf stable in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. But you could also keep them in the fridge or freezer. Just make sure to serve them at room temperature.

Crockpot Pork Rillettes

Crockpot French Pork Rillettes

Yield 4 half pints

This is a delicious recipe for how to make french pork rillettes in a crockpot and preserve them in lard! You can easily double or even triple this recipe!


  • 3 pounds pork trimmed from the front leg or belly, cut into 1” cubes 
  • ¾ pound fatback, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme, or half of both- why not? 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch allspice
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • ½ cup water, or all white wine- why not? 


  • While you can use trimmed pork shoulder and cubed fatback (3:1 ratio or so), at butcher time we will use trimmings that still have a good bit of fat attached or the trimmings from the belly which have a good amount of fat and would have otherwise gone to ground pork. 
  • Place all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and render down the fat on low heat for about 8 hours until the meat can easily be shredded. Stir occasionally.
  • Skim out the cubes of meat.
  • Remove the meat from the unrendered fat, discarding the fat. (And by discard I mean the chickens will happily eat it. Or dogs or cats.) 
  • Shred the meat and pack it into half-pint jars with 1” headspace.
  • Ladle the liquid fat/wine/water mixture over the shredded pork until the pork is completely submerged. Use a knife to remove any air pockets. Wait for about 10 minutes for the liquid to settle and then add a bit more if the meat is no longer covered. (If there isn’t enough liquid, just cover the meat with rendered lard.) 
  • Cool completely before serving at room temperature.
  • Store in a cool dark place or refrigerate for up to 6 months, but they’re not going to be around that long!


Original Recipe Credit from The French Slow Cooker, (one of my favorite cookbooks!)

This is a delicious recipe for how to make french pork rillettes in a crockpot and preserve them in lard!



The post How to Preserve Crockpot Pork Rillettes in Lard appeared first on Reformation Acres.

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Weekly Top Posts: 2017-12-17
2017-12-17 05:00 UTC

  4. Whole Grain Harvest Apple Butter Cake Recipe

Buttery Sourdough Crackers Recipe
2017-12-12 15:11 UTC by Quinn

The post Buttery Sourdough Crackers Recipe appeared first on Reformation Acres.

Buttery Sourdough Crackers - These are so flaky and addictive! What a great way to use up extra sourdough starter!Perhaps it’s just my kids, but I can’t keep snacks in the house. Especially not Buttery Sourdough Crackers. It is seriously crazy, but I bring little snacks in here and by the time I go to dole them out, they’re gone already. If I bought them from the store, I’d go broke in a month. If I made my own, that’s all I’d ever get done doing.

Every now and then, I’ll indulge them and make crackers for a treat. But the experience only reinforces why I’m anti-snacks.

Buttery Sourdough Crackers - These are so flaky and addictive! What a great way to use up extra sourdough starter!

Let’s take this batch of Buttery Sourdough Crackers for example.

I somehow managed to distract 80% of my kids long enough to sneak some crackers out of the oven, throw together a quick stack for a photo, fire off a shot or two before the fingers began to descend.

She just wanted to help me stack them. Honest.

One cracker spent a few too many second in direct contact with her finger flesh and was doomed to gradually slip up into her mouth.

I knew I was done for. I double checked my aperture, adjusted my exposure, gave the filter a quick polish, held my breath to get a good focus and let the shutter fly. My time was up. The word was soon out and the vultures descended.

“Chloe had a cracker, why can’t I?”

The batch was gone before I had a chance to clean up.

And that, my friends, is why you don’t see me messing with crackers.

But, boy, are they sure tasty when I do!

Flaky, crispy, and buttery sourdough crackers. As much as I’d like to throw in that they were made with whole grain, I didn’t care for them baked that way. I think they tasted like burnt cheese. Now if you like burnt cheese in your cracker, by all means, boost the fiber. I backed the whole wheat off until I thought they were lighter and the buttery flavor was able to come through. Normally, I feed my sourdough starter whole wheat (I think it’s happier that way), but the day before I bake crackers, I’ll go half and half with the white & wheat flours. I heartily recommend experimenting with your ratios (or even flour types) to make this recipe your own to meet your preferences and needs!

There is a smidgen of lard in my recipe. We have plenty on hand and I think it contributes to the flakiness, but if you don’t have any lard you can use butter instead. No big deal.

I know it seems like a lot of steps, but really, it’s not too bad, they roll out easily, don’t stick to the counter like some do. There are about 5 minutes into the active time before the resting period and 20 into the rolling, cutting, and buttering. With no preservatives or artificial flavors, it’s totally worth it!

Buttery Sourdough Crackers - These are so flaky and addictive! What a great way to use up extra sourdough starter!

Buttery Sourdough Crackers

Buttery Sourdough Crackers


  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (preferably fed at least once with ½ white flour & ½ wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon lard, (or butter)
  • ¼ cup of butter, melted
  • sea salt


  1. Day Before: Feed your sourdough starter with half white flour & half wheat flour.
  2. In a bowl measure out the unbleached flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and give them a whisk to combine them together.
  3. Cut the butter into small pats and add the butter and the lard into the flour and using your fingertips, work the flour and butter together until it’s crumbly.
  4. Measure out the sourdough starter and stir it into the flour mixture. It should be on the dry side and you’ll probably need to turn it out and knead it for a minute or two to incorporate it all together.
  5. Place the dough ball back in the bowl and cover it with a cloth for a few hours. (Longer=more sour.)
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Melt the butter.
  8. Divide the dough into 2 balls and work them separately as follows.
  9. On a lightly floured counter, roll one out to about the thickness of a dime.
  10. Brush the dough with the melted butter.
  11. Fold one edge of the dough to the center and then fold the opposite edge all the way over. (In thirds, like you would a letter.) Fold the “letter” in half.
  12. Roll it out again to the same thickness, brush with more butter, fold again the same way, and roll it out again a final time.
  13. Either use a pizza cutter or knife to cut squares or use a small, 1 1/2″ biscuit cutter to cut rounds (don’t twist to cut.)
  14. Transfer the crackers to a baking sheet, poke them a time or two with the tines of a fork, brush them with butter, and sprinkle with a bit of salt to taste.
  15. Bake in the oven for 9-11 minutes until the bottom and very edges are lightly golden brown.
  16. Transfer them to a cooling rack and wait at least 3 minutes to sample so you don’t burn your taste buds, but I don’t think you’ll make it much longer than that.


5 Other Homemade Cracker Recipes

Whole Grain Wheat Thin Crackers

Cracked Black Pepper Rye Crackers

Healthy Flaxseed Crackers

Whole Wheat Pizza Flavored Sourdough Crackers

Sourdough Pretzel Crackers


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Weekly Top Posts: 2017-12-10
2017-12-10 05:00 UTC

  2. Whole Grain Harvest Apple Butter Cake Recipe
  3. Spring Roots and Garlic Scapes with Fried Eggs
  5. (GIVEAWAY) How to Preserve Your Fresh Herbs in Compound Butter (+ 8 Recipes)

Make Your Child Want to Help on the Homestead with These Gift Ideas
2017-12-06 15:31 UTC by Quinn

The post Make Your Child Want to Help on the Homestead with These Gift Ideas appeared first on Reformation Acres.

Make Your Child Want to Help on the Homestead with These Gift Ideas

Doing some shopping for your homestead kid? Stumped on what to get them and need some gift ideas? How about getting them some presents that actually make your child want to help out on the homestead?

In my experience with children (and I’ve had 8 my own), it seems like after a certain age their desire to play grow-up begins to wane and it occurs to them that chores aren’t play. Whatever the reason for that shift, I believe we can encourage them to embrace the farm life again by making it fun and not just something mom and dad are into.

I believe it also helps when we go beyond farm toys (all kids love those, even in the middle of the largest city) and give them the tools that make helping out on the homestead easier and more manageable. Boots that don’t leak or leave cold feet, cute headlamps so they can see in the dark, their own basket they made themselves for gathering eggs. Discovering the “garden cart” was HUGE for my kids. Wheelbarrows are awkward to maneuver and easy for uncoordinated kids to manage.

I consulted my children for ideas and approval and got an enthusiastic thumbs up on these ideas! Hopefully, your kids will be just as excited to play a more active part of your homestead and start building their own skills!

Check out, EVEN MORE, gift ideas for the homesteading & gardening kid in our Homesteader’s Shop!


Make Your Child Want to Help on the Homestead with These Presents

Make Your Child Want to Help on the Homestead with These Gift Ideas

Farm Chores









Check out, even more, gift ideas for the homesteading & gardening kid in our Homesteader’s Shop!



The post Make Your Child Want to Help on the Homestead with These Gift Ideas appeared first on Reformation Acres.

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Weekly Top Posts: 2017-12-03
2017-12-03 05:00 UTC

  2. My Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homestead Kitchen
  3. (GIVEAWAY) How to Preserve Your Fresh Herbs in Compound Butter (+ 8 Recipes)
  4. Restaurant Brown Bread Dinner Rolls
  5. Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake with Ginger Candied Pecans

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading Records
2017-12-01 14:19 UTC by Quinn

The post 7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading Records appeared first on Reformation Acres.

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading RecordsDo you keep homestead records? Have you wondered if they’re worth the effort? I’ve been
keeping homesteading records in a homestead management binder for years and can answer with a hearty, “YES!”

Want to know why? 

Managing a homestead can be a lot of work. But it can also be more work than it has to be. Sometimes, it’s enough to make your head spin and leave you wondering if the “simple life” really is as simple as they make it out to be.

The question is, “What can I do to make juggling a homestead work in harmony with all the modern demands on my time and energy?”  Let’s face it Ma Ingalls didn’t have many of the pressures we have these days! (I’m not saying her life was easier. No way!)

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading RecordsFor most of us, just because we start farming our backyards doesn’t mean all the other responsibilities of life disappear.  Between work, homeschooling, farm chores, gardening, food preservation, balancing a social life, community service, scratch cooking & baking, larger homes, etc.., modern homesteader’s have more to balance these days. Our mental load can be heavy! (Tell me, I’m not the only one!) 

Over the years, I’ve learned the value of keeping homestead records and one of the biggest reasons is there is that much less mental load.

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading Records

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading Records

Less Mental Load

Your homesteading binder is an organized dump for all of the information you’re gathering and observations you’re making. Which means instead of trying to remember everything, you now have an amazing reference tool at your fingertips.  By keeping homestead records, you may actually retain more than if you were trying to remember it all.

Let’s be honest.

You can’t remember the average number of eggs your hens were laying last April, can you? What about two years ago?

Recording details about our homestead gives us information which allows us to discover patterns that affect production and/or costs.

Know How Much You’re Growing

Wouldn’t you love to know exactly how much food you’re able to produce off your own land? It’s an encouragement when you can quantify how all your hard work has paid off. A little bit coming in from the garden every day might not seem like a whole lot, but when you add it together, you’re probably growing a lot more food than you realized!

One of the surprising ways knowing how much I’m growing has encouraged me was during the years of a crop failure. Seems there is always one crop that was a complete bust. Because I kept production records across the homestead, I realized other areas picked up the slack and our overall production was nearly identical to previous years when the failed crop was abundant! It made me feel like much less of a failure!

Discover How Much You’re Spending

Do you wonder if all of this work is even making a difference to your budget? Are you really saving money? One of the reasons folks get into homesteading is to live more economical, self-sufficient lives. You’ll hear some say how much you can save by homesteading and others say it’s nothing more than an expensive hobby. When you track your homestead expenses, you can see where you fall on the spectrum.

Knowing how much you’re spending can challenge you to come up with creative solutions to save, ideas on how to make a little extra income, and create a budget (and stick to it.)

Or you may find, much to your surprise, you’re not spending nearly as much as you thought and you can even expand your homesteading efforts!

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading RecordsSet Goals and Track Your Progress

Challenge yourself to find new ways to “homestead smarter,” to grow more and save time and money in the future! Compare your homestead experiments with past years to find out which methods are most productive. Or which aren’t worth the time and effort you’re putting into them.

Make Better Decisions

Who likes making the same mistake twice? Not me! Keeping homesteading records serves as a tool to help you know what things you’re doing that worked… or didn’t work. It might be years before you need the information again and by then you may have forgotten it.

For example, maybe you want to see if you can save money on feed. You want to know if fermenting, using fodder, feeding free choice vs. ration, or even free-ranging will increase your production or reduce your expenses. If you have records of what it was costing you before to compare to your experimental area of production you can make better decisions when managing your homestead.

This is just the tip of the iceberg! The possibilities to make your homestead better are endless!

Your Custom Homestead

Having a system for managing your homestead is like creating a “custom homestead how-to” just for you! Your homestead is your unique little paradise on earth and there’s no other just like it- not even at your neighbors!

Keeping homesteading records tracking weather patterns, your favorite seed varieties and companies, seed age and viability, when to plant seeds and transplants, crop rotation, transplanting (too soon, too late), productivity in an intensive garden, which breeds of hens are most productive on your farm, how long can you expect your hens to molt, how many hours of daylight do you have over winter…. is all information that will help you discover the best way to steward your land.

Spend Less Time Doing Chores

When your homestead is organized you actually spend less time doing chores. Ever heard the old adage, “It’s easier to clean a clean house than a dirty one?” Same goes for on the homestead. If you keep on top of chores by knowing when is the best time to get them done instead of procrastinating, you increase efficiency and spend less time doing chores and more time enjoying your farm!

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading Records

Digital Records or Paper Records?

So which are the best type of homestead management records to keep? Well, that’s something you have to decide for yourself! Some folks are more suited to paper and some folks are embracing technology and keeping digital records.

I’ve been using paper-based Homestead Management Printables until last year before I made the switch to digital and I’m not looking back. My records are definitely more thorough and complete now that I have my “homestead binder” with me where ever I go. Entering information is a lot easier now and I don’t have to worry about losing my notes outside!

 Benefits of Paper Records

  • Writing your records out by hand reinforces information in your mind.
  • More room for creativity and self-expression
  • Safe in the event of an SHTF catastrophe that leaves you without access to your records
  • Embodies the principles of slow, simple living

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading RecordsBenefits of Digital Records

  • Your “Homestead Binder” (phone) fits in your pocket. Unlike a bulky binder, they’re with you everywhere.
  • Easier note-taking with voice to text or a few quick & easy taps. No more dirty, wet notes. (Cause if homesteading is anything, it’s messy!)
  • No more using your body as paper. I have had my entire arm front and back “tattooed” with notes I took in the field and wanted to transfer to my binder.
  • No more wasted time finding a pen. (Maybe just a problem in our home?)
  • No worrying about lost or forgotten notes and receipts. Your records are backed up and secure.
  • Data can be shared between different devices. (This is a big way SmartSteader is changing my life! The accuracy of my homestead records depended on the hope I got all receipts. Now my husband can just enter them into the app himself when he leaves the store. No excuses!
  • No more spending hours doing math! A game changer for me! I used to set aside a few hours every month for math and swapping out papers for the new month. Plus an entire day or two to tally everything at the end of the year, calculate totals and averages, differences between years, and enter paper notes into a document so I don’t have to worry about losing papers (or so I can search for specific items.)

For me and many others, the benefits of keeping digital records far outweigh the benefits of paper ones.

The biggest benefit is the time I save keeping a digital homesteading binder allows me more time to spend enjoying my farm.

Time for playing with my family, learning new ways to improve our homestead, reading a book, or taking a walk in the woods!

SmartSteader Features

  • Track expenses
  • Record harvest yields
  • Income tracking
  • Headache-free price per pound calculations
  • Graph production
  • Take notes and record observations
  • Metric measurement conversion

Areas of Production

  • Garden,
  • Chickens,
  • Dairy Cows & Goats,
  • Laying Chickens,
  • Meat Production including Rabbits, Meat Chickens, Pork, Sheep, Beef, and Turkey
  • Custom Records- Got something unusual most folks aren’t growing or raising? Name your own record to manage that aspect of your homestead. This feature is great for tracking general farm expenses like fuel or infrastructure. I’m going to get creative and use it for keeping soap making records next year.

The future for SmartSteader is bright! We have a ton of features in the works!

Future SmartSteader Features

  • Freezer / Pantry Inventory
  • Butchering Records
  • Incubation Chart
  • Breeding Records
  • Beekeeping
  • Seed Starting Calculator
  • Individual Animal Records
  • Weather Log
  • Report Generation (So you can print off a summary of your records and have a paper copy)
  • Calendar Scheduling

Isn’t it awesome!

And YOU can enter for a chance to win 1 of 100 SmartSteader annual subscriptions we’re giving away this week!! How exciting is that??!!

Giveaway ends 11:59PM December 8th and winners will be randomly chosen the next day. Remember to use an email address where I can reach you if you win! The winner will only have 48 hours to respond before I choose a new winner so keep your eyes peeled. 

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading Records

Enter to Win a Year of SmartSteader

100- SmartSteader Annual Subscription

I hope you win!

7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading Records


The post 7 Reasons You Need to Keep Homesteading Records appeared first on Reformation Acres.

SmartSteader Digital Homestead Management Binder

Weekly Top Posts: 2017-11-26
2017-11-26 05:00 UTC

  2. Restaurant Brown Bread Dinner Rolls
  3. Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake with Ginger Candied Pecans
  4. Starting from Scratch
  5. Whole Grain Harvest Apple Butter Cake Recipe

My Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homestead Kitchen
2017-11-22 17:23 UTC by Quinn

The post My Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homestead Kitchen appeared first on Reformation Acres.

Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homesteader's KitchenYou want to know what was one of the most painful parts about packing up the majority of our belongings and putting them into storage indefinitely while we build our new home?

Deciding which books will be going into storage for who knows how long. Suddenly, books I haven’t touched in months or years I am wishing I could reference but they’re buried in a pile of boxes miles away.

I think the worst of the worst is not having all of my cookbooks! I’m a total cookbook junky and while pinning recipes is great, for me there’s nothing like the joy of flipping through the pages of a real book!

It turns out that I’m also a bit of a cookbook snob.

To get a spot on my cookbook shelf, there are a few criteria it must meet. It wasn’t intentional, but I’ve realized these requirements I’ve had all along are serving me well as I cook for my large family in a (very) small kitchen.

Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homesteader's Kitchen

4 Things I Want in a Cookbook for my Homestead Kitchen

Real Ingredients

First, it has to use real ingredients. No “can of” this or “jar of” that. I’m looking for truly scratch made recipes. Fresh ingredients are preferred but if I pop open a jar it is usually one I sealed myself in a canner. At least that’s the goal.

Local Ingredients

I want most of the ingredients to be ones I can grow on our homestead here in Ohio. I’ve got a great cookbook on loan from the library right now called Deep Run Roots, but awesome as the book is, the author’s criteria seems to be the same as mine so several sections are no good to me cause we can’t grow figs or oysters. Some obvious exceptions to my “local ingredients” criteria are ingredients like salt, pepper, and chocolate! I don’t stick to this all the time, but it is a goal so I can serve the freshest, most flavorful, nutrient-dense food possible.

Keeping it Simple

I want simple foods big on flavor, but without a lot of complexity or a long list of ingredients. This means the same few herbs, spices, vinegars, wines, oils, and baking ingredients are being used in new, creative combinations to make food taste great without taking up the valuable real estate space in my cupboards. If there is a recipe that uses say sesame oil or tandoori sauce, as tasty as that meal might be, I’m going to pass because it might sit on the shelf for months before I pick it up again. (The sesame oil is a great example cause I just moved the same bottle to this home as I moved to my last house over 4 years ago.) I won’t be buying it again.

So as delicious as Brown Butter Lobster with Kale Pesto Polenta and Cherry Tomato Bacon Pan Sauce sounds, I’m not ever going to make it because I can’t get fresh lobster here, I don’t stock polenta in my pantry, and I already know from the title I’d be making at least 5-6 different things (brown butter, lobster, kale pesto, polenta, frying bacon, and then a sauce) to bring together while who knows what chaos ensues around me with 8 kids to distract me enough to screw up a lobster dinner. (Plus lobster for 10= $$$$.)

You’d think this would make for boring meals, but when you eat seasonally changing the vegetables and fruits while using the same ingredients to build flavor make a big difference! There’s plenty of excitement and diversity for the palette when you eat that way!

Minimal Prep Work

As intrigued as I am by “real food” (think WA Price) and though I find myself using that term cause my food is made using real ingredients, I don’t actually follow the guidelines for food preparation laid out in that diet (or similar ones.) I really don’t soak or ferment anything. Lacto- or otherwise. I can barely remember to plan dinner for tonight. (Writing that made me panic- did I plan dinner for tonight? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. I can’t stop thinking about that fish I cooked in the Lemon & Dill Compound Butter, but I messed up the coating last time and I learned a new trick I want to try to make it stick.) I don’t want to be a slave to my kitchen and I put plenty of time and hard work, blood, sweat, & tears… and love into the food I serve my family. I’ve got to draw the line somewhere to preserve my endurance and sanity. One-pot meals, slow cooker meals, and sometimes pressure cooker meals are a bonus. (Though I find that a lot of meat made in the pressure cooker isn’t really that great. The heat is too hot, too fast and the collagen is getting so tight the meat is tougher than with other methods of cooking.)

Photos of the recipes are also a big bonus!

So which cookbooks have I read that meet that criteria? Which ones do I love the most and use in my homestead kitchen? 

Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homesteader's Kitchen

My Top Ten Simple Homesteader’s Cookbooks

The Bon Appetite Cookbook

What I Love: This book is a beast! There over a thousand great recipes to explore!

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Chicken and Andouille Sausage Ragu, Grilled Beef Salad with Corn Salsa & Chipotle Dressing, Golden Mashed Potatoes with Parsnips and Parsley Root, Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie with Gingersnap Crust, Peach Grunt with Caramel Sauce, Grilled Summer Vegetable Medley with Fresh Herbs

Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homesteader's Kitchen

Melted Chard Stalks with Bacon from Forgotten Skills of Cooking

Forgotten Skills of Cooking

What I Love: This book was first recommended to me by a dear friend and it’s still my favorite. The rural nostalgia in the photos makes you want to go back 150 years and cook the way they used to.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Old Hen in Parsley Sauce, Quiche Lorraine, Coq Au Vin, Melted Chard Stalks with Bacon and Hazelnuts, Tuscan Pasta with Hare Sauce

Farms & Food of Ohio

What I Love: The ingredients in this book were bound to meet my ingredient criteria! And it didn’t disappoint! I can trust the recipes are all made with food I can grow in my own backyard.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Caramelized Onion and Sage Fritatta, Crispy Maple Spareribs, Milk Braised Pork Loin, Raspberry Cream Custard, Pulled Pork with Vinegar  & Onion Sauce

Local Flavors

What I Love: The simplicity. And all of the recipes feature farm-fresh ingredients.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Caramelized Apple Tart with Cinnamon Custard,  Farmer’s Stew, Multigrain Apple Pecan Scones, Winter Squash Braised in Cider, Carrot Salad with Parsley Lovage and Mint

Meat & Potatoes

What I Love: The recipes are paired together for complete meals so you don’t have to figure out what would go well with a new dish. Plus, meat & potatoes? These are guaranteed man-pleasing meals!

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Beef Shortrib Sliders with Onion Bacon Jam, Spicy Italian Sausage Stew


What I Love: The recipes in Tender all highlight garden fresh produce prepared in a variety of ways.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Potatoes with Dill & Chicken Stock, Young Parsnips & Sausages, Roast Beef with Tomato Gravy, Eggplant Bruschetta

Also try:

Ripe (The fruity companion to Tender)

Around My French Table

The Art of Simple Food

Rustic Italian Food

Martha Stewart Living: The Original Classics

Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine

Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homesteader's KitchenCast Iron & Grilling

Lodge Cast Iron Nation

What I Love: My cast iron. So naturally the more ways I can find to use it the better they’ll be.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Caramelized Apple Bacon French Toast, Beef & Bacon Hash, Garlic Topped Flank Steak Roulade, Farmers Market Ratatouille, Braised Kale with Bacon & Onions, Spicy Sausage and Cheddar Yeast Rolls

Weber’s New Real Grilling

What I Love: I’m not much of a griller. I use the grill as an excuse to get out of cooking that night so there’s not a lot of diversity going on there. This book gave us lots of great new recipes to try so we could move beyond burgers.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Grilled Apple & Romaine Salad, New York Strip Steaks with Parmesan Basil Crust & Garlic Butter, Spicy Drumsticks with Grilled Peaches, Honey & Lime Glazed Baby Back Ribs

The Gardener and the Grill

What I Love: When you think of grilling, you think meat, right? This book has a ton of amazing ideas to grill your fresh garden produce.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Kale Potato Chorizo Pizza, Skewered Chicken Saltimbocca, Stir Grilled Italian Sausage Peppers & Onions Hoagies, Mesquite Smoked Jalapeño Poppers

Also try:

 Cast Iron Baking Book 

Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homesteader's Kitchen

Herb Roasted Chicken with Garlic & Shallots from The French Slow Cooker

One Pot & Slow Cooker

French Slow Cooker

What I Love: There isn’t a recipe in this book that hasn’t knocked my socks off with flavor! All of the recipes are scratch made which can be unusual for slow cooker meals.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Rillettes, Bittersweet Chocolate Cremes, Herb Roasted Chicken with Garlic & Shallots, Pork with Mushrooms and Cream, Chicken Salad Parisienne


One Pan & Done

What I Love: Fewer dishes. Isn’t that enough?

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Nutty Sticky Rolls, Wilted Arugula & Sweet Pea Cheese Ravioli, Beef & Bean Chili with Warm Nacho Chips, Maple Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Fries

Martha Stewart Living: One Pot

What I Love: There is a lot of diversity in here so beyond the one-pot perks, I can count on this cookbook to turn out delicious recipes that I can rotate through the seasons.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Black Bean & Almond Soup, Chicken Stir Fry with Bok Choy, Pork with Root Vegetables, Beef & Barley Stew, Rustic Apple Tart, Beer Braised Sausages with Potatoes

Also try:

One Pan Wonders

Italian Slow Cooker

Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homesteader's Kitchen

Sweet Potato & Molasses Cupcakes from Cake Stand

Baking & Desserts

King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

What I Love: What don’t I love? I’ve got a crazy sweet tooth and a deep love of all things bread. Baking with whole grains assuages a touch of the guilt when I indulge.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Whole Grain Double Fudge Brownies, Cornmeal Maple Biscuits, Frosted Ginger Apple Cookies, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Whole Wheat Challah

Cake Stand

What I Love: Cake. I love cake. And that baking a cake usually signifies a time of joy and celebration! This cookbook, which I happened to write, is a compilation of my favorite tried & true cake recipes that I bake on our family’s special days. Every recipe highlights different farm-fresh flavors so you can even eat your cakes in season!

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Toasted Coconut Pound Cake, Sweet Potato Molasses Cupcakes, Pear Gingerbread, Chocolate Kale Cake, Peach & Blueberry Bundt Cake

A New Way to Bake

What I Love: Like King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking, this cookbook features recipes using more natural ingredients and fresh whole grains.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Double Chocolate Rye Muffins, Barley Buttermilk Biscuits, Seeded Breakfast Rolls, Pecan Oat & Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies,  Herb Quiche with Rye Crust, Muesli Coffee Cake, Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread

Also try:

Farmstead Pie (This is my Reformation Acres ebook of our family’s favorite pie recipes!)

Seasonal Fruit Desserts

A La Mode

Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homesteader's Kitchen

Bacon based on the recipe from River Cottage Curing & Smoking

Food Preservation

Home Cheesemaking

What I Love: There is a lot of work that goes into milking a cow! I love knowing that when I have a surplus I can trust this cookbook to give me a quality recipe that walks me through all the steps to turn that precious milk into glorious cheese. But there are also many great recipes that showcase various cheeses too so don’t think this book isn’t for you if you don’t have a cow (yet.)

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Cream Cheese Chocolate Fudge, Ricotta Pancakes with Banana Pecan Syrup, Simple Provolone, Jalapeño Cheddar

Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin

What I Love: This is a collection of recipes that showcase Pomona’s Pectin which happens to be the best pectin I’ve ever tried. I’ve never had to re-batch a single recipe since the day I started using it. But what I really love about Pomona’s Pectin is that I can preserve fruit with less sugar or even natural sugars like honey and maple syrup and still have it turn out beautifully!

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Spiced Pear Cranberry Jam, Chocolate Cherry Preserves, Blackberry Wine Jelly, Honeyed Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

River Cottage Curing & Smoking Handbook

What I Love: Bacon. And capicola and prosciutto and pancetta. I also love the natural approach to curing meat because as it turns out, I’m not particularly scared of my food trying to kill me. Which is why I happen to have a one-year-old leg of pork curing in my bedroom right now that has nothing but sea salt, lard, and black pepper covering the exposed flesh. (It’s a prosciutto.) Over half the book is dedicated to all the details surrounding curing & smoking so you’re left with all your questions answered. And the second half is of course recipes.

Can’t-Miss Recipes: Dry Cured Bacon, Cider-Cured Ham, Spreadable Salami (Nduja), Smoked New Potato Salad

Also try: 
In the Charcuterie
Milk Cow Kitchen
Complete Book of Home Preserving
Food in Jars
Make Mead Like a Viking


Want to be inspired by even more of my favorite cookbooks? Check out the Canning & Food Preservation section and the Farmstead Kitchen Cookbook section in our Homesteader’s Shop!



The post My Top Cookbooks for the Simple Homestead Kitchen appeared first on Reformation Acres.

SmartSteader Digital Homestead Management Binder


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