Saying Goodbye to Horse

Everyone has a story.

We got cows delivered to the homestead yesterday. Super exciting, but that’s another story.

Evidently, bringing new animals onto a farm is a big deal. It affects the other animals.

After securing the heifers in their fenced area, Magnus – the livestock guardian dog, disappeared for 4 hours. He was not pleased with this new addition. But that’s another story.

This story is about Horse. Yes, Horse has a name. Her owners call her Jilly-Bean, but she has been Horse to me since we arrived. She is a beautiful creature, and we have a great affection for her. We are not horse people, and she is not our horse. We are just doing our best to care for her until her owner, Jack, can bring her to their new property.

That day came sooner than planned because the cows arrived. There was a disturbance in the force.

I am clueless when it comes to horses, but even I could tell there was tension in the air.

Unloading the heifers from the trailer into their paddock, I see Horse gallop to the top of a hill that overlooks the property. She can see the new arrivals and she is not pleased. Prancing from side to side, tossing her head, and snorting loudly it becomes very clear that she is not happy.

But Horse is put out of our minds as we get distracted by every other thing that requires our attention. She has headed off to the opposite side of the property, past the furthest pond, as far away as she can get from the new animals. Later that afternoon I visit her, and we have a chat. I tell her I understand she is not happy, but the cows won’t bother her, and everything will be ok. I pet her and lean into her. She walks alongside me for a bit, and I think we can work this out.

Horse is not convinced.

That night she approached the inner pasture at our back door for her usual feed and attention, but her agitation was palpable. She can see the cows. She can smell the cows. She snorts and prances. She gallops and tosses her head about. She is so agitated that I make sure there is a fence between us. I do not want to approach that massive creature in this state. I fear her. But at the same time, I can feel that she is in distress, and I try to talk to her, give her some food, and sooth her with a carrot. She may be huge and powerful, but she needs a mama’s love too, and I have learned over the years how to give mama love. But no amount of love would settle her down.

We are not horse people, and though we have done our best, we are at a loss. We contact Jack and let him know we need him to get the horse. It has become too much for us and we now have our own livestock to care for.


The overnight rain has stopped, but with the wet weather it is a good day for Mr. J to head into town on some errands. I handle the animal chores. It is clear enough outside that I head out in short sleeves without a jacket, thinking I won’t be long and the weather is warm enough. After feeding and watering the animals, I spy Horse. She is once again in the far pasture, past the furthest pond, as far away as possible.

I go out to visit. We talk. I tell her it’s ok. She leans into me and rubs her head on my back. We walk together for a bit. Then I hear what I think is a truck and trailer coming down the drive. Jack is here to get Jilly-Bean.

I walk to the barn and find Jack. He has a bucket of feed and a long rope for a lead. The trailer door is open, and he is ready to get Jilly-Bean. We walk past the barn to the field and Jack let’s out a whistle – loud and long. He calls out, “Jilly-Bean! Here girl!”

Jack rescued Jilly-Bean years ago. She had been mistreated; her hooves were in such a bad state that she could barely stand. Jack brought Jilly and her mom to the farm and has been caring for her ever since. Jilly loves Jack. But she was not answering his call.

So, we walk out to where Jilly is in the far pasture, past the furthest pond, as far away as possible. She sees us now but stands her ground. I approach her and stop a few feet off. I say “Hi, Horse” and she approaches and brings her head close to mine. Jack asks me to get the lead on her. With one arm I reach it over her neck and with the other arm I bring it around to secure it. Now she can be led back to the trailer.

This is where Jack takes over. After all, I am not a horse person. And honestly, she scares me a bit. Jack is 75 years old, recently recovered from a heart attack and open-heart surgery. Even more recently Jack had some shoulder surgery to remove a tumor and has been nursing an injured knee. But Jack can control his horse. He knows her movements, when to push and when to let her wheel around. I walk along side, talking to Horse, encouraging her to come along, saying it will all be ok.

Fortunately, the cows are on the other side of the property, otherwise it would have been really difficult.

We make it past the pigs with some difficultly. Evidently Horse has not been thrilled with them either, but I was too ignorant to understand this. We get to the trailer. And there we stop.

Jack is working his magic, but Jilly-Bean won’t go in. He has her lead secured to the trailer and another rope behind her haunches to nudge her along. But his girl won’t budge. I am as close as I dare, and still very much afraid of her powerful hooves and massive form. But I have to push aside that fear to get this done. I pat her and coax her, while keeping an eye on a way to escape if it becomes too much.

No luck. Jilly-Bean loosens the ropes, breaks away from Jack’s hold and escapes at a gallop to the far pasture, past the furthest pond, as far away as possible.

So, Jack and I calmly begin the walk back. One thing I have learned is that animals can sense your stress. If you are calm and in control, it helps them to stay calm.

I walk ahead, talking to her, because we learned from our first try that Horse will come to me. As I walk along, pondering this life I chose, I think to myself, “At least it’s not raining.”

I get to Horse and stop a few feet ahead of her. I say “Hey, Horse” and she walks towards me. Untangling the lead still attached to her neck, I hand it over to Jack.

“This is her safe place,” Jack tells me as we stand there a moment. “She stayed here for two weeks when her mom died. Her mom is buried on the rise over there.”

There is more to Jilly-Bean’s story. I had no idea. My eyes get moist as the empathy overcomes me. I am filled with all the things this horse has gone through and what she is experiencing right now.

Everyone has a story and most of the time we have no idea what people are going through. Treat the people (and the horses) you come across with Grace and Mercy.

Mrs. Nancy J

Horse, Jack and I walk back to the trailer, much the same as before.

The rain begins. Soft fat drops. But at least it is warm and there is no wind.

This time I can be more helpful as we approach the trailer. Jilly-Bean’s lead is secure and Jack is at her head. I get the rope behind her haunches so we can nudge her in.

Not happening.

Still raining.

“You need to git inside the house before you catch cold,” Jack declares.

Nope. I am not about to leave him to do this on his own.

Horse is getting more agitated as the minutes pass. Jack is on one side. I am on the other. We’ve got to do this. But Jilly is not lifting her front legs to step inside. And when she does, it is more in a stomp of anger. I see the bucket of feed and think maybe I can lure her in.

I step inside the trailer and show her the pail. She angrily nudges and gets a mouthful chewing grumpily. Then there are some sudden large movements and before I know it Horse is in the trailer and Jack quickly closes the door behind her.

Horse and I are in the trailer.

Horse is vibrating with emotions. Her muscles are roiling as she tries to find a way out. But here we are and all I can do is talk to her and put my hands firmly on her. Let her know I am there. Try to remain calm.

She turns herself around in the trailer, I get shoved in a corner and I think of all the things that could go wrong. Stay by her head, I think to myself, away from her hind legs. Ouch. That’s my foot and I push her off. Talk to her. Let her know you are there. Stay calm.

“Jaaack! How are we getting me outta here?” I call, pressed between Horse and the inside wall of the trailer

“There’s a door behind her. Lift the pin.”

I struggle with the pin. No luck. It doesn’t help that this way out is at her rear opposite the side I am on and my mind is whirling with stories of horses kicking.

I stop and assess. I move to her head, towards the trailer’s rear gate.

“How ‘bout we try this door?” I suggest. It is towards her head and while the concern is that she will make a break for it, I think I can manage to slide this one open. Jack grabs her lead, pulls her head away from the gate and holds her firm as I push her from my side. I slide the door open, squeeze out, and shut it behind me.


“You did good,” Jack says. “Better than most men I know.” He starts to gather the ropes and equipment that have been scattered in the ordeal.

“Well, I’ll let you go,” I say quietly as I back away so he can finish up and get out of the rain.

I turn from the trailer and head up the drive. The adrenaline stops pumping and I break down. Small, gasping sobs.  I slowly walk through the rain, back to the house, and just let it out.

Goodbye, Horse.


As I am writing this post the pigs have escaped their pen. We all put on boots and head out the door. But that’s another story

Sugar & Salt Body Scrub

This body scrub takes minutes to make and will make you feel like you have gone to the spa.

For most of my life I was a St. Ives Face Scrub gal. It could always be found in my shower. Then, about 5 years ago, I was gifted with some homemade sugar scrub. I have never turned back. Soooo easy to make and you probably have all the ingredients on hand. This recipe is easy and customizable, the perfect introduction to making your own skin care products.

I look forward to using this scrub on my face every morning. It always feels like a special treat. It leaves my face clean and moisturized and I love knowing all the ingredients are natural.

You can find the original recipe here from one of my favorite bloggers. Shae at The Elliot Homestead makes this homestead lifestyle look graceful and elegant.

I have made a few adjustments to the original recipe to make it my own. I added an additional 5 drops of Peppermint essential oil, because I can’t get enough of that scent this time of year. It gave this scrub a slightly tingly feel on my face, so if your skin is sensitive you should stick to the original 20 drops. I also added a teaspoon of Vitamin E oil for the extra benefit to my skin since I use this scrub on my face.

I think gathering some girlfriends and making this scrub at a ladies get together would be super fun. Maybe an activity for a girl’s birthday party and the guests get to take home a container filled with their own scrub. Or double the recipe to make a jar for yourself and one to give as a hostess gift. So easy and such a treat!

You can personalize this recipe by using your favorite essential oils. I would suggest you keep your oils to a total of 40-45 drops for this recipe.

To use this as a face scrub, I scoop about a tablespoon out with my fingers, rub between my two hands, and apply to my face, neck, and upper chest. This recipe lasts me for about a month with daily use. I usually double my recipes and they have stored well in a cool, dark place for about 2 months.

Now it’s your turn to give it a try. You can do it!

Peppermint Sugar and Salt Body Scrub

Gather the following:

  • A medium sized bowl
  • 1/4 cup measuring cup
  • fork to mush ingredients together
  • sugar
  • salt
  • coconut oil
  • essential oils of your choice
  • Vitamin E oil (optional)
  • 8oz container for the final product (I like to reuse cosmetic jars, but a shallow glass mason jar or plastic screw top container will work)

Peppermint Sugar & Salt Scrub Recipe:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil
  • 25 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 1 tsp Vitamin E (optional)

How you do it:

Measure sugar, salt, and oil into your bowl.

Thoroughly mush together with a fork until well blended.

Add essential oils and Vitamin E (if using) and mix again with your fork until the oils are evenly distributed.

Scoop into your container.

That’s it. Enjoy!!!


I source my essential oils and cosmetic ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Selecting livestock for the homestead

My thoughts and considerations…for now.

I’m sure more experienced farmers may chuckle as they read my plan, and I will probably look back a realize that, like most plans, it didn’t survive first contact. But I think it worthwhile to share how I am selecting the animals I am bringing on to Fiat Farm. There is a plan, and thought has been put into it. Whether it’s the right plan or not…time will tell.

We have acreage. We have pasture. We have woods. We have water.

Now we need animals.

But not just any animals. As a regenerative homestead our animals will play an important role in increasing the fertility of the land. Oh, yeah, and filling our freezer.

So, what are my considerations as I select livestock for Fiat Farm?

Here goes…

What is their role? As I research and select animals, I ask what role will it play on the homestead? Protection, pasture management, food? Most will have a dual purpose. For example, pigs will help with woods and pasture management along with providing pork for the freezer.

Can they thrive on our land? The animals must be able to thrive on our land with little to no input from us. We will provide water, some feed, minerals, and manage their frequent rotation to new paddocks; but most of their nutrition will be provided by our pasture and woods. I am selecting breeds known to thrive on pasture. I will need to supplement with hay in the winter, but the hope is that this is limited to January and February.

Are they healthy and disease resistant? I look for healthy, vibrant animals from a breed that is known to resist disease and parasites. The goal is to keep medical and veterinary intervention to a minimum. We cannot afford to nurse along a sickly animal. Rotational grazing practices (moving the animals to new paddocks frequently) and hearty stock will help us to raise a herd that thrives on our land. I am also reaching out to small farmers and asking about how their stock is raised before I purchase from them. I am avoiding stock auctions as many times that is where farmers take their problem animals to sell.

Are they a heritage breed that should be preserved? I want to preserve quality breeds from olden days. Why? I believe they have value. Much of the livestock bred carefully over generations to fit perfectly on a homestead have been discarded in favor of industrial production. I am looking for tried and true heritage stock.

Are they docile and low maintenance? Let’s be honest. Until two months ago I had never raised livestock. I have a huge learning curve and I need animals that will make this process easier for me. I am seeking breeds that are not aggressive and pretty much take care of themselves. This means breeds with docile temperaments, strong mothering instincts, and easy births. Honestly, I dream of waking up one morning to find my pregnant sow gave birth while I was asleep, and her piglets are healthy and happy. Mind you, we will be laboring to manage their movement through the paddocks, but I don’t want to have to go all James Herriot with my arm up a cow’s back end because she is having a difficult birth. At least not yet.

Will we eat it? Our livestock will both help manage the pasture and fill our freezer. We will raise what we like to eat. For us that means chickens, pigs, sheep, and cows. I have no plans to raise goats, a dairy cow, or rabbits. But remember that when I say “no.” God chuckles and says, “we’ll see.”

Having said all that, I would like to introduce to you our first livestock.


Magnus, our guardian dog, meets the girls.

For my first foray into livestock I chose the Large Black hog.

The Large Black are a heritage breed of swine listed as critically endangered by the Livestock Conservancy with just 300 breeding hogs as of 2008. They originally came from England, were popular through the 1940’s, then lost popularity after World War II when small farms gave away to industrial production. This breed did not do well in the industrial environment and their numbers dwindled.

I chose the large black because it thrives outdoors and will forage our pastures and woodlands. Our goal as a homestead is to limit the inputs required from outside our property to feed our animals. These omnivores will get most of the food they need from the plants, nuts, and grubs on our farm. They will live out in the pastures and spend their days looking for delicious food to eat.

They are known to be good mothers, easily giving birth to litters of 8-10 piglets. Docile and friendly they are perfect for the small homestead. We will add a boy to this group in a few months with the hope of having piglets of our own in the next year.

These two girls already have an important role to play on Fiat Farm. They are going to be my mobile tractors clearing the area where my gardens will go in the spring. They get to root around in the dirt and I get a tilled garden. Win-win.

The girls at work.

Look back at the first picture. Then look at the one above. Can you see the difference in their pen in just two days? They have been rooting around eating the grass, weeds and brambles from what was a wild and overgrown space. As they do this, they will add fertility with their manure and urine. Tomorrow, we will transition them to a larger space and start the move towards my garden area.

How does a suburban southern California girl decide she wants to raise her own food? About 8 years ago I discovered Joel Salatin. His approach to farming and enthusiasm for the land planted a seed that is coming to fruition now. Here is a short video overview of his philosophy and approach.

There’s a Better Way to Farm

If you like this, there are many more Joel Salatin videos to choose from on the internet. Maybe you will be inspired too.

The fun is just starting on Fiat Farm. I will keep you posted as more animals arrive.

The Well Stopped Working

And I am thankful.

Another busy Saturday on the homestead. The chore list is unending, but we pick a few priorities a put at the front of the list. This Saturday our goal is to paint the guest room and replace the heater in the room (because it stopped working).

Side note: my mantra on the homestead…

If it’s not broken now, it will be soon.

The guest room is a priority, because we have guests arriving Monday. Normally painting would not be a priority, but the ceiling in the guest room had to be repaired because the last time we had guests in that room there was a leak from the shower above and they woke up to dripping on the bed. So, my husband had to remove the drywall ceiling to investigate the leak and we have spent the past few weeks slowly putting it back together. But guests are coming so that is the priority today.

But remember: If it’s not broken now, it will be soon.

Saturday, late morning in the middle of painting and heater replacing the water stops flowing from the faucets.

Our homestead is on a well. That was a major selling point for us. Having our own well makes us independent. We are neither reliant on, nor answerable to the city for our water usage. The water is clean and delicious without chlorine or fluoride. Our water comes from below our property, not hundreds of miles from some faraway mountains. This is our water.


This is our water. This is our responsibility. I can’t call some clerk at some bureaucracy and demand that the problem be fixed by some stranger. It is our problem. Fixing it is up to us.

My 18-year-old son and I take over the painting. Mr. J goes to replace the heater in the guest room with a new one, only to find the old one just needed a good cleaning. Live and learn. By Saturday mid-afternoon Mr. J is able to pivot his focus to the broken well.

Mr. J and son investigate the well. They checked the pressure on the tank – it is low. They check the switch for the pump – it has power. The only thing left to check is the pump and that job is too big for my very handy husband.

Friends, the well stopped working.

And it is Saturday.

The beauty of small-town Tennessee is that everyone stops working Saturday afternoon and nobody works on Sunday. That, of course, is assuming you can even find a plumber that works in the area – evidently there are very few for our county. There was a local plumber we had called earlier in the week, but he is booked until January.

It is Saturday afternoon, and the well is not working.

But I am thankful.

How can I possibly be thankful? I have no running water and no plumber is coming to save us in the immediate future.

I am thankful that the weather is mild and it has been raining the past few days. After all, we could be freezing and in a drought.

I am thankful for the opportunity to test our emergency preparedness. I thought that having a well means you always have water, but the well stopped working. I need to make sure we have water storage on hand for drinking and flushing toilets. I can prepare for this now and be ready for the future.

I am thankful I get to test my Berkey water filtration system in real life. We poured water from an outside barrel in it Saturday night and used that water to make our morning coffee. And we are still alive.

I am thankful my handy husband was given a reason to thoroughly investigate the well system. It is a system he was unfamiliar with and now he knows how it is put together and can do some basic troubleshooting.

I am thankful for the chance to practice virtue. I seek to find joy in this while my husband digs deep for patience.

I am thankful my son had this opportunity to work with dad on a very real problem. He was helpful with trouble shooting the system and this will better prepare him when he has his own home.

I am thankful for the existing water catchment in place around the homestead. I was able to walk out my back door, dip a pan in a barrel, and heat it up to wash dishes.

I am thankful for YouTube and a bottle of wine. This made our Saturday evening almost romantic. We learned about wells and for a short time cared just a little less – thanks to the wine. YouTube has everything and RC Worst has a great channel on how to trouble shoot your well.

Our romantic Saturday night.

I am thankful Costco is not too far away and is open Sundays so I can buy more bottled water and get the supplies we need to make it through the next few days.

I am thankful we don’t have to use the outhouse. Our homestead has the original outhouse (a double seater I’ll have you know) still standing a short walk from the back door. It worked for the last century it could still work for this one. But thankfully I don’t have to find out…yet.

At lease it didn’t come to this…

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.

Daniel 3:89 (NAB St Joseph Ed.)

I am thankful for this homestead. This opportunity to work, to struggle, to do something real.

And eventually, I will be thankful for a well that works.

MY GARDENING JOURNEY: Where I Have Been and Where I am Going

Square-Foot, Back-to-Eden, and No-Dig methods

(Be sure to check out my resources at the end of this post.)

In my 20’s and 30’s I had grown the occasional tomato plant, but I didn’t really begin gardening until 2009. At that time, I was borrowing gardening books from the library and stumbled across Mel Bartholomew’s book All New Square Foot Gardening. This was the book that launched me towards being a gardener and it was the first method I followed along my food growing journey.

What is “square foot gardening?” – a method of intensely gardening, using organic methods, in raised beds. The beds are organized in square foot grids so the gardener can provide the right amount of space for each plant, thus maximizing potential yield.

For the beginning gardener, Mel’s book tells you all you need to know. He provides suggestions for making your raised beds. Next, he guides you on mixing the soil for those beds using compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. He shows you how to grow more with vertical trellising and provides you with charts of what to plant and when to plant it. For many years this was my main resource, and his book gave me the knowledge and confidence necessary to develop my green thumb.

I had good success using this method. It was easy to plan my garden and decide how much I could grow with the space I had. The first year was always a success with my brand new “Mel’s Mix” rich in nutrients; however, I did find that my production decreased with successive years. Each season I needed to add more Mel’s Mix to the raised beds, and I learned that additional amendments were required for a successful growing season.

If you are a first-time gardener and don’t know where to start, this method is for you. Mel’s book would be a good investment. I still find myself going back to his square-foot methods when I want to squeeze the most food out of limited space.

After a few military moves and several years of square-foot gardening under my belt, I finally had a little bit of land to work with. We purchased a home on 1/3 of an acre and my green thumb was eager to get started. I was comfortable with the square-foot method and was ready for something new. And with a larger space I needed to find a more economical way of starting my garden. Fortunately, my research led me to the Back-to-Eden method, and it resonated.

What is “Back-to-Eden?” – a regenerative and organic method that looks to nature for guidance. Just like the leaves cover the soil at the end of each year, we too should cover the soil in our gardens.

Paul Gautschi is the founder and inspiration behind this specific method. His journey and the principles of the method can be found in the original Back to Eden Gardening Documentary. It is available for free online and is worth your time whether you use the method or not. This video helped me to pay more attention to the natural order and God’s plan. And I mean


in our lives as well as our gardens. I became more aware of eating for nutrition and that all we need is provided by our Creator. It was life changing.

To start a Back-to-Eden Garden you layer cardboard directly on grass or dirt, then compost, and finally woodchips. This creates an amazing habit for the worms and all sorts of microscopic life in the soil. My mantra after learning this technique was “build it and they will come.” Create a healthy habitat and the worms will come from all over to live in YOUR garden.

I decided to use this method on an area of my yard that was covered with rocks and had been used to store recreational vehicles by the previous owners. This area was devoid of life. It was just dry dirt and even the weeds were struggling to survive. First, I removed as many rocks as possible. Then in the fall I layered the area with the materials I had on hand our acquired through different sources. I left the area alone over the winter and when I went to plant in the spring there were worms. Lots of worms.

I literally turned dirt into soil.

Well the worms did; but I facilitated the process by covering the soil and giving them something to work with. I am a big fan of this method and its principles have been applied in some way or another in all my successive gardens.

And it is affordable. Much of these materials can be acquired for free or little cost. I used my moving boxes to start and collected cardboard as I went along. I either generated my own compost, found a source of manure, or collected free mushroom compost from a nearby mushroom farm. For woodchips I use an online service called Chip Drop or I flag down an arborist working in my neighborhood and ask them to dump their truck in my driveway. (Note: Chip Drop is a free service, but I get a pretty quick response when I offer to pay a $20 service fee to the arborist.)

My main challenge with this method is keeping the wood chips on top of the soil. When the woodchips mix with the soil it uses up nitrogen and takes away nutrients your plants need. I find that the woodchips also make a habitat for the insects that like to nibble on my new seedlings in the spring, much to my frustration. I will definitely use this method in my new orchard and in areas where I plan to have perennials, but I want to try something different in my new vegetable garden.

The Back-to-Eden method is a no-till approach that recognizes the value of not disturbing the microscopic life in the soil. Most conventional farmers till their land to loosen the dirt and then add amendments as needed. A regenerative farmer leaves the soil undisturbed and adds compost to the top mimicking God’s creation. A few years ago, I found another gardener who uses this regenerative approach in his successful market garden – Charles Dowding in the UK. He is known worldwide for his no dig approach to gardening.

My plan for the garden at Fiat Farm is to lean heavily on Charles Dowding’s methods. I will still cover the grass and dirt with cardboard suppressing the weeds. I will use compost for the beds, and woodchips to cover the walkways. I just need to generate enough compost to cover the garden beds at least once a year with an inch or two of compost. Nature will do the rest. At least that is the plan…I will let you know how things turn out.

I have a challenge…

My blank canvas. Conventional till to no dig garden. Stay tuned…

One of my main vegetable garden spaces has been conventionally tilled prior to our owning the homestead. It has furrows and weeds and overgrowth. And it is huge. At least for me. I don’t have enough cardboard and compost to cover the entire space, but I have a plan. This plan will involve using livestock to help prepare the space for the spring. I look forward to writing about this in future posts.

If you are new to gardening, I encourage you to just start. It is a grand experiment with benefits that go far beyond fresh vegetables.

If you have been gardening for several years, I encourage you to look to nature. God has a plan, we just need to cooperate with it.


My Resources:

Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening, 3rd ed.

Back to Eden Film –

Charles Dowding’s YouTube Channel –

Charles Dowding’s website –

Chip Drop –

Zuppa! It’s What’s for Dinner.

The soup that will make you love kale.

When the days turn cold and grey, and the nights come all too soon, my soul yearns for a bowl of hot soup. Easy to throw together and delicious heated for lunch the next day, soup makes an appearance several times each week in our home during the fall and winter months. Today I will share one of my favorites: Zuppa Toscana.

There was a time many years ago, B3K (before three kids), when I would make an almost weekly trip to Olive Garden for their unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks lunch special. For a mere $7, I could get my fill of salad, soup, and breadsticks. Ohhh, those breadsticks. I ate entirely too many, especially dunked in my soup of choice – Zuppa Toscana.

I had no idea at the time just how easy it was to make this soup at home. It wasn’t until years later, when faced with an abundance of kale, that I did.

In 2013, the Navy moved us to Northern Virginia for my husband’s last tour. My passion for gardening was growing and I was just beginning to understand food as nutrition and a key component in our health. So, I joined a local CSA and received two boxes of seasonal vegetables every week. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It is a way of directly supporting farmers and buying local food. The first thing a newbie learns about seasonal eating – tomatoes don’t grow in December. Do you know what you get in your CSA box in the winter? Kale. Lots of kale.

Each week I would receive two bunches of kale and had to figure out how to use it. Pro tip: kale added to most soups is delicious.

Searching the internet for recipes to use up all my kale, I stumbled across Zuppa Toscana, my favorite from so long ago. I gave it a try. Wowed at how easy it was to throw together and how it just hit the spot, Zuppa Toscana has been a part of my soup rotation ever since.

Kale is a delicious part of this meal, but the best reason to add kale to your menu is your health. Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there, filled with vitamins and minerals. It is also known to be high in Quercetin which is an antioxidant and boosts the immune system. Quercetin came on my radar this past year as a supplement that helps defend against viruses. How cool that one of my favorite soups is filled with this virus fighting ingredient.

Zuppa Toscana is versatile and can be adjusted to fit various diet requirements. Cheryl at 40 Aprons has a delicious version on Zuppa Toscana that we can use to start.

Here are my ingredients:

Everything but the salt and pepper

Following this recipe for Zuppa Toscana here are some ways to switch it up and make it your own.

No bacon? For this pot I eliminated the bacon and used a little more than a pound of sausage.

Love bacon? Add more than the recipe calls for. This would be yummy with bacon crumbled on top.

Don’t like pork? Use chicken sausage or perhaps a meatless option.

Don’t like spicy? Use sweet or mild Italian sausage and cut the red pepper flakes to 1/4 tsp or eliminate them completely,

Need low carb? Replace the potatoes with cauliflower. No one will know.

Not a coconut fan? Use 1/2 – 1 cup heavy cream and add a little more chicken broth. But trust me you won’t taste the coconut.

No broth on hand? I used homemade turkey broth, but chicken broth or stock from the store works, as well as bouillon cubes or “Better than Bouillon.”

Want more nutrients? I used this entire bunch of kale though the recipe calls for 1/2 a bunch. Quercetin for the win!

No kale? Spinach or Swiss chard can be substituted.

No fresh garlic? I love keeping a jar of minced garlic in my fridge or 1 tsp of garlic powder could work in a pinch.

Ready for dinner!

I encourage you to give Zuppa Toscana and kale a try. You may find the soup and the veggie to be new favorites.

A Punch in the Gut

How the Holy Spirit finally got our attention.

It was a fate-filled Thursday, at the end of August 2021 when, over the course of that day, we went from telling our parents “We are thinking about moving to Tennessee” to deciding “We need to get out of California as soon as possible.”

Sudden and dramatic. That’s kind of how it happens when the Spirit smacks you across the head and you get the wake-up you need to move from the comfortable to the uncomfortable.

California was home for us. And though we spent over 20 years moving with the military due to my husband’s service, we always found ourselves back in San Diego. Back home. This latest time, we were settled in the home I grew up in, at a church we loved, with homeschool friends that cannot be found anywhere else. This little treasure of a community has not been matched anywhere else in our many moves. It was and is hard to leave this behind.

But this was still in California and in the last eighteen months my state had led the way in lockdowns and mandates. Our governor had taken away all manner of freedoms under the guise of safety. Even our county supervisors were exerting power and influence that did not belong to them. Many families we knew had already made the choice to relocate to other states. But not us. We didn’t see a reason to leave. Until we did…

Thursday afternoon while visiting with my parents, I let them know that we were thinking about moving to Tennessee at some point in the future, but we had no plans to sell our house. I just wanted to plant the seed, so that when we eventually made the move they would not be surprised. We lived about an hour away from my parents in California. My husbands folks were in Tennessee.

That same Thursday evening as my husband was talking to his parents in Tennesse, letting them know that we were looking into moving there in the future, I glanced at my social media feed. I saw a post that gave me a gut punch, took my breath away, and made my blood rise. Yes, it was that visceral. Our governor and state legislature were working on passing laws to further limit our freedoms. The conspiracy theory of vaccination passports was quickly becoming conspiracy fact. I showed my husband the news headline that got me fired up and within minutes we decided it was time to move. Right now.

Time to sell the house I grew up in. The house with no mortgage and unbelievably low property tax. Time to sell the house I said I would never sell. The home I had known since I was a year old.

That news headline provided the gut-punch I needed, the kick-in-the-pants to get us moving, but it wasn’t just that headline that sent us to a state with more freedoms and a life of more self-reliance. You see, our president also declared that all government contractors supporting the military would need to give up their medical freedom to stay employed. And that those employees who would not be coerced would soon find themselves unemployed. The deadline: December 8th. My husband’s steady paycheck may soon not be so steady.

It was time to get uncomfortable. Take a leap. Time to

Trust in God and His Providence.

It was time to trust. In a big way.

So, we tapped into a dream that I have had for many years: raising the healthiest food possible and living in tune with the land and the seasons. We decided now is the time. The time to find some land of our own, in a state that values freedom over supposed safety. Now is the time to leave the anonymity of the big city and connect with a smaller community. Time to raise our own food in the best way possible.

Friday morning, the next day, I called my realtor and began the process of putting our house on the market. The house I told myself I would never sell. The one that had been a part of my life for over 50 years.

The whirlwind began. Selling a home. Buying a homestead. Telling friends and family our plans. Explaining that we are seeking to

Do God’s Will

in all of this. That we believe this is God’s plan for us.

You see, God has a sense of humor. When I say “no” to something, God chuckles and says, “we’ll see.” When the Navy moved us from San Diego to Virginia in 2013, we said we would never come back to California. In 2017, we chose to move back to San Diego – and it was the right place at the right time. When, this past summer, I made a list of possible states for relocation, Tennessee was not on it. Tennessee was not on our list…until it was. A little voice inside told me to add it. And when we finally put it on the list of possible places to move, things began to snowball. My husband and I allowed our thoughts to move in that direction. We knocked on that door. Soon after, I got my gut-punch. And before we knew it, we were moving to Tennessee.

God has a way of opening doors. But we need to knock on the doors. We need to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And sometimes we need a punch in the gut.

Soothing Peppermint Salve

Salve-ation for rough, dry hands

The backs of my hands were looking rough – dry and flaky. It could have been all the hot water I used mopping our wooden floors when we moved in last month. Maybe it was too much digging in the dirt preparing the garden beds for the spring. Or perhaps the chill outside coupled with the warm dry air inside. Whatever the cause, I needed a fix fast.

Fortunately, I came across a post from one of my favorite blogger/podcasters, Mellissa K. Norris of Pioneering Today. This “homemade peppermint salve for dry skin” was the cure I needed for my rough, dry hands.

There was a time, when lotions and shower gels from my favorite mall store were always on my Christmas wish list. But then I began to notice that the lotions didn’t really moisturize my skin. I learned that my favorite bath products were actually toxic – filled with ingredients I could not identify and that could actually cause me harm over time. At about the same time I became aware of how easy it is to make your body products and set about learning more. Soon I was making herbal salves for my family and sharing them with friends. If I can do it, you can too.

But I don’t have the time.”

I hear you on that, my friend, and have made a few extra tins in case someone you love needs some dry skin salve-ation.

First, let’s see how easy it really is.

Gather the herbs: I had what I needed on hand. The peppermint, calendula, and chamomile were from my garden in California, and I have an abundance of plantain on our land in Tennessee. I love growing my own herbs for these homemade salves.

Clockwise: peppermint, plantain, calendula, and chamomile.

Infuse the herbs in oil: I usually use the Kirkland brand organic extra virgin olive oil. There are two methods for infusing. Solar infusing in a glass jar takes a few weeks, but uses the sun to warm the oil. Warming the oil in a double boiler for a day or so takes less time, but uses electricity. For this batch I made a double boiler out of my crockpot and warmed the oil during the day over the course of two days turning the crockpot off at night and covering the oil with a cloth.

Using my Crockpot and glass mixing bowl as a double boiler.

Strain the herbs from the oil: Using cheesecloth, a colander, and a Pyrex measuring cup I strain the oil. Make sure to bring the ends of the cheesecloth together, twist, and squeeze to get all the infused oil goodness. The Pyrex measuring cup comes in handy here since it lets you see exactly how much infused oil you have after squeezing it through the cheesecloth and you don’t have to transfer the oil before the next step.

Straining the infused oil.

Add beeswax and other ingredients: Beeswax is added to make a solid, spreadable salve texture. I place the Pyrex measuring cup in a larger pot filled about halfway with water, making another double boiler. Heat the water to almost boiling. This slowly warms your oil and melts the beeswax. When it is completely melted add any other oils. I tweaked the original recipe a bit – adding more Vitamin E oil and some Apricot Kernel oil for their skin nourishing benefits. I used a little more beeswax than the recipe, making a firm salve that can be used sparingly and goes a long way. The Peppermint essential oil helps sooth irritation and itchiness as well as adding a soft minty smell. I use Mountain Rose Herbs to source any products I don’t have on hand.

Extra add-ins.

Melting beeswax in a makeshift double boiler.

Pour into containers: Pour your oil into several containers and allow to cool. Test it on your skin. I think you will love it and want to share with your friends. I purchase my tins from Specialty Bottle, but you can also reuse empty cosmetic jars or other small glass containers.


Do you have rough, dry skin that needs some all-natural goodness? I have some extra tins from this batch. Shoot me an email or leave a comment and I can send some your way.

On Leaves, Chicken Poop, and a Compost Pile

What it means to be regenerative

When at the first God created his works and, as he made them, assigned their tasks,

He ordered for all time what they were to do and their domains from generation to generation. They were not to hunger, nor grow weary, nor ever cease from their tasks.

Not one should ever crowd its neighbor, nor should they ever disobey his word.

Then the LORD looked upon the earth, and filled it with his blessings.

Its surface he covered with all manner of life which must return into it again.

Sirach 16: 24-28


We arrived at the farm November 1st – at the stunning time of year when the leaves are changing, the weather is perfect, and God’s glory is tangible. The change in leaf color is not just a show God puts on for us. The leaves change when they are at the end of their life cycle. They become a beautiful orange, gold, or red when it is time to die. Through their death comes new life.

God has a plan. At the end of each year leaves fall to the ground. They break down, decompose, and become food for the abundant life in the soil. In time, the fallen leaves become nutrients for the surrounding plant life. And new growth begins in the spring. It is amazing how it works.

“Its surface he covered with all manner of life which must return into it again.” (Sirach 16:28)

God filled the earth with his blessings, but we must return life to the soil.

Back to the leaves. First, I admire God’s handiwork. Then I plot ways to use this resource in my spring garden. This involves lots of raking and hauling leaves in a wheelbarrow from one place to another.

Chicken poop?

Not only do I have an abundance of leaves on the farm, but also a butt-load of chicken manure in the coop. Ha! See what I did there?

While not as idyllic as falling leaves, this manure is also a resource to be utilized on a regenerative homestead. Leaves provide a source of carbon and manure is a source of nitrogen. Layer the two together and you have the beginnings of a compost pile.

A Compost Pile:

There is a science to building a compost pile, but it is not rocket science. With a little research anyone can do it. After reviewing the basics in a wikiHow article, I set my 17 year old son to the task. All resources came from the farm – leaves, manure, even T-posts and chicken wire were recycled to make the frame. Alternately adding layers of leaves and manure he created a pile that was approximately 3x3x3. We will let that sit for a few months before seeing if the compost is ready for the garden. I am lazy when it comes to compost and tend to not turn my piles even though that would make them break down faster. I prefer to let the worms and insects do the work for me. Given time I will be rewarded with a rich compost, black gold to the avid gardener. This compost will be applied to my garden beds and provide the nutrients needed to grow veggies for my family.

Cheep Labor:

The chickens provide more than just their manure to help on the farm. On a homestead all the animals have a role to play. Their busy feet can help generate compost in a different way. Raking piles of leaves into the coop and run keeps them entertained as they scratch and peck looking for food. The chickens are happy, their manure (nitrogen) gets added directly to the leaves (carbon), and their labor speeds along the composting process. I call that a win for everyone. This mixture will also be added to the spring garden.

How is this regenerative?

We are returning to the soil the abundance that came from it. That nourished soil will generate new life. And the cycle will continue.

As a regenerative farm, our goal is to return nutrients to the soil, steward the resources on our land, and use animals holistically in the process. We seek to follow God’s plan for his creation and pray that our faithfulness will be Blessed.

New American Bible,