Episode 129 | Learning Old-Fashioned Skills | Carolyn Thomas of Homesteading Family

When diving into the world of homesteading, it can quickly become overwhelming when you realize just how many skills there are to learn.  Where should you start?  I’m so glad Carolyn of Homesteading Family joined me for this conversation.  As a long-time homesteader and mother of 10, Carolyn shares how she got started building her skillset to support the homesteading lifestyle she desired for herself and her family.  Carolyn is a wealth of information, and she is passionate about teaching others how to live this beautiful way of life, too.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The most important old-fashioned skills in 2022
  • Why learning new skills is actually easier than you think
  • How to fit in learning new skills when you are already maxed out
  • The benefits of saying no to convenience 
  • What our children gain from growing up in a homesteading lifestyle
  • A few areas where we choose the convenient route
  • The one thing to get in order before you start learning old-fashioned skills

About Carolyn

Carolyn Thomas and her husband, Josh, live on a 40 acre homestead in Idaho surrounded by gardens, livestock, and children. She spends her days rocking babies, homeschooling her children, and preserving food for the coming winter. As part of her passion, she also teaches homesteading skills to encourage other families to live simply and focus on the things that really matter… faith, family, and really good food!


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Lisa Bass All right, welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today, I am having on Carolyn from the Homesteading Family. We’re going to talk about learning old-fashioned skills. So where we first started learning them, tips for already having a busy schedule and feeling like you can’t add on anything else yet learning things like canning, food preservation, fermenting, all the skills that maybe you’re wanting to learn, but maybe you feel like right now there’s just no way. She really brings up some great tips about household management and trying to not add on certain things to an already chaotic home and laying the foundation for actually getting to be able to take on something new. So that was really helpful. She is a mother of 10 kids, so she definitely has a lot of wisdom to share in these things like running a household, learning skills while having children. If that’s something that you find is difficult, she definitely has a lot of wisdom to offer there. So without further ado, let’s join Carolyn for this conversation. 

Carolyn Thomas Well, it’s great to get to actually meet you in person. I missed our last meeting regarding School of Traditional Skills, but glad to get to be here today. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, I know. It’s so nice seeing you after seeing you on YouTube. It’s my favorite thing about the podcast is I get to— so many people, I feel like—after we have a podcast together—I know them.

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, you get to get to have a little chat together. It’s a nice introduction. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, exactly. So are you going to come, too, whenever your husband comes? 

Carolyn Thomas I will not be. You know, it’s this kind of fine balance of keeping the house and the homestead running and having to travel. But Josh will be coming out and actually my 13-year-old daughter will be joining him. He’s taking one kid on each of the film shoots just to— He’s going to be gone quite a bit this year with the different shoots, and so he’ll be wanting to include them. So you’ll have my 13-year-old who is phenomenal at doing all sorts of things, and she’ll be an extra set of hands for whatever you need. From baby holding to chopping veggies, she’s pretty good. 

Lisa Bass Okay, I have a 13-year-old daughter and she’s going to be so excited. 

Carolyn Thomas Oh yeah. Well, in that case, you may never see my 13-year-old. They’ll just be off having fun. 

Lisa Bass Probably not because my kids are super extroverted, and whenever they meet somebody new, they’re like off.

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, well that’s how ours are, too. They make friends very easily. And from what I can tell, it looks like you guys have a very similar lifestyle to us. And so I think she’s going to feel right at home. 

Lisa Bass Oh, that’s exciting. I’m excited to have them. 

Carolyn Thomas I totally wish I could be there, but it was like, I actually don’t even want to travel that much. I kind of like my home.

Lisa Bass I don’t blame you. Yeah, it’s just too hard. Traveling is so hard. I mean, just getting time to even record a podcast is pretty much nearly impossible. So actually leaving? 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, we traveled— let’s see, we went out to Melissa K. Norris’s because she was the first off-site shoot. And so I went with that one just to kind of make sure the film crew knew exactly all the pieces and to make sure Josh was getting all the things that I needed for my side. And then as soon as we got back from that, we left and we went to the Redmond Real Salt Summit that was down in Utah. And I was like, “That’s it. That’s all I can manage. I can’t be gone anymore. Let me go home.” And just being gone—I think it was a total of about a week—but it just felt like so long. It was too much. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, we’re actually going on a vacation later this summer, and I’m already like, “Eh.” It’s just going to be so hard to coordinate at all. 

Carolyn Thomas It really is. 

Lisa Bass But, got to do it. So tell us a bit about you, your website, your YouTube channel, your family. I know you’re a mom of many. I think your husband said nine? 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, we have nine of our own and we’re currently adopting a nephew right now. So that kind of gives us nonofficial twins because my son is nine years old and then our nephew is also nine years old. They’re offset by just a month or two. So there’s 10 of them. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Wow. I mean, doing anything with the business while also having seven kids is becoming more and more of a challenge because we homeschool. And so I’m like, “Luke, I don’t actually have any time.” I used to have the kids’ nap. That’s how I built my whole business was on naptime. But now that they’re school age, I’m like, “I don’t have actually any at all.” 

Carolyn Thomas We did the exact same. I was emphatic that the kids would nap so I would get a break. But the joke in my house is that as soon as Mama has a few minutes of downtime, I’m starting a new project. So I started a business, and that kind of consumed my break time at naptime and has kept me out of trouble—for the most part—for the last several years. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, so tell us a bit about that. I know you’re on YouTube, and I know you have your website and a few courses and things like that. 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah. Well, I think I’ll even back up just a little bit and say this all started for me when I started trying to live a more resilient lifestyle myself and trying to implement it with my family— a quickly growing family. And I got really frustrated. Actually, I got— I don’t want to say depressed, but it was really challenging because the information back at that point just wasn’t there. We didn’t have YouTube, we didn’t have podcasts the way that we have them now to learn. And so I just felt so much frustration over having to learn kind of by trial and error. And nobody around me had a large family, much less a large family and trying to grow their own food and preserve it and learn about herbalism and all these different things. And so I just found myself constantly frustrated. And so as the fog started clearing and I started feeling like, “Okay, I get it now. Now I know what I’m doing. I understand how to organize it and make it successful, I had such a heart to reach out to other moms who were doing the same thing, who were like, “Look, I just want to feed my family really great food and work together with them and learn these old-fashioned skills, but the information is hard to come by in a way that’s actually practical.” And so I started Homesteading Family because I wanted to be able to help other people cut through all of the misinformation out there—all the people who are just kind of regurgitating information that have never actually tried a project, and so their directions don’t work well—and help people really get to the heart of homesteading. So we’ve got our YouTube channel, Instagram, Facebook, all under Homesteading Family. We now have a blog, a very active blog at HomesteadingFamily.com. We also have our own podcast called The Pantry Chat. And we teach classes. We actually have quite a few master classes on teaching old-fashioned skills—from canning to homemade dairy, fermenting bread, making all those different things—on our platform. And we now have a membership for people who really want to dive in deep and kind of do it all. And it’s just been so amazing to get to reach moms right where they’re at, right at naptime, right? Right when they’re trying to take their downtime and learn the things they’re trying to learn to help their family be healthier and more secure, and just to get to work with them and partner along with them to be able to help their families. It’s just the most gratifying thing I think I could ever be doing. 

Lisa Bass Definitely. I agree. So how long ago did you start your YouTube channel? 

Carolyn Thomas I think we started it at the beginning of 2017. Actually, we were—at that point—producing full-length videos for Facebook is where we were publishing them. Back at that point, that’s what Facebook liked. And so as an afterthought, I thought, “Well, I’m making all these videos. Let me just throw them up on YouTube and see what happens.” And they kind of took off on YouTube. Now we don’t put the full-length videos on Facebook anymore. They just don’t quite work for Facebook. But you know, we’re loving the YouTube side of things. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, now I’m doing the exact opposite. I’ll make videos for YouTube and just upload them to Facebook. And they do okay on there, but—like you said—it’s not the best for that particular platform. 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah. 

Lisa Bass So what are some of your most popular skills—old-fashioned skills—that you’re teaching? What are people mostly coming to you for? 

Carolyn Thomas You know, I think people right now—especially like right now meaning 2022—people are concerned about food. And I mean, rightly so. There’s a lot of things to be concerned about. You know, food security is one of them. But honestly, we should all be concerned about what’s in the food that we can buy in the grocery store because there’s a lot of things in that food that is just not healthful. It’s not something we should be putting in our growing children’s bodies, and we need to be more and more concerned about the ingredients and become a more informed consumer. So I think a lot of people are really coming to us wanting to learn food preservation— whether that’s fermenting, canning, freeze drying, dehydrating. We kind of do all of those things. Dairy making, like hard cheeses, which is a form of food preservation. We’re seeing a lot of interest in all of those things. Shortly behind that, though, is an interest in herbal medicine and kind of gaining a little bit of freedom from the medical system and taking a little bit of control back from that. And you know, I just love teaching basic herbalism skills because those herbs just sit in your garden. You can grow them. And once you get them established, they just sit there for free waiting for you to need them. And it’s such a big opposition to the way the health care industry works right now, which is so challenging and so difficult to navigate and so exclusive in so many ways. And this is just such a open-for-everybody method that I just love getting people more and more involved in that, and we’re seeing a real resurgence of interest in that also. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, I’m definitely finding that too. That’s something that a few friends of mine and I have been talking about lately is it was all essential oils for a while now. I feel like everybody is talking about herbalism, herbal medicine. For whatever reason, that’s making a huge resurgence. I’ve noticed the same. 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, I’m excited by it. I love essential oils. I do use them in my home, but they just lack the resiliency of the herbs in your front yard. I actually have my own essential oil still, so I have the ability to make my own essential oils. But it takes so much plant material to turn it into a usable amount of essential oil that it’s just not viable for a home production system for most herbs. But herbalism is. You can absolutely take the leaves of a plant and turn it into a tea or a tincture on a scale that works for a family. So I think that’s really exciting just to see that becoming so accessible to people. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, I agree. So did you grow up learning a lot of these old-fashioned skills? Are these something that you’ve started to learn in your adult years? 

Carolyn Thomas I grew up with a really good foundation in them. My mom was a phenomenal cook. She insisted on making us homemade meals even when we desperately wanted the sugared cereals and things like that that all of our friends were having. She would make us very fresh meals. She loved gardening. She had a few chickens and she’d make a little bit of jam and can it, but it was really—for her—on a very hobby level. It was kind of just something she enjoyed doing and really—for the most part—was not replacing items that would be purchased at the grocery store. But I think all of that gave me such a foundation in just seeing it done on a very even relaxed light version of what we would call homesteading. So I think that was very foundational for me. When it came to actually diving in and learning the deeper skills that would allow me to stop going to the grocery store, that was where I felt like I was kind of on my own, and I really had to dig for information. So you can go to a Ball Blue Book and you can get directions on how to can. You can get step one, step two— you know, you can figure it out. We all can kind of follow recipes. We’re smart people, right? But the question really comes in: how do you make this actually fit into real life? How do you do this day after day and week after week? And how do you do it when you’ve got toddlers running around at your feet? And when the garden needs something, and the animals need something, and the children need something? How do you actually turn these skills into a lifestyle? And that was where I really felt like I had to learn the hard way, like trial and error. I just tried this and tried that, and I actually dove back into any historical book I could find that talked about farm management or home management. There aren’t a lot, and I think it’s because that was something that was so passed down generation after generation. But it took digging into those things to find out how do we how do we make this work as a family? And that’s where I really felt alone and like I had to figure out these skills all by myself. Luckily, now there’s more people doing the same thing. So there’s more of us who can sit and have the conversation and like, “How do you handle this and what do you do?” And I just think it’s so valuable to have that more available to people because it’s a real question. It’s a really honest, real question: how do you turn all of these skills into an everyday lifestyle? 

Lisa Bass Yeah, because once something does, once you don’t have to think about the how, pretty much everything you try is actually easy. That’s what I’ve discovered. Right now, I’m really intimidated by making cheese, and we have a dairy cow, so we obviously have so much milk. Every meal, I’m like “Hey kids, who wants milk? Who wants milk? Who wants milk? Have a pint of milk.” And I should just start making cheese because everything else I’ve tried— once it’s in my routine, it’s very easy. Like sourdough used to intimidate. Fermenting foods. All of that was intimidating, and now it’s so second nature. I know exactly what I’m looking for. Not a problem at all. It’s not something that should even be on your to-do list of things to learn, because it’s as simple as adding this culture to this and this saltwater to the vegetable. It’s so easy. Like when we were talking about doing a fermenting vegetables thing, I’m like, “Well, this doesn’t need a class, but maybe it needs my confidence instilled in you, and not necessarily— you know, like I’ll show you, but really, you just need to know that this isn’t that hard.” So I think you’re right. Actually figuring out how to apply this and get the confidence to do something is most of the battle anyways. 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, I think you are so completely right on that. And I tell people often: it’s the brain space of learning something that’s hard. It’s not the actual skill because most of these skills really boil down to you need to know what things to put together and what order to do them in. And every single person here is completely intelligent enough to do that and do it pretty easily and simply, but it’s wrapping your brain around the process and getting to understand it. And then after that, it becomes kind of status quo, but it still becomes one more thing to put into the schedule. I can’t fit watching one more movie into my schedule, and I don’t have to learn anything to do that. So how in the world am I going to figure out how to start canning in the middle of all of it? And I think that’s the hard part for a lot of people is figuring out the lifestyle scaling, and it’s just such a good conversation to be able to have with people— is how do you fit it in? 

Lisa Bass Right? Yeah. It seems like—whenever you already have a packed schedule—like there is no way, but I know from some of the things that I’ve fit in that there usually are ways. What are some of the things that you did? Because I know you do have quite a few young children. What are some of the things that you do to get to that point where you can like, “Okay, I feel like right now, I’m completely maxed out on time. I want to learn how to can.” What are your tips for actually practically like fitting that in or starting on it? 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, I think we actually kind of touched on it a little bit. And the number one thing for me and for my household—especially if you have really small children—is insist on a nap time. Make sure that everybody is napping at the same time of day or you have a quiet time in the house where the older kids are reading or doing something kind of autonomously to give yourself that place that you need when you’re brand new learning a skill that requires you to focus. You can’t kind of pick and choose the safety steps to follow in canning. You have to actually focus the whole way through as you’re learning. And then the next part of that is then get the kids involved. After you start feeling like you’ve got a grasp on it, bring them into the process. Do it with them. I now have older teenager kids, and they can pressure can all by themselves. They’ve done it with me so often that they completely understand the process—more than most adults that I know who can—and I can say, “Hey, we’re kind of busy. Will you watch the pressure canner? I need to go do this other thing.” And they’re completely capable of doing it. So one of the keys here is get those kids involved. Get them involved as young as possible so that they grow up with that skill because—before long—they’re going to be just doing it by themselves, and it’s going to actually free you up to do even more learning and even more things that you can then introduce into your household culture. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. What are some things that you would say you do on a daily basis? What are some skills that you didn’t have maybe 10 years ago that now you have that you just second nature do like every single day? 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah. In our household, we work a lot as a team, so there’s a lot of kids who are doing some of the daily pieces to that. But for me, I know one of the things that was really challenging for me and that was being aware of my food stocks, being aware of the food that I had stored and where to use that. And so on a daily basis, I’m considering what food is in storage and what we need to use, what we need to use up now, what we need to maybe take those potatoes that are in the root cellar and they’re starting to look a little shriveled and we need to get them on the to-do list to do something else with them. That’s kind of one of those unspoken skills of homesteading is keeping that mental list of the food stores. But when it comes to the actual skills, I find that now I can pick up anything and ferment it without a second thought on it. I can can most things without ever looking back at the directions, aside from double checking the processing time. There’s just so many things that when it becomes something you’re doing regularly—like you said—it just becomes intuitive and you don’t really even need to think about it. Baking bread, making a lot of the homemade dairy— we do that. And we dove into the cheese really hard over the last about three or four years. Making hard aged cheeses seems so intimidating, but as soon as you get down the process, you’re like, “Oh, let me double check the ingredients amounts,” and that’s all you need to do, because it just becomes part of the mindset. When you understand how it works, it just clicks in your brain, and you don’t need to think about it too hard. So I think all of those things are things that we really just do kind of on a daily basis around our house. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. And like you mentioned, they kind of change seasonally. So right now it’s getting toward the end of your food storage from last summer. And so there’s that aspect, whereas what you’re going to be doing two months from now is going to be completely different than maybe what you’re regularly implementing right now. 

Carolyn Thomas It really is. Right now, the milk cow is dry. She’s not due until May, so we’re kind of in our drought right now—drought season, as far as milk—which is also kind of a relief. You know, with a milk, it’s like the amount of milk— it’s this intense pressure every single day to make more room in the refrigerator for the next day’s milk. And so we appreciate that break. But right now, I am very intently cleaning out anything extra from the freezers. And canning it, dehydrating it, freeze drying it, doing whatever I can, because I know as soon as that garden season hits for real, I’m going to be so busy. And then the thing that follows that is filling the freezers back up. And so just everything is different. And that’s one of the things I love about homesteading is— I get bored easily. I don’t do well with routine for too long. And so I love it that it’s so seasonal. It just changes. Every time I’m going, “Oh my goodness, I am so sick of making cheese,” then I don’t have any more milk to make cheese with, and it changes, and I enjoy that process. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, that same thing happens as your kids get older or you have more kids. Because I remember whenever I had two or three little kids, it felt like we had this very set routine that went on for— and we didn’t have a homestead at that time, either. And so there was just like this very predictable day for years. And I look back and I’m like, “It is nothing like that now.” Everything changes constantly. Everything is just like a moving target. I’m just trying to like— we need to have these meetings with my husband all the time to see how are we supposed to navigate the next two months? You know, it’s just those slow, very boring, routine days. So what benefits have you seen and what are the reasons that you implement learning all these new skills when you could just as easily choose convenience? You can buy milk at the store. You don’t have to make your own cheese; you can buy it. What are some of the motivating factors behind a lot of this skill learning? 

Carolyn Thomas I think for all of us who are homesteaders, there’s got to be some little bit of element of craziness, right? Because you’re right. You could just go to the grocery store. Like we do not need to work this hard. And I think that’s why so many people look at us and kind of don’t really get it. They don’t really understand is because we live in such a culture of convenience. But what I have seen in living this lifestyle makes me realize how much our culture of convenience has actually harmed our culture and our families and our children. We don’t have the benefit anymore of working together in the way that we used to, and the benefits that we’ve seen have become so apparent as our children have gotten older. They know how to care for themselves. They know how to care for people around them. They know these really basic life skills and the amount of self-esteem and confidence that that gives a child is phenomenal. And I’m not talking about the self-esteem that comes from somebody telling you or some school program saying, you know, “Oh, you’re doing really well. You’re a good person. Let’s feel good about ourselves.” I’m talking about the kind of self-esteem that even my two-year-old— now she’s four. She’s not even two anymore. They grow so quickly. Even my four-year-old knows that she’s an important part of the team and that we couldn’t do it without her. And that feels good. That creates something in children that you just don’t see in this modern world— that they are actually a needed part of a team. The same thing with their health. Our children are have such incredible, robust health, but they’ve been eating right out of the garden since they were born. They’ve been eating straight off— you know, drinking milk right out of the cow from their earliest days. And I think the health that that brings is something that we just can’t ignore. Josh and I both have very long living grandparents, and we were laughing at one point about how horrible they all eat. They have a tendency to go to fast food just like every other day. And when we look back at their history, though, every single one of them was raised on a farm. Every single one of them ate solid, homegrown food throughout their entire childhood. And I think that just creates this health and this foundational health that allows you to go a long ways into life. Even if you’re not taking care of yourself very well later, you can get a really long ways because of that foundation that you get in health. So for us, I think it’s the character qualities that come out from children learning to work together, children being part of the team, the health qualities and the health benefits that come from eating just this phenomenally great fresh food that is so nutrient-dense. But also there’s this lifestyle side that just says we are in touch. We’re in touch with each other. We’re in touch relationship-wise with each other because we’re working together all the time. We’re struggling through those hot days in summer where you just have to be out there picking all those green beans, whether you like it or not. And then we’re enjoying it together on the other side. And then all winter long, we’re sitting around the table eating these home-cooked meals where we’re saying, “We grew everything on this plate. Do you remember that day where we were out there and we were picking it? And oh yeah, that’s the day Johnny found the caterpillar on the green bean and he ate it.” You know, like these memories that come out, they just gel everybody together. And so I guess it’s that lifestyle. It’s not an easy lifestyle, but it is very simple and it is very good. And I think that just is something that connects us so strongly to the land and to each other. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. And I think, you know, that’s what we were meant to do. Just providing for our basic needs—like our food—is so important because having a hand in that— I think we were just always meant to do that. So even though we don’t have to, there’s still a good reason to do it. And you don’t have to have a huge farm to do that. But it does take a willingness to want to start stepping into learning new skills that will seem intimidating at first. And also sometimes you might talk yourself out of them because you don’t have to do it. But there is something to be said, too, for quality because yes, you can buy milk at the store, but you can’t buy the same milk. You also can’t buy the same kefir. You definitely can’t buy the same fermented vegetables unless you want to spend— I don’t even know. They have them now. I notice a lot of grocery stores have them, but they’re like $12 for a little jar. 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, it is phenomenal. When you actually price out what it is that you can produce on your own homestead—even with a very, very small garden, just a little bit going on—it is amazing what you would pay at the grocery store for current prices, and we kind of look at that and go, “Wow, this is actually a really good economic deal.” It’s even pretax. You know, all of our food is pretax. We don’t even have to make the money and have it taxed before we spend it. 

Lisa Bass Well, it’s also I think a lot of these foods right now are very trending. So fermented vegetables, sourdough, herbalism like you said, kombucha, kefir— this is all trending things. And so now they are available at the store, but they also know that people will pay for them because people are like, “Well, I want kefir, but there’s no way I could figure out how to make it.” And so they kind of capitalize on that. And so there is an economic benefit to learning that. So are there any old-fashioned skills that you don’t like or anything that you just would rather take the convenience route on? I know I have some for sure. 

Carolyn Thomas Let’s see— that I just plain old don’t like. I don’t know that I have a whole lot of those, but I do draw the line in a few places, and there’s a few places that I have my boundaries where I actually just go ahead and purchase from store-bought. And that is that if I have to go out and buy vegetables or produce from the grocery store in order to preserve something, I refuse to do that. I will just buy the preserved version. I’m not going to go to the grocery store and buy tomatoes to can them. If I have to do that, I’m going to go to the grocery store and buy canned tomatoes. There’s no reason for me to pay for it and work for it. I just won’t do that at all. So I tend to start back at the growing part myself, or sometimes in the community, you’ve got great farmers markets or things like that. If I can get a really good deal on something that’s really fresh, then yes, but otherwise there’s no reason to pay just to get yourself into a whole lot of labor. But I’m trying to think if there’s something that I just really don’t like doing. You know, things like butchering days are always hard, and they’re not high on my list of favorites, but they’re always really rewarding at the end. So I don’t think I would get rid of them, even if I could, for the most part. Those are the things that really stand out. Anything that requires a whole lot of cleanup or scrubbing pots is not high on my list, and I would be really happy if anybody who likes scrubbing pots wanted to come live at my house and do all my pots. But that hasn’t been an option yet.

Lisa Bass Yeah, maybe if you had a maid hanging around or something. I don’t know. Somebody you could pay full-time to clean your kitchen. That would work. I think mine is— this made me think of it, whenever you were talking about that—is making pasta. Like, I love einkorn pasta, and I also just buy it. I buy like 10 boxes at a time from Jovial because it’s— oh man, it’s such a mess. I’m like, “Okay, we just spent an hour in the kitchen, and I now have one pasta dinner.” So there are definitely faster ways to get nutrition that’s healthy than making certain things. Certain things are for certain seasons of life, I feel like. 

Carolyn Thomas I think that’s probably a really good way to say it, and yes, pasta—especially when you have a large family—it takes a huge amount of pasta. You have no idea when you’re just buying a box and dumping it into boiling water, how much time and labor actually goes into that same equivalent if you’re hand making it. So yeah, that’s always a challenging one. 

Lisa Bass Well and people tell me, “It is easy.” So I’m like, “It is. It’s simple. I get it. It’s just eggs and flour and salt. I understand.” But it also just is that much more time before dinner’s on the table. So that’d probably be one of mine. I’m trying to think if there’s a few others. I will say that I’m—and this is probably just an excuse because you have more kids than me—but I feel like I’m in the season of life where I would rather stock up at the farmer’s market than grow a lot of things. But maybe I just need to figure out how to put it into my schedule better because right now I always really plant this very ambitious garden, and then when it’s July, I’m like, “Ugh, I’ll just go to the farmer’s market.” 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, I can understand that. I think for me, anything that requires standing over the stove flipping for a long period of time. We don’t tend to eat pancakes because it takes at least an hour of flipping pancakes before my whole family can eat. Tortillas. My kids love homemade tortillas, and I absolutely agree that they are better. They are 100% better. And I just don’t think I have time in my life to make tortillas by hand. At least not very often. Occasionally. 

Lisa Bass Right. Yeah, I do it occasionally. Like if I have some meat that the only way that we’re really going to enjoy it is tacos— like, we order a hog. And so I end up— I get so many pork steaks and pork chops and loin roasts, and so I’ll make those into tacos. And I actually found a source now for organic corn tortillas because I love—over flour tortillas—I love corn tortillas. And I’ve been— I make flour tortillas. But like you said, it just takes forever. And so I’m willing to pay a little bit to get the good source of not homemade because we do a lot of tacos and we can easily go through like 24 shells. 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, we like a lot of tacos, too. We’re up in the 30s most of the time for how much our kids eat. 

Lisa Bass Well yeah because we have all little kids. I mean, our oldest child is 13, and then all the boys are still under the age of nine and under.

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, we now have a 17-year-old son who’s working full-time in construction and he pretty much equals about three grown men in the amount of food he can eat at one time. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, I bet. Yeah, that would change things. We have five little boys, but they’re all little, so we’re not quite there yet which is great. But yeah, I’m sure I’ll really not want to do tortillas then. So do you have any tips for someone who’s overwhelmed with learning old-fashioned skills? Where would you recommend them starting? 

Carolyn Thomas You know really—especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed—the place to start—and this is an old-fashioned skill, but it’s also a modern skill—but it’s really learning how to manage your household. That, for me, is really where you have to start because you can never take a situation where you’re already overwhelmed and then just start adding more things and making it less stressful, so you really need to get what you have in order and in control first and get that running really smoothly. I actually have a series of YouTube videos on household management, how to manage your household. I even have a in-depth class on how to do it on our website. But whatever you do, whatever your method is, get that running smoothly first and then make yourself room. The best way to make yourself room for learning more skills is to get ahead a little bit by getting some freezer meals done. Get some things so that you can opt out of a dinnertime once a week for a month or two. Make some meals ahead, get them in the freezer, and take really easy days so that instead of actually just going and putting your feet up, you’re going and learning that new skill and making yourself time to do it because you have to clear the time on your schedule. You can’t just squeeze one more thing in. That’s not healthy for any of us just to keep squeezing stuff in. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, that makes sense. At some point, something has to give, that’s for sure. I’ve learned that with everything. But I really am interested in your household management. Does this have a lot of involving the kids, and maybe some tips like prepping stuff the night before, and cleaning? All those tasks? 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, you know, it really comes from the idea that your household has to run differently than mine. Everybody’s household has to run differently. So I can give you all of my number one tips as to how I run my household. But it’s going to work in maybe a third of other people’s homes, maybe. We all have different resources. We are all at different places in life. So I structure a lot more on how to structure your days, and how to organize your time and your tasks in order to be able to make them more efficient so that you can do more because we want to do more. We all want to do more, whether it’s more going on vacation or it’s more traditional skills or whatever it is we’re looking to do. In order to do that, we have to just get more efficient at what we’ve got to do in the background. We have to feed people. We have to keep the house clean. We have to keep the laundry going no matter what else is going on in life. And so we talk about finding our base operating procedure. What has to get done in your house every single day in order for it to stay operating? And if you only did those things in your house, could you just keep going through day after day that way for how long? And really quantifying those and getting those in the schedule and organized and making sure somebody knows that that’s what they have to do in your household so that your house starts running like clockwork. And as soon as that happens, all sorts of magical other things happen because you can choose how you want to use that time that is now opened up to you. You’re not nagging everybody. “Did you do this? Did you do that?” Instead, you just get up and you all get it done, and then you can move on to what you want to do in life, and that becomes really powerful. But I think so many times, we look to Pinterest, or we look online, or ask our friends, “How do you handle this one little thing?” Well, every single person here is smart enough to figure out their one little challenging thing. It’s finding the bones and the structure to put life into that gives you the space to figure those things out. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think there’s a lot of value just in that because, like you said, adding any of these on to an already stressed out chaotic, it’s just not going to work. And so, yeah, getting that in order first makes a lot of sense. You have so many resources. So can you share— are there any books, accounts, resources, anything that inspires you to learn more? 

Carolyn Thomas You know, I think for me, I love digging into the historical information. So wherever I can find old, usually out-of-print books, I am grabbing for them left and right, especially the nonfiction, the how to learn something, anything that’s related to things that I’m doing on the homestead. And that, to me, is the most inspirational because I feel like I just don’t want this information to get lost. There’s so much of value here. Let’s make sure we turn this into a modern skill and then share it with other people so that it doesn’t get lost in the historical record because there’s so many things that are. There’s so many things that our great grandmothers knew that we’ve already lost, we already don’t know how to do, and we’ve lost that information, and we’re having to struggle to find it again ourselves. Instead, let’s make sure we’re passing it on. We’re relearning it where we can. We’re preserving that information. We’re passing it on to our children. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s a good tip to look out for those old books, probably on like thrift shops but then also ThriftBooks.com, places like that, you can find those kind of resources. 

Carolyn Thomas Absolutely. One resource that I love is James Townsend. Townsends.us is the website. But they do a historical reenactment gear and they’ve actually republished quite a few of these older books. And so you can go and you can find them in there. So that’s kind of a fun way to find them, too, if you’re just not sure where to look in your thrift stores. You know, some thrift stores don’t have those kind of really fun older things. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, that would be hard to happen upon. 

Carolyn Thomas They’ve taken some of the books from the 1700s and 1800s and republished them. 

Lisa Bass Oh, that’s a cool idea. 

Carolyn Thomas Yeah, I’ll get you that link, for sure so that I can make sure it’s dialed in. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Okay, well, let us know any other sources that you have on your website, on your YouTube channel, where best for everybody to access all that information. We’ll also be leaving everything you talk about down in the show notes below. 

Carolyn Thomas Great. Yeah, so we have the YouTube channel. I share so much information there. We do about two videos every week between how-to videos, and then we have a kind of talk show style video we do weekly called The Pantry Chat where we really can dive into the theory behind homesteading and not just the exact how-to. And so we share a lot there. If you’re interested in going even deeper and looking at some classes, going to HomesteadingFamily.com and you can see the class listing there. For you guys, I would love to offer you guys a 25% discount off the canning class that we have. It’s a master class and we’ll take you all the way from basic canning skills, all the way to pressure canning and even canning meals. So I will make sure you guys have that link all available so that you can get a good discount there. 

Lisa Bass Awesome, well thank you so much. I’m sure a lot of people will look forward to that, especially with the upcoming gardening season. Arming yourself with that knowledge is going to be really, really helpful. Well, thank you so much for joining me and for sharing all of your knowledge and skills, and I hope we’ve motivated people to just start and start trying things. 

Carolyn Thomas Thank you so much for having me. It’s been great. 

Lisa Bass All right. Well, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. I hope that you learned a lot. Make sure to check out the link down in the show notes for 25% off her canning course. From everything I’ve watched by Carolyn and her family, they really know what they’re doing when it comes to preserving and to gardening and homesteading. I’ve learned so much from them and from their Pantry Chats that I’m sure this is going to be a really wonderful resource if that is something that you’re wanting to learn this season. Make sure to check that out. As always, thank you so much for listening, and I’ll see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. 

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