If you desire to live a natural lifestyle—whole foods, less toxins, holistic health—it can be intimidating to know where to start. Many people are also concerned about the cost of living this way. In this episode with Roxanne of Happy Holistic Homestead, we tackle the question of where to start if you simply can’t afford to jump all in. What changes make the biggest impact on your family’s health? We also bust the myth that it takes a lot of money or a lot of land to begin prioritizing your health by sourcing high quality foods. You might be surprised by some of our money saving tips! No matter where you are starting from, may this episode encourage you to take the next step in your journey towards a more natural lifestyle.
In this episode, we cover:
- How a health retreat changed Roxanne’s health trajectory
- The easiest place to start if you want to live a homesteading life with limited space
- Simple ways to use raw milk on your homestead
- How producing your own food can simplify your meal planning
- Tips for sourcing quality foods while on a budget
- Encouraging our kids to follow their interests
- An important perspective for the young mom who has big dreams
- The benefits of giving older siblings responsibility in the home
- How learning to forage can improve your gardening skills
- A list of go-to quick and easy meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- The no-brainer meal prepping strategy that will keep you eating home cooked meals all week
Roxanne is a published author and a homesteading, homeschooling mother of five. She teaches and consults on the topics of sustainability, permaculture, and regenerative localized economies.
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Lisa Bass All right. Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I’m having on Roxanne Ahern from @HappyHolisticHomestead over on Instagram. So her account really caught my eye as a mother of five girls, someone who homesteads. She does things from scratch, like fermenting things and making sourdough and milking goats. So many of those things that I also love to do. We’re going to answer a reader question. So I got a question basically asking, “How do I make some of these changes incrementally? It’s overwhelming whenever you look at it from the very beginning.” So Roxane and I are going to dive into that topic and probably take a few twists and turns as well, just as we talk about motherhood and living on a homestead. So join us for that interview.
Lisa Bass Hi, Roxanne! Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. I’m happy we can chat. So you have to come up to the library for internet? A lot of my homestead guests, that’s kind of the case.
Roxanne Ahern I do. I honestly wasn’t sure what to do but I do some work from home and on Zoom and that kind of thing, and I thought I was being so smart by coming to the library. I thought the internet connection will be so much better. So it’s funny that it was giving us trouble. Well, I’m so excited to be here. Yeah.
Lisa Bass Thank you so much for joining me. Remind me what state you’re in?
Roxanne Ahern We’re in Arkansas.
Lisa Bass Arkansas. So it’s hot. Because I’m in Missouri, so I’m just north of you and we’re experiencing record highs. And next week I have some friends coming in town for a little blogging retreat. And we picked my house this year and I’m trying to tell them this isn’t actually normal. Like, yes, it can get hot in Missouri, but for it to be 100 degrees every day that you’re here, that’s not actually normal. But I don’t think I’m ever going to convince them.
Roxanne Ahern So are you trying— what are you going to do when they’re in town? Is there any way to cool off or are you going to go swimming?
Lisa Bass Well, we’ll probably have to stay in more than I was hoping. I was hoping for this really cute little restaurant where it’s outside. But I don’t know, because one of my friends is from Utah and she can’t handle humidity. Oh, no. So we’ll see. But no, it’ll be totally fine. But yeah, you guys are probably experiencing the same heat wave that we are down there.
Roxanne Ahern It has been hot. My girls have wanted to get in the creek every day and I haven’t felt like going in the garden at all. It’s just way too hot, you know? But of course you need to go in the garden when it’s hot because it needs water. And so I’m just watching the forecast and hoping it rains.
Lisa Bass Yeah. It’s not looking good here for that.
Roxanne Ahern Here either.
Lisa Bass So, I got a reader question that I thought was really good to talk about, but first tell us a little bit about yourself, your homestead, your family, whatever you want to share. And then we’ll jump into that reader question, which I think would be really helpful for you to weigh in on.
Roxanne Ahern Well, okay, so I’m a mom of five. They’re all girls. And we homeschool and we grow food and raise animals and that kind of thing. I didn’t grow up doing that kind of stuff, so it’s all been learning along the way and learning as we go. When I was younger, I grew up kind of like on processed foods and I was pretty unhealthy feeling in my late teens, early twenties. And then I went to this health resort type place one time where all they did was serve their own food there. It was all unprocessed and it was like you couldn’t get any other food. It was the first time I’d eaten so healthy before and I felt so different, and it was kind of a life changing thing, and it sort of changed my course. And then I went to Southwest Institute of Healing Arts out in Arizona and studied herbalism there and holistic nutrition. And then, when I became a mom, I kind of got even more serious about all that stuff. And then as a mother of a large family, you probably know food can get expensive, especially when you want a certain quality of food. And so it just kind of became like, well, I guess we’re going to have to produce this ourselves if we’re going to want to keep eating it. So that’s kind of how that went. And then foraging and baking and all that kind of stuff have just been sort of like— we’ve learned them together. As my kids were growing up, it’s been part of their school, that sort of thing.
Lisa Bass It’s interesting that you really got into a lot of this health stuff and going down the path of learning herbalism and whole foods before you were a mom, because most people I talk to, usually having children is the catalyst for it. But it sounds like you started learning about it before that even happened and that’s what pushed you. I’m interested to hear more about that place that you went. What was that?
Roxanne Ahern Which place? The place that served the good food or the place where I went to the—?
Lisa Bass Yes, yes. And your school. But yeah, the place that served the good food.
Roxanne Ahern Well, it’s a place in Tucson and it’s called Canyon Ranch. And they have all different programs. You can go there and sign up for all kinds of different programs and you get bodywork done and that kind of thing. I mean, it’s pretty neat. You go and you come out feeling great. But yeah, I had never eaten like that before. I would say it’s mostly— I mean there’s a lot of plant-based stuff, but everything was definitely organic and it was all just super healthy. And I think I grew up eating a lot of processed stuff and not even really— I never equated what I was eating with how I was feeling, you know? For some reason there was a total disconnect there, and then when that changed, it changed everything.
Lisa Bass Yeah. I think back like when I was growing up, that association wasn’t made like it is today. So now I think people are a lot more aware. You don’t even have to be somebody who’s digging super far into everything for you to know that. But back then, I think that would have actually been—like when I was a kid—that would have been pretty revolutionary that you know what you eat actually affects how you feel, as obvious as that seems.
Roxanne Ahern No, it is funny. And I remember having a couple of friends who ate very healthy, sort of like how my family eats now. And it was sort of like, oh they’re health nuts.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So the question that I received from a reader that I thought—or a listener—that I thought would be really good to talk with you specifically about was this: “Could you do an episode on incremental changes and give us some insight on the journey that brought you to where you are now? So, healthy living and eating. I think a lot of us can feel like we’re failing because we can’t make all the changes in one day. So maybe some ideas on the most impactful changes you can make if you only make a couple at a time.” So you sort of shared like a very overview, like bird’s eye view of how you got to where you are now. You’re so skilled in your homesteading and your foraging, gardening, sourdough, all the stuff that I watch you do on your Instagram. But how did you acquire this knowledge? Where did you start? We can talk about what resources led you in that direction? Trial and error. I just want to dive deeper into how that took shape.
Roxanne Ahern So much trial and error. So much. I think back on my days when I was first married and a young mom and I really didn’t know how to do anything. I mean, I knew how to make spaghetti and pot roast, and I knew how to cook a couple of things. I had never had a garden. One thing that was life changing for us was when we got married, we moved out of the country and had our baby in Central America. And then we moved back right before she was one, and we lived on a friend’s farm. My husband got a job restoring an old apple orchard, and it needed a lot of work. And so they were homeschooling and homesteading and they had four kids at the time. And I was able to just be sort of immersed right into what they were doing. And I had never witnessed that kind of lifestyle before. We lived on their farm for, I think, six months or nine months, but we just got an education. And their seven-year-old daughter taught me how to garden. She taught me. She was the cutest thing and had so much knowledge. Yeah. So that kind of made me realize I had spent a long time in school and stuff and hadn’t learned very much. And so I thought, well, I’m going to probably homeschool then. And so that changed. And then as far as something that is— I’m trying to think of one of the first things. I was talking to my husband about this recently and he said, you know what was a real switch was when you were able to cook a whole chicken.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I always say that too. What is—? Yeah.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah. So somebody brought us a whole chicken after my second daughter was born as a baby meal. I asked her how she had done it and she just described how she made it. And then I tried to make it, messed it up a couple of times, but it was easy enough that it was pretty easy and it became part of the regular rotation. And then you start learning how to use the innards and make bone broth and you see how— and so doing that— I mean, cause I had never, ever cooked a whole chicken, cut up a whole chicken. I had only ever bought chicken parts. Anyway, so that was kind of different learning how to do that. And I feel like that really was a switch.
Lisa Bass Taking any cut of meat— to me, that is a very good place to start is buying all the cuts of meat that you’re not comfortable with. So maybe you’re used to just buying ground beef and boneless skinless chicken breasts, but then taking those that you’re not as comfortable and familiar with and then just getting them. And then you learn how to actually do it. Like a pork loin roast. Or even if you are adventurous as to buy like a cow heart— you don’t have to go that far. But learning those cuts of meat that you don’t usually use is definitely a really good place to start.
Roxanne Ahern I think you’re so right. And a lot of people reach out to me too, and they say, “How can I start with no land? We live in the suburbs or we live in an apartment, but we want to be more self-sufficient.” You make such a good point about the different cuts of meat, and it’s such a good idea to go buy part of a cow. Just buy the whole thing. And then you do get all those parts that you’re not used to using, and it just forces you to be creative. And then what’s neat about that, too, is a lot of those recipes that you find for some of the pieces that don’t get used a lot are sort of like— will take you down this path of traditional cooking, too. And I feel like traditional cooking methods, they’re really good about using all the parts. They always end up being more frugal and healthier. Oh, and Nourishing Traditions. I mean, somebody gave us that book when we got married, the Sally Fallon book. So it was as a wedding gift. And that was definitely life changing because that sort of turned upside down the way that we had been taught to eat. Because I had been eating healthier then, but I still don’t think I was getting enough healthy fats in my diet. I was eating healthy by what dietitians would call healthy, maybe, but I don’t necessarily think that’s correct.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Like vegetables and boneless skinless breasts with salt and no butter and stuff that leaves you feeling hungry still, but is healthy.
Roxanne Ahern Yes, totally. And especially when you’re in your reproductive years, you can’t survive on that stuff. You need fat.
Lisa Bass Yeah, exactly. Yeah. People neglect that. So which changes do you feel like—in your kitchen—have the most impact for the least effort?
Roxanne Ahern The most impact for the least effort? And do you mean when you’re changing your diet or growing things in your garden or—?
Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah. Like when you want to make something from scratch, you know, I have a handful of things that I feel like are so easy to incorporate but are very healthy and are from scratch. There are certain things like making your own mozzarella cheese, and that’s a lot easier than making like a cheddar cheese. Or making milk kefir, to me, is a lot easier than making yogurt. Certain things that are like high impact. We’re getting those nutrient dense foods in, but yet it’s really a lot less work.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah, no, farm cheese is a great one. That is a really good one. We just make the farm cheese with vinegar and then you can use it so many different ways. So that’s a good one.
Lisa Bass Okay. Can you tell me exactly how to make that? I need to make that like today, because we are now milking twice a day. And I processed all my butter this morning and I got buttermilk and I have so much milk, I’m like, oh my goodness.
Roxanne Ahern Do you have— are you using goat milk or cow milk? You have a cow, right?
Lisa Bass Yes, we have a cow, and so we’re getting at least three gallons a day, which means that I now have to actually do something with it, because before we were sharing with the calf and so that made it to where we had just enough to have plenty of milk but not have to actually deal with the milk.
Roxanne Ahern So we’ve been using goat milk because my daughter bought her own milk goat, and she’s been milking the goat and graciously sharing some of the cheese with us. Not all of the cheese. Some of it’s just her cheese.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Roxanne Ahern But yeah, so she’s making stuff. And she just she heats it up. I think for about a half gallon, she uses around ten tablespoons of vinegar or something. It’s kind of a lot. But we use apple cider vinegar, and I think you can use regular vinegar too. And it’s just about getting it to the right heat, like 170-175, and she tries not to let it go up over 180. Once it gets to 175, you let it do its thing for about 10 minutes. And we’ve noticed that when you add the vinegar all at once, it makes the curds more rubbery and harder. And when you add the vinegar slowly while it’s heating up, the cheese has a creamier texture. That’s what it’s been like with just our experimentation with the goat milk. But anyway, it’s super simple. And then you just strain it out in cheesecloth and salt it. You could add herbs to it and it has a similar vibe to mozzarella. We chop it up and we’ll eat it like caprese or whatever.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and a similar process to mozzarella, maybe minus all the stretching.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah, definitely no stretching. And we haven’t gotten into using cultures or that kind of stuff. She’s just been— we’ve been making yogurt, ice cream. We’ve just been using it as quick as she makes it because she’s getting less than a half a gallon a day. So it’s easy to use that up in our house.
Lisa Bass Yes. Yes, we milked goats and that’s how our experience was. Like, we never had quite enough.
Roxanne Ahern I was thinking about the question you asked me before, and I think one of the other things that made the biggest impact was when we decided we were going to avoid pesticides on our food as much as possible. I mean, glyphosate in particular we were avoiding. And that was like when my oldest daughter was maybe two. And so when you start looking at everything that had soy and corn in it, it was like we almost had to avoid all processed food at that point, which was more work, but there wasn’t really getting any around it. And salad dressings— people don’t think about it, but you can be eating really healthy, and salad dressings can be a super nutritious thing if you’re making them with wholesome ingredients and healthy fats, or they can be like poison. And so that is something that I feel like is small and simple and that it’s really easy to make at home and has a lot of impact. And little herb gardens, too. Herbs. People don’t think about it, but herbs have a lot of nutrient value. And if you just have a little pot you can put them outside in, or throw a handful of herbs into literally anything. And that is another way that you can have a little bit of control over what’s going into your food, even if you don’t have a lot of space.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I always am preaching to people to—if they feel very overwhelmed with getting started on cooking from scratch and making these incremental changes—to just master the basics. So we earlier were talking about mastering different cuts of meat. Now you’re talking about just throwing in some herbs, buying non-GMO or avoiding those certain grains altogether— soy and corn. Just basically finding the right sourcing for basic ingredients and then adding salt, herbs, keeping it simple is really— that’s been my strategy. I don’t know. That sounds sort of like what you’re saying is a strategy for you guys as well.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah, well, and when you’re in the garden— and I don’t know what your response is because some moms I say this too, and they’re like, “Totally,” and some moms are like, “Mm-mm,” so I don’t know where you are on the spectrum, but where I’m at right now, in the middle of the summer or fall, for me, it feels easier to go into the garden, find something to make for dinner, and bring it back into the house and make it than to go to the store with all of my kids.
Lisa Bass Oh yeah.
Roxanne Ahern So actually growing our own food is— like, we’d rather be at home. And so I could see how it doesn’t make sense for everybody in whatever— you know, you’re in different seasons of life. But if you’re a mom and you have a large family and you’re spending a lot of time at home, honestly, adding a vegetable garden makes your life more convenient. You know, there’s work involved for sure, but it’s really nice. And then we oftentimes will plan our meals around that. That gives me inspiration.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it gives you a framework.
Roxanne Ahern Sometimes it’ll be like we have a ton of basil, what are we going to do?
Lisa Bass Right now we’re swimming in the abundance of milk and eggs. So today for lunch, we had buttermilk pancakes, bacon, and eggs. And I’m like, guys, we just need to— and big glasses of milk. Everybody has to chug— like we have to get through a half gallon of milk at this sitting right now. So that was what lunch was. So I do hear what you’re saying. In some ways, whenever you do, keep this local to where you are, it does simplify the meals, too, because you just need to eat what you have. And then also for us, keeping a freezer— we have a freezer completely stocked full of pasture-raised pork and beef and chicken. And so that’s all there. We have more eggs than we know what to do with, more milk than we know what to do with, and then we have our garden to add on the herbs, and we don’t have the tomatoes and all that yet, but soon we will. And it does. It makes a lot less grocery shopping. So recently I’m like, I don’t think we’ve been to the grocery store in weeks, but then we did have to finally go for some things that we don’t have.
Roxanne Ahern And I mean, I like that. And then you eat a certain type of food that’s in season until you’re almost tired of it, and then you’re ready to not eat it anymore till the next year. And then when it comes around the next year, you’re so excited. Those first ripe tomatoes from the garden or the first lettuce you get out of the garden in March or April, you’re like, yes.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Roxanne Ahern I don’t know. I like the seasonality of it all. And I think honestly, just from a nutrition perspective, I think that’s what’s best for your body anyway. I think your body functions best when it gets breaks from certain foods and you’re not always putting the same things into it all the time.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I agree. What are you doing about grains on your homestead? So where are you sourcing and how have you shifted maybe from conventional way of consuming bread and whatnot to what are you doing now for grains?
Roxanne Ahern Well, we didn’t really eat a lot of bread for a long time. I made a sourdough starter around the time we moved to Arkansas, which was maybe eight years ago. But it’s like I limped it along and never really got good at it, kept it alive and experimented sometimes, but wasn’t very successful with it because I just wasn’t giving it really any energy. I was like busy doing other things. But then my daughter wanted to do farmer’s market a few years back. She actually started out selling quail eggs at the farmer’s market and I thought, well, I’m going to go sit there with her all day, I’ll bake some bread. So we did. And then it ended up that quail eggs were kind of a pain, and she really kind of took over the bread thing. She saw— because we would sell out every week and she’s like, “Hmm, this bread business looks like a good idea.” I taught her how to do it. And then the next year, she’s sort of like, “So the bread business is on me, right?” So she was doing most of that, but I still did a lot of the sourdough because it went more with my schedule than hers. I was doing it early in the morning and when the kids were asleep. So anyways, we started buying— when we started making 20 or 30 loaves of bread a week for market, we started buying it from Azure. And so that’s where we get a lot of our staples now is Azure Standard. And we get our flour, most of our bulk stuff, our grains, oats, honey. Well, we buy a lot of our honey locally, too, but sometimes we’ll buy from them. Beans, all the beans and rice. Sugar. And a lot of our seasonings and spices come from them. We’ve been really happy with them, so we use them a lot and then we try to grow a lot of our own food and animals. And then there’s some sources locally that we go to for meat when we don’t have our own. And I would say we do go to the grocery store, but it’s a last resort. But we’re definitely not independent from it or anything. It’s still there, but I really have never enjoyed it, right? When you need something last minute, it’s good. But Azure has saved me a lot of money because you sort of have to think about things month to month, and it keeps me from going to the store all the time. And I found I would go into the store for stuff for dinner, and then you end up spending $50 or $60, and then that happens a couple of times a week and it— you know, so I feel like when I plan it all ahead, I really do a lot better with our grocery budget.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And that was one of the questions I was going to ask you is how do you make swaps for eating healthier on a budget? And I’m with you that ordering groceries is a lot better because just yesterday we went to the grocery store with all the kids and we definitely grabbed things— I was telling Luke whenever we were in the checkout, like it is cheaper to order groceries because we’ve definitely bought things that we never would have bought because we didn’t even know that they had them there. But yeah, can you speak to that? Making swaps and going on this journey on a budget?
Roxanne Ahern There’s so many things that are really easy, like it’s pre-prepared. You can buy your little packets of oatmeal that you put in the microwave, or you can get your oats. Or you can get your pre-prepared anything really, or you can get the raw ingredients. And so I think we’ve sort of— to make everything fast and really convenient, people have been willing to pay more for it. There’s a lot of ingredients now going into the food that maybe isn’t the best. And I think a lot of people are kind of realizing that now, too, and they’re like, “Uh-oh. How do we avoid that?” So I think what I would say is instead of a can of beans, instead of buying five cans of beans, soak your beans. Like just get your beans, make your own beans. Instead of packets of oatmeal, buy oats. It’s just like that. Don’t buy food products; buy ingredients. And then if you can source them directly, like in bulk, you can save money. Or if you can source them direct from farmers, oftentimes you’ll save money. And if you’re eating seasonally, you’re going to save money too. Something we do every year is we always go to the local orchards and we purchase their B-grade or their non-fancy fruit and that’s what we can. It’s expensive applesauce if you go buy fancy apples and then make them into sauce, right? Because they’re so expensive. But you get the B-grade apples from the farm, and a lot of people don’t even know they’re there. But you just ask them and they’ll bring you a big box from out of the back and it costs way less. So just things like that, like forming relationships with farmers and stuff and buying directly from them. I mean, what do you think? I want to know your tips on this, because I’m sure you deal with this a lot, too.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So very similar to you, I buy things in seasons. Like when you’re talking about apples, we never have apples in our home except for in the fall. It’s not something I’m super intentional about like, we just don’t eat apples unless it’s fall. But they’re so expensive. So when I go to the grocery store, I just won’t grab apples until it’s fall. I’ll get them from the local orchard or then, you know, we now have trees, and they actually aren’t even producing yet, so we just get them from the local orchard. But yeah, I have a source for everything. Like I have a local place that has honey. I buy a gallon at a time. I have sources for all my meat that I buy in bulk. Like you, unless I’m in a pinch—which this is just not a budget suggestion—but I do know how to and enjoy cooking my own black beans and everything like that. Sometimes I have black bean cans, too, just because, quick and easy. But yeah, in some ways, it’s actually cheaper to cook that way. Like, don’t go buy organic— like Bob’s Red Mill organic packets of oatmeal. Just buy oatmeal and then put in whatever fruit seasonally, put in the honey from the local farmer. Yeah, it’s very similar to yours.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah. And like I said, you just eventually stop buying all the food products and then you’re just buying ingredients. And then when you do buy the food product sometimes, it’s fun for the kids. They think it’s such a treat. But we’re definitely not buying— you know, it’s like we’re going on a road trip and we get to get all these fun snacks or whatever. But yeah, if we went and bought tons of snacks at the store, I guarantee all that stuff would be gone in like minutes in my house. They would be like, “Let’s eat all the snacks. We know mom got granola bars and fruit snacks. We’re having them today.” It’s like you can’t even keep them in the house. And so it’s sort of like just treats. But we pretty much have food all the time.
Lisa Bass Yeah, exactly. We also only buy ingredients. And whenever I do buy something that’s prepackaged, they just inhale it. It doesn’t even count. It’s like it counted for any meal. It’s just extra in my opinion. So yeah, if you’re on a budget, definitely avoid all of that and just buy the ingredients. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t go super crazy into making all my own condiments and things like that. So yeah, we buy packaged ketchup and mustard and all of that.
Roxanne Ahern But I mean, you can get a bottle of organic ketchup for only a few dollars.
Lisa Bass Exactly. Which is why I don’t make it.
Roxanne Ahern And so to me, the value is really in there. We always joke about what a value ketchup is. Because you know when you’ve processed tomatoes, how many tomatoes it would take that bottle of ketchup. It’s like the best deal in the grocery store probably.
Lisa Bass It is. And honestly, I feel like there are some other good deals too. Like pretty much all tomato products are a really good deal. So I make my own pasta—in the middle of summer when we have so many tomatoes—or my own pasta sauce, but we buy a lot of jarred pasta sauce because it’s so cheap. Doesn’t really seem worth it.
Roxanne Ahern It is. And it’s good. I mean we definitely have stuff like that backup on hand like that’s my go-to— you have your cans of beans on hand or you have your pastas and your sauces for like, okay, you know, the day got away from me and now we need something really simple for dinner or lunch. Or that kind of stuff can also be—once you have older kids—that stuff is really simple for older kids to put together, like at lunch time too. And I know my girls are always like, “Can I make lunch? Can I do the—?” You know, they want to get into the kitchen and express themselves or whatever. The last couple of years, that’s been kind of— that’s changed a lot. Going from having all littles to a couple that are capable of helping. Your oldest is a girl, right?
Lisa Bass Yeah, my oldest two are girls. They’re 13 and 11.
Roxanne Ahern Okay.
Lisa Bass And they are very helpful in the kitchen. So what ages are your girls?
Roxanne Ahern And they are 12, 9, 7, 5 and 1. Yeah, the littlest just turned one in February, and she’s just pure entertainment. I mean, I’m sure you know. Having a baby with all those kids around, it’s like they just— you see why the baby of the family maybe is always the baby of the family. They get so adored and so much attention. It’s very sweet. So many mommies.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Especially with all those girls.
Roxanne Ahern Yes, yes. And so, yeah, just in the last couple of years, it’s changed. I mean, it really shifted. I mean, we wouldn’t have been able to do farmer’s market a few years ago, and I don’t think I would have been able to do it just for myself. Farmer’s market was really more about my kids having an activity and a way to— my oldest has been always wanting her own business. She’s talked about it for years. So it was an opportunity for her to get out there and try that. And then all the kids saw her doing it and wanted to be involved. And so we did it like— it’s sort of like how some families might do sports is like that’s our day.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Roxanne Ahern I joke, too, that we’re kind of like pretend farmers. My husband still works an off-farm job. It’s very busy because of that. He’s doing that and then on the weekends trying to fix fence or whatever, so it stays very busy. Is that like that for you guys, too? Is it just always like a lot going on?
Lisa Bass Oh, my goodness. Yes. Today we were out in the garden. And my husband was like, “I don’t even know if we should have all the kids out here because we’re going to have heatstrokes.” There’s a heat advisory. I’ve never even thought about that in my life, like worrying about heat, but it really is so hot. So, yeah, we were out in the garden and then I sent in my oldest to make lunch, and the cow was grazing around the yard and then eating the roses. And one of my kids was churning butter in that little hand-crank butter churning thing. So yes, there is always so much going on. And then right before this podcast, I told my two older girls, “Clean this kitchen top to bottom, please.” We’re talking empty out the grease, the bacon grease outside. Because, you know, a lot of times kids, they’ll clean, but then they’ll leave like the pot that has the bacon grease in it and just those little things that only the mom does. I’m like, “Do it. Every last bit of it.” Yeah. Because yeah. So much going on. And then after this, we’re going to go get some gravel for the garden because all the pathways in between the raised beds are overtaken.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah. I had a friend yesterday say, “Hey, I want to come see your garden.” And I was like, “I would like to see my garden, too.” It is absolutely buried in Johnson grass right now.
Lisa Bass Yeah, exactly.
Roxanne Ahern I didn’t get mulch on it early enough in the spring, and I’m just in there trying to just save some of the things that have sprouted by clearing out the weeds around them. So I definitely need to spend some serious time in the garden. And that’s something else, too— a lot of young moms say, “How do you get it all done?” And I don’t know what it was like for you, but I want to say my least productive season was probably early in my motherhood days when I had maybe two or three little ones, and everybody’s very little. Yeah, that was not a time when I was like—
Lisa Bass Hands down.
Roxanne Ahern Doing all the things. That was very much like, I am in survival mode.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Roxanne Ahern So for young moms, they have those dreams too. They think, “I want to learn how to do all the things.” And you can still learn as you go. And it’s okay. I did everything badly a bunch of times before I did it well. I’ve had lots of fails in my garden. I mean, I’ve made bad bread, but I joke that there’s never really any bad bread because you can make French onion soup or croutons or bread pudding.
Lisa Bass Definitely.
Roxanne Ahern You can always rescue it.
Lisa Bass Croutons. I agree with you because even though now I still have a four-year-old, two-year-old and a baby. So I still have that crew that’s very difficult. But like right now, I had somebody that was cleaning up the kitchen while I was jumping on this podcast. That mess wasn’t waiting for me when I got done with this. That mess was already taken care of. And then I have my other daughter holding the baby, and then the boys are helping Luke do something. And so there’s a lot of chaos, I feel like. But it’s not the same kind of hard as it is whenever— it’s a different kind of hard because there’s so much going on. So it’s very loud and there’s times when it’s just like, this is a lot, but it also doesn’t have the same exhaustion level as when you have no help at all.
Roxanne Ahern That’s very true. I mean, just the little things that they can do or make space for you to even just be able to do your own self-care, be able to go get in the shower and you know that an older child can listen for the baby if the baby’s down for the nap. It’s just a different family dynamic. My advice for young moms is find some good friends, learn how to do things together, have your friends over with their babies, bake in your kitchen or— you know what I mean? Learn how to do things together. Find your tribe and just kind of hang on, and you’ll feel like you’ll have more time later. But just really soak in those years and give yourself a lot of grace, because it goes by very quick.
Lisa Bass And it’s an accumulation of knowledge, too. Like you and I both have been married and been moms for over a decade. And so there’s just so much that has accumulated over time with trial and error. Things that would sound really easy to you didn’t sound easy to you ten years ago. And that’s the same for me. And for anybody who’s like, “Oh, no—”. I get criticism for my daughter holding the baby. In fairness, I was going to put him down for a nap. He wouldn’t take a nap. And normally, like back whenever I had 4, 2, and a baby, I would have had to cancel this podcast. But the 11-year-old is ready and willing. Which I think is ridiculous anyways. Kids should help.
Roxanne Ahern I do. And I think— I mean, I’m very conscious of it with my kids because I want them to enjoy that time. And it’s sort of like how I approach the garden, too. Like, I don’t drag them out there to do it. I want them to love it.
Lisa Bass Speaking of the devil.
Roxanne Ahern Oh, hi! So cute.
Roxanne Ahern That’s really funny because she walks in during it with the baby. She said he’s falling asleep in her arms. So he’s going to go down for a nap after this.
Roxanne Ahern Hi. Oh, my goodness. Oh, so cute. I think that— I mean, when I see my kids together and I see them spending time together, I think they’re so lucky that they get to be with their siblings. I mean, like my oldest daughter has so much energy. And she could be at school behind a desk and have a totally different sort of lifestyle. But she gets to be doing whatever she wants to do and she gets to be with her siblings and gets to spend a lot of time with the baby when she’s young. And she’s even talked to me about that before. She said, “Mom, you know—” my littlest is Dahlia, and she said, “You know, Dolly’s growing up so fast, and if I had to go to school, I would never see her.”
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Roxanne Ahern Because she just loves her so much, you know? And so, I don’t know, I think it’s sweet. And I think people who don’t have large families sometimes can’t relate to it or they don’t understand how much free time that kids can have when they get to be at home. Homeschool only takes a couple of hours of their day, so they have literally— my kids, I know, probably have 4 to 6 hours a day of time besides school, chores, whatever where they’re allowed to just do whatever they want and pursue whatever they’re interested in. That’s a gift.
Lisa Bass Exactly. Yeah. That’s where I don’t feel bad. I say, “Making them help,” but contribute as part of the team to our family. Yeah, that doesn’t make me feel bad at all because they get so much space and we are. We’re a team, and we work together. One of the other things I was going to talk to you about—which I realize we’re just going off topic, which is totally okay—is foraging. So you’ve done a lot of foraging, I’ve noticed on your Instagram. And how did that knowledge come about?
Roxanne Ahern So I feel like that kind of came naturally out of our approach to homeschool, which we’re using the Charlotte Mason method, and pretty much with Charlotte Mason there’s just a huge element of nature study involving that. And so we spent a lot of time outside just learning the plants. And that’s what I always say when people are interested in foraging. My advice is to just start learning all the plants versus “I want to go look for plants I can eat.” Just learn all the plants. Like, what is this plant? What is that plant? Because sometimes people don’t necessarily consider something an edible plant, but once you learn more about it, you’ll learn that certain parts of it are edible, or if you prepare it a certain way it’s edible. Just do that. I think for the first year or two, we didn’t really eat anything. We were just identifying. And I was a little nervous to eat things when I thought, okay, this says it’s edible, but we’ve never done it. And so it took me a little bit to get braver, and we just started with plants we would see on our nature walks, and then we got more and more into mushrooms, and then we started cultivating mushrooms, which is kind of a whole different thing. Doing mushroom logs is so fun, and they do really well in our part of the country.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I’m sure it’s similar to here.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah. And then we would just learn how to use things. And it was really something I was learning right alongside my kids. I didn’t have really any experience before, but like when I consult with people for gardening and that kind of stuff, I always encourage people to learn about their local plants and maybe traditional foods that were eaten in that place. Because a lot of times if it’s a traditional food, that means it’s going to grow really well there. Okay, so when you go to the grocery store, we have a few crops that are there all the time and it’s because they store really well and ship well and all that. It’s not because they taste the best or they grow well everywhere or whatever. It’s just that all our food production is very centralized, so we’ve lost tons of awesome foods that just people don’t even know about anymore because we grow a few staple crops. I always just encourage people to learn about what grows in their area. Like in Arkansas, you can forage for pawpaws, but a lot of people don’t try growing them. But I say, you know, you should try growing them because they’ll grow really well here. Easier than peaches. Anyway. Yeah. So I encourage people to learn about what does well in a place, forage it, learn about it, and then try to find ways to incorporate those foods back into your farm. If it grows like a weed— like elderberry here just grows like a weed. And so it’s like, well, let’s figure out how to use it. Let’s plant some. Then you take it beyond foraging and you think, well, this does really well here. How can we cultivate this on our homestead so that we have more of it without— because it basically will just spread and we have to not do any work. So I love that aspect of it.
Lisa Bass That is a really good tip. I hadn’t quite thought about that because yeah, pawpaws and elderberry are huge here too, and you don’t think of it as something to cultivate just because you only ever think of it as something you go out and find. But it makes sense when it does so well natively to—
Roxanne Ahern Yeah, they just they don’t store well. Elderberry and pawpaw, you can’t really ship them super well. Like elderberry, you can dry. If you’re growing it on your own farm, then you can process it or do whatever, and you’re kind of in charge of that. But pawpaws have a super short shelf life, but they used to be a very popular fruit in America, but because they don’t store well at all, they basically cut down all the pawpaw trees and planted apple trees instead.
Lisa Bass It’s interesting, too, that if you ask most people who live in Missouri and Arkansas if they’ve even had a pawpaw, I bet you most people haven’t even tried it at all. I’ve only tried it like one time.
Roxanne Ahern No, you’re right. I get that all the time. When I ask people about it, they say, “Gosh, I grew up here and I’ve never had one before.” I mean, but I know my family eats like 10 pounds of bananas a week, probably and they’re like imported from Central— you know what I mean? But it’s like we buy them because it’s inexpensive.
Lisa Bass And pawpaws have a similar texture.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah. Well, you know what someone told me? Is that you know how banana pudding is sort of like a traditional southern dessert. You’ll have it at potlucks. It’ll just be around. Well, someone told me that originally, a long time ago, that it was actually made with pawpaws.
Lisa Bass That would make more sense.
Roxanne Ahern Because we didn’t used to import bananas up to this part of the country or whatever. But later on then when pawpaws weren’t a thing, they just replaced them with bananas because they were getting them or whatever. But it used to be— traditionally it was made with pawpaws and cream and that kind of thing. And we’ve made it like that before and it’s different. But you can see how they got there from it and it’s pretty good. It doesn’t taste like banana pudding. It tastes like pawpaw pudding, but it’s really good.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that does make sense because my husband’s grandma said she never— I don’t think she ever ate a banana when she was a kid at all. So why— yeah, how would that— I don’t know why I never— that disconnect— that would make more sense. So what are some of the go-to meals?
Roxanne Ahern Okay, so for breakfast I usually have some hard or soft boiled eggs prepped. Like I just cook a couple dozen eggs a week and put them in the fridge so that they’re just there because it’s really easy to do. I’ll do like five or six minute eggs, so they’re a little mushy inside and you can put them on a salad or like on a sweet potato. It tastes good. And so I keep those on hand. And for breakfast we usually do something simple like hard boiled eggs and we have toast. If we have leftover bread from the market, we’ll have sourdough toast. Yogurt, fruit, very simple things that it takes me just minutes to put together or that the older kids can even do themselves, things like banana and peanut butter, apples and peanut butter. Because some of my kids want to eat right when they wake up. And so that’s what we do. If we have to go to church or something the next morning or we have co-op, I’ll prepare an egg bake the night before or baked oatmeal. Just put it in the fridge and then you put it in the oven right when you wake up and it’s ready to go. So that’s how we do that. Lunches— sweet potatoes are a go-to easy lunch, like sweet potatoes and then just slice up some veggies and fruit to go with it. Or if you have canned fruit or veg in the pantry or frozen stuff, pull it out. That’s easy. And like the older kids, too now, sometimes they’ll want to do something like— they’ll want to make pancakes for lunch. And I’ll be like, go for it.
Lisa Bass Like we did today.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah. Oh, and a Dutch baby pancake is one of their favorite things, and we make that a lot. And sometimes that’s a lunch thing, too, because that’ll take a little bit longer. So I don’t try to do big elaborate breakfast in the morning. If it’s something really light, maybe we throw in some bacon or something mid-morning and everybody can have a piece of bacon if they’re— because we’re doing a bunch. We get up in the morning and we do all of our morning time stuff. They are doing their chores. I feel like we go hard in the mornings and then we’re like— because I feel like that’s when everybody’s at their best. And then things are much more relaxed for the rest of the day. So I don’t like to spend a lot of time cooking. And then something that we’ve done that makes dinners easy is we’ll do a lot of meat on Sunday. Either I’ll do a big roast in the crock pot or I’ll cook a couple of chickens, or my husband loves to smoke meat or grill. And he’ll do a bunch of meat, and then I will make it all week long. Like he’ll do a brisket, and then we will have sliced brisket, we’ll have barbecued brisket, we’ll have brisket on nachos. You know, I’ll make it a bunch of different ways. And we do the same thing with a pork roast. We’ll make a pork roast, then we’ll have pulled pork with rice and teriyaki sauce or we’ll have burritos. We’ll make enchiladas out of it, that kind of thing. So that’s usually what I do is I plan one or two big meats and then really portion that out. And I always try to have snacks prepped too, like almond butter balls or things on hand that are easy, like cheese sticks. Cucumbers— we eat a lot of sliced cucumbers because they’re just easy and really full of water and stuff. So I think that’s it.
Lisa Bass I like your idea of just having cooked meats. Like my strategy is always having thawed meats, but I like that, taking it one step further. And you always have a— just stocked with cooked meats because you could do so much by cooking a large portion of meat at one time. And then, like you said, putting them in. Just that’s like the most time-consuming part of a meal normally.
Roxanne Ahern Mm-hmm. Yeah. So if you have that and you’re like, okay, we’re just going to do rice and meat and veggies. Or we’re going to go to the garden, pick some salad. We’ve got some meat prepped; we’re going to make a chopped salad. It makes it just really easy. So I do meal plan. I do meal plan, too. And that helps me not end up throwing food away and use everything and just think about it. But meal planning happens more in my head now than— I used to write it all down, and now it happens more up here. And my goal is to actually get it out on the wall or something now. Print it out and hang it up so that like everybody— because all the kids— I think then they can take agency of it if they’re like, “I want to help,” and they can kind of go see what’s for dinner and they can help. Yeah. So anyway, that’s my strategy. But what is your go-to? Like what is your you have to make a meal really quick? Or what do you guys do in the morning?
Lisa Bass So I do a lot of the same things as you, but like something if it was going to be where there was no time— like yesterday, last minute, one of my podcasts rescheduled for right before lunch. And so I quickly whipped up the salmon patties. Those canned salmon. You mix it up with a little bit of flour, salt, egg, and then fry it in coconut oil. Those are like, okay, I have nothing thought out and I need something stat. That and then breakfast for lunch is definitely a big one because we have so many eggs. That’s a great protein. Today, you know, pancakes. We had thawed out bacon today, so we did that. Those are probably my really in a pinch meals. And then if I have thawed meat—which I try to, like right now in the fridge, there’s some thawed ground beef—something like last night I did a shepherd’s pie. So then I can take whatever vegetables I had. I didn’t have celery. I didn’t have a few of the other things that are supposed to go in shepherd’s pie, but just diced carrots, onions, ground beef. And then some of the sauce, like balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, and some coconut aminos and salt and mixed that up with some mashed potatoes because we almost always have potatoes. Pasta. I keep those boxes of einkorn pasta on hand. That’s a lifesaver a lot of times. So we’ll make just spaghetti with that pasta sauce that’s already made. Pizza is a big one for me because I’ll have a bunch of sourdough starter and then just make those sourdough— where you just put the sourdough starter on the preheated cast iron skillet and then it just bakes on there with a little bit of oil and salt because I always have cheese. So those are some of my really fast go-to meals.
Roxanne Ahern Well I’m going to try some of those now. Some of that stuff, I’ve never tried before. I’m totally going to give the salmon patties a shot. And I don’t think I’ve done the sourdough just directly in the cast iron, raw, like a pizza crust. That’s pretty cool.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So it doesn’t have to be bubbly. It can be straight out of the fridge if it hasn’t been fed in a week or it can be fresh. But either way, you just get your skillet really, really hot, and then add the sourdough starter, and then put it up the sides of it. And if it’s really well seasoned, it’ll just pop out after it bakes a little bit. But always before baking it, add a little bit of olive oil, some herbs de provence, salt, pepper. It’s very good. And then you can top it with whatever you have. So we’ll do goat cheese or we’ll do mozzarella cheese, whatever herbs. Yeah, that’s it. And then nachos. So like you said earlier, nachos. We’ll keep some of those organic tortilla chips on hand and that’s a quick meal. Or tacos. So I had the hardest time, for the longest time, finding non-GMO tortillas because you know you can make them, and I do. But again, we’re talking like in a pinch. Quick, quick, quick. I’ve been ordering them from La Tortilla Factory online and I’ll get just tons. I’ll get dozens of them at a time, throw them in the freezer, and then yeah, they’re so good and they’re not that expensive.
Roxanne Ahern I’m going to have to look into that. Yeah, because I feel like tortillas—once you make them at home—that they’re just different. They taste different than the store ones.
Lisa Bass Well and I really like corn tortillas, and I’m good at making flour tortillas. Oh, buddy, here you go. But the corn tortillas, I’ve never tried, but I really like the street tacos. And so having those from La Tortilla Factory has been a game changer for us.
Roxanne Ahern That’s awesome. Well, it was so fun to talk to you.
Lisa Bass Yeah, you too.
Roxanne Ahern I feel like we have a lot in common.
Lisa Bass I know. I’m like, we could go on and on. I had a super long list of other stuff, but I think it was great. So again, tell everybody where they can find you. Best place to find you to follow along for more.
Roxanne Ahern Well, let’s see over on Instagram, @HappyHolisticHomestead. I’m on Facebook, too. I’m not as active over there. And then I’m on Twitter. I post over there and have a website. And my book will be coming out in September, too. And it’s called Holistic Homesteading: A Guide to a Sustainable and Regenerative Lifestyle. And that basically just talks about— there’s chapters on gardening, fermentation, food preservation, foraging, and cooking with sourdough. The idea of the book is just sort of to bring some of the production back home. Just over the last couple of generations, all of the production kind of left the home and it was just like we’re just at home and consuming. And so it was just the idea of like, well, let’s bring some of that production back into the home and see what that looks like and just learn these simple skills. So it’s just kind of like an intro to each, and then the gardening chapter’s more extensive. But yeah, so that’ll be out in September and I think you can even preorder it on Amazon now.
Lisa Bass Okay. Oh, you can preorder it?. Oh, awesome. Okay. Well, we’ll leave links for that in the show notes, as well as to your website.
Roxanne Ahern Yeah. If you just search my— Roxanne Ahern on Amazon, it should come up, too, the book. Anyway, but thank you so much for having me, Lisa, this has been such a pleasure talking to you.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.
Lisa Bass All right, well, thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Theo is now down for a nap. I’ve had the opportunity to come back up here and record this outro. That is just the reality of recording a podcast with so many kids in the home, but we somehow make it all work, and I hope that you enjoy listening. I’ll see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.