No matter what stage of homesteading you are in, the list of tasks to complete and projects to tackle is seemingly endless. The eagerness to get it all done and see your dreams come to life can easily leave you feeling overwhelmed. Danielle found herself with bigger dreams than she had time and money for, so she created the Run Back to Your Roots 365 challenge to help herself master those skills one by one. Before long, she had thousands of people joining her in each month’s homestead challenge, everything from canning to fermenting to baking bread and more. Join me for this conversation with Danielle as we dive into what it looks like to pursue your dreams little by little.
In this episode, we cover:
- How it is possible to homestead on rented property
- The importance of learning homestead skills even before you have property
- How to get started when you want to learn everything at once
- Shifting your mindset to let go of perfection and accept failure
- Finding the time to learn new skills when you already have a full plate
- Getting over the hump of starting something new until it becomes second nature
- Breaking down the practical beginning steps of going after your goals
- Clearly defining your “why” behind pursuing your goals
- Structuring your days to work toward your goals little by little
- When you have to put some of your homestead dreams on hold to tend to other areas of your life
- Helpful tools we each use to manage our to-do lists
- Choosing what to let go of on overwhelming days or in overwhelming seasons
- Holding on to your peace in the midst of working hard for your goals
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Danielle is a homesteader, mother of two, watercolor artist, and owner of Jones Roots and The Farmschool Co. On Instagram she shares her daily life and art in hopes of inspiring others to “run back to their roots.” With her husband, Nick, Danielle creates homestead themed learning resources for their business The Farmschool Co.
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to this Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I’m having on Danielle from Jones Roots, and we are going to be chatting about keeping a lot of plates spinning, whether you are wanting to start homesteading or start a business. That’s something that both she and I are doing and pursuing while having families. She has a full-time job. She even makes her homestead on a rental farm. So, so much inspiration to share through different seasons of life that you don’t have to have everything perfect to be pursuing and putting one foot in for the other. So we’re going to be talking about that: how to do new things, learn new things while still keeping your family sane and not completely being overwhelmed. So join me for this great inspirational conversation.
Lisa Bass My name is Lisa, mother of seven and creator of the blog and YouTube channel Farmhouse on Boone. Join me as I share with you my love for creating a handmade home, from-scratch cooking, and a little mom and entrepreneur life along the way.
Lisa Bass Thanks, Danielle, so much for joining me. I’m really looking forward to talking with you. I think this is a topic that a lot of people really need a lot of encouragement on. So let’s start by doing introductions. You can tell us about you and your Instagram, your blog, and then your business that you have. And then I’ll kind of explain what the listener question is that we’re going to be responding to today.
Danielle Jones Okay. So my name is Danielle Jones. I am a mother of two little boys, ages one and four. Married to my high school best friend. We are a homesteading family. We homestead on a rental property, so we do not own our—
Lisa Bass Oh, cool.
Danielle Jones Yeah, we don’t own our house, we don’t own our land, which I think is a really important part of our story.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah.
Danielle Jones It’s a little bit unique to the homesteading community because you don’t get a lot of it, but I’m here to shout that it is possible. I’m a watercolor artist as well as a full time graphic designer, so I do have a 9 to 5 job, but I do work remotely, but also kind of important to our journey. Yeah, our homesteading dream started about eight, almost nine years ago at this point, but we’ve really been all in—meaning like we’ve had chickens, massive garden—for about four years now. And that’s kind of, I would say, like when we really got deep into it. So over the course of the past four years, we have a huge garden. We have raised meat rabbits and chickens. We’ve had well over 30 laying hens at all times. So obviously hens have come and gone, but we’ve always had about 30 in our flock. We have three turkeys and have had dairy goats. So that’s kind of our homesteading, all that we have done on this very small property. We don’t have a ton of acreage and we don’t even own it. So we have two businesses. We have Jones Roots, which is the Instagram that you had mentioned, which is where I share my art. It’s our blog is linked through there. It’s where we share our homesteading journey and just our day to day life. I try to show up in a very authentic way that I think is a little bit unique to social media, because social media can paint this really kind of like picturesque, beautiful side of homesteading. And I try to show up and be like, “Well, I burnt my bread today. A chicken died in my backyard, and my two year old has just completely destroyed my kitchen. I’m barely hanging on.” And I think that’s something that has made us unique a little bit because people want that relatability. And as an artist, I want to have beautiful curated moments, and there are beautiful moments—the roasted chicken on the table, the harvest baskets—but showing up in that very transparent way, I think, is a way that really fostered a great community. Our second business that you had mentioned is The Farmschool Co., which is where my husband and I create learning resources for children, homesteading and homestead dreaming families. So I always say at The Farmschool Co. “K is not for kite, it’s for kefir. U is not for umbrella, it’s for udder.” And it really kind of stemmed from an actual need of myself because I was starting to homeschool and just looking for educational resources for my four-year-old, almost five-year-old, and there wasn’t anything that related to us. And I was like, “How great would it be if I could have, you know, B is for burr comb, C is for canning.” And being an artist, I was like, “I’m just going to make it.” And so I started just creating resources. My husband started writing for it, and it kind of expanded. And so we have The Farmschool Co, which is not just for homeschool families. It’s for all families wanting their kids to learn about this lifestyle and regenerative agriculture. We really try to focus less on farming—like Old MacDonald aspect—and more on homesteading, what you can do in your backyard.
Lisa Bass That’s so cool. I love that you said that about the rental property. I actually didn’t know that about your story. And it’s funny because right before I jumped on this call, I was nursing the baby to put him down for nap. And one of my favorite apps to scan is Realtor because just why not?
Danielle Jones Yeah.
Lisa Bass And I came across this property really nearby that it has eight acres and a little house and it’s a really good deal. Like it’s very inexpensive for what it is. And I thought— like, I was literally just minutes ago thinking, “I wonder if anybody would rent a little homestead?” Like because we wouldn’t move. If we bought that as a rental house. Because normally when you look at rental houses, you look at like a little cheap house in town versus a house on eight acres. But I was just having that thought. And so maybe a family like yours would come in and do something like that. So I’m sure that’s a whole discussion on its own, like what kind of things you put in place as far as infrastructure when it’s something that you don’t own. But yeah, that’s an inspiring thing to know that you could homestead. Now do you guys have just a couple of acres or how does that work?
Danielle Jones So I don’t know definitively how much land that we have just because it wasn’t marketed that way and we don’t own it. So, like, I don’t have the deed or anything. I would say we have maybe like one, one and a half.
Lisa Bass Okay. Yeah.
Danielle Jones If I checked out Zillow, I think the house sits on quite a few acreage, but our landlord owns businesses that surround our entire property and other rental properties, so we don’t have access to all of that. It’s really just whatever we can do in our backyard if that makes sense.
Lisa Bass Yeah. That definitely makes sense.
Danielle Jones It definitely was a blessing. It’s one of those winks from God that my husband and I were dreaming about being able to do this, but we were not in a place that we’d be able to buy a house, and it kind of just fell together in the most perfect way that it was like that was meant to be.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I think that’s really inspiring, though, that you don’t have a ton of acreage, you don’t own the house, and still you found a way to pursue this homesteading thing. Because I think a lot of times we think we have to plan for— and this is my story. We planned for five plus years to do the homes— I mean, I guess in a way, we always had chickens and a garden, but I always wanted more. And it took us a lot of time to get to that point. But to know that you could even rent and do a lot of the things that you’re doing is very inspiring.
Danielle Jones Thank you.
Lisa Bass Okay. So this is the question from a listener that I want to address with you because I think that you have a lot of inspiration to share on this topic. So okay, I’ll read the question from a listener: “I just want to start by saying how much I love your blog. It’s so beautiful and motivating. I’m not normally the type of person to email or comment on blogs, but I’m so inspired by your lifestyle that I wanted to ask if you would sometimes share—maybe in a podcast—your tips for staying focused with so many projects and moving pieces to your life. How do you keep track and make progress on so many different areas of life? Are you a list/planner person or do you have some other less structured way of doing this? Thank you again for sharing your story with others.” So with this topic, obviously none of us have this all figured out. It’s really challenging to find a balance whenever you’re trying to pursue lots of goals. And at the same time you have a family, you’re homeschooling. I think a lot of people—when you get all those plates spinning—the tendency is to just like curl up in a ball and say, “Never mind, I won’t try anything.” And I think that you’ve—based on reading your story on your website and your Instagram—that you’ve done this really well. You set out. You had some kind of goal and then you started actually pursuing that. You already mentioned that seven years ago that you started running toward this lifestyle. Can you tell me about that dream specifically? Like what goals did you have at that time? Was it all laid out how it’s coming to pass? Or was it more of like a vague dream? How did that look for you?
Danielle Jones So it did start eight, almost nine years ago. I was right out of college. My— he was my then fiance, now my husband, Nick. We just moved home from living in Philadelphia. And one of the questions that I get asked all the time is, “Did you grow up this way?” I’m like, “No, I lived in a suburb. Ate a standard American diet. Very, very, normal.” And I would say that the dream really started with knowledge and my eyes kind of opening up. I’ve had a lot of people who are like, “Could you have a different dream?” And for me, I’m like, “I can’t unknow what I know now. I have to continue forward.” And it really started with a TED Talk that was talking about the reality of the food in America, what’s sprayed on it, the chemicals in processed foods, things that we’re eating unknowingly, the chemicals in our products and GMOs. And this was— I mean, it was nine years ago, the GMO verified project was just coming out. The organic options were very, very limited. There wasn’t a ton of blogs. And after listening to this TED Talk, I went on to Pinterest—like you do when you’re in your early twenties and you’re female—and I found Shaye Elliott’s blog, and I immediately called my husband and was like, “There are these people who grow their own food and they’re called homesteaders.” And and he was like, “What in the goodness?” We just lived in the city. And it really came from that knowledge that the dream evolved and we kind of fell down—like I say, like hippity hop, I went down this rabbit hole of what’s raw milk? I had never even heard of that. And canning food. And people are baking their own bread? Why would I want to do that? And when we started to look into the whys— why grow your own food? Why bake your own bread? That’s really how the dream started. I had always known, like growing up and being in college, I knew I didn’t want a conventional 9 to 5 suburban life. I just didn’t know what it looked like. And initially, when Nick and I were talking about it, it was always just we wanted to live simply, peacefully. We wanted to grow our own food and raise our family. There wasn’t these huge goals necessarily. It was just give me a piece of land that we can cultivate and make our own. Our hearts were just yearning for peace and simplicity.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So with that, what are some things that you first did to move in that direction?
Danielle Jones So. I mean, if we want to talk about our homesteading journey, like at macro the past nine years, most of it was like all kind of classroom and not living it, so to speak. And one of the things that I talk about on my Instagram all the time is I wish I would have done more in that waiting space when we lived in an apartment, and lived in a condo, and when we lived at my sister-in-law’s house, and we did not even have a bit of dirt, let alone any.
Lisa Bass Right.
Danielle Jones And the thing is, so many people think that they need acreage and land or at least a backyard. And it’s like you can bake bread in your kitchen and it can be done in an apartment. And so that’s really where it started for— goodness, I would say like five years. We were just learning skills, and nobody really wants to talk about that. Everybody wants the pretty harvest baskets. They want to can their own tomatoes. But I’m like, “When you get those tomatoes, they’re like gold. If you don’t have the skill to can them, you’re probably going to ruin your first batch.” And so the beginning of our journey was really just starting to learn skills, learn what nontoxic living was like, cleaning with all-natural cleaners, learning about herbalism, and reaching for herbs over reaching for a bottle of Tylenol, and learning how to make stock.
Lisa Bass Yeah. What were some of your favorite resources in that time of learning that you reached for to actually learn some of this stuff?
Danielle Jones So I would say YouTube and blogs were where my main go-to. In the beginning, about nine years ago, it was like 2014, 2013. There really wasn’t— like the YouTube and homesteading community that exists today did not exist.
Lisa Bass Yeah, no, it did not.
Danielle Jones No, like in any way, shape, or form. I think that there was Shaye Elliott of the Elliott Homestead. There was Weed ‘Em and Reap. I watched her.
Lisa Bass Yep, yep, DaNelle. I loved them too.
Danielle Jones Yep, yep. I think Dirt Patch Heaven was another one on YouTube and she did like butchering videos and it was like, oh my goodness.
Lisa Bass Right.
Danielle Jones Coming from not having that background, and I was like, “What am I watching? Am I really going down this rabbit hole?” So honestly, I was trying to gain first-hand experience from people. We went to Barnes & Nobles and tried to get the books and there’s like— you know, I think the first book that I bought was Country Life Encyclopedia, and it was all kind of skills and it touched over canning and all of that stuff, but it was really aimed for people who had land. And it really wasn’t this segment of people who are homesteaders. Sourdough wasn’t really talked about back then and stuff. And so I would say it was blogs and YouTube really was what fueled it.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah. And now if someone’s in the same spot that you were nine years ago, there are so many more resources. The community of YouTube and blogging and Instagram has totally exploded, so you can find several people doing—even if you have a niche interest on your homestead—you can find somebody who is doing that. I also got into a lot of the real food stuff around that time frame. It wasn’t always just people who were growing it themselves, but also people who were preparing it. And like there was Wardee from GNOWFGLINS. I learned a lot of fermentation stuff from her school. She has a traditional cooking type of school thing. So what I was doing when I was living in town is learning how to prepare foods, how to ferment, sourdough. All of those kind of things are very easy to do, even if you don’t have any ground to work with.
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Lisa Bass So with your goals, you have something called a—
Danielle Jones Run Back to Your Roots 365 challenge.
Lisa Bass Yes. Yeah. So can you tell us about that? The idea of mapping out goals and then learning them each month so that it’s not overwhelming?
Danielle Jones Absolutely. So it’s the Run Back to Your Roots 365 challenge, which is a free challenge that I offer on our Instagram and email list. And it actually started out as a personal challenge for our family. It was back in 2021. I think it was like October or November, and I said to my husband— we had been homesteading— you know, we were in deep for a few years at that point. It was like three years. And we had been dreaming about this for how long. And I felt like we had dabbled in a lot. I baked bread, we cooked from scratch. We were making stuff. We were doing all of these things, but I felt like we kind of only hit the surface of them. We weren’t like experts at them. So I had a general idea. I knew the process of water bath canning. I understood how to ferment, but I really wanted to dive into each of these skills and really kind of hone them and bring them in as rhythms for— weekly or if not monthly, seasonally for our family. And so it started with me just bringing it up to my husband. And I was like, “What do you think about in 2022 if instead of trying to do everything all at once—which we tried and it’s overwhelming—what if we spent January on just baking bread?” And I didn’t necessarily worry— you know, we could do the things that we knew how to do that’s easy peasy at this point. I can start the seeds and do what I need to do in January, but let’s just really bake a lot of bread in January.
Lisa Bass Yeah, right. That’s a really good time to do that, too. January. If you’re gonna learn bread, yeah. Just stuck inside.
Danielle Jones Yep. Eat the good food, carb up, worry about it later. And just really dive into cooking from scratch. And what does that mean to make really good sauce and really good stock? And how can we get processed foods out of our house? Which we had done, but during busy times, we tend to lean on them again. And so that’s how the 365 challenge came to be. And so I started sharing about this idea that I had and people are like, “Please share on stories and on your Instagram. I’m super interested in this. I would love to do it alongside you.” So essentially, come the beginning of 2022, I started putting together essentially like content calendars of what I would be covering that week. And I laid it out. I took polls on what people were interested in learning and it was like 500, 1,000 people. And at that point in time our Instagram was like 10,000 people. And within a matter of like three months, it grew to 50,000.
Lisa Bass Wow.
Danielle Jones And we had like 15,000 people on our email list who were like, “I want to follow along.” And so we just hit the big marks of goals that our family really wanted to do, like being prepared. I wanted to have long-term food storage and stuff. Whether other people are interested in that, I don’t know. But it was important to us, so I made sure that that was July. And I basically— we had 12 goals and we’ve been working towards them. Some months are more successful than others, but I share about it every month and people are following along in stories. I email out and send out supplies lists, resources list. I try to give Instagrams of people who are like, “Man, I really love fermenting.” Great head on over to the Cultured Guru and stuff. Like there are other resources outside of me because I’m just learning. I think what has made it so successful was I showed up in my stories in a really authentic way, and I started off the month being like, “You’re going to bake bad bread. Bottom line. In order to make good bread—
Lisa Bass Yep. Get this out of the way.
Danielle Jones Yes. “You’re going to bake some really bad loaves. You’re going to burn it. It may be raw in the center. Like, let’s just get that out of the way, guys.” We have to completely accept failure and move on from it, and I think giving people that out of like, okay, it’s going to be really bad at some points, but it’s going to get better. People need to hear that and give themself grace, and if we’re having this conversation of goals and learning new skills, so many people get stuck in analysis paralysis and wanting it to be perfect. The perfect time, the perfect kitchen, the perfect season of life. And that doesn’t exist ever.
Lisa Bass No, it doesn’t exist. And I think a lot of times, like you said, you’re looking for the perfect time in your day. And I know with me, I have a blog. And so a lot of times I plan when I’m going to make certain things around when I would have good light to photograph and my work hours. And I find that sometimes the best times to mix up a loaf of bread is not a time that I necessarily thought was a good time to do that. Like it fits in in a way even whenever it seems like there’s not enough time to do something. Like before bed, get the dough going, and then the next day, it’s done its first rise. Finding those times where you actually do have more time than you think you do is key.
Danielle Jones Yeah.
Lisa Bass So with you, you have two young kids, and I know that a lot of people, that’s what they’re thinking. They’re thinking, “How do I find time whenever I already have so many other plates spinning?” Basically you have this really busy life, how are you throwing in something extra, even if it is just one thing a month? Where are you finding that time?
Danielle Jones Oh, that’s the ultimate question.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I know, and sometimes you can’t even explain it. I’m like, “Uh, I just do. I find pockets of time all throughout the day and I don’t really know.”
Danielle Jones So this is something that I honestly have been asking and reassessing, like internally with myself, with my family. And it’s not necessarily just around the homesteading goals as much as it— you know, we have two growing businesses and how do you devote the amount of time to it all? And the first thing I think that we all need to give ourselves is a big old heaping scoop of grace. And it doesn’t get done perfectly where you said, you know, you have this idea of I want to be kneading bread in the kitchen when the birds are tweeting and the sun is shining and it’s like, maybe it’s done when the kids are napping and you have two seconds to kind of slip it in. But I think it’s one of those things that— I don’t know if there’s a hard and fast, where do you find the time? I think it’s one of those things that you have to maybe sit back and realize, like, what are your priorities, if that makes any sense? And I don’t want to be like, oh, it’s a bigger picture, but the reality is that us as moms, each individual person, we are one person, we each have 24 hours in a day. And we often hear that in the sense of everyone has 24 hours in a day, you can do so much. But at the same point in time, you’re still limited. You still have to get kids fed, you have to get them showered, you have to get them to bed. Some of us are working. And so I would say that there are often times that there are things that we give up. We don’t go on vacation. We don’t go out on date nights and stuff because we have a passion and want to live this life. And so it would be easier to order pizza, but the priority is nourishing meals for the family. And so you find the time if that makes sense. And it’s often in cracks.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it’s in cracks. And I think the biggest key with all of this is you build confidence and you gain knowledge. You might have this thing on your to-do list for years. Like I want to learn to bake sourdough bread, and that just stays on the to do list because you don’t know what to do to even start. And so getting over that hurdle. Whereas once you know how to do it, it takes no time. Like making mozzarella cheese, making sourdough bread, making milk kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, all these things that go on regularly around the homestead. Those are things that—if you don’t know how to do them—you first have to have enough time to get out a book or a video, research it, then do the first step, and that’s what stops you. And so once you actually have the skills— like you have this thing where you grow together as a community, figuring something out, maybe you bounce ideas off each other, or you at least are there for moral support and encouragement. Once you’re past that, none of this stuff honestly takes that much time. Like I started yogurt this morning, I strained off kefir. We milked the cow, but I still managed to have time for a lot of other things, and that’s because none of the thought went into it. It was just something that’s very easy. It flows into my routine, and so it’s as easy as brushing my teeth. I don’t worry that I’m not going to have enough time to brush my teeth each day. You just do. So I think what people also need to know is once you have the confidence in the skill, none of them are really that time consuming.
Danielle Jones Yeah. And organization. Having not necessarily a schedule but a rhythm, it becomes a little bit second nature and habit. You’re feeding the sourdough before you go to bed because you know that it will be active and ready and bubbly for the morning for you to mix the dough together, which takes 60 seconds.
Lisa Bass Yeah. The time is not it. It’s really not. I think it’s just the confidence in getting through the skills. And it’s easy, I guess, for you and me. We’re here on the other side of already knowing how to do all this stuff, and so it’s easy now to say that, but there was a time when it was everything I could do to learn how to first ferment something or do sourdough or even—you’re talking about the businesses—writing my first blog post, getting to the point where I could even write the blog post was a big deal. And now that stuff just pumps out because it’s now easy. It’s second nature.
Danielle Jones Yeah. It’s intentional living. So being intentional about those times and stuff, I think, is important. Not scrolling on social media helps as well.
Lisa Bass It does. Yes. That really helps. You’ll find you have a little bit of time. So, okay, let’s get down to some nitty gritty type of stuff because I know a lot of times these conversations—and for good reason—turn into more of a motivational talk on how to learn new things and find the time. But I think people want to know how it actually went for you. Like what things did you plan out? Did you use a planner? I guess let’s first talk about that big picture, like what you laid out, how you broke it down. And then we can actually get into—daily, like right now, with the things you know now—how are you laying out your week?
Danielle Jones So do we want to talk initially the goal? Like back in 2019 when we were like we’re going all into homesteading. How did we set that goal up? Or are you talking specifically the 365?
Lisa Bass Yeah, like how you set that up and start putting one foot in front of the other, like specifically because there’s people who are thinking that. They’re like, “I want to do a lot of this, but I don’t even know which foot to put forward first,” you know?
Danielle Jones Yep. So we did have the conversation of having the grace to accept failure. That’s really important. And I think that that starts at the beginning of any goal making. You have to have that. Just don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Do it messy. Get it done. Done is better than perfect. And I think that that’s really important when you’re going into this because so many people are like, “I want to get chickens,” but they’re waiting for that perfect time. I would say the first year when we were like, “We’re all in,” like I literally said that to my husband. I was like, “We’ve been dreaming about this for five years. We’ve talked about it, and we’re either doing it or we’re going to stop talking about it,” because it was becoming disheartening at that point.
Lisa Bass Oh, I hate stuff like that. I hate things whenever we think about doing something, we talk about it too long. I’m like, “No, no. Now we do. No more talking.”
Danielle Jones Action. Action. So we just set a large goal for the year of just we want to have chickens, and we want to grow a portion of our food. Not anything crazy substantial. But we wanted chickens, we wanted eggs. We wanted to grow our own food. And kind of broke down— we looked at what we were eating. And so, like my husband and I, we’re not big squash eaters, so that didn’t make it into the garden necessarily. But what were we eating? And what were we interested in? So it was chickens, having a larger garden, expanding the garden, and we actually got bees that year. And what I did—
Lisa Bass So three big things.
Danielle Jones It was. And I sat down and I planned out our entire year in a spreadsheet. So I do use like just any old notebook for a to-do list because I need to write things down. That’s like part of my morning routine. But when it’s come to our homesteading goals, I need to have very big macro— I need to look at my year, I need to look at my seasons, because you don’t get chickens during chick days in the spring. Getting chickens starts a few months beforehand because you need to get a brooder set up. You need to invest in a few things. It’s not something that you just jump into one weekend.
Lisa Bass Right. If you’re waiting for spring chick days before planning that, you’re going to probably miss spring chick days.
Danielle Jones Yes. And so I had just a regular Excel spreadsheet and broke it down January through December, and was like— in May— what is it? April, May is chick days, I think, in Pennsylvania. And so I walked it back.
Lisa Bass It’s earlier here, but I think that’s stupid because they always have to be in your house all February.
Danielle Jones And that’s a whole other problem.
Lisa Bass Well, yeah.
Danielle Jones I was like, we’re going to get chickens. And so I walked it back of well we need a brooder, what do we need? And we started breaking down that large goal into small, actionable items and things that we would be able to work on in the months— especially like January, February. There’s not too much homesteading going on. There’s seed catalogs, and dreaming about your future gardening, but there’s not a crazy amount. And so it’s one of those things where— like you can create a vision board and say, have an intention or a dream of wanting chickens, but you need to break it down. Break down the dream into smaller goals with deadlines. So you need a brooder, you need a heat plate, you need to build a coop. That’s all really important for having these livestock animals. And we didn’t have a lot of money. So this was something that we needed to—
Lisa Bass Do on the cheap.
Danielle Jones Yeah, we had to invest in months prior. Like we were living paycheck to paycheck. So it was putting little bits of money—for months in advance—to buy the boxes and the beehive and the fencing for the garden and all that stuff. It had to be planned out. And so being, again, intentional about those goals and breaking them down into actionable items.
Lisa Bass So you made a spreadsheet with all of 2019, each month, what had to happen for you to get chickens, bees, grow your garden, order seeds this month, get the brooder box, get the hives or whatever, all throughout the year. Yeah, that makes sense to have it all laid out. And I like that your goal— it was a stretching goal. It wasn’t a small goal, but it also wasn’t, you know, in 2019, we’re going to save up enough money to buy five acres, get a dairy cow, fence the whole place in. It was a doable goal, but it was also— a big goal, but doable is the key with all goals. So the next question is how did you stay— or how do you stay motivated to do all this? Because, again, we want to crawl in a hole sometimes and curl up whenever there’s fall clothes to swap out and a menu to plan for the week and homeschool books to order and so many moving pieces. How do you stay motivated to stay on track with the spreadsheet you made so that it’s not just a 2019 spreadsheet, it’s actually getting checked off all throughout that year?
Danielle Jones Absolutely. So when we talk about motivation, we’re kind of talking about fuel. As mothers, we’re all fairly exhausted to some extent. And so we need something to fuel us to be doing more trying something different. What’s going to get us up and mixing the flour and the water and the salt together to be able to make bread when we’ve never done it before? And initially, for me, for our home, before we were actually living in the dream cleaning coops, having the beautiful harvest baskets—which, you know, those fuel you a little bit—it came back to knowledge, that information of I can’t unknow what I know now. I can’t unknow about glyphosate and what it does to our bodies and the fact that oats and flour is covered in it nowadays. And I don’t want to give that to my family. I can’t unknow about endocrine disruptors and the stuff that’s in our products. I can’t unknow those things. I feel like I can’t be blind to the fact that those exist, and I don’t want them for my family. After that, when you start actually doing it, I would say that a large portion of the motivation is just a sheer passion deep down inside and love for the lifestyle. So homesteading is hard. You know, the roasted chicken on your table is beautiful and delicious, but is butchering 25 chickens in the heat of late summer— that’s not fun. It’s not the greatest time, and so you really have to love it. And I often explain as this hunger. It’s palpable. I can feel it. And it’s like in my gut where I’m just like, I want this life so badly. And the more that I get, I feel like I want more. We had dairy goats. I’m like, okay, sign me up for a cow. Like, I want more. And so eventually it’s that hunger and passion for this life that ultimately becomes our motivation.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I think you’re right. Having a very strong—I mean, it sounds cliche—but a very strong why behind what you’re doing does help to push you forward, because otherwise it’s easy to just— it’s not hard to fall back on what you were doing before.
Lisa Bass Taking a break from this great conversation to tell you about my free blogging masterclass. The way that Luke and I are able to stay home on our homestead, milking the cow every morning, raising our kids side by side, baking sourdough bread, the way that we are able to have all this time to do this is because of my blogging business. Now, of course, there’s more than one way to be able to homestead, but this is what has made it possible for us to do this together. I started the blog in 2016 and by 2018 it was our full-time job. So not very long after. Now I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I feel that I could have gotten there a lot faster if I’d known what I was doing. In my free one-hour masterclass, I will show you my four-step framework that I use to become a full-time blogger. I’ll also share the most common mistakes that new bloggers make that I learned the hard way so that you don’t have to. And I still see bloggers making these mistakes constantly. And how to make it work on just a few hours a day. I have office hours so that I can separate my life from blogging, and I also share that with you. Now over the years, I’ve also added on a few more aspects to the business like this podcast, but blogging remains my favorite way to connect with my audience and earn an income because it requires me to be less personal. I can share things that really help people like recipes. I can focus on my photography. The house doesn’t have to be quiet. After recording this podcast, I’m going to go inside and do some blog work, which means I’m going to put in my earbuds, listen to a podcast or something I enjoy, photograph a recipe that I’ve been working on. It’s the most laid back part of my business and sometimes I want to quit everything and just be a blogger. I recently got an email from somebody who was thinking about becoming a blog course student, and she said that she had been doing some research online and learned that blogging is dead, and so she would like to learn other things like how to be an Instagrammer or be a podcaster or YouTuber, all great businesses. I’m not knocking any of them because I do all of them. But I do want to let you in on a little secret. My blogging income still surpasses all of those, and it requires the least amount of my time. I know some of you are probably thinking, “Why don’t you just quit everything and make more blog posts?” Honestly, I’m thinking about that a lot of times, to be completely honest, but I do love connecting with you in this way. If you want to check out my free Blogging Success Masterclass, you can get that at bit.ly/FarmhouseBloggingSchool. I’m also working on the new 2023 planner, so that will be out soon. It’s a very robust planner with all kinds of checklists and goals and practical tips and places to actually make all that work within a planner. So that is a bonus that you’ll get to check out over there as well. Again, head over to bit.ly/FarmhouseBloggingSchool to learn about my favorite business in all of this online craziness, by far blogging.
Lisa Bass Okay. So let’s first talk about our week and how we break down each day. So you have this big picture, you break it down by month. How are you breaking things down now? You can even include talking about your business too, or your businesses, and your homestead. How are you breaking down your weeks and days to stay on track? We’ll go there first.
Danielle Jones So this is something that I feel— I’ll be the first to say that I don’t have, I feel, figured out 100%. It is not within my nature to keep to a schedule. It’s very hard for me just naturally. I have like raging A.D.D. and so I tend to— it’s beautiful for the creative in me, however. Schedules in particular tend to be difficult. And so if we’re talking about— I’ve actually followed a lot of your videos talking about like the rhythms of the week and stuff, and I’m like, “Man, I need to get that organized.” When it comes to daily, I do work a 9 to 5, so I have to be on my computer from 8 to 5 and then I have an hour lunch break. So usually spending time with the kiddos and doing a homesteading task during my hour lunch break. I do business related stuff in the morning. Family time and dinner time is very strict from like 5 to 7. And so being intentional about being with the kiddos during that time and then having to put more time into the business in the afternoon and after the kiddos go to sleep. So that’s kind of roughly what my day looks like. I will say that when we were at Homesteaders of America this year, I actually asked a fellow homesteader friend who has a large platform and I was like, “When things were just expanding and building and booming in the beginning, like how do you juggle it all? Because learning to juggle the homesteading aspect of it was really easy when we didn’t have the business and Instagram following.”
Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s a whole new ballgame.
Danielle Jones It was I had a cleaning schedule and it was like I did the kitchen on my lunch break on Mondays. And there was a cleaning schedule. And then I baked on Mondays and Thursdays so that we had fresh bread, and I did a fermenting project on this, and just dedicating an hour kind of to block scheduling was really helpful, but since the business has really boomed, I was like, “How do I handle this?” And one of the things that they were like, “You need to delegate where possible.” And so in order to handle the business, we recently had someone watch the kids on the weekend for just two hours on a Saturday and being— I mean, mamas can get done a lot in two hours.
Lisa Bass If you know that’s all you’re going to get. Yeah.
Danielle Jones Cramming as much in that time when it’s quiet and can be focused. So that’s been my daily kind of how things have flowed where I feel like, over the course of the past year, our homesteading journey has been really interesting in the fact of if you would have asked me a year ago, my whole focus was solely on on homesteading, where now, we are in a beautiful rental property, but we want to buy land and have a forever farm so I can have a cow and we can have pigs. And those homesteading goals are bigger, but we’ve had to kind of pull back on the homesteading aspect because of the businesses and what is kind of happened online with the 365 challenge. It’s been really great for other people. It’s been a little bit hard managing the entire project and moving it through the months.
Lisa Bass Yeah, but maybe you have more mental space to do that now that you’ve invested in learning a lot of the skills that come easier. You’re saying first, you were really focused on homesteading, and then soon after that you focused in on the businesses. But at that point you probably had those plates spinning pretty well that you could kind of let them go. Not completely, but let them sort of do their own thing while pursuing some of the business endeavors. I think that’s important for people to hear because it shows the journey of how you’re able to be doing that now and still doing a lot of the homesteading stuff because of what you invested in it and learning a lot of things up front.
Danielle Jones Definitely. And that’s the thing. Sometimes I feel like we are our worst critic. And so because the 365 challenge, we had really big goals for our family, and then it kind of spun out of control into this big thing that’s much bigger than us. And so, yeah, we can whip up bagels in our house and it’s no big thing. It’s just like, this is what we’re doing on Sunday. I will say that Sunday is our big meal prep day. So Saturdays, we focus on the business, and Sunday I kind of unplug and we do a big breakfast. I either double or triple what we make during breakfast so that we can have a home cooked meal all week. And then we usually try to make three different forms of meat. We try to have something— like make chicken in a large amount. Try to make a London broil or some kind of steak, red meat available. And then usually bacon because bacon can be used at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And that helps set us up for success going into the week. So we have chicken which could be used for dinners, but we can also throw it on salads for lunches and same with steaks.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So just being strategic. It sounds like you do a lot of block times instead of sort of making food on one day and sort of focusing on the business. You put a lot of the business focus in one day, a lot of the food prep in another. You have your weeks kind of set out throughout the week to have your times where you get your work done, your business time done. It’s all very set out. I do it similarly. My business and my life—and I know yours is too—it’s so intertwined that I have to set up things like boundaries a little bit is one of my bigger challenges with my business. But I actually have—it’s not fancy—but I have the Trello app for setting out my week, and then I have my notes app just on my phone and my computer where I break down every single day. And this is how I’ve always done it. It’s actually really simple. It’s not—like I said—it’s not fancy, but I’ve been running out of the same to-do note in my phone forever or on my computer here. So I have like each day written out. Like a set of tasks that I have to get done all throughout the week. And then usually by about midweek, I’m already filling in the slots for the following week. And then it carries on from there. So I pull from my Trello app because my business is content. So I have—in my Trello app—I have a week list and it says blog one, blog two, vlog one, vlog two, podcast. And then with that, I have to break those down. Each day has a few tasks that will keep all of that filled in. And like you said about delegating, that’s something that I’ve been huge on at least in the last probably two years. I definitely have started delegating in the last five, but more so in the last two with my business. Hiring out a lot of stuff, getting people on certain things that it’s not all me because that’s a challenge. Like you said, as the businesses grow, there’s so many behind the scenes tasks that people don’t realize.
Danielle Jones So just a note on the planner, kind of mapped out the rhythm of what our week is like. I started using GoodNotes and I purchased on Etsy a week spread. And so planning the week out, getting an idea of what the big points are. So podcast on Tuesday, I need to go over show notes on Monday. And then for the business, we have a set of non-negotiables of a post every day, answering messages, and those are kind of like a checklist. And then every single day.
Lisa Bass Right. They have to happen.
Danielle Jones Yes. So, always have been a to-do list kind of person, and I don’t know if that’s just the way my brain works because if not, I just would like float through the week. I don’t know how anything would get done. So before, it was kind of managing each day. Over the course of the past year, the needs of the 365, I need to plan things out. Everything has to be planned out kind of like a month in advance, so I have a whole calendar sheet because I need to be planning exactly what I’m going to be talking about this month. So there’s a content calendar that’s kind of created and passed around and then week by week is managed.
Lisa Bass Yeah. That helps. With the way you have that 365 set up, it helps to map out what the big picture is for you to work on, I’m sure. Yeah, that’s a lot of plates to be spinning. And do you ever find that you’re overwhelmed? Or how have you figured out any ways to avoid overwhelm as you’ve built up some of these things?
Danielle Jones Definitely can feel overwhelming. I often think to myself, I’m like, if I wasn’t doing the business aspect, I would have just the simplicity of just living this lifestyle. And I don’t know, as a content creator, if you ever feel that way, if you’re like, sometimes I would like to just unplug and live in a cottage in the woods.
Lisa Bass Right. Yeah.
Danielle Jones So feeling overwhelmed is a really natural thing. I will say, anyone who is venturing into this and is like, “I’m overwhelmed,” I can put up my hand and be like, “Me too.”
Lisa Bass Right.
Danielle Jones Ways to avoid it… I think that social media does a really great job of portraying people doing things perfectly. And I feel like a lot of the times when I’m overwhelmed, it’s when I’m trying to— I want something to be done a certain way or I’m not doing the job that I want to do, if that makes any sense. Something is failing and I feel swamped and I feel overwhelmed. And I often need to remind myself that homesteading isn’t linear. It’s not, you know, I learned how to bake bread. Now I will bake bread for the rest of my life. I’m never buying store-bought bread again. And so, giving myself the grace to ebb and flow where it’s needed and kind of reminding myself that we’re aiming for peace and not perfection. If there’s something in my homesteading journey that is stealing my peace because I’m trying to do it all, then I need to maybe rethink. If it’s especially affecting the culture at my house, it’s not worth it, if that makes sense.
Lisa Bass Yep. Oh, it does. Yes.
Danielle Jones If I’m really overwhelmed, I know a farmer who can render my lard and I can buy it from him for cheap. I don’t need to do it myself. And it doesn’t have to look the way that we want it to on social media. Like Instagram and Pinterest and YouTube, it’s this beautiful, amazing place that can inspire us, but we can get really bogged down by wanting to do it all because we think that people are.
Lisa Bass Right.
Danielle Jones And we get a very small portion of people’s lives. So you’re not seeing that people are overwhelmed or that they’re delegating tasks. And I try to, I guess, remind myself of that.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I always remind people that just because you saw me one time show you how to make homemade laundry detergent or homemade beeswax wraps or whatever thing you’ve seen me make because I have six years or seven years of content behind me now, so at some point I’ve showed you how to make a linen apron, a tote, all these things. That does not mean that every time now— like you said, okay, I baked bread once now; I forever make bread. I made laundry detergent once now; I forever make laundry detergent. I made it that day, I showed you how in case you want to make it, but I also—in the last five, six years—have bought laundry detergent. I think people are surprised to hear that I don’t do all of those things all the time. It’s great to have that arsenal, that toolbox of things that you know how to do. But yeah, I feel like the veil has been pulled back because I am a content creator. I don’t see it that way. Whenever I see some million follower Instagrammer do something, I also know what the moment could have been like right before it, right after it. Because I’m on that side, I don’t struggle with that as much. I struggle with wanting to do all the things. I want to do— you know, I want to be the best on Instagram. Like I want to have these big platforms, and I struggle with that. But I know what’s behind the curtain, you know? Whereas I have to remember that not everybody’s on this side of it knowing that, okay, they’re definitely not doing all the things all the time like you might think that they are. And they’re not even trying to portray that either. Like, I never said I make all my laundry detergent. I said this is how you can make laundry detergent.
Danielle Jones Exactly.
Lisa Bass But people get these assumptions. They build this up for you of who you are.
Danielle Jones One of the things that I talk about often— because this is probably the most asked question: how do you do it all? And I say, “Imperfectly.” My days are not beautiful with birds dressing me in the morning. Like things are chaotic sometimes.
Lisa Bass Like Cinderella.
Danielle Jones Yeah, I mean, I wish. That would be great, but things are chaotic sometimes. And I explain it— I don’t know if anyone’s ever heard, but like you’re juggling every day. We’re juggling things. And some of our priorities are glass balls and some are plastic balls. And multiple times throughout the day, we have to reevaluate what’s going on.
Lisa Bass Right. Drop those plastic ones, yeah.
Danielle Jones Yep. I intended on getting ten things done on my to-do list today. It’s not happening. I have a one-year-old who is suddenly teething his canines and he is clingy and not happy and wants to nurse half of the day. So, you reevaluate, you shuffle things around, you move things around. And it goes back to that giving ourselves grace. We’re not perfect. We’re not doing it all. But I guess a tactical tip: I know in one of the videos that— it was one of the videos where you were talking about like, “Just because my house looks clean on Instagram, doesn’t mean that it’s always clean. It doesn’t always look like this. This is not reality constantly.” But you talk about time-saving things that you gave up and it was like folding your kids’ laundry and you’re like, “I’m not doing that anymore.”
Lisa Bass Yeah, you don’t have to.
Danielle Jones And I was like, “Great! If Lisa’s not, I’m not.”
Lisa Bass Right. That’s optional. Okay.
Danielle Jones I am but one person, I can only do it all. What’s my priority? Getting a home cooked meal on the table tonight, and I’m going to do that. And if that means that I’m just throwing my laundry, I’m not picky about wrinkles.
Lisa Bass Right. Yeah. And I have those thoughts, too. Like a friend of mine, @m.is.for.mama on Instagram. We talked about how she always gets these pictures of all of her kids, and they all look really cute on the front porch for church. And I said, “How do you do that?” And she’s like, “Remember, I don’t bake bread. I like clothes. So you have the desire to make bread. I have the desire to dress my kids in these cute matching clothes. Something has to give. Clearly, you’ve decided that was more fun. I’ve decided this was more fun.” So, yeah, you’ll probably not both bake bread and get the kids in the cute clothes on the front porch. We’re lucky if we get to church with shoes, much less cute matching clothes. There won’t be a Christmas picture. I mean, there might be, but it won’t— it doesn’t happen much. There might be a Christmas picture, but that’s about the extent of it. Yeah. You have your priorities and it’s important to remember that. Everybody knows that. But I do find with the way— the questions people ask me, they sometimes have built up some of the things about me and what all I get done that that’s not even true. I didn’t necessarily say it was true, but just assumptions that you make by seeing certain things that people do, you think they do everything.
Danielle Jones This was— and kind of going into seasons of, you know, do you get overwhelmed? And we have to— we are but one person. We have 24 hours in a day. And though we live in 2022 where we think we can do it all and have it all simultaneously at the same time—that’s what we’re told through the media—there are times that you’re going to have to pull back. And one of the ways was I didn’t get the amount of canning done this year that I wanted to. We utilized freezing for food preservation a lot. So I have a ton of things in my freezer that are waiting to be canned, but with the way that our business went, it’s a really natural thing that you’re going to go through seasons.
Lisa Bass Mm hmm. Yeah.
Danielle Jones And so you may have a baby. You may be struggling with illness or anxiety, mental illness, postpartum. These are all things that I feel—us, as women—we can really beat ourselves up about that I’ve had to remind my friend that I was like, “You get four, maybe five buckets a day that you can put larger projects in. And if you don’t have those buckets, that’s it. Buy the store bought bread. Make the best decision that you can get about what you’re buying if possible, but buy the store bought bread. Don’t drive yourself nuts. Don’t let it steal your peace.”
Lisa Bass Yeah because that’s something we have to reevaluate often is what are our goals? What are we trying— like you said, you and your husband and your family, you want peace, you want simple living, simple lifestyle. There are a lot of things that can go when you’re pursuing that. And there are different directions that you would go if you were pursuing something else, like as much money as possible or whatever other types of goals you could have. There’s definitely a direction you’re going to go based on that goal. And so we’re constantly doing that. We’re reevaluating. Okay. What we wanted was very similar to yours: simple living, peace. Maybe that means that I don’t show up on Instagram like I’d want to. That’s the current direction that we’ve taken. I’ve hired somebody to take over my Instagram, pull from my YouTube to make reels. I’ve deleted the app off my phone. I pop in maybe once every two weeks to see how stuff’s going. Does that mean that my Instagram isn’t near what it should or could or whatever? Yes, but at this point, the priorities are peace, simple living. And yeah, that’s what works currently. So very important to prioritize. Okay. I have one last question for you before I let you go. Okay. If you have ever had to step back from pursuing something that you do deem worthy in your goals and your priorities, but you had to stop, how did you build back up your momentum, if that’s something that has happened?
Danielle Jones I would say— so we’re currently living that season right now where we’re trying to manage this booming homestead and also a booming business. And so, working a 9 to 5 remotely, I have two kids—one and four. They’re still young, and they need me a lot. We’re trying to find our forever farm and moving within the next year. So some of the things that we were doing— we had dairy goats and we had to pull back on that. And there are some things that I was like, this isn’t manageable with where we’re moving. We have to take a step back in order to take a step— a giant leap forward of moving within the next year and having our own land. So it definitely has happened to us. I would say, again, not trying to live in this perfect place. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to take steps back. But when it comes to the momentum of having motivation again, I may not be good at answering this because it goes back to that passion that we have. I don’t want anything else. I’ve literally like cried to my mother, at times, when we were newlyweds and poor. And I was like, “I don’t want a fancy car. I just want land and to live simply with my babies.” Like, that’s all that we want. And it goes back to that fuel, which we have been stoking that fire inside of us for almost nine years now. We have the knowledge, we know why we don’t want to eat a conventional American diet, why we want to have a nourishing diet, and what we want to give to our kids. We’ve had a big ol’ taste of the homesteading life, and now it’s not just the knowledge of, oh, I want to do that because it’s a smart decision for us and for our family. It’s now I love it. I love springtime and the seedlings popping up. I love having fresh cut flowers. I love having the conversations at my dinner table with my kiddos, with my four-year-old of, “We raised this chicken. You helped raise this chicken. You were there on the day that we butchered it. We know where this came from and what was given up for us to be able to put this food in our bodies.” And we’re very, very busy, and the garden ended up being kind of overtaken with weeds this year. We still grew a ton of food, but it just didn’t look the way that I wanted it to. But my four-year-old has been asking me all week long, “Is it harvest day? Is it harvest day?” His favorite thing is to take all of his Tonkas, his dump trucks, his excavators out into the potato patch and dig up the potatoes. And it’s a big construction site that he makes where he’s excavating the potatoes out. And that’s what we live for. That’s what drives us. And so even on the years where we’re not able to, we’ve had those moments of just beauty and simplicity and this lifestyle that just fuels it inside.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So you’re chomping at the bit. You won’t have to build momentum. It’ll be there.
Danielle Jones No, no. I’m ready for my Jersey cow. I’m ready for the cream. I’m ready.
Lisa Bass Yeah, well, you’re taking all the steps that you need to to move in that direction. I think that’s so inspiring because you are taking the situation you have now and still pursuing the dreams that you have. And so I know that people are going to love this discussion and be inspired by it. So thank you so much for joining me and sharing all of your wisdom.
Danielle Jones Thank you for having us.
Lisa Bass Yeah, thank you. All right. I hope that you enjoyed this conversation. Make sure to go check out Danielle over on her Instagram. Join the challenge. If you are wanting to join with a lot of like-minded people learning something new, that will be a great resource for you. As always, thank you so much for listening and I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.