Episode 168 | Essential Tools for Building a Homestead | Christina of Thermaland Oaks | Debt-Free Homesteading

I frequently hear from listeners who want to start homesteading, but it can be overwhelming to know where to start.  Especially if you are building a homestead from scratch on raw land, and there are a variety of tools and skills you will need to acquire along the way.  Christina of Thermaland Oaks is very familiar with this whole process as she and her husband have built their entire home and homestead with their own hands.  Join us for this conversation as we dive into what tools are essential to build and maintain a homestead.  We also chat about the reality of sharing our lives on the internet as we pursue our homestead dreams.  For any hopeful homesteader, this episode is a must listen!

In this episode, we cover:

  • The reality of building a homestead from scratch on raw land
  • What to do when you can’t buy up front all the tools you need
  • Ups and downs of sharing your building journey online
  • Being content when you are prioritizing one project at a time
  • Planning ahead and budgeting for projects as you go
  • How social media doesn’t tell the whole story of the homestead
  • Essential tools for starting a homestead and what to avoid
  • What’s coming at Thermaland Oaks in 2023

Thank you to our sponsors!

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Christina Heinritz of Thermaland Oaks | Website | Instagram | TikTok | YouTube | Facebook | Pinterest

Lisa Bass of Farmhouse on Boone | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | TikTok | Facebook | Pinterest

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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. If you are over on Instagram, you might be familiar with Christina from Thermaland Oaks. Or if you’re in the homesteading space on Instagram, you’ve probably seen her and her beautiful farm and donkeys and adorable daughters. Well today, we’re going to talk about how they built that place from scratch—how they took raw land and turned it into a homestead—and go into the tools that they needed. So I had a listener question about how do you set up a homestead from scratch with all the stuff you need? So because she has that experience, we’re going to chat about that. So on with the interview. 

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 All right. Well, hey, Christina, thank you so much for joining me. It’s been a long time coming to get you here on the podcast. I know you and I have done a few Instagram collaborations, but first time on the podcast. I’m really excited to have you. Let’s start by you can introduce yourself and then I will go through the comment or question from a listener that I got that I think you’d be the perfect person to discuss with. Yeah, tell us about you, your farm, or whatever else you want to share. 

Christina Heinritz Hi, Lisa. So glad to be here. I have a homestead here in Northern California. We have acreage that we bought and developed entirely ourself. We put fencing in to septic. We built our entire house from the ground up ourselves. We only had three trades actually help us because when we bought the land we were entirely broke and couldn’t hire anyone to build it for us. So we had to learn how. And then came just a bunch of animals. And that’s kind of how we started our homestead story. We had no plans to homestead. I grew up in the city. I didn’t even have a dog. So this is all just been a huge learning curve for me and it’s just been a really crazy rollercoaster. So happy to be here. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. And you share all about this over on your Instagram primarily. That’s the best place to find you, right? 

Christina Heinritz Yeah. I’ve been sharing a lot more now on TikTok as well. You know, entirely different platforms and kind of fun to share both ways. I dabbled in blogging, but no one I don’t think will be ever as successful as you are as homesteading blogging. 

Lisa Bass Well, yeah, TikTok is kind of the new thing. I feel like my audience, or at least people my age aren’t really on TikTok, so I’ve had a hard time coming up with a following over there. But yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? 

Christina Heinritz I find myself—even a recipe or just anything random—I search TikTok for things now. It’s the craziest change. I don’t even use Google, so it’s a huge shift, but it’s fun though.

Lisa Bass Yeah. I haven’t even figured any of that out. Like, I’m definitely stuck in the old way of googling and searching on Pinterest, so that’s probably just what I’ll always do. So are you @ThermalandOaks on both platforms? 

Christina Heinritz Yeah. So a long time ago I started a TikTok and it was like @Thermaland.Oaks, and then I lost my password. I could never log in again. So I have a dot on Instagram and no dot on TikTok. It’s really the same thing. 

Lisa Bass Okay, well, they’ll find you either way if they search. Okay, So I had a question from a listener that I thought you and I could talk out, especially because you guys built your homestead completely from scratch. And so this is all something that you should be very familiar with. Okay, so here’s the question. “Hi, Lisa. I thought of a podcast idea that I would love to hear from you. Just an idea you can add to the brainstorming list. What if you did an episode about the basic tools every homestead needs or something like that where you could lay out the basic tools for a workshop ready to build/repair everything on the farm or in an old house. You have a tools and essentials for a from-scratch kitchen. Maybe you and maybe your husband—I got you on here instead—could do one for y’all’s toolbox workshop area. My husband and I are looking to buy land soon and it’d be great to have some ideas of tools we may need to buy to help get our homestead up and running. So the first question on my list before we dive into everything which you already said was, did you grow up on a farm? And then how did you prepare to buy a homestead since you did not grow up on a farm? 

Christina Heinritz When you buy a homestead here in California, I know it’s different. Since we bought raw land, it had to be in cash. So the land was actually in cash because a land with no septic, it’s not lend-able from a bank. 

Lisa Bass Okay. 

Christina Heinritz My husband is a crop dusting pilot, so we did have some money to put down on a house and we were going to remodel a house. And it just so happens that this property was available next door to my in-laws’ property. We were living with them, looking for somewhere to build, and we kind of just dove in. So we kind of spent all of our money on the land. And when all of a sudden we had this parcel of land, we had to basically work full-time, and every single paycheck was— I remember buying gates, I remember getting paid on Friday and buying a toilet. It was years and years of just adding on and buying what you needed in the moment. And, you know, people ask a lot about tools, but when you’re diving into a project, the cost of materials right now is extremely high, especially with the spike in COVID and the backlash of everything being stuck on ships. That’s what we saw. My husband’s in construction, too. You can rent a lot of tools. You can rent equipment, tools. We still rent trenchers. You can rent everything at Home Depot. So you don’t actually— if you don’t have the capital to buy tools, you can rent basic tools that you need. If you don’t think you’re going to use them again a lot. I don’t know. What comes to mind is like we used— we have like a basic tractor. It’s a New Holland, and we used it for every single project to help us put a fence in and help us put walls up. You can mix concrete in a tractor bucket. When you think about a tool as something that you use for every single project around your property, I just— I don’t know why it comes to mind is a basic tractor. Even if you find one used. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. That’s where my husband is right now. He thinks we need one. 

Christina Heinritz I mean, I just think about every single project we’ve done here, and the tractor has been involved in every single thing because we didn’t have the manpower. We didn’t have a crew to help us do anything. So the tractor was our horse, our power, you know?

Lisa Bass Yeah. So when you bought your raw land and you were preparing to go and build the house and all the fencing and the structures, where were you storing everything before you were able to afford to actually start building a barn. Like you were saying, okay, we bought some fence posts and we purchased little things over time. How many years did that take and where did you put it all? 

Christina Heinritz So because it’s— we’re part of this family compound now. My in-laws are actually on the acreage next to us. They have five acres. We were living with them, luckily, while we were building. So because our property didn’t have power, we were pulling power from their property. During the time when we were building our house, there was that huge fire in California where there was— I don’t know, there was like eight or nine major fires going on, but it was the Camp Fire where like half of Northern California and there was the biggest death toll that ever happened in history. So when we were trying to get PG&E to pull power for us, we were— I think it was backlogged eight months because it was so bad that PG&E— new homes and stuff weren’t the priority for PG&E. It was trying to get people back on the grid and clean up what happened during fires. So we were lucky that we were able to pull as long as we were able to actually from them. So we just pulled power from them. So they have a barn on their property. We were able to store a lot of our stuff there. We actually— two years ago we were able to buy the ten acres on the other side of us. So my in-laws are on the left, we’re in the middle, and then there’s ten acres that we both bought on the other side of us. So now there’s like this huge chunk of land, and we ended up buying the property next door that had a barn on it. So we didn’t actually have to build a barn on our direct property, which was nice. 

Lisa Bass Okay. Okay. Yeah, that is awesome. 

Christina Heinritz Yeah. There was a lot that went into the whole building of our property. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah, that sounds like an overwhelming process. So how long did the process take for you to build a house? And did you get plans and then your husband actually built most of it or you had some family that helped? How did that process go? I’m so surprised at the number of people I’ve talked to who built their houses from scratch. That just sounds like such a daunting task to me. 

Christina Heinritz You know, I first have to say is that people are like, “You’re so lucky. I want to build a house.” And I always tell people, I’m like, “No, you want to remodel a house.” 

Lisa Bass Yes. 

Christina Heinritz Trust me. I might make it look pretty and fluffy. And I take some pretty pictures of sunsets and have animals running through projects, but it’s not easy. And I remember going to— because I have a bachelor’s in nutrition. I would be at my full-time job thinking it was just a cakewalk. I would be at work like, “Oh, this is the greatest thing ever. I love being at work.” Because I was like, you know, I remember laying rebar and just my knees and everything hurt and I had bruises all over me and picking up beams. So my father-in-law is an architect. He lives next door. He drew our house that we can add on. We built a phase one that was only 1200 square feet, and then we added on two bedrooms and an entryway when my daughter was born. And then we’ll eventually—in the next few years—will add on phase three again, which will be like a grand kitchen, master, a garage. So we’re living in a space that we need for right now, basically. And then my dad is a general contractor and he lives three hours away. So he was able to help us frame with my brothers, and that’s basically all he did to help us. So we did have family help, essentially. And that’s what a lot of people say on TikTok is that they’re like, “That’s not fair. You had help.” We had help like this much of building a house, you know what I mean? When you really think about it, we had someone lay out the plans and we had someone to ask questions to sometimes, but my dad ran his own business. He couldn’t be here building our house hours away. 

Lisa Bass Right. Well, it is always funny with the Internet how people need to make sure that you know that if you accomplished something, there is a reason why they couldn’t do that. There always has to be something that like, “Oh, but you had that,” because— I don’t know. It’s just a really strange thing with the Internet. Like no matter what you do, even if it’s just down to making bread, “Well, you had this.” “Okay, I guess you’re right. I did.” So I don’t know why that always has to be said, but yes. 

Christina Heinritz Always. But yeah, you just kind of have to laugh about it. You have to have— I mean, being in social media, you have to have a strong sense of who you are because people always try to bring you down. But I always think it’s so funny how they always people try to bring up the father-in-law, the architect. I’m like, “He drew our house. It doesn’t mean that he just like *poof* and it appeared on the property.”

Lisa Bass Well, yeah. And you could— anybody could go buy plans. It’s not that expensive to buy. Like that doesn’t give you that big of a leg up. I mean, it maybe saves you $1,000 or something, but ultimately on a 300—I don’t know what building supply costs are out there—thousand dollar house, it’s really not that big of a leg up. 

Christina Heinritz California is very expensive. And my husband jokes. He’s like, “We’re going to add on this next year.” I’m like, “No, we’re not. No, we’re not.”

Lisa Bass Yeah. 

Christina Heinritz The cost of materials— no, we’re good. We can last a few more years without not doing a huge project. Don’t get me wrong, I would love a garage or there’s different things that it’d be nice, but we’re going to live in this space for a while. So when we built our house, yes, we had people we could turn to for questions. Like, of course, my dad knew electricians and plumbers. My husband had people he can call and ask. Back in the day— you know when people would go to Barnes and Noble and there’s a whole section of like, you know, Bread Making for Dummies or Canning for Dummies? There’s those books with the yellow and black. We had a stack of books. We had a Roof for Dummies of like the California codes of how to build because California made you even put— for example, it’s crazy that we don’t even get hurricanes or tornadoes here, but we had to do hurricane and tornado clips in our concrete build. The regulations they have on everything is insane. So yeah, just the amount of books that we went over and YouTube videos that— and I tried for a while taking videos of us building our house, but it was like when you’re in the middle of these projects, you just can’t. My husband’s like, “I don’t know what it’s going to be like next time we build. You’re going to want to try to film it, and I don’t know how you’re supposed to do that.” I’m like, “I don’t know either.” 

Lisa Bass I know. I think about that now. Whenever my girls were little, I used to love to sew for them. I sewed all the time, and finding time to sew felt like such a big thing. And now I’m like, oh, I can one up that. How about trying to find time to sew and film the sewing? Like sewing now sounds so easy compared to trying to film it, have a bunch of other kids. And like, oh, I thought that was hard. That was nothing.

Christina Heinritz I’m like, maybe I’ll try to hire someone to help film this, but I can’t. There’s no way. I know my limits. 

Lisa Bass That would be smart. And it probably—with the current day and age that we live in—would actually pay off to make that investment, honestly, because everybody is very interested. 

Christina Heinritz It’s just hard because for a while I tried. YouTube is horizontal, right? 

Lisa Bass Yes. Right. 

Christina Heinritz And then TikTok and Instagram is vertical. And it was hard. Every time we did a project, I’d be like flipping the phone, turning it, flipping it, taking my husband’s phone. And then like at the end of the day, there’d be footage on all these different phones, and then I would forget to upload things or not put it together. And it was just so much. So maybe if we’re in a position that we can hire someone and start home building, that would be—you’re right—probably so smart to have some of it put together so we can look back on it too. Because even our first phase, I have like four photos. Trevor and I laugh, we’re like, I cannot believe how many photos we did not take of this whole experience, but we were exhausted, tired, bruised, and it was brutal trying to get our house built. And that’s why I tell people, “Remodel a house. Don’t build from the ground up.” 

Lisa Bass Yeah. I can’t even imagine. It sounds so daunting. 

Christina Heinritz Just California, you had to have— their certain type of septic system is called sand filtration, and they’re extremely expensive. So instead of paying someone $20,000 for someone else to do it, my husband went and took a two-day class out of town, got certified so he can do it himself. 

Lisa Bass Oh my word. 

Christina Heinritz And then submitted to pass inspection. He’s very smart. He’s a pilot, heavy equipment operator. He can do literally everything. And not to mention, he’s a really great cook. Like he cooks dinner most nights and everyone thinks it’s me, but I’m exhausted after taking care of two kids a lot of time. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah. Well, the reason I think people would be so interested in that process is because that’s the dream. Like being able to buy a piece of land and then transform it into a homestead that you completely do from scratch, that you can keep your investment low, that is the dream people have. That is something that we’re all—I feel like—chasing after right now, because a lot of us have more time than money. And so being able to take the time to invest in learning how to do that stuff and then building it from the ground up, I think a lot of people are really interested in that process but don’t really know where to start. It sounds very overwhelming. 

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Lisa Bass I know that this is off topic, but like you were saying how vertical and horizontal. I almost feel like you just have to choose which platform you want to grow on and then go all in on that because I’m the same way. I don’t do well with Instagram because I am so heavily focused on YouTube that I never have the bandwidth to record everything in horizontal and vertical. Now, theoretically, you just pop up two cameras, right? It never works like that because it’s just not hitting at the right angle. And so it’s like a very good idea in theory. But yeah, I feel like you just have to make a choice. 

Christina Heinritz It’s hard. I was pushing, I have some videos, but it was just too much. And then usually, you know, I usually have kids in tow or carrying a basket or an animal somewhere. So for a while I was using a different camera. And then I just had to get the phone with the loop on it. So I’d walk and just like hold my phone in my finger because I didn’t have pockets. It’s a lot to try to walk around property, too, with kids and film and do projects because we— right now, we’re kind of paused on home projects. We do a lot outside, like we’re doing a whole landscaping project, we’re doing gates in our driveway. So people always say, “I can’t believe. Look at all you built.” But there’s a lot— like, we have a basic shower curtain in our shower. One day we will put up a nice custom shower door. It’s like you have to— I mean, if you look at my appliances, we got this stove that has been featured in nationwide magazines that have come and shot here, you know, Country Home, Country Living. There’s all these magazines that have come and shot with my $200 on sale range that was like clearanced. And I always get, “Why do you have that stove? You could have a really nice stove.” I’m like, to me, it works and it works great. And I haven’t wanted to spend money that we could put elsewhere on the property. And that’s what people don’t understand is like when you’re building a homestead, I’d say 60 to 70% of my income goes outside the house. I mean, fences to tractors to gates to equipment to tools to fence posts to just putting the garden in. There’s so much infrastructure and so much money that house projects sometimes just get put off to the side because you want to make this dream life, right? We just built a pig pasture. We just got some pigs. And everyone thinks, oh, that’s cute and all. But you have to buy the pigs, get trenched plumbing lines to that pasture. You have to get power over there. You have to get gates and fences and a structure for them to be in when it rains. Every single little project takes so much time and money that people need to understand that the homestead isn’t just like the home. 

Lisa Bass Right? Yeah, there’s a lot more to it than that. 

Christina Heinritz We actually built our chicken coop at the same time as our house. So if you look at my chicken coop, it has the same exact board and batten as our house. We used the same materials. It’s like a little replica of it. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Well, and all of that takes energy. Like even just replacing the stove will require you to sit down, look through all of the stove options, weigh out the amount of space you have, the different features. So it’s not even just the money. I think about that all the time with like, oh, I really would prefer a different rug in this room. Well, having a different rug in that room isn’t just like, okay, I’ve spent the money, now it’s here. I have to actually think about the colors and go through the design of the room. And so I can understand how even just putting in the pig area, that’s a mental thing that bringing in other home projects is something that’s competing for that attention. 

Christina Heinritz I used to be really heavily into hunting pre-homestead. I loved to hunt. I loved to fish. And I always had wild boar in the freezer at a certain point, bacon. And with having a bachelors in nutrition, I really love to know where my food came from. And I think that’s where it skyrocketed me into homesteading because with knowing and wanting to know where my food came from started me into being like, well, I don’t want to buy eggs at the store. I want my own chickens. And everything just kind of went that direction. So, yeah, the pig thing, it’s been— you know, for like two years, we wanted to get pigs, but it just never was the right time. Plus, a lot of people need to realize that you can look at a year, right? And there’s half of it is— we get hot here in California. So you have to look at your seasons. Anything you want to do, whether it be fencing or trenching or anything with the ground, you want to do it when it’s like fall, early spring, like fall into early spring because the ground is softer. You don’t want to do any big, huge projects in the summertime. The ground is hard. It’s full of rock out here. So you kind of have to look at your year and plan ahead as far as budget of what project I want to do. Is that going to match up in the season when I have the funds to do this project? Am I going to have time around my full job to do this project at the time where we’ll be ready? So it really— everything we do around here heavily depends on seasons as well. Everything out here is debt-free for us. So that’s why planning ahead even like a two-year plan of what project do you want to do next? Like my driveway gate that we’re starting to work on, that’s been— you know, for five years, I’ve wanted a nice gate entrance. But you also have to get a big tractor and we have to get a big trencher out there because I want power because I want a camera down there. So there’s a lot that goes into every single thing when you have so much spread out everywhere. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, I think we all know that in our own homes, but somehow it seems really easy and we’re telling somebody else to do it. Like, hey, replace your stove. Like, yeah, that’s no problem. But you know that when you do that in your home and put in a new gate, that’s all something that you have to think about. So with all of these projects, are you planning it all out with a spreadsheet and budgets? Or is it just like as the money comes in, you address the project? Or how do you plan all of this? 

Christina Heinritz I think it heavily depends on my— my husband is a crop dusting pilot, which means he’s extremely busy in the spring, kind of in the summertime. He flies a lot. And so when he’s slower— which this time of year, he’s slower. So then of course, I have this huge list of projects and it usually gets into what money do we want to put into first. And that’s kind of why I started on Instagram, because you can monetize and make money through social media, right? And that’s why I share a lot that I do, because I can acquire money for projects to work on for the homestead. All the work, all the time. And, like you said, energy. It’s huge. The amount of time and energy it takes to perform and get social media audience loving what you put out there, it takes a lot of time and energy, so I put that back into our homestead projects. It usually just goes into what time of year works when my husband is slower, what projects we’re starting. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, so kind of just as they come, as the money comes and the time comes, whenever you have an opportunity, you seize the opportunity and work on something. But maybe it’s not all out on like a spreadsheet. 

Christina Heinritz Yeah, we have them in our head of all the projects we want to do. And sometimes we’ll have different projects, like, “Well, I want to do this.” “I want to do this.” Typically in the winter time, we do indoor projects because it gets rainy, so we’ll probably work on some stuff inside. But right now there’s a big break in the rain and my husband just rented this big excavator. So we’re going to go down and work on some of the gate stuff down there. But yes, he was costing out what it’s going to cost— the concrete and the rock and the gate and the gate opener and running electricity and power. It just— yeah. When he costs things out and then he gives me a list, he’s like, “Are you sure you want to do this right now?” I’m like, “Oh.” Everything is just always so much more expensive than you can think. 

Lisa Bass Oh, every single time. If you have something in your head, just double it. So with that being said, how are you budgeting? Like, are you setting aside a certain percent of your income or are you like— my husband and I, we’re not really spreadsheet people. We keep the projects in our heads. I sometimes have lists of things, but mostly I’m just like, well, I’ll just try to spend as little as possible on everything else so I can put it toward this. So it’s a very unofficial system. But do you have any budgeting tips with that? 

Christina Heinritz My husband is the one who’s a lot better with money, I have to say. I am not one— I typically do not like to shop. It’s not like I could look at what I spend money on and say, well, you could probably not go out and drink coffee because to be perfectly honest, I don’t like to leave the farm. 

Lisa Bass Right. 

Christina Heinritz And it’s not like— when I order things on Amazon, it’s like dishwasher detergent or, like—

Lisa Bass Stuff you need. 

Christina Heinritz But. But I can find a pretty cute donkey, and they’re pretty expensive. 

Lisa Bass Yes. 

Christina Heinritz I might not like boots or expensive other stuff or purses, but I do like my animals. So sometimes my husband and I have to be like, well, that’s— we did find this really cute red donkey recently, and I’m like, “She’s really cute. I really like her.” And he’s like, “Do you want to spend that right now?” And I’m like, “Ooh, I guess we should really put that into the gate.” 

Lisa Bass Okay, but with your Instagram—since you brought up kind of the business side of you contributing with your Instagram—are you able to sometimes justify cute animals because of the content and the amount of— like, does that translate to you to money, ultimately?

Christina Heinritz It does. We actually have a donkey breeding operation. So because we moved here, I— you know, Pinterest was really big. I was on Pinterest one day and I was looking at pictures of goats and I was like— it was like this cute little spotted Nigerian dwarf goat. It was like this cute little thing with blue eyes. And I was like, I want this. I’m scrolling Pinterest, right? And of course it brings up “You also might like this”, and I see the cutest looking animal I’ve ever seen. And it’s a white and brown spotted donkey. It’s like tiny and fuzzy. It must have been just like a newborn. And it pulls up and I’m like, what is that? I’ve never seen anything so cute my entire life. And so then the dream started like six years ago when I saw that picture of a mini donkey and I was like, “I want a baby donkey and I want these really cute fuzzy things.” So then it kind of— I think that’s what kind of like morphed my Instagram. All of a sudden I became obsessed with getting donkeys, but then we had to get infrastructure. We needed a barn and we needed to— donkeys can be assholes, right? Like, that’s what they call them. They can be really mean. So we decided because we wanted to start a family, that we needed donkeys, we needed to get them from a young age to raise them to be gentle and kind around our family. Because I started looking at donkeys and some were really mean. You’d go to try to put them at people’s houses. So then I went to a breeder who raised a lot of hers, and hers are really gentle and sweet and loving. And I’m like, “Well, how do I get these?” And I just started buying baby donkeys. So then probably like 90% of our donkeys I’ve had since they were babies. So now, years later, we’re now into breeding because they’re all at breeding ages. So my first thing for me was that we needed animals that were kind or they’re not allowed here with our kids and people visiting. So we had to invest up front buying donkeys younger so we can kind of mold them into like the personality we want them to be. Giving them a lot of attention. Pulling their ears. Kind of like when you get a puppy, right? The more attention a puppy gets of kids and people pulling on its legs and stuff, they’re used to it. Donkeys—if you move too fast—sometimes they can kick and they turn and they get skittish. So a lot of ours, my kids run around, and they just stand there happy as can be. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, I think what I’m getting from everything you’re saying is all of this on your Instagram appears just very effortless and beautiful. And there’s a lot behind all of this that you’re doing.  It’s way more than people think. 

Christina Heinritz So much. And sometimes I try to put up stuff, like the real life, right? When you’re running out and a donkey escapes or an animal escapes from the pasture and you’re running out in your robe trying to get it. But the real life that happens out here, when the farrier comes and I have like 25 donkeys that I have to halter and get to the farrier to trim their hooves and stuff, it’s a shit show out here. Sometimes it’s like, yes, people. I think it’s shown— the pretty aesthetic, right? The cottage core. I’m running around in a pretty dress and I’m collecting eggs, but no one sees me trying to carry this 50 pound bag of chicken food to fill their feeder but that’s filming, right? When you’re actually doing farm chores, it’s like, hold on, let me go set this camera up so I can film me. 

Lisa Bass Well, that’s just it. Yeah.

Christina Heinritz Yeah, I don’t. And then with two kids, sometimes it’s hard. Like, I’ll try to film sometimes, but it’s like, “Hold on, stay here. Let me go put this camera over here. Get this.” It’s hard to get the real life, real time filming when you’re the one doing it. 

Lisa Bass It really is. And there are people who will criticize for not showing everything, but it’s like, “Oh, that’s actually really harder than you think to show absolutely everything. Usually my best moments— or my worst moments I’m not wanting to film.”

Christina Heinritz It’s true. And the same exact thing for you because you guys get rain and muddy and you’re trying to take care and feed animals, and you have a dairy cow. See that’s— okay, that’s my wishlist. I want to get into— I want butter and cream in my coffee. I joke about that’s my wish for Christmas this year. But I’m also like, “Can we hold off maybe like a year or two when I have to milk it,” because I’m still nursing my daughter. She’s a year old and she still won’t take a bottle. So I’m like, maybe when I’m done being the cow myself, I can get one. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Oh, yeah. I’ve been the cow the whole time we’ve had a cow, too. Totally understandable. But yeah, it’s interesting with the dairy cow how much it ends up fitting into the routine. So I’m confident you would like it. But yeah, it is a whole commitment level, especially if you do any kind of traveling. That’s tricky. 

Christina Heinritz But that’s the perks of the family compound, right? 

Lisa Bass That’s true. That is.

Christina Heinritz The main question that we get, like, “How do you have so many animals?” And I always tell people, I’m like, “We have a very special situation.” We probably would not have goats and sheep and a livestock guarding dog and our labs and all these different animals—right?—if we didn’t have the help next door because my mother-in-law equally— we both love donkeys. And our husbands— we all four of us, my mother-in-law’s brother, just everyone loves the donkeys. So it’s like this dream of all of us to do this mini donkey breeding operation. It would be really hard if it was just us to do it all. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah, that is interesting to know that behind the scenes there’s also some support, which I think everybody could be encouraged to build some kind of support. But it is tough. Like for us, whenever we go out of town, we can ask people to milk the cow. But you also feel bad doing that. So it’s tricky. It’s more than just squeezing out the milk. You know, there’s a lot to do with it. So I think we always will end up leaving on the calf or planning trips around when the cow will be dry. That’s kind of the goal with dairy farming, but it works out. 

Lisa Bass Did you make a New Year’s goal this year of cooking more from scratch? Maybe going around the exterior parts of the grocery store, focusing on whole grains, meats, dairies, vegetables in order to make your meals more simple and learn those from-scratch techniques. Maybe you even want to start buying your grains in bulk. Something that has been a game changer for us in our family is milling our own grains. When you mill grains from scratch, you get the most nutrients out of the grain as they start to break down very quickly after they’re ground into flour. Milling at home means that you can buy grains in bulk so that you can buy large quantities and have a food storage. And for your health. I love using whole grains in my recipes. Sometimes I don’t always do them all whole, but mixing in a little bit of whole grains gives it color, flavor, and of course, nutrition. Our favorite mill in the farmhouse is our Mockmill. It works beautifully and it looks so lovely on the countertop. It’s beautiful and bamboo and it sits out and I can quickly and easily make flour for our recipes. You can get 5% off the Mockmill by visiting bit.ly/FarmhouseMockmill. That brings you to my website where you can click the link. The reason you have to do that is that’s how they track you for the discount. So there isn’t actually a coupon code, but whenever you go to check out, that is where you will see the 5% discount. They had a lot of coupon scraping sites that were making it to where people were getting the discount that didn’t have a link. So again, go to bit.ly/FarmhouseMockmill. That is where you can click the link and get 5% off and check out the Mockmill we love so much in our kitchen. 

Lisa Bass Okay, so with the tools, what are your must-haves for a workshop? And then do you feel that you have just about everything you need to address any issues that come up? Or do you have to hire out a lot of things? It sounds like you definitely feel like you have what you need or you rent it out, but what are your must-haves and did you get them all up front? I think this person wants to be very prepared. Or is it kind of more like as you need things maybe you acquire them? 

Christina Heinritz So what I can say is I think what matters is buying quality tools more than anything. With building and doing as depth of projects that we’ve done, we’ve gone through our fair share of tools. I won’t name any brands, but we only use a few now. So if you don’t have the funds to buy quality tools, I would say rent or borrow tools from someone right now until you can buy tools that will not break after one or two projects. Because we’ve had that problem, too, is that you go for a cheaper tool or brands would want to partner with me and give me tools and my husband would be like, “I don’t want those.”

Lisa Bass Those are junk.

Christina Heinritz I would not do a project with those. There’s no power. For us, anything we do around here because we are kind of debt-free living is we have acquired a lot of tools. Like even when we added on the second phase, Trevor went and got certain types of guns that were better for putting roofing materials on. There’s all these different types of tools that he has now just because we are so in depth in projects. But I would say there’s basic tools. You know, Miter saw, a drill. If they’re talking about homestead projects, you need a good T-post for putting in fences. You need quality shovels that aren’t going to break. You even need— you need a good farm cart. You need one or two carts. If you’re spreading hay and doing projects or getting plants, you need carts that can make it through the mud and uneven ground. I’ve even gone through my fair share of buying cheap carts from Amazon and them not working out. And you have to realize that you just have to find quality products if you want the projects to go right. That’s happened to us so many times. You end up later on buying something again that’s just a better product. 

Lisa Bass I’ve heard a lot of homesteaders say that that’s the mistake they make in the beginning is buying something that’s less expensive thinking they’re saving money, but then ultimately they end up having to buy the thing again. Or if you put in fencing around the whole property that ends up being maybe not as quality and then it’s all wavy. And those are the places where it makes sense to invest. 

Christina Heinritz One of our first areas to fence in when we bought our property, I just kept getting poison oak rash all over me, head to toe. I’m so allergic to poison oak. So that’s why we had to get goats. And we got some alpacas originally because goats really like poison oak. It’s like a treat to them. So one of our first projects was fencing, like right away, because I’d touch like a shovel and I would just break out all over. I was going back and forth to the hospital getting cortisone shots. It was terrible. So we put in cheap fencing, right? Because we just bought property. We didn’t have any money. Well, like a year later we had to go redo a ton of the fencing that we did. It wasn’t like the no climb, good stuff. Really unfortunate. We throw money away. It wasn’t the stronger T-post. I mean, it was just— it hurt us taking it out. We threw money away a year later. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Because it’s cheap, but it’s not that cheap. It’s still not throw-away cheap. And so what would you have done differently in that situation? Because you didn’t have a whole lot of money, but you needed it. So would you just have waited a little bit longer or how would you have done that? 

Christina Heinritz I mean, maybe, I don’t know. It was like any time I hopped on the tractor, I’d get poison oak just from Trevor touching and doing fencing. It was that bad. It was like our property was just a forest. It was oak trees with poison oak wrapped around the trunks of it. He was going in and pulling out because he didn’t get it. But then I was getting it just from anything he touched. He had to take off his clothes on the front porch and use plastic to open the front door. I couldn’t touch anything he was touching. It was that bad. Yeah. You could have gotten hot wire and that would have been cheaper to move animals around to eat the poison oak because they only come during certain seasons, but do not go the cheap route because we’ve learned time and time again when it comes to buying tools or just drills break— just different things breaking and not lasting, not holding a charge anymore. You know, we swear by DeWalt. That’s the brand that our entire workshop has. One of the most expensive brands, but the tools don’t break. 

Lisa Bass Mhm. 

Christina Heinritz I try to say that on Instagram. People ask or I’ll link tools and say, “There’s other tools out there that are cheaper,” or you know, “You can buy this cheap pressure washer.” Cheap things just don’t last. You’re not going to buy a pair of cheap Walmart boots and that’s going to be your farm boots to do all your chores in. It’s just not going to happen, you know? 

Lisa Bass Yeah. And then I’m sure you have some kind of good organization system out in the shop. That’s always something, too. I’m hesitant to invest in really good tools sometimes because I’m worried that we won’t keep them nice or we won’t keep them in the right spot or a kid will take them. But if you’re organized about it. 

Christina Heinritz Last year we bought the barn next door and we’ve completely redone our workshop. It’s beautiful. I put my Thermaland Oaks donkey with a logo on it, and there’s tools on pegboard. It’s very nice and organized, but again, it took a lot of money to buy the tool cabinets. And out here with us, is we’re always doing projects right in the summertime and everything always involves irrigation. Any plant you put in. Trevor will not let me buy a plant and any nursery unless we have a plan and it gets water to it immediately, which means we have a lot of irrigation piping and fixtures and tools for that. So it was hard for us trying to figure out a system to keep all of our— there’s so many little intricate little pieces that go into irrigation, all the different fittings and sizes and pipes. So that was a hard one. But we actually bought these really nice storage things that now like spin and pull out and you can turn them into circles and you can look and see what’s in each little cubby. But that’s the other thing is that I see a lot of people out hand watering orchards and plants. And I’m like, until you can put in an orchard and have A) high enough fencing where deer is not going to get into it and B) it’s on automatic water, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it to me. Plants need to be taking care of themselves. Especially if you have family and kids. You can’t hand water when it’s a hundred degrees outside. That’s what I’ve learned. It doesn’t work for me. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, especially in a climate like yours. 

Christina Heinritz It’s hot. 

Lisa Bass Here, there’s not a ton of watering that has to happen. Usually there’s maybe a few times— well, not a few times, definitely more consistent than that. But it’s not something that you have to do every single day in the summer to keep the garden alive. But I still think it’d be worth it to put in some kind of irrigation system. And I like that you talked about not skimping on where you’re going to put it and organize it, because that goes hand in hand with investing in quality tools. 

Christina Heinritz It has to. The frustration of like when you’re trying to look for tools and do projects, things just don’t get done right. So we’ve learned over the years is like I said, I might not have a beautiful stove yet. I have my cheap on sale Labor Day weekend, we bought it for like $200 from Home Depot. And even my refrigerator and my dishwasher. That’s a question I get all the time. It’s like, “Why haven’t you put in new appliances?” Because we’d rather make other parts of homesteading easier and more efficient for us. We care more about the animals and having every single animal pasture, even our chickens are on automatic water that’s hooked up to the solar. Our orchard. Every single plant and every single animal pasture has water, and it’s all automatic right now. And when the power goes out, because that happens in California, it’s hooked up to solar and a backup generator. So, stuff like that is more important to us right now when it comes to homesteading, than having a nice shower door or a nice stove right now. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. And you’ve chosen in your home lots of high impact moments like the stone and the shelving in your kitchen. And then you have that beautiful tub in your daughter’s room. I feel like you’ve taken some things to make your home really look like it’s high end and custom, even if you haven’t yet replaced your appliances. So I think that’s something to keep in mind, too. 

Christina Heinritz When it came to new building, I didn’t like new builds. I always liked to travel and right when we bought our property, we were in Mexico. We got married in Mexico. I love to travel and I love the look and feel of old world, European, French country. And when we put our kitchen in, it was like we had no money left. We were completely broke when it got to even buying a faucet. And I remember buying, like I said, buying a toilet just to get finishes in. People don’t realize when you build a house, finishes on a house, it adds up to so much more, even like handles on doors. It’s so much money. And it adds up. You think, oh, I’m almost in. And then it’s like just so much just to get these final touches. 

Lisa Bass Do you want to open that door?

Christina Heinritz Yeah, it’s crazy. So I just remember telling Trevor, I’m like, “I am going to take a few more shifts and I want to put some rock on a rock wall.” I think you can see it behind. And that was the one thing that I really got when we built was what I wanted was the rock. Which when we add on again, I’d love to put more rock in different places because I just love the feel of our concrete stained floors with the rock. It felt like a cozy cottage to me more than a new build. 

Lisa Bass Mm hmm. Yeah, I like adding that. Those are very high impact ideas, I feel like, that really make your kitchen seem very special and not builder grade. So I think that’s a good choice that you made. Okay, so what are the goals for your homestead in 2023? 

Christina Heinritz I think to eventually get a cow. I think my husband and everyone is very interested in it. And whether it be we get a cow that isn’t in milk yet, then it might take to like ’24 or something to get a milking cow. So we’re looking. Maybe if we get a dairy cow, a highland cow. Because our donkey breeding operation, we have maybe in 2023, we should have from like 10 to 15 baby donkeys. Like this year we have three. Actually, we one due right now. One was due on Thanksgiving. They can go 12 to 13 months gestation, so she’s like 12 and a half months. So we’re checking her like three times a day, like anything? Are you bagged up? 

Lisa Bass Wow. 

Christina Heinritz We’ll have a lot more donkeys this next year because they have to be three years old in order to breed them. So a lot of our donkeys, because we got them years ago, are now starting to get to breeding age, which is really exciting. So in ’23 we have a lot of donkeys that we just put in because you want to breed them certain seasons. I don’t want a baby donkey born in the summertime. It’s hot. They can get dehydrated and die easily. So typically, like we have a bunch of— we have like six donkeys we just put in with a stud. We have breeding animals all over right now. But it is exciting because we have a lot more donkeys than normal being bred for 2023 and 2024 labors and births. So that’s really exciting. It’s been a really long time coming. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, that seems like some good goals for the upcoming year. All right. Tell everybody where they can best follow up with you, follow along with your all of this going on. I’m sure you have so many plans. Like you said, you plan to add on. You have a lot of things you want to add. So always good stuff to follow along with over on Instagram, correct? 

Christina Heinritz Yeah. Follow me on Instagram. TikTok. I do have a blog. I’m an amateur blogger compared to Lisa. You can follow me on my blog and put your email in. And I do send out newsletters bi-monthly, which is a lot of fun. I share updates and links and projects that are going on, and I do have a Facebook page, kind of all the social media links. But really, Instagram and TikTok is where I share the bulk of everything.

Lisa Bass Yeah. So whichever platform works for you. 

Christina Heinritz Maybe I’ll get a cow next year. I’m hoping. We’ll see. 

Lisa Bass Yes, we’d love to watch that. Maybe a little Jersey or something. 

Christina Heinritz That would be comical, right?

Lisa Bass Yeah. 

Christina Heinritz One of my goals for the end of this year— so, like for the last few months, I’ve been getting back into sourdough. Like, I just made— I have two loaves of sourdough bread sitting on my counter right now. I’ve been making bread and English muffins, and my girls love your pancake recipe. I use it all the time. 

Lisa Bass Oh, good. Awesome. 

Christina Heinritz If your followers haven’t tried that one, they need to because it’s really good. Like the big pancake. 

Lisa Bass Yes. And they’re so easy. You don’t have to really prepare ahead. 

Christina Heinritz And the ingredients. It’s so healthy. So healthy. But yeah, it’s one of their favorites. So thank you for sharing all you do. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Thanks for coming on. I will. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. I hope that you enjoyed that conversation with Christina and I will see you in the next episode. 

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