PHOTO: Tessa Zundel
June 13, 2016

Sometimes we’re simply tired. Ya know? We’re worn out from working hard, helping the kids, mending fences, cooking meals and the myriad other daily tasks that need to be accomplished to keep our farms running. With fatigue can come emotional burnout, too. Sometimes we’re just over it.

I recently had a fun chat with one of my farm friends, Jenna Dooley of Flip Flop Barnyard. We have similar family dynamics: We have kids ranging in age from teenagers to those who can’t tie their shoes, we both homeschool, and we share a love of the homemade, healthy lifestyle that’s possible with deliberate homestead living. Here are some tips Jenna shared with me for keeping both yourself and your family healthy.

1. Grow What You Eat

One of our jobs as farm parents is to make sure that everyone eats well. Many of us struggle with finances, growing our own foods and even figuring out what we think about organic foods versus GMOs. We all share a love of good food, though, and a desire to see that our families are well fed and healthy.

“[We try to eat] whole, real foods, and we limit processed foods as much as possible,” Jenna says. “Foods that we like are grassfed/pasture-raised meats; organic fruits and veggies; healthy fats, like coconut oil or rendered animal fats; grinding our own wheat;and making foods from scratch. [We started] raising and growing our own meats and produce without the use of GMOs and chemicals.”

Clean food is a fantastic goal, but Jenna mentioned something really important: In order to eat that way, her family raises their own vegetables and meats. If you can, do that because you’ll eat well and save money over trying to purchase those things from a store. If you can’t do that, don’t despair and figure that all is lost.

It’s good to have principles and specific goals, but Jenna and I can both count on our hands and toes the number of times we’ve thrown up our hands and ordered pizza because we just couldn’t make one more thing from scratch that day. Everyone survives the take-out, and your sanity is preserved so you can get up the next day and get back to work in the garden or the barn or wherever you need in order to provide the healthiest food you can.

2. Make Your Own Products

A lot of us have decided to stop reading books, blog posts and news reports because every time we do, we read about how every toxic chemical known to man resides in our brand of shampoo or our commercial pet food. I mean, we can’t combat everything so maybe we should just ignore it altogether. But that’s not really the best answer, is it?

Knowing you can’t perfect your home all at once, start by leaning into the few things most important to you by making a few things yourself. From soap, furniture polish, hair conditioner, I’m always surprised at how easy stuff is to make myself. Pick one thing to start with, and once you’ve mastered a production rhythm, introduce another item into the line.

Jenna started making her own cleaning supplies and soaps to reduce the amount of synthetic chemicals her family was exposed to. She didn’t try to eliminate every single synthetic chemical in their house all at once—she started with soap.

Of course, each new thing I learn to make myself, I’m then obligated to make it on an ongoing basis! However, eventually these tasks work themselves into our routines and we learn to make things in bulk so we don’t have to take time out every week to do it. We also get the entire family to help out in some capacity to lighten the burden.

3. Get Outside

One of Jenna’s most basic tools to keep everyone healthy is Mother Nature. Her family spends a lot of time outside learning. Take your kids out to breathe fresh air, read a book in the grass, swing on a makeshift tree swing or just run around like crazies. The bottom line is that, while you do need to work to keep everyone healthy, you don’t need to burn yourself out. Do the best you can every day, and try not to compare yourself to anyone but yourself.

4. Prepare Double Recipes

One last piece of advice from Jenna: make double recipes. Not only are there plenty of leftovers for the next day, you can freeze extras for quick, healthy foods on busy days. The more land we’ve acquired over the years, the more tasks that pile on, the more I have learned to value this advice. Leftovers save my life almost every day, especially at lunch time and deadline time. It’s as much work to make two lasagnas as it is to make one, so make the extra and live long and prosper.

To practice making extra, try a few of the recipes below for great summer meals that you can reheat or even eat cold:

  • Pasta & Veggies: I love having leftover pasta dishes because the kids don’t usually mind eating them cold. In the summer, you can rummage around in the garden and sauté anything that you have. Everything looks fancy when paired with simple pasta and oil.
  • Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls: Any time you make bread, make extra. We use sourdough or gluten-free baked goods at our house because we have some sensitivities to unleavened wheat, but from pitas to pancakes to loaf breads, having these items on hand in bulk each week makes it much easier to throw together a meal.
  • Corn Cob Jelly: Do not forget treats like this can be made during canning season to use year-round. Yes, food preservation requires getting out your canning pot, but even meals can be preserved in jars for use on nights of last-minute science projects or when the dratted pigs get out—again.

Take heart, healthy homestead parents—you’re doing a great work! Your little farm sprouts will look back at their childhoods and know that you were truly doing your best to keep them all well and happy. Great oaks start out small and take years to mature. Take your time, do your best, and take a deep breath.


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