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First Time Homesteader with Jessica Sowards

A lot of people are looking to start homesteading in some way right now, whether that’s starting a garden, raising animals for meat or maybe backyard egg-laying chickens, or even just starting to cook more from scratch. If that’s you, then watch today’s Pantry Chat with Jessica Sowards from Roots and Refuge all about getting started with homesteading.

Image of a red barn and a farm.
Image courtesy of Roots and Refuge

We’ve discussed how to get started homesteading in this post, as well as the 10 things I wish we’d known before starting homesteading. So be sure to check those posts out after you watch this Pantry Chat. Then be sure to head to the bottom of this post for many more resources if you’re new to this homesteading lifestyle.

No matter where you are, homesteading is gratifying. There will be so much out of your control, but the key is to grasp onto it and do what you can control. Ushering people into this lifestyle will bring incredible physical and mental health benefits.

A woman holding a flower standing in a flower field.
Image courtesy of Roots and Refuge

Jessica’s Homestead Beginning

Jessica started her life in the 80s in the suburbs of Arkansas, ironically, the Natural State. Her mom was a gardener.

She had thought about the romanticism of one day having a farm, but it would take her son’s birth to jump-start her dream. In 2007, her son was diagnosed with a milk protein allergy. This is really where the force of a mom trying to protect her child met her childhood dream.

In 2014, she and her husband decided to move to a more rural area. They bought four acres, her first farm. But before they purchased this land, she read everything, and she even raised three chickens and had a small garden bed. When she moved to the new property, her next-door neighbor turned out to be grumpy.

There was no hope of finding a mentor in him. He was very discouraging, would not help her, and told her she would never succeed. This ended up turning into reverse psychology.

His negativity fueled her instead. She was going to prove him wrong.

Years later, this turned into a thriving YouTube channel, two published books and a website filled with knowledge and teachable information. Her latest book is called The First Time Homesteader and is filled with information for those looking to learn.

Getting started with homesteading or a DIY lifestyle is so exciting! Here are four questions I asked Jessica to answer with her homesteading advice and expertise.

What does the term homesteading mean to you?

Jessica says homesteading to her is not a defined term but rather an approach to our relationship with the world around us. It brings in mindful consumption, simplicity, and appreciation for the beauty around you. You are entering into a conscious relationship with the earth, your home, and your family.

She cannot separate homesteading from her legacy. She wants her life to be as rich ten years from now as it is today.

Image of a wheelbarrow and raised garden bed with the sun rising in the background.
Image courtesy of Roots and Refuge.

Homesteading Skills

Could you start cooking from scratch? Jessica started by buying old cast iron pans and learning how to get them back into usable condition. (Learn more about restoring cast iron pans here.)

And she says to thrift well. It’s so rewarding when the clothes you have found and love have been found through cheap and frugal means.

She loves things that come with a story. She and her family love talking about their homegrown food, such as where the meat they eat is from. Or, “Hey, I traded my blueberries from a friend down the road.”

I love that! Jessica speaks of a mindset, not simply a term or a future lifestyle. I would agree with Jessica’s incredible thoughts; don’t wait.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already started on a homestead, start honing your kitchen skills or start by planting a small garden.

Make the mindset shift first. This is significant because you can homestead right where you are.

A foggy homestead with the sun rising over the hills.
Image courtesy of Roots and Refuge.

What do you love about homesteading the most?

The bottom line is we have to eat. That does take the romance and legacy away from the homesteading dream. But we do have to eat. We need real food. But we also need exercise and grounding for balanced mental health.

So many of us pretend that the current world situation and way of life are working. But it’s not. We are being scammed.

We are eating bad food. We are overworking ourselves to afford the medicine we need to keep going. These times have seen unprecedented sickness. Our lifestyle is making us sick.

We are being told it’s normal which is not true. So, in reality, homesteading is the life we were intended for. The homesteading lifestyle can improve our health.

Jessica has put so many of the pieces of the puzzle together. In my homesteading life, I have found that my kids have become more responsible because they are a huge part of our chores (read children’s chores on the homestead here). We are all sharing more in this life since we spend so much time together.

As for our physical health, our bodies respond better and have fewer problems. We are getting nutrition to change us for the better because we eat much healthier.

We are, by far, healthier. “There is increasing evidence that exposure to plants and green space, and particularly to gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health.” (Source)

And the “fast, fast, go” that once was ingrained in us, is no longer. We are able to say no to distractions, unlike before.

This agrarian mindset has simplified life and caused us to focus more on our relationships. Food, family, and faith are lived out every hour of every day, not just when we have time.

And Jessica also tells of the fantastic side benefits of homesteading. Great sleep! At the end of her days, she is so tired from the hard work that she sleeps great!

Her daily rhythms are more aligned, and her sleep is too. And then the best part? The mind follows. Homesteading makes for having your life in order, so everything else falls into place.

A man carrying long pipes on a homestead.
Image courtesy of Roots and Refuge

Were you, your spouse, and your family always lined up?

She teases that when her husband says, “I got a farm,” it is his flirting phrase. He knew homesteading was her dream. He flirted with her by saying, “I have it.”

He also had health issues. They knew healthy food helped with these issues. So he jumped on her dream, too. Jeremiah first focused on Jessica’s dream, but then his dream awakened in him. So, no, they were not always lined up. It took time.

Do you have any advice for those whose spouse may not want to homestead with them?

Jessica says yes. She starts by saying that you can’t control anyone else. If you are passionate about your dream, then you have to take responsibility for what only you can take care of yourself.

So she started with three chickens. Not 15. She was not the breadwinner, so it was hard to have endless resources. It may be for others also.

But success can convince people to go along with what you want to do. Her chickens had eggs. Then her garden produced great food. Her small victories helped convince her husband that her dream was a great idea!

So do what you can, then the success of your passion will be the most convincing thing to getting your loved ones on board. The goal should be to seek understanding instead of agreement.

While at first her husband, Jeremiah, didn’t agree, he did understand her passion, and then the value of it came after showing him her successes.

Jeremiah is very supportive now, but he wasn’t always. Their life wasn’t always the way it is now. It did not start this way, but homesteading ended up being their greatest passion.

It can take a lot of work to submit your dream to another individual. But your chosen partnership comes with the challenging task of being vulnerable.

And if you are unwilling to chase your dream, why should your partner? You can’t convince someone to be more committed to your dream than you are. Make your own dream come true. Then they will see how important it is to you. They will even want to help.

Remember to appreciate them! Thank them for showing up to your dream today.

I agree with Jessica; she says to start by blooming where you are planted. Make the first small steps so phenomenally good that your partner wants to jump on board with you!

It can be easy to fall back on excuses. You can only do what you can right here and right now. If you can start where the rubber meets the road, others will get excited.

And I will say, be careful. You can’t make your husband get on board with you. Have the right attitude as your foundation first. See if you can get him to want to get on board with you on his own.

Image of a rolling farm with a large tree and the sun rising in the background.
Image courtesy of Roots and Refuge.

Is homesteading really worth it?

Jessica says it is absolutely worth it. It is also hard. Today’s society has told us to avoid discomfort and failure at all costs. This scam says life is about comfort and feeling good all of the time. Don’t skirt the tough times that come with homesteading.

We know that all the great pleasures first come with discomfort and pain. The greatest joy of your life is on the other side of these failures and hard times. She calls it the “real of homesteading.” Pushing through the tough times ends up being very rewarding.

So don’t give up. Keep going even when it is hard.

I would also add that “simple” and “easy” differ. Homesteading is simple, but it is definitely not easy. There can be a lot of frustration when starting to homestead, even when you get good at it. Push thru the hard to get to the simple. (Read more about how to get started homesteading here.)

So whether you are thinking about homesteading, just getting started, or already homesteading, I hope both Jessica and I have encouraged you. See our Encouragement Gems below to remember that you can homestead and enjoy it!

A woman standing by a garden bed holding freshly harvested kale and a basket of eggs..
Image courtesy of Roots and Refuge.

Where to Find Jessica

You can find Jessica Sowards new book, The First Time Homesteader here, and follow her at the following places:

Other Posts You May Enjoy

Carolyn: Hey you guys, and welcome to this week's edition of The Pantry Chat: Food for Thought. This week we're talking about something that I know is really near and dear to a lot of your hearts, and that is getting started with homesteading. I know a lot of people right now are really starting to look at, whether it's home cooking or gardening or raising some of their own food or more of a DIY lifestyle, whatever it is, whatever angle you're taking on it, there's a lot of people really jumping in and looking at that right now. So, I have asked Jessica Sowards from Roots and Refuge to join us today because this is a topic that is very dear to her and that she gets to share with a lot of people, which I just think is amazing, that you are ushering people into this lifestyle. It's so much fun. So, thank you for joining us, Jess. Thanks for coming on.

Jessica: Well, thank you so much for having me. It's such an honor to be here chatting with you in your beautiful pantry. It is definitely a passion of mine. I like to say that I like to open the garden gate for people, and truly the introduction into the homesteading life. I want people to know that there's a seat at this table for them.

Carolyn: It's really true, no matter where you're at or what you're doing, and I think we're going to dive into that a little bit today, but there is something for you here, and it is gratifying and it's real, and it is such a healthy thing to be part of in a time of the world history that we feel like there's a lot of things out of our control, right?

Jessica: Yeah.

Carolyn: There is actually a lot that's still in our control and grasping that, hanging onto that and doing something with it is good for us in a lot of different aspects, not the least of which is the health side, health and having our food supply, but also the mental health side, I think is a huge plus right now in the world. So, we're going to dive right into all of this, but start off at the place we should always start off, right? Tell us how you got started. Have you always lived this way, or was this something that you had to kind of jump into?

Jessica: Yeah, definitely have not always lived this way. I always point back to my childhood. I grew up in suburban America. I was an '80s kid, just the very typical millennial childhood in the suburbs of middle America. And I didn't have access to local food. I didn't know anything about that. My mom was a gardener, more a hobby gardener, and she did more ornamentals. I grew up in Arkansas, which is called the Natural State, so definitely outdoorsy type lifestyle. I didn't grow up in a city or anything like that, but I didn't really have my eyes open to the need for food to change, this broken system that we were so dependent on. I didn't know how broken it was until my son, Asher was born in 2007 and he had a milk protein allergy and I had to start reading labels in order to nurse him without it causing him pain.

And that was hugely awakening. Now, all through that suburban childhood, I loved the idea of a farm. It was a very romantic notion for me. I loved horses, I loved animals, but it was never actually about the food. It was about the romanticism of the farm. But then in my early 20s when my son needed me to wake up to this, then it became about the food. And it's like the force of a mother who's protecting her child met the force of a childhood dream and it sort of just exploded. We moved onto our first homestead in 2014. It was four acres on a foreclosured house, small property, no infrastructure. We had no experience whatsoever with any of this stuff. All I had was what I had learned by reading every book in the library, reading every blog. Of course, back then that kind of predated YouTube. Thanks, babe. That kind of predated YouTube and I had learned everything I could, and then we had this property and we just dove into becoming homesteaders.

Carolyn: And that's how it starts for a lot of us. I mean, that echoes my story so much, that we knew nothing. We had these little experiences, that Josh had lived on a cattle ranch and grew up riding horses. I grew up riding horses, and we both had some experience with somebody in our life gardening. But aside from that, it wasn't like in the kitchen with mom and grandma, learning how to pressure can or any of these things. So, there's a lot of trial and error.

So, I love that part of the story because sometimes we really feel like if we don't come from this long history and if we don't have this backdrop behind us, it's almost impossible to get started. But I think both you and I are living proof that no, you can get somewhere in a reasonable amount of time, if you have that force of desire behind you. Like you said, the mom desire to take care of a child. And a lot of our story is kind of wrapped up in some of those things too. And so, you can do it, even if you know nothing right now, this is doable. So, that's just really exciting.

Jessica: I think that's why I'm so passionate about encouraging the new homesteader because I remember when we moved onto our first property, a neighbor came down and he was, I guess you could say kind of cynical, older gentleman that grew up farming and that had retired out into this country area, rural area. And we had bought this four acres and we're there like, "We're going to start a farm, we're going to grow food." And he made some comment about, "Oh, well yeah, every young five-acre farmer is coming along and trying to do something." And he told us, he said, "You'll never succeed at this. It's harder than you think and it won't work for you." He's like, "You can't raise chickens out here. They get killed. You can't grow a garden. The bugs eat it up." And he said all this stuff, and I remember being so massively discouraged because I'm looking at this man in his late 70s and I'm thinking, "Tell me everything you know and equip me, teach me."

And obviously, he doesn't represent the generation. He doesn't represent a population. This was one individual that might have had some negative experiences. But I remember reaching for the mentorship that I expected to be there and receiving honestly a ton of discouragement, feeling silly that we called ourselves farmers and feeling silly that I could imagine four acres being a farm, and feeling silly. And what it took was, I raised the chickens and we did have predators, but we learned how to protect against them and they didn't die. And I raised the garden and I didn't use the Sevin Dust. I did it organically and it didn't die.

We did all the things he said we wouldn't be able to do. And his reverse, it wasn't encouragement, it was discouragement, but it actually had the opposite effect of maybe what he intended. It just took a long time and the determination to not give up for his negativity to actually fuel me, being like, "Hey, you thought I couldn't do this but we did, and we did it well and we were successful at it." But I don't want people to have to overcome stuff like that. When they reach for mentorship, I want them to find something in me that says, "No, you can do this. Absolutely, you can."

Carolyn: Yeah, I just love that. Excuse me. Because I was in the same spot and people around us laughed at us. They thought we were crazy. We just remember all of the eye rolls and all of the, "There they are with their hobby that they're doing." And at that point, we were feeding our family from our garden, actually doing it. And so, we started to get a little bit more confidence and a little bit more competence. But there was a point where I remember sitting on the rocking chair on the porch with Josh and crying, and just like, "Where are these women who have lived this lifestyle, who can tell me how to integrate raising my food with raising a family and doing it gracefully and well, while not getting into this scramble where I have no time for community or no time for anything else?"

And they just weren't there. They weren't there. And so, really Josh was like, "You may be that person to the next generation." And for me, that's what fueled me, is that feeling of, there was nobody there and I needed answers and I couldn't get them. And so, a lot of what you're doing, reading the books, and reading more books, and reading the older books, and reading things that I'm like, "No, this is not the direction that I'm going."

And listening to everything I could, absorbing everything I could, but a lot of trial and error. We spent so much time making mistakes because we didn't have good education, we didn't have any good information out there. And like you said, this kind of predated YouTube. YouTube was not what it is now. So, you couldn't just go out there. And blogs were so, it was kind of like the cowboy world still on the internet. If you could get anything, it was really like, "I have no idea if this person even knows what they're talking about." So, yeah, it's a new era and hopefully there's a lot of support for the new people, but I just love what you're doing. To you, what does the term homesteading mean? Because I know it can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.

Jessica: I feel like homesteading is actually just an approach to our relationship with the earth around us. I think that it brings in mindful consumption. I think it brings in simplicity. I think it brings in appreciation for the beauty that's around you. Really, to me, when you say, "I'm going to become a homesteader," what you're doing is, you are entering into a conscious relationship with the living earth, with your family, with your home, with your legacy. I cannot separate homesteading from legacy. And that is why to me, even though right now we're living in unprecedented times, really. We're living in a world that in our recent history, you can't really find anything like what's been happening in this earth. It's fascinating to me, but I don't feel scared. I don't feel afraid. I joke that I'm not a survivalist.

I love thriving. I want my life to be as rich today as I plan on it being 100 years from now, because I'm thinking legacy. And homesteading to me is just marrying legacy. And I want all of my decisions to have legacy in mind, and that's the clothes that I choose to wear, thrifting and being frugal, and how I'm saving and that I'm not leaving mountains of debt for my children, and that I'm not using the earth up in irresponsible ways, and that I'm caring for things mindfully.

And the beautiful thing about that, when you see homesteading not as a goal that has to be reached or a certain set of things that you have to have or boxes checked off the list, but rather a mindset, it really challenges people because I think that you can actually develop that homesteader mindset in an apartment, in a duplex while you're waiting. I always say, "Turn your waiting room into a classroom," because wherever you are, if your heart is to be a homesteader, you can begin the actions of a homesteader wherever you are.

Carolyn: Absolutely. And I think that it's so important to do that and not to get into this waiting, because honestly we were blessed to start with our journey in an apartment. That's where we were at, second story, there was no yard, we had this balcony, so we grew a few little tomatoes and basil.

Jessica: Yeah, me too.

Carolyn: And it was just this very small experience, but I learned so much in that place. Just even in the kitchen, I really started honing the kitchen skills and some of the organization skills that you need. And then, we moved up to this little house with this little backyard and we maxed out our ability there. But again, we learned, we learned, we learned. So, by the time we moved on to five acres, we maybe weren't entirely ready for five acres. We still had a lot to learn, but we were way more ready than if we had just lived the city life in our apartment and then didn't make the mindset shift until we hit the acreage. We would not have been ready for five acres. I think we would've buried ourselves really quickly by making a lot of not intelligent decisions and then had to chase those around for a long time to get them corrected by the time we were moving forward. So, yeah, I love that. You can homestead right where you're at, wherever that is.

Jessica: Absolutely.

Carolyn: And you started in an apartment too?

Jessica: I did. I was in an apartment when my eyes were kind of awakened to the problems of the food system. For me, I started shopping at farmer's markets and I started learning to cook from scratch. That was kind of the go for me. Had a couple plants on the balcony and then moved to a neighborhood. I was in a situation that I didn't have permission to put gardens in the yard. I could only garden in containers. But I started foraging wild blackberries on some friends' property, again, more cooking from scratch. Started collecting cast iron from garage sales for 25 cents a pan that was covered in orange rust and went home and learned how to salvage that and make it new, and learned how to thrift well, but clothe my family cheaply and buy things cheaply. And what I learned is, my whole house is odds and ends hodgepodge, secondhand stuff.

And that's frugal for one, which makes a lifestyle possible whenever you don't need a lot, whenever you don't need as much money. But I learned to love it. I love that lifestyle. I love things that come with this story. I love homegrown food that's locally sourced. We sit down at the table and we tell the story of our dinner and we say, "This cut of meat we're eating is from that old spot pig that we butchered last March, and this is that. And these cabbages were grown out in the high tunnel and I traded for these blueberries from so-and-so."

And we talk about that stuff because I love a story. And I think in that process, again, just like you, had I waited... and I wish I had done more. I look back and I think, "Oh, I can see all the opportunities I had that I was blind to." But had we waited to get started at all, I don't think that I would have adapted the richness that our life has now because of those principles that we learned early on.

Carolyn: Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. So, this kind of ties right into the next question that I was thinking of for you here and that is, what do you love about homesteading the most? And why should somebody even consider getting started doing it?

Jessica: That's a great question. Well, we have to eat. That's a really big thing, that when people talk about this, it's just, we all have that in common. We can disagree on a lot of things, but every single one of us has to eat. And truly, if you take all the romance away and all the legacy and all of the wooing of the stories and all the things that have so much value to me, you have to eat. And I think if nothing else, pretending like the current system is fail proof, it's just foolish. It's not wise. Now, you could go deeper in that you have to eat food that fuels you well. We are looking at just unprecedented sickness in our bodies and problems from the amount of toxicity in our lives, and I just cannot champion enough a lifestyle that gives you real food, that gives you exercise.

Like you mentioned earlier, that honestly is very grounding for your mental health. I look at the culture that we have been given, with just the way that we do things. I'm like, "Man, we're getting scammed. This is just such a big scam. Our lifestyle is making us sick. We're working our lives away to pay for the medicine to hopefully make us better. We're eating food that doesn't fuel our body well. We're separate from our families and our marriages are failing, and our families are failing because of the scam of a lifestyle that we are being told is normal." And I just want to shout from the rooftops, "That's not normal. That is not normal. We were not created to live like this. We were created to thrive and to be healthy and to have legacy." And I see the homesteading lifestyle as a gateway into a life that we were intended for.

Carolyn: It's amazing to me, when you start fixing a few pieces of the puzzle, it all starts to start snapping together. And you see this lifestyle emerge that you kind of look and go, "Wow, my children are much more capable than the average child. They're much more self-assured, they're much more responsible. They're healthy. Our relationships are blooming because we're working together all the time. There's no pretending that things are okay if they're not. We have to work these things out. We have to find the common ground to be able to deal with chores and responsibilities and all of those things."

And it's just starting to add these pieces and getting back to maybe a little bit more of an agrarian mindset, even if it's not actually 20 acres and you're out farming all day, but just this agrarian mindset that starts simplifying pieces of life and focusing on the relationships, focusing on the basics of things that really matter. For me, that boils down to really good food, family and faith and friends. And you start putting those back together and all of a sudden, things start changing and things start looking brighter and they look better because you start getting those priorities lined up a little bit better, and saying no to the things that just really are distracting us from the important things.

Jessica: I agree entirely. It's interesting, the side effects that have come to me in the homesteading life, and sometimes a new one will pop up that I didn't even really realize because, and I think you can probably relate to this, even though this was just the dream at one point, this is just my normal life now. I actually sometimes hear the rooster crowing and feel really, "Oh, that's so beautiful." But most of the time I've heard it so much, I don't hear it. Most of the time I'm just going through my day-to-day. I'm so thankful for it. I'm deeply rooted in it, but I've become accustomed to it and I'm thankful for that. I like that. But sometimes something will happen and I'll go, "Oh man, homesteading did that for me."

I didn't even realize, recently I was talking with some friends and they were talking about having trouble sleeping and they're like, "Well, I just don't sleep very well. I wake up all night and I was scrolling social media at 3:00 this morning." And all these different things and I was like, "Can't relate, bro. I'm dead at night. I'm so tired. I mean, got up before the sun, I've been up all day. I'm tired, I go to sleep, I sleep like the dead." And I realized that wasn't always the case for me. I used to have trouble sleeping. I used to scroll social media in the middle of the night. And now, my rhythms are more in line, my body's more in line, my mind is more at rest at night, I'm tired and I rest well.

And I realize this lifestyle, this farm did that for me. I didn't even go after that. But that was a result. And whereas, had I continued in the lifestyle I had been, would I be on sleep medication by now? Would I have ended up in that place? But I like to note those little things that come up. And again, it goes back to what you said, when you have this order in place, sometimes you'll realize that other things kind of fall into place that you didn't realize. And that's been my experience, for sure.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. It really mirrors our physical health. When you start putting the right things in your body, all of a sudden you start seeing things that are getting fixed that you may not be have even recognized as a problem.

Jessica: Yes.

Carolyn: You're like, "Oh, I don't hurt when I wake up." Or, "Oh, my nails got harder and now they grow." Or whatever it is. It's this realization that there's something that is deeply missing in our modern culture, in the fast, fast, fast, the go, the stuff. It's all stuff, stuff, stuff. And I know I can fall into it. I know it's as ingrained in me as it is in everybody else, but that's so empty. Those are those empty calories. It's like eating the Snickers bar when you need a good solid homemade meal. And when you start changing that and getting that nutrition into you, not just physically but into your mind and into your soul, everything starts to change. And it is a bit of a slippery slope, right? You don't stop with making sourdough bread, I'm sorry. [inaudible] bread and you need the homemade butter. It's just [inaudible].

Jessica: Absolutely.

Carolyn: So, I know there's so many people, and a lot of people listening right now who are sold. They're like, "I'm just waiting for my moment to dive in." But maybe their family's not on board, maybe a spouse isn't on board. Were you guys always lined up for doing this or was it mostly you?

Jessica: No. It was me. It was my big dream. Now, my husband really liked me and so we joke now, recently I came and I asked him if he liked my outfit, "Hey, does this look good?" And he's like, "I'd flirt with you." I said, "You don't even know how to flirt. We've been married so long, you don't know how to flirt." And he looked at me and he goes, "I got a farm." That's our flirt now. And he said, "Well, it worked for me before." Because when we were dating I said, "This is my dream, this is what I want." And he said, "I'll do that for you." And he did. We'd been married for four years when we found the land, we bought the land. But it started as something he was giving me, so we got four acres and I got three chickens and I built some raised garden beds, and he was appeasing me with what I wanted, but it was my stuff.

It was my chickens, my chores, my garden beds. And then, along the way, the food convinced him. He had gone through a myriad of health issues. He's a medically retired Marine, and he had a lot of pain and eating good food, like you said, it alleviated pain. And it started to show him areas that he could have improvement in the way that his quality of life. And so, the next thing I knew, he was the one that was ordering more chickens and he was the one that was kind of growing things. And it has long since surpassed what I could handle. The herd of cows out there, that was Jeremiah's doing. The horses, that was Jeremiah's doing it. And what we learned is that there was actually some of that dream in him too. But he had given up on dreaming. He didn't ever think that horses would be possible. And I think that he focused on making my dream come true, and somewhere along the way it kind of awakened it in him.

Carolyn: Oh, that's really special. Do you have any advice for people who are facing that same circumstance and they want to do it, husband, maybe not. So, he sounded amenable to the idea, but there are a lot of husbands out there that are like, "Nope, we're not doing that."

Jessica: I think one thing that we have to remember just in relationships period, is that you can't ever control anybody else. On a good day, I can control myself and on a bad day I can't even do that well. So, for me, if I have a passion and something that I really want to do, I'm going to get into it to the scale that I can take responsibility for. So, in the beginning, whenever he was saying, "Well, you can have chickens," but he really wasn't sold. He wasn't even sold that I was going to take care of them. I got three, I didn't get 10, I didn't get 15, I got three. Because it was like, this is what I know for sure that I can take responsibility for and I can take care of myself. And for a long time, I was a stay-at-home mom. I did not have my own income.

I completely understand the position as a woman, and this may be the case, there may be men with wives that aren't on board. But as a woman, really being in a situation where I'm not the breadwinner, where I don't have a lot of, I don't want to... I'm going to say the word freedom, that's not really exactly the right word, but I didn't have a lot of luxury and my own resources to make my own decisions that were separate from my husband. I really needed his agreement on the things that I was doing. And I think that when you are passionate about something and when you take responsibility for the decisions that you make, then you have within your power to let it be successful. And I think success convinces people where maybe vision casting and ideas and excitement don't. And it was the three chickens, we got the eggs and whenever you get the few eggs is when, "Oh, this is better."

And then, you get more chickens. And you have the small garden and you take good care of it. And yes, you may be dreaming of a 10,000 square foot garden. And yes, you may need your spouse's approval to spend more than 40 bucks to put gardening in. So, what do you start with? Can you start with a 4 x 4 raised bed garden? Because I hustled, man. I bought stuff at thrift stores and sold it. I did what I could to get a little bit of extra money to do these passion projects. And what I found is, when I poured myself into them passionately and they were successful, it was the success of that passion that was more convincing than anything else I had ever been able to bring to the table.

Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we could probably do an entire Pantry Chat just on this and call it, How to Homestead and Stay Married, even whether it's a budget thing or some couples work with a lot more freedom between them and they're each doing their thing. Maybe they each are bringing in the income so they feel a lot of equality in that. One way or another, this affects a spouse. That you can't just go on vacation, you can't just run out the door and do this, do that. It actually affects people. And so, looking, how do we bloom with our ideas inside, right where we are? It's so cliché, bloom where you're planted, but it's that, instead of taking the nagging or the, "I wish you would." Or, "Why won't you?" Or, "I really need you to help me figure out, okay, what can I do without the help or without [inaudible], without the permission or without the whatever? And how do I make that so phenomenally good that nobody can deny the fact that this is phenomenal and we want more of this?" So, I think that's really wise and really [inaudible].

Jessica: Yeah. I think that's the key. The bloom where you're planted thing. And I think we get sick of hearing that because what it tells us is, hey, you don't have an excuse and you're not going to be able to get where you want to go until you do what you can where you are. And that's a bummer. But it truly, in relationships, I think if our goal is to seek understanding instead of agreement, we'll have more peace, period. That is something that we live by. I don't have to agree with my husband, I don't have to agree with what my husband wants to do, but I can try to understand why he is doing what he's doing, and that's going to get us so much further than the argument of agreement. And so, he didn't really agree with me on the value of growing our food.

He didn't really agree with me that it was something that we should spend our money on. He didn't really agree with me, but I think he understood that it was a passion for me and he was accommodating to that degree. But he really began to understand the value when I just did what I could where I was. And now, he's sold. But people are always like, "Well, you have such a supportive husband and you have such a..." But now, and also, there is the factor to take into consideration, we're content creators. This is our whole job, both of us. You can look at us now and go, "He's on board."

Well honey, he's paid. This is our job. We're both doing this as a passion and as a love. It really is the greatest passion of our lives now. But I don't think it's fair to look where you are, which is where we were 15 years ago, or 10 years ago in our journey and compare it to where we are now, where there's a lot of perks to this for us that make it look like, well my life doesn't look like that. Well, it doesn't, but if you looked at where we were 10 years ago, I think you would probably see it wasn't always like this.

Carolyn: Yeah, yeah. I think that's so true. And there's always an excuse, isn't there? There's always somebody that's better or something that's better, or whatever it is, it's easy to fall back on the excuses. And when you say, "Look, no more excuses. I'm just going to do what I can right here, right now. I'm going to stop the excuse side of it." I think that's where that rubber meets the road, and that's where you start getting successful, is you're taking your resources, you're changing your attitude, and you're putting those together. That's where you're going to get the results that get other people excited about it because you're going to be excited about it. You're going to stop carrying around, dragging the weight of, "Oh, if only I had five acres, or if only I was out of debt, or if only I didn't have to work, or..." The list is so long, it could go on forever.

But I do want to circle back around because you said something that I think is so key, and I'm going to be really bold here and just call it out as it is. If you're one of the people who emails me and says, "How do I get my husband on board?" Can I just tell you, please go call the marriage counselor right now because [inaudible] your attitude, "How do I make my spouse do anything?" You've got problems that have nothing to do with what you're eating or how you're homesteading. Go take care of the foundational stuff, get it worked out between the two of you and then do what you can do. And maybe you can encourage him to see what's exciting about it and why he might want to participate, if that's what he decides.

Jessica: That's a key word, is the want. Because it takes a lot of vulnerability to submit your dream to another individual, but you're married. When you have chosen partnership with a person, we're choosing the hard task of being vulnerable with them. And yes, submitting our dream and our goals and our greatest desires and our biggest fears, and just baring that all to another person. And the thing is, it was hard for me for a long time to submit this dream. And by submit, I mean hand it over. I'm handing over my dream to my husband, saying, "This is the most wild dream of my life. I want this more than anything." And for years he looked at it and said, "Yeah, yeah, we'll do that someday." And I had to stop and be like, "No, he really loves me and I just don't think he understands how much I want this."

And so, again, it comes back to me. Well, do I believe in this dream? Am I even doing everything for my dream that I'm capable of doing? Why do I expect him to do something for it if I'm not willing to do something for it? What can I do? So, I learned to season the cast iron, to forage the blackberries, to thrift the clothes. And what happens is, you cannot convince somebody else to believe in your dream more than you're willing to. And so, when we're thinking, "How can I make my spouse make my dream?" You make your dream come true. Are you even willing to do that? And yeah, eventually I think what happens is, your spouse looks at it and goes, "Whoa, this is really important to her and I love her and I want to honor her and I want to be lavish to her."

And so, then whenever he shows up and he is helping you build a garden bed and you then express, you can tell your spouse how much their actions mean to you. You can't make them do anything. But at that point you go, "I can't tell you how much it means to me that you got behind me and helped me with this. Thank you. This makes me feel so loved." We call it kindergartner language. Sometimes we just got to spell it out free and clear. Kids will say anything, "Today is the best day ever. The way you held my hand and pushed me on the swing made me feel so good." We don't do that as adults, but we should. Sometimes we need to just say, "Hey, the way you showed up for my dream today, even though it's not yours, made me feel really good." And that's not making them do anything, but that's equipping them on how to love you well. We have to be willing to do that.

Carolyn: I love it. And we're not picking on you, guys. Let me just say, for you males that are out there. This is just both where our experience lies as wives, because I do know that there are lots of cases where the guys are very gung ho and really ready to jump in and their spouse is like, "Not interested. Don't want to do that. When can I get my nails done next?" Maybe I shouldn't pick on that either, because we won't look at my nails but-

Jessica: Not mine either.

Carolyn: So, if there was somebody who's sitting here and they're listening to us and they're kind of on the fence about really diving into the homesteading lifestyle, maybe they've dabbled a little, what would you tell them? Is it worth it in the long run? I mean, what big heads-up would you give them? What would you say?

Jessica: I would say that it's absolutely worth it. It is hard. I think that another thing in our, I call it our scam of a culture, I know it's kind of a harsh thing to say, but I think that we have been so trained to avoid discomfort and failure at all costs. And I think that when you decide to homestead and you decide to enter into a relationship with the living world around you, and your legacy and how you're going to steward your family, and the earth around you and the animals in it and all of that, there's just guaranteed failure and discomfort and pain. And I would just encourage people right now, no matter what stage of homesteading you're in, don't skirt the failure and the discomfort and the pain in your life, because you cannot experience the mountaintops without experiencing those things. And I would say that is probably the greatest lesson I have learned in jumping into homesteading, is that there's no great pleasure and joy that does not also have some pain and discomfort and sacrifice as a counterpart.

And of course, when you go back to faith that's so evident in the gospel, there are so many different things that I see mirrored in homesteading, and I think a lot of people come out of a very comfortable culture and a comfortable way of living. It's all about comfort and entertainment and feeling good. But I would say that once you immerse yourself in the real of the homesteading life, and you embrace that discomfort and you push yourself further than you thought you could be pushed, and you go through pain and you keep going and you keep choosing to go back, then you learn what real pleasure and satisfaction and joy and being deeply moved by something, not just entertained by it.

And what happens is, you look back at what used to satisfy you and you realize how absolutely cheap it was. And so, yeah, I think that my biggest piece of advice for people is, don't give up. Whatever you do, it is worth it. Don't give up. Just keep going when it's hard. Where there's livestock, there's dead stock. Your gardens, it might get eaten by bugs. You might have massive failures, but I promise you, the greatest joy of your life is on the other side of those things.

Carolyn: Those are very wise words spoken there. And I think they tie right into one of the things that I like to say a lot about homesteading and that is, there's a difference between simple and easy.

Jessica: Yes.

Carolyn: Don't confuse the two. And people talk about, oh, the simple lifestyle, the simple life, right? Well, it is very simple. Homesteading is a very simple life. There is so much, you can look at it and, "That is a seed, I'm going to put it in the ground, it's going to grow, I'm going to harvest it, I'm going to eat it, and it's going to bring health and life." That is simple. We can understand that. We can grasp that on a deep soul level. Nothing about that is easy. There is a lot of hard work involved and just like you're saying, there's a lot of disappointment, there's a lot of frustration.

And yes, there is a lot of dead livestock wrapped up in all of this. As much as nobody wants to say this, it does happen. We're just not faced with death in our modern culture. We sneak away to the hospital and off to the retirement home. And so, you don't see it. So, we have this really skewed perspective of life and death, and ratios of life and death. I don't even know how to express that quite well, but when you get in the homestead, boy, you are smack confronted with it and there's no getting around it. And so, there's this pushing through to get to the simple, I guess, pushing through the hard to get to the simple.

And so, yeah, I just love that. This is so encouraging. I hope you guys are feeling as encouraged as I am in this because it's just this fresh... Look, even if you've been homesteading for a long time, a lot of us need these moments of, "That's right. That's why I'm doing this." It's so easy to get caught up in the scramble of the day, and there's a lot to be done. There's a lot of doing. But to look at that moment and take that moment and say, "This is worth it, this is absolutely worth it. And look at how far we've come."

So, anyways, that is wonderful. I definitely want to give a shout out to your new book and that is, The First-Time Homesteader. So, I know we've actually, we dove really deep into a couple of different topics here that kind of wanders away from even the first-time homesteader. But if you are in that position and you are looking to dive in even deeper, maybe step up a little bit, do a little bit more, this is a really great book. It covers all sorts of amazing different homesteading projects here and different aspects of homesteading, from gardening to raising livestock to kitchen skills to living frugally, a lot of stuff in here. So, I'd really recommend you guys to grab this book, and even if you feel like you're a seasoned homesteader, grab it and give it to somebody in your life that might be right on the edge and thinking about it, but needs a little help to take that leap because they're not so sure. So, yeah, this has been wonderful. I've really enjoyed taking a look at this.

Jessica: Thank you.

Carolyn: And Jessica, where can people find you if they're not following you already?

Jessica: We are Roots and Refuge Farm. We have our website,, which kind of is a diving point to anywhere else. We're on YouTube and Instagram, have written a couple of books, most recently, The First-Time Homesteader. But if you type Roots and Refuge into Google, you'll find us we over there.

Carolyn: That is great. If you have not checked them out, make sure you go over and do that. They've got a lot of really fun videos on YouTube.

Jessica: Thank you.

Carolyn: So, go watch those. I love, you bring in a lot more blog style than we usually do.

Jessica: Yes.

Carolyn: So, if you are into the storytelling side of it and like watching the families working together, I love seeing that.

Jessica: Yes.

Carolyn: I just haven't quite cracked the code on actually doing videos like that [inaudible] in my life. But I do love getting to watch them, so go check those out and make sure you say hi and that you met Jessica over here. So, thank you so much for taking your time today and helping to encourage so many people.

Jessica: Thank you so much for having me. It was a joy to chat with you.

Carolyn: We'll see you guys soon. Goodbye.

A man and wife smiling.

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