Homestead Barn Hop #177

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“Cultivating the Homestead Community”

Hmmm… so I just realized that I’m posting this Barn Hop about 10 hours later than I normally do… We got back from my company’s annual essential oil convention last night, and I am still feeling a little bit fried. 😉 It was a marvelous week, but my brain is having a little trouble getting back into the homesteading routine, so thanks for your patience!

And hey– I wanted to let you know about a pretty awesome educational opportunity that’s coming up. The Self Reliance Summit promises to be a treasure-trove of information right up a homesteader’s alley. You can register here for FREE. There will be two presentations available for you to listen to each day (and yes, it’s FREE!). Here a few topics that’ll be covered:

• When Disaster Strikes: What You Need to Know, Do, and Have on Hand
• Return to Your Roots: How Anyone Can Embrace the Homesteading Lifestyle
• Emergency Home Power. More Electricity than you need in a Disaster
• What most people don’t know about self-reliant living and preparedness
• Alternatives to Dentist – How to Prevent and Heal Common Tooth Ailments
• Creating Sustainable Food Forests, Building Community, and Staying Warm
• Emergency Herbal Medicine Storage
• Survival In A Nut Shell
• Water: What to do if the Tap Runs Dry
• Sustainable Medicine before, during and after a collapse

I happen to be one of the speakers, but can’t wait to hear some of the other folks–the line-up is impressive! Register here and see the full list of topics.

Now, on to the Barn Hop!

This hop is hosted by The Prairie Homestead, New Life on a Homestead and The Elliott Homestead.

Did you share any homesteading related posts on your blog this week? If so, we’d love to have you link up below! Even if you don’t have a blog, we always welcome your comments!

Some Simple Guidelines:

1. Please remember that the Homestead Barn Hop is meant to be a place to share homesteading related encouragement and inspiring ideas specifically related to homesteading. In an effort to keep our weekly round-up clutter free, links which are not specifically homestead related, and any promotions such as giveaways, contests, carnivals, etc, will be deleted in order to maintain the integrity of the Barn Hop.

2. Please remember this is a family-friendly link up. Any pictures or posts linked to the hop which aren’t appropriate for our children to view or read will also be deleted immediately. We’re pretty conservative, so we ask that you use good judgment and err on the side of caution.

3. Make sure that you link to your Barn Hop post, not your blog’s main page, so your guests won’t have any trouble finding your great tips.

4. Please link back to the Homestead Barn Hop in the post that you share. Feel free to grab the banner at the top of this post to link back to us with.

5. Occasionally there is a problem posting due to glitches in the internet or the Linky Tools. If you have difficulties posting and it does not show up immediately, please wait a little while and try re-posting (this helps avoid double posting). We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, be we do not have absolute control over the internet. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

Click here to view all the past editions of the Barn Hop

Have fun, get to know some new homesteading friends, and be sure to join us every Monday! (If you are reading this post via email, click through to see all of this week’s links!)

 

 



Can I Tell You a Story?

Once upon a time, there was this girl…

She was pretty typical, as far as young American gals go.

She grew up in a quiet little neighborhood on the outskirts of town, always kept her grades up, and never really questioned much about the world around her.

The girl back then...
The girl back then…

She ate typical American fare growing up: processed cheese in the thin plastic wrappers, Chef Boyardee ravioli, and yes, even the 29 cent packages of Ramen noodles. She had a special love for McDonald’s french fries, and thoroughly enjoyed an ice-cold Coca-Cola alongside them.

Cooking always seemed to get in the way of things she’d rather be doing, and she never found much enjoyment from it anyway, so she mostly avoided it whenever she could.

As far as being green, or trying to be “natural,” that was just stuff for hippie-folk. Recycling and repurposing were a silly waste of time. People like her didn’t worry about that stuff, and she most certainly didn’t.

After college, she continued along in her ways, happily filling her cart with frozen taquitos, chemical cleaners, and 1% milk anytime she went to the grocery store.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Fast Forward 10 Years…

That very same, standard American girl now lives on 67-acres of windswept grassland in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming. She spends the majority of her days in her kitchen and finds special pleasure creating from-scratch version of foods she used to buy from the grocery store; things like chewy french bread, creamy whole-milk yogurt, and maple-kissed marshmallows.

The girl now… All grown up.

Her favorite moments are spend in the barnyard tending to the animals she raises. She’s passionate about growing as many of her ingredients as possible, so her barnyard menagerie includes a gentle Brown Swiss milk cow, a flock of laying hens, several hogs, and various meat birds. Her organic garden provides the vegetable bounty she carefully freezes or cans for the winter months, and she stubbornly refuses to allow conventional fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides anywhere near it.

Her natural inclinations extend in her home as well, where she carefully sources or creates natural skincare products and cleaning supplies to eliminate as many toxins as possible from her home. Her life is simple, yet full, and she often marvels at how far she has come.

In case you haven’t guessed it yet. that girl is me.

What was the catalyst that prompted me to change so drastically?

It’s very simple–are you ready?

Blogs and websites. 

Yes, really.

As much as I would like to have a intricate story of how a wise old homesteader with weathered hands and a lifetime of knowledge took me under their wing and taught me everything they knew, that’s not how it happened.

I simply started reading blogs and websites and soaked up the information like a sponge. These resources gave me the inspiration and motivation I needed to drastically change my life for the better. They taught me how to cook from scratch (homemade tortillas here I come!), how to use better ingredients (coconut oil? I thought people only used that for sun-bathing…), and opened up a whole new world of possibilities I had never fathomed before (wait… people still have milk cows?).

As you can see, blogs hold a special place in my heart, which makes what I am about to share with you today incredibly exciting.

The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle–YOUR Catalyst for Change

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We all want to make better health and lifestyle decisions for ourselves and those we love. We want to lose some weight, have more energy, pursue a simpler lifestyle, use greener products, create nutritious meals for our families, get fit, and feel confident that we’re doing all we can to live the best life possible.

But it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the masses of healthy living advice out there – to the point where we’re frozen into complete inaction instead!

That’s where The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle comes in. For the ridiculously low price of just $29.97 (for the PDF version) or $39.97 (for the eReader version), you can get access to a carefully curated collection of eBooks and eCourses with a total combined value of $1,030. 

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The valuable information included in this package is top-of-the-line–and many of the authors who are included are the same bloggers who inspired my own journey–so you’ll be following right in my footsteps! And thankfully, there’s no risk of getting overwhelmed–a Getting Started Guide is included with your purchase, which will help you identify the most valuable resources for your specific health and wellness priorities.

The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle will only be on sale for 6 days – from 8am EST on Wednesday, September 10 until 11:59pm EST on Monday, September 15.

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And make sure you don’t wait until the last moment – there are only 30,000 bundles available and once they’re gone, they’re gone.

You can also buy with confidence because your purchase is covered by the Ultimate Bundles one-year guarantee: you have a full year to enjoy all the books and courses in the bundle, and if you don’t feel like it’s made a huge difference to your family’s health, you’ll get your money back in full!

Click here for more info or to buy now.

And Don’t Forget the Bonuses!

The deal gets even sweeter, because the Ultimate Bundles team has also partnered with 10 fantastic companies who’ve each agreed to give a special bonus to every buyer.

I’ve already redeemed several of my bonuses including:

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Prairie Homestead Reader Bonuses– EXCLUSIVE

Purchase the bundle through one of the links in this post, and you’ll be eligible for some extra goodies!

  • 1 out of every 100 people who purchase the bundle from a link in this post will get a 30 minute phone call with yours truly! We can talk blogging, homesteading, real food, or whatever you want!
  • 1 out of every 50 people who purchase the bundle from a link in this post will get a signed paperback copy of my latest book, Natural Homestead.

Remember– you must purchase through one of my links in order to qualify! Once the bundle sale is finished, I’ll randomly choose the winners from the list of buyers and notify them via email. :)

The bonuses alone have a total value of over $200 – more than 5 times the price of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle itself!

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Here’s what you need to know about the sale:

When? 7 a.m. EST Wednesday, September 10 until 11:59 p.m. EST Monday, September 15

What? 73 eBooks and 7 audio & eCourses, PLUS over $200 worth of bonus products you’ll really use!

Where? Purchase the bundle HERE.

How much? Well now, that’s the best part. The entire package is worth $1030, and it’s selling for less than $30. Sweet deal, right?

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This Bundle is For:

  • Seasoned homesteaders and DIY-ers
  • Beginning homesteaders and DIY-ers
  • Moms who are ready to make a change towards natural living for their families
  • Retired folk who are ready to tackle this new world called “natural living”
  • People who are ready to learn how to cook real food
  • Folks who are on special diets (there are a bunch of cookbooks for gluten-free and more!)
  • People who have been wanting to jump into a more wholesome lifestyle, and just needed a little extra nudge.

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I know you’re dying to see exactly what’s included in this bundle, so head on over to the website, where you can see the full list of eBooks, eCourses, and bonus offers.

When you’re ready, you can either buy here directly, or through the website. It’s fast and easy, and you’ll have your bundle sent to your email within minutes.

Click here for more info or to buy now.

What Do You Have to Lose?

Nothing! This collection is top-of-the-line, and I know you’ll be absolutely satisfied with it, but on the small chance that you aren’t, that money-back guarantee is added peace of mind. And who knows? Maybe you’ll have your own natural-living story to tell one day, just like me–all because you made the choice to step towards healthier living today. It’s worth it, my friends!

Remember, this bundle is available for 6 days only, from 7 a.m. (EST) on Wednesday, September 10th to 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Monday, September 15th.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate (and participating author) in this ebook bundle, so if you make a purchase through my link, I get a bit of a commission. So, thanks for your support! Read the fine print about this bundle and read the answers to frequently asked questions about the bundle.

 

Why I Stopped Being Dogmatic About My Diet…

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**Please Note** This post is NOT referring to people who must be on certain diets because of allergies or health problems. I fully acknowledge that is a different issue entirely.

I’ve been noticing an interesting phenomenon lately…

If you want to start a debate online, mention either religion or politics.

But if you want to start an all-out war, start talking about food.

I suppose I understand it to a certain extent…

Food IS important. We ARE  indeed what we eat. And in some cases, the proper food CAN mean the difference between life or death for certain folks.

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However.

Can I just say I’m growing a wee bit weary of all the different dietary bandwagons?

Vegetarian, vegan, paleo, primal, raw, Weston A. Price, Trim Healthy Mama, and the list goes on. And on. And on…

Most everyone who is a member of those different “camps” is passionately, adamantly convinced that their diet is the ONLY way to eat.

The problem? 

They all contradict each other… So doesn’t that mean somebody, somewhere, has to be “wrong”?

My husband and I often joke that if you look long enough, you’ll find someone that is “against” pretty much every single thing a human can put into their mouth.

Depending on who you talk to:

  • Meat is bad.
  • Dairy products are bad.
  • Eggs are bad.
  • Whole grains are bad.
  • White flour is bad.
  • Actually, all grains are bad.
  • And don’t forget the legumes. They’re bad too.
  • Potatoes are bad.
  • Carbs are bad.
  • Cooked food is bad.
  • But certain raw vegetables aren’t great for you either.
  • Fruit is bad because of the sugar.
  • And of course, sugar is bad–even unrefined sugars.
  • Fat is bad.
  • Vegetables are good, but only if they are uber-organic, non-GMO, and grown in your own backyard– (providing no one has sprayed pesticides within 30 miles of where you live)
  • Don’t eat too many nuts because they contain phytic acid (and that’s bad.)
  • Water is OK. (but only if it’s filtered, fluoride-free, chlorine-free, purified, NOT bottled in plastic, and comes from a crystal-clear mountain spring and run through your Berkey filter first)

OK, yes, I was being a little silly there, but there’s actually a sobering amount of truth to that list… If we were to listen to ALL of the dietary “experts” at once, there wouldn’t be anything “good” left for us to eat–other than maybe an organic, home-grown carrot and some spring water. Maybe.

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So… I’m left scratching my head and wondering if maybe we’ve gone a little overboard in our quest for the “perfect” diet?

But, don’t think I’m shaking my finger at anyone, because not so long ago, I was that person.

My All-or-Nothin’ Journey to Real Food…

I tend to have an all-or-nothing personality, so when I first started my dietary transformation, I was SO excited about my newfound knowledge, that I went a little, um, overboard…

One day I was eating “pasteurized-processed cheese product” and cup o’ noodles, and the next day I was purging my cupboards, making soaked whole wheat bread, buying dairy goats (for raw milk), and making things like black bean brownies (or as I call them, “marriage counseling brownies”… I’m pretty sure my husband still hasn’t forgiven me for that…).

But it didn’t end there… And I fell deeper and deeper into this food “obsession” until it was running my life.

I would worry about what we were eating at restaurants… I would worry about what we were eating at other peoples’ houses. I would worry if I used an ingredient in my from-scratch cooking that wasn’t perfectly organic and sourced locally. And I would feel like a failure if I fed my kid something that I didn’t deem to be “perfect.”

Are we healthier because of this dietary transformation I went through? You bet! I’m so thankful that we have changed our diet from what it used to be (bye-bye frozen burritos...)

But I’ve also learned to mellow out a little… And it’s a good thing. A very, very good thing. I’m pretty sure that stressing out every single day about what you are going to eat will kill you just as quickly as those non-organic vegetables will. 

Now don’t get me wrong. Food is still very important to me–and our homesteading activities still revolve around food production. I’m still passionately in love with gardening, and milk cows, and raising grassfed beef. But I’m rather enjoying my slightly-mellowed outlook on food…

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What’s important to me:

  • Making sure that we have access to fresh, raw milk that we can use to make things like yogurt, butter, and cheese.
  • Making sure that the meat in my freezer is grassfed and organic.
  • Growing as many of our own vegetables as possible in the summer or buying from the farmer’s market when we can.
  • Having fresh eggs from free-range chickens.
  • Cooking from scratch–homemade food tastes better, doesn’t contain the junk, and I want my kids to learn how to cook too.
  • Making, canning and preserving the things I use on a regular basis, like pickles, tomato sauce, fruit, and applesauce.
  • Avoiding as many boxed, bagged, and canned items as possible from the grocery store.
  • Eating healthy amounts of good quality fats like butter, coconut oil, and lard (yes, I said lard).
  • Avoiding as many GMO-containing food items as we possibly can.
  • Avoiding ingredients such as MSG, artificial sweeteners, and hydrogenated oils.

So as you can see, we aren’t exactly eating TV dinners around here. BUT, I am happily following the 80/20 rule now. That means we make an effort to eat well 80 percent of the time– and the other 20 percent? Well, I just don’t sweat it.

Let’s face it: we live in an imperfect world. Even if, by some miracle, I was eating the perfect diet, I’d still be exposed to toxins in the air or environment around me. It’s impossible to control everything. Therefore, I’ve decided to eat the best I can, with as little stress as possible, and trust God with the rest.

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Things That I No Longer Stress About

  • Eating out. We don’t eat out very much, so I have no problem happily saying ‘yes’ if a friend wants to grab a quick burger on a Friday night.
  • Potlucks. Canned cream soups and Jell-O salads are staples of potlucks around here–and if that is all there is to eat? I eat it anyway. And it’s OK.
  • Buying the occasional item that saves my sanity. Case in point? Tortilla chips. I know how to make homemade chips, and yes, they are delicious. However, nachos are one of our “fall-back” meals that I rely on when the schedule is too crazy to make a full meal. So on those busy nights, bagged tortilla chips are pretty amazing, if I do say so myself… And yes, sometimes I used pre-made pasta noodles too.
  • Buying 100% organic. Do I prefer organic fruits/veggies? Absolutely! But sometimes that’s not an option. So yes, I do confess: My kids eat non-organic bananas on a regular basis.

And Grains… Don’t Forget the Grains…

Grains are a super hot-button topic these days… There was a time I used to feel ashamed and guilty every time I would feed my family any sort of bread-product–especially if it wasn’t “soaked” or “soured” first (i.e. proper preparation if you are following the Weston A. Price diet). I even seriously considered going completely grain-free (mostly because all of my friends were doing it…)

whole wheat hamburger bun recipe

I’ve spent hours researching grains and have read many different schools-of-thought on the topic.

I’ve seen every opinion you can imagine:

  • Only eat whole wheat
  • Don’t eat whole wheat–it’s bad for your gut!
  • White flour will make you die a horrible, slow death
  • All grains are evil.
  • You can eat *some* grains–but only ancient varieties. Modern wheat is bad.
  • You should only eat spelt.
  • You should only eat Einkorn wheat.
  • You should only consume soaked grains.
  • But actually, we aren’t sure if soaking really does much.
  • Sourdough is the best.
  • But if you really want to be cool, you should use sourdough made with white flour–it’s the best.
  • You should sift your whole wheat flours to remove the bran.
  • Wait, don’t do that! The bran is important!

So, do you want to know what all that research did to me?

It turned me into a rebel.

A grain-eating rebel.

We don’t eat grains every single day, but I do enjoy baking–and yes, sometimes I even cook with that sinful white flour (I know several of you have written me with concerns over that–but please know that all of the recipes on this blog can be made with whole wheat too). I feel completely and totally fine when I eat grains. I know that isn’t the case for everyone, but they just don’t bother me.

homemade cheese sauce recipe

May I make a little confession? I did soak/sour our homemade grain products for a quite a while, but honestly? We hated the results. Most of the soaked grain recipes I made were dry, crumbly, and less-than-appetizing. And I would spend hours preparing a recipe that I would end up giving to the chickens. Not to mention that we never felt any different eating soaked grains versus unsoaked grains.

When it comes to grains for my family, I truly believe that moderation is the key for us. I know that’s not a popular stance right now, but I’m at complete and total peace with it. (so please don’t send me any hate mail, m’kay?)

Is My Way the Only Way?

Absolutely not! I know there will be people who passionately disagree with pretty much everything I’ve written in this post. However, the more I learn about food, the more I am convinced that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet that works for every person.

I’ve decided that I’m going to stick with eating quality, whole food as much as I possibly can, and not stress out if things aren’t exactly perfect all the time. And if that means having a handful of tortilla chips alongside my raw milk on occasion, well, so be it. :)

fad diet, paleo diet, grain free

 

 

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Blogging {Well, Almost…}

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately…

…in regards to this whole blogging gig, so I figured I’d take you behind-the-scenes today and talk nuts-and-bolts about running a blog.

Now, I realize this topic may be horrifically boring to some of you, and if that’s the case, feel free to skip this post altogether. Or jump over to this week’s Homestead Barn Hop and peruse all the homesteading posts over there.

But if you are a bit of a blog-nerd like me, then grab that cup of coffee (or tea, or raw milk) and let’s get started!

My Story…

Sometimes I look back at my blogging journey and I don’t know how the heck I got here… As much as I’d like to say that I had the perfectly laid-out vision of what I wanted my blog to be before I started it, that’s simply not the case.

I started The Prairie Homestead on a whim. And honestly? I’m not even sure why… Although I suspect it had a lot to do with my need to share all that I was learning about natural lifestyles and whole foods at the time–and my friend’s and family’s eyeballs were starting to glaze over, so I figured I’d spew it all over the world wide web instead. 😉

Several months into my blogging journey, I realized that I could encourage folks everywhere that homesteading was possible–regardless of where they lived. That gave me a bit more of a direction, and my vision gradually grew into what it is today.

I’m not sure I’d recommend that people follow my exact path to “success” since it’s a pretty crazy one with a lot of detours. I’m sure there’s a faster way to do it, but I’m thankful for my unorthodox journey, since it taught me some priceless lessons along the way.

The Nuts and Bolts

(Some of the following links are affiliate links, just FYI.)

It takes a lot of programs and software to keep a blog going. I’ve developed some favorites over the years, and found tools that make my life a lot easier.

First off, if you want to be any sort of professional blogger, or make an income off of your blog, I highly recommend that you set your blog up to be self-hosted. This means that you should steer clear of platforms like Blogger or WordPress.com. Those are great for informal, family-style blogs, but you will hit some major roadblocks later on if you desire to turn your blog into a business.

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I purchase my domain name and hosting from Black Chicken Host. I’ve been with them for several years, and I cannot say enough good about this company. Their customer service is unparalleled, and they’ve saved my bacon more times that I can count when I’ve crashed my blog, run into glitches, or been hacked.

(In fact, the owner, Erin, was up late with me just last night doing some troubleshooting for me!)

I use WordPress.org as my blogging platform. This is a program that you can download for free–but it is only available if your blog is self-hosted. (This is completely different than WordPress.com–two separate programs)

I use the Genesis Framework as the skeleton for my layout. There are a lot of free themes out there, and sometimes folks have success with those, but I figured out a long time ago that sometimes it’s just better to pay a little money for something that makes your life easier.

I used to do all of my own graphic design, but part of my transformation to a full-time blogger has been to learn how to outsource. Now I very happily pay someone else to do my design. Erin from Design by Insight did all the work on my header and logo, and Mindy from Simply Designs and Lisa from The Home Life and Me tweaked the rest of the blog for me and made sure my fonts and headlines look all pretty. Those ladies are worth their weight in gold.

I use a Canon Rebel T3i with 50mm lens to shoot most of my photos. I’m still learning how to use it, but it beats the pants of the ancient point-and-shoot camera I was using prior… In the blogging world, photos are everything. Want to do just one thing for your blog? Learn how to take good photos.

If I can’t take a photo myself, I purchase a stock photo from Deposit Photos (that’s where I got the photo for this post). In the past, I used free Creative Commons photos, but the rules are kinda sketchy with those, and I don’t like to mess around with getting sued, so I now just purchase them. It’s worth the peace of mind. (And the quality is better anyway…)

I use Picmonkey.com to create and edit all of the photos that you see in my posts. It’s a free program and I find it very user-friendly. (I’m not one of the cool kids with Photoshop… at least not yet)

I use Feedblitz to manage and send out emails to my email list. This program costs me a rather hefty chunk of change each month, but it’s far more dependable than many of the free options. When someone signs up to receive my free email updates, I want to make sure they get what they requested.

One of the huge benefits of using a self-hosted version of WordPress is that you get to use magical little things call plugins. There are about a billion different plugins available for everything you can imagine, but these are a few of the ones I can’t live without:

  • Akismet–for controlling spam comments (and trust me, you’ll get thousands. Spammers are ruthless.)
  • Related Posts–this one adds the cool little links for suggested posts that you can see down there at the bottom
  • ShareThis– having social media sharing options is super important. This plugin generates the small social media buttons at the end of each post.
  • ZipList Recipe Plugin– this little beauty makes all of my recipes printable. It’s a lifesaver!
  • Genesis Simple Hooks– this one is specific to Genesis users, but it allows you to add snippets of code to the theme without a lot of headache.

How do you make Money from a Blog?

When it comes to blogging, people always seem to be the most interested in the money-side of things. Most folks can’t seem to quite wrap their mind around concept of making money from a blog, and quite honestly, I couldn’t either for the longest period of time.

Here’s the deal– blogging is NOT a get-rich-quick sort of thing. If you start a blog and then get frustrated 2 months later because you aren’t making money, you are looking at it all wrong.

And blogging costs money. Just like any business, there is a certain amount of overhead involved. It costs me hundreds of dollars per month to keep this blog running, not to mention the other equipment (like that lovely, but expensive, camera) and software I purchase throughout the year.

It took me well over a year before I saw a single cent from my blogging efforts. And even then, the paychecks were in the $10-$15 range. (And yes, I was totally excited!) There has to be something driving you to blog that’s bigger than the money… Because frankly? It’s HARD WORK with not a lot of return at the beginning.

The key to making any sort of income from a blog is multiple streams of income. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket.

Here is a breakdown of my main revenue streams.

1. eBooks Sales. This is the income stream that is nearest-and-dearest to my heart. The amount of effort I put into writing Your Custom Homestead and Natural Homestead felt like I was birthing a baby. I love being able to share this more concentrated level of content with my readers. And there is a huge piece of me in both of those books.

2. Sponsored Posts. Sometimes a company will pay me to host a giveaway for their products (like my recent Berkey Water Filter giveaway), or write a review of their stuff. These can be super time-consuming, so I don’t do a lot of them anymore, but it’s fun to collaborate with companies who have the same interests in natural lifestyles that I do (and I’ve discovered some awesome products along the way!). When you see a sponsored post, you are seeing my honest opinion of that product, and I do not share products or companies with my readers unless I believe they fit with what we are all about.

3. Banner Ads. The banner ads I have sprinkled across the blog pay me a teeny bit when someone clicks on them, and that money goes towards paying the blogging bills.

4. Affiliate Programs. Sometimes I get so excited about stuff, I just gotta share! Some of my blogging colleagues have some incredible ebooks and online classes, so I love sharing those when I get the chance, as well as the occasional ebook bundles and summits that you see from time-to time. I usually get a small cut of the sale if someone purchases after clicking on my link.

I also participate in the Amazon affiliate program, and sometimes I included Amazon links to items that I mention here on the blog or recipe ingredients.

The key to affiliate programs? Only promote things that you genuinely believe in. You wouldn’t believe how many products I’ve turned down… It is my goal to only share things with you that I love or would use myself. Period.

5. My Essential Oil Team. If you would have told me 2 years ago that I would be leading a thriving team of essential oil enthusiasts, I would have said you were nuts! But here I am… I have a blast sharing oils with people and encouraging them in more natural health solutions. I actually have a few leadership openings in my team right now–you can check that out here if you are interested.

How Do You Find the Time?

Eh… good question. It’s a crazy balancing act sometimes. I try to only work on blogging stuff when my kids are asleep, so that makes for a pretty hefty work-load during naptime. (And I guard that naptime/worktime period like a crazy person! I do not answer my phone during my “office hours,” and I always try to avoid scheduling appointments, etc, during that time of day)

I usually work about 30-45 minutes in the mornings before the kids wake up, 2-3 hours during nap time, and another hour after they go to bed at night. And sometimes if something explodes (like if the blog crashes or a fight breaks out on my Facebook page…) I have to be on the computer more, but generally, I try to avoid it.

Does blogging complicate my life? Yes it does.

But right now? It’s worth it. My blog is generating income for our family, and I enjoy the challenge of it. And I LOVE my interaction with all of YOU!

My Top 7 Blogging Tips

The professional-blogging thing isn’t for everyone. A lot of folks are content with keeping a smaller, more personal blog, and that is totally cool. But if you are wanting to grow quickly, these are my absolute best tips:

1. Use the Right Tools. If you want your blog to end up being your career, then don’t be afraid to spend a little money to get the tools/software/programs that you need. Trust me–I have an incredibly powerful frugal side, but after limping along for about 2 years, I finally decided that it was high-time to get a theme that worked, and a design that was cohesive. Spending a little cash on tools that make your reader’s experience better and your life run more smoothly is money well spent.

2. Keep it Simple and Clean. Appearances are EVERYTHING. The Internet is incredibly fast-paced, and you have mere seconds to grab someone’s attention before they click away. If I click to a blog that has super small text, ginormous paragraphs, or a cluttered design, I will not stay around to read the content.

  • Keep it as uncluttered as possible. I know it’s tempting to fill up that sidebar with every button or badge you can find, but don’t.
  • Don’t use dark colors. White text on a black/dark background is a huge no-no. When in doubt, just use white as your base color.
  • Make sure that your text is properly sized. Super small text is uncomfortable to read. Larger is better.
  • Don’t write in huge, long paragraphs. Use lots of spaces, sentence breaks, bulleted lists, and bold and italicized text.
  • Pay attention to the quality of your photos. Man oh man, when I look back at some of my first recipe photos, I totally cringe. It looks like my dog threw up on a plate in the middle of a horror movie set. If you can’t afford a fancy camera right now, focus on using lighting to your advantage. Photographing things outside is a sure-fire way to boost the quality of your photos instantly. (Yes, I haul food outside all the time to take pics of it!)

3. Don’t Take the Haters to Heart. Unfortunately, the same thing that brings lots of awesome readers to your site can also be the vehicle that brings a lot of mean people (trolls) to you as well. No matter how hard you try, or how nice you are, you WILL get mean comments and emails. It’s inevitable. My policy is to delete nasty comments/messages immediately. I don’t read them completely, and I try not to let the toxic words sink in… Remember, don’t feed the trolls. 😉

4. Be Consistent. Wanna know the magic formula to successful blogging? Consistency. Hands down. Write quality content consistently. Interact with your readers consistently. Use social media consistently. You might not see a pay-off right away, but you WILL reap the rewards of consistency in the end. I sure have.

5. Leverage Social Media. I know, it can seem overwhelming sometimes, but blogging and social media outlets (like Facebook, Google Plus, or Pinterest) go together like peanut butter and jelly. Facebook and Pinterest bring massive amounts of traffic to this blog every month. Don’t underestimate their power. It’s impossible to master every single social media site, so just choose a couple to focus on.

6. Network like Crazy. Blogging isn’t an island, and you’ll need to develop relationships with other bloggers to grow your blog and find new opportunities.

7. Be You! Wanna know why people love reading blogs? Because they love the personal experience behind them. People want to hear from YOU–your opinions, your advice, and your voice. If they wanted to read an encyclopedia’s run-down of a topic, they could. Be yourself and find your “voice.”

Sometimes when I look at my analytics accounts, I still can’t believe the numbers I see. This little ol’ blog, that I started one day on a whim, is seeing nearly one million page views each month… Becoming a blogger has been a wild ride, but I have to say it’s also been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life.

Last, but not least, I can’t talk about blogging without giving full credit to the One who has guided me and inspired me on this journey–even when I didn’t have the slightest clue what I was doing… So like I say down there at the bottom of every page on this blog, To God be the Glory.”