Over the past 20 years of homesteading (shhh, we won't add the other years all together, okay) I've compiled my top favorite homestead-related gifts I've received. These may be items to put on your wish list, share it with your “santa”, purchase for the homesteader in your life, or start saving to purchase later. Some of these are the result of having different types/models that weren't so great (so you know what to avoid) while others are so fabulous I want you to be on the lookout for them too.
Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #222 My Top 9 Homestead Gifts to Make Life Easier of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen and life you want for your family and homestead.
I've had a pressure canner for years, but my husband is still getting gold stars when I opened up the All American 21 and 1/2 quart pressure canner four years ago. I'd had a smaller Murro pressure canner for sixteen years that held 4 quart jars or 7 regular mouth pints, and it got the job done, but with the ever increasing garden and children (my son entered his teen years) I was thrilled to get the All American that allowed me to double stack pints (19 regular mouth) or 7 quart jars at once! That means almost triple the amount of jars for pints I could do in one RUN!
If you're considering a pressure canner (and you should be) you'll want to read this before purchasing as your stove type does dictate what kind of pressure canner you can use if you have a glass top. How to Choose the Best Pressure Canner
While I already had my beloved cast iron skillets, I have two specific cast iron items for you in this list. First up, this Lodge 5 quart cast iron Dutch oven specifically for cooking outdoors with. It has three legs so you can easily position it over top of wood or coals and the flat rimmed lid to hold your coals in place. We use it camping, in the summer when it's hot, in the winter when the power is out, on the wood stove… pretty much all the time and anywhere.
Be warned, you'll likely want a few others, we ended up with 3 total in different sizes to accommodate cooking entire meals and large things like roasts or big pots of stew.
Second on cast iron is my loaf pan. Seriously, you'll never go back to regular metal loaf pans after a cast iron pan. It does something magical to bread and my sandwich loaves NEVER stick in the cast iron loaf pan. If you've ever had cast iron that food stuck to, it most likely wasn't seasoned correctly. This post will teach you How to Season Your Cast Iron correctly, and then check out How to Wash Your Cast Iron to Maintain Seasoning.
Yes, a rolling pin made the list. A wooden rolling pin. For a wedding gift I'd received a marble rolling pin, which sounds great and should help with rolling out pastries, etc. But it didn't. I couldn't get flour to stick to it and therefore many of my doughs stuck to it.
Two years ago I finally got a plain wooden rolling pin and will never go back to any other type again.
End of this part of the story.
When I first started making soap I would line boxes and bread pans. You can get by when you have too. But it quickly became clear I would not be going back to store bought soap and I wanted a mold with a silicone liner so I didn't have to cut and line my makeshift molds with butcher paper anymore.
I purchased this 2 pound soap mold as an early Christmas present one year (yes, I do sometimes buy myself gifts) but I needed it to make Christmas gifts (see how easily that rationalization slips in?). It was a very inexpensive mold but I've had it going on two years and still adore it.
Want to learn how to make soap and get one of my favorite soap recipes? Click here for How to Make Soap at Home- Beginner’s Guide to Soap Making
There's nothing more I enjoy than reading through an old cookbook, preferably 1930's or earlier. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was two years ago my mother-in-law gave me my husband's great-grandmother's cookbook. But one of the most fun things was inside the cookbook were tucked old newspaper clippings and hand written letters where they'd shared favorite recipes back and forth after moving a state away from the family farm.
Old cookbooks only call for real from scratch ingredients, you won't find a can of condensed soup this or that in the ingredient list or a boxed cake mix. And when you get some really old ones, they don't even give oven temperatures in degrees, they just say a moderate hot oven (usually these were wood cookstoves).
Below is a picture and one of the recipes I made and shared from the cookbook my mother-in-law gave me. Fish Chowder Recipe- Great-Grandma’s from 1931 & Keto friendly
You can find older and vintage cookbooks sometimes at garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores and of course antique stores. You may be so lucky as to find some family members have older cookbooks that they don't use and if they know you're interested (thanks Mom) they'll pass them to you.
I LOVE books. From the time I could read as a young girl books have been one of my near constant companions. In that era before children, I used to read a book a day on the weekends. I'm a fast reader and that helps but now a days I read about a book a week in fiction (historical fiction is my favorite) and will listen to a non-fiction book (sometimes read) one every two weeks.
I buy books as gifts a lot. They're one of my favorite things to give and receive… and write.
One of the reasons I like old cookbooks is because they don't use processed convenience foods in their ingredient lists and that's also what you'll find in my two cookbooks, The Made-from-Scratch Life and Hand Made: the Modern Guide to Made-from-Scratch Living
Each of these two books have different recipes, The Made-from-Scratch Life has homemade laundry soap and cleaners along with recipes and Hand Made has homemade soap, salves, herbal teas, and more recipes (in case you were wondering the differences between them).
I've been known to sit and go through a cookbook in an afternoon like many people would a magazine. Weird?
A few of my other favorite more “current” cookbooks is actually this one, I've liked all of the main dish and slow cooker recipes we've tried (especially when I'm trying to keep sugar at a minimum) but even my kids enjoy and ask for the Buttah Chicken and Spinach Lasagna (yes, they like the spinach one!). Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook: Eat Up and Slim Down with More Than 350 Healthy Recipes
My favorite gift this year
Ever had something you've been working on for a really long time?
This past year I wrote a new book. It was a very different experience than my first two books. One, it's all about growing and raising your own food, but…
It also has full color photos!
Which means I got to experience my very first photo shoot on our homestead back in June when my publisher sent my editor and a photographer up.
Let me say this, I have no desire to ever be a model as a job. I loved having them here and getting to show people easy ways to increase growing their own food and how to do it, but I've bucked hay, shoveled out chicken coops and stalls, planted gardens, pruned, helped build sheds, stacked firewood, but after 11+ hours of doing photos, I WAS exhausted.
Legit sat down in the chair at 7:30 pm and was out. Next thing I knew my husband was waking me up, “You probably just want to go to bed now,” and it was 9 at night. I slept soundly until 6:30 the next morning.
For the record, I never go to bed that early.
This book had a lot of charts, I wanted easy references not only for readers, but myself, on how many plants to plant per person, when to plant them based on seed starting, planting outdoors AND spring and fall plant times, crop rotation, companion planting, and natural pest/disease control. While I provided all the documentation and research to create these charts, I am not a formatter.
Last week I texted my editor asking if she knew when I'd be getting my author copies. (It really is similar to birthing a baby, you wait MONTHS before you get to see what this thing you've been working on so hard looks like). She texted back she'd look it up but soon.
Not even kidding, the next hour UPS showed up in our driveway and the driver's first words before going to the back of the truck was, “You wrote another book didn't you?”
“Yep, yep I did.”
And when I held the actual book in my hand, got to flip through the pages and see the charts, the photos, the worksheets, I was a bit overcome.
Twenty years of gardening went into this book. Over a decade of discovering healing from eating organic and naturally grown food…
… I firmly believe that if every person, every household was raising some of their own food, we would see a vast shift and change.
This book is my goal is to have every household growing at least one item of their own food.
To know the differences it will make and the help it's going to bring people, well, it felt like Christmas morning a few weeks early.