DIY Homemaking: A 'Made from Scratch' Life

Our Natural Family Living and Do-It-Yourself Homemaking theme continues today with a guest post from Justine at The Lone Home Ranger, who shares how she has cultivated a "made from scratch" life.

If you told me a few years ago that I'd be making homemade crackers, I would have laughed at such a preposterous notion. I've always loved cooking, using seasonal and local ingredients; however, when I worked outside the home, I was focused on trying the newest recipes in glossy magazines. I daydreamed about the fancy tools I would one day buy from the dog-eared pages of the Williams-Sonoma catalog. I didn't have time to ponder making my own pantry staples, and I lacked the confidence to try baking. Failure was not an option on the table.

When I made the choice to stay at home, our lives slowed down in many ways. As a homesteader, I've learned to embrace failure as a part of everyday life and, even better, my four-year-old daughter knows that mistakes are part of the learning experience. We welcome new challenges and are confident that with a little hard work, we can figure out how to make anything together. She rolls up her sleeves, turns to me, and says "Let's get to work." Our hands are our favorite tools.

What we eat has perhaps changed more than anything else. Last year, I found The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook: Heirloom fruits and vegetables, and more than 100 heritage recipes to inspire every generation and became fascinated with their return to such basic recipes, made with real food ingredients, that have been passed down through generations. I became inspired to try my own family's recipes. I started small by calling my mom to get her grandmother's high-rise yeast bread recipe. The kids helped me with kneading. Playing with dough and flour was a great sensory experience for them. I succeeded on the very first try and gained confidence.

Since then, my repertoire of homemade foods has expanded to yogurt, cheese, and even crackers! The Urban Farm Handbook: City Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading, and Preparing What You Eat has been a source of great inspiration to me, both in the guidance it brings and in showing me that each idea is an opportunity for change, not a standard by which I'll be judged. It's fun to tackle new challenges when I'm not pressured to fit into the mold of the perfect homesteader.

I see such a sparkle in my preschooler's eye as we sit down to a snack of all homemade foods. She daydreams about new foods she wants to try making; it's no surprise to me that jam and fruit leather are high on her list. We are also growing our first vegetable and herb garden this year, starting with seedlings in the office. The simple joy my kids gain from watching the seeds grow into plants and playing in the dirt brings peace to my home and lets me know we are on the right path for us.

Justine Uhlenbrock is an urban homesteader, a minimalist mom, a writer, and a doula-in-training living with her husband and two young girls in Arlington, Massachusetts. She is passionate about sustainable living, health, frugality, and her quest for real food and family heirloom recipes. She blogs at The Lone Home Ranger.