Making the Most With What We Have: Lisa’s Story

by Merissa on March 6, 2015

in Making the Most

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Making the Most With What We Have

Welcome to our brand new series here on Little House Living, "Making the Most With What We Have"! This series will showcase individuals and families all over the US (and even outside the US!) that are making the most of what they have. We know that you can be a modern homesteader without 160 acres of land and a mule so this series will share the stories of these families so we can get a peek into their lives and learn from each other.

Today we are following along with Lisa's Story...

Where Do You Live?

We are a family of four living in a small two bedroom house situated on 2.5 acres in rural northern Minnesota. We have woods on three sides of our place and a fabulous view of a wide open 270 acre field on the fourth. When we bought our house twelve years ago, it was even smaller and very plain, but I fell in love with the two mature crab apple trees and the peonies in the yard. Now our little plot of land includes a chicken coop that is home to about nineteen chickens, a vegetable modest garden, beds of perennial flowers, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and wild blackberry patches and two little apple trees in addition to those two big crab apple trees.

What Are Your Dreams and Goals for Your Homesteading Journey?

We have big dreams. Lots of dreams. Dreams of a big garden and enough fruit and vegetables to feed our family year round. Dreams of goats milk and homemade cheese. Dreams of a cold storage room to house all our supplies in one place. Dreams of a crackling wood fire in the family room. Dreams that our children will treasure their memories of a childhood spent on this place, outdoors, and in the woods. Dreams that maybe they will want to continue to live this lifestyle when they grow up and move (hopefully not too far) away.

How Are You Making the Most With What You Have?

I can everything I can get my hands on. Especially if it's free. We barter a lot. We were able to do some clean up work on a potato field nearby this fall which gave us more potatoes than we could possibly use. I traded some of them to another neighbor for a few bags of apples. Some of the apples became applesauce which got traded to another neighbor for a few dozen canning jars they had laying around. We have traded lots with our neighbors over the years.

We try not to waste anything we have. Used chicken bedding goes int the compost pile. Weeds and kitchen scraps go in their pen for food. Rabbit manure and dead leaves get raked onto the flowers and berries in the fall. Trees that blow down in the summer are cut and split for firewood. We have a wood stove in the garage and we also trade the wood with neighbors in the winter.

My husband is also very handy. I think he could make anything with a board, a Leatherman and some zip ties. He is always working on something. Which in turn gets our kids outdoors and tinkering too. I love that we are all busy.

What Are Some Things You Have Learned So Far?


We have learned to ask a lot of questions. My husband and I both constantly ask questions of or friends and family about how to fix something. What's the best way to treat a broken leg on a favorite chicken? Why are my tomatoes all rotting on the vine? Everything. If we don't know anybody with the answer to our questions, we check out books from the library. I've even purchased a few and have a nice little library of books on homesteading, gardening, keeping chickens and canning.

We have learned that pretty much anything can have a second life. Sometimes even a third or fourth. Our chicken coop is a converted ice shack. Our clothesline poles used to live on a farm a half hour from here. Flat sheets can be sewed together to make a lightweight blanket (our fitted sheets always seem to wear out first) then when the blanket is all ratty, it gets used to cover garden plants on cold nights.

I have learned that I love this life. I could never imagine living in town again. I love our room to roam. I love canning. Seeing what I can make out of random stuff. This lifestyle is an exercise in creativity every single day. Sometimes, my ideas don't pan out. sometimes, they make me feel like a genius.

Share Your Favorite Recipe!


Blueberry Raspberry Muffins 

(I added the raspberries because they were mixed together with my blueberries. It was yummy. Nothing bad happened because I went rogue and added another kind of berries)

What You Need:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange peel
1 cup (total) fresh or frozen blueberries & raspberries - do not thaw
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
1 packet of raw sugar leftover from a trip to Starbucks (optional)

Oven 400 degrees

Mix dry ingredients and add berries, stir to coat berries with flour (so they don't sink to the bottom, in case you were wondering). Make a well in the center.

Mix liquid ingredients together in a separate bowl. (If you don't have any fresh lemons or oranges, you can add a tablespoon of juice to the milk). Pour liquid into the dry stuff and stir very gently, just until its all moist.

Once the ingredients are all semi-mixed together, put a good size glob in each of 12 greased muffin cups.and pop them in your preheated oven for 18-22 minutes.

Right when they come out of the oven, I sprinkle a bit of raw sugar on top. One packet is enough for the whole batch. You could use more, or you could skip it altogether. Up to you. It's really just for looks.

Share With Us One Unique Tip That Has Helped You


My tip is something pretty silly really. I can a lot. I mean probably weekly. When my jars are all filled and sealed, I put them back into their original box for storage. For years, I labelled the front of the jar. You know, how they do at the store. That meant lots of digging around in boxes looking for that one kind of jam or pie filling or whatever. A year or so ago, it occurred to me to label the TOP of the jar. For whatever reason, I felt that it was mandatory to label the front of the jar. Then I went rogue. Now I label only the top of my jars. I'm a renegade like that.

Your Favorite Useful Homesteading Item

Canning Jars! I use them for everything.

Anything Else to Share?

We are fortunate to live in an area with abundant lakes and public land for hunting small game. We often spend our evenings and weekend afternoons out looking for berries or a few grouse or fishing, depending on the season.

We hunt, we fish, we tinker. I have yet to master any of the things I have tried, but I feel like I get better at it every year. This is a lifestyle that we consciously choose to live. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes plans don't work out. So, we just try again.

The best thing I can say is don't be afraid to fail at something. Tweak your ideas until you figure out how to make it work. And always have a few bucks stashed in the event of a colossal flop so that you can get a pizza.


Want to be a part of the Making the Most With What We Have Series? You can read about it and fill out the interview questions here.

Make sure you stop by Lisa's blog! Thank you Lisa for sharing your story with us! 

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5:30 am

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barb Wright March 6, 2015 at 6:30 am

Way to go,Lisa!! You don’t give your age,but you sound young. You also sound like us. Don’t ever give up your is alot of work,and sometimes seems impossible. I know for a fact,tho’,that the rewards far outweigh the defeats. How you ask? We have been living our dream for 38 years,with no plans to stop! I love the fact that you can all the time..I have done that for years. Needless to say,it raises some eyebrows. I don’t care..we never wonder”what’s for supper”!!!


2 Donna March 6, 2015 at 9:12 am

I know! when I finally started using a sharpie marker to mark the canning lid it made it a whole lot easier LOL!!! Maybe not as pretty but way more practical.


3 Bets March 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Lisa, what a wonderful life for you, your husband & especially your kids – A great way to grow up. I grew up in the country & we only had a small farm but did buy raw milk & raw butter from friends who lived down the road.

In reality, at 63 I’m envious that you are living a life that I didn’t realized how much I wanted until about 3 years ago.
Now I just need a small house with a little land then I’m set.


4 Barbara March 6, 2015 at 8:16 pm

Great post and great idea for a series. I look forward to reading more.


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