Category Archives: Healthier Living

As we age our health becomes a bigger concern. We need to take our health back into our own hands. We can do this by eating more real food, getting more exercise, and keeping our brains active. Learning safer ways to guard our physical, mental, and spiritual health gives us the power to stand up for ourselves.

Excuses: Finances

Lack of funds is probably the biggest excuse holding people back. This is true across the board for most things in life. Unless you have unlimited spending freedom, you are paying close attention to where your money goes. That is very much the case now, where the cost of everything has risen so dramatically.

I am no different. I hate spending money. I always feel that an emergency is right around the corner, and I should save for that. Also, as I get older it seems more difficult to make extra money. I can’t work as many hours as I used to and again, the cost of everything has gone up so drastically in the last couple of years that an extra fifty dollars in the paycheck doesn’t make a difference. So how do you take the little money that you have and put it to the best use?

1. Learn about the best ways to preserve food. I put this first because you need to know safe ways to preserve and store what you buy, grow, or raise. There are many forms of preservation, water bath canning, pressure canning, dehydrating, fermenting, and freezing are common. Putting in the work or money to have your food without the knowledge of how to safely preserve and store it, will be wasteful and potentially harmful to your health. Safe canning of fruits, vegetables, and meals gives you options that require no refrigerator or freezer. Should the electricity go out, you have healthy food on the shelf.

Please learn the safety methods of canning. There are two respected sources for canning recipes. Ball is a very well-known name. Bernadin is the sister company to Ball. If you see either of those, you will know the recipes and proper procedures are followed. Another is the USDA. I have found that follows Ball tested recipes and the USDA recipes can be found at Both sites have great recipes, but the books contain many more and are nice to have on hand.

2. Watch the store sales flyers for things that you use often and buy extras of the staples that you need when they go on sale. I’m not talking about hoarding like the great toilet paper fiasco of 2020. I mean buy an extra baking soda, or pepper, or any shelf stable item next time you go shopping so that you have one on hand. Once you have made the investment into a pressure canner, you can also take advantage of sales on meats, beans, soup ingredients, and other healthy meals. Buy the ingredients when they are on sale and can them up to have on the shelves.

3. Buy in bulk. Many grocery stores now offer a bulk aisle or family size packages of common items. This can be a tricky area to navigate if you don’t know what to look for. Always check to make sure the whole bulk package cost less than the same amount if bought individually. Some stores are sneaky this way. For example, a five pack of Kraft Mac and cheese is on sale for $4.99 this week at our local store. That is a really good deal because they are normally $1.25 a box. But I have seen four packs on sale for $5.00 and people grabbed them up. That is not a sale, that is regular price disguised as a sale. The big box warehouses like Costco and Bjs are good for this. Know your prices. Shop smart not scared.

4. Will the cost of goods and services continue to climb? The general consensus is yes. Decide whether it is smarter to invest money now on things that you will NEED or keep that money in the savings account. Sometimes it’s better to spend then save. A few years ago, I looked into a freeze dryer. A small one would have run me about $600. I decided it was not worth the money and did not purchase it. I regret that decision. They are now over double that cost. That $600 did nothing in my savings account. It would have served me better in the form of a freeze dryer.

5. Trim all the excess spending. This is spending that is almost invisible but adds up over time. Do you stop regularly at a coffee shop and spend $4 or $5 dollars on one coffee? That could add up to $25 or more a week, $100 a month. Take that saved money and pay down some of your other bills. Are you guilty of stopping at the grocery store almost daily as you drive by? One trip into the store means $20 usually, even if you only needed 1 item. Plan your purchases and resist those impulse buys. How many online subscriptions do you have for sites that have become unnecessary? Go through your online and streaming subscriptions. If you don’t need/use them regularly, then cancel for now. You can always resubscribe at a later date.

If saving for a big purchase or keeping your hard earned dollars in your pocket has become a priority, it’s time to sit down and make a list of where your money goes. You might be surprised at all the money you are throwing away.

I’m going to leave you with these five ways to begin kicking the financial excuse to the curb. It’s time to prioritize and cut back on the frills that we have all come to see as necessities. We can and have lived without them in the past. We can do it again in the future if necessary.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Clicking on them will bring you to a product that earns me a small commission if you purchase. It does not cost you any additional money but helps me earn a little from writing. Thank you.


What are Your Excuses?

We all make excuses for failing to get things done in life. This post is a prime example. My goal is to get one published every week by Friday. It is now Tuesday morning, and I still haven’t gotten it finished. I could give you a long list of excuses but quite simply, I did other things instead of sitting down to write. I did not make this a high priority. Now I feel rushed and stressed out.

Is this you? Are you hoping that life will go back to being plentiful and affordable? Are you choosing busy work over learning a new skill? Have you put off starting a journey that is unfamiliar and a tad bit uncomfortable? Has self-resiliency been pushed low on your priority list? Let’s take a realistic look at this.

What are your excuses?

I can’t grow my own food because… I live in an apartment, I have no time, I have no money, I kill everything.

I’m too old.

I can’t get down on the ground or have other health problems.

I don’t want to look like a crazy conspiracy person.

If any of these excuses sound familiar to you, then know that you are not alone. I have heard them from many friends, family, and from my own mouth. Some are very real. Some are what they are; merely excuses.

Finances, where we live, and health restrictions are true obstacles, but they can be worked with. Would you rather learn some basics now, enjoy the successes and get the experimenting out of the way, or wait until things get more expensive in the grocery store and you have little choice?

I will address the easiest excuse on the above list. “I don’t want to look like a crazy conspiracy theorist.”

Gardening has now become linked to conspiracy. That in itself is crazy. Growing up I remember going to my aunt’s house, one of my Italian aunt’s. We played on the pavement because the city backyard was a fenced in garden. I never thought she was crazy. She wanted fresh tomatoes to cook down into gravy. When we moved out of the city my father made a garden. It was his refuge. We were not allowed in there, but we sure loved to eat what he grew. There was no conspiracy. It was about the taste of a fresh tomato.

Through the years I’m sure you have noticed that houses have gotten bigger but the area around them has gotten smaller. People spend more time in climate controlled homes and less time outside in the fresh air. Manicured lawns replaced vegetable gardens. People lost a connection to where their food comes from.

In the last few years, the disconnect has grown even bigger with the arrival of online ordering and direct to your door delivery. Imagine vegetables and meat appear with the push of few buttons on the phone. This is the false reality that society lives in now. This makes us look like crazy people because we want to grow and raise some of our own food.

So how will you respond to the sighs and eye rolls when you announce that you are going to grow something this year? Will you let them dissuade you? Will you give up before beginning? I say no! Don’t give in. Don’t give up!

Suggest making it a family project and enlist their help. Make it about the time together. Start small with something like an indoor herb garden.

Whole kits can be purchased on Amazon. They have many varieties. They are tasty and many have medicinal benefits as well.

If you have a balcony, porch, or area that gets full sun try some potted cherry tomato plants. They don’t take up much space and there is no need to dig up the landscaping. They make great snacking tomatoes or a bright topping for salads. Pick up some organic potting mix, we like Espoma products, when you purchase plant starts from a local nursery. Don’t forget some containers that are big enough to allow for growth. Five-gallon buckets can often be found free at grocery store bakeries. Used cat litter containers also work well. Drill multiple holes in the bottom to allow for good drainage. When purchasing the soil, make sure you buy soil made for pots. Regular garden soil will compact making it difficult for the roots to grow.

We all start somewhere. The key is to start. Imagine the flavor of fresh picked cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and chunks of mozzarella drizzled with olive oil. There isn’t any conspiracy there, just fresh food grown with your own two hands. You can do this.

I will leave you with this for today and I’ll tackle another excuse in my next post. It is now Tuesday afternoon and even though I didn’t reach my goal for last Friday, I will also not give up. I want to bring as many “over the hillers” along with me as possible.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Clicking on them will bring you to a product that earns me a small commission if you purchase. It does not cost you any additional money but helps me earn a little from writing. Thank you.

Flour and Water Pride

Is it weird to be proud of flour and water? It isn’t when that flour and water makes an active sourdough starter.

Recently I read a post in a Facebook group from someone who was having a hard time getting her sourdough starter to become active. She said it was not doubling like it should when it was at its peak. She explained her steps, when she had started the process, and her disappointment. She was ready to throw in the towel and abandon this healthier way of bread making.

The responses from other members of the group were well meaning but very technical. For anyone who is new to working with sourdough and floundering this is not what they want or need. Simplicity is the key. I know this because.

I was in her shoes a few years ago. Yes, I jumped on the sourdough bandwagon during c*vid. After all there was no place to go, the store shelves were bare, and I was going a bit stir crazy. I realized I needed another skill in my new “independence from the norm” treasure chest. I took out every sourdough book in the CW Mars library, both print and digital. I read, I studied, I watched professional bread makers create artisan loaves so beautiful they were like works of edible art. Then I broke out the flour and filtered water and began.

I weighed everything out precisely, mixed it in a mason jar and watched all day. Patience is not one of my strong character traits. I fed it again in the evening and hoped it would be bubbly in the morning. It was not.

My tastebuds were waiting for sourdough bread like I had tasted on a high school class trip to Spain, but instead I was staring at a jar of the clay mixture that I used to make with the kids. I hit the books and You Tube once again.

Every set of directions was complicated and said to discard half of what was in the jar. I didn’t know any better, so I took out half and threw it away. This went on for days or maybe weeks before I started questioning why I was wasting so much of this precious substance that was now very hard to come by. My starter had also not gotten all big and alive. I was getting discouraged. Then it happened. I found a recipe for waffles using the discard.

No more storebought frozen waffles for this house. No more prepackaged mix that contained a bunch of who knows what. I could whip up a bunch all at once and freeze them for later. It was the accomplishment that I needed to stick with it.

Eventually I was able to move on to English Muffins. Not the prettiest to look at but they were homemade, and they tasted just like the famous brand.

As the starter got stronger, I finally was able to make the most delicious dessert chocolate bread, rolls, and sandwich bread.

Then summer happened.

I put my first starter in the refrigerator and forgot about it. I tried to revive it in the fall but, Yeah, I killed it good. I started all over, but since I was back to work the constant feeding, discarding, and baking when it was at its peak was too much. My poor starter never stood a chance. I killed another one.

When Homesteading Family held a sourdough challenge, I had to participate. I was still craving the taste of real sourdough. Carolyn teaches using a bowl instead of a jar and there is no science degree needed. Simple measurements and simple directions.

I did it! I had accomplished a loaf of sourdough sandwich bread.

There was no turning back. I have returned to using a quart mason jar with a coffee filter on top because the bowl was taking up valuable countertop space. It is the easiest and perhaps the laziest method I can think of. A heaping 1/4 cup organic all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup filtered water. Mix it well with a wooden spoon, cover with the coffee filter, and throw it back in the corner.

When the jar gets too full, I pour half into another clean mason jar which lives in the fridge until I can make something that does not need fully active starter. When I pour out half, I transfer the countertop starter into a clean jar and work the feedings and baking around my schedule. Easy peasy.

So, if you think that you cannot balance sourdough and real life stay tuned. I will write a separate post giving you tips to get you on your way. If I can do it with my crazy schedule, so can you. Soon you will have Flour and Water Pride too.

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Our Journey Begins

Ten years ago, if asked how I envisioned this time in our lives I would say. WE are going to travel. WE are going to go on long drives and if we get tired, we will find a place to stay for the night. WE are going to be free spirits with a home base to return to when we needed stability.

I never envisioned the chaos and uncertainty of the last couple of years. I could never have imagined being stopped while crossing state lines that we have crossed our whole lives. I never anticipated a life where grocery stores were not freely entered, and shelves were bare. It was a rude awakening to see just how dependent we had become on convenience and how lax we had let ourselves get on preparedness. These were some of the events that grounded our free spirit dreams and changed the course of our lives forever.

The state of fear that panicked some, frightened us for a few months but did not paralyze us. We watched as people fought over food and household supplies. Warehouses were running on short staff or shut down and trucks had nothing to deliver. The news said this was short term, just long enough to “flatten the curve.” This did not look short term.

Long term shortages began to look real. Reality had given us a wakeup call. Nowhere in our life’s handbook was there a chapter on nearing retirement age and having to learn how to live without modern convenience. I would have remembered that chapter. It was time to take that call seriously.

We decided to use the extra money that was being handed out to move our lives in a completely different direction from the masses. We increased the main vegetable garden area. We experimented growing different vegetables in pots. I began studying herbs and planted a medicinal herb garden so that we will not have to rely on over the counter or pharmaceutical drugs.

With shelves remaining bare and prices rising I began sourcing milk and meat locally. I still bought from the store when I ran across a sale, so that we could build up reserves, but I vowed to never become dependent on the commercial food system again.

We traveled the internet instead of the countryside. I became a regular visitor to Carolyn and Josh Thomas, Melissa K Norris, and Jill Winger’s websites. I studied up on cooking from scratch, food preservation methods and we learned as much as possible about increasing our food production.

With all the free time at home I ventured into bread making. It was not always pretty or edible as bread but with the help of my dehydrator, I was able to stock up on breadcrumbs from the disasters.

When yeast became impossible to find I jumped onto the sourdough bandwagon. Over the last couple of years, I have managed to kill a couple of starters, but I think I am getting the hang of it now.

As life appeared to begin to return to semi normal, we did not revert back to our convenient life. We continued to expand our growing area and our knowledge.

It is hard to believe that our journey into self-reliance, self-sufficiency, or food independence, which ever term you choose to use, began just three years ago. WE have made huge advances and show no sign of waning. WE cannot do all that we would like, but as economic stability continues its downward spiral, WE are taking a proactive stance when it comes to the control over our own lives. It is never too late, and you are never too old to take responsibility for your own welfare. Start small if you have to but start. The peace of mind it brings is worth a lot more than the conveniences you may have to give up.

What and Why, Not How

When I came up with the idea for this blog, I thought I could help other people who are around my age see that they are not too old to live a homesteading lifestyle. In my mind I was going to “teach” them.

I thought it would be easy to write.

I was very wrong.

I have struggled from day one to find topics where I felt proficient in what I was writing about. Even when I had ideas for topics, I would either sit here staring at the computer screen or find anything else to do, rather than write. When I did manage to get a few posts written and published, they did not feel authentic. They felt then, and feel now, forced.

The last post that I was working on was about making from scratch pancake mix in a jar and having it stored on the shelf. It should have been such an easy thing to write about, but it wasn’t. It still sits unfinished and unpublished because…

I couldn’t find the original recipe for the dry ingredients. The recipe card that I had taped to one of the jars made no sense. The amount of ingredients added up to more than what would fit in one jar. What had I done to make these jars? I had lost the “how” to make a simple pancake mix in a jar. Not a very good teaching example.

So as per usual, I beat myself up pretty bad over failing. Just when I think I know what I’m doing, I don’t. I don’t have a clue. I suck. I resigned myself to the fact that this was not for me. I gave up, or so I thought

Write about what you know. Don’t try to copy what others are doing. Just sit and write.” It was a nagging thought that would not go away. So here I sit, fingers moving on the keyboard, typing all kinds of gibberish that I will go back and edit out, but I am writing. I will not give up.

I am changing the focus for Over the Hill Homesteading. It will not be the actual homesteading. It will be the “what” and the “why” that has brought me to this way of living. I will write in more of a story telling form instead of step by step. It is much more natural for me to tell you a pancake mix in a jar story then give you a step-by-step lesson in what to do. Especially because some days I really have no idea what I am doing.

I still hope to inspire and encourage you to explore this way of living. However, I will leave the “how-to” instructions to those who have the experience to guide you, and me, in the right direction.

*By the way, I did find the original recipe while searching for something else. She is much more an expert than I. I encourage you to make some jars and have them on your shelf. They are great and have none of the garbage that the prepackaged mixes do.

The Skill of Cooking

The garden is done for the year and the preserving is done, other than some tomatoes that are in the freezer. I have no chickens or livestock to process or care for over the winter, so lately I have been overcome by the feeling of this is no homestead. This is just old people getting ready for winter in the northeast. Frankly I am having a difficult time thinking of subjects to write about because I’m not doing any homesteady things. What do modern homesteaders do during the winter months? They slow down some, enjoy the accomplishments of the past year, and plan for the next. They take this time to work on inside projects and learn some new skills.

There are a lot of skills that I want and need to learn. Being that I just started getting serious about living this life, I am a floundering newbie. There are so many basic skills to work on, and I am way behind. You all are probably better equipped to teach me some things.

For instance, real meals from raw ingredients were something I made, but not often. I believed that a home cooked supper was a box of Hamburger Helper and a canned or frozen store-bought veggie, or a can of condensed soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. It wasn’t take-out so I thought that was home made. I grew up eating a lot of the prepacked chemical sh@t storm foods that were convenient for my mom to cook. She worked outside the home, and I have come to believe that cooking was not really something she enjoyed. A trait she handed down to me. THERE I ADMITTED IT!

Cooking is not something that I like to do, especially after working outside all day or coming home from my job in the late afternoon. But it is a skill that I am desperately working on so that I am eating as little processed food as possible.

One of the ways I learned how to make that happen is to get the main part of the meal cooking in a crockpot and any veggies peeled and cut so that I can pull them from the refrigerator, and just add them to the crockpot or put them on to boil, bake, roast etc. I am also trying to make enough at once to have leftovers one night and freeze the rest for a later date.

Another strategy is to plan a day off as a cooking day. I prep two meals to make along with regular chores like making bread. One meal is for that day. It’s usually Sunday, so a football game type meal that can be simmered for hours. Chili, spaghetti sauce, or a hearty soup is always good during the winter. Crock Pot Pasta Fagioli, got us through three weekday meals and enough frozen for a future lunch for me. I added a fresh baked breadstick, and it was delicious.

While the Sunday meal is cooking, I will make something like lasagna that can be cut into serving sizes and frozen. When there is only two people in the house a 9X12 lasagna is a lot of meals. To get it all done and still have time to sit with my feet up for a few minutes, I get up close to my regular time and get prepping as soon as I have my first sip of coffee.

Another thing I added to the playbook, and this is a game changer, I have learned to safely can meals. I’m talking open a jar, pour into a pan, heat, and eat. Of course, things like rice, quinoa, or noodles, can be cooked to go with what I have canned, making it a full meal, but sometimes it’s whatever I grab from the closet.

Depending on how many people you need to regularly feed you can make these meals in pint or quart size jars. Plus, these meals are shelf stable, so they are not taking up freezer or refrigerator space. BONUS! I learned how to make some of the tastiest meals from Caroline Thomas at Homesteading Family. They have tons of videos on You Tube, a blog, and a regular podcast that are free. They also have a paid membership that is filled with courses and a very active community.

If you are a person like me that struggles with a dislike of one of the main pillars of homesteading, good healthy meals cooked from scratch, I invite you to challenge yourself. It’s never too late to learn this new skill. You will feel better once you stop eating the chemical laden foods from the grocery store shelves. You will also feel more food secure, knowing you can throw together some basic ingredients to create a healthy meal. Make 2023 the year of real food.

Growing Herbs

I have grown to love herbs and learning how to grow them at my home to makes our own remedies, skin care, and nutritious food makes them all the more beautiful.

That was not always the case. I was afraid to use them medicinally. I thought I was going to poison someone. It was during 2020 while stuck at home that I realized as much as I love essential oils, (I am studying to be a Certified Aromatherapist), I could not use them if I could not get them. I took to the internet and discovered I can grow my own herbal remedies. In fact, I already had been. I just didn’t know it.

Wild Violet and Dandelion
Mullein Leaf
Stinging Nettle

These four herbs were growing in my yard all on their own. There is a good chance they are growing in yours also. Once I learned the many benefits of these wild plants, I was hooked on growing as many plant-based remedies as possible.

I began with Calendula (Calendula officinalis) It is also known as Pot Marigold. Do not confuse it with the Marigolds that you find for sale at garden centers, those are not edible. Instead find a packet of seeds that contain the Latin name Calendula officinalis and get them planted in a warm sunny location. They will bring you these beautiful, aromatic, edible, blossoms. Picking the flowers signals the plant to create more. Pick some for you and leave some for the bees. The plant will continue to bloom. How cool is that? At the end of the season, the flower heads dry up and turn brown. It is at that time you can harvest seeds for the following year or let the seeds drop to self sow. I have them popping up in areas of the garden where the seeds were blown or carried away by critters.

The spring of 2021 I went a little crazy with my new herb garden. I am not a confident gardener so, just in case I killed the plants I wanted some insurance. I started two of everything. I planted Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Sage (Salvia officianalis), Bee Balm (Monarda), Catnip (, and Thyme. Everything sprouted but not everything flourished. The Catnip got eaten. The bee balm overtook the thyme and killed it. Still, I was happy with the herbs I was able to harvest that first season.

Then came spring of 2022. I went out every day to watch the new growth peeking through the soil. Anyone who knows plants knows the herbs that I planted are spreaders.

Peppermint had traveled under the purple Tulips and around the Roses, to establish itself along the foundation. It also returned in the spaces where I had originally planted it. I was going to have a Peppermint jungle on my hands.

My Sage and Bee Balm also came back twice as big. The sage did wonderful. I was able to harvest enough to make tincture, add it to tea blends, and have a supply in the kitchen for cooking. The Bee Balm did not fare as well. It developed powdery mildew pretty early in the season. I cut it all back and threw the leaves into the fire pit. It did regrow but despite the draught conditions of this summer, the second growth also developed the powdery mildew. I cut it all back and dug the plants up. I will find new seeds and a new location for the spring of 2023.

As for Thyme, I threw the seeds I had into a railing box that we place on the deck. It grew full and healthy along with some Sweet Marjoram, Green Onions, Rosemary, and some volunteer trailing Petunias. As the weather turned cold, I debated what to do. I decided to try repotting it and bringing it inside for the winter. Will it grow? I don’t know. Reading up on bringing outside plants inside I haven’t found too many positive outcomes, but I won’t know unless I give it a try myself. I’ll keep you updated. I also brought a huge potted peppermint plant inside.

Yes, I planted more peppermint

Growing and using plants for our health has been a life changing experience. As I learn more about plant medicine my sense of ease increases. There is no need to run to the store for Ibuprofen or Tylenol. I have jars of White Willow Bark Tincture and Glycerite made up. There is no stomach upset or damage to the liver and kidneys. This is a very good feeling. I want to share that feeling with everyone who wants to listen and learn. As our world gets more and more wonky, I think it is important information to have.

You can grow some of your own herbs where you live too. You don’t have to have a large property to begin taking control of your own health and wellness. A balcony or porch during summer months or a sunny window in winter. Begin using herbs every day. Add black pepper and turmeric to your meals to help with inflammation. Make a cup of chamomile tea in the evening to relax before bed. It’s cranberry season. Grab some organic ones at the store and make your own unsweetened juice. So many of the herbs and spices that we use regularly have amazing healing properties. Don’t be afraid like I was. But a word of warning, once you start down the herbal path, you might never look back.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. I cannot diagnose or treat any medical condition. I am a person who loves talking to people about herbs, essential oils, and other natural approaches to individual wellness. Do your own research and consult your medical professional before using new herbs.

Take Time to Reevaluate

Two challenges that need to be addressed when it comes to being more self-resilient at an older age are managing time and energy levels. Every day has the same number of hours, why is it that some days you just can’t seem to get it all done?

As we get older, we move a little slower, need breaks more often, ache a little more, and don’t have the stamina we did when we were 30 or 40. It is a fact of nature. We age.

Does this mean we have to give up? No, it does not. It means we have to reevaluate and recalculate what we are trying to accomplish.

If you live in a cold weather zone, take this indoor slow down time, to do some soul searching and planning. Was there an area of your home this past season that got neglected or became too difficult to handle? Did you risk your health and safety by trying to do it all yourselves? Were these temporary conditions because of injury, or the new more mature you? Could it be time to downsize a little?

There is no shame in honesty. As we age, our bodies change. The key is to learn how to adjust with these changes.

Think about getting smaller livestock or smaller herds. Consider raised bed or container planting instead of in the ground. Think outside the box.

A small hoop house extended the growing season this year. Sweet red pepper plants were grown in containers outside for summer but are back under the hoop house and the peppers are ripening nicely, in November.

Stacking pallets would raise the height of the containers so less stooping. What a back saver that is.

Put chairs around the garden areas. When you need to take a break, take a break. Leave the rat race behind and learn to live at a more contented slower pace. There are no bosses looking over your shoulder here.