Backwoods Homestead

Organics and a Subsistent Life

Kate MarloweMy family lives a subsistent life through hunting, fishing, foraging and gardening. We have a journey ahead of us to reach our goal, living a 100-percent self-sufficient life. The road has been long, adventurous and continues to have many ups and downs along the way. The one thing we know for sure, we are on the path we feel is best and love all the adventure, experiences and time centered on our family that it provides.

familyThis article is designed to give you a look inside why we choose to live subsistent on organic whole foods. Many experiences have led me to a life of homesteading and learning to live a subsistent life in the backwoods. The information I am providing is a combination of views, both professional and personal.  I have included research from my career as a wellness specialist as well as personal opinion, based on my own experiences. I am not a licensed medical professional. I am not diagnosing or offering treatments to medical issues. Talk to your medical professional for any dietary prescriptions, changes and guidelines.

Choosing an organic diet shows your commitment to health. The news and media project an overwhelming flood of claims that organic, whole foods are the healthier way to eat. A large number of people have jumped on the organic wave for numerous reasons including disease prevention, treatment for illnesses, or overall health. We choose organics for all of the above. This further supports our decision in living a subsistent life and providing as much of our food intake from sources we control.


fruit and veggies

Chemicals in our food supply, including pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, are linked to a variety of health risks including certain types of cancers and hormonal disruption. Choosing organic options reduces your exposure to these chemicals. It is also possible that higher levels of nutrients are obtained from organic foods. Dr. Andrew Weil, renowned integrative medicine professional, points out that higher levels of antioxidants assist the body in preventing disease, making these nutrients a valuable part of your healthy diet. His research and knowledge is stellar; a combination of Harvard M.D. with extensive research in alternative medicine and wellness as well as personal accounts through methods used by indigenous people all over the world. I highly recommend his work (including his book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health) and suggest following this link for more reading.

The EPA conducted studies that linked pesticides to various types of cancer and nervous system disorders. Grains full of these pesticides produce the breads and cereals you eat. Produce has these same health implications in addition to the increased risk of bacterial infection due to mass marketing. There is a list of produce available that guides you in making purchases. Antibiotics in meats are linked to the epidemic of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are being seen in the medical community. The Huffington Post reported on the FDA’s statement released showing health risk posed due to antibiotics in your meat supply. Hormones in your meat supply are linked to hormone and endocrine imbalances in the body.

This information, combined with research I conducted while working at OSU Medical Center, swayed my view on organics. It’s been a gradual cycle, beginning with a switch from mainstream foods to organic options at the store. There is a book I resourced (In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan) that I recommend; reading it convinced me to go organic and guided me in doing so. This has progressed to growing our own garden and living a subsistent life through hunting and fishing. We hope to progress to 100 percent of our food being provided through self-sufficiency. We now have greater control over what goes into the production of our food source.



Organic choices in your food supply may decrease the risk of chemicals that may cause disease in the body.

Your local grocer, farmers' market, health food store and area farms offering community supported agriculture have resources you can use to find organic foods free of these chemicals. Organic foods have also been found to have higher levels of nutrients than their commercial counterparts including antioxidants, according to Weil. Getting your needed nutrition from food each day is far easier when the foods you consume are organic.

We have chosen to go one step further than what is offered by our local grocer. Hunting, fishing, gardening and foraging are gradually becoming our primary sources for healthy, whole foods. There are a couple circumstances that have proven the benefits to us. My own health has been drastically improved by adhering to an organic, whole foods diet. This in combination with health issues of other family members, either improved on or treated with organic whole foods, reinforced this way of life to both my husband and me.

Expert Insights

Be selective in your choices for organic foods. Using The Environmental Working Group’s lists for The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen will provide guidance in making the choices for organic foods, staying within your shopping budget, and eating the healthiest diet possible.

I look forward to sharing adventures with you here as well as on our website. Be sure to view my profile and connect with us at Backwoods Homestead!



Dr. Weil: Four Reasons to Grow and Eat Organic?

EPA: Pesticides and Food: Health Problems Pesticides May Pose

Huffington Post: FDA Says Antibiotics In Meat A ‘Serious Public Health Threat'

Readings on advantages and disadvantages of organic foods:

Seattle Pacific University, Organic Foods by Bethany Fong

Fantastic Farms, Advantages and Disadvantages Organic Farming: Good Things, Barriers and Environmental Effects

EcoVillageGreen, Eight Advantages and Four Disadvantages of Organic Food

Pediatrics, Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages, a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics


EWG Shoppers’ Guide

DIY Peppermint Toothpaste

Kate MarloweI have spent years searching for a great toothpaste. One that tastes good, is effective, easy on sensitive teeh and affordable. Good luck, right? A simple baking soda mixture has always been too harsh and the taste left little to be desired. Most recipes I came across contained ingredients such as guar gum and salt, either I would have to buy it just for this experiment or the thought of it didn’t sound good for either taste or health reasons.


Coconut oil, once again, is the latest craze with health benefits for the mouth, spouted off frequently in the media. OK, so I’m a supporter, even have my favorite brand of coconut oil. I use it in all my DIY toiletries such as the deodorant you read about earlier, but in my toothpaste? Do I really want to deal with the consistency? Will it soften immediately when brushing my teeth? I decided the only way to find out was try it, it’s in the cabinet, so what the heck! 

Verdict: I love it! The recipe works well and tastes great. The best part is that I have no more trouble with my sensitive teeth. I no longer take medicine for pain or have to use the bite guard I was prescribed for fractured teeth. Whether this is due to the coconut oil, lack of chemicals found in brand-name toothpastes or a combination of all, I will be sticking with this recipe. The best part is the recipe has an option to add peroxide for whitening, which hasn’t affected the sensitivity factor at all.


Pepperming Toothpaste
Yields approximately 6 ounces.

6 tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon peppermint essential oil
1/2 teaspoon xylitol (sweetener)
3 teaspoons glycerin (optional to ensure preservation)
1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide (optional as a whitener)

Mash together the coconut oil and baking soda until the oil is softened and mixes well with the baking soda. Add remaining ingredients and store in a glass container.

Place a small amount of the paste on your toothbrush. I just dipped my brush into the jar and scooped out the desired amount. Now that my husband is using the toothpaste as well, I use an old antique baby spoon to keep the toothpaste fresh.

Stay with my blog as I add new DIY concoctions from my pantry. Next, a peppermint mouthwash with a healthy aloe vera foundation. Check out more about our subsistence life at Backwoods Homestead

Living Life on the Homestead and Off the Grid

Kate MarloweTaking the plunge

The decision has been made to go off-grid. Land that functions as a homestead is purchased, and you are prepared to forgo modern conveniences in order to live a healthier, independent and simpler life. Alternative water, heat and electric sources may be set up. No longer sitting in an office at a constraining job, the search is on for home-based ways to make money. Reality hits and panic sets in, everything is being put at risk, and you will be living a hard, stressful life to forgo the rat race, or will you? Time to look at the upside, there are qualities provided by an off-grid lifestyle that are difficult to find otherwise.


Some or all of the above may be implemented, depending on your personal wants and needs for an independent life. There is a wide variety in how people choose to homestead today. The options range from apartment and urban homesteading to backwoods subsistence living and 100-percent self-reliance in the country. Choosing what fits your situation is the best way to ensure a happy and abundant lifestyle. Any changes you make to incorporate this way of life affords you greater independence, more family time and a happier connection to your world.

Off-grid Independence


Life is busy and there is always something to handle on the homestead. The difference is, activities and time are now controlled. What gets handled, when it's done and the finished result of everything on the homestead is dictated by you, the homesteader. There is no longer pressure to complete tasks when and how others dictate. You will find yourself working every bit as hard with long hours and laborious work. The end result is ownership in all that is accomplished. You can rest easy at the end of the day, knowing that control over all the ins and outs of your everyday life is yours.

There is more to handle living off-grid since utilities and daily function of the homestead are no longer others’ responsibility. Producing and maintaining a self-sufficient homestead requires diligence, time management and commitment to completing tasks. The enjoyment is that it's all self-controlled. How much independence and self-reliance you have is your decision. You can take bits and pieces of the homesteading life to make it your own; or go all the way, taking on the responsibility and work, as well as reaping the rewards of living a 100-percent self-sustained life.

Some of your utilities can be connected to the grid while others are independent and offer a cheaper means of living. There are numerous options today, for example: Your power source may come from wind, solar or a hybrid of these. An off-grid system can be customized to fit your needs, this may vary depending on your region and what works best.

There are long-term benefits to going off the grid. The cut in utility bills pays for the up-front cost of your new system within a few years. Check with your utility company, some are now set up to feed into your system and you may get paid for sharing with them. Regardless of how much you do, every step towards self-reliance offers a less expensive, more independent and simpler way of living.

Healthy on the homestead

supplies for DIY toothpaste

Homestead living often includes the production of food and other necessities for daily life. Toiletries are often made in addition to clothing items. Making and providing things as opposed to purchasing them from the mass market offers several benefits.

There is no mystery to the source of food. Organic, wholesome ingredients are better controlled offering a healthier choice in what is being consumed. A healthy variety suited to the homesteader's tastes is available since what is grown and produced is chosen rather than delegated by the market. Humane harvesting methods are in your control, the reward is knowing the animals you choose to raise for supplying a food source has lived a healthy life full of love and nurturing.

Quality ingredients may be used if toiletries are made rather than purchased as well. There are many recipes to choose from on the Internet today. Finding one that suits you is easy and the control over what is in your products is now yours. This minimizes risk to harmful ingredients and cuts downs significantly on cost. How items are made also allows freedom in choosing personalized items, scent and even color if preferred.

Homesteaders who make their own clothing reap similar benefits as well. Items may be made based on personal preference to style, size and color. Natural ingredients and dyes offer a healthier alternative to mass produced items.

Enjoying quality family time

The majority of time is spent at home working on the homestead. This is in contrast to life before choosing to homestead and live off-the-grid, when the majority of your time was spent at work rather than with family. Combine this with the fact that many homesteaders choose homeschooling for their children, providing flexibility, control over the educational experience and more time together. Networks are also available to offer social interactions with other homesteading families. Time for homestead families is no longer spent sitting in front of the TV or interacting with video games. Living in the outdoors, experiences with plant and animal life and human interaction while sharing homestead duties offer a quality of life less prevalent on the grid.

What would life be if not on the homestead?


We are on a journey, our goal being a self-sustainable life, achieving a 100-percent subsistence living. We have a long road to get where we want to be with our homestead. There are times we look back and question if this is what we really want. The days are busy and work is always waiting to be done. The answer is always clear when we see our grandchildren and think of what we wish for them. Seeing them happy, loved. healthy, and obtaining a well-rounded education. Knowing we have provided an influence for all these things makes the journey easier and the answer a resounding yes, we are doing what’s best for our family.

Additional questions come up from others when they talk to us or visit our backwoods: Do you miss modern conveniences such as technology? Wouldn't it be easier to work and make money? Would you rather just go to the store and buy that? The answers: Living off-grid and homesteading are challenges. There is never a shortage of duties that need completed. Homesteaders work hard, long and see challenges along their journey. Many find the trade-off well worth the effort. Life is simple, time is precious and the days are full of life.

Venison Chili

Kate MarloweA hearty chili kicked up with some heat. The venison makes for a lean and healthy base with the heat of the spices balanced out using celery, red onion and sour cream. A favorite in my home through winter with the recipe doubled for deer camp!



Venison Chili


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 to 3 pounds ground venison (more for thicker chili)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) can diced tomatoes with jalapeno
  • 1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chili beans, drained
  • 1 cam (15 ounces) light kidney beans, drained
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 large celery stalks, sliced
  • 16 ounces sour cream (use half in recipe and set aside remainder)
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce or Tabasco
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder (adjust for taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can (46 ounces) tomato juice (substitute water for a thinner consistency)
  • Shredded cheese, diced red onion and remaining sour cream as optional topping.


  1. Saute’ onions and peppers and celery in Dutch oven with oil until soft.

  2. Brown ground venison with onion and bell peppers.

  3. Stir in remaining ingredients.

  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cook for a minimum of 1 hour; stirring occasionally.

  5. Serve with optional toppings.

Hunting for a Life of Subsistence

Kate MarloweWe are migrating towards a subsistent life, obtaining 100 percent of our food from what is provided by the backwoods. Hunting is a necessary part of this lifestyle for us on the homestead. Many choose to forgo meat and maintain a vegetarian diet through gardening and foraging. They aren’t comfortable with hunting or raising livestock to be used as a food source. I witness debates about the cruelty of hunting, not only with other homesteaders but in the writing and blogging world and people we meet in general. Research has proven that providing your own meat as well as helping to control predators is far more humane than factory-farm practices. The end result is a healthier meat supply you can rest easy with, knowing the animal had a healthy life and was put down in a clean and far less painless manner as compared to what you end up with at your local grocer.

We are a family that's in the woods all year between the various wild game and fishing seasons. Someone in the family is always reaping the benefits of our life of subsistence, including exercise, healthy food, time in the woods and a bond with family.


My backwoodsman has lived his life hunting, fishing and trapping. His primary loves have always been deer and turkey hunting. This has changed in recent years with the introduction of feral wild hogs in our region. He now spends a great deal of his time working with dogs he has trained for baying and catching hogs.

It is a unique sport, as knives are preferred over guns for harvesting, primarily to keep the dogs safe while catching the hog. He is in the woods all year with the addition of his hunting sport to his interests, and we are lucky to have ample stock in the freezer as a result. You can read more about our hog hunting in Ohio here, and view photographs that are now conversation pieces in our home.



These skills have been passed down to all three of his children. The boys are addicted to the outdoors and country life as is his oldest daughter, who makes time for the woods with her family as she is able. All three are successful hunters and have an appreciation and respect for the sport and subsistence living. They are all avid deer and turkey hunters, including bow and gun hunts.

My older stepson is a fishing addict and spends a great deal of time on the water. The younger of the boys also enjoys hog hunts with his dad and spring turkey hunting. My stepdaughter is in with her family deer hunting every fall and enjoys recreation fishing when they are able to around their baby and work.


They have all learned the value of subsistent living and appreciate what it provides them, particularly for their families when money is tight. They know ways to provide food for the table even when it’s difficult to get it at the grocery store.


We enjoy watching the younger generation share their love for hunting and fishing sports with their families. We are the proud grandparents of two with another on the way. We look forward to watching them raised to follow in the footsteps of the Marlowe outdoor roots. We are grateful the children have taken these traditions with them and plan to pass them on with their families, helping to ensure a healthy, grounded and natural way of life wherever they wind up.


I have settled in as a fair-weather outdoorswoman. Medical issues, aversion to the cold and my affinity for a warm bed in the morning keep me from being as hardcore as the man of the house. I am not a trophy hunter and am happy with filling the freezer or weeding out the predators that cause me to lay awake at night worrying about my fur-babes when they roam. This being said, there is still ample opportunities for me to contribute to our life of subsistence.


I enjoy several early season bow hunts for deer, and I am able to get out on some gun hunts when my backwoodsman takes me on spot-and-stalk excursions. My Savage 410/22 over/under allows me to enjoy deer hunting as well as small game hunts such as squirrel and rabbit. I love coyote calling and managed to bag my first a couple years ago. I love the time with my husband in the outdoors and have enjoyed a few trips to run the dogs for boar hunts. This is an extremely physical sport so I am not often geared up for the challenge. It does provide a full day of fun with my husband and the hunting dogs when I do go.

This is just a glance inside our life and illustrates why we choose to live a subsistent life, there will be many more stories to follow. My hope is for you to at least respect the principles if not try your hand in the outdoors to experience the fulfillment and respect for where your food comes from. There are so many opportunities and choices in how to pursue a life of subsistence, finding your passion in the outdoors is an easy task. I look forward to sharing more stories with you and hearing of your adventures in the outdoors, enjoying a healthy, humane and empowering way of life. Keep up with our stories at Backwoods Homestead and sharing your adventures with us!

DIY Deodorant

Kate MarloweI won’t bore you with the reasons for using a natural deodorant, there are plenty of sites already covering this. I'm not a medical professional and am not making medical claims. Most of us are aware of the dangers of aluminum and that using a natural deodorant eliminates these concerns. The problem is, natural deodorants fall into two categories for me: They don’t work or they cause significant skin irritation. I have finally dabbled with various DIY methods and concocted my own recipe that works; the best part is the fragrance works for me and other women!

Natural Deodorant

The primary ingredient is coconut oil. I have found many of the health benefits found in headlines to be true. For the case of deodorant, it is non-irritating to the skin and has an antibacterial effect that helps the deodorant keep you smelling fresh. The oil has a low melting point so even in colder climates it melts and absorbs in to the skin quickly. You will find a variation in how hard or soft your deodorant is depending on how cool of an area you store it. Mine is in the bathroom cabinet and is soft in the summer, firm in the winter.

Ylang YlangThe oil you add for fragrance is up to you. I like the DoTERRA Ylang Ylang as it is known to be a relaxing fragrance and I find it to be appealing for a man or woman. It’s said to have a bit of aphrodisiac quality but that is for you to decide!

Fragrances that also work well and have additional antibacterial qualities include Jasmine, lavender, frankincense and melaleuca. You can also adjust the amount of drops you use, I find four to six drops works well for a light fragrance that’s not overpowering.

Now for the recipe!

6 to 7 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 to 6 drops Ylang Ylang (or preferred scent)

I use a larger bowl to mix the ingredients; you can also mix the powders together first and add the coconut oil until it’s well blended. I store mine in a small glass jar; depending on your climate, you can re-use an old deodorant stick. The summer is too warm for me to do this since the deodorant is quite a bit softer.

Make-up sponges work best for application. You can re-use them and just store it in the deodorant jar. Options that also work include a tissue, cotton ball or just use your fingers. The leftover deodorant on your hand easily rubs in as a moisturizer.

Subsistence Living in Ohio

Kate MarloweA common misconception we often come across when talking to non-homesteaders concerns our way of life. A picture of open fields, livestock grazing and large areas for gardening are often assumed. This seems to be the modern view of what homesteading is; however, homesteading is far more than this. Homesteading is a way of life, a lifestyle that encompasses self-sufficient, frugal and independent living regardless of your geographical situation. We do not fit the modern view and are taking this opportunity to share the ways in which we find success homesteading in the backwoods.

The property we live on in Southern Ohio is surrounded by wooded area and borders state forest. The homesteading life we have chosen consists of subsistence living through hunting, fishing and foraging the land we have. Resources from our backwoods allow us to make use of the dense, clay-packed soil and create fertile land to grow vegetables and herbs. We aren’t a picture of the previously mentioned vision of homesteaders, but we are living the lifestyle and utilizing the land to provide a self-sufficient homestead.

Swampy terrain combined with the forest areas surrounds our homestead. This affords us an abundant variety of nuts, greens, fruits and tubers in the backwoods. We are able to collect and dry a variety of nuts including walnuts, chestnuts and hickory. Fruits indigenous to the area are also collected as a food source such as black raspberries, papaws, elderberries and wild strawberries. Salads may be spiced up during growing seasons with dandelions, fiddleheads, ramps and cattails. Spring is our favorite time of year for foraging. We are able to search for morels, a delicacy indigenous to the area, and it provides fun hunting opportunities as well as a tasty treat!

Late summer and fall can be exciting as we have recently practiced the skill of wild ginseng hunting. Ginseng is not only edible and healthy, it can be a source of income to supplement the homestead! There is a season to adhere to and the rules in harvesting ginseng must be closely reviewed. When you get the hang of it, ginseng hunting is a fun and challenging activity to spend your time outdoors. Foraging is a skill that should be practiced, and we always adhere to the rule “if you don’t know what it is, leave it alone.”

The remainder of time spent collecting our food supply is with hunting and fishing. We are fortunate to live in a region that provides ample opportunities for both. Most of our fishing is done in the spring and finished up in early fall. Southern Ohio offers numerous types of fish for eating including crappie, bass and catfish. The lakes in our area are plentiful, and most are open for public use. Deer, turkey, wild boar, squirrel, groundhog and beaver are among the primary game we take advantage of as a local food source. There are others we have not tapped into as a regular source such as duck and goose. These require federal as well as state licensure and just not something we have ventured into as a regular hunting source.

We do practice some of the modern ideas of homesteading including gardening, raising small farm animals, and making some of our own home products for cleaning and beauty care. We live a frugal life and keep things simple, enjoying what God has provided. This all works together to provide us with an independent, self-sufficient and resourceful life on our homestead in the backwoods.

This is just a peek inside our backwoods homestead. I look forward to providing more stories about on our way of living. I am working on an extended article and will share some of the information I collect and experiences we have along the way. Future goals include creating a completely edible yard, adding new animals to our homestead and building a new home that is off-grid and 100-percent self-sustainable. Stay with me as I share our journey!

Watering the spring garden
Watering the spring garden

Deer from our hunting cam
Deer from our hunting cam

Sunset on the Backwoods Homestead
Sunset on the Backwoods Homestead