Green Promise

Carrot Cake Fruit Leather

RachelInspired by my mom's famous carrot cake, I came up with this yummy, carrot cake, fruit leather recipe. It's got the sweetness, spice, and textures of a classic carrot cake without all the calories, and it's totally transportable. It's a great snack and a great gift. Your house will smell fantastic, too!

Carrot Cake Fruit Leather Recipe:

Prep: 20 min

Dehydrator Time: 8-12 hours (depending on your machine or if you use your oven instead)


• 1 20oz can crushed pineapple
• 1 cup steamed and pureed carrots
• 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/4 cup raisins
• 1/4 cup maple syrup


1. Combine pineapple, coconut, walnuts, raisins, and maple syrup. Pulse in a food processor about five times. Return to bowl.

2. Stir in pureed carrots.

3. Spread mixture 1/4-inch thick onto the fruit roll-up trays that go with your dehydrator. Dehydrate according to your machine's directions for fruit leather, typically 8 hours, or until fruit leather is no longer shiny or tacky.

*Oven Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 150 F.

2. Spread the mixture onto a silpat on a cookie sheet 1/4-inch thick for up to 12 hours, until fruit leather is no longer shiny or tacky.

3. Cut finished fruit leather with a pizza cutter and roll it up with waxed paper. Enjoy!

carrot cake fleather

Rachel is a gardener, beekeeper, wife & mother of three wild and crazy boys, and lover of all things homesteading. Visit to see more!

5 Ways To Simplify The Holidays


Hi, my name is Rachel, and I make the holidays more work than they have to be.

We have all been guilty of it. Ten pies, five hundred cookies, turkey, ham, prime rib, fudge, three different kinds of corn, cleaning cleaning cleaning, and waaaay too much shopping.

It is the season of excess, but it doesn't have to mean excess stress! Here are 5 things I have started doing to make my life (and the lives of those who live with me) easier around the holidays. Plus our recipe for crock pot hot chocolate, which is sure to become a holiday favorite with your family, too!

apple pie_1
Apple pie

1. Make pie dough ahead of time, when you actually have time to do it. I like to make four batches of pie dough, shape them into discs, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze them in a freezer bag until I need them. Just get them out to thaw in the fridge the night before you need to bake a pie. They are ready to be rolled, filled, and baked, and you don't have to worry about cleaning up extra dishes. The added bonus is that the dough will be chilled to perfection! Another thing you can do to eliminate pie pressure during the holidays is to can your own pie filling during the season; then all you have to do is dump it in and bake it according to your recipes directions.

pie filling dough
Pie filling and frozen pie dough

2. Homemade gifts. You, sir or ma'am, have worked your tail off this year preserving the finest fruit, vegetables, meats, and herbs from your homestead. Why not share the bounty? In the process, you will showcase all of your hard work. I personally love a homemade gift, especially if I can eat it. Think about it — not everyone gets to have homemade apple sauce, preserves, peaches, spaghetti sauce, or canned green beans just like Granny used to make. I also like to attach recipes to my jars; for instance, if I send someone a can of beef, I like to share my recipe for crock-pot vegetable beef soup, or perhaps beef and noodles. If I give a jar of apple pie filling, it's nice to give them the recipe for crumble topping for an easy apple crisp. Maple syrup, honey, and even eggs make lovely gifts, too. Your life is already abundant — share it!

cookie dough_1
Frozen cookie dough

3. Make double batches of cookies. If you make cookies occasionally throughout the year, you may want to consider doubling the batch. (You're already making a mess; why not go the extra mile?) I like to make double batches when I make any kind of drop cookie or cookie you roll into a ball. I bake one batch, and the second batch I scoop with a medium sized melon baller onto a lined baking sheet and pop into the freezer. Peanut butter blossom or molasses cookies can be rolled into balls and rolled in sugar before placing on the sheet to be frozen. I then put the frozen cookie dough into freezer bags with the type of cookie, bake temp, and time written on it. If you have an unexpected party (or one you forgot), you can bake up a batch of homemade cookies quicker than quick, and you wont have any mess to contend with other than the cookie sheet! They also make great gifts around the holidays when people get lots of goodies. Frozen cookie dough allows folks to enjoy your treats well after the sugar surge of the holidays is over.

4. Chop peel and prepare … check! One thing I have found that eliminates stress at crunch time is to have all of the little things taken care of. The night before, I chop and peel my veggies. While that seems pretty straightforward, it is a time saver. As I go along, I check things off of the list I have created to make sure I don't forget anything. I also like to measure all my spices and other dry ingredients for each dish and combine in small glass bowls. All I have to do is grab a bowl and dump it in as I go.

5. Simplify. Do we really need to have three meats? Six different kinds of pie? Maybe settle on brunch this year! And don't let your guests slack off, either; have them bring one of their favorite dishes. Since we will be running around trying to hit every Christmas party like crazy people in the time leading up to Christmas, our plan for Christmas Day consists of waking up, watching our boys open their gifts, sipping some coffee, and enjoying a potluck brunch with our family (and maybe some mimosas!), all from the comfort of our cozy flannel jammies! This means that there will be a crock pot full of our most favorite winter time treat ... crock pot hot chocolate!!

Here is the recipe. I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do.

Crock Pot Hot Chocolate

Cook time: 2 hours


• 1-1/2 quarts whole milk (if you have your own it's even better!)
• 12 oz. whipping cream
• 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below, or use canned)
• Vanilla to taste (I never ever measure vanilla)
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup milk chocolate chips
• Cinnamon to taste (optional)


1. Turn crock pot on low and combine whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk. Add vanilla and chocolate chips, stir in whole milk.

2. Place the lid on and let cook for 2 hours, stir with whisk occasionally, until all chocolate is melted.

3. Ladle into mugs and enjoy with a marshmallow or a shot of whipped cream! This stuff is dessert in and of itself!

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk:

Yield: 2 cups

• 1 cup whole milk
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted
• 1/3 cup boiling water
• pinch of salt

1. Mix all ingredients in a medium pan. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir constantly with whisk.

Jake with a mug

Rachel is a gardener, beekeeper, wife & mother of three wild and crazy boys, and lover of all things homesteading. Visit to see more!

Quick "Mitten Keepers"






Our family is going to see the lights at the Toledo Zoo tomorrow night! We can't wait to begin this new tradition! Full disclosure: I'm probably way more excited about this than my kids. The lights are breathtakingly beautiful, and it just so happens to be the location of my husband and I's first date! The only thing that could make it better would be snow, and that wish is coming true — the first snow storm of the season is underway as we speak. While I love the cold and snow, I have to make sure my little ones are toasty warm outside. So, I gave their muddy little coats and snow pants a good wash, along with their Elmer Fudd hats, and I realized I didn't have a way to make sure they didn't lose their mittens on our grand adventure.

finished mitten keepers
Two pairs of mitten keepers!

So, I whipped these little "mitten keepers" up! I already had everything I needed in my sewing basket; all I had to do was take some measurements... ha! In case you didn't know, trying to measure a toddler's wingspan is pretty near impossible. I held arms out; my husband measured.

We got close enough. And they are absolutely perfect!


Project Time: 5 minutes

What you will need:

• Twill tape or ribbon, cut to the desired length (for my two year old's, I used 34 inches. To measure, hold arms out and measure wrist to wrist, this will give you the appropriate length.)
• A two-pack of suspender clips. (These run around $3 a pair. I purchased a bulk lot from
• Straight pins
• Sewing machine

pinned clips
Clips pinned on

Begin by cutting the twill tape or ribbon to your desired length. Then, run the tape through the loop on the suspender clip and pin it in place. Give yourself about an inch of overlap to sew.

Sewing on the clips

Sew a straight line, and then back-stitch it. Move over about a 1/4 inch and sew another straight line and back-stitch once more. Repeat on the other side. Trim your strings.

Mittens safe and sound

Now, run them through your little one's coat sleeves and clip their mittens on! I think I might even make myself some, because nothing is worse than having to take off your glove when working outside, thinking you stuck it in your pocket, but finding instead that it fell into the mud or, even worse, the manure! Next time I make these for my boys, I plan to make the length adjustable so that they can grow with them. These ones will last quite a long time, though; it wont be long until our youngest can use them, and I have a new niece or nephew on the way, too!


Rachel is a gardener, beekeeper, wife & mother of three wild and crazy boys, and lover of all things homesteading. Visit to see more!

How To Preserve A Hornets Nest






I'll be honest, before I became a beekeeper I never paid too much attention to wasps and hornets. But then I saw the body of bald-faced hornet hanging out of one of my beehives. The honeybees had attacked and decapitated her and were in the process of pushing the body out of the hive. I did some research and learned about hornets' unique life cycles and behaviors. Even though they have spelled disaster for more than one of my beehives, they quickly gained my respect. For one thing, they build amazingly beautiful homes. You have probably seen them hanging in the woods, or even near your home.

collected nest_1
A collected hornets nest

Bald-faced hornets (aka: bull wasps or blackjackets) are a species that is prolific in my area and across North America. They aren't, in fact, hornets at all, but a type of large wasp. They are big, black in color, and have dabs of white on their abdomens and heads. They build large, paper nests typically high in trees or on structures. Although these nests resemble the “beehives” from Winnie The Pooh, you won't find any honey in them. While they do collect some sugars from fruit and flowers for feeding their babies, they are mainly carnivorous and can be found eating meat or other insects. Their queen emerges from her burrow underground in the spring and begins constructing a small nest and laying eggs to build up her colony. Soon her offspring will help her build the nest, and she will retreat to lay eggs for the entirety of the season. In the fall, the queen will burrow underground or under a log, leaving the rest of her brood to freeze and die. The queen will start constructing a new nest in the spring; this leaves the previous nest vacant and available for collecting.

nest in tree
Hornets nest hanging in a tree 30 feet above the ground

The best time to collect a nest is after several hard frosts — this ensures that the inhabitants are dead and eliminates the possibility of getting stung. In most instances, hornets nests are located very high in trees. Please take extreme care and caution when collecting a hornets nest. You will most likely need to cut some branches around the nest to get it out. We like to leave the sticks and branches intact at a length because we like the way it looks.

After you have successfully collected your hornets nest, it's a good idea to place it in the freezer for a week or two, especially if you are concerned about remaining, living hornets. Your nest may have a slightly foul scent to it; this is the result of remaining larvae and eggs rotting. If this is the case, leave it sitting in the garage or barn for a couple of weeks. We have done this a few times and have never experienced this ... however, we do have very cold winters in our area.

The paper nest will last indefinitely in its natural state, though you can spray it with a coat or two of shellac if you wish. Hang in the desired location with clear fishing line, and you will have a conversation starter for years to come!

Rachel is a gardener, beekeeper, wife & mother of three wild and crazy boys, and lover of all things homesteading. Visit to see more!

DIY Birds Nest Wreath






Make a lovely wreath using birds nests!

I have a serious fascination with all things avian. Everything about them is beautiful to me: feathers, eggs, and nests. I have also been a lifelong lover of nature and have always collected natural items like rocks, feathers, pinecones, robins egg shells, bugs, and nests. So, if you're like me, what do you do with your abundance of beautiful and natural treasures? In this case, I made a wreath to display my collection of birds nests!

finished wreath close_1
Finished wreath

Before we get started, I want to acknowledge that some species of birds do in fact reuse their nests from year to year, and though a nest seems like a simply crafted object to us, it represents a great deal of toil for a bird. When selecting nests for this project, please ensure your nests are truly abandoned before removing them. You can also use man-made nests found at your local craft shop. It has taken me a few years and help of family and friends to collect enough nests for this project. My finished wreath is about 20 inches in diameter and uses 12 nests of various sizes. One of these nests is very special to me; a bird made it out of the mane and tail hair from my horse Doc, who we lost in 2008.

Also, if you are at all concerned about any creepy crawlies that may be lurking on your nests, simply put your collection in a plastic bag, tie it up, and pop it in the freezer for about a week.

This is a simple project that you can in 30 minutes or less!

You will need a few tools:

• A wire or grapevine wreath base
• Enough nests to go around your base
• Florists’ wire
• Wire cutters
• Hot glue (optional)
• Spray shellac or sealer of your choice
• Plastic to cover your work area in if you are making this project indoors, since you will lose little pieces of nest here and there

grapevine wreath base
Grapevine wreath base

I chose a grapevine wreath base that I purchased at my local craft store; it is about 20 inches in diameter.

Thread wire through nests & secure.

Start by cutting your florists wire long enough to go around your base, with enough extra to twist the wire together in the back to secure it. Then, push the wire through the nest and secure it to the wreath base. If you would like, you can use hot glue to place the nest on the base and then secure it with wire. Continue attaching each nest individually until you complete the wreath.

Trim the excess wire

Trim the excess wire on the back of the wreath with wire cutters.

Finish by spraying the wreath with 3-4 coats of shellac or your choice of clear sealer.

Finished Wreath_1

Your wreath is ready to hang and enjoy! You can display this wreath indoors or outdoors, though I recommend keeping it indoors or hung in a covered place such as a porch to prevent the weather from damaging it.

Have fun creating!

Rachel is a gardener, beekeeper, wife & mother of three wild and crazy boys, and lover of all things homesteading. Visit to see more!

What Does Your Rolling Pin Say About You?

RachelThe holidays are a lot of work. Chances are you've cleaned the house and cleaned it again in preparation for your in-laws' visit, and you've probably spent hours in the kitchen chopping, peeling, brining, mixing, and rolling. You could also probably use a glass of wine (which I can't help much with) and a little light-heartedness (which I can do something about!) in the midst of all the stress. So I'm here to ask: what does your choice of rolling pin — the one that's gotten plenty of use this holiday season — say about you?

French wooden
French wooden rolling pin

If you use one of these bad boys, chances are you're a teeny-weenie bit obsessive compulsive ... about your pie crust. You don't want to see “pin tracks” in your crust, and dragging your knuckles in pie dough frustrates you to no end. There are 20 whole inches of pristine rolling real estate in this pin, which means you can roll out the crust for that deep-dish, 10-inch pie pan, pick it up with the pin, and lay it down just where you want it with no tearing, lickety-split. More than likely you hate “uni-taskers” in the kitchen; why have three things that do one thing when you can have one thing that does three things?

This happens to be my weapon of choice. I've used it to crush graham crackers, wrapped it in plastic wrap to use as a meat tenderizer, I'm always ready for an impromptu wiffle ball game, and I could use it to break up a dog fight. Like me, you probably adore old-world, rustic charm and simplicity. It's totally worth the little extra care it takes to maintain this tool.

classic wood
Classic wooden rolling pin with handles
Photo credit: Cheryl Dussault

Ah yes, the Classic Wooden Rolling Pin! if this is your favorite pin, chances are you are a nostalgic person. Your granny and your mom more than likely used one just like this, so that's why you have one, too. Traditions are important to you, and so is your family. You probably bake a lot of sugar cookies and buttermilk biscuits. Its handles are probably well-worn, and it makes you happy when you see it in the drawer or on your counter.

Marble rolling pin
Photo credit: Lauren & Dan Hurd

To sum it up: you're a lazy baker. You don't see the point of having a tool that you have to do work to use. To you, the whole point of having a tool is so your work is lessened considerably, if not completely. Enter the Marble Rolling Pin — all you have to do is push it around and its immense weight takes care of the rest. An added bonus is that, since you are a mostly no-nonsense person while baking, wielding such a mighty pin lets everyone around you know that you will take no sass. If you tell your kids not to stand on the chair, they get down off the chair and 10 feet away. Simple as that. You have probably logged some serious hours rolling out chilled gingerbread dough, and you would be inconsolable if anything ever happened to it.

Plastic rolling pin
Photo credit: Dawn & Brian Grant

You are one, no-muss-no-fuss kind of person. Messes bum you out, so you love that you can throw this puppy in the top rack of the dishwasher and be done with it. It cost you five bucks at bargain mart; you'll just run out and get another one if something happens to it. Things don't matter much to you, but people and relationships do, and you'd rather family take up your time than cleaning. You probably use it for rolling out tubes of cookie dough around the holidays ... you may or may not claim that they are made from scratch.

I hope this made you chuckle, and if I'm totally off-base, that's OK, too. I didn't use any kind of research to back up my statements.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving from our family!

Rachel is a gardener, beekeeper, wife & mother of three wild and crazy boys, and lover of all things homesteading. Visit to see more!

So You Call Yourself a Homesteader

Rachel“You've only been doing this for how long?”
“Oh, you live in town...”
“Seven chickens, three beehives and a garden and you're an expert huh?”

I've heard it all before. Sometimes I've even felt insecure about it. We are smaller than the tiniest homestead and we probably have no business assuming the grand title of “Homesteader”. I admit that I have even doubted myself, thinking they're right. Then I slap myself and shake off those homsteadier-than-thou haters and remind myself: Homesteading is in the eye of the beholder.

Oatmeal, Myself, & Little J, wrapping up evening chores

So are you a homesteader?

You bloom where you are planted:
Maybe you are like us and the right place hasn't come along. You are stuck in town or a city. But you till yourself a garden patch or your container garden anyway, and you do your best to keep your family full of freshly grown produce, and you preserve it for the winter months. What you can't grow, you buy from local farmers who can, and you stock your freezer and your pantry with locally grown meat, fruit, and veggies while they are all in season. Doing your best to avoid the store for most things. You might even make your own noodles! If your town allows you may have some of your own chickens for eggs and meat and you could have bees, too. You strive to be self-sufficient. Playing around with goats milk soap recipes and researching beehives gives you a thrill. You are content with where you are or you wait and you save until you can buy your real dream farm.

Our size doesn't dictate our knowledge:
Whether you have a barn full of cattle, hogs, fowl, goats, or sheep, it doesn't mean you know more than someone with one or two, and it certainly does not mean you know less. A lot of us have spent hours upon hours brushing up on health maladies and researching behaviors and methods. For example, someone can have an animal for a number of years without knowing or noticing certain health maladies exist while someone who only has a few can recognize an illness. While, sadly, others don't know and some don't care. We are dedicated to the health and well being of the animals we care for. Big or small, loss can be devastating and we all try to avoid it. Experience is worth its weight in gold, and us newbies can stand to learn a lot from all of you wise sages who have been at this business for years, but please remember, you were once a beginner too.

To homestead is to dream:
Maybe you have a place in the country and you have been doing this your whole life, but, let's be honest, there are probably things you would still love to get into. Like adding that spinning flock, or perhaps a team of oxen, and you really want a couple nice, tart cherry trees. Daydreaming is akin to breathing for us. Starting that orchard, expanding the garden ... sunflowers? Ostriches! It is all so exciting and it makes us keep trucking along. We all hope to reach the breakeven point and eventually the magical time when the dream starts paying for itself. Until then, we sit on the porch snapping beans swigging a cold beer after a long day, and we enjoy what we have.

Hobbies may make you sound like a granny:
Did you say spinning and knitting, deary? Yes, the desires to learn the old ways of doing things tend to come up and slap you in the dentures. My grandmother -- “Newt” as we affectionately call her -- is a wealth of knowledge. She was born on a farm in the 30's, survived polio, and raised seven kids by herself. She is a tough ole bird. She taught us how to make bread from scratch from a recipe that isn't written down anyplace, and we can make enough popcorn and molasses cookies to feed an army. Grandmas can be really helpful to have around. You oogle over fermentation crocks on the internet, dry and preserve herbs, and talk to butchers about lard. If someone says they have a tummy ache, you scurry over to your pantry to whip them up some obscure concoction. Hell, I even have a giant sun hat I wear in the garden, an apron for in the kitchen, and lord help me, I have developed a taste for beets ... roasted not pickled ... baby steps.

You love what you do and you love to share it:
People who are truly happy with what they do can't wait to share it with you. I've found myself sidling up to strangers to talk about bees. I get so excited when someone asks me a question I could just about burst! It makes me so happy to share the information I have stored up and my experiences, especially since I take a different approach than most folks do. Isn't that what its all about anyway? To be happy doing the work that you love? If this life doesn't make you happy, you need to find what does make you happy and go do it at some point. So go on and become a Master Gardener. Breed and show those fancy sheep. Get a booth at the farmers market. Smile.

None of us do all of this because its easy:
Finally, trying to take the homestead approach is a long road rife with difficulties. From caring for livestock, gardening, and canning, living this life is hard work. Big time or small hobby or urban, we all have our heartaches and disasters along with our victories. Being self-sufficient is the end game, and it's what we all hope for. The work pays off and you can taste it in the beef roast and vegetables with blueberry pie you make for dinner in mid-January. It won't hurt to be a bit more supportive of each other regardless of what stage we are in.

In the end we all have the same goals in mind.

Rachel is a gardener, beekeeper, wife & mother of three wild and crazy boys, and lover of all things homesteading. Visit to see more!

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