Thank you to our sponsor!
Premier 1 Supplies is your one-stop shop for all things homesteading! Visit Premier1Supplies.com to browse their catalog.
RuthAnn and her family live in northeast Iowa. She and her husband, Elvin, have seven children and one son-in-law. Five of the children still live at home. RuthAnn and her husband have been homesteading on their 21-acre homestead since 2001. They seek to preserve the self-sufficient lifestyle of their Mennonite heritage for the next generation by involving their children in every aspect of the homestead. From raising and harvesting the meat they consume, gardening and preserving to fill the family’s larder, processing the dairy from the family milk cow plus the many other skills that develop the character and integrity of a family that desires to bring glory and honor to their Heavenly Father.
- RuthAnn’s Old Fashioned Approach to Childhood Chores eBook
- HOA episode with Joel Salatin
- Homestead Tsunami by Joel Salatin
RuthAnn Zimmerman | Website | Instagram | YouTube | Email List
Homesteaders of America | Website | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Pinterest
Join us at the Homesteaders of America Conference in October 2023!
Homestead Parenting Transcript
Amy Fewell Hey, RuthAnn. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks, guys, for joining us on this week’s Homesteaders of America podcast. I have the pleasure of having RuthAnn Zimmerman. And so for those of you who don’t know, RuthAnn is actually a 2023 HOA speaker. So if you’re coming to the conference, definitely check her out there. But we’re also working on a women’s event that we are hoping to get RuthAnn to as well. So all those details won’t come out until much later in the year. But in the meantime, RuthAnn, why don’t you introduce yourself and who you are for those people who may not know you?
RuthAnn Zimmerman Well, my name is RuthAnn Zimmerman, and a lot of you might know me from Instagram. Instagram kind of caught up with me a couple of years ago. But before that, before you all knew me on Instagram, I was here doing exactly the same thing I am now. And my husband and I will be married 23 years in May, and we have lived on this property since 2000.
Amy Fewell Wow.
RuthAnn Zimmerman So, we have seven children and our acreage is 21 acres and we are in far northeast Iowa, which is why I’m still wearing a sweatshirt. Even though it’s almost April, it is still cold. I cannot even boil sap today because the sap in my barrels is frozen solid.
Amy Fewell Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun.
RuthAnn Zimmerman Yeah.
Amy Fewell Well, I’m in Virginia and I’m wearing a sweatshirt, too. But, here, you would probably think it’s warm today because it’s right around 60. But for me, I’m still cold because our highs are way into the 90s in the summertime. So it’s pretty funny to see those differences. All right. So today I thought I would bring RuthAnn on because I would love to talk about parenting littles on a homestead—not just littles, but the big ones, too—because we get questions all the time about, “How do you keep your kids active? What do your kids do? What do your chores look like? And how do you homestead and homemake with lots of kids underfoot?” So we’re going to walk through that a bit today and just have a candid conversation, mom to mom. And hopefully it kind of gives you guys—even not just moms, maybe some dads, too, who listen—some good advice and inspiration and encouragement. So, RuthAnn, why don’t you get us started by telling us a little bit about your kids and what their age ranges are? That’ll help because a lot of people, you know, they have different things. Some people only have one child, some have ten, different age ranges. So tell us a little bit about that.
RuthAnn Zimmerman So we have seven. Our oldest is 21, and she got married in 2020, and her and her husband live locally. And our youngest, he has a birthday tomorrow, so he will be turning seven tomorrow. So they range from 21 to 7. So a little bit about our family. We thought four kids was good, and then we got inspired. So we had four biological children. We got inspired to do foster care. We ended up with two adoptions and then a surprise baby. So that’s how the people that said, “Four kids is a good number,” ended up with seven. And I really think going from… Four seemed manageable to me. My husband’s from a family of 13, I’m from a family of nine. And in the Mennonite world, that’s not unusual at all. But of course we were going to do things differently than our parents did. So four seemed very manageable, and I had things pretty much under control with four, but going from four to seven without even really consciously planning to end up that way is probably where a lot of the parenting skills that I kind of played around with, that’s probably when they really took root and I was like, okay, this is a system that works. This is what we’re sticking with. And a lot of my mindset changed, too, because it had to.
Amy Fewell Yeah, yeah. One of the things I appreciate about following you on Instagram… So when I’m talking about you to certain friends, I always say, “She’s the Titus woman who is teaching women how to do this,” right? So I grew up, and my family life was totally different than your family life. So you grew up in a Mennonite household where you had lots of systems and firm things set in place. My household I grew up in was kind of like “waaah!” Survival of the fittest. You kind of do this and do that and there’s no routine or anything. And so for me, that’s been my biggest challenge in being a parent because I’ve had to learn how do you set these things in place? So why don’t you walk us through like a typical… Let’s start with homemaking. So I know a lot of women are going to ask about homemaking. So with kids especially, it’s hard to keep up with the homestead. It’s hard to keep up with the home in the house, especially in the summertime when you’re outside doing chores and in the garden and preserving. So what are some tips or systems you have in place that really kind of help you keep your sanity and your home in order during that time?
RuthAnn Zimmerman So summer is really hard because I want to be in the garden 100% of the time. I want to wake up and go to the garden and I want to be in the garden until it’s time to go to bed. So I always try to tell people that the homestead and homemaking is not separate from your husband and your kids. It’s all one. So you can’t wait to make a meal until they leave you alone or they don’t need you. It doesn’t work that way. It has to be combined. And most of the year I do really, really well with that. But when it comes to summer, I want to be alone. I want to be alone in my garden. And so I can relate to people when I think of myself in the summertime. But what I do for survival and to make it all work is just a certain amount of my days has to be structured. So, milking the cow. Cows are just really, really great for keeping me on the straight and narrow when it comes to structuring my days. So only in the summertime because our kids are home from school then, we’re not near structured, but we still need some structure because there’s some things that must be done or our life just falls apart. We still need to eat three meals a day, and the dishes still have to be done or otherwise we end up with no dishes. So I try to break it down as simply as I can and say, “Okay, these are things that have to happen regardless of how busy I want to be in the garden.” So it’s meals and dishes. And as soon as we have those checked off the list, then I can do whatever I want.
Amy Fewell Yeah, that’s a good place to start. And you don’t have a dishwasher either, so I know a lot of people will be like, “Well, does she have a dishwasher?” But that probably doesn’t even work for a large family, does it?
RuthAnn Zimmerman Well, I did have a dishwasher. So kind of backstory: I didn’t grow up with a dishwasher, so I didn’t know it was something I needed. And the house that we live in had a dishwasher that didn’t work, so we used it for storage. And so then one of my best friends, she said to my husband, “Your wife needs a dishwasher. She doesn’t know it, but she really needs a dishwasher.” So I got a dishwasher. And these modern appliances, they’re not made for homestead life.
Amy Fewell Right.
RuthAnn Zimmerman So if it says they’re going to last five years, you can cut that down to half because we’re using it three times a day, sometimes more, because we have a large family, and we have a lot of dirty dishes. We don’t use a lot of paper plates. We use a lot of dirty dishes. Anyway, long story short, our dishwasher lasted about two years, and my husband was like… This was just recently. So last fall, I think, it quit working. And it’s electronic. It’s something electronic is wrong. So it’s not like my husband can just get in there and fix it like he would with some older appliances. And he was like, “Well, we’re going to go buy a new dishwasher this weekend.” And I’m like, “Wait, hang on. Let’s wait just a minute. How about we take the winter and we make sure that all of the kids brush up on their dishwashing skills?” We’re stuck in the house most of the winter anyway, so I don’t know how that’s going to work in summer. I don’t know if I’m going to keep up with, “Lunchtime is your time to wash dishes,” or if I’m going to break down and say, “Okay, let’s spend another $600 on a dishwasher.” But that’s where we’re at right now is everybody’s brushing up on their dishwashing skills.
Amy Fewell Well, that’s good. That’s life skills, for sure. So at our old house, we had a dishwasher that we never hooked up because for years it was just the two of us and our oldest son. And then we’ve added a couple more babies since then. And so just a couple of months ago, I guess it was probably in January, I got a dishwasher. And I was so adamantly against dishwashers. It was the same concept. All of my friends were saying, “You have to have a dishwasher.” And now I’m like, “Oh, wow, this is amazing,” at least for our small family. But I could see how even for us in the summertime and when we have a milk cow going through lots of jars and things like that, it could get a pretty good workout.
RuthAnn Zimmerman I think my favorite part about having a dishwasher is the dishes are off the sink. They’re hidden. You can’t see them, and you can stack them in there. And there’s no dishes drying in the dish rack. So I told my friend Kate, Venison for Dinner, I said, “I can’t get used to all my dishes.” And she’s like, “You have seven children. Assign one of them to dry the dishes and put them away.” And I’m like, “Oh my goodness, yes.” So anyway, so now that’s another assigned chore is drying the dishes and putting them away so that I don’t have to look at dishes all day long.
Amy Fewell Yeah, that’s my favorite thing, too. I told my husband when we got it, I said, “So technically, I will never have dishes on a sink unless it’s something massive that has to be hand washed.” So I enjoy that. I like the look of things being put together. So that actually brings us to the next thing— you talking about delegating chores. How do you do that? So we have some families… I hear this time and time again, they have multiple children and and they’ll say, “Well, I try to delegate chores, but they just won’t get them done,” or “They won’t get them done properly.” And you’ve spoken about this a lot, especially on Instagram or in your subscribers on Instagram. Why don’t you touch a little bit on kind of how you set those chores up for your family and how it’s a non-negotiable in different ways.
RuthAnn Zimmerman Okay. So you’re right. It’s a very popular subject. And I actually wrote an ebook about it just so that I have a place to collect all of our tips and people can purchase that and have it all combined. Because I feel like on Instagram we speak in 15-30 second increments, and it’s hard to put it all together. One of the first things… So starting from the top down, or actually starting from the bottom up, you have to know how much groundwork you’ve laid and what your child is capable of because if you haven’t delegated chores, your 15-year-old isn’t going to be able to do what my 15-year-old is doing because you haven’t laid the groundwork. But don’t let that discourage you. It is never too late. So you just go back and you start like they were a four- or five-year-old and you start expecting the same things. So let’s say, for instance, I have a ten-year-old that I’ve never delegated any chores to, and I’ve always just pleasantly asked, “Would you help me with this?” or “Would you help me with that?” And we all know that when a child gets to a certain age—it usually happens between eight and twelve somewhere—they’re like, “No, I don’t want to.” And if you haven’t laid any groundwork… And even if you’ve laid groundwork, you’re going to meet with those attitudes at one time or another. But let’s say this ten-year-old has not… You’ve never required chores from him on a daily basis. You’re going to pretend he’s four and you’re going to say, “Okay.” So let’s say it was clearing the table. “Your job is, from here on out, you know, unforeseeable future, your job is going to be to clear the table after every meal,” or something like that. We’re going to use that just as laying some groundwork. And he is not going to like that one bit, and you’re just going to stay consistent. And usually, you know what punishment or consequence, let’s say, what consequence works for each child. For some of them, it’ll be as simple as, “Well, you can sit here on this stool until you decide to clear the table, but you cannot go do anything else until the table is cleared.” Simple matter of fact. Keep it simple. No lectures, just simple. And for other children, you’ll say, “Well, you either clear the table or you don’t get screen time the rest of the day.” Things like that. And then you just every day have the same requirements and the same consequences for that chore. And then once that one’s mastered, you of course make a big deal about it. You’re like, “You know what? You complained about clearing the table all week. I’m going to do it for you tonight and you get to have free time.” You know, just those little things that help make them feel respected for doing their part of chores. And then as that’s mastered, you build on that and you use the same concept for every chore. You can’t do anything else until this chore is properly done. And then you just keep adding responsibility until you have a 15-year-old that can take care of the whole homestead for a couple of days if needed.
Amy Fewell Yeah.
RuthAnn Zimmerman And of course, say, if you’re starting with a 15-year-old, you use the same layered kind of concept, and your 15-year-old is going to rise to the occasion much faster just because of pure brain development and being able to put together consequences and knowing what the end result is. So your 15-year-old is going to cruise on up through there where, say, a five-year-old or a six-year-old, you’re going to take a couple years and you’re going to keep working until they’re 16, and build on what you’ve got.
Amy Fewell Mm hmm. Yeah. So what are some age appropriate chores? So I know that, like you said, you said your age ranges. Obviously your oldest child is not home anymore. But you have various different things going on on your homestead. So from milking a cow and even doing butchering chores to just the homemaking things, what are some examples of age appropriate chores—starting from the bottom and going up—that you’ve set standards for for your kids?
RuthAnn Zimmerman So generally around six years old, between five and six years old is where I expect that they’re going to be able to do some chores independently. Now, these are little 5 to 15 minute chores because their attention span doesn’t allow them to work that long without an adult redirecting. Before that, in the preschool years, you just bring them alongside of you and they’re just observing everything. And they think they’re helping even though they’re really slowing you down at that point. So Harrison is almost seven, and so in the morning right now, his chore is… He, of course, has to get himself dressed and get his backpack ready for school. And then he gets the table set for breakfast. And just a little side note here, the table does not need to be set for breakfast. We can all get our own plate and get some food and sit down. But Harrison needs a chore. He has four siblings here at home every morning, so we set the table purely because he needs a chore. So we set the table and we have a formal breakfast and then… So he usually has that all done by the time I come in from the barn from milking. And then after we all eat, his chore is to clear the table. So he has to take everybody’s plates over, put all the food away that we got out, and then he has to pack his lunch, and then he’s done. And he will be seven tomorrow. And then I have an eight-year-old. So my eight-year-old gets up and his chore is… Of course, he has to get dressed and get his backpack and everything ready. And this is all happening while me and a couple of the older children have gotten up and gone to the barn. So this is all happening usually without a whole lot of supervision, even though one of the older children is in charge of the house. So Kendrick just turned eight, his chore is to feed our dogs and let them out of their kennels. And then after breakfast, he wipes the dishes and puts them away. And also he has to pack his own lunch and get himself ready to go out the door. And then Maxwell is ten and he goes along in the barn and he takes care of the chickens and gathers the eggs and he brings the cows in if they’re not in. Basically the ten-year-old’s kind of like my right hand when it comes to the cows—shut the gates, let them in, feed this one—and the chicken chores. And then the two older children, 13 and 15, they actually switch off by week. And one week, they are in the house and they will make breakfast. And then after breakfast, they will wash dishes. And the other week they go along in the barn and they feed all the pigs and help with milking and taking care of the milk and things like that.
Amy Fewell So that’s awesome. Have you found that having more children is easier than having the four as they’ve gotten older because you have more help? Or would you say that it doesn’t make a difference?
RuthAnn Zimmerman The hardest stage was when I had my two babies because they’re 13 months apart, so I had a newborn and a toddler. So I had three preschoolers and two teenage daughters. The girls were 15 and 16 when Harrison and Kendrick were born. So that was definitely the hardest stage, emotionally and physically, even though the girls did a great job with handling the excess, all the housework that I couldn’t do because I had two babies. They were still teenagers, and they had a life of their own. So that was definitely very trying, but it was a very, very short season. It was so short, and now we’re kind of on the other side of that. And yeah, I find it’s definitely been easier for a couple reasons. I’m much more confident as a mother, and I’ve developed a very simple… And I don’t know if it’s because I now have four boys, but less is better. Less words. And real short consequences and always the same consequence. “I’m sorry. This is the way it’s going to be. There is no ifs, ands, or buts about it.” But the other reason I think it has become easier is because it’s like a little water coming down over the rocks. And with each child that I’ve expected the same thing, it kind of leaks down into the next one. And by the time we get to the bottom, I don’t have to do a lot of training because it’s kind of leaking down from the top. So I do think that that has made it easier as well.
Amy Fewell That makes a lot of sense. I can remember when we had a single child for nine years before we had more children, and my neighbor said to me once—that’s the reason I asked this—she said, “Oh, I feel so sorry for you that you don’t have any more children. It’s so much easier when you have more children.” One, rude. But two, it was interesting because she also… I think she had six kids, and she was telling me how it was easier for her when she had more kids and to keep each other entertained and to help with chores.
RuthAnn Zimmerman I think she has a point. But I think what we forget to focus on and give credit to that is with each child, we die a little more to self and we become a little more eternal minded. And the older our children get, the more we realize that they’re eternal souls. So our focus gradually shifts with just maturity in our own minds. And just the gravity of, “These are eternal souls.” So I think we become less selfish. The more we focus on the eternalness of raising children, the less selfish we become, and the more content we are with just being mothers.
Amy Fewell Yes, I agree. That’s a really good way to look at it. And I have found that as an older mother… I’m not old by any means. That’s not what I’m saying. But from the experience of having our first child in my 20s and then having the rest of our kids and whatever the Lord wants to bless us with in the future in my 30s, you know, mid-30s and older, me as a person, I’m just more confident in who God’s created me to be, too. And so it’s not… You’re right. You nailed it. You’re not being as selfish as before, and everything doesn’t have to be as perfect as before. And we really embrace that family unit instead of just, “It has to be this way and the only way.”
RuthAnn Zimmerman We kind of start letting go of the ideal or our expectations, and we kind of realize that our family dynamic is a whole force in itself, and you’re kind of along for the ride more than anything else because the older your children get, the more family life takes on a life of its own. And you can just… And my mom explains it this way, and I think about this, and I’ll give you a very good mental picture of motherhood, and you’ll think of me just the way I think of my mom every time I think of this. So she would say that her life was like a wheel. Family life is like a wheel, and there’s all these little spokes which are the children. And then there’s the outside world, which is the rim of the wheel. And she’s just the hub. So everybody runs in and out on their spokes, connecting with mom, and as long as she stays where she needs to be, the wheel keeps turning pleasantly without these bumps and jerks. Because as long as she stays in her place where she needs to be where people can access her, things go smoothly. So I think about that sometimes when I feel stuck. When I feel like there’s no way out and everybody’s going to need me forever, I think of that and I’m like, “You know what? I’m just the hub of the wheel, and as long as I stay where I’m needed, then the wheel will keep turning smoothly.”
Amy Fewell That’s a really good visual. I’m for sure going to remember that. And it’s encouraging because, especially as moms when we’re busy and there are just days that it’s like, “Oh my goodness, what is happening?” And it’s encouraging for our older kids, too. So we’re experiencing that now. Our oldest is almost 14, and he’s starting to take on a life of his own. He’s going to youth group. He has his friends. Some of his friends are getting licenses. And having older kids now, I’m realizing you think the hardest part is when they’re newborns and toddlers, but you’re right. Now that they have their own life and you realize, “Are all of these things I’ve taught them sticking with them? And bringing them back home? And being reminded of home and what they’ve learned here?” That’s a perfect visual. I think that’s perfect for moms nowadays, especially.
RuthAnn Zimmerman The other thing with teenagers versus babies… So when you have little ones—and you know this because you’ve got a baby underfoot—they discipline you. They tell you when you’re going to sleep, and they tell you when you will get to eat a peaceful meal. Like they discipline you. But then when you have teenagers, you have to discipline yourself to be available for them because they now have respect for you, and they’re not going to—most teenagers, anyway—they’re not going to knock on your door like a toddler would and say, “I can’t sleep.” So you have to discipline yourself to be available for them. And it takes… And here’s why we die to self slowly along the course of parenthood, because it takes self-discipline to stay available for your teenagers.
Amy Fewell Yeah. I remember seeing a painting. It was a painting or a graphic one time on social media, and it was a child who had all of these different little squares, but the squares were taken from the parent and created into this child. And like our time, our sacrifice being available for them. It was really interesting to see that visual. I’ll have to try to find it for you guys and put it in the show notes so you can see it. But it kind of hit me, sometimes it’s an inconvenience. A lot of parents are like, “Oh, but I could be in the garden. I could be getting the preserving done quicker or the milking done quicker,” or “I might have time to sew.” But really the best work, especially the best kingdom work, is our kids and bringing them alongside of us. At last year’s women’s conference, I didn’t get to catch all of your talk that weekend. I did go back and listen to it, but when I was sitting there in that greenhouse listening to you talk, one of the things that you said was, “It used to be where grandchildren and children would be up under their mother or grandmother’s elbow at the counter all the time learning everything. The option wasn’t for them to just go play and not bother you, especially at young ages. They were right there with you, and that’s how they learned in the trenches with you.” And so that just rang true for us, especially homesteading, because when we raised our oldest child, we weren’t really into homesteading. And so we kind of threw him into homesteading a little bit older. And we’ve had pushback on that. This is not his thing. Well, not yet. You know, he’s, of course, older and he’s taking interest in girls and all of them are farm girls. And he’s going to end up marrying a farm girl and he’s going to get thrown into homesteading again. But watching our younger children… So my almost-four-year-old, he is very eager to do homestead chores because I have always involved him at the counter or out in the garden or whatnot. And so to see these parallels that you’ve talked about from starting at a young age going up, or starting almost all over again with an older child, it’s very true. And it’s so much easier to start younger. So for those of you moms and dads out there who have younger kids, don’t be discouraged. It might be a little bit inconvenient, it might take a little bit longer, but it’s worth it as they get older, and it makes your life easier. I had this conversation with a friend one day. When we put the time in now, when they’re younger, it makes our lives easier when they’re older because they already know these skills and they already know the systems that we put in place.
RuthAnn Zimmerman This is very true. I was just thinking, as I’ve been sewing my new apron this week, I was thinking of sitting… My grandma, she would make quilts. And she would do chain… You know, where she’d sew a whole row of them together. And I would sit behind her sewing machine and the snake of patches would come down the back, and I had this little scissor, and I would just sit there cutting them apart and putting them on a stack as they fell down. And she would talk to me. I mean, a lot of the stories she told me probably happened while I was cutting apart her patches. But I was thinking about how nowadays we have to be so intentional about passing on what we want our children to know because we don’t give them enough space to be bored. Because when they are bored, they will come and see what you’re doing because they’re bored. That’s why I sat at my grandma’s sewing machine. It was because she told me I had to. It was because there was nothing else to do at her house. That was the only place there was action, and I was bored enough to sit there and ask her, “Can I help you?” So we have to give them space to be bored because they won’t join you. You’re not more exciting than a screen. And eventually, they’re going to get into a fight with their brother and not want to play, and they’ll end up being in the garden with you or in the barn saying, “Hey, what are you doing?” And so in the preschool and early elementary, that is where the opportunity gets lost if we’re not intentional about allowing them to be bored enough to seek out adventure.
Amy Fewell Yeah absolutely. Yep. 100% true. The last podcast episode I recorded was with Joel Salatin, and he touched on that just a little bit about screen time. And so for those of you who didn’t check out that episode, you should. But also in his new book called Homestead Tsunami, he talks a lot about screen time. And he says the exact thing, like when he was bringing up his kids, obviously screen time wasn’t as big of a deal because that was forever ago like when you and I were growing up. But now it’s like a battle, right? It’s a battle between screen time and being bored, and kids aren’t allowed to be bored anymore. And there’s no creativity anymore. I mean, the most creative things… When my oldest son was little, I saw the most creative things come out of him before he ever knew what a screen was. He was in the woods and he was chopping down little junk trees and making forts. And their minds are just amazing. And they’re little sponges that just want to soak up everything when they’re that age. And so that goes with homesteading, too. And they’re able to understand way more than we give them credit for when given the opportunity to just be with you and learn.
RuthAnn Zimmerman The thing that we often forget is you know when you bring that newborn baby home from the hospital and it starts mimicking your facial expressions, like one of the most fun things is for… When they’re just a couple of days old and they start to focus, and you stick your tongue out and then they stick their tongue out. They are programmed, their brain is programmed to mimic everything from their caregivers. And it happens especially so when they’re bonded. So they’ll mimic their bonded caregiver. And what we often forget is that doesn’t go away. That does not go away. And even up into the teen years, like when you sit around the dining room table and your teens bring… You know, “So this happened at school,” or “At the youth group, this person said this.” The reason they’re doing it, and they don’t know this, is they want to see your reaction. They want to hear how you respond to what happened because they want to mimic that response. They don’t know how they should respond. That’s why they’re bringing it up at family dinner table. And then they’ll watch your face and they’ll listen to your words. And in all of that time, from that newborn baby to the time they leave your house, and even our adult children will sit here and tell us, “Hey, what do you think about this?” And “Did you hear about that?” And every time that we put a screen in front of them—and I promise I’m not going to get on my no screen time soapbox—but every time that we put a screen in front of them, we are taking away their opportunity to grow into the kind of adults that we… They’re just missing out on how to respond to everyday life because they are programmed… You don’t have to teach them to mimic your actions and responses. They come with a God-given preprograming to do that.
Amy Fewell Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. All right. So I’m going to switch gears just a second. Grab a couple more questions before we hop on here. I could keep you for hours, but I know you have other things to do. So a couple more questions I know we’re going to get. So a lot of homesteading mamas have very small babies. And one of the things that I always say to them is, “You have to give yourself some grace when it comes to homesteading, not necessarily homemaking, but specifically homesteading.” And a lot of these moms, they see women like you or Kate from Venison for Dinner or Three Rivers Homestead, like we can name so many moms with so many beautiful kids getting stuff done. And so two questions. One, what are some tips for moms that have little ones—like little little ones—to get it all done, especially when it comes to gardening and preserving and the homesteading aspect of it? And then the second question, which I can remind you if you forget, is what kind of planning system? Are you a planner? How does that work in your household that kind of keeps you on track every day?
RuthAnn Zimmerman Okay. So to the mothers with little ones, I’m going to say, “You’re not going to get it all done.” And number two, “Stop scrolling.” I think that… You know how dangerous social media is for pre-teens and teenagers. And the reason it’s very dangerous for them is because they’re already trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. So to all the young moms that follow me on Instagram, my heart goes out to you. You should not be scrolling. I want to take it from you the same way I want to take social media from teenagers that I love. It’s not good for you because you are… So you want to be a homesteader. You want to do what I’m doing, but you have to first find who you are. You have to mature into your homesteading self, and then you can handle the scrolling. I can handle social media way better than my 13-year-old daughter can because I know who I am. I’m not going to feel inferior by somebody that’s milking four cows when I’m only milking two and able to take care of the milk of two cows. Because I know who I am. I know this works for me. So don’t scroll. Find your people that are going to speak life into you and stick to those people. The more you scroll, the more you’re going to get overwhelmed and you’re going to feel insecure just like a teenager because you are, in a sense, a teenage homesteader. You’re not quite sure how this is all going to work. You don’t know if a cow is going to fit into it. You don’t know if your garden’s big enough. You’re not sure about preserving. You are so unsure of everything. But what I want to say to you is the only thing that you’re really, really sure about is that God has given you those children and they have eternal souls. Everything else fits in around the edges. And I promise you, this season of having little ones, it is short. Don’t waste it. It is so short. Garden when you can. But don’t think your garden has to be like mine. Find the people that are going to tell you, “It’s okay. You’ll have a big garden sometime, but this year is probably not the year because you have a baby. Just plant a few things.” Scrolling, to new homesteaders, is as detrimental to their self-worth as social media is to teenagers.
Amy Fewell Yeah. Yep. I 100% agree with that. Yes, absolutely. Okay. So the second question was, “Do you personally have a planner or a system that you write out and use?” To me, you seem like you’re not really a planner person because I’m not a planner person and I feel like we have a lot in common on that. But is there anything like that that you use or that you could suggest that might help other people?
RuthAnn Zimmerman I have tried using planners, and they don’t work for me. So what I do is I have my phone, and the really important things like this podcast—and I even got that wrong last week, Amy.
Amy Fewell It’s okay.
RuthAnn Zimmerman I probably need a manager is probably what I need. I don’t think I need a planner. I think I need a manager.
Amy Fewell That’s fair.
RuthAnn Zimmerman Yeah. So I put things in my phone, but I don’t set alerts. It kind of is in here. But I’ve finally accepted that I am not a planner type of person because every January I would be like, “This year, I’m going to have a planner and it is going to work.” You know by the second week of January, I would wake up and I look at that planner with all its pretty stickers and everything filled in, and I’m like, “That thing is bossing me around and I don’t feel like doing what I had planned to. I want to do something else.” Then I’d feel bad. Then I’d spend all of February being like, “Oh, why can’t you be scheduled and have a plan?” But now I’ve accepted that I like to fly by the seat of my pants, but I do… This lifestyle is generations deep in me. It’s not new to me. So even, say, the garden and what seeds to plant when, I don’t have to write it down because it’s part of who I am. And I’ve done this for 23 years. And before that, I grew up watching my mother do it. So it’s not a new lifestyle to me. And I think that’s where a lot of people… Like, “Don’t you plan anything? Don’t you design your garden? Don’t you take inventory of your canned goods?” I know by just looking at it because I’ve done it for so long and it’s just a lifestyle. And when something is a lifestyle, you don’t have to take as many notes or plan as many… You know, you don’t have to write it all down because after so many seasons of doing the same thing, you know, it just becomes who you are.
Amy Fewell Yeah, I agree with that. And it doesn’t take very many years homesteading to become that person either. There’s a lot of new homesteaders that might think, “Oh my goodness, I’m never going to be that way.” So I grew up around farming, my dad had a garden, my grandparents had a garden, but I was never really one of those kids that was fully involved in those things, nor was I made to be involved in them. So starting our homestead journey, I guess our son was two maybe. So it’s been over a decade now, but even in just those first five years of homesteading, the more I did it consistently, the more I knew. Like you said, you just knew this is what has to be done. And it’s like you said in the beginning, too, you have your non-negotiables that have to get done. You have to do dishes every day. You have to milk the cow every day. And then you can kind of fill in around those things. And so just in general, it’s not difficult once you’ve been living this lifestyle, even for just a couple of years, which I think is encouraging, too. So I’m not a planner person either. I do the same thing. And you guys, we have a Homesteaders of America planner, too. And do you know how many times I’ve tried to use that? It doesn’t work. The girl who creates it, she’s an HOA team member, and it works amazing for her. And she has eight kids, and she is just the most organized person I have ever met. And so the same thing every year I would be like, “This is the year I’m going to use the planner. I’m going to write it all down.” And I realize that I’m just not disciplined enough for a planner because I can look at it and I can see it and I’m going to be like, “Nope, that’s not what I want to do today. I’m going to do something else,” just like you said. But I did share on Instagram, I did find a magnetic, like a weekly breakdown. That is helpful for me. More so, it’s helpful for our family to kind of see, “Okay, here’s what mom is doing this week,” or “Here’s what we need to do this week.” And that’s been helpful for the whole one week we’ve had it. We’ll see if that keeps being helpful.
RuthAnn Zimmerman We have a little chalkboard calendar that hangs beside our fridge, and I never do it. My husband is much more scheduled than I am. I’m just a fly by the seat of my pants. But guys, it doesn’t affect… I mean, I get things done. It’s not like just because I don’t have a planner, I’m not getting things done because you know me, I get a lot of things done. But when it comes to family events and school events, we put those all on the chalkboard calendar because I have children that will get anxious if they don’t know what’s going to happen the next day or the next weekend. So we do write those big things down, like do we have a family picnic, or this is the last day of school, or this is a baby shower. We do write those things on our chalkboard calendar.
Amy Fewell Yeah. Awesome. Do you have anything, any tips or any tricks or any just inspiration or encouragement for parents that are bringing up their kids in this homesteading lifestyle who are wanting to make sure that this all works out smoothly for them?
RuthAnn Zimmerman I do think the biggest thing is know what your end goal is. Make sure that your children, especially if they’re old enough to understand, make sure that they know what the end goal of the homestead is or even just the long-term goal. And then make sure that everybody that is helping you work, each of your children that you’re going to say, “Okay, today we have to go build this fence,” and I would say probably that would be all the way down to, say, six years old, they understand that building this fence is not just something mom and dad have decided we’re going to do today. Building this fence is part of our long-term goal of having a milk cow, maybe goats or maybe even chickens or rabbits. But we’re all working together because this is our long-term goal. And if you have teenagers, they’re not going to have the same long-term goal. That’s okay. They can have a short-term goal of never having an animal, never having to have an animal to take care of. Their short-term goal is when we’ve built this fence, you can go play basketball with your friends. So they probably need short-term goals, but they know what the long-term goal is. Even if they don’t agree with it, it helps them not just feel like you’re yanking them around this way and then that way. They know that you’re headed somewhere and that it’s going to take a couple years. And then keep your long-term goal, keep that in mind, but don’t set a date for it, because if you have a family, not every day is going to look the same. And if you say, “We want to have the fence built this summer,” that’s good. But it should be a fluid goal. “That’s what our plan is, and we’re going to work towards making it happen, but if it doesn’t happen, we’ll do it next summer, and we’re still going to be okay because we’re still headed towards that goal.” Whatever your goal is— self-sufficiency or whatever it is. And then be okay with adjusting your goals. Maybe your husband has to get a job and he’s not home full-time and you can’t do it all. So maybe you’re going to have to be okay with instead of getting that milk cow is finding a source for raw milk where you don’t have a daily chore of milking the cow. You just have to communicate your goals and have goals and then be willing to change them. Because again, your family comes first. Homesteading is not the end all and be all. It definitely is a beautiful lifestyle and it’s a great lifestyle for raising a family, but it’s not the end all and be all. We are raising little eternal souls. And that has to be a priority.
Amy Fewell Yep. Amen to that one. Very good. All right, guys, we’re going to grab all the links from this episode, including that book that RuthAnn was talking about, the e-book that she put together. We will try to put all of that in the show notes, so if you want to expand further on this information, there’s only so much we can fit into an hour. But she’s put a lot of content together for you. So check out all of the show notes below and then if you have any questions, feel free to send them our way and we’ll get them to RuthAnn. Otherwise, thanks for joining us, and happy homesteading.