The Ozark Homestead

The Journey to a Simplier Self-Sufficient Life


Save Money and Increase Self-Sufficiency by Making Your Own Condiments and Sauces

Homemade Ketchup with Local Potato Fries

Homemade Ketchup with Local Potato Fries (Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

Rural living has many advantages, but being able to make a quick trip to the corner grocery isn’t one of them.  Out of necessity, I have had to improvise when cooking to substitute ingredients or make my own.  While cooking dinner yesterday, I discovered that I was out of ketchup.  Since a trip to the store takes an hour roundtrip, I decided to make my own.   I actually liked my homemade ketchup better than the store-bought brand I have purchased for over 20 years.   I started looking at other items that I purchase that I could make from scratch.  Making my own condiments and other ingredients could save my family money as well as reduce the amount of plastic and glass I throw in the trash.  Also, I like that if our electricity goes out or something happens where we are unable to purchase the things we need from a store, that I can still make the dishes my family enjoys like tuna sandwiches and meatloaf.  In addition to saving money and reducing the waste my family sends to the landfill, I like that I can know what ingredients are in the food I feed my family and where those ingredients come from.

I encourage you to open your refrigerator, spice cabinet and pantry and see how many items that you purchase that you could make yourself.  Try these recipes to get you started.

Homemade Ketchup

1 cup tomato sauce
½ cup sugar
2 T vinegar
1/8 tsp cloves
dash of salt

Wisk items together. The cloves add the flavor of like the name brand ketchup.

Homemade Hellman’s Mayonnaise

1 egg (room temp)
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
dash cayenne pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
3 T. vinegar

In a blender on low-speed, blend first 5 ingredients. Slowly add 1/2 c. oil. Add the vinegar and the remaining oil. Blend until firm. Use immediately or store in refrigerator for 1 week.

Homemade Mustard

1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
Dash of salt

Soak mustard seeds in vinegar and water at room temperature for 2 days. (Make sure seeds are submerged, if not, add just enough additional water to cover.)

In a food processor, purée soaked seeds mixture with sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt about 2 minutes or until almost smooth. Add additional water to thin to desired consistency. Add dash of salt.

Homemade Worcestershire Sauce

2 cups apple-cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground yellow mustard seed or dry mustard
1 tsp. onion powder
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to a simmer and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or clean pantyhose and let cool completely before using. Worcestershire sauce may be stored in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 months.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

3 cups whole milk
1 cup whole cane sugar OR 3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, warm milk over low heat. Using a wooden spoon, add whole cane sugar or honey and stir until combined. Let the mixture warm up over low heat until steam rises. Do not overheat or milk will curdle and separate.

Reduce the mixture to half of it’s volume, about 4 hours or more. A skin will form on the top of the mixture. You can remove it occasionally, if desired.

When the sweetened milk has reached the desired consistency, skim the top of the mixture and pour into a clean glass jar. Add the butter and vanilla, if desired. Place lid on jar tightly and place into the refrigerator to let cool completely and thicken. Use immediately or refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Homemade Soy Sauce

1-1/2 cups boiling water
4 TBS beef bouillon granules (or 2 cubes)
4 TBS cider vinegar
1 TBS dark molasses
1 tsp sesame seed oil
pinch of black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until dissolved and pour into a bottle with a tightly sealed top. Use immediately or refrigerated indefinitely. Makes 2 cups.

Homemade Beef Bouillon

3 cups celery, minced
3 cups carrots, minced
2 onions, minced
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 lb ground beef

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover and cook over very low heat for 1 hour. Pour into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.


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Homesteader’s Version of Recycling – is it Hoarding, Collecting or Repurposing?

Necessity being the mother of invention, farmers and homesteaders long has been the masters of reuse. Often, farmers have had Homestead Recycling Centerto create a tool or piece of equipment to accomplish a task, often from other items taken from the farm’s “salvage yard” or “junk pile” because they could not afford to purchase them new. Today, you see people, repurposing, recycling or the new term “upcycling” old unused items into different things with a new purpose. For homesteaders, that it is just a way of life. When I was city-slicker and would drive by a farm and see what appeared to me to be just junk, I would wonder why they didn’t get rid of it?

Now, being a former city-slicker and not wanting to appear to be a hoarder or anything, I have my salvage yard hidden in the woods behind my barn. I regularly go to my junk pile before I go to the farm supply or hardware store to get items to build or fix something here at the homestead. I can usually find something that I can make work for my situation. Just last week, I repurposed a cage I had built to hold a sick duck into a carrier to take lambs to the vet. All I had to do is move the door and beef up the bottom with some scrap lumber. I saved myself $100.00 or more. By not throwing everything away in the county dump, I create a more sustainable, self-reliant homestead. I have begun to look at items and tools with new eyes. When I am at a flea market or garage sale, I look at things for what it can be, not just what it is. I think of ways I can use it to make things more efficient or a way to expand an operation. PVC pipe isn’t just for plumbing, it is a cage over my raised beds. An old garden gate becomes a gate in my barn to keep lambs away from stored hay and grain.

Looking at a salvage yard of old tractor parts, a junk pile of old lumber and chicken wire, or just a junk drawer in the kitchen, some see it as junk, to some rusty gold, but to the homesteader or farmer, it is storage of items for future use.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is it hoarding, collecting or repurposing?

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Japanese Lady Beetle–Beneficial Insect or Pest?

asianladybeetle The Japanese lady beetle or multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) is known to most people as the lady beetle which invades their homes in the fall and swarms their houses when spring arrives.   To many homeowners, these unwelcome house guests are considered a pest.  However, the multicolored Asian lady beetle is a friend to the gardener consuming large numbers of plant-eating pests, thereby reducing the need for harmful pesticides.

English: Larva of an Asian Lady Beetle (Harmon...The Japanese lady beetle can be pale yellow, brown, bright orange, red, black or mustard in color with from 0 to 20 spots.  Mating occurs during the spring after males and females leave their hibernation sites.   Their eggs are yellow, oval-shaped, and are usually found on the undersides of leaves in clusters of about 20.  Their larvae has an elongate, somewhat flattened body and are covered with tiny, flexible spines.  The larvae feed for 12 to 14 days, during which time they consume large numbers of aphids, scale insects, and other soft-bodied insects.  The adults can live 2 or 3 years and will consume around 5,000 aphids in its life.

Although the Japanese lady beetle can be a nuisance in the home, the work they do for us in the garden may make them worth putting up with.

For suggestions on how to prevent or control the Japanese lady beetle or multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) from invading your home, visit or and










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If Historic Barns Could Talk – The Stories They Could Tell

Decaying BarnThere are thousands of leaning old barns with peeling paint and missing boards all across rural America.  According to Missouri’s State Historic Preservation Office, Missouri ranks second in the nation in the number of barns built before 1960 with around 36,000. To those of us who live in rural communities, decaying homes, barns and out buildings are an all too familiar site.  For many people though, these architectural relics carry a certain romance.  So what is our fascination with old barns?

For some, it may be related to childhood memories, but most of us it is not.  I believe that it is the story that they tell.  The story of a day gone by when mom didn’t work outside the home and baked the family’s bread and put laundry out on the line to dry.  Dads worked hard around the farm all day and so did their kids.  It is the story of hard work, self-reliance and family.    Those old barns remind us of a lifestyle that has almost disappeared.

Historic BarnWith the mass migration away from the family farm and rural communities to the urban sprawl and its suburbs, most Americans have lost touch with their rural roots and their only reference to it comes from watching Little House on the Prairie reruns.  Census records prove what we already know; rural America has over 75 percent of the land yet only 17 percent of the population. For many, historic barns are a symbol of our rural heritage and their decay and lose are symbolic of our disappearing rural way of life.

In the last few years, I have seen a yearning in people to return to a simpler, more self-reliant, and slower paced way of life.  Unfortunately, many of the skills that were once passed down from one generation to the other has been lost and we have had to rely on one another to acquire the knowledge of how to do what our great-grandparents did as a way of life.

Two years ago, my husband and I built our barn here at the Ozark Homestead.  It does not have the character and beauty of many of the lovely old barns and probably will not last the way they did, but it already has many stories to tell. Ozark Homestead Barn If my barn could talk, it would tell about the joy I felt witnessing the birth of my first lambs, of the laughter of my grandchildren swinging on the barn swing their grandpa built for them and of the eyebrows that my friends and relatives raise when I turn the television to the “barn” channel so they can watch my sheep on the barn camera.   It would tell the story of a family trying to preserve the skills and rural way of life to pass on to the next generation.

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Agroforesty Practice of Growing Shiitake Mushrooms on Logs

shiitake-log-2Last summer we had about 15 acres logged last year in anticipation of clearing it for pasture.  I have been trying to think of ways in which to use all the tree tops they left lying on the ground.  I will be making fences with some of them, but what to do with all the rest.  Unfortunately we do not have a wood stove yet; maybe next year.

I found an article by Missouri Extension on the Agroforsestry practice of growing mushrooms on oak logs ( I read that and so I am thinking, that would be a perfect use for all logs.  Unfortunately though, the logs need to be fresh-cut, as in not more than two months since cutting.  I won’t be able to use logs from the trees logged last summer, but I will be able to use the logs from the tress that will be cleared for the pasture this spring.  I went a head and ordered a shiitake mushroom growing kit from which will include 300 plugs of shiitake mushroom spores so I will have them ready when I do have the fresh-cut logs.

I just love mushrooms and to be able to grow my own will be great.  In addition to their great taste, according to, shitake mushrooms are really healthy for you too, “Shiitake: Perhaps the most delicious and easiest to cultivate of all the edible medicinal mushrooms, shiitake is highly esteemed for its medicinal properties. It has been found to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, stimulate the immune system and have anti-tumor properties.

The logs that will produce the highest yields of shiitake are oaks, chestnut and ironwood. Many other species will produce yields that are still satisfactory though not quite as high, such as sweetgum, bitternut hickory, alder, ash, eucalyptus, aspen, hard maples (sugar and black), black willow, yellow birch and river birch. Trees to avoid for shiitake cultivation include conifers, fruit trees, elm, hackberry, sassafras, soft maples (red and striped), sourwood, tulip poplar, dogwood, black locust, beech and most of the hickories.”

If I am successful in growing shiitake mushrooms, I would like to try my hand growing other varieties of mushrooms and maybe even try selling some at our local farmer’s market.  Being a woodland property owner, I am interested in learnning new ways to utilize my property’s resources.  I am very interested in ways to make a living off the land we own and am excited to see if growing mushrooms can be another revenue source for our homestead.

Do you sell anything from your home or farm at a local farmer’s market?

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I dyed some art yarn with Kool Aid last summer. It is so easy. I love all those colors. Oh yes, I am a yarn addict. I can’t wait until shearing time to have all that new wool to work with.

Knit One, Blog Two

Someone asked that I detail the process for anyone who was interested in doing this at home, so here you go, Susie!


1 quart jar
2-4 packets of KoolAid in colors you like
white vinegar
undyed yarn (I used 1/2 of this:   for each of my students)


1. Wind your yarn into a very loose skein and soak in warm water for at least 30 minutes. This step makes sure all the yarn fibers are saturated and better able to accept the dye.

2. In the quart jar, mix the KoolAid powder with 1/4 c white vinegar and then fill the jar to the half way mark with warm water.

3. Put the sopping wet yarn into the jar.  If you want a more even dye, make sure the yarn does not get smooshed up against itself or the jar.  You may want to use…

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Cell Phone Apps that Aid Homesteading

While visiting the University of Missouri Extension website, I learned that they offer an app to aid in identifying 400 weeds common to Missouri.  After scrolling through the list of weeds, I identified a couple of weeds that I had seen in my pasture.  I discovered they were not the toxic plant I thought they were.  Sheep love weeds even more than grass so I always get concerned that they will eat something not so good for them.  It can be time consuming trying to find a plant that looks like what you are seeing in the field.  I think it will be a lot easier and quicker to scroll through the list of photos and compare it’s characteristics and be able to quickly tell if it is toxic and needs to be killed.

In addition to the ID Weed app, I also downloaded an app from Mother Earth New called How to Can.  Being new to canning, I welcome all the help I can get.  One of the feature that I like is that the app will help you determine how much of crop you will need to grow to get the number jars you want.  It also has information for high altitude adjustments.  We live at 1150 feet in elevation so I won’t have to adjust many recipes, but it is handy to have that information.  It is also handy to know that I will need 21 pounds of whole tomatoes for 7 quarts and 13 pounds for 9 pints.  It tells you that a bushel of tomatoes weighs 53 pounds.  It takes an average of 3 pounds of whole tomoatoes per quart.  A quart of peaches requires an average of 2 1/2 pounds of peaches.  I think this app will be a very useful tool to learn canning.

I also have an app for mushrooms that is much like ID Weeds, but I am so leary of eating a poisonous mushroom, that I would not trust it to find mushroom to eat.  I remember hunting what in Kentucky we call “hickory chickens” and loved them, but I would never eat any mushroom unless an experience person confirmed was not poisonous. 

I  use my smartphone here on the homestead for record keeping and reminders and making lists and appreciate any tool I can use to make efficient use of my time. During lambing, I can make notes about the lamb and calendar when to vaccinate it, when it will need its hooves trimmed and when to wean.  If I could find an app for that I’d use it too.

 I love the photo I saw on Facebook yesterday where a dad holds out a snow shovel to his son and the caption reads, “Sorry son, there’s not an app for that.”