Melody lives in the Minnesota Big Woods with her husband and five children. She is a baker, archer, homesteader, and more. Her goal is to help people learn the old ways of working, making, and doing.
Hello! My name is Melody and I am the mama and homesteader at our little home that we like to call Woodhaven Way. I have four girls and a boy ranging in ages from 10 to 2 years old. We live in the Minnesota big woods, across the river from where Laura Ingalls grew up in the little town of Pepin, Wisconsin.
Life on our side of the big woods (across the Mississippi) is fairly similar to what you may have read about in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book: we have cold winters and hot summers, we make maple syrup, hunt deer, and grow as many crops as our short growing season allows. We forage through the woods for foods we use to make jams and we enjoy a good square dance and pie making contest with the best of them.
The homestead that I am happy to call home is situated on the top of a little bluff overlooking a wooded valley. In this valley we see deer daily and last fall I harvested one with a wooden longbow. The deer kept our family of seven fed for over a month without us needing to go to the store to purchase meat. I prefer to hunt in this more primitive fashion, with a longbow and not a gun, because it just feels right to me, like it levels the playing field with the animal.
I think as homesteaders, most of you can probably get behind the idea that sometimes we do things not because it is easier, harder, or better, but because it feels right. Whatever it is, it connects us more with the land, the animals, and refines us as people. To do things the old way can be as refreshing as it is difficult!
I like to think of myself as a “halfway homesteader” because I do not make my living off of the land, my husband is a mechanical engineer and that is what pays our bills. Still, we heat our home entirely with wood (and our hot water for that matter) and if the power grid were to go out, in the flip of a switch we could live relatively normally with all things we need to make food, get water, and heat.
We enjoy knowing that we have this autonomy and that we do not need to rely on an overwhelmed system to keep our home working. I understand that not everyone has the opportunity (or desire) to live in an off-grid lifestyle, but I love having the option!
Along with the hats of homeschool mother, hunter, and survival skills instructor, I love to
bake sourdough and home-make as many things for our family as possible. We do not buy yogurt, granola, cereal, bread, meat, or pretty much anything we are able to make or gather for ourselves.
We tan our animal hides, make bone broth, and carve our kitchen utensils. I have found that there is so much more value in the things that a person can produce with their own hands, you’ve never had yogurt so good as the stuff you make yourself and eat out of a ceramic bowl with a handmade wooden spoon! There is a connection with food that can be had when
one takes part in everything from the growing to the harvesting, preparing, and consuming. We miss out on this connection if we buy all of our food from the store!
My journey into being a homestead mama started at a very young age. I grew up on a
hobby farm with horses, sheep, goats, meat hogs, and more. I fell in love with the lifestyle and was completely devastated when at 17, my family had to sell the farm and all of the animals and move to town for my dad’s job. I will never forget having to kiss the velvety nose of my favorite horse for the last time! I knew that as soon as I could, I would have a homestead of my own.
My husband and I worked to get to a point where we could have a small homestead with chickens and a dog and almost 2 acres to call our own. However, graduate school got in the way of this and we had to sell and move our family of 6 into a 900 square foot town-house while my husband finished up his academic pursuits. I had to learn during this time that it was important for me to make things, to be outside, and to still pursue my dreams of living a natural life even without a single inch of greenspace to call my own (we didn’t have a yard, just a deck).
My kids and I would go for long walks, drive to any farm that would have us, and dreamed about the days when we could have our own space while my husband worked himself ragged with the demands of school and his job.
I call these years “the dark ages” of our family because along with the emotional toll of being constantly busy, we also walked through a time of immense grief. Three months into our time in the 900 square foot “tree house” (what we called our town house because it was narrow with lots of stairs and had three stories), I found out I was pregnant with baby number 5.
My plans began to revolve around adding another baby to our tribe, and we started to look at houses in the country. The light at the end of the tunnel of all of the school and aspirations was finally starting to come into sight. Only three weeks after we left the tree house, I found out that the baby boy I was carrying had died and I delivered a still born little boy that we named Samuel.
The months of deep grief that followed his loss leave that time a blur for me, I barely remember my 30th birthday that was only a few weeks after his death. Anyone who has walked through grief knows it’s an unpredictable time, and for me, I went between wanting to do everything to keep myself distracted and not being able to do anything because of the emotional weight upon me.
This time of grief is what pushed me into the life we now lead. We were in the country again, we had our chickens, green space, a beautiful garden, and I enjoyed watching my mud splattered children run amuck from dawn till dusk everyday, but something was still missing for me.I threw myself into learning traditional skills because (as many who have grieved know) the insomnia made me feel like I would lose my mind. I needed something to study in those wee hours of the morning in which my mind was always going to what I had lost.
I decided I wanted to firmly look at what was ahead and not let my heart revolve around loss all of the time. I learned to carve wooden spoons, make furniture, and work with hand tools. I learned to make arrows and would shoot my bow for literally hours a day. I revisited the skills I had been taught from the time I was a young child: animal tracking, foraging, survival, and woodsmanship. I brushed up on the skills I’d been raised with of growing and preserving food.
The beautiful thing was that within all of this, my heart became alive again. I saw my children flourish in the natural lifestyle we were blessed with and I saw myself grow as a woman who had been refined through fire, a painful process but one that had made me better in the long run. I now have a two year old daughter instead of a three and half year old son, and she is absolutely beautiful and wonderful. I will always miss her brother, yet, I am so thankful for the life she was given. Our family will always have a Samuel sized hole in it, but we have learned still that we can flourish in adversity, as difficult as it may be.
Through my journey over the past years of returning to homestead life and learning to be a hunter, I have learned quite a few things. A few of them I would love to share with you! The first is that it is alright to not wear every hat perfectly! You may be a wonderful baker and not know much about gardening. You may know everything about lambing and milking but never have your laundry done… and that is alright! It would be very difficult to be an effective homesteader and always have clean baseboards, an empty laundry room, and kids that smell like they bathed more than twice last week (just kidding…kind of). Please keep in mind mama, comparison is the thief of joy.
Work hard, and don’t sweat the small stuff. If you have me over for tea, I promise I will never judge your worth as a homestead mama by how clean the corners of your floor are or whether or not there are fingerprints on your cupboard doors.
The second thing I would love to encourage you in is that you are capable! If you don’t know how to do something, try. Read, ask, and fail until you eventually master whatever it is you would like to learn. For me, the most important thing I did to learn the skills I am now using daily was surround myself with skilled people. I was taught how to do many of the things I do now by amazing women and men who had done it before me.
While Instagram, blogs, and youtube are great teachers and a wonderful source for like minded people, I would encourage you to find mentors for the skills you are wanting to learn. Most people who live this lifestyle are more than happy to teach and share the many things they have learned along the way! For me, everything from skinning and processing a deer to how to can tomatoes were things I learned under the direction of wise people who had been doing it for decades. Admitting I needed help and leaning into mentors was indispensable in setting me off on the right track!
There are so many more things I have learned on this journey in homesteading I would
love to share with you! My passion is primarily in woodsmanship, hunting, and primitive skills. If you follow along with me on Instagram or my personal blog, I’ll share some of these with you