Homesteading with Chelsea nicole: Little Mountain Ranch
The Cookbook Creative
Embracing the Homesteading Lifestyle
In a busy world where convenience often takes precedence over quality, there are some who value self-sufficiency and having some independence from food systems. Elaine Acker recently visited with Little Mountain Ranch’s Chelsea Nicole, who graciously shared her family’s experiences and offered valuable insights into the art of homesteading. Here, Chelsea shares her experiences and tips for living the homesteading lifestyle, sourcing what you need for your day-to-day life from your own land, preserving food, and finding joy in the process. She also talks about the success of her recently published cookbook and the way it helped her reconnect to her family roots.
“When I was a kid, my mom always had a garden,” says Chelsea. “She always canned. She always cooked from scratch. We didn’t have a farm, but at one point we had some chickens and honeybees. That had a huge impact on my little five-year-old brain. I just loved it.”
Then one day, when she was about 12 years old, Chelsea visited distant relatives. “They lived in a cabin in the bush, they homeschooled their kids, their mom was an artist, and they had a big garden. I knew right then exactly what kind of life I wanted.”
Chelsea and her husband bought their first house when she was 21 years old. It was less than an acre, but she called it Butter Churn Farm. She had a couple of chickens, started learning to can, and their homesteading adventure began. They now have Little Mountain Ranch. It’s 160 acres, and they’re living the life Chelsea imagined, raising livestock, growing veggies, and producing dairy, eggs, and honey. And on their website, they host a community where they share their experiences with others.
A Well-Stocked Pantry Starts with a Thriving Vegetable Garden
When it comes to homesteading, a garden is usually first on the list. “At this point, I would say we grow around 50% of all the vegetables we eat,” said Chelsea. “Because we live in the north, our growing season is short. We only have 110 frost-free days of growing time each year.” She preserves the harvest by canning, storing vegetables in the root cellar, freezing, and recently, freeze drying.
“I usually start canning by the middle of summer and we stock around a thousand jars of canned products in the pantry,” says Chelsea. “I try not to start cracking jars in the pantry until October. Which is hard when the kids are excited about opening a jar of raspberry jam.” In August, you can find her canning 14 hours a day. The pickles, canned fruit, tomato products, jams, and more will last the family until June. “Coleslaw is one that always surprises people,” she adds. “You can pickle it and then you can drain it out and then add your mayonnaise or seasonings to it.”
People don’t often think about it, but with a pressure canner, you can preserve ready-made food such as chili or a beef stew for an easy, off-the-shelf meal. “I don't do that as much, because I cook such a large quantity because we have a large family. I would have to pull eight jars off my pantry shelves rather than work with the ingredients we have. But for people with smaller families, it’s super convenient.”
Things like carrots, beets, and potatoes go into the root cellar to be eaten fresh in the middle of winter. Chelsea routinely fields questions from her followers about how to make fresh veggies last longer in warmer climates. “If you have a space you can block off from the light, that helps," she says. "Light degrades the quality of food really quickly. You want a place that’s nice and dark, and as cool as possible.”
Cooking from Scratch and a Brand New Cookbook
“Cooking from scratch is less difficult than people think it is. In the last 20 years, cooking from scratch and eating at home has moved out of our culture in a lot of ways. But people are coming back to that in droves. It’s a lot less expensive to cook from scratch.”
Surprisingly, Chelsea isn’t an enthusiastic cook. She said, “The other day, my husband said, ‘It’s really funny that cooking is not something you love, but your entire life revolves around food.’” And yet, her new cookbook, the Little Mountain Ranch Family Cookbook is flying off the shelves. That’s probably because she keeps things simple. “I’m not a complicated cook,” she says. “I don’t use a lot of fancy ingredients. I keep it really simple for my own sanity.”
She says she’s been blown away by the response to her book. “I’m getting letters from people saying how wonderful it is to have an old-fashioned feel to the cookbook, with old-fashioned recipes.” She used a big font, so people don’t have to put on their reading glasses to read it. “They can thank my mom for that,” she says.
“The cookbook connected me back to both of my grandmothers,” says Chelsea. “I was thinking about them making these same recipes. A lot of the recipes I use today are ones that have been passed down from my great grandma, to my grandma, through my mom, to me and now to my children. And that connection with my grandparents who have now passed gave me a sense of roots that I didn’t have before, because I hadn’t really thought about it. I loved sharing stories from my mom and my auntie about these recipes.”
Out in the Barnyard
In addition to growing their own vegetables, Chelsea and her family raise animals for meat, eggs, and dairy. The barnyard residents include chickens, pigs, cows, goats, and horses. They’re able to raise 100% of the family’s meat and get about 75% of their eggs and 75% of their dairy come from the farm. Chelsea describes herself as “a terrible cheesemaker” so that explains why the other 25% of the dairy comes from the grocery store.
Raising animals not only provides sustenance but also fosters a deep connection to the land and the food. Their animals live a humane and comfortable life. And this hands-on approach allows her family to appreciate every aspect of the homesteading journey, from feeding and caring for the animals, to processing and preserving the meat for future consumption.
Is Homesteading Right for You?
Chelsea’s experiences inspire others to lead a more self-sufficient lifestyle and find joy in growing, preserving, and cooking their own food. Even if you don’t have space for a full garden, it’s possible to have a patio garden, visit farmer’s markets, and learn to can fruits and vegetables in season. Whether you live in the city or the country, Chelsea’s tips can help you explore the fulfilling homesteading lifestyle. It just takes embracing the principles of self-sufficiency and independence and finding a greater connection to the land and the rhythms of nature.
About the Cookbook and Advice for Cookbook Authors
The Cookbook Creative helped Chelsea publish her cookbook. The words and stories are all hers, and she worked for about six months to finish her manuscript and take all the photos and bring the cookbook to life. Then it was time to design and publish, and that was a whole new learning curve. We asked her what she would do differently next time. “My advice to other people is to find somebody to work with. If I had it to do over, I would have spent the money and hired The Cookbook Creative at the very beginning. It’s a lot of work and it’s overwhelming if you don’t know the process. It’s better to work with someone who understands publishing, because the end result will be what you really want.
“It thrills me that somebody might take one of my recipes, and it might become part of their family, too. That it could be passed down in their family for generations.”
Watch the full YouTube video interview here!
You can follow Chelsea and her family here:
On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littlemountainranch/
On YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@LittleMountainRanch
On Her Blog: https://littlemountainranch.com/blog-2/