Setting Up: An Outdoor Kitchen

Week One of living on the land. It has been so wonderful.  Truly, just so lovely to fall asleep here each night, listening to the sounds of owls, crickets, frogs, and birds.  So nice to stay late after dinner without worrying about rushing back to town to get the kids fed and put to bed.  So easy to wake up in the morning and jump right into the tasks at hand.

The biggest task this week has been setting up our outdoor kitchen. Imagine trying to fit the contents of your home kitchen into an outdoor space, in a neat, organized, weather-proof, and critter-proof way. Imagine cooking all your meals almost entirely from scratch without hot running water, refrigeration, or the type of cook stove or oven you’re used to.  This is what some of our neighbors have been doing for years, and this is our new reality.

Brian and I love cooking.  We love spending time in the kitchen.  So creating an outdoor kitchen that is truly functional and also beautiful was a high priority.  And let me state from the start that I can claim absolutely no credit for the wonder you are about to see.  It is the result of the talent and hard work of my husband Brian, an artist, blacksmith and builder, who loves nothing more than to spend hours creating incredible structures from materials we have at hand.


The Outdoor Kitchen is tucked just to the west of our blue roofed house, and nestled underneath an oak tree.


The most amazing feature: running water!  We have four 50 gallon barrels set up to catch rain water from our roof.  Brian piped it under the house and up to this sink.  Instant cold water!  (We filter the drinking water through a Berkey filter.)


Where we do our cooking!  To the left is your standard-issue Coleman white gas stove.  To the right is a StoveTec rocket stove.


Cooking our breakfast in my monkey pajamas!  We usually fire up both stoves to cook a meal.  The rocket stove gets pretty sooty, so we have pots designated just for rocket stove use.  In the background, you can see that we’ve laid some planks down in the blue house for a covered dining area.


This tent trailer is our temporary home – so cozy and wonderful.  But the most important part of this photo is to the right – our Sun Oven.  Sun Ovens are absolutely incredible. I have made stews, rice, quinoa, and heated hot water, just by taking advantage of the beautiful sunny days we’ve been having.  The only disadvantage: Sun Ovens really don’t work on a cloudy or rainy day like today.

Thanks for joining me on this tour of our new outdoor kitchen. If you have any questions, please ask away!


Shared with The Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Bloggers Network, and Homestead Barn Hop.

Taking Stock

Some days, it’s a very good idea to take stock.  It’s easy to think about how much has NOT gotten accomplished, or to stress about the very long list of things-to-do.  But when I really look back and realize that just in the past two weeks, we’ve gone from this…


To this…Cabin4

To this…Cabin7

And from this…SheetMulch3

To this…


And this…


It all feels really darn good.

(The above photo is a newly planted bed of perennial flowers, herbs, and fruiting shrubs that got dug up in Oregon, moved cross country, heeled into top soil over the winter, and now planted on the land. We’ll see which ones make it!)

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, taking stock of what is truly good about life right now.

What’s Growing

Robins on branches, 70 degree days followed by snow, dirt under my fingernails – Spring is coming!

There is so much preparation, planning, and doing these days.  I finally got around to placing my fruit tree order after spending days agonizing over which varieties and limiting myself to only 20 trees and a few bushes (I ordered from One Green World and St. Lawrence Nurseries).  Some of the highlights are “Arkansas Black” Apple (a fantastic keeper), “Olympic” and “Nijiseiki” Asian Pears, and “Meteor” and “Bali” Sour Pie Cherries.  While I wait for their delivery, I’m reading all I can about fruit tree planting and care (this book has been particularly helpful), and setting out stakes for their placement.

While I have not yet ventured out to the raised beds to direct sow anything, I have started some spring crops on my heat mat, including a wide variety of kale, onions, broccoli, cabbage, and greens.


They are still so tiny!

Most importantly, we’re growing a home!  The summer structure is taking shape slowly but surely.  All nine posts are in the ground, all six beams have been secured, and tomorrow the roof rafters will be put into place.  It’s possible that we’ll have a roof by the end of next week!

Post and Beams

As the structure emerges and our visions for the land take shape, we’re realizing how badly we want to live there.  Although our original intention was to build a non-insulated space for summer use and then figure out another living situation for next winter, now we find ourselves having conversations that start with the words, “how rustic are you willing to live?” or “200 square feet is enough space for our family of four, right?”  It could be completely crazy, but I think we’re both so eager to sink into that space that seemingly impossible situations are now looking somewhat possible.

Teri on ladder

Wishing you a beautiful Monday full of impossible possibilities!

* This post was shared on the Homestead Barn Hop, and Natural Living Monday.

Breaking Ground

Hello!  Thank you all for the kind words of support after my grandmother’s passing. I was able to spend the weekend with my extended family on the East coast to celebrate her life, and especially to remember her legacy of four children and over 30 grand and great-grandchildren!

Upon our return we hit the ground running with the myriad building details for the “Summer Shanty” (or as a friend suggested, the Summer Cottage – sounds so New England!).  The Shanty will be a 20 x 20 foot uninsulated wooden structure.  Half the structure will be enclosed and screened for a sleeping and living space.  The other half will remain open-sided and will function as an outdoor kitchen, storage and living space. (And when I say outdoor kitchen, I mean a very different thing than what the Sunset or Martha Stewart books mean when they talk about an Outdoor Kitchen!  Imagine a wood-fired cookstove, rather than stainless steel!)

We had already spent some time removing trees, brush, and poison ivy from the Shanty site, and with a little help from a generous neighbor with a tractor, we were able to break ground!  Nine post holes will contain 5 x 5 inch white oak posts, milled by the local Amish mill.  And these posts will hold up the structure, or at least that’s how I understand it!  To say that I am not the builder in our family would be an understatement!

Hole1 Hole2Woodpile1

The woodpile grows!  Ev and I are sitting on the white oak posts, Ella is resting on the red oak beams and floor joists. Next step is to put these posts into the ground!


Photos don’t quite do the Shanty site justice, but it’s to the left of where I am standing in the photo above.  The living space will extend into the forest a bit, and the outdoor kitchen space will nestle into the northern treeline.

While letting my mind wander yesterday, I was suddenly struck with a feeling of pure joy.  Here we are, doing what we’ve dreamed about for so many years: building our own home (shanty) on our own land.  We have so far to go, but it feels so exciting to be working hard to make this dream a reality.

Touring the Tri-Communities

After years of hearing about the “tri-communities” of Northern Missouri – Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, Red Earth Farms, and Sandhill Farm – we finally had the opportunity to visit the three communities yesterday.  To say that it was an inspiring day would be an understatement.  The three communities are vastly different, in size and in focus, but I came away from each of them feeling so invigorated and excited about the path that lies ahead as we seek to create our own homestead.

Our primary goal for this tour was to check out the basics of food, water, and shelter.  How are people building in Northeast Missouri, and what kinds of materials are they using?  What kinds of irrigation systems are in place for growing food?  How are communities meeting their drinking water needs?  What about electricity?  How can we adapt what we see for our own needs as a family of four?

What was truly exciting was to see a diversity of systems that worked well for each person or family.  For instance, the first small home we visited cost less than $3000 to build, had one single solar panel to power a light and radio, and the owner only built fires indoors when the temperature got below 40 degrees!  Contrast that with the exceptionally comfortable and spacious community building at Dancing Rabbit, in which there is internet, hot showers, composting toilets, refrigerators and washing machines.

Here are some of my favorite buildings:

A south facing sun room/greenhouse provides growing space and warmth.  In the winter, the residents open the door to their house, and let the warm air from the sun room enter.  In the summertime, they shade/screen the sun room.

A south facing sun room/greenhouse provides growing space and warmth at this Red Earth Farms home. In the winter, the residents open the door to their house, and let the warm air from the sun room enter. In the summertime, they shade/screen the sun room.

A composting toilet at Red Earth Farms.

A composting toilet at Red Earth Farms.

30 x 60 foot greenhouse.  My dream.

30 x 60 foot greenhouse at Red Earth Farms.  There were still greens and carrots growing, even after several 20 degree nights. 
An underground cistern collects rainwater from this house's roof.  Water is pumped through a filter before drinking.

An underground cistern collects rainwater from this house’s roof. I love that they used an antique hand powered pump to move the water from the cistern to the house. Water can be poured through a filter before drinking.

The community building at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

The community building at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

A temporary structure at DR.

A temporary structure at DR.

Many of the dwellings at DR had living roofs.

Many of the dwellings at DR had living roofs.

Mosaic in earthen plaster exterior.

Mosaic in earthen plaster exterior.

This house really captured my heart with its big windows and warm colors.

This house really captured my heart with its big windows and warm colors.

Another awesome building at DR.

Another awesome building at DR.

Timber-framed strawbale house in progress.

Timber-framed strawbale house in progress.

There was a very wide diversity of houses at Dancing Rabbit, including this old school bus!

There was a very wide diversity of houses at Dancing Rabbit, including this old school bus!

Check out these communities’ websites.  They have so much to offer and share!