Whole Lotta Cooking Going on!

While Gene was outside this weekend building the covered chicken enclosure this weekend, I was doing a lot of cooking.

Baked sweet potatoe

I roasted an organic Amish chicken in a galvanized roasting pan filled with onions, garden tomatoes and organic carrots. The sides for that meal were Fruit stuffed sweet potatoes. YUM! And, did you know that sweet potatoes are a super food?

Chicken in granite pan

Shssss. don’t tell anyone but I think I am having an affair with sweet potatoes right now…

Baked sweet potatoe

Then I took the chicken bones and boiled them up and made my famous kale, sweet potato, sausage and fennel soup. This soup has a couple of culinary surprises too and they are a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. On a cold winter day this soup is to die for. This recipe is one I adapted from RecipeKeys.com

Fruit Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

(Adapted from www.recipekeys.com) by Donna Allgaier-Lamberti

This is Gene absolute favorite!!


½ half cup half and half (I do not use this)

2 sticks of butter (I do not use butter but sub. maple syrup)

12 Sweet Potatoes (I use 6 for the two of us)

3 Granny Smith Apples finely chopped (I use 2 apples of whatever type I have on hand)

½ cup Macadamia Nuts finely chopped (I use one small bag of Pecan nuts finely chopped)

½ cup finely chopped dried apricots

2 handfuls of craisin’s

½ cup (or more) of maple syrup


  1. On day one (the day before I am serving) I bake the potatoes in a glass casserole dish at 350 for one hour. Refrigerate.
  2. Slit potatoes length wise and then crosswise to make it easier to scoop out a section of potato to later stuff.
  3. Take sweet potatoes pieces remove skinned and chop up small to add to fruit mixture.
  4. Cut apples in half, core, skin and dice.
  5. Chop up rest of the fruit and mix fruit and removed potatoes in a bowl.
  6. Spoon the fruit mixture back into the opening in the potatoes.
  7. Heat oven to 325.
  8. Pour the maple syrup over the top of the potatoes and fruit mix.
  9. Sprinkle nuts over the potatoes and mixture.
  10. Cook for one hour or slightly more.

I’m sorry I don’t have a photograph of the soup to share. My camera card is full to the brim and I have to go to town to buy another card, but not today.

We ate like kings and queens this weekend. I hope your holidays were full of healthy and delicious culinary surprises as well!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

More Tweaking of the Chicken Run

The wet and cold weather is coming on fast in Michigan. When the days grow shorter and autumn’s brisk entry turned leaves colorful and crisp the dipping temperature mean its time to think seriously about preparing your chicken coop and run for the coming winter. Because many backyard chickens live outside and are exposed to the elements cool chill we need to think about preparing their coop and their runs.

Our coop is brand new so most drafts have been eliminated. We’ve already added the pink foam insulation in the roof gable and screwed in the winter boards to the roof itself so we are already half-way there. The water heater is in the chicken waterer and the electric light is ready to turn on.

Today was my husband’s day off and it was time to make a quick and easy wind break for the chicken run. While this won’t help them a lot in the deep snow of winter, I am hoping this tarp may give them a few more extended weeks of free ranging. Our babies are still little and I have to be very careful of them getting wet and cold. 

Gene at corner USE

Adding a repurposed tarp as a wind break to the chickens favorite corner of the run. They follow the sun when it is out and lay and bathe in the warm and sunny soil.

We talked about buying construction grade plastic or a few cheap tarps. Then my husband mentioned repurposing our old brown tarp that was pretty much torn in half. Brilliant idea! This tarp had been sitting under a pile of pea gravel for many years and the wear and tear tore it almost in half.

Doing the tarp USE

I am standing in the vegetable garden facing the North side of the run. The black plastic mulch is laying on a large area of weeds to solarize and kill those weeds.

We picked the north and west sides of the coop to tarp since the wind blows in the hardest here from the west. Beautiful Lake Michigan is the final watershed located to the west of our property so that is where the wind blows in as well. This corner is generally the sunniest corner of the run when there is sunshine too.

VERT tarp at gate pole

Tarp stapled to the wood post at the gate.

We simply folded the tarp over the chicken wire and wood pieces and used the stapled gun to attach the tap to the wood pieces at the bottom and the wooden poles at the gates. We also moved the galvanized water tank from the chicken run and into the vegetable garden where we are really using it for spot watering.

VERT coop under trees USE

The view of the South side of the chicken run sitting under the tall White Oak tree that provides shade to the run and coop.

This is such a simple but important project for chicken babies who should not be left in windy drafts.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna


A Few of our Favorite Things

One of our favorite things to do on our homestead is to share our home and land as well as our rich, down-to-earth and humble lifestyle with friends and family.

Brenna chalk interesting USE jpeg

Our 5-year-old granddaughter drawing on the sidewalk with chalk.

On this Sunday our granddaughter came to visit us for the day and to enjoy a few of the county-style activities that help to make our simple life here so special.

We had lessons in the garden; picking some vegetables for dinner, followed by a home-cooked, from-scratch meal that is always the centerpiece of our day. Brenna at coop with stick USE jpeg

Brenna at the chicken coop and run.

And of course, a day at grandpa’s would not be complete without a ride on the lawn tractor.

VERT Brenna on tractorwaving jpeg

Driving the lawn tractor with Grandpa!

We visit grandma’s chickens, feed them and then drew with colored chalk on the sidewalk. Then we took a hike into the forest behind our home with our pack baskets.

Benna & Grandpa basket backs USEjpeg

Enjoying the crunch of autumn leaves under our feet.

Cutest smile USE THIS ONE jpeg

Brenna and grandpa Gene with their matching pack baskets for collecting treasures.

Simple yet memorable things.

Brenna getting measured

Getting measured on the growth chart. This girl grew an inch in the last three months!

I like to think that these are memories that Brenna will cherish and remember for a long time. I know that I will.

Small House Homestead, Donna



It’s Hard to Homestead When You are Old

Homesteading takes dedication, commitment and a deep desire for a life that is meaningful. Homesteading  is more about personal satisfaction than status or fun and games. It’s about taking nothing and making something out of it.

People sometimes ask me for advice on getting started as a homesteader. I tell them this, do what I say… not what I did – homestead when you are young. I know this first hand. Homesteading is hard work, day after day!

Donna & Gene at Chop House

Celebrating with a rare dinner out for our anniversary.

My husband and I started this adventure just 14 years ago when he was 50 and I was 45. Today we are 63 and 69. It takes a lot of hard, daily, physical work to homestead and long tiring workdays. Even when one is healthy and in good shape, it’s darn hard to be a homesteader at this age.

Walkway lined w grasses

This is my meadow habitat I created for the birds, butterflies and dragonflies.

So why are we living this way? It’s a way to live more frugally and a way to contribute meaningfully towards conserving the limited resources of our Earth. It’s a way to live that allows us to work with our hands and to spend long hours out-of-doors.

And, it’s one way to leave the world a better place than when we found it. In spite of its many challenges, hard choices and sore muscles, I can’t imagine living any other way.


Our crabapple tree surrounded by the sidewalk I designed. The bench tops have a mosaic design that I made. This is where we sit, together, almost everyday for a quick break and a cold drink.

Why? We homestead because…

  • We care about the Earth and want to preserve and protect our land.
  • I want to leave this property, our community in better shape then when we came here.
  • We want to have control over the food we eat.
  • We want to take charge of our health.
  • We want to show our granddaughter where food really comes from.
  • We choose to build living soil and habitat for all the creatures of the Earth.
  • We want to live a simpler lifestyle in a rural place with a slower pace of life.
  • We are independent thinkers who love the Earth and its soil and want to take care of it.
  • We chose to do the daily work of “living with a purpose.”
  • Standing at hydragneas and looing to deck
  • The back of our house and the row of native oak hydrangeas I planted under our dining room window.

It’s a physically and emotionally satisfying lifestyle choice. That pretty much sums it up for us.

Donna at the Small House Homestead

Driveway Makeover and the Value of Pay as You Go.

We resealed the Small House’s driveway in early September as part of our homes fall makeover and on-going property maintenance. Our roof was re-shingled about the same time. I just love how fresh and new the roof and our home now looks.

I know that roofing is an expensive homestead project but also know that it is one that is worth the effort and money for our homes values and our comfort. I now breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing I won’t be facing any more leaks this winter.

This is a kind of “replay” on our driveway since we tore out the old one and put down a whole new driveway shortly after we first moved to our homestead in October of 2000. The asphalt needs to be resealed about every 6 years or so.

My first priority after moving here (besides a new water heater and paint) was to build and install my new clothesline. It took another year of saving but by then I was able to get a new driveway.


Our bed quilt drying in the sunshine on our clothesline.

Wahing hunting Clothes on line

An easy to build wooden clothesline. I would recommend cementing it in the ground though as it has shifted over time.

When we moved in the Small House the old driveway was a mostly hard packed gravel with a whole lot of grass and weeds mixed in. I don’t have a picture of it from those days but trust me, it was absolutely and totally gross and could not be snow-blown or shoveled.

After getting a quote on redoing it by the driveway company  I called the bank to ask a “what if” question. I asked, “What if I added the cost of having the driveway done and by the driveway company, add that cost to our house loan?”

Fall nice house front blue sky

A fall view of our freshly sealed driveway and 1950’s ranch-style home (old roof).

Long shot USE

Gene is in process of sealing our driveway. You can see our new brown roof in this photograph.

Truthfully that idea had never occurred to me until the bank officer told me at the time of our closing that “Most people added the costs of their home renovations to their mortgage.” As pay-as-you-go-kind of person, that idea had never occurred to me.

I an exercise of exploring options I put in a call to our banker and asked this question. What would the final cost be for a $3,000 driveway over the course of the 30 year loan? When she told me $9,000, I was shocked speechless. After getting over my surprise, I said no, thank you, I’ll pass. I knew then I would wait and save up until I had that money in hand.

Gene front of house mid view

My husband Gene is calking the area between the asphalt and the wood siding to keep the water out.

It took quite a while to save the money needed for this project. But when the commercial driveway company came and took out that old junky drive surface and put down the fresh asphalt I was proud to hand over the cash and I knew that I was getting the best value I could for my money.

I learned about the value of money a long time ago as a young girl when I first began to babysit for neighbors. I think I was paid around twenty-five cents an hour in those days. I’d save and save until I had enough cash to buy clothes, sundries or a new record. I learned very quickly what was worth my time and hard work and what was not.

Later on, after my divorce when my twenty-four-year marriage fell apart,  I read the book, Your Money our Your Life, by author Vicki Robins and learned that every purchase made has more than one cost so plan wisely before you spend. And most recently I’ve discovered another pay as you go guru, Dave Ramsey at daveramsey.com. Lot of good strategies can be found in both sources and I can recommend them both.

Money is always tight these days but in spite of that challenge, I’m still a pay as you go homesteader. Anything else is simply not sustainable. And as a retiree and a homesteader, it’s all about sustainability for me.

Small House Homesteader, Donna