Jennifer: Welcome to the Self-Reliant Living Show. Today we have a wonderful guest. Her name is Constance Smith, and she has been married for a long time, and she has three children that are grown now, but she homeschooled them. Her husband was in the military for 25 years, my gosh, and she’s lived everywhere from Alaska to Germany, so I’m definitely going to ask her about living overseas. That’s very interesting. But now she homesteads in Northern Alabama, and she has been a blogger for a really long time. So she has had this extra thing that she does on the side. You can ask her about that in terms of being an extra source of income for her. So, welcome, Constance Smith! How are you doing?
Constance: Very well. Thank you. How are you?
Jennifer: I’m good. Okay, so let’s just dive into this, ’cause you have such an interesting bio. Can you tell us a little bit about you and your family and what your background is, ’cause I know you’ve lived all over the world, right? What made you decide to settle down in Alabama and homestead?
Constance: My, well, let’s see. I grew up in the Midwest. I am originally from Wisconsin, that’s where my family’s from. I joined the army myself and met my husband at Chapel Service in Basic Training, and a few months later, we were married. You know, on paper, it never should have worked, but that was 25, almost 26 yrs ago, so it was meant to be. I grew up in town. To me, I guess you would call it the city, but nowadays that would be a small town, I guess. But my grandmother lived in the country, and every time I went to her house, I just really felt like that’s where I was supposed to be.
Fast forward through the years, we lived all over the place, Virginia, Texas, Alaska, and Germany, of course, and our last duty station that we ended up with in the army was Redstone Arsenal in Northern Alabama. We just kind of fell in love with the area and ended up retiring here for a number of reasons. One, the cost of living is really good here. You can get a lot more for your money, as far as buying land and buying a home, so that was a big factor for us. Additionally, the Redstone area, the Huntsville area, run a lot of aviation businesses, and my husband was aviation in the army, so looking at post-military life, it was good for him as far as employment goes. So we just kind of fell in love with the area. The weather is a little bit hotter than I would like it to be, but you know, you get used to it eventually, or so I’m told.
Jennifer: I’m still trying to get used to it.
Constance: Yes, they say you do, but-
Jennifer: Not really.
Constance: … I’m doubting that. But, you know, our last station prior to coming here was Alaska, and I absolutely loved it up there. I cried when we left, because it stole my heart. Different kind of living up there.
Jennifer: Yeah, and what a dramatic change to go from Alaska to Alabama. We’re in Texas, and we get that heat. I have been here, I have been in Texas since I was really a young, young girl, like five years old, and no, you do not get used to the heat. It’s one of those things I guess you live with it, but now that I’m getting older, I’m like, “Oh, it’s a little hard on me.” But this was a fairly recent move for you guys. You’re kind of fresh in terms of the homesteading life. How did that play out? I mean, what made you think, “Okay, I’m just going to go out and get this land and we’re going to have all these animals.” Was that something that you guys planned for a really long time, or was it something that just you seized the opportunity?
Constance: Well, my husband, he was an army brat, so he kind of lived all over the place. But one of the things that we talked about when we first met, I guess, was the kind of … the someday dreams, and both of us, down the road at some point, wanted to live out in the country. Through all the years, we lived 19 different places, and there was one particular home that, when we rented it, it was the first place we rented that was out in the country. We had, at the time, 60 acres. We didn’t even know it at the time. We were just renting a house that happened to have some land.
But that was the first time where, as a military family, we were able to have chickens and we were able to garden. We could hunt in our own backyard, and it was … we felt at home. So we knew that down the road, when retirement time came, that that was exactly what we were going to look for.
Jennifer: Wow. So you had a little preview there and you loved it, and so that’s what happened.
Jennifer: So what does your husband do now? ‘Cause he spent like 25 years in the military, so he retired and then so now he has … he helps you on the farm or he does something else? What does he do?
Constance: Actually, he has been an overseas contractor for the past year, so we actually closed on this house while he was overseas and everything that I have done so far here has been a one-woman show.
Jennifer: Wow! My goodness, that’s a lot. And that’s, what an accomplishment too, though.
Constance: You roll with it.
Jennifer: Roll with it, there you go. Okay, so you recently added some rabbits-
Jennifer: … to your homestead, so can you tell us a little bit about how you keep them? ‘Cause I know it’s not just in cages like a lot of people do, it’s more natural than that.
Constance: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jennifer: But can you describe the sort of crate you keep them in? ‘Cause I know that I’ve talked to a lot of people who have rabbits and they … I’ve asked them how they keep them and they’ve tried the sort of thing that you’re doing, although I think that you’ve got the answer to it with this question. But they say that they dig underneath. Can you just talk about the crate that you’ve got and what you’re doing to prevent that?
Constance: Sure. Well, a lot of people have heard of a chicken tractor, and when we had that farmhouse, I had built a chicken tractor for our chickens when they were young, before they were too big to really free-range, so basically I built a rabbit tractor. It has a yard attached to it. The entire thing is about three for them by six feet. It has a little house that’s attached to it, and then they can go out into the yard, where they can dig if they want to, they can eat grass and clover and all that and kind of live a natural lifestyle.
They still have their food and water dishes that any rabbit would have, but their feet are on the ground. I just feel like if an animal is going to be on my homestead, I’m going to give it as good a life as I possibly can while it’s here. These are meat rabbits, so I have no … you know, I’m not misguided on that. There’s no attachment that they’re a pet or not, because they’re not.
So what I have done is, on the bottom of the yard part itself, where they have access to the ground, I took metal fencing and I created an apron, so the apron goes into the yard where the rabbits are and it also comes out. Where I cut the fencing, there’s kind of sharp points, and it’s almost like barbed wire. So that cut edge is to the outside, so if I have a predator that comes along and tries to dig underneath it, they’re going to poke themselves on those sharp wires and discourage them from trying to dig.
We have a huge coyote population here. I see them in broad daylight, coming out and checking out my animals, and so far I’ve not had any issues at all. I know they’ve been around, I’ve heard them right outside my bedroom window, but nothing has been able to get to my rabbits, and my male, my buck rabbit, really liked to dig holes, but he can’t dig his way out because of that. They’re also only in one place for no more than two days, so it would take them a while to dig all the way out, but they’re going to be moved long before that ever happens.
Jennifer: Yeah. You have a video where you show how you set this up. We’re going to link in the show notes, because that’s, like I said when I saw it, I was like, “Oh my Gosh, that’s just so awesome,” ’cause that sort of solves that problem of the digging and all of that. Can you talk about your chickens? ‘Cause you have chickens too, and … did you have them … well, you just said a little while ago that you had this sort of preview when you rented a house. Did you have chickens in that house? How did you learn to care for them? Are you doing this all on the fly, or you know, how do you educate yourself, I guess? Or did you have that from when you were younger?
Constance: No, my only experience with chickens when I was little was when I was about one the two years old, at my great-grandmother’s house, I remember she was a farmer. They had a full-blown chicken farm and all of that. I remember my great aunt taking me into the henhouse and wanting me to gather the eggs from under the hens, and being afraid to put my hands under there, ’cause I was afraid they would peck me. Then I remember seeing a baby pool full of chicks and just being enamored by that, but that was forever ago.
As far as how I learned, well, that first set of chickens we had at the farmhouse were gifted to me by a friend of mine. She had chickens and she had a younger group that wasn’t getting along with the older group, which is pretty typical for chickens. So she asked me if I wanted the six younger ones. So I was happy to take them. So she really mentored me and gave me a lot of excellent information, you know, ways to save money, things that the chickens did need or didn’t need or not to waste my money on, so she was very, very, very helpful, as far as that goes. We lived there for a couple of years, and then we ended up moving, went to Alaska, and so of course we couldn’t take our chickens and everything with us. I gave them to someone who was just starting out and kind of getting started with keeping animals and everything, so I know that they were going to be taken care of.
Then I kind of had to, because it had been so long because we’d had the chickens, I kind of had to relearn everything again, because when you’re not actively doing things, you kind of forget the ins and outs of it. So I have … I’m a book fanatic, I love to collect books, and it’s very hard to get rid of books once they come into the house. But I have a lot of country living, homesteading type of books, self-reliant books. I glean the information, because they’ll sometimes have contradicting viewpoints, because it’s always someone’s opinion. So I just look at the different viewpoints and glean from that what I think would be right for what we’re doing and what we want.
Jennifer: That’s great, that’s wonderful. Stewart’s asking if, you know, ’cause your husband is away, then your children, ’cause they’re grown children, right? They live close and they can help. Do they come and help on the homestead, or is that something that they don’t do? Do they have the same sort of values in terms of the land and the animals and all of that?
Constance: They do, but my oldest child is my daughter, Jennifer, and she actually lives in North Carolina. Then my older son, Joshua, he’s in the army himself. He’s a helicopter mechanic, just like my husband was and my father-in-law was, and he’s actually stationed in Germany with his wife. So my youngest is still here, but he is about to join the army himself, so when there’s things that I need him to help me with, if there’s something that it really takes two people to do, of course he’ll help me.
But I think that they have always had an appreciation for this kind of living. They lived in that farmhouse for several years, you know, and I could see that they blossomed there, that they were very happy there too. My daughter lives out in the country, my older son, he hasn’t seen this place yet, but he cannot wait to come here. Then my youngest, you never know. He’s got his own mind, so we’ll just have to see what happens there. Although he is definitely not a city boy, he’s definitely not, so …
Jennifer: Yeah, yeah. What Amy is saying that she loves books too and she can never get rid of hers either.
Jennifer: Okay, so you have all of the homesteading stuff, but you also are a photographer, and you have some different cameras set up around your property. You were just telling us about the coyotes that you said you could hear from your bedroom and all this. You have, what, trail cameras?
Constance: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jennifer: And you’ve seen wildlife, deer, wild boars … tell us about that, and does that … do you guys hunt those, you know? Do they come too close? What’s life like with all of that wildlife around you?
Constance: Well, the trail cams I set out shortly after we moved here, because I wanted to be able to see what kind of wildlife was coming around. I wanted to know what was out there. I wanted to get an idea of what kind of hunting might be available to us. The boars, by the time I realized that we had them, hunting season for boars here in Alabama is pretty much year round, but there’s certain times of year you can hunt 24 hours a day for them, and these boars had only been coming around at night. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them until you could only hunt them during the day, and I honestly have not seen any sign of them since then, so I’m hoping they come back around later this Summer. We can put them in the freezer.
I’ve used the trail cams for a number of reasons, not only to see what kind of animals are out there, but also to get an idea of any kind of two-legged trespassers that might come around. I had a couple issues when we first moved in, and I went out there and barbed wire my property line, and I haven’t had any issues since. So I do that, and that’s really what the trail cams are for. Then, as far as photography goes, that’s just something that kind of grew with blogging. You know, when I first started out, I didn’t really take pictures, because I didn’t have the ability. My first homepage was done with a Web TV, so that wasn’t even a possibility back then. Digital cameras weren’t even a thing when I started, so we’ve come a long way.
Constance: Photography’s something that I’ve kind of learned, taught myself to do over the years, and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting, two-legged trespassers! ‘Cause you don’t usually think about that when you’re looking at the different wildlife that’s on your property. Okay, so along these lines with the photography and animals, you volunteer at your animal shelter. Can you tell us why you do that and what it’s like? ‘Cause I know you’ve gotten a puppy recently, you’ve added puppy to your herd, I guess. Your pack. Tell us about that and what you do for them, ’cause it’s really linked to blogging, right?
Constance: Well, I’ve always done a lot of volunteer work over the years, and in the past, it’s generally been through my military community. I was an FRG leader, care team … just different things that they needed for me, or they needed me to do. I enjoyed giving my time back that way, and using any skills that I have that could be of benefit to other people. One of the fun volunteer things that we did was in Alaska, my kids and I, and we kind of incorporated this into our homeschooling, we did a fish study where we would set up fish traps and then we would monitor what kind of fish were coming through the river, and we worked with the fish and wildlife service with that.
But now, being here, Redstone Arsenal is a military installation of sorts, but it’s really more of a research installation, where you’ve got NASA and all that stuff. So it’s not really an army post. It’s a completely different lifestyle, there wasn’t really a real unit for us to plug into or anything like that. I still wanted to be able to have the chance to give back to my community and to help out where I’m needed, and one day I saw a post on Facebook where the local animal shelter was looking for donations, where they were trying to get dog food and everything donated. I jumped in the truck and went to Walmart and bought about 200 pounds of dog food and went to the animal shelter, and it dawned on me: wait a minute, I can take pictures.
So I asked the lady, do you have anybody who does photos of your dogs, all the animals? She’s like, “Well, we used to have a lady who did it, or she said she was going to do it, and she never came back.” So I’m like, “Well, I’ll do it.” So about once a week or so, I will go in, weather permitting — ’cause they have an outdoor area for the dogs — and I will photograph all of the cats and dogs that need to be adopted. They’ve told me that since I started doing that, the adoption rate has gone way up, which is the whole goal of this.
You know, I do it for a couple of reasons. Not only to give back, but it’s also, I do enjoy doing photography as a hobby, and so this is kind of a way that I can use it for my enjoyment but also to do some good with it. I do love animals, and I can’t adopt them all, so … I can at least help them find homes.
Jennifer: Yeah, that’s fun, that when your subjects are puppies and dogs and cats, ’cause I have a special place in my heart for them as well. So you recently adopted one.
Jennifer: A puppy. So tell us about that and how that’s going and why that one, right?
Constance: Well, years ago, we had two big dogs and we had one little bitty dog, and usually I’m not a little dog person. They’re just yappy and annoying to me. But the little dog we had at the time, he was four pounds. He was a Yorkie Poo, half teacup poodle, half teacup Yorkie. I think he thought he was a cat, because he was just not a typical little dog. But I kind of felt in love with that dynamic of having the two big dogs and the one little dog. That little dog, Bear Bear, I got him the day after my husband deployed the first time, and he was with me through every single deployment and he just loved being held and being on your lap. He was just a comforter of sorts.
Over the years, the dogs have passed away. Bear Bear lived to be 16 years old, one of the older dogs died, and then the last remaining big dog actually lives with my daughter in North Carolina. So I kind of missed having that. We do have two big dogs, and you know, when you go to the shelter and you see all of these animals who need homes, sometimes they steal your heart. This little one … I brought him out to photograph him and he jumped on my lap and just the way he acted and the sounds that he made and stuff made me think of Bear. So I came home, cleaned up like I usually do, and I’m like, “I got to go get him.”
I went back and I got him. And he did great. You know, my big dogs, Cheena is a husky mix, and Duke is a American Staffordshire Terrier/Sharpei/cattle dog, and so I wasn’t quite sure how he would do. But him being a big, strong, dog, and Schatze, the little one, he gives Duke a run for his money. I think Cheena likes that, because those two will go out in the yard and wrestle and they are just all at it, and Cheena’s like, “Pfft, let ’em.”
Jennifer: That’s great. We have a small dog and a big dog, so I guess we’re missing another big dog, that’s what you’re saying. That dynamic is really cool. We’ll have to see about that, I’ll have to break that gently to my husband.
Let’s switch gears a little bit, ’cause you spent a good amount of time overseas, and I know that obviously you’re homesteading now and you believe in living naturally and sustainably. How did you do that overseas? Where did you go grocery shopping? Did you seek out farmer’s markets and stuff like that? Tell us a little bit about what that looked like.
Constance: Well, to be honest, when we were in Germany, we were very young and that wasn’t really where we were at yet in our life. We lived in an apartment, so there wasn’t really a whole lot you could do in military housing. But, over the years, depending on where we were at, sometimes we were in town homes or apartments or, you know, what have you. But in Germany, we had this huge balcony, so my balcony was lined with pots and I was able to grow anything I could in containers. When we moved to Alaska, I did much of the same, even though the growing season up there is completely different. You’ve really got to adapt to doing things up there.
But I did what I could. It was difficult. I did visit farmer’s markets and things like that. When we lived in military housing at Fort Bragg, we lived in a duplex town home kind of place, and my backyard was a jungle. It was full of containers of everything you can think of. I even grew corn in pots, so it was great. Then, when we left, my next door neighbor had been trying to grow things and he didn’t really … couldn’t really get the hang of it, so I just kind of gifted it all to him. That way, someone could enjoy what I had started.
You kind of learn to do what you can. It’s difficult when you move every couple years, you know? I mean, we had 19 different homes in our army life, so it’s hard to do anything long-term. It’s just not possible.
Jennifer: It is, yeah. I can relate, ’cause my father retired from the air force, so I spent my young life moving from place to place. I totally get it. But tell me a little bit about your blog, ’cause that’s I guess some of the inspiration came from doing those sorts of things, so tell us about … ’cause I know you have a YouTube channel, you have a blog, and you develop recipes, so tell us a little bit about how that all came about.
Constance: Well, years ago, like I said, before, we had a Web TV, and I started a little homepage where I could just share things that our family was doing. Of course, back then it was just text, because we didn’t have the capabilities that we do now. Then, 2006, 2005-2006, I was in a Yahoo group when Yahoo groups were big. I was in a homemakers Yahoo group. We would share recipes, homemaking tips, and things like that, and I found myself sharing the same recipes over and over again, and typing out these recipes over and over again. I’m like, I really need some place where I can point people to to find the information that I would like to share.
A friend of mine who, she actually ran that Yahoo group, told me I should start blogging. At the time, blogging, well that was just an online journal. Why would I want my diary on the internet for everybody to read? Then she explained to me, she’s like, “No, no, no, you don’t have to use it that way.” She said, “You just type it in and it does the coding for you,” and I was like, “What?!” I was like, “Oh my Goodness!”
So immediately I got online and started my first blog, and it originally was at Xanga, which I don’t even know if that exists anymore, but I wasn’t on there very long, ’cause I didn’t like the advertising they had on there. It was kind of yucky, and so I moved shortly thereafter to Blogspot. I blogged there a long time as Mrs. Momma Hen. Don’t try to go to that address now, because somebody else owns it, and it’s not a nice website.
But the reason I started doing it the way I do … around the same time, not only did I want a place where I could direct people to to find my recipes and things like that, but I was teaching a homeschool/home ec class, and there was a friend of mine who was there one day, and she was kind of watching the class and everything. She says, “You know, I really wish they had home ec for grownups, because I never learned any of this when I was growing up.” That really got me thinking about the day and age that we live in.
Over the years, being army and meeting a lot of people, I’ve met a lot of wives who couldn’t cook dinner for their families. There was one lady in particular, I’ll never forget, she told me she couldn’t cook Hamburger Helper. I was like, “What do you do when your husband’s gone?” She was like, “We just eat at McDonald’s.” So with people like that in mind, I started Mrs. Momma Hen, and I tried to write in such a way that you don’t have to be a trained cook to make meals for your family.
Over the years, I’ve gotten wonderful emails and messages from people who have used my website to cook for their family, and how it’s brought them together, and they’ll even make their menus together, and that’s just the reward. I almost feel like this is almost a ministry to families that I want them to be able to have that family time with one another. So over the years, it kind of grew from just being recipes to … I share a little bit of everything. I’ve shared our homeschooling adventures back when we were in that stage of life, and now that we are settling down here in Alabama and we’re starting homesteading, I’m sharing that. Sharing the things that we do, and a couple years ago, the same lady who got me blogging got me into YouTube. I got over that fear of doing that and now I do YouTube, and I’m sharing the ups and downs and my daily life with blogging.
Jennifer: Well, tell us … I don’t know, two, three recipes on your blog that mean something special to you. ‘Cause I know all your recipes, I guess, that you develop, I know all of mine, there’s sort of a story behind. But what are your two or three favorites?
Constance: Gosh, I mean there’s two that pop out right off the bat. One of them is corn casserole, and that might not sound like … corn casserole? But I grew up eating that, and that’s not really my own recipe, but every holiday, my great-grandma made corn casserole, and you knew it was a holiday from the smell of it. It is just … I love that recipe in particular, just because of all the memories tied to that.
Then when my family started growing, I do the same thing. I make it every Thanksgiving and every major holiday. I make this corn casserole, and the family literally fights over the leftovers, so much so that every holiday, I have to make two of them, so that there’s leftovers. A couple times, they’ve said that I need to make three, but that’s just going too far. So that one, just because of the memories tied to that.
Then the other one that jumps out to me is I have a Carolina Pulled Pork recipe, and that one … again, this is kind of the memories attached to this recipe, you know? I made it, family fell in love with it, and I came up with that recipe when we lived in Alaska, and I made it for my husband’s change of responsibility, where he took over as the First Sergeant of our unit up there. Normally, when they have those, whoever is the incoming First Sergeant or what have you, they’re responsible for the snacks or whatever. Usually, it’s cheese and crackers or whatever, and my husband was like, “Do you think you could make your pulled pork for that?” “Okay.”
So I made it. It was an immediate hit. A few months later, we had a new commander come in, and I hadn’t even met the guy yet. They had an event and he came up to me and he wanted to introduce himself to me, and he says, “Everybody is asking me if Mrs. Smith is going to make the pulled pork for the change of command,” and he said, “I thought I should ask Mrs. Smith if she could make the pulled pork.” So I said yes. He paid for everything and I made it for him.
It just kind of exploded from there. We had fundraisers where I made like 60 pounds of pulled pork and it was gone in like minutes. I actually have, you can’t see it in the picture, but up on the shelf there, I have an engraved wooden bowl. It’s kind of the Alaska thing up there. It actually has my pulled pork named in the inscription on it. Down the road, I mean, it’s been a staple for some of our major events. I made it for my daughter’s wedding. It was the main dish for the wedding. I made it for my son’s wedding. It’s like everybody wants the pulled pork!
Jennifer: It’s so good!
Constance: That’s kind of …
Jennifer: I love that. I love pulled pork. I love the story behind that and how, you know, the memories and the comfort of eating that, and it just sort of strings them together. I love that.
Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about your blog, because we always are preaching to everybody, “Have more than one stream of income.” Do you make an income from your blog, and have you been doing that since the beginning, or did that just sort of evolve? Tell us a little bit about that.
Constance: At the beginning it didn’t. At the beginning, it was just kind of a hobby. I just blogged for … just to do it, just to share my information, just to put my stuff out there. Then, I think about halfway through the time in Alaska is when I was approached by the first business that wanted to work with me. Since then … and it started off with free samples, where people wanted to send me things for me to share or whatever, and shortly after that, I started getting paid to do blog posts, to do a sponsored post for this company. Generally it involved coming up with a recipe with their product, you know? I’ve worked with Land O Lakes, I’ve worked with Dixie Crystal Sugar, a bunch of them. I can’t even think of them all.
That just grew from there. I had a, not a Yahoo group, a Facebook group that I was a part of called Sunday Supper, and that was a great way for us to work together to do campaigns where there would be multiple bloggers working with the company at the same time, so that they would get more reach with their campaigns. I’ve done some with them, I’ve done some with other companies, whether it’s a sponsored post … Those are where you make the most money for the least amount of work. But at the same time, you can do advertising, sidebar advertising, you can work with advertising campaigns, and that’s just your static advertising that’s on your website.
So with all of that, I do make pretty decent money. I mean, my daughter’s wedding was kind of thrown at us out of the blue. “Hey, Mom, we’re getting married next month”! “Okay.” So her entire wedding was paid for with my blog money.
Constance: So it’s pretty good.
Jennifer: That’s great. Scott says he is doing a drive by as he heads to surgery, so my goodness, Scott, I hope that all goes well for you. Then Jo is saying she came in late and where do we find these recipes and I will put all of the links in the show notes to go to the exact recipes that we’re talking about.
Okay, so let’s change gears a little bit again, and talk about homeschooling, ’cause I homeschool and you homeschooled, so I love talking to people about this. What led you guys to homeschool in the first place? Because as you were saying, you’re moving around all the time, so it’s, I’m sure, what it was for me when I was going through that, hard to make friends and keep them and all that. So why did you decide, “Well, I’m just going to homeschool and … what?” You speak to that.
Constance: Well, I became a Christian when my kids were little, and it was right around the time that my oldest started going to school, and while we were there — this was in Germany — I actually met the first family that I’d ever known who homeschooled. And I was always amazed at how the children behaved themselves, how loving they were to each other, and that’s what really opened my eyes to this whole homeschooling thing, ’cause I’d never really heard of it before. Once I got to learning more and more about it, I just really felt like that was what I wanted to do.
Now, getting my husband on board was a different story. We came back to the states and the first two years, my husband allowed me to homeschool my daughter, but then when my older son was starting school, my husband’s like, “Oh, no, no, you can’t do two different grades at the same time,” so he made me put them in public school for a while. Then a few years later, as the kids got a little bit older, all three were in school and we were just having a lot of issues with bad schools, bad teachers, and I dragged my husband along one day to a parent-teacher conference and the teacher lied to us, to our faces, and was immediately caught in the lie.
I think that was kind of the eye-opener for my husband. This was about two weeks before he deployed again. So the way we came about into finally homeschooling is kind of a little bit of a story. It’s a short one, but … he had allowed me to homeschool my daughter, because she was the oldest, and she was a girl, and so he thought it’d be fine to homeschool her, but not the boys yet. So that last year with that teacher conference and everything, the boys were still in public school, and then my husband deployed.
I was fed up one day with something that had happened with the school, and I was like, you know what? He is not here. And I’ve never even told anybody this, my husband doesn’t even know the story, so now he’s going to know this. I decided I was just going to homeschool the boys, because my husband is not here, he’s not the one who has to deal with this, and I’m just going to make the command decision and I’m going to do it, because I’m the one that had to deal with everything. Signed the boys up for homeschool football league, and everything else, and looked out the window one day, the kids were outside playing. This is when we lived at the farmhouse. Immediately, I was convicted about it, and God was just kind of like, “Excuse me, this is not how we do things around here.” I prayed about it, I was like, “Lord, I know, and I’m not doing this the right way and I’ve got to fix this. I just can’t bear the thought of putting them back in public school.”
20 minutes later, my husband called me from Iraq and told me to homeschool the boys. He had no idea I had even pulled the kids out. He had no idea what was going on. So that was just God. From that point forward, that’s all it’s been is it’s been homeschooling. And prior to that, I had a couple relatives who were not on board with the idea. They didn’t understand it. But looking back, I kind of figured out why they were so resistant to the idea, and it’s that they were both women and they were both pulled out of school at eighth grade. They weren’t allowed to finish school because they were girls.
So, to them, I think they didn’t understand what we were doing, but through the years, every time one of those relatives would come to visit, I would let them see. I would expose them to other homeschoolers. I would take them to football league, I would take them to choir and the choir my daughter was in and things like that. So they got a understanding that, “Wow, Connie isn’t really a freak who’s secluding her children!” I think there was a real appreciation for it, and they saw how the kids blossomed and grew with that, plus the flexibility that when a relative came to visit, we could take a couple days off and spend that time with them, whereas if the kids were in public school, that wouldn’t even be a possibility.
We didn’t have a strict schedule. We started in the middle of summer, when the weather was too hot to be outside anyways, and then we would take off the entire month of October and enjoy the beautiful weather, have time with family and things like that. I really saw that my kids did very, very well that way, I could see the difference in them, their personalities, and it was just … I knew it was the right thing for our family. Not to mention that with military lifestyle and moving constantly, I didn’t have to worry about changing schools, I didn’t have to worry about different curricula or anything like that, because we would just pause, we would move, and then we would pick up where we left off.
Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. That’s beautiful. I love that story. Let me ask you this. When you were moving around, did you have any problem with the different laws in different states? ‘Cause isn’t it illegal now to homeschool in Germany? Can you talk about that a little bit?
Constance: Okay, so we homeschooled, we only homeschooled in three states, because we were at Fort Bragg for a very long time, we just taught while we were there. So North Carolina has pretty easy laws. You pretty much just register with state, have your kids tested once a year … it’s pretty hands-off. Alaska is completely hands-off. You don’t even have to register, with Alaska.
The only involvement that the state or the school system or anything would have with you is if you enrolled your child in one of the homeschool programs that they have. My older son did do that, so he was on … he took a woodworking class through the high school, and he was on the sharpshooting team at the high school, competed in the Junior Olympics and everything like that. So that was good for him. Alaska is easy. I mean, they don’t have … it’s such a huge state, and there’s so many people that live in the middle of nowhere. How could the state possibly regulate anything with that?
Then, down here in Alabama, it again is pretty easy. You have to register through a school, so it’s kind of like your umbrella or whatever, but the particular umbrella that we used was very hands-off, very freedom-minded, keep the government out of your business, let the parents be the parents, so I appreciated that. As far as Germany goes, we didn’t homeschool when we were there, but we did know homeschoolers there. The way it works for military families who are stationed over there, is they don’t fall under the German laws.
That is a huge, huge thing, because when a military family is stationed over there, they go to DOD schools, Department of Defense schools, so they fall under the DOD, they don’t fall under the German school system. American children have a little bit of a reprieve from that. I don’t think anything has changed, as far as that goes, because I still know people who are over there and homeschool, but yeah, I know it concerns people sometimes, when they go over there, if they’re homeschooling. Thankfully, they don’t fall under the German law, ’cause that would just be awful.
Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah, that is good, and that’s good to know, ’cause I didn’t know how that worked, so that’s great. But your children are grown, right, now, ’cause they’re … you’re done with homeschooling, per se, but you’re still sort of teaching with your blogging and your writing. So could you tell us a little bit about that?
Constance: Well, I teach, you know, through my blog. I teach cooking and things like that, recipes that are easy to follow and easy to understand. I do a lot of step by step photos, so people who are visual can see. But then I also do workshops. I teach people how to blog, not necessarily to do what I’m doing, but just to blog in general. I’ve spoken at workshops. Just last week, I spoke at a writers’ conference about blogging and about using social media and doing what you love and finding a way to make profit with that. So I do things like that.
Trying to think what else … I’ve done one-on-one … I guess you could call it almost like tutoring, where someone was starting a foundation and needed to start a website, and so I did one-on-one counseling with them, and walked them through the stages of how to run their website, how to set it up, and things like that. So there’s kind of a little … I kind of do a little bit of everything, when I have the time.
Jennifer: It sounds like you have a teaching personality.
Constance: I do.
Jennifer: I love that. Then you just want to give. That’s one of my favorite types of people. So you’re my kind of person. I think I put that in the description when I put this on Facebook. Hello, Tracy, there’s two Tracies, and hello, Misty. Saying hello to everybody who’s coming in. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about second amendment rights. Can you talk a little bit about your background with firearms?
Constance: Goodness, well, I didn’t really grow up with them. I grew up in a town. I never really had anything to do … I think my first experiences with firearms was my senior year in high school. In the town I grew up in, the high school, PE wasn’t a required class for your senior year, but there was an alternative class you could take was called Outdoor Adventure, where we did kayaking and skiing and rappelling and all different stuff. One of the courses that we actually did was firearm safety, and the high school that I went to actually had a range in the basement and it was for the ROTC, but the Outdoor Adventure class used that, so that was my first actual experience with firearms.
Then, down the road, we didn’t really hunt or anything when we were younger, since we moved so much, and apartment living and all that stuff. And raising babies, you know. But then, I want to say probably around the time we moved to North Carolina is when I started really taking an interest and really learning more about it. Over the time that we lived there, I got more interested in hunting and things like that, and then when my kids, when I started homeschooling all of them, I met a homeschool family that lived out where we did, in the same area, and her kids were part of a homeschool 4-H club that was sharpshooting. So I’m like, “Ooh, this sounds interesting.”
So I immediately signed my kids up, because I wanted them to learn how to use a firearm, ’cause we did have country living in mind. And when you live in the country, I feel like being knowledgeable about firearms to protect not only yourself, your family, but your livestock and everything else, I think that’s very important for people to know. Not only as a rural liver, but honestly, as an American, but that’s a whole different ball game.
Jennifer: I agree.
Constance: I did, I signed the kids up for that, and the first time we went, my sons were all over it, they were very excited, but my daughter didn’t want to do it. She didn’t want to do it, her friend was there, so she went with her friend. I said, “Okay, well, someday you say you want to live in Montana and you want to have a horse ranch and all this stuff.” I said, “So are you going to sit there and just watch a mountain lion eat your horse, or are you going to do something about it?” And she looked at me, and she turned around, and she went straight to the rifle range and learned. Then, later on, I actually did become a certified instructor. I was the shotgun instructor for the 4-H club.
Jennifer: Wow. That’s great. I love that story about your daughter. Okay, so you have an Etsy shop and you sell aprons. Do you make those aprons?
Constance: Yes, I do. I do. Years ago, I made myself a very simple apron. It kind of wraps around and covers you on all sides, you know, so that your clothing is protected. I have found it to be a very useful … it’s a very utilitarian apron, and I started wearing it a lot when we moved out here, and I was working on the chicken coop and things little that. You know, keeping my clothes clean and everything. I had several of my subscribers comment on it, that they would like an apron like that, because they hadn’t seen one anywhere, so I’m like, “Oh, okay, well, maybe I’ll start making some.” So I did. When I have the time, I squeeze in a little bit of sewing, and I do make aprons.
I call them farm girl work aprons, just ’cause they’re hard workers. I make most of them out of duck cloth, which I find to be a bit more durable, especially if you’re using them in the garden or things like that, but of course they’re good in the kitchen, too. I make the pockets nice and big so you can actually put stuff in them. I like putting a pocket on the chest so I can stick my cell phone right there, so I can hear if it rings or whatever, and keep it from getting splashed and whatever.
I’ve had people ask for linen ones, so I did start making a couple out of linen, and then I do, on occasion, make some out of ordinary print, like calico and muslin type of … lighter fabric, too. I think there’s only maybe four of them in the shop right now, but I’ve got about ten more aprons worth of fabric to work on. Hopefully I can get some made pretty soon and added.
Jennifer: Yeah, that’s wonderful! It’s just so wonderful to have you here on the show. I love talking about all this stuff. It’s just been a joy to talk to you. Where can people find out more about you, your Facebook, your website, can you just tell us where to go to get more stuff about everything we’ve been talking about?
Constance: Sure. On Facebook … well, my website is cosmopolitancornbread.com, you can also type in cosmocornbread.com, ’cause it’s a little easier. They’ll both take you to my website. On Facebook, I’m Cosmopolitan Cornbread. On Twitter, it’s cosmocornbread. On Snapchat, it’s cosmocornbread. Then on YouTube, it’s Cosmopolitan Cornbread’s Homestead, and I just felt like that gave it a little more of the flavor of what I’m doing on my YouTube channel.
Constance: So I’m kind of everywhere.
Jennifer: Yeah! And you’re brave enough to do the Snapchat thing-
Constance: On occasion.
Jennifer: … so I have a lot of admiration for you. Thank you so much for being here.
Constance: Absolutely. Thanks for having me! Was a lot of fun.