Hi! I'm Laurie Neverman, creator of Common Sense Homesteading; wife, mother, former engineer, herbalist in training and self-reliance guru. Nice to “meet” you!
Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to stop in for a visit and have a look around. Here's the Reader's Digest version of my life to give you a little peek at your hostess. 🙂
Life has taken me full circle, from the family farm, to the city and suburbs, and finally back to the country. I'm glad to be able to share some of our self-reliance journey with you.
Growing up on the Family Farm
From the time when I was just little peanut, I was out with momma in the garden and around the farm. We had a small dairy farm in northwest Wisconsin with a big garden and big flocks of poultry – mostly chickens, ducks and geese. With six kids and just the farm income, money was always tight, but mom kept the pantry and table filled with home raised meat and produce. Summers were filled with long days of making hay and preserving the garden bounty. I'm sure we filled that old formica topped kitchen table with a few tons of fruit and veggies over the years.
Momma loved to bake and do craft projects, like the huge homemade gingerbread projects we did every Christmas and the hand painted Christmas and Easter candies we would make. Every holiday the little house would be packed to overflowing as the extended family came home – kids, grandkids, and eventually great-grandkids. (I'm the youngest of the family, with five siblings and three step-siblings.)
The Family Catering Business
When I was 15, the cows were sold as part of the government buyout program. A little streak of wild inspiration hit, and my mom, my two sisters and I started up a catering business – Irene's Custom Cakes and Catering. The catering business was my summer job through high school and much of college. Long hours and not so great pay, but we had some great times singing in the kitchen, cooking up lots of very tasty food, and creating beautiful cakes and other decorations. I've done everything from putting on a full meal for 650 people to carving swans out of daikon radishes. (With that experience, you'd think it would be easier to keep my own two teenage boys fed, right? 😉 )
College and Work
In college I earned my BS in Mathematics with a Physics minor at the University of Wisconsin – Superior. In addition to catering, I also put in time as a summer science camp counselor, a teacher's assistant and a nude model for the art department, which was quite chilly. For fun I did stand up comedy, some theatrical productions and an old-fashioned live radio comedy hour and a half.
I attended graduate school at UW Madison, where I studied mechanical engineering with an emphasis in renewable energy. After graduation, I moved to Green Bay, married my college sweetheart, August.
I began work at Public Energy Systems (PES) the same week I got married. PES provided repair and installation of solar hot water and solar heating systems for homes and businesses, and operated the world’s largest flat plate collector solar thermal array. Unfortunately, circumstances change, natural gas was cheap for a time, and the giant collector array was torn down. Everything possible was recycled. I have two of the collectors installed at our current home.
At this point I was also expecting my first child, and so I came home to be a full-time mom. Baby one was followed by baby two, my beautiful boys, whom I now homeschool. We spent nine years in the suburbs of Green Bay where we cultivated large vegetable and flower gardens as well as fruits and culinary herbs.
Moving Back to the Country
In 2005, we relocated to 35 acres in Kewaunee County, where we designed and built our Wisconsin Green Built and Energy Star certified home. Our large organic gardens contain over 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables, most of which are heirlooms. We freeze, can, freeze dry, dehydrate, and ferment to preserve food, and use the root cellar, cool storage, cold frames, and green house to extend the harvest without additional energy inputs. I am also interested in natural health and wellness, including herbalism, wildcrafting, homebrew probiotics and ferments. When I’m not busy with all of that, I enjoy ancient history, science fiction and the LOTR trilogy. (Best movies ever!) I never want to stop learning.
Why I Started Writing Common Sense Homesteading
In 2008, we hit a rough patch. August lost his job of 16 years, and I struggled with depression and was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. With the economic downturn, jobs were scarce, and our house dropped hugely in value. We were pretty sure we were going to lose our dream home, and things got pretty tight for a while.
Finally, after a year of working odd jobs, August found a temporary position that turned into a full time position, but it was two hours away. We decided to try and hold on to our homestead, and for five years he worked away from home and was only home on weekends.
Meanwhile at home, I took things up a notch, expanding our garden, preserving more food, buying in bulk and taking steps to be better prepared for the next time there was an unexpected bump in the road. The medications the first doctor put me on made me feel sicker, so I hunted around until I found a different doctor who was willing to try natural thyroid medication, and I made diet and lifestyle changes that dramatically improved my health.
I figured I couldn't be the only one who wanted to become more self-reliant and take better care of their own health, so I started a simple blogspot blog sharing my experiences. In 2012, I switched over to the current site. Since then, I've built a library of over 600 posts, and we're still growing. The more I learn, the more there is to learn. I hope you'll join me.
There's a happy ending to our story. In spring 2014, August finally got a job closer to home, and we're together again as a family. He and the boys (who are now young men) keep busy helping me with projects around the homestead. In 2015, the big project was a 10×20 greenhouse with poured footings. For 2016, we attached a combination coop/garden shed to the greenhouse.
If you'd like to learn more, you can listen to me online at:
I have written for a number of local and national publications including:
- Permaculture North America magazine
- Taste of Home magazine
- Countryside magazine
- The Healthy Independent
- Healthy Thoughts