Hi! I'm Laurie Neverman, creator of Common Sense Home; wife, mother, former engineer, herbalist, ancient history buff 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. 🙂
You can also learn more about our homestead, my first e-book, and Homesteading.
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 Home
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 700 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 been a featured speaker for the Naval War College Strategic Studies Group, as well as:
- Fox Valley Food Camp
- Beyond off Grid Summit
- Search for Sustainability Summit
- Home Grown Food Summit
- and other local events
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
My work is included these books:
Self Reliance Mastery: Learn How to Be Self-Reliant, Live Sustainably, and Be Prepared for Any Disaster
and of course my own book, Never Buy Bread Again
Just came across your site today, what a find!! Would you please direct me to the page with the directions on making that beautiful hanging planter, it looks like the succulents are in tubes of some sort and their hanging one under the other, it’s just lovely. I’d love to hang that in my window for the winter! I miss gardening so much here in Ontario during the cold months of winter.
Thank you so much Laurie for your time and consideration.
I’d love to be able to direct to directions for that photo, but I have absolutely no idea where it came from. A post on my site was hijacked with an unrelated image on pinterest, and it’s now spread all over the place, but I didn’t do it.
Thank you Laurie for your speedy reply :). These things happen.
Laurie, I just bought a lot of fresh fruit and veggies at Costco and was wondering how I would prepare them for freezing. Thank you so much for your help. I’m really excited about doing this in the future.
Freezer prep depends on the fruit or veggie. Most fruit I just clean, cut to appropriate size (if needed), and freeze on cookie sheets. Then I vacuum seal packages of the pieces or put them in a container so they are not all frozen in one big lump. Most veggies require blanching before freezing.
I am so happy that I stumbled across your website through Pinterest! I am 24 years old and have recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I am relieved to know that my fatigue and complete lack of energy is not completely my fault! I knew something was not right and thankfully, I now am aware of my autoimmune condition. I am studying Petroleum Engineering and have a degree in Nutritional Science. I love to cook and I LOVE all things gardening-related but unfortunately that is hard to do here in the city of Houston. Still, I am so excited to learn and read more about common sense home!
Oh my – where has this blog been all my life! Having fun trawling through some much back reading. Thank you
Welcome, Phil. Invite your friends. 😉
Thank you so much for your site. I can tell that you put your heart and soul into it. You are a woman after my own heart. I too love working with the plants and make my own medicines. I was diagnosed with RA 5 years ago, and it wasn’t until I started researching and finding my own path that I began to feel better. Keep up the great work. There are so many people that are benefiting by what you do.
Thank you, Linda, for taking the time to leave such a positive message. Often it’s tough to make time to write, or to keep motivated the negative people abound or traffic bottoms out on the site for no particular reason, but hearing from people like you helps keep me on track. All the best on your journey.
Just found your blog through another sight and really enjoyed it but was a little freaked out at the similarity of our lives…. dairy cows, engineering, homeschooling, husband’s job loss at the same time, husband taking a job away from home and even the timing of when they got a job closer to home. Just like you, that experience led to a desire to be self sufficient. We are in the process of selling our suburban home to buy a homestead. I will be following your posts and hope to read more of your past posts.
Welcome, Terri. I hope you find the homestead you are looking for. I have found that often in life it seems we end up where we are, when we are for a reason.
I was pointed to your blog/website by one of our customers, they wondered “why laurie didn’t endorse Fortress Clothing?’ After reading your advice on survival in the cold, I knew you’d be interested in experiencing THE ANSWER to COLD?
*SINGLE LAYER (comfortable -30F to 70F) really no more layering
*Lightweight (less than 1.5 lb -top)
*Windproof, breathable and evacuates moisture (sweat)
Fortress Clothing has invented a system that enables anyone to live comfortably without heat, for the remainder of their lives.
Not just a coat. This is NEW technology, that uses your body’s heat to “live comfortably” in temperatures that range from -30°F to 70°F without layering.
We’ve been accused of being “too good to be true”, so we will prove it to you, visit http://www.fortressclothing.com and watch as we jump thru 4’ of ice into a frozen reservoir (in -11°F temps) we should be dead within a few hours… instead we’re comfortable and warm within seconds… (not dry, but warm) Please Go NOW and watch… you owe it to your subscribers!
Then please call me and we can discuss getting you outfitted and have you write a product review.
Have a great weekend.
I ordered your ebook about sourdough last week. I never received an email on it. I don’t know what I did wrong?
That would most likely be through the Traditional Cooking School from GNOWFGLINS, since I don’t personally have a sourdough e-book. Have you checked your spam folder for a download link? You can contact the Traditional Cooking School team directly at: http://gnowfglins.com/contact/
If you have trouble making contact, let me know and I’ll email my friends over there directly and help get things ironed out.
Just wonderful! I had ordered some seeds for this year (wanted to try cabbage for the first time) and was looking for how to preserve it all and found your post on root cellars and now it seems I have to read your whole site from top to bottom 🙂 Very nice to see someone that has a proper science degree explaining root cellars (my dad was a mathematician as well). The stuff I read before finding your post was quite weird to say the least.
I moved to Montreal in 2013 and started planting in 2014, when a neighbor mentioned that, Yes, tomatoes do grow in Quebec! I really like the idea of being able to eat my own produce all year round and I still have to much to try out and learn. It seems all I need will be on this site. Thank you so much!
My mom has a small garden in Germany and while she loves all sorts of flowering plants, we always had a vegetable patch as well and several fruit trees. We are moving this spring, so I’ll be starting a completely new garden and I will probably need to move lots of plants in containers. Even though our last frost dates here are pretty late (early May) we only move in early June.
Greetings from a mild -5C! 🙂
Somehow people survived in different areas before the modern trucked in food, so it’s interesting to me to reconnect with local food production and sometimes push the boundaries of what’s been done in the past. This year we’re adding a ton of shrubs and trees to ramp up our perennial crop production, and I’m hoping in the next year or two to add a larger greenhouse.
Welcome, and remember you can always put in requests for topics you’d like covered in more detail. As many articles as there are on the site, I know I’m barely scratching the surface on all there is to learn. (I need to live to be at least 100…)
I’d like to buy this book from you. Does it come in printed version as well? I see I can buy the Common Sense Health.
The pdf is printable, but there is no print version at this time.
Those were the days my friends, they thought they’d never end — but they did. Society today has barely enough to sustain the current population for 90 days in the event it has to…. and that’s not including clean drinking water. We all can go back to the farm. We all can just take up root and return to the days of our ancestors – not without heavy & unimaginable cost.
There was a time, of course, when the horn of plenty was commonplace. Not so common anymore. Too many lives now depend on the folks who made us dependent. This is the operative word folks.. ‘dependent’… when the only reasonable goal for survival is ‘independent.’ Those people/folks which eliminated alternative markets for prosperity in sake of their own hadn’t really been thinking ahead…. to the future …. oops, my bad, that’s exactly what they had been thinking, but not for anyone but themselves making it sound like it was for us.
Do you have pictures of the inside of your house? I’m contemplating building a concrete home because of my mold sensitivities. Thanks for all the info you’ve provided on this site!
I was doing some research earlier for an article I’m writing about raising backyard chickens. I ended up landing on one of your articles about tips for first time chicken owners. I thought it was really great and shared it on my social media!
Actually, I just put together an infographic for new backyard chicken keepers that helps them get started in building their own coop.
If you want to check it out then let me know! I think your audience would love it!
All the best,
So good to find you. I am struggling to learn more about herbs and would love to know if you can point me in the right direction of an on line class. You have so many great research print outs that I now have so I can learn more, however, I seem to only be gathering more printouts than knowledge.
Hope you can help me. Or maybe your readers can help as well. I am open.
Chestnut Herbs has full scale herbal immersion course that covers everything from cultivating the herbs to using them in many different ways. You can learn more about that here. This is the most in depth course I’ve worked with, so is a little pricier.
The Herbal Academy offers a variety of courses from beginner to advanced to herbal business, as well as the Herbarium reference library, which you can search to learn uses of individual plants. You can learn more about their Introductory Herbal Course here. (There are also links to their other resources on the page.)
One of the best ways to learn is to do. Start with the herbs you have available, and work with them. Most herbs can be used in a number of ways, and it’s often easier (and more practical) to learn a few herbs well (especially ones you can grow yourself) than trying to memorize hundreds or thousands of herbs.
am 51, a mom of 3 young adult children, really i love your article…its my very first time, but we’re on same passion that i can consume much time reading. hope to meet you in person.
Welcome to the site!
You look a lot like me in the 2013 “naked gardening day” picture that’s floating around Facebook (though not so much in other pictures) — and then I see you have a Madison connection! I’m in McFarland. We’re just starting our first no-dig vegetable bed… I have Welsh ancestry; perhaps you too? Best wishes, distant cousin!
No Welsh ancestry that I Know of, although grandpa was adopted so his background is unclear. We all share the same mitochondrial DNA. 🙂
hi Laurie, I am thinking of buying a freeze dry machine. How often do you have to maintain/clean? and do you use oil in the machine and what kind? thank you Giti
We drain the oil, freeze it and filter it with each load. That’s it. That’s the current recommended maintenance. They’ve found that with draining after each load, a power flush isn’t needed. Harvest Right is now including filters with purchase of a freeze dryer. When the filter cartridge starts to get dirty, it can be replaced by a tightly rolled section of toilet paper roll. The unit comes with a quart of oil to get started, but you’ll need to buy some more because some stays in the filter. The boys drain and refill the unit in under 5 minutes, now that they’ve been doing it a while.
JB Black Gold Vacuum Pump Oil is recommended, but if you want to invest in a larger quantity, you can get a case of 4 gallons of Robinair vacuum pump oil for less than the price of three gallons of Black Gold. That should keep you in oil for years. We just went through our first gallon (well, it’s still being filtered and used, but there’s none left in the container) after a little less than a year.
Hi Laurie. This is Sonya Williams in Charlotte, NC. I lived in Madison, Wi (Lodi, Wi specifically) for 5 years. Love the area and have So much admiration for the path you took. I have been a passionate follower of Natural remedies for years and find myself trying to figure out how to apply this knowledge, find my niche and make a living. I have some ideas and would be more grateful than words can say if I could email or speak with you briefly. I am looking at ways to combine my passion for holistic healing and nutrition with my years of sales, marketing, project managing and what I love best: the people side of it all. I’m looking at the Wellness side of the health industry, including hospitals, just as a sustainable path, while I build other avenues on the nutrition side. I do not have formal training in nutrition, but have self-studied: Healing with whole foods, alkalinity & simply….Fresh, Whole Plant foods.
Would you allow me 10 minutes to talk about suggestions for finding career options to utilze my experience, assets and desire to nuture & encourage others, particularing with Holistic Health.
I see your comment, Sonya, and am shooting you an email.
Hi Lauri, found your bio today. BRAVO! AS you know, i’ve been following your posts for years. You have done So MUCH to educate us and make our lives easier. Thank you! Hoping to meet you some day! March forward strong lady! Judy
Thanks, Judy. It’s always good to hear from like-minded souls.
Hi Lauren, I found your website via an article you wrote for the Freeze drier. My name in Eveline, Dutch living in Scotland since 2005. Since a few years I started up a vegetable garden in raised beds and pots. Quickly I realised that I had too much produce and froze a lot. Living rurally I have regularly power cuts that last a bit longer so I started to look at other ways of preserving. I invested in a pressure canner and big stock pot and bought via Amazon more and more mason jars. They are difficult to get in the UK. I also invested in reusable Tattler lids. I like canning, dehydrating and fermenting. I am always learning new things. My only problem is that as all of recipes are American I am not always sure what to do with it. I would love to have a freeze drier, but unfortunately outside my reach. I am on my own, semi retired living of my savings. I hope to learn a lot from you.
This online unit conversion tool may help with some of the recipes – https://www.unitconverters.net/.
I know that sometimes ingredients don’t share the same names in different areas, but don’t necessarily know the names in other areas.