Inside the busy life of Bonnie Von Dohre of Not So Modern Housewife
Bonnie Von Dohre has a busy schedule. She dedicates about an hour to herself in the morning to drink coffee and write before her three kids wake up and farm duties begin. After watering the garden, milking the goats and feeding the rabbits, she homeschools her oldest kids until it’s time for dinner and nightly chores. She rarely makes it to the gym when plans to. And that’s the way she likes it.
Von Dohre started her blog Not So Modern Housewife in 2011 as a way to find a community with other natural living-minded moms. Since then, it has evolved into a way for her to chronicle all the ways she finds balance by integrating traditional skills with modern technologies for a mindful, but efficient, “not so modern” life.
In our Behind the Homestead Blog Q&A with Von Dohre, she tells us about homeschooling her kids, taking care of her many farm animals and how working in emergency management helped her prepare for hurricane season.
Hello Homestead: Tell me about your background. Where are you from, and what did you do before you started homesteading?
Bonnie Von Dohre: I grew up in a little town outside of Columbus, [Ohio]. Cooking from scratch and keeping a garden was just a way of life. We’d play in the corn fields in the summer. “Creek shoes” were a thing. Heaven forbid we got our “good” tennis shoes dirty.
I went to college and got my business degree because that’s what I was “supposed to do,” but working in an office never felt right to me.
The job market in Ohio was slim when I graduated college, so I decided to make the move to Florida. I continued to work in offices, first in property management, then in emergency management. I met my husband, and we eventually bought 5 acres outside of [Brooksville, Florida].
HH: What inspired you to start homesteading?
BVD: Following a couple of health scares, I started to look into ways to improve my health naturally. I wanted to find ways to eat healthy, but affordably. I decided to go back to my childhood and look for ways to produce my own food.
At one point, my husband and I were both out of work for a month. We had little savings and no income. We didn’t qualify for assistance and unemployment in this state is a joke.
A trip to a local food pantry nearly broke me. My food choices were a pound of frozen hamburger, sweet potatoes and moldy strawberries (I passed on the strawberries, [but] that’s actually where my recipe for sweet potato chili came from).
I never wanted to be in that position again. Regardless of what happened, I always wanted my family to have food.
HH: What were your first homesteading projects?
BVD: Our first projects were chickens and a garden. The first six chicks we bought from the feed store all turned out to be roosters. The first tomato plants I planted were stripped bare by raccoons before I got to harvest any.
HH: When and why did you decide to start your blog?
BVD: I started my blog in 2011 when my oldest was about six months old as a way for me to share about cloth diapering, making my own baby food and making my own household cleaners. As we started producing more of our own food, I started writing more about raising animals for food and growing a garden.
HH: Explain to me the name “Not-So-Modern Housewife.” What do you consider to be “not so modern” about the way you live?
BVD: I think there’s a lot of value in the traditional way of doing things. There are important life skills being lost because modern society tells us that they aren’t valuable. It’s not that I don’t enjoy living in the modern world. I enjoy electricity, internet and my cell phone. In a lot of ways, technology has helped us to live this lifestyle more efficiently.
I think it’s important to find a balance between living a traditional lifestyle and allowing technology and the status quo dictate our lives. That’s what “not so modern” means: to be modern, but not really.
HH: Tell me what a day in your homesteading life looks like.
7:00 a.m. — Once the sun is up, I go out to water and check on my garden. Most of my garden is on automatic timers, but I also run a small plant nursery out of my home. Those seedlings need to be hand watered.
8:00 a.m. — Then, I feed the animals. We load the feed onto a cart and pull it around to all of the pens. Pigs are fed first, or they get jealous and try to escape, and then the goats. I have five horses, all on individual diets. My oldest who is now 8 is responsible for feeding and watering the rabbits. Then, we feed the ducks, chickens and turkeys.
9:00 a.m. — [I] get my milking equipment from the house and milk the goats. It currently takes a little over an hour to hand milk six does.
10:00 a.m. — [This] is supposed to be my time to go to the gym, but it never happens, usually because my morning routine ran long.
1:00 p.m. — The youngest [who is] almost two years old goes down for a nap, [so it’s] school time for my oldest. My four-year-old will usually draw or do her own educational worksheets.
3:00 p.m. — Chore time.
4:00 p.m. — I go to the gym since I didn’t make it in the morning.
5:30 p.m. — [I come] home and start dinner.
6:00 p.m. — We eat dinner.
7:00 p.m. — [My husband] and oldest son go outside to feed. I do another check of the garden and milk goats. The younger two kids play in the dirt.
8:00 p.m. — Everyone comes inside, gets cleaned up, and starts getting ready for bed.
10:00 p.m. — Everyone should be in bed, or close to it.
HH: How do you manage your budget when it comes to raising so many animals?
BVD: Springtime is always when we see a big influx of animals because all of the babies being born. Selling the babies helps to offset the cost of feed through the year.
Aside from selling babies, I look at the reduction in my grocery budget. We don’t need to buy pork, chicken, or eggs. We don’t need to buy milk when the goats are in milk. The savings from those expenses generally outweighs the feed cost.
HH: What are you doing on your homestead right now that you really enjoy?
BVD: I really love baby bunnies, and we have a ton of them right now. Some of them are meat rabbits though. I’ve never butchered rabbits before, and I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it. I told my husband that it’s going to be all on him. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy snuggling the bunnies.
HH: Tell me about homeschooling your kids. How did you decide to take that path for their education?
BVD: I didn’t have great experiences growing up in the school system, [and] I also saw how much the school system had changed since I graduated.
I was tutoring high school students in math. Most of their school year was being dedicated to preparing for standardized tests. Meanwhile, these students weren’t retaining basic mathematical concepts from one year to the next. They were forgetting the information as soon as the test was over.
Homeschooling appealed to me because I had flexibility in what I taught. The pace could go as fast or as slow as my kids needed it to, and it gave us more flexibility and time to take field trips and opportunities to apply what we had learned.
I use My Father’s World as our curriculum. We are also part of a homeschool co-op that meets once a week. I’ve been teaching survival skills classes. Next semester, I’ll be teaching Florida history. My kids have taken classes from other parents in science, art, dance and speech.
HH: You also focus somewhat on emergency preparedness. How do you keep your homestead ready for emergencies?
BVD: Having a professional background in emergency preparedness has made it a passion of mine. Plus, we live in hurricane country, so we always have to be ready.
We keep copies of our important papers together in a fireproof safe. We also take new pictures of all of our animals at the start of hurricane season every year.
We keep a stash of [Meals Ready to Eat, which are pre-cooked packaged food rations,] and freeze-dried food. We have a plug wired to our breaker box so we can plug in the generator and run lights, the freezer and the refrigerator.
When we evacuated for Hurricane Irma, we stayed with friends in town with our dogs and cats. We live outside of flood or evacuation zones, so the animals stay here on the property. We were close enough that we could get home the next morning to check on the livestock.
One of my goals is to move into a house that can withstand a hurricane. I never want to have to evacuate again.
HH: What else do you hope for the future of your homestead?
BVD: One of my goals for this year is to replace the canned goods in my pantry with home-canned items. I’d also like to start drying our own pasta and making our own cheese. The kids won’t be happy unless I can still make macaroni and cheese.
I also want to get the garden to the point where it’s producing all of our produce for the year. We have the ability to grow year round in Florida, so it would mean learning to eat seasonally, preserving what we can and planting enough to sustain our family.
This Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.