Mother Run: Kayla Lucia of The Happiest Homestead on Earth

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    From a whirlwind, long-distance love story to a middle of the woods burgeoning homestead-- that’s the story of Kayla and The Happiest Homestead on Earth.  So how did a city dweller from Ohio end up in rural, central Michigan on two and a half acres of land (complete with lots of chickens)? “My husband is a private person, so we'll call him Mr. Happiest Homestead,” begins Kayla. “Mr. Happiest Homestead became interested in mycology in his late teens which led to an interest in soil and permaculture, which led to an interest in gardening and growing his own food, and after finding himself in a rabbit hole of research, a lightbulb went off. Homesteading! Homesteading became a dream he shared with his mother, a talented cook, gardener, and fisherwoman.  His mother sadly passed in the summer of 2015. She left him a small sum of money and with that he seized the opportunity to pursue homesteading. He settled on building a life in Michigan, a state which he had never visited, based on several factors including population, the environment, proximity to water sources, etc. He saw the perfect house in the middle of the woods on Zillow and began the home buying process. Yeah, he was hung up on by several realtors and told it was a bad idea, but he persisted and put in a low cash offer which was accepted. Mr. Happiest Homestead packed up the essentials and left Nebraska, arriving at his new home around Thanksgiving. The first winter was tough for him, and honestly, depressing.  After spending a few months in solitude at the house he was ready to explore Michigan and the surrounding states. Tired of being lonely he posted on Reddit asking for an adventure buddy. At the time I was living in Columbus, Ohio with my parents and feeling a little lost about where I wanted to go next. I had left my management position at Walt Disney World the year prior but was still trying to keep my foot in the door by selling Disney vacations and balancing a full-time retail position. I was interested in living tiny, gardening, and possibly going off grid someday. I didn't want to commit to any particular state and had the desire to travel. I saw his post on Reddit and responded, thinking almost nothing of it and expecting, at the most, a pen pal. I told him to look me up if he was ever in Columbus. We started talking on the phone every day and quickly became good friends, bonding over our shared interests. We had our first date in mid-March 2016 at Tim Horton's and were engaged in the summer. I moved in later in the summer and without missing a beat we continued working towards our shared dream of self-sufficiency and a self-sustaining property.  So fast, but looking back I wouldn't have it any other way.”

    It’s been almost three years since Kayla picked up and moved to Michigan and their homestead continues to grow.  “Over that time we’ve taken small steps towards homesteading but this year is the first we’ve taken leaps!,” shares Kayla.  “I’ve always been independent and desired more flexibility than what a standard 9-5 offers,” she continues. “Our ultimate goal for the property is to be self-sustaining in all ways possible including growing and preparing all of our food, independently building and repairing our home and external structures, and generating a revenue from products created and services provided by the homestead.  Turning our homestead into a revenue-generating business is just a natural progress of self-sustainability for us.”

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    In addition to taking care of their land, Kayla and Mr. Happiest Homestead also welcomed a baby into their family recently.  “My son’s name is Oliver,” Kayla says.  “He is a sweet, five-month-old baby boy who is fascinated by the great outdoors.  He’s an easy smiler and loves to be silly!  We can’t wait to see him grow up on the homestead, our little wild child.”  Though he is just a baby now, as he grows he will become a more active part in their self-sufficiency journey.  “This homestead is a family venture,” says Kayla.  “I want him to enjoy being a kid in the country, or ‘in the bushes,’ as my grandmother would say, but as he grows older we’ll bestow more responsibilities on him such as feeding the chickens, tending the garden, cooking, etc.  I so hope he enjoys the simple life out here but will encourage and support his interests.”

    The birth of her son was an integral part of her starting The Happiest Homestead on Earth and building her online presence and community.  “I have worked since I was fourteen years old,” she explains.  “It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Oliver that I needed to take a step back and stop working a traditional job which was a very difficult transition for me.  Let’s just say my nesting was a little intense as I turned that into my 9-5!  Now I am trying to balance being a stay-at-home mom with starting a homestead and business.  As we move forward and my son ages I hope to balance homesteading with mothering by including him in the daily activities.”  

    Something that bonds a lot of stay-at-home and work-at-home mothers in this digital age is the isolation that comes along with being home by yourself, with young children.  “A struggle I’ve had to overcome was feeling lonely,” Kayla says.  “Oliver is so young that I don’t want to drag him out into the cold Michigan weather, plus the road conditions are pretty awful, so I don’t leave the house with him during the week unless it’s absolutely necessary.  I solved that by reaching out to fellow homesteaders on Instagram and networking and making friends.  I miss my out-of-state family and the conveniences of suburban life sometimes but the trade off of working towards a self-sufficient life is worth it.”

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    Two of the projects Kayla has started with The Happiest Homestead are all about based around the idea of cooking at home--100 Recipes in 2019 and #wannaberecipes.  The 100 Recipes project was started because “I realized I was relying on a lot of frozen meals and processed foods to feed my family which wasn’t aligned with our goals of self-sufficiency,” Kayla explains.  “I set my mind on experimenting with cooking, but I need specific goals to work towards so 100 Recipes was born. I challenged myself to try 100 recipes in 2019 to diversify our meals and improve my cooking and baking skills.  I’ve attempted 17 so far and I already feel more accomplished and comfortable in the kitchen. Watch out, Pioneer Woman, here I come!”

    Her second recipe based challenge (which recently inspired me to get back into baking my own bread!) is a joint effort between her and another Instagrammer, Michelle from Little Miss Wannabe Homesteader.  “Michelle and I are aiming to awaken the traditional spirit of home cooking,” Kayla explains. “We are inviting others to join in the fun each Tuesday by posting their favorite recipes and using the hashtag #wannaberecipes.  We’re firm believers that a good recipe will bring joy to those you love, so why not spread the love? It’s a blast so far and I’m loving the participation!”

    Kayla and Mr. Happiest Homestead are in the beginning stages of turning their vision into a business.  One of the things that has really been of value as they start is “talking to fellow homesteaders who have been in our shoes,” says Kayla.  “Being hyper-organized, yet flexible, and understanding things will probably NOT go to plan. As long as we make progress and keep moving forward we will be happy.”  Even though they are in the beginning, they have big plans for their land and have no trouble seeing the possibility of what The Happiest Homestead on Earth could be.  “Because we’re at the beginning stages things can only get more exciting from here,” Kayla explains. “Our first step is to grow more than enough food for ourselves and focus on testing a variety of products.  Producing and selling our own goods at local farmer’s markets here in Michigan would be a great step two.” Looking towards more long term goals, she says that “one possibility we’re exploring is to build and run an off-grid tiny house on our property for short-term rental.  Once we’re further along we’d love to invite others to stay with us and enjoy the property and maybe even teach them a thing or two about homesteading...or have them teach us! A more concrete goal is to build a commercial kitchen to open up possibilities beyond the Cottage Food Law here in Michigan.  We’d like to have the capability to package and ship goods from our property. We’ll get there someday.”

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    While she is here to share their homesteading journey, leading others to that life isn’t exactly on her purposeful to-do list.  “It may come as a surprise I don’t necessarily hope to inspire others to homestead,” Kayla shares.  “If what I, and so many others, do piques your interest, that’s great.  I’m glad we have something in common and can learn from each other.  I hope that my journey inspires others to leap.  Toss aside the fear and self-doubt and just GO FOR IT, whatever it is you want to do.”  If homesteading or becoming more self-sufficient is on your list of things to do, however, Kayla does have a bit of advice for you: “Start small and get your toes wet! Plant a container garden with your favorite veggies or cook some tasty recipes from scratch.  We have two and a half acres of land and still started with a container garden.  Just take it slow and do your research.  As you become more comfortable with the hobbies you enjoy I’m sure you’ll naturally start to explore other activities that go hand in hand with homesteading.  Utilize social media channels like Instagram and Reddit to network with homesteaders and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

    Sharing our stories in this vast online world can be so empowering.  To share what we are doing, celebrate each others wins, and help each other through shared struggles is what this community is all about.  But when you are part of any community, something that can be hard to do is not enter a game of comparison.  We all have different situations and different goals.  We all have different definitions of success and different strengths.  “Success to me, in my world, means that you are content and happy with your progress,” shares Kayla.  “We haven’t met our goals yet but I feel successful because we’re always moving forward.” 

“Find your passion, do your research, build your community of support, and go for it.  Your kid is gonna think you’re a badass someday for pursuing your dream.”

Connect with Kayla:

On the web

On Instagram

Thanks so much for reading!

Yours in business + motherhood,

Brittany