The vegetables have been picked, the temperatures are cooling, and fall has arrived. You know you should clean up your garden for the year, but lets be real–you’re feeling the time crunch with back to school, a busy work life, or just plain being sick of your garden. While a proper garden clean up is ideal, I’m going to give you my guide to what you must do–and what you can skip, so that your garden is dealt with in record time.[Read more…]
Do you ever wonder why blogging and social media seem so hard? Why you post and create all this content and nobody seems to read it or react to it? You do all this work and your following isn’t growing and you’re definitely not making any money off of your blog.
You thought you’d be so much further ahead by now, but it’s still just your Mom and your best friend and that one random person who found you liking your stuff.
And do they actually click like on your stuff? No. They phone or text you about it, which feels nice, but doesn’t really help you. In fact, you’re pretty tempted to just throw in the towel.
But what if there was a way to stop worrying about the numbers, see real engagement, and make money even if you have a small following? Sounds crazy, right?
In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly how I’ve been moving my online business forward with the help of Nicole & Dan Culver and their groups and courses for online influencers. I’ve been in Shift U for the past year and a half, as well as the Serial Method and Influencer Intensive. So if you’re thinking about joining one of their groups or purchasing one of their courses, here’s what you need to know.
This post contains affiliate links, which means, if you purchase one of their courses using my links, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting Shifting Roots! (P.S. While blogging about blogging is not my normal niche–it’s gardening–I hope you’ll stick around if you happen to be someone who loves gardening or someone who wants to learn more.)
The Early Days of a Blog
I’ve been blogging on Shifting Roots for the last 3 1/2 years, and blogging as a business for the last 1 1/2 years. I started blogging because I was tired and needed a career change. I was working as a private music teacher, teaching 50 private students in 4 locations and directing 3 choirs, all while caring for my Grandma and being Mama to a 2 year old we suspected had Autism (and was later diagnosed). My husband worked away, so I was mostly parenting & caregiving on my own.
That year I got mono at the end of November and almost cried with relief, because it meant that I could finally rest and it would be okay to sleep. While I was healing, I resolved that something had to change. I could not continue at this pace. Teaching music and being a performer was my dream, but it was costing me everything.
When I did my taxes that year, I realized that I wasn’t even making enough money to be considered above the poverty line. All that work and stress and I wasn’t getting paid enough. I needed some way to make money that didn’t require me to go back to school and wouldn’t suck up all my energy.
So I researched how to blog in the best way possible every night while my son fought a crazy sleep regression, and in February of 2016 Shifting Roots was born.
If you go back to those first couple of posts when I first started out, they’re not great. They’re not even about gardening. But everyone has to start somewhere and get the imperfect posts and mistakes out of the way.
My friends and family were supportive, but no one would like my stuff. Sure, they’d call and tell me it was good, but they wouldn’t press that silly Like button! I was so concerned with building my numbers that I joined share group after share group. Every day I would spend at least 2 hours liking other people’s posts and commenting on their stuff. I was growing a following, but it was filled with people who didn’t really care about my stuff. And I was really frustrated with how many people followed me (especially on Instagram) only to unfollow me a day or two later. I just couldn’t get ahead.
I was also scared to niche down. People already didn’t participate on my stuff and my following was so small–now I’m supposed to make it even smaller?!? Shouldn’t I go as broad as possible to hit as many people as possible?!?!
But it just wasn’t working. And I was starting to realize that most of the advice that was available for free on the Internet wasn’t that great, especially when it came to scaling up your business. So I had a decision to make–did I want to wait for 5-10 years to figure out everything on my own, or did I want to invest some money now and get an actual strategy that actually works?
I never wanted to be so physically weak and run down by my circumstances again (remember the mono?), so I decided to invest in myself and my business.
Now, before you think–oh Kristen is brave, I could never do that–I might be brave but I’m not without fear. It’s hard to invest money in yourself when you’re not sure if this thing is actually going to work out. It’s hard to tell your spouse who is working his butt off for his family that you want to try this new thing that seems so uncertain. But I’m here to tell you that if you put in the work, it’s worth it!
The Social Shift & Shift University
I first learned about Nicole Culver through Mellissa of Blog Clarity. I had been learning how to blog mostly through reading her stuff and purchasing all her courses. (Seriously, Pinning Perfect is practically a blogging requirement in my opinion.) She sent an email saying that Nicole was running a summer boot camp for bloggers. The price was right, it touched on a lot of the things I needed help with, and I was in.
I watched the videos over and over, and my skills slowly got better. A few months later, Nicole asked if I’d like to be part of her blogger to business group (now Shift University) and I said yes. Again, I was a little scared to commit, because I was making some money through the odd sponsored post and getting some freebies, but it still wasn’t serious enough that I could stop teaching or even consider it.
Shift University made such a difference. Finally I could get answers to my blogging questions that weren’t just based on rumours and conjecture. (Remember the shadowban on IG?) Every week there were videos to learn about mindset, money, content planning, photography, Instagram and more. And Nicole really listens! If there’s something that everyone seems to want more help on and it’s not her specialty, she will find someone to come and do a presentation for us.
Everything is recorded and ready for you to access in Membervault whenever you need it. I usually listen to past recordings or catch up on the ones I wasn’t at live while I’m feeding the baby or doing dishes.
P.S. Access to the previous recordings is worth the price of membership alone. There’s something there for every stage of business you’re at.
Progress over Perfection
Nicole has also taught me how to get off of the content treadmill and given me the mindset shift to not worry about perfection. This was really important this year as I had my baby girl. I was so nervous about running my blog and keeping up the pace with a newborn. But with Nicole and Dan’s encouragement I was able to rest, enjoy my baby, and put one foot in front of the other and get it done.
Since I’ve had my baby girl, I’ve had a local TV appearance, been featured in another gardening blog, featured in a local magazine, in talks about sponsorships with a couple of different seed companies, and continued to show up on social and make money on my blog. The trade off? A lot of dirty dishes, and unweeded garden, and occasional tears. But I’m really proud of what I accomplished and I know that I would never have been able to keep my business going without losing my mind if it wasn’t for the mentorship of Nicole and Dan.
Part of how I was able to do all these things was because I had a solid content plan. I wasn’t just winging it and I was able to focus on the tasks that paid off in my business. Nicole has an amazing free Facebook Group, The Social Shift. It will give you a taste of Shift U and help you start to grow a raving audience & successful business.
A Strategy No One Else is Using
The key thing about what’s going on in Shift University is that Nicole and Dan are teaching us a blogging strategy that no one else is really teaching. It doesn’t rely on huge traffic, a huge following, or selling your soul. It frees you from worrying about your numbers and lets you create real connections with real followers.
Before I used their influencer marketing strategy, I hated Instagram because I could never get ahead. I had pretty enough pictures, but I lost followers as soon as I gained them, and it was so rare to get a real follower (aka not a bot, business, or another blogger–not that the last two aren’t followers, but they have their own motivations). Same with Facebook. Nobody talked to me except my Mom and my cousins and it may or may not have been out of pity.
Now almost all of my followers are real followers. I don’t worry about my numbers because I’m more concerned with attracting the right people instead of just sheer numbers. People actually share my stuff on Facebook, and I have regular followers from all over North America and beyond that I have never met. My engagement rates have never been better, and my people regularly follow my gardening advice, make my recipes, and participate in my weed-picking contests.
Do you ever find yourself posting and praying? Posting something random you think is cool, and praying that everyone else will too? When you use Nicole’s methods, you’ll finally know what your people want to see and have them binge on your content.
Sure, sometimes I get it wrong and there’s the odd content that doesn’t resonate. But with Nicole I’ve learned a system for figuring out what my people really want to read about and 90% of the time my people are excited about what I’m putting out there.
If you are serious about finding your perfect people and delivering content in a way that has your audience hungry for more, you need the Serial Method.
Nicole shows you exactly how to find your perfect person, figure out what resonates with them, and create a series of content that makes them hungry for more. Maybe this sounds too perfect, but I promise you it works.
I use the serial method to gain trust and show my expertise with my audience by creating simple serial series, and make a larger serial series with a product launch twice a year. I’ve also been using this method to pitch brands with something that no one else is doing. It’s not just another blog post–it’s so much more.
You will go from wondering it you’re making a difference, to having people message you to tell you how much they love your content and feel like you’re reading their mind.
Nicole has broken the Serial Method into bite sized pieces for us. There’s no guesswork–once you figure out your person and what they want, there’s templates and examples for every step of the process, plus a weekly group call to get your questions answered.
Nicole explains it better than I do, so watch her video series for more information. The video series alone will shake up how you think about social media and provides value to you as a blogger.
When you’re farther in on your blogging journey, the Influencer Intensive is the next logical step. I joined this group shortly after my baby girl was born and I was terrified. Could I actually take this on? Would I really do the work?
It was the right decision. With weekly group check-in’s and monthly strategy calls, I know it was instrumental in keeping my business moving forward. Sometimes you just need someone to say, “You need to charge what you’re worth” or “It’s okay to feel the fear and do it anyway.” A personal one on one call is so much more effective than just reading something and feeling guilty that you’re not doing it, or confused as to what the next step is.
There is never a right time. I didn’t feel like joining the the Influencer Intensive when I did was the right time. But when would be the right time? When baby is 1? or 2? Or when the stars magically aligned?
But instead of regretting my choices and wishing I would have signed up months ago, or still waiting for the perfect moment, I’m ahead in my business and getting the skills, accountability, and motivation to keep going.
When you join, do everything you can to get on the live calls. You’ll get even more feedback and help on your projects, and it’s helpful to see other influencers going through the same struggles as you.
Trust me, you aren’t going to get this kind of help for free, and if you do, the help is likely not that good.
The Fine Print
While Shift University is going to be amazing for your blog and business, it won’t work unless you do. It will teach you to work smarter and with better strategy, but it is no substitute for sitting down and actually doing the work. Fill out the handouts, dig deep into the questions, show up for the Zoom calls (or watch the replays if you can’t), and test out the strategy for yourself. The people who show up and do the work always end up getting the most out of the courses and the group.
I hope this review has helped you make your decision. I highly encourage you to join her free Facebook group, The Social Shift, and see if you like her mentoring style. You’ll be that much closer to growing your audience of raving fans, and levelling up in your online business.
Feel free to leave questions in the comments, I’m happy to answer them!
You’ve decided you want to start canning & preserving food at home–hurray! But if you don’t know anyone who wants to pass down their used canning equipment, the start up costs can add up. What do you absolutely need for canning? What can you live without? And what equipment is worth the money?
Don’t want to hear about my thought process behind the choices? Scroll to the end and see my list.
How do you start canning food at home?
If you’re brand new to canning, I recommend starting with jams, pickles, and tomato sauce. These three items all need only water bath canning, are high acidic foods, and are easy to have success with.
Stay away from beans, corn, carrots, or any food that requires a pressure cooker. Relishes, juices, and jellies are a nice intermediate-level project.
If the thought of canning is too overwhelming or you don’t have as much time as you thought you did, there’s nothing wrong with preparing your fruits and vegetables, then freezing them in freezer safe bags.
If money allows, you can vacuum seal for even longer life in the freezer.
- Start with easy canning projects like jam, pickles & tomato sauce
- Freeze fruits and vegetables instead if you’re short on time
What Equipment do I really Need for Canning?
The easiest way to get started with water bath canning is to invest in a canning kit and a few boxes of jars with lids in different sizes. I personally don’t like the canners that most of these kits come with, because they’re not tall enough for canning quart jars. This one I’ve linked is tall enough.
You’ll also want a few freezer bags for when there’s more of your recipe than can be properly canned in the jars you have. I sometimes also freeze my canning that doesn’t seal properly. I’m usually too annoyed that it didn’t seal properly the first time to go back and re-can it!
Related: The Beginners Guide to Home Canning
If you’re farther along into your canning & preserving journey, you might also want to invest in a steamer juicer and dehydrator. You can juice without a juicer (and I go into the pros and cons here), but the steamer juicer makes the nicest juice both in texture and colour.
We don’t dehydrate a lot in the fall, but we’ve used our dehydrator for making camp food for canoe trips on the river, and we like the results.
- A canning kit and jar kit are a must-have
- Save the steamer juicer and dehydrator for when you feel like an intermediate canner
Canning & Freezing When You’re Short on Time
It seems like every fall I have the best of intentions to can everything under the sun, but then school starts and my work commitments ramp up and I find myself unable to do as much as I hoped. In this case, the slow cooker is my friend. I can cut up that days veggies in the morning or evening, let them simmer in the slow cooker, and process them later in the day.
Or, I can just blend them up with my immersion blender and immediately put them into freezer bags.
I go into more detail about how I process tomatoes when I’m short on time here.
- No time? The slow cooker, stick blender, and freezer bags are your friend!
Can I Use My Instant Pot for Canning?
Have you joined the Instant Pot craze yet? We got one last Christmas and I’m still getting used to it. I was very excited at the possibility of using it for canning, but as of 2019, it is not recommended to use for home canning.
Technically, it can be used for water bath canning, but because it hasn’t been tested officially yet, the official guideline is not to use it. However, you can use it to cook your tomato sauce, pumpkin puree, apple sauce or whatever you’re canning. Just use the regular canning, pressure canning, or freezing methods after your fruits or vegetables cook in the Instant Pot.
- You can cook the fruits or vegetables in the Instant Pot, but as of 2019 it’s not safe to process them.
What are the Best Recipe Books for Canning?
I love canning and have developed a few favourite recipes over the years. Here are the ones on my site that I personally make and love.
- Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
- Easy Peach Jam
- Tomato Hamburger Relish
- Maple Spiced Crab Apple Butter
- Crab Apple Juice
If you’d rather buy a whole recipe book on canning, here are a couple of options I like:
You can’t go wrong with the gold standard of canning recipes.
I like small batch recipes, as I garden in the city and often don’t have enough produce for canning on a large scale.
This canning guide is an older version, but I love anything that Better Homes and Gardens puts out. They always cover the basics in an easy to follow, step by step manner.
I’m also currently reading through the Home Grown Pantry by Barbara Pleasant, and it’s a wealth of basic freezing, canning, drying, and other preservation techniques. She also has some good guidelines of how much to plant so that you have enough to freeze.
Here’s a quick list of my favourite canning essentials:
Nice to have:
There’s nothing like the taste of homemade crab apple juice, and you can’t buy it in stores. If you love crab apple juice, the only way to get it is to make it yourself. And while it’s a lot of work to pick the apples, make the juice, and can it, it is definitely worth it.
Over the years, I’ve made and canned a lot of crab apple juice using different methods. Each method has it’s pros and cons, and I have my favourites depending on what my goals are. Yes, you can have goals when it comes to canning and preserving, as silly as that may seem.
In this post, I’ll go over the three different methods I’ve used to make crab apple juice, what you need to make them, and the pros and cons of each of them. So get your crab apples ready and let’s make some juice!
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting Shifting Roots!
The Low Tech Way: Making Crab Apple Juice Without a Juicer
Making crab crab apple juice without a juicer is the most labour intensive of the three juice making methods, but it’s also the cheapest and best use of the whole apple.
In short, you cut the crab apples, removing the stems, cores, and blossom ends. You then put these apples in water along with some lemon juice, and either leave them overnight in the fridge, or cook them for 15 minutes and mash them.
After either of these processes, you strain out the crab apple bits and either can or freeze the remaining juice.
Because you’ve already cleaned the crab apples and there’s no inedible bits, you can then make apple sauce with the leftover crab apple parts.
I like making juice this way when I don’t have one huge stretch of time to make everything. I can cut apples in the evening, leave them in the water overnight, and then deal with everything else the next morning.
- Pros: No expensive equipment required. Work can be spaced out.
- Cons: Lots of cutting. The juice can get darker and not as clear.
The Fast Way: Using an Electric Juicer
We were recently given an electric juicer to try out this harvest, and I’m not sure I’m a fan. On one hand, it’s very fast to put the apples through the juicer. There’s not cutting and slicing–just press the crab apples into the juicer and that’s it.
On the other hand, I don’t like the “juice” you end up with. There’s a large amount of pulp that’s left behind and it was so slow trying to remove the juice from the very fine pulp. In the end, I decided that it wasn’t worth trying to separate the two, and just made the whole works into a smooth apple sauce.
I realize that I might not have used the best electric juicer on the market. However, I don’t juice vegetables or fruits on a regular basis, so it wouldn’t be worth it to me to invest in a high quality juicer. If you juice more regularly, then this might be the method for you.
Use this method if you have a lot of apples to process and very little time to do so.
- Pros: Fast to process the juice
- Cons: Juice is more like sauce if you use a low quality juicer
The Best Quality Way: Using a Steamer Juicer
I’ll be the first to admit that using a steamer juicer to make apple juice is a finicky affair. You must watch the water levels in the bottom of the juicer. The whole contraption is heavy. And finally, you have to watch your clamp and be sure the hose is perfectly secured. I have had the pleasure of having chokecherry juice spilled all over my wooden floors because I didn’t secure the clamp properly and didn’t lift the hose up. *whomp whomp*
But, if you want to make the prettiest and nicest textured juice, you’ll invest in the steamer juicer and do it anyway. Of the three methods, the steamer juicer makes the nicest juice, and the juice comes out hot enough to can it immediately.
Related: How to Juice Crab Apples
Steamer juicers are not cheap. But in my opinion, they are worth the investment because of the quality of the juice. You should also never have to replace it, except for the hose and clamp every 5 years or so.
- Pros: Beautiful, clear juice. Can can juice immediately.
- Cons: Expensive equipment. Learning curve to use the equipment without making mistakes.
Which Crab Apple Juice Making Method with you Choose?
Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about your experiences and if you agree with me.
Nothing says summer like taking a bite into a fresh, juicy peach. Capture that flavour of summer and learn to freeze peaches so they last until next peach season. It’s way easier than you think, and you don’t have to peel off the skin if you don’t want to. Here’s how I do it, and my answers to questions that you might have.
Where do you get Large Quantities of Peaches?
Unfortunately, peaches are one of the few fruits that we can’t grow in Saskatchewan. I love getting fresh peaches from the fruit truck in a big box. Ask how ripe the peaches are and plan accordingly with when you have time to deal with them. The nice thing about freezing peaches, is that it takes far less time than canning!
Do You Have to Peel Peaches Before Freezing them?
It’s up to you. I personally find that if I rub the peach with a towel after I’ve washed it that I can get most of the fuzzy bits off. I have a new baby and not a lot of nap time in which to do things, so I prefer to do it this way and skip the blanching step.
If you can’t stand the texture, then boil the peaches for 2 minutes, and immediately transfer into an ice water bath. The skins should peel right off.
How Do You Keep Peaches From Turning Brown?
Once you’ve cut the peaches, mix them with lemon juice and a bit of sugar. It doesn’t really matter what amounts, but for context, if I cut 12 peaches, I would use the juice of a whole lemon and 1 cup of white sugar to preserve the colour.
Related: Cinnamon Peach Jam
How Long Do Frozen Peaches Last?
Frozen peaches should be used within the year, and ideally within six months for optimum freshness. As long as they are not freezer burnt and smell and taste fine, you can use them. And as they say, “when in doubt, throw it out!”
Frozen peaches will keep better the more air you remove from the package. Make sure to use bags designed for freezer use, as this will help keep the frozen peaches fresher for longer.
How Do You Thaw Frozen Peaches?
Once you’re ready to use the peaches, place the bag in a bowl and let thaw in the fridge. You can start the process on the counter, but move the peaches to the fridge once they are half-way or more done. If you’re in a hurry, you can also thaw them out in the microwave.
Related: The Beginners Guide to Home Canning
Step by Step Guide to Freezing Fresh Peaches
- Wash fresh peaches and remove skins if desired.
- Cut into small pieces and remove pits.
- If using the peaches for smoothies, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay peaches in a flat layer. Put in the freezer for 6 hours or overnight. Remove and put into freezer safe bags.
- If using the peaches for pie or baking, put peach pieces into a large bowl. Mix with lemon juice and white sugar. Suggested quantity: Juice of 1 lemon and 1 cup sugar to every 12 peaches.
- Transfer to freezer bags in 2, 4, or 6 cup quantities, depending on how you plan to use the peaches later.
- Flatten the bag with the peaches and carefully remove as much air as possible.
- Lay the bag(s) flat in the freezer. Flattened bags are easier to store and free up freezer space.
- Enjoy all year long!