Living Traditions
Homestead
Couple says goodbye to upscale, big-city living, and hello to homesteading in the Ozarks
By Marti Attoun
Photos by: Gerard Attoun
Matthews Family
Grace, Sarah, Kevin, and Samantha Mathews
While giving a tour of the family farm in the Missouri Ozarks, Kevin Mathews pauses as a truck rumbles by on the usually quiet country road. He and the driver exchange a friendly greeting.

“Everybody waves here,” Kevin says matter-of-factly. And it’s obvious by his smile that the kind gesture is one more plus in the lifestyle that he and his wife, Sarah, embraced more than two years ago.

Sarah in the family’s garden
Sarah in the family’s garden
In July 2016, the Mathews family packed away their corporate lives in Phoenix and moved to rural Ava, Missouri, to become full-time homesteaders.

“We wanted to learn how to live a simpler, slower lifestyle,” says Kevin. He was working full-time-plus in medical and dental sales and frequently traveled. Sarah was a human resources executive.

“We wanted to work with our hands and be self-sufficient,” Sarah says. “We wanted to set an example for our kids (Grace, 15, and Samantha, 12) that chasing money and things is not what’s going to make you happy.”

But their lifestyle reset wasn’t a snap decision. Even when they had a tiny city backyard, they squeezed in a raised-bed garden. And, as a stepping stone to becoming full-time homesteaders, they sold their high-dollar-value home and bought a ramshackle house on an acre that was in foreclosure in 2012 in Gilbert, Arizona.

Sarah in the family’s garden
Sarah in the family’s garden
Sarah and Kevin make five YouTube videos each week
Sarah and Kevin make five YouTube videos each week
“The house was a train wreck and the realtor said we should just bulldoze it,” Kevin says. Instead, the hardworking couple renovated the house and, along with raising a big garden, taught themselves how to raise meat rabbits, dairy goats, and chickens. All the while, they worked full time at their good-paying jobs and squirreled away every penny.

When they thought about eating out or another splurge, they reminded themselves of their goal. They made a nifty visual reminder, gluing together a paper chain with each link representing $1,000 of debt. Link by link, the family clipped away at their debt.

Within five years, they paid off most of their mortgage and socked away two years’ worth of living expenses.

/ BACK TO BASICS /
Although they didn’t have any family ties in Missouri, Kevin and Sarah—ever the planners—researched and discovered that it was an affordable place to live off the land. Low taxes and few zoning restrictions helped sway them. After scouring real estate listings and visiting, they made an offer on property set amid rolling hills outside Ava.

Then came the big move. While some preteens and teens might balk about saying goodbye to big-city life and friends, Samantha and Grace were as excited about being homesteaders as their parents. Grace swapped a middle school with 2,000 kids in her grade for one with 100.

“I know them all,” she says about her classmates.

Samantha especially enjoys the peacefulness of the woods on the family’s 15 acres. “If you’re really quiet in the woods, you’ll see deer.” She’s learned to hunt.

From the start, Mom and Dad made videos to document their lives: the girls frolicking in their first snow, feeding chickens, weeding, snapping green beans, drying herbs.

At first, Kevin and Sarah shared videos with their family and friends. But their homey movies soon caught on with strangers. And that was fine with the Mathewses.

“We like to be teachers,” Sarah says. “We like to show people that there’s an alternative to keeping up with the Joneses.”

That led to one of their biggest adventures and source of income: their “Living Traditions Homestead” YouTube channel.

Retriever
Matthew's Family Pigs
Grace and Samantha feed the family’s pigs
Today, the couple makes five videos every week showcasing life on the homestead.
Step by step, Sarah shows how she cooks a whole frozen rabbit, makes shredded barbecue in 30 minutes in her Instant Pot, and harvests, cleans, and bags organic lettuce to sell at the farmers market.

Sarah and Kevin also share their misadventures, such as moving the pigs to a new pen in the woods. “I thought they’d follow me if I had a bucket of food,” Kevin says. “Two steps outside the pen and they took off toward the road and the garden and the pond.”

The pigs gave the family a welcome surprise, too.

“This is our accidental garden that the pigs planted,” Sarah says, pointing to a jungle inside a big pen. “We fed the pigs garden scraps and after we moved them to the woods, we had cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, watermelons.”

By raising all their own vegetables and meat, the Mathewses have whittled their grocery bill to about $200 a month. “We don’t buy food; we buy ingredients to make our own food,” Kevin says. They heat with wood.

In their 300 videos, Sarah and Kevin talk about raising birdhouse gourds, making sponges from luffa gourds, building an outdoor shower, the pros and cons of different breeds of meat chickens, making paprika, and cooking with cast-iron pots and pans. Sarah shares her recipes for quick homemade hamburger buns and the hot-selling banana bread that she and the girls bake for the farmers market.

Retriever
“We just try to be true to who we are,” Sarah says. The couple marvel that more than 55,000 people subscribe to their YouTube channel to keep up with their goings-on at the homestead. More than 1 million viewers visit their website every month.
The Stats
300
Videos
55,000
Subscribers
1M+
Website Visitors
Monthly
Retriever
“Every day is an adventure,” says Sarah, who wouldn’t have it any other way. “We’re doing exactly what we love.”
Learn more about the Mathews family at LivingTraditionsHomestead.com
About the Writer

Marti Attoun is a Joplin, Missouri-based writer.

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