The Homegrown, Healthy Life (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #16)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, somewhere during women’s liberation we got led astray.  The frozen dinner folks were ready to pounce.  “Yes, women, go get a job!  We’ll take care of dinner.”  Every convenience began to show up, pushing women into the work force in droves.  Children left raising themselves and food being neatly packaged in factories in other countries.  Oh, and we still get to do all the housework!

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I am thankful for the ability to vote and that my daughters can be lawyers if they so choose, but I will take my original jobs back, thank you very much.  My father-in-law wondered when I am getting a job.  Let me tell y’all about my job and earnings.

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When you gaze down fluorescent lighted grocery shelves with the sounds of bad music and customers in the background, do you ever wonder where the food came from?  Or ever wondered what would happen in an emergency and you couldn’t come shop these aluminum and box lined shelves?  Have you read the ingredients?  Lord, have mercy.  A good 50% of all those foods are poison.  Not to mention grown who knows where, handled by who knows who, sprayed with who knows what.  I am my own food preserver.  I can, I dry, I fill my own grocery store shelves with nutritious, delicious foods.

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I am the farmer.  I grow all of our produce for half of the year, increasing yields each season.  I grow our own chickens (a new venture, granted).  We gather our own eggs.  To fill in, I use other housewives’ farm goods; beef, pork, milk, and organic vegetables to preserve.  It takes a village of us.

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I am the cheese monger.  I make our own variety of cheese, along with yogurt and ice cream, and butter.

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I am the baker.  In my bakery I make coffee cakes, and fresh bread for sandwiches.

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I am my family’s own doctor.  I make my own medicines.  I am the veterinarian around here.

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I am the tailor.  I am the accountant.  I am a hell of a gourmet chef.  I am the winemaker.

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I make body products and cleaning products and support my husband in his job.

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I buy organic flour and coffee, sugar and nuts.  Things of that nature.  I save a ton of money by growing, bartering, supporting local farms, and doing it myself.  Just think of all the things I don’t buy!  I don’t really have time to get a job, you see.  I am busy working and giving my family a homegrown, healthy life.

 

 

Supporting Local Farms (So You Want to Be a Homesteader Day 7)

It is a good idea to try and be self sufficient enough that you feel secure.  You have water in empty jars in case the water gets turned off.  You have candles, oil lamps, and matches.  You have food preserved and a bustling garden.  You have firewood.  You have some cash in a coffee can.  Going further, it is really satisfying to raise your own food, preserve all of your own food and drinks, and make steps to be more eco-friendly and simple.  We can get pretty darn self sufficient, but really it not likely to be completely self sufficient.  Mainly because we need people.  We also cannot possibly do everything ourselves.  Supporting small, local farms in your state- as close to you as possible- is a great way to build each other up, create community, eat well, ensure humane treatment of animals, and support a more environmentally friendly path.

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We don’t have too many flour mills here in Colorado (do we have any?), and I know no one is growing coffee and sugar, so I do need to buy those.  I can choose organic or small operations to purchase from.  I grow most of our vegetables for the summer and fall here on my urban farm, but it is always nice to head to the farmer’s market and buy some fruit or unique vegetables from the organic farmers there.  We talk about bugs, weather, family, recipes.  I can also get extra produce to preserve if I didn’t grow enough. The money stays in the community, amongst friends.

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Most of the homestead authors I enjoy reading started out as vegetarians.  Many of us have felt strongly about vegetarianism before.  Many of my farmer friends were vegetarians.  We care about the environment.  We care about animals.  So, once we see that tofu and bananas wreck the ozone as much as anything with all the fuel and deforestation required, and that GMO crops (the basis of many a veggie burger), and factory farming are what are destroying our health and our beautiful planet, it makes a farmgirl step back and reassess.

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There are lovely, caring farms and ranches, many around you, that lovingly grow animals for meat and gently send them off into the night.  A world away from the pain and stench of factory farming.  My meat chickens got lots of kisses and lots of sunshine and were dead in less time than it takes to blink.  No pain.

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The key to curing many of our environmental, social, and health problems can be found in our food choices.  By purchasing as much local as possible, from real people in your community, who don’t use pesticides and herbicides, who have bills to pay, and a smile to offer you, and authentic conversation, we can reverse disease, destruction, and separation.  Local is where our food should come from.  As close as possible.  Your back yard is even better.  It is possible to eat primarily local, it just takes some planning and networking on social media and at farmer’s markets to find everything you need.

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I despise the dairy industry and do not want to support them.  Yesterday I visited a small farm thirty minutes from mine where a gorgeous, tanned farmgirl showed me around.  She loves each and every one of the newly hatched chicks that ran by chirping, the bucks who got out and created a lot of babies this year, the old goats, the babies frolicking with their mothers, the pigs, the dogs, the land, that life.  I packed three gallons of delicious, fresh milk into my car.  Today I am making cheese and ice cream.

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Local is not more expensive.  Creating a good network of fellow farmers and ranchers is imperative to becoming a successful homesteader.

Buying Land to Homestead (city or country?)

So you want to be a homesteader?  You will need land!  Now, do you want to live in the city or the country?  You can certainly homestead either place.

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I found a city, within forty-five minutes of my husband’s work, an hour and a half from my children, that has a very reasonable housing market compared to the other places in Colorado.  Pueblo has every amenity; arts, theater, restaurantuuuuus, hiking, bike trails, museums, and farms nearby.  My beautiful little house is powered 100% with solar.  I heat the house with the wood stove or the gas furnace.  I have city water, but it tastes pretty good and it is a sure thing.  I have farmed the entire front yard, producing much of our own vegetables and fruit and some for canning plus all the perennial fruit trees and berry bushes are coming along fine.  The wild mulberries here are delicious.  I have a large chicken coop and lots of chickens.  I have a greenhouse and additional garden. I have a farm dog.  I have a root cellar.  I have everything I need to homestead well here.  We even have a lake one block away that is stocked by the city for free fishing.

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Living in the city has a ton of benefits like the ones above plus most cities allow goats and sheep nowadays.  The utilities are generally cheaper.  Without a well, one does pay quite a bit for water.  And there is the space issue.  You can only do so much before running out of room in the city.  I must say I am impressed with how much I can grow here though.  Using vertical growing techniques and permaculture ideas increases yield exponentially.  Finding a home in the city can often be more affordable as well.

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It’s a shame we aren’t city people.  In the country, you might have a view.  A few acres of land to traverse.  More options for animals.  Outbuildings.  Stars.  And country people are my people.  I may have grown up in the city, but I’ve always been a country girl.

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These are things to look for when you are looking for a homestead, whether it be in the city or the country.

Check zoning.  Can you have chickens?  How about, by chance, goats?

FHA doesn’t do Ag loans (agriculture zoning).  FHA is the most common lending so plan to find something residential that can have animals.

Check and see if the community has an HOA.  If so, do not move there.  You will not likely be able to grow corn in the front yard or have a rooster crowing.

A wood stove or wood burning fireplace is a must.  On a wood stove, you can place a pot of beans and a kettle of water or percolator on days that electric goes out.

If you are looking in the country, is it on city water?  Is there a well?  How deep?

Septic tank?  How old?  Get those checked before buying.

How many acres?  What is the zoning?

Let’s be honest now here.  EVERY farmer/rancher I know has an outside job.  It’s just the way it goes these days.  Someone in the household probably has to work.  Check the distance to work.  No one wants to commute two hours to the office!

Check the fencing.  Are you going to be able to keep your pup in?  Goats?  See realistically much work has to be done to move in.  Fencing in the city is incredibly important as well.  Preferably a six foot fence!

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Well y’all, that will get you started.  Happy land dreaming!

 

 

The Amazing Pressure Cooker (and a nice Nordic dish)

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My goodness, I have been missing this all of my adult life.  A pressure cooker!  How come y’all didn’t tell me about this lovely contraption?  It literally takes half the time to make supper!  And for a homesteading mama, this is important.

I love whole grains.  I am a huge advocate of the healing power, antioxidant content, anti-cancer ability of whole grains.  Natural fiber and mineral foods that take forever to cook.  The same reason I do not make beans as often as I’d like; I forget to put them in the slow cooker or I don’t have three hours to wait for them to be done!

The quick release on the pressure cookers is the coolest thing I have seen in awhile (I don’t get out much.) and I do wish that our pressure canners had this feature!  This supper took no time at all to prepare.  I’m still experimenting, but the cooker makes it easy for me.

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Here I soaked 1/2 cup of navy beans for the day in doubled the water.  Came home to a full measuring cup of them.  I sautéed red onion and garlic in olive oil in the pressure cooker first then added a few chopped carrots, a chopped parsnip, and one sliced stalk of celery.  I added the drained beans and 1/2 cup of rye.  Sprinkle all well with smoked salt (or regular) and pepper, dill, paprika, and a pinch of thyme.  I poured over 4 cups of my homemade rosemary broth (though you could use any broth), put the lid on and pressure cooked it for 30 minutes.  I quick released it (so cool) and added two big handfuls of chopped cabbage and two pieces of lovely coral colored salmon topped with spices.  Another 3 minutes in the pressure cooker and wallah, supper was served.

This fabulous contraption will serve me well this year with my expansive, and God willing prolific, gardens.  Whatever veggies, spices, grains, and proteins I have on hand will make delicious, healthy, and unique one pot meals.

Do you have a great pressure cooker recipe?

The Homesteading Bug…or in the Blood?

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There are some that are content with flowers in a pot.  There are those who are perfectly happy turning on a switch to make the fire come to life (the gas flame is rather pretty).  A package of this food or that blended with another to make “homemade” food.  Our society has a different view of homemaking these days.  But I, well I used to think I had the homesteading bug.  A bug that I wondered would pass once we entered the city.  Would I miss canning?  It is tedious work.  Would I miss hand washing dishes and clothes lines, and the smell of firewood setting aflame while a pot of beans is set on the wood stove to percolate?

I guess you know the answer.

City life can be rather easy.  My friend cleans my apartment once a week.  I leave for work with everyone else and work very, very hard all week long.  So does Doug.  We come home and fix supper or head out to eat.  We switch on the fire.  And a movie.  We feed the cats.  I do laundry.  It is quick, even though our clothes are a bit shrunk from the dryer…or the lifestyle.

We long for chores and the cool breeze as we run to the chicken coop to let the ladies out.  We miss the sight of dozens of jewel colored jars cooling on the counters waiting for the larder (I did get several dozen things put up, but we’ll be out by next month).  I miss the sound of the dehydrator and the smell of drying tomatoes.  The sound of crackling from the first log that catches in the wood stove.  I miss the extensive gardens to water and the music blaring from my earphones as I dance and water at the same time, entertaining the neighbors.  I miss pointing out what we grew on the plate (sometimes all of it).  I miss falling into bed exhausted with a huge smile of completion on my face.  Planning the winter rests of learning to knit and weave and spin and the books I’ll catch up on.  Only to be planning the next year’s gardens and pouring over seed catalogues instead.

We wondered if we would get over the homesteading bug when set into a life of a bit more ease.  But, no, it turns out, it was homesteading blood.  Not a bug.  We are a few of those folks that could go back to 1890 with ease.  Playing the fiddle or working as we please.  To step out of normal society is a plus.  Yes, on a mini-farm and homestead you will find us.

I look forward to donning my apron again.  The one that swaddled new born goats and chicks.  The one my granddaughter can hide under.  To wipe my hands on after chopping a zillion vegetables or to wipe my brow after crawling on my hands and knees to plant tiny seeds that will become life and infuse our life with…life.

Some of us just have homesteading in our blood.

Happy Birthday to the Farmer of My Dreams

There was a man who stole my heart

for awhile we were rarely apart.

He can easily milk goats

on the kittens he dotes

can catch a chicken in the road

chase sheep as the rooster crowed

chopped the wood and moved the hay

“Well have it again!” he likes to say.

Cuddled into his arms is Maryjane

after she is done jumping on him!

Playful and very young at heart

yet contemplative when the lights are dim

a loving father, grandfather, sweet husband too

a lot of things all in one,

but most all, he’s lots of fun!

Happy Birthday, Doug!  Thanks for coming along for the ride.  I hope you get everything you wish for!

How to Calm a Farmgirl

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Maryjane’s mama had to work late last night.  She was getting to that two year old too tired to stay awake hysteria.  So how do you calm a born farmgirl?  Hand her a farming magazine.

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There was a picture of a child milking a goat that she was enthralled with.  Photos of sheep.  Yesterday at the store she pretended she had sheep there.  She put them to bed, made them medicine, made them go outside, and loaded them into the truck when we left.  I need to get a farm again.  I am missing it so much I can hardly breathe, and I do not want the little farmgirl to forget.  Long live the farm dream.

The Discombobulated Farmer

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I can’t seem to wake up at dawn anymore.  I hear a rooster crowing from down the street.  I hear my goat, Isabelle, yelling for food at her new home two blocks away.  I try to push the pit out of my stomach.  The heaviness will not lift.  I turn over and fall into listless sleep.  I find myself falling asleep in the car, crying suddenly, and feeling hopeless.  I guess I am experiencing a bit of depression.  Without a to-do list I feel bored and useless.  For the first time in my life I do not have a job that helps people.  I do not have a job at all.  I wonder if I fell off the face of the earth would anyone notice.  I am not feeling suicidal, just struggling with who I am without a purpose, a to-do list, a goal, a dream, a busy life.

We used to dream of these days.  We would read and write and walk and be on a kind of vacation.  However I am struggling with my own identity and fate and rewriting the chapters has proven more difficult than I imagined.  To be fair, it hasn’t been that long.  Perhaps I will fall into a gentle wave of security.  The characters in the novel I am working on introduce themselves and create themselves in times of silence.

We need to finish up at the house that destroyed me.  Giving all of my possessions away has been an interesting venture.  Folks that were in the very same situations as ours gather replacements for things they lost to give homesteading another go.  Our goal with the farm and homesteading school was to encourage folks to be more self reliant and to try homesteading.  And in a twist of fate our final chapter was to give people what they needed to set up shop.

For years Doug and I have given things away.  Given gifts.  Given medicines.  Helped people out.  Helped wherever we were needed but now that the tables are turned, so to speak, I find that it was easier to give then to receive.   To receive a blessing is to be humbled and thankful.

Our friends have opened their home to us and our cats.  As cat people they know that giving away our felines would be the final knife to me.  To lose my cats is unthinkable.  I struggle with feeling awkward in their home, with being in the way, with being a nuisance.  Rodney and Pat took us on a trip.  Monte and Erik took us out to dinner.  Kat and Rod bought us lunch and helped us move.  Sara helped us move the cats.  Kim and her family came and cleaned out the dreaded refrigerator at the near empty house.  Thank you.  It is not easy to be in need.

At a particular low point we pulled into the library and to my surprise my girls happened to be there.  Those three smiles can brighten my day.  Friends out of nowhere showed up and invited us to an event.  We have been visiting.  Grandma broke her knee and is recovering well in a rehab.  Thompson had a heart attack and two strokes.  He, too, will be alright and it was nice to visit him.  We saw our son, Andy, and his girlfriend yesterday.  Our schedule is free to reconnect and visit with folks.  I must open my eyes and see the blessings before me.  To humbly accept.  To be grateful.  To embrace this new path into the unknown.  To free myself of this heaviness and enjoy the greatest blessing, LIFE.

Farmicure (the newest look in fashion)

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Back when I was a full time model I always had my nails done in a stylish and versatile French manicure.  My face was covered with foundation to even out my skin tone (freckles) and I always had my hair done.  That seems like a different life ago!

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It wasn’t that terribly long ago (okay it was a little while ago), I still look pretty close to the same, am the same size, but now I call myself a Grandma, spend time putzing around the farm instead of a runway, cut my nails short to play the guitar, and have a new manicure.  Dirt under my nails nine months of the year!  The occasional eye makeup put on should my diva side appear but mostly I am au natural.  This is my natural hair color.  Rather boring after all the years of red, but it is what it is.  Freckles, laugh lines, life has been good.  I like this new look.

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Ebb and Flow of Farm Life

The ebb and flow, the life and death, the frequency changes and seasons all so crisply clear when one lives on a farm.

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The ducklings do not fail to bring smiles.  Frolicking in their playpen in a casserole dish turned pond.

The farm dog lays under freshly mounded soil by the empty bee hive.  Bumble passed away in the night.  The quiet house without his tick-tick-ticking and the sight of him this morning haunts me still.  Dumping the pile of dead bees in the compost.  A weight pulls my heart.  The dead chicken with suspicious slobber on her feathers.  Death is real and constant.

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The monastery of frogs chant from the pond beneath the full moon.  The baby red winged black birds chirp madly in the greenhouse.  The kittens play.  The seedlings stretch to the sky, the sun on their limbs.  The breeze brings on it blossoms from trees and the scent of dampened soil.  Elsa’s side grows.  Twelve more days until she kids.  Bundles of fluff, lambs who think they are dogs, greet me with kisses and lean against my legs.

Relationships start.  Unexpected, journeys change.  Paths bring second thoughts, perhaps regrets.  Marriages strengthen.  Friends offer embraces.  Words of wisdom and love over the telephone far away.

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The Creator waits for our prayers of thanksgiving as we busy ourselves with endless internal chatter.

Wading through and finding peace in the respectfulness of death, the joy of birth and spring, and my spirit shall join the frogs in their meditation of all that is.  Take a breath.

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Spring is here and the journey continues.