Posted in Homestead

Tour of a Mountainside Homestead

My husband and I love to tour other people’s homesteads. We love to see what others are doing, be inspired, and swap ideas. We headed out to deliver medicine to a homesteading couple an hour southwest of us. The road rose to over 8000 feet. We came out of the trees and the road looked out across the most beautiful vista, the valley stretching across to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, those high, sun flecked, looming peaks.

Perched on the mountainside was their hand-built abode. A pole barn with an 800 square foot addition added for their house. Inside the house looked like a charming bed and breakfast with just what one needs, an open kitchen and living room, wood stove in the corner, and a view of the whole valley. A vermiculture tower of veggies was set up in their office. In the attached pole barn was their RV which acted as guest quarters. A wood cookstove, another wood stove, a seating area, dining room table and glitzy chandelier hung from the ceiling. A well stocked room was their pantry, and an upstairs loft was set up with comfy cushions.

The wind whipped across the drive and the pastures telling of an approaching storm. We passed several cords of stacked wood as they walked us through their large fenced garden. They used very tall frames and chicken wire that were used as drying racks at a marijuana greenhouse that had them for sale for cheap as fence panels. They dug down and put in chicken wire. The well secured space was being sectioned off for dual purpose chickens they were about to go into town to pick up. A few heads of lovely cabbage were left in the garden. They simply turned the soil and amended well with mulch and manure from local ranchers.

A cistern sat on a hill capturing rainwater (what little we get) and was positioned to move downhill to water the garden. They have a well that they are careful not to overuse. The lack of water here in Colorado is really the downfall of homesteading here, but clever homesteaders make it work.

Pushing my hair out of my face that the wind was whipping around, I entered the dome greenhouse and found myself in a quiet sanctuary. Water from the little pond trickled sweetly, the propane heater kept the space warm, and cucumbers and tomatoes scampered around the ceiling of the greenhouse. Herbs grew in pots and vegetables grew as if it were summer.

I mentioned how much I have always liked the domes but the price was so high. Mary explained that it was worth it. They were too old, she said, to do anything half way, to waste money on things that would not work. They bought a shed when they first moved onto the property while they were building their house. It blew away.

Mary and Glen hunt and process their own meat and have stored away non-perishables. They grow much of their food and have gradually built and moved to this carefully placed homestead. They are adding chickens and more solar panels to the property. They live a comfortable and cozy life off grid. Homesteads are all different and each one offers valuable wisdom and inspiration. I am thankful that this sweet couple shared their space with us and showed us around. Homesteaders are a generous and friendly group. I am glad to be counted among them.

Posted in Homestead

This is Why We Homestead (and how we will prep better this year)

Five pounds of smoky, rich local coffee beans are a comfort to have. We still have 3/4 of a fifty pound bag of organic, unbleached flour. We have lots of wheat gluten and jars upon jars of pulses, like barley, rice, and pinto beans. Did we know that there would be a worldwide pandemic? Yes and no. We knew there would be something, and it is just a smart way to live. To be prepared. It is as comforting as a big cup of hot coffee on a cool spring morning.

We homestead for many reasons. Everyone knows that the power can go out at any time. Job losses and lay offs happen. Natural disasters happen. People get sick. But we don’t just homestead for disaster preparedness; there are other reasons too.

We homestead to save money. A five pound bag of organic coffee is $60, recently roasted locally and the beans are sourced sustainably and fair trade. A fifty pound bag of flour is about fifty bucks. That is a stellar price for organic, unbleached flour. Organic is very important to us and we would like items that we can’t produce ourselves to be fairly and sustainably grown and sold.

We also save money by preserving our own food. I save scraps from vegetables, the ends of onions, carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms, veggies that are just turning, and make them into savory jars of broth. I make fourteen jars at a time for free, basically. I guess the lids cost a couple of bucks. A quart of organic vegetable broth in the store is a minimum of five dollars. I have jars of broth at the ready for cheaper than a Walmart special.

By having pulses and foods on hand, we eat out a lot less because we have food here. It is all displayed in beautiful canning jars and is easy to see and be inspired by.

We homestead for better food. By growing our own food, we control what is used to produce it, how it is handled, when it is harvested, and its freshness. And to have food. I suppose a lot of y’all are going to have a garden this year after seeing so many empty grocery store shelves! We have fresh eggs (we are vegan outside of that), plenty of grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables canned and frozen.

We have candles, lamp fuel, water in jugs, cleaning products, a bag of homemade soap, and craft projects for days. But here is what I have learned from this quarantine.

We need to save more money. Well, we need to save money period. All our bills are paid and we have everything we need but in these situations, an emergency fund would be more of a comfort than a cup of coffee.

We need to preserve more food. Last year we moved before harvest time. The year before I started a shop that promptly closed, but took up all my time during harvest season. Luckily I had canned a lot before that, but geez, no more slacking! I usually put up a couple hundred jars of food a year. This year I have a lofty goal of over five hundred jars of food and several gallon bags of frozen vegetables. I am also growing and/or buying a lot of things to dry and dehydrate.

We need to figure out how to save more water. We will look into rain barrels and ways to save drinking water this year in case of emergency. Right now, with our animals, we have maybe two day’s worth saved. Not enough!

Homesteading is an adventure. One can do it from anywhere. Joining a community garden, buying produce from a farmer’s market, canning in an apartment, saving jugs of water under the bed, learning to sew, getting a few oil lamps, buying second hand; the ways are endless. We gradually improve our ways of homesteading by experience. This year will be our most ambitious farm yet and this quarantined time has showed us what we need to focus on. I hope something good will come out of this time for all of you out there. How are you homesteading? What skills will you learn this year?