So You Want to Be a Homesteader (27 ways, a new series)

I read a blog post that talked about homesteading.  In it the author states that people in the city can say they are gardeners, can say they are homemakers, but cannot say that they are homesteaders.  I beg to differ.  I have homesteaded in the country, a small town, and in the city.  Our plan is to get back on land, but that does not change our lifestyle.  In fact, I believe we are actually more sustainable in the city.  We are just missing a well and a couple of goats.

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The word homesteading isn’t really a relevant word anymore because the government is not giving us parcels of land to try to live on for five years before we get to keep it.  So, we need to go by the new definition of homesteading and leave it open to everyone.  You can homestead anywhere.  Homesteading starts and ends with high self sufficiency, appreciation for the natural world, sustainability, community, health, and pride in hard work that we do ourselves.

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Homesteading can be done on any level, but as you grow your own food, chop your own wood, eat from your own root cellar, create your own medicines, it does get addictive.  This is a great lifestyle and one that anyone can incorporate into their lives.  The more aspects of it that you pick up, the more money you save, the healthier physiologically and psychologically you become, and things that are really important come to the forefront of life.  Family, food, security, counting blessings, and the good life.

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I have come up with a list of 27 ways to start homesteading.  27 aspects of homesteading that keep a heart humming, the fam fed, and the home fires burning.  Join me over the next month as I cover each one to inspire, teach, and swap ideas with you.  We will talk about searching for land, preserving, growing, animals, home arts, and more!

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27 Ways to Homestead

  1. Organic gardening
  2. Canning
  3. Fermenting
  4. Dehydrating food
  5. Smoking food
  6. Freezing food
  7. Raising chickens
  8. Fishing/Hunting
  9. Supporting local farmers
  10. Bread baking
  11. Cooking three meals a day
  12. Preparing simple, unprocessed food
  13. Sewing/Mending
  14. Crocheting
  15. Purchasing second hand
  16. Cheese making
  17. Generating your own electricity
  18. Generating your own heat
  19. Making your own medicine
  20. Making your own cleaning products
  21. Making your own body products
  22. Making homemade gifts and cards
  23. Free entertainment
  24. Learning to make everything from scratch
  25. Budgeting
  26. Using original homesteading items that last
  27. Learning from other homesteaders

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Go get yourself a cute apron and let’s get to work!  We are embarking on the good life.

Braided Rugs and the Old House

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A ninety-one year old house sits quietly empty on its large lot.  No one to creak the old wood floors or light the flames in the firebox.  There isn’t laughter in the kitchen yet, wine glasses clinking, or sizzling from the stove.  The curtains are dark and block out the sunlight and the chill fills the empty space.  The old house wishes for children running through slamming the screen door.  Chickens knocking at the back door.  Flowers growing in the flower boxes.  Singing in the shower, and in the kitchen.  The old house has its own pleasant spirit that I cannot wait to get to know.

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Long time followers and friends know that I love to decorate, to create, to inspire, to set emotions with décor and life.  I pull a color from a braided rug that would make a lovely trim color.  I need to get in there and sit quietly.  Listen to the old house.

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There are no library books on decorating called “Eclectic, Amish, Country, New Mexican Style”!

I start with a rug.  I love braided rugs.  They can be made by saving long scraps of fabric, or long 2 inch strips of old sheets.  You simply braid the pieces together.  Sew on more strips at the end.  A few stitches along the strip to keep in place.  Then start winding the strip into a circle or oval and stitch pieces to stay in place.  I found a stellar deal on Wayfair for a few beautiful rugs that I couldn’t do better myself so they will be the primary pieces of our new home.  One day I will create my own with old sheets or cotton.  It is a brilliant way to reuse old fabric.

After the New Year I’ll  bring you in to decorate with me.  Home sweet Home.  The best Christmas present we can think of!

 

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.

It Takes Two to Homestead

“What does your husband do?”  Um…same as me.  I have been asked this dozens of times as if we could only manage if he moonlighted as a software engineer or cook for Pizza Hut.  He was working at the coffee shop for fun two days a week last winter and had to quit because his Honey Do list was expanding at an alarming speed without him home.

My cousin is excited to go off grid.  She asked me how Doug and I homestead without jobs or income.  I thought it was time here on Farmgirl School to set the record straight.  If you want to be a homesteader, here are some of the facts.

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1. You must have a cottage industry to pay the bills. 

Yes, we will be practically off grid when we move but we will have rent, propane, cell phones, and internet still.  We aren’t leaving forever to be hermits.  We also will need money for gas and car repairs since we don’t have horses and will need hay and chicken feed (and dog food and cat food) and a few groceries that we don’t make or grow yet.  Not much, our total income required will be $1500 per month.  That’s wonderful but we still need an income to make that much.  We are herbalists.  We have a pretty elaborate Apothecary here.  We make over fifty herbal medicines, salves, beauty products, honeys, and teas.  We grow the herbs, and sell our formulas at farmer’s markets, craft shows, and over the phone and internet.  I always say “we” but here’s the breakdown.  Yes, this is my creation.  I am the intuitive healer.  I am the one who developed all of these medicines, who continues to study, research, and create the most effective medicines out there.  Then Doug steps in.  He is the empath and loves talking with people and he is a natural salesman.  When people come by the booth I generally raise my book higher.  Not because I don’t like people, I do, and one on one I am great, but I am no salesman.  Doug is a retired IT guy, he makes sure the computers are running well, that I can get to my email, the website, my blog.  He develops labels, logos, and marketing materials.  He fills product, loads the car, does markets when I have other things to do.  He has memorized the answers, understands the science, and can help people as well as I can.  Without me there wouldn’t be an Apothecary, without him there wouldn’t be a business that could sustain us.  Not make us rich, just sustain us.  That is just what we want.

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2. There is Women’s Work on a homestead.

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Now, don’t get your apron strings in a knot, this is the truth.  Though we help each other when needed, there are definite divisions in our workload.  If I had to go outside and pound eight foot fence posts into the ground, run fencing, wrestle 150 pound goats, bring in hay, chop firewood, haul firewood, and till, I would be out there for awhile.  By the end, I would either be crying or off to find a glass of wine and a book.  I don’t like that I am not as strong as a man, but I have come to accept it.  Doug handles the heavy work of the farm like a pro.  It’s actually pretty sexy.  I am okay being in the kitchen (barefoot with a baby on my hip is fine too).  I am naturally inclined (as most women are) to nurture.  I enjoy canning hundreds of jars of vegetables and fruits.  I enjoy getting three meals a day on the table.  I love that my husband enjoys my cooking.  I feel pride that we provided a lot of it.  I enjoy a clean house (though right now it never seems to be).  I love to decorate.  Heaven forbid there be large posters of Broncos players in my Laura Ashley living room.  I will take over the decorating.  I enjoy sewing and making gifts.  I enjoy homemaking.  I like putting clothes out on the line.  I love my garden.  We help each other in our respective areas but a homestead runs on old fashioned ideals.

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3. Homesteading is hard work but worth it.

“When do you ever have downtime?” I was asked yesterday.  Often times we are asked when we ever work.  Since folks aren’t around here all the time they don’t see the inner workings of this homestead.  Right now with the farmer’s markets, harvesting, putting up food, and moving it may look like we don’t have much down time.  We work very hard physically for a good part of the year but it is enjoyable and feels good.  It is much healthier than sitting at a desk for eight plus hours a day.  It is really satisfying work.  If we don’t feel good or are injured we can rest.  Our schedule is completely made by us.  We work very hard during the warm months so that we can rest and do things we enjoy in the cold months.  We always have to milk the goats and feed the animals and do housework but our life is a string of pleasant events.  We eat fresh, unprocessed foods.  We enjoy good company and have great friends.  We get plenty of fresh air and enjoy the antics of animals.  We have a lot of time together.  Watching friends and family lose spouses, we realize that each day we are together is a gift.  And we have a very fun, quintessential Grammie and Papa’s house that will be host to many fond memories for grandkids and a respite for our children.

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I suppose one could hypothetically homestead by themselves but they would only get half the work done and still require outside help.  It would be a tad lonely.  I’m not saying one couldn’t do it, but it sure makes it easier to homestead with two.  Without me there wouldn’t be a homestead, without Doug there wouldn’t be a homestead.  Life is sweet here.