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

Hooked on Homesteading

6:30 am: The wind howled at fifty miles an hour all night, folding pieces of the greenhouse and threatening loose objects. My wwoofer, Maycee, and I rapidly pick green tomatoes, filling two large canning pots, saving all we can. The tarp and blankets only cover 15×4 feet of tomato plants. We cover the zucchini and bid farewell to everything else in the gardens. All of the beautiful flowers at their peak. The beans nearly ready, but not quite. The squash and watermelons and peppers and dozens of other vegetables that won’t make it through the sudden cold front that is upon us. Tonight the freeze starts and the snow will come, heavy and suffocating. And cleansing. The fires here in Colorado have been awful and the dense moisture will lower the smoke, clean the air, and usher us into another season.

I mourn the plants I am not ready to see fold back into the earth. This freeze is a good month earlier than expected. Autumn has been sneaking up slowly though. We watched the corn change to crisp seemingly overnight. And birds in masses gathering frantically. The grapes brought in to the winery for crush a month early, as are the pumpkins we brought in the other day. Yes, the seasons change in our lives without us being ready and all we can do is flow.

My husband’s photo of our squash bounty!

8:30 am: My friend Annie that used to live with me (the one who grew up with my children and comes to help me can on the weekends, the one who is now hooked on homesteading after living with me!), she sends me a photo of her new pressure canner with excitement. This lifestyle is captivating. It is addictive and satisfying in a way that is hard to explain. The young people are often just now being introduced to it. And that is good. Our world needs more self sufficient people. More homestead/community minded folks.

10:30 am: The fire is stoked and the heat carries through the house. It seemed strange to be hauling wood in yesterday. It was nearly a hundred degrees outside. The clouds float towards us over the mountains. I look brightly at my shelves, filled with well over three hundred jars of vegetables and preserves for winter. Our friends came to visit us yesterday and stayed for lunch. They brought us a lot of frozen wild meat. We don’t often eat meat because we despise the factory farms of the world. But these items along with what other friends have gifted us, feel like bundles of sustenance, waiting for the dutch oven upon the wood stove. They feel like amazing gifts for winter.

Our pantry wall looks like the finest art installation!

11:30: A large basket of beans was brought in to further dry and to shell in the week ahead. The tomatoes will be set out to turn red. We are full from Kleinur (Icelandic beignets) that I fried this morning. Hot cups of coffee warmed us after scurrying around the farm gathering vegetables and unhooking hoses, checking on the animals, and we are now settled by the fire.

Cherokee black beans will be shelled for soups and many dishes in the coming winter.

The children are coming for a harvest festival here on Saturday. It will be gloriously autumnal by the end of the week with temperatures in the seventies and eighties. We will still have a lot of work to do- with cleaning up the farm, setting up the trellising and posts for the vineyard, fixing the greenhouse, cleaning up garden beds, and canning the rest of the tomatoes, potatoes, and pumpkins. There is sauerkraut on the counter that will be ready to can next week as well. The season comes to an end then we will be vacationing in Colorado wine country and visiting friends.

The new shawl I made on my loom with my favorite colors!

I will then settle in with my loom and create new pieces. Work at the winery on weekends. Enjoy the fruits of our labor of summer. Bid farewell to wwoofers and intense heat, and welcome in fall. Everything has a season.

Posted in Homestead

10 Rebellious Ways to Make a Huge Impact Now

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Ghandi

It can feel so overwhelming. A single person on the planet amongst billions of others; our lives run by big business, lobbyists, and corrupt governments. Our ecological footprints growing larger by the day, farmable land expected to be gone in a mere sixty years, pollution, disease, starvation. We were never meant to know the problems of the rest of the world. Our minds cannot handle the influx of news and images- handpicked for chaos- across our screens. Whenever we feel overwhelmed, we simply need to step back to our own home. Our own neighbors. Our families. And our choices. It may feel like we cannot do anything about the mega-powers destroying our earth, taking away our choices, freedoms, and way of life, but that is a myth. We are the mega-power. There are things we can do that can make powerful change. Our own dollars keep those mega businesses in power. We are not helpless. We can make a huge impact on this planet and in our communities.

Heirloom “Moon and Stars” watermelon.

1- Buy organic. We should no longer be accepting the vast amount of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers that threaten our top soil and health.

2- Avoid GMO’s. Genetically modified organisms are everywhere. Seeds brought into a lab and changed and patented to withstand massive amounts of Round Up. Monsanto used to be the face of this, but they were bought by Dow. If they own the seeds, we lose our food security. Organic food cannot be genetically modified. See #1.

Handpicking squash bugs was so much more effective than I could have imagined. We have lots of pumpkins!

3- Buy local and organic if you can. Support local farms if they are sustainable. If they use pesticides, move on to another. (Note: If you live in Colorado- support Miller Farms if you are up north and Milberger Farms if you are south.)

4- Grow food. This is the single most political, earth changing, health changing thing you can do. Start a victory garden. Let it grow each year. Grow pots of tomatoes and basil on your apartment balcony. Grow corn in the front yard. Grow! Anyone can grow food. I have developed some amazing techniques using Permaculture and no-till methods to turn even our shale filled, sandy piece of land into a food haven. Use heirloom seeds and save them. Anyone can do it.

My wwoofer, Dominique harvesting basil for lunch.

5- Cook. Not processed food. Cook vegetables and lots of them. Grind or cook whole grains. Eat wild fruit. Throw beans in a crock pot. Use lots of spices. Animal agriculture and GMO’s go hand-in-hand. If you do eat meat, support a local farmer that uses organic grains and grass. You will be a lot healthier if you just go veg.

One of my “kids”, Annie learning to preserve.

6- Teach. Learn to can. Learn to preserve. Learn to bake bread. Learn to garden. Now teach someone else. The power of community has been forgotten as of late. Sustainability and homesteading is a huge way to make big changes and sharing that knowledge has exponential effects.

Anyone can make a few jars of cold and flu medicine, pain, allergy, and topical healers.

7- Avoid pharmaceuticals- I bet Big Pharma causes more deaths than any one industrial giant out there. Learn to make herbal medicines. Find a great herbalist or holistic practitioner. Grow medicinal herbs for teas and extracts.

Love your life.

8- Make your own way- Do not get caught up in the chaos. Social media may be the most damaging driver in our society. They like to keep us angry without telling us all the facts. Focus on your family. Your neighbors. Your friends. Love all the beautiful diversity and cultures around you. Respect police officers. Vote with your heart. Vote for our rights and freedoms. Find joy.

Slow, methodical tasks are imperative to good mental health and happiness.

9- Bring back the simple life. Invite people over for dinner. Put on a record on an old player. Take up crocheting. Can tomatoes. Take a wine class. Go hiking. Pick up the phone and call people you love. Unplug. Instead of focusing on renewable energy, focus on using less. There are so many ways you can use less energy and water in your household.

10- Click here to watch an important documentary. There is hope!

Posted in Animals/Chickens

Ducks on the Homestead

I love walking out onto the back porch and being greeted by the ducks. Sitting with my cup of coffee in the mornings watching them splash in their swimming pools and quacking at the goats and wagging their tail feathers (they love the goats!) just makes me happy.

It looks like we may have one female and two males. Sandia is a little louder and smaller. The boys, Serrano and Big Jim (all named after New Mexican chili peppers) are quieter, bigger, and less agile.

We chose Pekin ducks this time around. We always had Runner ducks and they are hilarious to watch as they run by, a herd of bowling pins quacking along. We never did have ducks past five months of age because inevitably, we would have to move and circumstances would require us to re-home them. We chose Pekin ducks because they are suppose to be friendlier and more pet-like. Ours are very sweet but they have no desire to be snuggled. Pity. They are so dang cute!

Farm ducks lay anywhere from 60-200 eggs a year. The eggs are larger, and I hear quite good for pastry making. I suppose you could eat the ducks themselves, but we aren’t really into eating our animals around here. The boys are pretty docile. My runner males were a little nippy with the chickens but were excellent companions to the female ducks (hens).

They sleep in a large dog kennel with an old Mexican blanket over it to keep wind and rain out of the holes. They go in on their own at night and we close it to protect them from marauding predators in the night. My past ducks did not go in on their own and had to be herded into the chicken coop at night. I am this group likes their shelter.

We buy an All Flock feed that the chickens and the ducks eat. Ducks love fresh veggies chopped up and put in their swimming pool. Lettuce is among their favorites. They don’t have teeth, so smaller pieces are best. They eat by nibbling then drinking, so leave their food near their water. They will chomp on weeds, sometimes dragging them to the swimming pool.

Homestead ducks don’t typically fly, but certainly research duck breeds before choosing one. Some are dual purpose (meat and eggs), some are better egg layers than others, some are better at flying over fences than others, some breeds are more docile than others. Our Pekin ducks are considered dual breed. They were readily available at the feed store in the spring. Ducks are sold straight run, which means not sexed. Pekin ducks lay 150 eggs per year.

In the Appalachians, homesteaders would pluck the ducks of their down feathers once a month or so for pillows and mattresses. Just grab them and pluck ’em. I very much doubt we will be doing that here though.

Ducks are excellent insect control. They dig into the mulch and will eradicate eggs and bugs. They can clear a field of grasshoppers. I will employ them in the fall since they ate my tomatoes this week and were promptly evicted from the garden.

Ducks are very easy to care for. Eggs, entertainment, and bug control are all great reasons to get ducks for your homestead.

Posted in Homestead

The Amish, Pioneers, and the New Homesteader

Ruth and Joel’s house was cozy and warm. The sun shone through the large windows looking out on the cold mountains just yonder, the wood stove stood guard against the chill, in front of a wood cabin wall. Their children played with simple toys and brought me books to read them. Ruth had sewing waiting for her- a task she dislikes despite her very fancy sewing machine plugged into the outlet that is supplied by propane. She brought us out sweet rolls and a drink. We talked of her husband’s job, canning, her makeshift root cellar under the house, and about the animals. It was really no different- to my surprise- than if you visited my farm some January morn. Except that her husband rode his bike or hitched up the horses to go to work, whereas my husband starts the Fiat, which is much smaller than Joel’s buggy.

Ruth and Joel are Amish. We have a small community not far from here and a good number of Mennonites as well. Tourists snap photos of their buggies and horses and sweet caps and darling children.

I, myself, was rather fascinated by the Amish. The simplicity. The family focus. The back-to-earth lifestyle of gardening, chopping wood, living off grid, and staying away from the chaos and destruction of social media and television. Living on faith and hard work and enjoying the slow, simple life of a happily busy existence is something most people these days are searching for, which just adds to our fascination of people brave enough to live that way.

The Amish didn’t create anything new. The pioneers lived that way out of necessity. The indigenous cultures of each country lived that way at one time. Some still do. The back-to-land dreamers of the 1970’s saw the benefits. There are men and women who quietly live this way today.

People choose to live a homestead life for many reasons: food security, and health, to live closer to the earth (therefore feel closer to the Creator), and to walk softer on the planet. The focus is on simple life requirements such as: growing food, saving water, raising animals, being close to family, having faith, and providing basic necessities for oneself, like heat, medicine, clothes, and other handmade items.

It starts with the buying of a few cute oil lamps at the antique store. Next thing you know, you’re weaving scarves and sewing quilts and making baskets. Soap, body products, cleaning products can easily be made. Then you are cooking on a wood stove and have your crocheting nearby. Instead of fine art, you display five hundred stained glass-looking, sparkling jars of food. Researching rain barrels and organic methods to gardening and increasing the size of the tomato rows is next. Then you are making mead, inviting friends over for farm suppers in front of a bonfire, or getting the instruments out to strum some music for the ducks while watching the sun set neatly behind the mountains, splaying splashes of vibrant summer colors across the clouds that you pray rain will come from.

It is a good life, and every year we strive to become more and more self reliant while still immersing ourselves in our community. The reasons that people do not choose to homestead are things like: no time (didn’t you just post that you binge watched something like eighteen hours of some ridiculous show?), no skills (no time like the present to learn! There are lots of great books in the library or you can order mine here!), too hard (you can reverse ailments and get super healthy farming), and then there is the age old don’t-want-to-give-up-anything. Just remember, that big house, green lawn, fancy electric appliances, gas guzzling multiple cars, credit card bills, manicures, hair dye, and restaurants all have to be worked for. They cost hours of your life. I’m not saying those are bad things, but if we want a life of peace, then we must choose what we want to spend our life working for. If homesteading is on your list, this is a great time to get started.

Posted in Homestead

Being Prepared (homesteading and becoming aware)

As we walk around our little town each evening, down red dirt roads and surrounded by mountain ranges, we are amused by the eclectic makeup of this place. We pass run down trailers, the yards filled with decades of accumulation. We pass new houses (definitely city transplants)- large “country” homes with landscaped yards and a few horses. We pass lots of old houses with large signs that state, “Enter at your own risk! No trespassing! Shots will be fired!” By looking at the old places one can certainly guess that government conspiracy theories and old Veterans might live here, and that would be true. I’m not ready to put up a sign, but I will tell you the older I get, the more I stand with them.

This Covid thing just increased my skepticism in the sanctity of government. The CDC keeps getting caught in lies and misinformation. During the lockdown, a bill requiring children to have any vaccination the state sees fit was pushed through quietly. Information changes daily, the government wields its agendas while more people than I have ever seen in my lifetime lose their jobs, and continue to do so. It makes you kind of wonder about things.

If my husband lost his job today, would we be prepared? (a resounding NO fills the air) Most of us wouldn’t. If the grocery store shelves were once again empty, would we be prepared? Homesteading isn’t a fad or a crazy hermit mentality. It is not an extreme lifestyle or a paranoid action. It is just smart. Plain and simple.

You don’t have to list your house and move to the middle of nowhere. You don’t have to go off grid. You don’t have to buy overalls (though they are super cute) and stock up on shotguns. But, let’s be honest, we have to do something! We have handed way too much power over to companies, entities, and government.

Maybe today list 5 things you could do to be prepared in the case of job loss, empty grocery store shelves, or natural disaster. Do you want to try to save an extra hundred dollars a month? Do you want to learn to pressure can? Want to get a clothes line? Want to get a wood stove? Want to list your house and move to a cheaper state? We can go as simple or extreme as we want, but let’s do something to be prepared for emergencies and life changes.

My blog can help. If you type in anything you want to learn into the SEARCH section on the side of the page (if you are on a computer, at the bottom if you are on a phone), you will likely find informative posts and DIY. The internet and old books are filled with valuable information for those of us raised post World War II! That was the pivotal era when folks opted to buy frozen dinners and pharmaceuticals and move to the suburbs. We don’t have to get paranoid (how come the advertisements on facebook are for the very thing my friend and I were talking about the yesterday?), but we can get smart. Maybe a ’38 Special and canning jars aren’t such a bad idea.

I want to make it clear that we aren’t doing these things out of fear. Being prepared, and being fearful are different. Homesteading is really a beautiful way to live. We used to be much more sufficient and we are working towards that again. Seeing jars of beautiful vegetables and fruits lining wooden shelves, the smell of clothes fresh off the line, wood smoke and a Dutch oven of stew simmering on top of a wood stove, money in a coffee can, and friends over to play instruments while watching the sunset with a glass of homemade wine. Rows of vegetables growing, medicinal plants in the gardens, chickens laying eggs, children running through pastures with goats. Peace. That is what homesteading is really about.

Posted in Farmgirl Money (saving it!)

How to Afford to Homestead and Live Well (money tips)

Enjoying a cup of coffee on the porch while the ducks splash in their little swimming pool and the chickens scratch in the sunny pasture. Deciding what to bake from scratch. Walking through the garden to see what rows need to be weeded, replanted, and what ought to be harvested. A chat with the neighbor over the fence. Homesteading allows us the great privilege of simplifying our life to the point where our days are spent how we wish. Homesteading doesn’t mean we don’t work anymore (we have been in a position where we didn’t have a homestead or jobs, and not working is just not fun)- we do plenty of work around here, but we do it out of gratitude and we have the ability to live on less.

Here are some farmgirl money tips to help you achieve your dream- whether it is to farm full-time, buy a homestead, homestead where you are, be a stay-at-home mom, or just live on less.

You Don’t Need to Make More, You Need to Spend Less

I love books on pioneering and old ways of living. In the Foxfire books that I am reading, the old timers chose to continue living how they always did, even in the 1970’s, when they could have lived a modern life. Many of us do not want to give up anything. We work, and work, for things that do not add to our life or that could easily be lived without. It’s all in your perspective. I didn’t grow up with much and my husband grew up with a lot, so I think we live in the Ritz and he thinks we are living rather low on the totem pole. I would be just as happy in a much smaller house (our current house is 1100 sq. ft.) in a warm climate, off-grid. Doug cannot live without his IPOD and wifi. So, we meet in the middle and homestead our own way. You can too. Remember, don’t make more, spend less.

Do you need cable television?

How much do you spend on subscription services like Netflix, Amazon, and the like?

Can you use the computers at the library for wifi?

Do you need a new car, or can you buy a used one with cash?

Do you need a smart phone? Do you need all the bells and whistles?

You can lower your electric bill substantially by unplugging anything that leaches energy. Unplug phone cords, lower unused freezers down to their lowest setting, turn off the porch light, turn off lights when not in use, turn off the LED lights on appliances. When making a new purchase, try to get one that is manual instead of one that plugs in. Use a clothes line instead of the dryer. Get some kerosene lamps for winter!

You can lower your gas bill substantially by investing in a wood stove. Not only will you be set if the power or furnace goes out, you will have the lovely ambiance of a stove that you can warm by or cook on while cutting your gas bill.

Good Savings Habits

Stay away from credit cards! Warning, money trap! 28% interest! You do not need them to raise your credit. You can still buy a house. And for everything else we are going to try not to take out loans and use cash, so the high credit score is moot anyway!

Use a cash based budget and you will save money. It is far too easy to use plastic money these days.

Put up $1000 for emergencies and then pay off debt.

Some money every month needs to go towards debt. The sooner we all get out of debt (we’ve made our fair amount of bad decisions and have a bit of debt), the sooner we regain our freedom and live better.

This one came from my son (who is, thankfully, much smarter than we are about money)- take half of what you have left over after paying bills and put it in savings. “Even if you have $25, put $12.50 in savings!” Andy told me. Smart kid.

Look where your money is going to. At the beginning of the month, before the lockdown was over, I had $400 extra to put towards my car payment in addition to the regular payment. Once the restaurants opened up again, there isn’t a cent of it left! What is your vice? Around here, a lot of people spend a lot of money on marijuana. Alcohol isn’t cheap. New cars aren’t cheap. In order to live a simpler, more peaceful lifestyle, we all have to figure out what can go. What we don’t need. What we no longer want to work towards.

How To Make Money to Homestead

Start your own business. Keep it simple. Keep it small. We used to do several farmer’s markets a week selling our herbal medicines. Before that I sold handmade puppets and throw pillows at craft fairs. In some places you can set up a roadside stand. Or do larger shows. Or advertise online. What do you do well? Can you teach it? Demonstrate it? Write about it? Sell it?

There is no shame in having a 9-5 job. My husband enjoys having a set paycheck. We have created a lifestyle that only requires one income.

“A penny saved, is a penny earned.” What can you do that you typically pay someone else or a company to do for you? Be your own grocery store! Grow some of your own food. Preserve your own food. Make some of your own clothes. Learn new skills. Have your own animals. Cook and bake from scratch instead of buying processed foods. Walk or ride your bike.

Live Well

Living simply doesn’t mean suffering. If something means a great deal to you and you really enjoy it, then keep it in your life. If you fell for advertising on facebook and just bought cheap clothes from China, that was a money trap (and one less bag of chicken feed you could have bought).

There are plenty of free activities to keep you busy. Make a phone call to an old friend. Write a letter. Go hiking. Have people over for dinner. Utilize the library for books and movies. Play an instrument, paint, sew, weave, and spend time with people you love.

Be brave and really look at your money and how you can live simpler and live a homestead life. Do you need a big house and green lawn? Do you need all the electronics? Do you need a vacation to the Bahamas? Do you need the new Subaru?

Or would peace of mind and coffee on the porch suit you better?

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Putting Up Peas

Things got more efficient after we began using a paring knife to slice down the seam of the pods to free the spring peas. “Everyone is getting a scheduled C-section!” Doug declared. It certainly made us faster as we shelled thirty-seven pounds of peas.

Is it worth it?

Hail destroyed the majority of our peas and what survived is scarcely giving us garnishes for our salads so we bought over a bushel from a local farm. The cost was fairly reasonable for organic peas but once we add our time in, it is still a good deal? We are using clean glass jars instead of BPA cans at the store (healthier), organic, local peas are unheard of in the grocery store (lower footprint, fresher food), and homesteading is not only my job, but our lifestyle and having fresh peas that we put up in January? Yes, please. There is also the by-product of shelling peas. The pea pods become delicious broth, animal feed, and compost. Definitely worth it!

Kittens make fabulous helpers! (Not really.)

How to can peas:

Use clean, pint-sized canning jars. Never mind with all that boiling and what have you, just line them up in the sink and pour a kettle of boiling water over and in the jars. The point of boiling the jars was to make sure they were clean and to heat them up so that they didn’t break in the canner. We are achieving the same thing with the kettle of water. Use new lids and pour boiling water over them as well.

Fill jar leaving one inch headspace (one inch from the top) with peas. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Pour water in still leaving that 1 inch headspace.

You can get creative with peas. Add any dried seasoning to enhance the flavors for a heat-and-serve side dish. In four of the jars I added the 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (do remember that salt is a necessary nutrient and sea salt is not the same as added sodium in processed food.), along with 1 teaspoon of lemon pepper and 1/2 clove of garlic.

Wipe off rim and place a lid and ring on to the jar. Not too tight!

Place in pressure canner filled with 3 inches of water. Replace lid to canner and turn to high. When the shaker starts a shakin’, turn it down a smidge but make sure that the shaker keeps shaking.

Pressure can for 40 minutes. (If you are normal altitude, use 10 lbs of pressure. For us high altitude folks we always use all the weights.)

Turn off heat and let the pressure release naturally. Then line the jars up on a towel and let cool and seal. The next day label and put away.

Over a bushel of peas took us a long time to shell and process BUT we ended up with over a gallon of frozen peas (click here for how-to) and 13 pints of delicious spring peas to enjoy all winter long.

Homesteading is an amazing way to take back one’s own food system, be able to feed one’s family with amazing, organic food, and always have food on the shelf. Preparation is a great thing!

Posted in Homestead

The Wisdom of Simple Living

A fascinating book dropped into my home library by way of a student who thought I would enjoy it. It is the second in the series, and by god, I am enjoying it! Foxfire 2 has delighted me this past week with recipes, anecdotes, and interviews with homesteaders that were born in the late 1800’s. What began as a journalism class at a high school in Georgia in 1970 turned into twelve-plus books in the Foxfire series. The students interviewed and photographed elders in the Appalachian communities and surrounding areas about life during a time that most of us have never seen and most of us will never read or hear about. Without these books, a hundred years of homesteading wisdom, history, and life would have vanished. I saved up enough money to buy the whole set and I can’t wait to keep reading.

I think the folks that were interviewed in the Foxfire books would be most surprised by our lack of neighborliness and community these days. Back then, midwives delivered babies, neighbors dug graves and built caskets, elders took in the homeless, black and white folks were family to each other- the community was strong because that is how it survived. It seems a close community would have made life a whole lot less lonely and a lot more fulfilling. Wouldn’t they be surprised that we don’t know most of our neighbors’ names? That is something we just have to get back.

A long time client and friend of mine passed on last week. Death is a part of life but it always makes you sit up a little straighter and look around. Are we living the life we want to live?

You know over the years we have gone back and forth, forwards and backwards, from suburb living to hand washing clothes with a plunger and a two sided tin tub to fancy coffee machines and new clothes back to aprons and simple living. I tell you what, nothing beats simple living.

I can give you lots of reasons ranging from less bills, less stress, more security, healthier food, less hurry, more satisfaction, and more time with family. We still work hard, but that’s alright. Working hard keeps you young and makes your heart feel good. Simple living and homesteading is about choosing one’s priorities in life. Looking at one’s footprint on the earth. How much time one has for relationships that are important. And taking time to build community and help each other out. Everything has become about money. It’s not all about money. It is about community. Those around you. Your life! Sometimes it’s nice to sit with a glass of homemade wine next to your spouse and just watch the corn grow.

Check out the Foxfire book series on Amazon. It’s like gathering wisdom from the elders that have passed on.

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Five Homestead Projects for Spring

It figures that three different neighbors wanted to come out and talk to me yesterday as I was painting. I had chosen items of clothing that a little paint wouldn’t bother. So I brushed pumpkin orange paint onto the chicken coop whilst wearing red and green Christmas pajama bottoms, purple galoshes, a tie-dye shirt, a Mexican woven hoodie (until it got too hot), and a big, floppy yellow sun hat.

Farm fashion at its best.

1- Paint Outbuildings and Trim

If it is going to be over 45 degrees for most of the day, go on out and paint. Sheds, chicken coops, window sills, and barns all need a little touch up or full paint job and this time of year is a perfect time to do it as we gear up for farming season.

I only had enough paint to do three sides of my chicken coop so I will finish it next week. It will be quite a transformation!

2- Create trellises

Darned if I could find the twine, so I grabbed leftover yarn from a Christmas project. It will work just fine. Peas are light so they don’t need a heavy frame to grow on. Dowels and twine (or yarn) work well to create a trellis for peas. Ideally, trellises will be put into the garden before the seeds are planted, or if you forgot (like me), then before the plants begin to sprout.

Dowels will go every four to six feet along rows of peas. Two or three rows of string are knotted on. Dowels and string can be reused year after year or disassembled and used for something altogether different.

3- Keep planting cold crops

A great friend of mine read my post about planting spring crops and she went out to plant but decided against it in case of frost. We have all been so ingrained that planting before the last frost date shall bring devastation and dead plants, but some plants aren’t bothered in the least by a little frost or a bit of snow. They prefer it to hot temperatures. Hot temps make them bolt (go to seed), so y’all get out there and plant your spring crops! Click here to see the list of plants to plant now.

Based on the recommendations on the back of the package, I will plant every two weeks. If the seed packet says to plant as soon as the soil can be worked, then plant early. Otherwise it will say mid-spring or late spring.

4- Take care of your plant starts

If you haven’t started your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants indoors, better hop to it! Mine have sprouted already. Mist well with a water bottle every few days if they are covered. Once they outgrow their cover, take it off and check moisture regularly. They should be lightly damp, but certainly not soaked.

5- Prepare garden beds for summer

But, it’s only April 1st, you say? Y’all know how fast time goes and in six sweet weeks all of the summer crops are going in at practically the same time, and six weeks goes by pretty fast. It sure is nice to have beds ready to go.

I love Spring and if it is a nice day out, I just want to be outside soaking up lost Vitamin D from my winter indoors. Spring is filled with hope and joy…and sore muscles and projects! What are you working on right now?