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.
We moved into an apartment four years ago between homesteads. It was a beautiful, top floor, one bedroom with views of the mountains and a fireplace with a light switch. Lush carpet, a large bathtub, and walking trails everywhere. We had just come off the worst year of our life and we seriously considered giving up homesteading and farming and just living like this. Not a bad life. We’d peruse the stalls of the farmer’s market (our first year not being a vendor in a long time), then after bringing our bounty home, we would dip into the swimming pool. But something was missing. We could both feel it. I rented three large garden plots at the community garden. I canned peaches from the farmer’s markets. I looked out across the sea of cement and knew what we were missing. Doug knew it too. Once you begin to homestead, it entwines itself into the fibers of your being, it cushions your heart, drives your decisions, and makes you feel at home. There are no U-turns. Once a homesteader, always a homesteader.
As we drove through the parking lot of the beautiful apartments, we could not help but notice the overflowing dumpsters and sea of trash. The lack of recycling. No place to compost. No food gardens. Non-stop electric use.
There are many reasons people choose to homestead. One of them is a desire to walk softer on the land. To leave less footprint. To attempt, however feebly, to lesson our damage to the earth. Another reason folks turn to homesteading is to feel something real. Homesteading life is real life. It is doing things with your own hands, creating, growing, watching Mother Nature work, feeling truly alive. Another big reason is that people want to work less. Homesteading can be expensive. It depends on how much you need, what you want to do, and how cheaply you can come across instruments for your farm. But the more you do yourself, the less you rely on others. If your grocery store is in your root cellar, you don’t need to give so much money to all the middle men from farmer to store. If you grow your own food, you really save money. If you sew your own clothes, or shop second hand, you save money. If you buy bulk, hand make meals, use wood to heat your house, or find entertainment at home (nothing like a glass of homemade wine and a lawn chair to watch chicken antics), you can save money. A penny saved is a penny earned. The less you spend, the less hours you put into an office job. The less hours at an office job, the more time in real life. On the homestead. There is great joy in homesteading. Maybe that is why more and more young people are seeking this lifestyle. I read a blog recently where a young housewife was wondering how to begin homesteading. So much to learn, so much to do. Baby steps, y’all. One thing at a time!
When something breaks, begin replacing it with a non-electric counterpart. Or sell the electric version and purchase the hand cranked model.
Here are some non-electric alternatives that are great on a homestead:
Hand cranked coffee grinder
French press or percolator
Hand cranked food processor
Cast iron Dutch oven
Cast iron pans
Good mixing bowls
Hand washer and clothes plunger
Grandfather or cuckoo clock
Water bath and Pressure canners
Pretty soon the power will go out and you won’t even know it!
Electric items that really help get the root cellar filled and dinner on the table:
Basic homesteading skills to learn:
Preserving the harvest
Animal care (a new term I learned is, veganic homesteading. We aren’t using animals for food on our homestead, but we do have a menagerie of pets!)
A skill that can bring in some income.
Good homesteading habits:
Do you need that? Only purchase what you need.
Try to purchase things second hand first.
Borrow reading materials and movies from the library.
A deck of cards and a couple of board games are a lot of fun!
When making your grocery list, look at the items and see what you can learn to make. Ketchup? Granola bars? Cereal? Crackers? Bread?
The only gardening tools one really needs is a good hoe, rake, pitch fork, shovel, and hand trowel.
Start a farm in pots in the south window, or the balcony, or a community garden, or in the front yard.
Start a compost pile under the sink with worms, or with pallets in the garden.
Check out library books (or read my blog!) and learn how to start a garden, harvest, prepare, cook, can, dehydrate, freeze produce. How to sew, crochet, play musical instruments, make candles, soap, herbal medicines, and cleaning products.
Let go of vanity. You look fine. You don’t need makeup, fancy clothes, or high heels. Old clothes, a good apron, and galoshes will do.
Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 again by moi, Katie Lynn Sanders
Preserving the Fruits of the Earth by Stanley and Elizabeth Schuler
Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own by Bob Flowerdew
Plus myriads of great cookbooks and homesteading memoirs. The best thing to do is to start somewhere, anywhere, and the more you do yourself, or without electricity, or simply, the more it becomes second nature.
I’d rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.
The air is cool this morning. Autumn just whispers. A little early, it seems to me. A lovely few weeks of monsoon broke us out of our months of triple digit drought. The farms are half fallow for lack of water. On my little urban farm, the rain has brought forth abundance and we are just nearly tired of zucchini. Still, fried zucchini and early pumpkin beer sounds good today. I am grateful we do not rely solely on ourselves for food as I thumb through my depression era cookbook. We are eating well from our gardens. The herbs are lovely and fragrant, and though the produce is all slow to mature this year, we are now eating peppers and tomatoes and calabacitas.
The chicken’s yard is filled with birds of all kinds, apparently enjoying the new chicken feed. The egg eater was discovered and went to a chicken swap where she is going to live in a lovely coop with three other roommates. We now have eggs again.
Many years ago I wrote a post about the pros of urban farming. I think of that post now as I sit on my front porch watching the early morning world go by. The morning glories have run wild and made the porch art. Though I do want goats- many cities do allow them, perhaps eventually Pueblo will too- I see the many pros to living here in town. I have abundant space to garden. My garden on ten acres was smaller than the space I have here. I can go up and out and raised and potted and there is much more land to make into gardens and orchards. One does not need as much space as one might think. I have the benefit of not having crop dusters flying over my little organic homestead.
I have chickens and their hilarious antics and fresh eggs. I have local farmers for milk should I choose.
Today I am making soap for our new shop and for ourselves. I canned seven pints of fresh, organic peaches from the farmer’s market and seven jars of spicy pickles from my own garden. Little by little the root cellar fills. Soon Doug will be chopping wood for the wood stove. My favorite reading spot has oil lamps and candles and the power could go out and I would go on reading.
Homesteading, I have learned over a decade of experience, is not about self sufficiency, but rather it is a village ideal. One cannot possibly do everything themselves. I need sweet corn from the local farmer, organic meat from my friends’ ranch if I choose. They might get medicine or take a canning class from me.
Here in town, I can ride my bike to the newest coffee shop to pick up fair trade coffee and hit the library for a homesteading book. I can grow food and have chickens and even a farm dog. Old arts like quilting and sewing and crocheting are making a comeback. Homesteading is not insistent on the country, but rather a space in one’s heart for simplicity and old ways.
We are firm believers in the powers of intention and manifestation. You can paint your life however you wish. We were desperately trying to manifest more income. On the full moon we generally each light a candle of gratitude and ask for what we would like to see in our life. Usually it’s more income. Then it kind of hit me, we have actually doubled our income since June when Doug found a job. Our online business has picked up and my work down south has too so it’s not a matter of making more money. I realized we have been spending more money!
Oh, it’s so easy to do, isn’t it? There was the debt to start paying again, of course, but there are plenty of places money falls through the cracks. When I first started this blog over five years ago we were seriously starting to homestead. Before we moved from that house I was canning four hundred jars of produce, growing food and ninety percent of my medicine herbs, had chickens, and Doug milked goats each morning. I learned to make cheese. I hand washed our clothes in an old wash bin with a handy plunger-like item that got our clothes far cleaner than the washer. (We had all our kids at home and a grandbaby on the way so we did go get a washer. Our washer here still doesn’t clean for anything.) I made our body products (we sell them in our shop), cleaning products, sewed and handmade presents, and had like minded friends near by.
Being frugal is so much a part of being a homesteader. Having some money set aside to get by is only a part of it. I want to get rid of all of our debt (except the house) this year, fifteen months max. My ideas never go as planned, but it is a good goal! Debt is our jailor.
But it’s not just about money. Once we moved around and lost and found ourselves again I had stopped making our own things. Our skin is drier, we are paying five times more for organic body products when I can make my own. Same with cleaning products. I seem to have forgotten how to be frugal. Frugalness is eco-friendly, healthier, savvier, and freer. It is in the Homesteader’s Ten Commandments.
I hadn’t been to the library for a year because I have been playing at the book store (expensive!) and I decided that was a good first step. Walking out of the library with a pile of books and movies makes me feel like I’m robbing the place! Free knowledge! I picked up a gem (which I may have to buy) called “Little House Living” by Merissa A. Alink. As things run out I make the homemade version. Her book is inspiring. I have already made the dish soap (took five seconds and very little cash). I could have written this book four years ago. I love it and I love that it’s getting me back on track. I love her rice mix, and her youth, and her story, and her recipes. She shows us (or reshows us) that it takes no time at all to make your own things and the benefits far outweigh the minimum time and cost.
We will get that debt paid off and I will get back to my Little House on the Prairie self. It’s good for the soul.
The Southern Colorado Outdoor Living and Sustainability Fair was outstanding. We caught up with some of the folks we knew in the sustainability world and met many new ones, farmers and young beginners alike.
I pep talked myself the whole way there, “I will not be sad. I will not be sad.” Seeing the homesteading and farming folks, chickens being demonstrated, chicks in troughs (Doug and I snuck over there early and gave the chicks kisses), a goat running by after being milked, I was afraid the whole scene would make me very sad. But it didn’t. In fact, it just served to fire us up again. “Anything we have talked about is back on the table,” Doug said. Do we want to move to Old Colorado City and have a funky urban farm? We can. Do we want to buy land in Elizabeth and go all out? Then we can do it. We have a year to get our act together financially and then go for it. And there we will stay!
We are so sure of this venture (put your dreams in motion and watch them start manifesting) that we struck a deal with the Expo for next year. We will return and with us will be a few farm animals. I will be promoted as the Farmgirl and will be on their seminar lists and advertising. I know my stuff about homesteading, farming, and herbs. So does Doug, and we love sharing it with the world.
We will be at the Sustainability and Outdoor Living Expo again this year! We won’t have baby lambs on a leash (maybe next year!) but we will have all of our fabulous medicines, beauty products, and books. I will be teaching every day right at my booth so come sit in on a free seminar and come visit us!
White Wolf Herb classes and seminars for Sustainability Fair.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11:00- Herbal Tea Party and Creating a Medicinal Tea Garden.
Learn easy herbs to grow, different designs to create, and the medicinal properties of the herbs. Learn how to properly infuse and taste test different teas!
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2:00- Herbalism 101; Using Your Kitchen as a Pharmacy!
Learn how to turn common herbs and spices in the pantry into powerful medicine.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 4:00- How to Make a Healing Liniment for Pain, Sprains, and Sore Muscles.
Learn common plants and how to extract them to make an amazing healing liniment you can make at home!
Print off this coupon so they know we sent you! Yea Sustainability!
Over the years I have written about how to homestead and I always include those in apartments. For urban farming is not only possible, but probably easier. I can still can and preserve. I will get a plot at the community garden. (I’ll have some community garden plot, eh?!) I can turn raw milk from a share into cheese. I can grow herbs on the balcony. I can also ride my bicycle around town and walk most places. How cute will I be on my bike with my basket of produce from my garden plot riding to my home just a few blocks away?
Doug and I had decisions to make. We could stay with our friend and pay lower rent plus housework and save up. I am indebted to our friends for their kindnesses and keeping Doug and I off the streets last year. But, y’all know how much Martha Stewart I like to channel and it may seem strange and maybe some folks won’t understand but I need a place to nest. To decorate. I need a home.
We thought about farming on our friend’s property for a year but decided that we have continually put out all of our available resources to improve other folks’ property and then have to leave and enough is enough. We will save money for a farm and in a few years perhaps will sit on our own piece of property but in the meantime, it just makes us sad. No farm and no place to nest?
We are moving to a beautiful apartment on the top floor facing west with a balcony and some perks this farmgirl has not had in a long time. Dishwasher, dryer, gas fireplace, holy smokes, people! I’m gonna get spoiled!
It’s just a few blocks from Doug’s work and walking distance to everything. Twenty-five minutes to my shop. Close to the kids, friends, and the library!
We feel like we are eighteen years old again. Moving out with a double bed and a table. Hoping we can afford it all. Excited to be together in our own place.
So here’s to our new adventure and urban homesteading (while drinking a glass of wine by the gas fireplace). The next chapter begins…
We rambled up the long driveway in our old truck and took in the view of the alpaca farm down the hill and the glorious eastern horizon where the sunrises will glint down upon the plants and through the numerous trees that reside on his property.
“I really feel that the sage is here to welcome you,” he said. I was struck and honored at his words. The sage is prolific there. It grows rampant this year among the many Cherokee roses. The prickly pear and the mullein are all there. Pines so tall they can recall when the Kiowa Indians roamed these hills and called them home.
The owner of this property is well respected, a friend of mine, who works in an emotionally challenging job helping the ill and passing. He lives in this large home alone. He needs help here. It is a glorious home that holds the spirits of his parents that built it. Sparkling ceilings and medicine bags in the foundations. The property has a retreat-like property and vortexes abound. It is a special place. We will live here for a year. We will help him sort and get ready to let this beautiful house go as he moves on to his next journey next autumn.
In the meantime we will have acres of medicinal herbs and trees to use and protect. Sunrises that greet us through the walk out basement doors. Three more cats to add to our menagerie. One of his chickens approached me in greeting. A wood cook stove and wood stove to help supplement heat. A kitchen upstairs for me to make sure everyone has sustenance. I feel quite well received here among his mother’s things and the spirit of the house and land. I found Doug in a recliner with one of the house cats on his lap. I think we’ll be real happy here.
It is two miles from my shop so a brisk morning walk will take place each day but that, perhaps, is a part of the hidden blessings. Since becoming homeless and losing everything three months ago we have been swimming several times with our granddaughter and friends, to Utah, to a winery, in an airplane, sang on our son’s album, have visited, and made friends. We have dreamed, comforted, and become fiercely grateful for everything. We are more flexible and need less. We will be content with a bed and two chairs before a roaring fire as the snow drops silently outside the window upon the world of peace and quiet. Cats curled up near us. A table. A bookshelf. Cups of hot coffee. That is all. That is all we really need anyway. Each other and an enjoyment of this life right here and now is what we’ll thrive on.
I am Yeopim Indian and Cherokee proud, and Scottish and English and Irish loud, along with Dutch and Black French and possibly more. And from them all my genetic disposition lays. In my hair, in my eyes, in my innate knowledge and intuition, in my sense of adventure and in my search for home do I find glimpses of all those that came before. All my ancestors, all in me. But I alone have my spirit. My true self. That has been here before.
And in mindful analysis and decompression of the physical frame as each day becomes a bit more mundane the layers of thought and peers wash aside as the essence of being comes forth in glints of light.
“Why do you fear being wealthy?” “Why do you believe you do not deserve riches?” I am asked.
Struck, I wonder, is this true? Should I be rich in homes with heightened ceilings and possessions galore? Is that what my life’s work is for? I would like to have enough-though that maybe less than many, more than some. Seeds to grow into food for mind and strength and chickens here and there. A rambling adobe with rooms for art and friends, for laughter, for cooking, for light, and memory.
Enough to visit new places at whim, for inspiration and to meet people and culture new. But to watch a sunset from my own porch swing would be as sweet a riches as I could dream.
Sommelier? I cannot drink more than one glass of wine! Food industry? I can’t stay up past nine! A city plot, cement gardens, and lack of birds, no deer around, no late owl heard?
Homesteader, homemaker, home dreamer am I. Making a home under the Great Mystery’s sky.
My job is to raise grandchildren when so blessed to have them near. To teach them herbs, and trees, and birds, and through the wind the Creator heard. To show them things that schools do not know.
To help those that seek my help, in physical or spiritual need should they ask, to find the right herbs and prayers and songs.
Silence and nature are my friends as the early dawn and the night sky guide my days all year long.
In this “How to Become a Homesteader” series we have talked about leaving the rat race for greener pastures, eliminating a lot of unnecessary bills and cutting others. We have lowered our need for so much income and found a good trade or homestead job that we can bring in what little we do need. We have discussed farm animals and heating with wood and with telling time on a cuckoo clock. We have figured what skills we ought to pick up and we are ready to roll. But there is one very important aspect to becoming a homesteader. Community. It seems that would be opposite to what we are trying to achieve. We want to be self reliant, grow our own food, take care of ourselves, and have less fear. But, what we are really doing is becoming less reliant on big corporations and more reliant on ourselves and each other. That is how we were made.
When you become a homesteader you will naturally attract and meet other homesteaders. Each has something to offer. It is one big circle out here. A gentleman took my herbalist classes who has a tree service who got us our first cords of wood and will provide me with wood chips. He is teaching me more and more about wild plants. I make herbal medicines and Doug fixes computers but we need some help learning how to build things and with cars. We have found more and more people that need what we have and can offer what we need.
Even our friends who aren’t homesteaders, per se, have like minded ideas. Rodney used to have a large garden before arthritis made it difficult. Rodney Sr. can fix many things and is very creative. Kat would love to have chickens and a small homestead. Sandy and Bill have lots of chickens and a mad goose near their gardens. Monte and Erik have food, water, and other necessities in case of emergency.
Monte and Erik, our dear, dear long time friends, are moving across the country next month. This is a couple that has a framed painting from Emily that she drew when she was six on the wall among their fine art. The kids used to call them Uncle Monte and Uncle Erik. We have traveled with them and they were among the first at the hospital when Maryjane was born. Eating and drinking and watching the Superbowl at their house with all the kids was bittersweet this year.
In a fit of silliness at the end we planned our ideal homestead and what we can all do. Bret is a hunter and is going to school for mechanics, Dillon (Shyanne’s long time boyfriend) works in construction and can help us build things on this imaginary homestead. Shyanne is an amazing baker. I volunteered to grow the gardens and make the medicine. “I’ll be the bartender!” Erik says and across the room Andy says, “I’ll grow the weed!” and everyone cheered.
Despite the fact that some of us don’t smoke weed (our son is an executive at a dispensary), and Monte and Erik are moving to Washington DC, and our kids probably don’t want to live that close to us, we enjoyed imagining the possibility. There is comfort in being near close friends and family and a need to be near others. The old saying still rings true, “Many hands make light work.” And since each of us has our own gifts and talents, we can come together to provide a completely self reliant community.