Life On An Urban Homestead

20180813_071437The 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.

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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.

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I have chickens and their hilarious antics and fresh eggs.  I have local farmers for milk should I choose.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Getting Back to Simple (and paying off debt)

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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.

What are some ways that you stay frugal?

 

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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.

 

Yea Sustainability! (I am teaching free classes)

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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!

 

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Off To the City We Go

 

apartmentOver 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…

 

 

 

Our New Home

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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.

To Thine Own Self Be True (a recognition of oneself when starting over)

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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?

Impossible.

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.

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 5-Community

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 3-Old Fashioned Items

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There was good reason for many of the items that we now view as quaint or wonder what they were for in antique shops.  There are some items that will make your life much easier in your homestead.  Some new, some not so new.

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1. Oil Lamps– Oil lamps are functional and beautiful.  In our effort to dramatically decrease our electricity use, we enjoy reading by these light sources.  We have one large one on each end table and Doug bought me two that hang on the wall, one either side of our pillows.  We have one on each table in the house and a few smaller ones that can be moved about.  Lamp oil is fairly inexpensive and the lights give a soft glow to the homestead.

There was one evening when the electricity went out in the entire neighborhood at our last house.  Doug and I did not even know until we got up and realized how dark it was outside!  We just kept on reading.

The softer light also signals the body that it is time to settle down.  Bright lights, LED lights, and blinking lights all act as stimulants for the body.  It’s no wonder there are so many sleeping issues out there!

You can pick up oil lamps at Walmart, at thrift stores, or new at Lehmans.com

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2. Aprons– I may have about thirty-two of them but I am always on the hunt for more and love receiving them as gifts.  I also make them but it is more fun to wear one that a nice great-grandma would have worn at one time.  It honors those that came before us to wear something used with love.

The reason for aprons was simple.  The girls had a only a few dresses and rather than mess them up every day and have ever more laundry (some chores never change) they wore an apron over the dress.  This kept the dress clean and it was easier to wash an apron then a long dress.  I wear my aprons out.  I wear them cooking, cleaning, doing farm chores, gardening, at farmer’s markets, and sometimes just out.  I like to keep a tissue, a bit of cash, my phone, and a pocket knife in the pocket.  I don’t have to lug around the suitcase of a purse I have!

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3. Pocket Knife– Doug and I got each other lovely turquoise knives.  But a good old fashioned Swiss would do nicely as well.  I have walked around with a steak knife in my pocket before getting a pocket knife.  A pocket knife folds up, y’all.  Just get one.  You can easily cut fresh greens, snip the twine off a bale of hay, or any number of other things that come up.  Cut open an apple, get one with a wine cork on it…instant picnic!  But really, yesterday I went to feed the goats forgetting that it was a new bale and pulling and pushing around the hay bale doesn’t get it undone.  I forgot my knife in the house.  Back in my apron pocket it goes.

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4. Work Gloves– It took us awhile but it wasn’t long before we figured out that we needed some work gloves.  We had several lying around but we keep them by the door now.  From mending fences, to digging fresh soil, from picking up a sick chicken, to bringing in firewood, gloves are imperative.

Even Maryjane has her own pair thanks to her Grandma Dawn!

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5. Cast Iron Pans– I spent a good many years buying those cheap Teflon pans in lovely colors only to get Teflon in my eggs and needing new pans.  We have a nice collection of cast iron now (always on the lookout for a new piece) and they will be passed down to our children’s children’s children!  They stay in great shape, can be whipped into shape if they have been neglected too long, can go from fire to stovetop, and are great for cooking.

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6. Cuckoo Clocks and Wind Up Clocks– Same reason as the oil lamps, should the power go out you wouldn’t even know!  We keep our clocks wound and love the gentle ticking.  The bird that appears thrills our granddaughter and visiting children (and many adults).  We don’t have any clocks with that dreadful LED light up display.  The last one was discretely placed in the giveaway pile.  I like the feel of a vacation home.  That I live in a vacation home.  Plenty of things to read and do, not a lot of electric stimulation, just gentle lighting and sounds.

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There are many nice things to have on a homestead; seeds, tools, books, board games, matches, coffee, a man…but these six things will get you started!

How To Become a Homesteader-Part 1- Finances

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Our homesteading school garners a lot of interest and folks of all walks of life are more and more interested in leaving the rat race and joining the simple life.  Most people have a romanticized view of what homesteading looks like, but the good news is, most of those images are true.  It is lovely to live so simply and to not worry as much and to have more freedom with time.

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We have a lot of people, friends and family, ask how to get to this point.  How do you achieve the homestead?  How do you get your own place, your own farmstead?  How do you leave your job?  How do you walk away from your lifestyle?

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Here is the very first thing that one has to realize, grasp, and accept before they pursue this lifestyle.  You must be prepared to give up your way of life.  You must be prepared to give up a lot of things, a lot of comforts, a lot, in order to get away with living this way.  But you get much, much more in return.

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1. Regarding Work- unless you are independently wealthy or are expecting an inheritance, you’ll need to make an income.  There are a lot of people with “regular” jobs looking to escape to this lifestyle but do not want to give up the RV payment, the car payment, the cable package, the all electric run home, the big house, et cetera.  But, a lot of times the reason that people want to become homesteaders is to get away from those rat race jobs!  To not be reliant on others to keep them employed.  To not work 40+ hours a week breaking their backs and then expect to be able to go do chores and call in to work if a sick lamb is born.  Homesteading is about being your own boss.

There are the few that enjoy homesteading on the weekends or love their corporate jobs.  This is more about those of you that want to choose what you do from day to day, who want to live closer to nature, and who want to be less reliant on the system, and have faith in their abilities to provide for themselves.

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There is a new wave of entrepreneurs coming up.  People are realizing that four year college is not the answer most of the time for our young folk.  Heading into their adult lives with debt is not a great way to start out.  Trade schools are rising in popularity and for good reason.  There are few people my age that know how to fix plumbing, who can do carpentry, or who can fix their own cars.  We all got used to hiring people and that is expensive.  But if these young people can grab some of the training and jobs out there to do these things they can work for themselves and make a fair income.  Not just young people, if you need a new career, look into trade work.  If you know how to do these things, focus your energies on these skills to make a homestead income.

I have friends that make their entire living off of farming.  One needs less bills in order to achieve that.  We make a very nice living (it may be considered poverty level, but it works for us!) making and selling herbal medicines and teaching.

If you get your bills down low enough, an enjoyable part time job might be sufficient.

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2. Bills- Do you need a cable package?  Do you need television?  Do you need internet?  Can you use free wifi somewhere?  Get your bills down as low as you can on paper and then you will see how much you need to make per month.  Forget the five year plan, the “when we get this paid off” plan, “when we retire” plan.  Life is short, life is waiting, act soon!

Take away preconceived notions.  You do not need to own a lot of land to homestead.  Find a cheap rental with a friendly landlord.

As you get involved in this lifestyle you will find that you will meet more and more likeminded people.  Homesteaders are an amazing community of people that are always willing to help with advice and expertise and who love to barter!

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3. Debt- It seems impossible to get rid of the debt we accumulated through student loans and losing our house from our previous lifestyle but we certainly aren’t adding any more to it!  We do not use credit cards.  We do not take on debt.  We highly recommend the Dave Ramsey program.  Assume that if you can’t afford it today, you can’t afford it later!  A cash based budget is easier to keep track of.

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4. Rely on Yourself- Learn how to make alternative medicines.  They are every bit as effective as pharmaceuticals.  Barter for what you need if possible.  Preserve as much food as possible.  Heat your home with wood if possible.  Make a list of where your money goes….doctors, grocery stores, clothing stores, et cetera, and see what you can do for yourself.  Break it down even further.  Crackers on your grocery list?  Learn to make them!

It is empowering and takes some stress off of you if you can do it yourself.

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5.  Learn New Skills- Can you get a book on how to make home repairs?  Can you learn to build a fence?  Can you learn to make antibiotics?  Can you learn to can?

Yes you can!

This is the first step in successfully becoming a homesteader and leaving the status quo behind.

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We get to babysit our granddaughter while our daughter is at work part time because we make our own schedules.  We have so much fun with that little munchkin.  We have time to run around with our animals and enjoy the views here.  We have few worries here.  We are in control of our life and is there anything sweeter than that?