Posted in Homestead

DIY Affordable Homestead Fencing

My husband, Doug, and I have never been accused of being handy. We do, however, have a great passion for homesteading, so over the years we have learned and we have made it work! We watched our first goats, adorable and nimble as they were, hop through the holes in the field fencing and go gallivanting around the fairgrounds beneath the hooves of horses riding by. Since then, we have put up fencing with smaller holes, specific to goats. It works great for chickens and sheep as well. No more five inch holes around here. No matter where we are homesteading, we have found that field fencing is by far the most affordable, fastest, and easiest for a few non-handy (but very passionate) homesteaders.

We have had the great privilege of purchasing a little over an acre in the country. My husband works full time-plus to support our little farm (having learned early on in this journey that a regular income sure comes in handy), so we are limited to weekends to complete tasks. The first of our tasks was to separate the acre into thirds. The back third is left wild to honor the many cedars, wild plants, and animals that hop about back there.

Rescued farm animal yard and mini-barn in a fun pumpkin orange. The coop will be painted to match!
Gandalf the White(ish)
For extra security, dog panels cannot be beat to protect your flock.

A third for the future pet farm animals and their guard, the Great Gandalf. Part of that third, directly in the back of the house, was fenced off for a garden.

55×40 fenced in kitchen garden. The pallet compost bins are just over the back fence.

The front third will be medicine gardens and a corn field. There was a vineyard planned, ’cause a farmgirl can dream, but it turns out that we have need for more tomatoes than wine grapes so the vineyard got nixed for Amish Paste and Romas. (We will still grow some grapes for the table and juice.)

Larger poultry yard in the foreground and tomato canning garden.

Next week’s task is to further separate a 30×30 area in the front pasture so that the chickens can have a bigger area. The front garden fence was intended to keep stray dogs out (they could jump the fence, I suppose, but usually a fence will dissuade dogs, and to keep cars out of the future garden. Folks see dirt and park wherever! Get off my imaginary garden! Fences keep some out and some in. A field fence easily manages that.

Medicine and Perennial Garden, Corn field beyond, and fruit trees and bushes lining the side fence all the way down.

Ironically, it costs a bit to get started as a homesteader. For less than $500, including the post pounder, we were able to fence in what we needed of an acre. That is pretty good. Gates are important for pasture rotation, moving animals about, and ease for the farmer to get where they are going! Once we have the chicken area up, we will have six gates. Gates are the most expensive part of fencing, so if you can find some used, do that.

Setting up a homestead needn’t break the bank. We have been in our home going on six months now. We have put in a wood stove, put up a mini-barn, and fencing. Next week is chicken fencing, the week after will be the clothes line, and so forth. Keep doing projects throughout the winter as you can because come spring, the focus moves to the garden!

Posted in Homestead

The First Things to do to Start a Homestead and Winter Reading

When you first move onto your property (or to your house in the suburbs), or when you first decide to homestead (or just live more sustainably), it can feel overwhelming. What to do first?

I suppose my moving in the fall was a very good time to relocate. Yes, I lost all of my harvest and my pantry is a few hundred jars of produce short, but I have had time to sit with my new property. See what all can be done here. Where to leave wild. Where could I keep animals (we’d like to rescue a few). What I want to plant, how extensively, and where.

Here are the first things to do:

Set up a compost bin. 7 pallets become a three space compost bin. Screw them together creating open sided boxes. That way you can start right away collecting grasses and old straw and pouring your coffee grounds into a pile. Click here to read an amusing and informative post of mine from six years ago all about composting. It will give you more instruction.

I do hope you found a place with a wood stove. If not, I do hope you have some cash reserved to get one! This is one of the very best ways to become a little more sustainable. Wood is carbon neutral, and when you find cords of wood cut from already downed or diseased trees, your heat is carbon neutral. The electric companies lose some money and you lower your footprint. Not to mention the deliriously luxurious feel of wood heat. Forced air just cannot compare. Our little stove and installation came in at $4500. A used stove would have been cheaper. That little stove easily heats our 1100 square foot house.

Plan what you will need for your extensive garden this year. Do you have wildlife? The deer will be awfully glad you moved in! What fencing needs to be done to ensure your crops safety? How about field fencing for other animals?

Winter is a wonderful time to reassess how you want your life to look. What do you want to add and what do you want to walk away from? What do you need (pressure canner, gardening soil, chickens) to do those things this year? What do you want to learn how to do?

Now, order yourself an heirloom seed catalog to read during snow storms. I am reading a really interesting books called Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self Reliant Gardening; Innovative Techniques for Growing Vegetables, Grains, and Perennial Food Crops with Minimal Fossil Fuel and Animal Inputs. His dry humor makes reading a text book style farming manual fun and I am learning lots of ways to improve my food growing. The author is vegan and has deemed his way of growing “veganic.” It is an interesting view of how to grow a farm and eat sustainably and very well without having to kill chickens. Eloise will be relieved.

Posted in Farming, Homestead, Our Family

The Multi-Generational Legacy of Farming and Homesteading

The garden once Gandalf moves to the goat and sheep yard.

I wish we had started homesteading and farming long ago. It would be nice to have a multi-generational legacy of land and tradition that becomes genetically ingrained in the children and is always a sense of comfort and a place to return. My eldest child grew up near the beginning of our journey so he had little experience with the farm (though he can grow anything), but perhaps he had some connection, because he would like a farm of his own some day. My middle child tends to pots of tomatoes and peppers, herbs and flowers that flourish on her second floor deck as she watches the deer cross her yard in her mountain-like neighborhood. My youngest daughter was around the most and seeing her hold a newborn goat for the first time was to watch a thirteen year old melt. So enthralled with farm life she became, and she and her husband are adamant about getting a farm and homesteading off grid. And of course, my granddaughter, has been a farmgirl since birth. Photo shoots with goats her first year and farmer’s markets in bonnets. Bottle feeding goats her second year, gardening her third, and so forth. She is the most excited about our new farm. Her baby sister will love it here too, I just know it. So, better late than never!

I will tell you a secret though; moving here to this gorgeous piece of land, I considered (gasp) not homesteading or farming (for like a week). Hang up my farmstead aprons and become a “normal” wife. I could get a job and wear smart pant suits and buy cans of food (instead of pulling them from the root cellar) and keep all the land as it is. I sat out on the back porch with my farm dog (who is a little bored without charges as am I) and looked out across the cedars and cactus, across the deep valleys, up the mountain tops, across the larger-than-life western sky, and then started envisioning things. Ah yes, normalcy didn’t last for long, because that (pointing) would be the perfect place for goats and sheep. That area could be kept wild for the bunnies and natural medicine. There is the vineyard, of course. There is the huge pumpkin patch and corn field as you enter the property. Here is the garden. There is where the clothes line will go. And so forth. Doug had the same ideas, so it wasn’t long until in our minds, a fully functioning homestead and farm was painted and planned. Homesteading and farming is hard work, but it is deeply satisfying, soul enriching, life giving work. And comes with wonderful things like homemade cheese and wine.

The goat and sheep yard
The vineyard
I can see this shed with a huge mural of pumpkins on the side! Need to contract my girls!
Welcome to our farm.

My grandparents grew up on farms (and had no desire to ever step foot on one again) and I was fascinated by their stories, always asking questions. The “normal” today is actually just the status quo. Farming and homesteading were not only the norm, but the expected, in every generation from my grandparents back. And I am honored to be a part of it. We will start this generational wisdom over starting here. Because it is important work. Environmentally, emotionally, sustainably, and beautifully important. Watch us grow!

What is your favorite aspect of homesteading/farming?