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

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

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

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

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

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27 Ways to Homestead

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

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

A Great Farming Book and Why Every One of Us Needs a Garden

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With very little work I am still pulling out baskets of tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beans, squash, and greens from the gardens.  The nights are getting cool enough that tonight I will need to bring in the houseplants.  Crickets still sing for summer as I write.  These gardens have been such a lovely respite.  They didn’t cost much to start or maintain and if I did have more money for amendments it would have been even more prolific.  Each year the soil will get better and better with techniques I have learned over the years from organic gardening and permaculture.  I am still learning.

A garden is not just a hobby.  It is one of the most fundamentally important things we ought to be doing.  To provide really fresh, nutritious food without chemicals and without the oil needed to produce, package, and ship our food from across the world is imperative to the health of our beautiful earth, and in a time of epidemic chronic disease, imperative for our own health too.

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Miraculous Abundance; One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer is a lovely guide filled with inspiration and ideas.  By simply focusing our energies on the soil and improving it we then let nature grow all of the food.  We are the helpers, not the geniuses behind food production!

The author states, “If we want to live sustainably on this planet, a growing number of people will have to reconnect with the land and produce food for themselves and the community….But the farmers of tomorrow will not come from the agricultural class that has been reduced to near extinction; they will come from the cities, offices, shops, factories, and more….Their farms will be places of healing, of beauty, and of harmony.”  The farms will be in front yards, in the country, on balconies; we will have to find a way to feed all of us because the current food model is killing us and killing the earth.  Period.

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Our yard in the city is the equivalent of four city lots, or just under a third of an acre.  We have utilized very little of it this year and are still producing all of our own produce for our week’s meals plus some for canning.  I have purchased the rest of the vegetables for putting up from local farmers, thereby boosting my local economy and putting food up for our winter meals.  I have chickens for eggs in the city and just purchased a goat share so that I can get plenty of fresh milk to drink and make cheese and other dairy products.  I trade classes or spend my grocery money on fresh meat from my friends that are ranchers.  Now I just need to get staples.  I save money, eat better, and support my local friends and farmers.  This is the model that we may all have to follow sooner or later.  Unsustainable systems are doomed to fail, and Honey, if you look at our food and medical systems….better plant some comfrey and Oregon grape root while you’re at it.

But we can do this!  We can support each other and help each other with knowledge and tool sharing, with friendship and bartering.  What can you plant next year?

 

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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!

 

The Joys of a Simple Life (goals, self reliance, a day in the life)

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Forget January first as New Year’s!  That is only one time of pondering goals for a homesteader.  There are several pivotal times in the year that homesteaders like us take stock and decide and dream and implement plans for the year.

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Our average spring day starts at dawn with strong cups of coffee.  Doug reads the news and I write.  We do outdoor farm chores like milking, feeding goats and sheep, letting the chickens and ducks out and making sure they are cared for.  We plant as the weather allows, watching the weather and clouds like an addiction.  Preparing soil, adding beds, caring for plants.

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Doug fixes fences and puts up gates.  He repairs things damaged from winter and makes sure we have plenty of firewood curing and in the house for the still chilly nights. We watch our beautiful granddaughter.  She wants to be a part of everything, carrying wood, making cheese, doing dishes.

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I keep up the farmhouse and put three meals a day on the table.  I preserve throughout the year to keep the pantry rotating.  Five pints of meat sauce put up the other day, seven quarts of broth last week.  Cheese rests in brine on the stove. (I will teach you that next week!)

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We watch owls swoop by, worry about family members from a distance, pray for sunny days, and relax in the evenings after milking, reading by oil lamp.  We lead a simple, busy, enchanting life.  In order to keep this lifestyle we have to find everything possible that we can do ourselves.  This allows us to live on very little money and enjoy the profound satisfaction of doing things ourselves.  We live softly on the planet and provide healthy food and peaceful living for ourselves and our children that came home.

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For the past six years we have added skill by skill and vast achievements but this year I would like to go one step further and do these things more intensely, more prolifically.  I have grown all my own green beans, but how about all our corn?  I have sewed a skirt, how about sew what I need this year? (I am in dreadful need of new aprons)  So, these are my goals for the next two and a half seasons and of course you will be drug along with me through my writings to see just how self-reliant we can be and how satisfying it is to live a life of freedom and work by hand and I hope I can inspire you to step back and live a little more simply and old fashioned too.

Can I: Grow all my own fruits and vegetables?

Make my own wine?

Prepare my own spices?

Make all my own dairy products?

Provide some of my own meat?  And source the rest from friends? (Whole Foods is killing me y’all!)

Bake all my own breads, tortillas, rolls, etc.?

Stock, organize, and fill staples so that we can practically eliminate the need to go to the store?

Grow enough variety to satisfy us?

Be creative with recipes?

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These are my goals for my farmhouse kitchen.  I have a list of what we need to reserve for winter.  How to improve my relationships. What to sew. How to rearrange the living room and kitchen.  But most of all I need to be present, unfettered,  and loving.  I need to not get so busy that I forget to hug my husband, sit and watch the rain from the window, read a good book, or play with the baby.  Our old lifestyle allowed a two week vacation.  This one allows a bit every day.  This is truly the best life for us.

Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 3)

It was not worth it for him to keep working in the field he was in.  Our lives were short, we realized.  There was no time to waste.  Even though we battled morally within ourselves about it, we gave our house back to the bank with our condolences and good ridances.  We gave the mini-van back to its bank.  We moved to a place where our bills were nearly half.

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It was a charming, little house built in 1950 and moved from Denver at some point.  A rescued brick house set on a walkout basement on a quarter acre in Elizabeth.  We needed rescuing too, and the house was a welcoming beacon.  Doug put his two weeks notice in and at the beginning of January we were free.

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The view looked out across fields and woods.  Cows roamed peacefully across the street and deer rested easy in our open yard.  It was not fenced in so a makeshift dog run was put in for Bumble.

Those were sweet days.  I kept one of my dance locations open for another five months to help us get through the winter before farmer’s markets began.  I only taught one day a week.  Doug spent much of the first few months in a chair in a corner in our room with books.  Decompressing from years of stress and enslavement, he sat and did nothing.

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As he relaxed, and we found ourselves with so much time, we walked hand in hand exploring the town.  We visited the library and met new people.  We enjoyed the little shops that lined the quaint main street.  The antique stores, and the toy store.  The clothing store and the empty buildings.  We walked to the grocery store, and the hiking path.  We talked and got to know each other again.  We laughed and hoped.

Our homeschooled children enjoyed the new adventure and spent their days discovering the graveyard, ponds, forests, and fields.  They reveled in each other’s friendship while meeting other kids.

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We sat on the deck overlooking the cows and the line of pine trees and took in the mornings.  Cups of steaming coffee and birdsong.  Writing, poetry, and breathing filled my days.  We talked about simplicity and our desire to make it a part of our life permanently.

We read homesteading books and planned what we could do.  I learned to successfully bake bread.  I water boil canned almost a hundred items that summer and lined the basement walls with bounty.  We created a ten by ten foot garden in the front yard and bought tons of seeds.  The garden wasn’t a huge success because of time and lack of water.  What did grow (sunflowers, pumpkins, corn) became a marvelous buffet for the deer.  They were fun to watch.  The infant spotted babies.  The enormous antlered bucks.  The families of deer were part of our afternoon entertainment.  We didn’t mind losing the garden to them.

Instead we bought a CSA (community supported agriculture) from our friends at Miller Farms and took home a bushel of produce each week to eat and can.  We bought a freezer and started to freeze vegetables.  We dehydrated more vegetables and fruits.  We went vegan and Doug lost forty pounds.

There was no reason to shave, we didn’t go anywhere fancy so slowly his beard started to grow in.  A look most people in town do not remember him not having.  I love it.  He looks comfortable and sexy.

We went to the library instead of buying endless books at the book store.  We bought from the thrift shops and bought only what we needed.  We were on our way to self sufficiency.  A life we so craved.  We dreamed of making the plot a farm.  Oh, the food we could grow in the large plot.  Fruit trees and plants danced in our heads as we planned how to afford putting up a six foot fence.

We wanted chickens.  Our neighbor had chickens and we loved their “laughing” in the mornings.  The little girls next door played with their chickens all day.  They delighted in swinging them on the swings and sliding them down the slide.  The chickens were so calm and our neighbor was so enjoying her fresh eggs, I became instantly smitten with the idea of having chickens.

We put in a lot of hard work that summer.  Six to eight farmer’s markets filled our week.  Week after week.  Our clientele grew exponentially.  We were tired, our children were running amok while we worked markets, but we were succeeding at being full time herbalists.  Winter was coming though.  What would we do this winter once farmer’s markets ceased for the season?

As we were walking close together, speaking of this and that, entranced down Main street, we noticed that the jeweler across the street from the library was moving out of his store.  We found the number of the owner of the building.

Doug’s ninety-two year old grandmother passed away.  She left us the exact amount of money we needed to open our own Apothecary shop…..

Doug’s Indoor Farm

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Well, you saw the post about my indoor farm and it is doing swimmingly well but this is about Doug’s new project.  He practically brags about being able to kill houseplants with a single glare.  People that used to work with him would give him precise directions on how to care for their plants and would find them dead upon return.  Doug has not been asked to watch indoor plants much since.  He has found such a wonderful past time now and says that it is because he only has to keep them alive for a week!  The chickens think he’s spoiling them, we are getting five eggs a day, and the chickens look great.  So, his experiment given to us by our friend Deb ( http://lookingoutfrommybackyard.wordpress.com ) of great soap fame and master gardener has been beneficial to our mini-farm as well.

He is growing wheat grass.  It is inexpensive and provides lots of yummy nutrients to the chickies during the winter.  You could also juice a little for yourself (though I might stick with coffee for now).  Here’s how:

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We went to the plant nursery and bought a seed starting tray.  For five chickens we use 2 ounces of whole wheat (Deb uses 2 cups for 14 chickens) and soak it overnight.  In the morning, rinse and place in 12 of the holes.  There is enough room for Doug to do this for 6 days and each 12 pack has a different sized growth.  They really grow fast!  The seventh day’s grass sits on top of the seeds he just placed in there and they think it’s soil.  The first day’s seeds get the grass on top and the second day’s seed gets an empty seed starter insert on top to simulate soil.  You never add soil to the seeds.  Water each pack a little daily.  The third day on seeds start growing spring-like grass and the seventh day grass is what gets fed to the chickies this morning.  We split it, they get a 6 pack this morning and a 6 pack tonight.  It must be quite filling because we are using less feed as well.  Deb has her starts in a sunny west facing kitchen and ours is in the southern window so no grow lights required.

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As soon as people walk through the door, Doug directs them over to see his amazing (non-dead) indoor farm.  The picture below is of the chickens at the back door wanting more wheat grass!  Spoiled little girls….

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