The Homegrown, Healthy Life (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #16)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, somewhere during women’s liberation we got led astray.  The frozen dinner folks were ready to pounce.  “Yes, women, go get a job!  We’ll take care of dinner.”  Every convenience began to show up, pushing women into the work force in droves.  Children left raising themselves and food being neatly packaged in factories in other countries.  Oh, and we still get to do all the housework!

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I am thankful for the ability to vote and that my daughters can be lawyers if they so choose, but I will take my original jobs back, thank you very much.  My father-in-law wondered when I am getting a job.  Let me tell y’all about my job and earnings.

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When you gaze down fluorescent lighted grocery shelves with the sounds of bad music and customers in the background, do you ever wonder where the food came from?  Or ever wondered what would happen in an emergency and you couldn’t come shop these aluminum and box lined shelves?  Have you read the ingredients?  Lord, have mercy.  A good 50% of all those foods are poison.  Not to mention grown who knows where, handled by who knows who, sprayed with who knows what.  I am my own food preserver.  I can, I dry, I fill my own grocery store shelves with nutritious, delicious foods.

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I am the farmer.  I grow all of our produce for half of the year, increasing yields each season.  I grow our own chickens (a new venture, granted).  We gather our own eggs.  To fill in, I use other housewives’ farm goods; beef, pork, milk, and organic vegetables to preserve.  It takes a village of us.

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I am the cheese monger.  I make our own variety of cheese, along with yogurt and ice cream, and butter.

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I am the baker.  In my bakery I make coffee cakes, and fresh bread for sandwiches.

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I am my family’s own doctor.  I make my own medicines.  I am the veterinarian around here.

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I am the tailor.  I am the accountant.  I am a hell of a gourmet chef.  I am the winemaker.

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I make body products and cleaning products and support my husband in his job.

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I buy organic flour and coffee, sugar and nuts.  Things of that nature.  I save a ton of money by growing, bartering, supporting local farms, and doing it myself.  Just think of all the things I don’t buy!  I don’t really have time to get a job, you see.  I am busy working and giving my family a homegrown, healthy life.

 

 

Empowering Young Farmers and Humbling the Farmer (and how to design garden beds)

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I received a message wondering if I could use the help of twenty girl scouts.  The farm they were supposed to help out decided they didn’t need volunteers.  Not only can I use volunteers, but I always jump at the opportunity to reach out to kids.  It is staggering to me the minute amount of people who have chosen to grow food and the even smaller amount of women that have opted for this job.  I don’t remember in school it even being an option.  I was told I could be anything I want, a stay at home mom, a doctor, a lawyer, a nun, but never was the word farmer uttered.

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I think it is so important to show kids that living simply and farming is indeed a real career and lifestyle choice.  So I stood there thinking of all the ways I would inspire and encourage troop 2251 to do great things as they pulled in.  My breath caught and tears threatened to come.  Two cars of smiling girls were followed by a truck and trailer.  Stacked a top that trailer were twenty bales of straw for mulch and twenty bags of organic potting soil.  They had raised money to help out a farm.  What a blessing, what a group of angels that descended on our humble farm!

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I welcomed them to Pumpkin Hollow Farm and told them a bit about our simple lifestyle.  I introduced them to the animals.  They swooned over the baby lambs and my granddaughter, Maryjane.  They looked for all the kittens in the house and I showed them the wood cook stove.  We then set off to work.  We had a daunting task, turn the barren patch of dirt that was once a thriving garden at one time into a ready-to-plant plot.

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We gathered all the cardboard boxes that I had thrown in there over the winter, flattened them, and laid them beneath the paths.  I explained how we would make a one foot path, then a four foot bed, and repeat that all the way across.  They didn’t have to be straight beds.  Gardening is art, I told them, so they could make the beds wavy like little rivers, or use interesting items to line the path.

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The girl scout leaders, the girls, and I worked diligently under the first hot day of spring to create a masterpiece.  We brought over loads of bricks from the side of the outbuildings and made wavy streams of paths.  Discarded wood and branches lined the way.  I dared the girls to find the most creative piece to line the beds with.  My Christmas three that the goats stripped clean now lines of the beds!

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We had lunch beneath the pine trees and took in the views.  The little girls took turns carrying Maryjane around.  She has been in heaven this week with so many kids around.

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We then laid the twenty bales of straw thickly onto the planting beds.  All I need to do is lay a thick layer of wood chips on the paths and place stepping stones at strategic places across the beds to get across easily.  This plot will feed many, many people.  I am ever so grateful for their help.

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They taught me about generosity and hard work.  They helped a farmer that they didn’t even know.

Victory Gardens (and beating Monsanto ourselves)

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I wonder if most people understand the dire consequences of a bill signed by our president last week.  A bill that protects Monsanto from all law suits, present and future, from any claims that their products causes serious health problems, even death.  Research shows it does and every other country in the world has banned them.  Why, I ask, would the president protect this company in particular?  Of course we know the answer, money, and the money from Monsanto haunts the halls of Congress and the White House.

That is sad that the American people, who are by and large against genetically modified crops, did not have a voice despite Marches against Monsanto across the country, and that our health, our children’s health, and definitely our grandchildren’s health is going to be sacrificed for a few bucks.  It feels overwhelming and devastating.

Is there anything we can do?  Is there any way to beat big business at its own game?  Not directly, but indirectly perhaps.  I think of all the convenience food my grown children eat daily, fast food, and supposedly healthy boxes of dinners.  The effect that will be having on them.  The effects on my granddaughter Maryjane’s new organs and system.  I cannot change the world, indeed I may not be able to change my children’s worlds, but I can work within my own boundaries and possibly inspire or help folks around me and maybe help my children start gardens when they get into their own houses, or at least let them come raid the root cellar and my gardens.  So what can we do?

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This is war.  Not war in the sense of World War II but war against the people all the same.  In the time of WWII, Victory Gardens were the answer.  Victory Gardens provided sustenance against insecurity and fear.  It provided healthy food, grown from seed, from back door to table.  Back yard chickens provided eggs and meat.  Grains stored so that fresh bread could be made.  Sugar and other items that were experiencing a shortage were creatively replaced.  The housewives of the 1930’s and 40’s fought for their families and protected them by ensuring food was in the back yard.  We can do the same.

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Steps to Winning the War Against Monsanto and Protecting Your Family

1. Grow a garden.  Be it in pots, 5 gallon buckets, the front yard, the back yard, the side yard, or at a community garden.

If you cannot grow a garden where you are at, or do not have the energy to have one, support someone that does.  Small farms are dotting the landscape and more and more new farmers are coming on the scene, particularly women.  They are all around you.  Check the farmer’s markets or ask around.

Not all farms are the same.  The big farms at the farmers market ship in produce this early in the season.  Is it organic?  Where did it come from?  Particularly corn.  That will protect you from the GMO’s but the pesticide free is very important as well.  Pesticide use is at an all time high and the residual is in the structure of the food.  You can’t wash it off.  Find a pesticide free farmer.  Local.  Small.  Eat in season.

Go in with a friend.  Do you have a friend that gardens?  Can they plant a row for you in exchange for something you create?  Or can you buy excess produce from a friend?

If all else fails, buy from the health food store and make sure it is organic!

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2. Get back yard chickens.  If you are allowed, get them.  You will not regret this most amazing, local protein source and classic entertainment.  Eggs have a million uses and if one chose, the meat could be harvested every few years.

If  you cannot have back yard chickens, find someone that is allowed to.  It is actually very easy to find someone to raise your livestock for you.  Farmsteaders are happy to share what they know and to help out city folks.

If all else fails, buy organic meat from the health food store.

3. Get a Milk Share or A Goat. Nothing tastes better than a cold glass of chocolate milk after watering the garden.  Raw milk is better for you than pasteurized.  It contains valuable enzymes and nutrients that are destroyed in pasteurization.

4. Avoid boxes at all costs.  Inside them lurks, not only every genetically modified ingredient known to man, but they are basically nutrient deplete, and unrecognizable to the body.

If you must use a box of something, make sure it is organic.

5. Make your own food.  This may seem impossible to a lot of people.  It does take time to make everything homemade, but not that much more time.  Make time.  A television show less and you could have a day’s worth of food pre-made if you needed to.  The time it takes to eat out could be spent in the kitchen.  Fast food on a farmstead is salad, boiled corn (organic of course!), fried fish, I mean seriously folks,  it really doesn’t take that long to cook dinner.  Pre-make breakfasts and plan lunches and bake bread on Sundays.

6. It doesn’t cost more to be organic.  Trust me on this one.  Yes, the individual prices of the vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meats, and grains are a smidge higher than at Walmart.  However, you are saving money by not eating out, by not buying prepackaged meals, by not buying boxes, soft drinks, etc.  The grocery bill may even look a little lighter!

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Do it yourself.  Support someone local to do it for you.  Only eat organically.  Store food for winter.  Watch many of your diseases fall away.  And protect yourself in the future.  We can have the last laugh.

 

Support Your Local Homestead!

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For centuries women have tended the home and the family and on the side sold things made by their hands to help support their family.  It seems to be an innate instinct in us.  Many homesteaders are entrepreneurs.  In this economy it can be scary out there.  What can we do to make sure we can put food on the table?  What can we craft, make, sell excess of, teach?  There are many opportunities to start a homestead business.  I have always told my homeschooled children that I would rather them make a smaller amount of money and work their own hours taking pride in making things from their own hands then to be cooped up in a cubicle day in and day out unappreciated!

Over here, we are trying to reinvent our business. (Doug and I will be doing markets as well.) Trying to be resourceful to appeal to the public and the community so that we can put food on our table while helping those around us.  Nancy is looking for the same thing.  We absorbed everything Joel Salatin told us in an intimate gathering and farm to table dinner last summer.  We have read books.  I have actually exhausted every single farming book available to me in the library system. (Can someone please publish another one?  I need something to read!)  We feel the need pulsing through our blood streams to become farmers.  There are no books specific to us.  We are not in our early twenties.  We do not qualify for the term “Greenhorns”.  Pity, it is such a fun name!  Most of the farmers are older and are retiring.  There are only names signifying possible craziness when two middle aged women want to become farmers.  But boy do we look cute out in the garden!  What we do have is collective business experience, a youthful exuberance and tons of energy and ideas, and two daughters willing to tag along and help!  We have computer savvy husbands with two sets of extra strong hands.  We have support.  We have creativity and a great collection of cute farmgirl clothes and aprons.  Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to wear my bonnet at markets!  Somewhere it will fit in!

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Many great businesses have been started by resourceful women…and men.  The local businesses on your street need their community in order to survive.  What you can do is support these businesses.  The same people you see at the bank, at the grocery store, in your church.  These people need your help.  I wish I could tell people, even people that shop at my store, that every time they go purchase herbal medicines and salves at the big health food store, they put me that much closer to going out of business.  Every time one goes to Cost Cutters instead of the single mom cutting hair, she can’t pay one of her bills.  Big corporations pay their bills just fine.  We small businesses are often cheaper, you get more, you get more quality, and yet we are forgotten in the shadow of a big store.  Granted if no one in my neighborhood is crafting shovels and I need one, I go to Walmart.  I won’t lie.  But there are so many shops on our quiet Main street that could supply a wealth of what people are looking for.  Farmer’s markets help bring the people together.  I don’t know about all the tents of people selling stuff they bought.  Packaged pancake mixes and magical weight loss mixtures, but those that make and craft and grow.  Those are my heroes, the ones I want to help.

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Nancy and I are making rich soaps, all organic ingredients.  Made from her goat’s milk.  We have made them beautiful, simple, clean.  I am making my famous lotion, renaming it Farmgirl Face and Body Cream for the markets.  I have made soy wax candles in darling coffee cups.  I have made aprons, double stitched and darling, a staple for any farm girl.  I have planted rows and rows of greens.  Nancy has planted even more rows and rows…and rows of greens!  We have herbs growing.  My dining room is overflowing with over-wintered herbs for cooking.  Our spoiled rotten (but adorable) chickens are all laying and we will sell our combined rations of fresh eggs with their beautiful orange yolks.  Nancy and Faleena will be busy baking muffins, breads, pies, and other goodies.  Emily is hand roasting organic coffee beans and designing the packaging.  She is also selling cups of coffee at the market with fresh goat’s milk and sugar.  Emily and I spent an afternoon developing many medicinal tea blends and packaging them.  We have organic green and black teas to offer as well.  Medicinal honeys add a sweet touch to administering medicine and our collection of extracts that have been our staple for years will be there as well.  We have fresh preserves, jams, beets, zucchini and more that we have sat in hot kitchens canning.  Emily is making organic baby food.  Faleena is spreading the word about us in the media world.  Doug has made us a darling logo and is making our labels and banners.  Steve tilled up the soil for Nancy.  We are set!  We are ready!  Come out and say hello to us at markets!  (And you can certainly go “like” our page on Facebook.. https://www.facebook.com/5Farmgirls?ref=hl ) Farm to table dinners….classes….the ideas are endless.

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What homestead business could you start?  What is your skill and passion?  And what business could you support to keep your local economy, nay your neighbors, strong?