Building A Homestead

As I sit down to take a break outside in my kitchen garden I decide to write about the latest. Slowly but surely we are making the dream come true. I am excited that my first try at selling (at the farmers market and crafts fair) is as much fun as I thought it would be. I realize that the idea of homesteading is to become as independent as possible, but it is also about community and helping each other. And though we have to make money right now, I can see us bartering or making a deal on the exchange of services. What a cool thought; connecting to other homesteaders and forming a real network, so that none of us need or want for anything.

a sprawling ecosystem

The gardens are sprawling! I can’t emphasize enough the need to create a good plan before building a large garden. I need to rethink a few things that got out of hand. I didn’t add cages (or any kind of support) for the tomatoes in the last row in the market garden, I planted rows of corn and sunflowers too close together in the chicken garden, and I don’t even want to talk about the kitchen garden. Let’s just say that you should really think about your garden plan and imagine yourself tending to it. It’ll make all the difference. My gardens are getting close to needing a cleanup before I start fall and winter crops, so you can bet I’ll be putting more brain power into my plan this time!

I decided against staggering market garden plantings next year. Especially with things like tomatoes and peppers, where they kinda stagger themselves anyway. And potatoes, onions and garlic can be stored until they’re sold. It makes sense to get rid of that work and worry, and just plant all at once. If I get into crops like lettuces and radishes, I’ll rethink this subject at that time. Staggering plantings in the chicken and kitchen garden is a must though… the chickies and the fam can only eat so much.

feed 'em this!

If our homestead was a neighborhood it would have four distinct subdivisions of interest: Our home, the hubby’s shop, the three gardens and the animal spaces. This fall, I plan to expand the gardens and add more chickens to the brood. These two “subdivisions” are almost completely self-sustaining already. Collecting seed, composting, growing organically, using the layering method for minimal watering and sticking to a crop rotation plan means we can now sit back and let the land begin paying us back. And if I can grow all of the chicken feed by next year, then we’ll have a pretty good ecosystem going. I think the next step will be to sell eggs, raise meat birds and (dare I say it?) get a rooster or two and raise chicks.

try not to eat this

Another super-important part of homesteading is the DIY side of it all. Yes, there are many healthy, natural and organic products out there now that are all perfectly good to use. But do a breakdown of the ingredients and you’ll see that it can all be made for practically free! We’ve been using our own concoctions for everything from homemade deodorant to mite control dusting for the chickens. And for bigger things around the house, farm and shop, there is no better DIYer than the hubby who has had this attitude from day one.

ima craig's list addict

If you think we have a Craig’s list addiction, you’d be right. But I promise, one day it will stop. It has to, right? This backhoe beauty will be much appreciated when it comes time to take out the rest of the dead walnut trees, dig trenches for vertical gopher fences and dig the duck pond. Because the homestead plan is so large, this tool is a necessary expense for my ambitious dreams. When all is said and done, we’ll pass on this good deal to someone else one day.

It would also be a good thing to get started on driveways. While I love the fact that I lost 5 lbs (woo hoo!) the ol’ knees are not thrilled to have to walk the entire 5 acres each day. As stated above, the lesson of the year for me is learning just how important it is to plan a good layout for your homestead. Once we get good walkways and driveways in place, a good shed couldn’t hurt. I have no problem with my messy nature but I still like an organized mess!

you don't mess with the zukes

So what’s the biggest accomplishment? Getting back to putting up. It’s one of the key factors in distinguishing a hobbyist from a homesteader. Think of the old west… you had to put up your food to be able to survive winter. Don’t think “Walmart” when stocking the pantry, think about canning, dehydrating, freezing and cold storage. And it’s fun too! A good pickle never does me wrong and soon I plan to add fermenting and curing to the list of kitchen skills. I think it has something to do with summertime barbecues. Mmm.

quick and simplifying

One thing I am really trying to work on is to create easy and delicious recipes using nothing but ingredients grown and raised right here. Right now, I’ve been able to cut back on weekly trips to the grocery store to just going once a month. I’d like to get that down to every six months; only shopping for things we can’t make like TP and salt. How great would that be? But until we raise our own meat, I’ve been simplifying by stretching meals as far as they can go. Roasting large cuts of meat (or two chickens at a time) for 1-2 dinners, then using leftovers for lunches, and finally for boiling the bones into stock or soup; either for canning or freezing. Again, planning is key.

To bring our homestead plan closer to completion we will be putting in solar this fall. We picked out the site and drew up a plan for running the electrical to the house, shop and greenhouse. Technically, we could stop there. We could be somewhat self-sufficient and satisfied with just that. But y’all know us by now right? We’re going to take it further and figure out how to create our own biofuel. (Actually, the plan to start on this had to be pushed back to next year. There just aren’t enough days on the calendar.)

Okie dokie my break is over. Until next time, here’s to working on the dream!

One Quick Chick

stuffing: not what you pictured, is it?

Pump up the flavor by stuffing a chicken with fresh herbs, lemon and garlic. Carefully stuff underneath the skin, pushing the herbs (etc) as far as it will go, so as to flavor the breast and thigh. Stuff the front and back cavities too. Rub the chicken with a little oil and rub in some homemade spice rub. Roast as usual. (more)

This pairs well with a simple tomato salad: Equal parts of thinly sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, throw in some bell peppers and onion, a little chopped basil and minced garlic, and toss with your favorite vinaigrette. Salt/pepper to taste. Yum!