About, Food, Garden, Homestead Animals, Lifestyle

Our Homesteading Story

I am a dreamer, a creative mind, and a very independent person. So when my husband, Ben and I started a family, and I decided to quit my job as a full time kitchen designer and become a full time mother, I needed another outlet for my creativity.

This is the story of how I went from a normal, everyday housewife to a crazy, obsessive self-sufficiency advocate and homesteading junkie. (And this was just year one!)

Cooking

It started out with my cooking. I had extra time on my hands being in the house all day, so I started trying recipes that were more intricate and needed a lot more prep than the 30-minute meals I used to make after work everyday. I was able to have the entire meal prepped and ready during baby’s nap time and just pop it in the oven when the time was right.

I started meal planning, which made grocery shopping much more efficient. And that eventually led to buying a wider variety of produce, experimenting with herbs, and searching for ways to make my family healthier. This all led to the beginning of the next step in my homesteading (a term I had never even heard before) adventure – gardening.

Audrey and Liam standing a field of corn

Gardening

Ben had been telling me for years that I should try a raised bed vegetable garden. I thought he was crazy, we couldn’t even keep up with weeding the flowerbeds around our house, let alone adding more! Plus, gardening was something my mother liked, and like any daughter, I couldn’t possibly be like my mother.

Finally, I decided to give it a try. I wanted to save some money on groceries and have fresh ingredients on hand so I didn’t need to go shopping as often. Plus, finding things like fresh basil at the store can be nearly impossible. So, we bought 2 raised bed kits, some dirt, seed packets, garden supplies – and a new passion was born.

I enjoyed learning about how to care for each type of plant, how and when to harvest, and before the end of the first season, I had already begun planning my next (much larger) garden for the following year. I also had to begin thinking about what I would do with all my excess yields at harvest time, how to cure, store and preserve all my goodies.

Green beans canning in glass mason jars

Food Preservation

Before the end of my first gardening season, I purchased a combination pressure canner/water bath canner, supplies, and canning recipe book. My first endeavor was canning the 30lbs of carrots I grew in just a 1ft by 3ft area! We also had a mulberry tree out back with more than we could ever eat, so we got a wine making kit and started a batch of mulberry wine brewing.

I also learned how to cure potatoes and onions, dry herbs, how to dehydrate and freeze veggies, and even bake them (we love zucchini bread, which can also go in the freezer!). I was already familiar with processing meat, using a vacuum sealer, and meat grinder, as Ben is a lifelong hunter and brings home at least one deer every fall.

Herbalism

Once I had learned to dry herbs, I figured, why not try some homemade loose-leaf tea? I started researching different tea recipes and learning how they benefited the body. I also learned how companion planting certain herbs could be beneficial to my garden by repelling or attracting certain insects or changing the nutrient composition of the soil.

I knew I had mint growing in my flower beds, red clover in the meadow, and red raspberries along the edge of the woods, but I wanted to learn to identify more species of herbs so I ordered “The Complete Medicinal Herbal” as a reference. Diving into that book opened up my mind to a whole new chapter in homesteading and survivalism. (And even more gardening inspiration!)

Pigs tilling the Garden

Livestock

For years, Ben had tried to talk me into getting chickens, but it always looked like a huge commitment with daily chores. On a Thursday I said to him “I would get pigs over chickens, they’re supposed to be great for fertilizing and tilling gardens” and on Monday, we had pigs. Maybe a bit hasty, but it was a blast.

Ben spent the weekend building an enclosure where we planned on having our veggie garden the following summer. We built a shelter for them out of hay bales, got some pig feed, and picked up the two little piglets in just a weekend.

We, (especially our then 2 year old, Liam) loved watching their rooting activities, spraying them with the hose while they frolicked like children in a sprinkler, and feeding them all our scraps and leftovers from the kitchen. We felt good about turning our food waste (that would’ve otherwise gone in the trash) into usable calories for our pigs, which would in turn be our future food. That led us to want to reduce our waste even further and we started looking into composting and recycling.

Composting and Recycling

Before delving into the world of homesteading through reading blogs, Pinterest, and buying some beginner books, I had never really heard about composting. Ben really took the lead on it and built us a 3 compartment compost bin out back and we started using an empty plastic deer feed bucket for collecting our kitchen scraps.

Slowly – and I mean VERY SLOWLY- we started to form compost. We did not do the regular maintenance of turning the compost so it took a very long time to decompose. A bit of trial and error with it and we actually started to get the hang of things and speed up the process. Regardless, it felt great to be doing something that benefited the environment as well as our garden fertility.

Permaculture

So this isn’t really an event that took place for us as much as a philosophy I strive to achieve in our homestead. Check out this article to learn more “My Passion for Permaculture (and how to apply it to your homestead)”.  I love leaning about this vast subject through articles and books and applying them to our homestead.

per·ma·cul·ture
ˈpərməˌkəlCHər/
noun

  1. the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

In other words, making my life easier by letting nature do the work for me. Kind of a no-brainer, right? Not as much as you would think. The more I learn about it, the more I realize – I hardly know a thing! But to simplify it – let your chickens turn your compost pile, plant garlic next to your carrots to deter the carrot flies, let your pigs fertilize your garden, let your rainwater collection barrels heat your greenhouse, and sit back and enjoy!

I’d love to hear how you got into homesteading! Let me know in the comments below.

Our Homesteading Story

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