A year ago I went on a homesteading book binge. I read voraciously for a few months, and gave myself an introductory education to being a homesteader. We live on acreage, with plenty of “wasted” green space. In other words, a large swath of lawn which requires upkeep in the form of mowing. Lucky for us, we’ve decided that the benefits of dandelions outweigh the need for a perfect lawn. The bees, at least, thank us.
Still, I started to ask myself the question, what can I do with this space that is useful? What skills could I learn and practice with the resources already in front of me?
Well, it’s been a year, and here’s my homesteading report.
Things I haven’t had to buy since last summer:
1. Tomato sauce. I bought in bulk from a local farmer (yay!) last summer, and canned my own tomato sauce. It took one afternoon and a giant pot, and I didn’t buy a single can of tomato sauce all winter.
2. Jam. Ditto with the jam. I harvested the blackberries from our property (which grow and multiply in abundance around our property’s borders) on a few afternoons. Another afternoon of canning, and we’re on our last jar of jam this month.
3. Berries & peaches. Okay, we’ve officially run out of these. But, again, I bought local and organic, froze batches over the winter in our deep freeze and we enjoyed smoothies all winter long. Easy and delicious. Next year, I’ll invest in a few more to last us until June (strawberry season!).
One thing about our current property is the amount of shade we have. We are surrounded by glorious towering cedar trees which provide us with wonderful cool summers, but a lack of great garden sunshine. Along with living on the edge of a forest comes a lot of slugs! Last year, the slugs ate: our spinach, carrot, lettuce, kale and herb seedlings. But, they didn’t touch our potatoes, peas and beans (or we beat them to the harvest, at least).
This year, we’re doing things a little differently. You know, learning from experience.
1. Pots. I’ve planted all of our lettuce in pots on the back patio which does receive great afternoon sunshine. And, I’ll be adding herb pots this week. Take that slugs!
2. Selective planting. In our two square-foot garden boxes (I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve started small, here), we’ve planted potatoes and just added beans and peas today! No leafy greens for the boxes on the edge of the forest.
3. Potatoes. A big, fun, win for us was our potatoes. We didn’t have a ton last year, but boy were they fun to dig up together! And, even better, we saved some from last year, sprouted and planted them this year. I know, many people save seeds every year. But, this was a first for us. And it felt like a tiny miracle. No investment – automatic food!? The kids especially love planting and digging for potatoes, so the whole process has been wonderful in so many ways.
4. Seedlings. This year, I found the most wonderful local farmer, and I have bought some seedlings from her. Instead of starting from seed, I’ve invested essentially the same amount in an expert. For me, it makes perfect sense to support a local farmer, and give my garden the boost it needs. Our lettuce and herb seedlings have come from her.
5. Seasons. This is our second year on our property, and it is great to see things returning, and watch as favourite local wildflowers and plants pop up each spring. I am starting to see how people invest so much in their gardens, and why they consider them such labours of love. The cycle of the seasons is truly something special.
And, finally, last year we invested in a pair of English Angora rabbits. I’ve been a rabbit lover since childhood, and was so excited to add these fluffy creatures to our family. What a learning experience it has been. We’ve harvested their wool a few times, and I’m hoping to learn to spin angora wool this year. Taking care of them has required no small effort, but with the help of our children, it has been a positive experience overall (they take a lot of work to groom, but brushing a bunny is also very therapeutic!). Moby and Ears have helped us get our feet wet with homesteading, and we sure do appreciate them for it!
This year, I hope to add a line dryer for our clothes. If I knew we were staying for awhile (we currently rent) I’d also love to add some chickens. But, for now, our little wins keep me bouyant, as I learn the limits of what I can handle (with three children & a family-owned business to run), and also what brings me the greatest joy.
Have you had any homesteading wins this year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.