Friday, July 16

Taking Stock

I often ask myself what makes this place a homestead, all be a 'lite' one. I still, when I say the word 'homestead', think of a rustic, one room log cabin the deep woods, a garden carved out of tree stumps and rocks, and a cow and some chickens hugging close to a small shed that serves as the barn.

We are definitely not that, although it would be neat to be that, maybe. We are an old farm house, fixed up nicely with 2 acres a barn, a big shed and coop and room for large vegetable and flower gardens. Our chickens enjoy a large coop and a large fenced in area, safe from predators. They enjoy sunshine fresh, clean air, bugs and grass under their feet all day.

The only other animals we have here are my shepherd/husky mix, Snowy, and my three house cats. I am thinking that I might like to try my hand at goats or maybe sheep, but that will be a ways in the future.

I think of this farm as an experiment in self-sufficiency, in self reliance, and in just living a better, healthier life. I don't want chemicals in my food. I want meat that is organic and that lived a decent life. I want to hang my laundry on the line and enjoy the feeling of the dirt under my nails after a day in the garden.
This experiment has grown to include all sorts of changes and ideas. Mostly small changes, but they have added up. We save money, enjoy better food, and learn a great deal about what it takes to 'homestead'. To quote Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm, we "do not homestead full time."

Small changes have lead up a big wake up for us.

Some of the things we do here save us money, like starting out seeds indoors under grow lights in March. Yes, it cost money to run the lights but in the long run, we save much more on food costs. Our electric costs are off-set by our solar panel which was a very good investment. We have developed a family budget, and although it is hard sometimes, we stick to it and are paying off our debt. Living debt free will be the ultimate reward.

We have been eating our leftovers instead of offering them to the dog. This doesn't make Snowy very happy but it helps save money. After that, Snowy gets right-of-first-refusal before things go in the compost bin. Canning will also help us save on grocery costs in the winter, and I am looking forward to learning this new skill.

We try to buy in bulk and store food, use our wheat grinder to make flour for bread, we dehydrate apples for savable snacking, and I have found wild dill growing in the side field. Free!

Some things we do here help us live a healthier life - we have replaced most of our cleaning products with 'green' ones. I feel better about cleaning the counters and other things with something that is not going to harm us, the baby or our pets. Yes, it costs a little more but if you have a coupon and you can find it in sale, you can get it often cheaper than the other brands.

We also get our eggs straight from the chicken, so to speak. Going out and collecting fresh eggs is one of the best pasts of the day. We get about half a dozen a day so far and we will get a lot more once the younger ladies start laying. We have plenty for us and we give away and sell the rest. People like coming to the house, seeing the girls and getting fresh, brown eggs.

Conservation is something that is important to both my husband and myself. We have made a highly conscious effort to reduce the amount of everything that we use. Especially electricity and fuel. Lights are off, the AC is only on when it is really, really hot and I try to never use the dryer in the summer months. I love my clothes line more than just about any other piece of homesteading gear we use. It is the most essential part - esthetics and usefulness - of any homestead.

Sorry to say that I have reduced driving. Yes that means that I stay home more, but that is getting to be ok with me. Given my growing annoyance with society-noise in general, I actually prefer to stay at home. When I do go out, I combine errands and get someone to watch the baby so I can get things done faster.

In addition, we have started cleaning out. Anything we do not need, do not use, does not work or is just not necessary, we have donated or recycled. The less stuff we have, the easier it is to function. I am not saying that we are going without and that we have no furniture or anything like that. I just do not near 30 sweaters, we do not need 6 tv's (half of which we can no longer use since we do not have cable or a converter box) and those two broken push lawnmowers in the barn are just taking up space.

In taking stock of our accomplishments and efforts, I have learned a great deal. New skills, new ideas of how to do things, better ways of doing other things, and that the feeling of self-sufficiency is a million times better than the short feeling of happiness when you get a new pair of shoes. We also have a lot to learn and a long way to go.

But given the results of what we have done so far, I think it is going to be well worth it.

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