Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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4/24/2015

earth box

Every once and a while I do something wrong and often post it on this blog. Not to embarrass or humiliate myself, but I get it wrong and hope by revealing my mistake it will help others to not make the same error. Such was the case recently. Our weather looked like it may be quickly improving for the best and that we may be getting an early summer. That presented what appeared to be a good chance to get some of my garden plants started indoors to later transplant outside. When the growing season is as short as we have it is always a bonus when we can jump start the season by giving plants a head start inside.

I had 24 zucchini plants doing real well inside as well as some carrots. Just as I thought my plants were about ready to transplant outside we received a series of snow storms and very cold nights. We ended up with a total of 48” of snow over the next three week period which meant my gardening plans were going to require major alterations. Planting outside was now out of the question so instead I decided to put my earth boxes to use. I had not used them in a few years. They are boxes that have a water reservoir in the bottom where the water wicks up from the bottom and the plant roots are fed the appropriate amount of water to enhance their growth.

My assumption was that I could transplant the seedlings in the earth boxes and put them in my shop which is heated. I also put a grow light over them to keep them going until the snow melted and they could be safely taken outside. The weather had been so nice that the spinach I planted at the end of fall was already sprouting and growing outside. On my next trip into town (45 miles one way) I went to a local garden store and advised I needed some soil for my garden boxes. I was told that a certain type of soil was excellent and it was also organic soil. I might add that it was also very pricey and it was what the sales person said they used in their own earth boxes. In fact it was so expensive that I only bought two bags instead of three which I had intended to purchase.

I brought it home and filled three earth boxes and transplanted the seedlings and situated them under the grow light. I added several gallons of water and believed I had salvaged my seedlings. They started out real well and I was confident that I had salvaged the plants. After a few days I noted that they did not seem to be growing like I thought they should. I also noticed that I had several bites that looked much like mosquito bites. Then one day as I was adding water to the boxes I noted something flying around and sure enough it was a mosquito. Since it was still freezing outside and there was 2-3 feet of snow remaining on the ground I knew they didn’t come in with me from outside. This is my woodworking shop and I have never had a mosquito in the shop before. At this altitude we normally don’t have a mosquito problem. Then I observed a mosquito that flew out the watering tube in one of the earth boxes. The potting soil clearly had mosquito eggs in it and somehow they got into the water reservoir and were hatching.

There was no choice but to take the now faltering plants outside where they quickly froze. They were just barely holding on anyway and would not have made it much longer. When everything else fails sometimes it is best to go to the directions which is what I should have done in the first place. I finally found the manufacturer direction booklet that came with the boxes many years ago. As I read the directions it clearly stated I should use potting MIX not the potting soil. It was apparent that the potting mix wicked up the moisture from the bottom to keep the seedlings roots wet where the potting soil did not do that. The manufacturer clearly knew what worked in their earth boxes and what didn’t work. Potting soil did not work which is why the manufacturer specified potting mix.

Two bags of very expensive potting soil are now in our outdoor planter where any remaining mosquito eggs do not have a water source to hatch and breed. The potting soil did not go to waste but is far more expensive than what I normally use in our outdoor planter. I finally got rid of the mosquitoes in my shop and the ones that got dumped outside quickly froze to death. Some mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus in our state so I didn’t want to take a chance that I could have been the source of facilitating that nasty disease. This was an expensive lesson by purchasing the wrong material for my earth boxes and also losing 24 zucchini plants and numerous carrot seedlings. I should have remembered what to use but it had been several years since I had used the earth boxes and obviously had forgotten what was required. I have now started all over again and hopefully the plants will mature and produce vegetables within our short growing season.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their adventures go to: www.brucecqrolcqbin.blogspot.com


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4/24/2015

When we started our goat farm now 8 years ago, we took the advice of a very dear friend and fellow goat farmer and the advice of our vet and invested in a variety of medical supplies to have on hand on the farm, so that in the event of an emergency or even not so emergency we didn’t have to wait to run into town or wait for a mail order from a farm supply to arrive.  All situations where you need medicine in a hurry, usually arise at 5p on a Friday, on the weekend or during the night.  

Over the course of the years we have accumulated many more medical supplies in our cabinet and a couple of the more obscure ones have recently saved one of our goat’s lives who had a retained placenta.  But the list above will put you on your way to being able many emergencies. The thing about goats is that they have a very high metabolism and as a result can get sick very fast, but can also recover very fast if they receive treatment early.

Healthy Goats

Vet Advice and Approval

Since we are friends with our vet and would like to remain friends with him, I want to make clear that even though these are medical supplies we keep on hand here at Serenity Acres Farm, we use those that require a prescription only in consultation with our vet.  I am also not including recommended dosages or course of treatment in this list for the same reason. There are many sources on the internet where you can find those.

This list is mainly intended to give you a good base of medical supplies that you should have on hand if you have goats. The following list is also not in any kind of order other than which medications I thought of first. Most of the items on this list are also not very expensive with the exception of Excenel, Baytril 100 and Banamine which cost in the vicinity of $100 a bottle.  When given the opportunity, do buy the bottle, considering the fact that a vet usually charges around $15-20 for one of those injections. 

Full of Energy

Serenity Acres Farm’s MUST HAVE Goat Farm Medical Supply List:

1. Wormers

We regularly do our own fecals with a microscope and always have wormers on hand to treat if the egg count exceeds  our acceptable threshold. We keep Ivermectin, Valbazen, Safeguard and Moxidectin around.  Twelve hours of delayed treatment makes a big difference in a goat having diarrhea or just “breadloaf” poops. Valbazen is generally not considered safe for pregnant goats, here at Serenity Acres Farm we use one of the other alternatives on our pregnant does.

2. Coccidia Medication

We always have Coccidia Treatment on hand.  Whether it’s Dimethox 12.5% or Corid, the choice is yours, but the quicker a bout of coccidia is treated, the quicker the goat recovers without dehydration and the spread of the wicked bacteria is more contained.

3. KaoPec

Pink Pepto Bismol for goats, and it comes in a gallon jug. Slows down the diarrhea and coats the stomach lining to minimize damage from coccidia and worms. The goats hate it and some get very adept at spitting it out and covering anything or anybody in the vicinity, but it’s a lifesaver, literally.

4. Thermometer and Weigh Tape and drench syringes, needles and syringes, a microscope and fecasol

Not medications, but ultra-important to get a goat’s  weight so medications can be properly dosed.  A thermometer should always be on hand to check the temperature of a goat that isn’t acting right, a high temperature indicates an infection, and a low temperature can indicate a slew of other, often life threatening issues. Drench syringes are needed to administer oral medications, or wormers,  or Pepto Bismol. We have 20cc and 50cc sizes on hand. We also have 1 ml, 3 ml, 6 ml, 12 ml and 20ml syringes as well as needles in our supply cabinet including 1 inch x 20 gauge and 1 inch x 18 gauge needles.

5. Blood Stop Powder

Nipping during trimming, a horn bud broken off, you will be glad you have it. A large jar is not quite $6 and worth its weight in gold.

6. Woundkote powder or spray

To treat minor abrasions and injuries.

7. Betadine

Water based iodine to treat minor abrasions and injuries and to dip navels of new born kids to prevent joint ill. Does not sting like iodine which is alcohol based.

8. Pen G and LA200 or LA300

Three good broad spectrum antibiotics for a variety of bacterial infections.  These are over the counter, but you should give your vet a call before administering.

9. Excenel (vet prescription)

Antibiotic of choice for goat kids, pneumonia and uterine infections.

10. Baytril 100 (vet prescription)

Antibiotic of last resort and only with vet guidance. Saved our Great Pyrenees dog Big John after he was bitten by a water moccasin last year. Not safe for use on pregnant goats as it may interfere with the development of the fetus.

11. CMPK and MFO

Two over the counter calcium products to treat milk fever (hypo calcemia). Our choice here at Serenity Acres Farm is the MFO, it is a liquid and we mix it with pedialyte. It is not as caustic to the inside of the mouth as the CMPk paste.

12. Bloat Release

A medication to treat frothy bloat or bloat stemming from other causes such as overeating. Very effective. Half a bottle treats a normal size goat.

13. Activated Charcoal

To combat poisoning.

14. CDT Vaccine

Provides longer term protection from Clostridium C & D and Tetanus.

15. C&D Antitoxin

Over the counter medication to provide immediate relief and protection from overpopulation of clostridium bacteria.  If you use this product, a goat will have to be re-vaccinated once it has recovered as the antitoxin will negate any protection from a previously given CD vaccine.

16. Benadryl

For any kind of allergic reaction or stings. You can dissolve tablets or buy the liquid. The tablets dissolve very quickly in water.

17. Fortified Vitamin B Complex (includes 100 mg Thiamine)

Immune booster, stimulates appetite and can be used when thiamine is needed.

18. Epinephrine (vet prescription)

To treat anaphylactic shock/ reactions to medications or bites or stings. Use only with vet guidance or in dire emergency. 

19. Banamine

Reduces fever quickly, reduces pain and reduces inflammation.

20. ToDay Mastitis Treatment & Mastitis Test Cards

To give an initial treatment in case of suspected mastitis. We here at Serenity Acres Farm have learned to always send a milk sample of to the lab in case of suspected mastitis to determine which antibiotic the bacteria are resistant too and which they will respond to. The money spent in the lab fee and postage is well worth knowing if the antibiotic you are using is even working.

21. Biosol (Neomycin)

This is an over the counter antibiotic very effective for E.coli or other gastro-intestinal bacterial infections for use in kids and adult goats. 

Fabio and Apricot

Nice to Have’s 

In addition to the above “Must Have – will save lives” goat farm medical supplies, here is a list of a few “nice to have’s - will make life a lot easier” goat farm medical supplies we have here at Serenity Acres Farm:

• Red Cell to treat anemia
• Vitamin E gel caps to treat turned under feet in newborns
• BoSe (vet prescription) for selenium deficient newborns
• Molasses, mixed with hot water, for a quick sugary energy boost for a sick goat or one who has just given birth
• Hot water bottle to heat chilled kids
• Pedialyte for a quick sugary energy boost, to give electrolytes, or to mix with medications
• Tetanus Antitoxin
• Milk of Magnesia to treat constipation or hard udders when related to magnesium deficiency
• Peppermint Essential Oil for hot peppermint compresses to treat hard udders
• Probiotic Paste to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria after antibiotic treatment
• Terramycin an over the counter eye medication
• Platinum Bio-Sponge to treat overpopulation of clostridium bacteria in the gut
• Vitamin E/Selenium Paste to prevent selenium deficiency in pregnant goats

Wishing you lots of luck in your goat endeavor with happy and healthy goats and enjoy our pictures. All were taken by our friend Elyse from Brooklyn, NY during a recent stay. Thank You Elyse.

 Chamomille

Julia: Goat Mother and Wwoof Mother

Serenity Acres Farm


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 



4/24/2015

I love how just walking into a barn can be inspiring.

“What?!” you might respond. You may have to be a farmer to understand what I mean, but my guess is anyone who loves his or her job sees inspiration all around, every day.

My latest inspiration came to me in the form of a lamb. If you’ve been following the Bittersweet blog, you already know Romeo. If not, Romeo is a lamb who came to live with me on Valentine’s Day.

I had never raised a lamb in the house with me. Goat kids come every spring, and I always start them inside. I’m used to goat kids romping across the floor and chasing the cat in circles around the house. I’m used to lining up bottles on the kitchen counter for feedings. But I was not prepared for the complete joy I would experience with a lamb.

bottled lamb

Brian, my farming mentor, told me, “It’s a whole different thing with raising lambs.” He wasn’t kidding. And that whole different thing has inspired me to write a children’s book about it. The difference is that lambs—or maybe just some lambs, but certainly Romeo—couldn’t be more of a joy to have around. Easy going, content, totally loveable, and constantly surprising. These are just some of the words I use to describe the experience.

The other way I describe it is a complete life lesson. As a farmer/amateur anthropologist, I am in the habit of observing behavior. It’s what makes us tick and defines our unique personalities. Within a few days of Romeo coming to live with me, I knew he was here to teach me how to teach him how to become a confident, well-adjusted creature. I saw I had the opportunity to guide him in finding his way in the world. “WHOA!” you might say! How is that fun?

All I can say is, it is. You should try raising lambs sometime. Beyond the bottles every six hours, beyond changing puppy pads in the playpen (I think I lost count at 150), beyond worrying about whether you’re getting it right, beyond laundering and replacing warm blankets so Romeo has something to snuggle up to since he doesn’t have his birth mom and I’m not always available, beyond all that comes the satisfaction of watching him grow into a healthy and confident little lamb.

I realized I had the opportunity to “make or break” this little guy, not unlike raising children. We hear a lot about different methods for raising animals. I have found that, no matter if you’re rearing these animals to end up knitted into a warming sweater or to provide a meal for your table, fostering their existence along the way makes a difference—the difference between that fiber becoming soft yarn or a tough-as-shoe-leather piece of meat on your table.

How does that translate into a children’s book? For me, easily. And thus the story of Romeo was born. The theme of the book is building confidence in a lamb by treating him humanely, letting him make mistakes along the way, watching him fall so he can get back up, and, ultimately, loving him just for him. It’s a tiny book, small enough to fit into a child’s palm. It’s a book for kids to carry around as a reminder they’ll always have a soft little lamb in their pocket. Maybe they can relate to that lamb. Maybe they know that lamb. Maybe that lamb is someone they want to become. It’s their story. They’ll know which version is theirs when they read it.

lamb mirror

My hope is that moms and dads will love Romeo, too, and see him in their own little lambs. We get one chance to bring them along. We can be there to guide them, to pick them up and hold them when they fall, and ultimately to love the precious individuals they are. We’re their touchpoint, their harbor, their source of comfort. They’re here to teach us how to guide them. “That’s how lambs learn.”

I’ve come to realize farming is about so much more than just backbreaking work and muck. I’ve had some excellent teachers, with any number of legs, who remind me each day what a gift it is.

lamb in hay

The book will be available on Bittersweet’s website as soon as it’s in print, and I’m also hoping to have it available online for e-readers and other devices. All proceeds will go toward maintaining the animals of Bittersweet Heritage Farm.

Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.

Photos by Dyan Redick

This post originally appeared on HOMEGROWN.org.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



4/24/2015

There is a certain amount of planning required any time you head out to check your hives. It is not a chore you can tick off your list just casually walking by and thinking "oh yes, I meant to reverse those brood boxes today". So you stop, pop off the cover, change the position of the brood boxes, slap the lid back on and head back to your La-Z-Boy. Although most of the tasks involved in keeping bees are not especially difficult, it does require some forethought.

 Bees on the Hive

I try to have a mental plan for everything I need but it is not uncommon to find I have forgotten something critical. My hives are a short walk from the house, but far enough that I don't want to run back and forth every time I need something. Most beekeepers have their hives away from the house, some are even miles away. A good plan in the form of a written checklist can be most helpful.

To help myself and all the other forgetful beekeepers out there, here's my new checklist for heading to the bee yard. These are not in order of priority.

1. Spare frames. While going through the hive I may find that frames are damaged or need to be replaced. When comb becomes very dark, it is time to swap it out for fresh foundation.

2. Hive tools. One to a person. These flat metal tools are indispensable for prying loose boxes, covers, and frames. Hive tools can be used to scrape off unwanted burr comb. I also use them to squish any small hive beetles I find.

3. Frame lifter. Most of the time I pull up the frames with my fingers for inspection. Sometimes if I can't quite get a grip on a frame or if it is heavy with bees, this tool really helps.

4. Feeder. Depending on the time of year, I may use a liquid feeder or a spacer to hold patties. My favorite is a top feeder because it hold mores, is easier to fill, and seems less disruptive to the bees. For further discussion about 3 types of feeders see my post on feeder styles.

5. Feed. What good is a feeder with nothing to put in it? Spring time finds me giving the girls a boost with a 1:1 sugar syrup.

6. Empty honey super. During the summer honey production months, throw in an extra honey super full of empty frames. If I find that a colony is ready for it's first (or second) honey super, I'll be ready.

7. Smoker and extra fuel. Although I do add syrup to my top feeders without using smoke, if I plan to go any deeper in the hive, some smoke helps keep the bees from setting off the alarms. Depending on how many hives are being inspected I may need to replenish the fuel in the smoker. Don't forget a lighter or matches in case the fire goes out.

8. Pest control supplies. Each beekeeper needs to develop a plan for treatment of at least Varroa Mites and small hive beetles. This may include some beetle traps or some powdered sugar. I prefer the natural approach whenever possible. An earlier post discusses options for treating mites.

9. Camera. Every time I open a hive, I snap a few pictures or take a short video to help me remember what is seen. Plus it's just fun to watch.

10. Inspection sheet. Even with photos or video, it is a good idea to have a standardized inspection plan for each hive. Some time ago, I posted an inspection sheet that I modified for our use.

Of course this is only a starting point and each beekeeper needs to develop their own checklist. I'm hanging mine on the shelf where all the bee supplies are kept. Having a plan in place will make your trip to the bee yard much more enjoyable.

Honeybees are one facet of life on Five Feline Farm. Buzz over to our website or facebook page to see what else is happening on this Central Illinois hobby farm.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



4/23/2015

 piglets

Piglets born on pasture are able to get out and enjoy the sun very early in life. Whether your piglets start eating with their mother from day one or if they wait a couple weeks, they have been outside watching her graze since a very early age. Not all breeds of pasture pigs mature at the same rate. We have experience with both the Idaho Pasture Pigs and the Kunekune pigs. Although both breeds are true grazing pigs, the piglets mature at much different rates. Our Kunekune’s are a much slower pig to mature and the piglets are content to play for hours in the sun, but have no desire to really eat much other than their mother’s milk for weeks after they are born.   The Idaho Pasture Pigs are much quicker to get out and start grazing and trying mom’s pig feed. Whether it takes days or weeks for them to begin, it is extremely important to allow them time to get the nutrients that they need to grow properly from their mother’s milk. It is also important to keep an eye on your sow and make sure she isn’t being depleted by the stress of nursing her piglets. If she has a litter over 8 piglets, she is going to more than likely require additional pig feed. 

When to Wean:   We base our decision of when to wean on both the piglets and the sow. I mentioned before that our Idaho Pasture Pigs and Kunekune pigs mature at different rates. That is important to recognize when trying to figure out when is the best time to wean. When the piglets are eating well on their own(both grass and pig feed), are drinking well on their own, and when they are independent and are outside playing, eating, and sun-bathing with each other or by themselves and not completely dependent on their mom, then we feel they are ready to be weaned. For our Idaho Pasture Piglets this is usually between 4 – 6 weeks of age. For our Kunekune piglets this is around 8 weeks of age. If we have a sow that is being severely depleted by a very large litter, we will usually wean the biggest, most independent piglets sooner than the rest, but still not before 4 weeks of age (unless we feel it is absolutely necessary for the health of the sow).

We like to remove a couple piglets at a time if possible to prevent mastitis in the sow. If you don’t have any piglets sold or are keeping them all to raise yourselves, then this may not be feasible. In that case, when you do wean the piglets, please keep an eye on your sow for a few days to make sure she is losing her milk and drying up without any complications.  When it is time for the sow to leave, we usually move her out of that pen and into a new one. We like to leave the piglets where they are comfortable and secure. We use electric fences for all of our pastures including our “maternity ward”, so the piglets have already learned to not touch the fence and rarely do we have any escape artists. 

C:\Users\Jodi\Pictures\abbner.jpg 

Remember, when you wean the piglets they will already be eating and drinking well on their own, so although they will miss their mom for a day or two, they’re still able to eat and drink. Therefore, they will be able to fill up their bellies and be content!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 



4/22/2015

hutch3

When we started our homesteading adventure, I knew that "just having a few farm animals" wasn't going to necessarily be an easy task. But I also didn't realize how much observation and cleanliness was involved. If you know me, then you know I suck at house cleaning. It's partially because I live with a dog and two boys, we're home all day every day, and life is extremely busy. But it's also partially because, I just suck at cleaning house and have about 10 million other "better" things I could think of doing.

With that said, my coop is normally pretty darn clean. The rabbit cages never smell. And while there might be trash in my yard from my husband being a landscaping and estate maintenance man (and brings everything home!!), my animals are healthy, clean and well taken care of. Just like my boys...

There's an art to good husbandry. You can't just have animals and assume "nature" takes care of that for you. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been any need for the original farmer....Adam. You know, that guy who ran around naked in the garden of Eden for awhile and was told to "tend" to all of the animals.

Husbandry isn't just 'cleanliness', however. It's a lot more than that.

Good husbandry means:

• Your animals are taken care of. You get the job done - feeding and watering come heck or high water.
• You do not take on more than you can handle. You realize that if something is too much for you (physically,emotionally or monetarily) that you are not a failure. However, you do need to find a way to "let it go". This might mean finding new homes for your animals, not buying anymore animals (this is so hard for those of us who love them!), or simply hiring a helper so that all the animals can be tended to properly. This is a really big issue for some of us.But please realize that you are doing more harm than good, and it is not practicing good husbandry at all.
• Your coops, hutches, barns and sheds are kept up, both with mucking and fixing what needs fixing.
• Your animals are typically in good health, and when they aren't, you notice it long before it gets "bad". Yes, things happen, we all know this. This is not a "judgement" listing but a general statement. In other words, you shouldn't constantly have sick or dying animals on your homestead. This isn't an animal issue, this is a YOU issue.
• You take careful consideration when it comes to breeding, labor/delivery, and the raising of the young animals.
• If you butcher your own meat on the homestead, then this means your tools are clean before, during, and after processing. You take pride in your skill and humanely process these animals that have served a great purpose on your farm.
• Your animals, no matter where they are or what is going on in your life, are always a priority. Their health, their safety and their offspring aren't something to take for granted. Fifty percent of the time, it is not the animals fault that it got hurt, it is lack of good husbandry skills.
• You're diligent in all of the above, and whatever other tasks arise. Because those of us who practice the art certainly know just how often that art has to be put to good use....

It completely hurts my heart when I see animals suffering at the hands of others because they simply either do not or refuse not to see what good husbandry really is.

Please understand that as a human-being, you have the opportunity to make a different in the lives of your livestock -- be it for the good or the bad. And ultimately, it boils down to you.

cleaningthecoop2

Cleaning the coop out on a hot summer day!

At all times, we reserve the right on our own homestead to not sell to individuals who we believe don't practice good husbandry skills. This is not an issue with your character or your personality, however, our livestock is well loved and tended to. And we wish to keep it that way long after they leave our property.

As a fellow homesteader, I want to encourage you to make sure you know where your animals are going. I also want to encourage you to take an extra step each week to make sure your own animals are receiving the best care possible. Do a heart search, understanding that you aren't a failure, but that ultimately there might be some things you could do "better" or maybe even things you need to move onto or off of your homestead. It helps to do a weekly or monthly walk about, as well as a soul search, to ensure that you aren't slacking on certain areas of the homestead or doing more in one area that could be switched up to another area.

Good husbandry starts in your heart: your passion and love for what you do and what you care for. You have been entrusted with precious animals that need you and depend on you more than you may know. Make sure you're making the right decisions, making cleanliness a priority, and practicing the art of husbandry at all times.

Amy Fewell is a work-at-home mom, homesteader, blogger and writer. Her and her family live on a mini-homestead in Virginia where they raise Icelandic Chickens (and other various breeds), standard Rex rabbits, ducks and more! For more information about their homestead, visit them online at The Fewell Homestead.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



4/21/2015

planting 

By carefully evaluating what's really a true necessity, we're able to increase our self sufficiency, for example by planting apple trees.

Homesteading is to me to live in self-reliance, simplicity and mindfulness. To be able to do that in a way that feels true to what we believe in, I've found that it demands a narrow definition of what I put in the word enough. In the spirit of self-sufficiency, we want are needs to be limited, so that we can keep meet them at home.

For us, homesteading is also about acknowledging that we as humans are a part of the natural world and it's a responsibility to use natural resources mindfully so to not waste them. To me the natural world is the real world and I also believe that most kinds of excess creates a barrier between me and it, whether it's in the form of participating in the modern, illusionary financial system or the mental distractions of having too much to maintain and manage.

We often choose to get by without things that would compromise these factors since it would distance us from how we like to live. By keeping a clear and uncluttered view on the difference between a true necessity and a constructed necessity we're able to increase our self reliance instead of wanting things that ultimately create dependence on sources beyond our control. By for example being satisfied with eating food we can produce, even if it sometimes means a limited range of variety, we know we're in control of our food supply. If we find that variety too slim, our solution would be to expand the range of crops, improve our storage capacity so more food last longer or increase our creativity for how to prepare the food, rather than resort to external sources.

In modern society many have constructed necessities around things like big cars, over-sized houses, gadgets and weekend getaways requiring long drives or flights. A cell-phone is one example of something many consider necessary today but while it might add some convenience for me, I do fine without and rather not have to make the money to pay the monthly bill. This might sound like a restriction, or deprivation, but is to us a path to increased freedom in our lives. If our basic needs are few (how much money we need, for example, or how many material belongings need maintenance and management) we can swiftly move on to other pursuits, such as leisure time activities or creative projects or helping others.

To know when enough is enough is the biggest challenge with homesteading in the 21st Century and is contrary to the contemporary ideal that more is merrier, big is better and growth is greater. The challenge lies not only in making many deliberate decisions, but also to hold out against the norm that one ought to take what one get get, necessary or not. For the past few years we've decided to close the Hostel in early September, long before most seasonal business in the area. Each year we are approached by people questioning this decision, stating that we could make so much money by staying open a few more weeks. By voluntary and intentionally choose not to have over to have and by keeping our definition of enough narrow, we can meet our financial need within a few months of running the Hostel and then focus on providing our food from the gardens, improving our homestead and enjoy the quieter season at home, together.

Photo by Dennis Carter


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