Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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If you’ve read the last post, Making Clean Raw Milk, Part 1: A Simple Guide for Small-Scale Dairies, you’ll know what clean milk is and how to find a healthy animal to start your herd. In this post I will describe how to milk your cow or goat and process that milk in a manner that keeps it clean.

Creating a Clean Space to Milk

There are many ways to lay out a milk parlor and each has pros and cons depending on the number of cows and style of milking (by hand or by machine). I milk two cows by hand in a 12-foot by 12-foot stall. Steve Judge, founder of Bob-White Systems, milks up to four cows in tie stalls with a machine and pipeline. However you lay out your milk parlor, make sure you have a method of keeping things clean. My cows stand on wood chips and are only in the stall for milking. I muck their stall daily. In barns with concrete floors, where cows tend to spend more time, there is often a manure trough behind the cows that sweeps manure outside onto a pile as often as you like. Whatever your method, removing manure and soiled bedding from the milk parlor is an important step to keeping the milking area clean. I also prefer a sand or dirt floor to allow moisture to drain away, but a concrete floor can be cleaned more easily if your cows are in there for many days. Airflow is also important to keep the buildup of dust and moisture to a minimum. Cows also like an open space and will more readily walk into your parlor if it doesn’t look like a dark dead-end.

Courtesy Savanah Loftus and Longest Acres Farm

 Courtesy Steven Judge Bob-White Systems Barn

Courtesy Farm of Milk and Honey 

It may be a bit of challenge and perhaps an issue of cost or spacing, but it’s best to keep all other animals out of the milking parlor. Chickens often carry campylobacter, a very common bacteria that causes gastrointestinal issues. Many illnesses associated with raw and pasteurized milk are from campylobacter and can be as mild as one case of diarrhea. But some can be life-threatening. It’s best to keep them out of the milking parlor.

Clean That Udder, Dip and Strip, Milk and Dip

After bringing my girls into their clean milk parlor and chaining them to a post, I inspect their udders. If they are dirty, I either brush them off or get a bucket of warm, soapy water and wash them properly. I then dry them with a clean towel. Check the teat-ends to make sure there isn’t a little dab of manure stuck in there. Once clean, pre-dip. An 80 percent reduction in total bacteria count can be obtained with an antibacterial pre-dip versus no pre-milking treatment. I use IO Dip but there are other non-iodine based dips too. Also get a Dip Cup to apply the dip. After dipping, wipe the teats dry with a clean rag. Only use the rag once per quarter per cow to avoid cross-contamination. You can use just one part of the rag for each quarter to save laundry.

After pre-dip, milk out the first 12 or so squirts into a strip cup from each quarter. The first few squirts of milk are the most heavily laden with bacteria and should be discarded. This makes a great treat for the well-behaved cat or dog watching you milk. If there is blood or significant chunks in the stripped milk, you’ll know something is wrong and you should set today’s milking aside. Might be time for another round of tests!

Courtesy Savanah Loftus and Longest Acres Farm

Once stripped, move in with your milk pail or connect your bucket milker and milk her all the way out. For hand milkers it’s important to massage each quarter and milk every last squirt. This will help avoid mastitis, gain a creamier product and give you a heads up if you find any hard or sensitive spots. Hand milkers also have the added challenge of protecting the pail of milk from dust and dirt; you can achieve this with a stainless screen. Additionally, if your cow steps in the pail, the milk will have to get fed to pigs or chickens. Machine milkers will find that, if their equipment is kept very clean, they will have very clean milk since it doesn’t come into contact with the open barn air or other potential contaminants. Furthermore, machine milking will only take 5-7 minutes, compared to the 30-45 minutes for hand milkers. After you finish milking, dip each teat once more and let that dry on the teat.

Courtesy Bob-White Systems, Bucket Milker

Milking is also a time to bond with your cow. The more comfortable she is with you, the more she trusts you, the more easily she will allow herself to be milked. If she kicks you away and tries to free herself, it might be best to simply let her go. Take a breath, calm yourself and try again from the start. If she has a scary experience in the milk parlor, she may not come back in. It’s also a good idea to give your cow a treat in the stall. I use high quality hay because I prefer 100 percent grass-fed milk, but it’s not uncommon to use grain or molasses. Giving them a treat in the parlor will help them realize milking time is a good time. Once they are tied up and calm, I sing to my cows, kiss their flanks and scratch their necks. Cows regularly lick each other and you can mimic that sensation by petting them. Don’t rush milking, it’s an opportunity to slow yourself down to their pace as well. If it’s not a joy, it may not be something for you.

After this, you should have a pail or bucket of warm, clean and delightfully creamy milk.

In my next post I’ll explain what to do next; filter, chill and clean up.

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.


The short period of time each year where homesteader's and summer-business owners like us get to freely bask in open-ended unscheduled time is as short as it is sweet and it reaches it's peak right now, in January. It's incredible, how much time can be spent getting seemingly nothing done, when at other times of the year one can spend so much time getting so much done yet never feeling like it is enough. January asks people like me, who actually like to stay busy, for creativity. Projects does not exactly present themselves but here's some of what I do on this first promising month of the year:

Connect with friends and family: The unscheduled time is a great chance, and a unique little window of time, to relish in the company of friends and family, both here on the island and away. Here at our homestead, tending the chickens is the only absolute necessity and it's easy for either me or Dennis to leave would we so desire. I'll go to Sweden, this year as all years, to visit my aging parents and friends I haven't seen in too long.

Order seeds: Since onion seeds need to be planted in February I order my seeds in early January before my trip so I'll for sure have them when it's time to plant. Ordering seeds is bittersweet – some years I've been so frazzled by the past gardening season I don't want to see another seed package in my life. This past year I was more relaxed about it all and found it was pretty pleasant to go through what I had left for seeds and pick out the varieties for this year, throwing some wild, untried cards in the mix. See Fedco for an excellent seed co-op.


Split firewood: Boy, is this a great time to split wood – not only do I stay warm doing it, but on a day with high of 8 degrees Fahrenheit, it's nice to think about an equally cold winter day in a distant future where my warming labor will reward me once again with a warming fire.

Eat pears: our pears make it to the January list of food in our cellar that's going downhill fast and preferably should be eaten. Baked pear is now a standard snack here at home, and dessert too, as is pears in salad, pears at tea break, pears to trade for coffee and pears in all ways mentioned above as a contribution to every potluck.

Make New Year Resolutions: January is a great time to summarize and evaluate the past year and stake out a direction for the coming one. Whether “resolutions” is the correct word for it or not, there are things related to the gardens I'd like to at least remember, like to not grow so many cabbages. Or leeks. To plant the cold frame in September so I can have winter greens early March and to set the vole traps ahead of time, before the little creepers chew up half my carrots. I would like to save some of my own seeds and with all these ambitions, still enjoy every day of it.

Happy New Homesteading Year everyone.

May it be a good one!

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The Year of The Goat

Every goat owner, lover, enthusiast of course already knows and had proudly announced to all family and friends that 2015 is the year of the Goat. It is actually also known as the year of the sheep, but of course as goat owners we completely disregard that fact and have no shame about it. Sorry sheep owners, even though I do sheepishly admit that I think sheep are cute, but I do love my goats. 



It will be the year of the Wooden Goat. The Goat is the eighth sign of the 12-year cycle of animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac which is related to the Chinese calendar. I thought it would be fun to compare the description of wood goat people to actual characteristics of goats. And here is what I found. No animals or humans have come to harm during my research by the way.

happy face

Goat People and Goats: A Biased Comparison of Character Traits

Goat people enjoy being in the middle of a group, consequently, other flock to these goats, possibly because they are so compassionate and helpful.

Goats do enjoy being in a group, eating in a group, pooping and sleeping in a group. Ever waited for a goat to poop so you could take a sample? You will finish reading the Lord of The Rings while you wait for one to poop and then all will go at once. Squat, pee, tail up, poo. Goats sleep in a pile and snore together. When we have a new intern, we always have to point out that this ominous sound from the back of the pen is not an emergency, just a Nubian Goat snoring. Goats are very compassionate unless they defend their teats from someone else’s kid or their grain from the goat on the next milking stand or their status in the herd. Not so compassionate either when they see a person coming with a syringe full of wormer or other icky pink liquid. Not so helpful either when the human attempts to single out one goat for treatment in which case the group decides to run off in a group. See group behavior. Our big bucks on the other hand, always adopt the little bucklings when they are first weaned and cuddle and protect them.

Goat People’s sincerity can be taken advantage of and Wood Goat People may get their feelings hurt by undeserving sympathy seekers.

Goats certainly can get their feelings hurt when a person attempts to trim their feet, drenches them with something unpleasant tasting or drags them away from the savory rosebush, in short does anything that is not in the goat’s immediate interest. Observed behavior consists of turning their head away and up in an angle especially when the contrite person attempts to kiss them to make up. Another favorite display of being hurt is peeing on the offending person’s shoes. Preferably when wearing sandals or white socks. A graceful goat hoof firmly planted on the soft spot of the offending person’s foot also works wonders to alleviate a goat’s hurt feelings. Ever tried to move a 200 pound goat which didn’t want to move while standing on one foot while seeing stars? Not possible. Only copulent amounts of goat treats and a lengthy brushing will restore the person back in the goat’s good graces.

Sometimes, Wood Goat people need to suppress their caring ways and take care of themselves.

Goats have no problems with this one. Goats are number one and they know it and their humans better know it too.

Likely Vocations for Goats

Their caring and artistic qualities mean that goats make excellent actors, designers, florists, hairdressers, musicians and teachers.

This is a good one and any goat owner will agree that these occupations are spot on for goats:

Awesome actors:

Nubians are definitely the divas and actors of the bunch – vocal, demanding and dramatic. More than once have our Saanens rolled their eyes, and jumped off the milking stand only to push petulant Nubians onto their stands so the milking (and grain) could begin. Nubians in heat will alert the whole neighborhood with their sorrowful stance at the fence facing the bucks and yelling at the top of their lungs: “Boooooooooooooyz”. 72 hours straight.

Fabulous Florists:

Any goat has an instinctive feel for rearranging any lovely flowering bush into a jungle of bare sticks in no time. They favor expensive and treasured plants such as roses, herbs, and almost intuitively know to trim the most prized possessions for their owners.

Happy Hairdressers:

Many a goat owner is sporting a slightly asymmetrical haircut designed by their goats. Most everyone’s hair has been decoratively trimmed on several occasions by goat kids sneaking up from behind and chewing enthusiastically on a golden lock. If lucky, one escapes with a wad of chewed up hair smelling like cud (which smells very much like chicken poop), not so lucky, the hair is just gone. On occasion a goat will show her disapproval (see diva) by pulling on a ponytail from behind, often with such a force to whack one’s head backwards.

Goats Show These Likes and Aversions

Color Preference: Cerise, mauve and pink.

Cerise, mauve and pink are all various shades of pink and roses are various shade of pink, so that’s a definite yes. Also the lighter the color, the more preference to be near that color is shown by the goat, regardless of age and sex. The reason of course is, that the lighter the color, the more eager the goats are to be climbing and slobbering all over you.

Gems and Stones: Jade, Moonstone and Sapphire.

Goats definitely show a preference for bling. The shinier the better and the easier to pull out of a person’s ears or from their neck, the better. Upon successful removal by the goat, any bling will promptly be trampled into the sandy ground, the more expensive the bling the deeper it will be hidden.

Leisure Activities: Reading, swimming, going to the theatre, eating and drinking.

Goats’ leisure activities can be grouped this way: eating, peeing, pooping, drinking, sleeping and chewing cud. They are the theater and they hate water.

Goats’ Dislikes: Being away from their family and friends. They dislike arguments or conflict.

Goats do not like to be away from their herd mates. The further away the more vocal a goat will be (see diva and disapproval). Goats should not be alone, they will get depressed or destructive. I have never met a goat however who will try to avoid an argument or conflict. Goats will happily argue and head-butt over the best spot at the feeder, the first to come into the milking parlor, the first to be brushed, to show their disapproval and of course to put their human in place.

goat fun

One last note. In the Chinese calendar, I am a pig. The pig belongs in the same Chinese zodiac aspect as the goat which makes our relationship special because together we strive for beauty and a philosophical and intellectual approach to life. I never had a choice, I was destined to be owned by goats.

Yours truly,
Miss Piggy Goat Mother
Serenity Farm

Happy Pig


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.


I recently saw a sticker posted on a stop sign with the words “eating meat.” I wanted to add, “factory farmed,” to it. That would at least make it more truthful to me. The past few years have been a journey on making the transition to eating farm to table, of attempting to comprehend the ins and outs of our food system. I have reached the conclusion that eating meat isn’t necessarily bad. It is the unethical practices and quantity consumed that should be drastically changed. Often as it goes, theory to application is not instantaneous, but a process. When I reached the point of declarative change, I needed a place to begin that wasn’t cold turkey.

Raising Your Own Meat: Where to Begin

My starting point was purchasing organic meat from the grocery store even though the cost wasn’t affordable. Sometimes less is more, and in this case, the sacrifice for less meat was worth the cost. Shortly after, I discovered a cheaper alternative with Zaycon Foods. Zaycon is a privately owned meat distributing company based out of Spokane, Washington, which is 4 hours from where I live. Their focus is to provide meat without added hormones, additives, or artificial ingredients directly to consumers, fresh from the farm or processor. Zaycon hosts events in different locations throughout the state, highlighting certain products, such as chicken, pork, beef, or fish in 40-lb cases. Customers buy in advance, and then meet a delivery truck at a specific time, date, and location. This seemed to be a sustainable model, and was a good solution for a while. The price was a bargain, the direct delivery and freshness ensured quality, but I started wondering where the meat was actually coming from—more specifically, which local farms were being used. Looking into it, I found that Zaycon uses the best of the larger farms, and takes precaution with ethical practices, but is unable to support smaller or organic farms due to growing demands. Warning—the rabbit hole gets deep on these issues. Be careful what you look for. Although Zaycon had become a better solution, it still didn’t seem to be the best.

A Better Solution

In June 2013, I had the incredible opportunity to watch Joel Salatin and David Schafer demonstrate how to process poultry at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Puyallup, Wash. Watching the sacrifice from life to death was a humbling experience. At that moment, I more clearly understood the cost of eating meat, the exchange of life to fuel mine. Internally I changed. Even though not all decisions after that point fully reflected those deep convictions, I could no longer be ignorant to the true cost.

The goal transitioned to hunting, fishing, or raising our own meat. Hunting didn’t pan out and fishing was only marginally successful. The last step was a journey in raising our own meat. In May we bought four bummer wethers.

Translation: we got four neutered male lambs (wethers) that needed to be bottle fed (bummers) three times a day for a month, a truly hands on project. All the stereotypical lamb traits are unfortunately true—precious, cuddly, innocent, playful. Attachment happened almost immediately. Fortunately the four little cotton balls transitioned to awkward teenagers with annoying qualities. They routinely jumped on me when feeding them, they ate my strawberry plants, annihilated my flower garden, nibbled on my antique wicker chairs, and did not adhere to the leave no trace ethic, especially on my porch. The endearing critters had shifted from pet to barnyard animal, so I wanted to think.

Challenges of Raising Your Own Livestock for Meat

The problem with a herd of four sheep is that each has a distinctive personality. You know them; they have been part of your life. When November arrived, we were not keen on scheduling butcher day. Little pasture remained in our field; ironically it became the humane act to do. Knives were sharpened and hearts hardened on that day. The chicken demonstration was a mere introduction to what we were about to experience, taking the life of something that you have poured love, life, time, and energy into. There was no going back, only moving forward. I stroked each one, thanking them for their lives and asking forgiveness for taking it. Stomach knotted and eyes overflowing with tears, I walked away as my husband prepared for the final act.

I can truly say that this experience has challenged my perspectives. Taking life is cruel, even when done compassionately. Meat has a price that I must be willing to pay. By connecting so intricately with our food, I am deeply moved to make better decisions as I move forward in this passage from farm to table.

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We should all have a little Pixie in our Day.

I would be remiss if I didn’t dedicate this blog to the memory of a goat herdswomen I had the privilege to know. We’ve lost Pixie Day, a woman who devoted the last 50 years of her life to goats. At the age of 88, while tending her herd, Pixie lost her footing coming back from the barn in early December and didn’t recover. Some might say this is a sad ending. It is. But it’s also an amazing example of devotion to animals.

Pixie had struggled the last few years with a number of health problems. After breaking a hip, she decided to start thinning out the herd. I got a call about a doe she had chosen to sell just as I was starting to build my foundation herd.

I drove to Sleighbell Farm to take a look at the prospective doe. Pixie greeted me and took me into the house to see the doe’s registration papers. She gave me some books on raising goats, part of her collection, and some back issues of Goat World, yellow with age. I read through them all as the months went on, in between milkings and chores. A number of them contained articles about Pixie and her life with goats, a life she had begun, coincidentally, here on Maine’s St. George peninsula, where I farm today.

We took a stroll to the pasture where 14 pure white majestic girls all came to attention when Pixie called them. The site of them, posed, acknowledging Pixie, watching her every move, took my breath away. We went to the barn, and Dollie was waiting. She was anxious to be with the other members of Pixie’s herd, but as it turned out, she came home with me that day. Pixie’s world of goats had come full circle.

Pixie had moved inland from Tenants Harbor to Sleighbell Farm in Washington, Maine, in 1978 and devoted her life to raising and breeding champion Saanen goats. She donated goats to Russia through the Heifer Project and traveled to Russia several times to help families there learn to milk the goats and make cheese. While in Russia, she befriended a little girl and helped her get adopted in the United States. Pixie was a true example of what farming is about. Connections. Connections between the animals. Connections fostered by a herdsman or woman, a shepherd or shepherdess with his or her charges. Connections to people and to fellow farmers.

The resurgence of small farms is testimony to our need for connections. Without them, we don’t survive. Homestead farms give us the opportunity to stay better connected with our food sources and the people who provide us with what we eat. We are nourished as much by interacting with a farmer at a market as we are by the food itself. Meeting the person who rose before dawn to milk an animal, talking with someone who describes the struggles of this year’s crop, choosing a cheese for its locale—all of these things feed more than our bodies.

My connection with Pixie Day was brief, but the legacy of her life as a herdswoman plays out every day in my barn and pastures. She and others like her have devoted their lives to the care of their animals and are my mentors and family.

The seed Pixie planted in the Saanen goat world continues to grow and live on through this wonderful breed of goat. Saanens are truly living marshmallows. Pure white, large framed, weighing in at more than 250 pounds, they are heavy milk producers, individually averaging 10 to 12 pounds a day. Gentle girls, they ask for nothing but the security of knowing they’ll be cared for.

I consider it an honor to have known Pixie Day and even more of an honor to be carrying on the heritage of raising goats on the St. George peninsula. Dollie and her girl, Shellie, my girl Frannie of Seabreeze Farm, and baby Buttermilk, born here at Bittersweet, are all of the Sleighbell legacy.

Every morning when Dollie comes out of the stall to enjoy her ration of grain, I kiss the top of her head twice: one from me and one from Pixie. I do the same with all of my girls, but with Dollie, it seems to have more meaning now. Thank you, Pixie Day, for being an example in caring for all creatures, great and small. I raise a tall glass of creamy, white, sweet, and wholesome goat milk to you.

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

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After years of looking for the most durable, yet simplest homemade rugs to wash, I have finally hit on a winner – shag throw rugs made of old T-shirts and towels. Besides being easy to make and care for, the rugs are fabricated from goods from the rag bag.

 shag rag rug

With animals inside and outside our homestead, a steady flow of boot traffic and abundance of rain, we go through a lot of rugs here. Rubber-backed store-bought rugs are OK on the back porch, but impossible to keep clean in the house.

Braided rag rugs, while lovely and comfortable to stand on, turned out to be too difficult to wash. To clean them, I’d wait for warm, breezy days and then scrub them in a tub outside. By the time I’d hoisted the wet, heavy rug onto the clothesline, it was as if I also took an outdoor bath. It also takes me at least two weeks to make a single rug.

Looking for a solution, I decided to try a simpler method of rug making. The result is an easy-to-make, inexpensive, attractive, cushy, sturdy and easy-to-clean rug. I used jersey T-shirts (100-percent cotton) for the shag, but any knit fabric that doesn’t unravel will work, such as from fleece blankets and sweatpants.

shag rug strips 

My backing material is a piece of terrycloth bath towel that matches some of the shag strips. But again, any durable, non-stretchy fabric will work, so long as it is not too thick to sew on your machine. For your first project, you may want to begin with a small size.

shag rug sewing 

How to Make a Shag Rag Rug

1. Cut a base of durable, non-stretchy fabric and turn under and sew the raw edges.

2. With a marker, draw lines 1/2 inch apart, either lengthwise or crosswise on the fabric base with the sewn hem facing up. (The hem will later be hidden by shag strips.)

3. Cut 1-inch by 4-inch strips (or shorter for less shagginess) of knit fabric. I used the bottom half of 15 T-shirts in various sizes. Discard pieces with seams, embroidery or printed designs. (I save the sleeves and shoulder pieces for household rags or other projects.) For a 20-inch by 25-inch rug, I cut 1,800 strips, the most time-consuming part of this project, but easy with a rotary cutter.

4. For a random pattern, put the strips into a large box to fluff and separate the pieces after cutting. Or fluff each color separately and keep in piles to form a rug with stripes or other design.

5. Use good thread and a fairly tight stitch. Anchor the beginning and end of each row by backstitching.

6. Place the base in position for machine sewing the first row of strips. Line up about 10 inches of strips on the first marker line. Working from your body toward the machine, layer the strips like shingles so you can sew without having to stop and guide the strips under the presser foot. Continue this method of layering and sewing each row until complete.

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Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

Building on the last post, being unburdened by consumer debt and a mortgage was a liberating feeling, albeit dampened by the realization that we were now living off of savings to include some retirement funds. Nearly two decades below the age at which we could tap our federal pensions or Social Security, it was time to consider what course to chart to ensure solvency while we labored to establish a sustainable food producing home.

Homestead Income Streams

The second theme that we tripped across in many authors' writings and speakers' notes was the need to establish alternative income streams as soon as possible after ending regular employment (if not before) and while in transition to greater self sustainability. In other words, until you can produce most — if not all — of your own food to eat and sell-able homestead products to generate a little cash for other incidental expenses, you will need something to help offset the cost of meals, gas, taxes, feed and seed, and miscellaneous tools and supplies to staunch the bleed-out of all your accumulated wealth.

This component is only limited by imagination and energy, but personal resources can open up a wider set of options. Cutting trees from one's property to process and sell as firewood was a common money maker that we read about; hiring oneself out as paid unskilled labor, from yard work to house cleaning, was another. Some people rent out personal assets (cars, boats, tools) or hire out the skills they acquired in their former life (accounting, tax return prep, security consulting). Selling excess personally produced food as the farm or homestead takes shape is another common tactic with eggs apparently being the most hassle free and easy to sell on a regular basis.

In our case, we had begun to develop some very small, ad hoc, "hobby" streams before we even decided to cut the cord to our government careers. Originally produced only for our own consumption, but too voluminous in the end for us to nosh or gift, organic cut comb honey from our suburban beehives commanded a premium at a local farmer's roadside stand. (We were asked by the same stand if we could part with some eggs from our three suburban backyard hens for sale, but we had to pass given that we were just supplying our own egg requirements and did not have room to expand.)

bee man

Unexpectedly, acquaintances began asking to buy our handcrafted tallow balm (made from organic, grass fed cow suet and organic essential oils), initially crafted to combat the eczema suffered by a few members of our family. On a lark, at a one-off neighborhood Fall fair, we sold excess garlic from our garden, homemade countertop sprouting kits, hand woven bookmarks, and crochet and knitted accessories. In all cases, a deep sense of satisfaction set in as people handed us coin for products that came from our personal efforts, and as we began to realize the joyful freedom of boss-less entrepreneurship. We were hooked.

tallow balm

When we made the big decision to redirect our lives, we immediately began to build a list of potential streams based on capabilities, assets, and interests. One year into our new life voyage, we continue to draw from that idea stash. Meanwhile, as we worked to cash out our lives in Virginia in preparation for the move West, we scoured the Internet for income opportunities. Before arriving in Hawaii, for example, I began locking into highly flexible work moving vehicles for a car rental agency. I also indulged my scribe's calling and began seeking paid opportunities as a freelance writer. Once we arrived on island, and as we waited for our new property to be cleared, we used the outdoor space of our rental house to start a nursery for food-producing plants to sell and daily scans of the classifieds landed us a newspaper route right in the neck of the woods where our future home (a yurt complex that we will discuss in future posts) is being built.


Now that we have occupied our property, though in a temporary campsite as we wait on builders, we have locked into a weekly farmers' market stall from which on one side we sell organically reared saplings and seedlings (from ginger and turmeric to cacao trees and passion fruit vines) and heirloom seeds (as the island's only authorized seller of Seed Savers Exchange product). On the other side, we peddle bookmarks handcrafted from natural Hawaiian components (raffia grass, kukui nuts, beads of lava rock, etc.) and needlework. Cut comb honey, tallow balm, and produce will follow once we settle into our finished dwelling and our planting efforts begin to pay more dividends.

farmer's market

In our experience, there is great merit in focusing on streams that are highly flexible and, in our case, eat up no more than twenty hours per week, to accommodate the time needed to build the property into a food producing lot and to homeschool the kids. So called "flex jobs," remote online gigs, and some regular part-time opportunities fit the bill for us, given our particular skill sets and experience. Also beneficial is a deliberate focus on jobs that we call "dual use." Work at an organic food store pays salary and comes with the benefit of employee discounts on groceries while work at a farmers' co-op earns you money and a percentage off of animal feed. Downtime between sales at the farmers' market provides us much needed personal "admin" time--crafting lesson planning, paying bills, writing blog posts. (To be continued...)

To follow a more detailed account of our family's ongoing transition, stop by our online journal at our blog, Sojourn Chronicle.

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.

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Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.