Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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What Is Your Small Farm?

3/25/2011 4:33:43 PM

Tags: modern homesteading, country living, living off the land

first salad from the gardenPicture the little, sweet granny shuffling her feet over to her beloved tomato plants in a city home where she's lived for many long years. Tended to lovingly, she waits for a tomato to be perfectly ripe, juicy and fragrant. When ready, she happily plucks it, slices it, and hungrily devours it. This is a moment she's waited for since the day she bought her little seeds at the local hardware. While she tastes it, really savors it, memories are conjured of days gone by-- being a little girl, perhaps growing tomatoes on a farm with her folks, or growing them with her husband while raising their children. But in the here and now, this is all she can do.

The land is gone. All that she has now is her small porch among city dwellers with enormous water guzzling lawns, with not a fresh homegrown vegetable in sight. But these are hers! And she knows she doesn't need anything more than this.

Her homemade cheese, made with goat's milk from a nearby farm, awaits her in the fridge. It shares the shelf with some apple juice she pressed herself. The bread she baked this morning is cooling on the rack. And as she tastes the tangy freshness of her tomato, the heavenly scent of the perfectly ripe fruit drifts up into her nostrils. It's all she needs to confirm it. Yep, she farmed this tomato. And it's, well...perfect.

What is your small farm? Is it the vegetables you grow on your apartment balcony?  How about the cheese you produced in your suburban basement? Do you live in the city, and did you rip out your front lawn, ensuring a steady supply of homegrown veg for you and your family? Do you have a quarter-section and utilize your land to produce all of your families needs? Do you mill the very grain you produce on your land, supplying yourself with flour to bake bread?

People can get caught up on the word 'farm'. To some, farming means acres of grains, whirring tractors, and oodles of mooing cows. Anything less is, well, gardening. But in modern times, this is changing. A small farm has the same priority as a large farm: to produce and cultivate food. Buzzing bees that churn out honey, chickens for eggs and meat, goats that produce milk, fibers and meat, and vegetable crops can all be produced on a small allotment. Square footage is not an issue. Passion and motivation is!

For us, our little farm is our backyard homestead that we've created on our 25 x 150 foot town lot. An obscurely long rectangular that was virtually bare the day we purchased it. In one and a half years, she's been overhauled.

Main structures, such as a fence, greenhouse and cold frame, were added. The crusted, clay-like soil was tilled and amended with compost, straw and newspaper. Young grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, plum and apple trees now grace the yard. Hops for brewing beer have been planted. Barrels collect rainwater used for watering. Clotheslines are erected to ensure sweet smelling laundry, without the drain and cost of electricity. Native prairie grasses have been added. Sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, Swiss chard, tomatoes, peas, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumber and onions are grown here, processed, canned or frozen for the long prairie winter. All that's missing is our chickens and bees, both of which town by-laws prohibit. For now we must rely on wild bees for pollination. But imagine what else we could do with a little more time!

If you are growing vegetables, making a few homemade wares here and there...you are practicing good, old-fashioned homesteading techniques. If you are not doing these things...you can!  Make the most of what you've got and get planting!

Liesl and Myles are urban homesteaders from Alberta, Canada.  You can also find them at NEST.



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Post a comment below.

 

JillinIowa
4/25/2011 8:47:38 AM
Years ago when our oldest child was born, I read an article about raising healthy kids. It said that children tended to eat anything that they helped grow. I have found it to be true: broccoli, beans, arugula, etc. Now we have four kids, grapes, blueberries, asparagus, cane fruit, gooseberries, currants, sweet potatoes, apples, sour cherries, plums, in addition to the standard garden fare. We live in a city, but have a relatively large lot (3/4 acre). My husband calls me an organic urban micro-farmer!

Liesl and Myles Petersen
4/1/2011 7:17:43 AM
Thank you, all, for sharing your incredible stories! It reinforces that we are on the right track!

Liesl and Myles Petersen
4/1/2011 7:17:19 AM
Thank you, all, for sharing your incredible stories! It reinforces that we are on the right track!

Liesl and Myles Petersen
4/1/2011 7:16:19 AM
Thank you, all, for sharing your incredible stories! It reinforces that we are on the right track!

Kym Roberts-Hardesty
4/1/2011 12:03:15 AM
Originally, I was a junkie and needed to move out into the middle of nowhere in order to get clean. After the first year of going into and out of re-habs and fighting to reclaim my sanity we came up with a plan. At first, I got into cooking. Our house was filled with good smells for months. That only lasted for so long. I was learning about preparing real foods. I was learning the dangers of processed foods. I wanted to change not only my life but the lives of my family. The obvious answer to that was to grow our own food when possible. In order to do that we started a garden. It wasn't any half-shit garden either. We did it right. We started out with four raised beds, about 200 square feet, and moved on. The first couple of years my mum kind of took it over. To be honest, I wasn't capable of it anyway. I've done a lot of growing since then. We ventured out to pygmy goats and bantams to see if we could keep them alive, which we didd, lol. This year we are doing the composting, chickens, hoop house for round-year gardening as well as our seasonal garden. As soon as we can afford it, we'll be fencing in this acreage of ours and getting some large livestock for meat and milk. The children are thriving and so are we. I love this land of ours and for the first time in my adult life have put down roots. I'm a gypsy no longer. I highly recommended it!

Dale Haverty_2
3/31/2011 10:40:40 AM
Four years ago we didn't have a garden. Each year I have added to the garden space. We have 90 acres, pasture, creek, timber, etc. I think in the four plots,we probably have about an acre under tillage. I waste a lot of space because I love to run my small tiller so leave extra space to allow for that. We started canning vegetables last year and are still using them. We also canned roast beef when my wife found a good buy. There is no better eating than that. We have three hens that produce more eggs than the two of us can eat. In the sumer we keep our friends, the senior center and the food pantry supplied with fresh veggies. Second childhoods are fun.

Lorna_1
3/31/2011 4:34:48 AM
When I lived in a small town, my husband and I turned our backyard into a raised-bed garden paradise complete with clotheslines, vermicomposting and raspberry canes. My neighbor grew up in that house and loved that we were there taking care of his childhood home the way he grew up, with food in the ground and diapers on the clothesline. I was so saddened when we had to sell and move away for employment--the new owners immediately ripped out the clothesline and garden beds to lay down a lawn and concrete patio; they had dogs and wanted a dog run. Why not let the dogs explore a wild backyard the way my little boys used to?! I just don't understand some people's priorities. I can't even go by that house when we are home to visit. Now, we are living in a desert where it is not sustainable to garden (desalinated water!), but we are plotting and planning for our future homestead based on permaculture principles. I can't wait.

DKelley
3/31/2011 2:14:53 AM
Well, I guess I'm one of those oddities you have described. You see, last year, and it's happening again, I started turning over soil, a shovel at a time, in order to plant a garden, in the front yard. Now, I live on a mountain, and wasn't really sure how the soil was, so I purchased some fertalizer from the local nursery, 16-16-16. Sprinkled it in as I turned the dirt. Then I went back to the old ways, and did some companion planting in the heritage of the "three sisters" squash, beans, and corn. as the season progressed, I added sweet potatos, chili peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, cantalope, and onions. everything exploded as all the plants were working together in harmony. Fed the neighborhood very well, and was even able to trade vegies with other neighbors. This year I'll be companion planting again, and rotating where plants are to grow. Use heirloom seed and replenish nutrients with your plants. Oh garden was 12' x 30'.

Doug Lass
3/30/2011 2:17:14 PM
I am with a community garden that is in a church camp just outside my town. I use the square foot method while the others don't, but every one is happy with their own arrangement. Since it is over a mile away I have to drive ot it, but their is a an area on the north side that has flowers and sitting area and a recirculating pool and a few gazebos that is nice to sit in when we're done. There is a large pond about 50 or 60 yards away that a couple of Canadian Geese will raise a family. It's just a wonderful place to both garden and relax.

tonyb
3/30/2011 10:52:08 AM
Our farm is 43 acres, with about 1 acre set aside for our backyard. I now realize that an acre or two would be plenty -- enough for a large garden, some chickens, and a few rabbits. Maintaining the acreage when you work off the farm full-time is a big commitment. We ended up asking a neighbor to work most of the ground just to keep it from getting overgrown.

Gneiss
3/29/2011 5:17:29 AM
A couple of thousand miles away, this is what we called gardening. Even on the farm, the plot set aside for vegetables was called the garden. A regionalism, perhaps. Still, when I pick up my hoe, I think of myself as gardening rather than farming. The number of gardens has decline locally, a victim of instant gratification and a disconnect with our agrarian past. Whether this will continue with rising produce prices remains to be seen. Yet we've reached a time where families have forgotten how to garden, which makes publications like Mother Earth News invaluable. Yes, anyone can garden. All it takes is information and a little planning and effort.







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