Them That's Doin': Homesteaders Earning a Living Off the Land

Roberta Hammer talks about earning a living off the land working a 24-acre farm, raising animals, and starting a garden nursery and landscaping business.

  • Tractor Farming
    When Keith's not working at the nursery, building on the garage, gardening, or out on the tractor—and when I'm not cooking, cleaning, baking, freezing, canning, mulching, mowing, mothering, milking, feeding, watering, visiting, or writing—we try to remember last January and how bored we were cooped up in the house. 

  • Tractor Farming

This year's gardens have been a little disappointing. We've had a strange season with no early rain (the seeds wouldn't germinate), then a lot of rain (the weeds grew 6 inches a day), then no rain again (the ground dried and cracked). But all our disappointment is not nature's fault. What we did, folks, was to bite off more than we could chew. We prepared too much garden, bought too many seeds, and spread ourselves too thin. If we had concentrated on less, we'd have had more return for our efforts. Keith's folks put up more food out of their tiny little garden in town than we can out of our half-acre mess. I guess you have to grow into being a gardener.

All is not failure, however! The weird weather must have been beneficial to potatoes, 'cause we have a LOT. Also we have good carrots, tomatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. And we have a healthy start on next year's strawberries and raspberries. But we're gonna stop saying that we're raising all our own vegetables until it just happens . , . until our soil has grown in fertility . . . until we have grown in knowledge and in stamina.

Right now we're planning a late garden of green beans, turnips, beets, lettuce, radishes and kohlrabi. They won't do very well unless there are good fall rains, but it seems worth the gamble.

The chickens brought us more disappointment this summer. Critters ate most of them. We just haven't learned the secrets of building an escape-proof chicken yard. But we refuse to be intimidated by the fox, weasel, raccoon or whatever and we've gone in with some neighbors to buy an incubator in order to hatch our own eggs. And we'll keep workin' on the chicken fences!

The rest of the poultry scene is looking up. The geese hatched and raised 9 goslings to maturity. The goose family has been so beautiful to watch—the parents guarding the young, signaling them to stay close together—all waddling in a group to the pond to swim. Everyone should have a goose family and absorb some goose-knowledge! We aren't farmer enough to EAT any of these geese we revere so highly but we can sell all we raise for $15 a pair at the city market.

We've bought ducklings to raise, too. They're brown with blue wing feathers and silly feathers sticking out on the backs of their heads. In trying to justify the purchase of the ducks (which we probably won't eat either) I will say that we expect to eat their eggs!

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