The Many Paths to Self-Reliant Living: 2015 Homesteaders of the Year

Living off the grid, raising animals and growing their own food are some of the many ways our 2015 Homesteaders of the Year have achieved more self-reliant living. These standout modern homesteaders have found ways to save money — and have fun doing it!

| August/September 2015

  • Trumpey Homestead
    The Trumpey family hand-built their off-grid, 2,200-square-foot straw bale home near Grass Lake, Mich. Here, they strike a pose with their heritage-breed Standard Bronze turkeys.
    Photo by Oliver Uberti
  • Shaggy Highland Cattle
    The Trumpeys raise shaggy Highland cattle for meat. The bull and three cows are raised on pasture. While the family’s solar tracker follow the sun (background), the cattle (Layla in front, Cocoa Puff behind) go for the hay.
    Photo by Oliver Uberti
  • Grover and Jacob Sheep
    Grover watches out for the rest of the Jacob sheep at the Trumpey family's Sandy Acres Farm. The Jacob sheep flock totals about 50-head.
    Photo by Oliver Uberti
  • Cool Family
    The members of the Cool family pause for a photo while hauling firewood, watering plants and checking on the chickens.
    Photo by Jaime Cool
  • Cool Solar Panels
    The Cool family’s nine 240-watt solar panels, 2,500-watt inverter, charge controller and 12 deep-cycle batteries keep them off the grid and energy independent.
    Photo by Jaime Cool
  • Cool Family Beehives
    Robb Cool inspects one of his family’s many beehives. The Cool family raise bees for honey and beeswax, and Robb builds hives to sell.
    Photo by Jaime Cool
  • Ebys Farms
    Matt and Jennifer, with children Kathryn, Lauren and Henry, run Eby Farms near Cassopolis, Mich.
    Photo by Melanie Cox
  • Cow-Calf Herd
    The Eby family keeps a small cow-calf herd of Highland cattle that they raise for meet. The family also raises sheep and poultry.
    Photo by Jennifer Eby
  • Wood-Heated Scalder
    Matt Eby designed and built this wood-heated scalder that the family uses to process the chickens they raise.
    Photo by Jennifer Eby
  • The Prebles
    The Prebles pose in front of a fence door Tom made for Ilene. The heart is indicative of the lovely nature of their homestead and relationship.
    Photo by Tom Preble
  • Long View Ranch
    Long View Ranch, run by Tom and Ilene Preble, includes this hand-built, earth-bermed, mortgage-free home on 120 acres near Peyton, Colo.
    Photo by Tom Preble
  • Preble Gazebo
    This gazebo was made from reclaimed materials to take in a “long view” of the ranch.
    Photo by Tom Preble

  • Trumpey Homestead
  • Shaggy Highland Cattle
  • Grover and Jacob Sheep
  • Cool Family
  • Cool Solar Panels
  • Cool Family Beehives
  • Ebys Farms
  • Cow-Calf Herd
  • Wood-Heated Scalder
  • The Prebles
  • Long View Ranch
  • Preble Gazebo

We are thrilled to feature four inspiring families as our 2015 Homesteaders of the Year. Their homesteads range from 2-1/2 to 120 acres, but each family has adapted its activities to match its resources. Through self-reliant living — combining off-homestead jobs with homestead-based businesses, producing off-grid power, raising and growing food, and finding ways to save money — these families have achieved happiness and security on small budgets. Following are interviews and snapshots of each family. You’ll find longer interviews and more photos, plus stories from other star modern homesteaders, by reading Star Modern Homesteaders.

Self-Reliant Living: Heritage Homestead

Who: Joe and Shelly Trumpey, with daughters Autumn
and Evelyn.
Where:
Near Grass Lake, Mich., since 2009.
What:
Sandy Acres Farm is 40-plus acres stocked with heritage-breed livestock. The Trumpeys live off the grid in their hand-built straw bale home, and they produce at least half of their own food by gardening, canning, freezing, and raising animals for meat and eggs.
Homestead-based income:
The family sells wool, meat and eggs on-farm and to family and friends.
Off-homestead employment: Joe is an associate professor at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design and the School of Natural Resources, and Shelly is a third-grade teacher.
Find them online at Sandy Acres Farm.

You have a lot of heritage animals — tell us about your livestock.
We raise a flock of about 50 Jacob sheep, and we shear the sheep ourselves and butcher a dozen or so each year. Our Highland cattle herd includes a bull, plus three cows and their calves. We have one bull butchered every 18 months, and we eat about a quarter-beef each year.

We have about 25 laying hens of various breeds, of which Welsummers and Wyandottes are our favorites. We raise about 40 roosters to butcher each year, as well as a small number of Royal Palm and Standard Bronze turkeys and a few ducks. We keep Mulefoot hogs, a dozen or so American Chinchilla rabbits, and two beehives that provide about 3 gallons of honey annually.



Our cattle, pigs and some of the lambs are butchered locally. Joe does the rest of the butchering on-farm. We produce 100 percent of the meat and eggs we consume, and we sell or trade all excess animal products with friends and family. We feel great about our animals’ quality of life and consider our production of ethically grown, pastured meats one of our greatest successes.

What do you do with all that wool? Do you all own a complete rainbow set of sweater vests?
We all spin, and Shelly uses the yarn to knit sweaters, scarves, hats, socks and mittens for the family. She also sews and stuffs wool quilts, pillows and comforters. We also sell roving.






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