Them That's Doing: The Self-Sufficient Homestead

One woman's account of her and her husband's first six months establishing a self-sufficient homestead.

| January/February 1973

  • forest cottage - Fotolia_29463803
    Preparing for winter is imperative if you hope to maintain a self-sufficient homestead.

  • forest cottage - Fotolia_29463803

The foregoing events occurred in the second half of 1971. 

August 1971

It's just about two years now since Mick and I first read Ed and Carolyn Robinson's "Have-More Plan" in MOTHER EARTH NEWS and thought, "That's nice, but we could never do it" . . . and put the idea aside. We still weren't thinking too seriously about being self-sufficient or self-employed when we stumbled onto "Profitable Herb Growing" in the summer of 1971, as it happened, just when we had our first garden full of as many herbs as I could find seeds for.

That was the turning point . . . and here we are on a piece of good old Mother Earth, settling down to work toward a self-sufficient homestead/herb farm. As it turns out, it'll take a few years to get into the herb business in a big way, so we're concentrating on crafts and cabinetmaking in the meantime . . . in addition to the homesteading chores, of course.

We're from New Jersey and located our rented place in upstate New York through MOTHER' EARTH NEWS' Contact. So far we're pleased with what we've found here. After only three months, we've already made friends with many local farmers and are learning fast . . . where to get the best hay for the least amount of money, how to get the highest milk production from our goats, what breed of chicken winters well up here, etc. The soil—heavy, acid clay—isn't the best for farming but with plenty of mulch, manure from our goats, chickens, and rabbits, plus some lime, it should be OK in a year or two.

We settled into our trailer here the first of June and it wasn't until the beginning of this month that we had electricity . . . not only are we located half a mile from the nearest power line, but the heavy flooding in this area put the utility company behind schedule. Since we depend heavily on electrical current for freezing meats and vegetables, we hope to build our own methane generator in years to come. There's just too much else to do right now, though. (Getting a reliable water supply hooked. up, for instance . . . so far Mick has been hauling our water from a nearby spring.)

Since our garden got off to a very poor start this summer—what with a frost in the middle of June and a three-week-long flood—we've spent a lot of time foraging. Among the wild foods we took advantage of were chicory, milkweed, chokecherries, elderberries and flowers, May apples, blackberries, and raspberries . . . with apples and grapes to come soon.

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