I have always been more than a little interested in self sufficiency. And I do mean always. When I was little I used to empty my closet of its considerable toy and clothing stash and put empty cardboard boxes in it so I could pretend I was homeless and living off the land. When I was older I used to pour over books like The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It. Then I got a dose of reality when I did in fact move to a farm and it was MUCH tougher than I ever bargained for. Yeah, a horse getting out of the barn in the middle of the night, in winter, when you are 8 months pregnant is not fun. It wasn’t long before I moved back to the city. But the longing for a self sufficient life never went away and I began to wonder if things could have been different if I weren’t so far away from town, if I weren’t pregnant and suffering from cancer at the same time, if my husband was actually home and not on the road 25 days a month as he used to be. I still read those self sufficiency books and memoires. Heck I read The Hunger Games (an awesome book BTW) this week and even it reminded me of that long held dream. Reading inspirational stories of small scale and urban homesteaders gives me incentive to one day try again.
A couple weeks ago I asked about self sufficiency skills on the Natural Family Living Facebook page and got lots of great answers from moms who are practicing a variety of these skills at home. Angela was one of those moms and she generously put up with my barrage of questions. All photos in this post are hers.
Tiffany: So tell us a bit about yourself… how many are in your family, where do you live, how much land do you have, etc.
Angela: My name is Angela, and I’m a 31-year old homemaker. I have an amazing husband, a beautiful daughter, who is 3.5 years old, and a baby due in June 2011. We moved from Arizona to Oregon five years ago and just two years ago we moved to our current home on 0.38 acres. Our property backs up to 9 acres of semi-secluded green space, so we have the feeling of having much more land than we actually do.
Tiffany: Did you fall into homesteading because you wanted to be self sufficient, was it finances that motivated you, how did you end up living this lifestyle?
Angela: Homesteading and self-sufficiency sort of found us, I suppose. We always had a desire to have our own garden, and that is how it all started. I began learning more about food, our food supply, health, household chemicals, etc., and the more I learned, the more self-sufficient I’ve wanted to become. My husband has always wanted to “live off the grid” but for slightly different reasons. He enjoys the independence and freedom it provides. Once we got the ball rolling, the snowball effect took hold, and now we want to do as much for ourselves as we can. What we can’t grow, we buy from local farmers. We find supporting our small, local farms and our community nearly as rewarding as being self-
sufficient. I have made so many wonderful friends and contacts that way, too.
As of late, finances have played a role in the growth of our homestead. We foresaw some tough times coming, so we decided to expand the garden and add chickens and ducks for eggs and meat. It has really come in handy, too. One month we only had $50 in our grocery budget, and we were still able to eat like kings.
Tiffany: What do you grow on your land? Do you preserve foods?
Angela: We grow organic vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms. We also have a mini orchard consisting of several varieties of apples, two varieties of Asian pear, Italian prune, almonds, olives, Meyer lemons, naval oranges, figs, persimmons, peaches, nectarines, three varieties of pears, and three varieties of cherries. All but two of our orchard trees are grafted on dwarf rootstock and pruning will help to keep them, and their fruit, at manageable heights. Additionally, we grow six varieties of grapes, goji berries, kiwis, elderberries, huckleberries, lignon berries, red currant, green currant, strawberries, 21 blueberry bushes, gooseberries, tayberries, several varieties of raspberries, boysenberries, and blackberries grow wild in the green space. To pollinate the orchard trees and early-blooming fruits, we keep mason bees.
Our orchard is still young (planted just two years ago), so we haven’t had much fruit yet, and my daughter devours all the ripe fruit. She’s so voracious, we feel lucky if we get even a half dozen blueberries each. I’m hopeful that next year we will have enough fruit to preserve…though, like the trees, my daughter (and her appetite) is growing, so we’ll see.
This year we had 28 tomato plants, and despite the cool, wet summer weather, we were able to put up several gallons of tomatoes for sauce and about a gallon of salsa (the rest was devoured the day it was made or given away to friends). The fruit from the Principe Borghese tomatoes was dehydrated, so we have about two gallons of sun-dried tomatoes. Extra veggies get fermented or frozen, though I do hope to do more canning next year. Last year we had so many potatoes we gave away bags of them AND still had enough to get us through till summer. We planted half as many this year (we’ll still have enough to get us through spring) and used the extra space for onions and garlic. The onions were a flop because we didn’t harvest and cure them correctly, but the garlic is delicious and we have enough to last us for another couple months. Since neither my husband nor I have much prior experience, we find that every year is a learning experience and there is always something we don’t grow or cure quite right.
Tiffany: Do you raise animals for food?
Angela: Currently we have 18 layer hens that have 1/8 acre to forage on. We feed them a corn- and soy-free locally-grown organic whole grain mix with fish meal that I blend together myself, and they get oyster shells on a free-feed basis. During this past summer, they were allowed to free range throughout the green space and the neighbors’ yards (they loved their two-legged visitors), but after one neighbor found a gift of nine eggs in his backyard, we decided to clip their wings. They also did quite a number on our garden beds and the seedlings, making it nearly impossible to grow a fall garden. This year we raised three ducks for meat…well, they were meant to be layers, but all of them turned out to be male, so we sent our feathered friends off to the processors. In the spring, we are going to try our hands at raising heritage breed turkeys for meat and (depending on how much time and money we have) we may raise a batch of red broiler meat chickens in a chicken tractor. We are also planning on building honeybee hives on the property either this spring or the next.
Tiffany: What other things do you do yourself? (aka bread, yogurt, etc.)
Angela: In an effort to avoid unnecessary chemicals, sugars and preservatives, I make raw milk yogurt, kefir and the occasional batch of butter, kombucha tea, ginger beer, wild-yeasted sourdough bread, fermented vegetables, toothpaste, laundry detergent, cleaning products (which are actually just baking soda and vinegar), body lotion (olive oil or coconut oil with the occasional essential oil added). I’d like to start taking up cheese making again…my previous attempts at mozzarella ended up as some tasty ricotta. In the past, we brewed and bottled our own beer. Currently, I’m looking into making my own bar soap and dishwasher soap, too.
Tiffany: Do you try to stay local with things you cannot provide yourself?
Angela: Absolutely. Every year we buy ¼ of a grass-fed, antibiotic-free cow for a local farmer. All our other pasture-raised meats come from Harmony J.A.C.K. farms in Scio, Oregon. I also buy raw milk from a friend in a neighboring town. During the fall and winter months, we order our fruits and veggies from Azure Standard. They either grow the food themselves in greenhouses on their farm in Dufur, Oregon or bring it in from Washington. Azure is also our supplier of organic whole grains for our hens.
Tiffany: What has been the most rewarding thing about this lifestyle?
Angela: The pride of knowing we can do it ourselves has been our greatest reward. We are not reliant on big companies anymore and we spend a fraction of what we used to at the store. It is also a wonderful feeling knowing that we are living more in line with nature instead of in opposition to it. Mother Nature is amazing and it feels wonderful to know that we are being good stewards of the earth.
Tiffany: What do you hope your children will learn along the way?
Angela: I hope they learn self-sufficiency, independence and interdependence, and I hope they will have a deep respect for and connection to this beautiful earth we live on. My children will grow up knowing that our sort of lifestyle is very doable and highly rewarding. I also feel that living this lifestyle is the greatest antidote to consumerism and the marketing tactics of large corporations. They will know what is truly important in life, and it’s not the latest technology gadget, the latest fashions or fancy cars. I also sincerely hope they learn how to respect their bodies by eating nutrient-dense, organically-grown and humanely-raised food. Their health is their greatest asset in life.
Many thanks Angela for sharing with us and being an inspiration for wanna-be homesteaders!
Our lovely long weekend here in Central Ohio was a chilly one. I broke out some heavier blankets and cuddled up with a couple good books, one of which was Made From Scratch – Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. This book sat on my wish list for a long time and then in usual fashion, I had to choose a wishlist selection to put me over the free shipping threshold at Amazon. I was in dire need of more Amazing Grass, so I picked up this book in the bargain. I sat down with my “Amazing” spinach, strawberry, banana smoothie and started reading about a handmade life.
This book is a practical guide about self sufficiency in a modern society. As the author stated stated, imagine American Gothic and replace the pitchfork with a computer mouse. LOVE that. But in all honesty I think the introduction slightly misrepresented the life of the author, Jenna Woginrich. I imagined she was living in an inner city apartment, striving to be more self sufficient in the heart of a downtown metropolis. But alas I read on to find she was actually renting a farm and she owns sled dogs she uses in winter for mushing. While I was 100% enchanted by her story and her life… it isn’t exactly modern living for the majority ya know?
But even though I don’t live in the wilds of a mountain region in Idaho I still found much of the information useful. I also put down the book with a burning desire to learn to play the fiddle. The book covers chickens, growing your own food, beekeeping, cooking the old fashioned way, using old and vintage stuff instead of new, making your own clothes, owning working dogs, and livestock.
The chapter on raising chickens was so inspirational. I have always wanted to own chickens and have my own source of eggs. It is on my someday list. My favorite chapters were on buying used and classic items. Products made 50 years ago or more were made to last and if they broke they were made to be repaired. Nowadays products are designed to have a short useful life. That is how corporations can count on your repeat business. They know the product you buy will only last a short amount of time and many make it difficult or impossible to repair so that buying new is the easiest option. I am all over buying used and buying vintage. I love my hand crank nut grinder and my vintage refrigerator dishes. Some of the dishes we eat our scrambled eggs on are over 100 years old. They don’t make stuff like they used to.
The author enjoyed drinking her home brewed coffee from green jadeite mugs (my grandmother had those!) and I love my Pyrex and Fire King. I just scored some of both at an auction this weekend. I got some beautiful lime green and pink gooseberry bowls and casserole dishes that are still vibrant in color. The little things make me happy. ;)
Other chapters on raising rabbits or keeping bees were interesting but not on my wish list. I think a part of modern self sufficiency is finding people in your community to provide the things you can’t provide yourself. Sewing clothing is on my wish list though. I have made stuff for the kids and for our home but I haven’t sewn anything for myself since I was 16. I need to start sewing more. I walked away from this book with a big to-do list. Each month I want to learn some new skill or way to become just a bit more self sufficient and less reliant on society to meet my needs. As the author mentioned, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride like nothing else can.
Book: Made From Scratch – Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life
Well, it is that time. Time for spring cleaning. This week I did a lot of thinking about what exactly I need to do and I will have my hands full for sure. This is that once a year time when my house gets scrubbed until it looks like brand new inside and out. I’m talking about being on my hands and knees with a toothbrush in hand. ;) I also use this time to get organized (or try), fill up Freecycle donation boxes, gather stuff to host a yard sale, and make my own yard sale wish list. This year I need to spring clean especially bad. This spring marks one year in my house and we were in such a rush to move in after more than a month in a hotel that we didn’t clean much upon moving in and the house had been empty for well over a year.
I have boxes of stuff in my basement that I never opened and went through. I have an unorganized laundry room (read: clothes all over floor), my bed linen closet is a horror, I have many walls that need a coat of zero VOC paint, a light on a vaulted ceiling has been burnt out since we moved in, my kitchen cupboards are so stuffed they won’t close, and dagnabbit I can’t find my darn sewing machine and I want to sew some stuff! This is the tip of the iceberg.
So…I am putting my feet to the flame here. I am starting a big green spring clean and I will chronicle the journey here and yes I will be posting BEFORE pictures so you can know my shame. :(
What I plan to accomplish:
1. A clean home using green and natural cleaning products.
2. An organized home with less clutter.
3. A more simplistic home with less stuff I don’t need.
4. A clear idea and list of stuff I DO need. Then I plan to shop at yard sales, estate sales, and thrift stores as much as I possibly can and not buy new.
5. More organized play/fun/crafting/art areas set up for myself and the kids so we won’t be constantly running out of supplies or making such a mess. And of course more fun is good too. :) We also need areas for homeschool projects.
Want to join me? Blog along with me and document your own “Big Green Spring Clean!”. Feel free to grab the banner at the top of this post if you want to. I have a smaller one too. Let’s see what we can accomplish together…
Many readers have been asking my opinion of the new Clorox Green Works cleaners. I hesitated to try them because what I am already using to clean my home is natural and working just fine. I also hesitated to enter the debate. It seems many environmentalists are up in arms about Clorox (synonymous with bleach and chemicals) coming out with a “green” product.
Trust me I get it. I always like to spend my dollars with the most reputable and ethical companies. As more huge corporations buy up our beloved products though this will become increasingly hard to do (remember Clorox just bought Burt’s Bees too)…but not impossible. Buying a green cleaner from a company that primarily produces chemical cleaners might be likened to buying a hybrid from GM, whose VP just went on record as saying that global warming is a crock of sh*t.
So what is my verdict? I like Clorox Green Works.
I have been using several Green Works products for the last few weeks and they do a great job cleaning. And while they seem to be only 99% natural (Clorox claims that they are listing all ingredients on the labels of the Green Works products, something they do not do with their conventional cleaning products) I think this is an awesome accomplishment for mainstream, highly affordable, and highly available cleaner. According to the San Francisco Chronicle the remaining non-natural 1% contains the preservative Kathon (derived from petrochemicals) and a couple dyes to tint the cleaners those lovely shades of green.
My opinion? Not bad. You see when I go to my local Kroger store I don’t see any Dr. Bronners, or Seventh Generation, or Method, etc. If they did have them I am guessing that most mainstream people would scoff at the price tag compared to a bottle of 409. But along comes Clorox Green Works…a MUCH safer cleaner in comparison and priced just as affordably as other cleaners. Now all the consumer has to do is decide between the regular cleaner they always get or this new cleaner from a company they recognize as being efficient, and it says “natural”. How many people might now be motivated to buy the safer product? How many mainstream people will be converted and end up ditching the majority of the chemicals they were using? The potential to convert is a powerful one and one big reason I support this product. I live in a VERY economically depressed area and I think moms here deserve safer products too and they won’t care a lick about greenwashing or supporting the most ethical companies. They will care about feeding their families and if they can now afford to buy safer, conventional cleaners….they are happy and I am happy for them. You won’t see me slapping that Green Works out of their hand to lecture them about not supporting Clorox and their other “toxic” products. A safer home is a safer home…anyway you slice it.
Green Works products worked extremely well for me and did not cause me to break out in hives…which I will certainly do if I pick up a bottle of Windex or 409. I also adore the scrumptious smell and that surprised me because I am very sensitive to fragrance. Green Works smells very lightly of limes…yum.
These products are made from renewable resources, they are biodegradeable, sustainable, and 99% petrochecmical free. They are also not tested on animals. It is not the “perfect” natural cleaner but hey that’s okay…baby steps. I hope that more moms will make the switch to a more natural cleaner thanks to Green Works.
As for me, I will probably stick with what I already use. Why fix what isn’t broken? But I will enjoy using up what I have left of my GW products.
[tags]Clorox, green works, natural, cleaners, greenwashing[/tags]
I just wanted to let you all know about two new or new-to-me resources for natural families that I like.
First off the Holistic Moms Network, of which I am a fan, has released a new cookbook. It is called “Growing Healthy Families”. The cookbook is comprised of recipes submitted by holistic and health conscious moms and compiled to make an awesome resource for other moms wanting to cook healthy meals for their family.
Growing Healthy Families showcases a variety of nutritional philosophies and flavors, from vegetarian, vegan, raw food, and gluten-free (for those with ethical or dietary sensitivities), to ethnic and meat-centered dishes. “We don’t all agree on what we should eat,” says Nancy Massotto, HMN’s Executive Director, “but we find common ground in the value of eating simply and eating unprocessed whole foods,” Massotto says.
Indeed, many of the recipes in Growing Healthy Families emphasize the use of wholesome ingredients like fresh fruits and vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat pastry flour for baking, and flax seeds which are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. But more importantly, this cookbook contains mom and kid-tested recipes which prove that healthy doesn’t mean bland or boring.
Hearty recipes such as Red Lentil Roast or Fennel-Crusted Salmon on White Beans to Gluten-Free Fudge Brownies and Vegan Banana Oatmeal Cookies are sure to please every palate and dietary need.
What makes Growing Healthy Families truly unique, however, is the last section called This & That. Readers will find recipes for homemade baby wipes, play dough, non-toxic household cleaners, body care products, and holistic remedies for everything from sore throat and chest congestion to insect bites and allergy relief. Growing Healthy Families is reasonably priced at $15 and can be ordered from the HMN website.
Second, I recently joined a new membership site called The Homemaker’s Mentor. It is really an awesome concept. The membership price is $5 a month and for that price you get 2 lessons a month in the lost art of homemaking as taught by a wife of thirty years and a mother to 11 children! If you have ever wished for a friend or older woman to hold your hand and teach you skills you have always wanted to learn, The Homemaker’s Mentor is for you.
Right now the down-loadable lesson is all about baking pies from scratch….regular pies and mini-pies or turnovers. It has pie crust recipes, filling recipes, full color picture instructions, and even video about making pie crusts in bulk and freezing them. The recipe for strawberry pie has my mouth watering. Last month there was a huge lesson on beans and all the ways you can prepare and cook them. Members also get to chat in the private homemaker’s forum. It is really one awesome resources for moms and for $5 a month it is a steal too. Check it out!
And lastly, I want to send a shout to all my readers…Thank you!!! You all rock and you are the reason I maintain this blog. Much love! – Tiffany
[tags]homemaker, holistic moms, cookbook, healthy eating[/tags]