Photo courtesy Stephanie Staton
By the time this issue hits newsstands, I hope to have our farmhouse renovations wrapped up and our family settled into our new abode. While living in a 25-foot camper (our temporary home while renovations take place) is no picnic, the rush to get into our new digs is more than just a severe bout of cabin fever. My family and I don't want to miss the window of opportunity to start the projects that led us to buy the property in the first place: a garden for fresh meals and home-based, food-preservation projects; our first foray into keeping livestock; open space for our son and two crazy dogs to run amok; and a more sustainable, economical lifestyle. These might sound like lofty goals, but I feel that we can easily meet them in the first year with a little extra forethought. (And, yes, being confined to a small space with chilly winds whipping around outside does afford one motivation for a little mental exercise in planning!)
In the six or so years I've worked for this magazine and its sister publications, the one tip that resounds across all levels of expertise and farm genres is to start small. Here's how I plan to do it:
While the ultimate goal is a large garden (or two) to support our seasonal eating and preserving needs, I'm restricting myself in the first year to a small kitchen garden as well as an assortment of potted plants—some of which came with us from our former home. To supplement our seasonal menus as well as fill out our pantry, I will continue to help out in my mother's garden and kitchen—a more than fair trade, in my opinion, for those gleaming jars of beans, pickles, salsa and jam.
My parents have already promised to “gift” us their favorite yard ornament: a horse named Becca. While the horse wasn't at the top of my livestock list (I wanted to stick with ones that serve as food, at least in the beginning), I'm happy to help re-home the “big dog,” as my father calls her. Once the horse is settled, my next venture will be chickens, but for now, I think the horse will be more than enough to keep my attention, especially if I'm ever to get her fit for riding again. Hmm, perhaps she'll have a use after all.
We've got plenty of it, but that doesn't mean it's up to snuff when it comes to keeping our two- and four-legged family members safe. Fencing and cleanup are priorities—after we move back the hand-built, wooden play set from Grandpa's house, of course.
I know, huge goal, right? Well, it all depends on how you go about it. We already have recycling services in place, so I've settled on two projects to boost our efforts this summer: composting and line-drying. (Learn more about fashionable line-drying devices in “Hung up on Appearances.”) Both of these projects can be as simple or complex as you want, but at least for this summer, simpler is better for us!
We all have our reasons for homesteading—from eco-minded ethics to increased food security to reconnections with land and nature. I'd like to know your homesteading goals and aspirations, as well as how you're going to implement them this season—be it your first, fourth or 40th—on the farm. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the forums.