Handmade On The Homestead Is Forging A Symbiotic Relationship With The Land

Natalie Green from Virginia-based Handmade On The Homestead tells us how to maximize small growing spaces and get the most from your produce.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Handmade On The Homestead

“I think a lot of people think there is always a pivotal moment where someone decides that they want to homestead. But for me it was more of a natural progression,” says Natalie Green, who runs Handmade On The Homestead in Henrico, Virginia.

In Green’s case, the decision to begin homesteading involved being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and wanting to “pay attention to what was in my food.”

At first, Green experimented with growing “a few flowers and herbs” in a small backyard garden before she moved on to dabbling with “three illegal backyard chickens” living in a chicken coop sourced from Craigslist. After relocating to an abode with an acre of growing space, Green was able to expand her homesteading efforts.

She then added a farm stand and a line of hand-crafted soaps to the venture.

We spoke to Green about how to productively use smaller plots of land and dwelling with ducks. We also got into the joys of growing and preserving peppers.

Maximizing Your Space

“So many people assume that you need several acres to keep goats and pigs but there is so much that one acre can provide you with,” explains Green, talking about how she successfully maximizes her farming space.

“In 2021 I decided that I really wanted to produce as much food as possible on our homestead and set a goal not to purchase any meat,” she continues. “While we don’t consume meat with every meal, it was one of the more expensive items on our grocery list, especially when seeking out high quality meats. But we were able to make it through the entire year without purchasing any meat!

“We harvested and processed everything right here on our land and received beef, deer and fish from a few neighbors.”

Send in the Ducks

Ducks are a vital part of the fabric of Handmade On The Homestead. Green says that they’re “extremely adorable as babies,” adding “they are little balls of fluff and don’t fly as young as chickens do. So they are a lot easier to handle.”

However, Green adds that ducks are markedly more fragile than chickens when they’re young and harder to hatch at home. They also require “close monitoring of humidity during incubation to ensure a healthy and successful round of ducklings is hatched.”

On a daily basis, Green says that getting to watch her ducks wander around the property and splash in puddles is a joy.

“[They] are much more respectful of my plants than the chickens,” she adds.

Read more: Ducks and geese make great permaculture livestock!

Give It up for Saucy Peppers

When it comes to 2021’s most successful crops, Green plumps for her peppers. “I had sweet peppers, hot peppers and mystery peppers that I forgot to label in many different sizes and colors,” she recalls.

“The biggest benefit of all of the peppers was being able to make homemade hot sauces and salsa,” she adds. “I find that a lot of condiments have extra additives. Being able to use peppers to make those things is a great way to avoid unnecessary ingredients.”

Exploring Brassica Leaves

Looking over her garden, Green says that utilizing the leaves from brassicas is one of her favorite ways to stretch produce further.

“I think many people overlook them,” she says. “But they are just as tasty as the broccoli or cauliflower that you may be growing. I enjoy eating them on flatbreads with a few home-cured bacon crumbles.”

Read more: It’s time to bring back Brussels sprouts! Here’s how and why to add them to your garden.

Forging a Symbiotic Relationship

“Being able to steward the land and animals that provide for me is an amazing feeling,” says Green, reflecting on her homesteading journey to date. “Watching all of the little pieces of this symbiotic relationship that is created between everything on the homestead makes it hard not to feel like you’ve really accomplished something major when you sit down and take it all in.”

Follow Handmade On The Homestead on Instagram.

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