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Posts Tagged Garden

What is Homesteading?

The image that usually comes to mind is a self-sufficient farm, full of animals, jars of home-canned food on the shelf, and a loaf of homemade bread in the oven. While all of that can certainly fall under the umbrella of homesteading there are many other interpretations of the homesteading lifestyle as well.

The origin of homesteading comes from the homestead act of 1862 where land was given to families in an effort to encourage western migration. Those families had to stay and work the land for five years before it was given to them. It sounds like a dream but it was often very difficult for the families settling the west.

Backyard chickens

Homesteading today is a mindset before anything else. It is a can-do attitude. Homesteading starts as a little spark when you look at something you just purchased and realize you could produce it on your own or the realization that our modern, consumer-driven society is not a sustainable model. Next thing you know, you are shopping for seeds and weighing the cost of backyard chickens.

Right now our family is on 1 1/2 acres of rented land, in a small city. We are making our dream come true while we search for our forever home. But this is not where it all started. Our story began in a town in southern Arizona. We were learning about the health benefits of organic food but struggled with the cost. That’s when we got the bug to begin producing our own food.

Chickens for egg production

We started with chickens, the gateway animal, 25 of them filled our little suburban backyard. Next thing you know turkeys and quail were added to the menagerie. I would have put a cow back there too if I could have figured out how to do it!

We quickly realized that we had been bitten by the homesteading bug. That set us on a mission to grow as much of our food as we possibly could. We now have a big garden that feeds us through the summer and into the winter. We have learned to can, dehydrate and freeze any surplus. We are raising our own chicken and beef too.

Homesteading is not a list of boxes that need to be checked off until you become a homesteader. It is the way you look at and interact with the world around you. Our dream is the big land, where we can live off-grid and be as self-sufficient as possible. But we have learned that homesteading can happen anywhere.

Garden produce

Homesteading is a progression. It is something you can do in an urban apartment or on a sprawling farm. It usually starts small. Maybe you buy a couple of herb plants and realize the joy of growing your own food. Something that costs several dollars for a meal or two you can sustainably produce on your windowsill for pennies.

Not only is the cost difference convincing but the fact that it grows and continues to produce is inspiring. Soon you have a tomato plant in a pot on the patio and a couple of lettuces in another pot.

What about all of the food scraps you throw out? Couldn’t those be put to good use too? Now you are deciding between a compost pile, worm bin or a small flock of chickens. I am sure you are seeing the progression.

Farm fresh eggs

It can take you as far as you want to go. You might end up at an off grid farm out in the country where you raise animals for meat and have a market garden. With enough to feed your family, put up food for winter and take the rest to the farmer’s market.

Maybe you are more of an urban homesteader who wants to bring change to the community around you. You have solar power, gray water, and rain catchment systems and are producing more food than most people think possible by utilizing vertical growing and permaculture.

Homesteading is a return to basic skills. As you learn to be more of a producer and less of a consumer you realize the joy that can be found in the simple things. Learning to heat your house with wood, growing your own food, cooking from scratch, herbal remedies, caring for animals, the list goes on and on.

Canning apples

You develop a new way of seeing the world. Instead of being concerned about having the career, the house, the car that society thinks you need, you realize that none of that brings lasting joy. However, when you take a bite out of that sweet, crunchy carrot that is the fruit of your own labor, you experience a joy you can’t find at the grocery store.

It is a joy that only comes from laboring with your hands, being patient, nurturing, and producing something most people take for granted. Learning these skills is liberating as you realize you don’t have to rely on someone else for your most basic needs.

As exciting as it all sounds, it can be daunting. If you are looking to start your homestead journey, here is a guide to starting today in five easy steps.

Your Turn!

  • How did your homestead journey begin?
  • Are you a country, farm homesteader or an urban homesteader?

Subversive Garden

This is an amazing video on the state of food and where we need to go with it.

Starting Seeds

Many of you who have been around a while remember I am into gardening, things are ramping up, so will the garden posts.  So this year I am a bit later than I’d like, but I have been busy, so oh well.  Last night I set my seeds in the pots, got my setup running and here it is.  First off here is what you need.  Starting mix is preferable, so pots, and seeds.  Depending on how far you want to go you can get a heating mat, lights, thermostat control, etc.

Next I filled my pots with the potting soil (I should note that I pre-moistened the soil before I put them in the pots) and got them into them into my tray

Next I put in the seeds.  I put 3-4 seeds per pot because each seed isn’t guaranteed to come up, it will also let me choose the strongest plant and focus on that one.  I will later “thin” with a pair of fine scissors.   I then take soil and gently cover the seeds;  in this case 3 variety of heirloom tomatoes and a variety of cukes ideal for pickling.  The packets often tell you how deep to bury the seeds, but a rule of them is 3 times the length of the seed, so a tomato seed is very shallow, a cuke is slightly deeper.

Next up is to move the tray to my setup. Here I have my grow lights above, a plastic cover to keep the moisture in, below -it is hard to see – there is a heating pad and a piece of foam.  The cable sneeking in from the right is temperature probe that goes into the dirt to measure soil temp.  I have another thermometer to verify the temp and moisture.  Note: the temperature is too low as shown here, I just turned the whole thing on.

Here is the thermostat control, it will turn the heating pad on and off as needed, I set this to 80 F for proper germination to occur.  This unit is where the probe goes to.

Here is the heating mat

Global Buckets

So as the gardening season comes to a halt (I don’t do stuff over winter) I ramp up my efforts on learning and planning.  Many people take this time to plan for next year, flush out ideas, do research and start getting excited for the spring.  In my time online I have found a pretty neat idea, that isn’t new, but the guys that have put these together have flushed out the idea pretty well and I thought I’d share.

Basically this is two 5 gallon buckets, one inside the other, with a tray and a bottom reservoir.  I have seen this in practice at a local community garden: the Johnson & Wales University Community Garden.  When I first heard about this garden, it was described to me as a garden, on a cement slab….  I was pretty curious, how could they be gardening on a slab?  They use these buckets and it’s ingenious!  The best part is that if push comes to shove and they had to move, a few hours with a pickup and they could do it pretty easily.  See their garden below.


I really like this idea because it bring in the potential for using much more spaces, it is flexible and semi-mobile.  The kicker came when I saw a video on how you can use simple atmospheric pressure to auto water the entire group of buckets, weather 1 or 10,000, all without power or any special equipment!  The other thing they did that I hadn’t see was adding black plastic, this allowed them to reduce the water needed by 70% because it prevented evaporation.

How to make a Global Bucket

Automatic Watering System

Backyard Sufficiency

Found this great video about growing 100% of your own food and how difficult it is.  An interesting point that he talks about is how to achieve this, you cannot do it independently, you must work with a community to be successful.  I will warn you that at certain points he starts talking in a very “new age” type of vernacular, running from point to point, but I gleaned some interesting things regardless.

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