all my life i’ve been very into nature. as a kid, i’d spend my summers on horseback, often heading to a niche in the woods where i created a clubhouse and corral. i’d sit and read books such as my side of the mountain and gone away lake wishing i lived an alternate life. i dug wild onions and boiled wild onion soup in my girl scouts mess kit. i’d make up nature club songs and try to get my friends to join. they all thought i was weird.
well, 30 years later, here i am, still doing the same thing with my kids. only this time, i know a lot more about herbs and cooking and the food tastes much better!
when i was in my 20′s i moved to LA! of all places to get away from a bad relationship. while it wasn’t a very homestead friendly place, i was able to claim my own identity. i was no longer in my parents’ grasp and could become the adult i wanted to be. i dreamed of buying an old rv and traveling around the country, stopping in odd towns whenever i ran out of money to get a job. i dreamed of growing plants in this rv and having my own personal little garden.
well, dreams often get interrupted by real life and mine was no exception. a major earthquake and unplanned pregnancy brought me back to the midwest. a marriage to a credit card crazy man (he had been dirt poor all his life and credit cards were a way to make him feel rich) and another baby forced me to stay here as every time i’d get our debts paid off, he’d create more debt. i finally divorced him and thought about my dream to travel again. i didn’t see the travel happening any time soon but the love of plants surfaced and i began creating a homestead in my suburban back yard. the neighbors hated me. i hung all my laundry to dry outside, i mowed my lawn with a reel mower (even when pregnant which drove them all nuts). i dreamed of moving back to the country and having animals again.
i met a great guy and after 4 years of dating, i found myself pregnant for the 3rd time. since we had 4 children between the two of us already, we realized my tiny 3 bedroom home (about 900 square feet) wouldn’t contain the lot of us. we started a harrowing house search which resulted in a lucky find in our current home. 4 bedrooms, 2000 square foot farmhouse with a barn, 2 sheds and 2 chicken coops plus an orchard and plenty of space for gardens on 4 1/2 acres for a song. the catch was all the buildings are very run down and in the need of major repairs. undaunted, we purchased it. oh, and did i mention the subdivision that cropped up next to us literally overnight? yeah, well, we are a novelty to them i suppose.
now, almost 4 years later, we have a handful of dairy goats, dual purpose sheep, laying hens, broilers, turkeys, dogs and cats. we have about a 1/2 acre in veggie and herb gardens, possibly a bit more. we sell eggs at the local farmer’s market along with the herbal products that i make, herbal jellies, herb plants and anything else we can come up with (gourds and other odd produce).
i also have worked hard on pursuing my dream of being an herbalist. i have taken a course with rosemary gladstar, attended a conference in north carolina (and hope to attend it again in the future) plus have spent countless hours researching and studying on my own and with a friend/fellow herbalist. it is my passion. i grow probably 100 herbs on our property, including the herbs i am lucky enough to steward through wild crafting sustainably. i have taught herbal classes at a local college, store and out of my own home. i host a monthly study group to teach others about herbs and have taught classes to both adults and kids. i am constantly adding to my herbal gardens and push the envelope on what will grow here.
homesteading wise, i try to can and preserve our veggies and fruits. we have blackberries, chokecherries, wild grapes, sour cherries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, apricots and asian pears growing.
i milk our goats and make cheese, butter, yogurt and kefir from the milk. i also barter with it at the market with a farmer to get produce that i have problems growing (broccoli, lettuce). we butcher our goats for meat as well.
we just purchased some navajo-churro sheep and i am excited to work with them. i am a spinner on holiday, waiting for my youngest to get past the destructive stage so i can dust off my wheel. i picked up the skill very easily and find it very meditative and could spin for hours if my family would let me. nc are dual purpose so we can eat the babies (and tan the hides for cozy lambskins), use their wool and even milk them.
we also captured 2 swarms of bees this year and have been fortunate enough to get some honey from them. we hope to be able to sell excess next year however, we go through about 10 gallons a year so we will make sure our needs are met first. i cook a lot and preserve a lot with honey instead of sugar.
raw, raw, raw. i believe wholly in having everything as raw as possible. raw milk, raw honey, raw foods in season. i love nourishing traditions but i do not follow it 100%. there’s a balance in everything.
we are mostly a paper free house…no paper towels, napkins and tp somewhat (50/50 in that aspect). some are not sold on the cloth tp but i am. i cringe when i am out and have to use that scratchy paper stuff now.
we are hoping to switch to solar and wind power soon as finances allow. we put in a wood stove last year for our primary heat source. it is backed by kerosene heaters as needed. we also use lots of layers and covers. we do not have a/c. i grew up w/o it and enjoy not having it, even during the humid summers.
i have 4 children now. two are in public school due to circumstances beyond my control. the youngest are homeschooled. the 4 year old is a great help around the house. i hope the 2 year old follows in her footsteps. the older two (14 and 11) help out when they are here with the animals and household chores. all my children are very conscious of the environment and the possibility of a different world emerging very quickly. they are ok with us eating our own animals and enjoy it as much as we do. they beg me to cook barbequed goat.
when the older kids graduate and move on, we hope to get that rv and travel. only, it will probably we a converted diesel bus an will have an area in the back for a goat and some chickens. i am a gypsy at heart and want to create a self contained world on wheels. after we’ve had a chance to travel north and south america, we hope to build our dream house on a huge amount of land with lots of animals and gardens with herbs and vegetables and a greenhouse.
i have so much more to say but my 2 year old is demanding to nurse to sleep now so i will close for now.