Another Reason To Get Started Homesteading!

The garden i full year ago.

It is spring 2014, quickly approaching summer. Across the nation drought and illness and loss of honey bees have caused major losses in our food supply. This means higher prices for the food you buy, from meat to dairy and eggs, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Add into this the decreasing value of the dollar and you can see many people are going to be struggling, especially those in the mid-range economic class that are not eligible for social welfare programs. In the last year my average grocery bill went from $150 a week for a family of 4 without a garden (total flop in 2013 meant we had to buy all our fruits and vegetables at the store) to $200-250 a week in the month of May, and that does not include what I spend on the livestock feed. With a garden at least half that could be saved, and add in the dairy goats, pigs, chicken, ducks and turkey for milk, meat and eggs and you can save even more. Well, in the long run, if you don’t over-populate your homestead, you can at least turn the money into your stock instead of putting it into questionable products at the store.

The same space today, one year later.

Take a look at this news article;

http://news.yahoo.com/u-faces-higher-food-price-inflation-2014-led-141513395–business.html?soc_src=mediacontentsharebuttons

“Beef and veal prices for the whole of 2014 are now forecast to increase by 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent, a sharp advance from last month’s forecast for a 3 to 4 percent rise. Pork prices are set to rise by 3 percent to 4 percent, up from a 2 to 3 percent advance expected a month ago.

The USDA said overall U.S. food price inflation for 2014, including food bought at grocery stores and food bought at restaurants, would rise by 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent in 2014.”

…and…

“Egg prices are also climbing – up 15 percent in April alone – and are expected to rise by 5 to 6 percent on the year, and higher milk prices are feeding through to other products in the dairy case, particularly cheese.”

This may not seem too bad, but they don’t even have projections yet for fruit and vegetable price increases! In the last year we have taken our property, with nothing edible and long established grass, and we have added fruit trees that are actually producing a handful of fruit this year, installed a huge garden cut from the grass that will provide all our fresh eating for this year. Next year it will provide enough to preserve for winter as well. It will  provide winter food in our mid-southern climate, something invaluable to our family. Last winter we kept costs low by eating only root crops and beans all winter, but we were all starved for greens. Now we can eat them for pennies all winter long with just a little planning. It has been work; a LOT of work! It is worth it though. As I see reports like the one linked above all I can do is be thankful we have the knowledge and health to take our food into our own hands. We are still dependent on others for some things, but as we get established we will be able to create a mini-ecosystem that mostly sustains itself on our property.

Garden and fowl, the perfect starting point.

I want to encourage each of you that read this to get started. Everyone should have a small garden, either in pots, raised beds, or in their lawn. Everyone should have a handful of hens for meat and eggs, a cheap, easy to keep animal that can sustain you when other things fail. The key is to start NOW, with SOMETHING, so you are not starting out when things are so bad you barely survive.

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Swarm Catching!

We had our first swarm from a hive started last year. I tried hard to prevent it, but thanks to neighbors we were able to catch it and start another hive, so mixed blessings. It means we may not have honey we can pull from the older hive this year, but with three hives next year has promise and if one doesn’t make it over winter we have enough to keep going. I think I am getting better at managing the hive and figuring out what needs to be done, but it is still very much a learning process. Here are some pictures our neighbor took of me while catching the swarm.

This is little ol’ me trying to get bees that decided the best place to swarm was 16-20 foot up a tree. My husband had a lot of grand ideas after I talked about climbing the tree. Twas his idea to get the truck and ladder, and when that still wasn’t enough he thought of hte pool net. Such a creative guy… and good ideas!
bee swarm 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I am trying my darnedest to get the swarm to drop into my net. It took some tries (first time we didn’t catch the queen so they all trooped out of the box) but I finally figured out that if I turned the net over after I got bees inside it would effectively “shut” the opening. Would be better with a flap I could quickly close, but I didn’t have that :-)
bee swarm 4bee swarm 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a hive ready since I thought we might swarm, so I grabbed it and emptied the top box so I could dump bees in. After the first try where all the bees left I blocked the openings, dumped bees in, and went back for remaining ones. I finally got the queen so that when I would bring a net-full of bees they would troop into the hive, but I couldn’t get all of them, the distance from the swarm spot to the box was too great. However, I got all but a handful of them, so it is a good start.

bees swarm 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the queen was gone the bees in the tree got very agitated and decided anyone with dark hair or clothes was fair game for dive-bombing, so the audience had to move away. I wonder if those bees might go back to the mother hive, but I doubt it. I feel bad for them! I am thrilled with another hive though :-)

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Going Shopping

I have been thinking about this since Friday when I had to get some groceries. I left my peaceful farm and went into town to the great big shopping meg-la-thon (Walmart in this case). I had a list and started walking the aisles, putting the needed items in my cart. I watched the people around me. You can see a lot of things about people when they shop. You see their carts, their bodies, the kids. It made me feel dizzy and a little ill. I looked at the shelves, so full of things that make people sick over time. I looked at my cart; I had some junk in it since my family wanted to have a campfire and the yummy stuff associated with it. That made me feel even more ill. And then I made it to the cashier. That was far worse. Handing over money for junk is not my favorite thing, even though a little once in a while is fine, but it felt so wrong! Everyone around me looked cold and sick under the florescent lights, the whole place felt like zombie-land! The bright packaging couldn’t make up for it, the artificial flavors.

Lettuce alt. Carrots, Radishes

Lettuce alt. Carrots, Radishes

Yesterday I made a salad. I had a mix of greens with red and green and purple all mixed together. On top was cooked turkey, a variety of colored sweet peppers cut in rings, some tomatoes with little green chili pepper dices, a few black olives. It was such a delight to all my senses, made me feel happy, alive, healthy. It was so filling, both to my body and my eyes! I wish I had taken a picture of that salad, in the warmth and love of my home with family all around. I wish I could show all those people in the store what it feels like to shop in your garden instead of that zombie environment. I wish I could bring them into my home for a month and show them what real food tastes like, how a day spent working in the sun restores the body, or even a few hours every evening. How much people miss!

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Good Stewardship

Stewardship. What does it mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something”. Lets see it in full;

1:  the office, duties, and obligations of a steward
2:  the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially :  the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

I see so much waste in this world, but what is really bad is that it is the people, the individuals that control it. When we teach our children that things come freely and we don’t teach them that only eating half a banana is wasteful we set the stage for them to not care for bigger things, like bikes, cars, or even people. At the schools children throw away half their food. Huge trash cans full of food that has had maybe one bite taken are thrown away every day. How many times do you see a bike laying on its side in a driveway, no child present? How many people value what they have so little that they don’t bother to clean what they have or make repairs or simply put something away so it doesn’t get damaged? Do you eat leftovers? Or do you throw them in the trash can because you don’t like the taste of re-heated food? Do you constantly acquire more of things, animals, etc. yet not give what you already have the very best?

I see everything we have as being a gift. A gift that I am charged with stewardship of. Sometimes I am not a good steward. My van needs cleaning right now, very badly. To keep it from rusting it needs a good coat of wax and the paint should be kept clear of debris. It doesn’t matter that it is old and half the stuff on it doesn’t work; it runs and I don’t want it to deteriorate further. Today is nice and I need to clean it so that I have it in good condition for years to come. We only have so much time, money and energy in a day, week, month, year, and lifetime. Valuing what we already have and not acquiring more unless it is truly needed and we can care for it properly means that we can keep what we have better. It makes us good stewards of the things we have, and teaches our children how to value time, money, and things if we model it and train them.

How do we become good stewards when we haven’t been taught? That is simple; we make our mindset different. We look at everything as a treasure, from a simple piece of food to money in the bank. We don’t take for granted that these things will be available at our whim. We look around us in our homes and see what we have and what we are neglecting. Then we set about keeping only that which we can maintain. We find a way to use what we have rather than throw it out, and instead of collecting so much we can’t store it we select for the best and what is most useful, and then we care for it.

How do we teach our children to be good stewards? We teach them about budgeting. We teach them to save and not to always want something new. We avoid giving them much for free so that they value each thing they have. That little plastic toy that one child leaves on the floor because he didn’t have to work for it means a great deal if the child had to cut the grass, do dishes for a month, or rake the yard to earn the money to buy it. The child that worked hard will put the toy safely on a shelf so it doesn’t get broken. He will be a good steward of the toy. And… if the toy is a poor purchase and breaks even with careful handling that same child will become wiser the next time he makes a purchase and save for something of better quality before spending his hard-earned money. When a child has to clean an animal pen, or work in the garden pulling weeds so that he has food to eat, he learns that each thing he eats is valuable. Even if food is just money in your home, having a child earn the money for special food like candy will give them a different perspective. Recently my 8 year old was at the table enjoying a big bowl of bean soup, a regular meal in our home as it is very nutritious and cost effective. He commented on how thankful he was for that bowl of beans and how good it was to have a hot meal that filled his belly. He thanked his father for working so hard so we could buy the beans, and he thanked me for taking the time to cook them amid all the other work I had to do that day on the farm. It made my heart glad that he is beginning to realize the value in everything we have, and to see him begin to treasure even a bowl-full of beans. I challenge you to look around you today and evaluate whether you are a good steward of what you have.

 

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Swamp Rats

I went out to milk this evening, though it felt a lot like a chore. It was dark, damp and cold. Even my light hardly penetrated the night. I get to the barn and start the chores. Even the goats did not want to come out in the wet. All of a sudden, over a door, I saw a flutter of something! It happened again; 5 little fingers looped over the stall door, fingers that quickly disappeared when I called out I saw them. A giggle and stealthy movement reached my ears, and into the barn lunged a shadow, hiding quickly between bales of hay. I continued my chores and the “shadow” ran out, touched a goat, and took off into the dark with a laugh. The boys were obviously inventing a game of “touch the goat without Mom seeing you” :-)  It made me smile.

As I went up to the house after chores I called to the boys to come inside for bed, and a light flashed in the swamp, went out, and some rustles. Another flash of light. Silence. I call again and say I am locking the door and my swamp rats had better be inside and I saw the lights come on and the boys made their way out of the swamp. They had enjoyed their adventure a great deal, and I enjoyed seeing it. It all made me think of a blog post I saw on Facebook today about how we raise our children in the United States that is actually not so good. It talked about how in other countries young children play more in school, use sharp tools at very young ages, are responsible for walking distances to school or running to market for food. And that, in these countries, children have fewer accidents in all and are more able to cope and succeed. So, while my heart flutters a bit at the thought of my kids in the swamp at night, and while I know some will tell me I should be holding a tighter reign, I also feel proud of how my boys not only enjoyed a game they made up  but that they made it out of that  swamp in the dark without any muck on them. Pretty cool, eh? And if you want to read the blog, here it is :-)

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It Is February!

Antique Snowdrops

It is finally February my friends! Do you know what that means?! It means spring is right around the corner! After February comes March, and in March…. well, in March everything takes off :-D I am so excited to be here and living a good life, to be welcoming another spring after a refreshing and cold winter. Yes, even in the south it got cold this year! We had a second January snow storm that dumped half a foot of snow that only finished melting today. January was a month of hauling buckets of warm water to the livestock and trying to keep my feet off cold floors designed for the warmer southern summer more than near zero temps. I am very thankful not to have gotten the Alaskan cold that many in the northern states were blessed with this winter (thanks, Alaska! *grin*).

Today is February 2nd. It got up to about 60-degrees F today, and rained most of the morning. That didn’t bother me too much, I took things slow and enjoyed a pot of coffee and a couple of cookies. Then I went out to see the yelling goats. The chickens and pigs were really enjoying the soft ground, and I love the way the back end of the pasture is all turned up and brown from the rooting of the pigs. It is nearly ready for the first round of seed, and then I can move the pigs to another spot to do a little more work. On my counter I have flats full of dirt and seed I started today. I planted some herbs that I desperately want to have growing well here, wormwood, hyssop, echinacea, and yarrow (which we have growing, but I had the seed and so I planted it), and in the fridge is comfrey chilling for 30 days.

In the garage are 12 ducklings, all growing quickly and ready to be moved to another brooder with more ground and less work for me. Another brooder is ready for the chicks that arrive this week, and plans are in the works to get the quack shack finished and ready for its charges. We trimmed some shrubs around the house and laid them out to help hold soil in the swamp and keep water from flooding the poultry area. And we pulled out the scrawny pink lady hawthorns from the bee area and re-set them in the swamp land. We want to put in something edible by the bees that will also help make honey. As soon as it gets dry enough I have to finish tilling the garden areas as well! I feel like I am chafing at the bit since there is so much to do, but the earth is not quite ready to let me. It is good, this readiness to work. It means I had a good rest this winter!

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Snow and Coffee

I am sitting inside with a cup of steaming coffee flavored with raw honey from my friends bees and some cream from our goats. Outside my window I see freshly fallen snow and light flakes coming down, just a little here and there. The birds seem excited… I watch them flit from branch to branch and chase each other around more than usual. It is beautiful, and something I miss most years here in the southern coastal range. The peaceful beauty of it just made me pause and enjoy, no pictures, just me. The only thing better would be to have a friend sitting with me.

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