Modern Homesteading

Recently, I came across Hough Family Homestead on Instagram, then visited their newly launched blog, where I found this post: "What is Modern Homesteading?"

Even though I haven't thought of ourselves as a homestead, I've always loved the "Little House on the Prairie" series, ever since I read it the first time as a young girl. Therefore, I didn't think that today, with all the "modern" conveniences, we'd be called a "homestead". Well, after reading Hough Family Homestead's view of what "modern homesteading" is and answering some questions that were asked me regarding homesteading, it caused me to reconsider the idea.
While I've thought of a "homesteader" as one who built their own home (or at least part of it), often is off-grid & in a "wilderness" location, that's not necessarily the definition of a modern homesteader.

For us, we breed, hatch & grow our own chickens for eggs & meat, plus ducks & turkeys for meat. We grow a large garden, from which we eat fresh, freeze & can. Being limited to a short growing season due to long winters, we don't produce enough for all of our food year-round. One of my eventual goals is a green-house or cold frames or hoop row covers to extend our growing season. But, this post isn't about dreams or goals, even though that's often a characteristic of a "homesteader". I know for myself, I don't lack for ideas or dreams, but in reality, time is limited and only a few certain "new" things can be "added" to my list of responsibilities.

 For example, a year ago, I really wanted to use the neighbor's property during the summer to raise out pullets, cockerels & the turkeys. Yet, I wasn't sure how to go about "asking them". But, that's where God stepped in and placed it on their hearts to offer me use of their land! So, I then had to build more pens, which I gradually did over the next few month, sometimes building them all myself and other times with help from family or friends.

First coop

"Building things" is nothing new for me, as I started learning in 2008 when as a family we built my first chicken coop from recycled lumber and materials.

First coop "completed"
Now, I'm frequently using a screw driver (like, several times a week!) and know how to use a circular saw, saws-all, jig-saw, table saw. I also learned to use an impact wrench to drive in lag bolts when my brother & I built a "new" turkey coop out of recycled wood & materials this past fall. I've driven T-posts into the ground, installed hundreds of feet of fencing, with help from family and friends.

Truck Cap Coop built 2014-2015
Granted, we joke around and call what I build "third-world construction", since it's not like the coops of Fresh Eggs Daily or The Chicken Chick! It's also the reason for the "In Disguise" part of our "Paradise Farm". It's functional, but when using recycled materials, even after painting, I'd doubt any chicken magazine would feature my coops on their front page! Anyways, enough rambling.

I was recently asked, "How long have you been homesteading?" The short is answer is "I'm not sure when we "started". I began raising chickens in 2008 and started helping my mom in the family's garden in 1991. By the early 2000s, I pretty much as "in charge" of the garden to help feed our family. Yet, an exact "date" when I started "homesteading" is hard to pin-point, especially since I wasn't really aware of the "modern homesteading" movement until recently.

Moving coops
If anytime in particular stands out in my memory, it's when we'd moved from our home of 11 yrs to our current location in Nov 2014. It was a big move, so months before we moved, I had to measure the land suitable for the animals & garden, draw up "blueprints" of various designs to see how we could best use the land. Before, we had more property, so here I had to be more careful in designing where everything should be located.
This coop was later moved under the trees
Even when we began moving coops onto the property, plans changed slightly to accommodate the best use of the layout of the land. It was a "blank slate" - a long, narrow strip of land as, yet only around 1/2 an acre was usable for the chickens and garden. Fences had to be set up, coops moved & lastly, the animals themselves had to be moved. However, since we moved right before winter, I didn't have time to set everything up until the following spring 2015.
Yet, we still brought with us the perennial flowers from our previous home into the vegetable garden, to provide a habitat for the natural predator insects & pollen for the bees.
Dad helped plant the garden that cold day
In fact, I remember planting those sad-looking plants in the cold rain of November, and a few days later, we had snow which lasted most of the winter of 2014-15. In the spring, though, they faithfully came up, as if they'd always been planted here. Recently, I've focused more on the chickens, so the garden wasn't as "planned" and organized, and maintenance fell to Mom. With upcoming family changes, this year will need to be different, which can only be accomplished with God's grace and wisdom. I realize now I can't "do it all", so it's one day at a time, listening to the Holy Spirit as to what is the most important task that needs to be done.

 Another "thing" homesteaders usually do is can and preserve their food for "out-of-season use". As such, in 2015 I purchased a pressure canner & learned to use it, with the goal being to can our own chicken & broth. The goal being that we wouldn't have to store as much raw meat in the freezer, thus saving energy & space, also time later when we wanted a quick meal. We haven't quite reached that goal yet. My mom has been always the one to water bath can, mostly salsa, pickles, chili sauce, and I would help. It was also in 2015 that I canned for the first time by myself, doing green tomato salsa that Mom & I had made, using tomatoes from our garden that had to be picked due to blight.

As far as the chickens go, it first started out in August 2008 with 5 pullets as just a way to have fresh eggs, then I tried meat chickens in 2010. I raised my first egg layer chicks of various breeds in 2010, and learned the joys and frustrations of raising chicks. Mostly joys, because I got more chicks in 2011 & 2012, and had my first broody hen Daisy hatch chicks in 2012. In 2013, I bought my first incubator and learned how "dangerous" hatching eggs from your own flock can be! Yet, the extra roosters also provided food for us, and the rest has been all history. Chickens are said to be the "gateway" animal, and as such, I added ducks and meat rabbits in fall 2012. Then in 2015, I decided that raising meat rabbits wasn't sustainable enough for us, so opted to sell them and get heritage turkeys instead.

It's been an interesting journey thus far, and more adventures await us. It's not always easy "homesteading", even with modern conveniences. But, it is far easier than those "homesteaders" in the 1800s and 1900s, so it's always a time to be grateful and content for what we do have.