Homesteading—A Personal Experience
If you look up the word in the dictionary, you'll find that homesteading is “any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.” What it doesn't say is that you need forty acres or a cow barn or a walk-in chicken coop for a hundred hens! It doesn't say you have to live completely off-grid either.
Homesteading is for Everyone
Homesteading is what you want it to be, what makes sense to you and it should be a path towards manifesting your dreams, enjoying your home, family, and the land where your home sits. It is living with nature. We homestead in nature and learn to live in nature and benefit from it. On the level, we choose, big or small. Finding our balance and happiness.
A farm is a business. So if you have cows and you produce milk and sell it and make a profit—that's a farm. If you have loads of hens and go to the market with hundreds of eggs and make a profit—that's a farm. If you have lots of fresh veggies and you sell them, you've got a farm. Wonderful. But it's not for everyone. However, homesteading is for everyone who wants to make more sense of their life and derive some pleasure from the land their house sits on.
My Homesteading History
I bought my little old house 20 years ago exactly and I've been working on it ever since. I have exactly one acre.
Originally I made a diagram of how I'd like to plant gardens and what kind of gardens they would be. I was inspired both by the Wild Jungle Gardens (250 acres on Avery Island, Louisiana) and the Sun Yat Tse Chinese Garden in Vancouver! Both gardens could not be more different. Both are big and employ several people to take care of them. Still, they were my inspiration but I knew I had to be modest and flexible.
My plan included a Palm Garden, a Camellia Garden, Rose bushes, (Wild Jungle inspiration), a botanical garden, some veggie beds, some fruit trees, but also some meditation and gathering areas (Chinese garden inspiration). Plus I needed a place for my rescued dogs to run and shelter, maybe for some other animals. That was another aspect of what made sense to me: to be able to rescue some animals and keep them safe and comfortable.
All that in one acre!
I did make a diagram, a plan, a wish-map. Then I forgot all about it and went to work. Sometimes the work involved driving out to pick up a load of recycled bricks, to pick up some unwanted plants, or to get some donated cuttings or botanical roots (turmeric, comfrey). Not everything costs money, sometimes you'd be surprised how much you can get donated or bartered for, especially the things you are going to invest in, such as fencing, fruit trees, loads of gravel for the animal areas and the driveway, timber for the raised veggie beds, then you have to budget and do a little more each year, or each season.
The path to achieving your goal is going to have some twists and turns for sure. That's what makes it fun too. A hint: a lot of work goes on in spring and fall! March and September seem to be months where everything needs to be done at once! I call them the in-between months. In between enjoying the dormant winter months and the luxurious hot summer months.
About a year ago I was cleaning up some old books, journals and papers and lo and behold, I found the diagram of my envisioned garden and I was amazed because it's all there! Done!! I've done it and it made me so happy...I have a (small) palm garden and it also has a eucalyptus tree amid the palms—the difference in the shades of greens is lovely.
The part of the land that is very shady became the camellia garden. There already was a very big one there so I added 8 more over the years! Now all winter I have a riot of white, pink and red flowers. Lovely. There were huge azaleas here and there bordering the land, so I added six more. Now the side garden is ringed with a riot of flowers come springtime. I dug a little water hole but one day yet to come it will be enlarged into a small pond. Still, I have a bench there, with an arbor for the Confederate Jasmine and another bench by the palm garden. Here and there I have placed lovely ceramic rain stools in pairs. They are a great way to sit and take a break whenever...A hint of China.
I planted some fruit trees pretty early on because they take years to mature and produce. I started with a Satsuma and it's been giving us hundreds if not thousands of fruits every winter. One year I made a marmalade and gave it to friends for the holidays. The other producing tree has been the big fruit persimmon. I give loads to friends every fall as well. Then there's persimmon bread and cookies. You can keep the frozen persimmon flesh for a long time.
I've lost some trees to sudden weather freezes, but the pomegranate is producing a little, the Persian pear is steadily growing, and the little Persian lime tree has given us 8 lovely limes on its first year!
About eight years ago I built my first raised bed with garden lumber: I decided I wanted it pretty big, sixteen feet by eight feet. It was a lot of work and I did have a helper for some of the dirt-filling. It was so successful, with tomato plants, sweet banana peppers, and Japanese eggplants that the very next year I added two more raised beds. One is a triangle, 8 ft on each side and the other is an oval also about 8 ft in length. For the triangle bed, I used some recycled two-by-fours and for the oval bed, I used a couple of hundreds of recycled bricks. The most work is filling up the beds with enough dirt, compost, manure, wood ash, and more dirt. But again it's all done over time. The three beds can produce an amazing amount of produce and I often think the one bed would have been enough but of course, the three look so lovely with their different shapes.
The Benefits of Homesteading
Homesteading is work but you can entice friends and family to come and help out in exchange for gifts of fruits or plants to start their gardens or a picnic.
I have a gardener who comes about once a month for half a day to cut the grass and help out with whatever. Usually, it involves mulching leaves and cutting back bushes such as the privet and wild vines which would take over the whole acre if we let it.
Homesteading involves spending time in your garden daily. You go out for a walk-about and you see this and that to attend to. You do a little or more.
Homesteading means your garden gives back to you: it gives you enjoyment, but it also gives you fruits for health and nutrition; herbs for cooking, tinctures, salves, skincare; it gives you vegetables for the seasons' cooking, and it gives you flowers for the soul. If you keep a couple of rescued rabbits, you'll have ready manure for your beds and if you keep a couple of hens you'll have plenty of eggs for your family. You can also add a beehive if you choose or adopt a goat or a mini-horse. Rescued animals bring great joy and love. Try them, you'll love them.
Nature is so plentiful and so health-giving.
Homesteading is open to everyone who has a quarter acre, half-acre, or more and a little house. Start simple, keep it simple, and ENJOY!!
You can read my Blog on Homesteading, Gardening, and Animal Husbandry at www.saintrochgardensanimalsanctuary.com
November 5, 2020
by: Andrew McGuire
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