Monday, February 9, 2015

Homesteading and Self Reliance

There's at least a thousand reasons why people think about and take the leap toward self reliance and or homesteading.  Some do it for enjoyment, others do it out of necessity.  For me, it is a little of both.

This small farm is rough.  It's been that way for a long time.  Plenty of reasons I won't go into right now but the result is the same.  No budget here.  There's not enough income for that.  Hand to mouth, survival mode.  The gardens don't get planted because it's fun (well it IS fun anyway, LOL) and the critters aren't here as pets.  Without either, there would be no food.  Every dime from the off farm paycheck goes to keeping the taxes and utilities paid.  Food is up to me to create out of nothing or we don't eat.

Every aspect of daily life around here is just about what it was like 150 years ago, just add electric and running water.  It has been this way since 2008 and I'm still alive.  Of course, it didn't get to where it is now overnight and it's been lots and lots of work!

Huge gardens big enough to feed 4 people plus more produce than I could ever can up or sell in a season.  The livestock eat the left overs from both the table and the market.  As I prosper, they do too!

Chickens are a nice addition to any homestead.  Fresh eggs and fresh meat.  During the summer months, free ranging chickens fend for themselves and their upkeep is minimal.  Fresh water every day and little to no additional feed beyond what they forage for themselves and garden leftovers.  In the winter months, those chickens can eat a ration easily grown and then stored.

Rabbits are another good addition.  It's harder to feed them without having to buy commercial feeds.  With a limited growing area, it's almost impossible to feed them.  Alfalfa is the best feed (IMO) with the best feed to meat ratio but alfalfa needs to be planted and tended like any hay field and acreage is required for that.  Just clipping yard grasses for feed isn't enough (not to mention it being ridiculously time consuming) and it won't be long before Thumper dies of starvation.  So, here, I try to breed for the table and for sale so I can cover the expense of the commercial feed without getting into my pocket.  Since funds are non existent here, without sales, there can't be any rabbits.

Alas, with keeping chickens and rabbits as a source of food, the dirty side effect of that is learning to butcher for yourself.  It is hardly feasible to pay someone to butcher for you.  So, you suck it up and learn how,  Now you have a new skill.  Learning to butcher opens up a whole new world for you and better educates you concerning cuts of meat, where those particular cuts come from, the real, actual quality of any given cut of meat.  It's a real eye opener when you go into a grocery to buy beef or pork and realize the cost of meat compared to the real quality of the cut.

Next on the homestead list for feeding yourself would be larger livestock.  While goats are easy to tend (relatively speaking), there are some needs you can't take care of without acreage and larger farm equipment.  During the summer months, goats forage for themselves and are most certainly self sufficient.  Winter, on the other hand, is a whole new ball game.  While a goat requires much less feed than a milk cow would, they still need to be fed.  Growing a grain crop and producing hay for their forage is easily done if you have the land for those crops.  Otherwise, you'll need to buy feed and hay from somewhere or someone, defeating the whole self reliance thing in one swat.  But then, with goats, you have a day like I had today. Even tho my 2 favorite goats are a little under the weather, a yearling nanny I was kind of worried about had her kids today and after a bit of freak out, she's nursing her twin kids and all is well.  Now, I've got 2 new additions to the herd and a nice supply of goats milk for drinking, cheese and soap.

Now to the next set of skills.  Old fashioned type stuff, all self reliance.  Cheese making and soap making!  An effort of love, no doubt, and the reward is highly satisfying!  There is no comparison when it comes to home made cheese and soap.  Both are time consuming but relatively simple with a little practice.  While you can make soap without fresh goats milk, cheese is a whole new world when you get a gallon or 2 of some fresh goat or cow milk.  The mozzarella is to die for!

So, as you can tell by now, my idea of homesteading and self reliance revolves around feeding myself.  Life is pretty darn tough when you don't make enough money to buy food.  I am living proof that it can be done and with roughly 5 acres give or take along with dedication and hard work, a single person can feed themselves and eat well.

Next chapters will be more in depth and all the subjects listed above, one at a time..........

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