The Toughest Part Of Homesteading

Homesteading wont always be sunshine and rainbows. In fact most of it is hard work some of it pretty unpleasant. Personally flooded, poop soupy stalls come to mind, or culling a beloved sick goat.

I ran across this quote while browsing Pinterest today. You really can’t tell someone what the toughest part of homesteading will be, because it will be different for everyone. Some might have no trouble at all when it comes time to send those escape artist pigs to the butcher, even if you gave them daily belly rubs, while others really struggle with that aspect.

What you might think is the toughest aspect of this lifestyle in the moment might change as life goes on too.

Lately though for me the toughest part is feeling the need to be in 10000 places at once doing 10000x at once while feeling the need to be and focus on just one thing.

For me that one thing this past weekend was the need to be wit12317768_1048328435217932_487321050_nh family 4hours away, without feeling the pull of 10000x responsibilities unfinished projects back home on the farm and other family obligations 4hrs in the opposite direction. I guess the same could be said for any demanding job.

I come from an area in Ontario which has the highest cancer rates. Too often that earth shaking diagnosis hits close to home and you have to watch neighbours and family friends fight the toughest battles. Where I come from its not unheard of that this disease touches the same family way more times than it should.  This year two members of my extended family were diagnosed, one being my Papa.

It’s hard when you cant just make that 4 hour trip to family on a whim. Usually homesteading means driving there and back for a short visit in one day.

It’s even tougher when it’s time to leave after such a short time. Your brain is telling your feet to hop in the truck but your heart is pulling you from your core back towards your grandparents house. Now having been through it, I can only grasp the edge of how my husband must have felt leaving his parents home every weekend when his dad was diagnosed.

It can be extremely tough when you just cant find that break to d12360270_10153946896121542_8268799536648980593_no what your core self is screaming at you that you need to do. While somehow not feeling guilty that the farm or other people also needed you. Or even time to process any of the emotions that come with any of the above.

More often than not most wont understand that as a homesteader getting away is tough. Yes we are super awesome at multi tasking and DYI but our superpowers end there, we have yet to find a way to be in two places at once. Animals need to be fed, and put away safe from predators at night and in the winter if you are like us someone needs to be there to keep the house heated. Some don’t understand that you need to take those opportunities as they fall to leave the farm and do what you core is telling you, you need to do. After-all those opportunities they are very rare and not everyone has all the time in the world. Sometimes people will surprise you because even those who have been through it and you expect to understand it somehow just don’t.

What makes it easier is having someone who can stay back at the farm so you don’t have to worry while you are away, you don’t have to rush to make sure chores are done before dark, and who make sure you have a warm hug waiting for you when you walk through the door after a long emotionally heavy day.

These are the people we as homesteaders need in our lives. The strong, dependable, sensitive and understanding, so find another homesteader at heart because usually they posses these qualities.  Homesteading and life in general is not always sunshine and rainbows and sometimes you just need to have been through it to understand it and we all need someone who understands.

 

 

Save Money Starting Tomatoes From Seed

We’ve started our garden!! Well, sort of.

There was still 2 feet of snow in our garden this morning (and yes I let out a big, sad sigh as I typed that). We did however start our seedlings about two weeks ago!

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Tomato plants almost 3 weeks along.

Seeing as our goal for our homestead is to become as self sustainable as possible and keep costs low, it only makes sense to start our garden from seed! Hopefully this fall I will be able to save our own seed and keep our food production costs even lower. This is why I am super excited about growing our plants from seed this year, but I am also fairly nervous and anxious, as I have not had any success in starting my plants from seed indoors in the past. Something always goes wrong; the dogs knock it all over or last year I was pregnant and on orders from doctors to take it easy, so they didn’t get the care they needed before going in the garden and all died. This year I am putting a lot of effort into my seedlings. I am determined that they will survive this year! I read, and read, and read some more all winter to prep for this. All is going great, so far, they are steadily growing nice and strong.

For our seed we chose quality, organic, GMO free and heirloom seeds from OSC. So far the germination rate has been fabulous; 90% of what we started has germinated. We decided to grow  Roma tomatoes this year (look for an upcoming blog post on why we chose Romas) and are aiming for 245 plants for our market garden. We have 90 tomato started so far as well as 60 Broccoli and 20 Cauliflower.

Here are the steps we have taken so far.

1.First we started out with peat pellets; the fastest, cleanest and easiest way we discovered to start the seeds.

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Plastic egg cartons work great.

We chose to start our seeds in peat pellets for a number of reasons. First of all, we did not have to mess around with loose soil at the kitchen table when it was too cold to be filling pots outside. Secondly, when its time to pot up into bigger containers there was less of a chance of damaging tender, young roots trying to remove them from small pots. Lastly they are designed so the roots grow through the sides, so unlike using the type of pots that are designed to be planted “pot and all” we didn’t have to worry about the pots not degrading enough for the roots to spread.

Here are our seedlings under their warm growing light.

They are a pretty simple way to start your seeds; just put the peat pellets in a water proof container that can be covered with a clear bag or in a seed starting tray with cover, fill it with water, wait for the pellets to absorb the water and expand, then place your seed in the pellet (you might have to create a hole in the mesh at the top). Because I like to watch as the seeds germinate, I chose not to cover my seed with soil but pushed it down a little bit and they almost all germinated.

You want to cover your newly seeded plants with a clear bag or cover that came with your seed starting tray, and place them under a warm light or on a heated pad to create a warm greenhouse. There should be room between the peat pellet and the cover for your seeds to sprout. If they remain covered and undisturbed you should not have to water them until after they have germinated. Keeping them covered will help create the perfect environment for those seeds to germinate quickly. Our tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli only took a few days to germinate!

2. We removed the covers from our seed trays after our seeds had germinated and had developed their seed leaves (the first set of two leaves to develop). I let them grow stronger under the warm growing light for a couple more days. Ideally, you would leave them here, but because we are limited on space and have hundreds of seeds to start, we move onto the next step a little early.

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3. Once our seedlings sprouted “true leaves” we potted them up into bigger containers.11117868_10153498867676542_828700486_n We used plastic cups with holes for drainage punched in the bottom.

Before you pot up your plants make sure they are well watered; again place water in your tray and the peat will absorb what it can. Make sure you have the proper soil handy. You want to make sure the soil you have chosen has the nutrients your plants need, your garden center will have a few options for you.

Fill the cups part way with moist soil, so when you place the seedling in the cup the leaves are even with or just above the rim. Now carefully fill in around your plant until just below the seed leaves. Yes, it is OK to cover the long stem, but DO NOT over-water, you do not want the necks to rot.

If you are lucky like I am, you might have someone more than willing to get their hands dirty to help.

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4) We then put our tomato plants in our kitchen window under a light and turn them once a day so they grow nice and straight.  Make sure to water them now and then but don’t over water.

There is no way my dogs can get up there to knock them out of this window!

We have our broccoli and cauliflower seeds sitting on shelving in-front of another window but it’s still cold here, so I placed a black garbage bag on the shelf and the seedlings on-top to attract more heat to the plants.

DSCF9270 5) Our plan is to fertilize our seedlings every two weeks with an organic tomato fertilizer.

I wont attempt to do this until a week after potting up and only at 1/4 of the strength indicated on the instructions for the liquid fertilizer. I do not want to burn the tender roots.

I will work the dosage up as the root system grows stronger.

So there you have it! Save yourself some money and start your own seeds!

Stay tuned for when we transplant our seedlings to the garden.

Why Homesteading Is Right For Us

I’ve been trying to figure out what my first entry here should be, and I have been thinking hard on this one for a while. In the meantime the main questions and comments we get from friends and family (ok I will just say it mostly my mom) is “wouldn’t it be easier”, “wouldn’t you like to go away?”, and when a problem comes up that may be stressing us out at the time “why not just move back to town” and “are you happy?…are you sure?”.  It is after-all a mothers job to worry so being a mom myself these are completely legitimate questions especially when your mom is not an animal lover and gags when she walks by your chicken coops after a good couple rainy days. Although I most definitely got my green thumb and the itch to cook from scratch, garden and can relish and pickles from her! “Wouldn’t it be easier?” First of all, I think as a society we have made our lives TOO easy and at the cost of our health and the environment. Look at the K-cup invention for example how unnecessary was that, yes it might make your morning routine a couple minutes faster, but now the creator himself is regretting his invention because of the cost to the environment. We have actually gone back to using a percolator where the only waste goes right into our compopesticidesst and no paper involved. Another example is our food-system (no coffee is not food), and this is a big one for us and should be for anyone who needs to eat to live. TV dinners, fast food, packaged snacks processed and processed some more, fruit and veggies imported from Mexico when we can grow them here. Not questioning how they were grown, with what pesticides or how much fuel was used to get it to your plate.

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Family gathering in the garden.

Yup this lifestyle isn’t for everyone and it would be easier and on rare days I think it would be so much easier to go back and un-educate myself and be perfectly OK eating grocery store chicken instead of cleaning coops, butchering and plucking 50 every year. It would be easier letting corporations like Monsanto who care more about money in their pockets than your health dictate what food is available. If you can even call what they create “food”. But dealing with cancer and diabetes and other health problems from taking something so simple and easy as food and developing it in a lab and processing it to death is not our idea of EASY.  You shouldn’t have to wear masks in a garden!

Bryson grinding meat from our turkeys with dad.

We have become so completely disconnected when it comes down to how our food is grown, and where it comes from. For example; I actually worked with a young lady of about 18 who when I was talking about making goat cheese asked “what part of the goat do you need for that?” and another adult who responded to my add for a buck we were selling and asked if he was “milking”. To be clear here the answer to question #1 is ummm milk and the answer to #2 male goats do not produce milk! Oh boy, not only did this leave me completely dumbfounded I thought someone had to have been playing tricks on me. NOPE. Have we really become that disconnected with how the world actually works at such a basic fundamental level as food and what is in it? This is NOT what I want for my kids. I find when teaching kids an EASIER more effective way is to show them and actual hands on experience. Plus kids are more likely to eat well if they have a hand in growing or cooking up their own creations. If everyone got a little dirt under their fingers with their kids in tow and planted a garden, even just a small one our relationships, health and the environment would benefit greatly.

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Got one!

Bryson in the peas

Eating peas right from the pod!

My sons love being in the garden with me. Come to my house and you will find my youngest in the stroller napping and my oldest sitting in the peas eating them right off the vine, pushing his dump-truck with loads of weeds I have pulled, next to the garden in my riding ring aka his “giant sandbox”, or chasing a duck or chicken around the yard. For me trying to be self sustainable is an easy choice to make for my family. Yes it involves hard work and a bit of sacrifice but our health in the last 3 years has improved greatly and all that farm work and fencing keeps me in shape. For me it would not be easier to have 2 vehicles to maintain, to work random shifts for nearly nothing and always be rushing around. I am more valuable to my family if I can be here in the evenings to tuck my kids in to bed, to play in the garden and to make them good unprocessed foods and teach them what real food is and how to cook while dancing in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong if I could find a job in my field (environmental management) that paid enough to buy organic and local I would probably take it and not be in such a rush to be completely self sufficient but they are few and far between and still probably not as rewarding. So, for now making my family self sufficient is my number one goal. When I graduated university I thought my purpose was going to be helping the environment through a job in my field. Doing things this way, our way has given me purpose and a huge amount of pride and feeling of accomplishment when I look at our garden in full production, cook a farm meal or boast about my 8mth old being 100% home grown.

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Real food.

Without this old beautiful lakefront farm I would be lost. Im not out saving the environment like I planned and it might not be the easiest way to live, but for us it is the better way to live. I like to think I’m part of a group of people who are educating others around us about what is so wrong with our food system today and how it impacts us and our environment in a negative way. If I inspire someone to shop at a farmers market, eat unprocessed foods, grow a garden or keep chickens I guess my degree is still being put to work through lessening negative impacts on the environment and encouraging good real food production. And yes to answer one of the other questions, despite the hard work and some frustrating days YES all that does make me happy! It is much easier for me not to worry about where my food comes from, what is in it and how I’m going to pay for it when minimum wage and daycare leave me with little in my pocket. Our goals here keep evolving to suit our family’s needs. This year our goal is to increase our self sufficiency through growing grains, raising pigs and expanding our garden. This year and next year it will be making our farm more efficient and selling just enough eggs, meat and produce to pay for our own. Now that we know what we use and how much food we need it will be easier to reach these goals. happy goatsFor me homesteading and self sufficiency is the easier choice. Yes its hard work and not easier than picking up a packaged chicken from the store, but the more we learn and tailor our homestead to our needs the easier it will be. Plus it’s great to know our animals have a much better life and death than those factory chickens or commercial dairy animals. Yes my first year here was a little lonely, but over the last two years we have met so many wonderful people who are also on a homesteading journey on some level, who we have a lot in common with. One couple we see quite often. Our kids are homesteading kids and know how to keep busy outside and play fabulously together. They are super creative and innovative with what they find around the farm and super entertaining to watch, like the time an old barrel was used to roll down the hill in. Not only do our kids keep each other busy but we also trade off knowledge and experience, help keep each-others farms while away, even on a moment’s notice or help with certain projects or when we are short on supplies, which makes this life much easier. This lifestyle for me is the right choice. It is most definitely more rewarding and I am much happier having found my purpose here on my beautifully imperfect old farm. Having found friends to share this journey and lifestyle with makes it even better. Even if it needs a little TLC to be acceptable to some it will get there. If you stick around long enough you can watch us slowly bring this place back to life and back to providing a family with everything they need again! Food for thought:

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For me it is easier to grow my family’s food. To know what it is made of, how it was grown and made, rather than scanning a list of hard to pronounce ingredients that don’t even sound edible and wonder if it is in fact safe. Just because it is on a shelf in a store does not mean it should be considered safe food.

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