Saturday, June 9, 2012

Homestead Brain

I have to admit, I have homesteading on the brain, in a bad way. A friend of mine joked that my hen going broody has my biological clock ticking, but I disagree. It does have me amazed in wonder about our future farm life.
Last night I did a google search on homesteading. Of course I land on Mother Earth News, and I can across an article that asked readers how they knew they were homesteaders, that they had arrived at their dream. Many replied that they left the house with chicken poop on them, or that they had not had to buy eggs in so long they had to ask friends for cartons (who generally tend to want them back full of eggs) or that they rarely visit a store until they run out of salt. I have noticed how declined I am to shop at the grocery store, although my family has a serious addiction to cereals.
But I think that I have begun to feel that I am more of a homesteader than I give myself credit for, but also, that I won't think that I have arrived at my dream for quite some time. It has really made me think about what homesteading is about, and I think that the full image is different for everyone with this dream.
Personally, I feel like there are very few skills I have that even make me a some-what homesteader.
I love gardening and have more many years, but the last several I have increased my garden's size and scope nearly every season. I read all through the late winter and spring, mouth watering, about what I want to grow and imagine the harvest. The difference now is that I actually do have a harvest. Each year, with little work but weeding and watering I get to harvest strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. I have asparagus which thrives in it's own bed that marks the coming of spring each season, and in the past two seasons have produced enough to share on several occasions. I have planted garlic bulbs each fall and this year, I believe will have enough to last until the following year. I have fresh lettuces for any meal, anytime, and more crops on the way. I plant potato, corn, beans and carrots, onions, leeks and chives. All veggies that we will use and store, and all from my own yard. There is no greater feeling than eating the food you have produced and food you, yourself have preserved. I want to continue this until I can grow all our family food needs each year, and supplement store bought goods only for the things we must have and cannot possibly produce ourselves. When finances are more stable, I plan to buy whole meats from local organic producers, and know my beef and pork by name. I will build a smoker and produce the juiciest ribs and the smokiest jerky and sausage. And that makes me a homesteader. The urge and drive to want these types of things.
On my list for the future are many more homestead skills. From soap making to cheeses. From woven crafts to buildings and greenhouses. Planting a vineyard, an orchard and a grove. Making the the things we want most and enjoying the process. That is what a homesteader does, more or less.
I think what has occurred to me this season is the jealousy factor. In years past, I would tell friends and family about progress and drawbacks in different areas of my mini farm. And they would be entertained by the lessons I have learned and how I was able to circumvent disaster. But this year, I feel that others are wishing that they too, could get a start on their own mini-mini farm. Some long for their own laying hens, and remark how nice to have the eggs. Others are proud of the volunteer tomato that is happy to exist in such shallow soil. Many, of course, salivate at the asparagus spears as the emerge in the spring, or the blueberries loading down the branches of the bushes. This year, I feel the jealousy, which I never noticed before. I notice comments about how they long to have food in their back yards, and I tell them to just do it! There is no reason to wait. The great thing about gardening, farming or any other endeavor, is that it is a learning process, and until you begin, you will learn nothing.
I am no expert, I am still a novice, but I take the time to learn as much as possible about everything I try to accomplish. I take notes, and observe the outcomes and the process to see what needs improvements. I allow my mistakes to humble me, rather than be humbles by wishing for something just out of reach. I drive forward until I am near enough to grasp my goals. And I enjoy learning from all that happens around me. And that, too, makes me a modern homesteader. But I will not accept the title until I feel that we can stand on our own, and produce what our family needs on a regular basis. Until we are able to store away and preserve the fruits of our labors enough to last through a long winter. Until we are able to withstand a storm without it bothering us at all, because we make a point to always be prepared. Then, I will truly be a homesteader.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bad birdies and broody hens

I made the unfortunate mistake of uncovering ripe blueberry bushes. To my dismay they were void of anything blue by morning. I had been showing the bushes to friends, as this year marks our first blueberry harvest. What a shame! They are now recovered, but the majority of this years crop was stolen.
I then realized I have even bigger fish to fry. My don's hen, General, has been acting rather strange this week. I noticed that she looks pretty fluffy and makes strange noises when laying her egg each day. I have collected several very warm eggs. Yesterday, I pulled her off the nest to forage with the others, but within minutes she was sitting back in the coop. Then it dawned on me that she has gone broody.
At this point its just comical, she screeched when the coop door is opened and acts like a real turkey. Today our other two hens wanted to harass her off the clutch so they could add to it. They are not acting like she is but they insisted on sitting on top of her in order to lay the eggs with the clutch.
Last night I ordered 10 rare breed hatching eggs. We will move her to her own place with her 10 plastic Easter eggs and replace them Friday when the eggs are shipped in. 44$ for 10, which is rather steep! I hope she hatches them all and that many are pullets!