Our Journey ~ The More I Learn

I’ve mentioned already that I’m taking this time of forced inactivity to learn all I can. That includes reading some wonderful blogs, but it goes beyond that. I also search the internet and YouTube daily on various topics.

As with any other research, one blog, website or video can lead me to other topics and ideas, but they can also be, in themselves, singularly inspiring.

This morning, I continued on a basic YouTube search for Homesteading. I’ve seen many videos, from outright farms off the beaten path, to Urban Homesteading in the middle of the city. This is one of the videos I happened upon. Homegrown Revolution http://youtu.be/7IbODJiEM5A .

This family has done some amazing and inspiring things with their property, just outside of the city.

Looking at all the green in their yard was inspiring enough, but as you watch, you realize that for them, there’s more to it than simply growing produce. They have embraced a way of living that is practically unseen in our culture now.

I have to admit, I’m a little envious.

I love their outdoor brick and solar powered ovens. I love their old-fashioned hand-crank appliances. I love that they produce enough extra produce, in such a small area, that they can sell what they don’t need to local businesses to supplement the things they can’t grow.

To me, this family is Urban Homesteading at it’s finest. They represent the lifestyle I want.

I’m not completely anti-technology. I’ll be the first to admit, I want a computer and internet and I don’t intend to give up my cell phone unless I have no choice, but to live so simply…to combine a little of the modern with a lot of the old…that’s what I want.

I asked myself, before I started researching, if we get stuck in the city, what can I really do? This family, and many others like it, proves that I can do a lot, actually.

The more I learn about Homesteading, the more I can feel the pull and call of it in my soul, the more I know, deep down, that this is the life I want more than any other.

I feel like my whole life has been building towards this.

I’ve never been really happy in life. I can’t put all the blame of our un-rooted life off on Paul either.

I’ve tried, and failed, at a lot of things. I’ve always felt restless, like I was searching for something just out of reach. I’ve moved from place to place, lifestyle to lifestyle, trying to find where I belonged and nothing ever seemed to really “fit”.

Usually, the more I’ve learned about something, the more unsure I became about it. It’s been different with Homesteading. The more I learn, the more I can see it clearly in my mind. Every day I find something else to get excited about. The idea of being able to walk outside and collect eggs for breakfast or the ingredients for dinner, the thought of homemade bread and cabinets full of mason jars that I know are there because we put the work into putting them there…I just can’t describe the longing I feel. That video kicked it up a thousand times over for me.

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That’s very true, and I’m taking that step…

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Focus

After giving myself several more days to think things over, I’ve deleted pretty much all social media except for Facebook pages manager and messenger from my phone (which is my only computer access at the moment if you’re wondering).

I have not deleted the accounts themselves in case I feel differently in the future because of the business I’ll be Co-launching in the spring.

Part of that business venture will involve an Etsy store but I’ve decided if I’m going to spend time on social media, it should be for the business, not as a general time-suck for “something to do” when in truth, I have plenty to do and will have even more to do going into the future.

The truth is, I’ve been fighting with my depression lately, so that makes it hard to just get dressed some days. Living in a hotel is taking it’s toll on me and my stress levels.

The holidays are also coming, which can be hard for the best of us anyway and for me, it’s not been an easy time of year in a very long time. That’s adding to my mental/emotional state.

I think the best thing for me for now is to focus on my blogging, my business, my family, my crafts and my hopes for the future.

Twitter has changed since my days of running the “mom blog” circuit. Back then, it really was a tool for connecting our day to day with others. It was an extension of our blogs…and people talked to each other. Now, it’s link after link of read this, like that, pin this, buy that. If you reply, you rarely hear anything back other than “go check out my blog”.

I accept that things change. That’s fine.

Facebook. I have a serious love/hate relationship with Facebook Pages. I can see that a lot of the interaction had moved to there and I love that, in a way, but the level of immaturity on there kills me. It seems like very few people really take social media seriously anymore.

It sucks, because there was a time when you could really use social media tools to engage more with your blog followers. Seems like it’s a lost art now.

Anyway, I just thought I’d take a moment to update everyone. The social media links will stay up, and my blog will auto-post to twitter and Google + still but I doubt you’ll see anything else there for a while.

Blessings,
Crystal

What to raise

One of the big conversations Paul and I had recently was on what to raise when we get our farm. We finally decided on goats and chickens, but we discussed other animals as well.

We considered raising Rat Terriers, which I’ve read are good for hunting, but are also all around helpful farm dogs. We talked in depth about this one. I used to want to be a vet tech and breed Pomerainians (which would have made my sister deliriously happy since that’s her breed of choice), but over the years, I’ve seen so much about what breeders do wrong, I’ve hesitated to be associated with them. I won’t even get a dog from a breeder, preferring to adopt homeless dogs from the pound.

I’m not saying all dog breeders are bad or unethical, but it’s becoming the case where a few bad apples are making the whole tree look unappealing and I just don’t know how I feel about taking my chances.

Another animal we briefly considered was sheep. I know that wool can be a valuable commodity if you can find a market for it and even considered a small amount (like maybe two) for personal use, but I’ve heard they can be a handful when it comes to care. The goats I really want are going to be high-maintenance enough and I’m afraid both will be too much.

We also considered rabbits. I’ve had some personal experience with rabbits, and I read a post earlier on Pint-Sized Farm about them, but I’m still on the fence with them.

They say they become quite tame if handled regularly, and they do, but one of my most unforgettable animal moments was being attacked by my brother’s pet rabbit when I was a teen.

He/she, (I can’t remember the actual gender now) had always been rather docile. We held it daily. What kid doesn’t want to hold a rabbit? We’d had it a year or so, it had always been a sweet little thing, until one day when I went to feed it, which was one of my chores.

I put my hand in the cage to get it’s feeding dishes out and the sweet little bunny suddenly became a demon with fur and nails. It attacked my hand and arm so suddenly that at first it didn’t register that it was actually attacking me. By the time I pulled my arm away, it was bleeding from the scratches.

Always an animal lover, I tried again with the same results. I tried taking to it soothingly, attempted to hold it thinking maybe it was hurt and that was causing the sudden and unexplainable reaction but could find no sign of injuries. It had always seemed to enjoy being held before, but it fought like a wild cat and I ended up with bloody scratches on my chest to match the ones on my arms.

I gave it time to calm down and tried again with the same results and finally gave up till my mom and step-dad got home. They tried to get it out and it flipped out on both of them, too.

A trip to the vet proved pointless as the vet could find nothing physically wrong with it either.

Our cute little bunny was never the same and eventually they got rid of it.

I never figured out what happened to it. My brother was always watched closely when he held it and he was always a gentle kid anyway. My parents rarely messed with it, leaving it’s care to me (being the biggest animal-lover in the house and it was always my job to care for any pet anyone had). It just seemed to go crazy and never got over it.

Now, I have to look at any animal we own or raise with my mind on our granddaughter, who we hope will be spending a lot of time on our farm when we get one.

She will, of course, be taught respect for animals and their needs. My daughter inherited my love of animals and her and her husband have been raising reptiles since they got together. My son-in-law is an avid hunter and fisherman but he also has a love of animals and hunts to supplement their food, not just for sport. So, I know Squishy (that’s the nickname I gave our granddaughter the moment she emerged into this world from one of my favorite animated movies, Finding Nemo) will be taught love and respect for animals both as pets and as a food-source, but I know from experience how hard it is for a beloved pet to suddenly go crazy with no explanation.

We briefly discussed a few other options, but for now, it looks like goats and chickens. I know many people raise rabbits as pets as well as for their resources (manure, fur and meat), but I’m just not sure if I want to take my chances there either after what happened when I was a kid.

Do you have experience raising rabbits or any other animals where one of their temperaments had suddenly changed for no reason?

Sunday Reflections

This week has been busy, not so much in the going and doing, but in thinking, talking, planning and learning.

I’ve done a good bit of reading, both blogs and websites, and made a couple of awesome connections along the way.

The number of immediate followers, both on Twitter and the blog itself, has been amazing. This isn’t my first dance with social media and blogging, and I have to say, the response has been uplifting.

I’ve found serval things that have surprised me about the community I’m making my place in. The first being, how accepting farmers and homesteaders are of new people. I’ve blogged in two other niches, before this one, and none of them were as immediately accepting of “new blood” as this one. I think that says a lot about the people in the community, at least the blogging end anyway.

Twitter seems to be more of a resource than a way to communicate for this community. Many post links to things, but few respond to you if you say anything about their Tweets.

Homesteading and farming pages on Facebook (this includes specifics like canning, growing certain types of animals, planting and harvesting, etc) are incredibly active sometimes, but no post on any of them get as much response as a picture of a spider or snake.

Unfortunately, most of those comments seem to be some form of “I don’t care what kind it is, kill it!”, which I have to say, surprises me more coming from these pages and communities than any other.

And do most people really believe that every snake is a copperhead or rattler and every spider is a black widow, brown recluse or tarantula? Seriously? Those seem to make up the majority of responses.

Some people in the groups are to the point of posting cartoons about bringing popcorn or just being there for the silly comments and fussing that generally follows.

I’d hoped for a little more from farmers, homesteaders and preppers on Facebook than what I’d experienced in other communities, but it seems like that kind of stuff is just normal for Facebook in general and knows no boundaries.

I find myself being more comfortable directly in the blogging part of the community than anywhere else, which is fine by me. As we move closer and closer to our goals, who has time for an over-abundance of social media?

We’ve tossed a lot of ideas around this week about what kind of farm we wanted. Did we want to go at from the aspect of eventually making a living from the farm itself? Do we mainly just want to be self-sufficient and have our income come from other places?

As I mentioned, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. A good bit of that has been about ways to make a living from the farm itself. While there are many options, and some of them sound possible, Paul (the hubby) and I have agreed that our main goal is simply to be self-sufficient, to live a little greener and more closely with the land and to have time for our crafts which we will be selling both from an Etsy store my sister and I will be officially opening in the spring and locally at the events in town and the jockey lot/flea market.

And of course, time for me to can and cook, which are passions of mine.

Maybe one day, our crafts and passions will support us financially with help from the farm, but Paul is content to continue to work for now.

I still intend to grow herbs, vegetables and some fruit. Paul is still interested in bee keeping and goats, chicken and possibly a pig (as a pet, not for food) are still part of the plan, so it will be a small farm, just one where the focus is saving money by doing it ourselves rather than making money and that’s important too.

We also decided that although our journey on the farm will probably begin in a camper, it will be temporary while we build our little farmhouse so we have the time to do it right rather than throwing it together. When the house is done, the camper will be reserved for company and for vacations.

The house itself, we’ve decided to take a “tiny house” approach with, just on a little bit bigger scale.

We’re going to look into the buildings you can rent to own or buy kind of cheap that you’d put in the yard for storing, say the lawn mower. Honestly, they’re just unfinished rooms. Run plumbing where needed, run minimal electricity for those things we need it for, insulate it and put up interior walls. Maybe cut an additional door and some windows, and attach them together. Sounds easier (and cheaper) than ground-up building.

So, that’s been our week other than the regular household stuff.

Paul did make another pot of BBQ yesterday, half of which is in the freezer, with a few tweeks. This batch wasn’t anywhere near as sweet add the last one and we added some green onions (we love onions of all types  by the way). It was awesome!

Next weekend, we’re trying to plan a trip to see the kids and our grandbaby. They live about an hour from us, where our old camper still is along with pretty much all of our stuff. It’ll give us a chance to pack up some stuff and exchange it for a few things we really need, so I’m excited about that (I’ll be bringing my toaster oven back with me and I’m very excited about that).

I hope this week has found you all well and happy as I’m sure most of you are preparing your farms for the winter ahead.

Blessings,
Crystal

Freezer Queen

When we started thinking about the whole “getting back to our roots”, my mind immediately went to canning. I was never taught the art of canning and preserving, but the internet being what it is, I figured it wouldn’t be hard to learn. One thing I didn’t give much thought to, especially in a hotel, was freezing.

Two weekends ago, I broke out the crock pot my sister, EQ, loaned me (most of my kitchen is packed up an hour from here) and made corned beef and cabbage stew. Last weekend, we made a big crock of pulled bbq chicken.

It’s just the two of us, and both times, we made way more than two people can eat at one time.

I have a very basic kitchen here. The room came with a microwave and a micro-fridge. That was it. I bought a coffee maker and a single electric burner (we prefer gas but it’s not an option in a hotel room) and borrowed a crock pot from my sister.

Space is also very limited here. If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel room without a mini-kitchen, you’ll know what I mean, so my options for having a lot is limited.

I hate to loose food. I’ve gone hungry before, so I have a lot of respect for having it (and for the money it takes to buy it when you can’t grow or raise your own) and every time I throw something edible away, it’s like a little part of me dies.

So, even in a hotel room, I’m very mindful of waste.

Here I was with an excess of absolutely yummy food (hubby and I are both pretty good cooks, by the way) that I was going to loose. Canning here just really isn’t an option because of space, so I had no idea what to do.

Then it hit me. My freezer, such as it is, was almost empty. Other than freezing the meats, it doesn’t usually see much use. We’re not big on frozen foods, preferring to make our own when we can, so there’s some unused real estate going on in there -or there was anyway.

I have never done much freezing. We’ve always been more of a “eat it till it’s gone” family. This helps prevent loss of food, but it can be boring. I’ve read a lot on freezing though and I must admit, I’m a bit of a fanatic about Food Network, cooking shows and recipe and cooking sites, so I know a little bit about it.

I decided freezing was my best option here and I stood to loose no more than I would if it sat in the fridge.

I left some of the cabbage in the fridge for Paul, that’s the hubby if you’re wondering, and put the rest in a freezer bag with as much air out as I could manage. The rest of the chicken went the same way.

Since then, I did pull the chicken back out, thawed it and reheated it. Other than a moment of guilt for not “cooking”, where I reminded myself that this was food we had cooked, it was good. I added some of the homemade bbq sauce and a little water and it tasted like it had fresh from the crock.

Now, I’m all about freezing. It was nice to be able to pull a fully pre-cooked meal from the freezer and just have to heat it.

I used to think that people that made ahead and froze things were cheating in some way. My mom didn’t start with freezing things until after my little brother finally left home and I won’t lie, I kind of turned my nose up at it a little. Now, I understand why she did it.

Cooking for two, especially when you’ve spent years cooking for more people -and our house was always where everyone showed up at meal times, so I made extra- can take some getting used to. I often find myself with more than we can eat before it goes bad now. Freezing has suddenly become a life-saver, as well a helping hand if it’s a busy day. Now I’m kicking myself for not trying it sooner!

Do you freeze cooked foods or uncooked ingredients? Is there anything you’ve found that doesn’t freeze well?

Blessings,
Crystal

Once Upon A Farm

I think almost every blog starts with a getting to know you post and mine will be no different. I think telling your story is where all blogs, and all journeys, begin, so let me tell you mine.

I’ll start with telling you a bit about myself and then we’ll go from there.

My name is Crystal. I grew up in Upstate South Carolina in a nice, quiet neighborhood, raised by my great aunt until I was 12. My great aunt, we’ll call her Aunt M, was pretty old-school for the most part. We didn’t live on a farm or grow our own food but we took advantage of a large “pick your own” farm not far from where we lived.

I grew up running up and down the rows of that farm. I also grew up snapping peas, shucking corn and watching Aunt M can and cook from scratch.

Aunt M also sewed and my mother was a seamstress by trade and made all my clothes back in the 70’s and 80’s. I had a complete terrycloth (sp) wardrobe when I was 5. Unfortunately, even surrounded by such crafty people, I never picked up the ability to sew myself. A skill I hope to learn, by the way.

My husband, who I’ve been with for 18 years, practically all of my adult life, grew up on a dairy farm owned by his grandparents in Indiana. By the time I met him just before his 22nd birthday, he was in the army.

In spite of our childhoods, we’ve never really put down roots anywhere. We’ve been chronic renters (and movers) the whole time we’ve been together.

As Pagans, we’ve dabbled in green-living and growing what we could, when we could, but we’ve never had anything permanent.

Last summer, we moved yet again. My brother-in-law is a welder by trade and got my husband hired where he works. He and my sister offered us a place to stay while we relocated and we stayed with them until a few months ago.

We’re now living in a hotel with our pug and faced with slim options when we get taxes in a few months.

We sat down and had one of those “real” conversations recently about “here we are in a hotel again looking at renting…again”.

We both agreed that we’re not getting any younger and we’re tired of constantly moving. We’re tired of not having anything to show for our lives and we’re tired of the way we live. It’s time for a change.

Now, there’s nothing I can do about our immediate situation. We have no savings, no nest-egg. We’ve lived paycheck to paycheck for so long that neither of us really know what it’s like not to.

Last year, we bought a camper from some friends and we lived in it for a few months. In theory, it wasn’t a bad idea, but the one we bought was old and had been sitting unused for a few years.

It was also one of the small ones. Very small. No pop-outs, no real bedroom. The heat barely worked and finally died completely right as spring was coming on. Then it got hot. The AC didn’t work at all and it was so small there was no where for fans. The plumbing was shot, the oven didn’t work, there was a leak in the ceiling in the living room…it was pretty bad.

In hindsight, we don’t regret the decision to get a camper, but we needed more space. A real bed. Something that didn’t need to be completely over-hauled. Something with pop-outs.

I’ve been following the small-space/tiny house movement and we’ve considered a number of ways to go about that, but we agreed last night that by the time we build something like that, we could have bought and paid for a new, decent-sized camper with everything already set up except the land.

Besides that, building a home, even a small one, takes time and we can’t afford land payments, rental costs and building costs. It’s just not realistic. We also can’t afford to buy a mobile home to live in while we build.

In the end, it’s looking like buying an RV is going to still be the way to go. It will give us the option to build if we choose, and do it right, without having to pitch a tent while we do it to save money.

Also, if we buy a new one that meets our needs, we could set it up as a permanent living situation and perhaps just add on to it.

Renting, at least for a year or two, may still be in our immediate future, but it feels good to have a plan.

While we’re renting, if we do, we’re going to try to begin the switch to more sustainable living. I’ll grow what I can in pots, begin the move away from processed foods and take the time to learn all we can.

Regardless of what we live in, the goal is to own an acre or two in at least a few years so that we can begin our little farm.

We decided on the name, Once Upon A Farm, for a few reasons. One, we’re both a fan of Once Upon A Time. Two, this farm will be our fairy-tale come true. Our “best chance” and “happy ending”.

This blog is intended to be a journal of sorts while we transition from urban life, to urban homesteading and finally to owning our own sustainable homestead. I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Blessings,
Crystal