A Collection of Homesteading and Gardening Ideas

Today you'll find out the depth of my idealistic crunchy granola nature. 🌈  One of my biggest regrets about my fatigue syndrome is that I have a very hard time actually using the wonderful fresh air and soil that surrounds my house and turning it into a working garden.  Each year I promise myself this is the year I'm going to do it.  And this year's excuse is that I just spent $900 redoing my kitchen to be gluten free.  And to grow seedlings, I'd want to build a covered outdoor bed.  Not to mention, hire a roto-tiller.  This year I'm not sure I can afford it.  However, I can share my thoughts on homesteading and organic gardening.


Maybe it will inspire me, and maybe someone else will be inspired too.

Ideas on Gardening: 

  • Do you know about permaculture?  It's not just a philosophy of farming, it's a philosophy of life.  It trains a person to think of ways to better integrate with their natural world, and challenges one to come up with ways to work with nature instead of making demands of it. The Permies Community is active and supportive if you're thinking of doing this.  It's a modern expression of the long standing American idealism movement, which can be traced all the way back to Muir and Thoreau. They have gofundme announcements and they may support yours if it fits with their community. This is by no means a small movement, here is an article about growing your own fish in a permaculture way, with the reintroduction of "nomadic" bovids to the fish pond environment.  (Personally I'm thinking, where are the ducks?)  I've also seen intensive permaculture with fish and other animals growing where there used to be a swimming pool.
  • Have you heard about The Farm Community in Tennessee?  This one warms my heart.  When I was young and in college, I discovered the Farm's cookbook and learned how to make my own soy milk, my own seitan, etc.   Later, mom and I used some of the principles they introduced us to, to create an organic garden at home.  It was such fun, and in this case, this is an authentic and lasting community, not some silly timeshare scam.  If you want hands-on instruction from the best organic farmers, this is the place to go, in my opinion.  You should be aware they have a vegan/vegetarian orientation though.  You're better off heading for a permaculture place to learn animal husbandry. However, if you want to restore your faith in the basic goodness and cleverness of people, this is the place to experience a slice of utopia.
  • Then there are the simple homemade methods of organic gardening such as "no weeding, no digging" and other forms of low-work gardening styles.  I was first introduced to that by Ruth Stout who has books available, but she is written about on Mother Earth News here.  It's simple.  If you mulch thick enough, and keep doing it, eventually you can just plant and leave it alone.  Perhaps watering when it's been a dry spell.  The home gardener has a wealth of resources available from a series of books published by Rodale on organic gardening. It's the more modern version of "Victory Gardens."  I haven't been able to find a complete list of the Rodale Organic Gardening books, but this is a good place to start.
    • It might seem like this is less "virtuous" than farming the old fashioned way.  What digging and tilling do for you is, finer control of how much water you provide, more access to the soil if you need to control pests.  Digging delivers faster results in the first year of the garden, because nutrients are better mixed and soil is softer, allowing roots to form better.  If you decide to use a low-work method of gardening, don't be upset if carrots don't turn out "pretty" the first year or two.  They taste just as good and next year they'll be nicer.  I also recommend buying a package of earthworms to help the process of soil improvement along.
    • Consider that Celiac disease and NCGS, plus associated thyroid problems, can make a person exhausted, and the tired feeling can last or return in cycles.  For people with an illness, low-work gardening methods, kits and other helpful ideas can make the difference between having some home grown food, or not. Being ill is expensive, and anything that reduces expenses, is reusable, or reduces the need to constantly drive to a store for more materials, is a plus!  Hard work is only a virtue if you're using it to gain better physical fitness, but if the struggle at this point is to simply be able to garden, then low work methods are more accessible to more people, and for a longer time.

  • What about adding some homesteading elements to your home? A backyard orchard can really be fun and delicious.  In North Carolina we can grow some citrus and bananas, but I'm not sure if they will be very productive. All the traditional fruits, though, will grow very well.  Imagine your own carpet of apple blossoms every spring, and the heavenly fragrance! Plus you'll never have to worry about putting birdseed out, the orchard will attract its own feathered fans.
  •  If you eat grains, consider growing them.  If you keep animals, consider growing your own hay or pasture.  Alfalfa is sometimes a GMO plant.  Growing corn by the three sisters method is still a fashionable thing to do.  Sorghum can be home grown and forms the basis for many microbrew gluten free beers, plus it can be used in breads.  It should be on the "maybe" list of any gluten free person who loves to garden (unless you're allergic of course). Rice is suitable for container gardening, who knew? Here's a very brief guide for how to do that. 
  • If you've been following my posts, you know I've been working on re-igniting a healthy gut flora in a step by step method. Growing chickpeas or lentils is considered "harder" because they need a long growing season and people don't know what to expect.  So I recommend reaching out to your local cooperative extension, and also getting your seeds from a full service gardening company that allows you to ask questions and talk to people who have actually grown the plants you're working on.  

  • What about the winter?  How about a hydroponic garden inside a prefab greenhouse?  Mmmm, tomatoes in December!  OK that's a pricey one, but it can grow into a home based business.  Those $4/lb tomatoes in supermarkets often come from large scale hydroponic and/or greenhouse operations. You can compete, you're "locally grown" or there's always a farm market somewhere. 

  • Did you know you can grow seaweed and make really good money at it?   Hmm, there's an idea! 😍An FAQ from a supplier of materials and classes. The part I find interesting is you can harvest up to 50 lbs for personal use without a license. That's more than I can eat in a year.  And I'm already scheming how to grow some at home, or make it part of a permaculture setup. 
  • The best way to keep deer out of your garden is to get a dog and a very nice doghouse for it.  Or two dogs, why make him lonely out there?  This is why permaculture that includes animals is much better.  The animals are often compatible and will keep one another company. It might take a bit of finesse to keep the goats out of the garden, and a dog in the garden guarding it, but you can work that out.  I also like the "honeypot" method, of planting a border of white clover plants around a garden, so deer much on their treats, not on your plants.

Animals, chickens, goats, ducks, oh my!

  • The best way to get rid of an insect problem in your yard is to hire some chickens to keep it clear.  However, be aware that they'll eat every blade of grass too!  Keeping chickens (or ducks!) has many advantages like eggs, meat and amusement.  Chickens are clicky and you'll be amused by their in-crowd snobbery.  This is why it's cruel to keep chickens in cages, it forces them into too much close contact and leads to violence.  In a free range scenario, it deescalates into more of a soap opera. Steer clear of guinea hens though, if you want peace and quiet.  They get very loud, and not just in the morning.  Your neighbors will complain, trust me, I've seen it happen. If you keep chickens, get a dog, that way, if there's any scheming from the local foxes, they'll think twice. 
  • Fresh goat milk is yummy.  But when it goes off, some people find it very offensive.  I'm one of them, I can taste something like sweaty socks in gorgonzola, so I don't dabble in that.  However, goats are interesting creatures and a great way to have a little milk and butter without the hassle of having the room for a cow. I've had goat butter and I can't tell the difference between that and cow's milk butter.  The milk is a bit different, but not much, as long as it's fresh.  Keeping animals is an important responsibility, so don't attempt this, especially the milking, if your health is precarious.  Hire someone to milk daily during that season, or just allow the kids access to mom all the time.  However, the requirement of doing chores daily is a good way to get back into activity if you've been inactive due to illness lately.  Everything is a balance.
    • Keeping a goat or two is a time honored way to save money and be more self sufficient.  My mom also echoed the last sentiments in that article, and I can confirm, goats are lovable creatures. A dog and a goat can have a lot of fun together. So even if you do this just for the poison ivy removal and the amusement factor, it's still worth it.
    • I can also confirm the meat is not bad at all, assuming you can stomach losing a creature to gain a meal.  I know we do that all the time with the supermarket, but trust me, it's a whole other ball game to know the animal and then eat it.  Twice, I've participated in something like that and neither time did I survive it without tears.  I wish our world wasn't like this.  But I don't make the rules.
  •  My other suggestion is sheep, if you don't care for goats and you have more room (at least one acre).  Sheep's milk is beloved nearly everywhere except in the US for some reason.  Sheep's milk is rich and wonderful, it makes excellent homemade cheese. Pigs are a good small-space animal too, but they don't provide milk, or wool.  
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If you choose to keep animals, please find your local cooperative extension and make contact.  Ask them for recommendations for a veterinarian that makes house calls to farm animals, or ask your pet vet. 
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You can fearlessly explore these options.  People have been keeping animals and gardens since time immemorial.  You're just as clever as they were.  It might be a bit of adjustment, and a lot of learning, but it's much better than the TV with it's 40% commercials, or checking your social media for the millionth time today.  If you so choose, you never have to slaughter any animals for meat.  You can just give them a good home and take the "excess milk or eggs" if you wish.  Nature is always inviting you to participate in it. 

Food you grow yourself is the ultimate in nutrition. If you can do it, a little organic garden or a permaculture setup in your backyard can really improve your nutrition, and don't forget the feeling of accomplishment!  Keep in mind it will probably take a year or two to get started.  Ideas will continue to come to you as you work. And, there's nothing wrong with making detailed plans if you enjoy that, but it's not necessary.  This is supposed to be interesting, and though it won't always be fun, it will be very rewarding, so start planning today!

Do you have a garden already? Even if not organic, I'd love to see a picture in the comments!

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