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Have a homesteading story of your own you want to share? Tell us here! Whether you're living in a city, a trailer park, the suburbs, a mountain top, or out in the sticks somewhere, we'd love to read about what you do, why you do it, and how it's gone for you.

By: Todd Parlo | Jan 24, 2012 04:03 PM | Permalink
We moved "back to the land" when we trudged into northern Vermont about 15 years ago. Until the homestead was paid off, I earned keep as a woodworker and my wife in not-for-profit, but with the appearance of a youngster and the desire to homeschool, we made some changes. We now have a 10 acre fruit farm that sports 400 apple cultivars and a wide assortment of everything else fruity. We have raised pigs, chickens, veggies and herbs, on terraced hillsides and in 3 big greenhouses. The income now comes from a successful organic nursery (we are propagators first and foremost), and from the fruit bounty. This pays some of the bill, but just as strong a purpose for us, and the reason the local community supports us is the preservation of genetics with our diversity, and our commitment to sustainable practices. We give workshops, tours, and trade. Barter is king up here, and this also helps to keep things afloat, but more importantly can build strong relationships. It isn't terribly easy up here. Walden Heights, Vermont is in the "Northeast Kingdom" where temps drop to 40 below some years. We set out to prove that even in a severe climate, on poor soil and steep slopes, folks could grow darn good fruit in a healthy way. We grow nearly all our own food, heat solely on our wood and earn a good portion of our income on meager acreage. If we can do it here, you can do it there.

By: Doc and marie prudhomme | Dec 22, 2011 01:35 PM | Permalink
Having a home based life is the ultimate life. Whether you can be completely self sufficient and no one can be but we can do as much of our own work as time and money allows.

By: Amy Hughes | Dec 22, 2011 07:15 AM | Permalink
continued... Luckily, our surrounding area has some of the best hay in the inland northwest.

I tried my hand at raising rabbits but, oddly enough, have not had much success! So, in addition to wild game, our main source of meat is grass fed beef. Queenie is our grumpy but easy calving cow who finally, after 3 times, gave us a heifer. Not that we minded the bull calves! We now have added a Scottish Highland breeding pair to our assortment and may even train one to milk in the future. They are a triple purpose breed used for meat, milk, and fiber and are said to have less naturally occurring cholesterol and fat in their meat. I have come to the conclusion it may be easier to sell beef than goats here for the time I (don't) have to devote to marketing and registered herd management. Every other year, we raise medium grow-out chickens for the freezer as we do not enjoy watching the growth rate of the mutant white Cornish Crosses. We try to follow the teachings of Joel Sallatin for limiting grain (hence, GMO's) and maximizing pasture/hay for optimal health benefits.

By: Amy Hughes | Dec 22, 2011 07:13 AM | Permalink
I moved to MT after being raised and working in southeasterd PA. I vacationed out here and decided I had to move. I met my hubby Rob that year and we got married in 1998. Ever since I was given of a copy of a mid 70's issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal, we kept dreaming of becoming more self-sufficient. We started by gardening, canning, adding 2 chickens and ducks, and 1 rabbit to our neighborhood back yard. I had started hunting and it became more important to try to eat food of "known" origin. Eventually, we moved to a 12 acre mini farm that has everything we want: mostly fenced pasture, root cellar, barn, gravity fed water, wood heat. It even has a good garden spot, anestablished herb garden and fruit trees. Only problem is nothing was done to this place for years and it still needs LOTS of work. Rob is a gunsmith and likes to be able to testfire and have a small range. We have USFS border, a seasonal brook, 16 goats, 5 cows, 4 rabbits, 3 dogs, 2 children, 1 cat, 1 beehive and several chickens. So, you can imagine we are busy people. Oh, and I do go to work 5 days a week somewhere in there as a Physical Therapist at our local nursing home. We started off with 4 goats to milk and eat knapweed but Savannah, my first doe barely had an udder to speak of and NEVER stood still. We had a wrestling match twice a day for less than a quart. So, I found some reputable breeders and got a Nubian and a registered Saanen. Later, we rescued an extremely hardy, crazy gymnast of a Toggenberg. I held out on getting a buck for 2 years and I eventually ended up w/ a mixed breed herd of 40. I basically try to keep 4-5 decent milkers at a time and have pared down to 16 goats ( including bucks, does, kids, and 3 token wethers we have limited time to take on pack trips). We drink raw milk and make yogurt, chevre, mozzarella, ricotta and feta cheeses. On occasion, we crank up the separator for cream, butter, ice cream and sour cream. I even freeze some of the whey from cheesemaking in ice cube trays to put in my smoothies in place of ice for added protein and probiotic value. I am not holding my breath for the milk laws to change here, so I can only offer advice to those interested in learning how to make cheese or to start a hhomestead dairy. Due to its manageable size and lower feed costs, I like to promote the goat as the ideal animal for this. We have had many challenges and successes and continue to learn more every year in our husbandry. I like to compare goats to dogs in that they are great companions and are highly entertaining. They need a good fenced yard and their toenails trimmed occasionally but just eat different food...preferrably 2nd cutting alfalfa and a good loose mineral with selenium. Production animals (milking/pregnant does and active bucks, growing kids) need an additional 16% protein feed to maintain good condition and development. We have tried lesser quality hay w/ poor results.

By: Pat Johnson | Dec 21, 2011 04:57 PM | Permalink
There are a lot of us Homesteaders out here. All of us are doing different things and opperate at different levels of competency. We all have different levels of commitment and success. Homesteading isn't a contest so no one wins anything by being more or less of a homesteader than the next person. The common thread seems to be our interest in similar things regardless of our motivations. I've been at the sustainable/reduce my carbon footprint quite a while. I brew my own beer, make my own wine, build small boats, use a solar oven, camp, teach canning..... I also facilitate/administrate the "Pensacola Can Can Club" where we can and preserve foods at group events with no one making any money. It's more like a quilting circle, barn rasing or community garden. We all can foods but nearly all of us do it for different reasons. Some can for the cost savings from us being able to buy in bulk, some can for the oportunity to can "organic" foods, others like the bettter quality of locan produce in season, a few do it to stockpile food, some like the group canning for the mentorship of the more experienced canners.... I always tell the members that I don't care why they do it, nothing bad can come from canning your own foods. The one thing that seems to be common is that we all appreciate the social aspect of the group events. We canned 1200lbs of tomatoes in one day and 1000lbs of peaches on another day. There was an asembly line of people scalding, slipping skins, cutting, packing, waterbathing.....and everyone was having a good time & jabbering away about topics generally related to food preservation and sustainability. We all had a great time and left with something we could use instead of the empty wallet we generally get when attending other social gatherings. Since the group was formed we have also began discussing opportunities other than canning for our club. Making soap, making fresh link sausages and also summer sausages, pepperoni, a community compost pile.... We've already done a group event where we shredded 500lbs of cabbage and fermented our own sauerkraut. Folks are enjoying the fruits of our labors (pun intended) as they consume their self made products and their friends are being exposed to the taste of home canned foods and products and often for the first time taste how things should taste instead of how the mass merchants decide it should taste in thier efforts to make money. Intentionally or not the group has began saving money by gifting their self made products instead of buy a good for nothing "Widget" from the big box store. They have discovered that the recipients love the gifts and remember them longer than the commercial ones. The folks that get the gift want to discuss how it was made and of course the givers all like to be the focus of interest and the expert on a subject. They find that they have become interesting people that others seek out. So its all good and homesteaders at any level are in the right camp
Joyce Terra says:    (Dec 22, 2011 12:00 AM)

This is wonderful. I belong to an extension group. They are a lot of fun and we do a lot of fun things that interests one or the other person. We are a group of farmers wives and it gives us something fun to do once a month in winter. Summer is way too busy. Hats off to you and your group. Sounds like fun.

says:    (Dec 22, 2011 12:00 AM)

Adore the canning club concept. We have always canned to add to our family's larder. It was just a way of life. We have enjoyed it immensely; and are always tickled to share the "how to". Thank you for sharing, too! Blessings for an abundant year of simplicity~Grandma T

says:    (Dec 23, 2011 12:00 AM)

I love the idea of a canning club too. Just wondering, where do you get your foods to can and how do you handle the decision making process of what to can, when and where, does each participant pay a set amount, provide their own jars and lids, canning equipment, etc? Thanks for sharing this idea!

By: Lilly Hultz | Dec 21, 2011 03:55 PM | Permalink
My husband retired then he and I decided to move "north" in Michigan about 3 years was a very stressful time in the economy we have. Lots of people our age thought it was nutz... but Thank God, there was a job he loves and we bought a cute tiny house that is quirky and it had 2 1/2 acres of land. I thought wow...I can have a garden. Its a pretty big garden and it failed miserably last year, so I am having the soil tested to see what I can do to improve the next years crop. In the meantime, I have (at my late age of 62) how to can veggies and fruits...I can't tell you how much fun I have had working so hard. We found there are 7 apple trees in our yard.My Daughter taught me to can and we canned nearly every last pound of the apples. My neighbor let me pick all her grapes and shared her green beans. I bought or picked my own sweet and tart cherries and strawberries, and blueberries...even a bit of loganberries. I got really dirty and planted yellow and sweet potatoes and lots of tomatoes. Nothing did particularly well, but what did come up was so much better tasting and I have learned so much. Not just about gardening, but about people and where to buy canning jars after the season of canning is done. I learned about people who would help you do things or teach you things and look you right in the eye instead of somewhere over your left ear. I met an old/young farmer down the road from me who handed me a whole bunch of yellow squash and zuchinni. I am determined to make the soil here better and can all the stuff I can grow. I am proud to say that we have been through some rough times lately and if it werent for the stuff I packed away for a rainy day...well, we still ate well...I am learning about composting and looking for barrels that I can get for nothing to save rain water to water the garden next year. I am so grateful for this time in my life to live this way. I love the local harvest newsletter and read it all the time. I wish more of my area's local stuff was listed here. Thank you for posting and thank all of you for telling your stories...this one is mine...
Joyce Terra says:    (Dec 22, 2011 12:00 AM)

This is wonderful. Keep up the good work and all the energy packed ideas. It will pay off in the long run, as you can attest too. Enjoy, there is nothing better in life than looking at the shelf and seeing the beautiful colors that you have preserved. Sheer Joy.

By: Rita Smith | Dec 21, 2011 03:10 AM | Permalink
I never really thought of my family when I was growing up as homesteaders, but now I know that we were. I am 60 yrs old and as one of 6 children we all knew what our chores were. We grew all our own food, vegetables,eggs, meat and wild berries. We had pecan trees and apple trees. We milked our cow, made our own butter and buttermilk.

My mother made most of our clothes and we ordered our shoes from Sears and Roebuck once a year.

We lived in a small two room house and my father taught us how to grow sweet potato starts one year. We raised enough and worked as a family that year to get enough money to build a real kitchen onto our house. Our efforts were rewarded with a new kitchen with running water. We sure thought we had arrived.

I didn't know what a homesteader was until about 10 yrs ago. My husband and I now have an 80 acre homestead. We have laying hens and a good size garden. I am the homesteader and he is the watchful observer. He enjoys the fruits of our labors and is a good cheerleader. He grew up in the city and has never until we married even had a garden. He operates heavy equipment. The second year we were married he plowed my garden with a bulldozier. It was truly the effort that counts. Raised beds were what I had that year, about 2 1/2 feet high. He is coming along now, he has learned about composting and recycling. He still wants to work the garden with equipment but he has realized that it only takes a garden tractor so he has adjusted. I look forward to being a part of this organization and hopefully sharing and learning with all of you.

By: Katie Pence-Robbins | Dec 21, 2011 01:06 AM | Permalink
We bought forty acres six years ago on the Mendocino coast. We could not afford agricultural land in this area( mostly right on the ocean bluff), but we found this piece which was unusually flat.My husband and I have lived in this area for more than twenty years, We've had to clear brush and dying pines to create garden space. Now we have the daunting task of creating soil out of our very acidic sandy clay.

Our horses, chickens and lot's of composting created our current two acres of gardens which this year we expanded to five. We hope for pasture someday so we can get more of our own animals for our meat.

We live off-grid, in buildings we built with our milled trees. My husband who has operated equipment for his entire life has been unbelievably important part of making our place happen.It would be very difficult without equipment. We built a brick oven a few years back and now market some naturally leavened bread. It's also a great way to convince people to garden, to cook them great food. We also operate a small CSA.

The more I read about the dysfunction of the current food system ( Read Joel Salatin's "Folk's, This Aint Normal" )the more I try to communicate these homesteading ideas to others. I want to inspire others to garden.

I've gardened for more than thirty years and I can finally afford to farm my own place.

Dave Larson says:    (Dec 21, 2011 12:00 AM)

Hi Katie, Love your part of the world, although the "good land" is pretty pricy. Our son is in his first year of teaching in Fort Bragg and before that lived in Little River. Our visits to him and his wife, another Katie, made us appreciate that part of the world. My wife and I are homesteading a small acreage in the desert of SE Arizona. Creating arable soil out of a desert "bajada" sounds similar to your process. Good luck with it. Are you teling your story on a blog or website? If so, please share it with me here or at Barbara and I have been maintaining a website, to tell others what we've been doing in dry land homesteading. The new homesteading movement is important and the more we can encourage others, the better, I think, our country and planet will be. Wishing you every success!!!

By: | Dec 20, 2011 11:04 PM | Permalink
I think this goes beyond the current need for savngs, fresher foods, etc. If in the future we should lose satellites, power, etc., there will be no refrigeration, no trucks, no a lot of things that we depend on to live now. Knowing how to do it yourself and preserving that independence could, someday, be the difference between living and dying. It just seems to me that it would be best to know these things and not let them be forgotten.
Lilly Hultz says:    (Dec 21, 2011 12:00 AM)

I agree with you so much. Learning and teaching about gardening and planning to be without power or maybe solar or wind right in your back yard is sooooooooo very important. I am starting a pantry in my basement and I am growing my own worm/composting bin right in my house! I am 62 years old and if some "catastrophy" should happen I have some knowledge of keeping my family fed and healthy...I am reading up about herbs and natural "medicines" too. Good luck in your venture!!!

By: | Dec 20, 2011 07:52 PM | Permalink
I'm a 57 year old surbanite but I lived as a child in a small rural/college town in Southern Iowa. There, through friends' families, I experienced farming, milking cows, putting up hay, learning to cook and bake and garden and can home-grown crops. I started sewing at 3 and kept with it; went to college and got an Art/Theatre degree and ended up being a professional seamstress. Throughout marriage and divorce, I've kept up a love for DIY and doing things the "whole way." I've kept learning about how to do old skills and appreciate home-grown, home-made and I-made-it-myself skills.

My preference is to garden and put up my own veggies so now, even as an apartment dweller, I grow herbs and do container gardening. I make apple butter and sweet breads and cook from scratch, even just for me. I continue to make my living sewing; not always easy as a single woman but that's who I am.

I hope very soon to get back into a house so I can once again have a garden and be as self-sustaining as possible, as well as helping friends to learn the value and benefits of whole foods and doing things the "old fashioned" way. So long as I'm around, some of these old skills will not die out. After all, everybody who tastes my food and my baked goods comes away knowing how much better it tastes. Everyone who commissions me to design and sew something comes away with the knowledge that store bought isn't necessarily better.

It's also very soul-fulfilling and contentment-making and what's better than that?

garden madness says:    (Dec 20, 2011 12:00 AM)

Hi permalink. I'm a 57 year old suburbanite who grew up in eastern Iowa! Didn't start sewing until age 13 and didn't go to college, but our early experiences are similar. Fast forward to today. Our children are grown and moved out and we have now turned our entire backyard and portions of the front and side yards into garden space. I do all the saving of seeds, the canning, freezing, drying, etc. Our goal (my husband and myself) is to be as self sufficient as possible in all areas of our lives. We've reduced our spending dramatically and have joined Freecycle and Freeshare. We're not only finding the experience worthwhile but also a fun and exciting challenge. We've never been more in tune with ourselves and our happiness. This is what we call homesteading, and I'm thrilled to see so many others on the same page. I've been told by several of my neighbors that I've inspired them and believe the gardening movement is taking on a life of its own. To me, this is the perfect way to change the world, one person at a time.

By: T yamamoto | Dec 20, 2011 07:39 PM | Permalink
Please watch our video on our web site its at the bottom of page.

I was lucky I was taught by my parents and grandparents never thought I would use it or teach never know with life do you!

By: Sarah Cortes | Dec 20, 2011 07:39 PM | Permalink
I'm 29 yrs old, live in a Wisconsin capitol city suburb on under a 1/2 acre city lot. I garden veggies, peaches, strawberries and can and freeze fruits, veggies. I glean pears and apples from a total of 5 nearby trees that no-one but me has picked from for at least the last 3 years. I donate what I can't keep up with to the food pantry, or directly to the homeless in downtown Madison. I also trade these fruits for other things I can use, meat, veggies and fruit. My goal is one day to eat all non-chemicalized fruit and veggies. Eliminating corporate organics whose organic pledge I dont trust, other than tropical fruits like bananas that can't be gotten locally.

We are a deer hunting and fishing family. We buy one cut and wrapped lamb from a distant family member who grass raises them an hour away. My Mom raises chickens and geese for eggs and meat, also an hour away. Once a year we go up and make a day of butchering poultry outside. I am looking into raising meat rabbits at home. I am slowly achieving my goal of not ever bringing home meat (or anything else) on styrofoam trays. I have increasingly been buying from markets and trading, which all comes in plastic bags or paper wrap. I am working toward eliminating mass produced meats from my diet. Part of my approach to this and also maintaining a nutrient dense diet is to use everything and waste nearly nothing. For example, I cook my chicken, goose and turkey bones till soft and crush into a meal, which I then feed to my dog with kibble, or put in blender and mix into our soups and gravys.

Nearly everything in my clothes closet has been mended and altered/tailored. I hope one day to also say I have made nearly everything I wear. I hope to one day pickup knitting and crocheting again and spinning too.

We compost everything that can be, including paper products that are dirty and can't be recycled. Our recycling, composting, selectively shopping to reduce packaging results in less than one plastic shopping bag of trash per week for our 2 person, 3 cat/1 dog family.

So that's my approach, good luck to all of you and thanks for ideas !

By: Shawn Dostie | Dec 20, 2011 07:37 PM | Permalink
I am 1/2 homesteader, 1/2 city boy. I bought 4 acres with a farmhouse, barn and a pond next to 5,000 acres of a State wildlife area. When I first moved, I had gone through a divorce, a bad 2nd relationship, had no internet, cable, or cell service and about went nuts! I call my farm Serenity because it taught me to relax. I now have about 80 chickens for eggs and meat, 2 hogs for meat (in the garden), 3 goats, 2 ducks, 2 big dogs, 2 beagles and 3 beagle pups. Planning to raise meat chickens this year. It's nice knowing that my years meat is growing outside the back door. Not sure if both feet will go to the farm, as I have businesses in town but I will say it is a lot less stressful where everything has and knows its place. At my age of 45, it is something to think about.

By: Dave Larson | Dec 20, 2011 07:02 PM | Permalink
Hi Erin, My wife Barbara and I live in a straw bale house we built ourselves, without contractors or any hired labor, although our neighbors helped out for the wall raising on the main house. Our land is in the Chihuahuan desert in SE Arizona near Cochise Stronghold.

We garden extensively and love eating from our year-round garden. Our story can best be seen on our web site advocating simple living - We have blogged references to your web site on a number of occasions and I have mentioned your good work in my Grit magazine blog.

Besides the house in which we live, we have on our land a built-by-hand (by us) adobe guest house that we now offer as a rustic B and B and a straw bale utility building with composting toilet, shower, and food processing/storage.

One of the most interesting elements of homesteading here is the profusion of rattlesnakes. I hate to kill them, so we catch and release (there are some pics on the website). Last summer we caught and released 16 diamondback and Mojave rattlers. They serve to keep us mindful when we are outdoors. We love your good work and wish you well now during the holidays and throughout the year.

We would love to respond to any questions about desert homesteading or straw bale building or our B n B. Drop us a line at

By: | Dec 20, 2011 06:19 PM | Permalink
My name is Emily and I am 21 years old. All my life I've grown up in a small town in southern NY called Apalachin. Even though it is a small town, it tends to be a rather suburban area. I have huge dreams of someday living out in the woods surrounded by acres and acres of land, having horses, goats, and pigs. I tried to start making my dreams come true though in this last year when I started raising chickens for eggs. My family was made up of farmers generations before me but the farming has dwindled with my grandparents and parents but for some reason, I have this undying urge to farm. Not necessarily on a HUGE scale but just to get for myself what I need. Chickens, a couple cows, pigs etc. I love my chickens! I started this idea because I love the country and buying local is something very important for me. That and of course, self sufficiency. Don't ask others for things you can get for yourself and if you have more, give it to those who need it. I got my dad involved building the coop. Now we love taking care of our girls and are planning to get some more come spring. Someday, my dream will come true but for now, I've got a good start. :)

By: DEB/ BEN ROCK | Dec 20, 2011 06:08 PM | Permalink
I live 30 miles out of Chicago...just as I ALWAYS told myself I would...we raise FIBER ANIMALS! so I have GREAT spinning fibers, and knitting yarns...we also make our own maple syrup...coming soon! and grow a large amount of our fruits and veggies...Have a studio...where we make glass art, ornamental iron work, wood work, pottery, and some just plain crafting...along with my husband's award winning jewelry!! e raise our own poultry...for eggs , meat and the fabulous feathers from our Sebastopol geese...great inclusions for yarns!!! PLAN to start teaching skills this year!! Make Goat milk soap, and your own laundry soap and dishwashing soap for PENNIES...and it does not hurt the is in it!!! WE have also put in a fishing pond, and stocked it with bass, blue gills and catfish...see all on our web site ROCK-FARMS.COM MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO COME AND LEARN!!

By: Melissa Gray | Dec 20, 2011 05:51 PM | Permalink
We live in SE NC, in a town outside of a military base. MANY people do not understand why we choose to raise our own food, and do things "The Hard way" we love our life. We eat better than many people who make 2x what we make income wise, and I am able to stay at home and care for my farm and our last child still at home. We raise fine whte corriedale sheep mainly but I also spin and sculpt with my wool , having many pieces in local art galleries. I found for small acreage the sheep were a fantastic yeild, 3 crops a year from a seasoned ewe.. 2 lambs and one fleece, if marketed correctly can easily pay for the upkeep of that mom for a year and then some. but I suppliment my income with eggs, and boarding a couple of horses for others. We regularly make our own soap, dye and spin our own wool, shear ourselves, and grow a garden that fills our freezers. we have calves on rotation into the freezer, and we put pigs in our garden in the fall.. they take care of all of the tilling. we learn someting new every year, and at 44 I am stronger and in better shape than many 20 somethings I see. wouldnt trade my "hard life" for anything

By: bruce smith | Dec 20, 2011 05:44 PM | Permalink
I'm Homesteading here in my small holding in CT. We heat with wood, grow a good size garden, started a Food forest "albeit tiny" and are living very simple and frugal. No Chickens yet, but we do have live stock of sorts. I vermicompost . I also Forage, wild craft, and I'm a neophyte herbalist.

By: Adrienne Wolfe | Dec 20, 2011 04:39 PM | Permalink
We have a very small "spread" of 8.5 acres on Bainbridge Island, WA (right outside of Seattle). It's named Rolling Bay Farm where we have 50 chickens, a small flock of Finnsheep for fiber and meat, seasonally heritage turkeys and 2 sows for breeding and pork sales. I also make soap with our extra lard. We started out doing most of this for ourselves, but quickly expanded into a micro farm to supply our community with awesome, fresh meats, fiber, soap and eggs. One of the things that is most rewarding is that we sell all of our stuff onsite from an honor farmstand. We get to meet people when we run into them down at the barn buying product and see how happy they are to bring their kids out to see the livestock. As homesteaders we are constantly learnig new things and skills. It has been a really rewarding experience and one we plan to continue for years to come!

Adrienne Wolfe Rolling Bay Farm Blog and website

Brenda Poklacki says:    (Dec 20, 2011 12:00 AM)

Sounds wonderful. I wish I lived near you to participate.

Adrienne Wolfe says:    (Dec 20, 2011 12:00 AM)

Well, if you ever make it out this way give us a holler for a micro farm tour. We love to share our experiences with people!

By: Ann Iijima | Dec 20, 2011 04:38 PM | Permalink
I really like your phrase, "having a home-based life"!

Our home-based life started with gardening then canning. We loved the way this felt - so grounded and joyful! I wanted that spirit to spread to other parts of my life, so I've begun learning to fiddle, in an effort to have "home-made" music and entertainment not dependent on mass media.

Back to the December 2011 Newsletter