LocalHarvest Newsletter, December 20, 2011

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

My inbox has been full this month - many thanks to all of you who took time to respond to last month's article about having hope in hard times. I appreciated your words. Thank you, too, to the 80 of you who sent notes in response to my search for some homesteaders to talk to for this month's newsletter. Homesteading seemed like a good topic for two reasons. First, because it is deeply interesting and even more hopeful to me that so many people all over the country are taking up some of the old skills. Raising a flock for eggs or meat, keeping a hive for honey, putting in a big garden and preserving the excess harvest, heating with wood, brewing, knitting, spinning, and on and on. In my family we call it "having a home-based life," and though we don't consider ourselves homesteaders we are intentional about keeping our focus on producing rather than consuming. Like many of you, we find a lot of meaning and satisfaction in the process of raising, creating, and making things.

The first thing I learned in reading your letters is that many people wonder if their efforts are sufficient to qualify them as homesteaders. This was especially true of the many people who live in urban areas and are drawn to the homesteading lifestyle. A few people even sent official definitions to help determine their membership. Given all the ambiguity about what makes a homesteader, I had to laugh when I opened an email from Sam in Northeast Tennessee. It read, in full, "I think I'm a homesteader, therefore, I am." Enough said.

If our members are typical, there are as many paths to becoming homesteaders as there are definitions of the lifestyle. Kelly from The Never Done Farm in Fromberg, MT told me that for her husband and her, the motivation was a desire to eat more healthfully to help address their daughter's health issues. For Brenda and Chris from Thunder Garden Ranch in Ione, WA, it sounded like the best financial option for retirement, but has ended up offering so many surprising blessings. In June, 2010 they moved from the city to a homestead with 50 acres, in a town of 500 people. "What we didn't expect was that the social life is so much fun! We really know all of our neighbors and see them all the time. We love that. We wish we would have moved here years and years ago."

Of the work involved, one homesteader talked about cooking on her wood cook stove, raising most of their own food and all the rest, and said simply, "It's what we like." Another person said that honestly, the workload was more than anticipated, but that it was good exercise and that it kept them striving to work as smartly as possible, finding labor-saving tricks wherever they can. Many talked about how their families or customers often don't understand why they choose "to do everything the hard way." But for the homesteaders I talked with, having their own eggs was worth setting up a chicken coop and learning to tend a flock, because taking the long view they saw that raising chickens was not a labor intensive proposition. For homesteaders - like small farmers - 'labor' isn't a dirty word. They like being active. They like problem solving.

Another theme among the people who responded to my call for homesteaders was the desire to share experiences and stories. While we can't all get together in a big old barn somewhere - but wouldn't that be fun? - we did change our feedback section to allow people to comment on each other's stories. It's a small- change, but one that we hope will encourage conversation about this and future topics on LocalHarvest.

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. And if these long nights have you wanting to curl up with a good book and a 'virtual' homesteading experience from the comfort of your armchair sounds good to you, I would recommend Up Tunket Road: the education of a modern homesteader, by Philip Ackerman-Leist. It is a detailed but accessible memoir, full of the kinds of good stories you might expect from people diving into a homesteading adventure.

As this year's shortest day and longest night approach, we hope that you will eat well and take good care,

Erin Barnett

From the LocalHarvest Store:

If winter's official arrival has you itching for a new project, LocalHarvest farmers offer oodles of yarn and fibers you can put to crafty purposes!

In need of some holiday gift ideas? LocalHarvest farmers offer a big selection of gift baskets, filled with everything from fruits to honey, cheeses to meats. If your loved ones like nuts, the 2011 crop is in, and they are at their freshest and finest. We also have some beautiful California olive oils to treat the home cooks on your list. And don't forget what a great gift a box of fresh citrus makes!

Can't decide? LocalHarvest e-gift cards make a great gift. Your friends and family can browse through our entire catalog and find the thing that they like best.

CSAware: Get ready for your 2012 CSA season

For those of you who have been wanting to take a look at our CSA management software, CSAware, this winter would be a great time to do so. We love working with CSA farmers in this way. It is so gratifying to be creating software that really improves the day to day operations and the bottom line on our users' farms. If you have a CSA farm and would like to see the software, let us know and we'll set you up for a tour.

Food from the Farm: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

It's hardly The Gift of the Magi, but at some point during the holidays I make Brussels sprouts for my family. Let's just say there are two kinds of people in the world, and I'm in the group that would rather eat broccoli. Given that, I'm no judge of good recipes for this veggie, but when I made these for my husband the other night, he gave me a big smile and an, "Aw, honey, thanks!" The recipe for Brennie's Brussels, was adapted from one sent to us by the Carrboro Farmers' Market, Carrboro, NC. It was given to them by market customer Brendan Caine. Thanks, Brennie!