Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Homesteading Know Hows~ My Story

So how do you learn how to homestead anyhow? Read a book? Talk to elders like great grandparents? Search the internet? Trial and error? Attend a seminar or conference?

All of the above. How did I get started, you may be wondering.

I listened to stories at my mother's and grandmother's knee as a child. You see my grandmother was born in the late 1800's. Her family immigrated from Germany to farm the American plains of Missouri, Iowa and finally Nebraska. My mother was teenager during WWII in Japan in both Fukoka (farming island) and Nagasaki (atomic blast site). Both of these elders knew deprivation and creating something from nothing. Even back then, I was a curious child and loved learning. I actually preferred the company of my elders than children my own age. I listened and asked questions. I absorbed all those life stories like a sponge. My grandmother actually wrote all her experiences down in a journal that was self published by my family upon her death. I wish my mother had, but her command of the English language was limited. My father had inherited my great uncle's farm. But that was not to be. He never lost the farming mentality until he was well into his 70s. So as you can see, it was in my genes.

Although being a modern young woman, I never thought I'd actually live that life or use that experience. But I'm a firm believer that knowledge is the one thing no one can take away from you. Learning never stops, thank God! No knowledge is ever wasted. My mother used to say, "there will be an again." My father was also on embassy duty so we traveled world wide including a few third world nations. My  brain soaked it all up. So I squirreled away those tidbits for maybe later use.

I guess this really hit home when I had my own children. Back in the 70s, there were gas shortages and grocery prices went up by a huge amount. I had more responsibilities than just me and my husband. The future generation was at stake. I've always been a health conscious type of gal. My career path was medical. I was well into my nursing studies. I loved the nutrition and science classes the best. While in my anatomy physiology class, I started breaking out in hives. By the process of elimination, I discovered I was allergic to the formaldehyde used to embalm the animals I was dissecting. So I wore latex gloves before universal precautions and AIDS. My earlier initiation (my grandmother's stories) about shortages during the Great Depression came to the forefront.

I started reading labels before it was the in thing to do. Especially after I developed a case of the constant sniffles. I found that formaldehyde was an ingredient in my grocery store purchases. It is used as a preservative just like embalmed people and animals. Not only was I allergic to contract with this chemical, but I was developing a internal or systemic allergies as  well. Unfortunately for me, it meant having to make my own bread. But that was okay. I learned how to do it when younger. See no knowledge is wasted. It also reinforced my mother's "there will be an again" principal. My children didn't need all the chemicals that were in store bought bread either.

As you can see the influence of what I'd learned from my elders had a huge impact on me. They showed me how to survive and make my life better. Although I'd never thought I'd ever use it at the time. I started eliminating all processed foods from our diet. I went to local farmers markets to buy my fresh produce instead of grocery stores. With a growing family, a large amount of food was needed.

Canning jams and jellies are most people's first foray into canning. I was no different. We had several You Pick farms within an hour of the city. I started with strawberry jam because I can't ever get enough of it. Then came grape jelly, my husband's favorite. Soon, I was a canning maniac. Tomatoes, pickles, peaches, apples, blueberries and a host of other things soon followed. I started small because of financial restraints. Every year I bought four cases of jars. Two cases of quart and two cases of pint jars. It wasn't much at the time because I was in college, working, and raising a family. But little by little it adds up. Soon, I was canning six months to a year's worth of fruits and vegetables each year. With a family with three kids and eventually five, every penny counted. We also bought a freezer. Whatever I didn't water bath canned was frozen.

I followed my mother's example. Every year with the tax refund, she bought half a cow, half a pig, and poultry. Meats like turkeys and hams, always go on sale at Thanksgiving or Christmas so an extra one or two would be bought and stuck in the freezer. I ended up buying a small chest freezer just for milk. I'd catch a good sale and stock up. I was well on my way to being self sufficient (sort of) and a prepper before I was twenty-five.

Jump ahead a decade, now I was organically growing most of my own produce, eggs, and rabbit meat. A house fire set off all my histamines. My allergist tested me with two hundred little contact points. Let's just say that I failed that test miserably. It's easier to say what I didn't show a reaction to; corn, strawberries, and pine. Most of the other pinpoints rated 3 out of 4 and too many 4 out of 4s. After two years of shots, I never reached a maintenance dose. Growing my own wasn't a fad thing to do but a necessity even with the allergy pills, nose sprays and eye drops. I also was prescribed an Epi-pen. Yes, my allergies were that severe as to impact my breathing.

A lot of what and how to grow vegetables came from my mother and grandmother. The organic growing techniques were all from my mother. Then came the research part. I found a book called, "Putting Food By." I love this book! It taught me how to cook everything. Pre-packaged and processed foods were history after reading it. I could make my own and eat healthier to boot.

I had a friend that showed me how to water bath can low acid foods.  It's not recommended but it can be done. I did this for about five years before I bought my pressure canner. We never got sick from anything I canned this way, but I still won't recommend canning food this way.

I also started experimenting with herbal remedies. Again, it was my mother and grandmother that showed me the way. I actually bought books and got a degree in herbal studies. While most of the country was pop this or that pill, I was using herbs and weeds. I started making my own soap during this period and aromatherapy. I was well on my way to being self sufficient and a homesteader without realizing it.

Fast forward a couple more decades and here I am. It took two husbands, my children growing up and having families of there own for me to get away from the city, and urban homesteading. Each time I moved along the way, I bought more and more land expanding my knowledge base along the way.

Will we ever be totally self sufficient, I doubt it. We are too small to be. Maybe classify us as a small hobby farm at best, but we are doing our own thing as much as possible. I kind of like throwing a switch and having a light come on. But I can live without air conditioning in the hot Georgia summers so long as the air circulates around me. I keep warm in the winter with wood in our wood stove. I prepare meals with propane. One tank full of propane has lasted us over a year of cooking and canning, and we've only used 50% of the tank. Our electricity bill is about half of our cell phone or internet bill so we aren't doing too bad in energy use.

But even so, push come to shove we can live without these luxuries to...except for maybe the water well pump. If we didn't sit on the side of a granite hill side, a hand pump water source would work. Even so we are experimenting with a rain catchment system to water our garden and livestock. We are even looking to build a ram pump that runs between the creek and homestead. Those two systems are only viable when we aren't in a drought situation like last year. Over 100 days without rain. Even with all the winter and spring rains, and some residual hurricane rain bands, we are still recovering from it. That starts us out at a loss for this year.

Oh at this point, I will mention about homestead communities. They are a rarely tapped resource. When small homesteads band together, all needs can be met. By talking, bartering, and trading, everyone makes a difference. Small homesteads can survive and flourish.

Anyhow, this is how I got started in homesteading. It took listening to my elders, reading books and doing my research, trial and errors, going to seminars, conferences, and even college. But mostly, it took time and willingness to try it. Now, I'll admit, I could have done it faster, but I was too busy living my life.

As always...
Y'all have a blessed day.

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