Today, Ernie was told that some local people who live off grid are doing “real” homesteading.
Now see, that ticks me off.
If we’re talking about REAL homesteading, my great-grandparents were “REAL” homesteaders.
They came to this country (Canada) with NOTHING, got crappy land and built a life from NOTHING.
That is”REAL” homesteading.
What people do today is also homesteading but you can do it however you darn well please. Homesteading today is using some (or all if you wish) of the traditional ways of our ancestors when they came to this part of the world, incorporated with new ways of living such as solar energy, newly developed seeds and plants and perhaps working at a really good job.
There is no one way to do it.
There are no such things as “real homesteaders” anymore. Homesteaders are people who decide that they are homesteaders. It can be in mind or in physical reality. It doesn’t matter.
I just wanted to clarify that.
Something that I have always believed about a person’s life is that each one of us has to do what is right for us (even when I was not doing that in my own life). Sometimes this means we do something right away without planning and sometimes it means we wait a bit and concentrate on what we have.
It is a personal choice.
What I do know for sure is that if you have an overwhelming sense of restlessness about something and you keep hesitating on taking action, something will eventually occur that will make a change for you.
Homesteading was that for me and I know it is for many others as well.
Homesteading to me means that you have a certain mindset, one that includes but is not limited to frugality, traditional lifestyle techniques, growing your own food, concern for nature and the environment.
Every homesteader has a different way of living and doing things. Some beliefs about homesteading however, are inaccurate. One of these is that a person needs to be in a certain place to do this.
Homesteading is a state of mind.
If you feel that you want to homestead or live a different more sustainable lifestyle you don’t need to move anywhere.
Just start right where you are.
As I have said before, homesteading (as a state of mind) is how person sees the world and what she/he does in it – NOT what property you own. It is a way of living more simply and being more deliberate about what you do. Sure, you can have goals for your future homestead but that does not need to stop you from working with what you have.
There are so many things that you can do right where you are that would technically qualify as homesteading activities.
A: Plant a garden.
No, you do not need to have any space outdoors at all. Start with planting your food flavourings – basil, oregano,thyme, multiplier onions etc in a container on your window sill. Buy some seed and a small bag of soil and plant them.
B: Don’t throw everything away.
To grow a herb garden in your apartment, you don’t need to buy any fancy pots. Start by using plastic food tubs that no longer have food in them. I know you have those. Make smallish drainage holes on the bottom and find a reusable tray to put it on to catch the water.
C: Find multiple sources of income.
It is a really good idea to not have all your income come from one source. The reliance on one employer or one method of making money is what gets many people in trouble with regards to debt and making payments. The feeling of security from an employer can over ride sensible thinking.
An example of this is when I was working at the local nursing home. A woman who I worked with had applied for a position in the care home. She already had a job there but it was for fewer hours than the new position.
Since no one else applied, she figured she was a shoe-in for the position and she and her husband went and purchased a brand new truck on payments. The woman who was giving up her position changed her mind and kept it so the first woman didn’t get the position. She was very upset and blamed the other woman for her problem.
Relying on one source of income can be problematic when you spend more than you make or have payments that need a job to be paid.
D: Spend less.
This is a given for a homesteader. The point of homesteading (I feel) is to enjoy life more without spending on everything you see, to be more connected to nature and more conscious about what you are doing in day to day life. One of the things that we do here is buy only what we absolutely need. We rarely buy “wants” because we have trained ourselves to rethink a want before purchase.
For example, I have a large amount of yarn for knitting and crocheting. I don’t need anymore. Sure it’s tempting to purchase yarn for that really cool sweater. But I don’t need anymore sweaters. I have several. I am not trying to impress anyone with my new sweater, which is essentially what buying something you want is for.
E: Don’t be influenced by those who are not doing.
When someone says something negative about your new pastimes (pickling, soap-making, herb growing…), ignore them. You need to keep in mind what your goals are and don’t listen to anyone else.
Never take advice from someone who’s life is not your ideal life.
Your life is your own and what someone else says about it is irrelevant because the comment is not related to you at all. It comes from that person’s own psychology.
I remember one time my aunt had a older couple visiting. At the time I had really started to get into dogs and dog training. As we were standing around talking the man started picking on me about cleaning up after the dogs (poop-scooping).
He had spent his whole life shovelling livestock crap and he couldn’t understand how anyone would want to pick up any from any animal. He just couldn’t get over how I could do this.
This is not important information. This is purely emotional, based on how much he hated shovelling manure and that he spent his whole life at it. Therefore, to him, no one else should ever do that again.
In order to validate his own dislike of something, he tried to disempower me with negative questioning and ridicule and make himself feel better.
This is not information that would help me accomplish my goals.
I didn’t reply with any fabulous comment to clarify why I pick up dog poop, but his words did serve to make me feel bad – that maybe I was doing something wrong by liking dogs.
My response to him now would be something like “everyone is different” or “not everyone has a problem with poop”, or if I really wanted to be sarcastic perhaps “does that include dirty diapers?”.
Anyway, you get my point. Don’t listen to ANYONE who is talking negative about what you are doing. You are on your own path and must follow that.
So, the most important thing is not what you do to start homesteading. It is that you START and not worry about other people’s opinions of you or what you are doing.
If it is what you really want to do you will do it and if you don’t you will find out soon enough.
I can’t believe it but we actually have too many potatoes. We never have too many. But this year Ernie says that if we don’t use them soon or give some away we will have to waste them. He has already planted as many as we can room for in our garden so what ever is left must be eaten.
So, we are making potato dumplings otherwise known as perohy in Ukrainian or perogies in Polish. I’m sure most of you have heard about these. They are a carbohydrate lovers dream. Mashed potatoes with onion sometimes with cheese, mixed in or just plain cottage cheese, saurkraut, or prunes, put inside a white flour dough, boiled and then either fried with more onions or just eaten boiled with sour cream.
When we make them we just have a potato and onion filling. Nothing fancy.
This food is really just a way the homesteaders and pioneers used up produce so that it didn’t go to waste. So even though they taste amazing, they are traditional and useful.
The recipe and instructions are fairly simple.
The dough is flour, water, and oil. The filling is really whatever you darn well feel like filling it with. Cut out dough circles, not too thick, put in a dab of filling and PINCH closed. If the dough won’t stick closed, use a little more flour on your fingers and pinch them some more. Boil until floating.
It really couldn’t be more simple. But you can screw them up. If you don’t pinch them right, and add the right amount of flour, they will fall apart in the water as they are boiling. If you make the circles to big, you will have huge perogies. If your dough is not stretchy enough you will have trouble with everything.
But even though there may be a failure in the procedure, everything is still edible. That is the beauty of this food. At worst you will end up with half moon pasta pieces. Delicious.
For us, history is very much a part of why we homestead. We have a strong tie to the land where we live and to the history of our ancestors who lived and worked here before us. We still do many of the things that they did during daily life. Making certain foods is obviously going to be one of these things.
In my last blog post I talked about eating whole or real foods.
Just as an aside, I was not trying to show anyone how great we are for doing this and I feel that maybe some people may have taken offence to what I wrote. This is how WE do things and how we WANT to live I was not criticizing anyone’s food choices, merely stating mine. If you feel that you don’t agree with me that we are able to eat only whole foods, then you may need to evaluate why you might think that or even care. We simply are doing it.
With that out of the way, we are still eating 99% whole foods. There are only a few things that have multiple ingredients or additives on the labels for the things we buy from the store.
Kutia (pronounced koo-ti-ya) is a traditional Ukrainian dish that is normally served at Christmas. Both Ernie’s and my families served this for Christmas eve supper and then again for breakfast the next morning.
The ingredients are:
Cooked wheat berries, poppy seeds, honey
Cook the wheat, add ground up poppy seeds and warm honey water – honey melted in hot water. Mix together. Eat.
That’s it. This is a meal made out of three whole foods that is nutritious and extremely tasty. Our source of honey is a local farmer (a one minute drive or a five minute walk). Our source for poppy seeds is our garden. Our source for wheat is Saskatchewan Red Spring Wheat from the local store.
When we made Kutia this time I found that some of the poppy seeds had not been dried properly before storage last fall and were mouldy. Ernie went to the store and bought some (still a whole food) and we made half with store bought poppy seeds and half with what was left of our own that was not mouldy. They tasted pretty much the same in the end.
This dish is a true homesteader’s food because it was made and eaten by our ancestors in this area after they immigrated to Canada. The tradition has been passed down and is a delicious one. Poppies were a flower that were seen in many gardens in this area. The flowers seeded themselves each year and provided a beautiful backdrop for the vegetable gardens. Obviously wheat was also grown in the area and is highly nutritious.
This dish is eaten on Ukrainian Christmas eve because it has no animal products in it. The tradition is that no animal products are eaten then in reverence to the animals at the birth. This is not to say that Ukrainians are vegan or even vegetarian. It is just a tradition.
If you want to watch us make this food see the video below.
Pets are an expense, food and vet bills being the main issues. When I consider feeding my dogs on the homestead, I always feed the best food I can find. This doesn’t always mean pre-made, store bought food either.
The reason for this is simple.
Dogs need to eat well just like we do. What they eat affects their health. Having six dogs and many more over the years and being a pet professional, I have tried all kinds of store bought dog foods as well as those I prepared myself and I have seen many different kinds being fed to their dogs by clients.
On the homestead, the more food I can provide for my dog the better.
This is what we do:
We Feed Dry Dog Food
We buy the best quality dry dog food we can find that is made in the closest location to us. Yes, we use a dry dog food for convenience. Yikes! Isn’t this the opposite of a homesteader’s thinking? In a way yes and in a way no.
By yes, I mean that it is not self sufficient and likely NOT the most ideal thing for a dog. By no I mean that I have always felt that our dogs need to be able to eat from many different sources. Often, I have worked with a dog who has been babied and won’t eat anything but certain types of food. I expose our dogs to many different kinds of foods and this includes a good quality dry food.
So if you want to and can feed your dog raw or only stuff from your homestead, perfect. It can be done and is the best way in my opinion to feed dogs. I have fed raw in the past, but currently don’t have the access to the kind of meat I want to feed to six dogs. Also, two of my dogs are 15 years old and can’t chew bone anymore. They also are starting to not eat, so I give them whatever I can that is tasty enough to interest them AND give them nutrients they need.
We Feed Cooked Fish
We buy canned salmon and sardines, and fish that was caught from the local area lakes. Don’t forget that if you are or want to be a “raw” feeder, canned fish is cooked and so is not raw. All fish caught in local lakes is cooked before feeding to the dogs. You could probably feed it raw but it would have to be frozen for at least 3 weeks before feeding.
We Feed “Scraps”
All scraps have to be whole foods i.e. NOT processed meats, foods with additives etc. Our scraps include things liked cooked potato and other veggies, meat scraps like chicken, venison, beef, pork etc. If there is fat, we still feed it but are extremely careful not to feed too much at once. Cooked fat is different from raw fat and has a different affect on the body for dogs. So limit cooked fat.
We also buy dog cookies/treats at this time from the pet store, but that is also for convenience and we buy from companies that are as local as possible with the best ingredients as possible. It is easy to make your own dog treats. There are unlimited recipes to be found on the internet.
We Feed Meat From Local Sources
We get meat locally. The beef is grass fed from nearby ranchers and we get chicken from a woman who raises them herself. We used to get pork from a farmer but have not had any for a few years. Ernie also hunts during the season, and sometimes the dogs get extra deer meat, but we always freeze the deer for 3 weeks before feeding. The deer antlers are also given to the dogs instead of bones to chew, but can also cause cracked teeth so we need to be careful about that. If I feed bones they must always be raw. We only give chicken bones as we have had bad experiences feeding other bone.
If I feed raw meat only on one day, I make sure to always give bone meal (made specifically for dogs from ethical and clean sources) if it is beef or feed the chicken with the bones. Feeding raw meat exclusively without bone leads to nutrient imbalance.
Other Fresh Foods
We also feed raw or cooked eggs. If we have farm eggs then we feed raw and can feed the shells as well. The skin on the inside of the eggs has nutrients that benefits the dogs. If the eggs are boiled in the shells, we do not feed the shells as they become sharp when cooked. Dogs can be fed eggs either raw or cooked and receive similar nutrients. Eggs are like a vitamin pill for dogs.
In the fall we have apples from our trees and the dogs eat them right off the ground or are given one to eat. We make sure not to give too many so that they don’t eat too many seeds. Most seeds go right through because they don’t chew them, but just to be cautious we watch how many they eat. We also feed raspberries when they are available from our garden and blueberries when we can buy them in season.
Vegetables from the garden can include spinach, kale, parsley, and some herbs.
And thats about it really. Basically, we try to keep it simple and not rely too much on processed food from the grocery store. If we come into a regular source of local meat for the dogs, I will start feeding that.
So, we are out of the white onions that we harvested from our garden in the fall. They never really last very long anyway and sometimes we have to just chop them up, cook them and freeze them for use later.
For onions now, instead of buying we use our multipliers. This is good and bad. They are extremely flavourful, having much more flavour than regular white onions. The problem is that being small, they take extra time to peel and cut up. So much so that sometimes there is a temptation to NOT use them. But we buck up and do anyway!
We keep a certain number of them on the counter for convenience, but the rest (I am told there are still 2 long orange bags full of them) are kept in the cellar. These onions are grown from bulbs that have been grown in this area for decades. They are probably the same as most people have in many places though.
When thinking about being frugal, these onions fit right in to the scheme. You can grow them for green onions all through the summer, just for the mature onion, and for your own seed. They really are amazing. And so far there have been no diseases or insect bothering them at all like the other large onions.
We are also keeping what there is of our garlic on the counter. This year, as I have written about, was almost a failure. We had enough to plant about 6 small rows last fall, but what we are eating is very small as you can see. The flavour is good but again it is time consuming to peel.
In the picture, there is also an example of what is left of our apples. Ernie is still eating them but I cannot bring myself to 😉 He says they are good even though there is a little brown in the middle.
So we are set for onions until the winter onions peek through the soil in the spring.
I am currently experiencing extreme burnout at work. So much so that I have to stop working and shut down my business. My job and business – grooming, training and boarding dogs, has for years ( 9 years) made it so that there is no time away from dogs. I work from home and I have my own dogs here as well as other people’s as part of the business. The whole thing was part of my plan to be an urban homesteader: working from home at something I love to help support the homestead lifestyle.
Most people enjoy going home from work to be away from work. For me, there is no such thing. When I board dogs, the dogs live here with us so I am on edge 24 hours a day thinking about the boarding dogs.
Don’t get me wrong here, I appreciate being able to even HAVE a job that I can do at home and not have to commute. I know there are people who don’t have jobs. However, in my enthusiasm to work from home, I picked a career that was too similar to my home life and therefore had no separation.
Because we live in a lowly populated area, I am forced to take most if not all clients at the risk of not making enough money that year or losing clients. Sometimes there is overlap of clients so that I don’t have any days off for weeks and weeks. We can’t go anywhere or really do anything as there is always someone’s dog to consider, even if it is just one dog staying with us.
As a business owner, I also am in charge of promotion of the business in real life, and on social media. As well, I took on some extra work as a social media manager for several other businesses. These were not pet businesses, but added to the workload.
I discussed this with Ernie, and we both agree that the burnout is in part because of the long hours and no breaks, but I also believe that at some point my heart was not really into it. I feel that I may have been pursuing the pet professional business because I had something to prove. This, however, is a subject for a completely different post so I won’t elaborate here.
My burnout is so extreme, that I have even stopped going to dog shows which I used to enjoy, training my own dogs, and have completely changed my hobby interests. I am now painting.
Strangely, I am OK with all this, especially the painting part. Yes, I am a beginner, but this is something that I am using to relax my mind as I recover from the burnout and is purely for the love of the process. I don’t care if it ever gets me anywhere. It is FUN.
So, I am a little depressed and sad about closing down my business that I have pursued for so many years, and leaving behind the clients that I enjoyed meeting and interacting with. But I think that I will be able to do more in another area of work when I find it because I learned what I did wrong with the previous one.
The other day my hubby and I were making salsa.
Whoop-te-do some of you may say. Why not just go out and buy it?
This was me thinking to myself as we were working, because people have said this to me before and I have heard many say this in regards to other things.
So, I came up with the answer while we were working.
We do it because we can, NOT because we HAVE to. Buying food from the store is for those who HAVE to. They have no other choice. They don’t have the knowledge, space, time, ability etc. The more you buy, the more the money you need. I work from home about part time at my own businesses (yes more than one). The rest of the time I put into making food, cleaning and other things to save money so I don’t have to go out to work.
If I went out to work, I would be exhausted at the end of the day and not be able to cook, clean etc, so we would be eating poorly with prepared, store bought foods. Sure I would be making more money but I wouldn’t be saving it. We would be eating out more, buying more processed foods, and going on expensive vacations more because of the stress of the job.
This month (March) we were able to get our grocery bill down to $185.00 for two people. This is for dairy and staples including paper products. We don’t shop at the cheapest store – just the local co-op. However, we do have a garden, hubby gets a deer in the fall, we get a fish a week from the local lake, we barter for eggs and beef (which is also partly to feed our dogs), and we buy a whole pig from a local farmer for about $180.00 (feeds us for over a year). We eat WELL. If we didn’t, we would feel deprived.
Part of the work we do to save money is slaughter our own beef and pig and do our own fishing. This time would otherwise be spent working for others. By doing this we also learn amazingly important skills and a reverence for life.
I am not telling you all this to show how great we are. My point is that anything can be done. Truly. My point is that people make choices. Choices create movement towards goals and accomplishing them. You either want to do something or you don’t. As Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try”.