Since our homestead is in a village, we have a restricted amount of space that we homestead on. Obviously it is going to be smaller than most. We have in total about one and 1/4 acres.
Normally one would think that you can’t do much on a small property and I used to believe that too. We have found though, that anything you want can be grown or produced even on a small homestead. It is similar to what the amazing things you can do with a can of paint for redecorating or how you can live in a tiny house, which we know that many people do.
Below are the things I have come up with that work for us the best when trying produce food on a small homestead.
We make use of all the space we have. This one is clearly the most important and actually includes most of the ones below. This space includes everything. Cupboard space, yard space, garden space, and any storage space. I guess we could always do better but for the most part, we get creative about storing things.
We don’t buy something if we can make it or do without. Buying things takes storage space. We don’t have storage space. It really is the same as living in a tiny house. You just don’t have room for the extra stuff.
An example of things like this are machines of all kinds. We bought a new riding lawnmower out of necessity and definitely had to have a place to park it indoors. The only shed that it will fit in is off the ground about a foot, so Ernie had to make a ramp – out of scrap wood of course – to drive it into the shed. So now the shed is mostly taken up with this lawn mower and to put up another shed will take space away from the garden so there is basically no more room for any new machinery. Luckily we don’t need a tractor, yet. Anyway I think you get the idea. We have no room for boats, cars, or fun toys etc. We do without those.
We only plant what we know we will eat. This way food will not go to waste and the space won’t be taken up by something we don’t need and put to good use growing what we do need.
We grow some of our vegetables upwards. Cucumbers and peas are planted on vertical fencing or lines to have them grow upwards. We also are fussy about pinching the tomatoes – taking the sprouts out of the branches so that the plants grow more upwards and don’t sprawl all over the place. This all saves space in the garden.
We make changes if something doesn’t work out the way we thought it would. If we do have something on the homestead that we thought we would like or might be useful but it turned out not being needed or not working out, we change it as soon as possible.
For example, we bought a gooseberry bush several years ago and put it in the back yard. Unfortunately, the dogs were also in the back yard often and would run into it regularly. Luckily no one was injured as they have thick coats. They would also EAT the berries before we had a chance to pick them. So we moved the bush to a totally different location and now it is growing well and producing so that we can use the berries.
So, producing big on a small homestead is mostly about creative use of space. If we had livestock, we would still be able to house them and feed them with what we have now. We would just keep it to the scale that is appropriate for the size of the property. I have said it before that homesteaders are pros at adapting to new environments. I also believe we are pros are being creative with what we have.
I know it is probably a boring post to make but I am showing off our garden this year. We were’t sure if there would be much of one, since we weren’t going to be planting as much, but it looks like the garden is doing what gardens do – GROW.
Firstly the cucumbers we plant are a heirloom variety, although we don’t have a name for them since they came over at the beginning of the 20th century with the settlers from Ukraine. Ernie used field fencing and salvaged metal poles from the dump this year for them to climb on.
Then the corn and onions look pretty good too. We’ve had quite a bit a rain this year and everything is so green. Corn is not usually this large at this time of year here simply because of the lack of heat. But hopefully we will have an amazing crop.
Umm, well you know about horseradish. This is one of those plants that is not used very often but grows like crazy just to make a point. Beautiful though. And shading some volunteer garlic that doesn’t seem to care.
And finally the whole garden which looks amazing because of Ernie’s obsession with weeding. Thanks goodness!
There you have it!
Recently I wrote a blog post (ok not really recently but sort of) talking about how we were going to do more travelling and I would work from wherever I was.
Well, talk about messing up plans.
Two weeks ago we went on one of these trips – a camping trip – to a campground not too far away, about three hours. Both Ernie and I didn’t really want to go but because I was determined to go and had done so much planning to do so, we went.
Right at the end of the trip, one of our dogs passed away. Not just any dog. Not one of the 15 year olds, but our youngest and most active and my best pal, Miranda. She had an infection that had gone unnoticed by us and undiagnosed by the vet. She was on a medication that depressed the immune system to stop her from chewing her feet. She picked up a bladder infection which spread. I was weaning her off the med when she crashed. We took her to the vet where we were and they tried their very best, but it wasn’t to be.
Needless to say, we realized that we were focusing on the wrong things. Should I say I was.
Taking care of what you have is so very important. Because of this tragedy in our lives, I have a push to make the transition to homesteading full time and staying put. I had mentioned in my earlier blog post how I had wanted to travel ever since I was small. I guess I was wrong. I also can no longer look (groom, pet sit, or train) after other people’s dogs, something you may have heard me discuss in the past, but now seems pressing to do.
It often takes something major to happen to snap us out of, or move us toward what we really should be doing. Unfortunately, this realization usually happens after the fact.
I know this all sounds kind of silly, but when you have a feeling about something, listen to it. Feelings are facts in my opinion. You don’t have to read everything I post, but just know that your support is very helpful. Thanks.
This year we have started making an effort to buy only “whole” foods. This means that there is no ingredient list for the food or there are no additives on the ingredient list.
I probably don’t have to explain this to most of you, but I will. For example, a banana has one ingredient – banana. A bag of oatmeal is usually one ingredient – oatmeal. When I buy cheese, I make sure there are only 3 or 4 ingredients on the list, and no flavours or colours added. I just won’t eat it if there is. I have stopped buying most cheddar cheeses because they are usually coloured orange which is unnatural.
This way of eating is, I believe, important to food safety, health and control of our own ability to procure food for ourselves. With every purchase we make at a food store, we are making a kind of vote. We are telling large companies and stores what we will and will not accept about our food.
Some of the food we are buying now are things that we cannot grow at this time of year for ourselves nor can we put it away for the winter from our harvest. For example, we had very little spinach last year, likely due to the harsh winter we had. Our spinach is volunteer, so most of the seeds didn’t germinate. What did come up we froze and had very little for fresh eating. So we are buying some spinach for fresh eating this winter. Not ideal, but necessary for us to feel we are eating healthy.
If you want to see what we bought and why check out the video below.
So our focus on food this year is to keep buying whole foods and to buy as local as possible. Once we have been doing this for a while, it will become habit and we won’t be tempted to buy “treats” or sugar filled garbage food.
Today I am cooking beets. Every year we have a good crop of beets even though we don’t plant many. For some reason they grow and grow. This is the pic I posted in a blog post last fall. We store the beets and other root vegetables in our cellar which is essentially an area under the house that was dug out and filled (sort of ) with concrete in some places. In other places, there is just dirt. But it works.
Here’s what it looks like:
The partitions were put in many years ago by Ernie and his dad.
Anyway, as usual we left the beets until now and they got squishy. We put them in pails with newspaper which works not bad to keep the ones that are lower down from getting soft.
Our main use for beets is in beet soup or in Ukrainian (our ancestry) – Borshch (not borsht with a t, but BORSHCH). We are able to grow all the ingredients (except olive oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar) for our borshch in our garden: beets, garlic, onions, dill, potatoes, beans, tomatoes and usually carrots but our carrots are finished now so we won’t buy any, unless we can find locally grown carrots in the store.
So the process of making borshch is simple. Fry onions and garlic in fat (I used olive oil but you can use whatever you want), then add water, beets (I grated them with a large-holed grater we bought at a yard sale), dill, green beans, tomatoes and if you want carrots. I also put some garlic tops that I had frozen two years ago.
So there you have it. A simple, nutritious soup to use up your beets even when they are getting soggy! A true homesteader food.
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.
Descendants of these poppies have been in our north garden for around 80 years. Each year they seed themselves and we weed and plant around them. The colour was originally a plain red but over the years we have counted at least 10 different variations in colour that have developed, including white, white with red edging and a light purple. This mutation occured naturally. In the picture you can see a red flower with white edging and different shades of red.
This year we decided to fill in our small strawberry patch because the winter was rough on them and most didn’t survive. We didn’t do anything special to fill this in other than let the existing grass work its way into the area. Also working their way into the bare soil were weeds – or what most gardeners would consider weeds.
While watching the grass grow in, I noticed that there was a large clump of clover that was attracting bees. They all looked so happy, so I left it there. Also in the vicinity were some violas and other perennials that had been in the strawberry bed. I left them all.
Suddenly I noticed that the bed was now full of weeds that actually looked pretty good. I added a rock and dug up the soil, pulling out some black medick and a few other things that I considered weeds in this bed. Now I had a small flower bed of mostly weeds.
The picture below is terrible but gives an idea of what it looks like. I like to use this to explain things in life. Not everything that we consider bad is necessarily bad. Maybe we just need to look at it a different way.
To see the vlog about it go to: http://youtu.be/vO7KPUjednA
It works because I like it and it is insect friendly and dog friendly – if the dogs pee on a few things it doesn’t matter that much!
This year we grew some of our own vegetables from seed for transplanting into the garden. These were tomatoes, cabbage, brussels, broccoli, oregano, basil. Everything grew and grew. This is unusual for us. More often, the plants are spindly and small and they take more work than is preferred to get them to live.
This time we ignored them, so I guess that is why they grew so nicely.
We will be moving them out into the shed soon for the nights and in the day they will be somewhat protected outside until they harden a bit.
We did transplant the tomatoes, which we never do, so I guess that does count as not ignoring them.
Maybe it is just one of those years.
Our garlic harvest from last fall is still going strong. To date, there has been only one or two rotten cloves – that’s it. It is completely different from the previous two years in which we lost quite of bit of our harvest and had to quickly make garlic powder from the rest of the drying cloves. Many of the cloves are starting to sprout but no mould at all. The taste is still good as well, and we are eating some everyday!