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.
Last night we had a killing frost. Not that there was much on the garden. Just Brussels Sprouts, Rhubarb, some beans drying, and Horseradish of course.
Inside the house, however, is a different story. Mostly with regards to the tomatoes. In fact it seems that everyone in our area had a bumper tomato crop and we can’t give the things away.
So we’re canning juice, freezing ketchup and plain tomatoes and making soup. We were able to reduce the bags of frozen tomatoes from last year to zero, but we still have over 30 jars of canned tomatoes from last year in the cellar.
We decided to stop processing the tomatoes because we have enough. This is the total of what we put away:
29 canning quart jars of juice
11 large freezer bags of whole tomatoes
10 reused peanut butter jars of marinara sauce
18 pb jars or ketchup
and we have some romas still in the fridge for fresh eating.
and again this is added to the 29 canned jars already in the cellar.
Nuts, I know.
Next year we will not be planting tomatoes. Well, OK we’ll plant a few for fresh fruit but that’s it.
We did have some left and Ernie took them to his sister who doled them out at the Drop-In and to immediate family that needed some. That went over quite well and none were wasted.
About The Garlic
I planted the garlic by myself this year. Ernie was busy with other things so I did all the planting, which is fine.
We bought new garlic seed this year from professional garlic growers. Marino, Gaia’s Joy and Northern Quebec are the names. This garlic is prairie adapted to our area.
We also purchase new seed from the organic vegetable farmer we originally bought from years ago and found out that he buys seed every year from a different province. This means it is not prairie adapted and would likely explain why we are having trouble with it.
We will therefore be reducing the plantings of this variety – I can’t remember what he said the name of it was – in favour of smaller types of garlic produced locally.
Altogether I planted 250 cloves in three different locations. Below is a picture of the new garlic bed. The chairs and pail are to help prevent the dogs from running through it.
Peppers Were Successful
We had a pretty good crop of peppers considering we didn’t plant as many as two years ago. There were enough to put away quite a few containers in the freezer. Peppers are on par here with garlic with regards to importance. We have decided to up the pepper production next year.
We now have a good method of starting, transplanting and increasing speed of production for our area. Pepper tents are a must here and work wonders.
And of course cabbage, herbs, beans, peas were all good this year as well. We left most of our beans to dry and will do that next year as well. Neither of us care much for processed beans, so we will only be eating fresh.
We had trouble with corn since it was so dry and grass bound so they were stunted. But they gave a little produce anyway.
And the potatoes. Well, lets say we’ll be buying in the spring. This year was so dry that we got half of what we had last year. We need to plant in a different location next year as well and make a few soil amendments that I will discuss at a later date.
So that’s it for the garden. Now on to other homestead things like cooking and eating, crafts and art and small town life. And maybe a bit of travelling. And writing…
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.
At this time of year to save some money, we buy fruit, which is sometimes on sale, wash and freeze it for the winter. We do this instead of buying frozen from the grocery store in the winter. By doing this we know exactly where the fruit is grown and how it was processed (by us).
We do this with blueberries, Saskatoon berries (otherwise known as serviceberries) and sometimes strawberries if we can get them locally. To freeze them we use plastic honey containers as you can see in the photos. We feel this packaging method is acceptable since the berries do not contact too much of the plastic. Not as much as the honey that originally comes in them anyway.
This is what we are currently doing on the homestead right now as boring as it may seem.
We usually buy about two dozen packages of blueberries and about the same in strawberries. The Saskatoons have to be picked, which we do locally. And then we stuff ourselves with fresh berries for a few days! That’s it!
Living rurally is definitely different from living in urban areas for many reasons. When thinking about promoting your small business, there are a few things that are important to consider as being challenges and benefits.
Advertising In An Area Of Low Population
Reliable access to the internet can be one of those annoying differences between rural and urban areas that put a damper on promoting a business to your ideal customer. Luckily, depending on what area you live in, it might not matter that much. Promoting to the locals is often best done by using paper advertising.
As a social media manager for rural small business, I don’t always advocate for my own services. It all depends on the area you live in and why people are coming into your town.
In very small communities, posters on bulletin boards are still used to notify locals of what is going on – even with the younger crowd. Word of mouth is quite a good promotional tactic for small, service based businesses such as electricians or carpenters. Often, many businesses don’t even really have to advertise at all.
Where we live, only the larger businesses such as contractors and hotels do much paid advertising in the local newspaper or online. Everyone else relies on non-paid advertising. There are many people working on their own as sole proprietors who just get to know people in the area and get more than enough work from that. So actually, their best advertising tactic is in-person sales of their service and word of mouth.
In our village, which is a tourist town, most businesses can use social media to their benefit because the majority of sales is done during the spring/summer and weekends when cottagers and tourist come in. These tourists come in from up to 4 hours away and have access to good internet services. So they can find out whats going on here by using the internet as long as a business is using it properly.
Many organizations here still use only posters pinned to bulletin boards simply because they have not realized the benefits available to them in using digital advertising. They also spend money on advertising in the local newspaper, which is useful to a degree but limited as well to the older newspaper readers. The younger groups are not reading the newspaper with as much regularity. This poses a problem for some of these organizations, who are also made up of locals who in our area are all older residents of the village.
What is Appropriate?
Each town or village will need to determine on its own what is the most appropriate and cost effective means of advertising or promotion for them. Since most social media is free it cannot hurt to have a presence there. However, the thing about social media is just that – it is social and needs to be updated with regularity. The cost of using social media if you do not have the ability to post regularly is mostly in paying someone to do it for you. This can be a problem for communities that are not really going to benefit from using it, as it can be costly to pay someone to be a manager.
If a sole proprietor or volunteer of an organization can do the work well her/himself, then it won’t hurt. But not updating your social media often – at least twice a week – will not do you any favours in increasing your credibility.
It is impossible to know whether or not internet service will actually improve in rural areas or not. Some places may improve while other may not. This is also something to take into account when working on a marketing plan or deciding whether or not to actually do the extra work to post online.
Either way rural businesses are not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s just a matter of figuring out what is the best thing for you and your rural small business.
On a recent camping trip, a loaf of pre-sliced homemade raisin bread that we brought along ended up being moved back and forth between locations in the vehicle. This happened because we had more food than space to store it in and the bread got kicked out of the cooler. When we started out it was a fresh loaf and when we arrived home with it uneaten, it was in mostly tiny pieces.
I was able to salvage about 3 pathetic slices for breakfast after we got home. My first thought was to toss it, but then I quickly realized it could be made into bread pudding. I have never made or even eaten bread pudding, but have heard many people rave about it. So I used the whole loaf and made some up.
Luckily my husband eats anything, because after tasting it, I decided I am not a fan. This is not to criticize anyone who loves it, for sure. It is just my opinion. What I do love about it is that the bread does not go to waste, which is likely what happens a lot to bread that has become stale in most households. One of our goals in life is to waste nothing and live frugally, and I believe this is where bread pudding originated – from people living frugally and not wanting to waste anything. If the bread had not had raisins in it, I would have likely given it to the dogs over several days mixed in with their regular meals.
The recipe for bread pudding is simple – bread, cream or condensed milk, hot water, butter, salt, vanilla and eggs. You mix the milk and hot water, and pour it over the bread in a bowl. Once it cools to luke warm (so the eggs don’t cook in the bowl), you pour the mixture of eggs, vanilla, melted butter and a bit of salt into it, mix it up and bake at 350 F for 1 hour.
If I didn’t remember the recipe and needed to make this I would just make it to taste using the above ingredients. You don’t even really need vanilla. We used real maple syrup as a topping but anything sweet could work. The recipe called for a runny brown sugar topping but since we don’t have brown sugar in the house, the maple syrup was more than acceptable.
With the syrup, it tasted to me sort of like soggy french toast. This stuff could definitely pass for a breakfast and could be gussied up with more raisins and maybe even walnuts and cinnamon. I think I might have cooked it in a pan that was too high though. It did puff up quite a bit and would have overflowed if the pan had been smaller, but after cooling it shrank considerably. The texture was the part that I found the most unappealing.
I don’t foresee making this again for a very long time, mostly because I hope we don’t destroy bread this way again. If we have any dried out bread that is not in so many crumbs and pieces, I will attempt to make croutons, which I prefer to the sweeter and softer bread pudding.
So to clarify, there is really no need to waste anything, especially food. We go out of our way to use up anything that we haven’t eaten soon enough in different ways, like this bread, and of course we compost everything else that is inedible for us or the dogs. Our dogs really appreciate any real food we can give them that is not spoiled.
I have tried the pudding once again and doctored it up with walnuts and cream and I can now say that I like it.
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.
Recently, Ernie did some work on the bathroom. Our bathroom has been in pieces for 2 years. It has taken us that long to dismantle, design, choose, and buy the stuff we needed to finish the project.
Actually I am not really complaining. Our favourite thing when doing a project is to do it slowly. And that we did. We did that because we didn’t want to make any mistakes.
In the picture below, Ernie is varnishing the sink stand. He made it out of Maple plywood. We stained it with dark stain and then varnished it with water soluble varnish.
The next picture is the bathroom mostly done. The sink was purchased at a hardware store and was really the only choice we had and it was in stock in the store. If we had to do it again, I would either order one that we knew was eco-friendly – if such a thing exists, or we would make our own out of something recycled. The plumbing is not done i the pic that is why there is a rag hanging out of the wall. Obviously the sink tap is not cheap. We have found that often you get what you pay for so we spent some money on that.
The ceramic wall tiles were left overs at the store and they had enough for this surround. Ernie bought pine panelling for the wall behind the sink and a small section on the other end of the bathtub. This will be varnished with the water-soluble varnish as well. Just as an aside, the mirror in the picture was salvaged and Ernie made the frame from scrap wood. I varnished it.
So from a homesteading perspective, I feel we did the best we could on the recycling/reusing side and the not spending too much side. Ernie did all the work himself and did it at a relaxed pace, not stressing himself out at all. It took several weeks but was worth the wait.
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.