May 15, 2013

How We Homestead - Part 1: How It All Began

This is Part 1 in a 5 weeks series called "How We Homestead" hosted by Staci at Life at Cobble Hill Farm. Be sure to visit the other lovely women, linked to at the bottom of this post. 

~~ Before we begin I want to say Welcome! to all the followers that have joined me in the last week. I'm so glad you are here! I also want to say thank for all the sweet comments on yesterday's post. You are all so wonderful and encouraging. I am so blessed. Now, on to the post! ~~

I think homesteading for me began a long, long time ago. I've always had a love and desire for "the old ways", simple ways, and doing it myself. I love the idea of farming, raising your own food, and living off the land as much as possible. Thankfully, I married a man who shares my desires and love of old ways and things.

Honey Whole Wheat bread

I think it officially began when I made my first loaf of bread. The twins were little little, we were in our second place, our second year of marriage, and we didn't have a ton of money. We ate a lot of bread between toast and sandwiches and I realized it would be a lot cheaper if I made our own bread. It was all downhill from there!

I loved it! Getting my hands into the sticky dough, kneading and punching and working, smelling that intoxicating, heavenly aroma as it baked, and finally tasting the sweet, chewy, scrumptious end product of my work. "I made this, and this is awesome!" I was so proud of myself. And I couldn't help but think of all the woman of generations before me who did the same thing, providing food for their families. It was just bread, but it sort of grounded me, and encouraged the part of my soul that said homesteading was the way it should be. This was right.

Blueberry Freezer jam (I was feeling lazy that day)

A little while later I decided to make and can jam. We had been using store bought grape jelly and I was kind of sick of it. I grew up with a grandmother that put up a lot of stuff every year when I was younger, so I was no stranger to canning (well, the idea of it anyways) and I wasn't afraid.

And it helped that I had a box full of plums from my mom-in-love and I had to do something with them.

That first batch was an interesting experience. My pot wasn't big enough, so the jam boiled over and made a mess of my stove. I didn't having a canning pot, so I had to make do with my large stock pot and a towel on the bottom to prevent the jars from breaking. I didn't have a canning funnel so jam dripped all over my jars, and I didn't have jar tongs, so I ever so carefully and precariously lifted jars in and out of that pot with regular cheapo tongs, which resulted in a lot of burning of my hands. But I made jam! And it too was awesome. All the work and pain was worth it. (And we haven't bought a thing of jam since then.) A little while later my grandmother blessed with me a brand new pressure canner (which I can also use for water bathing) and the tongs and funnel. I was one step closer!

Our first three years of marriage were spent in an apartment. I can not even begin to describe the ache I had for a little bit of dirt to grow a garden. It was painful. I wanted to plant. I needed to grow something. I'd never planted anything in my life, but that didn't matter. I had watched my grandmother's luscious gardens produce more veggies than she knew what to do with. I wanted that.

The before. Everyone thought we were crazy for getting such a fixer upper.
 In April of 2009 we bought our little house, on our little 6500 square foot lot (actually I think it's less than that), and a year later we had our little garden and raised beds set up. I haven't been able to grow much, as I work ever so slowly to improve our dismal soil. But I was growing something. (If you want to feel accomplished, plant a zucchini seed. It will grow anywhere, in any soil, and you will start thinking you're living out Little Shop of Horrors.) And it was wonderful.

Once we moved here and I was able to really dig in, that was it. My heart was gone. Forever in love with homesteading and doing things ourselves. Over the past four years I have read and researched and thought about this way of life and how much I love it. It feels good to work hard and provide as much of our own food and things as I can, even it means still having to buy the ingredients, but making the end product myself. I've picked up soap making, sewing (a bit), cheese making, and a few other skills.

As I said, I was blessed with a man who has the same thinking, who shares my dream, and I've been doing this since the boys were babies, so getting my family on board hasn't been hard at all. Ben's mother, my precious mom-in-love, did all of these things before me - she baked and ground her own flour, canned and put up food, made soap, and sewed. His dad builds and fixes things and does it himself most of the time. They aren't ones for waste. He grew up in that, so that is just "normal" for him. (In fact he told me the other day that I am severely under quota for soap. I didn't even know there was a quota. ;))

And here we are now, a little ways in, with so much farther to go!

~ * ~
 Visit the other women of the How We Homestead series:

Daisy from Maple Hill 101
Tammy from Our Neck Of The Woods
Amber from Making A Home 



Farm Girl said...

Wonderfully written. You have been on such a journey haven't you? You are amazing and what is a soap quota I wonder? :) I love watching you and seeing how wonderful your garden and life is and I am so blessed. You made me cry. You just made my year.

Rachel E. said...

You have the ability to be an inspiration to all those who think they can't homestead on a small amount of property. I like your little garden corner. It looks perfect.

Kessie said...

Awesome post! I'm going to seriously love the rest of this series! One thing I loved growing was luffa gourds, because they make the nicest natural sponges to go with the homemade soap. :-)

Amber said...

Hi Meg! I love this post of yours. And your little corner garden is adorable! Can't wait to see it filled with green! I really admire your ambition with the canning. That's awesome that you jumped in like that the first time! I couldn't even imagine not having my canning equipment when canning so I admire that you didn't give up after that try! LOL!

Meg said...

Hi Amber! I have to be honest and say that the whole time I was making that jam I kept thinking "This is ridiculous. Why am I doing this?" But I try not to be a quitter, lol. I will have to post pictures of our garden now - it's packed with plants!

Our Neck of the Woods said...

I love how breadmaking got you into the homesteading way of life, Meg! I have to agree, there is just something about making bread. It kind of speaks to your soul!

So great that your husband shared your dream and was on board. I am thankful that my husband is the same way! It's so wonderful to be on the journey to self-sufficiency with your best friend :)

Buttons said...

Oh I love breadmaking too and feeling the dirt in my hands. You are very lucky to find a husband who shares your passion. Happy gardening I look forward to reading next weeks segment. B

Anita said...

If I had another life to live, I'd probably chose this one.

Looking forward to reading the next post in this series, and hope to visit the other participants.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

The soap quota is so sweet and made me laugh out loud. :) I agree with Tammy - I love that breadmaking was a huge turning point for you and it's wonderful that you not only have the support of family but can get helpful advice as well! Thank you so much for participating in this series!!

born ambitious. born imaginative. said...

I love the raised bed set up you have going there!

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