I had never really thought of myself as a homesteader. That term had always been used for my great-grandparents, my grandparents and my uncle. They moved from one area and into a new part of the country where they homesteaded. They all made their homes near one another and lived there for the rest of their lives. They didn't just build their homes, they made a community that sustained several generations.
Several years ago my husband and I were watching TV. We watched a story about commercial, factory eggs being recalled. The footage showed how the chickens were caged and their living conditions. Seeing that opened our eyes to something that I knew we could do. My mom had raised chickens when I was a kid. I had even taken a family of Silkie chickens to the fair, where they brought home a Grand Champion ribbon! I was raised in the country and grew up around all kinds of farm animals. My husband was raised in the city and loves dogs and cats. We could learn how to raise chickens and give them a happy, healthy life while in return they give us eggs! That is where it started.
Chickens led to gardening. It was because of their fertilizer that I was finally able to grow things in a garden. The soil in our area is dense, heavy clay. We had tried to amend the soil. But individual bags of dirt and manure got expensive and didn't go very far. As the soil was improved, raspberries plants flourished. Rhubarb plants that had been babied for a couple years and still only had two stems began to thrive. They now take over their once barren area! Having an abundance of fruit led to learning how to preserve it. Grandma was the one who made raspberry jam for our family every year. After she passed away, I remember doing something that none of us had ever done – buy raspberry jam at the store. It was a sad day. I cried over my toast because the jam was awful in comparison to hers. It made me realize how special her gifts had always been. The year our garden started to really grow, my mom helped me make my very own jam. What a treasure those ruby colored jars of raspberry preserves were!
We were beginning to discover that in living a life of convenience, grabbing a bag, box or can of food, we were missing out on the tastes of a true home! Slowly we started making changes. Fresh eggs tasted fantastic, but never like Grandma's – until we switched from margarine to real butter. We had been having fresh eggs for a while, so we were used to how much better they tasted. But we hadn't thought about butter. I used it one day on our toast to dip into our eggs and voila' - just like Grandma made! The things that we started doing differently have been simple and yet life changing at the same time.
This led to cooking more and more things from scratch. Now we have goats and are looking forward to having a homegrown source of milk! We are taking little steps that are leading us to do things the way our grandparents did. Our lives are becoming better because of it. We are learning that homesteading isn't just building a home in a new land. It is about making our house a home and about sharing that goodness with others and making where we live a community.
Rhubarb before Chickens!
Chickens in the Garden - How many do you see?
Rhubarb after Chickens!