Some of what I am about to write may seem a bit opposite of what I have written previously, but actually isn’t. Our homestead goals haven’t changed. The primary focus of our goals has been to become as self-reliant as possible. To live a simple life that is as uncluttered by worldly demands as possible. In doing so, we have found that our family bond has been strengthened. More importantly, our faith in the Lord has grown as well.
Recently, we have been taking stock of where we are at in reaching our goals. It has been a very enlightening time for us. One issue that came up is that of being able to hunt during turkey and deer seasons. We also have considered raising our own meat. In raising our own meat, we would grass-feed the animals only. We would raise the animals from spring through autumn, then have them butchered before winter sets in. This would save the costs of feed during the winter season when grazing is not available. Some of the livestock we have considered are a lamb, dairy/meat goats, chickens, turkeys, and possibly a pig. This will all take a bit of time to put together since we need to update the fencing and animal enclosures. The main idea is that we would not over-winter the animals. Any that we purchase in early spring would be butchered before winter sets in.
With that goal in mind, we have to consider buying a chest freezer. There is no way I can home can and store that amount of meat in our pantry. We simply do not have the space for it. Also, there are meats that are not good for home canning. One example is pork. If we were to butcher a pig, the pork chops, bacon, and ham roasts would need to be frozen. Yes, some people have home canned pork, but there are cuts of meat that cannot be home canned. Two examples are the ham roasts and pork chops. With the rising cost of meat, raising our own seems to be the way to go. Having the amount of land that we do, there is no reason why we can’t raise our own meat.
The question has been how to do this. Having a small solar power system, there is no way that we can use an electric freezer. Propane freezers are costly and difficult to find in our area. So, we are making an alteration to our homestead. In the coming months, we are building a shed that will be approximately 12’x12′ in size. The shed will be insulated and have a small propane heater for winter months. The shed will also have electricity from a power company. We are going to have a utility pole set up with a meter and an outdoor circuit box placed on the land between our house and the dirt road. The shed will be built near that pole so that we can have the electricity run from the pole to the shed. We will be using the shed as a multi-purpose building. It will contain a chest freezer, washer, dryer, and a home office area. Having the laundry in that room will make life much easier on me. I have found that having an autistic son makes doing laundry by hand just too time consuming. I need to be able to focus on homeschooling and home therapy activities. We have been using a laundromat for the laundry lately and will have to through the winter when it is far to cold outdoors to hang the laundry out on the line. There is no place to hang up the clothes in the house, so the laundromat is the only option. We currently average spending about $80 per month at the laundromat. Buying secondhand machines and doing the laundry at home will cost far less than that. This shed will be a great asset to the homestead.
For the house, we still plan to add a wind turbine and more solar panels to provide for the household energy needs. We have been 6 years now without being on the power grid. In that time, we have learned much. We have found ways to work around the lack of electrical conveniences. In having a shed on grid, we are not taking a step backward in our goals, but a leap forward.
Last night, another goal was met. We installed a new woodstove in our home to provide heat. Last year, we used a propane heater and it was not efficient at all. In fact, we used about $48 per week in propane just for the heater alone. That was $192 per month in propane for heat! Way too much! Then, in the middle of winter, the cost shot up from $1.99 per pound of LP to a cost of $5.00 per pound. It seemed that there was a bit of a shortage due to farmers using propane heaters to save crops stored in silos. With that shortage came the higher heating costs. The stove we purchased puts out a lot of radiant heat and needs no blower to circulate it. This is a very welcome addition to our homestead. We have plenty of trees that need to be thinned from our woods and are already seasoned. We have already started to buy some firewood, but are also harvesting some of our own.
Another outdoor building we are designing is a shed a bit smaller than the multi-purpose shed mentioned above. The one will be insulated and have a propane heater as well. The purpose for this particular shed is to be a shower house. It will contain everything that a typical bathroom has. Easiest to think of it as a detached bathroom. It will be located near the house. We will still have the bathroom in the house, but this will be another option for us to use. Just as with the multi-purpose shed, this one will be within the fenced area of the yard. We will be able to use that bathroom whenever we are outdoors working or the kids are playing. The detached bathroom will also come in really handy when we go about remodeling the bathroom in the house.
We are really excited about the changes we are making. The focus is still on simplicity and self-reliance, but with small alterations in how we go about that. As we begin making the changes, I will try to post pictures. We will be doing as much of the work ourselves as possible. Living as rural as we do, that is always an option that we have. We can do much of the work ourselves and only have professionals come in to advise or to do the final details, such as hooking up the electrical wiring to the circuit box. Between my husband and I, we have experience in doing most of the other work involved.
Saturday, we started the process of downing an old tree that was not thriving. The tree also happens to be in the path of where the electric line will have to be run from the utility pole at the road and where the new pole on our property will be placed. Just stepping on one of the branches that was large enough to hold my husband’s weight, caused the dead branch to snap and break off. Our daughter loved to climb that tree but it was no longer safe. The wood of that tree, though freshly cut, is already dry enough to be used in the woodstove. We have three more trees in the north side of the house that also will be cut down over the coming months.
The cutting down of these trees will solve a few problems, such as risks of branches breaking in ice storms due to the branches being weak from insect damage. It will also clear that entire yard so that we can plant new trees and a butterfly garden. This is the first portion of the property that a person sees when they drive up our driveway and we want it to be pretty.
Last project we will be beginning once the weather has remained cold enough for snakes to be underground is to completely clear the garden area. It was unused this past summer and needs much work to prepare for spring. One goal that I have is to buy cinder blocks to frame some raised beds. Over the winter, I can put the blocks in place and start filling them about halfway with soil and mulch. In early spring, the boxes can have more soil mix added to finish filling the beds. Garlic, onions, and other root crops can be planted in them right away as soon as the ground is thawed. By Easter, the green beans, sugar peas, and leafy greens can be planted as well. This will give the garden a great head start. About Thanksgiving, I will be buying a couple of sweet potatoes to use for growing slips. These will also be planted in a raised bed if I have one put together for them. I will write how to grow slips for the garden when we start ours.
It is a lot that we have going on over the next few months. I feel so grateful to have my husband home every night and on weekends. When he was on the truck and gone for up to 7 weeks at a time, it was hard to get the homestead in the position we wanted it to be going. I simply couldn’t do the work on my own when I have two young children and no extra hands to help. Now that he is home so much, Joe is able to help get a lot of the harder work dealt with and we are making faster progress as we go along.