Homesteading Lifestyle – Self-Empowerment

 

Why homestead? For modern homesteaders, the homesteading lifestyle is a choice that supports their values. Choosing a simple homesteading life can be about self-sufficiency, spending more time with family, using fewer resources, growing healthy food, connecting with nature and much more.

Homesteading requires consistent hard work, and in a world that often values luxury and convenience, I was curious why so many of us are choosing the homesteading lifestyle. What I discovered is that homesteading is much more than gardening, preserving food and raising farm animals.

This homesteading lifestyle series was created to share the motivations, rewards, and challenges faced by different homesteaders and to answer the question – Why Homestead? Each Wednesday will feature a homesteader sharing their experiences.

You can read the other posts in the series:

Homesteading Lifestyle – Off-Grid Homesteading
Homesteading Lifestyle – Community

Do you want to live a homesteading lifestyle but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you are already on the path but want to do more. These homesteaders share the challenges and rewards of the homesteading lifestyle

Today we welcome Madeline from

Stone Axe Herbals

How do you define ‘homesteading’ and how does it influence your lifestyle choices?

To me, homesteading is making a living for yourself and your family through whatever means fit best with your personal morals. Homesteading implies that you are taking control of your life by working for yourself, not others, as much as possible. It is an act of self-empowerment, as it allows you to remove yourself from societal expectations of how many hours a day you should work, what work looks like, what you look like, etc, and truly live how you feel is best for your own health, the health of other living beings, and the world as a whole. Homesteading, in many cases, also implies some level of removal from capitalism, and focuses more on making what you need for yourself or bartering with others, rather than the exchange of money.

This definition influences my lifestyle by making self-employment a priority, which is why I started my blog Stone Axe Herbals and the corresponding Etsy shop. While I do make a small income doing this, it is not very much as it is still a new business for me. Because of this lack of funds, I spend much of time working on mastering the art of frugality. Producing as much of my own food as possible is of massive importance to me, not only because I literally can’t afford to buy much food, but because I feel that I want the maximum amount of control over what is in my food, where it is coming from, and what quality it is. Right now, in the peak of harvest season, I spend much of my time canning- it has become one of my favorite hobbies instead of a chore! Positivity is a major deal breaker when it comes to homesteading so striving towards enjoying everything that I do is really important to me. Once the gardening season is over, though, I am looking forward to spending more time wandering in nature and reflecting what I see in artwork.

I went to college in Northern Vermont where they say “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without!” and while this is a very catchy saying, it is also a very wise one and I try to remember it daily. I spend 15% of my time just figuring out how to make it work, 50% following through, 10% considering what didn’t work, and the last 25% just letting it all go.  “Better luck next year” is a constant.

I wouldn’t say that I have a conscious lifestyle, I just do what I can to be well fed, to be happy, and to better myself as a person; it doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that.

Why do you homestead?

I am very concerned with health and homesteading goes hand in hand with wellbeing. On an immediate level, the hard work of growing and foraging for my food makes my mind and body strong, and the real food that I produce nourishes both. On a community level, my skills can be shared with others to aid in their personal health, and the local ecosystem is not harmed by my agricultural practices. I do not apply any agrochemicals and try to keep my fossil fuel use to a minimum. On a global scale, my reduced reliance on fossil fuels, decreases the amount of pollution caused by the extraction and burning of oil, and also prevents the oppression of those people who happen to live on and around the land that sits above the oil, as well as those who breathe air, eat food, and drink water.

Madeline at Stone Axe Herbals

Madeline driving a team of Percherons at Sterling College

 

Also, my decreased reliance on capitalism not only allows me to have more control over my day to day actions, not to be subject to the goals of an employer that may not have a moral code that is in line with my own, but it also reduces the amount of taxes I pay. I would not mind paying taxes one bit if I knew that money was going towards bettering the planet and the lives of the humans, plants, animals, rocks, whatever, that live on it, but I know that much of my tax money goes to war and other oppressive endeavors that I do not want to support.

This is not true for all homesteaders, but for me it requires a certain level of solitude and removal from society. Humans are always taking. They drain you of your time, your energy, your self-worth, and resources. I’d much rather spend my time producing: producing food, ideas, art, happiness and to do this I feel that I require more time alone in the garden and the woods. Homesteading allows me more time to look introspectively to be in tune with my mind and body, as well as to ponder the issues of the world today. Homesteading is an expression of what I discover when I allow time to observe myself and the world around me, and to take action on what I find lacking. 

What are the greatest rewards of homesteading?

One of the greatest rewards of homesteading is an honest, home cooked meal. I am a very food motivated person, and there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a root cellar full of canned goods, a garden full of produce, and a plate overflowing with pride, tradition, and hard work (and the best gosh darn food you’ve ever eaten).

What are your greatest challenges?

One of the greatest challenges of homesteading is trying not to put too much pressure on yourself. Guilt is a strong motivator and can help you get a hell of a lot of work done, but there are so many millions of things that happen in a day that are just beyond your control. As a homesteader it can often be difficult  not to blame yourself if an animal dies or a crop fails, even when you know there was nothing you could have done. I strive to be a better producer and a more conscious consumer but I make mistakes, a lot of them, so I have to remind myself often that nobody can be perfect and that it is okay when the deer get into the garden or I buy a non-organic product at the store or I need to use a car to get somewhere. It is all about working towards perfection, not suffocating yourself in guilt for not being perfect.

 What are your long-term goals?

My number one goal is to be happy and healthy and every other goal simply furthers that single aspiration. Some important ones include living completely without fossil fuels, producing close to 100% of my own food, to be entirely self-employed, and to pay the least amount of taxes possible.

One of my greatest goals is to be a grandmother, not in the sense that I want children and for those children to have children, but that I want to be someone who can heal and nourish people’s minds and bodies and to lovingly guide those around me toward kindness, strength, and thoughtfulness. I want to be covered in wrinkles from head to toe, to have the biggest laugh lines you’ve ever seen, feathers in my snow white hair, and maybe even a couple of blurry tattoos on my gnarled old hands alluding to my wilder days. I want to have a small, warm home with herbs drying above the wood stove, a big pot of mashed potatoes and gravy on the burner, and tea with honey at the ready. I think that if more people strove to be an elder, to be wise and experienced, to have food and love and words of encouragement to give, no matter their age, that the world would be a better place. Oh, and also world peace.

 What do you recommend for others starting out?

If you are just starting out homesteading, be sure to stay creative and keep your options open, especially if you don’t have a lot of capital starting out. There are all sorts of resources out there if you keep your eyes open and don’t get too attached to one way of doing things. You can’t be too picky about the tangible things that you have or don’t have, especially when it comes to food. If you’ve got a whole ton of weeds in your garden and not many vegetables, eat the weeds! If you kill an animal, you better eat every stinking part of it that you can – yes I eat tongues, and bone marrow, and hearts and livers, and after you get used to it you will find that they are actually the best part of the animal! (I haven’t tried using intestines as sausage casings yet, but it’s in the works).

Basically, I pretend like I am a pioneer out west in the early days. Not only is this extremely fun, but it makes me work hard and remember the toughness of homesteaders that came before me, plus it helps me make decisions about what I do and don’t need. They were focused on survival. Period.  If they could survive without a washing machine, so can I. If they can eat well without going to the grocery store more than a couple of times a year, so can I. It’s sort of like that saying. “what would Jesus do?”, but instead my dogma is “what would the pioneers do?”.

That’s not to say that you should deprive yourself either, but a little sacrifice is good for everyone. What you should not sacrifice, though, is your mental well-being. As I said a minute ago, creativity is everything when it comes to homesteading so keep your wits about you. Read books, make art, learn skills, laugh, dance, and sing; homesteading is about creating happiness so make sure that is your top priority!

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

While it is easy to get completely sucked into your garden and livestock, don’t neglect nature! Going in the woods, or the fields, or the rivers is vital for human health and happiness- make sure you do so as often as you have a chance. Don’t forget that nature has a lot to offer; not only will it improve your mind, but there is lots you can eat too! Foraging is a great way to get food, but it is very time sensitive, you’ve got to go in the woods often and observe to know when the walnuts are falling or the mushrooms are ripe for the picking.

 I’m the creator and writer here at Stone Axe Herbals. I’ve been working in the agricultural field for 8 years now, but am finally ready to start a farm of my own! I spend most of my time combining my favorite topics: food, history, and health. We’re a bit tight on money right now, so I spend much of my time making traditional, money saving recipes from scratch. When I’m not cooking, though, I can often be found in the garden, growing heirloom vegetables to saving seeds. I LOVE edible and medicinal plants of all kinds and also spend much of my time tracking down wild herbs to add to my medicine box. I also love all creatures wild and domestic, but I’d have to say that beavers and raccoons are my favorites! As far as livestock goes, I’ve been studying draft horse management for the last three years and hope to own my own team sometime in the near future.

Stone Axe Herbals

You can connect with Madeline at:

Her Blog – Stone Axe Herbals: www.stoneaxeherbals.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/stoneaxeherbals/

Her Etsy Shop: Etsy Stone Axe Herbals

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/stoneaxeherbals

Twitter: www.twitter.com/stoneaxeherbals

We would love to learn from you!

Please join the conversation by commenting on the post or visiting our Facebook page: Seeking Joyful Simplicity – Willow Trees Farm and answer any of the following questions:

1. Do you think homesteading is a fad, or part of a cultural shift?
2. What about homesteading does or does not appeal to you? 
3. How does homesteading influence your lifestyle choices?

~Michelle

 

 

Posted in Homesteading, Living With Less, Self-sufficiency | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Transition Into Autumn

As the weather finally turns cool, the summer garden slowly comes to an end. I enjoy this time of transition, and watching the plants shed their seeds and the transformation in the garden brings me peace and contentment.

“In the garden, Autumn is indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing the fruition of months of thought and care and toil.”
~ Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905

apple-season

apple-picking

making-apple-chips

These days of late September have been filled with harvesting and preserving. Apples, pumpkins, and winter squash are all coming into the kitchen and pantry. We are appreciating the last of the summer tomatoes and peppers, knowing their days are numbered as the first frost approaches.

delicata-harvest

The first cool days mean stews simmering in the pot with apple crisps and pies baking in the oven, filling the house with cozy aromas.

apple-crisp3-2

We enjoyed our first bonfire of the fall season, and long after everyone else went in, I remained, watching the blue-orange of the dying flames and enjoying the warmth and light.

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There is something that pulls at us each autumn, and it goes beyond the seasonal sales and pumpkin lattes. I feel it more strongly now than ever, this connection to the seasons, and as we spend our days harvesting and preparing food, chopping wood, and enjoying the changes, I consider what an important time this was for previous generations. The time before 24-hour groceries, and strawberries shipped from far away countries. Of course, we enjoy all the modern conveniences and the security of knowing we have access to food beyond what we harvest ourselves. But taking time to grow and preserve some of our own reminds me of our shared humanity, and the very basic needs we all have for food, shelter, and warmth.

“Then summer fades and passes and October comes. We’ll smell smoke then, and feel an unexpected sharpness, a thrill of nervousness, swift elation, a sense of sadness and departure.”
~ Thomas Wolfe

What’s your favorite time of year and why? 
Do you notice changes in your energy or thoughts as you move through the seasons?

Visit me at Facebook and let me know what you think.

Seeking Joyful Simplicity – Willow Trees Farm at Facebook. 

 

Posted in Nature, Seasons, Simple Living | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Whole Grain Yogurt Herb Bread

This gallery contains 6 photos.

  Yogurt herb bread is moist and delicious, and so easy to make! Double the recipe and freeze a loaf for later. This is a great recipe using yogurt to help break down the phytic acid found in grains. Phytic … Continue reading

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Homesteading Lifestyle – Community

 

Why homestead? For modern homesteaders, the homesteading lifestyle is a choice that supports their values. Choosing a simple homesteading life can be about self-sufficiency, spending more time with family, using fewer resources, growing healthy food, connecting with nature and much more.

Homesteading requires consistent hard work, and in a world that often values luxury and convenience, I was curious why so many of us are choosing the homesteading lifestyle. What I discovered is that homesteading is much more than gardening, preserving food and raising farm animals.

This homesteading lifestyle series was created to share the motivations, rewards, and challenges faced by different homesteaders and to answer the question – Why Homestead? Each Wednesday will feature a homesteader sharing their experiences.

You can read the other posts in the series –
Homesteading Lifestyle – Off Grid Homesteading
Homesteading Lifestyle – Self-Empowerment

Do you want to live a homesteading lifestyle but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you are already on the path but want to do more. These homesteaders share the challenges and rewards of the homesteading lifestyle

Today we welcome Jordan and Scotty from

Rabbit Ridge Farm

How do you define ‘homesteading’ and how does it influence your lifestyle choices?

Homesteading for me perhaps has a bit of an odd meaning. As many people do I imagine, I think of homesteading as getting back to a simpler way of life and providing for as many of our needs as possible. However my personal definition also includes a few other components.

I believe that homesteading is also largely about getting closer to nature, “re-wilding” as I’ve heard many people call it. I also think that through cultivating this relationship with nature it is important for us to learn to live in ways that have as little negative affects on nature as possible.

Lastly I think that homesteading has a lot to do with gratitude, that to be homesteaders we must learn to be grateful for our families, our lives, and the land.  Through living the simple life we learn to make do and be happy with what we’ve got whether its a tiny apartment or a 100 acre farm.

Why do you homestead?

Well there’s a lot of reasons I guess. A lot of really good reasons actually. I think we’re healthier, we save loads of money, it’s good for the environment, we generally enjoy it, and it just feels right.

I have long held the belief that each and everyday we should all try to do the best we can for ourselves and the world. For me homesteading seems to perfectly combine keeping me happy and doing good. I know that since starting my homesteading journey I have not only found more happiness and peace in life but also lessened my impact on the world.

What are the greatest rewards of homesteading?

Hmmm, for me personally I would say that the greatest rewards are the ones that aren’t really tangible. Sure I love seeing new animals and eating spaghetti sauce from tomatoes I grew and put up all summer long but there’s just this homesteading feeling I get that’s the real reward.

It’s feeling accomplished and satisfied. It’s that feeling at the end of the day when you’re dog tired from building a new chicken coop and you know that the hard work you did matters. You weren’t just making money for some company. The hard work you put makes a difference to your livestock that depends on you and your family.

What are your greatest challenges?

My greatest challenge is definitely dealing with myself. I am the type to take on way too many projects way too fast. This summer we’ve been clearing land, building a house, digging a well, caring for the largest gardens we’ve ever had, and I added three angora rabbits to the mix.

By now you’d think I’d know better but somehow I doubt I’ll ever learn I just get excited and want to do so much on our homestead right now!

What are your long-term goals?

As I never really know what exactly we’ll get to even on a daily basis I’m not sure what to call a long-term goal. Our goals that I think about a lot lately include:

  • Finishing our new home (hopefully within the year)
  • Equipping our new home with solar panels
  • Expanding our gardens and farming operation
  • Grow more of our staple crops (we’re planting wheat this fall!)
  • Clearing pastures and adding sheep to the homestead
  • Expanding our homestead business enough that both Scott (my partner) and I can work on the homestead full-time

What do you recommend for others starting out?

I know everyone says the “don’t bite off more than you can chew” advice and I used to but at this point I’d say just jump in. Homesteading is, to me, one of those sink or swim deals. I always take on more than I can handle at first but things work out. Sometimes things run a little inefficiently for awhile but we adjust and regroup and it doesn’t make me want to stop homesteading.

Homesteads are ever growing and expanding. There will always be new projects to work on and new skills to learn. In the beginning I would always say that “I’m not going to get in over my head again. I’ll just take small steps.” Yeah you know how that went but I did get used to the chaos. I have learned to just work as hard as I can everyday and let the rest slide.

So jump in and work hard at whatever you can and don’t worry about the rest. You’ll keep reaching your goals if you just keep chipping away at them.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Scotty reminded me to add that homesteading is not all about self sufficiency.

First of all community can be a really good thing. The community since moving to West Virginia has been amazing! Neighbors have given us egg cartons, canning jars, a laying hen, blackberries, blackberry bushes, an english walnut tree, hay, and lent their hands on the farm and supported our farm through purchases at our farm stand. We’ve shared with them too and all of our interactions have helped our souls and our homestead.

Secondly you may be able to survive living a completely self sufficient lifestyle but I don’t believe you can thrive. Think about it. Whether it’s help with haying, a good conversation, or the axe in your hands life is easier (and often better) with a little help from others.

creative-homesteading-series-jordan

Rabbit Ridge Farm is a small farm and homestead run by Jordan and Scotty in rural West Virginia. Together they’re working to build a home, live off the grid, and scrap together a living from a steep and rocky 75 acres. They make things by hand, grow, sell, and put up organic vegetables, care for chickens, ducks, and rabbits, and gather wild edibles and medicinals. Follow along as learn more traditional skills and further their homestead dreams.

You can connect with Jordan and Scotty at:

https://www.facebook.com/rabbitridgefarm/

https://twitter.com/RabbitRidgeFarm

https://www.pinterest.com/rabbitridgefarm/

 

We would love to learn from you!

Please join the conversation by commenting on the post or visiting our Facebook page: Seeking Joyful Simplicity – Willow Trees Farm and answer any of the following questions:

1. Do you think homesteading is a fad, or part of a cultural shift?
2. What about homesteading does or does not appeal to you? 
3. How does homesteading influence your lifestyle choices?

~ Michelle

 

 

Posted in Homesteading, Living With Less, Self-sufficiency | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Simple Hearty Winter Breakfast – Crockpot Barley with Apple

If we are forced to drag ourselves from bed, especially on a cold and dark winter morning, wouldn’t it be nice to rise to the smell of apples and cinnamon? Entering the kitchen with a wholesome, healthy, tasty meal all ready to warm and energize you for the day ahead?
This simple hearty winter breakfast with barley and apple might be the recipe for you. Simply toss everything into the Crockpot the night before and wake up to the delicious aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg.

I admit to being a morning person. There is something about early mornings, the slanting light of the sunrise, and the feeling of optimism. Well, OK, not every day is like that, there are mornings where all I want is to pull the covers over my head and enjoy more blissful sleep. But this recipe is a great way to enjoy waking up.

If we have to drag ourselves from bed on a cold and dark winter morning, wouldn’t it be nice to rise to the smell of apples and cinnamon? Entering the kitchen with a wholesome, healthy, tasty meal all ready to warm and energize you for the day ahead? This might be the recipe for you. Simply toss everything into the Crockpot the night before and wake up to a delicious and nourishing breakfast.

 

Crockpot

Crockpot Barley and Apple Breakfast

Click here for PDF recipe to print: Simple Hearty Winter Breakfast
Ingredients:
2 cups barley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmegApple Season 2
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom (optional)
10 cups water
1 ½ cup raisins
2 apples or pears, cored, peeled and chopped

 

Directions:
Place all the ingredients in the Crockpot and cook on low for about 8 hours. I enjoy topped with nuts and milk.

I hope you are enjoying your season,
~ Michelle


Posted in Family Meals, seasonal foods, Simple Food, Simple Living | Tagged , , | 7 Comments