Hunting and Homesteading

Deer hunting season just started where we live, and as usual, I take the first day of the season off to spend in the woods.  No I didn't get my deer that day, but while I was sitting in the woods enjoying the crisp fresh morning air, I got to thinking about how I got started in it and why I enjoy waking up at 5am to sit and walk in the cold all day ;o)

Growing up, hunting was always a part of my life.  I remember making rabbit/partridge pies for the holidays.  Having rabbit stew (we call fricot in Acadie) and eating deer roast/steaks all winter.

I remember hunting rabbit with my dad when I was about 6yrs old and tagging along for deer hunting when I was about 12yrs old, maybe earlier.  It was a bonding experience that I now share with my son and hopefully will with my daughter when she is of age.  When my son came rabbit hunting for the first time last year with me and my dad, we were 3 generations walking into the woods and that was a very neat day.

So what does hunting have in common with homesteading?  To our familiy, it's part of learning to live as self sufficient as we can.  It means family time, learning new skills and passing them along to our kids.  To enjoy the outdoors and be thankful for the bounty it provides.

Back to Basics Homestead

Learning Blacksmithing Trade

I've been wanting to learn the Blacksmithing trade for a few years now and finally getting to the point where I'll be putting things together.  Part of our homesteading plans are to diversify our income streams, so what better way to do that then to make a bit of money from something that's handy and fun?

I've got a bit of background in metal working doing some fabrication in the offroad vehicle hobby and I've taken some welding classes at the local college.  What I've learned about that experience is I love working with metal and miss it.  I've done some research into what I would need and found a great site with TONS of information I'll be linking to down the article, so check them out:

Setting up a forge and acquiring the tools on a shoestring budget can be done if you have some patience.  After about 6 months of searching the online classifieds, I finally came upon a deal and was able to pick up an anvil, blower, a few hammers and some tongs.  A setup from someone who was selling as he didn't have the time and lost interest.

The blower is in great shape and is the piece I'm most excited about!  It's a hand cranked Ontario centrifugal blower and even has the tripod stand.  I was going to use an old blow dryer or something like that as these blowers don't come available around my parts very often.. so it was meant to be ;o)  Here is a great guide on blowers and firepots.

The anvil will need some work.  It's pitted a bit and needs to be surfaced.  It has a chip off one of the leg corners.. it's not the best out there but it should do fine to get started until I find a really good one or buy a new one.  Here is a great anvil guide from to learn about anvils and what you need to look out for when shopping for a used one.

Next step is to build the fire-pot and hearth.  I have some ideas on what I want to build for a fire-pot and have to spend some time at the scrap yard to see what I can find to put it together.  I'll keep posting progress on the forge build, smithy setup and my learning curve.  Can't wait to get it done and start making sparks ;o)

Back to Basics Homestead

18 Gardening Lessons Learned This Year

2012 Garden and SariaWith this years gardening season done and everything pretty much put to rest for the winter, we took some time to reflect on the lessons learned this summer.

It's hard to think of everything after the fact, so the bonus lesson learned is we'll be keeping a good weekly journal next year to note yeilds, planting dates to harvest dates, anomalies, surprises, weather, etc...

So that being said here are the 18 Gardening Lessons of 2012...

  1. Grow Roma Tomatoes for Sauces & Bottling
  2. Grow only a few Beefsteak Tomatoes for sandwiches
  3. Grow more Cherry Tomatoes for salads
  4. One Pack of Beets will make approx 12 Pints so double next year
  5. Grow Carrots!!  Don't tell anyone about the wind blown carrot patch throughout the garden ;o)
  6. Space Oregon Snow Peas every 2 weeks & make solid stands for them
  7. One Pack of Zucchini is more then enough!
  8. Need to build Grow Domes for Peppers & Jalopeneos
  9. One Pack of Cabbage is enough, space 2 weeks
  10. Grow both Yellow & Green Beans for bottling, not just Green Beans
  11. Grow 1 pack of eating cuccumbers, space 2 wks.
  12. Grow pickling cucumbers for bread & butter pickles
  13. Succession Planting techniques for Spinach & Lettuces
  14. *** Buy Heirloom Seeds & Learn to Save Seeds ***
  15. Grow Pumpkins in their own patch at the back
  16. Make Hardy Tomato Stands
  17. Continue with Three Sisters planting (Corn, Pole Beans, Squash).. excellent results!
  18. Research, Plan, Learn Some More... Do It All Again!  Can't wait for Spring!

I think the biggest improvement we can do is have a solid plan for the coming spring now that we have a better idea on yeilds for canning, including a good journal.  We kind of knew how much we got with the experience over the last 4 years, but this year was the first year we planted for canning and preserving, so we learned a bit more on what we need to grow next year to eat fresh and put up for the winter.

Back to Basics Homestead

7 Homesteading Baby Steps

The term "homesteading" can mean a lot of different things to different people.  Wikipedia describes Homesteading as "a lifestyle of agrarian self-sufficiency".  You don't need 40 acres of land to do it and of course you don't need to do it all at once.  "Homesteading", in the terms noted above, is a lifestyle you work at day in and day out.  The more you learn, the more you want to learn until it becomes natural.  The key is to start slow and tackle one thing  at a time.

Here are the 7 basics we believe anyone can do, no matter where you live, to get started on a more self sufficient and healthy lifestyle:

  1. Start a vegetable garden: If you have any space in your yard you can start a small row garden or raised beds with square foot gardening.  If you live in an apartment and have a patio, you can do a small container garden.  The key is to start small and work your way up, growing more each year as you get more comfortable.  Start with staples like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and spinach.  You won't be canning a winters worth, but you will be eating something you grew and loving it.
  2. Start a compost pile: Composting is easy to get going and is very good for your garden.  If you have yard space it's easy to get started.  There are tons of plans on the Internet on how to build one and our first was made of used recycled pallets.  If you are in an apartment you can still get into the composting game small scale with vermiculture.  We've not tried this yet, but plan on putting up a worm farm in the garage for the smaller stuff and gain the benefits of worm castings and tea.
  3. Buy Local:   Buying local supports our local farmers and farmers markets.  The produce and goods are usually fresher, more selection and you can find out how it was grown (organic or not).  The added bonus it to have a chat with these local farmers or farm hands.  Most are more then happy to answer questions and share stories.
  4. Buy in Season:  Buying in season means your buying local, but deserves it's own point.  When you start, especially when you start, you won't grow everything you will need to hold yourself over till next growing season.  You should however buy bulk produce when in season and learn to preserve them to hold you and your family over.
  5. Learn to preserve:  Our first attempt at preserving was making jams and jelly's from strawberries and raspberries.  These are easy and don't require any special equipment, but give TONS of satisfaction!  Learning how to can/bottle safely is important and an investment as you'll need to buy a pressure canner, bottles, lids and supplies.  This is an upfront expense, but well worth it.  Our pressure canner paid for itself in the first year by preserving our harvest and what we bought bulk in season... items we didn't have to buy at the store.  Compare a homemade bottled green beans vs. a can from your local supermart and you'll wonder why you never started earlier.
  6. Reduce Consumption: Reduce the use of electricity by getting rid of unused appliances, use power bars that you can power off to reduce vampire loads (appliances that still suck power even if they're "powered off") and most of all be conscious of the KW's you are using.  We invested in a device called The Energy Detective (TED) to monitor our usage and help trim things down.  It's nice to know what your bill will be before you get it.  Reducing consumption also ties into consumer choices: buying items with less packaging, buying used and recycling items.  By growing and raising your own food where possible and buying local and in seasion, you are reducing your overall consumer footprint.
  7. Simplify = Eliminate Debt and Clutter:  You've heard it all before... Declutter first.  If you're not using it, sell it or donate it... if it's not good to be donated or sold why are you holding on garbage?  Second is to get rid of your debt.  You will never be free to do what you want until you are debt free. There are lots of books and programs out there so pick one that works for you, but it's pretty simple: Live below your means aka spend less then you make!  Pay cash for everything and cut up the plastic... nuff said.

These are the steps we've taken over the past  5 years to get where we are today.  There are many other items and skills not noted above like hunting and keeping animals such as chickens, rabbits, etc... but these are baby steps.  Once you feel comfortable with the baby steps you can move forward with your journey of self sufficiency.

We started in the city and took the baby steps noted above to get where we are today, living in the country on 2 acres and expanding on our knowledge and skills daily and with every season.  Do we think we've "made it"?  Heck no!  The more we do and learn the more we realize we don't know and need to learn, and that is the fun of it all :o)


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