Hunting and Homesteading

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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

7 Homesteading Baby Steps

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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)


Planning Mini Apple Orchard

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One of our plans is to setup a mini apple orchard in the back rear corner of our property.  Stopped into the local garden center and had a great chat with them about our options and some recommendations.

After our chat, it looks like we'll be going with 6 apple trees in total.  This will provide more than enough apples for our needs and than some.  We're also going to look at reconstituting half a dozen older apple tree's that are not on our property, but was part of the old farm homestead.

We're going to plant 4 tree's in the next couple weeks and then 2 or possibly 4 more in the Spring.  We're going on a waiting list for the Cortland apples for spring delivery.  Apples must be cross pollinated, meaning you can't just plant one McIntosh tree and get fruit.  You must plant a min or two different varieties of trees within the same or next pollinator group to bare fruit.  We're starting our first bee hive in the Spring so we should be good on the pollination side, we just need to ensure we are selecting the proper variety.  Ideally we'd like to also have an early and mid selection.

Apples are grouped into Pollinator Groups.  Groups A through H dependant on (table courtesy of Wikipedia)

  • Group A – Early flowering, May 1 to 3 in England (Gravenstein, Red Astrachan)
  • Group B – May 4 to 7 (Idared, McIntosh)
  • Group C – Mid-season flowering, May 8 to 11 (Granny Smith, Cox's Orange Pippin)
  • Group D – Mid/late season flowering, May 12 to 15 (Golden Delicious, Calville blanc d'hiver)
  • Group E – Late flowering, May 16 to 18 (Braeburn, Reinette d'Orléans)
  • Group F – May 19 to 23 (Suntan)
  • Group H – May 24 to 28 (Court-Pendu Gris) (also called Court-Pendu plat)

We are definitely going to plant some Cortland trees, since that is our favorite.  We also love McIntosh, so we need to decide on the third variety before final plan and purchase.  We'll update this post with some planted pictures once we dig a bit further into the information (pun intended).  If you planted a mini orchard or a couple apple tree's, what variety did you plant and what climate zone are you growing in?

Back to Basics Homestead

Welcome to Back to Basics Homestead

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The Cormier family would like to formally welcome you to Back to Basics Homestead, our new piece of heaven we'll be working with to become more self sufficient in the food, energy and economic sense.  We chose the name Back to Basics Homestead because our goal is to simplify our lifestyle while learning some old school trades/crafts, learning to be more self sufficient... the theme back to basics just fit.  Read our About Us page for more background information and our old blog Sustainable Urban Homestead where we started this lifestyle change.  We worked on our self sufficiency goals in our Urban/City Homestead, and took those learns skills with us to the country.  Which brings us to where we are today...

Our house is a newer home with in-law suite built on a 2 acre piece of land where an old farm house once stood.  Still on the property is a large shed where we currently house tools and tractor.  My parents live in the in-law suite and travel south for the winter, lucky them ;o)  The 2 acres is plenty for our plans for now, but hopefully we'll be able to purchase some of the land behind our home down the road.

We currently have a basic row garden, about 20' x 5o', growing potatoes, corn, carrots, tomatoes, bush/pole beans, cucumbers, etc... the staples of a Canadian garden.  Our plans however are to convert this row garden to a walkable raised bed garden system and implement other growing techniques like Potato Towers and other vertical growing methods to maximize our space.  A greenhouse, cold/hot frames are also in the works to extend our growing season up here in the north.

Planting a small fruit orchard of Apples and cherries in the back is part of our first five years plan and some grapes in the front.  Back yard plans also include a cobblestone deck with pergolas for more grapes and hemlock horse style fencing to define our property lines and segregate the different parts of the yard.

As you can see, after only just over 6mths in our new home, we do have many plans ;o)  Of course those will change and evolve, but you need to have a general direction if you're going to move forward at all.

Hope you join us in our quest to be more self sufficient and share your experiences as well by commenting and visiting.  We're always looking for new information and personal experiences so feel free to share ;o)

A few more pictures as the house and property looked in August 2011, our first summer


Thanks for reading, hope you subscribe, friend, share and visit us often... but most of all welcome to our Journey!!

Back to Basics Homestead

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