The Backyard Farming Connection

Doing Less Instead of More

winterhomestead

If you are at all part of the modern homesteading movement, you probably have a list of new things you would like to try: animals you want, crops you hope to plant, and skills you want to know.  While it is easy to get up on the roller coaster of doing more, in reality, choosing to homestead generally means the just the opposite.  Modern homesteading is far more about doing less than doing more.  

When you choose to engage in modern homesteading, you are consciously selecting what is most important to you, your family, your community and the earth.  You are moving away from the wants that control our lives and focusing more on the things you need.  In our daily lives, it easy to choose what we consider the easy route: throwing laundry in the dryer instead of air drying, buying an extra pair of shoes just because (even though you have 5 similar pairs), or grabbing a few processed foods from the store instead of making your own from scratch.  But if you pause to consider the hidden costs behind your choices, suddenly those choices aren’t really easy.

So what do we really need in life?  Of course we need food and shelter, and as humans we want to feel needed, valued and productive.  We need to feel that our actions, however small, truly matter.  Does choosing the easy route really meet those needs?  Now I will admit that from time to time, when the pile of laundry overwhelms me, I toss the wet clothes into the dryer instead of hanging them to dry.  But, what if I rethought my life? What if I decided that the million other things that occur in my life were less important than the simple act of hang drying my clothing?   

When you start to slow down your life and cut out the many things that are wants and not needs, your day suddenly opens up.  Just today, my husband and I were debating over whether to drive an extra 20 minutes to pick up bags for our vacuum.  It boiled down to 2 choices: drive and get the bags and use up time with the family and gas, or wait until we’re headed that way later this week and deal with a dirty house.  When we stepped back and looked at the big picture, at what really mattered, suddenly a little dirt on the floor seemed a small price to pay.   

Modern homesteading is not about doing more, it is about doing less.  It is about gaining perspective and consciously choosing a way of life.

How do you choose to do less by doing more in your backyard farm? 

Preparing for Weather Extremes on Your Backyard Farm

Preparing for weather extremes

No matter where you live, at some point, your homestead will experience weather extremes.While nothing can prevent a storm from passing through your area, keeping in mind possible or likely weather events when you plan your backyard farm will give you a greater level of success.   

To start, think about the weather in your area, and divide the following weather events up into 3 categories: Unlikely to occur, may occur, and likely to occur 
  • Hurricane/cyclone
  • Tornado
  • Flooding
  • Hail
  • Heavy/damaging Winds
  • Blizzard
  • Ice Storm
  • Drought
  • Heat Waves
  • Extreme Cold
Recurrence Intervals 
 
If you are looking for information on how often these events are likely to occur, you may come across information about recurrence intervals.  This is an average (based on past data) of how often this event is likely to occur.  You may see something called a 100 year flood, meaning that on average this flood occurs 1 every 100 years).  It is very important to remember that this does not mean that the flood occurs 1 time each 100 years.  You may experience 3 years in a row with a flood of this magnitude and not have another flood for 300 years.  Just because you experienced a 100 year drought this year, it does not mean you won’t experience one next year.  In fact, you may be more likely to experience one next year since the climatic elements that caused the drought may still be in place the following year.
 
General Preparation 
 
While many of these weather events take specific preparations, there are some general things you can do to prepare.  Here are a few items that will ensure you are better prepared for most weather events:
  • Assure that buildings and structures are sound, insulated where needed, and not overcrowded
  • Create drainage for areas that are likely to flood – especially places where animals live
  • Collect water in barrels, cisterns, or a pond
  • Plant a variety of crops, since certain types may survive specific weather event better than others
  • Have a generator on hand or another means to generate heat
  • Cut down or trim trees or branches that may fall on your home, barn, sheds, or garden
  • Prepare a disaster plan for when things go wrong
  • Consider which event occur most commonly in your area, and prepare for those events
Creating a Disaster Plan 
 
Create a plan for weather disasters so you are ready before the event arrives.  Despite improvements in forecasting, we all know they get it wrong, so it is always better to be prepared.  When creating a disaster plan, write out how you will care for your animals and property, who you will contact in an emergency, what supplies you may need on hand for your family and your animals, and where you might go if you are forced to evacuate.  Injuries from weather events are just as likely to occur during the clean-up stage, so be prepared and careful.
 
Climate Changes 
 
While extreme weather events can occur at any time, there are also slower permanent or temporary climate changes to consider as well.  The slow warming that is shifting agricultural zones northward means that different crops will fail or thrive than in past years.  It also means that weather events may increase or decrease with frequency.  While many changes may be permanent, it is also important to remember that locally, shifts in climate may be temporary and may revert back to a previous climate.  While it is difficult to predict local climates in the future, you can make observations and see how things have been changing in your area (you can look at last frost dates and see if there are any trends over the last 30 years that may give an indication of change in the future).   

This is part 4 in a 4 part series on Weather and Climate for the Backyard Farmer. You can find the others articles in the links below:
How do you plan for weather extremes in your area?