Homesteading Family Learns About Living Off the Land

Gardening, raising livestock, using hand tools, saving tomato seeds were all on this homesteader’s list for living off the land.

| November/December 2015

  • We carried produce from the garden to the house and peeled, seeded, shelled, shucked, pitted and prepared.
    Photo by
  • Most of my vegetables were born of non-hybridized seeds, and at the end of each summer, I collected them in envelopes upon which I wrote the vital statistics.
    Photo by monkey pics
  • Each spring the compost piles erupted with life.
    Photo by
  • We had sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, pigs, poultry, and a milk cow.
    Photo by Sheila Velazquez

My introduction to farming began with a grandmother who buried eggshells in house-plant pots placed on urban windowsills high above the street. She couldn’t explain why it worked – it just did.

Farming isn’t only about planting, growing and harvesting. It’s also about the enrichment of the soil, and this practice can be applied to growing something as simple as a potted geranium.

As a young woman, I learned about composting and soil building that helped produce vegetables and flowers in several subdivisions – years before I actually owned a piece of land large enough to farm.

We chose a location for our garden that had been such in an earlier time. It was a gently sloping, south-facing piece of land ringed by old apple trees, Concord grapevines that stretched to the sky, and long-untended stands of blue spruce thickened into an impenetrable mass. When I pushed a fork into the soil, it came out smooth and clean.

The ground that had been untended and unplanted for decades became the foundation for our perfect little homestead. We reclaimed the garden, broke ground for the house, and began to plan for the barn, all at the same time. Everything was designed to complement each other and our projected plans.

We constructed a root cellar beneath the porch to store hundreds of pounds of potatoes each fall, and we accessed the cellar on a ladder we dropped through a hatch built into the porch. The potatoes meant to be eaten were kept in the baskets closest to the opening, and others farther back were seed potatoes for the next year.

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