Subsistence Living in Ohio

Reader Contribution by Kate Marlowe
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A common misconception we often come across when talking to non-homesteaders concerns our way of life. A picture of open fields, livestock grazing and large areas for gardening are often assumed. This seems to be the modern view of what homesteading is; however, homesteading is far more than this. Homesteading is a way of life, a lifestyle that encompasses self-sufficient, frugal and independent living regardless of your geographical situation. We do not fit the modern view and are taking this opportunity to share the ways in which we find success homesteading in the backwoods.

Deer from our hunting cam

The property we live on in Southern Ohio is surrounded by wooded area and borders state forest. The homesteading life we have chosen consists of subsistence living through hunting, fishing and foraging the land we have. Resources from our backwoods allow us to make use of the dense, clay-packed soil and create fertile land to grow vegetables and herbs. We aren’t a picture of the previously mentioned vision of homesteaders, but we are living the lifestyle and utilizing the land to provide a self-sufficient homestead.

Swampy terrain combined with the forest areas surrounds our homestead. This affords us an abundant variety of nuts, greens, fruits and tubers in the backwoods. We are able to collect and dry a variety of nuts including walnuts, chestnuts and hickory. Fruits indigenous to the area are also collected as a food source such as black raspberries, papaws, elderberries and wild strawberries. Salads may be spiced up during growing seasons with dandelions, fiddleheads, ramps and cattails. Spring is our favorite time of year for foraging. We are able to search for morels, a delicacy indigenous to the area, and it provides fun hunting opportunities as well as a tasty treat!

Late summer and fall can be exciting as we have recently practiced the skill of wild ginseng hunting. Ginseng is not only edible and healthy, it can be a source of income to supplement the homestead! There is a season to adhere to and the rules in harvesting ginseng must be closely reviewed. When you get the hang of it, ginseng hunting is a fun and challenging activity to spend your time outdoors. Foraging is a skill that should be practiced, and we always adhere to the rule “if you don’t know what it is, leave it alone.”

Watering the spring garden

The remainder of time spent collecting our food supply is with hunting and fishing. We are fortunate to live in a region that provides ample opportunities for both. Most of our fishing is done in the spring and finished up in early fall. Southern Ohio offers numerous types of fish for eating including crappie, bass and catfish. The lakes in our area are plentiful, and most are open for public use. Deer, turkey, wild boar, squirrel, groundhog and beaver are among the primary game we take advantage of as a local food source. There are others we have not tapped into as a regular source such as duck and goose. These require federal as well as state licensure and just not something we have ventured into as a regular hunting source.

Sunset on the Backwoods Homestead

We do practice some of the modern ideas of homesteading including gardening, raising small farm animals, and making some of our own home products for cleaning and beauty care. We live a frugal life and keep things simple, enjoying what God has provided. This all works together to provide us with an independent, self-sufficient and resourceful life on our homestead in the backwoods.

This is just a peek inside our backwoods homestead. I look forward to providing more stories about on our way of living. I am working on an extended article and will share some of the information I collect and experiences we have along the way. Future goals include creating a completely edible yard, adding new animals to our homestead and building a new home that is off-grid and 100-percent self-sustainable. Stay with me as I share our journey!

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