Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
The Happy Homesteader Blog
Sponsored By: Gurneys! - Get $20 off any $40 Order!
I know it sounds idealistic, but I do feel that if we all do our part then we can save the world. From what? Well, you choose, but overall I think that if each person turned their focus to the natural world around them, then philosophies will turn to actions and we will do our part to become more producers rather than consumers...and responsible, sustainable producers at that!
It used to feel good to donate to charities, for instance donating to Heifer International at Christmas time. And I was sure to drop off a bag of slightly used clothes to the Salvation Army at least once a year. Don't get me wrong, I still believe these things are necessary and am quick to help whenever I can, but somehow along the way these donations felt less satisfying. The problems of the world seemed to grow bigger as I took a closer look at myself and what I was contributing to (or rather taking from) the world around me. These issues came to the forefront when I chose to move to the country and live more sustainably on my own homestead. Now I realize the decisions that I make every day can save the world even if it's just on my acreage.
When I became a land owner and realized that I wanted to put down roots in my own homestead, the earth became so much more important to me. It became a lasting and living entity! I began to feel badly about the abuse it had taken through over-farming and neglect in previous years. I wanted to fix it. Like so many new farmsteaders I began by taking a page out of Joel Salatin's book by adding animals and applying management intensive rotational grazing practices. I had a few cows that were followed by free-ranging poultry, and together they addedlost nutrients in the form of manure fertilizer back to the soil. Goats also helped to control the invasive weeds and allowed the lush grass to come back. Before I knew it, the land looked happy again! Earthworms returned, rain water was more easily absorbed, and bare dirt patches filled in with forage. This is lasting change that I have contributed to nature and I can see the effect of my contribution. My commitment to restoring this little parcel of land is my donation to the future health of the topsoil. I love the amazing example in this photo I found on Farm Dreams by Rich Hamilton showing the pasture improvement results from rotating chickens.
With the animals came more decisions. I realized that some valuable breeds are dying out because consumer taste and factory farming demands a certain carcass type or behavioral disposition suitable for growing on grain and in climate controlled housing. Learning that every chicken that is sold in the grocery stores are Cornish Cross made me wonder where all of the other breeds of chickens are going to come from. Reading about the American Livestock Breeeds Conservancy (ALBC) compelled me to take the opposite approach and raise a few rare breeds. It's the small farms and homesteads that keep the heritage breeds of animals alive and well. And it's these small producers that can focus on breeding on their farm in such a way that ensures survival and genetic superiority of these animals that have almost been lost in time. Fresh Pastures posted some photos on Farm Dreams of these rare breed chickens. Adorable!
This brought me to considering plants in a similar fashion. Now my garden grows heirloom varieties from transplants that I start in a small greenhouse and, I keep rare open-pollinated vegetables alive by saving more and more seeds each year. Seed saving can be overwhelming. Just read the book Seed to Seed to see how much is involved, but my goal is to focus on at least 3-4 plants each year to save seeds from. Another lasting change and contribution to the world! Preserving breeds and saving seeds is my little way of donating life and diversity to future generations.
When I first began homesteading it seemed like I was faced with choices concerning chemicals almost every day. From using antibiotics for animals or myself to spraying weed killer in the garden. The experts were quick to tell me the only thing they had been taught, that Round Up will keep the fence lines clear and Sevin Dust will keep the bugs off the veggies. But when I looked to Mother Earth and her beautiful cycle of nature, I realized this interference was not what I wanted to do. Grass grows for a reason and if I leave bare soil then I increase erosion. So I clear the fence lines with a weed whacker rather than spraying and I cover unplanted soil in the garden with grass clippings or other organic material. I realize the bugs of the world have a job to do - many which we don't even know about - so I respect them as much as I can.
I plant my garden with companion planting techniques and rotate my crops to keep the pests to a minimum. Carrots Love Tomatoes is a straight forward book on companion planting and Mother Earth News has a good online garden tool (click and scroll down) to help you keep track of your garden rotations. I enrich the soil with homemade compost, thereby giving the plants the nutrients they need to defend themselves and helping to keep the biodegradable trash out of the landfills. If you haven't started a compost pile yet, then check out this video to see how simple it can be! If push comes to shove with the garden pests, then I use fabric row covers to keep them away or sparingly, a dusting of Diatomaceous Earth. In this respect, I feel I am contributing positively rather than negatively to the world. I am leaving behind less waste and better soil health all while minimizing the damage I do to native plants and insects.
But I was compelled to take this one step further and began to think about the pollinators that are effected by the overuse of chemicals, so I have created a safe haven for honeybees! I keep hives and raise them naturally without antibiotics or chemical intervention. I take a limited amount of honey and let the bees feed themselves with their stores rather than using sugar water. I don't kill queens each year and make sure the bees have plenty to forage on by planting fruit plants, alfalfa and clover.
Without bees there would be no food, a very scary thought indeed. Not only am I contributing pollinators to my area, but I will leave behind colonies of bees that can live without a monthly dusting of antibiotics or mite control powder. If you have a thought in the back of your mind that one day you might like to try your hand at beekeeping, then watch this video or join the Beekeeping group on Farm Dreams. There are many members who are anxiously awaiting their first hive as well as experts who can answer your questions along the way. Strike up a conversation and lets's save the pollinators together! To become inspired, check out David Scott's photo album of beekeeping on Farm Dreams!
The chemical debate quickly turned to the inside of my home as I thought about what is draining into the septic system and the plastic bottles that were piling up from store bought cosmetics. It took years to complete my transition, but one product at a time became homemade. Now I make my own soap, lotion, shampoo, deodorant, laundry detergent, dish soap, etc. and my house is cleaned only with steam, vinegar, and baking soda. There are tons of recipes online, but Earth Easy has compiled a basic list to help you get started with green cleaning. I reuse plastic bottles from the old days and those clothes that used to be donated, well, now my philosophy is to buy from Goodwill shops. There are just too many clothes produced in the world anyway and someone else will keep the shops filled up I'm sure! I'll just recycle the ones they throw away. I keep clothes for years and years adding patches as necessary. When an item becomes too worn out then it gets cut up into cleaning rags.
I do feel like these changes in my home are changing the world because I'm not adding to pollution, I'm creating less trash, I'm creating more topsoil and I'm keeping skills alive rather than losing my independence to the pharmaceutical and cleaning companies of the world.
When I think back to what I used to contribute, it now seems that it was mostly all negative. Now, I'm proud to say that a change in focus and philosophy has shown me how we each have a role to play in this world, and that means we each can contribute positively instead. It's our actions every day and the choices that we make that will make the world a healthier place. It takes time to change one's lifestyle so start with baby steps if you're new to this. One way to start is to choose one area to focus on in your city or country homestead this week where you could do something more beneficial for the earth, its inhabitants or your community. Then, you too will became a homestead ambassador helping to save the world!
~ Daisy, The Happy Homesteader
Make a comment!