Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
The Happy Homesteader Blog
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One of the things that I love most about homesteading is the ability to give that it offers. In some ways it sounds counter intuitive. Homesteaders are very much about providing for themselves...storing up, filling the pantry, and in some ways hoarding for the winter. But what I have found is that a typical homesteader produces in abundance. When there is a bumper crop for the year we often have more than we need and sometimes don't even know what to do with all that we have. It's not a bad position to be in! Homesteading has given me the opportunity to give to friends and neighbors many times and I am always so grateful. Also, the gifts that we can give seem much more appreciated than anything we buy from the store.
This week a neighbor came down with a typical winter cold. When I lived in the suburbs I never thought much more about giving to a neighbor in this situation other than offering a heartfelt, "Hope you feel better soon." But seeing our friend still heading out in the early cold morning to feed the chickens and milk the cow compelled me to do something. It was something that was so easy, yet meant so much. I took a quick trip to the pantry for a home canned jar of beef and vegetable soup and a jar of honey from our bees. Canning soup is easier than you think - check out this video to see. Then I stopped by the garden and grabbed some Echinacea, Mullein, and Marshmallow and put it all in a basket so that she could make some medicinal tea. Dandelion Revolution's blog has an easy how-to for making medicinal tea. This gift didn't cost me anything and I was happy to be able to give from my bounty.
If I think back on it, this year we have been able to give away our surplus many times. We have surprised friends with buckets of strawberries. We have given away bags of beautiful peppers. We have offered excess transplants to start a new garden. We have given lots of honey to friends and family. And we have provided neighbors with tins of homemade salves and lotions for bug bites and poison ivy rashes. In fact, this week I spent some time making homemade cosmetics for Christmas gifts. I love the how-to's and photos on A Sonoma Garden blog for making lotions and salves and the chapped winter hands around here made me think that some other gardening friends might need a winter pick-me-up.
Whether it's needing a gift to bring when you've been invited to a friends house for dinner or needing a small token to thank a neighbor for their help, the homestead can provide it. It makes it easy to give and when you know that you are able to provide for yourself it makes you so much more willing to help and give to others. And just because you might live in the city doesn't mean that you aren't a homesteader. Fill your bounty and create a surplus from which you can give by preserving food from local farmers markets, inter-plant edibles amongst your flower beds (Rainbow Swiss Chard is particularly beautiful this time of year), plant a fruit producing tree, blueberry bush or grape vine in place of those ornamentals. And indoors you can grow herbs and ginger for some great tea or try your hand at soap, candle or lotion making. All of these provide for yourself and soon you'll see that you have some to share!
With Christmas just around the corner we've been preparing many gifts. It's so different from the days
that we used to fight traffic to get to the over crowded malls searching for something the recipient might like. Instead, our gifts now are almost entirely homemade. Sure, it takes more planning since you have to start early in order to get something made, but I find that it just extends the joy of the season. Taking a month to knit a hat and scarf lets me think about Christmas much longer than swinging by a store to buy it. Also on the list is building a table from willow branches (find some great books on willow furniture under crafting and building here) and making a hand carved walking stick. This video will show you how you can make one too. We'll need some last minute gift ideas as well and for that we will consider a basket of freshly made bread or a bag of homemade marshmallows! If you haven't tried making bread yet, then watch this video and become inspired. These things not only bring the joy of good taste, but also always seem to come with a story about how easy it is to make yourself and often leaves the giftee inspired to try it, thereby giving the gift of independence as well. Take a look around your homestead this week, see where your bounty lies and surprise a friend or neighbor with a small token. There's no better time of year to give than the holiday season!
~ Daisy, The Happy Homesteader