In the strictest sense of the word, we're not really "homesteading", because homesteading implies ownership of a small plot of land and we don't own any. Still, I think the word is apt. I first started using it when we got our chickens and made our small garden at our old house five years ago. At the time everyone was a-twitter about "farming", but I never really felt like I was going to be farming, let alone be a "farmer". What I wanted was a kitchen garden, backyard chickens, much like the "urban homesteaders" of that burgeoning movement.
I want to contribute to the food our family eats and be more self-sufficient. I want to eat well and maybe even save money. To have my own herbs and greens and root crops. To have some year-around food. If I'm lucky, I'd like to grow enough to preserve and have crops that keep overwinter in the pantry. I'm not ambitious, or asking much.
The hard thing, of not having your own land to homestead is that you put work, money and other resources into something you ultimately always have to leave. That can be very daunting. You never feel like you can plant the things you want, the fruit trees and berry bushes, because you could be gone in a year or two. Eventually you know you'll have to start from scratch again. You don't make the effort to have the best of materials, or create the prettiest scenes, because eventually someone else might come along and want something different.
That said, it's also surprisingly cheap and easy to make the most of what you have for the moment. Our garden went from this to what you see below, in a few brief weeks, and so far it hasn't cost us but about fifty bucks, because of the generosity of friends and our own resourcefulness.
Our 2014 garden was:
-tilled by someone kind and generous
-fertilized with $50 worth of manure
-fenced with free posts and free netting (Charlie made a point of hanging out at the yard where the fishermen work on their boats early enough in the morning one day)
-strung with some line from a former fisherman pal
-planted with gifted starts and currant and rhubarb
-weeded by sister-in-law slave-labor
Our fence posts came from the woods around the house, some fallen some felled sometime last year. Sawed and carried and peeled and stuck in the ground by our own sweaty labor, with the old-fashioned forestry tools that finally came in handy. It took about five hours in a single day to get them up.
I have a secret and special love of hand sawing things, anything really, when given the chance. It's actually one of my favorite things to do, but sadly I almost never have the opportunity. There's something very satisfying about separating a trunk or a branch of a tree from itself, that I can't quite put into words. Maybe it's our Forest Finn nature, but working in the woods is fun. Metsätyöt, as we call it, meaning "woods work".
Same, it turns out, goes for peeling logs. A lengthy, but very satisfying process.
In the end, it's almost always worth doing. After all, no matter your situation, nothing's really permanent, things are constantly in flux even when you think they're not.
Growing food, even small amounts of it, is always trial and tribulation and learning from your mistakes, but like peeling logs there's a strange satisfaction to it, knowing that you've contributed a little, to your own food economy. It's such a basic human thing to do.
Right now, our homestead consists of that garden, twelve hens and a rooster who was just practicing his first crows, a single hive of bees in need of attention and many patches of woods to wildcraft in, a little luck and a lot of hard work.
Happy Mother's Day to those of you who have grown little fruits!
Also, there's a little interview with me at Liesl's blog, a sweet place with lots of cool tutorials and good recipes. I have such respect for anyone who posts those things, because they take time and care. So if you're feeling homestead-y or maker-y this morning, it's not too late to package something for mom in a sweet 'lil pouch.