Sunday, May 11, 2014

Woods Work, Homestead Work

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.


  1. Onnea uudelle kasvimaalle :)
    Hieno tuli ja mahtavaa kun saitte apuja ja tarvitsemanne!
    Olen samaa mieltä tuosta, että pienimuotoinenkin viljely kannattaa aina, jos vain joku kolonen sille löytyy. Olen viettänyt paljon aikaa tänä keväänä vanhempieni luona kotikaupungissani. Heillä on pihaa, ja tänne aion laittaa pienen kasvimaan kesäksi. Nähtäväksi jää, kuinka paljon kesällä täällä olen. Voimistumisen merkkejä on ollut, ehkä kesä tuo sitä lisää ja yksin olemisen kausi päättyy. Eli kumpi vaan vaihtoehto on hyvä, jos en jaksa vielä suuntautua ulospäin, minulla on kasvimaa ja jos jaksan niin sehän on huippu juttu.
    Asuin ennen pihallisesti ja se oli kyllä ihanaa. Salaatit ja yrtit muutaman kymmenen metrin päässä ulko-ovesta. Juurekset ja vihreät ja eksoottiset kokeilut. Ja kukat!

    Edellisen postin punainen mekkosi on ihana. Olen ollut housujen ihminen pari vuotta. Vaatekuvasi ja etsyssä selailuni ovat inspiroineet, ehkä tulee myös mekkojen kesä.

    Minäkin tykkään metsätöistä. Puiden kaatamisesta välitä, mutta polttopuiden teko ja halkojen hakkuu on ihanaa. Olen kokeillut petun ottoakin, mutta siitä on aika monta vuotta.

    Ja hei, tuo sukupuolivalistus ja tuo mainitsemasi "love and respect and care for their own bodies in an empowering, DIY-way", ihan mahtava juttu olisi jos amerikan nuoret tytöt (ja pojat) saisivat sinun viisauden saattelemaa oppia aiheesta!

    Aloitin blogin. En osannut vielä muuttaa fonttikokoa, jatkan harjoituksia seuraavalla kerralla :)

  2. Wow, good work, you have a nice big plot! That is the plus of having a small, tight-knit community---people come together to get things done.
    Reminds me of the barn-raising traditions of the past. Daunting to one or two people, but when everyone comes together its almost magical how quickly it can get done.
    I was just reading that Finland has the most extensive forests left in Northern Europe and the best integrated care system for their rural habitats. Its definitely on my list of places I want to see :)

  3. the fishing net is such an awesome (and resourceful) fence idea! it looks so whimsical! i buy used netting from Thailand for display work, i've always loved the variety of colors and of course the history :)

  4. Tuo mehtätyö kuva sinusta on ihana!

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  6. We are renters and I too feel what the dilemma of what to plant, planting in pots versus the earth, how much to spend on what is not ours. I hesitate for a while then can't help myself. There is always a veggie patch and chooks, a herb garden, pots dotted around the place. Whenever I let go and stop waiting until it's ours good change seems to happen. Often it means moving on but I like to think we're leaving a lovely legacy for the next family. In the meantime I'll keep on dreaming of planting trees and having bees.

  7. What a big plot! I know the feeling of not having your own garden yet, I'm in the same situation. I think it's really good that you still go on with your homesteading plan. To grow your own foods and learn from the whole process must be very satisfying. Plus, you're outside a lot. I'm thinking about sowing tomato seeds and put them in a pot on my terrace where there's a lot of sunshine. If you grow a one square vegetable garden in a wooden box on supports, it's even movable (something like this:

  8. I agree, it is almost always worth doing. And try to imagine that even though you may be leaving, you will bring the next homesteader a ready-made plot, just begging for continuing the wonder. I am always amazed and humbled by the amount of joy gardening and harvesting brings me every season.

    Also, can't wait to check out your interview. Be well, Milla!

  9. You and that saw look like you're good friends. Also, I love the fishing net around the garden! Such a good idea.

  10. We could have to leave our home with three months notice, so I too am hesitant to plant anything. But there's a small piece of the garden that's perfect for it so I should just go for it. It's such a worthy thing to spend time on.

  11. I like the word 'kitchen garden.. It's kind of like Micro homesteading :)

  12. Gorgeous pictures, as always! I live in the city, but I grew up on a farm, that's why I really want to re-live those rural moments by prepping my own "urban homestead." Hahaha! I hope you got lots of produce this year! Thanks for sharing everything! Wishing you all the best!

    Darren Lanphere @ Mirr Ranch