Can You Homestead With A Baby?

I have gotten a lot of questions about being able to homestead with a baby. While I am past the age where having one would be wise, my initial reaction is always “Of course you can! Heelllooo….pioneers had babies, and they made it!” In truth, during those times, you never really knew if your child would make it to adulthood or not. The lifespan was considerably shorter overall but infant mortality was also considerably higher.

Logically speaking then, with our modern conveniences and better healthcare, it should almost seem easy to start homesteading with a baby. Right?

Since I don’t have any authority on the matter, I turned to fellow blogger and Homestead Dreamer guest poster, Dana from MamaZedHomestead.com. She lives on the opposite side of the planet in Australia. I love her down-to-Earth, quirky style. Here’s her take on Homesteading with a Baby.


Can You Homestead With A Baby?

There will always be a long list of excuses for not getting something done. We as a species are fantastic at procrastinating and making up reasons about why we can’t achieve a task. It could be due to a lack of funds, a lack of knowledge or just a shear lack of motivation. Your dream of homesteading just gets further and further away. One question that I asked myself was, “Can You Homestead With A Baby?”

Short answer? Of course you can! More honest answer? You can, but you have to be willing to work hard.

Life in general gets harder when you have a baby. You might have these wonderful images in your head about your baby sitting in their highchair while you bake. How about feeding the animals while your beautiful toddler holds your hand as you’re walking? I know I had that one quite a bit. There will be days where your life is idyllic and you think to yourself, “Why was I ever worried?”

Then you wake up with a foot shoved in your face, the smell of dirty nappy wafts through the air and a high pitch scream for breakfast snaps you out of it.

I always wanted to be a mother. It wasn’t just one of those goals that I had to tick off my life’s to-do list. There was a deep seated need that wouldn’t be fulfilled until I had my baby. There is not a single day that goes by that I regret our decision to start our family. However, I also have to remind myself daily about why we swapped to life on hard mode in the first place.

Little dude is now 17 months old and we are due with his little sister in 3 weeks. That’s right, we went back for round 2. What is wrong with us? We still can’t answer that.

I’ve learned that you can still get your chores done when you have a baby. You just have to be a bit more creative about it.

These are the tried and tested ways that we survive homesteading with a baby.

“Cages” are your friends

Alright, maybe not real ‘cages’ (though some days…). By this, I mean any cage-like device that exists these days to keep that mini human in one spot. Get yourself a baby gate, a play pen, a blow up pool without the water…find a way to trap that little monster into one place so that you have some sense of control over the situation.

While inside, we have a baby gate that successfully keeps the child out of the kitchen. I can still see him and the trouble he is usually in, but I don’t have to worry about opening the oven and having him throw himself towards it.

While outside, we are lucky that our current property is fully fenced. That’s not to say that he can’t get himself into something he shouldn’t. It just means that it narrows down the amount of distance that he can put between us. Before he could walk, play pens and blow up pools were a great way of keeping him in one spot. Right now? I’m just thankful for the enclosed fence.

Get them involved whenever possible

I’ve been told time and time again that they are never too young to learn. While this is true to a certain degree, I think the phrase, “They’re never too young to try to help” is a more accurate statement. Even though he is only 17 months old, little dude has ways that he helps out. These can include:

  • Carrying the peg basket when we are putting clothes on the line (inevitably dropping them and deciding to play with them at some point but USUALLY we make it to the line first)
  • Putting dry washing into the basket while I fold (before taking it back out. Then putting it back in…You get the idea)
  • Sweeping. I have no idea where this fascination comes from, but my kid is OBSESSED with brooms. He has two of his own mini brooms which he uses to move dust around. I’m hoping this will lead to an older child who is just as enthusiastic about cleaning as he is now. One can dream, right?
  • Wiping the table. At this age, he loves to mimic us. As soon as I see him trying to do a job I would normally do, I will either get him to help or do it himself. As he gets older, he will be able to take on harder tasks.

It will all depend on the age of your child and really, their attention span. Even if you can get them to do a job for a few minutes, you are still supporting their development. One day it will pay off!

Use A Carrier

When I first got my Manduca carrier, I asked myself how I had ever coped without it. All of a sudden, I could be hands free! This was great when he was younger and clingy, just wanting to be carried all day and see what was going on. I could get outside or I could get a sink of dishes done! Sometimes he would fall asleep. Other times he would be happy just peeking out from the carrier and watching the world go by.

Have older children? Here are some tips and tricks for gardening with kids!

The only reason I stopped carrying little dude was because my current bump got too big. As soon as little miss is born, she’ll be in the carrier and I’ll be back to figuring out how to do my chores with two. Silver lining? At least it’ll almost be hands free.

They sleep. Eventually.

This one isn’t as reliable, but it can work out. When I wake up first thing in the morning, I mentally try to prioritize what I want to get done that day. These jobs are usually split into what I can do with bub, what I can do while he is entertaining himself, and what needs to be done while he is asleep.

It will take practice to figure out what chores fit into which categories for you. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and have a reliable nap time and length. Other days, baby might decide that your plans really don’t matter and you’ll be lucky if you even get a shower that day.

The main thing to remember is that you have a baby. It’s obviously something you won’t really forget, but looking after that little life is a chore in itself. You might get to the end of the day and think you haven’t been able to get anything done. Actually, you have. You made it through another day. Cut yourself some slack and try again tomorrow. Try to plan ahead, just don’t be too heartbroken if that plan gets thrown out the window.


You can find more from MamaZed on Facebook, Pinterest, and www.mamazedshomestead.com.

Reclaim Food Control With Suburban Micro Farming

To me, living in the suburbs seems like a cookie cutter way to live. Every house looking the same: same lawns, same colors, same…everything! While the lawns and manicured look is appealing for the aesthetics, it’s hard for me to see much beyond lost potential. Every single one of those lawns could be a micro farming gold mine!

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Of course, it’s easy to sit and dream about it and quite another to actually do the work. There are all sorts of challenges that many people would have to overcome before they even break ground on a new garden! Home Owner’s Associations (HOAs) tend to have very strict rules against anything that would show individualism on the block, let alone changing your manicured lawn into something that produces food. Most of them even have bans on clotheslines for drying clothes in the sunshine! Once you’ve overcome the logistics of that though….it’s game on!!

Other than local restrictions, many people never take the plunge because it can be overwhelming. They have no idea how to start or it may seem cost prohibitive (it’s not!) or any other number of reasons not to. Don’t toss in the rake yet! There’s hope for you, dear Suburbanite!

Enter Amy Stross, author of the very informative (and fun to read) “The Suburban Micro Farm.” In her funny and uplifting writing style that matches her personality, Amy has put together a book that can help you realize your micro farm dreams! You could be harvesting from your own, truly organic and fresh produce aisle – all of a few feet from your table. From the author:

“The suburbs are ripe with food-growing potential. The Suburban Micro-Farm will show you how to grow healthy food for your table in only 15 minutes a day, proving that you can have a garden even on a limited schedule. With tips for creating an edible and ecologically friendly landscape, learn how to garden while maintaining aesthetics. You’ll find simple tricks for growing food even in the worst yards. Worried about follow-through? This book is a gold mine of life hacks, guides, and tools to help you reap a harvest as well as a sense of accomplishment for your efforts.”

They are right! Think, for just a moment, how much money would be saved if people converted even half their lawn into a vegetable growing machine!? What about the improved health, better tasting food? Don’t forget a reconnection with neighbors as you plan out what you will grow and trade at harvest time! It’s amazing what can happen with some seeds – I am proof of that myself! This site would NOT be here if I hadn’t decided to start a garden.

This book truly gives you the knowledge you need to transform your lawn into something more beautiful and productive than just growing grass and weeds~you make your own produce section!

I have read this book, cover to cover. Then I went back and re-read several sections: Chapter 2 – Managing Expectations (very important) and Chapter 11 – Permaculture and Micro-Farming. I really want to have some permaculture in my garden! I dream of chives and other herbs growing year after year with little maintenance from me. Truthfully, once you get the garden set up, there isn’t much to it. A few minutes a day or a little longer every other day should cover the needs your garden has. Of course, once it’s harvest time, you’ll be busy again.

Harvesting never really seemed like work to me – it was so much fun to reap the rewards of my efforts (and eat them, too)! I highly recommend this book to newbies and veteran gardeners alike! Reclaim some control over your food source, save money on truly organic veggies, regain control from Big Agra, and beautify your space more than a plain old lawn ever could!

Click here to get your copy of The Suburban Micro-Farm!

3 Things to Get BEFORE the Harvest

3 Things to Get BEFORE the Harvest

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and your garden is exploding with life! Depending on where you are in the world, you may already be harvesting the fruits (and veggies!) of your labor while others are just now seeing their seedlings turning into full plants. Either way, the harvest is coming in a few short months and now is the perfect time to ask yourself, “Am I really ready for it?”

Last year was my first go at a garden and it was wildly successful. In fact, we just opened our last jar of carrots from that harvest. I admit I giggled a little and felt a bit smug, thinking about the 5 rows of carrots already growing strong in the new Carrots 2013cold frame. While we ate on carrots throughout the summer (okay so it was mostly me munching when I was weeding…don’t judge me 🙂 ), the actual harvest yielded over 10 pounds and I clearly remember the excitement at seeing the basket overflowing. Right on the heels of the excitement was a moment of “Oh my goodness…this is a LOT of carrots! What am I going to do?!” I still had green beans and onions and all sorts of stuff to be harvested, this was just the carrots! ACK! It was a little overwhelming for a first time gardener. You rejoice at the success and then crash, realizing the work has only just started. Now you have to process and preserve them. If this is your first harvest, you may need some equipment. If you are a veteran gardener, you understand the importance of making sure you have the right equipment and that it is in good working order. Here are the ways I handled all of that fresh, organic food.

Dehydrate. Of course I already had the dehydrator and knew I wanted to make up some jars that had all the veggies and spices in them for a stew. I also wanted to have some on hand ‘just in case’ as a filler and to have in our short term emergency supply. I stored them in jars and vacuum sealed bags which takes me to my next method of food storage needed for the harvest.

Vacuum seal for dry and frozen storage. Some of the veggies would be frozen, of course, but who has a freezer large enough for all of it? Certainly not me, nor anyone I know! I vacuum sealed up some veggie mixes for the freezer (think stir fry!). I also used the vacuum sealer to seal up the jars of “stew starts” as I call them. Some of the dried fruit that I had done up (though not from my garden unfortunately) were vacuum sealed and put into buckets for a short term emergency storage. After about 6 months, we rotate them with fresher pouches and eat up the old (more like gobble it up, dried fruit is so sweet!). While dehydrating and vacuum sealing are all well and good, they will still leave you with a lot of veggies to be processed. This brings us to what I consider to be the most important piece of my food preservation arsenal.

Pressure canning. I absolutely love to pressure and water-bath can foods. I take great joy in pulling out the jars of colorful foods that I grew myself (usually from seed versus a start) and know exactly how it was handled. Pressure canning is intimidating to a great majority of the people I talk to. I was a little nervous the first time I did it as well but honestly, after a few experiences pressure canning is no more dangerous than chopping up food. Both activities have risks but you learn what they are and take steps to avoid them. The best part about having an actual pressure canner is that you can also use it for cooking and water-bathing jams and jellies, etc. It is multi-use and will last you for years and years if you properly take care of it.

I ended up buying a separate water-bath canning pot with a rack because I prefer to have all engines rolling when I am on Vegetable Stock Picmy preservation mode (meaning I like to have a water bath going while also pressure canning and dehydrating food). I got impatient waiting for one project to be done when I had 5 others waiting. I believe strongly that it will pay off this year since we expanded the garden a bit. What took me a month last year should only take about 2 good weekends this year. I also tend to make a lot of vegetable stock from my scraps and lugging out the pressure canner for it seems cumbersome.

What do YOU do to make sure you are ready for the harvest? Share your thoughts below in the comment section, I would love to hear them!

Improvements in the Garden

I am absolutely giddy about the greenhouse/garden this year. We have made some pretty significant improvements and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Over the last few weeks, we have been steadily working (mostly on the weekends) to remove the ‘old’ from last year and make way for the new!

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The biggest project was getting the entire greenhouse covered in fresh, reinforced plastic. Our most expensive materials purchase for the year, this plastic is well worth it. It allows more light in and holds up to the winds and freezing temperatures better than the foggy 6 mil plastic we used before. It has less of a chance of shredding itself in high winds which is needed for our location. We also put fresh plastic over the cold frame lids and reinforced the PVC pipe that the plastic is wrapped around. Finally, we crafted and installed a proper screen window (versus a hole cut with screening glued onto the plastic) that allows for superior ventilation compared to previous results.

Improved_Coldframe_w_lidSpeaking of cold frames, we added another one this year! At 8′ x 2′, we have 16 square feet of additional space to plant. The first crops that will be going in are Danver half-long carrots and Walla Walla onions. Last year, the carrot harvest was about 10-12 pounds and onions roughly 10 pounds. It is my goal to double that this year. I have visions of dehydrated onion and onion powder that was grown and processed by my own little hands.

I already day dream about this coming winter, giggling as I pull out spices to make a venison stew. I take great satisfaction in using herbs and spices that I grew and preserved myself to then spice up the other foods I grew from seeds to feed the family. It kinda makes me feel like super woman! The last touch on the cold frames were the installation of hinges on the lids,  including hemp twine placed to keep the lids from flapping open backward, and a hook-in-eye latch to keep them closed when needed. Last year when we had high winds, I would find the cold frame lids knocked completely off the base and be in the bushes 6 feet away. Not this year!

Strawberry-tater_patchThe Mister got a wild hair and decided to put in a raised bed patch on the south side of the greenhouse. Pictured above, he used materials from around the property. Utilizing scrap and bits of cut wood, he turned all that ‘garbage’ into something charming and serviceable. We decided that since strawberries and potatoes do very well here, even in the wild, we will use the space for those tasty edibles. Like I had visions of my own powdered onion from the garden, HE has visions of strawberries and cream and strawberry jam. Hopefully, the slugs will be kinder this year.

 

Free gutters given to us! I love how clear the new plastic is, too.

Free gutters given to us! I love how clear the new plastic is, too.

Finally, we have the water catch system installed! This is another huge improvement for us and I am completely thrilled with it! Gone are the days of hauling water from the hose in buckets down to the garden. Now we have the gutters (that were free!) installed that dumps all the rain into a 32 gallon commercial garbage can from the top of the greenhouse. We were really hoping to get a nice 55 gallon drum or plastic barrel to catch the water in. Unfortunately, it is nigh on impossible to find them laying around and so expensive to buy new that we had to get creative.

The commercial garbage can was the next safe bet as the plastic is stronger and can handle a little more wear and tear than the kitchen garbage can we used last year. Another plus is the new system is contained the garden area and no one can accidentally bump it with a car, knocking it over or dealing with the neighbor kids kicking it over or putting holes in it.

As Spring turns into Summer, I will keep posting updates on how this year’s garden efforts are coming along. This is only my second year doing it and though I have learned a lot so far, I know that each year is different! New challenges to be worked through and overcome, new discoveries that will delight and inspire, and then at the end of it all – fresh, organic and non GMO food for the family all Winter long. Happy planting!!

Slug Battle 2014

Last year my garden was ravaged by slugs. I went out every night with a flashlight and a salt shaker to wage war upon this common pest. Slugs are so prevalent here that during the Blueberry Festival held in August, they have slug races and contests for the biggest slug. Our cool, wet climate is pure heaven for these garden-devouring gastropods and while I always knew we had a healthy population, I learned more than I ever wanted to last gardening season.

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Being the utter newbie I was (and pretty much still am), I did not realize just how versatile slugs can be when it comes to gaining access to food. The plastic that covered the greenhouse went all the way down to the ground and was tucked up under the floor poles but apparently not good enough. My first real hint that I had a problem was on my green beans.  Huge leaves bigger than my hand with fingers spread open were ruined in a single night. Then it spread to the tomato plants, the carrots and celery. They avoided the onions for the most part but the absolute worst hit was the peas. Oh ye tiny gods they were merciless! Eating the leaves and crawling on the stems at soil level, they worked their way up and it was a non stop battle all summer long. The peas died from the soil level up slowly so I was able to harvest some, but certainly not as much as I wanted!

To battle them, I started with the beer traps that I recalled my mother and grandmother using. I got the cheapest brew I could find and dug holes into the areas hit hardest. It worked to some extent but cleaning out the traps and buying beer all the time was inconvenient and gross. It is also not very sustainable and can get expensive. Using too much salt can ruin your soil. I did not and will not use chemicals in my garden so of course I went researching online for natural alternatives. Other than what I was doing already (night missions armed with my flashlight and trusty salt shaker of doom) the other methods for repelling and getting rid of slugs included:

  • Crushed eggs shells. Slugs cannot cross it because it will cut them. This also has the added benefit of adding minerals back into the soil.
  • Sand. Same as with crushed egg shells, the sand will be too rough for the slime trail to protect the slug.
  • Beer traps. Mentioned above, beer traps lure the slugs away from the plant and toward the yeasty scent of beer. They fall into the cup and die.
  • Letting ducks or chickens in. Ducks and chickens reportedly go crazy for slugs. At a certain point though, you really do not want these animals traipsing around your vegetables.
  • 51Ab5ZjYGtL._SL1500_Copper wire or tape. This one got my attention. Several sources say that using copper wire or better yet, copper tape, will keep the slugs from going past the line. The metal reacts with their slime and they back off.
  • Sluggo. This is an organic alternative that is safe around household pets but I have not tried it yet!

This year I am going to apply several of these defenses and repellent methods. First will be the copper tape. I am thinking I should have gotten the thicker 2 inch tape instead of the 1/2 inch but I will make due as I got two spools for the cold frames. I will put one strip around about 3-4 inches down from the top of the cold frame lid and another strip 2 inches down from the first.  Some reports say that slugs will bridge over the tape and the hope it two strips will help avoid that. I am also going to save the egg shells we get and, after a quick boil to clean them, crush and apply to the soil as a cover.

I also had an idea of taking some kind of glue along the tops of the cold frames, then sprinkling and pressing sand into it. Once it has dried, the sand will stay and still be sticking out with their tiny sharp points that will deter the slugs. I will be sure to do another post on how I have set up my defenses and how Slug Battle 2014 progresses. First though, we need to fix our green house roof. That is the weekend/evening project for the next couple weeks. Keep watching for a post on how it all turns out!

Greenhouse Before the Snow

Greenhouse Before the Snow

After the snow broke the PVC pipe frame

After the snow broke the PVC pipe frame

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