Homesteading, simply put, is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency with the home at the center of it all. There are many degrees to homesteading and it is not an all or nothing deal. We have built up our homestead over the years and we are still growing and expanding. Our first year we started with a simple vegetable garden. Tomatoes, ground cherries, cucumbers, squash, lettuce and greens beans. The following year we added on an herb patch and got half a dozen laying hens. This is where we stayed for a couple years as far as expansion goes.
In the mean time, I learned how to can, pickle and preserve. I also began studying herbalism extensively and started making my own tinctures, tea blends, herbal body oils and salves. From here I cultivated an even deeper connection with the plant world and started working with flower essences. Plant spirit medicine opened a gateway of communication with the plants that I had never known before. I began to understand that “to know” was not limited to the intellect or something I read in a book but rather there is an ancient knowing buried deep within. it is from this place you can obtain knowledge from the natural world around you.
In June of 2020 we had our first baby, our son Rowan. Things were put on hold for a while with the homestead as we both adjusted to being parents. During that summer, something got into our coop at night and we lost all of our hens. We decided to take a little break from chickens at this point. Fast forward to January of 2021, I really wanted to get some chickens again but my husband hesitated. He decided to do some research to find us a better setup for raising our birds. This is when he discovered the practice of pasture raised chickens and totally transformed not just our chicken raising abilities but our homestead as a whole. We really leveled up here.
Ryan got to work building our mobile chicken coop or chickshaw. He got the design from the well known homestead YouTuber Justin Rhodes. We also invested in a premier 1 solar powered electric fence. We purchased 5 pullets and 1 straight run from Tractor Supply. Once they were big enough, they could be moved from our basement brooder setup to the chickshaw outside on pasture. A month later, we added 6 more birds to our flock. That’s where we stayed with layers for a bit.
In the winter of 2022 our second baby was born, our daughter Penelope. We also decided that after several years of raising layers on and off, it was time to try raising meat birds. We put our order in, waited patiently for a couple months and in the spring of 2022 received our baby chicks. We ended up with a mix of Big Red Broilers, Ginger Broilers and Cornish Crosses. Ryan built a chicken tractor coop based off of a Joel Salatin design. We raised them for approximately 12 weeks and harvested in late July of 2022. This is a big job and we had to call in reinforcements. Ryan did the bulk of the harvesting, my mom thankfully helped him process and I had my hands full with the kids. Around the same time that we were getting ready to harvest our meat birds, we decided to expand our laying flock. We added ten black australorp hens and four buff orpingtons. These are both heritage breeds and therefore can take up to six months to start laying as opposed to the standard four months you wait with the popular red sex links.
As you can guess from reading this, our homestead is a constant evolving work of art. We have arrived slowly but consistently. As our family grows the shape of our homestead gets reworked for expansion. And expansion means letting things go that don’t work for us and perhaps revisiting them later on down the road. It means a practice of remembering again and again, through all the chaos and confusion life throws at us, what our most important goals are: to raise the most nutritious foods possible while giving our children a life full of magic and wonder with love at the root of it all. It’s love that plants the seeds, it’s love that collects the harvest, chops the wood and feeds the chickens, its love that keeps the hearth warm and the pot of chicken broth simmering all day long. Love is the point of it all.