We’re back!

Happy New Year! After a much needed unplugging, we’re back online. It’s been a busy couple of months, but we’re happy to report we finally found our new homestead and moved this fall.12062488_10153168353113994_1763491438_o¬†Finding the balance between our list of wants and needs and the right location was tough, but after looking far and wide we found a house in the perfect location of our area. We almost bought far out in the country which probably would have been great, but it was such a relief to find somewhere with a country feel but close to some of the great spots in our area. We couldn’t be happier! ūüôā

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Our new neighbors.

It¬†is a great little 2/3 acre plot with lots of potential. After doing all of our homesteading projects on under a half acre so far, we are excited about this extra space and what we can do with it. The house is great and just what we were looking for. It’s a 1940 farmhouse that now has a bungalow/cottage feel and also has tons of potential. After looking at some major fixer IMG_20160102_084936280_HDRuppers we were pleased to find something move in ready, but with some room for upgrades. Thankfully, we had plenty of time to transition to the new house with all of the animals and things to get ready. We built a chicken coop and some temporary goat houses. It was a blank slate so we’re working to get things as we want them and make it comfy for all of our critters.¬†IMG_20151031_101345222_HDR

In other news, to prepare for the big move we did some downsizing on the farm. We butchered all of the ducks and rabbits, and about seven chickens. Our freezers are getting stocked for the winter and we’ll plan on getting more in the spring. It is so quiet without ducks around. We have one extra goat around now, because our little Georgia had a baby! We got Georgia not knowing she was pregnant at the time. Over time it became apparent that she was pregnant and one day we came home to her in labor. IMG_20160102_084732964_HDRShe ended up having to have a c-section and thankfully we lived next to a wonderful local vet who performed the surgery and was such a big help. We’re so grateful momma and baby were okay. We named the little one Savannah and she is the cutest, sweetest thing ever and has brought so much joy to our lives. Baby goats are the best!

Also, one of our chickens has become the best momma. IMG_20151003_173942194We put a few eggs under her and two little chicks ended up hatching. We decided to see how she would do with them and they are the cutest little family.

We are slowly getting settled on the new homestead. We’re working on plans for the garden and moving the goats to the yard, making space for pigs, and thinking of making a little pond for the ducks to come. We’ve joined a local produce group who will deliver fresh NC produce to us weekly while we figure out our garden plans. And we get to explore this new part of town where we’ve settled.

So many good things happened last year, we are so excited to see what this year will bring. The New Year is always such a fun time of new beginnings. We are wishing you the best for 2016!

Happy homesteading!

 

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June Fun

The summer season has started off with a bang, and as usual there is never a dull moment on the homestead. I am off of work for the summer and have enjoyed having extra time around the house. We have had an early heat wave though and it has been too hot to get much done outside unless it gets done early. This has given me time to work on projects in the house which we have been putting off. I have also been working on a homesteading binder to help us keep all of our inventories, records, and ideas in one place, rather than scattered all over the house and on the computer as they are now. I got some great ideas on Pinterest and think this will become a valuable resource.

IMG_20150606_170932654We rescued a little goat and he has brought us lots of joy. Michael found him wandering on a very busy road near our house. We took care of him a couple of days while trying to locate the owner. We finally found some notices for him and found out this poor lady adopted him but they couldn’t IMG_20150609_164154958_HDRhave him in their neighborhood. She gave him to some people and he got out of their lot, but they weren’t keen on trying to find him. She wanted to find him to make sure he was okay, so Michael talked to her and she came by to see how Geoffrey was doing and was happy we found him. So little Geoffrey has a new happy home. He is getting on well with the chickens, ducks, and rabbits, but we’d like to find him a friend soon.

IMG_20150614_135017923 (1)Michael also found 8 baby broiler chicks for free on Craigslist which we also adopted. They were a second grade class project on life-cycles and needed a home once they hatched. We are going to try our hand at raising them strictly for meat, no names. When the time comes, we will have eight freezer chickens which will be great for the fall.

We are also so proud to have shared our homesteading exploits with a summer camp for tenth and eleventh graders. Michael has a friend who works with the Design CampScreenshot 2015-06-20 at 9.44.34 AM at NCSU, and she needed a last-minute speaker from the restaurant industry to talk about food and sustainability. Screenshot 2015-06-20 at 9.48.28 AMMichael agreed to do it and we prepared a presentation about his work at the Art Museum, what we do at home, and our overall philosophy about local food and simple living. I wasn’t able to attend but he said it was a great experience sharingScreenshot 2015-06-20 at 9.46.16 AM what we do with these high school kids and that they were very interested and engaged. We’re so happy to share our lifestyle and encourage others to leave a smaller footprint and connect with their food, and to do this with passionate high schoolers is even more rewarding.

In other news, we want to buy a house with the intention of homesteading on it. It is such a big task! There is not a lot of inventory in our area right now and everything is moving fast. This has become my new full-time job. We currently rent from people we know, which has worked out great, but we are ready to have our own place. Trying to find the right house in the right place so we can do all of the fun things we love doing with all of our animals has been a real challenge, but I know we will find the right one. This has given us the opportunity to really articulate and identify what our long-term goals for the homestead are and think about the things we really need, instead of just what we think we want. We will be looking at a couple of places this weekend and hope we will have some luck.

Happy homesteading!

Pork Day

IMG_20150427_073152643Well, our pigs are now pork. On April 27 we took the day off of work and with the help of some friends we killed and butchered our two pigs. It was a sad and difficult task to have to kill them, this was something neither of us had ever done before, but after a few tears we all got through it.

It was a cool sunny day and we worked in the open air in our backyard. It ended up being a fun time and it was great to have many hands to help out.IMG_20150427_095346588_HDR

It took just over three hours from start to finish to break down both pigs and get all of the meat in coolers. We chilled them in eight coolers for three full days. The meat looks great and is super tender.

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Now we are still steadily breaking these girls down, vacuum sealing, and doing inventory. After freshening the ice daily we are down to two coolers with two giant hams and belly to go. This has been the hardest part of the task. We were prepared for the long task of breaking both girls down but we’ve been doing it in the evenings after work and it has been a big job.

We quickly used up all of our freezer space and had to get another chest freezer, but it was well worth it, and I think we will get great use from this new freezer. IMG_20150506_074148939It tripled our freezer space. We also traded some eggs and pork for a smoker which will come in handy when time to make bacon and other tasty treats. We used it this weekend on some ribs and shoulders and it was delicious!

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Once we complete our inventory we will do an overall cost analysis, but we are looking great so far on our return. We’ve processed 200 pounds so far and are at a high estimate right now of $2 a pound for fresh, local, backyard pork.

It is very quiet in the yard now and we do miss the pigs and their playful natures, but we think we will be ready to try this again in another year. We will be able to work through what we have over this year and continue bartering for other products and goodies made by friends. It will be a great year!

Happy homesteading!

Going Local

Over the years that Michael and I have been together our lifestyles have changed dramatically. While always interested in good food, buying local and sustainability, we have¬†drastically increased our support for local farmers, local businesses, and self-reliance. I don’t see ourselves as ever becoming die-hard preppers or living completely off of the land, but we have learned so much about decreasing our footprint and buying responsibly I do not see us going back to our old ways. We also both believe that people have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and get their food and basic needs, but for us it is important to do more for ourselves and limit our support of big corporations, and particularly, the industrial food complex.

I can tell you this did not happen for us overnight. ¬†While I was working on my degrees and we were both busy working at least two jobs we were not able to do for ourselves as we do now. But now that we both have careers at great workplaces we have the luxury of getting to make decisions about how we live and shop during our time that we aren’t at work. This is a blessing that we are most certainly grateful for. So we thought we would share some of the ways we have decided to “go local” in our daily lives.

IMG_20150404_102618346Last year when we moved to the homestead I heard about a food co-op in our community which was still recruiting founding members and working to expand their mission. We proudly joined as one of 500 founding family memberships and we LOVE shopping at the co-op. We shop here for our pantry staples like nuts and seeds, dried fruit, beans and baking supplies.  They have recently moved to a new location and are greatly expanding the products available, so we are excited to add many of the supplies we buy like local milk and butter, and even more household staples. You can read more about our local food co-op, the Grain Mill of Wake Forest, here:  https://www.grainmill.coop/

A recent addition to our local purchases was joining a local Community Supported Fishery (CSF) offered by the NC operation, Locals Seafood.  We know their products are great and have visited their shop at the NC State Farmers Market in Raleigh, but are now going to try a short share, about three weeks, later this month to see if we like it and want to commit to a longer share in the future.  For $25 a week you get 2 pounds of fresh and locally caught seafood.  Whatever we do not use right away we will plan to stock our freezer with.  You can read more about Locals Seafood and their CSF here:  http://localsseafood.com/

We are blessed to live in an area and a state where there is a lot of support for local IMG_20150404_102101606_HDRfarmers and there are lots of farmers markets. We tend to visit the Wake Forest Farmers Market because it is open on Saturday mornings and is very close to the co-op so I can usually get all of our weekly shopping done at once. There are a few meat purveyors, local cheese makers, and so much beautiful fresh produce, but they also have locally made goods like pottery, soap and hand-knitted items, and even a food truck comes out sometimes. It is a fun place to spend Saturday mornings, and with the fresh air and live music it certainly makes for an enjoyable shopping experience. You can read more about our local farmers market here:  http://www.wakeforestfarmersmarket.org/

IMG_20150404_104319889_HDRNorth Carolina is a leader in the craft beer movement and has more independent local breweries than I could ever count, so we have to send a shout out to our most local brewery, White Street Brewing Company. It is a great little downtown Wake Forest brewery where you can have food delivered, fill up a growler, and watch a ball game. They get area food trucks to visit a lot and it is a great local hangout.  http://www.whitestreetbrewing.com/

We strive to constantly improve on how we ‘go local’ in our daily lives. I know we both feel better and share a sense of responsibility in supporting our local economy. Getting food from our own backyard and from other hard-working people in our community is so fulfilling and brings us joy everyday. We hope you find ways to ‘go local’ in your own community.

Happy homesteading!

Spring Garden

Phew! Spring is starting out to be busy. IMG_20150318_090709459We have both had extra busy weeks with work stuff and are trying to fit in home projects when we can in order to help us get ready for the season.  Thankfully, the past two Sundays have been very productive.   We spent all day  one Sunday building 260 square feet of raised garden beds and filled them with compost over the the past weekend.  We found a great deal on the lumber which was locally milled right down the street from our house. We made nine rectangular beds and they are beautiful.  As of right now, we still have two to level and fill with compost. IMG_20150324_165650169

Last year, very soon after we moved to the homestead, we tilled a nice big plot of a garden bed and planted right in the ground.  The harvest was phenomenal!  It is amazing how much food you can grow right in your back yard.  While this was successful, we did not keep the plot very tidy over winter, and decided to place the raised beds over the existing plot.  They look great and I love the organization of the beds.  We are planning to plant them square-foot garden style in order to maximize our yield, and we have just started planning them out.  While paper and pen are great tools to track a garden plan, this year we are trying an online program, smartgardener.com.  IMG_20150324_183631196It looks very promising, providing a detailed plan, journal, and to-do list, but definitely takes a long while to set up with your seeds and desired plan.  I at least got all of the seeds we have in our collection in our virtual garden plan and began thinking about how we will plant things; and perhaps, soon we can organize our seed collection. It has gotten a little haphazard.

On Wednesday morning we had 18 cubic yards of local compost delivered which we filled the beds with, but there is still a ton of dirt.  I am excited to use it around the yard though, and be able update all of our existing garden beds.  IMG_20150318_090756665_HDRFor our veggies, so far, we have lots of lettuce and kale sprouted and our beets and peas have shot right up.  We also started some of our Summer goodies like corn and tomatoes. We will do squash and a few others next week.  Getting those seedlings in the ground will be so satisfying!

Also, we adopted four hens who needed a good home. ¬†Michael picked them up yesterday afternoon and they seemed to have already adjusted pretty well. ¬†Their IMG_20150324_170001538previous owners did not feel up to caring for them any longer, so we thought we’d take them under our wing. ¬†They may have another good year of egg laying, we will¬†see, but we are already super happy to have them around.

Happy homesteading!

Welcome to the homestead!

cropped-cam01276.jpgThank you for visiting!  What began as an attempt at a small container garden outside of our old, tiny (500 square foot) apartment has grown over the past few of years into a small backyard farm on a half-acre.

As our backyard experiment has evolved, we have thought about how best to document and share our journey on the homestead. ¬†We were inspired to create this site when we heard a news piece about small US farms being operated by what were referred to as ‘gentleman farmers.’ ¬†Gentleman (or gentlewoman) farmers being small-scale independent farmers, usually with another source of income, farming mostly for the pleasure of it.

Michael and I agreed that sounded a lot like what we were trying to do.  We both work full-time jobs that we love, but are always passionate about the food we eat, where it comes from, and the treatment of animals and the earth.  So we delved deeper into gardening and eventually added livestock to our homestead and have changed our whole way of living over time to support ourselves and our local community.

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It is important to us both that we document and share our adventures on the homestead¬†as we learn to live like members of our families once did. We hope that you will find joy from our experiences and share our gratitude for life’s blessings.

Happy homesteading!