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9 C’s of a Homestead
As I deepen my practice of homesteading, I wanted to share some philosophical and practical tenants of homesteading. My homesteading practice is one that is forged in discipline and an openness of awe and splendor towards nature. Despite decades of ecological restoration work and permaculture, the homesteading in these modern times has been quite stirring and even more profound. This long-term venture is on my 60-acre homestead in Northern Kentucky within the greater Cincinnati tristate area. This generational land is called Treasure Lake and am grateful for the opportunity to serve it. I hope this blog helps you on your journey of building out your homestead.
To even want to homestead, you probably care about the current state of the world. I personally love caring for our planet and my health through positive action, growing my homestead. Homesteads are places where you care deeply for the plants, animals, buildings, tools, etc. that enable progress and sustenance. Part of that comes from enacting permaculture ethics; earth care, people care, and when you have abundance, care by circulating energy (fair share).
Ironically when weather extremes hit and being comfortable is what most thrive for, homesteaders get outside and make sure the animals are doing the best they can. Refilling hay feeders and swapping frozen or empty water buckets, moving electric fence, tightening up structures, removing limbs from fences, all sorts in both hot and cold. We care so deeply about the space we put our comfortability and convivence aside for something that is bigger than just ourselves. We want to make the planet healthier and provide the best quality food for others.
When we think homesteading, we think growing and producing food. This is the central tenant for sure, one done with a labor of love. I love building soil, planting, rotating animals with electric fence, composting, forestry work, etc. It’s all in the aim of making a resilient food producing environment. It is healthy for those on site and beyond as you cultivate biodiversity, organic matter rich soil, clean water, and nutrient dense food. I like to cultivate staples like meat, eggs, and squash while also planting other things like berries and fruits for others to enjoy. Caring for our woodlands in a way that allows for foragable harvests of mushrooms and medicinals but also timber or firewood is vital as well.
Homesteads center around cultivating food so we can bring it in and cook with it or preserve it. At first, the % you get from your gardens and pastures is low as it trickles in. But as fruits and berries and perennial vegetables and herds and flocks mature, more comes. Staple production leads to a higher % of food cooked in the kitchen. Regardless of where the total percent comes from, hopefully local and or organic, make it at home. Entertain at home, be at the homestead. Cook as to ingest the highest quality food you possibly can. Get out there and pick and slaughter and process so you can cook and preserve all that hard work. Homesteading is capital intensive to start, it takes long term to get ROI. Eating at restaurants is convenient but the price and the quality ratio of the food often are extremely lacking.
With all this cooking and cultivating, well let’s be honest, you will be cleaning a lot. The dogs and cats and yourselves will track in an inordinate amount of organic matter. The broth making stock pot will forever be in use. The barns and sheds will need to be reorganized. Stall cleaning will lead to compost piles or tree bed mulching. Social spaces will need spruced with use of community gathering. Cleaning just cycles between maintenance and deeper cleans. Not my favorite part of the lifestyle and that is where discipline and good tunes like my never-ending Bob Marley playlist comes in. One should dance a bit while cleaning, ha.
Homesteading entails the crafts, the fingerprint of the individual. Traditionally this might be clothes making or tanning or carving or forging. All of those apply still along with bringing your craft, your touch, forward. For me, one of those is writing. Another is plant propagation so I can leverage my plant stock for sales. For some I know its elderberry syrup making, medicinal herb processing into teas and tinctures, and bread baking. In Latin cultures homemade or an artisan touch is very significant. Bring an artful touch into what you do by considering your homestead a giant working and evolving masterpiece spanning years, decades and even generations of crafting and caring.
Homesteading naturally leads to asking for help and also hosting. It is a balance of funds, time, availability, and the like. We have tasks to get done and we want to share in our abundance. The oddity is that our schedule changes virtually every day because days get longer and shorter on the daily. Giving without expecting something immediately in return I find is the epitome of community building and the permaculture principle of energy cycling. When we build a swale, the water harvesting doesn’t show immediate return, rather later when things begin to dry. We give and receive help to and from community. We share and are shared with.
Feed others as you would want to be fed.
Also as you build your homestead, don’t be afraid to pay for specialized help or consistent labor. My homestead has grown immensely because I pay for help. Then we leverage points in the market along with the unique site dependent natural capital and sell off-site certain things to help offset the cost. I am definitely not recouping the money but helping to offset because homesteads do need labor and long-term time.
Homesteads are creative places. They require unique problem solving in both big picture design and immediate crisis resolution. Often we recycle materials or try new designs, slightly augmenting what we have seen on YouTube, Pinterest, or farm tours. We find ways to keep the homestead running when in a pinch and we unlock critical factors of success to share. We also create life through building soil, increasing biodiversity, creating health through nutrition, breeding animals or plants for good genetics. We are intent on creating what we need for ourselves and others. And honestly sometimes I feel like I am curating a zoo. It requires a lot of balance of how to move the puzzle pieces in time and space to create a resilient system.
To be steady at home. I guess that’s what it means (homesteading)? For the last few years, I have been homesteading this 60-acre land full time after 20 years of on and off again work here. In the past I travelled the world practicing permaculture and studying ecological literacy. During those travels, I would spend stints here on the land in KY mainly doing forestry work. Now I am here other than going offsite to work building other people’s homesteads. Almost always there is another member of the crew (paid) to look after the place when I am away for any amount of time over four hours. There is the odd this or that but by and large I am here.
I am systematic in my approach. The animals know the rhythms, which do shift with seasons and forage. We mulch, we pull weeds, we chop and drop, we compost, we cut and carry, we feed a grain ration with herbal dewormer, we supplement with minerals, we irrigate, open and close the chicken coop, pick the produce, sprout the barley, feed the pets. The consistency is the wave pattern of pulsations occurring across the homestead. Seasonally there are the tasks, daily are the duties, there is a plan and a design which guides.
Let’s be honest, something always needs built or tweaked on a homestead. Chicken coops, moveable sheep shelters, another goat stall, a greenhouse, a root cellar, more raised beds, and the list keeps going. It brings me back to a central tenant of my permaculture teachings simply put; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take your time, buy quality wood, quality fasteners, yet cobble it together at times. Design beforehand but adlib in the field. Homesteading is always a balance of how much more can I take on whilst still maintaining what I have. Push the envelope but concede when necessary.
Working with nature, with others, these are paramount. I personally homestead organically with special attention paid (literally) to feed for the animals and non-homestead produced food. My homestead is building and I know I have a long journey ahead as I build in more resilient systems and garner more harvests. What better way to interact with such a magic than caring, cultivating, creating and the like?