Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gardening, Sheep, Yarn, and Honeybees...

We had friends over for dinner last night, and during our conversation, we began to talk about our 5-10 year plans. They just recently bought a new home so their plans included renovating their home, adding on a garage, and other such things. Then we began to share our plans which pretty much included nothing but homesteading goals. 

This journey into a more self-sufficient lifestyle has been a gradual one from the start. Each year we seem to add one or two more things, but always trying to stay alert to becoming overwhelmed (which has happened and is never very fun.) 

Each year, we seem to grow our garden a bit more. Currently, our garden is over twice as big as our home! And that's just our big garden; that doesn't include my seven raised beds and our many, many berry bushes and fruit trees nor the asparagus patch we just put in. One of our goals in the sometime near future is to grow enough produce to not only preserve enough for our family for the year (which we already currently do) but also enough to sell it to customers as a little side business. Thankfully, I already have a couple of people interested in purchasing our extra produce which is a nice start.

Our chickens. Well, we've added to our flock this year, and we currently have 25 hens plus a rooster. My hope is to have enough eggs to be able to somewhat break even on the cost of chicken feed and such. My egg business is most certainly not a for-profit business, but it at least helps with the keeping and feeding of the chickens. 

Currently, I am literally saving all of my pennies (and dollars) to put towards the purchase of wool sheep. Our goal is to get them next spring, but that is all contingent on finances and time. Getting sheep would not only include the cost of the sheep, but also the cost of installing a fence and building a shelter for them. I'm thinking three to four sheep would be a good start. Why sheep? Well, my lovely ladies, because I love to knit and crochet and I'm somewhat infatuated with natural-fiber yarn, and my long-term plan is to have wool from my own sheep and to eventually be able to wash, card, spin, and dye it independently. This is probably closer to a ten-year goal, though! 

We're also seriously considering (and I mean seriously) honeybees. We haven't seen even one single honeybee so far this spring which is very sad. Unfortunately, living in a highly farmed area means that there is a large amount of pesticides used (farmers don't seem to cultivate the land anymore; they spray to kill all the grass and weeds before planting and this seems to have severely hurt the honeybee population.) Anyone that knows anything about honeybees knows the HUGE benefit their presence has for gardeners. Without honeybees, things are not pollinated as well and, therefore, do not produce as much. In addition to the pollination, we also want to be able to harvest our own honey.

I guess that many of our homesteading goals have a entrepreneurial aspect to them. I would love to be able to make a side business out of my love of gardening and my animals. It's a very exciting (and slightly scary) thought to me, and it's something that both my husband and I desire to do eventually. I also really like the benefits that homesteading has in teaching my children about responsibility and how to use the earth God has given us to feed and sustain us. Plus, that connection that exists with one's animals is also a priceless gift that I want my children to experience as well. 

It's exciting to me to think of the possibility of sharing the harvest of our hard work. We take a lot of care in what we grow and how we care for our animals because a healthy, whole product is important to us. And if it's important to us, I know it's also important to other people out there as well. And this is what excites me. There are others out there that appreciate our love and care and sweat and time that we put into what we grow and raise, and those are the people that really consider each bite of food they put into the mouths of their family. It excites me to think that one day we may be able to provide top-quality, healthy, organic produce to customers that care about that kind of thing. 

This is the last of the series "How We Homestead." I encourage you to go check out what these other bloggers are planning for their homesteads in the future...

Daisy at Maple Hill 101
Staci at Life at Cobble Hill Farm
Meg at Little Homestead
Tammy at Our Neck of the Woods


Anonymous said...

Nice pictures Amber! I agree..honeybees might be very important! And smart of you to add something every year!

If I lived near you, I'd buy your veggies too! :)

daisy g said...

Gorgeous photos of what looks like a very fulfilling life. Continued blessings and keep moving toward your goals.

Staci@LifeAtCobbleHillFarm said...

Amber your photos are beautiful as always. I'm with you on the honeybees. My husband's a little skeptical so I have a grand plan {i.e. scheme} - I'm going to take him to a bee class this summer where I have dreams he'll fall in love with the idea. We'll see..... That's exciting - the thought of adding sheep! Make sure you have a vet around who will work with them - they can be quite interesting and expensive. Oh, and I love the {fairly} new photo of you on the sidebar!

Heather said...

I can't believe how big your garden is! Any advice on managing weeds? We started our garden this year in an space that was previously overrun with weeds. So there were lots of weed seeds in our soil when we started, and's been an uphill battle. But I refuse to use chemicals where we grow vegetables.

We just caught our second swarm of honeybees and are *hoping* to harvest our own honey from hive #1 this year. I can't say enough about the joys and rewards of keeping bees Amber! Your family should definitely try to to it, don't let the pesticides scare you away from it. Even though they are definitely a concern, you don't know until you try. I've read that keeping bees can increase a farmer's crop yield by up to 70%!

Your family has the most amazing little homestead, I admire your lifestyle so much!

Our Neck of the Woods said...

It sounds like we have similar goals for the future! Especially with being able to earn income from the homestead. I'm hoping if our beekeeping goes well this year that we can expand next year and eventually sell honey and items made from beeswax.

It would be so neat to have wool sheep! Especially since you love to knit and crochet. I think it would be so special to have something made from the wool of your own animal.

I've really enjoyed getting to know you better through this series! :)

Wendi said...

I dream of selling my produce! I hope to some day at least have a small stand at the farmers market.

I have a cousin that spins her own yarn. They farm 400 acres out in Iowa. I will have to inquire as to why she doesn't have sheep. It seems like something she would do.

Keep us posted on the honeybees!

Meg said...

First, blogger seems to have dropped your blog from my reader list. No wonder I haven't been seeing your posts! I'm so sorry I haven't been commenting!

Second, I love that green bean pick. That is hilarious!

You have such great plans. Sheep would be fantastic! I love to spin and knit and natural fibers are just the best.

It is a little scary to jump in and start selling your own work/goods. But I think it is very worth it, and very important, especially in the way of food. I'm excited to see what comes next for you. :)