Friday, December 21, 2012

Have a wonderful Holiday, I may pop in from time to time, but otherwise, you can find me unplugged and enjoying the holiday magic with family and friends.  See you back here after New Years.

Permanent Keeping Bees Link Up

Keeping bees is become increasingly popular both in rural and urban areas.  Not only do bees make honey, but they help pollinate the flowers that turn into fruit and vegetables.  While there are some start up costs in keeping bees, they are relatively low maintenance and are a fascinating addition to your homestead.

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If you want to share your own posts here, visit the Forever Link-up information page, for specific information and remember you may link up to 10 posts per person.  So post now and come back and post more later.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Making Extracts is Easy

With all the baking going on in our home this holiday season, we are rapidly using up our supply of store bought extracts.  While store bought extracts are convenient, the imitations extracts are filled with chemicals and taste just a bit artificial, and the real extracts often cost upward of 10 dollars.  With just a little planning and patience, you can make your own extracts at home with just some basic ingredients.

Six reasons you should make your own extract:
  1. They're cheaper
  2. They taste better
  3. They are better for you
  4. It's a fun ongoing project going on right in your kitchen
  5. They can be used as gifts
  6. You can control the intensity

Making Extracts

To make your own extracts you need a jar, a solvent, and some item to use as flavoring.  If you wish you can sterilize the jar before use, but so far I have had success simply using extra clean jars.  For a solvent, you need some kind of alcohol, preferably vodka.  It is important that there is water and alcohol in the solvent to extract more flavor, so stick with vodka since using an alcohol that is too high proof won't get to those water soluble flavors.  You can flavor your extracts with a variety of things.  Choose extracts that you often use in your own baking such as vanilla, lemon, almond, or peppermint. 

Making Vanilla Extract

You can buy vanilla beans over the internet, or at specialty food stores.  Use approximately 2 seeds for every pint of vodka. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise, or chop it up to increase the flavor.  Put the the seeds in your jar with 70-90 proof vodka and put the jar somewhere you won't forget about it.

Shake the bottle every few days/weeks.  Your extract should be done in 2-3 months.  The longer you allow it to sit, the stronger the flavor.  Once you are happy with it, you can strain it to remove the vanilla beans and store the extract in a dark place.  Don't throw those beans out, most beans can be used twice!

Making Peppermint Extract

Cut up 1/2 cup of tightly packed peppermint leaves.  Place them in a jar and pour in about 1 cup of vodka.  Make sure the leaves are completely covered.  Every several days shake the jar.  Your extract should be done in about 1 month, and you can strain it and store it in a cool, dark place.

Making Lemon Extract

Zest 2 large lemons and add it to a jar with 1 cup vodka and 2 teaspoons of sugar.  You can use a lesser strength vodka for this recipe (40%).  Shake the extract daily for a month, and strain it.  Store in a dark and cool space.

Making Almond Extract

Combine 12 cut up raw almonds with 1 pint of vodka in a jar.  Shake the jar every few days for about 2 months.  When the extract reaches the desired intensity, strain it and store it in a cool dark spot.

Have you made extract?  Please share your experiences or other links in the comments!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Homestead Highlight: Lisa

My greatest inspiration in my own backyard farming adventure has been to hear the experiences of others. I invite you to read along here as Homesteaders share their adventures and experiences from their own farms, backyards, and homes.

Want to be featured as a Homestead Highlight? I would love to hear about your experience. For more information follow the link to the information page and share your own homestead here at the Backyard Farming Connection!

Today I welcome Lisa to this space. 

Hi! I’m Lisa Lynn. My family and I live on a small homestead in northern Illinois. I graduated with a BFA in Painting and Drawing, and I love photography and writing. I also earned a degree in horticulture and worked in landscape design until I decided to homeschool and homestead full time. Now I have found the perfect medium for all my skills…blogging! I would love to have you visit my blog, The Self Sufficient HomeAcre.

 I grew up on a small farm in Western NY, and that lifestyle is still in my blood. I remember planting bean seeds in the garden with Dad and helping Mom measure flour as I stood on a chair at the counter when I was 3. I was making pies and helping prepare meals by the time I was 8 or so.  Our family worked together to grow a large garden every year, harvest the bounty and preserve it. Wild foods were also used in our meals.

I remember reading through my Dad’s Mother Earth News and survival guides. In the summer I would forage for wild edibles, finding it fascinating that you could go out in the woods and provide a meal for yourself for free! There were dandelions, broadleaf plantain, wild onions in early spring, and wild strawberries in June. We went fishing and my Dad shot a deer for the freezer most every fall. Our whole family foraged for wild blackberries in July. We canned them by the bucketful for the winter. We put up corn, beans, peas, carrots, and beets from our large garden, along with applesauce and cider from wild apples, and peaches and cherries from the local orchards.  Jams and jellies were canned and savored through the winter. Potatoes, onions, and garlic were stored in the cellar.

A great deal of our food was produced on our land.  We raised beef cattle until the oil embargo of the ‘70s made hay and grain production too costly. We also kept pigs, chickens, ducks, ponies, and horses. Our meat animals were processed by a local butcher, right next door to Grandma’s house. I’ll never forget the fearful bleating of the animals, then a sad silence.  When Dad butchered chickens I caught them and helped pluck.  I knew the very real source of our meat and learned to appreciate that a life was taken to provide it. It might sound like a tough life, but I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

Nowadays my husband, son, and I make our home on an acre of land in northern Illinois. We moved from a subdivision to this property in 2010 so we could have livestock and a big garden. Since then I have planted apple, pear, peach, cherry, and plum trees. I put in small fruits, such as currants, grapes, blueberries, and raspberries. We also have rhubarb, asparagus, horseradish, and perennial herbs in the garden. Each year I make my garden a little bit bigger. Our garage was originally a horse barn that was converted. We turned part of it into a chicken coop for laying hens and meat birds. They have a large pasture to roam in. I let them outside much of the winter, unless the temps are too cold or there is snow on the ground.  We live right across the road from a subdivision and the village. It’s a short walk to the post office and then right back to our humble little homestead.

One of the things I have enjoyed the most since moving to this property is having poultry. There have been some problems with disease and predation, but overall I feel quite proud of my chicken flock. At present, I have over 60 hens. When the young pullets start to lay, I will butcher the older hens for soup or pressure canning for later. I successfully raised turkeys to put in the freezer this fall and I must say that I really enjoyed that. Butchering my own poultry has been a very successful experience too. It’s great to know that it was done as humanely as possible.

I would have to say that the least successful experience was raising rabbits for meat. I raised a lot of rabbits, and I butchered them myself. We ate a lot of rabbits, but we didn’t like the meat as well as poultry. I sold all of my breeding stock, butchered the last young ones, and sold the cages. I also admit that it was harder for me to kill rabbits than to kill chickens. Turkeys were another creature that I had a hard time killing, but we are really enjoying the meat from them, so I will raise them again. I would also like to try raising and processing ducks and geese.

I continue learning new skills for homesteading on a larger scale in the future. In a few years, my husband and I would like to move back to western New York and build a home on a corner of the old family farm. We would have more property to build a barn and raise larger livestock, such as pigs and maybe a dairy cow or some goats. I am already thinking about where to dig a pond and plant an orchard, things we might be able to do before moving. Sustainable energy sources are another part of our plan, and we dream about setting up an education center for people interested in the crafts of homesteading and sustainable energy.  Through all of those changes I plan to continue sharing my experiences with the readers on my blog. Homesteading is an adventure that I intend to enjoy to the fullest.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Backyard Farming Connection Hop #13

Hello everyone and welcome back to another week on the Backyard Farming Connection Hop.  I am finding it fascinating and inspiring how many wonderful posts that people have to share this time of year, even when the gardens aren't bursting with growth.

In celebration of the holidays and in an effort to fully invest myself in the magic of family, I will be absent from here for a bit and won't be hosting for the next 2 weeks.  Please come back and link up again starting Jan 8th, and have a wonderful, safe holiday.

I am also always looking for people interested in being featured on my site as a homestead highlight.  This is a great way to share your story and experiences and also mention your own site.  Please email me or leave a comment if you're interested (gstuppycarlson @ gmail dot com).

There were some great posts last week.  Here are a few of my favorites:

With peppermint candy everywhere, it was interesting to learn a little more about the herb behind this holiday tradition.  Living in the Green has a wonderful post on Peppermint: An Essential Oil.

At this time of year, it's easy to reflect on things we can do to help others, Small Footprint Family has a wonderful and informative post: Can Organic Farming Feed the World?

I want to know what's happening, in your garden, on your homestead, in the barnyard, and in the kitchen.  Whatever is in your backyard farm and home, I would love to hear about it.

Each week I will share some of my favorite posts in the newly formed Backyard Farming Connection Facebook page.  And in case you haven't seen, I have a new 'featured button' so if you've been featured in the past, grab a button.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Frozen Holiday Wreath

With winter officially a few days away, and the nighttime temperatures here consistently below freezing, it was time to make a wintertime ice wreath.  This wreath is so simple to make and is such an unique addition to the home, that it is perfect for the holidays.  You can make the wreath outside if it is cold enough or in your freezer if temperatures aren't staying below freezing for an extended period.  And best of all, assuming you have some of the basic supplies, the wreath costs absolutely nothing. 

I chose to decorate with cranberries, but the wreathe looks beautiful without any decorations, or you can add holly or other greens.  I am toying with the idea of making a frozen wreath with treats for the animals.

Materials: Water, a bunting pan, (optional) holiday greens, cranberries, holly, pine cones, apples,etc.

Place water in the bottom of the pan and add some of  your decorations.  If the items float and you want to see them from the front of the wreath, start with a small amount of water, and let it freeze before adding more water.  Fill the pan and put it outside or in the freezer until completely frozen (this will depend on how cold it is). 

Remove the wreathe from the pan, by running some warm water over the outside of pan, or letting it sit inside for several minutes.  Pop out your wreath, pass a ribbon through, and you're done. 

Tip: If you hang your wreath on the north side of a building, it will melt more slowly!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sending thoughts of light, warmth and hope to the people struggling with loss, anger and sadness today.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

These ... cookies ... are ... amazing!

They are sweet, chewy, chocolatey, fun to make, and perfect for the holiday season.  I am not always a big fan of hard chocolate cookies (yes - I know that is a shameful thing to admit), but I love that these cookies are soft and chewy on the inside with a nice hard coating of white chocolate and peppermint on the outside.  Not only are they delicious, but they make an impressive addition to any cookie swap or holiday party - as long as you don't eat them before you have to take them out of the house.

These cookies do have a few extra steps, but the final result is well worth the effort, and if you have little helpers around, they will love crushing the peppermint and dipping the cookies in the melted chocolate.


Makes about 30 cookies (or more cookies bites if you make them small)  The better quality chocolate you use, the better the cookies taste.

2 C flour
2/3 C unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 C sugar
2/3 C softened butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 lbs of white chocolate
peppermint pieces or candy canes

  1. Grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix to remove any clumps
  3. Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs and extract, and mix well
  4. Add dry ingredients and mix until flour is just combined, add in chocolate chips
  5. Drop cookies on the cookie sheet leaving room for the cookies to spread.  I made the cookies with about 2 tablespoons
  6. Bake cookies for 12 minutes - don't overcook or they will dry out and become hard

Once the cookies are done, cool them and put them in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.  Meanwhile melt the white chocolate and crush the peppermint into small pieces.  Dip the cookies into the chocolate until they are covered and then lift them out with a fork and let them drip before placing them on parchment paper.  Sprinkle peppermint on top of cookie,

Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the parchment paper.  I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!  Have a wonderful holiday season.

Raising Cows Permanent Link Up

Having a cow on your homestead means fresh milk everyday for making cheese, yogurt, butter, and for simply drinking.  You can raise a cow in your backyard and provide enough milk for your whole family, with the added bonus of meat and manure.  Find out more in the posts below.


If you want to share your own posts here, visit the Forever Link-up information page, for specific information and remember you may link up to 10 posts per person.  So post now and come back and post more later.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: Backyard Farming on an Acre (more or less)

I recently had the pleasure of reading Angela England's new book, and wanted to take the time to share my review and opinion here.  If you didn't get the chance to read her Homestead Highlight yesterday on the blog, pop over and read a little more about Angela's own backyard farming experiences.

If you haven't visited her site yet, pop over and check out her launch party and all the amazing giveaways going on through Dec 18th.

Angela England’s book Backyard Farming on an Acre (moreor less) is as inspiring as it is informative.  Not only does the book describe in detail how to plan your homestead, grow your own food, raise animals, prepare food, and craft using the materials from your backyard, but it does so in a simple, engaging and friendly manner.  Throughout the book, Angela England walks you through the skills of backyard farming with honesty and knowledge. While the book claims to focus on backyard farming on roughly an acre, the book provides valuable information for a range of situations: from people living on small plot in the city to people with many acres in the country.

With a growing number of homesteading books available, I was pleased to read a book that covered the information in detail without over complicating the simple procedures.  The skills of the backyard farmer have been practiced for years - well before the use of sophisticated kitchen utensils and high tech tools, and were presented in the book without intimidation.  I specifically enjoyed the simple approach in the section on beekeeping.  As a beekeeper, I still find much of the literature daunting and appreciated the uncomplicated description of maintaining a beehive.

While many books sufficiently cover growing vegetables and raising animals, I enjoyed the down to earth discussion of food preparation and crafting.  I would have enjoyed a section on using grains in the kitchen, but benefited from the section on storing food in a root cellar or basement.  Her simple description of making infusions, decoctions and tinctures has already inspired me to plan some of my own projects for the coming year.

Part 5 of the book covered crafting in the backyard farm and included many of the skills often overlooked in homesteading books.  There are so many additional ways to engage in backyard farming besides gardening and keeping animals and the book discussed everything from making dairy products, to brewing cider.  Since we raise Pygora goats (similar to Angoras) I greatly appreciated the discussion on using fiber.  

This book will continue to be a resource in my home for many years to come.

I did receive a copy of this book to review; however the opinion expressed above is honestly and truly my own.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homestead Highlight: Angela

My greatest inspiration in my own backyard farming adventure has been to hear the experiences of others. I invite you to read along here as Homesteaders share their adventures and experiences from their own farms, backyards, and homes.

Want to be featured as a Homestead Highlight? I would love to hear about your experience. For more information follow the link to the information page and share your own homestead here at the Backyard Farming Connection!

Today I welcome Angela to this space. 

Angela England - Mother of five living in rural Oklahoma with her husband and five children, Angela is the Founder of Untrained Housewife. She is the author of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) (Alpha Books, 2013) and when she gets away from home, it’s usually to speak at a blog conference. She loves empowering others with whatever is the next step on their self-sufficiency journey but calls herself a get-it-done’ist, not a purist.

 How long have you been backyard farming? What got you started?
I learned more about the concept of backyard farming and that homesteading mindset when I got married. Having grown up in the big city of Anaheim in Southern California, farms were something you visited once a year as a field trip with school. After moving to Oklahoma as a teenager, I met my husband Sidney who had grown up on an 80 acre ranch raising cattle and growing much of their own food as a matter of daily routine. Our upbringings were vastly different and together since our marriage, we've embraced a lifestyle more similar to his upbringing than to mine.

What does your backyard farm look like? Where is it?

We live in a rural town in Oklahoma and are just within the city limits. Thankfully our house is on a relatively large corner lot and our city's restrictions are minimal. We have housed on this 1/4 acre space a productive garden, a good size chicken flock, and two milk goat nannies as well.

What has been your biggest success and biggest mistake?

Some of our biggest mistakes have involved our animals. When a crop fails I don't feel as bad, but when raccoons break through your fencing and nearly wipe out your entire flock in an single evening you feel devastated. The idea is to provide a healthy and happy environment for your chickens - not serve them up as free pickings! I think that underestimating how a group of raccoons will work together to undo simple latches, flush out the chickens to get them where others in the group can reach them, etc was a huge mistake. I've learned that if it has a digestive system it will eat a chicken!

Our biggest success was surviving the recent drought with not only a decent, but abundantly productive garden. It was a big test of our organic growing methods - especially once our city implemented a watering ban - but our garden survived and produced well with grey water, mulch, and careful heirloom variety selections. It was eye-opening to see our small backyard garden out-produce the several-acre garden at my in-laws ranch.

What plans do you have for the future?


Now that Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) has officially launched I see myself speaking and teaching workshops a lot more. I already have gigs scheduled in Tulsa, Dallas, LA, Orlando, and elsewhere in the coming year. For our personal Backyard Farming my goal is to get out of this house we are in now and move to a 25 acre place outside city limits where we will be able to expand the number of animals we are keeping, and the types of plants we are growing. I want a huge asparagus patch for starters!

People can find me at and more details about Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) at There are over $600 worth of Backyard Farming themed giveaways going on until December 18th so be sure to check it out at On twitter I'm @AngEngland.

Please stop by tomorrow to see a book review of Angela's new book!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Backyard Farming Connection Hop #12

Welcome back to another Backyard Farming Connection Hop!

Here are a few of my favorite posts from this week:

From Scratch Cradle, some great details about Heather's experience storing eggs.

From Fresh Eggs Daily, this post has some great thoughts about heating (or not) your coop.  Do you heat your coop?

I want to know what's happening, in your garden, on your homestead, in the barnyard, and in the kitchen.  Whatever is in your backyard farm and home, I would love to hear about it.

Each week I will share some of my favorite posts in the newly formed Backyard Farming Connection Facebook page.  And in case you haven't seen, I have a new 'featured button' so if you've been featured in the past, grab a button.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Modern Homestead: A Guide to Starting Your Journey

It's Book Day!

Today I am sharing with you my brand new, ready to go ebook: The Modern Homestead: A Guide to Starting Your Journey. I must admit that I am giddy with excitement (and a bit of nerves) as I get ready to send this little, first attempt at a book out into the world.

Over the last few years, as my family has moved further and further into the world of homesteading, so many ideas, challenges and dreams have presented themselves. This book is a result of my thoughts, ideas, experiences and research around homesteading, and the process of deciding how to get started.

A little about the book...

The book starts with an overview of modern homesteading and includes brief descriptions to help you get started gardening, raising animals, practicing homeskills, and decreasing your energy use. It then describes the challenges that may be keeping you from homesteading, and helps you set goals and get started on achieving your goals. Since this book is not designed as a complete homesteading handbook, throughout the book I suggest resources to help you move forward and learn more about creating your own modern homestead.

To get your free copy, simply sign up to receive blog updates via email, and I will send you your digital book. If you like what you read please come back and let me know. I would also love to hear your experience in planning and implementing your own homestead, so stay in touch. Here's a brief excerpt from the books introduction:

 What is Modern Homesteading?

 Today, the vision of homesteading as strictly a self-sufficient, agrarian lifestyle is being revisited by people everywhere. All around us people are connecting with the earth by redefining what it means to homestead. For some, homesteading is as simple as growing a few herbs in their apartment and choosing to buy their eggs at the local farmer’s market. For others, homesteading means cashing it all in and heading for the nearest piece of rural land. There are countless ways you can embrace the idea of self-sufficiency while still maintaining a modern lifestyle. Simple actions such as raising (some of) your own food, choosing local products, and supporting renewable energy are just some of the ways you can achieve the dream of homesteading.

When you homestead, you live your life in a way that best connects you with the natural world using the space, time, and resources available. Whether you are choosing to homestead for environmental reasons, financial reasons, emotional reasons, family reasons, or for no good reason at all, you are choosing to live simpler. A modern homestead is more than the place you live - it is a way of life.

When we think of homesteading from this perspective, we suddenly open the door to all the possibilities available to us. In order to be a homesteader; you simply need to think and act in a way that better connects you to the natural world. At the heart of homesteading is the idea of raising your own food through growing plants and raising animals. But homesteading is more than this. It is recognizing the choices we have in energy usage, relearning skills in the kitchen, using basic home skill techniques (such as knitting, sewing, and basic woodworking), and simply living your life conscious of the impact of your actions.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Raising Ducks link up

More people everywhere are keeping waterfowl.  Besides meat, ducks produce delicious eggs and help fertilize the garden with their droppings.  Ducks are a wonderful addition to a garden and eat bugs while being more gentle on the plants then chickens.  Ducks are a great choice for people in a small space.


If you want to share your own posts here, visit the Forever Link-up information page, for specific information and remember you may link up to 10 posts per person.  So post now and come back and post more later.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why Homestead?

So, have you heard the hype?  Homesteading is the new 'in' thing to do.

Perhaps you've seen a magazine with a headlines about homesteading, backyard farming, micro-farming, urban farming, or hobby farming.

Maybe a co-worker mentioned she's keeping backyard chickens.

Possibly you've been seeing those signs for the local farmers market popping up everywhere you go. 

All around us, people are making the choice to live closer to the earth, to re-connect with the food chain, to take charge of where and how they spend their money, to engage in the process of making food, clothing, and home goods, and to make conscious choices about how they live.  Some people see this as the latest craze, but for many of us, choosing to homestead is a way to step backwards and reclaim our lives.  It is not a fad or a craze, it is simply a choice about how we live.

Choosing to homestead does not mean that you are turning away from all modern conveniences and looking for a piece of rural land in the boonies.  For some people, this is the dream, but for most of us, modern homesteading means finding a balance between new and old.

There are so many reasons that people are choosing this way of life, and most people are making their decision based on several reasons.  Here are several reasons people are choosing to homestead.

The Romantic Vision of the Country

In our modern world, the rural, farming life is constantly romanticized.  Movies, ads, books, music, and even blogs idealize what life is like for the farmer, but they also offer an alternative vision of life for people who don't have the opportunity to spend their days shoveling out animal poop and weeding their gardens.  For people caught in the rush of busy lives, the idea of homesteading provides the opportunity to step back and simplify life. 

Homesteading is hard work, but it is also rewarding.  If you are looking to slow down, homesteading may be just what you're looking for.

The Joy of Self-Sufficiency

Being able to provide food and other items for you and your family is a simple joy itself.  Many people choose to homestead for the ability to become self-sufficiency, whether they want to be prepared to survive in case of an emergency or just value sitting down to a meal they've grown from scratch.

To Teach Family and Community Values

Homesteading is a wonderful way to share values with your family.  Homesteading teaches responsibility, the importance of hard work, compassion, and the benefits of authenticity.  Sure you don't have to homestead to share these values, but the basic work and emphasis that occurs on a homestead lends itself to these values.  Sharing the experience of raising your own food with your children or other family members takes the experience one step further.

A Love of Animals and Gardening

For many people, the joy of spending time with animals and getting their hands in the garden is reason enough to choose a homesteading life. Whether you choose to keep animals for the eggs they produce, for the wool you harvest, or for the companionship, keeping animals can enrich your life.  For those with a green thumb, or for those who want to have a green thumb, spending time in the garden is soothing and can be a wonderful hobby, or can become even more.

To Provide Healthier Food for Me and My Family

There are many concerns about the quality of modern food and the entire food industry.  Many people choose to homestead as a way to provide healthy, chemical-free, non GMO, organic food for their families.  Concerns over  how animals are raised and slaughtered is a leading reason many people choose to homestead.  The food you buy in the grocery store is not as fresh, healthy, or tasty as what you can grow in your own backyard,

Security in an Insecure Economy

While homesteading is not the answer to making your fortune, many people find security in knowing that they have food growing in their own backyard in case of tough times or an emergency. Having the tools at hand to supplement your needs financially and otherwise can bring piece of mind.

A Concern For the Environment, Climate Chnge, etc

It is so hard sometimes to know the best way to help the earth.  All around us, people are concerned about pollution, climate change, deforestation, and countless other environmental issues.   By homesteading, you are taking charge of a small part of your impact on the planet and paying attention to how the decisions you make affect the natural world. Small changes in the way you live your life can make a difference.

What reasons are the most important to you? 

Are you interested in learning more about homesteading?  Are you ready to get started?  Are you already homesteading and interested in setting new goals for the future?  Subscribe to my blog via email, and I will send you a free copy of The Modern Homestead: A Guide to Starting Your Journey - coming Dec. 10th. 

I shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Homestead Highlight: Gretchen (me)

Today I am sharing my own Homestead Highlight and my family's experience in this adventure of backyard farming. The experience of homesteading, and the process of sharing that experience in this space has inspired me and encouraged me in so many ways.  I thank you for reading and sharing here in this space.  As a thank you, I would like to announce that starting Monday, I am releasing my first ebook: The Modern Homestead: A Guide to Starting Your Journey.

This 50+ page book provides an overview of some of the things you may choose to do as a homesteader, looks at some of the challenges you may face when homesteading, and helps you set goals and move forward with your dreams. For a limited time, this book is free when you subscribe via email to the Backyard Farming Connection.  You can subscribe today, and I'll send you your free copy on Dec 10th.


Want to be featured as a Homestead Highlight? I would love to hear about your experience. For more information follow the link to the information page and share your own homestead here at the Backyard Farming Connection!

 Gretchen Stuppy Carlson

Gretchen lives with her husband and three young children in Upstate NY on an emerging 2.5 acre homestead.  She spends her days chasing children, chickens and the elusive weeds that spring up out of nowhere in her garden.  You can read about her adventures at The Backyard Farming Connection and Simple and Joyful Living.

How long have you been backyard farming?  What got you started?

I officially started on this adventure about 2 years ago when we bought a home in upstate NY on 2.5 acres.  But really, we started on this journey years ago.  For as long as we’ve been together – about 11 years, my husband and I have been reading and thinking and planning, with the idea that ‘someday’ we’ll have the space, time, resources and all the other things we needed to have our homestead.  We were already making choices to buy at farmers markets, conserve, and grow small herbs and veggies in pots, but our idea of our homestead really emerged will the purchase of a bit of land.

After college, Dave and I worked on several different tall ships that run education programs. When at sea for long periods of time, a sailboat is a perfect example of a temporary self-sufficient homestead – minus the whole growing your own food aspect.  The mentality that goes along with living in this way really propelled us toward homesteading.

What does your backyard farm look like?  Where is it?

Our backyard is rapidly changing as we fully embrace this lifestyle.  Our 2.5 acres is in a relatively rural, wooded area outside Saratoga Springs, NY.  Gradually we’re clearing back some of the trees and enriching our heavy clay soils.  Because our soil and drainage is poor, most of our gardening is done is raised beds.  We’ve brought in about 35 cubic yards of soil and compost, and are finally reaching a point where we can start supplying our own compost needs.  Since we moved in we’ve planted 11 fruit frees, raspberries, blueberry, blackberries, grapes, a put in several beds of strawberries.  Our gardens are a way to supplement our food and provide organic, healthy produce as much as possible, but we aren't at the point yet where we can provide for all of our needs.

We started with a few hens for eggs, a hive of bees, and recently got 2 Pygora goats for their fleece and possibly for some milk.  The chickens live in a self built (we built it not the chickens) tractor that we move to fertilize the garden beds, although they are currently housed in the pasture with the goats.  Since we don’t have a barn on our property, we recently put up a large shed that will house the chickens and goats. 

What has been your biggest success and biggest mistake?

There have been so many little mistakes we’ve made, but luckily at this point they are all little.  We started with just 5 hens, and quickly realized that we need a few more to maintain the egg consumption of 5 people.  We are still working out how much of which crops to plant, and often find ourselves overwhelmed with one thing, and completely lacking in others.  We also (I also) have a habit of jumping into projects before I’m completely ready, next time we bring home two goats it is probably a good idea to have a fence up and shed completed so they don’t need to live in the garage for a few days.  Oh, and our bees swarmed in our first year – still not sure what went wrong!

I am so grateful that our successes outnumber our mistakes.  We’ve succeeded here in so many little ways.  We eat fresh food from our garden, we cook free-range eggs, our bees pollinate our garden, and we continue to get pleasure from all the little things we do.  Probably our biggest success is that we haven’t lost a hen yet despite fox, raccoons, dogs and other predators in the area.  This is probably mostly due to our border collie mix who patrols our backyard.

What plans do you have for the future?

What plans don’t we have for the future! More, more, more!  This life is addictive.  Dave really wants some heritage turkeys, I’m thinking another goat, guinea hens, more laying hens (this spring) and the list goes on.  Immediately we have no plans to build more garden bed,s although we want to grow hops next year and perhaps a few other perennial crops.  Some of these plans will be realized soon, and some will wait for the next house and more land. Dreaming up the next steps is a big part of the fun!