Sow a seed and food is free

Okay, so yesterday I talked about what you can do to begin if you have big homesteading dreams. But… then what’s next? Grow food where the people are! And after taking almost a year of permaculture classes, I’ve seen ways this can fit in ANYWHERE. And good lord does it need to, I’m sensing easy access to affordable organic food might perhaps be problematic in the future. Unless…. we can all come together and grow.

While in a quest the last few weeks to get good answers to your question of where do I begin, I asked some other homesteaders I know too. My next door neighbor from Crow Ridge Homestead Mark’s answer was the simplest and because of that, was one of my favorites. “Well, I guess I would just tell them… stick a seed in some soil. I mean, we did all that WWOOFing for years and now have owned our land for a year–and that part is still scary. and you still worry it won’t grow. So, I believe I’d get on with that part of it.”

It’s SOW True (shameless plug for our favorite nonGMO seed source)–you DO need to get on with that part of it. It’s time to spend some time with your hands in the dirt. To take all the tears in your heart over the turmoil in the world and turn it into turnips. To make peace with all your neighbors over peas. To choose vegetables over violence. To bring racial issues to rest over radishes. To create community over carrots. It can all start by you being willing to sow a seed. and see what grows. I can promise you will, just for trying.

There is the awesome project going on that I just love. It’s called Food is Free. And those folks are doing such a damn fine job, I’m not even a little bit sad I didn’t think of it first. ;-P They did such an amazing thing in their neighborhood in such a short period of time. Now, they are onto changing the world in such HUGE flipping ways. you go, you two, GO! Here’s an awesome vid about who they are and what they do. This is SO something you can do with your friends and neighbors. Check in with your landlord, HOA, or neighborhood rules on what you can do. Then, stop pushing that lawnmower around and start pulling food out of your front yard instead. If you live in an apartment, try out some container planting or see what you can get going in soil on your windowsill. You can share the surplus with your friends and neighbors or trade with the yard next door. You will likely not only learn your neighbor’s names–but who they are and what they like to grow and eat too. You can change the face of where you live, of how your community comes together, and… you can do it right now.

Yeah yeah, I can hear you wondering…. “but, hey there lady–it ain’t spring, what in the world can I do about this now?” But, never fear, there is plenty to do right now!

You can read and study up about organic gardening. Decide what kinds of things you want to grow. Start replacing sod with soil and build some raised beds. You can try out these cool ideas about winter gardening and plant some cold hardy things like greens. ( Neat-O cheap, cold frames. A massive winter list from Mother Earth News. More neat cold frame ideas. ) You can build compost bins. You can decide what seed to order next season. You can build up your book collection. You can refocus your emotional energy from politics to planting, you know–in case you need a flipping break from it in the coming month.

SOW, see? There’s plenty to do and think about! 🙂

My favorite thing I’m growing right now is turnips, mustards and austrian winter pea. They are great for fall and winter too if you are willing to cover them. They are dead easy for beginners, and the grow great together as a cover crop. Win, win. Now, I know you might say there is nothing tasty sounding about turnips–but man have I fallen in love with cooking these beauties this year. They are a wonderful green and also a delish root. They store well and are simple to cook. More winning! This combo of stuff is also perfect for garden side stop and snacks.

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Here’s me last month on Sept 11 in the turnip and mustard patch, stealing a snack. Man, that stuff is SO good!!

So, there you go. The next step…. sow a seed. Grow. And see how it feels and what you learn. It might just make you smile or stuff your belly.

-Rain, the farmer

Where in the world do I begin? With my homesteading dreams?

So if there is one question I got asked at least a few hundred times after I got featured on Women Who Farm a few weeks ago…. it was “But…where in the world do I even start? I have these huge homestead dreams… and no clue where to begin!”

Man, did I feel a lot of pressure to answer that well! But, farm life is farm life. My family was all here when that feature happened. Then I got super sick. Then I had to have surgery to get my gallbladder removed 9 days ago. So, I couldn’t answer you as quickly as I wanted to. But.. I’m still stuck on a forced break from farm work for the next 5 days. Yet, I’m starting to feel slightly human again. and I’m bored as tarnation. So, finally–I started trying to answer y’all in installments via Facebook Live yesterday morning and will continue to do so. But, not all of you are on Facebook–so I wanted to put my list here too. Here are 8 things I would tell myself… if I was standing back at the beginning of the road we are on now.

  1. Shop local! Support your organic farmers! Shop farmers markets, get a CSA share, ask your farmers the tough questions like – do you spray? what are your process and practices like? If you feel good about the answers, shop with + support those fine folks. Then, ask them if they have work party days, an internship program, or ways you could get involved. Check out if your city has a community garden you could get involved in.
  2. Cook real food! Start to clean up your diet, eat more whole foods and cook with real, organic ingredients. It’s what you will be eating when you homestead and you can go ahead and do that right now wherever you are.
  3. Education! Read, watch videos, listen to podcasts. Take classes in anything that interests you about the way we live: organic gardening, permaculture, primitive skills, foraging, carpentry, natural building, biodynamics, composting, soil, medicine making, wild food, fermentation or food preservation. There are more options than ever before in this department, so just do a little googling about what is available in your area and online. In our area we really like Organic Growers School, The Foraging Family, Living Web Farms, Wild Abundance, Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, Earthaven EcoVillage, and School of Integrated Living. It doesn’t matter who, their philosophies just need to resonate with you! Do your research and pick well qualified individuals that you think you will learn a ton from. I’t is so great to do this in advance, see other people’s set ups and get all skilled up BEFORE you buy land.
  4. WWOOF. Man what a resource this is for folks wanting to immerse themselves on an organic farm. If you think an internship is what you need to get going, WWOOF is so for you! You can do it for as little as a day or two all the way up to a year or more depending on the host farm. If I was getting started again, I sure would take advantage of this wonderful program.
  5. Spend less, do more. I don’t know about other homesteaders – but for us, in year four on our own land and our sixth year homesteading…. we ain’t rich yet in dollars! We are just rich in healthy food, happiness and experiences. And hey, I’ll take it! So, start to spend and live with less. Chances are, you aren’t going to get rich living this way–at least right away. So see what you are willing to go without. Focus on getting experiences and having less expenses. Slim your bills down where you can and don’t spend money on things you don’t need. Start saving for your homesteading dreams instead.
  6. Drive down your debt and don’t create any more of it. If you have a ton of debt, make a plan to manage it ahead of time if you can. I’m not saying pay it all off before you start, but have a good plan on how you will handle it once you are homesteading.
  7. If you are getting started where I did, and are perhaps heavier or not as healthy as you would like to be…. and are thinking about trying the Homesteader’s Diet… read as much as you can about how to do that. Talk to your doctor and make a plan that is specific to you and your body to lose the weight slowly and safely. Read about liver and gallbladder health–so that you won’t end up having to have your gallbladder taken out, like I did. Make absolutely sure you are not putting yourself at risk in any way by trying to do something you might not be physically ready for.
  8. Finally, start right where you are and do what you can. I’m not advocating that everyone quit their job, check out of the system and buy land right now. That’s not what we did and I’m so grateful. We dreamed for a couple years. Rented a farm for 2 years to get our feet wet. THEN bought our land four years ago. Remember, it’s all steps. It’s succession. And taking those steps slowly, correctly, and with care will help you so much in the long run. If you are dreaming serious homesteading dreams and also have the will power to go forth and do it long term–you likely can handle slowing down and do it right for yourself and your family. I promise you, it is worth it and will make your dreams come to fruition faster and with less pitfalls than if you just dive in and buy land right at the jump. Just make sure this is all really for you by getting your feet wet in some way first. And do what you can where you already are, you don’t need a big piece of land to grow your dreams and skills! Build some raised beds and grow food not lawns. Sow some seeds in container plants in your window sill. Keep your compost. Build soil. It will keep you motivated to do it on a larger scale one day and you will learn a ton in the process–I promise.

So, there are some steps that I think can at least get you started and I hope you will enjoy them! It all seems like a super simple and approachable place to start. I know it can feel overwhelming, trying to figure out where to begin… but I do want you to know it can be done! So, I’m attaching a picture below – of myself in 2008, when I was deep in the beginning of my homestead dream–but didn’t know where to begin (left). And a picture of me this year (right) after getting my first handful of wee figs from a tree we planted on our own land. I think I look a lot happier and better off, how about you? 🙂 Big love from our mountain to yours,

Rain (the farmer)

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