Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Agrarian Home-Based Lifestyle, Part 3

Or, "How is This Ever Going to Work"???

Here I'll be getting into the nuts and bolts of our homestead operation, or "the nitty gritty" as our son would say!  How exactly do we plan on being able to live off our 20 acres, you might ask?  Well, from a combination of factors, which I'll list here, in no particular order...

1.  GET OUT OF DEBT!!!  Being debt-free will be so wonderful!  We are very aggressively working on paying off our loans.  Thankfully, we are finally done paying off our last house, which we had to sell as quite a large loss due to the sorry state of the housing market.  The good side to the real estate situation is that we were able to get our house and 20 acres for an amazing price last March.  We are blessed that Dan has a very good job right now, so our plan is to be very aggressive in paying it all off.  Our goal is to be debt-free in under three years.

2.  Grow/raise as much of our own food as possible.  This summer we'll be experimenting with several things, including chickens and possibly beef, primarily for our own use.

3.  Garden like my life depends on it.  When I think of the pioneers (the true "homesteaders"!) I know that they had to have a successful garden, or they didn't eat any vegetables for the whole year.  If I'm going to be serious about making this work, I have to look at it that way.  It used to be that if my garden got overrun with weeds by July or burned up by drought, I would just say, "Oh well, I'll try harder next year."  While I'm not really interested in running a market garden for profit, I DO need to work at learning to plan better and be more diligent tending our "food supply"!

4.  Pastured Poultry.  Assuming we do ok with raising chickens this summer, we anticipate this being one of our primary sources of income.  Quite a few people are already doing it, but I really don't believe the market is saturated yet!  There is such a huge difference between the quality of pastured poultry and factory-farm, mass-processed poultry.  I want to feed my family the best and enable as many other families as possible to do so as well!

5.  Courser Deer Processing.  This is another major source of income for us, and could be even more when we get to the point where Dan can be at home full time.  As you've probably already read from previous posts, we will be moving our deer processing operation from Dan's parents' house to ours.  This past season we processed around 320 deer.  Through some advertising and marketing, we're hoping to push that number to 400 next season.  I'm also planning on experimenting with making sausage.  Currently we send it out to have sausage made, but our profit margin could be much higher if we did it ourselves.

6.  Soap and candles...which is still in the "experimental" phase!  I'm playing around with making some different blends of deer tallow soaps.  We'll see how this goes...if you would like to be a "product tester" please let me know!

7.  Other value-added products, such as all-natural jams, jellies, preserves, granola, baked goods, and the like.  Unfortunately, without a licensed kitchen I cannot sell these items online.  I'll have to stick with word of mouth, local food co-ops, and maybe selling at the Farmers' Market.  We'll see.  That sounds like a lot of work.  But I am a little compulsive when it comes to preserving things...I can't stand to see resources go unused!  So, I may as well make a little money from it too, right?

8.  Pastured beef and/or pork.  This may still be a little ways down the road, but would be a great compliment to our farm.  And I really love to eat beef and pork:-)

Well, there's the gist of it!  I'm probably forgetting something.  Of course along with all of that is just being generally thrifty.  Dan and I feel an increasing sense of urgency to be out of debt.  Maybe it's the economy, or political state of things, or just our itch to be truly free in regards to our resources.  At any rate, we would love to hear your suggestions and comments!  Have a brilliant idea for us?  Let us know!  And watch for an exciting post coming soon, including an unofficial "launch" and announcement of our homestead's name!

Just for fun...some nature study artwork from last summer!  Clockwise from top left: mine, Percival (age 3, impressive, right?), Lancelot, age 8, and Galahad, age 6.  (I change my kids' names on here to protect their privacy!)

...and the inspiration for the artwork above!  Did you know that those teenie little hooks were the inspiration behind Velcro?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yes, I Am Still Here.

I'm probably about due to win the bad blogger of the year award for my negligence!  It's been a full couple of months!  Let me take a moment to fill you in on what's been happening around here...

1.  Wrapping up deer season.  Our total count at the end of the year was nearly 320 deer, more than we have done in a long time.

2.  Christmas!  The celebrations felt a little strange this year.  We are at a new church, so we weren't quite sure what to expect and ended up missing the week that they do the big Christmas program because we didn't know about it soon enough.  And at that time we were still running back and forth every day to the meat shop, so we didn't have much time to enjoy the season in our new house.  I didn't bake one single Christmas cookie.  And there was pretty much no snow.  But, Jesus was still born over 2000 years ago and we celebrated that with all our hearts, which is what really matters, right?

3.  Settling into a "normal" routine at our own house (if there is such a thing as "normal"!)  We've been rendering lots of deer tallow and I made my first attempts at tallow soap.  It looks good--still curing, so I haven't actually gotten to try it yet.

4.  Spent a night in the emergency room about two weeks ago with my heart feeling like it was going to pound right out of my chest.  To make a long story short, don't take heavy doses of echinacea and then drink multiple cups of very strong coffee in a short amount of time.  Turns out they don't do so well together.

5.  Took a trip to Ikea for curtains, bedroom storage, and the like.  Love that store!

6.  Planning lots of big projects around the house.  This weekend is a wall of bookshelves for the living room--yay!  Also planning a trip to Florida in March...double-yay!

7.  Hitting the books!  Our school pace really slowed down during deer season, so now it's time for us to step it up.  Ever hear about Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours?  Fascinating story--go and look it up!  I don't now how I got to be 31 years old and never learned about that.  This is why I love homeschooling--I keep learning new things too!

8.  Dan and I took our CPL (Concealed Pistol License) training last Saturday.  We had a wonderful instructor who gave us SO much more information than just what's covered in the typical NRA class.  Plus, I got to shoot several different handguns, which was great for me since I had never fired one before.  The instructor said I'm a natural shooter and that with some training I could do it competitively.  But I think he was just flattering me because I was the only girl in the class:-)

9.  Repairing the hole in our kitchen ceiling.  Yup, the hole.  About a month ago our son took a bath and left the water in the tub (no big deal).  Except that it turns out there was a teenie little hole in the all that water slowly leaked onto the kitchen ceiling for about 4 hours.  We had to tear out a section of drywall about 4' by 5'.  Last night Dan and I finally were able to get new drywall over the hole...

10.  Working out at 5:30 am every day.  Dan and I started Insanity last week and yes, it is insane.  We're both looking forward to losing the "extras" we acquired through the fall months!

So, things are happening around here!  We're really excited about what's to come.  I will write soon about some of that in my next post in the Agrarian Home Based Lifestyle series.  If I don't do it within the next week, someone please come and kick me.  Thanks!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Years' Anticipation


"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen! 

Ephesians 3:14-21

This year I am not making any resolutions.  According to Webster's 1828, 'to resolve' means "To fix in opinion or purpose; to determine in mind."  And you know what?  If there's one thing I've learned, it's that my opinions might be all wrong, my purpose selfish or misguided, and I know a lot less than what I thought I did.  Sounds like a setup for failure if I ever heard one!

Two Sundays ago our pastor gave a great sermon with the general idea of anticipation.  He referred to the verse above from Ephesians.  The beautiful truth is that, no matter how weak our minds or flesh, the power of Christ is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or even imagine.  In Pastor Burger's words, our lives can be transformed to the degree we are willing to be surrendered to Him.  The word anticipate literally means "to take before".  Did you know that God has plans for you this year?  Instead of resolving to accomplish some certain goal this year, I want to live in anticipation of the fulfillment of what the Lord has already planned.  Guess that sounds a lot like living by faith, doesn't it?

Of course, this doesn't mean I'm not going to plan anything or set any kinds of goals.  To sit around and wait for things to happen would obviously be foolish.  But I want for my attitude to be one of surrender, not selfishness.  Watch for upcoming posts about our thoughts for our little homestead farm and some ideas we've been tossing around.  We continue to pray about where we are headed and surrender daily in faith to what the Lord would have for us, both in the small daily tasks and the "grand scheme", that we may be "filled to the measure of all the fulness of God".

I'll leave you with a song that really got to me this morning...
You Have Me by Gungor