I don’t think anyone just wakes up one day and thinks “I want to raise animals and produce as much of my own food as possible.” Actually, I take it back, maybe a lot of people do… But I think there is always a process that leads to that decision.
I grew up in a farming community in Utah. My maternal grandparents operated a dairy farm and my paternal grandparents (especially my grandfather) spent a great deal of time working his garden, building things in his shop, and raising/trading chickens. While I did not grow up on a farm myself, opportunities to work in my mother’s garden and for/with farmers around the valley were plentiful — perhaps too plentiful for my liking. While I have some fond memories of spending time at my grandparents farm, hunting/pulling noxious weeds, building miles of barbed-wire fence, helping my mother in the garden, canning foods, preparing corn for freezing with my cousins, making jams, hauling hay, feeding livestock, accompanying my grandfather on a two-hour drive to pick up a new show chicken, etc., I wanted no part of that lifestyle for myself. I wanted to chase the bright lights of the East coast!
My wife spent a large part of her childhood moving around the West, spending time in Northern California, Hawaii, Montana, but mostly various parts of Utah. My wife has always enjoyed clean eating and when possible (i.e., when affordable) eating organic foods. At our house, many of our “which product should I purchase?” decisions have been made based on the number of ingredients (the fewer the better – in most cases) and how much processing occurred before the product was placed on the grocery store shelves.
We lived in New Hampshire for several years and while there we met a number of families that raised the own chickens, maintained wonderful gardens, or raised other animals. We felt, for lack a better term, “inspired” by their efforts. Even though I had tried to get away from anything resembling farming, I started to feel it calling me.
In the age of electronics, my wife and I find ourselves constantly battling with our kids about the amount of screen time they have, which games they can play, and hundreds of other “mole hills” that somehow become mountains named “how could you do this to me” or my favorite “you are ruining my life.” To combat the sense of entitlement and instant gratification that is so prevalent in our society today (and unfortunately in our home), we decided to try and create a homestead/micro-farm where our kids could learn character, patience, responsibility and a strong work ethic!!! There are magical lessons that can be taught/learned by doing the work today, so we can have milk, eggs, fruit, veggies, honey tomorrow! …or weeks from now! …or next year! …or never — just ask our bees! So we decided to try to recreate some of the learning experiences I had in my youth while providing clean, almost organic, home-grown foods!
The only problem, we live in the suburbs outside Washington DC, where land is expensive and where our free-time has become an endangered species…
There are a lot of homesteading websites and blogs, but very few tackle problems/issues that us suburbanites face. Most of the solutions discussed on other homesteading blogs provide really creative solutions, but most of the solutions, while inexpensive if you have the materials and space, are often time consuming and just aren’t practical.
Like many of you, we are a busy family. I work in DC as a patent attorney and my wife is a superb chauffeur, mediator, chef, teacher, counselor, librarian, tutor, and the list goes on and on. We don’t always have time, or resources, to search for and implement many of the creative solutions that are stored somewhere on the interwebs. On top of being busy with life, we take care of a beautiful Golden Retriever (named “Martha Washington”), a small jersey cow (“Maude”), some bees, and a whole bunch of chickens! So, in an attempt to further entice our kids to help with our projects, we are creating this blog to share some of our tips/tricks for operating a mostly successful* homestead while working, commuting, and living in (or around) big cities.
So here goes nothing… We hope you will join us on our journey!
*Success is sometimes measured in lessons learned and not always by the desired result or outcome.