Modern Homestead Lessons One Step At A Time

Modern homesteading

Homesteading in rural areas is common.

This is a post about modern homestead lessons that I felt needed to be put down for the new readers who come to my blog. I get emails almost daily from people wanting to know how they can live the way I do. How can they get started? Do they have to move to the country to live a homesteading life? They want to do this, but they don’t want to live like the pioneers did. Hey, neither do I! And I don’t. The easiest way, as I have written about many times over the years, is do it a little bit at a time. One little step goes a long ways. That has always been my husband’s advice for any change you want to begin in your life. It is easier that way and less stressful. 

In answer to the above questions, I told those readers, “No, you do not have to move to the country. You can do this anywhere.” And you can. I have only recently learned of a huge garden that is grown on the rooftops of some buildings in the center of one of the busiest cities in the world, New York. It is the Brooklyn Grange Farm. I am sure there are many more. 

Live like the pioneers? Now where did you hear that? Modern homesteaders enjoy high tech alternatives, blended with tools of old, that they choose to use. Not that they have to. The best thing about modern homesteading, is that there are NO RULES

Now to answer the most important question of all, How can they get started? One little step at a time………. 

I have made a small list of ten easy things that can be incorporated into your every day life. Start by doing one thing on the list in any order you choose. But at least do one thing today, then when you have finished that step, do another. 

1. Start Reading……information is knowledge and knowledge is powerful. That is when you start seeing the possibilities in this lifestyle. Here are some books and magazines to get you started. Or just put “modern homesteading” into the search engines. You will find plenty of information.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
  First of all this is the best book on the subject and it covers everything you would ever need to know. From gardening, finding a place to live, livestock, canning and even having a baby at home. Whatever you want to study about, you will find it in this book. 

Backwoods Home Magazine
  This magazine is what started my husband and I off on this homesteading journey back in 1995. Now I read it on my Kindle, but I still read it even though I have come a long way. There is always more to learn.

Countryside & Small Stock Journal
  A magazine written for and by, new homesteaders world wide. This magazine was another that was a powerful influence on my husband and I. We were living in the middle of a very large city, and started reading it every time a new issue was available at Barnes & Noble. It created a desire within both of us. 

Mother Earth News is a magazine that started off the homesteading, back to the land movement. No matter what you hear about this magazine, it is still a good value. It is full of good information and I always find something in it that is helpful to us.

2. Order Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds’ catalog even if you don’t order any seeds. Just read it and study it. Their catalog is full of information that will explain the whole GMO situation and why you don’t want to consume them or give them to your family.

3.Store some water. Even if you just put some in soda bottles. You need to store water and keep it safe to drink. It is the biggest problem when people lose their power. Storing enough water for everyone in your family. Don’t forget your pets or livestock. And please do not store it in washed out milk jugs!

4. Buy seeds and start some off in little pots or paper cups. It is a beginning and very easy to do. 

5.  Make a list of your favorite meal and the ingredients you would need to make it. Then go shopping and make it from scratch. If you do not have the homemade recipe for it, find it online. Don’t use anything processed in it. No cream soups, salad dressings, biscuits or breads. If you need them, make them first with a homemade recipe, then make your dish. I love doing this and when I first started out, it was like a game. 
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6. Dig up some ground or locate some containers to start your garden. There is a lot of information in books or online on how to start a garden or grow in containers. The seeds you started can be transplanted into this ground or containers and you are on your way! Gardening is the most important job a modern homesteader does. It was the first thing our early settlers did when they moved to a new place. Most of the time, they didn’t even have a house to live in yet, but they were out there getting their garden planted. Can’t live without food!

7. Learn to can by buying a canning book first. Then start reading and studying it.  I highly recommend Jackie Clay’s Growing and Canning Your Own Food, that is my favorite book. 

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is another good one with over 400 recipes for today’s foods. View videos about canning on uTube too. 

8. Locate a used water bath canner if you can’t buy a new one. You could probably find one on Craigslist or eBay. Read the instruction booklet along with the canning book. You will need jars, lids with rims and a jar lifter. Google “canning tools.” Then try canning a few jars of water to see how you do. 

9. Buy or pick fresh fruit and can it in your new water bath canner. 

10. Start a compost pile of grass clippings, fresh produce scraps when you clean them, coffee grounds, etc. Just get it started for now.

Taking your time to learn as you do, instead of rushing into something and getting in over your head. This way is easier on you. Then you won’t give up on it. This is just a way of life. A life that makes it easier on you when things are tough all over. No matter what the economy is or your own financial situation, living this way will make you able to survive even in the toughest times. 

katlupe

Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole


Organizing Home Canned Foods For 2014

Home canned Food

Reorganizing the shelves.

Organizing my home canned foods for 2014 is my top goal this year. I don’t make resolutions, I make plans. This was one of them. How can you plan your food supply efficiently if you do not know what you have? I didn’t have much space to work with, but the cupboard my husband built in the kitchen was housing all my pots and pans, and there was no other place to store them. I knew I had to get busy organizing home canned foods soon, or we’d never use what we already had. Even for pots and pans this cupboard was a headache to get anything out of. It is very deep and I had a hard time getting what I was looking for. 

 

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Stored food in these containers.

My solution in the past to organizing home canned foods had been to put them in plastic totes such as Rubbermaid types. The mice don’t bother with them unless it is to run across the top.The only place I was able to store them though was in the bathroom, and I wasn’t crazy about that idea.  I was not totally content with doing that. It was not a good solution, but I felt like I had no other options. Yesterday, I got the great idea to move the pots and pans to the bigger Rubbermaid containers and put them in the pantry. The cold would not bother them. I already have my collection of cast iron cookware in there. So that is what I did. 

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My home canned food

Then I started moving the jars of home canned food to the cupboard and writing down how much of each food I have on hand. One thing I had to make sure of, was that I didn’t put too heavy a load on the shelves that were not supported as heavily as the other two. Remember if you do this, to consider adding more support under the shelves because home canned foods are heavier than store bought. Organizing home canned foods turned out to be easier than I thought. It was just the part of carrying the jars to the kitchen and climbing on a chair to reach the higher shelves that was a bit tough for me.

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Top Shelf

As I put the jars on the shelves, I put them in order of the date they were canned. So each group of foods are together and then I will use the ones I canned first, before the more recent ones. It is a good way to rotate the food into your every day meals. Organizing home canned food is really important to keep your food from getting too old. Not that I buy into the expiration date information that you see all over. It is not true that the food will become no good at a certain time period. It may not be as nutritional as the day you canned it, but you can eat it. And if it is between starving and eating older foods, then I’ll eat it. But my food doesn’t usually get the chance to get that old. It is really good!

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Bottom Shelf

Organizing home canned foods is also a help with your garden plans for the spring. This way you will see what foods your family likes, and what you should plant more of. I do not plant any food that we do not regularly eat, nor do I can that kind of stuff. We don’t use potatoes as much as we used to, so I have none in our food supply. We don’t use sugar, corn or wheat products of any kind. So you will not see jams, jellies, syrups or any of the fruit canned in the sugar syrup. I am trying to make our food be healthy, not kill us. 

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I spent the day reorganizing my home canned food.

Since meat and vegetables is the mainstay of our food plan, that is mostly what you will see on my shelves. If an emergency happened, I would not be eating rice and beans, or baking bread in a cast iron pan. No, in an emergency, you need to keep everyone at their healthiest. Their physical strength and stamina might be compromised if you fed them foods they don’t eat daily. I know for myself and my husband, that would be the case. High carbs, processed foods and especially sugar and wheat have a bad effect on both of us. I stick to the foods we like and are healthy for us. I think this day spent organizing home canned foods will be well worth it in the long run.  

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All organized and easy to get to now!

katlupe

Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole


Our Little Piece Of Land

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Our house in 1999

Finding our little piece of land in the forest was not easy, but was well worth it. Most people who have never been to New York state associate the rest of the state with New York City. Many times they think we haven’t even seen a cow or a tree. New York state is a big dairy state and has lots of farmland all over the whole state. New York City actually makes up a very small part of the state as a whole. New York state also has acres and acres of state forest and state parks. Trees and mountains make up much of our Empire state. I always thought we should have been called the Forest State. I have traveled all over the whole country  and I have not seen such a welcoming sight, as the green mountains of Pennsylvania and New York. Taxes may be high here, but we get plenty of rain and our beautiful forests in return. Our little piece of land doesn’t have high taxes, but that is probably because we are in an area of hunting camps.

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Our road in 1999

Our  little piece of land, I named Peaceful Forest Homestead. It is in the middle of the state forest. I used to say our only neighbors, are the wild kind and hunting camps, but we have a neighbor up the road, walking distance now. Our home was originally a farm and in 1924 became a hunting camp. Then later it became a snowmobile camp too, until we purchased it in 1999. The house is called a Greek Revival style house and was built in 1850. In fact, when my husband was working on digging out a room connected to our cellar, he found an 1848 penny. It may have belonged to the man who built our home. I have always wondered about the man who built this house on this little piece of land.

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Horses’ paddock before they came to live here.

Our little piece of land is bordered by forest and state forest on two sides. That means many large trees. The forest is very thick and every now and then it is logged to thin it out. At first we didn’t like it when they did that, but now we see the value of it, and we have done that on our land ourselves. The woods came right up to our house and had to be cleared for gardens. All the roads leading to our house are dirt, but are well taken care of. Our road looks to me, like a trail through the woods. Sometimes the grass grows in the middle of it, and I like that. The forest keeps it cool out here so when everyone else is sweating the summer weather, our home is usually about 10 degrees cooler.

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Land was cleared for the paddock.

We had searched for over four years for our little piece of land. Both of us loved the forest and used to drive through state forest in both New York and Pennsylvania. We would see homes in the middle of the state forest and say, “How did they get a house in the middle of the state forest?” Now people ask me that question. My answer is “Keep searching! They are out there.”

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Our Front Yard in 1999

At first, I did not realize that the house was off the grid. Or that it did not have plumbing. No running water! No bathroom! It had an outhouse quite a distance from the house though. Before we moved here we purchased a claw foot bath tub and a SunMar composting toilet. The bath tub my husband found at an antique store when he was out driving a truck for his company making deliveries. He stopped and put a deposit on it. Exactly what we wanted. I love it to this day! The SunMar I found in our local Pennysaver for sale, used for $200. I called about it and they said someone else had called and whoever got there first with the money could have it. We drove right there and came home with our new composting toilet.

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Garden In front yard in 2000.

The day we moved in we found out that the previous owners had left all their furniture in the house. We had a moving van full of our stuff which would not fit with their stuff. To top it off, we had to move in during the middle of a downpour. My son, Jeffrey helped us, and stayed with us for a few weeks which was a big help. We had to unload the van and take it back the next day, so he had to put our things in the house with all that excess of stuff. Not an easy job.  So the first thing after returning the truck, was to haul things to the dump. It wasn’t easy getting our little piece of land organized and everything in place, but we did it.

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Peaceful Forest Homestead 2013

But throughout it all, our little piece of land has turned out to be a good homestead and we have made it our happy home.

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Living Without A Motor Vehicle

No Fuel Transportation

Transportation that uses No fuel…..except the human kind!

Living without a motor vehicle is not easy! When we moved to our homestead in 1999, we planned on trying to live without a motor vehicle. We thought we’d be better off out here with no gas to buy or auto insurance to pay for. And the repairs! They are always the worst thing I can think of when you own a vehicle. Expensive and sometimes very hard to fix. Our homestead is only 6 miles from the small town of Oxford, and 10 miles from Greene. So it seemed like a perfect place to live and phase out the gasoline powered automobile.

Human Powered Transportation

Human Powered Transportation

We purchased a mountain bike from eBay and my husband started riding it. He was in good shape. If you are not, it will get you in shape pretty fast. Soon I purchased a kids’ cart that you pull on the back of the bicycle. It was perfect! At that time, I had an eBay store and had many parcels going out daily. Our mailbox was a mile away on another road. My husband would drive to the mailbox to wait for the mail carrier to appear. Our dog, Nikita loved that morning run and the time alone with my husband!

No Gasoline Vehicles

Traveling home from the store!

Going to the mailbox though, wasn’t nearly as tough as pedaling to the grocery store in Oxford. New York state is mostly hills…….big ones! It took my husband three hours to travel to and from the store. 12 miles. As long a time as it takes to drive to New York City from here. He went to the gas station and got cans of gasoline and kerosene. Then to the store for food and supplies. He did it a few times. It was not as easy as we thought. I knew I could have never done it myself. We had our hay, feed and building supplies delivered by a store that sold and delivered all of it. We did it for 8 months, but couldn’t keep up with it.

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Raised Beds Put To Bed For Winter

Plowing Up Raised Beds

Plowing Up Raised Beds

Raised beds need to be put to bed for the winter. I know it sounds strange to say that about a garden. But it is true. Every fall after your harvest, you need to take out all the dead plants, add more compost, and plow the ground up. Then cover it up with mulch for the winter. My husband worked on plowing it up with our wheel hoe. I wrote about our wheel hoe on this post, The Wheel Hoe.

Using a wheel Hoe

Using a wheel Hoe

The raised rock beds are easy to make if you have a supply of rock. In the fall, if any need to be fixed or more rock added, that is the time to do it. People tend to sit on them during the summer and it causes them to break or fall over. The animals get into them too. Chasing a mole and digging into the raised bed can cause some damage too.

Mulching with leaves

Mulching with leaves

We use leaves from our trees for our mulch. You can use whatever you want. Straw is a good choice. Since we live in the forest, leaves are plentiful, as you can see. Makes for an easy mulch that we don’t have to scrimp on. I love the way the leaves smell in the fall! 

Round Bed

All Done!

That bed is all done until spring! Soon it will be covered with snow.

katlupe

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Handling A Power Outage

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Alternative energy systems are not a joke anymore!


Power outages happen all the time. If your electricity went out for a day, would it be a big deal? What about if it went out for 10 days? Now would that affect you and your family? What about at your job? That may be a big deal. Many businesses depend on the computer system nowadays. 

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Lets say for instance, you got up in the morning to get ready for work and the electric coffeemaker does not start. Now what do you do? You have to take a shower, get breakfast and get to work. And what about families? Yes, CHILDREN! What do you do now? Get some cereal out and feed them cold cereal since you may have to use up the milk in the refrigerator anyway. 

Winter

Winter


If you do not have young children and do not have to go to a job, it may be easier to handle. It would depend on the weather too. Cold winter weather means you need some type of heat that does not use electric. It can be a good sign if you have a means to heat your home that does not use electricity, since cold winter weather can be a means of keeping your food cold. Make ice during the night. I have done that many times during the winter. Put plastic jugs outside with water inside to freeze and then stick it in your refrigerator or freezer to hold the cold temperatures as long as possible.

Kerosene Lamp

Lights

Hot summer weather is a whole other story. At least if it is hot you don’t have to worry about heating! Water pumping, refrigeration, cooking food, etc. All things to think and plan for. People down south, would be very uncomfortable without their air conditioners, though there are methods to keep cool that are pretty easy to set up. 

Pitcher Pump

Do you think you could live like people did before electric existed? No? Even though I have an alternative electric system, I could live that way. In fact, when we first moved into our house, we did live that way. We had no generator and no solar electric system at that time. Basically, we still live that way somewhat, but not all the time. Some of the items we use are not electric but run on batteries or solar that is separate from the solar electric system.

secluded road

Our road

The only advice I can offer you is to right now make a plan. Plan for what you would do in case of a major blackout. Plan what you would do for:

  • Fuel – Heating and cooking
  • Water – For cooking, drinking, bathing, cleaning and pets or livestock, 
  • Refrigeration of your food that is presently in your refrigerator and freezer, 
  • Cooling – depending on the weather and where you live, plan for cooling to replace electric air conditioning 
  • Food – Make sure you have enough food stocked that does not have to be cooked. 

jurasis_squash.jpg
Think about this today. Get started as soon as possible if you have not been taking “Doomsday Preppers” serious. Now is the time think about it. A power outage can happen at any day or hour. It doesn’t have to be caused by a storm. Just be prepared and you can sit back and not be so stressed over it. And if it doesn’t happen? Just keep preparing for the day when it really does happen. You never know. 

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


“Prepping” Or Independence? Which Do You Do?

Secluded

Living Secluded


Is  “prepping” or ” independence” in your plans? Today everyone is trying to “prep” or prepare in case something happens in the world. Or our country. Whatever happens that makes it so you cannot shop or get supplies. Some people believe it means you won’t be able to leave your home because there will be nothing to go to. Books about this situation are a hot topic on Amazon right now. I have read a few. They are interesting, but as for me, whatever happens, happens. I cannot change the outcome of anything. 

Fall In NY

Fall


Am I going to get stressed over it and worry about it? Not really. For me, it’d be a waste of time. My husband and I discuss this often after reading what is posted on Facebook that day. We just keep taking our life one step at a time and making headway in our own plans. At our age, we aren’t going to make any drastic changes in how we live or what we do. That is  how we do everything, in moderation. Don’t worry about something till it happens. In fact, if something like that did happen and you had to live independently for the rest of your life, wouldn’t you run out of the “prepping” supplies?  So I am back to “prepping” or “independence,” which means if you chose independence, the prepping supplies would not matter.

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Our Road


It is true that we live off-the-grid, but we didn’t do that as a form of “prepping.” We wanted to do it as a form of independence. Even if we bought another property that had power lines going right by it, we would not hook up to the utility company. We have learned how to operate our own power system and I think we’d stick with that form of living. Now I am not sure if when you build a new house if you have to hook up if it is available in the area you are building in or not. The thing to strive for is knowing you can take care of yourself and your family if something did happen. Don’t worry about the supplies, instead learn how to do things. Skills and knowledge will be the best preparations you can do right now! 

Horses

Our Horses


Our future may include moving to a larger piece of land that is more secluded if possible. I am always browsing the local real estate listings to see if any catch my eye. In many ways, we’d like that even better than our little homestead here. Having a larger piece of land where we could graze our horses would be better for them and for us. Here we spend a lot of money buying hay. That is not a form of independence at all. Pasture would be. I’d rather they were out on a pasture. So would they! 

katlupe

 

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Fall Is Here In NY Already

Fall Coming

Fall Coming!

When fall starts showing up around here, it not usually a slow process. All of a sudden, the leaves are dropping off the trees, even though it may be a hot day. A few days later, the temperatures are cooler and the leaves are turning color. The animals, cats and horses are demanding more food than ever. I can hardly keep up with them. They like to pack the weight on in preparation of winter.

Winter Coat on Horse

Winter Coat on Tawny

It is also the time of year when they start growing their winter coats. I always notice it on the horses first. They haven’t started yet, but I am sure with temperatures of 32 degrees, like I woke up to this morning, it is right around the corner. Keeping your horses free of horse blankets in the winter, will keep their own natural winter coat thick and insulating. Snow will lay on our horses’ backs for a number of hours before it melts. That is because their winter coat insulates them from wet cold weather. (Note: I am NOT saying that is good for ALL horses in general. You know your horse best, and many older or sick horses may need a blanket. Our’s have needed their blankets at times due to injury.).

Split Fire Wood

Split Fire Wood

For people though, the process is much different. We haul out the winter coats, gloves, hats, scarves and boots. We make sure our long johns are still wearable. At our Peaceful Forest Homestead, we have started bringing in some fire wood and kindling. Cutting wood and keeping it close by. Cleaning our wood stoves and making sure the chimney is clean on the heating stove. The wood cook stove in the kitchen has a straight pipe and never needs to be cleaned, because it is always clean. I will be taking the wood cook stove apart to clean the inside the very next warm day we have.

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I will make sure we have foods available that will warm us up. Canning up some different varieties of soups, stews, chili and various other meat type entrees. Since we live on meat and salads in the summer, I have decided to can up some good soups for the winter. We will switch from the salads to the soups for the winter. I usually make them from scratch, but think if I have some canned that are made from scratch by me, that will be a fast food for us.

Cold Temps

Cold Temps To Come!

Planning for cold temperatures and winter in advance makes it a more pleasant winter for all. How about you? Are you in the process of winterizing your home and pantry?

katlupe

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole

 


Home Canning Is Essential To A Self-Sufficient Life

Canning With 2 Canners

Canning With 2 Canners

Home canning is essential to my homesteading life. It appears as if home canning is becoming the in thing now. Do you think it has anything to do with GMO foods? Maybe it has to do with so much sugar and related products in everything we buy. Then again, it could have something to do with the economy. I have noticed, and I am sure you have too, that food packaging has been getting smaller and smaller. Pretty soon, we will be paying for an empty package! 

Ball Wide Mouth LidsFor over 125 years, Ball® and Kerr® canning jars have been made in the USA. Whether you are new to canning or a seasoned preserver, shop for the tools you need.

The link above will take you to Ball’s Fresh Preserving store. I am thrilled to have just become associated with Ball’s Fresh Preserving Store as an affiliate. I use their products, so I may as well promote them to my readers. Canning as much as I do, I have come to rely on products that do what they are supposed to do. Nothing is worse than spending my money on canning products that cause me to lose my harvest!  

Right out of the canner!

Right out of the canner!

I have been  home canning for years. Ever since I got interested in being self-sufficient. Canning is a big part of that life. In the beginning, I was scared to do it. My father taught me how to make grape jelly and to can grape juice. Then he showed me how to do pickles. That is basically what he and my mother canned. They froze everything else from their garden. I took to canning very quickly. I loved it and still do. There are some days, that canning is all I do. If it can be canned, then I will try to do it. 

Green beans In garden.

Green beans In garden.

One last point I’d like make about canning your food, is that if you put all your food up in your freezer, you can lose it. Not only if the power goes out, but if your freezer malfunctions or someone leaves the door open accidentally. In the case of an emergency, believe me, you are not going to stop what you are doing to can all the food in your freezer. You may not even be home to attend to it. Please consider learning to can if you don’t know how. It can mean the difference in how your family will survive in the future. 

katlupe

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Gardening Time Relieves Stress

Peaceful Forest Homestead

The Backyard at Peaceful Forest Homestead

Time spent in the garden is valuable,. Not only for the food you will put on your table, but for relieving stress. Gardening time is important for me. It is a time when I can think about things and observe nature. The biggest stress I have out there is my cats digging in my raised beds. Every day it is rewarding to find which plants have progressed from the day before. It is amazing how fast they grow!

Pepper Plant

Pepper plants growing in cinder blocks.

If you have something on your mind and need to think about it, this is the perfect time. Working in the garden with your spouse or child is a perfect time to have discussions about important matters. I find it less stressful if I need to talk to someone about something if we are out in the garden. Whether they are helping me, or we are sitting out there having a glass of ice tea or our morning coffee. Something about the atmosphere of the garden causes you and others to relax and stay calm.

Salad Bowl

Salad!

Seeing my plants grow gives me a satisfied feeling. I know that when I go to the grocery store food is very expensive now. Not to mention that I don’t know where it was grown and what it was grown from. What is on it and who handled it? My plants are grown from organic seeds and have had nothing bad on them. I do not use any sprays or pesticides of any type on them. We don’t even use a rototiller or tractor, that would spread gasoline fumes on the ground they are planted in. I like knowing that.

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Set up an area in your garden with a couple of chairs and a table or bench. Then enjoy your morning coffee or tea out there. My husband and I have been doing that most mornings now. If we get up early enough, the birds are singing up a storm! My favorite sound in the world! We sit out there in the early morning hours and plan our day. A nice start to the day. Try it!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole