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Homesteading Goals for 2017
Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. For our family, it’s a way of life on our little 1/4-acre in the middle of suburbia. While there is still a lot we rely on others for, there is a lot we can do for ourselves. Through gardening, food preservation, and a lot of DIY we are teaching our children to be self-reliant and we are working together as a family to have the things we need.
These life skills are a primary focus when we homeschool our children. When possible, we tie these skills into what we are already learning about in the text books. It also gives us an opportunity to work on Girl Scout badges and Cub Scout adventures in the course of our day to day life.
My husband and I grew up in families that gardened. We are now taking those skills to the next level by becoming suburban homesteaders.
I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks contemplating what I want to accomplish in 2017. So much of what I want to do comes back to homesteading. Many of the projects are skills that will benefit our family in the long run, and allow us to rely more on each other than on commercially produced items.
My children have really enjoyed spending time with me in the garden. This year, they will each get a 4’x6′ garden bed of their own. My daughter, Emily, has been inspired by the beautiful flower gardens at Longwood Gardens, so her garden with be primarily flowers. The boys want to grow food. David has recently learned about George Washington Carver, and this year he wants to try growing peanuts. Michael, my youngest, wants to grow his favorite vegetables – sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.
We are also adding bees to our homestead this year. Steve & I are still looking into the various hive options. My hope is to be able to increase production in our gardens, and also harvest the honey and beeswax.
Since the beehive will need coverage (our yard is very open), the plan is to build a vertical garden using some pieces of gutter and fence posts. I’ve seen several places where people grow strawberries, herbs, or lettuces this way.
It’s also important to learn new skills. This year, I plan on taking several classes offered at various farms and gardens in the region. The first class that I am taking is on pruning fruit trees, which is vitally important as our peach tree has grown like crazy over the last season. Our fruit trees are all about 3-4 years old now, so this should be our first year for solid fruit production.
This year, I will be starting a medicinal herb garden. I am not turning my back on modern medicine. Modern medicine has its place, but there are things we find in nature that are a great supplement to that. I am a firm believer that Mother Nature has given us everything we need to take care of our health, the caveat is that we just don’t know what all of those things are yet. Until then, we stick with what we do know, and utilize them to keep our family’s healthy.
Through out the year, I want to hone my skills for making lip balms, salves, lotions, and various tinctures. I want to grow and dry my own herbs instead of having to purchase them online. I also want to build up my supply of quality essential oils so that I have them on hand for medicinal purposes, as well as for other household projects.
Since last year’s garden was a dud, I didn’t get nearly as much canning done as I had hoped. We completely skipped pickles because we didn’t get a single cucumber. And, thanks to mislabeled seedlings at the nursery last year, I didn’t get plum tomatoes for canning either. While this was a huge letdown, I have supplemented our stash with items from the grocery store knowing that this year, things will be different.
Next week, I will make my final trip to Schober Orchards for the season and stock up on apples to do the majority of my apple canning projects.
- applesauce – 100 quarts (we eat about 2 quarts of applesauce a week)
- apple pie filling – 12 quarts (2 quarts = 1 deep dish pie) and 6 pints (for mixing with sweet potatoes)
- apple butter – 12 half-pints
- spiced apple rings – 12 pints
During the late spring and early summer, I will need to up my jam and jelly production. We eat PB&J for lunch most days, plus I make jam and jelly for my parents and in laws. Homemade is so much better than store bought! We usually make 36 jars of jam, but this year that will increase to 48 so that I have competition jars for the fair, as well as jars for family.
- strawberry jam – early June
- blueberry jam – late June
- peach jam – mid August
- raspberry jelly (no seeds) – late July through August
- grape jelly – anytime using store bought unsweetened Concord Grape Juice
After those two big projects that make up the bulk of our canning pantry, I’m also looking ahead to making homemade dill pickles (a family favorite); peach, apple, and cherry pie filling; salsa; marinara; and tomato puree. I also want to try my hand at lacto-fermenting pickles.
Over the last year, I have also pressure canned several vegetables, and I’d like to do more of that this year. Particularly jars of vegetable blends that can be added to soups or pot pie to make a meal come together more quickly.
Outdoor DIY Projects
My husband and I believe in doing things ourselves whenever possible. We will be building the garden beds for the children, and possibly another one for us. We are currently researching how to create a rain barrel system, how to build a top bar bee hive and various ideas for vertical gardening around the bees.
In addition, we have plans to build our own three-bin compost pile this year so that we can start a larger scale compost production and stop purchasing compost from the local garden center.
Our dream project may also happen this year if finances and other circumstances allow. We want to put in a paver patio and fire pit so that we can enjoy the outdoors. This would be a rather large undertaking as neither of us has ever done brick work like this, and we want it to not only look good for this season but for years to come.
There are some general homemaking projects that I would like to complete this year. I already have a foundation for many of these projects, so it’s just a matter of putting the skills into action.
- basket making
- sewing an apron
- sewing a dress/skirt without a pattern
- foraging for edibles & medicinal herbs
- foraging for bayberries so I can render the wax
- make more of my own health and beauty products
Of course, other projects will come up through out the year as I attend classes, or see an interesting magazine article. I’m not limiting myself to what I will do, only setting the stage for a productive year.
Do you have any homesteading goals for this year?