Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thoughts, please!

As I'm writing Homegrown and Handmade (to be published fall 2011 by New Society Publishers), I keep thinking that there are plenty of opinions out there on some of the topics I'm covering. Right now, I have two things that I'd really love to have your opinions on --

If you're a homesteader, or if you want to be a homesteader, why do you do it? Or why do you want to do it? I'd love to hear from urban homesteaders, as well as those in the country. Why do you grow your own food or cook from scratch or spin wool? If it is okay to include your thoughts in the book, please sign your comment with your name and city/state or city/province or city/country.

If you have chickens, why did you choose the breed (or breeds) that you have? Did they live up to your expectations? If you've had more than one breed, what's your favorite?

I spent yesterday visiting chicken coops in the city of Chicago and will be posting some photos of them soon! I was really impressed by the creativity of people working with limited space for their flocks of laying hens.

16 comments:

Em said...

I would love to move out to the country and live a more homegrown life than I do. My main reason is because I feel that it's healthier for my family. I decided that I wanted fresh eggs from my own flock of backyard chickens a few years ago, and after petitioning to get the town ordinance changed, we finally got a few hens of our own. The eggs are SO much better from a free-range, backyard chicken - Everyone who eats them says they don't want to go back to store-bought eggs. My kids won't eat 'store eggs' now that we have our own hens.

Haley said...

I would like to be a homesteader because I really want to be as self-sufficient as possible. I would want to grow my own vegetables, raise my own meat, produce my own fiber, and do as much as possible to not have to buy things from other people.

Part of it is that every time I make a purchase now, food or clothing or a variety of other things, I do so much research to ensure that animals and workers are treated fairly and sometimes do not even find a reputable source. This is so frustrating that I really want to be able to do more on my own.

Unfortunately, right now I don't have the capital to move out of the city and buy land and livestock and such, but I would really like to.

Carla said...

Not sure if my opinion will help ya out or not but here goes, I have been homesteading fore about 15 years now, not totally off the grid but it is the life i chose, my ancestors were farmers land owners so it must be in the blood, my mother chose the city and city life I did get 2 glimpses of country life in my childhood that left an impact. My current husband made my dreams a reality, Laura Engels also helped. We started out with chickens and horses, so i will try to answer the second question here, i started with Road Island Red, i hated their personality, i don't care how well they laid i don't like running form the roosters so out they went, really likes the looks of the buff orpingtons, nice birds with nice temperaments but sickly. it could have been a bad batch, but they were always sick, out they went and i replaced them with black Austrlorps, nice hardy large homestead type birds, I really liked them, but they were big and ate alot, so my now project is the Dominique for a couple of reasons, size, don't eat as much, lay well medium sized eggs. temperament is good. and i wanted to do my part in bringing back the numbers as they are still on the watch list. so far they are doing very well and i like them

Why do i choose to homestead, I have always wanted to know how to survive with nothing,, meaning money,,and survival is very important and most people don't know how, so as i learn new things to help me survive i like to share what i learn.

also my love of animals. I have always surrounded myself with animals, and the 2 go hand in hand.

I think the Lord put me here to learn to depend on him and to learn that he is the source of my survival

Cassandra R. Cooper said...

For chickens we started out with Rhode Island Red. I guess we started with this bred because lack of research it was in the 70's( the decade not my age). I don't like this chicken, they are not an easy keeper. Someone gave me some Buff Orpingtons! If I was going to have a chicken tractor they would be perfect! I now have Lakenvelder. They are a rare bred, but they are great layers. Started them in August as chicks and they were laying by the middle of Feb. 12 hens 12 eggs. I like to watch them. They are not big eaters and they will clean the bugs out of my garden double quick. Yes they lay white eggs, but lets get real about eggs, eggs are eggs...it's how fresh they are that makes them good!

Why do we live in the country. I like to know where my food comes from. My dad was a child of the depression, growing up we always had a garden(before it was cool to garden). We heat with wood, raise our meat,milk, eggs what I don't grown I buy from our Amish neighbors. I live on the farm that my gggrandfather claimed in the 1830's I feel a strong connections here. The land is not that great, we don't have soil, just dirt! But with work we are bringing it back..I derive a great deal of pleasure from this task, and knowing that we will be passing this to our children/grandchildren.

Nancy K. said...

Hi Deborah,

As far as I know, I'm not really a 'homesteader'. Just a fifty-something year old, single woman, who has found happiness and contentment, living in the country and raising animals and food. I started out with horses, but sold them when I was injured in a fall. After that, I wanted something small, that wouldn't hurt me. Enter Shetland sheep. They changed my life. Raising sheep seemed to ground me. They brought a sense of peace and serenity to my life that I had never experienced before. I now spin wool into yarn, knit and felt and have even started a home-based business so that I can be home with my animals full-time, doing what I love! I've added two breeds of chickens to my menagerie: Blue Laced Red Wyandottes ~ because they are incredibly beautiful, lay nice, big eggs, are calm and friendly and are very cold hardy. The Wyandotte's rose comb makes them much less likely to develop frostbite in our cold, Minnesota winters. I also raise bantam Mille Fleur & Calico (color project) Cochins. Simply because they are beautiful! I make good money selling hatching eggs and breeding stock.

The latest addition to my animal kingdom is a pair of American Guinea Hogs. A critically endangered, small breed of hog that make great pets, produce valuable breeding stock and gourmet pork! A perfect fit for my little farm.

I'm not much of a vegetable eater but I plant a big garden with pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, etc., for my sheep & chickens (and now, hogs)! I like knowing where their food comes from just as much as I like knowing where mine comes from.

I would rather work 120 hours a week at home, caring for my animals and my land, than work 40 hours a week for someone else!

Nancy Krohn
Bluff Country Shetlands
Houston, MN.

Spinners End said...

Deborah,

I'm with Nancy not knowing really if we are really homesteaders- we (husband and I and three young children) live on five acres in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and I work full time (for which I have mixed feelings!); my husband is a stay at home Dad. We make our own maple syrup, have a large vegetable garden, gather wild blackberries, have our own chickens (~50) and raise a variety of fiber animals including Shetland sheep, pygora goats, llamas and English angora rabbits. We sell our surplus eggs to neighbors and our local charter school (whose food person is into the local food movement)and the chickens we chose vary from standard breeds such as RI reds, buff Orps, barred rocks (My favorite because they are so friendly) to silkies and goofy crested polish. We have 50ish chickens in 18 different breeds- we look at it more as a colorful art project than a livestock project! It is also about having food that we have raised so we know how the food is handled and the animals treated.

As far as fiber animals go, we were fortunate first to aquire the rescue llamas and quickly went on to a few Shetland sheep whose size make them easier to handle, their fleeces a dream to spin and their personalities are so fun. This past year we added a couple of pygora goats with hilarious personalities, and we also raise English Angora rabbits for fiber and to sell to other handspinners- keeping the prices reasonable for those who can't afford show bunny prices. Why do I spin? There is something akin to reaching a state of "zen" creating something useful from a beloved animal and then turning it into something a person will love and use.

We buy our meat locally as much as possible and our produce. Unfortunately these long UP winters last longer than our store of veggies! We do rely on sales of eggs and fiber to help maintain the critters that produce them.

Doing morning and evening chores instills a sense of order and purpose to the day...sometimes it is hard to call it work when you enjoy seeing every little wooly and feathered face out there in the barn and coop.

Good luck on your book! We are all looking forward to reading it. If anything I wrote helps feel free to use it. -Sherry

Kathy ~ Cackles and Berries said...

My husband and I have been farming since the day we got Married over 20 years ago. We have raised our own beef and pork for many years. He however is a modern day farmer..I have been trying for the past few years to get him to go back to the basics. He no longer has livestock -but I do. I raise chickens, rabbits and sheep. If we had the room, we would raise pork and beef as well- we no get that from a local farmer. My favorite layer/dual purpose chicken are the Rhode Island Reds. They keep on laying all winter long and the Roos get a nice size for the freezer. I have about 85 RIR right now. I also have a handful of Easter Eggers, Buff Orpington and Barred Rock. I love the colors in the barn yard but the are not as effecient as the RIR. I also love Cochins and Black Cooper Marans..I hope to have room again one day to breed these beautiful birds.

I have a handful of shetland sheep. I look forward to having yard from them soon- and seeing what I can make with said yarn. I do not have time to spin- so I have it done for me. I would learn though- just so I can say I can do it! I've never eaten lamb before, but if I can handle it, I plan to have some fresh, grass fed lamb this year. I do find myself getting too attached to my animals- something I am working on.

I also plant a large garden, I can and freeze everything I can. I love the satisfaction of canning, preserving and making your own food.

I'm an avid bread baker. I use some recipes that my sister has developed and they have become stables in my house. I hope to be grinding my own flour by the time our wheat is ready to harvest this summer.

We purchase Raw Milk from another local farmer.

I simply just strive for simplicity and a since of being self sufficient. I believe we are eating healtier when we grow our own food or purchase locally- knowing the farmers you purchase from is also important.

Chicken Momma said...

Our family has many reasons for homesteading. Most of all is for our health. My daughter and I have migraine issues, so processed food is out of the question due to MSG and high levels of nitrates. My husband I have stomach issues that make raw goat milk the best option for us.

Other reasons are the flavor of the food and the satisfaction of what we get from our hard work. We also believe this is teaching our children the value of hard work and how to be responsible.

I could probably write a book of my own with all the little reasons we live the way we do, but these are the biggest ones.

Heidi-Hersey, MI

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

I like to garden. When I had a career I found myself immediately in my little garden after work and during lunch hours. But I despised sitting around in an office all day, especially when there wasn't anything to do. It felt like a huge waste of time.

I really like animals. I think they're fun to watch. Sometimes we've got a chicken tractor in the front yard and its fun to watch their interactions with each other (especially if we have a rooster).

I like to cook. I've been to culinary school and found that understanding plants as food and how they grow is fundamental to being a good cook. Many of the tastiest varieties of vegetables just can't be found in grocery stores as they don't last long, which is partially why I needed more land.

I never thought I would, but I really enjoy living in the country. I like that my neighbors are at a distance from me. My husband and I had an awful experience when we lived next door to a really violent, crazy neighbor. It was very difficult to sell the house and move. We like all of our new neighbors, but should we get a new neighbor we have them at a distance so we wouldn't have to hear their obscenities and craziness.

I like knowing that I am living with as little footprint as possible on this earth.

I'm tired of all of the food controversies... yellow number 5, GMO's, CAFOs, etc. etc. etc. By being as close to my food source as possible I avoid all of the junk.

I also think our society is so pent up about money that we treat each other horribly. I'm speaking on a global scale all the way down to the way that we parent. By focusing my energy on reducing the need for money, I find that I am more at peace.

I guess I cold go on and on about this subject! But there's some of my thoughts. Feel free to use them in your book if they are useful to you.

Amy

Deb in N TX said...

I'm not really a homesteader, although I live in the country, and would live even farther out if I could. I've had a layer flock of chickens for 10 years at least...buff orpingtons, black australorps, Ameracuanas, wyandottes and just about every other large breed in between, but last year I bought white pullet chicks at the feed store for $1 each. I knew they would probably be leghorns, and most of them are - but they are egg laying machines! Relatively small birds that lay HUGE white eggs, do not eat a lot, so the feed to egg conversion is excellent. They have been incredibly heathly and mites don't seem to be attracted to them. They are consistently laying through the winter with no additional light. This is not a meat bird....only an egg layer. The only downside I have seen is that they are skittish - this is not a breed that will be your friend. But if you want eggs, and lots of them - they are incredible. I have an exhibition flock of silkie bantam chickens as well, but they are not a source of either meat or eggs. I also have a vegetable garden and one of my hobbies is fiber arts, so I spin, weave and knit. I spin for the meditative aspect of it - there is nothing else I have found that can bring me that level of peace.

Tracy Harvey said...

We are moving into the area of homesteading, we have one acre of land are staring with a large garden, and some chickens and a couple of goats. We are so excited, we have talked about it for years.

Why do we want to do this? We want to be more self sufficient, I have been telling Hubby for years now that the grocery store is the biggest scam out there. I hate going! My son has some sensory issues, and he doesn't have a problem with sugar like "most kids" is problem is processed food, any processed food. So I started cooking from scratch to save money and eat better food. But we also want our children (15, 13, and 10) to understand the value of work.

This generation is growing up with a sense of entitlement. They are expecting college to be handed to them, and then expecting to come out of college and make a top salary. Not to mention the ease of just running to the store and grabbing whatever crap food is available to make instantly.

I could go on and on, but my soapbox won't last that long b/c it is no made from cardboard in China, instead of wood in America.

Tracy/Ledyard CT.

Penny said...

A little background ... I grew up on a small farm (approx. 63 acres). I was 13 when we began to farm and I ended up being Daddy's "farmhand". Ten years ago I moved onto a small city lot in our small town. I've hated it every since.

I am single, 53 years old, work full time and have some health issues but want to be much more self sufficient for the food I eat. I'm also a yarn dyer and spinner/weaver wannabe so I'm raising my own version of wool.

Spring 2010 I decided to bring the country to the city. I raised four chicks (2 Red Stars & 2 Buff Orpingtons)and purchased an English angora bunny. I began composting. With some help from my Dad and b-i-l I planted out the front garden with herbs and a few bee/butterfly beneficial perennials. A semi-dwarf Nectarine tree is the beginning of my urban orchard.

Spring 2011 will see me doubling my flock of hens, adding a French angora bunny, building raised beds,planting berry bushes and adding more fruit trees.

I love the country life but circumstances prevent me from living on my own farm so I'm making the best of my situation. It is a work in progress and involves a lot of baby steps but I'm okay with baby steps as long as I'm moving forward.

Lara Caldwell said...

I'm still just a wannabe homesteader but this is my year to start. I'm at a point in my life where I have a lot of options for what I could be doing for the foreseeable future, and of course I've thought on it a great deal, probably even over-thought it.

Naturally, my ultimate goals are happiness, health and well-being for myself and my family. The question then is, how do I achieve that? All life is dependent on the land and on our relationships with it and the other life around us. I can't think of any truth more fundamental than that, yet so much of modern society is bent on denying it. My spiritual, mental and physical well-being improves when I move towards, rather than away from that truth. I can't think of a better way to live that philosophy than to live as self-sufficiently as possible, growing my own food, making what I need with my own hands.

That, and for more down-to-earth reasons (pun intended); I love animals, and I love putting my hands in the dirt. As a kid, I wanted to be a farmer until I realized most people's definition of that involved some kind of industrial mega-farm, not coddling baby animals and growing carrots. It was only a few years ago I realized "farmer" in the way I wanted to be one is still an option! And finally, every job I've worked, the worst thing about it was being stuck inside all day. Get me outside, even doing hard work in all weather, and I'm much happier!

As for chickens, when I had my big flock a few years back, I had what seemed like a little of everything. My Hamburgs were too flighty for me, but SOOO gorgeous, by far the prettiest of the whole flock, and decent layers of little white eggs (looked just like grocery store eggs, but tasted much better :). My black sex-link hybrids were good layers but just ho-hum chickens in every other possible way. The buff Orps were certainly the calmest and gentlest, even the rooster was a big softy who got pushed around by bantams, but definitely not feed-efficient layers. My favorite hen ever was a gold-laced Wyandotte, she just had a personality on her, and we enjoyed sitting in the sunshine together. (Oh, and she was a great layer, too!) My mom has chickens, as well: she swears by her Barnevelders, says her red sex-links used to be nasty to the others but have calmed down as they've aged, and likes her bantam Ameracaunas even though they're too broody to be good layers.

Lara Caldwell said...

I'm still just a wannabe homesteader but this is my year to start. I'm at a point in my life where I have a lot of options for what I could be doing for the foreseeable future, and of course I've thought on it a great deal, probably even over-thought it.

Naturally, my ultimate goals are happiness, health and well-being for myself and my family. The question then is, how do I achieve that? All life is dependent on the land and on our relationships with it and the other life around us. I can't think of any truth more fundamental than that, yet so much of modern society is bent on denying it. My spiritual, mental and physical well-being improves when I move towards, rather than away from that truth. I can't think of a better way to live that philosophy than to live as self-sufficiently as possible, growing my own food, making what I need with my own hands.

That, and for more down-to-earth reasons (pun intended); I love animals, and I love putting my hands in the dirt. As a kid, I wanted to be a farmer until I realized most people's definition of that involved some kind of industrial mega-farm, not coddling baby animals and growing carrots. It was only a few years ago I realized "farmer" in the way I wanted to be one is still an option! And finally, every job I've worked, the worst thing about it was being stuck inside all day. Get me outside, even doing hard work in all weather, and I'm much happier!

As for chickens, when I had my big flock a few years back, I had what seemed like a little of everything. My Hamburgs were too flighty for me, but SOOO gorgeous, by far the prettiest of the whole flock, and decent layers of little white eggs (looked just like grocery store eggs, but tasted much better :). My black sex-link hybrids were good layers but just ho-hum chickens in every other possible way. The buff Orps were certainly the calmest and gentlest, even the rooster was a big softy who got pushed around by bantams, but definitely not feed-efficient layers. My favorite hen ever was a gold-laced Wyandotte, she just had a personality on her, and we enjoyed sitting in the sunshine together. (Oh, and she was a great layer, too!) My mom has chickens, as well: she swears by her Barnevelders, says her red sex-links used to be nasty to the others but have calmed down as they've aged, and likes her bantam Ameracaunas even though they're too broody to be good layers.

Raven said...

I'm still just a wannabe homesteader but this is my year to start. I'm at a point in my life where I have a lot of options for what I could be doing for the foreseeable future, and of course I've thought on it a great deal. Naturally, my ultimate goals are happiness, health and well-being for myself and my family. The question then is, how do I achieve that? All life is dependent on the land and on our relationships with it and the other life around us. I can't think of any truth more fundamental than that, yet so much of modern society is bent on denying it. My spiritual, mental and physical well-being improves when I move towards, rather than away from that truth. I can't think of a better way to live that philosophy than to live as self-sufficiently as possible, growing my own food, making what I need with my own hands.

That, and for more down-to-earth reasons (pun intended); I love animals, and I love putting my hands in the dirt. As a kid, I wanted to be a farmer until I realized most people's definition of that involved some kind of industrial mega-farm, not coddling baby animals and growing carrots. It was only a few years ago I realized "farmer" in the way I wanted to be one is still an option! And finally, every job I've worked, the worst thing about it was being stuck inside all day. Get me outside, even doing hard work in all weather, and I'm much happier!

As for chickens, when I had my big flock a few years back, I had what seemed like a little of everything. My Hamburgs were too flighty for me, but SOOO gorgeous, by far the prettiest of the whole flock, and decent layers of little white eggs (looked just like grocery store eggs, but tasted much better :). My black sex-link hybrids were good layers but just ho-hum chickens in every other possible way. The buff Orps were certainly the calmest and gentlest, even the rooster was a big softy who got pushed around by bantams, but definitely not feed-efficient layers. My favorite hen ever was a gold-laced Wyandotte, she just had a personality on her, and we enjoyed sitting in the sunshine together. (Oh, and she was a great layer, too!) My mom has chickens, as well: she swears by her Barnevelders, says her red sex-links used to be nasty to the others but have calmed down as they've aged, and likes her bantam Ameracaunas even though they're too broody to be good layers.

Phoebe said...

Hi Deborah, I just happened by your blog by way of a few links through other "Homesteaders". I'm sure your feeling the 11th hour is upon you. You can check out our homesteading blog and see if anything grabs you. http://thereluctanthomesteaders.blogspot.com/
We have raised several breeds of chickens over the years. We have two flocks right now- Dominiques "Doms" as my dad called them when he was a kid, and Cuckoo Marans. I love the Marans', they are intelligent, not too broody, good foragers and smart enough to get into the hen house (not the trees) so I can lock them up for safety. They lay very well for a dual purpose breed and the eggs are gorgeous chocolate brown.
I just put up a post about our "chicken tractor" experiment.
Stop by, We'd be happy to help.

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