On Homesteading and Minimalism

Homesteading and Minimalism

Can homesteading and minimalism go together? Both concepts speak to identity. Ultimately, you decide, what does the label mean?

Then, whether the labels apply to you.

Being a homesteader can mean doing more things yourself, being more self-sufficient, and resisting the culture of materialism.

Being a minimalist usually includes defining a personal focus on what really matters, and engaging in an ongoing process of weeding out things that do not add value or meaning.

woman in yellow long sleeve shirt lying on couch reading
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If your ideal homestead includes land, trees, and livestock, then you must own the objects needed to provide care and maintenance. The care itself might be part of an intentional lifestyle.

If being a minimalist includes only owning an arbitrary number of items, you might fall into the trap of being forced to buy items when you need them, and regularly discarding items just to avoid ownership.

shallow focus photo of gray steel trash bin
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Intentional Living

I have been thinking a lot about the themes of a life well-lived. There are certain things that I call “part of my definition of the good life.”

A good example of this is books. Notoriously, books are heavy and not very practical if you move around a lot. I have used a Kindle device, Audible subscription, and Kindle app on my phone at various times. But, I love books.

selective focus photography of brown wooden book shelf
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

So, I have found a balance. I buy books secondhand, and I keep a limited number of books that I really like. I come back to them again and again.

But we do not keep accumulating them. Instead, we frequent the library, we use electronic sources, and we limit the size of the home library.

The good life looks different for everybody.

I find that with music, good food, good stories, and companionship, life is rich. Having material things on a bigger or grander scale does not enhance or replace the essentials.

L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

(What is essential is invisible to the eyes.)

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince

Commonalities of the Homesteader and Minimalist

Can you be both? I think so.

And what I like about it, is that both ideals can be scaled to your current life.

We don’t have to wait for the perfect life circumstances to come.

old tv set on bench in nature
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

You can practice minimalism in your attire or your bedroom.

You can practice homesteading in an apartment or on an acreage.

Commonalities include focus, resourcefulness, and efficiency.

Being mindful. Using resources, including your own time and energy, wisely.

firewood burning in fireplace
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

For more thoughts on homesteading and minimalism

  1. Medium – The 12 Design Principles of Permaculture as Rules of Living
  2. Morning Chores – 20 Tips to Help You Become a Minimalist Homesteader
  3. A Home Made From Scratch – Minimalism vs. Homesteading
  4. Homestead Hustle – Minimalism on the Homestead
  5. 15 Acre Homestead – Minimalism in the Home
  6. Couch to Homestead – 9 Essential Tips to Becoming a Minimalist Homesteader
white coffee mug
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Homestead Inspiration

Inspiration for the small homestead

Homestead inspiration in the suburbs

What is your homestead inspiration? Nutrition? Sustainability? Independence? Simple living?

With homesteading dreams, but practical constraints, it can be hard to focus on living a less consumerist life in the here and now.

Let’s live within our means.

Let’s produce more of our own food and keep our homes from being filled with a bunch of “stuff” without function or lasting value.

Finally, let’s cultivate free time, and spend it doing more than just watching TV. Yes, I love a good movie night, but I want to keep up skills and learn new skills.

red leaf on book
Photo by Davyd Bortnik

Homestead vs. practicality

Not everyone can up and move to the country, as many of us are still dependent on our jobs.

Country living homesteading (in the sense of having land and livestock) is a daily, time-consuming commitment that can take up a lot of time, effort, and resources.

It is worth counting the cost and making sure you want to do the work.

Living less wastefully

We live in a highly consumeristic, materialistic society. All too frequently, we buy things new and then send them to the landfill a short time later.

Planned obsolescence defines the lifespan of too many products.

Still, many items can be bought used (cell phones) or repaired (laptops) and a modern way of life enjoyed without fully buying into the production stream.

Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.

American proverb from the Great Depression era

Homestead inspiration for the small garden

Start small! You can do it. This is all supposed to be fun.

I believe that with life, homemaking, gardening, and even working, it is supposed to be fun. Without fun, something is not right.

I believe that in family life there is supposed to be fun in our day-to-day lives and interactions. Without fun, our relationships are out of balance.

orange fruit near pinecone gift wrap and maple leaves
Photo by Caroline Feelgood

Currently, I live in a suburb with a front yard and a backyard garden.

In our neighborhood, we get more wildlife than you might expect, which has been the primary barrier to food production.

There are also a lot of trees, which are beautiful and stately. They provide a lot of shade. Placement of plantings has to be very strategic to work around all that shade.

Now a few years into this, we are getting a few more berries, a few more squash and tomatoes, a lot more hickory nuts and just a couple of hazelnuts.

It is exciting to see our novice efforts at permaculture gardening starting to bear fruit, literally.

Here are a few of my sources of inspiration

  1. Tenth Acre Farm – Permaculture for the Suburbs
  2. Mother Earth News – 1-Acre Dreamin’
  3. Homestead.org – Permaculture Principles
  4. Atitalan Organics – Mapping Zones on Your Property
  5. Tenth Acre Farm – How to Develop the Permaculture Homestead in Phases
  6. Mother Earth News – 9 Permaculture Practices
  7. Food Tank – 16 Successful Projects Highlighting Permaculture Use

Whatever else is going on out there, when we’re on the homestead…

Let’s keep it cozy.

Fruit Trees for the Backyard

Thinking about backyard fruit trees?

Start by thinking about your motivation. What made you consider adding fruit trees to your yard in the first place? Are you interested in preserving your harvest, or just enjoying fresh fruit for a couple of months each year?

Next, what kind of fruit you and your family like to eat. If you already are eating some of your produce locally or in season, think about the types of fruit that you always look for or always notice when the season arrives. Consider some of the practical factors. Be realistic.

How much space do you have? How much work do you want to do? How long do you intend to stay at your current address? Most fruit trees take at least a few years to produce much, and many require another tree as a pollinator. Even self-fertile varieties will set more fruit if you have two trees.

It’s okay to start small. If you aren’t sure about the answers to those questions, a container plant is fine to begin with. A couple of strawberry plants, a Meyer lemon, or a fig tree, for instance. If you have a lot of area that is partially shaded, a shrub or bush may work better than a tree.

What is your climate zone?

Most of the time, it is easy to find the USDA hardiness zone for plants in the United States. Keep in mind that most food producing plants need full sunlight. I recommend making a map of your yard that firmly identifies which areas are in sun or shaded, and during which hours of the day. Then you know where trees can succeed.

You may be able to identify some generalities about the soil in your area. Is it clay, sand, or loam, primarily? Is it more acidic, or more alkaline? Often, there is a county extension service that will provide soil testing, and there are also online based services. Make sure you use a representative sample for testing.

red apples on tree

What are the benefits of fruit trees?

Fresh fruit in season, obviously. More bang for your buck in the long run, in terms of food produced per annual inputs.

Something you may not have considered is that even if you live somewhere with contaminated soil, the fruit will generally be safe to eat even if the soil contains heavy metals. While annual vegetables might need trucked-in soil with a barrier beneath it, trees are capable of filtering out this type of contamination.

Reference here: Monitoring and mitigation of toxic heavy metals and arsenic accumulation in food crops: A case study of an urban community garden

What is a fruit tree guild?

A common concept in permaculture design, a fruit tree guild mimics the way that different plants co-exist in nature. It is a community consisting of a fruit tree, understory plants, and ground cover plants, designed to produce food and herbs. The idea is simple, but this is something that I am just starting to learn about myself.

A popular blog post on the topic from Tenth Acre Farm here.

Where do I get fruit trees?

While I do advocate starting at a local nursery (if you are lucky enough to have one) or a local plant sale, I recognize that often the selection there is limited. At big box stores, the plants are often shipped all over the place and you may not really know what variety you are getting. I have obtained plants this way and had some fail, and others do just fine.

It is easy to order trees online, and I have found that there is a much wider and more specific selection of heirloom varieties and native plants such as highbush cranberries, online.

Let me know what fruit trees you might be thinking of planting. Are there other permaculture concepts catching your imagination lately?

September starts tomorrow and I am dreaming of all the kinds of pie…

Let’s keep it cozy.

Topics for Fall 2021

Fresh topics for fall 2021

After the big hiatus in 2021, I hope you are excited for some fresh topics in fall 2021.

I am so ready to get back into it here.

These are some of the things on my mind and in the garden as the growing season draws to a close. Let me know what you think, and if you have other topics you’d like to see!

Here are the topics already in the works.

In the garden

  • Apple trees: what, where, how they are doing, and more general thoughts on selecting fruit trees and maximizing yield with intensive planting
  • Pear trees: in the works, with elaboration on some of the strategies we are using to protect them
  • Plum trees: CAN IT BE DONE? I really don’t know, yet.
  • Blackberries: mainly an update on how fabulously hardy they are, and how much kids and adults like eating them straight off the branched-out second year canes, also tips for keep away from deer, squirrels, birds, and bugs.
blue berries close up photography

On the homesteading front more generally

  • Quail: how amazing they are for urban homesteading, how cool their tiny eggs are, garden benefits, but also some of the drawbacks and difficulties along the way
  • Home-making: another year in pursuing being both frugal and green (sustainable) while also making home improvements, working, participating in society, parenting, living, and learning by trial and error along the way
  • Resilience: My take on the myth of self-sufficiency. I love this myth. I’ve also come to love the reality that we are inherently social creatures. Interacting with our wonderful neighbors, being able to do church online, and keeping in touch with friends and family made all the difference in our pandemic/ 2020/ quarantine experience. Having a network of people you can count on is absolutely vital to weathering crises.
brown leaves photo
Photo by Lina Kivaka

Request topics for Fall 2021

I am so excited for this season, partly because it is still pretty warm and pretty humid. Just can’t wait for the crisp, cool weather. Partly because I am planning to plant some pear trees in October, and you know how excited I get about things like that. Partly because the deer demolished my summer garden and it hasn’t been a very productive season.

Hopefully, fall and winter 2021 will be great for everybody. Realistically, these are likely to be tough seasons for a lot of people. Working in healthcare, I am concerned about the evolving pandemic situation. All the more reason to find fun and positive things to plan and pursue.

What topics would you like to see here? Does anyone have good tips for perennials for herbal teas that work in zones 4-5? (Yes, we have peppermint and echinaceae already. LOVE those indestructible perennials.)

Let’s keep it cozy.

sliced apple on clear glass saucer
Photo by Polina Kovaleva