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. – 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.

Top 3 Favorite Apps for Health – Spring ‘21

These were the top 3 favorite apps that helped me stay sane in 2020. I am continuing to use and enjoy them here at the start of 2021. Initially, I wanted to make a longer list, but while there were other apps that I used, these are the winners.

When we try to make healthy habits, it helps to have accountability and tangible results. Another key part of healthy habits is our community. In 2020, for many of us our community became our immediate household, and online interaction.

man in gray shirt looking at city buildings
Photo by Norbert Kundrak on

Zombies, Run!
Running app with audio narrative, fitness

All the features of a running app such as Nike Run or Strava, with an exciting and interactive narrative! Zombie apocalypse chic. Excellent audio. Similar to a radio show with a new episode every run. Includes home workouts. Also features side quests and additional features and stories. I find the basic episodes provide a lot of mileage, but it’s nice to know I won’t run out of material any time soon.

Looking to gamify fitness? Look no further.

I went for the paid subscription because, without going to the gym in 2020, I was spending a lot more time with this app. To get my money’s worth, I will continue to use it up through 2021.

faceless person jogging in empty park
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

365 Gratitude
Simple and secure daily journal (favorite apps)

This one I started during a particularly low point in 2020. The customizable features let you decide which features you want and when. Do you prefer reminders on a schedule? It’s all up to you. There is a paid subscription, about $30 USD for one year. A lot cheaper than therapy.

You can trial it for free, too.

It is supposed to be very secure and saved on your phone. If you are not much of a journal person, you may find it helpful to have specific prompts that are easy to fill out as brief or as lengthy as you prefer. (Mine were brief, but it is still a healthy habit.)

Another feature of 2020 for many of us was doom-scrolling. The stressful side of social media was maximized. This app is a good alternative.

crop woman writing down notes in diary
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Plant Nanny
Simplest and best app for hydration (favorite apps)

Specifically for people like me who are trying to drink more water. The graphics are cutesy and cartoony. I turned off the sound. This is a cheap app with settings for your body and activity level.

shallow focus photography of yellow lemon near glass mason jar and glass decanter
Photo by Pixabay on

Digital Minimalism

Minimalism, eco-minimalism, sustainability, and zero-waste/ low-waste, are all having a moment right now. Really encouraging to see this trend. In seeking to live in a more conscious way, let’s consider our digital footprint and digital clutter as well.

How many times do you look at your phone? How much time do we spend with our screens? Paring down the apps can be almost as satisfying as paring down the wardrobe. Something to consider.

What favorite apps are you going to use day to day in 2021?