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.

Green Green Green is the Thing

Green for St. Patrick’s Day!

Today we celebrate all things green, with all the green pictures from last year’s garden! Once again, it is time for March Madness, grow lights, and starting seedlings indoors in zones 4-6 or so.

Whether you enjoy green beer or not, let’s use this week as a reason to celebrate! Celebrate spring. Celebrate a new year. Celebrate health, if you are blessed with it. Celebrate a hot cup of coffee. Celebrate the first baby seedlings poking their heads up out of the potting mix.

I lost all my stored garden seeds.

I am actually behind on my spring planting this year. My shoebox of garden seeds was THROWN AWAY to my great sadness. It used to live in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. Then, we got a new fridge.

Maybe you can see where this is going.

The new fridge turned out not to work, but we had already put a few things into it. We called and were able to have another new fridge delivered the next day. The replacement fridge worked just fine, and is still going strong…

You can see where this is going.

We took out the few things we had put into the original replacement refrigerator–except for the onions and the box of garden seeds in the bottom drawer. Also, I failed to realize this. Until a few weeks later when I was ready to start planting. So, now it will be a little while longer.

Anyone who keeps a stash of garden seeds will appreciate how crestfallen I was to realize that probably $40 worth of seeds including, marigolds, a variety of heirloom tomato and pepper seeds, and various annuals that we grow every year. I am not going to be able to replace all of the varieties in one go since that would be pretty wasteful.

The garden will be just fine, though.

Happy Spring!

green plant clover close up photography
Photo by Elias Tigiser on Pexels.com

Why Crocuses Bring the Spring

Crocuses are the first spring ephemerals

Why crocuses? Just a few weeks ago, snow and ice were everywhere. Yesterday, walking through the dormant garden, we found the first pop of color! These little beauties add a lovely violet accent to the lawn. The dormant garden may be sleeping, but there is actually so much life just beneath the surface.

I think these were originally planted in a border along the lawn, some years ago, but they show up along the entire lawn now. We love it! We are no-till and of course, working towards a permaculture garden. So a healthy layer of dead leaves is serving as mulch. Doesn’t seem to bother these little blooms at all!

Three purple crocus flowers viewed from above.
Happy crocuses in the morning sunshine.

Spring lifts the spirits

At this point in the year, spring is well on its way. I’ve started some seeds indoors. The indoor trees in their pots are starting to go outside during the day to harden them off. (Our lemon tree actually sprouted some new leaves!)

As I write this, I realize that the aloes, fern, and a small cactus will feel left out. Not to worry, they have now gone out into the sunshine as well.

green and gray bird perching on aloe vera plant
Photo by Jean van der Meulen on Pexels.com

Still, nothing is really happening outside… yet. Well, not in the garden.

A lot is happening in the forest. There are visible buds on the top branches of the tallest trees. The migratory birds have returned in force. The geese have paired off. The mallards have returned. The flock of turkey buzzards down the road seems to have doubled in size since last spring. No eagles yet. Many hawks and owls. The resident heron circled a few times yesterday on reconnaissance.

In the garden, though, the dominant color scheme is still wintery. So these signs of rebellion are very welcome!

About a dozen purple crocuses bursting through the brown leaves.
Looking cheerful

Crocuses are hardy perennials

Hidden for most of the year, the crocuses are ready to take their moment in the sun the instant winter starts to recede. They rely on a robust root system just under the lawn. Mowing doesn’t bother them. Foot traffic over the grass in the warmer months has no effect.

In fact, they seem to spread a little further every year. Since the grass isn’t much to look at this early anyway, all the better. A little later in the spring we will have so many bluebells. I can’t wait. Do you have a favorite spring ephemeral? To me, they are just the best.