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During the time I was planning and dreaming of my own small homestead, I’d scour blogs and websites looking for ideas and inspiration. When my good friend Wardee from Traditional Cooking School started her Down Home Farm Tour series, I’d anxiously await each new posting. I loved taking a peek into the life of a homesteader or farmer! Even now, I’ll remember something I read in one of those tours and scour the archives for the article.
Currently, my friend Tammy from Trayer Wilderness is sharing her adventures via video as they build their new off-grid homestead. The Trayer’s camp kitchen and other adventures remind me of the early days at our little homestead.
Because of my love of virtual tours, I’ve given a peek into our homesteading life many times over the years. You can find those articles here. I figured it was time for another look, in an organized manner. And not just my homestead, this will be a recurring series featuring homesteads and farms.
Whether rural, suburban, or urban, we’d love for you to share what you are growing and doing in on your own homespun oasis. To share your own homestead/farm tour, complete the form here.
Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this virtual tour of my 20-acre homestead, which is continually a work in progress.
How long have you been farming or homesteading?
My husband and I became accidental homesteaders in 2010. We lived on two acres then and started with half a dozen chickens for eggs. There’s a rumor that chickens are a gateway animal, and that proved true for us.
After watching Food, Inc, we decided to add meat birds. We raised the birds in chicken tractors or free-range (depending on the breed) and then processed them for ourselves and others. The next year we did over 300 birds, taking orders in the spring and filling them through the summer. In 2013 we added Nigerian Dwarf goats. The following year we purchased our current place.
Starting with bare ground, our first addition was a small shed we’d camp in when we would come up to work on our place. The next year, dear friends built us a log cabin. They made it a weatherproof shell and we’ve been working on the inside since then. Take a tour here.
We moved here full-time in March of 2016. The cabin was still very rough with only a small solar system for electricity and without running water. We had a 1200-gallon cistern we would fill by hauling water from town and use a hand pump to retrieve water one gallon at a time for household and livestock use. It was quite the adventure!
Please share a brief description of your homestead.
We have 20 acres in the semi-arid high desert sagebrush plains. Though we do get around twenty inches of snow each winter, our annual precipitation is only about ten inches a year since the snow tends to be very dry. To help with the aridness, we harvest rainwater to use for the trees, garden, and livestock.
When we moved here over four years ago, the house was little more than a shell. We used an outdoor kitchen, didn’t have all the walls in place, nor did we have running water. Our electrical power was from a small solar system with a generator back up. Not the fancy generator that turns on when the batteries of the solar system get too low, but a crank-start generator that was terribly finicky.
Little by little we’ve worked on the house. It’s still not finished, and some days I wonder if it ever will be, but we now have grid-connected electricity, full-time running water, and walls!
What are you raising, growing, doing?
Currently, we have nine Nigerian Dwarf goats, over a dozen laying hens, and thirty meat birds. We’re trying something new and raising a fall batch of meat birds.
During the summer we raise them in chicken tractors, but because the weather is turning cold, we’re using a small shed that has two stalls in it for goat birthing season or other times we need to separate a goat or two from the herd. With a thick layer of hay on the ground, the chickens spend lots of time pecking and scratching.
This was our first year for an actual garden. With only the harvested water and retrieving water from the hand pump, before we had two small garden boxes for lettuce, radishes, and other simple things. The garden boxes were set up to grow from early spring (before the last frost) until winter with the addition of salvaged shower doors.
Last fall, we hooked onto the grid (local power company) and now have running water, which makes everything easier! We do still use the rain barrels but don’t need to rely on them solely.
Our actual garden did better than expected, but I’m certainly glad we don’t have to survive off of it! At our old two-acre place, it took a couple of years to have a well-producing garden. Next year should be better, and I’ve already started ordering seeds and making plans. This year we planted several fruit trees and shrubs, and we plan to add a few more in the spring.
Why do you homestead/farm?
We originally started raising meat chickens in order to have a better-quality product to feed our family. That small enterprise expanded into more. While I don’t envision a time in the near future where we are able to sustain ourselves off our garden and livestock, I’m please with what we are able to do.
What do you love about it?
There’s so many great aspects! Raising our food is one. The experience of homesteading is something I love for our son. While he’s not always keen to help with the chores and maintenance needed, it’s still beneficial for him.
And where we live is amazing. We have a wilderness area nearby for hiking, hunting, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Our location is definitely something I love!
What is the biggest challenge?
Time is our biggest challenge. My husband and I both have full-time jobs, plus I have my writing. There’s always something that needs to done on the homestead, and many times those are time-sensitive. The goats need to be milked at a certain time. When the garden is ripe, it’s time to pick. When the chickens are grown, it’s time to butcher.
Finding a balance with everything can be challenging.
Any future plans?
We’ll likely expand the garden next year and will be adding more fruit trees and berry vines. And we’re replacing the cheap plastic gutters on the house with higher quality ones. We’ve been talking about adding American Blackbelly Sheep. They’re a hair sheep (no shearing) and are great for meat. But I don’t think that will happen for a few years.
What advice would you share with someone considering the lifestyle?
Go in with a plan but be flexible. My husband is a certified permaculture designer. We made big plans based on his knowledge of our place. Big, overwhelming plans. While we’ve kept those plans in mind, we’ve broken it down into smaller chunks. We’ve always changed some of the plans as time went on, and we’ve lived on site.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
While definitely busy and sometimes overwhelming, I love our life. Sitting outside watching the chickens is better than any television show.
Enjoy a photo tour around the homestead!
Our original water harvest system. We’ve made a few changes since this photo and have more changes to come. Each side of the house has its own barrel. There’s now a new addition on the side and the front of the cabin, along with a garage, offering more opportunity for water harvesting. For every 1000 square feet of roof surface, an estimated six hundred gallons of water can be captured per one inch of rain.
This was our first water heater! It was moveable, so we could tilt it to capture the sun. The glass cover resulted in super hot water. After this photo, we started switching to glass bottles (for health reasons), which produced even hotter water. During the winter, water is always heating on the woodstove.
Before the bathrooms were finished, this was where we showered. The concrete pavers and pea gravel did a fine job of drainage. We added a chair at the front and extended the walkway so there was a spot for removing shoes before entering the shower area. Inside are a couple of hooks and shelves.
My first kitchen! Before our cabin shell was completed, we’d come up and camp. Once the shell was done and we moved in full time, this table (complete with sinks) was moved into the house. We added a couple of buckets under the sinks to capture water.
Right now we have eighteen or so laying hens along with way too many roosters. The excess roosters will soon be going to freezer camp. We don’t supplement with light in our coop, so we’re not getting many eggs at the moment since daylight stimulates egg production.
Our moveable chicken tractors. This was the first year of chicken tractors on the new homestead. As the chickens are moved through the area, they fertilize the grass resulting in a lusher product the next year. While we still don’t have beautiful pasture, it’s much improved as time goes on. The chickens are Cornish-Cross, and we process them when they’re around eleven weeks old. Many people grow them faster (processing between seven and nine weeks), but at our elevation, we try not to rush them so that there are fewer issues.
Isn’t she adorable? Our Nigerian Dwarf goats are very small when they’re born. At maturity, they’re still only around two feet at the shoulders.
This was the third or fourth version of my kitchen. Once again, it was torn apart when we added a dining room addition last year. The main wall (with the stove) remains the same, minus the small dorm-sized fridge. One of these days, we’ll have it finished and I’ll share the newest photos.
Our main heat and back up cooking area! This woodstove does a great job of heating the entire house. During the cold winter months, it is constantly burning. Since it’s always hot, it doubles as a cookstove for soups, stews, chili, beans, and more. I’ve even made bread and cakes on it and in it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my 20-acre homestead tour!
Would you like to be featured?
Do you have a farm or homestead? I’d love to know what you are doing! If you’d like to share your rural, suburban, or urban oasis, please complete your information here. I can’t wait to learn more about your little piece of heaven!