Below this story are all the photographs of the new homestead. If you have a second, let me tell you a short story, and maybe you’ll get an idea of why we homestead. If you’re ready to see the pictures, scroll down…
Years ago (more than I care to mention) when I was in grade school, I received an assignment to do a paper on The Great Depression. If you’ll remember (likely none of you reading this can), in 1929 there was a rise in unemployment, overproduction of goods with an underconsumption of those goods, and high debt, which together led to the failure of nearly 9,000 banks and eventually the stock market. Mamma heard about my project and said, “Let’s go visit Grandma Kelly. She lived through The Great Depression. I bet she’ll give you a first-hand view to what she suffered through during that time. You’ll get a much better idea of how bad The Great Depression was from Grandma Kelly than from World Book (you Googlers don’t know about World Book, do ya?).” So off we went on a perfectly good Saturday to visit probably the grumpiest grandmother any child could have. I was spending a Saturday working on a school assignment, and my mother was curing a guilt trip for not visiting over the past few months.
Kelly was a small town in Louisiana that never grew up. Even today, the greater-greater metropolitan area of Kelly, Louisiana has a whopping 523 people. Back in the day, Louisiana roads meandered about on the high grounds. Later, the Corps of Engineers would build up the road base and straighten them out. In 1926, US Highway 165 was established, and though it runs much farther north and south, it was a much easier route to travel from Monroe to Alexandria, and, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your paradigm), it bypassed the little town of Kelly by about one mile, just across Black Bayou.
When we pulled up to the old, white, wooden house, with the quarter-round screened porch, with the doors and windows wide open, Grandma Kelly was swinging on her porch swing, trying to get the heat off her. Though the fall of the year was well underway, Louisiana is known for its two seasons: summer and January. Hugs and kisses ensued, and a bit of iced tea was poured to bring the visit together.
Asking Grandma Kelly for anything required guts and resoluteness. She was a lady who felt it necessary to provide everything for herself and did not care for anyone who asked her for anything…information included. On a later visit, we found that she had a piece of granite purchased and her name and her birth date already inscribed. It was sitting in her living room. “Well, why not? Ain’t gonna enjoy it when I’m dead. Know I’ll need it, so I went on ‘head and bought it so I can enjoy it ‘for I’m gone.” Who buys their tombstone and puts it in their living room to “enjoy?” Grandma Kelly did.
Steeling myself, I asked, “Grandma, tell me about The Great Depression.”
Grandma Kelly was still on the porch swing, with her left leg over her right, rocking back and forth using her right toes on the grey floor of the white porch. She looked down over the rims of her black, dorokitty eyeglasses. She looked away, then up at my mother, who was sitting in the rocker across the way. Mamma quickly took a sip of her tea and almost dropped the Mason jar, which was slippery with condensation from the humid afternoon. “This is good tea, Grandma,” she said lightly.
Grandma Kelly looked back at me. “I don’t know ‘bout no depression,” she replied. “They said there was some Great Depression, but I didn’t know ‘nothin ‘bout it till it was near over. We didn’t have ‘nothin before The Great Depression, and we didn’t have nothin’ after it was over, so we didn’t get bothered with that sorta stuff.”
You see, Grandma Kelly had about two or three acres of land around her home that she grew crops on. She did grow her lilies, magnolias, and her Choctaw crepe myrtle, but she always had something growing that she could eat. Tomatoes in the summer and greens in the winter, she was always tending to her garden, knowing that without it, she wouldn’t eat. And eat she did — she was not a thin lady (neither too heavy, either).
You see, we know that about three times per day, we are looking for a plate to put some food on. Plates with no food are a cause for concern. When there’s no food on the table, folks lose care as to what’s the resolution of the latest TV set, who’s leading the league in wins, or how low are the current interest rates on new cars. When folks don’t have food, they begin searching quickly for methods to bring that food into their homes. Given enough time, some folks will do some pretty terrible things to feed themselves and maybe even some horrific things to satisfy a starving child. Yet they live their lives today on that knife’s edge, thinking that someone will provide for them if the time comes…or in complete denial that such a day ever could come at all.
I am not a doomsday-er, nor am I fearful of the future. The reason I am neither of these is because I homestead. Will the day come when the grocery stores have no food? Na, probably not. Will prices of the food continue to rise? Without a doubt. Will the food be less healthy (fewer nutrients)? Again, without a doubt. Will they continue to pour thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals on our food? Who will doubt that?
Have you seen the bumper sticker: “No farms, no food?” What does that mean? What are they trying to tell us when they stick this message on the back of their cars and pickups? Is it that they want urban sprawl to stop? Are they tired of seeing millions of dollars paid for prime farm land and a thousand homes built where sugar beets and corn used to grow? After all, the farmer could say “no” to those millions of dollars.
But homesteading is not just about food and gardening (though we spend a lot of time on this subject). It’s about finding what works for you to ensure your needs are met. Homesteading is about self-sufficiency in your nutritional needs and your financial needs (such as minimizing debt). Homesteading is less about doing-it-yourself and more about being-able-to-do-it when the need comes. It’s about providing for yourself and those you are responsible for, as well as for your neighbors and your community. If your needs are met, then you can help meet the needs of others around you…and the concern of others should be part of your framework that forms your ways of thinking and the methodology of how you live your life. There’s nothing wrong with being able to enjoy a TV program or knowing more about soccer or football stats than the average sports-lover. But if you haven’t ensured that your future dependence on society is at a minimum, you may be…well…less than responsible and not self-sufficient.
Over the next few weeks, months, and years, we are going to talk about food. From field to plate, we’ll talk about it all. The main focus of Back to the Homestead will be on cultivating the ground, planting the seed, growing the plant, harvesting the produce, and cooking the goods, as well as preserving the goods. As well, we are going to discuss small-sized livestock, building structures, solidifying our finances, and creating general state of self-sufficiency that will help us feel more in control of our lives.
We homestead now not because we have to; we homestead now so we’re ready when we need to.
Now for the Photos!
Each photograph is actually the product of three to four photographs merged together to get a wide view of the area. The images may seem a bit distorted because there’s about 90 degrees of view crammed into a 800×600 image. ENJOY!
The above image is of the front lawn area. Man! What a spot of ground covered with grass. I am not fond of mowing, nor am I fond of picking weeds…or looking at bare dirt. For now, this is a wonderful area to look at. Our plan for the front is to plant trees…and LOTS of them. We’ll use the existing lawn area to “hold” the ground and soil for us and in the spring, create kidney bean-shaped beds and plant fruit trees.
Here is another view taken from the road’s edge. The front is almost a third of the 1.1 acres. There’s a lot of area to plant trees and other perennial producers.
The above view is of an area that does not receive any automated irrigation. “Automated irrigation?” Who gets that? People who move in, and it’s already installed. Here in Southwestern Idaho, we don’t get much rain, and in-ground sprinklers are the “norm” for most homes here. Our plan for this area is to set up drip irrigation to hydrate trees and herbs, as well as grasses and other flowering perennials. The barberry bushes and the mugo pines are a bit too overgrown. And, though most of the property is a blank slate, the front has a few “features” that will have to be modified.
The southeastern corner of the back is on the shady side of the house. This is where we’ll set up the “staging” area. Working in the sun is great…unless it’s 100 degrees outside and in the middle of the day. This image is a bit distorted due to the photo merge. Nonetheless, it gives you a good idea of the area.
This view is actually a 90-degree corner that I crammed into this image. It gives you a great idea of where my sun is in relationship to the property itself. I will have to say that I will enjoy that north-facing back patio looking over the garden area.
It was a perfect day for photographing…note the rainbow in the sky. This view was taken with the sun (see previous photo) at my back at the northwestern corner of the property.
This will be the “hot” side of the property during the summer. Fast-growing trees will help with this. I am thinking about planting lots of sunchokes and grapes here to shade the chickens. Though it may get toasty here, I think it will be perfect for the birds. The neighboring property does have some taller foliage, and with the fast-growing sunchokes, they’ll be as happy as “hens in a hen house.” Were going to enjoy our new homestead.
That’s about it. It’ll be a wonderful property to design and farm. Check back each week and see what’s new. Sign up for the newsletter: