Homesteading

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Planning an Orchard for Your Homestead

planning an orchard for your homestead

I must confess… Just saying the word “orchard” makes me green with envy… Fruit trees do NOT thrive here in Wyoming, therefore, my dreams of a homestead orchard probably aren’t going to happen as long as we live here. So, I’ve invited Angi Schneider, author of The Gardening Notebook, to share her best tips for planning an orchard with us today…

Fruit trees and bushes are important on the homestead, with minimal effort they can supply your family with many pounds of produce every year.

Unfortunately, growing fruit is often one of the most neglected things on a homestead, especially on a small homestead.

Growing fruit takes time. Sometimes there will be years between planting and harvest. So, the sooner you get those fruit trees and bushes in the ground the sooner you’ll have a fruit harvest.

While fruit trees truly do take minimal effort, it’s not as easy as digging a hole, planting a tree and calling it good. There is some planning that needs to happen before you buy and plant your first fruit tree.

SchneiderPeeps - Mulberries ripening

 Planning an Orchard for Your Homestead

1. Make a list of all the fruits your family likes.

This is the time to dream. Even if you think something won’t grow in your climate, but your family likes it, write it down.

2. Do a little research to find out what varieties will actually grow in your climate.

You can search fruit trees for your gardening zone on the internet. If you don’t know what gardening zones you are in, you can find your cold hardiness zone by entering your zipcode in the USDA’s interactive map and you can find your heat zone on the American Horticulture Society’s website.  Talk with local gardening friends to find out what varieties grow well in your area. Also, don’t overlook your local nurseries. They have a vested interest in you being successful, so they are usually super helpful. Master Gardeners clubs can also be a helpful resource. One last thing to consider is chill hours, some fruits need a certain number of hours per year below 45°F to produce fruit. County Extension Co-operatives keep these records so if you cannot find your hours online you can always call your local office.
But don’t cross a fruit off your list just because you’re told it won’t grow in your climate. Some fruit trees grow very well in pots. Meyer lemon and Satsuma oranges are two citrus trees that can be grown in colder climates inside in a pot.

SchneiderPeeps - bee on citrus bloom
3. Learn what trees are self fertile and which ones are not.

Self fertile trees are exactly what they sound like – the flowers from this kind of tree will pollinate themselves. Here’s a list of most self fertile fruits: apricot, pomegranate, citrus, fig, grape, persimmon, most peaches, most berries, and European plums (although they do better with two varieties).
Some trees are not self fertile and need two trees to produce fruit. You need to make sure that the two trees are different varieties that bloom at the same time. Two trees of the same variety won’t work as pollinators and neither will two different varieties that don’t bloom at the same time. Now, that does not necessarily mean you have to have two trees on your property. If your neighbor has fruit trees, find out what kind he has, get a different variety and they can cross pollinate. This is a great way to get fruit in an urban yard, since the trees need to be within 50 feet of each other. Apples, pears, Japanese plums, cherries and nuts trees are not self-fertile and require a pollinator.

4. Determine how much space you have available to plant fruit trees and bushes.

If you live on an acre or less, you can still have an amazing orchard but you might have it spread out in different areas of your property instead of one large orchard area. Consider using any walls or fences and espaliering some of the fruit trees. An espaliered tree is a tree that you will prune in such a way that it fans out over the wall or fence. This is a great space saver and yet you’ll still get a lot of fruit. If you live on an urban or small homestead you will also want to consider planting dwarf trees. Dwarf trees are trees that are grafted onto a root stock that will not allow the tree to grow large so you get the same great fruit in less space. Standard size trees have about a 20 feet spread, semi-dwarf trees have about 12-15 feet spread and dwarf trees have about a 10 feet spread.
SchneiderPeeps - apple blossoms
5. Put your plans on paper.

This is the fun part! Get out some paper and colored pencils and map out your yard or acreage. Take your list of varieties and start putting them on your map.  Go outside and walk the map and make sure your plans will work. Is there enough space for a full size tree of the variety you have listed? Is there enough sun? Is there an adequate water source? When the tree is full size will it cast a shadow on an area that you don’t want shaded, your vegetable garden for instance?  When planning your spacing you can stagger your trees to get more in less space. Make sure you keep this map in a safe place, like your gardening notebook, so you can refer back to it when it’s time to plant your trees.
6. Don’t think you have to plant the entire plan this season.

An orchard is a long term relationship, so you have time. Try to add just a few new trees or bushes each year and before you know it you will have a full orchard. It’s a good idea to start with either the fruits that your family loves the most or the most expensive ones to buy.
Schneiderpeeps - full Meyer lemon tree

How Much Fruit Can a Home Orchard Produce?

Just to give you an idea of just how much fruit these trees can add to your homestead, a mature lemon tree can give you over 200 pounds of lemons, a mature peach tree can give you well over 75 pounds, so can a mature plum tree. That is a lot of fruit!
So, unless you plan on selling your fruit or have a lot of friends who you love to have freshly picked fruit, you don’t need more than one or two trees of each fruit. Diversity is key in the home orchard.

planning an orchard for your homestead
About Angi

Angi Schneider is a minister’s wife and homeschooling mom.  She is passionate about growing food for her family and living a simple life. She blogs their homesteading and homeschooling adventures at SchneiderPeeps.com and is the author of The Gardening Notebook which she wrote to help other gardeners remember all the great information they are learning.

39 Ways to Make Money Homesteading

how to make money while homesteading

“Eh… So where does your money come from?”

Hands down, this is the question I get the most often…  And if people aren’t asking it, I can tell they are thinking it. ;)

First off, let’s clarify a few things:

Like I mentioned in my homestead myth-busting post, becoming a modern homesteader doesn’t necessarily mean you head for the hills, go completely off-grid, and live off the land entirely. (Although I suppose you could go that route if you wanted…)

how to make money from homesteading

For me, modern homesteading is a magical concoction of old-fashioned skills mixed with our modern-day conveniences. Although we raise a lot of food on our property, are obsessive DIYers, and try to be as self-sufficient as possible, my husband has always had a “job in town” and there are times when I’m quite thankful for the local grocery store. It’s a balance.

That said, I think most of us homestead-folks would agree: the sign you’ve officially “arrived” as a modern homesteader is the day you create an income exclusively from your land. It’s something definitely on our list of goals, and we are achieving it in our own way (more on that later). However, we didn’t start out this way, and we pursued our homesteading dreams on one-income for several years before my business took off.

Thankfully, the ways of making money while homesteading are endless. Here is a list to jump-start your entrepreneur juices—>

(this post contains affiliate links)

39 Ways to Make Money Homesteading

should you wash eggs?

Selling Food Products

The downside to selling food you’ve grown or made, is dealing with restrictive food safety laws (especially in regards to meat and milk). Do your homework first and looked into your state’s regulations extensively before proceeding. One strategy to help avoid red tape is to sell the animals themselves, rather than the food product. For example: if you are raising meat chickens for profit, you can often sell the bird without as many hoops to jump through, as compared to selling cut and wrapped chicken breasts.

1. Sell eggs — someone is ALWAYS wanting farm-fresh eggs!

2. Sell extra milk from your goats or cow.

3. Start a cowshare or goatshare program — This is one way to work around raw milk laws– just do your homework first.

4. Sell cheeses or other homemade dairy products.

5. Sell broilers or meat birds (Joel Salatin’s book, Pastured Poultry Profits, will give you the scoop on this.)

6. Raise and sell grassfed steers for beef

7. Raise and sell heritage turkeys, ducks, or geese.

8. Raise and sell tilapia or other farmed fish (This is actually something we’ve looked into extensively, believe it or not! It’s my husband’s dream to own a fish farm.)

9. Grow extra vegetables and herbs to sell at your local farmer’s market

10. If you have an orchard, berry bushes, or fruit trees, sell fresh fruit

11. Make homemade baked goods and sell them at your local farmers market. Homemade french bread, buns, or cinnamon rolls are always a hit!

12. Make and sell homemade jams, jellies, and preserves

13. Keep bees and sell local honey and beeswax

14. Become a mushroom farmer, and delight the ‘shroom lovers in your area.

Animal Husbandry

vegetarian eggs and chickens

As interest in modern homesteading increase, more and more people are on the lookout for dairy animals, heritage-breed chickens, and other options for increasing their self-sufficiency. If you plan to breed animals, please become knowledgeable in the bloodlines, breeding practices, and desired characteristic of that breed. Do not breed just anything that comes along–know your stuff and strive to create the best progeny possible.

15. Incubate eggs and sell day-old chicks to other homesteaders

16. Raise worms — either for fishing purposes, or raise red wigglers to sell to other people interested in compost worms

17. Breed, raise, and train family milk cows or dairy goats to sell to other homesteaders

18. Breed sheep or meat goats

19. Keep a ram, buck, or bull and charge for stud services.

20. Start a dog boarding service or pet-sitting business.

21. Raise bottle calves, sheep, or goats.

22. Keep fiber animals and sell wool

Homemade Products & Services

candle4

Have skills?  Put ‘em to use!

23. Make and sell homemade soaps, lotions, and balms

24. Make and sell homemade candles

25. Put your knitting or sewing skills to work and create homemade hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, and more

26. Use your carpentry skills to create rustic handmade furniture or other wooden items

27. Use metal-working skills to create personalized signs or horseshoe creations

28. Have land that needs clearing? Cut and sell firewood.

29. Rent out your pasture or land for others to graze their livestock on

30. Become a compost-master and sell the best garden fertilizer for miles around

31. Use your greenhouse to grow and sell bedding plants and seedlings

Create an Experience

how to can pumpkin

People are enchanted with the idea of farming and homesteading right now. Share your unique lifestyle with them!

32. Create a U-Pick Farm and allow others to harvest their own fruit, veggies, or berries for a fee

33. Turn your house into a Bed & Breakfast and give your guests a first-hand taste of homestead life

34. Grow a pumpkin patch, and create the ultimate fall farm experience in October.

35. If you live in an especially picturesque location, rent out your pasture, barn, or land for weddings, parties, photo shoots, or other events.

36. Start a Community-Supported-Agriculture program (CSA).

Teach Others

printbook

Many aspects of homesteading are not second-nature to most people, and they’ll happily pay you to show them the ropes.

37. Start a blog or website — This is near and dear to my heart, as it is the income stream which has allowed us to create a full-time income while I stay at home to raise the kids. Blogging is HARD work and takes a lot of time, but it’s also very fulfilling. This post explains how I’ve created my blogging income, and I also have an online course where I’ll teach you my “secrets”, if blogging appeals to you.

38. Teach classes — Cheesemaking, fiber arts, meat processing, soap making, candle making, beekeeping… If you have mastered an aspect of homesteading, there’s a good chance others will pay to learn from you!

39. Write and publish a book — Self-publishing makes becoming an author easier than ever. I personally have published through Amazon Createspace, and you can also publish via Kindle, too.

The main thing all of these ideas have in common? They all take time and effort. Starting your own business or becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll have to make a plan, overcome obstacles, and push through the times you want to give up.

The reward for the blood, sweat, and tears? Massive satisfaction, and a well-deserved income. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy, but it’s absolutely and totally worth it. :)

My Favorite Homestead Income Resources:

39 ways to make money while living the modern homesteading lifestyle

 

 

Best Winter Chore Clothes for Homesteaders

the best winter chore clothes for hometeaders, farmers, and country folk

Rosy red cheeks, lightly falling snowflakes, and mugs of homemade hot chocolate

When most people think of winter, I imagine those are some of the first things to come to mind.

Me?

Well, let’s just say the visions dancing through my head tend to lean towards boots caked in slushy manure, a mudroom with mountains of coats and gloves, and perpetual brown puddles on the tile floor… But that’s just life when you live in a climate with heavy-duty winters–

I’ve had a number of you email me and ask what exactly we wear during our subzero winter days, so I’ve decided to break down our winter chore “uniform” today. It’s not exactly stylish (unless you’re a penguin… or a giant marshmallow…) but after spending eleven winters working and surviving here in Wyoming, I’ve figured out some tricks to stay (mostly) warm.

(If you’re curious about our severe Wyoming winters, check out my blizzard preparation post. It has some jaw-dropping pics from our first year here on the homestead. And this short video will give you a glimpse of a ground blizzard. When it comes to snow, Wyoming doesn’t mess around.)

the best winter chore clothes for hometeaders, farmers, and country folk

Best Winter Chore Clothes for Homesteaders

Lots of Layers

My least favorite part of winter chores is how long it takes me to get dressed before going outside… However, layers are your friend when it comes to staying warm during barn chores, so it’s worth the extra time it takes to layer up.

I wear hoodies pretty much from September through May (so glamorous, huh? At least it saves me time on clothes shopping…), and they always make up my foundational layer. I prefer heavier Carhartt or Underarmour hoodies, as they tend to be a bit warmer.

Over that I often wear a quilted duck vest (like this one). In the fall or spring this is usually all I need. However, if the wind is really blowing, or it’s the dead of winter, I always add the next item on the list—>

the best winter chore clothes for homesteaders, farmers, and country folk
The rarely-photographed Prairie Husband.

Carhartt Coat

AKA the farmer/rancher uniform. I’m pretty sure every single person I know here in Wyoming owns a variation of the Carhartt work coat. There are a bazillion different styles, and you just can’t go wrong with them. (You can often find generic versions as well– if you don’t want to pay for the label.)

I prefer the kind with the hood, as I usually put up my hoodie’s hood, and then pull the coat’s hood over the top of that. The other handy aspect are:

a) These coats have ample pockets for carrying stuff (just don’t put your eggs in there– it never ends well).

b) The outer material generally resists tearing when you snag it on a barbed wire fence. (I’m not saying it’s impossible to tear them, but they much tougher than shiny ski jacket material)

the best winter chore clothes for hometeaders, farmers, and country folk

Insulated Overalls

I don’t wear these every day, but when the weather calls for them, they are seriously the best thing ever. When it’s 20 below and the wind is blowing, you’ll feel like someone is stabbing your legs with a knife while wearing regular jeans. And if you’re doing something especially muddy, they do a wonderful job of protecting your clothes underneath.

While you can get uninsulated coveralls, I recommend investing in the insulated versions, since they are much, much warmer. (That is, unless you want a pair for spring/fall, and another pair for winter. That’s totally cool too). These are the ones I have (I’m not a Carhartt Sales Rep– promise. I just love their stuff!)

I still have the first pair of overalls I bought when I moved to Wyoming, and they are still going strong. Mine are well worn and display a lovely collection of manure stains, blood stains, and cattle tattoo ink from my days as a Vet Tech, but that just adds character, right?

the best winter chore clothes for hometeaders, farmers, and country folk

Wildrag/Silk Scarf

I know there are all sorts of cute knit scarves floating around these days, but I will forever be loyal to silk scarves. Also known as “wildrags” by the buckaroo crowd, these are an absolutely necessity from keeping the wind from blowing down your neck. (And they don’t add a lot of extra bulk). I wrap mine around my neck twice and tie it in a rather unceremonious knot, but here’s how to tie it like a real cowboy.

You can grab them in a ton of beautiful colors and patterns. Just make sure you’re getting the 100% silk ones.

winter-barn-hat

A Good Hat

Of course, you can always opt for a beanie or watch cap to keep your head warm during chores, but I’ve never been a huge fan of them (I’m just weird, I guess).

I usually just wear a regular ball cap (mostly to keep my hair out of the way) and then throw my hood up over the top.

My hubby prefers a wool cap like this one– the fold down flap adds extra ear protection if you need it.

the best winter chore clothes for homesteaders, farmers, and country folk

Winter Gloves

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with gloves… Warm fingers are definitely a good thing, but I often feel like gloves just get in my way… I like to feel what I’m doing–especially when working with animals.

Here are a few of the options I keep in my glove arsenal:

Basic knit gloves/Roping gloves: Cheap and decent enough during the spring/fall, however, forget about it if it’s really cold. And if you pick up a flake of hay, it’ll stick to the gloves like velcro which is super annoying.

Basic leather work gloves: I like these for digging in the dirt, fencing, or doing any other heavy work that might result in torn skin or splinters. The down side? They aren’t super warm, and if they get wet, your hands will freeeeeeeeze.

Latex dipped knit gloves: My hubby introduced me to these, and I love ‘em. They are especially handy if you are doing anything outside that requires getting your hands wet (like draining hoses, etc).

Insulated leather gloves: These are the ones I reach for when I need extreme insulation, or plan to be outside for extended periods of time. They are a bit bulkier than I would like, but it’s worth it.

the best winter chore clothes for homesteaders, farmers, and country folk

Muck Boots

Wellies, gumboots, wellingtons, muck-a-lucks, bogs… Regardless of what you call them– tall boots are a homesteader must-have. I’m always sort of bummed in the summer when it get’s too hot to wear my boots, since they are SO handy to pull on when I need to run outside (which is approximately 1.5 billion times per day). Everyone seems to have their favorite brand, but I’ve been super happy with my Bogs so far. They offer more support that the ones I had previously and always keep  my toes toasty.

While uninsulated rubber boots abound, I recommend seeking out an insulated boot if you are homesteading in colder climates. The plain rubber ones are fine for rainy days, but will NOT be enough when the snow starts to fly.

Thermal Underwear

Last but not least… if you tend to be a bit more cold-blooded, you’ll probably want to invest in a pair of longjohns or thermal underwear. I generally opt for my overalls when I need extra warmth, but always have a pair of longjohns tucked away in case I need a bit more mobility. (Because insulated coveralls kind of make you feel like a walking marshmallow). 

Your turn! What’s your #1 favorite piece of gear for homesteading in the winter?

the best winter chore clothes for homesteaders, farmers, and country folk

 

 

 

 

7 Reasons to Start Homesteading Today

homesteading today

So, you say you’re still on the fence about homesteading?

I get it. I really do.

Attempting to make the switch from buying all your food at the grocery store without a second thought, to someone who suddenly has an insatiable desire to garden and milk goats is quite the transition… Ya know?

And then you have the whole “convincing the family/spouse” hurdle… Sometimes it’s easy to persuade them their future lies between rows of homegrown, GMO-free corn and beans, while in other cases, it can be a bit of a struggle to help them see the “vision”.

It’s easy to come up with reasons NOT to homestead in our day and age: (“It’s inconvenient”, “People will think you’re a hippie“, “Why grow food when you can buy it at the grocery store?”) but I’m here to tell you it’s worth it anyway. Really and truly.

If you’ve been hemming and hawing about the best time to start your new homesteading adventure, let me tell you a secret: The best time to start working towards your goals is always NOW. Even if it means taking the most minuscule of baby steps. Even if you face setbacks. Even if your goals will cause people to question your sanity. (And it WILL happen, especially when you bring home your first goat.)

So just in case you need a little extra push, allow me to present to you….

7 Reasons to Start Homesteading TODAY

modern homesteading

1. It connects you with your food.

Our society is disturbingly unaware of how our food arrives on our table. Kids don’t have a clue their hamburger once had eyes and a nose, or that their french fries grew in the ground (in dirt? ewwwwww…) Homesteading breaks this cycle by getting our fingernails dirty and encouraging us to return to an intimate relationship with the cycles of nature and food production. I’m convinced this is a need every human carries, and returning to it satisfies something deep inside us.

how to homestead

2. It tastes good.

So I lied a little up there in point #1. The whole reconnecting with nature thing is only part of the reason we raise our own food. The other reason is because it just plain tastes good. Juicy red strawberries picked mere seconds before landing on your tastebuds, happy brown eggs with full-flavored yellow yolks, frothy fresh milk with a five-inch creamline to be turned into golden butter… How can you argue with that? Case closed.

homesteading today

3. It brings freedom.

We homesteaders tend to be an independent bunch, and our self-sufficient tendencies are usually the primary factors leading us down this unconventional path. Homesteading can provide freedom from a centralized food supply and even freedom from the power grid, if you choose that route. When people start complaining about the rising prices of dairy products? I simply grin and give our milk cow an extra flake of hay and a pat on the head. When the news starts chattering about how beef prices will skyrocket? I feel secure knowing we have two steers out in the pasture, and one in the freezer. And this increased measure of freedom from the price-hikes at the grocery store makes this wildly-independent homesteader girl’s heart happy.

self sufficient living

4. It provides security during hard times.

Whether your concern is a small emergency (such as a job loss), or a big one (you know, the whole zombie thing…), homesteading provides a reassuring measure of security in both the areas of food and skills.

Most homesteaders keep an impressive supply of food on hand because: a) When you grow your own food, you almost always have a surplus to preserve. b) Most of us have a strange addiction to mason jars and canning (we can’t help it).

While our own personal preparedness measures still need a little polishing, we always have enough food to last for many months, tucked away in our pantry, basement, cupboards, and freezer. Plus, it’s reassuring to know many of the skills we possess (such as gardening, hunting/butchering, milking, food preservation) would help carry us through in an extreme survival scenario.

homesteading today

5. It’s hard.

Yes. I did mean to include this one on the list. Us modern-folk have it so easy… Too easy. I’m convinced humans need an element of struggle and challenge to stay satisfied. We need something to strive for. We need to see achievement.

Ultrarunner Dean Karnazes says it best in this interview with Outside Magazine:

“Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.”

Homesteading is a struggle. It’s messy. And sweaty. And hard. And gritty. Yet the satisfaction you gain when you push through the tough stuff is incomparable.

homesteading with children

6. It’s one of the best ways to raise kids.

My kids think everyone has a milk cow. When you run out of milk, you go down to the barn and get more. Of course. Their eyes light up whenever they shove on their tiny mud boots and wander down to the coop to check for eggs (usually getting sidetracked with various other adventures in the process). My four year old understands the life cycle of plants, to stay away from snakes that rattle, and to brush most of the dirt off the carrots before you take a bite. Really, what else do you need to know about life? ;)

modern homestead

7. It’ll change your life forever.

Homesteading has transformed me as a person in so many ways. I’ll never look at soil, or milk, or eggs, or meat the same way again. So many aspects of life are more clear as I’ve become more aware of the cycles of nature. My palate has improved as I’ve learned how to grow, prepare, and enjoy food with deep flavors. My confidence has grown as I’ve done things which previously seemed unattainable. I am completely convinced pursuing a modern homesteading lifestyle, and becoming more intentional in how we live and eat, is one of the most satisfying and empowering things a person can do.

So are you ready to dive in? Ready to make some changes? Ready to make mistakes, and learn, and try again? 

Here are a few of my favorite homesteading resources to get you rolling:

homesteading today