A quick google of homesteading will throw up all kinds of information and to the beginner it can be quite daunting. The whole premise, as mentioned in my last post, is to live as sustainably as you can, mainly when growing/raising your own food on your own land. But not everyone can have the usual 2 – 40 acres. The average family of four will usually require land that is between 2-4 acres. Now wouldn’t that be nice? So is there a name for homesteading that doesn’t ‘require’ you to have land or the ability to work it? Not that I have found, but if you know of one let me know.
I believe with everything going on in the world that there is a huge resurgence of people wanting to live a more balanced life, and one that limits or has no impact on the world around us. There are articles all over the place about living a zero waste, zero single plastic , life style. About how to grow your own food, and I guess this blog is now part of it. How ever what I have noticed is how much of the information, advice, and how to’s can be quite classist, and also quite ableist. This is where I can add to the conversation as I am “lower class” and disabled. Quite newly disabled meaning the life I use to live has had to change, drastically. I can no longer live the zero waste and plastic free lifestyle I use to live. Being house bound I can no longer go out foraging, my gardening techniques have had to change, and making food has also had to change.
For me the whole point on homesteading (yes I am going to continue calling it that), is to do what you can. Intention and mind set are always an important thing to remember. Something to also remember is that yes as individuals we can and I believe should do all that we can to live a sustainable life, however the main responsibility should always be with the large companies.
Let’s start with a basic list of the things I do in my life, I may forget a few things as there are things I do without thinking about so if you have anything to add to the list feel free to comment and let me know.
In the Garden.
Trees – I have 3 fruit producing trees, an apple tree grown from seed, a cherry tree grown from seed, and an elder that was grown from a shoot collected from one of my foraging walks. I also have a baby plum tree that I swapped last year for spare pumpkin plants. I Grow others for bio diversity, to coppice (although I don’t do it to ground level) so wood can be used in structures, making things, and to be used to support plants. I also grow willow as my garden is prone to being water logged and use to flood all the time (even with collecting rain water in three water butts) It also doesn’t help that I have a heavy clay soil. The leaves in the autumn make great mulch and can of course me added to the compost bin, which then goes back into the garden over winter to help improve the soil.
Food – grow as much as I can, including leaving some to go to seed for collection. Forage when I can, my aim is to also go out seed collecting over the autumn so I can add more wild plants to my garden. There are also foods that you buy from the shop that can be regrown, either too be used again and again or to simply go to seed. I am lucky to now be a proud owner of a chest freezer, perfect for preserving, or to keep things in ready for other preserving methods. This helps lots because I do not have the energy to collect food and preserve it on the same day. This year has also seen me create a pantry in the under-stair cupboard. I have always saved jars which come in handy for so many things. When it comes to seeds, spare plants etc I always try and trade them for ones that I do not have, or they get put outside for people to take and grow themselves. If you have surplus food there are apps and food swap sites where you can, as the name suggests, swap or gift anything you have surplus so it doesn’t go to waste. You can of course use the catering and trade for many other things, especially jars. You will not see shelves full of matching mason jars in this house, there are jars from all sorts of things, including old candles.
Having chickens also means we do not have to buy eggs and where as I would personally raise them for their meat too, but at the request of my kids and partner this will not be happening. Yes if I has the space I would also raise other animals for their food, wool, milk etc but this goes against council tenancy agreements.
When it comes to buying food, I would love to be able to go to the local greengrocers, farmers markets etc but this isn’t possible right now so all of my food shopping is done through Ocado. I use to think I was a fussy omnivore but it turns out I am actually a flexitarian. I am housebound and can not eat certain foods so this is a much easier option. It also helps plan meals out and avoids too many impulse purchases. My youngest son, who still lives with me, cooks my meals as this is something else I can not guarantee to be able to do on a daily basis. He does cook a lot from scratch but I now rely on more ready meals, ready prepared food such as pre chopped garlic etc. We do love making our own bread, we have a bread maker but my son also loves doing it by hand.
In the Home.
Making do and mend has been part of my life since I was born, as has buying second hand when ever possible. My grandma taught me to sew, my mother sews and knits but alas I could never figure that out, but have taught myself how to crochet. I am slowly becoming queen of the crocheted blankets. I have always up cycled, repurposed and love going wombling. It was never just as a life style choice it was mainly out of need. Both my children’s high chairs for example were liberated from a hedge after being dumped there by someone else. All It took was to take it apart, sand, clean, buy a few new bolts, a quick lick of paint and it was ready for use. I didn’t have the money to buy such things brand-new. My home is full of second hand furniture, furniture that has been handed down through the family, found on the street, and is quite full of all sorts of vintage things. Admittedly I do love the aesthetic because it holds special memories of spending time at my great-grandmother’s house and my grandparents. Only happy times were spent there, it really did shape my life and who I became.
Other things I do is dry my washing outside, this is apparently not a common thing to do any more. I do have an airer and a washer dryer for days when I can’t get them out on the line and when I don’t wish to have to put the heating on to use the radiators. We also do not change our clothes everyday (not including undies) unless they really need to, heck I spend most of my life in pyjamas or sleep wear these days anyway. If I do have to dress to leave the house I will change back as soon as I get home. Our cleaning products are natural or as natural as possible, using soap nuts for washing, vinegar and essential oil for fabric softener. If I can’t make my own, or have the initial outlay to buy the ingredients then I will buy the next best thing. Cost always plays a huge roll in how things are done in the house, not just financial but also the cost of energy it takes to do something. That is true in all areas of my life.
And talking of energy that is all I can muster for one day. I don’t know if I have missed anything but if I have I am sure I will tell you about them as I carry on this journey as I am having to adapt things on a daily basis.
So that is is for July, we are starting to say goodbye to the summer, autumn has started to make an appearance which turns out to be perfect timing for how I am planning on moving a head. Lammas is almost here, the first harvest. Not just in the garden but also in life, and this year I have a lot to unpack to make the next year improve and carry on moving forwards as much as I can.