Becoming a Homesteader, My Journey of Growing, Preserving, and Discovering

As humans I think we want immediate results and instant significant progress in whatever we undertake.  We have goals or dreams and think they should be accomplished with just a little work or during a short amount of time. I came into 2018 studying my seed catalogs, thinking  I’d have a fruitful garden in no time. I was determined to at least have a garden for a hobby.  My thought process was that I might do some canning, but on a limited basis.  I love to cook and love using fresh organic top-of -the-line produce. My budget hasn’t supported that desire at the grocery store, but my garden certainly has.So I picked out some over-priced fancy seeds and ordered them, dreaming of a lovely harvest.  The growing season came, and I got to work.  I planted, watered, weeded, and weeded some more.  Since the garden had gone mostly untouched the year before, the weeds were back with a vengeance. Our garden had developed a large crop of horseweed, in particular. Which is a weed if left untouched, can grow taller than me. Not only that, one plant of horseweed can actually produce 15,000 more plants!

A field of horseweed, this makes me cringe

We were overwhelmed.I involved my two teenage sons in the pulling and digging of weeds.The garden mantra became,“no weeds taller than Mom”! My homesteader husband at this point was still on the sidelines. He was encouraging, but he did not get involved in the gardening process.  Our old tiller broke, which further complicated things, and life felt like the old Hee Haw song, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”  Yet in all the struggle, somehow I managed to have lettuce, tomatoes, and squash grow. Our tiller breaking was actually a game changer for the garden. My homesteader husband and I picked out a first-rate tiller (it’s BIG) , not one of those cute little city tillers.  We don’t own a tractor, and our garden is of good size and we needed something substantial and tough. It turned out that the new tiller would become a garden game changer in 2019.  

Garden Game Changing Tiller

Even though there was progress that year, I was incredibly hard on myself.  I felt like I should be canning enough to support my family through the winter.  I hated that there were still weeds and less produce than I should have been getting. Yet as disappointed as I was with the garden in 2018,  I learned things from it that helped my 2019 garden tremendously. One of the things I learned was that my feed store green bean seeds were superior to the overpriced fancy seeds I had ordered.  My parents bought their seeds from the feed store but I kind of thought I was upgrading by ordering mine. I was wrong. Gardening can be humbling. In 2019, I bought the humble feed store green bean seeds in a brown paper sack. The brown sack beans tripled my harvest from my snobby mail order green beans. I dusted off the canner and got busy snapping! My husband was getting more and more involved. He enjoyed using the new tiller and it greatly benefited me. I began to notice that I was able to control the weeds with his help. There were other things on the homestead that were beginning to show progress too, like my chickens.  I was developing my own flock.  After several trips to the Chicken Swap, I purchased a rooster and several young hens. Side note, if you don’t know what a chicken swap is, envision a large yard sale. Instead of this yard sale selling; old tupperware, bowling shoes, and leaf blowers, they sell lots and lots of chickens! We weren’t getting many eggs yet but I was keeping my chickens alive.  There was something so satisfying about knowing that the flock was hand- picked by myself and my little family.  I began to have chicken goals, too. I wanted to have an egg carton full of eggs like the rainbow, with all the different colors. 

Rainbow of Egg Colors, #goal achieved

The year 2018 showed me that the progress I wanted to make might be slow in coming, and 2019 added to that feeling because in spite of my increased success, it was a big year of change for my little family. My oldest son left for college,so I lost my chicken help and one of my ace weeders. He is such a good weeder,- my Mom helped me train him well from the time he was little. If his whole medical career doesn’t work out, he can come home and weed! That in and of  itself might motivate him to keep his GPA up. Of Course my family budget changed significantly, too. Having a college kid is not cheap. I began to think about growing more, preserving more, and discovering more ways to make the most of my little, just under two-acre, homestead.  

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

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4 responses to “Becoming a Homesteader, My Journey of Growing, Preserving, and Discovering”

  1. Great blog again, Hettie! 🙂   I would love to see the a photo of your garden in its entirety to help visualize how big your garden is/was to understand where it gets to be too much work for a person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Mark, I’ve actually never taken a picture of the whole thing. I will have to try to get one this spring.


  2. Hettie, you reminded me to “use what you have”. I just got a huge box of seeds from my husbands co worker. I am going to write about her soon. She gave me literally over 50 packets of seeds. I should be set for a long time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is wonderful, using what you have is one of the keys to successful homesteading.

      Liked by 1 person

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