Are you interested in HOMESTEADING LIFESTYLE?  Then you might find one of these Homestead.org articles handy:

Adam vs. the Post Pounder by Sue Dick

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Country Neighbors: a Mixed Bag by Sue Dick

Beat the Vacuum Tyranny by Magdalena Perks

Homesteader vs. Survivalist by Sheri Dixon

A Country Girl's Best Friends (Vinegar & Baking Soda) by Adrianne Masters

Redefining Neighborhoods Back on the Land by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Fergus the Red by Sue Dick

Waste Not, Want Not by Adrianne Masters

Gimme Shelter (And I’d Like it to Look Like…a House, Please) by Sheri Dixon

Homestead Prepping: Buying a B.O.L. by Doug Smith

Homesteading for Retirement by Brenda Curkendall

Heating with Wood by Doug Smith

Attract Wildlife to Your Property by Doug Smith

Home Winterization Anyone Can Tackle by Doug Smith

 

 

 

Easy As Pie: The Myth of Simple Living by Sheri Dixon

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Online forums and websites and blogs abound to help newcomers become old hands at the various tasks involved in livestock and plant care.

The only problem (and it’s a doozy) is that there’s really no way of knowing if the person counseling you is knowledgeable and experienced, or full of compost.

Even IF said person (if that is, in fact, their real name) lives near you (if that is, in fact, their real location), it’s really difficult to tell if they know what they’re talking about, or if they’ve just been doing the same thing you have—wandering the ‘net and gathering links—only they’ve got a more authoritative timbre to their typing and a really earthy avatar and web-name.

So if you ask a question like, “What kind of chickens should I get?” you’ll get a gabazillion different answers--all of which may be true…for that person, in that place.

 Honestly, the best way to ensure success of your budding farming endeavor is to ask real people in your real neighborhood (of course, you must finish this particular article first).

Some of the web forums are regional and some worldwide, but chances are there’s someone from your neck of the woods online.  Look at this like cyber-dating except the stakes are higher—soul mates are swell, but learning to feed your family is invaluable.  Test the waters.  If you’re getting along online, arrange a meeting in a public neutral place—anything from the farmers’ market to Starbucks will work.

I’m here to tell you it’s a crapshoot.  On one forum I’m on I’ve met 100% true blue people who are exactly as advertised, but on another there have been some…disappointments.

 I love meeting new people, seeing how others run their farms both in my area and far away in different climates.  I can honestly say our circle of “people we could call to bail us out” has expanded enormously since we’ve made it a point to get to know our online friends in person.

And they’re without exception absolutely To-Die-For cooks and bakers.

 If you live far away from your online friends, you’ll have to take your search to the streets, err….fields.

 I know you’re thinking, “Well, that’s easy for YOU to say, but I don’t know any farmers locally.  What am I supposed to do?  Drive around till I see a vegetable garden, stop and knock on their door and ask, ‘How did you do that?’ ”  That’s actually a viable option and has worked well for me more than once.

If you’re not quite as…gregarious as I am, I suggest you call your local Ag extension.  It’s in the phone book under “U.S. Department of Agriculture”.

 Your extension agent will be happy to assist you with everything from soil analysis, to pamphlets on which veggies grow in your area, to how to irrigate your garden no matter its size, to hooking you up with a 4-H’er to buy livestock from.

Another option is garden clubs; people tend to think of garden clubs as All Roses/No Rutabagas, but most gardeners have an interest in all things with roots, not just the floweredy ones.  The Chamber of Commerce in your town (or nearest town) will most likely have information for the garden clubs and a calendar of events for them--things like annual plant and seed sales are common garden club fundraisers and a great way to meet the members.

If you frequent the farmers’ market, ask the sellers about the different varieties they’re peddling.  Then be sure to ask them if they were grown “around here”.  Most of the time there are rules about “locally grown” but sometimes things slide in when locally grown isn’t quite ready or past its prime.

All the above may score you what you really need: a mentor.

Someone you know face to face, someone you can dig in the dirt with, pluck chickens with, milk goats with.  Someone to learn from who knows what works and what doesn’t in the microcosm that is your patch of the planet.

Learning from someone who knows what they are doing in your very own climate is doubly important when dealing with animate objects.  Plants and animals are living things that require (not only desire) respect and knowledgeable care or they grow sickly and die.

When “shopping your mentor”, really look at their place.  Even if it’s not fancy and new, is the garden plot producing, the livestock healthy, the fences secure?  If any part of their farm equation strikes you as a bit “off” or “alarmingly weird”, ASK THEM about it.  Sometimes there are good reasons for things being as they are, and sometimes the truth is…they don’t know much more than you do no matter how expensive all their stuff is or how fancy their website, videos and books are.

If it’s obvious that for whatever reason, the connection is just not going to work (again, think first- date test)  thank them sincerely and beat feet outta there.

 Finally, it’s not imperative, but it sure makes for a more satisfying time if you and your mentor(s) can be friends of sorts.  Shared beliefs and goals make for a more willing teacher and a more attentive student.

And here’s the best part.

The best part is that once you know someone and work with them, you’ve formed, if not a full-blown BFF bond, at least the inklings of a community.  And that, my friend, will be the most valuable asset to have of all if the going continues to be rough—mightier than a flock of all-purpose chickens, more powerful than ten years worth of hermetically sealed seeds will be the banding together of people for mutual benefit of all. Community.

Shop Local.  Eat Local.  Learn Local. 

 

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