The more I research the topic of homesteading, the more I discover a seismic shift of thinking that occurred during the last few years that drove families and individuals to crave a more simple, less interfered-with way of life. We are one of the many ex-suburbanites who relocated to a rural, country community, and friends, we aren’t looking back! By no means a new way of living, homesteading is characterized by a degree of self-sufficiency, maintaining agricultural and livestock concerns, and all around making the most out of everything you have or come across. It’s the most environmentally friendly way to live; if that’s your thing. For us, it’s about having at least some degree of control over our food supply. About knowing what’s going into and onto our food. It’s about learning skills that people have learned and passed down for generations prior to our post-modern/post-Christian first-world society. It’s about squeezing the most out of every day, learning and training our children to be resourceful, skilled, and hardworking all the while.
Where We Are Now
In winter of 2020, we went from a townhouse with no yard, to a two acre property. As soon as spring arrived the following year, our first order of business was to get a garden planted, and figure out how to actually raise plants as it was both of our first time having a garden. Starting in October, hubby set off on the task of constructing our chicken coop to house our sweet feathered friends – the primary reason we initially decided on a country residence. By February the coop was ready enough for our first five chickens, one rooster and four hens. Oh, the excitement of seeing this dream come to life, and for once in our lives, having a morsel of control over our food production! We immediately learned that chickens are much easier to keep than we realized but had our first of many run-ins with a fox just a few weeks in to having our small flock. What did we do? We went out and bought TEN more chickens! Our hens are pasture raised, and to put cost effectiveness into perspective, a dozen pastured eggs from the grocery store costs $9.99 here in the DC/Virginia area! This has been our favorite part of country life, chickens are such wonderful animals, and I highly recommend to anyone mildly interested, get your own flock of these low-maintenance sources of food and entertainment!
The other upgrade we’ve added to our property is a 2,500 sq ft garden. Honestly, this is the scariest thing to me. You put a lot of work into establishing a plot, invest in everything needed to plant and maintain it, and then pray that it doesn’t all fail! Not to mention the travails that summer brings in the form of blights, pests, and extreme weather. Furthermore, being on a tight budget we don’t have the capital to buy in the amount of topsoil needed to give plants the perfect bed to grow in, so we are making due with what we have, which is sandy clay soil that we’re told isn’t great for growing. Yikes! We are going to see how it goes but already I have some radishes that I sowed from seed in early April sprouting! Just this month I’ve decided I’m going to plant in my raised beds despite thinking I’d leave them alone this year – I like the idea of a back-up garden. Since the chickens are little terrors to a garden, I got creative with my plant protection and had hubby install a few hoops that I have draped this nearly invisible bird netting over. This was an inexpensive way to protect my crops that will allow me to continue to grow in these beds through winter that I’ll convert to a sort of greenhouse with the addition of a solid plastic cover. There are few things more hope-inducing to us warm-weather lovers in the dead of winter than plucking a fresh herb or vegetable out of the garden!
How to make a raised bed cover
I’ll throw in a very quick tutorial and materials list for these hoop covers, as they’ve already worked very well, were super easy to put up, and as I said above, can be adapted for multi-season use!
- PVC pipe; cut to desired height of each hoop, plus one the length of the bed to stabilize and drape cover over. My arches are 5 ft long pipes, so 2.5 feet tall.
- Bird netting; I use this all over my garden and yard.
- Zip ties; they come with the bird netting listed above.
- Metal pipe clamps.
- Staple gun.
Begin by loosely installing pipe clamps on the side of the raised bed. Insert PVC pipe THEN tighten down the clamps. Use zip ties to hold stabilizing pipe across the tops of each hoop. Drape bird netting over structure with enough left over on each side to staple one side down, and add some kind of weight to the other so that it will be held down but can be lifted like a door. Staple “back” side of netting to raised bed to keep predators from crawling up into the garden. I stapled about halfway around the sides but not so far that I couldn’t lift the front side up. Finally, to create weight on the “front” side to hold it down I used some excess pipe we trimmed off of the stabilizing bar, rolled it into the bottom of the net and secured with zip ties.
What’s Next for Us?
Will we be adding to our flock? Probably not until we are moved and settled into our more permanent home which will hopefully include a much larger property, but you never know! We also hope to add pigs, dairy cows, and horses which will be quite an adventure if this is what the Lord has in store for us. The excitement of slowly building up our homestead keeps us on our toes daily, and is amazingly fulfilling. It’s taught me to stop trying to control everything, because I can’t and why would I want to? Placing the success of our garden, safety of our chickens, and the unpredictable weather in God’s hands has allowed me to relieve a massive burden the type I used to carry in absolute futility. I truly hope more people decide to pursue a simpler way of life though gardening their own food, raising their own meats, and all around getting out of cities and back into rural lifestyle. Even if you can’t purchase a large property, just one quarter acre is sufficient to have a sizeable harvest, as this book has helped me understand, and I recommend to anyone wanting to have a bit more control of their food supply. It is true freedom and exactly what the “American dream” initially was!