Monthly Archives: June 2013

Father’s Day: A Gift of Sustainability

Shh. Don’t tell my Da – but he’s getting a perennial herb container garden for Father’s Day this Sunday.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…

(Except in this case, Parsley has been replaced by Lovage, since that will come back year after year, unlike Parsley.)

So: if you were wondering what to give your Dad for Fathers’ Day, perhaps you have enough time to build one these! Give the gift of Sustainability by giving him with the ability to Grow His Own!

Comme ca!

Father's Day Herb Garden

Homestead First Aid

My new baby chainsaw arrived at our suburban condo yesterday. It is an adorable 10″ Ryobi battery-operated model. I am going to name her Miss Mabel.

ryobi mabel

He already had an 18″ Poulan – but it’s been giving us fits all year.

I wanted a chainsaw of my own so I could contribute to epic task of clearing small trees and bushes out of the area that will one day be the home of my permaculture, hugelkultur, key-hole, duck-patrolled, rainwater-irrigated, chicken-moated, edible, medicinal, perennial, pollinator-friendly 2-acre garden.


Right now? My future Eden is a thorny tangle of brush and small pines.

Along with the addition of a new chainsaw and a heretofore untested chainsaw operator (me) to the Homestead, I decided it to be an excellent time to upgrade our first aid kit. This one (we have several) hangs just inside the cabin front door and is focused on big gushing, gaping wounds. Cheery, non?


(and yes, there are a few things related to bug bites too.)

As our Homestead currently does not have a landline phone, we get no cell-phone signal nor Internet and the nearest neighbor is about half a mile away down our steeply banked driveway, we need to be able to render emergency medical attention on our own if the need arises.

The first aid kit is one small step to that, but I do think it is time to sign up for my Wilderness First Aid course through the Center for Wilderness Safety.

It now occurs to me that we probably need a new mop at the Cabin too. For clean-up.

Making Money on the Homestead

We aren’t living there full-time yet, but the question of how to generate an income once we do is one that features prominently in our planning. Notice I did not say “worrying.”

Seems like a diversified income stream is the most resilient and flexible way to approach it:

There’s the idea of ongoing fee-based classes, of course. Plenty of great examples of how that can be done well.
There’s the idea of renting the tiny homes and community hall as a retreat/gathering space for various groups and/or an AirBnB concept.
There’s the sale of farm products – fresh, preserved and value-added.
There’s the lecture/book circuit – maybe. eventually.
and then there is the part-time home based businesses that tap into our competencies. (marketing, proposal and grant writing.)

Fortunately, we are at a place in our finances where we have no non-mortgage debt, and we have become exceedingly good at living frugally-even in our current expensive suburb. We have some reserves saved up that will be used to seed the initial capital outlays, but even so: we are taking a risk in this adventure. Crops can fail. Weather is unpredictable. The Mountain, and its people may turn against us.

There is no sure-fire guarantees in this. Nor in anything.
But this is the life we want.
We’ll never have a chance at it if we don’t try.

Suburb to Rural – Lesson in Readjusted Thinking #834

I inadvertently learned how to propagate perennial plants the other day.


While repotting one of my expensive, nursery-bought lavender plants, I broke off a tip of the one of the branches. Without giving it another thought, I shoved it in the dirt and went about my business.

Two weeks later, that little shoot has grown, and continues to grow, and I realize I just saved myself $4.95 because now I have one more lavender plant than I started with.

The Heavens Opened and A Chorus of Angels Sang From On High!

See, I have this idea that we will be using lavender plants to mark the septic lines when we have those installed at the cabin. That’s 100 feet of lavender I need, and honestly, the cost has been freaking me out (aside from the cost of installing a septic system, which really isn’t that awful.) $500 worth of lavender? Just to mark the lines and keep the field smelling sweet? (oy.)

But look! Now I can grow my own! For practically free! It’s like Christmas and Fourth of July all at once! God Bless America! Thank you Mother Nature!

Condo container garden - June 2013

Condo container garden – June 2013

The To-Do List to End All To-Do Lists

I make lists. List-making makes me happy.

When it comes to establishing a Homestead, there are endless, layered, intersecting, parallel and color-coded lists to be made. I am in absolute HEAVEN.

The thing is, this Homestead of ours has so many raisons d’etre.
1. A Home – for us and our two cats and whatever livestock we decide to incorporate into the household.
2. A Retirement – for when we both retire from the office-job world – creating some income and a place in which to grow old healthfully.
3. A Family Compound – for years of family and friend gatherings.
4. An Educational Center/Sustainability Summer Camp – to share what we have learned with folks who want to experience all aspects of homesteading.

With all of these goals – it is sometimes hard to focus on what should happen first.

Right now, we are going back and forth between making the existing cabin cozy, functional and fully-stocked with all the comforts of our hideaway home, AND the big picture, big dollar tasks of clearing land, building soil and starting to build the large gathering hall (aka “The Lodge”) that will house the community kitchen, bath house and Pistol Pete’s Bar. (Named in honor of His recently departed Dad.)

I have lists of things to learn (hunting, butchering, food preservation, rain water catchment, farmers’ market vending)

I have lists of things we need to acquire (200 Sq Ft of brick pavers, a mini back hoe, solar panel systems, tiny house kits, a 4-person UTV)

I have lists of things we need to do (clear the land for the main produce gardens, chip the small trees and branches already downed to build soil fertility, chop a ton of firewood for next winter, install our first solar array, terrace our fruit and grape orchards, stock up on all our supplies for the cabin in case of emergencies, inoculate a ton of mushroom logs).

It’s a little overwhelming, and it’s now my full-time job.

As I have said: we are currently Weekend Homesteaders. During the week, we live in a third story condo not too far from Washington, DC. There are definite benefits to living so close to such an affluent area. My daily perusals of CraigsList’s Free section is jam packed full of people willing to give away perfectly wonderful things: furniture, building supplies, propane tanks.

Out near our West Virginia property, the listings for free things are considerably more sparse. The idea of throwing or giving away perfectly usable items probably just doesn’t occur. I admire that.

So: in the meantime, every week we fill up our SUV with Craig’slist and thrift store treasures and bring them to our new mountain home. So far, we have been exceedingly successful in finding what we want through these venues. The only things we have purchased new is a 9 quart cast-iron dutch oven and our new chainsaw, both through Amazon. Kinda sweet.

I think I will create a page of my ongoing wish-list of things we need. If you have a line on any of these things, and are local enough to make the trip make sense, please please please let me know.

Y’all are awesome.

Readjust – Refocus. Telling OUR story.

So I am going to make an adjustment here.

Originally, I set out to try to locate and learn about as many sustainable living resources as possible and share them with you on a daily basis. Our own homestead – Berry Mountain – was to be a sidebar to the story.

I think I need to reverse these priorities; focus more on Berry Mountain, and share resources as I come across them. Yes.

We are making the move to leave the familiar comforts of our Washington, DC suburban condo-lifestyle and go back to the land and test our self-reliant mettle.

We have the property (30 acres of West Virginia mountain forest.)
We have a home there (a small off-grid, no running water 60-year-old hunting cabin.)

Now what we need is to acquire everything we need to make a self-sufficient life.
What do you need to have and know to be a modern-day pioneer?

I have a list.