Welcome to the very first Highlighting Homesteaders! Highlighting Homesteaders will be a weekly post, each Friday, where I introduce you to backyard homesteaders, urban homesteaders and homesteaders with acres. This will give you a chance to see what others are doing, be inspired, learn something new and just meet a fellow like-minder homesteader.
Today I am excited to introduce you to my friend Donna of Sharing Life’s Abundance. I have know Donna for a few years now and I consider her my gardening mentor. She was backyard homesteading before the term was coined – and boy does she know her stuff. She and her husband Steve recently moved to a larger property…but I’ll let her tell you about that.
Highlighting Homesteaders – Donna of Sharing Life’s Abundance
Homestead Name and where are you located (include climate information)?
My farm is called “Sharing Life’s Abundance Farm”. We are in Queen Creek Arizona; which is a rural suburb of the desert of Phoenix Arizona. For the gardeners out there; we are considered Zone 9, and we grow in harsh arid drought-desert conditions. We hit 100 degrees in late April, the night time temperatures do not cool down much- like it does in the high deserts. We plant our spring crops in October. Then by mid December-we deal with freeze conditions during the nighttime. This goes on for about two weeks. January is cold, by February’s end we start to plant our summer crops.
How much land are you working with?
Steve and I own a home on 1.33 acres. This is more than enough space to grow food, as long as you are not running horses or cattle.
How long have you been homesteading? What got you started?
I have been doing this for over 30 years in the Phoenix area. I wanted to feed my kids “healthy” before I ever heard the term “Organic” I could not afford to do so as a single mom. So I turned my whole backyard into 800 sq feet of veggies, rabbits, chickens, and at times – goats.
What gardening method do you use?
Because I grew up on a farm, I use a method that was known as French Intensive- taught to me by my grandpa; I do utilize raised beds, drip irrigation, companion planting, crop rotation. Back then it was normal to use biodynamic principals and permaculture ideas. We just did not have a label on the techniques. Now that I have more room to plant, I am starting to use what is now referred to as lowered beds or waffle beds.
Do you compost?
I do compost. I use the goat, rabbit, chicken manure from organically fed animals. I use dairy cow manure that I get from an organically fed herd. They do not use hormones or antibiotics. They also use essential microbes in the water for the cattle and the water that is used to irrigate the organic- non-gmo alfalfa that they feed the cows. I use a fallow garden bed as my compost bed and then when it is finished, I plant directly into it.
What kind of livestock do you have?
I keep chickens for eggs and meat, goats for dairy and eventually meat, I have a kune kune sow to provide me with young for the freezer. I have had rabbits for meat for over 30 years, they are a lot of work to raise in the desert, so I took a short break because of nursing school. But as soon as school is out this summer, I will get another breeding trio. I raise meal worms to feed the chickens and composting worms for the garden.
Tell me about your homesteading indoors.
In the house, I make cheeses, butter (from the cream that I get from the dairy), sour cream, and cream cheese. I make homemade bread from the wheat that I grind; I also keep a sourdough starter for when I want to make sourdough bread. I can my own home raised fruits, vegetables and meat. I make and freeze quarts and quarts of bone broth. I am also a quilter.
What have been your greatest challenges?
Because I am community minded and have openly shared a transparent life in order to encourage others- I was turned in once by a “Friend” after I started teaching classes in my home. Though I say that I forgave her, I cannot ever forget what happened. It did clip my wings for a short time. I consider this situation often when I teach a new class or start a new project.
What are you proudest of?
Each season brings new things to be proud and excited about. Overall, I would have to say that I am proudest of the fact that I feel like
I am an encouragement in the community that I attract. I am a teacher and I openly share what I know and do. Others come to me for advice. I love the fact that I can help others to accomplish what I love doing.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
I know too many people that get excited and try to do too many things all at once. I like to say; if you cannot manage a 4X4 garden, what makes you think that you can plant a whole yard-field or farm. Keep your animals clean and quiet so as to be a respectful neighbor. I have heard it said by people who do not appreciate those of us who love this lifestyle. “Your rights end where they beginning to encroach upon my rights.” If you keep your animals clean and quiet-nobody really cares what you are doing. Unless of course they are jealous.
In regards to your homestead, what are your hopes and plans for the future?
My hopes and plans for the future include increasing my gardens, orchards, flocks and herds to the point where I can feed my family which includes 7 adult children and their families. I believe that the time is coming when we will not be able to find organic, non-gmo, food in the stores. I also desire to find a way to use my networking skills and talents to bring a community of like-minded people together. People who brain storm and encourage each other on their path towards self-sufficiency. I like to say that a group of people holding flashlights; makes the path much more bright than one person holding a flashlight. Besides the fear created by the monsters that live in the dark is quickly dissipated once the light is bright enough.
Where you can find Donna:
I hope liked meeting Donna, I think she’s pretty awesome. Be sure to come back next Friday for another Highlighting Homesteaders!
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