Highlighting Homesteaders – Kathryn
We call our homestead the backyard farm, because that’s sort of what it is, thus my blog name, Farming My Backyard. We are in Portland, Oregon, which is zone 8b. We are mostly cool and wet, except for about 8 weeks in the summer where it’s totally hot and dry!
Our entire property lot is 1/10th of an acre, which includes our home, garage, animals, and gardens. Because we have a small home, we’re able to have 3,000 square feet dedicated to the plants and animals.
I think I’ve always been a homesteader at heart. I remember being a kid and trying to make rope out of yucca, sampling the dandelions in the lawn, and wishing I had a barn full of animals. When we purchased our house in 2008 I knew I wanted to keep a small flock of chickens and plant a garden. That small flock turned into a slightly larger flock, and then an even bigger flock, and pretty soon we turned the front yard into a garden and had goats, rabbits, and the hens out back!
4. What gardening method do you use?
I’m a terrible gardener, so I experiment with any method I come across. So far what’s been working the best for me is raised beds and lots of mulch. I’m terrible at remembering to water and weed, so the mulch really helps the plants not feel the effects of my neglect quite as much, I think.
I attempt to compost, and thankfully natural decomposition makes up for my lack of skill. If you pile enough chicken manure and straw together eventually it turns into dirt. Usually. Right now I have a little black compost tumbler, but I do like having a hearty pallet bin too. I tried composting with worms once, which was fun right up until I forgot to moisten it and the worms decided to abandon the bin and scatter themselves all over the kitchen. (That watering problem I have….)
I’m a lot better at keeping animals alive than I am plants. Thank goodness! Right now we have eight laying hens, 4 rabbits, and two Nigerian Dwarf Goats. The hens are getting up there in age, and it’s time to get some younger, more prolific layers, so the plan is to add ducks later this spring. I’ve been talking about getting ducks for years now, but I think this is going to be THE year.
My poor husband isn’t as on board with the homesteading thing as I am, but he likes to support me when he can. We just turned a hall closet into an awesome pantry. Right now I have gobs of homegrown garlic stashed in there next to the kid’s favorites of ramen and macaroni and cheese (scandalous, I know!). We heat our home with a wood burning stove, and a few small electric heaters for backup and lazy days. There’s a mini seed starting getup on top of the microwave with a grow light mounted to the underside of my cabinets, and we do a lot of cooking from scratch. We’ve grown some mushrooms indoors; that’s pretty fun. Cooking from scratch, and crocheting round out the indoor projects.
I am terrible at growing things. I have resorted to planting like five or six of every plant I want, and eventually one manages to survive despite my best attempts. Once, I even managed to kill blackberries by trying to plant them! I think I may be the only person in Oregon who has managed that feat.
The past few years have been really intense with four young kids, and pretty tenuous financial situations. We don’t have the most beautiful, or the largest homestead out there, but every day I’m pretty shocked that I’m producing food that my family eats, especially because we’ve had to be creative in getting things started on an incredibly limited budget and very little spare time.
If I knew someone just starting out, I would tell them do what they love, and not worry about doing it all. Everyone has things that they’re good at, and things that are more difficult for them. Homesteading should be fun, and while learning, and growing, and getting new skills is awesome, don’t beat yourself up if you’re the only person you know who can’t grow a zucchini if your life depended on it (raising my hand…).
I hope in the future, that those ducks will come about. I also am hoping to do more of permaculture inspired perennial plantings, and add more flowers, because you can never have enough flowers. Oh! And maybe bees, and aquaculture, and Coturnix quail, and, and, and… 😀 I’m sure there will always be something new and interesting to try.
Where to find Kathryn: