Homestead Roots Newsletter - 2/22/2024

Why start a homestead business? Fixing engines. Mastering kids chores.

Homestead Roots Newsletter - 2/22/2024

I am thinking winter is over. And I don't know how to feel about that? As a person who loves weather it has been a boring winter, with really only 2 snow storms. Throughout the season I have been taking a positive approach and reminding myself to just enjoy the pleasant conditions but now that it actually looks like we are done, I am pretty disappointed. With the long range forecast looking pretty mild I am thinking it is time to tackle our orchard pruning, which is always more nerve wracking than it needs to be. The job itself isn't difficult but it is just intimidating. I feel pretty good about my pruning skills 3-4 years in but I know there is tons more to learn! Hope you enjoy this weeks newsletter!

Sap is Running, Miraculous Saw Repair and Seed Starting

My Stihl saw was my first saw. Glad to have it up and running again!

The sap is running well today. We were pretty cold for a few days there which slowed everything down but with warmer temps the past few days it is moving good. The kids just took the UTV around and emptied buckets. Hopefully we get a nice little run here for a couple of weeks before we set up the stove and cook it down. The weather looks favorable though the extended forecast has us warming up a little too warm early next week. We will take what we can get!

I finally took the time to fix one of my chainsaws this past weekend. With two other saws I wasn't forced to get this one up and running, so it got pushed to the back burner. The saw is a Stihl and it was having trouble bogging down on me, it wasn't idling very well either. I ordered a carburetor off of Amazon that came with a few extra parts as well. After watching a quick YouTube video, Espen and I dug into it. Everything went pretty smoothly though at one point I did need some help from the boys to get the new fuel line installed. Their smaller hands came in handy. With everything put back together I went out to try and start it and was somewhat shocked that it fired right up and ran excellent. Small engines is an area I am working to improve. The boys are urging me along and putting in their own work. Elias recently took apart our four wheeler, cleaned the carb and put it back together and it is working well. Likewise we have an little old rototiller that hasn't been running right that he has in pieces now.🙂 I love the idea of letting my kids learn this stuff so that they can teach me (or just do it themselves). It is empowering and knowledge building for them and super helpful for me.

We are super close to starting seeds for the market garden. The way this year has gone I am feeling behind but we are going to stick to our schedule and hope it all pans out. We've got some work to do to get everything ready. The kickoff to the growing season is always exciting and also slightly terrifying! It is a big part of our year and as we have grown the pressure to succeed has ramped up a bit. It is all good stuff and we are excited for another year.

A Chores Breakthrough

Note: This week I am replacing the financial content I have been sharing with some parenting insight. It feels like an equally dangerous topic.🙂 Know that I am just sharing from our experience, and claim no expertise!

Chores are a very big part of our life on our homestead and the kids have always been a big part of that. Collecting eggs, feeding animals, cleaning bedding, filling waterers, etc. Homestead life requires a fair amount of work and they are great helpers. Our standard homestead chores usually align like this... the kids do all the duck and chicken chores. The boys feed and water them while Bergen is our egg collector. Ingrid does most of the goat chores. And I do most of the pig chores when we have pigs. It is a good system and works smoothly.

While our outdoor chore routine has been running well for quite awhile, the indoor chore routine was broken, until just the last year. Dishes most frequently fell to Ingrid and we would periodically dish out some on the spot tasks to get the house tidy and do the floors, dusting, etc. We had tried multiple times over the years to get an indoor chore cycle up and running but for whatever reason the chores didn't stick. When we tried to get the kids to do dishes as a one off there was significant grumbling and mumbling and the kids weren't participating like we wanted.

Recently we took another stab at it. I will quick mention our kids ages of 14, 12, and 9 (we also have a 1 year old but she gets a free pass). I think their ages play an important factor. They are maturing and starting to see their place in the family more clearly. They recognize how hard their mom works and want to help relieve some of her tasks. The system we are using has the kids rotating chores weekly. One is on dishes in the sink, so any dishes that don't go in the dishwasher from preparing the days meals. One child is on clearing the table and putting away leftovers, they also clean the table and counters. The third child is on floors and dusting, they rotate between vacuuming, dusting and swiffering the floors in the house. The chores are not equal. Dishes are disliked the most and floors are considered the easiest. I think this helps. Equality means you are always doing painful tasks but having an easier task in the mix has them looking forward to what is next. Another factor that helps is that the kids have taken ownership. They know the cycle and manage who is doing what. It isn't us dishing out tasks, they know what is expected of them and get to work. The last tidbit I will add is we made an effort to lower our standards. Sitting over the kids as they do dishes and nitpicking their work doesn't lead to a good environment! We don't tolerate bad work but we work hard to manage that in a good way. And if we need to quickly wash something twice that is OK.

It is such a breath of fresh air for us and we are so proud of the kids in their work. We work hard to dish out praise and affirmation and thank them for doing the work so that Ingrid can do other things or just sit down in the evening. To those of you with young kids I think it is important to start them with tasks young but don't be surprised if it takes some time before you find a rhythm. For these tasks we have no financial reward. Our kids don't receive an allowance. They participate in family tasks because our family is a team and each member of the team is important and has their own role. If you are interested in a different approach to raising your family I would recommend a book called Family Revision by Jeremy Pryor. I am about half way through it right now and eating it up. It is a lot of stuff that we already practice as a family but it gives some structure, dimension and reasoning to it all. You can find it HERE

Why Start a Homestead Business?

So thankful for our farmstand business and what it has allowed us to do on our homestead!

I shared last week our conundrum with our egg business. In that post I said I thought it was important for homesteads to integrate earning income or starting a business. I wanted to take a few minutes today to discuss why I think that is important.

This is a big topic so we will split it into a few parts and I will share a few more details in the coming weeks. The number one reason why I think it is important to integrate earning income is because homesteading can be a costly effort. Animals, buildings, equipment, etc cost money. I am all for frugality. But at some point money has to be spent to make the homesteading thing work and integrating some income into the process can help offset those costs. On our homestead the farm business, which is a market garden, is fully supporting the homesteading efforts. That allows all the money we earn in off farm work to go to savings and cost of living. If we don't have the money in our farm business account we aren't going to be supplementing from our personal account to make a purchase, this takes discipline but is an awesome way to do it. It of course doesn't happen overnight, but if you build slowly you can keep pace and then as your farm business grows so does your homestead. Patience is important here!

There are of course a lot of ways to earn income and we will talk through some of those in the next posts. I want to encourage you to be creative here and think about where you are uniquely set up to offer something. Producing and raising your own food is such a gift and the skills you learn are necessary and important but we need to do it in fiscally smart way. Buying a tractor for the homestead and then not being able to pay the mortgage only hurts your prospects for long term success.

Seed Starting Time is NEAR

Soon these racks will be full of baby plants.

Many of our fellow farmers have already started seeds by this time in the season. Without heat in our tunnels and with a plan to open our farmstand on May 1, we start a bit later. I have a photo above of our current seed starting system. We use two large racks with lights and we keep them in our office early in the year where the climate is already controlled. We will start with our cold tolerant crops which are mostly early season greens and carrots. While our winter has been warm, I have seen miserable March and Aprils so we don't want to rush and put out warm weather crops too early.

Many home gardeners start out with plants from the store, which is just fine.  Starting from seed is a great way to have more control in the process and save some money. You can find a huge diversity of different crops in seed form while plant starts are often more limited. And of course if it all fails you can just head back to home depot for plant starts again.🙂  If you are looking to get into seed starting this year another farmer put out a great video outlining the different options. 

We will keep you updated as we start getting seeds in the soil and plants in the ground. We are scheduled to start planting tomorrow!

Starting to Take Things Seriously

Our stand table in 2018.

We put up a professional sign! Bergen was so little.

I often pinpoint 2018 as the year we started taking things more seriously for our market garden. Mind you we weren't very successful but we had a plan in mind and we were wanting to turn our little side project into something that could earn us some money. This was also around the time when many market gardeners started sharing on YouTube and a few put out some influential books. This content was a huge motivator for us and helped us in so many ways, it made us see that more was possible.

2018 was the first year we had a high tunnel, which was a really big deal. We filled it with tomatoes and started growing them in a professional way trellised to the roof of the tunnel. We also opened up a bunch of other beds and really expanded the footprint of where we were growing. It was the first year we moved our farmstand into it's current location in the garage off our barn. We discovered how much potential there was in growing salad greens though we didn't do it well. Our main crops that year were zucchini and tomatoes. We grew some beautiful stuff but just not a lot of volume. Volume would come next as we were now starting to feel more comfortable with growing on a large scale. According to my records we earned just under $10,000 dollars in 2018. We were on our way to creating a business on our property as a family, it was pretty exciting to see the possibilities!

Thank you as always for reading and for following along on this journey. As always I would love to hear from you. If you have questions or suggestions just reply to this email and I will be in touch.