Welcome wanna-be and expert homesteaders and those just curious. I start today with the where, will next time approach the what, and follow with the why. I will then begin to explore the meaty how-to’s and those controversial topics like humanure, appropriate power supplies, the real meanings of organic and sustainable, and anything else that happens to come up.
We bought this place in East Texas three years ago, but until 2 months ago it was our “camp” as they say here in the South, where we would come, schedules permitting, to enjoy the nature and begin building our cabin. We bought it as raw land, no water, electric, or sewage. Our first order of business was to build an outhouse and long-drop, our “poop with a view” I named it, and we hauled in drinking and shower water and used a generator for the occasional necessary power tool. During that time we slept in a tent, including all through winter, which even though it’s Texas the temperature regular hovers around 30 degrees. I experimented with two garden spots during those first years, but as work, weddings, and evacuations kept us from coming all summer long we were never able to enjoy the proverbial fruits of my labor. But it’s pretty doubtful there were many anyway.
We have 50 acres and a mule, just as the old family farms used to be, only our mule is a gently used Massey tractor that has been invaluable in helping with such varied tasks as bush-hogging, pulling stumps, tilling the garden, and hoisting up the walls of our cabin.
In East Texas gardening is a bit like playing beat the clock. The “growing season” reportedly runs from March through November, but the sweltering season falls squarely in the middle of it, burning all but your most robust crops and making your garden upkeep unbearable. Plus there’s an annual late frost around Easter, occasionally even a snow, so planting most fruit trees is something of a risky business. The plan is to have a green house by next year, but because the latest garden spot, the now permanent one, needed serious soil adjustment, I had to skip the cool-season crops for now and start straight into the summer stuff. I won’t bore you with the laundry list, but as a novice gardener I’ll cry tears of joy if just a small fraction survives the lethal combination of perpetual winds, blistering sun, gorging insects, birds, deer, boar, and inexperience.
Meanwhile handy hubby does the skilled labor. At the moment he is building us a large covered deck overlooking our gently rolling hills, majestic pines, and stately oaks . Occasionally I am helpful to him, making me feel briefly skilled myself, kind of like a nurse, as he calls out his needs: clamp, saw, drill, level. Other than fetching and occasionally holding the tape measure, I am useless to him. His sketches, complete with math and other foreign elements, might as well be rocket science.
The other most useful tool besides the tractor has been our bi-monthly issue of Mother Earth News. Seriously informed and surprisingly well-written, who knew those homesteaders and gardeners had such exceptional literary talents along with their astounding how-to skills!