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Sonlit Acres

Encouraging sustainable living


With spring here and me waiting for the mud to dry up I have had some time to ponder, thinking God has been good to us on the homestead, after all we came here with limited knowledge of what it would really be like to make a living on a full-blown homestead. We came to an over grown patch of land that was part of a subdivision and hadn't been farmed in over 50 years.

As I have told people in the past, it isn't easy, it takes allot of hard work but it is rewarding. No, it isn't going to give you a pension. Your pension comes from the savings the homestead can provide if you use your head wisely.

As I look at the produce we have consumed at this moment, as well as the animals that were slaughtered to feed us through the winter. As I look around and see projects that aren't yet finished that hopefully will get done soon and in the line of priority, I think the homestead is really no place to do things half done. Things need to be built and fixed properly if they will last.

Over the years we have lived through some criticism as well as praise. The life we chose was and is our life to live, I wouldn't do it any other way except I would have rather not blundered in some of the things we did as we were learning. But then again, when we are learning we all blunder.

 The big thing that I notice today vs 29 years ago is that we have lived a much freer life than many do today. I know this is going to rile someone, but the fact of the matter is we weren’t tied to an 8 to 4:30 job that we had to be dedicated to. I know I don’t own all the cool things many that are tied into that life have, but then again, I do have some of those things people call toys, but to me they are machines for work. Yes, I live in the snow belt and I have snowmobiles, some newer, and some very old ones that I have had for many years. But they are all used for work and each has its particular use. The same goes with guns, each has its own use and is the right tool for the job, the same as my splitting mauls, axes. Hammers, knives and chainsaws. As far as buying food we also lived pretty freely there as well, when we walk out the front door we turn 45-degrees to the left, walk 50 feet and you are in the fresh produce section. Go out the side door turn right and the dairy is straight on 75 feet, then from there turn right and another 75 feet is the fresh poultry section then about 25 feet past that is the fresh beef section. Now the pork may be placed anywhere they may be needed.  Working the ground where it needs to be worked.  Now you can see what I mean by freer, we have just been less tied to the system of consumerism than many.

It is difficult to put a monetary value on our life style, many things are produced here for ourselves from food to lumber, if we can make it here we most certainly will do it that way. It is a lifestyle, that is suitable for some and not so much for others.  I know people that live on both side of the spectrum some seem to do alright that way, but I have always thought and said, you have to put the priority on the life style you want to live, if it’s on the homestead then most of your time and effort must go toward the homestead, if it’s the secular life style and the homestead is just a hobby, then the secular job is where your time will be spent. Which means that during harvest time if your job requires more from you than your homestead can give, then the homestead suffers and never really seems worth your effort. This in my opinion is where and why so many of the homesteads started fail. It is claimed that out of all the homestead startups, 50% of them fail in the first year.

Where you invest your time is where your priorities are! Our homestead Met most of our needs from food to other things we could make from the resources we have on the land it also provided us a place and the time to spend it with family, our children learned the benefit of hard work and the rewards of doing so.  If They ever have a need or desire to homestead they will have been taught to do so and could transition into it if they wanted, or needed to. 

As time passes we all begin to age and with aging the body slows down and in allot of cases hurts more than it used to. All the wear and tear from years of hard work finally catch up and you look at your spouse one day and say, “Honey, I just can’t keep up anymore.” You know because the garden doesn’t look like it used too, it looks more like a weed bed than a vegetable garden. Why do we need one so big? I honestly don’t know, but I have been going to make it smaller for the past few years and for the life of me I can’t figure out how I am going to do it. It may sound funny to you, but if you have been raising some 80 to 90% of what you eat for long enough, you will have a hard time figuring how to down size it.  But I have had all winter to figure it out and I have a definite plan.  We have cut back on how many cows we keep, thus cutting out several hay fields. We only raise 2 pigs a year now instead of 4, and we’re cut back on chickens by half this year. That’s 50 less than we were raising and 100 less than we raised when all the children were home.

The advantage of starting our homestead when we were younger is everything is in place and the hardest parts are honestly done. Anything could be brought back into full swing if for some reason things went South and the kids needed help in the food department. Yes of course they would be needed to help out.

The family has grown up and we don’t have the food demands on us that we once did, I have the full dated canning jars in the pantry to prove it. Since I didn’t buy any seed last year I have finished up all the extras I have had, so I will only order half what I have normally ordered over the years, I know how much that will be because we have kept records of how much we have purchased in years past.  So, the plan is plowing only half this spring.  This will now allow us to rotate the garden and give half a rest maybe let the cows in to graze the free side then in a couple of years plow the other half and allowing the other side a rest.

It has most certainly been a good run for us all these years and we look forward to continuing that run, just a little smaller now and maybe giving this older body a chance to do some things we haven’t done in a while. 

As some of you may know, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a couple years ago and had surgery to remove part of my esophagus and most of my stomach. It was a very challenging time for us, it has been two years since the surgery and I am feeling allot better, I have been getting more done this year than last. But, there have been changes and some things I can’t do anymore, one is I can’t crawl under the tractor or cars and lay flat on my back, nor can I work bent over because the removal of the stomach has left me with no valve at the top. Meaning if it’s in there and I lay flat or bend over it comes out.  Working normal isn’t as normal as it used to be, I even sleep elevated at a 30-degree angle to keep the stomach acid down where it belongs.  Whether the cancer ever returns or not is not my decision I just trust God will do His will in that area. My part was to be as strong as I could be before surgery, so to some degree I attribute life on the homestead as part of my faster than normal recovery.

Reflecting on our lives here and facing the prospects of getting a little older and dealing with the aches and pains of so many years of work we are satisfied. It has been a very good life that has been lived to the fullest, I rarely ever got up and dreaded having to go to work in the morning. Oh, I admit there is always something we really don’t want to do, but do it because it has to be done.  Every spring and fall there was a litter of piglets that needs something done, I don’t care much for, but it gets done because it has to be done.

No part of our life was wasted living close to the land, I never honestly looked at our life as living off the land as so many put it, but rather living with the land was how I always felt I was doing.  You can’t take without putting back, so feeding the land by returning what you took is living with the land, taking without putting back in my opinion is living off the land. Farmers of old did it that way, they lived off the land until it was used up, then they just pulled stakes and moved to another place until that was used up. They really didn’t get it until after the dust bowl era. Today most are real stewards of the land and many times the land really has to be worked on to improve it. The best way to improve old farm land is with livestock.  No, I didn’t read about that back in the day when we were starting, I got pigs to work the fresh cleared land and to get it plowed, that’s why we called them pigcavators.  The cows came once the land was re-cleared and fenced. The pigs dug the ground and fertilized as they went, the cows ate the grass that grew and they too fertilized as they went. The chickens followed the cows looking for the dryer droppings and scratched them spreading it out while searching for and eating the fly larvae and fertilized as they went. So, the idea of a specialized farm or homestead that only produces one thing isn’t a good sustainable system. It takes all of these things on the farm or homestead to make it work. This is why I can’t figure out a way to homestead without all of my animals here. This is why I have such a problem figuring out how to down size, because it gives a new learning curve, how much to cut back on without upsetting the balance we have created in building this homestead.  

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