This Home on the Range series celebrates all kinds of homesteaders, from urban rooftop gardeners to rural ranches and farms, from beekeepers to goat herders, from container gardeners to egg gatherers. Come and visit with us today.
This week’s feature is from Ben and Pamela of Shalom Farms. Check out their blog at www.HomeShalom.blogspot.com. Here is a short synopsis about their motivations and goals as told to me.
Welcome to Shalom Farms! We purchased our farm 3 years ago (in August), in rural TN. We moved here from Lancaster County, PA. We have 85 acres of rolling hills and woods. It is about 60% pasture and 40% surrounded in woods. We border an Amish community, which is very nice because we are building relationships with them and learning a lot from them. We are able to get our raw milk from them (until we get our own cow) and use their services (as the community vet, and furrier, and construction and additional farm labor). While we enjoy and use electricity, it is our goal to be able to live well without it, by making sure our basic needs and tools are not dependent on electricity. We are putting alternatives things in place on our homestead to make that possible.
We have 6 children, 3 girls and 3 boys, whose ages range from 2-14. We have two adopted daughters from Haiti, who have been home for three years now. We home school our children.
Some things we have accomplished in our three years on the farm so far, in addition the life stock mentioned below are; planting a 10000 sq foot Back to Eden Style Garden , a small orchard with apple, cherry and peach trees, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, a perennial herb garden (still in progress), a root cellar and food storage shed with workshop, a well that is solar set up and simple summer kitchen in the pump house, fencing – fencing and more fencing, rainwater collection, animal transportation, (with the help of friends) we built and finished a second floor on our house (which took it from a 2 br to a 4br), (with Amish help) we built a garden/had lean too on the barn, a wood shed, equipment shed, pump house tapping maple trees, foraging food , a wood stove for heating a cooking, co-operative arrangement with another local farmer to harvest our hay.
What led you to become a traditional, urban or suburban homesteader?
I became a vegetarian when I was 18. This started my interest in food quality and diversity. It you are interested in whole food quality, it doesn’t take long until you get to the “root of food” and find yourself connecting with the source of it…which is farmers! During my first pregnancy (at 26), I craved meat so badly that I stopped being a vegetarian (much to my husband’s delight!). But it was still very important to me, to eat clean whole nutrient dense food. In the first few years of my (then) two children’s lives, they never had milk, because I didn’t trust even the organic store bought (homogenized pasteurized) stuff. I found myself hunting for good food. I started a health food co-op and became very connected with my local farmers. I think the desire to homestead was seeded then. It came out of a love for food, family, and community, but what tipped the scales was probably reading The Little House on the Prairies series aloud to my young children!
What do you love about your homestead?
EVERYTHING! It is still and out of the way on a dead end road. We hear sounds of life here; Birds chirping, the donkey braying, an occasional cow mooing, roosters crowing, children calling out (and you don’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors!). It is spacious and beautiful.
What would you change?
The biggest thing we would like to change, is to be “debt free”. So we are working toward owning our farm outright…but we do not yet. It is also part of our vision to allow a couple other families on our farm to give them that very advantage that we did not have. It might be nice to have a few less insects and spiders…but we have learned how to live together (outside), they are still not tolerated inside!
What new skills have you learned and how have you applied them?
We are learning EVERYTHING as we go! It is ALL new. Having not been raised in an agrarian lifestyle and having lived in cities and suburbia most of our lives at age 40+ we are learning everything from scratch. Hunting, butchering, preserving food, animal husbandry, growing food, sewing, carpentry and DIY, you name it. Homesteading requires ingenuity. There are always problems to solve and things to overcome, be they big or small. You learn to think on your feet.
What skills would you like to learn?
I would like to be more proficient in all the things that we are learning. That awkward “beginner stage” is always the worst. We fumble in insecurity and we make mistakes. These mistakes are usually costly and or timely. It will be so nice when experience takes it’s places and spares us some of that! We are always looking for others who have gone before us, so that we may benefit from their experience. However, there is a certain amount of “earning one’s stripes” that is inevitable!
What animals or plants do you have?
At the time of this writing, we have 50 turkeys, 81 chickens, 8 sheep, a donkey, and 4 beef cows (that we keep for someone else). We also have 6 farm cats and a house dog. We will breed our sheep to increase our flock (considerably) and will also get a couple more donkey to go into each sheep field (they act as guardians to the sheep). We also plan to get goats and our won beef and dairy cows.
What makes you happy with your life as a homesteader?
So many things! We quickly learned the simple life isn’t so simple…but it IS worth it. There are so many things that we gain from it that makes me happy. We gain life-skills, that we simply would not have if we were living in suburbia or the city. We have gotten connected with the cycle of life and creation so much more intimately. We have become aware and are growing in knowledge of the wild things around us, that can be used to sustain ourselves, such as taping trees and using bark and roots, and using plants that most people call weeds for food or medicine. We have gained a greater respect for Creation (nature) which has made us better stewards of it. We work together as a family, without so many of the distractions and noise of the crazy world around us. This creates strong bonds and relationships in our family and spills out into our community. All these things make us happy in our lives as homesteaders.
Thank you Pamela! Your homestead is awesome and so interesting! Here are some photos!
This is our home. When we moved three years ago, it had no front porch, gutters or second floor. It still had a green tin roof, and when it rained we had to walk through a rushing waterfall to get in and out of the door! I much prefer our porch and gutter system now.
This is what my wood cook stove looks like in the warmer months. I call it my fermentation station. It is where I put my cultured veggies and kefir whey based ferments. (I separate my Kombucha Ferments in a different room. I learned – the hard way- that my kombucha will interfere with the kefir ferments when set side by side, even when I have lids on them!)
Here the children are working together to plant our new grape vines in the fruit patch. I was excited to learn (from Sandor Katz) that grape leaves will help my lacto fermented pickles!! I always ignored that “optional” ingredient until just this week! They are still “brewing”. I didn’t taste them yet…hey that reminds me about that too.
These are our new breed of sheep in which we are specializing in now. They are St. Croix Hair sheep. These are our 6 ewes that will start our flock. They are more docile and friendly than the (formerly raised) Black Belly Barbados (but not as cute, in my opinion). We are very please with them so far.
I leave you with the picture of Shomare, our “guard donkey”. He lives with the ewes and it is so fun to watch. He herds them and sounds an alarm in times of concern. He has stolen my heart, because he is very affectionate. When I went out to see him today He sounded a loud and long donkey bray on my approach to the gate. Then he came running toward me like an excited dog. If you have never seen a donkey bray in person, you are in for a treat when you do! It is very animated, dramatic and drawn out. You just gotta love’ m!
I love that donkey. Don’t you? These folks have been very busy!
What is a Real Food Homesteader?
A Real Food Homesteader is someone who cares about the earth, the soil and the animals that give us food. You don’t have to have acres of prairie land to be a homesteader. You can be an urban or suburban homesteader with a tiny plot of land, a rooftop garden in a city, or a community garden. You could also be a more traditional homesteader who is concerned about organic, sustainable methods of farming or gardening, who supports pasture raised animals.
Real Food Homesteaders don’t use genetically modified seeds. They don’t use poisons on the plants and soil. They don’t feed poisoned grains to their animals.
They cook traditionally with raw dairy from grassfed animals and eggs from chickens on pasture. They shun processed vegetable oils like margarine and other processed foods. They try to buy as little packaged food as possible — growing and preserving their own instead.
Are you a person like this? Do you have an urban, suburban or rural homestead? Please share it with us.
Send your answers to Jill at Real Food Forager dot com and 5 – 6 of your best photos sized 450 with captions. Send the text in a word document and the photos in digital attachments.
The next could be yours!