Cultivating Your Next Homestead Business Idea

If you do a quick online search, you’ll find hundreds of articles and pitches for Master Classes and E-Courses claiming to FAST TRACK your homestead dreams. Forget the jargon and marketing buzz. We’re all about reality around here. I can’t promise you success. What I can share, however, is a method that has worked for others.

Every new business is different. The time you have available, your passion, physical space, local community, and so many other factors will come into play as you work to launch a new venture. While exciting, it can be daunting to think about starting a business. Intimidating even.

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Whether you’re struggling to come up with an idea or you have too many to choose from, focused brainstorming can help. The goal is to have at least three ideas that are feasible… something you think you could pull off (with some time, effort, and possibly research). Try not to think about things like taxes, permits, and bookkeeping software at this point – that will come later.

Not sure where to start?

  • Do you already create products or offer services as a hobby? Do you have the capacity to scale that up?
  • Spend some time people watching and trying to put yourself in their shoes. What is a product or service they could use?
  • Do you have a skill others want to learn? Consider coaching, consulting, tutoring, or hosting educational workshops.

Have a list of potential ideas? Great! You’re ready for the next step.

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Every idea has it’s own set of obstacles and opportunities. In many ways, obstacles pose risks and everyone has their own comfort threshold when it comes to risk. Think about the level of red tape, start up costs, expert knowledge that may be required for each idea. How comfortable are you with tackling those obstacles? What level of risk are you willing to take on?

Look at each of your ideas and come up with a list of need-to-knows. If you’re hung up on the red-tape unknowns researching with your Department of Agriculture, Business and Commerce, or a quick call to your local government offices may clear up questions about license, permit, inspection, and fee requirements. Remember, our goal is eliminate ideas that have too many obstacles to focus on more feasible ones.

Ready to get a bit more specific? It’s time to answer the following:

  • What will you need to get started? How much will it cost?
  • What are the potential obstacles you can see initially?
  • How hard will it be to get your first sale?
  • Is this a new idea? Is there a clear path/structure to get to where you want to be?
  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?
  • If it doesn’t work, what is the financial implication for you?

Consider making a T-Chart (or similar organization table) to organize your thoughts. By looking at the opportunities and obstacles of your ideas side by side, you’ll have a much better understanding of which ideas to pursue and which to hold on to for a future endeavor.

Your answers don’t have to be technical. This more about getting your vision on paper and seeing what ideas naturally fit for you. Let’s go through the questions using an example: Best Farm Sitters LLC

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  • What will you need to get started? How much will it cost?
    • Calendar for scheduling, transportation, boot covers or other personal protective equipment for traveling to different farms, basic contract and liability release
  • What are the potential obstacles you can see initially?
    • Building a name that is trusted and recognized, limited number of farms in the immediate area, familiarity with different species of animals people may have, hard to compete with neighbors and teenage labor
  • How hard will it be to get your first sale?
    • Depends on price point. Offer a discounted rate to a local farmer you already know? Run a special?
  • Is this a new idea? Is there a clear path/structure to get to where you want to be?
    • There are others that perform this service locally, but not as a structured business.
  • What is the ideal outcome?
    • Repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising. Demand will cause the business to grow and create a network of farm sitters. Instead of farm sitting yourself, you could matchmake farm sitters to farmers. Less time consuming, wouldn’t involve as much travel to earn commissions
  • What is the worst-case scenario?
    • No one books the service
  • If it doesn’t work, what is the financial implication for you?
    • Lost time, but low financial risk: advertising costs will be lost, low start-up costs and most could be re-purposed for your own farm

Still liking your ideas? Great! In the next post we’ll look at how to estimate potential profit to help solidify your decision of which one to pursue first. If not, try going through the brainstorming process again to identify more ideas.

Homestead Business Ideas

Thinking about starting a business on your homestead? Homestead business ideas often take the form of traditional farming operations, value-added products and agri-tourism, but they don’t have to. Many small farms and homesteads find that non-traditional ideas help diversify their income streams and reduce risk.

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In the simplest terms, making money on your homestead really comes down to offering goods or services that are appealing to customers.

Let’s take a moment to address the growing popularity of homesteading lifestyle blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels. From a business model, the content is not usually the product; it is a marketing tool used to drive traffic to the website or video where the income is generated – either from selling products or ad space.

So what makes a business idea great?

There are a few things to keep in mind. It may seem obvious, but you want an idea that can be converted into money. Then you need to find the right audience and pitch.

So how do I get started?

The best business ideas are feasible, profitable, and persuasive. Let’s look at a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Feasible – are you able to start a project that earns money in a short period of time? Is this something you have the background knowledge to start – or can you learn quickly? Will it require a large amount of specialty equipment?
  • Profitable – can you easily build the idea? If you have a hard time explaining the primary benefit of your concept in more than a sentence or two, you may need to rethink the idea. Being able to clearly and concisely explain your idea is key. If the primary benefit is unclear to potential customers, they won’t pay for it.
  • Persuasive – what is persuasive now? Some ideas you should hold onto until the right time.

When you’re brainstorming ideas, the goal is to find high potential ideas. When testing your idea, here are a few simple things to think about. The more “yes” answers you have, the better the idea.

  • Is there a simple path to turn the idea into reality?
  • Can the business idea be explained in one sentence?
  • Does it solve a problem, or makes someone’s life easier in a specific way?
  • Is it low maintenance and/or easy to deliver without a ton of preparation or follow up?
  • Is there potential for recurring income?

In our next post, we’ll focus more on how to refine ideas for your new business.

Previous posts in series:

Starting a Homestead Side Hustle

A Homestead Side Hustle is about more than just the extra cash, it’s an additional layer of security and risk management for your farm. It allows you more options when you’re looking at future projects, can relieve some of the financial burden of upgrading equipment or expanding your infrastructure.

Consider the time you spend creating your side hustle an investment in your farm or homestead.

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Even though it sounds great, starting a small business is intimidating. There are plenty of questions that come up… Is now the right time? Am I ready? What if I don’t know what I’m doing?

My recommendation is to start small and allow it to grow with you. If things don’t take off, you can always pivot and try something else. The experience will only help you and we prefer to stick with ideas that you can launch with relatively little fiscal investment – minimizing the financial risk if things don’t go as planned.

Think of these as prerequisites for starting a small business on your farm:

  1. An open mind. Are you ready to learn and experiment? You don’t need experience starting a business, a business degree or any special education to be successful, but you will need to be ready to try something new.
  2. Willingness to act. We’ll share the same steps we followed, but you’ll need to act on them to get your business ready to launch.
  3. Some dedicated time, even if it’s 15 minutes a day to write down your ideas and questions. Choose to make your side hustle a priority. We started RC Field Days in about a month. We came up with the idea on New Year’s Day and opened to the public on February 6.
  4. Flexibility. The goal is to create a small business that works for you. Always consider your lifestyle and goals as you plan. There is no one “right” business model. What works for a farm down the road, or for a social media influencer or lifestyle blogger, may not work for you.
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A small business has many merits, but it all starts with the right idea to meet your goals. A side hustle can change your life. When you build something, it’s empowering. You gain confidence, security, both from the extra income and the new opportunities you afford yourself.

Start with your answer to a simple question- what do you want the side hustle to do?

In general there are three common goals – which one speaks to you?

  • Extra cash for a specific purpose (purchase X, payoff Y, etc)
  • Create sustainable income to increase your quality of life
  • Replace, or augment, the income from your current job

Now write your own goal. Try to make it SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. This is always the hardest part for me. Stuck? Try considering what you’d like to see 3, 6, 12 months from now.

Goal: I want to make extra money.

Okay, but let’s make it measurable. $200, $750, $1800 a month? How much is achievable and realistic? What kind of time frame are you looking at?

Better Goals:

  • I want to make $500 a month from my side hustle by October.
  • By December, I will be earning enough to cover a tractor payment each month.
  • I will clear $4000 profit from my small business in the first year.
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In many ways, having this goal helps you look more critically at your potential business ideas. Do they have the capacity to help you meet this goal? If not, can you add value to get there? If the answer is still no…. it’s best to invest your time into a different project to start.

Whether it’s paying off debt, helping with start-up costs, creating an emergency fund, or building up your infrastructure quicker, there are a ton of reasons to think about diversifying your income streams. Start simple and add complexity only as you need. You may just find that it grows organically into a business with full-time potential.

In the next post, we’ll focus on what makes a business idea great.

Making Money on Your Homestead

Ready to get uncomfortable? Let’s talk about money.

Did you know that as many as 45% of working Americans have a side hustle outside of their primary jobs, according to a 2019 Bankrate survey?

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Though many families rely on side hustles to make ends meet, the most common reason is for a source of disposable income. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy some extra money coming in, right?

Let’s set the expectation though, 73% of side hustles earn up to $500 monthly. We’re not talking quit-your-full-time job money… and that’s okay.

Yes, there are ways to earn $1000+ per month without getting a “real” part-time, or second, job…. but even at a few hundred dollars a month, starting revenue-generating projects can be a welcome boost to your homestead income!

We’ve done it… and so can you. (Want to learn more about one of our side projects? Check out RC Field Days online.)

Starting a side hustle, or small business, on your farm or homestead can be a rewarding way to create additional income. This is just the first post in a blog series all about starting your own homestead side hustle because let’s be honest… quitting our day jobs to farm or homestead full time is just not an option for most of us. There are bills to pay, health insurance, and other benefits to consider. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards that end goal.

Even if you love your current job, having more than one source of income gives you options.

It doesn’t matter what you currently do for off-farm income or if you’ve never dreamt of being an entrepreneur. You can build a side hustle using the skills you have and create additional income streams for your homestead. In the next post we’ll be talking about how to get started and what makes a great idea. Join us as we share practical tips – and what worked for us.

Starting a Homestead Side Hustle

Homestead Business Ideas

10 Common Homesteading Myths

There’s no doubt that homesteading is becoming more popular (and for good reason). For many families, being cooped up during quarantine had them dreaming of more land and reconnecting with nature.

Here’s the thing… as great as homesteading and having a small farm is, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there. It’s time for some real talk about homesteading.

Myth 1: Homesteading is a quick process.

Homesteading is many things, but “quick” is not usually the adjective we’d pick first unless we’re talking about things like spending money, taking on projects, starting lettuces and radishes…

A homestead is a journey. You won’t be where you want to be in a year, or two. That’s okay. Small steps add up over time. Take your time and remember to enjoy the process.

Myth 2: You have to live in the middle of nowhere.

There’s far more to homesteading than a zip code. While a rural area can be your “right” place, you can implement homesteading practices wherever you are. Read our Country is a Mindset blog post for more ideas on suburban and urban homesteads.

Myth 3: The “Perfect Property”

At first glance, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a standard definition for the perfect property? The reality is that what is perfect for one family may not be right for another. We all have our own tolerances for different types of weather and pests, preferences on topography and access to local infrastructure, and goals for our properties.

I grew up in New England and my husband grew up in Mississippi River country. We both approached our property search with different goals in mind. Over the years we’ve lived on three different small farms and have learned what works best for our family. It’s all about balance. Our current property has more rock than many would prefer, but we’ve embraced the natural diversity of our cedar glade and have learned to love our land.

Myth 4: You have to do it all.

There are plenty of definitions out there for what a homestead should look like. At the end of the day, though, it comes back to what works for your family. Don’t get locked into a narrow vision of what your homestead should be.

Find what works with your land and for your family. If you don’t want to be tied into milking twice a day, don’t. We respect the work that dairy families put in, but it’s not what we want for ourselves at this point in our lives. Partner with a local farm that doesn’t mind the routine. Homesteading can open up a larger community of producers and creators. Tap into it and focus on what brings you joy and is manageable on your property.

Myth 5: It’s easy to live in harmony in nature.

Okay, it can be easy… if you’re willing to accept that your farm will become part of the larger food chain and without a strong predator protection plan you’ll likely be feeding more local wildlife than your family. We’ve lost goat kids and a calf to roaming dogs and have donated more than our fair share to poultry to raccoons, opossums, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and the odd hawk or owl over the years as we learned what we needed to do to keep our livestock safe.

When Robert Frost said “good fences make good neighbors” he wasn’t just talking about the house next door. The reality is that as you create a homestead, there are growing pains that will come with it.

New habitat and food sources for wildlife will encourage pests and predators. Creating sustainable practices and recognizing that while we live alongside nature, she will never truly be tamed is part of stewarding the land. Take advantage of the gifts nature provides, like foraging, but remember that managing predators (both of plants and livestock) is part of the process as well.

Myth 6: You have to be organic.

There is a lot of pressure in homesteading groups to be organic, but there are just as many misconceptions out there. I see folks routinely share that all Amish and Mennonites are organic because they practice more traditional planting methods. This is simply not true.

Explore the options. There are a variety of natural methods out there, but not all will provide quick results… especially if you are dealing with invasive or aggressive species like fire ants.

While we do not encourage indiscriminate use of medicines and chemicals, there are times that they are warranted… just as they can be for your family. I try to avoid antibiotics, but when my foot started to get inflamed a couple days after stepping on a nail (I knew when my last tetanus booster was and wasn’t worried on that end) I went to the doctor. Find what works for you along the continuum and don’t get discouraged if you need to do what is in the best interest of a plant or animal.

7. You will make enough money to quit your job.

Homesteading is rewarding in so many ways, but not often financially. At times it can even seem like a second job, especially when you have gardens to weed and animals to care for. Most homesteading is based upon the older subsistence farming model. While you will have a variety of edible items, transitioning those into income can be difficult at times.

Myth 8: Older is always best, or they don’t make things like they used to.

How many times have you seen someone muse, “they just don’t make things like they used to.” While this may be true for washing machines, it cannot be applied universally.

Keep in mind the availability of finding replacement parts when looking at used equipment. We have couple of my father-in-law’s old chainsaws that are nearly impossible to find parts for. And many items, like glassware, cast iron, and crockery carry an antique, sentimental, or collectible value that inflates their cost. Be sure to thoroughly check vintage and antique items for wear or damage before purchase.

Myth 9: You have to go it alone.

Homesteading doesn’t have to be a lonely journey. Even if you are working your property on your own, there are larger communities of like-minded folks to connect with. Join a local group online, attend local extension service classes and field days, and build your community. It can be a great way to barter and trade skills.

10. When you’re on a budget, free is always best.

When you’re starting out, it’s easy to get caught up in the trap of thinking free is best. If something doesn’t cost you time or money, there’s likely a good reason… and you’re setting yourself up to inherit someone else’s problem.

Free animals usually have either temperament (aggression), parasite, or disease issues. Even things like free mulch are often riddled with termites, fire ants, or other undesirable pests. Invest in quality materials and animals whenever you can. It can be far more expensive in both time and resources to replace items versus purchasing quality the first time around.

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Some of our Farmstead Favorites… Found on Amazon

We love both homesteading and outdoor products and are always excited to find things that make our life easier, more efficient, or reduce waste. Below we share three welcome additions for camping and emergency situations, four great gift ideas, and five favorite items we’ve added around the house in the last year or two- all found on Amazon!

Three Must-Haves for Camping and Emergency Situations:

  1. Freeze Dried Meal – When we prepped for our last back-country camping trip, we picked up some freeze-dried meals. Peak Refuel has some great options to keep around for last minute plans or emergency situations!
  2. Suture Alternatives – We also picked up Steri-Strip Wound Closures to add to our medical kits…. because, well, accidents happen.
  3. Water Jugs – Whether it’s for camping or to keep around during storm season, having fresh, potable water is a must. We have a few different styles of containers, but like the narrow design and spout on this seven gallon jerry can style water storage jug.
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Four Great Gifts for Outdoor Enthusiasts:

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  1. Unique family activities for toddlers, preschool, and early elementary – In our home, experiences are valued more than objects. That often makes gift-giving, especially for kids, difficult. We picked up a few sets of these fun outdoor scavenger hunt sets to encourage other families to spend more time interacting outside!
  2. Older children to adult – We love to see makerspaces and getting people connected with handcrafting and producing. We were pleasantly surprised by this woodcarving kit.
  3. Older children to adult – Our son is an avid reader. Even at 10 years old, he’s enjoying this selection of stories based on the adventures of John Muir. Do you know someone who is outdoorsy or enjoys stories based on real life? Check out The Wild Muir.
  4. Older children to adult – Know someone who is inspired by the human spirit, primitive living in Alaska, or adventures in the outdoors? Check out both of the Alone in the Wilderness movies. We’ve watched them countless times.
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Five of our Favorites for Around the house:

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  1. Reusable Storage Bags – We love reusable silicon bags to reduce plastic waste in our kitchen. We’ve had a set of these silicon storage bags for a couple of years.
  2. Glass Storage Jars – who doesn’t need additional storage jars? We use these wide mouth gallon jars for our bread flour.
  3. Donut Pans – I’m not above tricking my kiddos into eating healthier. These donut form pans have been an awesome addition to our kitchen! I routinely use muffin, banana bread, and zucchini bread batter to make homemade “donuts” that are always a hit.
  4. Tea Bags – I love loose-leaf tea. I make many of my own blends using herbs that we grow and forage here on the farm. While I normally use a metal tea ball, these cotton filter bags are perfect for travel and gifting!
  5. Hand Pump Oil Mister – while I like the convenience of oil sprays, I prefer to use products with minimal additives and preservatives. A hand-pump oil spray jar is both refillable and allows me total control over the product we’re using.
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Foraging Wild Edibles

When you hear the word “forage” what do you think of?

As a child, I associated it with hunters and gatherers. When I started raising more livestock, it became synonymous with fodder, or feed, for livestock. These days, however, I tend to think of wildcrafting, herbs, and edible plants before anything else.

In a world where we are accustomed to convenience, why is foraging making a resurgence? For me, it’s a way to connect with the bounty around us, but it’s also a way to incorporate a variety of micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals… in a natural way. There are so many “lost” edibles, just waiting to grace your palate and expand your idea of fresh food. (Note: while I forage many plants for their medicinal properties, this post will focus on those we forage to eat.)

Did you know the tiny leaves on these oxeye daisies are edible? They are mild, with a lingering hint of green apple.

For many, the idea of foraging is intriguing, but also intimidating. If you don’t come from a family that foraged, it’s easy to wonder where do I start? Or how do you know if it’s safe? The question that really got me though, is how do you incorporate what you forage?

Most of us are used to hybrid varieties, often bred for sweetness you won’t find in wild counterparts. We generally see produce that has been waxed, creating a longer shelf life than wild varieties. And let’s be honest, we’re used to the ease of finding fruits and vegetables out of season.

It’s never too late to start foraging and learning about the edible plants around you. Start small – learn to identify one plant and seek to find it. Take notes. What was your first impression? How did you feel about the taste? Texture? Did you like it? Remember, these do not need to be eaten on their own – they make great ingredients! Take chickweed or purslane as an example. While I don’t mind a little straight from the plant, chopping a small handful to mix in with other salad greens is my favorite way to enjoy them.

I share a few of my current favorites wild edibles below. These are plants that I routinely forage on our property, based on the time of year. We are in the southeastern US, but many of these plants are naturalized across a wide variety of states and can be easy to find. Remember, foraging can – and should be – fun. Plus, it’s a great excuse to pick up a foraging pouch!

Looking for a great way to store extras or freeze items for later use? Try reusable storage bags. We love these.

What to forage in winter and Early Spring:

Chickweed – this delicate little green happily pops up as a winter annual in our area. I prefer to pick the young stems by pinching off the stem, allowing the plant to regrow so we can continue to harvest. This helps keep them tender. I sometimes munch on stems while I’m working outside and add sprigs to our salads or pesto. You can also use it as a green in soups.

Cleavers – Cleavers is one of those plants that is hard to mistake once you learn it. Often identified by touch as much as sight, it has many names (including sticky-willy) for the way it can ‘cling’ to things. Pick some of the aerial parts (leaves and stems) and cover with water. I let this steep in the fridge for a refreshing spring drink similar to cucumber water. Want to extend your harvest? Freeze some for use later in the year.

Redbud, Dandelion, Violet, or Honeysuckle flowers– all can be used to make delightful jellies. Dandelion may be our favorite, with a hint of lemon (from the lemon juice we add to our recipe) and sweet flavor profile similar to a light honey. We love to collect flowers in market baskets.

What to forage in Spring and Early Summer:

Young Dock Leaves – While dock often get a bad wrap for being a common weed, the young leaves are tasty, with a slightly tart lemony flavor. Once the leaves mature, the midribs of large dock leaves can be tough and fibrous. While you can remove the midrib and still eat the leaf blade, I find it easier to just harvest young leaves. They are a welcome addition to my salads, but you can also boil or sauté the leaves similar to spinach for use in stir-fries, soups, stews, egg dishes, and even cream cheese. Reusable cotton mesh grocery bags work well for large bundles of dock leaves.

Red Clover – Red clover flowers can easily be collected and air-dried for tea. I rinse them and allow them to sit out on a cooling rack to allow for maximum air flow as they dry. They make a lovely tea on their own, but mix well with mint, chamomile, and other flowers. Generally 1 tablespoon dried herbs or 2 tablespoons fresh per cup is a good place to start, adjusting for your taste. With their delicate nature, we store dried blooms in glass jars.

Sorrel – another wild green with a lemony flavor, sorrel can make a great addition to dishes. Young leaves and stems have the strongest flavor, with other stems being more mild. While sorrel can be added to salads, it’s also a popular addition to cooked dishes to add a more complex flavor profile.

What to forage in Summer and Fall:

Wild Berries and Fruit – Growing up in New England, picking wild black raspberries or blueberries in the summer was a treat. These days, our family anxiously awaits wild blackberry season. While considered invasive, we allow them to grow along the outer edges of our fields, enjoying the wild harvest they bring. We have a few microclimates due to the terrain and elevation changes, so I often get a luxuriously long 6-week blackberry window. Later in the summer, our wild grapes, elderberries, and passionflowers will bear fruit. The flavor profiles of these wild plants are sometimes sweet, often tart, but full of incredible antioxidants, make wonderful jams and preserves, and mix well with the cultivated fruits we grow.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed during the height of the summer harvest. There have been times we’ve had gallons of fruit in the fridge, waiting to be processed. While it’s incredibly gratifying to be able to grow and harvest your own food, there is also a huge sense of responsibility. If you have the room, freezing berries for processing later can ease the burden. We prefer to use thick, reusable bags like these.

Purslane – I’m always excited to see purslane pop up in our gardens. It makes a tasty green and fun addition to my summer salads. With a little more work, you can pull the leaves off (to be enjoyed as a snack) and make a sweet refrigerator pickle/relish with the stems and onions.

Bee Balm – like red clover, bee balm makes a lovely tea. I harvest leaves, stems, and flowers for tea, always cutting above the second set of leaves to allow this perennial plant to continue to grow.

Curly Dock Seeds – when our dock starts to mature and the leaves become larger, I start anxiously awaiting the ripening of the seeds. Dock plants send up a prolific amount of seeds. Once a rich, dark brown, they can easily be harvested by grabbing the stem below the seeds and sliding your hand up and knocking the seeds into your palm. Sort any leaves out and the remaining seeds can be stored to add to baked goods throughout the year for a mild buckwheat flavor. I grind as needed (a coffee grinder works well) and add to pancake mixes, waffles, quick breads (like zucchini bread), and sometimes my sourdough bread. While you can find recipes that call for adding a ratio as high as 1 part dock seeds to 3 parts flour, I find that a tablespoon or two of ground dock seeds mixed into each cup of flour is a good place to start as it can impact the rise of breads.

Nuts – While we have a few varieties of nuts on our farmstead, black walnuts are the ones we harvest to eat. Walnuts make a good alternative to pine nuts in pesto and get chopped and added to our zucchini bread, brownies, and as a garnish on one of our favorite Foxfire cake recipes.

There are hundreds of edible plants waiting for you to discover them! Remember: while tempting, it’s best not to forage plants close to a roadway or in areas where you are unsure if pesticides or chemicals have been sprayed.

Have a favorite wild edible? Drop it below along with your favorite way to enjoy it.

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The Beauty of Pokeweed

As the summer winds down and I start to channel my inner squirrel, foraging and storing plants before the coming winter months, I’ve realized it may be time to share more information about all the “weeds” that I love.

Pokeweed is an often misunderstood plant. Here in Tennessee you can find plenty of folks who grew up eating “poke salad,” but far more that only know it as a weed or, even worse, poisonous plant. Yes, pokeweed can make you sick if you prepare it wrong (as can many other foods), but it can also be edible, medicinal, and a fun natural dye.

Pokeweed berries can be used to create a beautiful dye (okay, really it’s a stain, but let’s not get too technical here) that can be a deep red-purple or bright magenta depending on your preparation. It’s one of those tricky plants that needs a mordant or fixative though – something to help the dye stick – or it will quickly fade. Vinegar or acetic acid are often used.

Note: Despite the best preparations, pokeweed dye is more sensitive to light (UV rays) than many natural dyes and will often fade to a reddish brown over time from the brilliant pinks and deep reds it starts out as. Don’t let that stop you from having fun with it! You can create natural watercolor paints, inks, and stains for paper and fiber.

Looking for some ideas to get you started? I found the recipe from A Garden to Dye for on Mother Earth News super approachable. It uses acetic acid, something I like to keep around for different dye projects and canning/preserving food.

Looking for more information about using poke medicinally? Consider adding Darryl Patton’s Mountain Medicine to your library as a resource for natural remedies. The Kindle edition is the value option, but we bought the paperback version for our resource shelf after hearing him speak and joining one of his plant walks. Darryl is an amazing resource – be sure check out his wealth of information at The Southern Herbalist.

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A Season For Everything

Today, while enjoying an unexpected visit from friends, I was reminded that there is a season for everything.

While I recognize this in our gardening (I’m currently behind on prepping some of my fall beds) and with our animals (I need to check the calendar to see when to expect our next farrowing), there are times that I fail to remember this in our homesteading journey.

Some years we have grown leaps and bounds in our infrastructure, but others are marked by few additions and a focus on just maintaining what we have. It’s important to recognize that we need both. This year our spring cool-season garden was bountiful, but my summer garden is the smallest I’ve had in years so I could focus on some extended family needs this spring. By not getting as much planted, I’m also spending less time weeding, harvesting, and preserving, allowing me time to really step back and evaluate where we are.

The first semblance of our farmstead started more than 15 years ago on a different property. In that time I’ve learned to love okra (something I wasn’t sure would happen after moving to the south from New England), brought two wonderful children into the world, expanded the livestock we keep, and realized a passion for the native plants in our area.

Our first tractor. While it was a great piece of equipment for us, upgrading to a larger tractor with a front-end loader has opened up more possibilities on our farm.

Very few of the shifts we made over the years were large, but they built on each other to create a profound change in our lives. As the summer winds down, it’s tempting to look to the winter ahead. Have we accomplished all that we hoped before then?

Don’t disregard the small steps you’ve made this year- they are easy to overlook, but move you along the journey just the same. Taking small steps on occasion will set you up for the larger ones. I know my time has given me a chance to refocus on our priorities for our property and sparked plans for a much larger investment this fall. And that’s the way it works sometimes.

Regardless of what season you are in, now is your time. Find the blessing in it and always move forward.

I’d love to know what projects you are prioritizing right now. Drop a comment below or send us a message!

Raising Farm Kids

Spoiler alert: we don’t have it figured out either.

There’s something special about farm kids. They know far more about life than many of their peers, if for no other reason than seeing the harsh realities of farm life. They’ve seen births, experienced death, worked through meal times to prepare for a storm, and had safety drilled into them because our farmstead is rife with hazards – barbed wire, electric fencing, heavy equipment, hot cast iron, pressure canners, large animals, wild animals, and often long periods of time where the closest adult may be across a pasture or through the woods in a back field… just to name a few.

Every farm parent approaches it differently. I have friends who have a long list of farm chores for their kids and others who don’t ask for any help. We fall somewhere in-between. And that’s okay.

There are days that I want to push my kids to do more, but others where I am so appreciative of their sense of curiosity and the freedom we allow them to explore the farm and discover things on their own. My son is drawn to wood carving and blacksmithing these days – something neither of us exposed him to.

But as a parent, I think we all struggle at times. I know on long weekends spent fencing or moving animals I’ve wondered if we’re doing what’s best for our kids? I’ve had conversations with friends who want to give their kids more than what they had growing up while instilling a sense of responsibility. And for me – keeping older traditions and skills alive is important. At times, I struggle with nurturing a respect for the past while preparing them for an ever-changing future…

But can I share something that really weighs on me at times as a parent of farm kids?

I grew up barefoot more often than not. So are my kids and so did my mother. But there’s a key difference here: my kids go barefoot by choice. I always had the option. My mother, on the other hand, was raised on a rural dairy farm in the 1950s. Going barefoot in the summer was a way to preserve her only pair of shoes for the harsh New England winters. Running barefoot was not the mark of a carefree summer… it was the only choice.

I love our life on our farmstead, but the reality is we created this farm and took on the chores intentionally. My kids, on the other hand, did not. They’ve been born into this life, much as my mother was… and I’m keenly aware that she ran from the farm life based on her experiences. (I know, I know, our farm is a far cry from the rural dairy she grew up on nearly 70 years ago, but stay with me here.)

I was able to pick when and where to help on the family farm and learned quickly which aspects really interested me. While one of my cousins loved to spend time in the tractor planting, chopping, cutting, raking, I was always drawn to the animals. I worked through my teenage years at a different local farm, first cleaning the barn, animal runs and kennel, and later helping with pony rides and petting zoos at local fairs. Not only did this expose me to an incredible array of specialty and livestock breeds, but people.

In many ways, my husband’s story is similar. While there were livestock at home and he helped cut timber in the family’s small custom logging operation, he also worked at a local farm before leaving home for trade school. Having been exposed to cattle – both beef and dairy, hogs, and horses, he had an idea of the work our farm would entail.

I want my kids to have that same option. To curate their own farm experiences and find where they connect. We may have chosen this farm life, but I know there is a place for them in it as well… they just need to find it.

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