One aspect of frugal living that we embrace is growing some of our food ourselves. We maintain a garden, fruit trees and backyard chickens at our little homestead and feel tremendous pride when we eat a meal that has mostly come from our own dirt! Since folks sometimes ask me about our homegrown food I thought I’d share pictures and details here on the blog.
When we moved into our house five years ago we felt so blessed to find property that already had a bunch of mature fruit trees and plantings as well as plenty of room for a garden and even animals. We have 2.8 acres that is mostly usable, though you could do what we are doing on far less – even in a small 1/4 acre backyard. I’ll share pictures of the garden, fruit, chickens, and how we compost and use rainwater at our house.
Deer are abundant where we live so if we want to eat anything we grow we have to fence the garden in. We’ve only planted half of it this year because in past years it has become overgrown because I didn’t have the time or energy to maintain it. This year I’ve got lettuce, butternut squash, tomatoes, green beans, watermelon, cantaloupe and peppers. So far this seems to be the right size garden for what time I can devote to it!
We’ve settled on four tomato plants as the right number for our family. This year I have three in the garden (one Big Boy, one Roma, and one Cherry Tomato plant) and another Roma in a container by our porch. If you’ve never grown your own food at all, a tomato plant in a bucket on your deck or porch is the perfect way to start! I often also grown herbs and peppers in containers off of our back porch.
This tomato is about to become a delicious fried green tomato. Watch the blog for the recipe coming soon!
Butternut squash tend to do really well in our heavy clay soil. I wish they weren’t such a chore to process! We already have three or four that will be ready to pick in the next few weeks.
We compost our food scraps as well as yard waste. We have a pretty constant supply of compost for the garden at this point.
We also harvest rainwater using this rain barrel (though it isn’t hooked up at the moment because it is full) to water the containers and garden. We have to use the hose many days as well in the garden because it is so hot here in the summer.
There were over 20 mature blueberry bushes on our property when we moved here. There are three different varieties and we usually get a steady supply of blueberries for six weeks starting in July. If we are dedicated we can eat our fill AND load up most of a stand-up freezer with blueberries! I also make loads of yummy blueberry jam. Local friends – please come pick some for yourself. The blueberry patch is so big that it is hard to photograph, but this hopefully gives some idea.
We have three large pear trees and one gigantic apple tree behind the blueberries. Unfortunately the squirrels claim a lot of our fruit, even with my husband’s attempts at “protecting” the fruit from the squirrels. What we get I freeze and use to make fruit crisps, usually with my mom’s awesome recipe. I’ll share that later in the summer, too!
Our three fig bushes are recovering from a late frost this spring and hopefully we will get some fruit. A few years ago I made almost 50 jars of fig jam because we had such a great harvest! Figs are some of the easiest foods to pick and process so I love it when we have a good fig year.
We have a bunch of pecan trees that are just starting to produce a supply of nuts as well. I am still learning how to best process pecans. If we get a substantial amount I may use my friend Leah’s suggestion to send them to someone who shells them for a fee.
Our small flock of chickens are the most recent addition to the homestead. After one failed attempt (that is a story for another post!) we got our current eight birds in early April. We have four birds each of two popular backyard chicken breeds, Plymouth Barred Rocks and Buff Orpingtons. So far they are safe, happy and growing. They should start producing eggs in late August. I can’t wait to not ever have eggs on my grocery list again!
My husband built the coop and run completely with scrap materials from his shop over the winter. Our friend Erin helped paint the coop and our friend Chip helped a LOT with building the run. The chickens have been out of the run a few times now to free-range, but we have lots of hawks so they have to be under close supervision.
Though the homestead does take time and effort to maintain, we feel it is time and energy well spent. We love that our daughter is growing up knowing where food comes from. She is old enough to participate in growing some of her own food and she seems to love it and feel the same pride we feel! Next we’d love to raise bees for honey on the small chunk of land we own across the street from our home. And of course I dream of fencing in the entire side yard for ponies. Maybe some day!
A book that we got as a wedding present that really helped us is The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. We used lots of the suggestions in the book and it helped open our eyes to how much you can do even with a small amount of land.
Does your family grow anything or have any food animals? If not, is there anything holding you back? Please leave a comment below!