Monday, February 7, 2011

Building A Local Homestead Community

The internet has done wonders for homesteaders. While it has served as an avenue to inspire and encourage many, giving them the confidence to embark on this fabulous journey, it has also been a source of wisdom and learning for those who lost or never acquired homesteading skills in the first place. And as a side benefit, it has brought many of us together in a kind of cyber-community where we have met new friends!

Photo Credit: MNicoleM

There's only one negative with this internet homesteading community; we're spread all over the world! It just isn't very realistic for me to run over and lend a hand to someone in Ohio, Virginia, or Louisiana, much less in Australia, Scotland, or Italy.  Sure there are a few things we can do via email and snail-mail, but we need a community that is close to us in proximity as well. 

The purpose of this post is not to run you off - no, please stay and visit often! But just like you can have more than one friend, you can have more than one source for encouraging you in your homesteading. Therefore, the purpose of this post is to put an idea in your head to start a local homesteading chapter in your immediate community. 

There are lots of ways you could probably do this, but let me share with you what several of us did in our area just this past month and what you can do as well...

Starting A Local Homesteading Community

Begin by setting a date for a interest only meeting. This would be you, inviting a few friends over that enjoy homesteading topics, serving some coffee or tea, maybe a snack, and talk about what you dream of doing.

During this time, consider the area your group will cover geographically, when you want to meet, and how often. Talk about what your meetings will look like and what you would discuss at your gatherings. Consider how you can help each other throughout the month and how you will stay connected. How will new people hear about your group and join? Talk about that, too.

Consider setting up a Google Group (or one on Yahoo) where everyone interested is connected by email. Not sure what that is or how to create a Google Group? Take a tour and find out. But basically, it's an online page where everyone has a profile and is connected; a lot like a forum, only the first person goes to the site, makes a post like an email message and then it is sent to everyone's email who is in the group. Then if anyone answers by hitting reply, the answer goes to everyone. So basically, everyone in the group is seeing all the emails.

Why would this be good? Well, let's say I have a friend who is a beekeeper that's in town visiting and she has agreed to share her knowledge with my local homesteading group. I pick a date, send a post through the google group telling everyone when and where, and they all get the message at the same time (or whenever they read their emails!). If someone replies to say they'll be there, we all know who is coming. 

Here's another example. This time, I need help putting in a fence for my goats (I wish!!). I just post it on the google group, and everyone knows when and where I need help. They start talking back to me to let me know they are available. Sweet! (Of course, I'll return the favor another day and help them with butchering their meat hens.)

Photo Credit: cindy47452

Our group of about 10-12 people started on January 6th and in one month, we've expanded to over 24 members. Some of these members have lived in my community for years, but I had not met them and therefore, obviously didn't know they where homesteading (new friends are a good thing!). Because we chose to keep our Google Group as a "closed" group, we can control who is joining by allowing people in only by invitation. So how did they find out about our group? Well, one of my friends knew someone and invited them. You can see how this could multiply quickly, but because we have limited ourselves to a specific area, it will only grow so big and fast. 

Want to know what we've done so far? Well, we agreed to actually meet only 4 times a year for a potluck social. The rest of the time, we'll just jump in and join each other on the Google Group for things we're interested in. So far, I've already attended a vermiculture class and seed exchange (fascinating - I'll blog on that soon!) and next week, a homemade pasta making class! Keep in mind, these are just other homesteaders teaching other homesteaders. No one is charging a fee for these classes because we're just sharing our knowledge and blessing each other. 

Photo Credit: SusieFoodie

Others in our group have given away items they don't need anymore, spread the word of a cow for sale, posted an emergency preparedness training, discussed homeschooling curriculum, talked about a seasoned beekeeper coming to our area, and proposed several co-op purchasing opportunities. How cool is that?

For those of you who are in the greater Tehachapi area (you know who you are and where that is!) and you'd like to be invited into the Tehachapi Mountain Homesteaders, just drop me an email by going to my profile page. (Be sure you have a Google Account first - which I believe you have if you've ever commented on Blogger or Facebook). 

I'd love to hear from others who are involved in a homesteading group of some kind; please share with us how your group works!


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