Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September Homestead Tour: Mountain Home Quilts

This month's Homestead Tour is with Heather of Mountain Home Quilts. I'm so excited to introduce you to her! This gal has a heart for teaching and she's done a great job walking many a blog reader through some homesteading basics. She's done quite a bit on her one acre in the mountains of northern California. I can't wait for you to hear it all! 

Why do you actually practice homesteading?
To get back to basics I suppose. Both my husband and I thrive on simplicity. Our lives can seem so hectic at times that it’s nice to be able to remove ourselves from the rat race as much as possible. We both feel as though God has called us to live this kind of simpler life.

How long have you been homesteading?
I first started growing tomatoes and canning jam about 10 years ago but that was the extent of it until about 6 years ago when I met my husband. My husband already owned the 1 acre that we live on now and during our engagement we began putting homesteading practices into place. We started a garden on his property and got a few chickens. When we married, in 2005, I moved to the property and we slowly began to incorporate more principals.

Was this something you grew up doing, or did you have to teach yourself?
Our skills come from a combination of being self taught, from reading books and magazines, or from friends who share the same lifestyle that we do and are willing to share their wisdom. I have found the magazine Mother Earth News to be an amazing resource for homesteading. Although I don’t always agree with their opinions, their fantastic articles often are teaching me more and more about the skills we need to become more self sufficient. Both my husband and I grew up in a fairly traditional home but there was little homesteading going on in either of our homes. Gavin grew up hunting and fishing and also had a few animals for 4-H. I grew up on the very border of a major city. One side view from the house I grew up in held large buildings and hundreds of thousands of people and the other side held hills with cows ranging on them with and large mountain behind it all. I always leaned towards the hills and spent hours daydreaming about living “out there.”

Do you raise any animals or garden on your homestead?
We do both. Regarding animals, we have 2 dogs, 10 chickens, 2 turkeys and 2 pigs. Our main garden is fairly small (about 480sq ft) but we also run a small garden along our side fence line and have a raspberry patch and other fruit bushes and trees spread out along the property.
We have plans of expanding our main garden to about 1200 sq ft but we’re waiting on clearing the back portion of the property before we do so.

Tell us how a typical day looks?
There is no such thing as a “typical” day for me with 3 of our 4 kids being 3 and under. Each day holds a new surprise. No matter how much I “plan,” my plans usually change. Chores and tasks change with the seasons as well. We get a lot of rain in the winter so that seriously changes the day to day tasks from about November through April.
We wake up every morning between 5:30 and 6am. The kids are up and ready to get going more than Gavin and I are but thankfully we both are morning people more than night owls so it all works out. We eat breakfast, let the animals out and make sure they’re fed. We play, we learn, we read books, we do laundry and other household chores, we run to town for things needed, and then depending on the season, we plant, we grow, we can, we quilt, we sew, we chop firewood, we go to church play dates, we go to the river, and so on. I spend a small part of my day maintaining the book portion of my husbands business, typing up estimates and invoices, and keeping track of our bank accounts. Gavin gets home anywhere between 3 and 6pm, we eat dinner, draw pictures, give baths and make lunches for the next day. Our day usually ends about 8:30-9pm and then we’re off to bed.

What is your favorite part of homesteading?
Becoming more self sufficient is great but my favorite part of homesteading has to be the food. I am passionate about feeding my family healthy, nourishing food. Growing as much as we can, raising as much as we can is vital. While 1 acre doesn’t allow room for as much as we’d like to do, it does offer quite a bit of freedom. Plus, our local farmer’s market keeps getting bigger and better each year. We routinely follow the principles of Weston A. Price’s teachings when it comes to consuming food.

You have a great series of homesteading tutorials on your blog. Each month you've tackled a different area. Would you share what you've already covered and what you plan to teach in the future?
This summer I’ve tried to cover a few homesteading tasks that I personally felt were important. In June I reviewed Bread Making. There’s nothing like a loaf of fresh made bread! In July, I covered Soap Making. It’s a hobby that I really enjoy and I’m happy that I know what goes into each bar we use. In August I talked about Canning. Canning is close to the top of my “Why homesteading is fun” list. I love to can and feel accomplished when I can open the cupboards and see the preserved bounty. This September I’m taking a look at quilting. I currently don’t have any plans for more month long segments as of now but I always try and include a few how to’s each month.

You obviously like quilting. Tell us about some of your favorite projects.
Do I have to pick just one? Almost all of my quilts that I have made have been favorites. I do have two that are special to me though. One is my Kansas Troubles quilt. It was the 2nd quilt project I started after making my very first quilt. I got in way over my head and the quilt top took me 7 years to complete. Once it was done though I was very happy with the results and will treasure it always. Another special quilt is one that is actually still in progress. My mother-in-law and I both started a Civil war block of the month quilt two summers ago. Our plans were to get together each month to do the block. It should have only taken a year to complete. Well, the best laid plans don’t always work out and we only have about 9 of the 12 blocks done; but I am really excited about finishing it together……..sometime.

Do you have a special area that you use for quilting?
I don’t. Honestly, most of it is done at my kitchen table. Our home was about 900sq ft, until we converted part of our attic into a room for our oldest son. Since that space is exclusively his though we don’t have much room to spare for quilting. When we finally build a house on another piece of land, I’ll be excited to include an office that will also allow for enough room to hold all of my quilting things as well.

Tell us your thoughts on what it means to be self sufficient and how you are working towards that goal.
I’d like to think that self sufficiency means that if something ever happened to the economy (in an extreme sense) that we wouldn’t feel the effects of it. Living off the land and doing things for ourselves, with the generous blessings of the Lord, would be our ideal self sufficient situation. We have been looking at property off the grid for about 2 years now. Before we can buy though, we need to get our finances in complete order and our home ready to sell. With the market the way it is right now, selling anything seems difficult. We’re patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) waiting for the right time that the Lord will provide for us to move. Once more property is acquired we’d like to run a couple beef steers, hogs, meat chickens and a milk cow on the pastures, grow a much larger garden and use either/both solar and/or hydropower to power our home.

Do you have plans to expand your homestead in any way?
For where we currently live, we still have a little bit of ground that has brush and trees on it. Gavin is currently working on making that into useable space. Once it’s cleared we’ll decide what to do with it. It’s hard for me to clearly picture the area as it is now.  I’m hoping that it will be large enough to support a miniature Jersey cow for milk. We’ll have to wait and see. As I mentioned before though, once we move, we have plans to do even more than we can here. One of my top priorities in building a new home on more land is to include a large root cellar below our house.

What new skills are you hoping to acquire in the future?
There are so many things I’d like to learn! The things that top my list are cheese making and processing meat chickens. I’d also like to learn to knit and become a better seamstress when it comes to making clothes.

What resources have you found helpful for learning new homesteading skills?
Oh my, there are so many. Blogs, such as yours Amy, books like “Country Wisdom and Know How” and “Gardening When it Counts,” magazines like Mother Earth News and Mary Jane’s Farm, and best of all, friends! I’m better at hands on learning and I’m blessed with good friends that are willing to teach and share.

If you could give a newcomer to homesteading advice, what would it be?
My first advice would be to map out your property before you do anything on it. Even if you already have your house built, before your put up any cross fence, or build a chicken coop or a garden, map out what you want your property to look like. By mapping everything out first, you can best utilize the space that you have. Then, take it all slow. After all, Noah didn’t build the ark in one day. While the desire to have everything instantly is a strong one, thinking things through, getting the best deals on supplies, and making sure you don’t get in over your head will greatly benefit you in the future. Being prepared certainly gives you the best start at homesteading.

Thanks so much, Heather! What a blessing it is to have met you this past year and to learn from you as well. I hope each of you will spend some time over at her blog (Mountain Home Quilts) and get to know her even better!


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