Shannon

I am wife to Stewart, mama of four, homeschooler, homebirther, home cook, fermenter, head dish-washer and chief fire-puter-outer. I also work in recipe development and freelance writing for a few small businesses. I try to be in the garden and write a little something every day. This is where I tell our story... of building a sustainable off-grid homestead in a Christian agrarian community... of raising this growing family of ours... of the beauty and the hard and the joy in all of it.
732 articles written by Shannon

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One thing we have done a lot of in the garden is test patches. We’ve committed ourselves to large plantings of foods that we know work well here – cow peas, sweet potatoes, greens, etc. But we’re always hesitant to take up a lot of space with something we’ve never tried before.

Instead, we’ve thrown out seeds for different things to see how they handle the heat, drought, and clay soil. Some things fall flat on their face and others have surprised us.

Seed Grains

This year we planted three different types of grain, well some call them seed grains as they are not of the grass family. The first, millet, was intentional. Stewart threw some out into the pallet garden and we had a couple of heads come up. It was everyday millet that we’d purchased for food and I’m guessing that’s why we had a low germination rate.

The other two grains were buckwheat and amaranth. These were actually a part of a larger perennial insectary mix. They sure have helped with attracting beneficial insects and both the buckwheat and amaranth grew really well. I’m told you can eat the grains and the green from both the buckwheat and the amaranth. Has anyone else heard this?

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Easy Threshing

The millet was of particular interest to us because it has a short growing season, likes the heat, and the grain itself comes out of the rest of the plant fairly easily. The buckwheat I have cracked between my teeth to remove the hull, but I’m thinking our Country Living Grain Mill might be able to crack it. I haven’t attempted to harvest the amaranth yet, but from what I can tell the seeds come out of the head fairly easily.

A grain that threshes easily is one of our interests as we’d like to use grain for both human and animal consumption where needed. I’ve worked with all of these grains in the kitchen previously, so any of them would be a welcome addition to our harvest basket.

We’ll see how things go next year. Perhaps buckwheat in the spring or fall and millet or amaranth through the summer? In the meantime, I think I need to get my hands on one of these books:

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 Have you grown grain on any scale on your homestead? Please share in the comments!

Yesterday was somehow both full and relaxed, the way that homegrown living can be. Work feels like life, less a job and more a flow of pressing and non-pressing tasks that help us to build a homestead and sleep hard at night.

Sundays are especially full as we begin the week anew and catch up from a Sabbath that didn’t see any dish-washing or garden work. It is our Monday and after a full day of rest I feel up to the task of trying to tame that beast of disorder. It feels good somehow to wake up to chaos on the counter and, at one point in the day at least, see fewer dishes and more flat surfaces.

But these days are still a little hot so we take them slow as we prepare for winter despite the confusion of seasons. Insulation and walls are going up. Wood stoves need moving and polishing. Firewood needs to be piled, stacked, split.

Morning and evening are the heavier work times during the summer. Breakfast, dishes, lunch, more dishes, chasing and kissing on these little ones in between. All the while Annie is following Daddy around as he moves from putting up insulation and walls to spreading hay and manure for the coming fall garden. Those little bare feet walking in her daddy’s footprints is about all I need to remind me of how grateful I am for this at-home life we all share.

I know that this life is not possible for everyone right at this very moment and that it’s a blessing not to be taken for granted. I’ve been there, wanting to do something but having to wait until the time was right. That time was full of angst and things to learn and possibilities, though, and it was all just part of the bigger journey. It was right for us to take the plunge when we’d paid off our student loans and could buy two acres without debt. Not everyone’s right will look like that, though.

Looking back we could have stayed where we were a bit longer, held onto the job that would have given us more of a cushion, kept living in those 900 square feet until we felt like we had “enough” to get started more comfortably. But it didn’t seem right.

When Elijah was born in 2006 we were already deeply desirous of the country life.We knew we wanted to homestead. We knew how we wanted to raise our children. But there was that debt, a complete lack of knowledge or skill, and never a location that made it right. From the time Elijah was born we hoped and prayed that we could make the jump by the time he was five.

The path was made for us, to me that is clear. Now that I’m watching barefooted children become invested in this life, this land, and this community, I’m so glad we didn’t wait any longer than we did.

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In the Spring of 2011 we paid off those student loans. By October we had everything we owned in a van and trailer and we hauled these little boys, my pregnant belly, and us two neophyte homesteaders down south.

Elijah had turned five just two weeks earlier.