sustainability

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All photos from our own homestead.

There are a group of homesteaders – in addition those in our own community, of course – whose agrarian pursuits I follow online. They are years – decades even – ahead of us. They are growing most of their own food, raising much of their fat and animal needs, living their days intrenched in the hard work and joy that make up these endeavors. Ben Hewitt’s blog is one of those.

I stumbled upon Mr. Hewitt’s site sometime last year and sank into it like one would a letter from an old friend. Alongside his wife Penny and their two sons, he lives on a homestead up in Vermont raising nearly all of their own food and carving their days out, quite literally, by hand. Last year he published a book called Homegrown in which he detailed the education of their sons which seems to simply be an extension of their life connected to the land.

This year, Mr. Hewitt has published a book aptly titled The Nourishing Homestead. His publisher, Chelsea Green, sent it to me a few months back, not long after I began reading his blog. It was timely, informative, heartwarming, and encouraging for someone like me at the very start of this journey. They have, you see, attained much of what we are only just setting out to do – growing ones food sustainably, alongside their family and community.

I really enjoyed this book in that it seems the most applicable, doable homesteading how-to book I’ve read in recent years. With a genuine, down-to-earth style, the Hewitts have penned a book for anyone interested in actually growing all of the nutrient-dense foods many of us benefit from. Ben was gracious enough to sit down and answer a few questions about their homestead, their advice to us newbies, and their new book, The Nourishing Homestead. Here’s what he had to say…

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I remember once being asked what homesteaders might do during the winter. I hesitate to even call these couple of months of cold fronts by that moniker lest my northern friends think I’m confused. But we are experiencing our version of winter here on the homestead and, like all the seasons, it has its joys and struggles.

As far as what we’re doing… well, we’re not growing much, though there are a few fun green surprises around here that I may share here soon. There are no new animals or plantings or harvesting going on. There’s also very little sunlight for solar power and, as you can see in the photo above, wood stoves make an ironic laptop warmer. So we work on computers as the light and batteries allow.

What there is is plenty of firewood burning, stock pots bubbling, lard rendering, and loads and loads of baking projects. There is time for a little extra reading and sleeping and school with the little ones. There is more time spent inside and so employment of the floor-scrubbing variety is helpful in burning off energy. These days are short in light and long in the practice of patience for all of us.

Despite the six of us in these 400 square feet, or maybe because of it, this is such a cozy, favorite time of year for me. Don’t worry, though, seed catalogs are being circled, soil and fences being worked (mostly by little hands), and those longs days of summer will come soon enough.

For now, though, I’ll take winter.