We live in a yurt, have chickens and were homesteading but were still a far cry away from being fully self sufficient. We don’t live off grid (although solar is in our dreams),we still buy raw milk from a pastured herd share and we not only haven’t gardened yet, but we haven’t really jumped into full scale preservation methods for stockpiling, like fermenting cabbage, canning and drying. What I’m trying to say is this homesteading thing is such a series of baby steps. Were so much farther along than we were two and half years ago, and thats something to be celebrated. Even more so since we were tested on our resourcefulness this past week by being snowbound for five days.
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It looks GROSS, doesn’t it? But, oh…your chickens will love you for it. And, according to the experts, your pocketbook will smile too. The benefits of fermentation in a nutshell? Wet feed is more filling than dry, the good bacteria help keep your chickens healthy and the fermentation changes the nutritional components of your feed to the better. We currently aren’t feeding organic (I’m sorry ladies!) due to budget, so it’s the least I can do to try and up the nutritional bang-for-the-buck. So how do YOU do it?
How many chickens do you have? If you only have 3 or 4, you might want to use a Tupperware or smaller bucket. We have a larger flock, so I chose 5 gallon buckets (they come in so handy…almost as handy as pallets!).
You’ll need two, one to drill holes into and the other to act as the container. You’ll also want a cover of some sort, but don’t stress about what. I use a kitchen towel, and a spare piece of firewood…we’re fancy like that. 😉
Chicken food (whatever you feed your hens is fine)
Optional: live apple cider vinegar with mother (i.e. Braggs), whey from cheese or yogurt (Don’t make your own? Just pour off the thin liquid that forms on top of your yogurt), kefir, liquid from non-vinegar sauerkraut or pickles (i.e. Bubbies). The ferment agent is optional, since your wet mash will pick up good bacteria from the air..but it might take longer to ferment without that extra boost.
Choose the location for your container (preferably in a warm spot, near where you feed your chickens). Ours is placed by the door, so I can scoop some in a bowl on my way out to feed the chickens, and near the wood stove for warmth.
Dump the chicken food into your container (the one with the holes), and set the hole-y container into the non-hole-y one. Pour enough water over the chicken food to completely cover it (some will probably float to the surface, that’s not a problem). If you’re using a ferment agent, add a few generous glugs now.
Cover your container with a kitchen towel or lid. This just keeps undesirables out.
NOTE: One of our cats is OBSESSED with the chicken ferment, and will actually eat some if I let him. Bugger. So I keep a heavy piece of firewood over my towel as extra protection from his grubby little paws.
Add more water than is shown in this below shot…I just wanted to show the sludge that forms. You want water/liquid to cover your fermenting food.
Check on your chicken ferment every 12 hours or so (or in my laid back way, when I think of it), and add more water as needed. The food will soak up the water like a sponge, so you will be adding more on a fairly regular basis.
WHEN DO I START FEEDING IT TO MY CHICKENS?
You can start as soon as the food soaks up the first round of water, but it won’t truly be fermented yet. I waited three days, and WOW, the girls (and boys) went WILD for it.
IS THERE A SCHEDULE?
This is what I do. Please note, I’ve been doing this a week, so we’ll see how long I keep it up, but it’s not really a big pain, and they really like it, so I have high hopes.
Wake up, scoop a few cups of food out of the bucket and take it out to the chickens.
Pick up more dry chicken food while I’m out there (we keep the dry chicken food in big metal trash cans by the coop) and add it to the ferment bucket when I come in.
I’ll then pour enough water to cover, stir to combine and cover.
It’s that easy.
Optional extras: Use your imagination. Raw seeds, veggie scraps, boiled eggs, etc are all supposed to be awesome.
Here is what I’ve tried so far: Raw black oil sunflower seeds, raw peanuts (in shell), rolled oats, raw lentils, water kefir, beet stock (the water left over after boiling beets).
I was beyond skittish about fermenting things not even, eh, 4 months ago…but once you get started, you really gain a lot of confidence in YOUR ability to test food safety. Here’s a good general rule — if it smells OFF or ROTTED, things might not be on the right track (That rule is for this ferment…cause, lemme tell you, kimchi? Definitely, definitely smells funktastic while it ferments.)
GOOD SMELLS FOR THIS FERMENT: yeasty, beer-like, bread, warm, toasty. Ours even smells peanut-y from the raw, shell-on peanuts.
Jenn from Cluck and Hoe, 1/6th acre
My husband, teenaged daughter and I rent a house in a suburb of Los Angeles County, CA. Our homestead lot is 7,086 Square feet, or .16 of an acre. We as a family have always talked about doing more for ourselves and depending less and less on the quick and easy amenities of city living. I have always loved to cook from scratch meals for my family and to garden. I have recently started baking our breads from scratch, which is no easy task as it takes plenty of forethought and preplanning but is so worth the added effort. We have planted a decent sized vegetable and herb garden in raised planter beds, pallets and containers.
We added a small flock of laying hens this past summer. I have been meal planning and learning how to get the most out of our food and what we have. As a primarily single income family of 3, it is vital that we stretch our dollars as far as we can.
We would love to raise a pig and maybe some goats, ducks, turkey and meat chickens but there just isn’t space or proper zoning to allow us to do that where we are. So for now, we enjoy what produce we do gather from the garden, like my head sized crowns of broccoli or the fresh kale, Swiss chard and lettuces. I may not be able to put things up for the fall and winter months but we are able to enjoy plenty of fresh produce during the growing months. We also have fresh eggs from our hens with enough excess to sell a dozen or 2 a week to friends and family.
Living in the city on a small lot most certainly limits the amount of homesteading we can accomplish, but it in no way prohibits us from at least enjoying a little here and there. We dream of one day moving out of state and finding a piece of land to call our own where we can fully engulf ourselves in the homesteading life. Until that time comes we look at where we are now as a great opportunity to practice and hone some vital homesteading skills before we finally are able to head out and plant ourselves on some acreage.
By the time we are on land, I will have mastered that elusive sourdough bread, collected enough mason jars to fill a proper root cellar and maybe even brushed up on my sewing skills. I even plan to find some husbandry classes at the local community college to expand my knowledge of the animals we hope to one day raise.
A big thanks to these lovely ladies for sharing their urban homestead experiences. I hope it was inspiring to you! I’m definitely a huge believer in doing what you can with what you have when you have it. Even if you have no acreage at all, you can practice making your own bread from scratch or buy some bulk fruit from a farmer to practice your canning mojo.
Having a lot of land, animals and endless possibilities? It can be downright exhausting…to the point where the fun gets taken RIGHT OUT. Somedays I wish I was back in my cozy urban rental apartment — flipping through homestead books, making butter from cream I bought at Whole Foods and baking hamburger buns from scratch (which impressed our friends to no end). Which is why we’ve cut back a bit around here. Sometimes things look better on paper than they do in reality, and figuring out your happy reality is just part of the life + homestead journey!
Mollie from Jahner Farmstead, 1/4th acre
We purchased our first home in Suburbia almost 3 years ago now. We sit on about ¼ acre. Why the name the Jahner Farmstead? Well, having a homestead is our dream and ideally we would like to live on more acreage and have lots and lots and lots of animals…We love animals. But the point is homesteading isn’t about how much you have. In fact it’s about living sustainably and harmoniously in whatever situation you might find yourself.
So what do we do on ¼ of an acre? Surprisingly enough we fit a lot into our small plot. We have 15 raised beds in the backyard and 4 in the front. Fruit trees, herb garden, blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, grapes, meat rabbits, a feisty orange tabby and a happy-go-lucky German Shepherd.
The hardest part about homesteading on such a small plot of land is the lack of space and the fact that our neighbors may or may not approve of our animal hoardage. Ok not hoarding but we have a lot of animals for our cul-de-sac. The biggest struggle about homesteading on ¼ an acre? It is having to get creative which can be exhausting. I grow veggies in the front yard. My steps are lined with pots of tomatoes. There isn’t a patch of dirt that goes without something edible growing in it. I struggle with the sun in my yard and the lack of chickens.
However with struggles, come victories like meat rabbits, a growing garden and healthy soil.
Susan from Learning and Yearning, 1/4th acre
Before we married, all Mike and I ever talked about was homesteading. Our life took a lot of twists and turns and we never really homesteaded in the way we imagined. Over the years, we’ve lived at times without running water, with wood as our only source of heat and cooking, and have raised a few chickens. But for the most part, we’ve been city dwellers. Gardening has been the one constant and has been my passion.
I’ve been hanging out with some amazing homesteaders online lately and reading about their lives has, at times, given me twinges of sadness for dreams not realized, but as a Christian I believe in the sovereignty of God, and have often taken comfort in the Scripture in Acts that says that God determines the times and places of our lives. We live in a small town now on a quarter acre of land. We’re not allowed to have animals here and I often ask myself if I would, if I could.
We own a wonderful, tiny little cottage on a pristine lake an hour from here and spend a lot of time there, especially in the summer. Who would take care of animals when we’re away so much? We are close to farms where we are able to get grass-fed beef and raw milk, pastured chickens, eggs and pork. We love being able to support these salt-of-the-earth-people. If we raised our own animals, we wouldn’t be supporting these farmers. What we do on this quarter acre is garden. We have apple trees and raspberry bushes, and grow veggies to our hearts content. We’re expanding our garden this year, so all that will be left of lawn is a small, shady area for picnicking and a place for grandkids to play. Are we urban homesteaders? I don’t know. We’re content and I guess that’s all that matters.
Read about part 3 here.
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me “I wish I could homestead, but I’m still stuck in the city” or “I don’t have enough space to homestead, but I love reading about it”, I’d be a rich blogger indeed. Is that you? Not the rich part (although we can all dare to dream, right?)…the “wish you could homestead” part. Well, you’re not wrong. It’s NICE to have a lot of space and a rural lifestyle to go along with your homestead, but it’s 100% not necessary. Here are five homesteaders doing what they can with what they have! Queue inspiration (I hope). 🙂
Melissa from Ever Growing Farm, 1/8th acre
Upon introduction, most people don’t know what to think about the fact that we have created a 1/8 acre urban farm right in the middle of the city. They ask about zoning codes and express concerns about angry neighbors. More often than not, once we chat them up a bit, their response is either,
“I want to do that!” or, “That’s cool, but I could never…”
The truth is, urban farming is hard. It starts off with lots of planning, both for your urban garden and for the care and keeping of your backyard chickens, and quickly evolves to include the transport of heavy, nutrient rich soil to fill your newly built beds, the purchase of seeds and chicks, plus more aches, pains, frustrations and hours spent in the hot sun than you might have ever imagined. This is all before you even get to the mice in the compost, broody chickens, and horn worms.
However, with all of these challenges comes strength (of body and character), inspiration and the most delicious eggs you will ever taste. Urban farmers get to transform their own tiny spot on the planet in real, tangible ways that leave their neighbors asking for more eggs and placing empty egg cartons on your doorstep while you’re out running errands. Then, there’s the fresh off the vine tomatoes, learning how to preserve the food you worked so hard to grow and the extracts and tinctures you begin experimenting with. No matter the size of your tiny urban farm, you will be tired at the end of the day, without a doubt, but it is the best kind of tired you will probably ever feel. It’s pretty fantastic.
Don’t get me wrong, we often dream of what we call Our Eventual Farm. You know, rolling hills, a pond, chickens, goats and bees, more land than we need to grow all of our fruits and veggies, no lights or sirens to ruin the quiet.
For now though, we’re grateful for all we’ve been able to build right here, right now and are greatly enjoying the space we’re in!
Kris from Attainable Sustainable, 1/3rd acre
My family is lucky enough to live on a third of an acre that has some established fruit trees. We enjoy an overabundance of avocados a couple of times a year, plus bananas, oranges, liliko‘i and papaya in irregular bursts.
We also have a neighbor who insists that we help ourselves to his prolific, terrific tangerines when they’re in season. Our dreams of a thriving vegetable garden, on the other hand, are less fruitful. Our lot is steep and faces east, so while we have gorgeous sunrises, actual sunshine is at a premium. One of our first steps when we moved in was to cut and fill in the front yard to create a small level area for growing vegetables. Then I had the bright idea to make the driveway part of my garden since it was hogging all of the sunshine. In those two spaces, I manage to keep enough produce growing for fresh salads and such, but not nearly enough to do the canning and preserving that I did before we moved here.
We do have half a dozen laying hens who keep us in eggs most of the time. I certainly can’t complain, but I’m definitely not able to grow enough food to sustain my family of four here without doing some major earth moving. We’re keeping our eyes open for a perfect piece of land to implement our permaculture plans, but meanwhile I have to trust the farmers market for tomatoes to make salsa and chutney for the pantry, and I’m learning to grow things that are better suited to this awkward space. I’ve got sweet potatoes growing on a slope, I’ve tucked lemongrass in areas prone to erosion, and I’m learning to consider nasturtiums a food source rather than an ornamental.
Read about part 2 here.