Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homesteading class

 On Thursday I started my 3 day Homesteading course at The Ploughshare Institute For Sustainable Culture. It was a birthday gift from my wonderful Mother-in-law and Grandmother-in-law (thanks again Nana Cindy and Nana Debbie!) and I was so excited. When I walked into the classroom I was greeted by a huge pile of goodies. They had seed catalogs, magazines, trade publications, and a giant notebook with the curriculum for each student. The classroom itself was an old house from the 1800s that had been taken apart, piece by piece, and moved to the property from Missouri (I think!) There were 11 other students in the class. About half of them were from Texas, but the rest were from New Mexico and Colorado.

Our schoolhouse
  The first day our wonderful teachers, Butch and Aaron, covered selecting land, water sources, and organic gardening. There was a lot of information about remineralizing our soils, beneficial soil microbes, companion planting, and composting. We walked through their gardens, got a demonstration of double digging, learned how to build a proper compost pile, and everyone asked a million questions.

Aaron explaining how double digging works

Butch and our beautiful classroom 

Part of the garden, along with the greenhouse

The perennial, edible landscaping section of the garden
 The second day of class (which was my birthday) started off with raising poultry. We talked about the best chicken breeds for our areas, ducks, turkeys, and the importance of free ranging for the health of the animals and the people who eat them. We also touched on predator control and we all agreed that hawks are a pain in the butt and that we should be able to shoot them when they eat our chickens. Next we went to their herb garden and talked about planting herbs, medicinal uses of herbs, dividing herbs, and every other herb related topic you can imagine. I didn't take any pictures, because I was too busy picking their brain for information, but their herb garden is beautiful! Next came row crops like grain, dried beans and market crops. Towards the end of class one of my wonderful fellow students, Melissa, brought out a carrot cake that she had bought  and the whole class sang Happy Birthday. I wasn't expecting it and was very touched.
 That night when I got home the kids were waiting for me with ducklings! Each child gave me a duckling and told me "Happy Birthday, Mama!" While I was giggling and getting tons of ducky love Mike brought out the present he got me, a pressure canner! It is an older one (maybe from the 60's) and needs a couple of parts, but it is super sturdy and he was able to order the parts online. I'm so excited that I'll be able to can meat and veggies this summer!! With the water bath canner he got me for Christmas I can now can anything I want! Then we had dinner and German Chocolate cake and ice cream. 

Duck, Duck, Duck, and Goose

My pressure canner

Mike insists on a candle for every year, it got a little scary for a minute

Gabe loves birthdays, even if they're not his
 The last day of class started with dairy animals. I got to milk my first cow. I have to say that it is quite a bit different than milking a goat. For one thing, my goat weighs less than I do and a cow is HUGE. I do believe it was the first cow I've ever been up close and personal with. I did manage to get milk out though. Next came dairy goats. I got some great information on natural medicines for worms and fly repellents. After lunch we talked about berries, orchards, and vineyards. Aaron explained how to prune fruit trees and grape vines and told us his favorite nursery for buying trees and vines suited to our climate. Then we got a very short lesson on bee hives, and how they relate to every other part of the homestead. The last part of the class covered pasture management. This was a bit over my head, but I took lots of notes, hopefully Mike will understand it better than I did.

Everyone got to try to milk the cow

Here, the professional shows us how it's done with the goat

Blackberries and grapes
 All in all, it was an amazing weekend. I'm sure I have forgotten some of the stuff they covered, because I don't have my notebook next to me as I write this. If you are interested in homesteading, though, I highly recommend this class. The school offers tons of other classes too, everything from organic gardening to horse farming (farming with draft horses, not raising horses.) The cheese classes are next on my list. 
 So that's it for now, I have tons of chores to catch up on around here. Have a great week everyone, Blessed Be...


  1. Sounds like you had a perfect time. Right up your alley. I'm glad that you were able to be around and meet people that had the same intrests that you do. It makes a difference in getting out when you can enjoy yourself.

    That's awesome that someone brought cake and they all sang to you. FUN, FUN!! ~Jill

    Another great post with nice pictures. Thank you for sharing. XOXO

  2. Looks like a GREAT time! I'd love my place to look like that!

  3. I'm so very glad you got to experience such a great & informative class, especially since it nurtures your wonderful passion for gardening....or is it officially farming now? Either way, you are nurturing a passion that nurtures others with good lifestyle, good food, good health and a good life.

  4. Yes, I had a great time. Most of the people in the class were great and the teachers were amazing. They made a good point that it had taken 15 years to get the homestead looking like that. It makes me feel like I'm not a total slacker, lol. And Dad, I'm not a farmer quite yet, give me a few years.

  5. Wow. It looks like that class was packed with useful and inspiring info. It sure covers a lot of subjects. So glad you enjoyed it. See you soon!