As many of you know, my focus in life has changed a little over the last three years. I was just discussing my schooling with my mother in law and it dawned on me that I started school seven years ago! What? How did that happen!? I am always baffled by the passage of time, how it can appear to move oh so slowly, but then in a blink of an eye, seven years have gone by.
I have in no way abandoned my herbal journey. The draw to work with herbs and the medicine they provide is a very strong one in my life. A deep spiritual connection that I can never see waning. However, since the birth of my son, the desire for a simpler and cleaner life, one with less chemicals, additives, stress, to-do lists, obligations, hustle and bustle has also grown. Our recent move to the country (at least our version of it) is a big step in the right direction for us. Quieter, smaller, cleaner and simpler.
Our goal in moving out here was two fold. First, we wanted to have the ability for me to grow many of the herbs I use in my practice. While I love wild-harvesting and hope to continue doing it when I can, I have to recognize the limitations of my life right now. Wild harvesting takes time, the ability to drive myself to these locations and someone to watch my kid (herb harvesting with a small child by myself isn’t ideal). To me, the second best thing to finding herbs in their natural habitat, is to grow them myself.
The second goal of our move was to homestead.
So what the heck is homesteading anyway?
The definition of homesteading has changed quite a bit since the 1800’s. Today’s definition is all about self sufficiency, regardless of where you live. The specific definition of modern homesteading varies from homesteader to homesteader. For some it’s growing all of their own food, raising livestock and the food to feed that livestock. For others it’s living off the grid and not relying on city electricity and water. For others it’s making all of their own products, supporting local farms and eating nothing but home cooked food.
There is definitely a misconception floating around that you need to have 100 acres to homestead. While having land helps with things like raising livestock, it’s not completely necessary, again depending on your definition of homesteading. With the advent of square foot and vertical (or trellis) gardening, it has become much easier to grow food for your family in a small space. Thanks to CSA farm shares, you can have local produce, eggs and sometimes meat delivered right to your door. If making your own cleaning and personal care products is important to you, well then all you need are the ingredients and a sink.
Once you decide which areas of self sufficiency mean the most to you, that will help you determine exactly how much land you need and therefore where you could/have to live. Of course, there are other considerations, but if one of your dreams is to raise cattle, a tiny backyard just ain’t gonna cut it.
What is homesteading to me?
Growing most of the food we eat is an important goal for us. Our future garden plot will be 30 x 40 feet – an amazing 1200 square feet (just as a note, this is bigger than our current house and over 1000 square feet more than we had in our old place)! Because I also can and preserve food, this will also help to feed our family through the long winter months here in southern Ontario. Homecooked food, fresh baked bread, homemade almond milk and peanut butter I made myself are also examples of important homesteading goals for me and my family. As a fierce DIYer and I try to hand make everything I can – this includes cleaning products, herbal medicines, personal care products and green alternatives for my family.
For my family and my business, growing my own medicinal herbs is apart of the homesteading dream. I especially want to focus on plants that I have difficulty finding in the wild (like arnica or calendula) or simply don’t grow in the wild here (like peppermint). I hope to create a rich and diverse herbal garden that attracts all manner of pollinators. I want this space to be a learning tool as well for those who wish to visit our home and learn about herbal medicine.
Our short term future goals include adding egg laying chickens to our homestead in the spring. We’ll start with 3-4 birds but I’ve heard they are addictive. We also plan to create a water collection system so we don’t need to rely on the well to water our vegetables and herbs. Our long term goals include more sustainable sources of power (solar panels most likely), possibly adding a goat to our homestead and eventually building a greenhouse.
How does homesteading relate to herbs?
For some it doesn’t. Perhaps you may only ever want to grow basil and oregano for pestos and pasta sauces. But for me, being self sufficient in the realms of my business (not relying on outside suppliers) and for my family’s health is a huge part of our homesteading journey. I also hope to share this part of our homestead/dream with others who wish to learn about herbal medicine. Just think.. in a few years I’ll be able to wander into my own yard to pick melissa for fever remedies or elderberries for syrup. The thought brings joy to my heart. And that is what is all about really, bringing joy into hearts.
In good health,