Homesteading has been, and still is, a way of life for us for thirty-five years. We began by growing a few pepper and tomato plants in the flower bed of the rental we started out in, and progressed to buying and rebuilding two large ranch properties, focusing on being self-sustainable with every idea that we put into it. Getting a garden started was always the first step, even when we were living in a tent, no matter what it took – planning for food on the table was first. The ability to step outside your living space and pick fresh vegies is an amazing accomplishment, and not really all that difficult, however it is the creation in that cycle of life that can be so fulfilling.
It is very simple to go out and buy a few seedlings to bring home and put either in the ground or individual pots on the deck to provide one with some fresh food, it takes very little time and effort to get started and have fresh tomatoes or lettuce on the table for dinner – so gratifying. Yet we were never able to keep it as a simple project, it became all or nothing for us and over the years we really honed our skills by building greenhouses where we started all of our own seedlings, transplanting them into expansive outdoor gardens and indoor gardens, and these included just about every vegetable you have heard of, lots of fruits, culinary herbs and my passion developed into medicinal herbs, as well. Then we stepped into mixing our own spices, and making an assortment of home remedies.
We expanded and grew over the years, mastering our gardening skills while raising a family of four children in very rural and wild mountain settings. We started out with a few chickens for eggs, which progressively grew into a few chicken yards for raising our own chickens, turkeys and ducks for meat. Then we began raising our own rabbits, we always had cows and goats and sheep around and there was very little that we didn’t produce for ourselves, while teaching our children that potatoes do not come from the back room at the grocery store! We taught them to take full responsibility for what they were eating, from the dirt back to the compost, full circle. Everything was recycled, nothing was wasted.
And of course what comes with gardening, raising all of your own meat and mixing your own spices? Gourmet cooking, of course! There is not a culinary venue that we have not tried, and created a few of our own. It is truly one of the most exciting and satisfying parts of our life to create meals all from our own land and hard work. The taste is beyond the best restaurants, but that doesn’t mean we have not experienced serious malfunctions, as well – but that goes with the learning process. We have pretty much tried it all, and our skills in this department are quite extensive. Mixing spices is truly one of the most fun things that we do. Every growing season we would plant an assortment of different kinds of peppers, onions and tomatoes, and we would have already established in the gardens our basic culinary herbs with several exotics, as well. As the harvest would proceed throughout the season we would be drying the herbs, and drying and smoking the peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic, saving these for later. At the end of the season of course there was always the weeks of dawn to dark work of canning, putting as much food up for the next year’s supply as possible: canned tomatoes and all kinds of sauces, pickles, corn, green beans, fruit and jams and pepper jellies…wow, the list goes on. Step into our root cellar and the choices were endless! And when the snow would start to fall, we would bring out all of our dried herbs and vegies. We had a nice big greenhouse with a big wood stove in it, a big table that we spread out all of the goods on, out with the blender and the food processor and the spice grinder, and a fan was a good thing to have as well. Bring on the imagination and we would just have a blast! The assortment of goodies we had to work with and the ideas of what kind of taste we wanted to achieve, and yes- we did have a few reference books for ideas, but fat chance that we could follow a recipe verbatim! The creations over the years have become time tested and improved upon, the recipients have returned again and again for more, and our kitchen is a favorite to dine in.
This is our palette, the garden and the kitchen. The dirt that the seeds are planted into is carefully mixed with the proper balance of nutrients, especially the compost that is all of the unwanted portions of the entire process mixed together for the ‘black gold’ that it becomes; the compost replenishes the garden soil into which the plants are planted for the growing season; the remnants of the season that do not replenish the compost pile are turned back into the soil for the winter, and the winter is when we dream of the next year’s garden creation as we browse through our seed catalogs while munching on the bounty of our efforts. Truly a joint creative endeavor, our passion and labor in sync with the Mother Earth.
Things have changed somewhat since we are now living in a tropical clime, the entire gardening process is totally different. The seasons of course are the primary change in scenario, from four seasons to two: wet and dry; but also a huge factor that is different for us is the space we have available to grow in, which thus far is quite limited. We have always had at least a few acres designated for food and animals, but here and now we have a small space carved out of the jungle and so our strategies and our creative imagination must adjust, as well. However, just a few days ago we got out our small assortment of dried goods (keeping things dry in the land of high humidity is no easy feat, verdad!), the spice grinder, and spent a couple of days mixing and blending with what we have, once again enjoying the ‘fruits’ of our labor. No wood stove needed now, but a fan would be handy – my sneezing from flying chili dust was uncontrollable! Nevertheless, it was fun. Now to try out the latest with some culinary creativity!
Our dreaming continues of expansion into more gardening and more spices, and we anticipate that someday in the near future we will be working with others to produce some very fine products which will be made available in the community in which we now reside. Yes, we are Creators in the cycle of dirt to dirt, with much love.