An Unexpected Opportunity to Start Our Homestead
In 2014, Joseph and I decided to meet and go for a hike after learning online that we were both interested in farming and homesteading. He was the first person I had ever met who had a strong desire to build a self-reliant life by learning to do things oneself rather than buying a product or service. Things like growing and preserving our own vegetables, pastured meats, eggs, dairy products and animal feed; fixing our own fences, barns and equipment; making gifts, household goods and art; stewarding the land and making it better instead of exploiting it for resources. Even more astonishing, Joseph didn’t blink an eye when I hoisted out my Homesteading primer at our romantic dinner- The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it by John Seymour– and proceeded to show him how a person could feed a family of four with only an acre of good land. That was our first date and it was perfect!
When we decided to marry a year later, we were unable to immediately start our homesteading dreams. Joseph’s parents had left him a stunning farm in our hometown, but we needed to be in the Atlanta area to care for our youngest son, Jack Bratcher. He had 4+ years to complete high school. During our spare time, we learned some of the skills we would need to homestead. Slowly, we worked on changing our philosophy about buying, going out and being entertained to develop an increasingly simple and frugal lifestyle. We experimented with organic vegetable and herb gardening . We attended classes in permaculture, foraging, food preserving, composting, fermenting, small livestock and a host of other helpful topics. We started a serious library of traditional skills, farming and other books and resources. Slowly, we began securing the equipment we would need.
In 2019, Joseph was unexpectedly offered a job five minutes from the family farm in Tennessee. The chances of finding a job in our little town are slim to none and we were confident that God was making a path for us to move forward with our homestead. However, I still had a job that I loved in Atlanta. For many months, I worked in Atlanta during the week and visited Joseph on the farm on most weekends. It was so exhausting that I wasn’t able to contribute much in the way of homesteading projects. Instead, I spent 25 hours commuting each week and the rest working and sleeping.
As all of you know, March 13, 2020 rocked the world with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. By the first of April, my office in Atlanta was closed and I was working from home… the farm home. This incredibly challenging period of history presented us with an unexpected opportunity. Since I had no more commute, it was like gaining another day each week. There was time in the evenings and weekends to begin the work of building our homestead. I ramped up my efforts to get seeds planted and sunning on shelves on the sun porch. We had chosen varieties of tomatoes for multiple purposes: slicing and cherry tomatoes for eating fresh; tomato varieties for canning, making sauce, salsa, paste and drying. Several varieties of colorful sweet bell peppers and spicy ones for drying.
Joseph and Spencer (my son) had been prepping our 1/2 acre garden bed for a couple of months. We were thrilled to spend Easter weekend getting some cooler weather crops sowed directly into the garden plot – sweet peas, sugar snap peas, Easter Egg radishes, romaine lettuce, butterhead lettuce, kale, and Ruby Red swiss chard. We also planted red, purple, white and yellow onion transplants and sets. Most importantly are the potatoes – red and yukon gold. Our fingerlings had not arrived, but we did plant alot a couple of weeks later.
Within a few weeks, we are thrilled to be working on our homesteading dream. It should be an interesting journey and we plan to capture it here. We are just novice homesteaders, but it feels like the right path forward!