This category is here to provide ideas about how you may work toward becoming more self-sufficient, even in small spaces. It encompasses both homesteading principles and sustainable living practices. These two ideas often go hand in hand. Some topics we will talk about here are:
Food waste, animal waste and manure
Garbage, zero-waste homes, cans, glass, metal, going plastic-free
Homes, cars, businesses
What is the definition of homesteading? Why talk about this here, and how can it make you healthier?
Homesteading is a term that describes a lifestyle of being self-sufficient. Those who homestead rely on themselves for many of their daily needs, rather than a store and city power and water. Many people who homestead grow and preserve their own food, which often includes raising livestock for meat, eggs, and other animal products. They often make their own clothes or goods, have a home business, or make money farming. Some homesteaders may even generate their own power by using solar or wind or water. You don’t have to live in the country in order to work towards a goal of self-sufficiency. You can live in the city and still be a homesteader, just on a smaller scale, or with more creative solutions.
Not only is homesteading good for your budget (for example, because I rely on solar power and wood stoves, I don’t have a power bill), moving slowly toward more self-sufficiency can benefit your health as well. Unfortunately, we live in an age where the only way to be truly certain of the quality of your food or the ingredients in a product is to grow it or make it yourself, or buy it directly from someone you trust. Not only do you end up with higher quality, fresher food if you grow it yourself, the very act of producing it is beneficial to your health (exercise and vitamin D from time spent in the sun).
Many farmers and gardeners may already be familiar with the general concept of homesteading. We wanted to add some topics that are important to homesteaders in this subcategory of farming, such as using solar power, minimalism, learning how to add animals to your homestead in order to eat healthier, and learning how to improve health outcomes specifically by homesteading. Here, we’ll talk about biochar and how it may help the fertility of the land. We’ll also address intensive grazing, silvoculture, and other topics. Because we feel permaculture practices are so beneficial, we’ll focus on them from a homesteader’s perspective.
Incorporating animals into, even on patios, can be very beneficial! How would you do so in patio gardening? Have a rabbit or guinea pig!! You can mix the manure into compost and use it to grow plants without synthetic additives. You may even have room for one or two chickens!! It will amaze you what you can do in a small space and how fun and beautiful it can be. Our happiness and mental health increase when we take care of animals and plants! Both our physical and mental health improve when we eat healthy foods that we have grown!
*See below for YouTube videos of examples.
What is biochar?
Biochar is a charcoal made when burning biomass (plant material) under a low oxygen or oxygen-free environment. It is easy to make a biochar burning area on your property. I plan to make a biochar pit on my property this winter, so I will add videos on how I do this. You make a hole in the ground or can use an old tub. You can also make a biochar burner out of barrels if you want to get fancy.
*See below for a YouTube video example.
What is good about biochar? I compare it to the barrier reef of the soil. The barrier reef houses thousands and supports the health and balance of the ocean. Biochar has tiny microscopic holes in the charcoal like product which house millions of microscopic soil creatures. The biochar is a stable solid that is rich in carbon and can remain in the soil for thousands of years without further breakdown. Besides being beneficial to the garden and soil health, biochar is being looked at as a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere as our carbon levels continue to rise.
Studies have shown that biochar can increase soil fertility, especially in acidic soils, and increase garden productivity. It may also provide protection against some diseases of plants and soil.
You can make it in a wood stove, in a fire pit while sitting out and having people over enjoying the fire, or in a hole in the yard. It can help get rid of those branches, leaves and woody products so you don’t have to haul them off. You can also make biochar out of paper and cardboard waste around the house.
*Please see the following video from YouTube.
Home schoolers, getting kids involved, teaching all ages
4-H is a great place to get kids involved in learning about animal husbandry and gardening practices. There are also farms across our state that work with schools and homeschool students and operate as teaching farms. For example, Jones Valley Teaching Farm in Birmingham offers diverse programs in an urban environment and not only provides healthy food to the students and community, but uses growing food as an invaluable teaching tool (see our Food Finder Map for more ideas). Involving children in the growing process can also help overcome challenges related to picky eaters. Kids are more likely to want to try something when they’ve had a hand in growing and cooking it. When kids are itching to release some energy, having animals in the backyard can be a great outlet and a learning experience.
Growing food to feed animals off the land
Growing some or all of the food your animals eat (rather than purchasing feed) requires some space on your property, but we will investigate the exact size requirements needed to grow some food for animals. Large animals who eat lots of grass and forage is a given. You can’t have a cow in a backyard- that takes a farm! But we will talk about how to feed rabbits, chickens, ducks and smaller animals who do not require huge amounts of forage in smaller spaces.
Up until very recently, this was an unfamiliar word for me. What is it?? Silvopasture is the practice of integrating trees, forage and the grazing of animals in a way that is beneficial to all. Animals can keep the undergrowth down, fertilize the trees, forage for healthy food, have shade while they are growing, and increase production of the forest for long-term health and profit. It incorporates the principles of managed grazing and is a form of agroforestry. Silvopasture can also benefit the environment and help with reducing carbon in our atmosphere. We will also look at this as a way to improve soil and plant health both in smaller spaces and larger farms and woodlands.
Intensive grazing is when livestock such as cows, sheep, and goats graze in small paddocks (pastures that are typically fenced with electric wire) for brief periods (such as a day) and are moved quickly from one to another, which maximizes forage re-growth. This practice more closely resembles how animals would forage in the wild. They move along fairly quickly, by instinct, without injuring the land where they ate. It is also a system that can be followed by other types of grazers, such as birds, who will eat the larva from the animal manure and spread it out for optimal fertilization.
The benefits of this type of system are improved productivity, improved livestock weight gain and improved milk production per acre, as well as increased profits for farmers. And once again, we want to show folks how this may be done in a backyard for smaller animals. One may only have a couple of small pygmy goats or some rabbits in a rabbit tractor or moveable pen, which you can then follow with a few chickens. Even this will markedly increase the health of the animals and grass in the yard, improve garden productivity, and cut down on costs for producing healthy food.
There are many ideas we want to present to all Alabamians to increase our health and general well-being. Many of these ideas can also improve our financial well-being. Increased financial stability of a population goes hand in hand with physical well being! All of this adds up to regenerative financial health, regenerative physical health, regenerative medical system health and a regenerative culture over all!