We’ve all seen that article on the cover of virtually any magazine about homesteading, bushcraft or self-sufficiency. The headline reads something like, “See how one family in Iowa makes a living entirely off of one acre.” There will be a few pages about how they are completely self-sufficient, buying almost nothing at the grocery store while earning their entire salary through farmer’s markets and CSA’s. Then there is an aerial photo or drawing of their property showing the location of greenhouses, grain crops, animal shelters, etc. While I, as well as many others find this type of lifestyle both admirable and inspiring, it certainly isn’t feasible. The average person with a regular job and a few acres (or less) simply can’t take the risk to abandon a more traditional lifestyle in exchange for full time homesteading. However, there are still a multitude of options for the average person who would like to do a little more with their spare time than watch TV and even make a few dollars from their own property.
“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best”. One of my favorite quotes from Henry Van Dyke is very applicable to the theme of this article. You don’t have to become a full-fledged farmer but perhaps you have a few chickens who’s eggs you can sell, maybe you have enough room to raise a steer. Maybe not. How about growing a few veggies on the porch and trading them for eggs or meat? If you’re even a little handy with tools you could build birdhouses or picnic tables and sell them. There are endless possibilities to the things one can do with a little ambition and spare time. It may take a little time along with trial and error to discover your own nitch, but once you do, you can begin to fine tune it until your pastime becomes more beneficial and satisfying. It has taken my wife and I a few years to figure this out for ourselves, but we are finally settling into something that works quite well for us.
Living on five non-irrigated acres in the high desert, my wife Kelsey and I have limited options for what we can and cannot do with our property. Over the last few years we have been figuring out what works for not only our property, but also our lifestyle. We keep ourselves quite busy with a flock of nearly 50 laying hens, an ever-expanding vegetable and herb garden and seasonally raising butcher hogs and broiler chickens. Our goal is for our hobbies to generate enough income to support themselves and hopefully have a little left over. What does that mean exactly? By selling most of our chickens’ eggs, they not only pay for their feed but there is enough left to pay for other things such as feeders, waterers, improvements to the coop, etc. Selling our hogs is a similar scenario. Their feed bill is taken care of, we generally keep half or a whole hog for ourselves which has also paid for itself. We’re certainly not getting rich from this lifestyle but it gives us the opportunity to pursue and afford what we feel is a better quality of life through some amount of self-sufficiency. Additionally, we have the satisfaction and peace of mind knowing our food is raised naturally with love and care and without chemicals. Even if you don’t have space for 50 chickens and don’t like the smell of pigs, there is almost certainly something you can do with whatever space and desire you may have.
Native Oregonians, Ryan and Kelsey Williams moved with their dogs, cats, horses and mules to Redmond in 2014 and have been working to make their own homestead more efficient and productive ever since. To see what they’re up to or inquire about their eggs, seasonal veggies or pork, please visit them online at facebook.com/hardpanhomestead
Photos courtesy of Hardpan Homestead