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Homesteading Skills: The Essentials for Self-Sufficiency and Sustainable Living

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Homesteading, once a way of life for our ancestors, is experiencing a resurgence in today’s world. As people seek greater self-sufficiency, a deeper connection with the land, and more sustainable lifestyles, homesteading skills have become not only practical but also deeply rewarding. In this article, we’ll explore the essential homesteading skills that can empower individuals and families to live more self-reliant and sustainable lives.

1. Gardening

At the heart of homesteading is the ability to grow your own food. Gardening is the foundation of self-sufficiency, and it’s a skill that can be cultivated no matter the size of your property. Key gardening skills include:

Soil preparation and composting

Seed starting and transplanting

Crop rotation and companion planting

Pest and weed management

Harvesting and food preservation techniques like canning, freezing, and drying

2. Animal Husbandry

Raising animals for food, fiber, and companionship is a fundamental aspect of homesteading. The skills related to animal husbandry include:

Care and feeding of livestock, such as chickens, goats, cows, or pigs

Breeding and reproduction management

Livestock housing and pasture management

Animal health and basic veterinary care

Dairy and meat processing if you’re raising animals for consumption

3. Food Preservation

To make the most of your garden’s bounty or the harvest from your livestock, knowing how to preserve food is essential. Food preservation skills include:

Canning fruits and vegetables

Fermentation for foods like sauerkraut and kimchi

Dehydrating fruits, vegetables, and herbs

Making homemade jams, jellies, and pickles

Smoking, curing, and other methods for meat preservation

4. Foraging and Wildcrafting

Homesteading often involves making the most of what nature provides. Learning to identify and use wild edibles and medicinals is a valuable skill:

Identifying edible wild plants and mushrooms

Harvesting herbs for teas, tinctures, and salves

Sustainable foraging practices to protect local ecosystems

Preserving wildcrafted items for later use

5. Beekeeping

Keeping bees not only provides a source of honey but also contributes to pollination on your property. Beekeeping skills include:

Setting up and maintaining beehives

Handling and managing bees safely

Harvesting and processing honey and beeswax

Identifying and addressing common bee health issues

6. Food Self-Sufficiency

Beyond gardening, you can work toward greater food self-sufficiency by learning skills like:

Seed saving to preserve heirloom and open-pollinated varieties

Raising and harvesting small livestock like rabbits or quail

Cultivating perennial food crops like fruit trees and berry bushes

Aquaponics or hydroponics for year-round food production

7. Basic Carpentry and DIY Skills

Homesteaders often find themselves needing to build and repair structures, tools, and equipment. Carpentry and DIY skills include:

Building raised beds, chicken coops, and animal shelters

Basic woodworking for constructing furniture and farm implements

Repairing and maintaining machinery like tractors and generators

Fencing and infrastructure construction for property management

8. Water Management

Managing water resources efficiently is crucial for sustainable living. Key skills include:

Rainwater harvesting and storage

Drip irrigation and water-saving techniques for gardening

Proper well maintenance and water testing

Building and maintaining ponds or water features for livestock and wildlife

9. Energy Independence

To live off the grid or reduce your environmental footprint, consider energy independence skills:

Solar panel installation and maintenance

Wind turbine installation and maintenance

Energy-efficient building design and retrofits

Off-grid living strategies for reduced reliance on public utilities

10. Soap and Candle Making

Homemade soaps and candles can reduce reliance on store-bought products. These skills include:

Making soap using cold or hot process methods

Crafting candles from beeswax, soy, or other materials

Adding scents and colors naturally

11. Herbal Medicine and Remedies

Homesteaders often turn to herbal medicine and remedies for self-sufficiency in healthcare:

Growing and harvesting medicinal herbs

Making tinctures, salves, and herbal teas

Natural remedies for common ailments

Basic first-aid and emergency care skills

12. Sewing and Textile Arts

Basic sewing skills are essential for making and repairing clothing, linens, and more. These skills include:

Hand and machine sewing techniques

Mending and darning clothing

Knitting, crocheting, and other textile arts

Crafting items like blankets, rugs, and quilts

Homesteading is not just a return to simpler times but a way to embrace self-sufficiency, sustainability, and a deeper connection with the land. While mastering all these skills may take time, the journey itself is a rich and rewarding experience. Homesteading is about learning, adapting, and continually improving your ability to live more independently and in harmony with the environment. Whether you have acres of land or a small urban plot, these essential homesteading skills can empower you to live a more self-reliant and sustainable life, fostering a sense of fulfillment and purpose in the process.

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Lacey’s Pantry – Beef Chimichangas

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Servings: 8

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

1-2 cups vegetable oil

½ cup diced white onion

2 tsp minced garlic

½ TBSP chili powder

¼ tsp oregano

½ tsp ground cumin

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ to a full can of Rotel tomatoes and green chilis

8 (burrito-sized) flour tortillas, warmed

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Toppings: salsa, sour cream, guacamole, queso

Instructions:

Brown hamburger meat and onions in a large skillet until onions are slightly softened. Add in garlic chili powder, oregano and cumin. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Rotel. Cook and stir another five minutes. Set aside.

Warm tortillas in the microwave. On each tortilla, place about ½ cup of meat mixture. Do not overfill. Top with shredded cheese. Fold sides over the meat and cheese, then fold bottom over the sides and roll up. Place all folded chimichangas, seam side down, on a large plate and repeat with remaining tortillas.

In a separate large skillet, pour enough vegetable oil to fill 2 inches full of oil. Heat oil over low heat. The oil needs to reach 375 degrees. Using tongs, lower one chimichanga at a time into the hot oil, seam side down. Fry until golden brown on both sides, 1-2 minutes on each side. Place cooked chimichangas on a paper towel lined place to absorb oil. Repeat with the rest of the chimichangas. Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

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Protecting Pollinators: Strategies for Supporting Bee Populations in Oklahoma

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Pollinators, especially bees, play a crucial role in our ecosystem and agricultural landscape. They are responsible for pollinating many of the crops that we rely on for food production. However, bee populations worldwide have been declining due to various factors, including habitat loss, pesticide use, disease, and climate change. In Oklahoma, where agriculture is a significant industry, protecting pollinators is of utmost importance. Here we explore some strategies for supporting bee populations in Oklahoma and why it’s essential for the health of our environment and economy.

Understanding the Importance of Bees

Before delving into strategies for protecting bee populations, it’s essential to understand why bees are so vital. Bees are one of the most effective pollinators, playing a crucial role in the reproduction of flowering plants, including many crops such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Without bees, the pollination process would be severely disrupted, leading to reduced crop yields and potentially threatening food security.

In Oklahoma, bees contribute significantly to the state’s agricultural economy by pollinating crops like cotton, canola, alfalfa, and various fruits and vegetables. According to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry, pollinators contribute over $157 million annually to the state’s economy. Therefore, protecting bee populations is not only essential for environmental conservation but also for the economic sustainability of agriculture in Oklahoma.

Challenges Facing Bee Populations in Oklahoma

Despite their importance, bee populations in Oklahoma, like elsewhere, face numerous challenges that threaten their survival. One of the primary threats is habitat loss due to urbanization, agricultural expansion, and land development. As natural habitats disappear, bees lose the food sources and nesting sites they need to thrive.

Furthermore, the use of pesticides, including neonicotinoids and other chemical treatments, poses a significant risk to bee populations. Pesticides can harm bees directly through poisoning or indirectly by contaminating their food sources and disrupting their reproductive cycles. Climate change also exacerbates the challenges faced by bees, affecting flowering patterns, altering habitat suitability, and increasing the frequency of extreme weather events.

Strategies for Supporting Bee Populations

While the challenges facing bee populations are daunting, there are several strategies that individuals, farmers, and policymakers can implement to support bee populations in Oklahoma:

  1. Creating Pollinator Habitat: One of the most effective ways to support bees is by creating and preserving pollinator-friendly habitat. This can include planting native wildflowers, flowering trees, and shrubs that provide bees with a diverse and abundant source of nectar and pollen. Additionally, leaving natural areas, such as meadows and hedgerows, untouched can provide essential nesting sites for solitary bees.
  2. Reducing Pesticide Use: Minimizing the use of pesticides, especially bee-toxic chemicals like neonicotinoids, is crucial for bee conservation. Farmers can adopt integrated pest management (IPM) practices that prioritize non-chemical methods of pest control, such as crop rotation, biological control, and using pest-resistant crop varieties. When pesticides are necessary, they should be applied judiciously, following label instructions and avoiding spraying during times when bees are most active.
  3. Supporting Organic Agriculture: Organic farming practices that eschew synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are inherently more bee-friendly. By supporting organic agriculture and purchasing organic products, consumers can help create demand for farming methods that prioritize environmental sustainability and pollinator health.
  4. Educating the Public: Increasing public awareness about the importance of bees and the threats they face is essential for fostering support for bee conservation efforts. Educational initiatives can include school programs, community workshops, and public outreach campaigns that highlight the role of bees in food production and the steps individuals can take to protect them.
  5. Collaborating with Stakeholders: Protecting bee populations requires collaboration among various stakeholders, including farmers, landowners, conservation organizations, government agencies, and researchers. By working together, these groups can develop and implement comprehensive strategies for conserving bee habitat, reducing pesticide exposure, and promoting bee-friendly farming practices.

Conclusion

Protecting pollinators, particularly bees, is a critical priority for environmental conservation and agricultural sustainability in Oklahoma. By implementing strategies such as creating pollinator habitat, reducing pesticide use, supporting organic agriculture, educating the public, and collaborating with stakeholders, we can help support bee populations and ensure their continued role in pollinating our crops and maintaining ecosystem health. By taking action now, we can secure a future where bees thrive, benefiting both our environment and our economy.

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References:

Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry. (n.d.). Pollinators in Oklahoma. Retrieved from https://www.oda.state.ok.us/food/fs-pollinators.htm

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. (2022). Neonicotinoids. Retrieved from https://xerces.org/neonicotinoids

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2022). Climate Change and Human Health – Heat Impacts on Pollinators. Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/translational/peph/webinars/heat-impacts-on-pollinators/index.cfm

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Principles. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/integrated-pest-management-ipm-principles

Organic Trade Association. (n.d.). Why Buy Organic? Retrieved from https://www.ota.com/why-buy-organic

Pollinator Partnership. (n.d.). Education & Outreach. Retrieved from https://www.pollinator.org/education-outreach

United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Partnerships for Pollinators. Retrieved from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/06/24/partnerships-pollinators

These references provide a comprehensive overview of the topics discussed in the article, including the importance of pollinators, the challenges they face, and strategies for supporting bee populations in Oklahoma.

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Western Housewives – April 2024

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I am a mother. I do not know about the rest of you mothers, but the second I became “Mom,” my life became a constant state of wondering if I am doing a good job.

That is especially hard to tell when you choose to homeschool. I have no feedback from anyone that is not family. No teacher conferences telling me the little girl talks too much or the oldest boy can not sit still. Sure, I could ask my husband how he thinks our kids are maturing emotionally and intellectually. Still, he would most likely look out the window and see the aforementioned children running around in the sand with only socks on. He would then look at me and ask me to make him a quesadilla. I would say yes, we would joke about socks, and life would go on. See? Zero feedback to go on here.

So, you start to rely on personal experiences. You come up with little tests throughout your days to rate your kids “ready for society” level.

Example 1: A trip to the big city where the kids treat the grocery store as their personal snack depot. They successfully eat all the grapes and a whole block of cheese in your basket before you can check out. As you leave, they tell the door greeter, “Have a nice day.”

Example 2: Your husband enters an indoor rodeo. You are bouncing the baby and notice your oldest child is eating a bag of dippin dots. First, you smile and then remember that she has no money. Come to think of it, the concession stand is not even open. You have now concluded your firstborn has broken into the closed concession stand with her posse of four-year-old convicts and has helped herself to some ice cream.

Example 3: You are in church. The children have managed to be nice and quiet the entire time. After the message and the closing “Amen” is said, your three-year-old turns to you and says, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”

After a little while, you start to question your “Ready for Society” tests. Are they productive? Are they accurate? I figure the answer to that question is better left unanswered.

One evening this summer, after I had quit conducting all these tests, I was mourning the loss of my children’s place in society when I looked up and noticed all our horses running down our driveway, headed for the neighboring pastures. For a minute, I just sat there wondering what I should do. I was holding the baby and wearing the ever-practical slip-on loafer and had absolutely no idea what was for supper. That had nothing to do with the horses being out, but that is part of being a housewife, I guess. You always wonder if you left the iron on and what is for supper.

While I sat there stunned, pondering life’s biggest questions, my husband and my daughter yelled at me to get a move on as they were already springing into action. My husband ran to stop them, and my daughter was on her way to the barn for some halters. Meanwhile, I was tripping over my loafers, scaring the horses and making already stressful matters much worse.

My husband finally got the horses cornered at the far end of our neighbor’s pasture and waved at me for some assistance. I handed the baby to my daughter and told her to watch the boys and stay in the house while I headed to help.

Within 30 minutes, we caught the horses and led them back to the corrals. I was in a near state of panic, wondering how long the boys had been crying and what state of mind my daughter was in, having just witnessed her dad nearly sweat to death and her mother make terrible fashion choices.

To my surprise, as I walked up to the house, I saw three happy children on the porch eating a supper of plums and peaches. The boys laughed at their sister as she shuffled little cars and cows around for them to play with. Not only had she fed and entertained her brothers, but she had also cleaned the house and fed the chickens to boot. I just stood there quietly watching for a while, not wanting to disturb the moment.

After the kids passed their first ever Ready for Society test, I realized that society’s standards versus my own were probably quite different. Society tells me that my kids need to be clean and quiet. Seen but not heard. Able to recite the ABCs on command but have no opinion on political matters. To be kind to everyone but never bring up God’s name and what He has to do with it. Society says my kids should fall into the assembly line and attend a good college someday to get a good minimum-wage job.

Why would I want my kids to fit into society when I do not even fit into society? No, I think I will keep my dirty little misfits all to myself. I think I will continue raising them to know how to care for themselves and each other. I will continue to show them how to serve God and work hard. I will continue to raise them never to wear slip-on shoes in the pasture and that plums and peaches are a totally acceptable supper on a warm summer evening.

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