Suburban Homestead, what is that?
Why the chickens? Why the garden? Why the bees? Why the survival preparations?
I would love to have what you have but we don’t want to deal with the hassle…..
We will come to your place when things really get bad because you guys are prepared….
We hear this a lot!
Hi I’m Karen Lynn and my husband “The Viking in my life” is Eric we are really the team behind Lil’ Suburban Homestead our kids do help out when asked to be involved but you have to understand we aren’t off grid we are leading normal lives. Eric and I both work full-time, we still go to football games, we are in clubs, we go fishing, we love going to the mountains and behind all the scenes we raise bees, chickens, raise a nice supplemental portion of food in the garden, and we prep for the future.
I am a Techie I love HBO and my Droid Razr so some might say well that’s not very frugal and I say even frugal people can be entertainment addicts and actually I negotiated my cable bill down quite low. We do eat at home, we do make our own laundry detergent, we do a lot of our own homemade furniture projects, we do not frequent Starbucks, we do can our own food, we do freeze a lot of our own food, we do mend our clothing, we do frequent thrift shops. Everyone has their passions we are not going to all give up the same things.
Why it works for us?
Our kids know……my daughter recently had a friend who was having a baby shower and I gave her two chicks from my recent flock of chickens and she of course loved it because she wants to be a backyard chicken Momma like me!
Comments my kids often will make….
One of my son’s friends told us he could never live with us because all we eat is eggs, tomatoes, and peppers in the summer….that’s not completely true but we do eat a lot of omelettes. For us there is joy in being self-sufficient or at least more self-sufficient than the average person. I actually have felt guilty this year because I have not been hanging my clothes on the line as often but I still hang them all over the house!
It All Started Because……
Well it really started way before 2009 we always loved to garden and we had kept a few flocks of chickens but when I got thyroid cancer in 2009 we thought something has to give. We are going to have to eat healthier and the food industry is not going to protect us so the more we can eat and buy local we figured the healthier we will be.
We do not eat a completely organic diet because we can’t afford it but we strive to be as healthy as we can. So once we made up our minds the very first thing we did was build a greenhouse, then we put in raised beds and then of course added more raised garden beds. We also decided to keep chickens, then later added bees, then added more chickens and we have a huge composting system all on 1/3 of an acre.
For us it’s the adventure of challenging ourselves, learning new to us skills(old-fashioned), engaging in new challenges however I have completely quit trying to knit forget about it. I just can’t figure it out. Some of our favorite projects we have done in the past couple of years…. My husband has made humane animal box traps from wood, he fashioned some trellises in our garden from our Bradford pear tree, he made our headboard for our bedroom from historic scrap lumber.
My favorite project was the rotating upcycle strawberry planter he made from an old water tank. One of the most exciting things about gardening is you never know when you are going to have a bumper crop or unfortunately a horrible crop. This year we had a bumper crop of tomatoes, last year we had a bumper crop of peppers and the year before we had a bumper crop of huge fat tomatillos. For those that are sitting on the fence about gardening and don’t want to invest much work the pay off is huge and over time like my husband and myself you will come to know what is worth investing seed wise in your area.
This past year we concentrated on lettuce, spinach, beets, Jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes, egg-plant, tomatillos, potatoes, and trombocino squash which incidentally seems to be immune to squash borers which is a huge problem for us.
Mistakes we have made along the way….
We put in underground rain water storage tanks without a way to aerate the water and the water after a particularly pollen rich spring fouled and dwarfed most of our seedlings. This past year in my over zealousness I ordered too many chickens and thought I could sell them and well lets just say I still have 16 new chicks, 9 of which I am still trying to find homes for.
The first chicken coop we had enabled our chickens to completely free range our property which was great for them however one night we forgot to lock the coop and lost one of our chickens to a raccoon. I believe these mistakes have taught us to be more attentive to details on our lil’ suburban homestead and there is no better teacher than first hand experience.
This past year we harvested approximately 100lbs of honey from our bees and we have noticed increased yields in our vegetable garden production.
We have added another chicken coop, a chicken yurt really and this will house our quail next year which we plan to sell.
We eat our eggs our gals produce year round and now and then we even have enough to sell. By eating local honey and more produce I have become healthier and even lost 27lbs this past year. This year my husband has had a huge bounty of Habanero peppers which he plans to make a pepper spray to protect our other plants from aphids and other such garden pests. Lastly we had lots of eggs, produce and honey to share with our close friends and neighbours.
- When you become a gardener you start living by seasons so you see the ebb and flow of things and truthfully over time you become so much more patient. You begin talking differently for instance next year I want to replace that tree with a peach tree so let’s keep an eye out for a sale on peach trees.
- You do not have as much time to shop lets face it taking care of the garden, chickens, and bees take time. By the time you get done you might not even feel like going shopping and slowly over time you become truly satisfied with the little wonders in your garden.
- We used a budget to track all of our incoming and outgoing monies. We establish a budget every year for our trips and the money we make from our honey and plant business goes straight back into growing our hobby business.
- We used to have a grocery bill every month of about $1200 for the four of us every month. We finally got that down as low at one point to about $260.00 a month and that includes paper products, pet products, and cleaning products but NOT personal hygiene products. Right now our average grocery budget for 4 adult sized people is about $600.00 a month. It has gone up this past two years while we have concentrated on our hobby business. The truth is you have to zero in on where you are going to invest your time.
- We do not use a lot of highly processed foods in our house…chicken nuggets or frozen pizza is a big treat. The routine staples we stock are oatmeal and other grains like barley and quinoa. We grow our potatoes then purchase more as needed, fish we catch in the ocean, chicken breasts, non fat Greek yogurt, fruit, and lots of produce from our garden!
- We do purchase those out of date produce and meat sales at our local grocery store and they always taste great. We also buy clearance items at our grocery store and close-outs. I hardly ever buy pre-made meals at the grocery store we take great efforts to avoid MSG, sodium, and the like.
- We made sure when we purchased our house that we followed the guidelines the financial gurus recommended - meaning if we had listened to the realtor and the loan officer we could have gotten a lot more house than our 1500 square foot rancher but I wanted to live a life style that is comfortable.
- Financial Splurges- I would say our cable and cell phone bill- I’m a techie and an entertainment addict and my husband supports my passions! I am not one to buy a new outfit or purse every week. He likes his tools and his bees and I like my gadgets and my movies.
- Cooking from scratch has made the hugest change to our budget – such as if we get invited to a party I will make our brownies from scratch or bring my homemade salsa and some chips…have you seen the price of salsa lately in the grocery store?
A typical menu plan on any day in our house during the week would entail:
- Breakfast- oatmeal with berries made with fat-free milk and a tsp. of our very own honey
- Snack- mozzarella cheese stick and a peach
- Lunch- Omelette and toast (If I’m at work) that would look like a leftover salad and a few pieces of meat on top
- Snack- A handful of nuts and an apple
- Dinner- 4 oz. chicken breast, 1 cup of peas, a baked potato
- Dessert- Homemade Fruit Ice Pops made with fruit on clearance!
Thank you so much for letting us share our journey with you we hope most of all to inspire you a yearning for connecting with other like-minded folks and you know my motto “If you have a home you’re a homesteader!”….stop on it at our lil’ suburban homestead anytime you are always welcome.
Guest Post By: Karen at Lil Suburban Homestead
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