I finally know what I want to be when I grow up

No longer having aspirations of fame and riches (well, I never really aspired to these things) and also having given up on becoming the great American novelist, a world-respected academic, or an Olympic gymnast, I’ve set my sights on a life aspiration that is difficult but attainable and potentially very rewarding. I want to become landed gentry. If not gentry exactly, a modern homesteader and given my location, a suburban homesteader. Homesteaders strive to use their home and land to be as resource independent as possible.

Aside from my general energy illiteracy, which I am working to correct, I’ve had some “homesteading” type aspirations for some time. I’ve always enjoyed gardening and have an interest in edible gardens, but I haven’t had much time in recent years to make much progress on gardening for food production. Those little kids I have are just getting big enough now to be little helpers in the yard so I’m more able to go out and take on gardening projects. And the kids really like participating. Yesterday, we built a food composter based on an easy concept from Seattle Tilth and now the kids can’t wait till we have more things to put in it.

So, here’s where we are starting with our efforts to become suburban homesteaders:

  1. Home on a one-acre, semi-rural parcel. (See what one amazing family in Pasadena has done with a much smaller, 1/5 acre plot at PathtoFreedom.com.)
  2. About 1/3 an acre of pasture with a little barn, used by two goats (Harry, a two-year old male Pygora, and Lucy, a seven-year-old Alpine/Nubian cross. Lucy could be a milk goat, but has never been bred so isn’t. And Harry, in his altered state, can’t do the job).
  3. Goat pasture

    Goat pasture

  4. Numerous fruit trees in various stages of maturity. Mature trees: three very overgrown and disease-prone mystery apples and one ancient and non-producing plum (it gave us one nice plum two years ago). Young trees: Two Gravenstein, one Honeycrisp, and two mystery apples. Two peaches. One Italian prune. One Shiro plum. One Schoolhouse plum. A dead Apricot that needs to be removed. A twig of a pear tree. Two Ranier cherries. One pie cherry. We also have about a dozen young blueberry bushes, two grape vines (one is puny and one is producing well this year), a young self-fertile kiwi vine, and lots of strawberries (both standard and alpine). There are also the many volunteer blackberries, some native and some not.
  5. Orchard


    As for veggies, the main crop I’ve focused on this year is lettuce. We built a portable salad box we saw some plans for in Organic Gardening magazine. We’re going to build two more and I think in our mild Seattle climate we can keep this growing close to year round, especially after we build a green house. I also have a small (3 X 10) raised bed that I threw a variety of things in (a few squash, beans, and some ground cherries). I am also growing a number of tomatoes in those “As Seen on TV” upside down planters. They are doing really well and no weeding required!



Salad box concept from Organic Gardening magazine

Salad box concept from Organic Gardening magazine

We also have a few projects we are going to tackle this summer. First, we are going to build a green house. I’ve been wanting to do this for years. After thinking about it, we decided we wanted to build something that wouldn’t require electricity. Originally, it was because we didn’t want to have to go through the hassle of getting the electricity connected to the location, which is pretty far from the house. Now, it is a good first experiment for us to build something that doesn’t require fossil fuel usage. After some research, we decided to build an altered version of this passive solar green house. The project gets started on Monday.

We are also going to build a chicken coop this summer. I’ve been looking at a variety of plans online and found a number of interesting ones at Backyardchickens.com. So we’ve got a busy summer ahead, but I’m looking forward to it.


(Derek wants to point out that he’s wanted to be landed gentry for years…again, not cool when he says it…)

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11 Responses to I finally know what I want to be when I grow up

  1. Get your goat doe bred and start milking her. You’ll love having cold raw milk in the refridgerator. It’s so delicious. And goat cheese is easy to make and also super tasty.

  2. 10yearchallenge says:

    Thanks Virginia. I would certainly consider breeding Lucy, but I worry about having enough time to milk her at this point. With my little kids, full-time job, and lots of gardening activities, I’m not sure I could add goat milking to the mix. I think it is likely something we would do in the future, maybe when our kids are a bit older. Unfortunately, Lucy might be too old by that time.

  3. Mark Musick says:

    Hello Sandy & Derek,

    Thanks for the update on your plans. It looks like you’re off to a great start. I hope you’ll share what you’re doing with the folks at 21 Acres http://www.21acres.org/the-21-acres-story.

    Also, I was pleased to learn that Seattle Tilth has initiated programs in Issaquah. If you’d like to be kept posted on their workshops and events, contact information is provided at the bottom of the announcement below:

    Seattle Tilth Partners with Issaquah at Pickering Barn

    Best wishes,

  4. 10yearchallenge says:

    Thanks Mark.

    I’ve been curious about 21 Acres, but haven’t looked into it too deeply yet. Thanks for the link. The 21 Acres site is amazingly close to my house — we’re just a bit east from the location on Hollywood Hill.

    Thanks also for the suggestion about Pickering Barn. I would like to stay in touch with what they are doing and will check out that site as well.

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