Friday, April 27

Excerpt from a letter to a friend, written about three weeks ago


You know when you were thinking about going into permaculture and I didn't really get it? I mean, I thought it was moderately interesting and a responsible discipline but I never truly adopted any independent enthusiasm for the subject. But now! My latest dream (a pipe dream, probably, but still--everyone needs a dream) is to be a homesteader. I want a small farm

I've already decided on some sheep (probably not more than a dozen Leicester Longwools or American Jacobs--maybe a Romney or a Cormo or a BFL later on), some chickens, a goat or a cow (undecided, but a Jersey if a cow), and a few hives of bees. The fiber from the sheep would be sheared twice a year, and could easily be processed at home or by a mill (Zeilinger's, preferably). I could then spin it into yarn to sell or use for the house or its occupants--spinning on a drop spindle when walking outside or checking boundaries and fences, then spinning on the wheel for long hours inside in the winter months. I've been processing some raw fleece here at home in Suburbia and I think it would be an easy chore to do out in the country. The cow I'm not entirely sure of--even one cow would be too much milk for just me (as if such a thing could happen!) and it seems that you have to have a calf to go with the cow, and feeding both of them takes lots of money; a goat wouldn't be so much of a money drain unless it was a persnickety type and ate the garden veg. Both would need some kind of outbuilding, though, to keep in the wintertime. And from both I could make butter and cheese! The bees I think of as a more responsible thing to keep in light of the whole colony collapse disorder ordeal--not that I wouldn't mind the honey, but I'm not very learned when it comes to bees... maybe soon. I will read some more. And I'm completely out of the loop when it comes to chickens--I suppose I just want decent laying hens. Eventually they will have to be killed, but I'm not sure I really feel like tutoring myself on chicken butchering just yet.

I want a wood-burning cookstove (with a water reservoir and a warming shelf) to heat the house, but I still want some hot water for showers--I think it is possible to pull that off with the minimum of external help, though. I'll have a cellar for wintering things (or in case of natural disaster--the best that could possibly be would be to have a spring running through the cellar, I think), and a freezer for preserving things (which could be kept running by solar panels on top of the house; at least until it is too cold to need a freezer). One composting toilet ought to be enough for just me or one or two others, but maybe if there are more of us, we might want another--and an external bathroom/outhouse. I haven't thought of what kind of house yet, or how to build it. That may be too many details for a pipe dream:) And we'd have to have some electricity because I think a computer and cell phones would be pretty necessary to keep in touch with the wider world, and to help sell products. And no electric laundry machines, though--there are hand-cranked ones that are just fine and using a drying rack in front of the wood stove would be just fine, anyway.

The garden would be lovely. I could grow most of the food I eat! I would probably have some kind of crop rotation fitted out so I wouldn't be tiring out the land--and I want to have a year of jubilee so that the land will have its sabbath. There could even be a time for wheat--I would have to get one of those hand-ground mills to make flour.  I could have rain barrels around all the house and outbuildings, and plant fruit trees and berry bushes on the property. At the end of summer there would have to be a huge canning-and-freezing party, but that would be fun:) I already do a good week of that here. 

My skills are not so awful as one might expect--I keep our compost pile, have a decent garden of my own, carried all the wood for two fireplaces for the past six months, am able to can and preserve fruit & veg & meats, cook for myself and a family, use cast-iron cookware, am used to processing my own fiber and knitting with it... and I like the work. I hate running on a treadmill for exercise, relying on Safeway or Giant for food I could grow, and cooking on an electric stove. It would be a comfort to be more self-sufficient than I am here. In my wildest dreams, this plan is attainable--but even a few months ago I would have not been this enthusiastic due to allergies, eye strain, and general weakness of body. However, just at this moment, right now, I think I could do it. [...] Oh, and I'd need a dog.