A Day in the Life at the Small House Homestead

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The lush garden of heating loving perennial along side of our driveway.

I’ve had some beginning homesteaders and those who long to homestead ask me questions about our life here in SW Michigan. Here is a brief glimpse into a typical day here. Today is Tuesday, November 11, 2014. Gene is at work at Menard’s. He rose at 4:15 a.m. to be able to leave the house by 5:30 a.m.as Gene will dive 26 miles to work. He opens his paint department at 6 a.m. two days a week. 

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A glimpse of the fleeting beauty of autumn on the Small House homestead.

I am in charge of the animals and the homestead today. I just came inside from a morning of putting down composted soil on the garden beds and took a break for my breakfast. Today I am cooking two organic eggs on whole wheat/sprouted grain bread. I’ve been up since 5:00 a.m. today and am finally getting some food in my stomach at 10:00 a.m.

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This photograph was taken a few years ago but it creates a great memory for us.

Our area is supposed to be hit with a big snow storm tomorrow so I am a bit frantic trying to get the rest of my final fall chores done before the snow arrives.

Donna & Gene at Chop House

A more recent photo of us at a local restaurant on our 17th anniversary dinner out.

What Hours Do I Keep?

I get up most days around 5 a.m., I walk and feed Sassy (our Labrador) , wash a load of laundry, handle my e-mail before first light and get an early start on our dinner as we prefer to eat our main meal at noon on the five days Gene is not working at Menard’s. To be quite frank with readers I am too tired to make a giant meal at night, so often we eat a light meal of leftover in the evening. Today we are eating Polish kielbasa, scalloped potatoes and side of mixed fall vegetables.

At first light I go out and check on and feed the chickens, possibly start a hose if we are in a drought period. If it is summer, I hang out the laundry on the clothesline. If I have time, I like to do a quick sweep of the hard floors to keep up with the dog hair and tracked in dirt and leaves.

Then as daylight arrives I begin to work in the garden and my day goes on from there a mix of growing, maintenance, housework, cooking and more. My day ends early around 7 or 8 p.m. when I crawl into bed to reading, to do my own Reiki self-care treatment. Lights out is early for me as at age 64. I truly need 9-10 hours of sleep a night in order to keep up this pace.

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This is the soil in the compost bin that need emptying and distributing today.

We generally work 7 days a week with an occasional day out. Once a week I drive the 20 miles into town take a yoga class and twice a week I am currently going to physical therapy for a bad back, short leg and twisted spine. I can’t wait for this to end as it is taking at of time away from my chores and a lot of my daily energy. I am happy in a home-centered life.

 

Tell Me About How Your Blog?:

I start writing the text for my blog in the early morning hours before it gets light outside.  On a day I am alone at lunch, I will likely polish it while I eat lunch at my laptop. I take my photographs throughout the day. In the afternoon I put the finishing touch on it and publish it. If we have a rainy day or I am feeling exhausted, I’ll write a blog or two ahead. I generally know what my topic will be several days in advance. I’m an organized person and a planner and this is reflected, I think, in my blogging style.

I absolutely love to write and take photographs. I had a 19-year-career in marketing, advertising and public relations where as the owner of the small business, Words & Pictures, A Communications Agency, I wrote about small business owners who were my clients. My job was to keep them looking good and to get their business in the newspaper and on the television. Now, I get to write what I want about something I love. What could be better.

Why did You Choose This Kind of Work?

I choose this lifestyle for Gene and I, because we both wanted to live in the country, grow things and work without hands. Initially we came here to have an art gallery business and keep animals. Gene also came to blacksmith and be close to the woods for hunting. As time went on, more and more of our time and efforts turned to food production. I care deeply about the food we eat and what we put into our bodies. I also feel very connected to the earth and feel that I need to model a healthy lifestyle both for ourselves and for our land. As stewards of this earth, we are indeed wedded to this land.

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Gene and Sassy on a camping trip this part September to Wilderness State Park.

What is the Best Thing About this Lifestyle?

Feeling like I am making a difference in our quality of health and lifespan is job one to me. I also want to give my granddaughter the farming experience and to teach her where her food come from and how to grow it.  I do believe that in the future those who can grow their own food and be somewhat self-sufficient will be the ones to prosper and this is as important as a college education. As the granddaughter of a farmer and a former school teacher this is very personal for me.

brenna side view at bench

Our granddaughter loves to come to grandpa’s and grandma’s and enjoy our outdoor lifestyle.

What is the Hardest Aspect About This Lifestyle?

Gene and I are now age 64 and 69 and at our age the daily physical labor is getting harder and harder on us. We see the toll this work is taking on our bodies and we are each having some physical issues that limit us. Yet I remember reading about the Helen and Paul Nearing who wrote the book, Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in Troubled Times, they gardened well into their 80’s and I hope we can too.

Many others find off-farm pursuit the hardest thing about this lifestyle but I don’t mind this aspect as I love being here on the land. In fact, I actually hate going into town for a big shopping day, it seems so wasteful of gas and my time. I’d rather be outdoors; walking our land, exploring the woods and fields bird watching, running the dog and just enjoy the natural world.

What Will the Future Bring for You?

We are talking about ways to make this lifestyle work for us as we age. We will likely hire some seasonal help for the lawn mowing, fall leaf pick up and heavy gardening chores which will free us up some for more food growing, and larger projects like building a hoop house to extend the growing season. We have a small 950 sq. ft. on our property that can be turned into a handyman’s house. We have a ways to go before that is ready; we have to have a large auction, put in a shower and find a renter but this is likely the best option for us so we do not have to move away for as long as we can manage to stay in our home here.

What are Your Plans for Today?:

Before tomorrows predicted snowfall I need to get the composted soil put down on the perennials, put down the last of the grass seeds in the bare spots, pick up sticks and put down the last 14 buckets of bark chips. Much of this would have been done by now but we did take two week-long trips this fall so this put us behind as well as my back issue as holding things up somewhat. I also want to work with the chickens to acclimate them to coming in and out of the chicken door and up and down the gangplank. After that I’ll may take the dog for a run to enjoy the last fleeting day of fall in SW Michigan.

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Our adopted hen Clover and the five baby chicks.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

3 thoughts on “A Day in the Life at the Small House Homestead

  1. My husband and I have been thinking about how we’ll manage in the coming years after starting this lifestyle so late in life (we’re in our early 40’s right now and wish we’d done this in our 20’s). Luckily, our daughter and her little family want the same kind of life and are willing to move here to help when we’re ready.

    It’s not easy, but I know the satisfaction will be worth the hard work!

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    • Yes, Crystal it can be challenging especially when you are like us and take on more than we probably should! How wonderful that your daughter and family are interested, that should be such a great help. Kind of like the old-time farmer who had a big family so that not only did he have help on the farm he had someone who wanted to take it all over.

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      • That’s pretty much what we’re wanting to do. It’ll also give my granddaughter a chance to learn so much more than I could teach her on occasional visits.

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