A Letter To Our Homesteada look back at our first year in 2017
An open letter to our homestead, not as much for you as it is for us. After the blueberry series, we needed a little time to reflect on not only our goals for the new year ahead, but more importantly to recognize all that we’ve accomplished this year. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day, but more often than not we need a reminder of exactly what we’re doing here.
This is an open letter to our homestead:
Dear Henstooth Homestead,
You’ve grown leaps and bounds since we first met. Like all new things, you didn’t even have a name. It was then you were gifted three egg laying chickens. We were all excited for the new adventure of farm fresh eggs. The chickens loved it here, so we built a coop that, honestly, looked more like a dog house. We defended them from coons, coyotes, and the like, and they continued to produce eggs. Fast forward to last spring, we decided to give it another go, adding new layers and broilers to the brood box. We lost a few chickens to the cold and that was only the beginning of a few hard months.
We raised the survivors, added two new egg layers to the group, and more broilers to our freezer. Due to more more predators, we close out the year with only two egg layers, one of our original three, we aptly named Grandma, and one from the spring, named Ruby.
When temperatures began to warm, we got to work in the wood shop. After living here for a couple months, we decided to put a concerted effort into the layout of the shop that would make us most effective for spring production. We built some new benches, rearranged the heavy equipment a million times and were ready to finally get to work. At about that same time, we were also prepping our first garden. Like most projects around here, we were fighting time and decided to directly plant our seeds. After the sweat and tears cleared, we had a garden and our first sweet, field and ornamental corn patch planted. We learned SO much but as usual, my favorite part was that you brought us together. We worked as a team not to accomplish some lofty goal but to nourish our bodies with good food.
This summer was honestly a blur and most of it was spent weeding and preparing for pop-up markets. Wiley attended its first summer pop-ups for a couple of months in Grand Rapids, adding soft goods to our line of woodworking products. We also hit a milestone: shipping our first international order to Australia.
Then, we pulled our first harvest, a radish. Radishes mature quickly and, just like that, we were hooked. Shortly after, berry season hit and we started learning how much our property truly had to offer. First, it started with black raspberries, dewberries, then blackberries. I fought your thornes and mosquitoes, homestead, and I won. I picked almost daily, retreating back to the house swollen with bites and scrapes but out of it came the best homemade jam. In fact, because of our bounty, I learned to can. It started with jams and jellies, then onto pickling radishes and now our storage room is full of our garden’s harvest. Well–preserved, feeding us and our families this winter.
Anyway, back to summer. Homestead, you’ve given the girls the best experiences, many I can recall from my own childhood. Coyote howls, owl hoots, the darkest night skies littered with stars, thick green grass to run barefoot through, food to pick off the vine and eat fresh without worry of pesticides, backyard camping, countless bonfires and so much more. Those are the best summer memories, and I can only hope they’ll cherish them later in life too.
Then, one summer day, Rich came home with a tractor. You’re too much homestead, we needed reinforcement to keep you going and so Rich traded his motorcycle for a tractor. I joked that I didn’t know if he was getting old or wise, but then again I guess they go hand in hand. It needs some work of course, but it runs.
Seasons change again and now we’re working through green and yellow beans, more zucchini than we can count, peaches and tomatoes. Homestead, you’ve reminded me of how much I love to cook. I’ll admit I lost it there for a while, but there’s just something about being in your own kitchen, pantry stocked, cooking the food you grew for the last several months. It’s about sharing good food with good people. With the occasional SOS call to grandma, I taught myself to can, cook new foods, bake hand-pies, biscuits and breads. I’ve invested in a few new cook books, more pots and pans than I care to admit and, weekly, you’ll find me sneaking back into the kitchen to see what I can concoct next. Be warned when you visit, you’ll always leave with more than you came with.
Late summer, we rented a bobcat to bury an old barn foundation, cleaned up the chickens (new to them coop), fixed the driveway and tore down an old dog fence. We started our sunflower and corn harvest, and collected deer apples to bag and sell at our first makeshift stand.
We took an old carport and turned it into a greenhouse for next year’s seeds. We planted hundreds of flowers along our roadside to welcome visitors next year. We repurposed the back of the chicken coop to house our current and future chickens properly. We took opportunity at every turn, which lead us to a new blueberry patch and now a 10–acre orchard. We hunted this fall, stacked wood for the winter, and managed to keep up on the repairs that come with an old farmhouse.
Homestead, through all your trials and tribulations (and there are a lot), you’re the best thing that could’ve happened to us. You’ve brought us back to our roots while introducing new and reuniting us with old friends. We’ve learned more about ourselves this past year and taken on new skills we never knew possible. You let us fail, reminded us who exactly is in charge but yet everything continues to fall into place. Homestead, thanks for the heartbreak, the sweat equity, the love and most of all the opportunity. We’ve come so far in our first year and, between us and our family and friends who continue to show nothing but support, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2018.
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The idea of transplanting blueberry plants onto our property seemed to align with our homestead’s greater goals & so we began the plan for over 200 plants!