Is Homesteading On Your Horizon?
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
The Covid19 pandemic has made changes to everyone’s lives that no-one saw coming.
When lockdowns started being announced the panic buying that followed was predictable. Hording of food supplies and for some reason toilet paper, ensued.
Shelves were empty, curbside pick up became a necessity and getting out of bed at one minute past midnight to secure an appointment to pick up those groceries at anytime during the next two days was a hack for the savvy shopper.
Horse owners found themselves locked out of barn visits and the folks running horse boarding operations found themselves beyond busy, taking care of horses that needed to be exercised and cared for in the absence of their owners.
Driveways were full of family cars (and in some regions still are), folks forced to stay home and bored beyond belief with kids running amok with nothing to do, while homeschooling threatened everyone’s sanity.
Safety protocols such as hand sanitizer stations, wearing a mask and social distancing (or as I prefer to call it anti-social distancing!), have become the norm.
When the talk of reopening society began the idea was to build a better future.
On a recent one hour drive from the Western Catskills down to the Hudson Valley, as New York State has currently opened up ‘PAUSE” to phase 1, I was impressed to see how much work had been done on building a better future by all the individuals that were forced to stay home.
Vegetable gardens had sprouted up everywhere, houses had been repainted, walls and fences had been built, lawns had been mowed and flower gardens had been tended. I saw horses in paddocks behind houses that had never been there before. Chickens appeared in backyards in newly constructed coops with shiny new mesh fencing. New buildings including houses, cabins and horse barns appeared on the Horizon as I journeyed along.
For me, the idea of a going back to the simpler way of life holds much appeal.
I grew up in England and my parents were in their teens during WW2. They grew up with morale boosting ‘Victory Gardens,” Consequently after the war ended and they bought a small patch of land and built their first house, most of the garden was given over to vegetable and fruit growing. When it was time for dinner, my mother would dispatch us kids, to pick whatever was ripe and ready to eat from the garden. Peas, runner beans, gooseberries (yuk!), raspberries (yummy! My brothers and I would sneak a lot of those), potatoes, carrots, onions, lettuces. It seemed as though we grew everything we needed.
In the Spring and Fall I would help my father dig over the garden. I am sure I was quite useless but he was very encouraging. I’d help him set chicken wire over the lettuces and peas to thwart the birds, and generally enjoyed getting my hands dirty. I fondly remember this valuable time that I got to spend with my father, who worked very, very long hours in London during the week in the corporate world and was never home before I went to bed.
Today my elder brother continues this tradition, and while currently quarantined in Shropshire the extra time he has had to work in his garden has yielded some stellar results as I witnessed on our Facebook video meet ups.
So the question is how can we make our lives better? Reopen with a new, brighter future? Is homesteading on your horizon?
Development of a sustainable lifestyle and perhaps a healthier, happier future for us as horse owners, with human and furry families to care for, is surprisingly fairly simple to construct. Keep a few chickens, grow some non GMO vegetables in your own backyard and mitigate the carbon footprint caused by buying food from China or elsewhere, bring your horse home to your yard and save the commute and expense of livery, and add some quality outdoor living fixtures to the garden, such as a gazebo and a playset to keep the kids imaginations active and put outdoor healthy living forefront in family life.
If you are considering embarking on a lifestyle change, with more time home with remote work or schooling and want to take your daily activities in a different direction don’t be shy to give it a go. The rewards are well worth the risk.
The homestead is how this country was built, and it is not surprising that there is still much knowledge to share about how best to manage it. For example,
it’s amazing how symbiotic relationships between animals exist naturally.
Back a year ago now, I wrote this blog on the topic of keeping chickens and horses to discuss the viability of their compatibility. It’s always amazing how well animals of different species can get along together and the expert advice from TV host Lisa Steele, chickenkeeper and homesteader extraordinaire is well worth a read.
We asked Jill Siragusa, Chief Marketing Officer of a leading modular horse barn construction company Horizon Structures, LLC, based in Atglen, PA, what advice she would give to folks who are considering purchasing housing for their horses and other creatures, great and small.
“In the past few months we have seen a significant increase in sales of all our structures, from timber frame horse barns to chicken coops and pavilions to playsets. People are embracing the opportunity to develop their properties and are finding ways to add value to their lives by taking on a simpler life.
Chicken coops have been flying off our lot, and run-in sheds and shedrows are also hot sellers as people want an option to bring their horses home, even if it is just for a short period until things get back to normal.
If you are looking for an outdoor structure, whatever it is, my advice is to take a good look around at what is available. If financing is an issue then find a company that offers it rather than just going for the cheapest option. There is a great saying, “ The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” Ben Franklin (1706-1790).
It’s also worth considering purchasing all your needs in one shop. It cuts down on cost as discounts are available for multiple purchases. It can also save you money on delivery expenses.”
Horizon Structures offers a myriad of prefab and modular products, and set up can be almost instant if you buy off their lot. Of course customization options are available too. Their latest additions to the line up include some very beautiful timber frame horse barns that every horse owner will drool over and coming soon are a range of greenhouses. Perfect timing!
Horizon Structures are based at Atglen, PA and in the heart of Amish country. Indeed it is their Amish work crew who construct their well-built barns and structures. The carefully crafted carpentry of the Amish is famous the world over for good reason. The sight of diligently tended vegetable gardens and fresh produce offered on the roadside stands is commonplace in the neighborhood that surrounds their factory, and keeping livestock is very much a part of their heritage, so the fact their products are popular nationwide is no surprise.
When asked what resources potential homesteaders could utilize to learn more about the details of what is available to them to aid in their adventure into the ‘old ways’ of growing food and keeping chickens, Jill Siragusa was happy to share:
" Our team consists of folks that do everything that you want to do. Whether that is keeping chickens, raising, designing and constructing barns, owning horses, goats and other livestock or tending gardens. Our website is chock full of advice on every topic in our blog, and all our products are clearly explained with lots of tips. Of course best of all we love to chat on the phone and answer questions. We realize that everyone’s needs are individual and their experiences to date in the realm of all these topics are different. Our customer service is truly second to none and we are very proud of the many customers we have helped realize their dreams over the years. Please don’t be shy to give us a call at 1-888-447-4337. We are here to help.”
While many homeowners and horse owners worry over a 2nd or even 3rd wave of the Covid19 virus, now is a great time to get set up and get busy. The only ‘pickle’ you want to find yourself in if that happens, is at the kitchen table, happily pickling all the fruits and vegetables you’ve harvested through the Summer.