Dear Neighbor,

I don’t know about you but I am tired. It is the end of summer, there has been a good amount of canning, gardening and all the stuff that  make up life and it has worn me out. The sad thing is that this is the smallest garden I have ever had and I am still tired.

I hate to admit it but I can see a difference in my energy level as each decade passes by and with it, my enthusiasm in homesteading. When I started homesteading I was twenty years younger, I had three kids, the two oldest being boys, to help me with the chores and a dear husband that was twenty years younger, as well. We were able to run a  self good sized homestead all by ourselves.

Most of us in the neighborhood are small, backyard homesteaders, who want to be more self- sufficient but simply do not have the ability, energy or motivation to “do it all”.

As we hear more and more about tainted food, imported food or possible food shortages, it is obvious that if all Americans either grew their own food or could at least purchase food from small farmers instead of corportate farms, we would all be better off.

Now the question to be answered is: How, with limited time, energy, and space do we eat healthy homegrown food and make sure it is available, creating some level of elf-sufficiency?

I beleive that the answer could be homesteading co-ops: A group of neighbors pooling together  their efforts to provide food for each other.

My mind went tothe Friendly Neighborhood. The Friendly Neighborhood is made up of your average Americans, with four families who are very interested in backyard homesteading. Martha and George invite those  families for a cup of tea to discuss how they can combine efforts to grow food for each other.

Martha  has a limited amount of garden space so ditches the grass she used to cut and bulids a vegetable bed where she solely grows tomatoes and pole beans and splits them evenly with the  neighbors who are co-oping together.

Franklin lives down the road and has two acres with the ability to pasture a milk cow. The families will split the cost of purchasing the milk cow and the care of the cow. Each family will have access to the family cow two days a  week; where they will care for and milk their cow giving them at least four gallons of milk per week.  They also discuss building a chicken tractor to keep inside the pasture to enrich the soil and grow chickens for the co-ops meat. The cost of growing the chickens is not only split, but all hands are on deck for the spring and fall butchering bees. Now the four family’s have organic, pasture fed chicken in their freezer along with fresh milk.

Sally has the best soil in the group. perfect for growing root crops. She uses her space to grow potatoes, carrots and onions for the co-op.

Bonnie loves chickens and since she already has a secure coop, she provides the co-ops eggs. She also grows a variety of peppers for the salsa and spaghetti sauces and shares the chicken manure with the other neighbors for their gardens.

Each family plants their own greens and lettuces in the fall and early spring, constantly utilizing their garden beds. They also grow dwarf fruit trees to provide fruit  and herbs for their own families.

This is just a little picture of what a small homesteading co-opp can look like. The details and desires of each co-op would be drafted amongst each group, but using this concept, the load would be lighter and woudl bring laser focus to each homestead on growing the best product possible.

I miss my cow but we had to part. As time went on, we didn’t need all that milk and though I tried finding people who wanted it, I became weary of customers not showing up for the milk. With hay being $12 a square bale in that year of the drought, she became a really expensive pet and lawnmower.

When we used to raise chickens, we had butchering bees. They were fun and gave us a lot of stories to tell. The friends who used to do these activities with us have moved away or stopped homesteading for various reasons.

I am just day dreaming a bit and envisioning how sharing homestead activities might look like and how it may make homesteading possible for more people. I surely don’t think I would be quite as tired.

Happy Homesteading, S

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