Welcome back to Highlighting Homesteaders! Highlighting Homesteaders is a weekly post, each Friday, where I introduce you to backyard homesteaders, urban homesteaders and homesteaders with acres. This will give you a chance to see what others are doing, be inspired, learn something new and just meet a fellow like-minder homesteader.
Today I am excited to introduce you to my friend Karen of Lil’ Suburban Homestead. I think Karen and I connected because we’re both backyard homesteaders and understand those challenges. She inspires me with all she does with the limited space that a neighborhood yard offers; I think she’s going to inspire you too!
HIGHLIGHTING HOMESTEADERS – Karen of Lil’ Suburban Homestead
1. Homestead Name and where are you located?
We call our homestead Lil’ Suburban Homestead because that is exactly what it is; a lot in suburbia about 2.9 miles as the crow flies from the coast. It’s very wet and humid here in the summer!
2. How much land are you working with?
We live on a ⅓ of a acre and we grow an abundance of fresh, healthy food!
3. How long have you been homesteading? What got you started?
We started really in 1989 when we first got married and we planted our first huge garden – it was a disaster but at that time we lived on some acreage in Maryland and the dream started there. I think once I was on my own for the first time I realized how much more we could be self reliant and my husband got me hooked on the Fox Fire books and then much later I got hooked on Backwoods Home Magazine and The Tightwad Gazettes when it was all still kind of odd behavior but I loved that bringing new and innovative ideas to my friends and family and it all sort of sparked but the blogging came much later.
4. What gardening method do you use?
In regards to gardening methods we have tried in the ground and we have tried straw bales but the most effective for us with our sandy soil is raised bed and container gardening and we have huge success.
5. Do you compost? And what’s your method?
Yes we do but we just have an old school “Pallet” method we have two separated areas built with pallets and we just shift and turn until its ready…very simple!
6. What kind of livestock do you have?
All we have at this point in time is our little flock of 4 hens at one point in time we had 29 chickens and it was just too much work with me working full time and all we were doing with Football games for our son, music shows, those who know me and my husband I call the Viking we love the music scene locally, we love to camp and hike, and we love to go flea marketing so we wanted the best of both worlds…we do have the bees though and we are hoping to add quail this year. Originally we were going to add rabbits which I think are less expensive but we think quail may be our easiest first transition to a meat bird.
7. Tell me about your homesteading indoors.
I work full time we both do so we are huge “Slow Cooker” enthusiasts, we love to can in particular some of our favorite items to can are applesauce, salsa, peaches, and muscadine jelly. In the pressure cooker we like to can our Brunswick Stew and our Fish Stew, both listed on our blog. We are hugely into herbs some of our favorites are rosemary, yarrow, basil, and comfrey. We use them for home remedies but I call a doctor if a home remedy doesn’t show signs of working again I believe in technology. I am already working on my homemade holiday gifts so will be doing more sewing this year and I’m excited about that.
8. What have been your greatest challenges?
What started the blog actually was finding out I had thyroid cancer in 2010. I was sluggish, tired, and unhealthy and our entire family was unhealthy from eating processed foods so I knew there had to be a better way going forward. We found it and it works for us. Now a days my biggest challenge is time. I work full time in the Public Relations field in my dream job and making time for all the things we love is tough but we spent 2014 and 2015 finding balance which I think we have and so this year my word is Innovation in other words a refreshing adding the quail is just one way to start this.
9. What are you proudest of?
I think my proudest moment is when I saw how low our grocery bills got because we utilized so much of what we grew and raised on our homestead. A typical meal for us might be chicken (from the store), collards from the garden, and some canned applesauce. Two thirds of the meal came from our homestead or local sources. I am also really proud of the healthier lifestyle we lead it just feels better! I loved doing the podcast I got to meet so many new and exciting people that were a wealth of knowledgeable and actually talk to them including you, Tiffany….but that being said I am taking a break from radio for the time being and really devoting time to our garden, our blog, our Facebook group, new ventures, and friends and family!
10. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Start with adding a couple of vegetable plants, chickens because they are so easy, and a couple of fruit trees if you have the land. We have an orange tree, almond tree, three pear trees, an elderberry tree, a choke cherry tree,two fig trees/shrubs, and a peach tree and we didn’t get them all at once we slowly added and replaced trees. I have a fun blog post called “So you wanna’ be a Homesteader” where a lot of homestead bloggers weighed in on this very topic and the truth is most everyone will tell you to start slow and I agree. Don’t go live off grid tomorrow it may just not be for you. The Viking and I love living a few minutes from the beach and downtown. I like havind modern convenience close by and in that way I think I resonate with my readers. I’m a proud suburban homesteader I want the best of both worlds and I have my farmer friends to live life vicariously through 🙂
Bonus Question – In regards to your homestead, what are your hopes and plans for the future?
We would like to re-do our landscaping in our front yard to make it a completely edible landscape. We also are planning to add aquaponics and raise fish on a small scale. We would also love to do more entertaining at our homestead such as inviting folks over for canning parties and serve homemade wine (check out her post on Jerusalem Artichoke Wine!) and homemade goodies nothing excites folks more than tasting fresh gourmet food from the garden and well we love people we would just really be excited to do more of that as well!
Where you can find Karen:
I am so glad I got to introduce you to Karen – she rocks! Be sure to come back every Friday for more Highlighting Homesteaders!
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