Lisa at Fresh Eggs Daily is someone who has taught me a lot about my chickens. She encourages me to try more natural approaches to raising my chickens when it comes to them being sick, supplementing their feed, and just enjoying them on my homestead.
Aside from chicken keeping, this round of 20 questions is going to show you how well-rounded you can become in your homesteading skills when you make it a priority.
I hope Lisa encourages you to explore different natural alternatives, as well as making various homesteading skills a part of your priority list.
20 Questions Homesteading Style – Lisa @ Fresh Eggs Daily
Please introduce yourself & your blog.
My name is Lisa Steele and I started my blog Fresh Eggs Daily in 2012 to share advice and information about raising backyard chickens and ducks, focusing on natural care. It was initially mean to merely be a sort of archive where I could write articles about common topics and then share the links on my Fresh Eggs Daily page on Facebook to answer questions I was frequently asked there.
How did you start your homesteading journey? How long ago was that?
I grew up across the street from my grandparents chicken farm and had chickens, bunnies and a goat as a kid, I was in 4H and my Mom and grandmother taught me how to sew, bake, knit, can and garden, etc. So technically I was born a homesteader, but as an adult I returned to the country and started raising chickens in 2009. After graduating from college with a degree in accounting and moving to New York, working on Wall Street for several years, I had enough of the “big city” and was ready to be back on a farm.
How big of a property do you currently have for your homestead? Do you think that is ideal for you or do you dream of changing that one day? Why?
We currently have 125 acres. Most of it is wooded, but maybe 10 acres (?) is pasture/field and then maybe another 2 acres is where our house, garage, barn, gardens and chicken coop are. I like the amount of space we have. If nothing else, it ensure we won’t have neighbors close by complaining about noise. And it means that I can go feed my chickens in my pajamas if I want to each morning! It’s not too much to maintain and provides us enough land to expand our little farmstead if we want to.
What is your favorite thing about the homesteading lifestyle?
I like spending time outdoors and being crafty. I am a huge DIY fan and love creating and building. I remember living in an apartment in New York and wanting to plant some herb seeds indoors one spring and having to sneak down to the courtyard area to dig up some dirt with a kitchen spoon to plant my seeds in!
I love that I can literally decorate the entire house for Christmas with evergreen boughs, pine cones, berries and other things I find on our property.
And of course I love having fresh eggs!
What is your least favorite thing about the homesteading lifestyle?
I think battling predators is the only thing I don’t enjoy. We have trail cams up and of course check the snow for prints and know that we have fox, coyote, fisher cats and even bears in the area, as well as eagles and hawks. That’s hard. I wish we could let our chickens and ducks out to free range all day, but sadly, I would likely lose them all in no time.
What does a typical day on your homestead look like?
Since I earn my living on social media and writing, I have to make sure that I balance actually ENJOYING the lifestyle with writing about and photographing it! And sometimes that’s hard. Creating unique, creative content day after day, year after year is hard sometimes!
I really don’t have a “typical” day except that each morning starts right around sunrise with feeding our cat, then heading outside to feed the chickens and ducks and then coming back inside to enjoy my first cup of coffee for the day. I try and snap a photo or two while I’m outside for my Instagram and Facebook accounts, so I will post those and then check my email and messages while drinking my coffee and that’s about all that’s ever routine.
After that, I might be working on the manuscript for my next book, working on an article for one of the magazines I freelance for, I might have invoices to send out to sponsors, or have phone calls scheduled. Maybe the film crew is coming for the day to shoot an episode of my TV show. Or maybe I am paying bills, working on our taxes or writing a blog post. I could be signing books and getting them in the mail to customers. Or maybe I’m working on a powerpoint presentation for a future speaking engagement. It really varies.
I try and save outdoor stuff for the afternoons. After lunch, I’ll let our flock out to exercise a bit while I work outside. Maybe I’m building or fixing something, weeding the garden, planting, painting, cleaning the coop, picking raspberries, or just enjoying a glass of wine on the back deck with my husband and our dogs. Or maybe we’ll have friends over for a BBQ or neighbors over to sit around the fire pit. I do travel a lot, so when I’m not traveling, I don’t even want to leave the house. Thank goodness for UPS and online ordering!
After dinner once the coop is shut and everyone is safe for the night, I like to sit in the evenings and relax and answer email, edit photos I’ve snapped throughout the day (I take photos of EVERYTHING!) and scroll through comments on Facebook and Instagram. I am a big list maker, so I’ll usually get my to-do list set for the next day. I try to finish up by 8 pm or so, and then sometimes my husband and I will enjoy a movie or I’ll knit or crawl into bed with a good book.
What animals do you have on your homestead, and what is their purpose?
We have a dozen ducks that we raise for their eggs and their entertaining antics.
We have 17 laying hens who we raise for eggs also. Both the chickens and ducks have a forever home with us for as long as they are around, regardless of whether they are still laying or not.
We have a little bantam rooster who I guess technically is for fertilization and flock protection, but since he’s so small, realistically he serves no real purpose, but he’s very cute and so far behaving himself.
We have a German shepherd and a Corgi who love to “help” out with whatever we’re doing whether it is plowing the driveway or tilling the garden. They are great with the chickens and ducks, but technically not “guard” dogs. However, their scent and presence is a nice deterrent to predators.
And we have an indoor/outdoor cat. He sleeps inside at night so he’s safe, but during the day he roams around and does a good job reducing the mouse and chipmunk populations.
What is your favorite thing to grow? Why?
I love growing herbs. They’re so easy and not picky about soil conditions or even whether you water them for the most part. They’re pretty self-sufficient. They don’t take up much space, many are perennial even here in Maine and they smell so great when you brush by them. I use them so much in my chicken keeping and cooking, and you can’t beat having fresh herbs at your disposal.
I also love growing garlic. It’s the ultimate no-maintenance crop. I plant it in November, and then mulch it with straw from our chicken coop and then forget it until June or July when its ready to harvest. I personally love using garlic in my cooking, and of course I use it in my flock’s water as well. It’s like magic that you can plant a single clove and it grows into an entire bulb! I haven’t had to buy garlic for years. I just keep a few of the biggest, best-looking cloves from each harvest to plant in the fall.
But I would have to say that my favorite thing to grow is radishes! They germinate and sprout so quickly! It’s almost like instant gratification! Interestingly enough, I really am not a fan of eating them, but fortunately our chickens and ducks love them, especially the tops!
Are you a seed saver, do you order seeds, or a combination of both?
Other than saving some garlic cloves from each crop, I don’t typically save seeds. I buy them each spring. I also buy many of my herb plants as seedlings.
Are there any animals or plants you don’t have currently, but hope to one day?
I really want to add geese, rabbits, and a donkey or two to our farmstead in the next few years. And I know my husband would like to have a few horses again. We had two horses in Virginia and I really enjoyed watching them graze. My husband is the rider, and with 125 acres, give or take, of woods, he would have plenty of room to ride up here!
What are some of your favorite things to make?
I really love to build things! I “collect” wooden pallets and we always have a stack around that I can tear apart to use for free wood. I’ve built nesting boxes, egg trays, eggshells dispensers, a nursery for my broody hens, even my own coop. My first coop for my first 6 chickens was one I designed and built myself. I also like to paint, but really, anything crafty is up my alley.
I do have fun making my own lip balms and I make a really neat lavender vanilla “sleep stick” that I rub on my pulse points to relax before bed. It smells so good and lavender has such great calming properties.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned on your homestead?
I am always learning. I don’t think there has been one thing that really stands out as being difficult. Since I grew up in the country, I was used to helping my Mom pick stuff from the garden, we got snow in Massachusetts too, so shoveling isn’t anything new. I was used to collecting eggs and taking care of our animals. I guess having a wood stove for the first time has been my biggest learning curve. Fortunately my husband spent summers in Maine and has cut, split, hauled and stacked plenty of wood, so he takes lead on that aspect of homesteading.
What is your favorite recipe to cook from scratch?
Wow, that’s a hard one. I cook everything from scratch. I hate processed and packaged foods. We don’t grow all our own produce, but I do try and shop local and eat as fresh as we can. I think the only prepared food I use is boxed brownie mix because I just don’t find that a recipe from scratch is much better! And it’s so convenient to keep a few boxes on hand to bake up a quick batch.
I guess from scratch though, I really like making my own mayonnaise. An immersion blender and mason jar makes quick work of it and it’s so much better and healthier for you with fresh eggs! I also love making ice cream. Fresh cream and eggs really make delicious homemade ice cream.
And I love to make bread. I usually use my bread machine for the sake of time savings but there’s nothing like kneading your own bread… and the smell of bread baking – the best!
I do also love to bake pies. I used to use pre-made crust until my father-in-law taught me how to make my own crust a few years ago. I haven’t bought a store bought crust since!
What homesteading skills are you thankful for learning?
I’m thankful that my Mom taught me to cook, bake and sew. My grandmother taught me to knit. All really useful skills that I really enjoy also.
What homesteading skills are still on your list to learn?
I am determined to learn to crochet. And I’m a pretty poor canner!
What is the funniest thing that has happened on your homestead?
I think the funniest thing happened early on. We had our very first batch of chickens and we were anxiously awaiting our first egg (well, I was. I’m not so sure my husband was quite as excited!). He was still in the Navy and worked at the base in Norfolk Virginia. Then one afternoon, I found an egg in the coop, so I called him at work.
Me: Orange Chicken just laid her first egg!
Him: Uh…. I’m in a meeting right now and you’re on speaker phone…can I call you back?
Every since that day, his co-workers tease him about it.
When you are having a hard day/week, how do you keep yourself motivated?
That’s a good question. Over the years I’ve had my share of haters and trolls, and had to deal with mean comments and all that, but I’ve learned to develop a bit of a thick skin, although I am still quick to cry! But I have also learned to pity people who go out of their way to make other people feel bad. Happy people don’t do that. And I know that success is the best revenge, so I just keep doing what I do. In a way the haters and trolls just push me harder to prove them wrong.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their homesteading journey?
You don’t have to do everything at once. You don’t EVER have to do everything. My father in law keeps telling me that someday we are going to have to start eating our chickens (never happening!). You can make your own rules and decide what you are going to raise and grow yourself, what you want to barter for, or buy. What you need and what you can do without.
The best advice I can give is pay off everything before you make the move to the country. No credit card bills, no car payments, etc. A mortgage should be your only financial commitment. Living in the country is hard work, no matter how much or little land you have, no matter how many animals you raise, and being able to commit to it full time without holding down a job outside the home is really what you want to shoot for.
There are so many ways to earn a living now without having a traditional job, so generating income from your homestead should be your main focus. Even if it’s like I do, by writing about it. So minimizing your fixed monthly payments is critical. It’s not as hard as you may think to make do on one income, if you’re used to two, when you factor in what you’ll save by possibly not having a second car (plus the insurance and gas and all that), by growing your own produce and cooking from scratch, not having dry cleaning bills, or day care or all the things that go along with working outside the home.
When it comes to resources, what are some of your favorites?
Early on, I read every book on chicken keeping I could get my hands on. Sadly, most didn’t really speak to me because they weren’t going the natural route (which is one reason why I ended up writing my first book Fresh Eggs Daily:Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally, St. Lynns Press, 2013)
There weren’t many chicken blogs or Facebook pages around when I started mine, so that wasn’t really an option.
I do subscribe to Chickens magazine and a few others. I’ve never been one to learn from videos, so I’m not a huge YouTube watcher.
What are you most excited for in 2019 on the homestead and for your community?
I am excited to be working on my sixth book that will be coming out in March 2020, and I’m launching a digital TV channel in 2019 which is going to be exciting! I will also be adding a product or two to my natural feed supplement line that I introduced earlier in 2018, so that’s exciting too!
If you enjoyed learning about Lisa, be sure to check out more on her blog!
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