One blog I keep referring to for different homesteading information is Better Hens and Gardens. Lesa’s blog contains a lot of great information that I know you will benefit from checking out after your read her interview.
Within her interview, you will see how she takes things into her own hands and makes them work. From building her homestead to writing books, Lesa doesn’t let anything hold her back from living a great homesteading lifestyle.
I cannot wait for you to read through this, so let’s jump into it!
20 Questions Homesteading Style – Lesa @ Better Hens and Gardens
Please introduce yourself & your blog.
I’m Lesa (it sounds like Lisa) and I write Better Hens and Gardens to help rural-minded folks’ transition to more self-sufficient, sustainable, lifestyles.
How did you start your homesteading journey? How long ago was that?
I was an engineer, manager, and project manager for a large corporation and was relocated ten times over a span of twenty years. During those years, I became increasingly concerned about our food supply; so, with each move, I tried to shift closer to my vision of self-sufficiency, sustainability, and real foods.
Then in 2005, I finally made it onto ten acres called Bramblestone Farm and started a true rural journey.
Over those years, my partner (Randy) and I built homes, patios, decks, and barns; grew vegetables, flowers, and fruit trees; and raised chickens all while being employed full time.
So, we started Better Hens and Gardens to help others deal with the sometimes-overwhelming prospect of pursuing a rural lifestyle, while still being employed and living in cities or suburbia. It’s meant to share all the “stuff” we learned and follow our latest journey on Bramblestone 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?
After transferring to Northeastern Ohio, we stumbled upon a large farm that was being subdivided; and that was located only minutes from work. One ten-acre parcel looked particularly appealing. It was mostly wooded, but had a southerly slope and one level corner of an old farm field.
We thought the southerly exposure would be perfect for a passive solar home and our escape from suburbia – we purchased the lot.
Perhaps we should’ve done a bit more homework because as we started clearing the land and preparing to build that home, we found rocks (boulder-size) everywhere we dug. And, those nice wooded slopes were covered with brambles.
Despite this, we gradually built our new home and escaped suburbia. After the home, we added a deck, patio, barn, chicken coop, and fencing; and ran into rocks and brambles every step of the way. Thus, it became Bramblestone Farm and despite the hard work, it is perfect.
What is your favorite thing about the homesteading lifestyle?
We believe that food grown without antibiotics, hormones, artificial fertilizers, insecticides, or herbicides is important; so, we try to produce our own without these additives.
We raise chickens for meat and eggs, Nigerian Dwarf goats for milk, honey bees for honey, and grow various fruits and vegetables. We sell the excess eggs and honey as well as goat milk or goat milk and honey skin-care products.
What is your least favorite thing about the homesteading lifestyle?
It’s a lot of work and some days, I’m not that thrilled about putting in the work (particularly outdoors in cold weather).
What does a typical day on your homestead look like?
Bramblestone Farm is located in Northeast Ohio, so we experience a full range of beautiful seasons. A typical day on the farm varies by season, but starts with livestock chores.
Then there’s usually gardening work of some type (planting, weeding, harvesting, preserving, etc.) or outdoor projects. There’s generally time in the afternoon for writing and website work and the farm day ends with livestock chores. Evenings are spent cooking, doing indoor projects, and working on writing or website work.
What animals do you have on your homestead, and what is their purpose?
We have around 25 chickens, 16 Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, 6 honey bee hives, and 2 cats. The chickens and goats free-range on about four fenced acres, controlling the bugs or weeds, and supplying eggs or milk. The honey bees are great pollinators that improve garden harvests while also supplying honey, and the cats supervise.
Our Nigerian Dwarf goats come from excellent bloodlines so we sell their offspring in the spring each year. You can visit our kidding schedule on the website to check out their pedigrees and reserve spring kids.
What is your favorite thing to grow? Why?
We currently grow a large garden, various fruits, and brambles. My favorites are the perennials because they can be planted once and harvested for years.
Are you a seed saver, do you order seeds, or a combination of both?
I’m a combination of both. I prefer to grow heirloom (non-hybrid) vegetable varieties and save the seed from them. But there are a few vegetables that I haven’t found a great heirloom variety of yet, so I still buy those seeds.
Are there any animals or plants you don’t have currently, but hope to one day?
I don’t think we would add any additional animals; however, I’m always looking for new perennials and vegetables to try.
What are some of your favorite things to make? Ex. soaps, salves, etc. Feel free to include a story of why you enjoy it.
I like making goat milk soap, but my favorite thing to make is goat milk cheese (chevre). It tastes so wonderful and can be used in so many ways. You can also freeze it so it’s available for year-round for use.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned on your homestead?
I find accepting the loss of a livestock animal (goats particularly) difficult. We try hard to provide great care for them and it’s disheartening when they don’t make it.
What is your favorite recipe to cook from scratch?
I really enjoy cooking any recipe from scratch that uses the vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, meat, and milk that we produce on the farm. Venison chili is a favorite.
What homesteading skills are you thankful for learning?
Gardening, canning, cheesemaking, dehydrating, animal husbandry, beekeeping, fruit growing, soap making, shooting, and general DIY.
What homesteading skills are still on your list to learn?
I’d like to learn more about using herbs and essential oils for homemade remedies and artificial insemination for goat breeding.
What is the funniest thing that has happened on your homestead?
Springtime is one of the funniest and most joyful times on farm because there are baby goats. Even as babies, they love “escaping” from their pens and bouncing around the barn.
We put a couple of hay bales out in the barn and the fun really starts when the babies discover them. It seems goat kids think that hay bales are nearly the best thing in the world, both to bounce and nibble on. It’s hilarious to watch.
Once they find the hay bales, the kids never forget where they are and it’s the first place they frolic to each time they escape. Of course, they have hay in their pens too, but it’s clearly not as good.
When you are having a hard day/week, how do you keep yourself motivated?
I try to remember that I’m very blessed to be in the situation I am with the opportunity to homestead. I also try to recognize that it’s my attitude and my choice as to how I approach a situation.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their homesteading journey?
It doesn’t matter where you live or how much property you own. You can start homesteading in the city, in suburbia, or in the country. It’s more about getting started, trying to be self-sufficient, and having a DIY attitude.
When it comes to resources, what are some of your favorites?
I enjoy Chickens and Hobby Farm magazines. For gardening, I like the Elliot Coleman books. For beekeeping, I like the Kim Flottum books. For chicken-keeping, I enjoy Lisa Steele’s books.
For the Nigerian Dwarf goats, I didn’t find much so I started writing my own series of books about them.
What are you most excited for in 2019 on the homestead and for your community?
On the homestead, I’m excited to be publishing my second book on Nigerian Dwarf goats! It’s called Nigerian Dwarf Goats 201: Getting Started – How To Choose, Prepare & Care For Your First Goats.
In the community, I’m excited that folks are increasingly interested in locally produced, organically raised food. I believe it’s better for us, our communities, and our planet.
Thank you, again, to Lesa at Better Hens and Gardens for participating in this project! It has been so wonderful to get to learn more about the homesteading lifestyle from your perspective. & Now I want all the Nigerian Dwarf Goats!
What was your biggest takeaway from Lesa’s interview? Let us know below in the comments!
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