Have you ever wondered what it is like homesteading in a tropical paradise? Well, Kris at Attainable Sustainable is going to shed some light on the topic within her 20 Questions today!
I’m not sure we’ve had as interesting or as eye-opening of around as this one, and I’m pretty sure you will agree!
20 Questions Homesteading Style – Kris @ Attainable Sustainable
Please introduce yourself & your blog.
I’m Kris Bordessa, an author and freelance writer currently living in Hawai‘i. (It’s a beautiful place, certainly, but make no mistake: There are dishes to do and laundry to wash here, too!) I started Attainable Sustainable back in 2012, when a friend and I began discussing the idea of living a more self-reliant lifestyle. While I had some experience with things like gardening and raising chickens, she had no clue where to start. My site evolved out of that conversation, in an effort to help people like my friend start from the ground up.
I’m currently working on a book that will be published in 2020 by National Geographic Books. I’m really excited to get that out into the world — it’s going to be a great resource.
How did you start your homesteading journey? How long ago was that?
I’m not sure I really ever set out to homestead. I grew up on an apple farm where gardens and chickens and home cooking were all just part of our daily life. I knew I wanted a similar lifestyle for myself and my family. We’ve lived in urban areas and very rural areas over the years. No matter where we lived, we’ve always grown some of our own food and we’ve raised chickens for 20+ years.
That’s still the case, but our menagerie has expanded to include ducks and rabbits. I’d love to have fresh milk available to us, but the time and space required for dairy animals is prohibitive.
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 are on 7 acres, though only a small portion of that is currently usable. The rest of the land is covered with invasive strawberry guava. We are slowly working to clear the land so we can plant a food forest, which would make it a highly productive area — then it would be plenty and then some!
What is your favorite thing about the homesteading lifestyle?
I love that I can choose how my day will look. I can decide if I feel like tree trimming and chipping, or if I feel more like digging in the garden. Or if I’d rather stay inside and cook. Or sew. There’s never a shortage of projects to tackle, that’s for sure!
What is your least favorite thing about the homesteading lifestyle?
The mud. We get rain here pretty much year-round so it seems like we’re always tracking mud around. The mud room really IS a mud room and it gets tiresome trying to keep that under control!
What does a typical day on your homestead look like?
My homestead is also my office, since I work from home. I’m usually up by 6:30 am, and head out to feed the animals. Once they’re fed, I make a cup of coffee and get to work responding to email and maybe doing a load of laundry.
The rest of the day can go in any number of directions, but I tend to break up my indoor and outdoor work, doing an hour or two of one, then the other.
Two of the activities that happen almost daily are garden maintenance (I’m trying to figure out a pest problem right now, for instance!) and “beating back the jungle.” It takes no time for the edges to start creeping in. We try to keep the invasive grasses and ginger at bay by knocking them down regularly.
In the afternoon, I feed the animals again and am regularly caught off guard by the fact that dinner time has rolled around yet again.
What animals do you have on your homestead, and what is their purpose?
We have chickens, for both eggs and meat. We added ducks to help with the slug population and have been delighted that they are reliable egg layers as a bonus. (Even when the days are short and my chickens aren’t laying!)
We’ve adopted two rabbits from a friend of mine, purely for their manure. They primarily eat vegetation we have growing here, so it’s a very low-cost, low-input way of generating fertilizer for my garden.
Oh, and our four cats help keep the mouse and rat population down.
What is your favorite thing to grow? Why?
Tomatoes, bar none. I love to have a pantry stocked with homemade tomatoes, marinara sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa. Here’s the kicker, though: I can’t grow tomatoes in abundance here in Hawai‘i. I’m used to harvesting hundreds and hundreds of pounds of tomatoes from my garden, so this has been a difficult adjustment for me, and I keep trying, but the powdery mildew is beastly and the fruit fly damage is frustrating.
As for crops that will thrive here locally, I love to grow bananas. They thrive here. We use them for fresh eating, of course, but they’re also a good starch and potato substitute when prepared green.
Are you a seed saver, do you order seeds or a combination of both?
A combination of both. And I always go overboard with my seed orders because there are just so many amazing vegetables to grow! (I’m a sucker for things like purple bell peppers and watermelon radish…)
Are there any animals or plants you don’t have currently, but hope to one day?
While I’d love to have goats or cows for the milk, I have to be honest and admit that I’m not ready for that kind of commitment. I much prefer animals that are low maintenance! I would love to have beehives here, though. (Do bees count as animals??)
What are some of your favorite things to make?
I’ve only just learned to make soap in the past year, but I tell you, it sure is a fun and fulfilling project to tackle! Good soap is so expensive to buy! So far, I’ve kept my recipes pretty simple, but I want to start experimenting a bit with bonus ingredients.
I’m thinking that the seeds leftover from making liliko‘i (passion fruit) juice would make a great abrasive gardener’s soap.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned on your homestead?
That growing a vegetable garden in one region is not always like growing in another region. I’m still working on adjusting my expectations. I’ll never have a robust crop of zucchini or tomatoes here, and that’s just kind of mind-boggling to me!
What is your favorite recipe to cook from scratch?
Bread. Oh, there’s nothing like a loaf of hot, crusty bread fresh out of the oven, is there??
What homesteading skills are you thankful for learning?
I’m so glad I was raised with home canning as part of my life. It’s one project that many people hesitate to tackle because they’re not familiar with it and it seems daunting to them. It’s not hard, but without that background, I might be one of those people hesitating. (Much like I hesitated about soapmaking!)
What homesteading skills are still on your list to learn?
I’d really like to have a better grasp on foraging. I recognize some of the edibles that grow wild here, but I want to be more comfortable with heading out into the yard or forest to gather food.
What is the funniest thing that has happened on your homestead?
When we moved in here, the place was overgrown with tall grasses. We eradicated it by hand cutting the thick stalks. Each stalk was about 15’ long, so we dragged them into a large pile, kind of flinging one end up and over to move the grass onto the heap. On one such fling I noticed the heft of the grass was different. Upon inspection, I found a large Jackson chameleon hanging onto the grass, likely pondering his wild ride. Poor thing!
When you are having a hard day/week, how do you keep yourself motivated?
I put on a pair of gloves and grab my favorite Japanese sickle and head out for a wander. Even with no clear goal in mind, I end up accomplishing something, whether it’s pulling weeds, trimming bananas, or sometimes just hanging out with the chickens.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their homesteading journey?
Start small. You don’t have to have a large piece of land to live the homestead lifestyle. There are so many skills you can learn now, even if you’re living in an apartment.
When it comes to resources, what are some of your favorites?
What are you most excited for in 2019 on the homestead and for your community?
I’m planning to launch a course that will guide people through some simple aspects of living more self-reliantly, one small step at a time. It’s not live yet, but my newsletter subscribers will be the first to know about it!
And we’re hopeful that next year is the year we’ll have a harvest from the various trees we planted when we moved in. We have several ‘ulu (breadfruit) trees, citrus, and even some experimental apples and nectarines.
Now that you are just as intrigued with Kris’ story as I am, be sure to check out her blog for more information!