I really can't tell you how excited I am about this week's Tell Me a Story post, because we have such a treat in store for you! We made a new friend a few months back, and she was kind enough to do a giveaway for us on her wonderful blog Small Measure, and now we are delighted to have here with us to share some of her insights into the exciting world of modern homesteading.
So with out further adieu, here is my recent conversation with author, blogger and all around green living guru, Ashley English. Enjoy!
Q: So what made you move a mile down a dirt road, into the forest outside of Asheville and start doing all of this? What was your impetus? Your ah-ha moment? Or was it more of a gradual process?
A: Around the time I met the man who would go on to become my husband, I'd
decided I was ready to find a place in the country and buy a house.
When a wonderful person came along and he already owned a sweet 1930's
bungalow on 11 forested acres, I was sold. That's how I physically came
to live where I do. As to my career, that was serendipity at its best.
I'd decided, after marrying, that I wanted to pursue another career. The
property we own was previously an edible organic herb and flower farm. I
considered reviving the land to that incarnation, but wasn't really
sure what it was I'd do next when I gave a month's notice at the medical
office where I served as nutrition consultant and medical assistant.
One week before I was to leave my job, an email came in from a very dear
friend, who also happened to be a senior editor at Lark Crafts, a book
publisher. She'd been knocking around an idea for a homesteading book
series, knew I either already was pursuing the topics she had in mind or
was about to undertake them (such as beekeeping), and offered authoring
the series to me. The rest, as it's said, is history.
Q: What does homesteading mean for you?
A: The most surprising thing I've learned through my homesteading
activities is that I don't have to do it all. I live in Western North
Carolina, and am immensely fortunate to have a host of farmers,
crafters, food artisans, and more living alongside me. Maybe I can't
make a fabulous loaf of bread, but my friend Dave, of Farm & Sparrow
bakery, who lives just down the road can. Perhaps I don't have the
time, space, resources or inclination to raise my own pigs or cattle.
That's just fine. Hominy Valley Farms, also just down the road, is doing
that wonderfully. The take-away, at least for me, is that it's fine to
not do everything. I've just honed in on doing the things I love to do,
and utilize the skill set offered by others in my community for the
Q: Have you ever found yourself in over your head? If so, do you have any advice for others that might find themselves in the same situation as they're learning the ropes?
A: I don't know that I'd say I've ever found myself in over my head, so to speak. I would say, though, that attempting to keep up my usual high production, rigid standards of perfection quickly fell to the wayside when I become a mother, back in autumn 2010. I was high-fiving myself and my husband if we managed to get our teeth brushed in a day, let alone can a pantry's worth of winter citrus. I had to lower my own standards when my son was an infant. He was my main focus, to hell with making my own yogurt for a few months! Admittedly, I had a particularly rough birthing experience (and underwent both a massive hemorrhage six hours after giving birth and emergency surgery to remove my right ovary and fallopian tube two days afterwards).
Q: What are the first steps you would recommend our readers take if they are thinking about making the jump from city life to farm life?
A:Before you take the plunge on any homesteading skill, read up on it first. Be sure you think you'll actually like it, especially if you're dealing with animals, who require your attention and care. You might also want to consider if you really do enjoy the "quiet life." I used to sip gin & tonics in swanky bars and work up a sweat at dance clubs; now I experience sublime pleasure in stoking my wood stove and sipping a hard cider on my patio.
Q: You have an adorable little boy named Huxley, which homesteading activities does he like to do most? What do you hope he is learning through this process?
A: Thank you! Oh, my little Huxley Wild. I could eat him up, I love him so! He loves it all. His name actually means both "a clearing in a forest" and "Outdoorsman", so it's kind of in his namesake to love being outside, and does he ever. He's always asking "Outside, Mama!" He adores our chickens, is a huge fan of "digging in the dirt", as he calls working in the garden, is quite curious about the bees and loves his books on honeybees that I read him at night (I'll get him a veil and suit once he's older-he's only 2 1/2 now, and on the shrimpy side for his age), and is a huge fan of "helping" us cook and bake in the kitchen. He's our little "home" boy, that's for sure!
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing the Homemade Living series?
A: I most enjoyed examining the topics for each book in the series during the writing and research period. While I was familiar with all of the topics, taking the time to stop and reflect and read up on all of them was extremely enlightening. There's so very much to learn in this life, about everything!
Q: We recently added 25 little buckeye hens to our farm. We currently have 3 sweet Roosters of the same breed (our attempt at hatching a small batch of chicks a while back didn't result in a single hen!) Any advice?
A: My only suggestion would be to simply keep an eye out for broodiness. If any of your ladies don't want to get off the nest, let them be. Otherwise, if you don't end up with any broody mamas, you could get a home incubator and incubate some of the fertilized eggs, or purchase a breed next time that's particularly known for broodiness.
Thank you so much Ashley for taking the time to chat with us!
For a chance to win all four books in the series, simply leave a comment on this post by 8am MST Thursday May 2nd. The winner will be chosen by random number and announced later that day.
And the winner is Amanda who wrote:
"What a fantastic giveaway! I would LOVE these books!"
Thank you to everyone who participated!
* Last time in Tell Me a Story: The Beetle Book