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Homesteading With The Coupon Queen

By ERIN TURNER

Some of you asked me to share about my family’s “homesteading” activities.  It’s a deviation from couponing but it does dovetail with our frugal lifestyle.  And since I’m intensely focused these days on planting our gardens, hatching poultry, and sloppin’ pigs, it seems an appropriate blog this week!

Our family farm does 10 CSA’s and a weekly farmers’ market, plus we have 100 chickens, 12 hogs, turkeys, pheasants and rabbits.  As you can imagine, I don’t have much spare time these days to coupon intensely so I am grateful for the hard work I put into couponing and stock-piling during the winter (a benefit I love about couponing: you can go gun-ho couponing for a duration and then live on your stockpile for awhile!)

Homesteading conjures up images of wagon trains, log cabins in the woods and the promise of a new life in the west.  In the 21st century, homesteading is a long-lost memoir, something not even most of our grandparents experienced.  Our country is far removed from the days of self-sufficiency and rugged individualism.  Yet, there has been a movement to regain some of that lifestyle, where we are more dependent on ourselves and provide for our families and neighbors instead of depending on people thousands of miles away for our food and necessities.

My husband and I are convinced we must have been homesteaders in a previous life because we are both drawn to that era of history and relate to the homesteaders’ way of life.  Living in Montana gives us a more realistic opportunity to live that life.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we definitely aren’t the Ingalls family from Little House on the Prairie (you won’t catch me wearing a dress out in the field) but we do a lot to provide for ourselves.  But similar to the homesteaders, we also depend on our neighbors for things which we can’t provide ourselves.  By trading things with our neighbors, we not only keep our costs to a minimum, but we also build community–a priceless commodity.

We live on 4 acres in Orchard Homes. We raise chickens and turkeys for our meat and eggs.  We let our chickens free-range in order to keep feed costs at a minimum.  We do our own butchering and also sell the eggs to off-set the costs of raising them.  In addition, we hatch our own baby chicks instead of buying them.  Imagine the fun of watching those sweet, little chicks emerge from their shell –we call it ‘cheep’ family entertainment (sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

Three years ago we added hogs.  Raising hogs can be expensive but we keep costs down by inviting people to share their ‘slop” with the pigs.  Neighbors come over and drop off their leftovers for our piggies and chickens too.  It’s truly recycling at its best because all of those yummy leftovers turn into incredible compost which we generously spread over our fields.  Our fertilizer is free and all-natural.

Besides raising poultry and hogs, my husband hunts deer, elk and antelope.   Eliminating meat from the grocery list has significantly reduced our monthly costs.  Plus, I know where the meat came from and how it was handled since we do all the butchering and processing ourselves.

While most of the veggies we grow go to market, a good portion is saved for our family.  By canning and freezing, we hardly ever need to buy produce.  We preserve most of what we grow so our shelves are filled with tomato paste, chicken broth, spaghetti sauce, garlic and onion powder, applesauce, jams and jellies, fruit butters, salsa, sauerkraut, pickles, pesto, and canned fruits.  Our freezers are chocked full of veggies and meat to last until next season.  (But unlike original homesteaders, we fully appreciate electricity!)

Our family’s favorite fall activity is pressing apple cider.  We do it with an old-fashioned press which takes a lot of muscle but it is all worth it when the sweet smell of tart apples fills the crisp fall air and the juice starts flowing.  We make enough apple juice to last the winter plus we make apple cider vinegar. (Apple cider vinegar and honey is better and cheaper than Dayquil at kickin’ a cold!)  Again, more things off our grocery list.

We started raising bees last year and the honey we extracted tastes like gold.  Our boys love peanut butter and honey sandwiches, so we were thankful for an abundance of honey from our bees.  As you know, honey is an expensive grocery item these days.

As I mentioned in my menu-planning blog, I do lots of baking which cuts household costs and is healthier for my family.  I’m experimenting with culturing my own buttermilk from which I can also make sour cream.  The kids love making homemade butter using an antique butter churn.  I wish I was more faithful about making homemade bread but that doesn’t always happen, so most of the time bread ends up on our grocery list.  Oh, well.

We are far from being the model “homesteading” family, but we try to do as much as we can. (We still haven’t tackled dairy cows…eek!)  Regardless of how much or how little we do, we love the challenge and the blessings of being self-sustaining — not to mention the cost savings.  Yes, I know there are costs involved in all we do but they’re significantly lower than having to buy the items at the grocery store week after week. I also respect that this isn’t a way of life for everyone, nor practical for every household!

But when our family sits down, after a hard day’s work on the farm, to a meal completely provided by ourselves, it gives us the same satisfaction that I imagine those 1870 homesteaders felt when they staked their claim and began their new independent life in the wild west!

Follow Erin Turner’s blogs at makeitmissoula.com.

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