Spring Break 2021 did not find my family running off to some tropical vacation. Instead we hosted two different sets of family on our homestead. Besides sharing movies, board games, and meals, we also shared projects.
For the children of my sister and sister-in-law, respectfully, this was the first time they directly saw and interacted with chicks. They held, petted, and somewhat obsessed over the little fluff balls. Some of my older nephews even helped with the chores of feeding them and cleaning out the brooder, for which I was very proud and grateful.
Something else that was new to my nephews was the building of our new chicken tractor. This project was my primary focus of the time, as the chicks were outgrowing their brooder and weather was mostly suited to getting them out on pasture. While my nephews had previously been interested in tools, none of them had used a drill, tape measure, chop saw, or square before and I was happy to include them in the process.
This did start a conversation that was not new to me, however, and one I feel others in this community possibly deal with on occasion. It usually begins something like this, “Why do you do this when you can just buy chicken in the store?” Depending on the individual presenting the question, it may also include something like, “you don’t save any money growing your own food,” or, “this seems like too much effort for something you can just buy,” or even, “you must be some kind of prepper, huh?” Friends have taken these thoughts even further, asking why we make so many items from scratch when nearly anything we want can be purchased.
I am fairly certain that some of my neighbors and the HOA board also find our lifestyle questionable, as more information is always requested for our projects; what is a chicken tractor? why do you need that big mound of compost? why do you require predator protection? etc.
Usually, depending on the audience in question, I explain how previous health concerns, my own family history, and even a desire for variety that is not available in the grocery stores lead to many of our decisions. The simplest of these also allows me to explain the the quality of things I can grow is often better than what I can buy. It is hard to dispute that eggs right out of the nest taste better than those from a styrofoam carton, heritage tomatoes from saved seeds are much more diverse and flavorful than grocery store bins, and fresh baked bread is better than the plastic wrapped selections on shelves.
Those considerations have been cast in new light, thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic. In our area it was not always certain (still isn’t) that the grocery store shelves would have the items you really wanted. It’s also really hard to ignore the fact that prices are not what they were and quality does not seem to be guaranteed to meet previous standards. One silly example of this is canned soup. For years I have not purchased much in the way of canned soup, especially not the condensed varieties, with one exception: Bean and Bacon condensed soup. Having bought it during a time when one of my kiddos was sick as an alternative meal it was an unexpected favorite. It was also something that producers dropped from their lines because it was not neither a big seller, nor were all of the components readily available. However, during lock down everyone wants some comfort, and this was something that was missed, especially by my middle daughter. After several recipe trials, we found a really great copy-cat which eliminates some of the ingredients I didn’t like (soy), and now we can our own family favorite.
Sadly, this does make me feel like more of a prepper, which has always made me cringe in the past. With all this present in my mind, I told my 11 year old nephew that all food shows some work was done. Food that comes home from the grocery store or a restaurant came there through the hard work of his parents at their jobs, earning money to exchange for that meal. Food at our homestead either comes from a similar source or from the labor of growing it personally. I wanted him to know that both are valid, and both have value. I did not want him to discount either type of labor, as homesteading often can be discounted.
I am putting more planning into food storage this year, as we have all become less confident in our food systems. This doesn’t mean that I feel like a prepper, just that, as always, I want to use all of my skills to provide for my family and keep growing.
Tags: canning, Chickens, fences, gardening