I have often said that you won’t get down the Self-Sufficiency road very far before you realize it actually leads right to Community Sufficiency. You must have community because you simply cannot do it all yourself. A weekend of workshops with two dozen gathered to learn a whole lot of homesteading skills together, confirmed this truth.
I joked with Rory as we prepared for this gathering, “January Rory and Becca really believed in July Rory and Becca.” January Rory and Becca were the ones who planned this event and the topics they would teach on… It was winter and everything felt possible but seemed a bit overwhelming when the weekend came. But like all things hard and challenging, it stretched us, and it was completely worth it for everyone involved. We felt it from the introductions to the benediction.
All of the families gathered felt a call towards these things—some having just moved to land, others having the desire but feeling it is out of reach. We have seen the Lord move in miraculous ways and if you read the Bible for very long, you’ll see that He is in the business of bringing his people to His land. He does it over and over again. And He is continuing to do so.
There were twelve workshops in two days. Rory started the weekend with a sobering encouragement to move in the direction of self-sufficiency and preparedness then took everyone on a walking tour of our farm, telling what works and what we wish we had done differently. I finished the tour with a discussion of “functional homes” as we have found modeled in Amish communities for productive households.
That led to a talk on family-scale livestock. We went animal by animal around the farm, giving an overview of each one. Ivar shared about his rabbits while out by his mobile hutches.
And then in the afternoon our friend Grady led a workshop on raising chickens complete with a butchering of ten chickens.
We kept the groups size small on purpose, knowing that we wanted hands-on opportunities and a chance to get to know each other. The groups size turned out perfect, though the gathering filled up six weeks before the actual event (meaning there is demand, and we’ll do it again!) We had attendees from Texas, North Dakota, California, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Rory led a workshop on deep-mulch gardening (known as Back to Eden Gardening) and we concluded the first day with a session on beekeeping, taught by our friend Andy.
Whew! Did that feel like a lot for one day to you?!! Because we were back for more the next day!
We started Day Two with a workshop on Dairying where in 90 minutes, we: 1) milked our goat 2) made butter 3) made mozzarella and 4) made goat milk soap. It actually took 97 minutes, because the goat wasn’t really into public milking… But we did it!
A super fun part of this weekend was that our friends Grady and Erin came to help teach. Grady is the farm manager for Homestead Heritage, an agrarian Christian community in Texas. Both he and Erin interned with Joel Salatin (that’s how they met). So the two of them are a wealth of farming knowledge and were a fantastic addition to the gathering.
Erin walked through each step of fiber crafting in our next workshop, starting with the wool fleece, carding, spinning, and then weaving. This was a really fun, hands-on workshop. Participants each had a chance to spin wool and warp and weft at the weaving loom.
After lunch I taught on “Preserving the Harvest” where I demo’d small-batch fermenting, pressure cooking and water bath canning.
And our last workshop was a fascinating lesson on “Homegrown Healthcare” with medicinal herbs, teas and tinctures, taught by our friend Jenny from Brees Farm.
All of the homesteading workshops were rooted in faith, and taught from a biblical perspective. It made the weekend so special, this shared belief in God’s Word.
One of the highlights was the discussion on soil health during the Back to Eden gardening workshop. Both Grady and Rory shared about how all of creation is a set of relationships, not inert matter that can be manipulated and synthesized to maximize desired outputs. And this is best illustrated in soil, wherein billions of microorganisms exist in a single handful. In healthy soil, these organisms are working together to produce an abundant harvest. Nature is full of these examples.
We concluded in our front yard with a conversation on “The Loom of Life” and why we farm. We took time for each person to share what they were taking away from the two days. It was an emotional time for many, and a neat way to cap off our time together. Sort of felt like we had been to some great summer camp or something. A self-sufficient summer camp.