5 Good Reasons You Should Start Homesteading NOW!

5 Good Reasons You Should STart homesteadin now!

So you want to homestead?  Welcome to the exciting, crazy, productive, and exhausting world of homesteading!  There is so much to think about and plan, it is hard to know where to start.  People approach me on a regular basis asking for advice on starting a homestead.  So here it is.

When is the best time to start a homestead?


Yesterday is the best time to start a homestead.

If you are too late to do that, then today is the best time.  I have heard countless reasons to put it off.  “We want to have everything planned out first.”  “We are waiting until we are more financially stable.”  We are waiting until we can tell it is just the right time.”   “We are waiting until after we have our children.”  “We are waiting until we are done travelling.” Those are obviously all important reasons, and for some people, starting now isn’t an option.  But for many people, these reasons are partly procrastination and partly sheer intimidation.

Because homesteading IS intimidating.  It is expensive to buy property.  It is constant daily work.   It’s a huge challenge to homestead with small children.  Travel is vitually non existant, at least not without extensive and sometimes expensive planning.  But it is also extremely rewarding.  It is highly educational, and it is, after all, how you want your children to be raised.  So what is holding you up?

5 Good Reasons to Start Homesteading Now!

Madelaine holding meat chick

1.  Start homesteading before your children are too OLD to value it. 

We started homesteading about 5 years ago, when my youngest was one year old.  We started slowly with just 5 chickens, and gradually increased our workload as we were capable.  My youngest child has known no other life and so the daily chores are a part of life.  Growing food is a part of life.  Milking goats is a part of life.  Life and death are a part of life.  And she wants it all!  My eldest child is much less interested in the daily activities and had a harder time adjusting to the switch from commercial to homemade food.  My middle child is somewhere in between.


apples watermarked

2.  Enjoy the fruits of your labour as soon as possible.  

Why wait until everything is ideal?  There may be no ideal time.  If you start now you and your family can start benefitting from your efforts and from chemical-free, healthy, GMO-FREE food that much sooner.  The SECOND you purchase your own property plant your fruit trees.  Make your orchard the first priority.  It takes years to grow a fruitful orchard but only months to set up laying hens or fencing for goats.  Plan that orchard now before you even think about your garden, or chickens, goats or rabbits.



Madelaine planting onions

3.  Learn to value your food. 

Homesteading teaches you how to grow and raise food, where food comes from, how hard it actually is to work for your food, and what sacrifice is involved in gathering and processing your food.



Canning Shelves watermarked 2014

4.  Learn to be more self-sufficient. 

Ever wondered what would happen if for some reason you couldn’t access a grocery store for a while?  You wouldn’t even flinch if you had food stored away, a garden to eat from, and fresh eggs and milk at your fingertips.



Wool and wheel

5.  Step out of your comfort zone and gain real-life skills. 

Our bodies and brains are meant to be worked, and homesteading is a constant treasure trove of new learning experiences, both physical and mental.  You know all those things you never thought you would do?  Do them!  Learn how to process chickens.  Help birth a difficult goat labour. Build a chicken coop from scratch out of reclaimed wood. Plant your garlic in the icy cold rain of late fall.  Open up a beehive and meet a colony of 30000 honeybees.  Stepping out of your comfort zone allows you to conquer fear and uncertainty leaving you empowered and rich.

Now that you have some good reasons to get started, check out the following resources to help you get the ball rolling!

A day in the life of a homesteader group series

A Day In The Life Of A Homesteader

A Homesteader's Thank You watermarked

A Homesteader’s Thank You.  Do You Say It Right? 

You know you are a homesteader when... titled watermarked
You Know You Are A Modern Homsteader When… 17 Telltale Signs

Homesteading with Nigerian Dwarf Goats
A Goat Is Born: Homesteading With Nigerian Dwarf Goats

Homesteading For Sustainability from Homespun Seasonal Living

So You Want To Be A Homesteader! Part 1 from Timber Creek Farm

Adding Animals to the homesteadAdding Animals to the Homestead from Timber Creek Farm

Inspiring Homesteads from The 104 Homestead

finding your ideal homestead land

Finding Your Ideal Homestead Land from Homestead Honey





How to Make Vanilla Extract.  It’s So Easy!

How To Make Vanilla Extract titlepageI have pretty much given up on giving gifts to adults that can’t be eaten or used up.  This way, if it doesn’t match their décor, it doesn’t matter.  If it doesn’t look good on them, it doesn’t matter.  If they don’t read it, it doesn’t matter.  If it smells good, tastes good, and can be used up, most people will like it!  Pure vanilla extract is a good example.

Real vanilla extract is expensive.  I grew up with imitation vanilla extract because it cost a fraction of the price.  Of course the real deal tastes better and is better for you, but not everyone can go that route.  Enter, homemade vanilla extract!  It is super simple to make, tastes as good or better than the commercial stuff, and makes a classy gift that can be used up.  Keep in mind it needs a minimum of 6-8 weeks to infuse so make sure you start it ahead of time!

If you are looking for organic vanilla beans, you may have trouble finding them locally. You can buy them online easily though!  May I recommend purchasing them here, from my favorite source: Mountain Rose Herbs.


750 ml Vodka
12-15 vanilla beans


  1. Split the vanilla bean pods open lengthwise, leaving the top inch still connected, exposing the tiny seeds.
  2. Place the vanilla beans into the bottle of vodka.
  3. Shake gently once a week.
  4. Vanilla has infused enough after 6-8 weeks, or leave it for months to get an even better flavour!


  • Cheap vodka works as well as expensive vodka.
  • The longer the infusion the better the flavour so after the 6-8 weeks, when you are bottling your vanilla, place a bean in each bottle to continue the infusion.

And it is as easy as that!  Enjoy!

More great uses for vanilla beans!

Honey Sweetened Strawberry Vanilla Jam by Homespun Seasonal Living.

Pear Butter by Homespun Seasonal Living.

Make Your Own Vanilla Honey by Homestead Lady.

Homemade Vanilla Extract by Timber Creek Farm.

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract by Joybilee Farm.



How to make butter in a blender!  Easy, quick and delicious.

Butter making How TO Make Butter in a Blender WatermarkedDairy products were “created” as a way to preserve milk without refrigeration many, many years ago.  I can picture the first person ever to domesticate a goat and use its milk.  Then, after realizing how amazing it tasted, discover that it would go bad after a few days. Somehow, after who knows how long, came the discovery of ways to preserve it.  Who was the first person who discovered that a bit of a newborn goat or sheep’s stomach would create rennet and make cheese?  Who was the first person to discover you can make yogurt from heating milk and adding a culture?  And who discovered that if you take the cream off the milk and agitate it long enough you would get whipped cream, and then butter?  Of course we will never know but we do know dairy products are delicious, and when made from quality milk, they are a healthy addition to your diet.

I was given 6 pints of outdated organic whipping cream recently.  I considered the possibilities, and decided that since it was already nearing the end of its potential, it needed to be made into something that would last longer.  I had read somewhere that my Blendtec could make butter.  A Blendtec is a very high powered blender, similar to a Vitamix.  Worth a try!  I am not sure how much longer it would take to make butter in a lower powered blender.  We love and use a lot of butter, and organic butter isn’t cheap.  I poured the whipping cream into the blender and turned the blender on.  Within three seconds the blender bogged down.  What was going on in there?  I looked inside and lo and behold, in three seconds, I had whipped cream!  I will never waste my time making whipped cream with my KitchenAid again!  I started to pulse the whipped cream, and with about 3 more 1 second pulses, the whey had separated from the cream, and I had butter.  It really is that easy!


Make Butter in a Blender
Recipe type: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 cup
Make butter in a high powered blender in seconds!
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  1. Pour whipping cream into the blender. Do not put more than 1 pint in at a time.
  2. Pulse the blender for about 2 seconds each pulse, checking after each pulse.
  3. The cream should turn to whipped cream first.
  4. If you hear the blender bogging down, scrape the insides down with a spatula and pulse for less time. It will take only a few pulses after turning to whipped cream, to make butter.
  5. Once you start seeing the whey separate from the butter, scrape the butter into a sieve and drain the whey. Save the whey for making pancakes. Dump the butter into a bowl.
  6. Using a spatula, press the butter against the side of the bowl to get out extra whey. Pour out whey.
  7. Once you think you have removed most of the whey, rinse the butter with water, then press the butter again. If there is still whey in it, the liquid will look milky. If the whey is gone, the liquid will look clear.
  8. Once the liquid is clear, add salt to taste and stir. You can then use the butter, or freeze it for later!
Try adding herbs or spices to make a savoury butter!
The more whey you remove from the butter the harder it will get, and the longer it will last. If you don't remove all the whey it will go sour in a few days. Store in the fridge of the freezer and enjoy!


Images from top, clockwise: 1. bottles of whipping cream. 2.cream turns to whipped cream. 3. whipped cream turns to whey and butter. 4. butter is strained. 5. butter is squished to remove whey and then rinsed and salted.

For more great butter-making ideas scroll down!

Butter collage larger

More great butter ideas from awesome homestead bloggers:

butter post kids

How To Make Your Own Sweet Cream Butter from Reformation Acres

Four Ways To Make Homemade Butter from Montana Homesteader

Making Butter In A Jar With Kids from Homestead Honey

Homemade Raw Grass-fed Butter and Cultured Buttermilk from Livin Lovin Farmin

How To Make Butter, A Visual Guide from Imaginacres

Clean Water For Emergencies or Everyday: Berkey Water Filter and Emergency Food Kit Group Buy!

Eva filling water bottle watermarkedA few weeks ago we experienced a surprise wind storm that left half of electricity customers in our area without power.  We didn’t have power for days.  While my own family is well set up for short term power outages and other emergencies, I discovered a bit of panic in the online voices of unprepared families in the area.  Most of the concerns were “how do I keep the food in my fridge and freezer from spoiling” and “where can I find a gas station or grocery store that still has power?”  When the power came back on everyone resumed life as normal and didn’t put a second thought into the possibility of another storm in the future, or worse, a destructive earth quake or other huge natural disaster.

I am not a “doomsday prepper” by nature; I am a homesteader.  I grow and raise food for my family, and I preserve it for the winter. I value knowing where our food comes from, and what I am putting into my children.  The prepper side of my husband (well, isn’t there a little prepper in every male?) likes the stock pile of food that homesteading naturally creates.  But this doesn’t account for water.  Everyone should have a backup system or plan for water.  We see natural disasters occuring worldwide on a regular basis and the very basic need is water, followed closely by food, shelter and emergency first aid.  A water filtration system and a stash of preserved food is not just a “doomsday prepper crazy idea” but a realistic and logical action.

What would YOU do if you lost your power and water, if there was no safe way out of your area, and you had to stay put for a week, a month?  Would you survive?

Over the last few years I have teamed up with Dan from www.911foods.com.  Dan has an online store that can supply you with the basic survival foods and water systems you might need.  There are premium food buckets, ones for families, and even Gluten Free options!  There are Berkey water filter units for everyday or emergency use that remove bacteria, viruses and more from your water giving you safe drinking water from sources as dirty as pond or ditch water!  Berkey also has smaller travel units, and sport water bottles which allow you to quickly fill up your water bottle from any creek, while hiking.  (As my daughter is pictured doing, above).  There are whole home filter systems from Propur available that are created according to your needs, and even Propur water filtration straws that are perfect for your emergency supply kit! BUTTONS-02

Currently we have a group buy on until September 20Th.  If you are interested in purchasing any of the products from www.911foods.com as part of the group buy which includes a discounted rate, please email me at myhealthygreenfamily@hotmail.ca for more information.  BUTTONS-07

Clean water means life!



A Day In The Life of A Homesteader: It’s Not About The Work.

A day in the life of a homesteader group seriesSo you want to homestead?  2 weeks ago when I was dealing with a mite infestation in the chicken coop, wearing a swim cap on my head, coveralls and rubber boots to keep the mites off me, during a heat wave, I would have told you to forget it.  Earlier that year when I sat down in a stall with a labouring goat and held the sticky, damp babies I would have told you it was the only way to live.  When the weeds get the best of me and my tomatoes get blight, when I lose an animal to sickness and the chickens scratch up my mother-in-law’s garden I will tell you it is crazy.  But when I feed my children food raised and grown by my own hand, when I see them learning about birth and death, when I watch them running barefoot all summer long and eating carrots from the ground I will tell you that even if it is crazy, it is a good crazy and it is worth every effort to achieve.

It’s about hard work.  It’s about victories and failures.  It’s about sunshine and rain.  It’s about life and death.  It’s about abundance and loss.  It’s homesteading.

Enjoy watching a day in my life!  Then see how the homesteaders pictured above, spend their day.


A Day in the Life by Ashley of Whistle Pig Hollow
On The Farm: A Peek Into Our Life by Ashley of The Browning Homestead
The Answer to “And what did YOU do today?” by Chris of Joybilee Farm
A Day in the Life of an Urban Homesteader by Connie of Urban Overalls
A Day in My Shoes by Emilie of The Toups Address
Homesteading Rhythm with Little Kids & A Bump by Isis of Little Mountain Haven
Homestead Truths, Minus the Sugarcoating by Janet of Timber Creek Farm
A Day of Homestead Living by Jessica of The 104 Homestead
A Day in the Life of a Homesteader by Katie of Livin Lovin Farmin
A Typical Day of Homesteading by Laurie of Common Sense Homesteading
Life, Unfiltered by Melissa of Ever Growing Farm
A Day in the Life of This Urban Homesteader by Meredith of ImaginAcres
A Day in the Life of a Homestead by Quinn of Reformation Acres
A Day on Acorn Hill Homestead by Teri of Homestead Honey

DIY Mint Teas With Refreshing Recipes!

Guest post DIY Mint TEas watermarked

The following article is a guest post by a friend of mine, Kathie N. Lapcevic.  Welcome Kathie!  Kathie is a freelance writer, teacher, and blogger living in northwest Montana with her soulmate Jeff.  She lives a fiercely D.I.Y. lifestyle in harmony with the natural rhythms of nature.  You can follow her blog at Homespun Seasonal Living. -Leona from My Healthy Green Family.

There’s no such thing as a small mint patch as it tends to be downright invasive.  Instead of cursing it for taking over every inch of the herb bed, harvest it often during the hot months of summer for refreshing iced tea. Mint tea is delicious all by itself but it also makes for some incredibly tasty combinations. Here are 5 different ways to make tasty tea from all that mint.

mint cropped

Start with Basic Mint Tea

Because this gets poured over ice, start with a double strength iced tea to prevent the flavor from being diluted as the ice melts.  In a heatproof cup, place 2 Tablespoons of fresh mint (2 teaspoons dried). Pour in 1 cup of boiling water and steep 10 minutes. Strain and cool mint tea to room temperature. Use this mint tea as a base in the following combinations, each of the following makes 1 large or 2 medium servings.  Simply double or triple the amounts for larger quantities. Keep any extra in the refrigerator.

Apple Mint

Combine 1 Cup Mint Tea with 1 Cup Apple Juice, mix well. Pour over ice and serve cold. Add a shot of apple brandy to each glass for an adult treat.

Black Mint

Brew a cup of black tea and allow to cool to room temperature. Combine 1 cup of black tea with 1 cup of mint tea. Serve over ice.

Hibiscus Mint

In a heatproof cup, add 2 teaspoons dried hibiscus flowers (4 teaspoons fresh). Pour over 1 cup boiling water and steep 10 minutes.  Strain and cool to room temperature.  Combine the hibiscus tea with the mint tea.  Serve over ice.

Lavender Mint

In a heatproof cup, add 2 Tablespoons fresh (2 teaspoons dried) lavender blossoms. Pour over 1 cup boiling water and steep 10 minutes.  Strain and cool to room temperature.  Combine the lavender and mint teas.  Pour combined teas over all and mix well. Serve cold. Add a shot of gin to each glass for the adults.

raspberries and mintRaspberry Mint

In a heatproof cup, add 2 Tablespoons fresh (2 teaspoons dried) raspberry leaves. Pour over 1 cup boiling water and steep 10 minutes.  Strain and cool to room temperature.  Combine the raspberry leaf and mint teas.  In the bottom of a glass, crush 3 fresh, ripe raspberries add ice.  Pour combined teas over all and mix well. Serve cold.

For the Sweet Tea Fans

Sweeten the mint tea when it is still hot. Simply add a teaspoon (more or less to taste) of sugar, honey, or other sweetener right after adding the boiling water and allow to steep as usual. Mixing the sweetener in while the liquid is hot ensures that it melts into the entirety of the tea. If you happen to have any mint infused honey, this is a great place to use it.

Kathie Headshot 300 labelledFiercely D.I.Y.

Creating herbal teas from the things that are growing in our yards or available to us locally is just one of many ways to build a courageous home and live fiercely D.I.Y. Creating herbal tea blends is just one of the weekly projects in this summer’s Fiercely D.I.Y. e-course being offered by Homespun Seasonal Living. The E-course is designed to inspire and encourage you to live a life by your own hands, on your own terms, and in your own pace. You can learn more, download a sampler, and register for the course over at Homespun Seasonal Living.


Dandelion Fritters and other great ways to use dandelions!

Dandelion Fritters watermarked2Dandelions are one of the first flowering plants to provide pollen for our honeybees.  We don’t pick them until our property is covered with the beautiful yellow jewels.  By then there are plenty for the bees and for us.  Many people think of the dandelions as ruthless weeds, but they actually are quite useful.  The tender green leaves harvested in early spring are often the first fresh greens available to anyone and can be added to salads.  The blossoms taste mildly sweet and floral, and the roots in the fall can be roasted to make a healthy tea.  We picked the blossoms this time, battered and fried them in coconut oil, then dipped some of them in cinnamon sugar for a sweet treat, and dipped the others in honey mustard for a savory treat.  To me, they tasted kind of like fried mushrooms.  The kids gobbled them up and then, I am sure, amused their teachers and friends by telling them all the ways you can eat dandelions.dandelion fritters collage

Dandelions are loaded with nutrients.  Sunwarrior tells us how good they are for you:

Dandelion is a very rich source of beta-carotene which we convert into vitamin A. This flowering plant is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. It is a good place to get B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, and even vitamin D. Dandelion contains protein too, more than spinach. It has been eaten for thousands of years and used to treat anemia, scurvy, skin problems, blood disorders, and depression. – See more at: 11 health benefits of Dandelions

Dandelions grow all over the world, so chances are, if you don’t use chemicals on your lawn, you will have lots of dandelions in the spring.  Don’t confuse them with a similar flower that grows later in the year. Find lots of different ways to use dandelions below the recipe!

4.5 from 2 reviews
Dandelion Fritters
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Dandelion blossoms fried in coconut oil add a fresh, flowery, locally grown treat to your spring diet.
  • 2 cups fresh dandelion blossoms, without stems
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • sugar and cinnamon to taste, if desired
  • honey mustard for dipping, if desired
  1. With a whisk, blend flour, egg and milk until smooth consistency.
  2. Gently heat oil in skillet
  3. Pick up dandelion blossom by the bump on the back, and dip it into the batter until it is totally covered.
  4. Place blossom in oil, blossom side down. Once it has browned a little, flip the blossom with a fork and brown a bit on the other side.
  5. Remove blossom from frying pan with a fork, let excess oil drip off, then roll in cinnamon sugar or set aside to be dipped in honey mustard.
  6. Enjoy!

Learn more about how to use dandelions from these great links!

How To Harvest Medicinal Roots: Dandelion and Valerian from Homespun Seasonal Living

Useful Weed Dandelion from Homespun Seasonal Living

Harvesting and Using Dandelion Roots from Common Sense Homesteading

How To Make Dandelion Wine and Cookies from Common Sense Homesteading

How To Make Dandelion Salve from Montana Homsteader

Make Dandelion Pesto and Save the Goodness for Later from Joybilee Farm

Dandelion Jelly from Green Eggs and Goats

Dandelions: Foraging Them, Eating Them and Keeping Them Out of your Lawns from Yearning and Learning



Grow Your Own Popcorn!  The little things in life make the difference.

Grow Your Own PopcornLast night we enjoyed a very special treat.  We shared a bowl of popcorn.  But it wasn’t just any old popcorn and we didn’t eat it with a casual disregard as most people eat popcorn.  We savored each piece and smiled.  This popcorn was extra special and extra sweet because we grew it ourselves!

I bought a pack of pink popcorn seeds a few years ago from West Coast Seeds.  I didn’t plant them immediately because I was worried about cross pollination with the other corn.  Last year, though, I had a spot in my garden needing seeds, so I popped them in the ground.  The patch was only about 4×8 ft, and my rows were relatively close together, but I planted the entire pack and left them alone to see what would happen.  The seeds sprouted and developed like any corn, and grew to about 5 or 6 ft tall.  They were smaller than a normal corn plant, and thinner.

popcorn pink watermarkedThe package said that the corn is mature when the kernels are pink and then they should be allowed to dry on the stalk. The squirrels started to get into them so I picked them and let them dry in the house.  I was worried that they hadn’t fully developed because the cobs were small, and they weren’t uniformly pink throughout.  I left them alone for months… almost scared to try them to see if they would pop.

Last week my daughter pulled all the kernels off the cob and we put them in the air popper.  They popped!  And it was the best bowl of popcorn we have ever had.

Can you harvest and plant the seeds?
If you have other corn that flowered at the same time, or if your neighbours did within a fairly large radius, then likely your corn will be cross pollinated with another variety and it might not grow true popcorn.

What if my kernels don’t pop?
Always test a small amount first to see if they will pop.  If they don’t, soak them in water for a few days, dry them off and try them again.  They might not have quite enough moisture in them.

Do they taste the same as regular popcorn?  
No.  They are better ;)  I actually thought they were slightly sweeter.  In my opinion it was the best tasting popcorn ever, but my taste buds could be biased because I grew them!  They were delicious, and the popped kernel, along with the dried kernel, the cob and the plant itself, are a bit smaller than normal.

Was the percentage of corn that didn’t pop similar to store-bought popcorn?
I would say there were a bit more kernels left at the bottom of the popper afterwards than a good quality store-bought popcorn, but MOST popped and it was hugely successful.  My inexperience and the fact that I harvested them a bit early could have influenced that too.

How many cobs do you need to get a whole bowl full of popcorn?
This is a tricky question since I didn’t count the cobs that I used.  I would say we used about 4-5 cobs of corn to get a medium sized bowl of popcorn.

Are the popped kernels pink?
No they aren’t.  Just the unpopped kernels. :)

A couple quick tips on growing corn:
Corn likes to be grown in fertile soil so plant in soil that has been boosted with manure or compost, watch for pests especially when the plant is small (cut worms, slugs etc) and keep it nicely watered through the drier months.  Don’t plant until your soil is warm (in my location in Canada corn shouldn’t be planted until about May).  Corn needs to be planted in at least a 4×4 grid (4 rows across by 4 rows deep) to allow for proper wind pollination.

Where to buy seeds:
In Canada:
West Coast Seeds
Saltspring Seed Company

In the United States:
Victory Seeds
Rare Seeds


If you have a bit of space to grow some extra seeds, give popcorn a try!  I guarantee that you will love the taste and you will savor each bite.  And remember, its the little things in life that make the difference.  

A Homesteader’s Thank You.  Do You Say It Right?

A Homesteader's Thank You watermarkedHomesteading is all about learning, sharing and teaching.  Without mentors, learning the old skills would be a lot more challenging.  Thankfully there are people out there who have learned, and who are faithfully teaching others.  I have reached out to many different people to learn how to milk goats, can food, spin wool, make soap and build shelters.  I have called my mom or dad countless times to discuss pruning fruit trees, bread-baking tips, and tapping maple trees.  I have had intimate conversations with elderly ladies, discussing tips on freezing food and harvesting honey.  I have sent numerous text messages to farming friends for advice while birthing goats.  And made many trips to a friend’s house to learn how to skin a goat for meat, process chickens or felt wool.  The information is there, if you search hard enough, and it is worthwhile to learn.

But do you say thank you?  And how do you say thank you?  I have spent years now, teaching my skills that I have learned, to others, for free. I get so excited when I learn a new skill that I want to share it with others as soon as I can.  Everyone says thank you.  Some even bring me thank you “gifts”.  And others reciprocate.  I have to admit two things: First,  it feels good to feel appreciated.  And second, I haven’t always given back.  But now that I am doing a lot of the teaching, I realize how I should have thanked people, and I hope that I won’t let that occasion slip from my fingers again!

3 Ways That A Homesteader Can Say Thank You: 

Show appreciation by giving something you have made.  
Words DON’T always cut it.  If someone spent a few hours teaching you how to make soap, don’t just say thank you.  Give them a jar of jam!  A packet of garden seeds!  A rooted cutting of a fruit tree!  It doesn’t have to be big but it makes a world of a difference.

Give back by teaching them something.
I started a facebook group for local people interested in learning basic life skills.  A few of the people often host get togethers where people go and learn a skill.  Or they offer their house as a location and someone else teaches a skill.  When you are always the one hosting you figure out very quickly that it takes a lot of time and energy to prepare, including cleaning up the house, in order to share with others.  If others are also doing this, it is much more rewarding.

Give back by helping them out.
So you just spent the day learning how to spin wool.  Someone sat with you and patiently taught you.  Give back by teaching them how to make cheese. Help them process their chickens.  Help them shovel manure.  Help them build a chicken coop.

Go forth and multiply! 
When I teach a new skill for free, I always finish up my talk with “now, everyone, you have two pieces of homework to do.  Number one, go home and do what I just taught you to do so you don’t forget how to do it.  Number two, share it with others, as I have shared it with you!”  Obviously, some skills can’t be repeated immediately, but some can, and if you value the skill you just learned, you should do it again on your own so that you remember how to do it. Nothing is more satisfying to me than knowing that I taught other people a new skill,  that they went out and did it themselves, and  that they will be teaching others, as someone once taught me.

Homesteading is a community and it takes a continuous sharing of hands to keep everyone feeling like they are valuable and not being taken advantage of.

I invited a group of people over to walk the “maple tap trail” with me.  I spent a lot of time teaching them what I had learned, from locating the trees to tapping the trees, storing the sap and making the syrup. One family brought me a jar of homemade chicken stock.  Another lady brought me a packet of flower seeds that the bees would love.  THAT, my friends, is an example of a homesteader thanking another, in homesteading language.

Does it have to be every time?  No!  But it has to be often enough that people feel that the skill that they taught you was valuable to you, and worth their time and effort.

Please share how you thank your homesteading friends, or how a gift has made you feel like a valuable member of your homesteading community!



Maple Sugaring: Tapping Bigleaf Maples on the Pacific Northwest.

Maple Sugaring Watermarked2
I have known where maple syrup comes from since I was a child reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder book “Little House in the Big Woods” where Pa taps the trees and comes home with gallons of maple sap.  The simple, true story set in Wisconsin in the late 1800s, describes in great detail how maple sap becomes maple syrup and maple sugar  The little girls’ memories of the event and the taste of maple candy is invigorating even today, when I read those same stories to my children.  I live on the west coast though, and we can’t grow sugar maples here so the story remains just that, a story.  Or not?

Little House in the big woods

I read last year that people on the west coast were tapping broad leaf maple trees.  Not only were they collecting sap, but they were having maple syrup festivals, local high-end restaurants were buying it, and the few local farms tapping and selling the syrup can’t keep up with the demand. Hipsters on 100 mile diets from the city, craving syrup that, typically until now was not a product produced within a 100 mile radius, are buying local maple syrup for $20 a cup.  That’s $80 a litre!

I started talking to others about trying to tap my own bigleaf maple trees.  I was quickly shut down by many people.  It isn’t worth the effort. It requires being rendered down 80:1 rather than the typical sugar maple which is 50:1.  But as is typical for me, “isn’t worth the effort” isn’t really in my vocabulary.  Isn’t worth the effort typically means: it is a lot cheaper and easier to go out and buy it.  Truth.  However, homesteading isn’t done because it is worth the effort (financially).  I homestead for the experience.  Maple sugaring is no different.  And the effort put into it is worth it in such a big way that those people can’t even imagine it.  It’s the bigger picture.  It is beyond physical effort.  It is satisfaction, pleasure, sustainability, all rolled into one big picture.  Homesteading.  Do you get it?  Well I do.

I bought some spiles (or taps) online.  The first four were made of stainless steel, and their arrival sparked that good old homesteading thrill that makes this lifestyle worth living.  They have that wholesome, raw appearance that other homesteading devices have like wooden buckets, spinning wheels and axes.  But it was raining so hard my thoughts were on building an ark instead of tapping trees.maple spiles

A few days later the weather warmed to record highs.  The sun shone and this was the day to tap the trees.  I re-read my directions,  and went out with my glass bottles, spiles, a drill and tubing under my arm.  I was trailed by 3 intensely interested young children, a dog and a few chickens.  You know what they say about learning: when the teacher is excited about the subject the pupils will learn.

One drilling produced sap.  It was literally dripping out of the tree.  It tasted mildly sweet, much like coconut water.  Once the spile was in place and the tubing attached to the spile and the glass jug, collection officially began.  The warm weather caused a beautiful sap flow, and the jars were full in a few hours.  I was ecstatic.  The dripping did slow down that night, and while still dripping continually, the weather cooled a bit resulting in less sap than the first few hours.  The pleasure was all mine.

maple tapping bucket tree watermarked

Over the following weeks my “maple tap trail” became a bit of an event.  Others were interested in coming to see these trees being tapped, and I opened it up to visitors.  My daughters’ kindergarten and grade 2 classes both came over to have a look.  And I was given the opportunity to prove, once again, to my neighbour that, at least in his eyes, I am stark raving mad.  Some days were so busy that I wasn’t able to walk my maple tap trail until after dark, bucket in hand, and headlamp strapped to my head.  One of the best producing trees is on the border of my inlaw’s property and their neighbour, seeing a light in the forest, shone a bright light out towards me.

“Whose out there?”

“Oh, just me, your crazy neighbour.  I am tapping the maple trees.”

Dead silence, followed by disbelieving chuckling.  Then he called his wife and chuckled some more.

Yes, once again, there was absolutely nothing I could say to the dear neighbour to prove that I wasn’t crazy.  I grinned helplessly and hoped he thought I was my mother-in-law, not me….

Follow my blog for the next chapter of Maple Sugaring: Syrup! coming soon.

Health benefits of maple sap and syrup:

  • Maple syrup is high in minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc.
  • Maple sap or water can boost energy without spiking your blood sugar level.
  • Maple sap or water,  similar in taste to coconut water, it is very mildly sweet and a refreshing
  • First Nations people used to drink maple sap at the end of every winter to help rejuvenate the body and regain vitamins and minerals that were lost due to an unvaried winter diet of dehydrated food.

How to tap maple trees:

  • Buy or make spiles.
  • Drill a 2.5 inch hole into the tree, slightly smaller in diameter than the spile.
  • Tap the spile into the hole.
  • Attach a food grade hose to the spile.
  • Put the hose in a container.
  • Check frequently to empty your container.

When to start and stop tapping:

You can start tapping bigleaf maple trees on the south coast of BC, Washington and Oregon any time during the winter, before the buds start developing.  Once the buds develop the taste will become more bitter and you should stop collecting.
It isn’t recommended that you tap your tree more than 1 month long for the health of the tree.

How to store the sap:

Pouring the sap through fine strainer into a large pot that sits on our wood stove all the time, proved the best way to deal with the sap.  It slowly reduced and I continued to add sap to it throughout the sap run.  You can store sap in the freezer until you render it down, but 80 L of sap is a lot to store in the freezer…..  especially when all your freezers are already full of food.

You aren’t limited to just tapping maple trees.  Other trees you can tap:
Black Walnut
Box Elder

I have started a facebook group specifically targeting those who tap Bigleaf Maples or who are interested in tapping them.  If you are interested, please request to join!  Click here.

Maple Tapping facebook collage

For more information on tapping specifically Bigleaf Maples click here.

Enjoy these great articles on tapping trees:

Tapping Trees for Syrup by Homespun Seasonal Living

Home-Sugaring Preparation by Homespun Seasonal Living

No Maple Trees?  No Problem.  How To Make Birch Syrup by Joybilee Farms

Making Syrup in the City by Imaginacres

Making Syrup in your Own Back Yard by Homestead Honey

How to Make Maple Syrup by Commonsense Homesteading

The Great Bigleaf Maple Syruping Experiment of 2013 (I thought I was reading my own journal when I read this blog post.  2 peas in a pod, right down to the Laura and Mary series!)

And to round it all off, a delicious looking buttermilk pancake recipe!  Just add your own syrup!
Buttermilk Pancakes by Reformation Acres