I love getting to know writers from all over the country. This week we will be talking with Jess from www.104homestead.com. Jess lives in Maine, which seems like nearly a world away from here and it is a completely different climate.
Jess took a desperately difficult situation and turned it into a positive. I know what it is like to have a sudden job loss, but to have that loss while expecting a child? That has to be bad. Jess teaches us how to be healthier and save money at the same time. I hope you enjoy getting to know her and her site.
How old are you?
Do you consider yourself a prepper, a homesteader, or a mixture of both?
Actually, I define them as one in the same. Although I refer to myself as a homesteader, by knowing how to homestead, I am equipped with the knowledge to sustain myself and my family. That makes me prepared for anything that may come my way.
On your site you state that you began homesteading after you were laid off and while expecting your third child. Tell us how you became proactive about a solution instead of falling prey to depression and a give up attitude.
I would love to say that my pro-activeness was due to inner strength, but truly it was a lack of options. I had two children to care for. My husband's plate was full with his job and the last thing he needed was more stress. I started developing frugal alternatives for things we were spending money on. When I discovered that these frugal alternatives (like making my own personal care items and cleaning products) were healthier as well as frugal, I was hooked. I looked into more and more healthy and inexpensive changes I could make in my home.
What do you think the greatest challenge our society faces?
The greatest challenge our society faces, in my opinion, is comfort. We are comfortable doing things the easy way. We are comfortable with the way things have "always been done". It's only when we step out of our comfort zone that we really learn to live and appreciate our lives.
You live in Maine. Quite different from here in the Southeast. How do you extend your growing season? Also please share your description of the seasons in Maine.
There is a joke here in Maine that says our seasons consist of It's Winter, It's Practically Like Winter, Thank Goodness It's Not Winter (lasts about a week), and It Could Be Winter Any Day Now. Our growing season is over in the blink of an eye and with the fluctuations of temperatures in both fall and spring, deciding when to plant and harvest can pose some challenges. I am a huge fan of winter sowing to give my plants a head start. I try to choose varieties that have a short growing period and I equip beds with plastic tunnels in case bitter temperatures come sooner than expected.
On your site you talk about learning to make your own cleaning and personal care products. Tell us a little about the learning curve making things on your own that you had become accustomed to purchasing at the store. Have you had any failures making one of these type of products.
All aspects of homesteading have been a process of trial and error for me. There are so many great DIY recipes available online. Unfortunately they don't work for every person or every situation. The basic element water seems to be the hardest part. Hard water versus soft water can greatly affect how well a cleaner or product works. My advice is to try different recipes until you find one that works for you. After two years, I'm still experimenting with dishwasher detergent. I know the right ratios of ingredients is out there, I just haven't quite found it.
I love the fact that you state you cover a little of this and a little of that. Why do you think being a generalist, when it comes to homesteading, is better than being a specialist.
My goal with The 104 Homestead is to teach people to homestead no matter where they live. Not everyone lives where they can garden outdoors. Not everyone lives where they can raise poultry or small livestock. By focusing my writing on just one topic, I alienate some of the population. I firmly believe that everyone is capable of becoming self-sufficient. I want to share a variety of skills so they are available to those that can use them.
Did any of your family members try to discourage the lifestyle you have chosen?
The only skill I chose to develop that wasn't fully supported, was my desire to cook from scratch. My household was fully on board until I served that first fully-from-scratch meal. The bread was so bad that the dog wouldn't eat it. Plates were practically untouched. I refused to take this apparent failure as a reason to give up. I realized that I needed to hone in on one skill at a time instead of tackling the all at once. I learned how to manage my time in the kitchen so everything was ready at one time. I picked up tips to making bread so it rises and crusts properly. Success involves taking things in baby steps.
IF you are a homesteader tell me a little about your homestead. How long have you been homesteading, prepping or both?
I would say I've been homesteading for three years now. I have focused on planning for the future (canning ahead for the winter and storing supplies) for the last year.
If you could tell every person one thing what would it be?
You can do it! I know everyone uses the phrase "If I can do it, you can do it", but it's true. When I began I could hardly boil water, I couldn't keep house plants alive. Now I make all of our meals and snacks from scratch and I have a thriving garden that provides enough food to feed my family produce year-round. I'm even writing a book about raising poultry.
What do you think your best asset is in helping others achieve self sustainability?
As I said, I am far from the poster child of a domestic goddess. I live on a small property with village restrictions. I had a lot of odds stacked against me, but I persevered.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Jess with www.104homestead.com. When you drop by her site please tell her The Rural Economist sent you.
Jess is just one of the many writers who are trying to help you achieve your
Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes
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