Thursday, September 4, 2014

Meet the Homestead and Preparedness Writers LeAnn with Homestead Dreamer

This week's interview is with LeAnn from Homestead Dreamer. LeAnn lives in southeastern Alaska, almost half a world away. I have really enjoyed getting to know LeAnn and I think you will too. She faces challenges that we in the South do not, but we can all learn from each other.

How old are you?

I am 38 years old. Married, no kids except the fur-babies.

Do you consider yourself a prepper, a homesteader, or a mixture of both?

I would say that I am a mixture of both, leaning further toward the homesteader side. The more I learn about both lifestyles though, the more I realize there is a very blurry line between them and their activities.

What do you think the greatest challenge our society faces?

That is a rough question. I could cite this political reason, or that economic reason but ultimately, I would have to say the greatest challenge society faces is learning how to deal with itself without ripping everything apart.

On your site you state that you are working toward a homestead life. What advice would you give those who want a more wholesome life, but do not know where to start?

Start small! If you go diving in and create something enormous as a beginning project, you will get overwhelmed and lose enthusiasm. Start small. I would also say that if you have internet access, you will save yourself thousands of dollars with all of the free information out there on absolutely any project you want to do. Research it first, then plan it out and you will have a better chance of success. A good example is our garden. It is a 9’ x 12’ space with 3 cold frames outside. I wanted to build something so much larger but held myself back and I am really thankful I did. Now that I have a couple good seasons of learning some basics about growing food, I know how to build that monster greenhouse of my dreams and make it successful!

You live in Alaska. Tell me about your climate and how you deal with your weather.

Well, what most people do not realize is that Alaska is so vast, so incredibly large that there are several completely different climates within it. Where I live is much like the British Columbia area of Canada but we get even more rain than they do. We get more rain than Seattle! I tease and say that I prefer the tropics of Alaska versus the “Tundra” of the mainland. We do not get the snow and months of total darkness which is what comes to most people’s minds when they think “Alaska!” That being said, we get 13 feet of rain on average. So we get the wet cold in the winters that sinks down to your bones. Early hypothermia stages are actually possible if walking long distances in the wind and rain we get here. Being a coastal town, there is pretty much always a breeze. It is all about the layers of clothing. If everyone had layers of clothing available at all times of the year, it would make things easier for many people, I think. 

You have recently gotten married. Has your husband been on board with becoming more self-reliant or was there a transition period?

I actually remember the exact moment we made the decision to change our lifestyle completely. We were watching an episode of “The Colony” in its second season (which was very lame) and were discussing how certain things were simply unreasonable while other things were absolutely possible. We had discussed being more self-sufficient a few times before but this overwhelming feeling came over me and I said to him, “You know what? I want to homestead and learn how to do things for ourselves as much as possible. We are so completely reliant on the systems around us that should something crazy happen, we will be OK until we can figure it out. I mean the whole thing; growing and preserving our own food, berry picking, hunting, fishing and all the work that goes along with it.” He looked at me for only a moment and said he was all for it. He had not yet proposed at that point, we had only recently moved in together. It all began with planting a garden but I think for both of us, the overall desire to utilize the subsistence life that is prevalent and very “normal” in Alaska was something planted in us as children. We both grew up here fishing, camping, hunting and watching our parents smoke and jar up fish. We remember the jams and jellies made from the wild berries that are all over the place here; more than you could ever want! It is just part of us and has been a pretty easy transition so far.

This past year you have published your first book. Tell us about the experience. What would you do different?

Self-publishing my eBook was a great experience and I am already working on my second one! The first is “A Primer on Pickling.”  It is the first in a series of Primers. For those who do not know, a ‘primer’ in this context means it is like a short textbook that is used as a way to introduce you to a new subject. It is very simple, straightforward, and to the point. People are busy and many just want the basic information. My Pickling Primer will teach you how to pickle food in a single afternoon. Amazon makes it very easy to self-publish but there are things I will be doing differently on the next book. For starters, it will have more pictures. The first one did not have enough in my opinion and I am working on a re-publish of it as well. I believe that it really helps to convey what I am talking about in less words to simply show a picture! Also, I should have edited more. One of the constant complaints in the publishing world when it comes to those of us who self-publish is all of the typos, bad formatting, and general lack of attention to detail. This new one, which is all about dehydrating (both in the oven and dehydrator) will be more on par, like it should. Other primers will cover things like making jams and jellies, making jerky, and pressure canning vegetables. I hope to get them all done by the end of next year and offer them as a set!

Did any of your family members try to discourage your lifestyle change?

Goodness no, not at all. Like I said above, it is a normal thing to fill your freezer with fish and venison. Some were rather surprised at the shift from being a hard core gaming geek to someone who wants to buy 10 acres and homestead it. On another, more remote and less populated island, no less. Then again, Alaskans are a quirky bunch by nature so most just raised eyebrows and said, “Well, that is a switch.” Those who are closest to us understand why we took a 20 pound bag of rice and split it up into mylar bags. Everything comes by barge here so again, most people grew up with their parents having something tucked back. In the 70’s and 80’s, I remember the barge only coming a couple times a month and sometimes they had to miss a shipment or it was late because of weather from Washington. Now, we get them weekly but there is generally only about 7-10 day’s worth of food for the island. So many people still put a little back. We are rather lucky that way. What the people in the ‘lower 48’ call prepping, we call ‘life’ in many ways. There are many places in this state where you simply cannot get to a store during certain times of the year. I do not live in one of those places but I hope to. 

If you are a prepper what preparations have you made or do you feel everyone should make?

Like I mentioned above, there are elements to homesteading that are exactly the same and for the same reasons that ‘preppers’ do. Storing food and water is number one in my opinion. I believe very strongly that absolutely every single person should have 3 day’s worth of food and water for each member of their family on hand plus a way to cook it without electricity. I wish I could stress this to everyone. It does not have to be some crazy bucket of freeze dried food. Remember the 20 pound bag of rice I talked about? How long do you think you could last with a bag sealed half that size? How many could it feed? Sure, you would want more than rice but it is not rocket science, it is simple, inexpensive and smart. For those who scoff at me I always ask them to think about the last bad storm they experienced or some other event that took the power out for more than 24 hours. How much better would it have been to have the peace of mind at the least, knowing you are covered and will be fed, have safe water to drink and other niceties that make things part of your normal. It is amazing what a simple drink mix can do for morale when all you have had is water for 2 days. If nothing else, you will be okay for a few days while you figure your next move, wait for help, and assess the situation calmly and logically.

If you are a homesteader tell me a little about your homestead.

There is a reason I call my blog “Homestead Dreamer.” I dream of having a proper homestead with chickens, bees, a very large garden where we will grow as much of our own food as we possibly can to avoid the grocery store bills (and GMO frankenveggies), fish, hunt, etc. Provide for ourselves. We are working toward buying property every single day. Scrimping, saving, getting out of debt and are hopeful that we will be able to buy a home this Fall. The ‘homestead’ we have now, such as it is, consists of the 9’ x 12’ garden and 3 good sized cold frames where we grow food. We trade greens and other items for eggs from a co-worker and are using this time to learn the skills necessary so that when the land comes, we can hit the ground running. In the last two years, I have learned about gardening, harvesting, and preserving food in various ways (canning, dehydrating) as well as preserving meats. Jerky is one of my favorite things to make! We are learning about raising chickens and meat rabbits and the processes and costs that go with it. Mister Dreamer has gotten into reloading. There is so much more but you get the idea. ALL of this is going to pay off when we manage to get the house. Because we live on an island, acreage is at a premium but having the smaller space now will benefit us when the space available is 5 times plus. The extensive research done online and in talking with locals who already raise chickens, bees, and have gardened in this climate for decades has all been taken in and I cannot wait to put it to use!

How long have you been homesteading, prepping , or both?

Homesteading, about 2 years. Activities that could be considered strictly ‘prepping’ maybe a year or so? We would like to have more water stored but when we move, chances are good that it will have a rain catch water system in place already.

If you could tell every person one thing what would it be?

Take control back over your food and grow something! Even in an apartment in containers! It is more satisfying than you could ever imagine and reminds you (or perhaps teaches you) that you are truly part of a much larger whole.

What do you think your best asset is in helping others achieve self-sustainability?

I would have to say my ability to organize, prioritize, and my passion for being self-sustaining, self-reliant. I love showing people how incredibly easy most of this stuff really is. Take making jam for example. It is incredibly easy, safe, and the results are superior to anything you can buy pre-made. No super special equipment required!

If you could talk to every young couple out there getting started, what advice would you give them?

I asked Mister Dreamer to help me on this one. We both agree that we would tell them to absolutely not go out and buy a bunch of stuff because you think you need it. You are starting out, you have no idea what you really need. I heeded this advice early on, thanks to a post I had read. It saved us copious amount of money, frustration, and grief. That is first and foremost. Going right along with that, research is a must. There is no getting around it. Again, you are starting out. Be smart about it, LEARN about it. If you are not willing to put the time to research, you may want to reconsider if you really want to homestead or prep. It will take hours but if you are interested, it will not be a burden whatsoever. You will become voracious, gobbling up all you can about this or that. Get different viewpoints, compare it to your own desires, situation, and goals. Adapt. You will soon see certain elements being repeated again and again. An example would be how much space you should have in your chicken coop per bird. Not all articles may say the same thing but they will be close. Err on the side of a little larger and you will be fine. It will take you time to build confidence in yourself and you WILL mess up. Laugh about it, adapt, move forward. In the end, so long as everyone is alive and unharmed, it is a good day and tomorrow brings new adventures.

I hope you have enjoyed getting to know LeAnn from Homestead Dreamer.When you drop by her site be sure and tell her The Rural Economist sent you. As you can tell from these interviews, it does not matter where you are from, there is a writer from your area or climate. We can all learn from each other and we are all working toward our own

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

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