Sep 22 2016
Homesteading is changing. As more people want to take control of their food, lifestyle and consumer habits, homesteading is becoming an urban pursuit as well. That’s why we found ACORN’s first Homesteader Symposium every bit as applicable to our life in Moncton as we would have living in rural New Brunswick.
Over 40 people from a broad cross section of local people attended the daylong workshop on Sunday, September 11, held at the Dieppe Farmers Market.
Not just a rural pursuit
Evidence is everywhere that doing it yourself isn’t just a rural phenomenon anymore. Yards, lawns and vacant lots in cities are turning into food gardens. Workshops on wild-crafting, making household items like soap by hand, and doing more with less are popular. And Facebook groups like Back to the Land in Moncton or NB Gardeners and Wildcrafters have many urban members, including us.
The Internet broke that barrier of thinking homesteading can only be done outside the city limits by making homesteading skills available to anyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer. It might have started out as homesteaders sharing experiences with other rural homesteaders, but anyone with a yard and an independent streak can see they can do most of those things, too, once they stop valuing their green carpet.
Nice balance of skills
There are so many skills needed to be self-sustaining, choosing a day’s worth of information to present must have been challenging for the organizers. But the topics of how to produce all (most) of your food, root cellaring, extending the growing season, wild edible and medicinal plants of the Maritimes, food forest gardens and lacto-fermentation techniques provided a nice balance.
Estelle Drisdelle’s taught us about turning your lawn into a food forest. We started doing research on how our willow at the back of our Moncton lot might be the centre of a little food forest. Since we stopped mowing around it, it has become way more interesting.
Estelle Drisdelle’s presentation on food forest gardens that mimic a forest ecosystem to grow food, medicinal plants, pollinator plants and create habitat was fascinating. A food forest garden is beautiful, low maintenance and resilient. The ones in Sackville that she helped create withstood major flooding whereas conventional gardens there did not.
My husband, Archie Nadon, and I are going to do one in our Moncton backyard where the willow tree has created a haven for diversity since Archie has stopped mowing.
And, just as I was getting ready to do some conventional pickling this season, Shannon Jones and Bryan Dyck of Broadfork Farm taught us about lacto-fermentation.
No boiling involved, just preserve your veggies with brine. There are three methods: sauerkraut, kimchi and immersion. The resulting ferment is, Shannon assures us, tasty and excellent for maintaining good gut bacteria. I made the first test bottle this morning.
Shared hard-earned experience
All the presenters were great and shared their hard-earned knowledge and experience. For example, Rebecca and Robin LeBlanc of Bathurst both work full-time as teachers and raise their three children, but also manage to grow vegetables and grain, make cider, cheese, press sunflower oil, raise chickens, and milk a cow!
Photographs of their home-grown food was mouth-wateringly stunning. When I asked Rachel “How do you do it all?” she answered, “It’s a lifestyle. We are used to working very hard, but we also enjoy what we do.”
And Alyson Chisholm of Windy Hill Farm gave us lots to think about the pros and cons of greenhouses to extend the growing season. I did not realize that the snow has to be cleared off of them all winter. So maybe movable tunnels that are taken down in the fall are a better option for me. And on it went.
It all sounded so doable and so inspired were we that we think ACORN should start offering an urban homesteader symposium.
For a list of all that went on, here is a link to the event posted on Facebook. (Note: since this is a link to a Facebook event, it might have been taken down.)https://www.facebook.com/events/1223595117684739/