When we first visited Texas last year looking at properties, we heard about Homestead Heritage through my cousin’s neighbor who had family living in the community. We stopped by one day while out looking at potential properties and were very impressed with what they were doing. We learned about the classes they offered on sustainable living and planned then to take as many classes as we could when we got settled.
We thought a good place to start was to take their three day course on Homesteading. The course is provided by The Ploughshare Institute which is located on their property collectively known at Homestead Heritage just north of Waco. We would urge you to visit them if you are ever in the Waco area. You will not be disappointed.
We had two main instructors for our course - a more seasoned veteran and a younger man. Both were very knowledgeable about their subjects. Their goal was to encourage and inspire by removing the mystery and to show us how sustainable homesteading could be attainable. The course was intended to be fairly general but gave us the tools to reason and make wise decisions as we plan. As they warned us, we would be “drinking from the fire hydrant” at times because there was so much to take in. It would be silly of me to think that I could condense down three days of instruction into one blog post, so I won’t try to do that. But here are a few highlights of our course.
|The Ploughshare Institute at Homestead Heritage is in a restored barn.|
|Most of our classes were held in the middle building.|
We learned to shift our thinking from the traditional commercial farming model to a small scale sustainable farming model. This paradigm shift will create synergy within all aspects of the farm. Defining our purpose is essential before making our plan. We learned how to evaluate our land for its best use by walking the land regularly and observing. Priority should be given to planning our vegetable garden. We learned the advantages of “double digging” and how to make our own compost.
|Here is our instructor, Butch, demonstrating the technique of "double digging."|
|Using chickens in a "chicken tractor" to help with weed control in the garden.|
|A triple composting model using wooden pallets.|
We learned the basics of raising chickens for both eggs and meat and how to plan our coop. We learned that ducks and turkeys can be a valuable addition. We walked through the herb garden and learned how to incorporate herbs into our vegetable garden. We learned how to plan and plant fruit and nut trees, and fruit vines. We learned how to best use our pastures by management intensive grazing.
|The chickens in their coop.|
|The Herb Garden section of our course.|
|Fruit vines in the garden.|
We learned the advantages of cows and goats and got to milk both. We learned how essential bees are and about all their benefits. We learned about barns and sheds and water catchment and storage. And finally we put it all together and planned our model farm.
|I even had a go at milking the cow.|
|Guv'nor milking the goat.|
|Guv'nor learning how to use the scythe.|
We were a bit sad at the end of the third day. We had learned so much and wanted to keep learning. We had made friends we would miss seeing. We were encouraged and inspired and came home feeling confident and equipped for the task.