"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Modern homesteading

By on August 24, 2019 in Uncategorized with 2 Comments
Poseidon, one of Story’s angora bucks, demonstrates his friendly disposition and almost full length fiber coat.

By Story Burke 

photos by donna cassidy

I’m a modern homesteader.

To understand me, take a step back into the days of pioneers; think of the blood, sweat and tears those adventuresome souls gave in search of a land to call their own. 

There are several differences between the pioneers and modern homesteaders but the idea and goals are similar. 

Modern homesteaders are oftentimes portrayed as awkward outcasts who are downright incompetent, but that is not the case. 

I believe modern homesteaders are far from ignorant. In fact, most of my fellow homesteaders are constantly in search of knowledge; the knowledge to be as self-sufficient as possible and have something to call their own.

Jessica excitedly awaits getting out for a walk around the property.

How does a woman in her late 20s decide one day to tackle the homestead life? 

The dream of a farm began for me as an adolescent. I grew up an overall-wearing, wild-haired child in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

As adulthood crept over me, I longed to return to a simple life covered in mud under the shade of trees. 

I found tucked in a mountain overlooking the Columbia River in Douglas County a beautiful 20-acre attempt at a farm (think off-grid cabin/shed with a chicken coop) that had almost been lost. Vegetation had encased the land and nature was calling the once cleared land back into itself.

For the price of my life savings as a down payment, I was able to claim the land to create my place, which I named Homestead with a View.

This diamond in the rough was my chance to have my own home and land for livestock and my horse. 

As a young professional, my budget was tight and most properties were unobtainable. To achieve my dream of land I had to be willing to compromise, which meant saying goodbye to electricity, and, at first running water.

Homestead with a View came by it’s name honestly: Here is the north facing view of the Columbia River.

Homestead with a View began with me hauling in water in three 55-gallon drums, a long commute to work, and a life lived by oil lamp or a loud generator. 

In the first year, I really roughed it by using an outhouse and outdoor camp shower. (Pro tip: hang the toilet seat by the wood stove in winter for maximum comfort.) 

There was a lot of work to be done, and compromises to be made, but I was ready to tackle the short-term trials for my lifetime goals.

Step into a day in the life with me as a modern homesteader, and catch a glimpse of reaping what you sow. 

Mornings begin as soon as the sun rises. Being off-grid means no A/C, so all of the windows must be left open at night and closed early in summer, typically around 4:30 a.m. 

Jessica, the Lamancha milking goat, and her baby Tina do a little weeding the natural way in front of the primary residence, which is the last home on the end of a gravel road.

Once awake, I start the morning brew in the percolator over a propane stovetop. By the time chores are completed, you will appreciate that simple and rewarding routine. 

Slip-on some garden shoes and step outdoors to the chuckle of anticipating chickens, the dogs rush out behind you, almost toppling you over as you rub the sleep from your eyes. 

Rabbits thump their feet on the cage bottoms to let you know they are ready for breakfast and a quick scratch behind the ears. 

After the goats hear the commotion, they remind you with a nagging breath not to forget their breakfast, too. 

Before the heat of the day, the honey bees are zipping past you to collect as much nectar as possible from every flower within a three-mile radius. The sun will dry the nectar of the flowers long before noon. 

The business of the day has begun and now you can go back to the house to enjoy your morning coffee before the real work begins. In order to keep this dream alive there is still a regular “9-5” desk position in town that helps pay for improvement and keeps the dream’s momentum. 

This is the life of a homesteader. 

Everyone else comes first but at the end of the day, it is all worth it. 

The reward will be fresh eggs by mid-day, a surprise garden bounty, two quarts of raw goats milk, honey breaking free from the perfect white comb, and fiber to spin up later for a soft and beautiful garment. 

As my friends say, this is the land of milk and honey.

Homestead with a View is home to 16 angora rabbits, five laying hens, four dairy goats, 34 honey beehives, two guard dogs and two barn cats. 

As with any farmer’s life, the daily routine varies by the season. The life of a farmer is the life of a caretaker. My rabbits are a fiber breed and must be groomed on a regular schedule. These rabbits produce the most luxurious soft fiber, which I shave and hand spin into art yarn. Grooming rabbits is amazingly therapeutic and relaxing. 

The hum and constant working flights of the bees is a reassurance that hive health is good, but, regular inspections are also necessary to maintain their wellbeing. 

The bleating of goats in the distance lets me know it is getting close to the milking hour and maybe tonight will be an evening to make cheese or fresh yogurt. 

The garden and small orchard during spring and summer require constant attention. However, the fruits of my labor are ever so sweet, and even the critters benefit from the garden surplus. 

All of this has a purpose; I am not just a homesteader, goat herder, landlord, beekeeper, gardener and spinner. I am an entrepreneur.

Being a modern homesteader has its perks and not just fresh eating. 

I have been able to take advantage of technology by creating an online store for my honeybee business, a website for my off-grid vacation rental, as well as a blog for curious minds to follow the journey with me. 

The homestead also has a local presence at the evening farmers markets in Chelan, and even the Douglas County fair has invited me to spin and educate fair guests this year on returning to a more self-sustainable lifestyle. 

I take pride in sharing the wealth of knowledge I have accumulated through this journey. I relish the opportunity to share with other self-starters who have a dream, no matter how small. 

Stepping out of fear has led me to this beautiful life. Though some days are trying, every day is rewarding. 

For more information on Homestead With a View visit www.homesteadwithaview.com.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Beverly McCune says:

    Wow Story I’m so very proud of how you have chased your dreams and are making it happen with hard work, determination, patience and a lot of love to go around with all of your mountain family!
    You really remind me of your Grandmother because she had so much energy and determination! Loved this!

  2. Tamra Hively says:

    This is beautiful and inspiring. You are making your dreams come true. I’m glad the hard work has been worth it! BTW, Story has the best honey I’ve ever tasted!

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