Update from the Homestead: Composting and Seeds

Hello again everyone!

I’ve been taking some time off from blogging to deal with bronchitis, but I’ve still managed to get some homestead projects done.

We had a brief reprieve from snow and freezing weather, so I built our compost bin. I used a 30 gallon, opaque Rubbermaid container, drilled holes in all the sides, bottom, and lid for air circulation, and placed it at the side of the house near where the garden will be. I’ve been composting all our kitchen scraps and coffee grounds. I had no idea so much went to waste! It feels good to find another purpose for all of it.

Me building the compost bin in my pajamas.

I also ordered half our seeds from Baker Heirloom Seeds (Rareseeds). The peppers and tomatoes were must-haves so that I can start them indoors soon. Hopefully, they’ll be ready to transplant to containers by the time the rest of our garden is planted.


The peppers include four kinds of hot peppers we wanted to try:

  • Chocolate Habanero
  • Cayenne Long Thin
  • Chinese 5-Color
  • Pablano

And one kind of sweet pepper:

  • Horizon Bell


Two kinds of tomatoes:

  • Tappy’s Heritage
  • Roma


I also ordered broccoli, cauliflower, and iceberg lettuce. Iceberg isn’t my absolute favorite, but I was overwhelmed by the selection of lettuce their catalog offered, so I went simple and ordered the one I know we’ll get the most use out of.


As a free gift, they sent a packet of these pretty flowers, called Love-in-a-Mist. I’m looking forward to planting these too!

How have you been preparing your homestead for spring? Have you ordered any seeds yet?

Celebrating Imbolc

celebrating imbolc 2015

Happy Imbolc from Witching the Homestead, everyone!

Here in Pennsylvania, we are blanketed in snow. Everyone is starting to feel tired of the scraping ice off their cars, shoveling and salting sidewalks, and bundling up in coats, gloves, and scarves.

Imbolc reminds us that spring is on its way. It is a marker in the cycle of seasons to tell us, This winter is not unending.

For the magically-inclined celebrants of Imbolc, this is a great time to bring new energies into our lives, pursue goals, and awaken our hearts and minds as spring awakens beneath the snow.

For me, because the goddess Brighid plays a huge role in my life as healer, poet, and fertility goddess, today is a day to honor her. I will honor her today with prayers, candle light, and offerings of homemade bread. She will be on my mind today as I work in a healing capacity with my massage clients and today I remember to honor her as protector of our home.

I hope your Imbolc is blessed and that the final weeks of winter are kind to you.

The Concept of “Faith” in Paganism

Faith is a word I’m struggling with a lot lately.

Faith is a big thing in Christianity, in most religions, and in the many years I spent as a Christian, I had a lot of faith. Faith that God was listening, that God had a plan for me, that God forgave me when I did something wrong.

Faith is something that’s a lot harder from me as a Pagan, in a religion where a lot of people see the gods as removed and distant. But are they? Does my faith really have to be so different now?

The dictionary gives a multitude of definitions for faith:

  • confidence or trust in a person or thing

I have faith that the gods are powerful and interact with people’s day-to-day lives, that they hear the prayers of those devoted to them and want to have meaningful relationships with humans.

  • belief that is not based on proof

I can’t see the gods. I have no proof, other than my own personal experiences and interactions, that they exist, but I believe they exist.

  • belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion

I have faith, not only that the gods exist, but that I am following a spiritual path with teachings that are moral, fulfilling, and bring meaning to the way I am living my life.

  • belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.

Part of my goal of becoming more consciously spiritual this year is to study the ethics and values of my religion through the lens of Celtic spirituality. I am not living in a religion devoid of standards of behavior.

  • a system of religious belief

I proudly identify as part of a Pagan faith, in which I’ve created community with others of similar beliefs.

  • the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.

I am loyal to the gods and to the people I’ve engaged with because of my Pagan faith. I have made the promise to live my life in a way that honors the gods, to please them in the way I live my life and interact with other people.

  • the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.

I work hard to keep my promises; I believe that oath-breaking is a terrible dishonor in the eyes of the gods I worship, and I believe it’s a terrible way to act toward other people. The promises I make carry weight, and a lot of it.

In Christianity, the idea of faith goes beyond believing in something you can’t see or following a book whose authors lived thousands of years before you were born. It encompasses trust in the things you believe in, that God and the things you believe will keep you on a path of morality, happiness, and fulfillment. People always say, “God has a plan. Have faith in God. God won’t lead you astray.”

I think that’s what I’m struggling with: feeling like the gods have a plan for me. I think they do, and I’m learning to give myself over to more trust and faith in them. Too many times, I’ve felt like my life was spiraling out of control, like there was nothing but chaos…and then, when I stopped worrying so much about everything, things fell into place so quickly and so perfectly, it was spooky. I think that is the gods working in my life, trying to wake me up and tell me, “Hey, we’ve got this.”

Faith is hard for a lot of people. It’s hard to believe there is purpose and order in what feels like life’s chaos. If the gods didn’t have plans, if they didn’t want a relationship with us, why would they call to us at all? Why do we have myths and stories and legends of gods interacting with people that span the ages and have survived time, place, wars, and religious conversions?

The gods are still here, and I’m working on my faith.

How to Fund Your New Backyard Homestead

fund your backyard homestead

We’re backyard homesteaders here, and in a way, it’s really fortunate that we are. We don’t have money for land or livestock or a house right now, and that’s okay. This is the stepping stone to the homestead lifestyle we dream of.

There are still costs associated with homesteading, wherever you are. This year, our big project is our garden, so most of our money is going there.

We sat down this week and did our first budget together. After bills, pet care, and groceries, there isn’t much leftover for homesteading projects. So how are we going to fund this new backyard homestead?

1. Set a budget and stick to it, but acknowledge where you’ll be saving money by homesteading.

We set a budget so that we could live within our means and still tuck a little money away every month for the car we are saving for and unexpected emergencies.

We are also setting ourselves up to save money down the road by homsteading.

For example, I’ve decided that baking our own bread is the way to go. It’s healthier, and at almost $2 a loaf, we’re saving money. I can get a small package of whole grain flour for $3.99 and get 5 or 6 loaves out of it. Imagine what I’d save buying it in bulk!

We also know that gardening is going to reduce the amount of money we’re spending on grocery store produce through the summer and fall, and maybe through winter if I do well with preserving food.

2. Reuse free or inexpensive items as homesteading items.

I am saving coffee cans and plastic containers to start my seeds in March. I have everyone I know saving me all sorts of buckets for container gardening this summer.

3. Bite off little chunks at a time.

Because all our gardening expenses are coming out of our “personal allowance” portion of our budget (a.k.a. our “fun money”), I know I can’t afford to order all our seeds or buy all our gardening supplies at once. In February, I’ll order about a quarter to half our seeds, buy a large trash can to build our compost bin, and still have a little to spend on other things. The next month, I’ll buy more seeds and some of our gardening tools. Sometime before summer, we’ll build our raised beds. It’s a slow way to get it done, but it makes it more affordable.

4. Put projects you can’t afford on next year’s goal list.

I wanted rabbits this year for pets/fertilizer. They’re the only homestead animal we can legally have in our borough. Unfortunately, we just can’t afford to house, feed, and care for more animals right now, so it’s going on my to do list for next year.

5. Look for ways to supplement your income.

Have a yard sale. Sell on Ebay. Sign up as a language partner on italki and get paid to help people practice their English conversation. Babysit. Dog sit/walk. Pick up some extra hours or cover other people’s shifts at the job you’re at. Write an ebook. Help someone with a household or farm project.

Small amounts of money add up to a larger homesteading fund.

Here are some blog posts with more ideas for bringing in extra cash:

Ways to make an extra $1000 a month.

A list of ways to make extra money through reselling.

How are you funding your homesteading projects? Share in the comments!

(Image modified from creative commons.)

Blog Posts of the Week – Jan. 18 – Jan. 24, 2015

Here are some of my favorite blog posts I’ve read this week.

how to grow potatoes

I’ve been wondering for awhile about how to grow potatoes. This is a great tutorial from Franger Farm!the power of prayer

I really enjoyed reading this post about prayer at Perks of Being a Hijabi.

homesteading when you're flat broke

This post from New Life on a Homestead offers tips for homesteading when you’re on a budget.

Follow me on Pinterest to see what else I’ve been pinning and reading!

Gardening Fears

gardening fears

I was looking through my seed catalog and narrowing down our choices for plants this year. Our plan for our first garden is to have four raised beds and containers on the porch. Looking through all those seeds, all the things we want to plant, even after striking quite a few (do we really need eight varieties of hot peppers?) off the list, is overwhelming.

I am afraid we’re going to plant too much and get in over our heads.

I want to plant everything, and that’s part of the problem. I have a lot of time to devote to a garden right now, and Big Bee is going to help too. I don’t have to worry about it going uneaten because we live next door to Big Bee’s parents, sister, and nieces, and we can always give extra to them.

What if I plant too much and it all withers and dies? What if it’s overcrowded? What if I’m just no good at growing plants? I’ve nearly killed my fern at my office after only three months!

These are the things I worry about when I think of planting a large garden.

Part of me says: It’s okay. If it all dies, there’s next year and I’m out a few bucks in seeds. If I don’t get it right, I’ll try again later. I will be successful even if I only get a few tomatoes or one head of lettuce. I don’t have to be perfect the first time around.

But I want so badly to be successful at this.

Did you have fears the first time you planted a garden? Any tips you’d like to share? How do you keep from being overwhelmed by your garden?

(Image from creative commons.)

My First Bread Baking Experience

My First Bread Baking Experience

On Sunday, I decided to try baking bread for the first time. It’s been on my list of things to do for awhile. We eat A LOT of bread in our house, and that means a lot of processed food with preservatives. It’s also expensive. I knew I could whip up something that was healthier and less expensive.

I used this recipe.

bread dough

I don’t have a fancy mixer, so I go the old fashioned route with a spoon. I didn’t have the agave nectar the recipe called for, so I made it without (it came out just fine). I added the flour in a little bit at a time for easier mixing.

rising dough covered

rising dough

The second step is my least favorite part of making dough: waiting for it to rise! I waited for the original mixture to rise (about 40 minutes) and then divided it into two loaves. I only have one bread pan, so I made one regular-shaped loaf and one flatter, rounder loaf. Then I let them rise a second time.

dogs bread baking

My dogs supervised to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. Poe graciously caught most of the flour I dropped off the counter with her face.

Finally, I baked them for 36 minutes at 350 degrees.

baking bread

My anxiously-awaiting-bread face. At this point, I was half-sure I was going to mess it up! There were several failed attempts at making calzones from scratch last year, so I don’t have a lot of faith in my ability to work with dough.

bread loaves

But it all turned out alright! Look at those gorgeous loaves!

fresh baked bread

Here’s the finished product! It’s moist, yummy, and it made my house smell awesome. I was running around the house eating slices with butter last night.

If I were to do it again, I would probably use two loaf-shaped bread pans and let them rise a little longer the second time…they’re not quite the right size for a big sandwich. All in all, I’m really pleased with how they turned out.

Checking bread baking off my list of homesteading skills to learn in 2015!

Linking up at I Gotta Create! and Whip It Up Wednesday.

Tarot Card of the Week: 8 of Rods

8 of rods hanson roberts

This card is the total opposite of what I’ve been experiencing the last few weeks: now things are going to happen more quickly, and I’d better be prepared to keep up! The important thing, while all this activity is happening, is to keep my head on straight; this card can also warn me not to be impulsive.

5 Ways to Start Living the Homesteading Lifestyle Right Now

homestead lifestyle now

Here are 5 ways you can start living the homesteading lifestyle right now, wherever you live. Don’t wait for the “right time” to start homesteading!

1. Cook something. Make yourself a healthy meal from scratch. Try baking some bread without preservatives. Make your own tomato sauce and cook up some spaghetti.

2. Build something. A pallet bookshelf. A new coffee table. Try something you never thought you could do! Get out some tools and make something you are super proud of!

3. Reuse something. Repurpose old coffee tins, jelly jars, and tupperware containers. Use something creatively instead of throwing it out. Make pillows or try quilting from old clothing. Use your imagination!

4. Grow something. Tomatoes in a windowsill. Lettuce in a container on your balcony or back porch. Peppers. Herbs. Get your hands dirty!

5. Go outside. Connect with the landscape around you. Watch wildlife. Identify plants. Learn about the seasons, animals, and plants where you live!

Do you have ideas for homesteading right now, where you are? Share them in the comments! We would love to hear from you!

Living Paganism: Everyday Spirituality

brighid altar

That is my altar to Brighid, also known in our house as the family altar. It contains a really awkward picture of my fiance and I given to us by my mother-in-law, a candle, an offering bowl, a tarot card from the Celtic Tarot depicting Brighid, which I altered to fit in a picture frame, and a pretty pumpkin decoration that I bought in the fall and haven’t removed yet.

It’s simple, but it’s a reminder that the gods are intertwined with my everyday life, not distant and easily forgotten. There are a lot of little ways that I stay spiritual every day, even when I’m not doing big rituals or celebrating holidays.

I never take my amber crow necklace off, as a reminder that the Morrigan is always with me. I’ve been putting off creating an altar to Her because it felt like such a huge, delicate undertaking, but mostly, I think she just wants to be in my daily life too, and I should probably just create a shrine with what I have.

I pray all day long–to the Morrigan, to Brighid, to other gods–mostly for little things like protection and wisdom and patience (I really struggle with patience).

Sometimes the gods will nudge me during the day to tell me they want something. Oftentimes, this is Brighid, asking me for a bit of black coffee in the morning, and I’m happy to share. I pour a little in Her offering bowl and whisper a few words of gratitude.

I don’t always make time for grand gestures and elaborate rituals. I save those kinds of workings and offerings for holidays and special events, but I cherish the little moments with the gods, all day long, little reminders that I’m not alone and that there is something bigger out there.