The Half Acre Homestead

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill

I’ve been on this small piece of land for 40 years now. A lot of mistakes and false starts along the way. I’ve built and torn down about 4 chicken coops, 3 greenhouses, at least 2 small buildings, and a geodesic dome. I’ve done and undone countless projects because I was in too much of a hurry or didn’t think things out in advance. The sign that used to hang behind the counter at Golden State Lumber sure resonated with me: : “If you didn’t have time to do it right in the first place, how come you have time to do it over?”

   I’ve done presentations titled “The Half Acre Homestead” at the Maker Faire last year and at the North House Folk School this year, with pictures of the garden shredder, grain grinder, table saw, and on and on. What you can produce on a pretty small piece of land. Here are a few recent things:

Chickens: Our new flock of mostly Golden Seabright and Auracana bantams is a month or two away from laying eggs. I’ve dispatched 21 roosters. Skinning rather than plucking saves a lot of time. I’ve just learned how to “spatchcock” (butterfly) poultry for barbecuing (check the word on Google for instructions).

These home-raised birds taste way better than even “free-range” commercial chickens. Way different flavor, less fat, bones dense. I vacuum-seal them with  Foodsaver “Gamesaver,” and freeze. This model is a big improvement over previous Foodsavers. (The trick with meat, fish, or sealing anything with liquid: freeze for a few hours before vacuum sealing; this eliminates liquid being drawn to the sealing area.)

Pickling: My 3rd batch of sauerkraut is the best. Made with our own red cabbage and salt, nada mas. My olives (salt, vinegar, water) have turned out great after 3 months; no lye. Lesley’s been making all our own (sour dough) bread and now, Kombucha tea.

Smoking: Got a new smoker (Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Electric Smokehouse Smoker, so far works great). Got 17-lb. salmon from fisherman Andrew, filleted, brined and smoked with alder chips, vacuum sealed and froze.

Garden this summer: lettuce, beets, chard, kale, artichokes, asparagus, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, pea pods, chives, parsley, leeks, raspberries, red currents, apples plus a lot more. Every scrap of food waste from 40 years has gone into the soil. We have big compost bins with worms that transform all organic matter into black loamy soil.

Maintenance: things need fixing constantly, from wear and tear, age, or malfunction. And there are constant critters to contend with. Rats, raccoons, possums, skunks, gophers, moles, termites, ants…See article I wrote for The Mother Earth News in 2008, Coping With Critters, here.

   Good to be home from travels, getting home stuff done.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

4 Responses to The Half Acre Homestead

  1. Sounds good. I suspect your health appreciates the effort..

    Amazing how trends change. Back when i was a little kid on the farm, my parents made litterly everything..homemade butter/noodles/bread/clothes/flour ground from own grain/etc etc.. This was done because we were poor, but we ate very well. My sisters and I were often envious of the other kids' store bought food/clothes.
    (and I still recal their Indignation whem Mom suggested they put carrots in their lunch.."how tacky"…

    I am glad before my Mother died, I told her how much I (now) appreciated their hard work…

    Also, I told her many times, that although back then we were poor, now a days, she could do exactly the same thing and charge a HUGE amount as an Organic Bed and Breakfast.

    Interesting how times change. Bet you feel healthier, Lloyd, when you are back eating your own (organic) food.

  2. I can't believe I learned to spatchcock before you did Lloyd! I picked that up last year, yes on youtube. Probably the most useful thing I learned all year.

    The best tasting chicken I ever had was spatchcocked and pan fried in Guatemala, it was running in the yard earlier that day.

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