As 2015 comes to a close, I decided to reflect a little differently with a review of our year on a 5 acre Iowa homestead. In years past, I have written roundup posts of my most popular posts. But this year, I hope to encourage you to make one small, sustainable change in 2016 by sharing our version of homesteading – which is likely very different from other people’s definition.
Our Year on a 5 Acre Iowa Homestead
The time keeps flying by and I’m simply amazed at how much we accomplished on our 5 acre Iowa homestead in 2015. Homesteading means different things to different people. To me, homesteading is trying to live a little more simply. To produce some of our food. To take ownership and responsibility for our impact on the earth. To have flexibility to travel and enjoy life. In some ways, we live simply. And in other ways, our life is much more complicated than the average person. I hope this post inspires you for 2016. It sure has been fun reflecting on 2015. It was a big year for us out here in Eastern Iowa.
We started the year 2015 (still living in the barn) with brutally cold weather for a second year in a row. A pretty massive snowstorm hit on Super Bowl Sunday and dumped between one and two feet of snow in our area. The chickens were not impressed (but Nora the Great Pyrenees was in heaven). Because we were still living in the barn, we had to run back and forth after showers from the warm kitchen downstairs, through the frigid, often snow-covered stairs, to get back to the warmth upstairs. The thermometer in the picture above was actually INSIDE the barn, in the cold side that we had to run through every day to get from sleeping area to kitchen and showers. Not a lot of fun and luckily a distant memory already. Our home build, the Passive-Aggressive House, was dried in, but not yet insulated and still had no stairs.
Late winter set record breaking cold temperatures. Our chickens gave us quite a few lovely eggs because we had a light in the chicken coop. They were pretty cold though, and suffered frost bite. Our coop (a repurposed two stall hog shed that Dan moved onto the property for me as a mother’s day present) wasn’t very air tight and we sealed it up best we could to keep the wind out and added a heat lamp after we realized the poor chickens were suffering from frostbite. Also in late winter, Anna and I cut off our hair – over 25 inches collectively, and donated it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. We were excited to enter spring with new hairstyles!
Not homestead related, but big news in our life: in the ongoing fight to correct Sara’s developmental dysplasia of the hip, her hip hardware was removed in an out-patient surgery at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. While this surgery was much shorter and less involved than her previous two surgeries, it was not easy to send our child off for yet another round of general anesthesia. She was not a happy camper after the procedure, but the hardware was removed and she seems to be doing really well today. She did physical therapy for many months to strengthen her left hip and was released in late 2015 and proclaimed good as new! We’re so hopeful that this hardware removal surgery will be her last surgery and that her hip dysplasia is now fixed permanently. Only time will tell and she will be rechecked in spring 2016.
Also in March 2015, we started seeds for our 2015 garden, learned about the term Cock Fight when our two roosters starting fighting, grew our own Easter Basket grass, and took in two rescue ducks and six rescue meat birds after a city dweller learned the unfortunate truth about the cute little baby chicks that are for sale around Easter time (they grow big and ugly and poop a lot!). We lost two meat birds to predators, and eventually butchered four, which is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that butchering animals is not high on my list of enjoyable homesteading chores. The two ducks are doing great and laying more eggs for us right now than our 18! hens as we have not yet put a light in their coop.
April showers came around in late spring and left us with beautiful tulips! For the first time ever, I successfully hardened seeds I started myself and we planted peas, potatoes, brassicas, and onions. The rescue ducks and meat birds moved out to the chicken coop to make room for another first for us – mail order chicks! And a mean mama cat that moved into our barn over the cold winter blessed us with 5 beautiful kittens.
Summer 2015 started out cold and never really got very hot. It was actually a very nice change as August is usually really, really humid and gross in Eastern Iowa. We enjoyed beautiful irises and sunflowers, as well as delicious harvests of garlic, peas, early potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers and cabbage. I canned a few quarts of my grandma’s secret dill pickles, but not much else in 2015.Dan continued to make progress on the Passive-Aggressive House in the summer of 2015. With a hard deadline for a move-in in early September, work couldn’t progress quickly enough. The kids also really enjoyed watching the kittens grow. They were really very cute, but we were quite happy to find new homes when they were old enough to leave.
The sad news of 2015 was my grandpa’s death in late July. None of us really expected him to last as long as he did after my grandma’s death two years ago, but his own death was still a hard blow. He was an amazing man and I really miss him. He was cremated and his remains were sprinkled over my grandma’s grave in Northeastern Arkansas.
As fall arrived, I quit paying attention to my garden, busy instead packing, cleaning, purging, and getting ready for the move out of the barn and into the Passive-Aggressive House. Whatever could grow without attention did, and we still harvested tomatoes, though not enough to can, pumpkins, and decorative corn. The zinnias were gorgeous and we enjoyed watching the bees and butterflies they attracted!
In September, against our better judgement, we moved out of the barn and into the unfinished Passive-Aggressive House. It was a calculated move because our Builder Peer Group that we visit with twice a year came to see our business. Since the barn houses the business offices, we needed to be out. I guess it was a good thing, or we would still be living in the barn (because the house is STILL not finished), but the move created a lot of stress. We had promised ourselves that we would not move into an unfinished space (been there, done that too many times before), but today, on the last day of 2015, I still have zero closets and no clear plan for how or when they will be built. I try not to be too frustrated since living in the unfinished house is a lot better than living in the barn, but my visions for a neatly organized space from the beginning have evaporated into chaos, once again. With no place to put things, we’re still living in boxes and that’s frustrating. I hate to be ungrateful and dwell on such first world problems, but I’m really looking forward to a finished house. That’s the goal for 2016, I guess!!
All in all, 2015 was really a fabulous year. We were pretty healthy. We enjoyed visits with great friends and family. The kids and I did quite a lot of fun and educational travel. We still managed to produce quite a lot of our own food, even though we didn’t preserve as much as we have in years past. We finally moved out of the barn and we found psycho mama cat a new home. Oh – and we also installed a solar array and now produce our own electricity! Good time, good times. 🙂 I’m excited for more fun adventures (and a finished house) in 2016.
A happy new year to you! I hope you reflect on your own year and think about sustainable changes you can make in 2016! Best wishes for a wonderful new year, friends. <3