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Today I welcome Teri to this space
I’m Teri, wife and mama to two little ones, ages 2 and 5. After 13 years of homesteading in Oregon, our family recently moved to Northeast Missouri, where we are slowly building an off-grid homestead on our own land. In this space, I’ll share the adventure, along with lots of gardening, knitting, parenting, and radical homemaking fun. You can find me at Homestead Honey.
How long have you been backyard farming? What got you started?
We started backyard farming about 13 years ago, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
Before the summer of 1999, I had only managed to kill houseplants, never mind
raise most of my family’s food! But true love will drive you to do crazy things, and
when my boyfriend (now husband) signed on as a staff member at Aprovecho (http:/
/www.aprovecho.net/), a sustainable living skills education center, I joined the fun as
one of their organic gardeners. I took every opportunity to learn and grow by attending
classes in gardening, food preservation, herbal medicine, and indigenous skills, while
tending my very first raised bed and growing a few peppers and basil. To say I was
hooked on gardening would be an understatement!
What does your backyard farm look like? Where is it?
For almost 13 years, my husband and I rented a 30 acre property in Oregon, where we
lived in a small creek-side cabin and played in the forested hills and creek-fed pond.
With our landlord’s blessing, we turned every available flat space into food production.
Gardens, fruit trees, perennials, herbs, a greenhouse, chickens, ducks, bees, goats, and
pigs all made their way into our lives.
We loved living in Oregon, but had a strong desire to steward our own piece of land;
Oregon land prices were just not within our budget. After much deliberation, in the
fall of 2012, we packed up our homestead, gave away our chickens, dug up perennials,
harvested vegetables, sold beehives, left our dairy goats in the care of friends, and moved
across the country to Northeast Missouri, next door to some good friends. Our new home
is a work in progress, as we purchased raw acreage. The land is a combination of creek-
side lowlands and forested hills. We are currently building an off-grid, 300 square foot
house, sheet mulching garden beds, planting fruiting and native trees, installing water-
catchment systems, and purchasing chicks.
What has been your biggest success and biggest mistake?
Raising animals has brought me so much joy, but I have also grieved at our losses. Birth
and death on a farm are normal processes, but when death comes from lack of human
understanding, or human error, it can be devastating. I’d say our biggest mistake was
inadvertently feeding some young goats a toxic plant – an ornamental yew that was part
of a larger brush pile. Losing two goat kids from poisoning is something I don’t wish on
As for successes, there are so many. Growing our own food brings us so much joy and
pride, and I love that I can share this way of life with my two young children. A few
specific successes: after many years of purchasing various garden starts, the last two
years I committed to raising all of my own transplants, with much success. We also
have had a great experience raising dairy goats that double as pack animals, and we have
enjoyed many family trips into the back country with our milk goats!
What plans do you have for the future?
This is a huge year for us. Not only do we need to finish our shelter, but we also need
to figure out systems to live comfortably. We will be creating water catchment systems,
learning to bake in a solar oven, cooking over a propane burner and rocket stove, bathing
in a pond, and installing solar panels for electricity. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston;
this journey has had a huge learning curve!
On the farm, we will complete a sheet mulch garden area, plant close to 100 native
and fruiting trees and bushes, raise around 25 layer and table chickens, and (fingers
crossed) either bring our dairy goats to Missouri, or start a new herd. It is hard to pace
myself, when all I want to do is ramp back up to the previous level of animal care that
we enjoyed in Oregon, but I have to be realistic with my expectations. After all, we are
literally starting from scratch!
The five-year plan is a little more grandiose, and includes a milk cow, some sheep, a farm
pond, a timber-framed straw bale house, a greenhouse, and many more garden areas.