Homesteading in the backyard is just one of many options for incorporating a homesteading lifestyle into homeschooling. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach! Homesteading can be done in a variety of settings—from having lots of space for goats and other small livestock, to making the most of small spaces.
Annette shares with us how she and her family practice homesteading in their large backyard in Canada. She writes curriculum and book reviews as well as articles on faith, homeschooling, and more at A Net in Time. And if you would like to learn more about rabbits be sure to check out At Home Pets, too!
Q. Please tell us about your family and what homesteading means to you. When and why did you start?
A. I grew up as part of a family with six children. My dad had a 160-acre farm, a good herd of dairy cattle, and farmed the land to feed those cattle and us children. All of us children loved animals so we had horses, goats, emus, chickens, ducks, and rabbits as well. My love for all things animal continues to this day. My mom managed a huge garden which we were
forced . . . encouraged to help with. This ranged from planting to weeding through to harvesting.
Taking care of my fancy mice and rabbits (breeding and then selling the offspring), and managing my garden carries forward to me the memories of growing up and helps me feel like I’m doing my part in providing for the family.
Why fancy mice? I like them! Breeding for what you want is really easy with them as well. Want easy to handle mice? Don’t breed anything that isn’t easy to handle. Want a particular colour? Breed for it. Before you know it, you’ll have what you want.
Why rabbits? I connected a fellow who wanted meat rabbits with a gal in our church. He in response gave me a couple of Holland lops and said “here, raise up some nice bunnies”. I got into doing some rescue, learned a bit more, and here we are today.
I mostly raise Holland lops, but I also have some meat rabbits. We have a diabetic cat and feeding a homemade meat diet put him into remission. This is a good thing, and raising our own rabbits and mice makes this immensely affordable for us.
Q. What is a typical day like for you and your family? What about an atypical day? Please share your funniest homesteading story.
A. I don’t know if I have the funniest homesteading story. Perhaps when my lad was young and he was helping me garden and he got filthy from head to toe and my mom was like “how could you let him do that?” All I remember is the laughter and learning we did that day, and he cleaned up just fine (as did I!!) 🙂 Still makes me smile remembering.
Typical day: Get up, feed the cats, feed the critters, and then do whatever needs doing. In the summer that means weeding the garden, (the bunnies get the weeds), and in the later summer and fall bringing in the harvest. The freezer gets pretty full at times.
At the close of the day, feed the critters. I don’t know how to answer this question well . . . It seems so ordinary to me. Feed, work, feed, sleep, rinse and repeat. 🙂
Q. How does your family incorporate the homesteading lifestyle into homeschooling?
A. Biology was easy enough . . . when you have livestock you also have deadstock. Doing an autopsy on a rabbit to determine the cause of death fits right into science (and animal husbandry). Gives you built-in dissections.
Identifying safe plants for the rabbits, discovering new insects and spiders, managing vermin, building cages, traps, etc. It’s all learning and becoming more right?
The lad took charge of the mice for a while and so had to sell them, which meant customer service, ordering feed, paying costs, etc. Had to learn genetics and animal husbandry. All these things play into learning.
Q. How would you characterize or describe your homestead? Do you breed and raise animals? If so, which ones? Do you raise crops? Can you share about your farm?
A. Not a farm, just a large backyard. Good enough to hold a huge garden and enough bunnies to sorta keep me happy. If I had a farm I’d have goats, sheep, and some pigs too. Oh . . . and chickens. I’d have to have chickens!
I provide for the family. It’s important to diversify and not get everything from the store.
Q. What life skills are taught in your homeschool due to your homesteading lifestyle?
Life skills that are included are:
- Animal husbandry
- Operating budgets
- Customer service
- Science: dissection, insects, spiders, vermin,
- Handyman skills: cages, traps, housing
- Showmanship (taking rabbits to shows)
- Keeping things clean
Q. What recommendations would you have for someone who wishes to adapt their homeschooling lifestyle to incorporate homesteading?
A. DO IT. Find some like-minded people. Ask tons of questions. Don’t be afraid of doing it a bit differently. Be willing to accept criticism and change if needed, DON’T change if you can justify it. And just start. Even if it’s not perfect, not starting is worse than not finishing.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share regarding homesteading in your backyard?
A. Growing your food, whether for yourself or your furry loved ones. Contributing to the overall welfare of your family. Hugely important. Being part of a family means teamwork and doing your part in making ends meet. There are so many skills taught while homesteading . . . like knowing where your food comes from, knowing the skills to get the food from point a to point b without having to rely on others to get it there, and well . . . so much more. Homesteading can be as small as a pot of potatoes growing on your porch, or using your whole backyard, to having a small farm. It’s all about working with land you have to help your family get the food they need. Use it all . . . anything you have!
Thank you to Annette Vallenga of A Net in Time for this homesteading interview.
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Stumbling through life, clutching to her faith in the triune God, Annette loves going on long walks, reading, reviewing, writing, and enjoying life with family and critters. Raiser of rabbits and mice at AT Home Pets, she spends her off-time generally keeping busy writing poetry, gardening, baking, and the like. You won’t often find her sitting still doing nothing; there are too many interesting people around, things to see, and material to learn. Life is to be enjoyed, AND Faith is to be lived out!