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For this retiree, homesteading is merely being thrifty.

My wife and I are in our 70's, live in a mid-western community of 8,000, own our home and have no debts. Although we five in town, we are homesteaders by definition and have followed that philosophy throughout our married life, although we've always thought of it as merely being thrifty and making do with what we find around us.

Let me share with you some of the things we've done since I retired some 10 years ago. One of our most important purchases has been a used Chevy pick-up, which was essential for hauling.

Although we've always had a garden, we began a cooperative half-acre garden with one of our farming relatives. This gave us room to grow all of our-own vegetables, which we canned, froze, and ate fresh. Expenses and gardening chores were split between us.

Currently, we've backed off that garden spot, as our own needs are not as great. We now have several raised beds in our yard and in our 85-year-old neighbor's yard next door and grow only the basics and are not doing the experimenting with different vegetables or varieties that we did in the past. However, we tuck herbs and flowers in among the vegetables and really enjoy our smaller gardening venture.

We share feed/butchering costs, for raising one calf per year with a relative and have beef to share with our children besides meeting our own needs.

Since I am a walker I happened to see an entertainment/music store loading old cabinet-type tv's and organs onto a city dump truck one day. I asked the manager if I could have them, and they were so happy not to have to pay a dumping fee that they have delivered their rejects to me ever since.

I take the tv consoles apart and convert them to storage cabinets with doors and shelves. We've used these in our basement for canned goods and in my workshop. A son has a wall of them in his basement, and our daughters and grandchildren have sets in their homes, too. (More of these were available before the advent of so many portable tv's and the use of plastic cabinets.) The screws, nuts, and bolts are sorted for future projects. Metal parts that I'm not using go to the salvage shop--which pays me for them.

Organs are also dismantled. Wood pieces go into assorted projects for family and friends. Metal rods, etc., have all found uses as this and that. The black and white keys are taken apart and are used in making decorative inlays for tops of music boxes, which I make for fun and also sell in local craft shops. Any wood scraps or woodworking mistakes go into my shop woodburning stove, which I obtained through barter for fixing a lawn mower engine for a man.

My wife has always been an excellent seamstress and made many of her own clothes and those of our children when they were growing up. During the last 10 years, we have found there were many things that we were no longer wearing, so she updated the garments for the times for children or grandchildren, making an assortment of suits, overcoats, jackets, dresses, skirts, blouses, etc. Quilts have also been made, if requested. She braided several rugs from old clothes for our basement, halfway, front porch, and my workshop. Additional clothing that we do not wish to keep goes to our church shelter for the homeless.

Yearly, we purchase old hens at the end of the laying season from a local egg producer, butcher them, and then eat the meat with homegrown spices for the fixing of many delicious chicken-based dishes.

As I journey around the city on my different walking routes, I've seen many fruit trees loaded with fruit and fruit rotting on the ground. It seems folks are too busy to harvest this fruit, and when I've talked with owners, most told me to just pick what I wanted -- saving them a cleanup mess.

As a result we have canned, frozen, and eaten fresh our share of apples, pears, peaches, and cherries. Last year alone we made 25 gallons of apple juice! Yes, this has been too much fruit for our needs, but we share with our children, grandchildren, relatives, friends, and our church food pantry. Perhaps it was growing up in the Depression, but we find it difficult to let food go to waste when it can be "put by."

For five years I drove a truck for a custom crew that harvested assorted dry beans. As I also did combine maintenance, I cleaned the combine each night and those beans remaining in the heads and hopper I took home instead of dumping on the ground. We're still eating pinto, black-eyed peas, navy, Great Northern, and soy beans from my stint, as dry beans store so very well.

I also enjoy gathering those messy (to city folks with them in their yards) black walnuts. Separating the nut meats from the shells during the winter months is a peaceful activity for me. Who can beat homemade fudge and cookies with black walnuts?

Speaking of the black walnut, an area farmer bulldozed a small stand of black walnut trees. I stopped and asked him if I could have some of the larger tree trunks, and he told me to carry off what I wanted. I made several trips in my pick-up.

The black: walnut wood, finished and aged, has made lovely clocks jewelry boxes, end tables, and curio shelves for family gifts. I was able to barter some of the wood for getting my planning done, so only had my time and gasoline invested in each of the items.

I have also asked for and then hauled off shelving and wood from stove remodeling projects. This same store owner called later about getting rid of stainless steel rod shelving. Taken apart these became portable lambing jugs on a daughter's homestead.

I had once thought that when I retired I would have a lot of time on my hands, but I find I am very busy making "found" item into useful things for family and friends and being as food self-sufficient as possible, plus being a resources person for our children and grandchildren. I've met many lovely people and have made new friends of al ages.
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:The Plant Variety Protection Act isn't a conspiracy.
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