…of the beholder

So often, during these foundational periods on the farmstead, things certainly don’t look the part of a picturesque pastoral homestead. There are reclaimed materials laying about (pallet stacks, tangles of old fencing, and piles of cardboard boxes for sheet mulching), our zone 1 garden area (also known as the front yard) has been tilled up and fertilized by the pigs, and winter, in general, has a way of making things quite drab and grey.
There are those moments, however, and we do have to cherish them, when a burst of overwhelming beauty reveals itself and allows me to remember the potential of our land, our design, and what it will become.
This photo is of the sun rising through the trees on our southern hill. Enjoy.

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Welcome!

I’ve been flirting with the idea of starting a blog for years, but it just never seemed like the right time. It wasn’t so much a matter of being too busy or not having a story to tell–for some reason I just felt like I needed to wait it out…and now I know why.
With this blog we intend to unveil our lives out here on the farmstead so that others may join in on our joys, accompany us in our accomplishments, and share with us our struggles as we assemble a beacon of regenerative agriculture in the woods of Mineral, Virginia. We will post secret gluten-free and paleo family recipes, personal poetry, art, ideas in home education, thoughts on parenting, lessons in permaculture, tips on natural health, 1001 ways to use a Vitamix, and so much more. Each week you will be reading posts from me (Josh) or my lovely wife (Julia). We might have some guest contributors as well, considering that we have many friends who have a great wealth of knowledge!
However you might have found us, be it a google search or by word of mouth, you are here and we would like to welcome you to our journey here at Beacon Farmstead!

Introduction

Due to a number of food allergies, a passion for gardening, and a deep desire to be directly connected to the source of our food, this past August our family took the grand step that we’ve been yearning to take for a number of years: we purchased some land with a small home out in the country and have decided to start our own sustainable farm…well, farmstead.

I am a Waldorf teacher, and am currently using those skills at home to educate our son Judah, who is three years old. My wife, Julia, is an ICU nurse. We both grew up in the suburbs and, until recently, we both still had been living there. Both of us had little to no exposure to gardening, farming, or anything remotely close to homesteading. What lead us down this path was food. When one is allergic to certain foods and seeks out sustenance that has been grown without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and the like, it is very challenging to eat out at restaurants; it is baffling to shop at most grocery stores and don’t get me started on trying to travel. So, we researched, started our own garden, researched some more, joined local naturally raised CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and frequented farmers markets, researched all the more, and began working at small local farms once a week in exchange for vegetables (known as a work-share). From these interactions we learned, built relationships, discovered what we wanted to do, and, more importantly, what we didn’t want to do moving forward. It eventually became clear to us that the best way to get fresh, local, beyond organically grown food was to grow it ourselves, and the suburbs just weren’t going to cut it.

After many long hours sifting through listings and visiting properties, we finally found something that suited our needs–enough land to sustain our family and develop a small farming business, but inexpensive enough to have it paid off between 5 to 10 years. We put in an offer and the seller accepted. We were on our way and our dreams have now become our reality.

Our vision for the property is rooted in permaculture, an ecological design science, which utilizes both ancient and modern architectural and agricultural techniques to establish systems that minimize the amount of inputs (energy, water, food, etc.) required to maintain the farmstead, while at the same time maximizing outputs (onsite renewable energy, healthy soil, and nutritious food). Some design elements we intend to include are as follows: a wood stove for cooking and heating our home with wood sustainably harvested from our own property, large cisterns and interconnected rain-barrels to catch and store water from roof surfaces, multiple root cellars, a 10,000 square foot polyculture garden, a one acre food forest (polyculture berry, fruit and nut orchard), a mushroom garden in the woods, wildcrafted herbs, multiple stock ponds for growing fish and edible aquatic plants, a solar-powered guest cottage, a farm-stand, an education center, and much more. We will use our own woods as a source for lumber, and utilize materials from the waste stream, such as pallet wood, for building projects. 

It is a wonderful gift to have vision, but we bought the land with no farm infrastructure–meaning: we have our work cut out for us. It is 5.83 acres, mostly woods, a small stream, very private, and tons of potential. However, while there is a house, well, and septic, there are no barns or fencing. Just one little metal shed that has seen better days. With that said, we have a blank slate and have decided to document the development of our farmstead by way of the almighty blog. We plan to eventually post our farmstead project on Kickstarter, a site that makes small scale philanthropy easy by letting contributors easily search for projects that speak to them directly–through this site we hope to transform a 5-10 year project into something that can be accomplished within the next 2 years. We are already building momentum, for our little farmstead is currently 35 members strong (18 chickens, 3 ducks, 4 goats, 6 pigs, 1 cat, and 3 humans).

Sustainability is certainly not a fleeting fad–it’s a mission. It’s an opportunity to change yourself, and in doing so, change the world. It’s not a choice, it is every choice one makes as each day unfolds. May we all choose wisely.