First and foremost on my mind as I started this journey, was to provide healthy food and a simple lifestyle for my family.
Hello, my name is Daniel Schwartz. My wife, Ida Mae, and I, live in the southern part of Price county, Wisconsin, In a little town called Ogema.
“Where’s that ? I’ve never heard of it.” You and nearly every other person say, and that’s the way I like it!
We have five children, Emma 6, Grace 5, Leanna 3, Ava 2, and Zachary is not yet three months old. They are our finest crop by far!!!
Due to my own health issues involving bad reactions to chemical cleaners, scented products, and overly processed foods, we resolved to raise and process as much of our own food as possible. We are by no means purists as we still buy junk food, candy, and eat out on occasion. We just try to keep that stuff down to a reasonable level.
Some of the things we do include: raising all our own meat, milk, and eggs. We make our own soap, render our own lard and process all our own animals. We also tend a large garden and can and store enough vegetables so that we don’t need to buy any year round. We keep it simple. You don’t need all the doodads. They just cost money.
I butcher with a sharp knife and a bone saw and we learn as we go. The first few years we had lots of ground meat until I learned how to cut roasts and chops and steak. I’m ashamed to say I put many fine pieces of bacon into the lard rendering pot!!! I’m still no professional butcher by any means, but it works for us. We try hard not to waste a thing. What is not eaten by us gets thrown to the dogs. I rarely buy dog food.
We have a herd of ten dual purpose cows and one bull, a couple of brood sows, a flock of 75 self sufficient, self regenerating chickens, a flock of a dozen foraging ducks that do for themselves in the summer and come out of the bottomland with large batches of ducklings. We also have 9 horses for fun and to do the large tasks on the farm. They are our tractors.
My wife does 99% of the gardening and canning. Last year we managed to raise enough potatoes to save some for planting!!! Each year we try to learn something new.
This is not my full time job, though that is my aspiration. I run a small, but successful construction business with my brother-in-law. This is my source of income to pay for my farming practice.
How do we do it? Sometimes I don’t know. I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew. Its not easy. Each time I feel as if we got it all figured out life happens and puts me back in my place.
For instance I was feeling pretty proud of my self-sufficiency, when out of the blue my normally healthy daughter became deathly ill and I spent five days in the hospital while the doctors figured out what was wrong. Her kidneys quit working for some unknown reason. The wonderful staff gave her IV’s with meds to regulate the kidney function until they just started working again with no clear reason as to why they almost failed in the first place. They sent us home with a clear bill of health and me a much humbler man. I praise God that there skilled professionals out there that can do what I cannot.
I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice on how to homestead, but I sure could fill a few books on what not to do!
Holstein bottle calves anyone? Trying to raise feedlot type hogs on pasture, losing litter after litter, pigs out in the neighbors corn field (at least it wasn’t my cornfield). Starting ten projects and only having the time to finish three? Always thinking I could solve everything by skimping on sleep and working harder and longer as my own health deteriorates?
The list goes on and on, failure after failure. I probably fail a couple dozen times to every success story. If you listed my score it would be something like, Schwartz: 12, Life: 100!
Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid On Your Property
So Why Do It?
You might be thinking of that! If it’s that hard, why do it?
Well it’s not all misery. Things that keep me going. Faith, faith in God and the faith my wife puts in me when I come up with another hair-brained idea. Love, the love for, and of, my family. A sense of responsibility to create something better than I found it, and to give my children a better start than I had. Hope, the hope that my children will have a better, healthier cleaner start than I had and the hope that I can show them a better way of life (we’ll figure it out together).
We lean heavily on each other. Each of us does our best, and we give each other grace when our best is not very good! We get up every morning, grumpy (me) sick or healthy, rain or shine, and putting one foot in front of the other we work towards a better tomorrow.
We try to savor the good things. A new critter’s being born, time to sit, a warm home. The joy of a child, the new sunrise, a rainbow. A Beaver dam, a buck shed, a baby fawn. A project completed, a new baby, homemade bacon! These are just some of the good things.
The best advice I could give someone starting out is to learn. Never stop learning. Experiment with something small that you can handle. Find out what works for you and build on that.
The method is not that all fired important as what works well for me might not work well in your situation. Don’t be afraid of failure. How you deal with failure will shape your character.
That being said I love to talk about my methods and ideas and projects. All you have to do is ask…
Now I better go stir yet another experimental batch of homemade ketchup, I think this is the one!!!
Hope this finds you all well and in God’s blessing. Sincerely Daniel B. H. Schwartz.
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