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.
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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!
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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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Well written and well done Daniel. Homesteading and self-sufficiency are a never ending learning journey with immense satisfaction and reward. Stay safe!
Love what you said. I am trying my best to have a small farm.
I garden and have chickens
It is work when it is just me and my granddaughter. The rewards are well worth it.
Hello, I enjoy reading your blog. I recently had some health issues and thanks to a very gifted natural healer was able to determine that it was caused by Oxalate toxicity. Oxalates are likely the root cause of most chronic illness and kidney problems is one of the very common ailments caused by them. I would encourage you to research a bit about that for the health of your daughter and the rest of your family. Many plants foods, seeds and nuts are very high in oxalate. Google Sally Norton and you will find a ton of information on her website. (I have no affiliation with her, only trying to spread the word about oxalate to anyone who cares to listen)
This talk about oxalate given at the University of Washington is a great overview.
I must say that your life experiences has made you a very wise man Daniel! I love the advice that you gave. I loved it so much that I sent it in a text to my young est son, 25, who is struggling working a job that has no direction and is holding him back. I feel he has so much to offer to the world and I am hopeful that this advice will inspire him to take a chance and go for it! Thank you so much Daniel!
Daniel you remind me of my younger self! We started a pasta & sauce home based business with three small children, a shoe string budget but a LOT of determination. We are now retired but moved back to the country and are starting our first garden this year in a new state. I am SO excited to be raising chickens again! My goal is to become as self sufficient as possible while living in a place surrounded by nature, beautiful animals and quiet.
I wish you luck but I don’t think you’ll need it. It sounds like you are allowing God to steer your compass. Please let your wife know if she ever needs a new recipe to can, like marinara or Alfredo sauce, homemade dill pickles or homemade jam reach out to me!
I am not exactly a homesteader.😄
I am a farmer. Grew up on this self same farm. My parents lived here when I was born. 76 years ago January. Tho I was not born here. It was winter so my mom was in town at her mother’s I was born there.
You definitely need to look around for a good functional/holisitic doctor, and have them find out WHY your daughter had those kidney problems. Her SYMPTOM was treated, but the cause was neither treated nor ascertained. You need to know WHY she had the problem and treat that. Otherwise, if it happens again, you may not be so lucky as to be able to get her treated, and/or it might not work the second time. I love your homesteading; sounds wonderful!
Was she vaccinated (for anything, especially Covid) before she got sick? If so, report her illness to VAERS, or insist that your doctor/hospital does.
What breed(s) of chickens and ducks do you keep?
Hello, Ann. Just a menagerie of mixed breeds. The ducks run heavy in runner duck blood. This was not chosen by me it’s just the only type that survived as they are so alert.
Hello all, thank you for your kind words and advice.
Hi Daniel, been meaning to drop a line. We have small ranch between tomahawk and minoqua. Would like to see your spread sometime. My email is vosphalt@ gmail.com if you would like a bisit sometime. Thanks jim