Food for your Homestead

As the economy continues to stagnate, the “trickle-down” of Federal funds trickles even less due to the “Sequester“, and the State of Illinois falls further behind in payments. Belts are tightened another notch, and the local and regional outlooks for the next 5-10 years aren’t very promising.

Job Line

In the face of all this, while we’re still trying to recover from the collapse of the housing market, what can we do to better take care of ourselves, our neighbors, and our community… and maybe stretch our dollars? A logical first step is to reduce our dependence on systems and circumstances… especially if they make us vulnerable or harm us when they fail. There are many “systems” we could consider: transportation, energy, banking/finance, etc.

How about our Food Supply? We all need to eat, and food costs are a significant part of every household’s budget. How can we take back at least SOME  control of what we eat, where it’s grown, how it’s processed? Having extra stored food on hand is like having an insurance policy, making sure that you can feed your family despite job loss or an accident which knocks-out the “breadwinner” for a while. For the long-term, nothing beats knowing how to grow it yourself.

Conveniently enough, we have an answer! Here are two opportunities for area residents to make themselves more self-reliant, and have a bit of fun in the process!

1. The Prairie Crossing Learning Farm in Grayslake is announcing the fall semester of its “Suburban Homesteading Adult Workshop Series” (listed under “Farm Events“), with five topics designed to help you put part of your property to work (doing something besides growing weeds) and handle your bounty!

All workshops are on Saturday mornings from 9am until noon:

Aug 24: Preserving the Harvest (“As summer advances it’s easy to get ripe, luscious fruit and truly fresh vegetables. You may even have grown your own. What to do with the abundance? Preserve it for the winter by canning, freezing, or drying.”)

Canned Goodies

Sep 14: Growing and Using Grains (“Few gardeners grow any grains.  While most backyards lack the space needed for growing a year’s supply, you might be surprised to find out how much you can grow in a relatively small space!”)

Oct 5: Small-scale Composting (“Feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants – and people.” How to do that? Adding quality compost to our gardens is the best thing we can do for our soil and for the plants that grow in it.”)

Oct 26: Backyard Chickens (Backyard chickens are become increasingly popular in both urban and suburban areas! We will discuss the basics of backyard chicken keeping – including chicken breeds and behavior, where and how to obtain your hens (or chicks!), how to feed and house your backyard flock, local ordinances, and other things to consider before you get your own hens.)

Nov 16: Home-made Yogurt & Granola (You’ll see several methods for making yogurt – both with pots you’re likely to have at home, and with different types of yogurt makers – and discuss the pro’s and con’s of each.  You will witness the first part of the process, which is “the work” and you will get to see the end result.)

2. The 2013 Mid-America Homesteading Conference in Joliet IL on Sat Aug 31.

The schedule includes topics on canning, beekeeping, soap-making, gardening, compost, “companion planting”, and more. Though you’ll also see some topics dealing with keeping larger livestock for food and fibre, every learning session time-slot will have one or two topics perfectly suited for the “suburban homesteader” on a typical in-city lot.

Don’t forget about the year-round learning opportunities here as well!

The Lake County Beekeepers Association is one of the friendliest groups of folks you’ll ever meet, ready to help you learn about this unique “Micro-Livestock” which is not only essential to the health of our environment (and a big part of the economy), but also has taken some “hits” lately and could use a helping hand.

The College of Lake County has also recently expanded its offerings, both in formal courses, and periodic workshops as well. Their Horticulture Department offers:


Many of the older folks in the Round Lake area villages still remember how to garden, how to “put up” their harvest, and tend the bunnies and the chickens. Their skills haven’t been used (or seen) much because our area was developed expecting a bright glorious “World of Tomorrow” where food would be the least of our problems. We know how THAT worked out!

As you drive around the neighborhoods, you’ll see more and more gardens, and even several discrete hutches leaning against homes and garages. If you want to learn, there’s hardly a better way than speaking directly to the folks doing it every day.

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