Monday, September 22, 2014

Third annual conference a success!


Thanks to an amazing line-up of speakers and a group of enthusiastic attendees, our third annual conference went off without a hitch! Here are some of the comments from the evaluations ...
This conference rocked!
Bring questions -- the friendly speakers are happy to answer them.
Lots of great information on sustainable living
Great to learn about different aspects of homesteading
Lots of good info and networking opportunities
Great way to learn from people with life experience
Even if you don't live on a farm, there is something to learn.
When asked what their favorite session was, most people listed more than one, and some attendees even said, "all of them!" We also received lots of compliments about the lunch, which was catered by Chipotle this year.

Victoria Miller, author of Pure Poultry, talks about poultry

We want to give a big thanks to Premier1 Supplies for their generous sponsorship, which allowed us to bring in Victoria Miller, author of Pure Poultry, who spoke about living off-grid, canning, and of course, poultry.

Thanks to Modern Farmer magazine for providing all attendees with a free copy of their magazine.

Plans for the 2015 conference are already underway. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, be sure to let us know by commenting below.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Participate in second annual seed swap!


Last year's seed swap at the conference was so successful that we decided to do it again this year. How does it work?

If you have a few too many seeds of a particular variety, or if you just want to share one of your favorites, bring them with you to the conference. We will have a table set aside where you can leave them in the morning. As the day goes on, check back to see what seeds others have left. Feel free to take seeds that you want. You can bring seeds in their original packets, or if you'd like to spread the joy, you can put a few in envelopes that are clearly marked with the variety and the year they were harvested, as well as any notes you want to include on growing, harvesting, or other tips for success. You might also want to bring a few empty envelopes in case you only want to take a few seeds from a particular packet.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Buying, selling, and everything in between

Want to purchase your own farm property, but don’t know what to look for? Or perhaps you’re ready to begin selling produce, or expanding your homestead to include sheep and want to get the best information to be profitable? Donna Z. Lehrer is a former environmental specialist for the oil industry turned sustainable small farmer, with a wealth of knowledge to share. And, lucky us, she’s doing just that at this year’s conference! 

Donna will be presenting four sessions that take you from soil to market, covering sustainable gardening, sheep farming, and the issues you need to consider before purchasing a homestead property. Her tips will help you develop your farm’s unique identity, source heirloom seeds, design pastures, and evaluate land for sustainable farming potential.

Donna’s unique blend of professional expertise and years of hands-on experience will offer tools and resources to attendees at every stage in the homesteading process. In addition to her environment training, she is a Kane County Farm Bureau Board of Director and former member to the Illinois Governor’s Local Food and Farm Product Task Force. You can find more information about Donna and her homestead, Lamb of God farm, on her facebook page, and Esther’s Place, the project of Donna’s equally intrepid daughter Natasha.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Early bird registration deadline is today!

If you want to save $10 off the registration for the Third Annual Mid-America Homesteading Conference, click on over to the registration page right away because the deadline is midnight tonight.

What's so great about this year's conference? We have some awesome speakers lined up to talk about some exciting topics ...

  • Victoria Miller, author of Pure Poultry, will be talking about living off-grid, raising poultry, and water bath and pressure canning.
  • Ben Nelson will be talking about creating your own electric vehicles on a budget.
  • Wes King of Illinois Stewardship Alliance will give you the latest information on how to legally sell what you produce on your homestead.
  • Mike Boehle will demonstrate how to make cold-process goat milk soap, as well as mozzarella cheese. "But what if I don't have goats?" you ask. No problem! Mike will explain how you can use milk from the store.
And we will also be talking about beekeeping, raising sheep and goats, gardening, selling at a farmer's market, raising mushrooms, and more! To see all of the other educational sessions planned, click here to see the schedule for the day!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More from Victoria Miller on living off-grid


We recently had a little chat with Victoria Miller, one of the speakers at this year's conference, about the realities of living off the grid.

What exactly does living off the grid mean for you? Do you have electricity?

Living "off the grid" means that we don't have electricity, at least not full-time, since we're not hooked up to the local power grid. We do have a generator, but we use it only when we're doing laundry; at the same time we plug in all our rechargeable things so they're charging while the generator is running. We are almost finished installing our solar electric system, at which point we'll be able to run the washing machine without using the generator.

Currently, just about everything in the house runs on propane: the hot water heater, a gas stove/oven, gas refrigerator/freezer, and gas lamps on the walls. We heat the house with two woodstoves about 8 months of the year. We have no TV, and the only Internet we have is dial-up; we never had high-speed Internet even when we were in Seattle, though, so it isn't a big deal.

Why do you live off-grid?

Well, my husband David's grandparents bought the property back in 1936. It's two miles up the hill from the Dungeness Fish Hatchery, and the hatchery is where the electrical service ends. We weren't actually looking deliberately to live off the grid, our property just happens to be off the grid. Still, even if we could afford to connect to the grid, we would choose not to. We like not having utility bills, and have found that life without full-time electricity is actually quite rewarding.

Do you prefer living off-grid, or do you miss having unlimited power at your disposal?

There are times when I wish I could just plug something in like everyone else, but that doesn't happen too often because I'm pretty used to things as they are. And once our solar system is fully functional, I WILL be plugging those things in. It's surprising, really, what you find you can do without quite easily, once you get used to the idea. And unlimited power always comes at a cost, both in power bills and increased dependence.
~~~

If you have ever dreamed of living off-grid, don't miss this opportunity to hear from someone who is doing it! Victoria Miller, author of Pure Poultry: Living Well with Heritage Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks, will be presenting four sessions at this year's conference. She will talk about water bath canning, pressure canning, raising poultry, and living off the grid. Vicki became a canning whiz specifically because they live off the grid and don't have a big freezer for preserving the harvest.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Learn to make your own electric vehicles

Would you like to drive around for practically free? Yes, I'm serious, and yes, you can do it -- legally! Ben Nelson has built an electric bicycle, an electric motorcycle, and an electric cars. He has also provided hands-on assistance to hep several people convert their cars to electric.


But electricity costs money, you say? Yes, and Ben charges his electric vehicles using solar panels that are attached to his daughter's play set.

He is not a mechanic, just an "ordinary guy with no special skills, just trying to change the world one backyard invention at a time." He is a do-it-yourselfer who has built projects ranging from electric motorcycles to solar-powered PowerWheels, home blacksmithing to greywater recycling, using little more than a library card and a socket set. If he can do it, so can you!

Ben will be presenting three sessions at this year's conference -- one on creating an electric motorcycle, one on converting a car to electric, and one that covers his other backyard inventions and conversions, such as the five-gallon bucket swing, cardboard clubhouse, solar PowerWheels, soda bottle sprinkler, rocket grill, graywater system, and a 400-watt solar panel setup that he uses for charging his electric vehicles.

In his electric vehicle sessions you will learn vehicle design concepts, motors, batteries, speed control, budget, charging, legal issues, and more.

His YouTube channel has had more than 3.5 million views! You can learn more about him and purchase his instructional DVDs by visiting his website, 300mpg.org.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Premier1 fencing is key to rotational grazing

by Deborah Niemann


We are excited to announce that our first sponsor for the Mid-America Homesteading Conference is Premier1 Supplies, a company made famous for its innovative livestock fencing. You may have noticed that the conference had no corporate sponsors the first two years. That meant that all costs had to be covered by registration fees. It worked, and we put on some nice events, but in order to grow a little without increasing costs to participants, we knew we had to reach out and get corporate sponsors. But we wanted to get sponsors that made high quality products that were truly of interest to our attendees -- and that's why Premier1 was the first company that I asked to become a sponsor.

I've been using Premier's fencing for years. We originally bought three rolls of their ElectroNet to use for rotational grazing of our sheep and goats, and within no time we realized we needed more. Today we have ten full rolls of the ElectroNet and one half roll, and sometimes we find ourselves wishing we had a couple more rolls. I am also happy to say that those rolls that we bought seven or eight years ago are still working great. In fact, we can't tell which rolls of fencing are the oldest.


Pasture rotation is a very important key in keeping internal parasite from becoming a problem for our sheep and goats, and the portable electric fencing is the key to rotational grazing without the need to put up permanent fencing everywhere. It also allows us to use our hayfield for rotational grazing. Obviously if we put up permanent fences across the hayfield we would never be able to easily harvest hay again.


We also use the ElectroNet to move sheep from their remote pastures to the barn every year for shearing. Because we don't have a trained herding dog, we use the temporary fencing to create lanes across our yard or through the pastures to drive them wherever they need to go.



We also have two fence chargers from Premier -- one that is plugged into the wall in our barn and another charger that is solar powered that can be used for electrifying fences in remote areas of our farm that are not accessible by electricity. One of my best experiences with Premier happened when I called to order my first fence charger from them. After reading the catalog thoroughly -- and they have a LOT of different chargers to meet the needs of farmers, ranchers, and homesteaders in diverse situations -- I thought I knew which charger I needed. However, the salesperson at Premier asked me a few questions about what type of livestock we owned and where we lived, and he recommended a charger that cost $100 less than the one I thought we needed! That experience gave me the confidence to recommend them to everyone I talk to about fencing for sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, and cattle, whether I am talking to someone who is buying one of my goats or whether I am speaking at a conference.