Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Are you ready for the Homesteading Conference this weekend?

Yes, the conference is Saturday, which is less than three days away! If you haven't registered yet, you can do it online until 5 a.m. Saturday. You can also pay with cash or credit card at the conference.

Your conference registration fee includes a continental breakfast, buffet lunch, drinks, and snacks. Since we got such rave reviews for last year's lunch, which was catered by Chipotle, we're doing it again. There will be plenty of options for omnivores, vegetarians, gluten free eaters, and other dietary preferences. If you have questions about their food, visit their website for a full list of non-GMO ingredients.

T-Building Entrance
Photo copyright Joliet Junior College
There will be signs, pictured above, starting on Houbolt Road to help you find the conference in T-building. When you walk in the doors, pictured here, you will see the conference center immediately on your left.

Need directions to the college? Click here!

Need a hotel? Click here!

Want to take another look at the schedule and start planning which sessions you want to attend? Click here!

And if you are considering one of our post-conference workshops, there is still space available in both of them, although only three spaces left in the goat workshop. Click here for more info.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Yes, the conference is happening!

Thank you to everyone who registered over the last few days! The conference will be happening. I guess a lot of people are just waiting a little longer to register this year.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be giving you more information about our sessions, our speakers, and the locally grown lunch we're planning, which will be better than ever!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Thinking of attending? Please read this!

When the early bird discount deadline passed on Friday, our registration numbers were less than half of what they normally are at that time. Historically we have not had that many registrations in August, so we are considering canceling the conference. We don't know why the registration numbers are so low this year, although we have a few theories. So, we have a couple of favors to ask of you.
  1. If you are planning to come, please register now. If you wait, there may not be a conference because we can't risk the financial loss of moving forward with the current number of attendees. 
  2. If you are not planning to attend, would you mind letting us know why? 
If we have to cancel this year's conference, we will probably not be doing it again in the future because we can't afford planning a conference that doesn't happen. If you have already registered, no worries! Hopefully, we'll get enough registrations to move forward. If not, we will refund everyone's fees 100% through Eventbrite.

What about the workshops? 
The Goat Workshop will continue as scheduled, although the Poultry Processing Workshop will have to be canceled because the speaker is coming from Virginia, and we won't be able to bring her out here just for the workshop.

We will be making a decision by Friday night, so if you were planning to attend, don't delay. Register now!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Early bird discount deadline is tonight!

Save $10 off the regular price of $89 if you register today!

Imagine yourself becoming more self-sufficient! At the fourth annual Mid-America Homesteading Conference, you can choose from 18 sessions throughout the day. Learn how to keep chickens, raise goats naturally, forage for mushrooms, vermicompost, and how to make things from scratch. You'll see live demos and learn to make mozzarella, soap, lip balm, and herbal tinctures.

You'll also get the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals who are already doing what you want to do.

As one of last year's attendees said, "Bring questions -- the friendly speakers are happy to answer them."

Click here to register!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chicken whisperer Pat Foreman speaking this year

Author Pat Foreman will be presenting three sessions during the conference on Saturday at the college and a full-day workshop on Sunday at Antiquity Oaks Farm, thanks to a sponsorship by New Country Organics.

Pat is a sustainable agricultural author, local foods advocate and popular speaker. She graduated from Purdue University with degrees in Pharmacy and Agriculture (Animal Science, genetics and nutrition). She earned a Masters of Public Affairs (MPA) from Indiana University’s Graduate School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Pat has kept poultry for over 25 years, and has experience ranging from backyard homestead flocks to owning and operating a small-scale farm with free range, organic layers, broilers and turkeys. The commercial operation included keeping breeder flocks, incubating eggs, pasturing poultry and finished processing.

Pat is the author of the paradigm-shifting book, City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-reyclers, and Local Food Producers.
She is co-author of three books:

She is the developer of the Chickens and You Training Series leading to the Master Backyard Chicken Keeper Certification.

On Saturday, she'll be presenting:

Chicken Whispering: Discovering the Chicken You Never Knew
There are ways to handle and communicate with chickens that can result in trust, gentleness and even an emotional bond. But first you must learn how a chicken thinks, and prefers to be treated. It’s sometimes not what you think. Some birds can even be trained to serve as therapy chickens and classroom assistants. Get close and personal with your biddy buddy. Learn the basics of chicken whispering in this cutting-edge, hands-on, nose-to-beak workshop.

Garden Chicks: Growing Food With and For Chickens
This cutting-edge, ever-expanding, interactive workshop gives you practical, and effective ways to employ chickens in your garden or homestead. Learn how chickens create and enrich topsoil. Understand that not all chicken feed has to come from bags. Learn how chickens forage—and which food they prefer. Use your yard as a mini-pasture (including rotational grazing systems) to build soil fertility, provide fresh graze. Control insects, including ticks and fleas. Integrate different types of fencing by understanding what works, and what doesn't. Jump start your gardens with chicken-assisted biomass recycling that transforms trash into black gold. Begin birdscaping, which is planting trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals that your flock will perpetually love. Best of all, we will talk about getting truly wholesome, nutritious, non-GMO homegrown food for both you and your flock. This is truly a “Think Outside the Coop and Inside Local Food Systems“ workshop.

Primary Poultry Healthcare & The Poultry Pharmacy 
Learn the essential of preventative disease management that utilizes proactive care to keep your flock healthy. You will learn about considerations for housing, air quality, feed, water and special challenges that you might face with your flock. You will learn how to treat the most common diseases as well as wounds and trauma. Includes hands-on administration of treatments and wound care. Learn how to use or make simple, but effective treatments without prescription drugs. This workshop teaches you what you need to know to avoid most veterinary bills.

On Sunday, she'll be presenting a hands-on workshop ...

Home Processing Using Tools You Already Have or Can Make
Learn how to humanely, safely, sanitarily and skillfully process your birds. What to do with those roosters and older hens? Get healthy, high-quality meat and bone broth from your backyard flock.
Topics include:
 • The power of knowing your meat source, how it was raised, fed and processed
 • The sacred significance of taking a life—so that you can live
 • The science & chemistry behind skilled meat processing
 • Processing equipment that you have—or could easily borrow
 • Hand plucking made fun
 • Super simple evisceration & an educational anatomy lesson
 • Nutritional differences of meat from heritage vs. commercial breeds
 • Cold shorting & effective freezer packaging for long-term storage

Processing your own chickens for family food is a lost art of our culture. It’s time to bring back this old tradition and combine it with new techniques so that poultry processing becomes common knowledge in homes and communities.

To learn a little more about Pat, check out this video:

Friday, July 17, 2015

Two post-conference workshops this year

In response to requests to actually get on the farm for hands-on learning, this year we are adding a second post-conference workshop on Sunday. Speaker and author Patricia Foreman will be presenting a workshop on home processing of poultry. Pat will start out in the farmhouse with a discussion on processing in the morning. After lunch, everyone will be moving outside for actual chicken processing, which you can watch, or if you prefer, actually get some hands-on experience under Pat's supervision. Click here for more details!

The always popular goat workshop will be repeated again. Attendees will come face-to-face with goats and walk through the barn and pastures to learn about care, housing, fencing, feeding, nutrition, health, breeding, and birthing. You will also get a quick lesson in milking and in making mozzarella and goat milk soap.

Each workshop is $89. The goat workshop is limited to only ten participants and has always sold out. The chicken workshop is limited to twelve participants, and as this is the first year, we are expecting it to fill up fast, so register soon to avoid missing out.

Reminder -- register for the Saturday conference by July 31 and save $10 off the regular price of $89!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Conference schedule finalized!

We are very excited to announce that the schedule for the 2015 conference has been finalized. In addition to some beginner-level topics, this year we are also providing some in-depth sessions presented by experts, which provide more advanced information. Here are just a few of the speakers and topics this year.

Patricia Foreman, author of City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-reyclers, and Local Food Producers, will be presenting three sessions on chickens:

  • Chicken Whispering: Discover the Chicken You Never Knew
  • Garden Chicks: Growing Food With and For Your Chickens
  • Primary Poultry Healthcare & The Poultry Pharmacy
Dr. Jennifer Miller is a veterinarian, FAMACHA instructor, and boer goat breeder, and she'll be presenting a session on Non-Chemical Parasite Control in Small Ruminants.

Richard Hungerford, a certified rangeland specialist who presented at our first conference in 2012 is back to present an in-depth session on fencing for livestock.

Donna O'Shaunessy, former owner of South Pork Ranch, will be talking about how to build a house out of grain bin, as well as how to create and run your own on-farm store.

And in response to last year's attendees, Wes King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance will again be talking about the legal requirements to sell your homegrown products, including new and upcoming legislation that have changed or will change some of the rules.

Click here to see the complete schedule!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The faces and story behind the conference

by Deborah Niemann

Deborah speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania

People sometimes ask who exactly puts the conference together, so here's our story. Back in 2010, the folks at Mother Earth News Magazine decided to have their first ever "Fair" for homesteaders in Pennsylvania. I was one of the lucky people asked to speak at that event, and it changed my life in many ways. For starters, I met the folks at New Society Publishers and began writing books for them. The other thing that happened that weekend was that I realized that there were thousands of people in the world like me! In my little corner of Illinois, our family is quite the anomaly, as we are surrounded by conventional corn and soybean fields. The organizers and speakers at that event were overwhelmed by the attendance, which topped out at about 12,000 for the weekend. Apparently there were a lot of people who were excited to get more information about this lifestyle!

homesteading logo
The following year, there were two fairs -- one again in Pennsylvania and one in Washington State. And by the time the PA fair rolled around again, the folks at Mother Earth News had decided to declare September as International Homesteading Education Month, and they were encouraging others to start having events in their areas. One of the things they kept hearing was that there were many people who wanted to attend such events, but they simply could not travel very far to do so. As soon as I heard about Homesteading Education Month, I started planning the first Mid-America Homesteading Conference for September of 2012.

We decided to have the event at Joliet Junior College because my husband, Mike Boehle, is a professor there, so he knows his way around, understands the technology, and knows who to contact for what. It shortened the learning curve for us in terms of the venue. They were also willing to let us cancel at the last minute in case no one registered. (Thankfully, that was never a problem!) I then began searching for speakers and creating a schedule, as well as this entire website and our Facebook page. Sounds simple enough, right?

It turned out to be a LOT more work than I expected! A couple of enterprising people contacted me and asked if we needed any volunteers the day of the event, and I said yes, which was a very smart move because when the whole thing was done, I realized the day would have been complete chaos without their help.

Cathy Lafrenz speaking at the 2012 conference
The conference officially falls under the umbrella of our farm's educational program. Antiquity Oaks started as our family's homestead, but as our children have grown up and moved away, our focus has turned to educating others through on-farm classes, books, online blogs and webinars, and through this conference. Although most of our educational offerings feature my husband or me as the instructor, the conference is an opportunity for us to bring other speakers to the area, including other published authors and homesteaders who bring additional knowledge and experience to the table.

Putting the conference together is truly a labor of love, and each year at the end of the day, as we are chatting with speakers and attendees, we are reminded of why we keep doing it. It's educational, inspiring, and just plain fun! And as we are working on our fourth annual conference, we hope to continue doing it for many years to come!

Registration for this year's conference is now open.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

And the winner is ...

Kristin is the winner of the $20 gift certificate for the conference bookstore.

We are still working on firming up the last couple of speakers for this year's conference, although we do have a partial list of speakers available on the speaker page of the website so you can see who has already confirmed.

Confirmed sessions this year include:

  • Value-added products with livestock
  • Fencing for livestock
  • Non-chemical parasite control in sheep and goats
  • Raising goats
  • Permaculture
  • Wild mushrooms
  • Legally selling farm products
  • Vermicomposting

And our DIY track is especially exciting, as you'll learn how to:

  • Build a grain-bin home
  • Make and use medicinal herbs
  • Make cheese
  • Make goat milk soap
  • Make lip balm
  • Create and run an on-farm store

Friday, May 1, 2015

Registration now open for 4th annual conference!

You can now register for the Fourth Annual Mid-America Homesteading Conference, and if you register by midnight, Friday, May 8, you'll be entered into a drawing and could win a $20 gift certificate for the conference bookstore, where you can buy books on permaculture, beekeeping, animal husbandry, or dozens of other topics, as well as goat milk soap, lambskins, and Shetland wool rugs, roving, or yarn. We'll also have cheesemaking supplies (rennet, citric acid, cultures, and cheesecloth) again.

Although the schedule is not complete yet, it will be within a few days. We've already confirmed sessions on:

  • Legally selling farm products
  • Raising goats
  • Raising chickens
  • Intro to Permaculture
  • Fencing
  • Parasites in sheep and goats
  • Mushrooms

We will also have live demonstrations so you can learn how to ...

  • Make soap
  • Make mozzarella
  • Make lip balm

And that's only about half of the sessions. Keep an eye on the website over the next couple months as we give you details on the topics and the speakers we'll have at this year's conference.

Click here for the registration form! And remember, registration is fully refundable up until July 31.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Video recap of 2014 conference

If you're wondering what it's like at one of our conferences, this video gives you an idea ...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mark your calendars for the Fourth Annual Mid-America Homesteading Conference

The 2015 Homesteading Conference will be at Joliet Junior College on Saturday, September 5. The schedule is already taking shape as we have confirmed sessions on livestock fencing, value-added products with sheep and goats, raising goats, making soap, and more.

If you have ideas or suggestions for speakers or topics, let us know!

The Hampton Inn will again be the conference hotel. They are offering us a special rate of $109 per night. For more details, check out the hotel page of our website.

Early bird conference registration will open May 1.