Unlike our ancestors, many of whom lived on traditional homesteads and small farms, most of us today have the apparent “luxury” of buying all our food in the marketplace. The decision to forego that luxury and work hard to produce more of our own food is a fundamental one. We are thus making not simply one more selection from the Lazy Susan of available food choices, but choosing a way of life, a new direction.
This site is dedicated to the skills and philosophy for more self-reliant living. Whether you have access to fifty acres or only a patio pot, you have the opportunity to produce more of your own food for yourself and your family, to enter more fully into the yearly cycle, and to know your place in the web of life.
We are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make
and powers we cannot comprehend.
~ Wendell Berry
Pursuing a longtime dream, we settled in the spring of 1984 on three good acres in northern Virginia. We named our modern homestead Boxwood, after the prominent border of American boxwood in front of the house—originally a two-room log cabin, built of native hand-hewn timbers 200 years ago. Our years here have been filled with a lot of hard work—which often seemed a kind of play—and as well with failures, surprises, and simple joys.
During our first year, we planted a large garden and a small orchard and started a flock of chickens—still a key part of our homestead after all these years. The second year we added a couple of American Alpine goats. The homestead has been—and always will be—a work in progress. We stopped keeping the goats after ten years, added—and subtracted, several times each—guineas and ducks and geese; yanked out problematic peaches and plums and planted hazels and nut trees; experimented with new crops and new strategies for natural feeding of our flocks.
While we do freeze some of the food we produce, our goal as much as possible is to eat fresh, year-round, with assistance from a 20×48-ft greenhouse and liberal use of crops that store naturally. We have never spent a dime on artificial fertilizers or toxic pesticides. Why should we? We live in an abundant ecology that does not require such voodoo to yield the best food on the planet. In return, we strive for a homestead that supports that ecology—healthy, diverse, and sustainable. A lifetime should suffice.
New on This Site
Visitor, please note: We have maintained this website, TheModernHomestead.US, since 2005. We recently rebuilt it as a WordPress site. We apologize if it is still a bit “rough around the edges.” We hope you will find the site’s information useful even as we continue to “polish” here and there. Enjoy. ~Harvey and Ellen
- Coming up, Harvey’s presentation, end of April: I will make a one-hour presentation at an all-day event called Riverside Chats in Waynesboro, Virginia, April 29.
- December 19, 2022 ~ Supplemental lighting in winter for increased egg production: In the winter of 2022-23, for the first time I used supplemental lighting–with excellent results. See the revised Getting the Flock Ready for Winter, especially the section Managing Winter Laying and the information box at the bottom of the page.
- December 14, 2022 ~ “Deep litter” podcast interview: Check out an hour-long podcast interview on deep litter for best manure management, with Josh Thomas of Homesteading Family.
- December 9, 2022 ~ Harvey’s backyard layer flock class now online: My two-hour class Backyard, Egg-Laying Chickens has been added to the content offered by School of Traditional Skills.
- October 24, 2022 ~ Downloads: For the first time on this site I am offering downloads. I am happy to share the “live action” spreadsheet versions of three sets of tables presented in the new edition of my book (see below). Not only can you use the fully-functional spreadsheets to more fully understand the related discussions, but you may redesign them for use in your own projects.
- October 2022 ~ SSPF Revised Edition: The expanded and updated edition of my book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, Revised Edition, is now available. Check out where you can order your copy.