LHG Voices

Welcome to LHG Voices! Here you will find great content about all things homesteading.
From helpful tips to best practices to personal stories of the amazing women who make up this organization, this is the place to find out what is happening with Ladies Homestead Gathering.
We're glad you are here!

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  • 10/17/2017 12:26 PM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    Most of you have probably heard of Fire Cider sometimes referred to as Fire Tonic.  It is an apple cider vinegar (ACV) based infusion of spicy roots, vegetables and herbs with a hot flavor traditionally used as a folk remedy for the common cold.  People have been known to take a spoonful daily as an immune booster and to aid digestion.

    The health benefits of ACV date back to 400 BC as noted by Hippocrates, but no one knows when the blended elixir we know today as Fire Cider first came into being.  It’s as if it has always been a part of the American homestead. Regardless of its origins, fire cider has been shown to shorten or lessen the length of a cold or flu and to reduce the severity of symptoms.  Though it’s health benefits have been touted by its users for generations, it has not been formally tested by the FDA. 

    Rosemary Gladstone, founding member of the Northeast Herbal Association, Inc. http://www.northeastherbal.org/, has a good basic recipe below.  Once you have mastered this recipe, feel free to add your own herbs and spices as your needs require. 

    Ingredients:
    • ½ cup fresh ginger (grated)
    • ½ cup fresh horseradish (grated)
    • 1 onion (chopped)
    • 10 garlic cloves (minced)
    • 2 jalapeno peppers (chopped with seeds)
    • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
    • 2 TBLS of rosemary, dried (or several sprigs of fresh)
    • 1 TBLS ground turmeric (or grated root, about 2 inches)
    • Apple Cider Vinegar to cover all ingredients in a quart jar.
    • ¼ cup of honey to use after it has infused (do not add at this time)
    Instructions:

    Put ginger, horseradish, onion, garlic, peppers, lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary and turmeric in a quart canning jar.  Cover with raw apple cider vinegar by about two inches.  Using a piece of parchment paper or wax paper under the lid to avoid corrosion, close tightly.  Shake well daily and store in a dark place.

    Let it infuse for about a month or longer shaking it daily.  After a month, use a cheesecloth to strain out the pulp, pouring the vinegar into a clean jar.  Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquid goodness as you can from the pulp while straining.  This is when you add the ¼ cup of honey and stir until blended. Taste the cider and add more honey to reach your desired flavor.  Fire cider should taste hot, spicy and sweet.

    Store in a temperature controlled, preferably dark place and it will keep up to one year.  You can refrigerate it if you prefer it cold.

    When choosing ingredients, here are some notes on what to consider:

    1) Always choose raw ACV with the “mother”.  We recommend the brand called Bragg’s from the 20th century health guru, Paul Bragg’s, daughter found in most grocery stores.

    2) When grating a horseradish root, wear protective glasses and be aware of the strong pungent odiferous.  You don’t want to get it in your eye!  It will burn like fire!

    3) Root powder can be used as a substitute where the ginger, turmeric or horseradish roots are unavailable.  But where available, the raw root is best.  You do not have to peel the roots prior to grating.  Just throw it all in there.

    Fire Cider is also delicious used in a salad dressing, home-made mustard, coleslaw, soup and so much more.  Save the left over pulp and add it to stir fry vegetables or any hot spicy dish.  Use it sparingly as it can be quite strong!

    Could this be the “spring tonic” referred to in Mark Twain’s book, Tom Sawyer, in which Aunt Polly gives tonic to Tom? Then Tom gives it to the cat sending it into fits running around the house? 

    Have you made your own Fire Cider?  What special ingredients did you add?  Have you used it to treat a cold?  Share what you have learned with us.  We love to hear from our members. 

    CULTIVATING dreams  ::  GROWING COMMUNITIES


  • 10/09/2017 12:47 PM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    Our cause, to paraphrase our mission, is to bring like-minded women together who share a dream to be more self-reliant through homesteading practices.  We are cultivating dreams and growing communities by building hometown networks of women who meet regularly to learn, share and grow.  LHG is unique in its hands-on approach to education.  It is creating interdependent groups of women with unique skills who learn from one another and grow together.

    So, why would a chapter need a fundraiser?

    In order to continue to keep membership costs low so that we can continue to encourage the growth of this amazing organization, some Chapters have found there aren’t quite enough funds to cover all that they’d like to accomplish in their community. Depending on the size of their Chapter, the local board can determine a budget for administrative costs, meeting space fees, membership appreciation events, outreach projects within the community and supplies for demonstrations or booth fees for festivals or Farmer’s Markets.  This will help to establish the annual budget and determine a local fundraising goal.

    Here are some compelling reasons for the average person to contribute to financially support a local LHG Chapter: 

    1)      To help spread knowledge about homesteading practices. 

    2)      To aid your chapter with community outreach projects.

    3)      To support women locally who have a dream to homestead.

    Whatever your Chapter’s needs, here are a few suggestions and ideas which have worked for other Chapters. 

    Bake-less Bake Sale

    Sounds like an oxymoron but it is a real thing.  Basically, it is all the dry ingredients in a decorated, canning jar to create something delicious.  For ideas, go to www.recipelink.com/ .

    Educational Workshops

    This is a fantastic way to not only raise money, but to also to showcase a homesteading skill or help promote one of your member’s homesteading businesses.

    Win/Win Yard Sale

    Not only do your members and others get to unload their unwanted household items, but there is very little effort on the part of your Chapter.  Set a place and time, request a donation to set up a booth and you are done.

    Craft Project

    Take old items from yard sales (like the one above) and create something unique.  One Chapter found old canvas shopping bags and embellished them with fabric and beads donated by members and sold them at the farmer’s market.  Each bag was a unique design with the LHG logo added to it.  Adding the logo serves a dual purpose of spreading the word about LHG.

    Instant Pot or Crock Pot Cook-off

    Ask Chapter members to participate with their best recipe. Then invite friends and family to join in and taste test everyone’s creation for a $10 donation.  Offer a prize or gift to the winning recipe.

    Once your Chapter has grown, you can take on larger fund raising projects like the Sheep to Shawl Annual Festival held by the Statham GA Chapter.  Charge by the booth and ask for donations at the entrance.  Bigger events require more volunteers and time to be successful.  Use your best judgement when assessing the abilities of your group and set a realistic goal of what it will cost versus how much it will raise.

    Remember, all funds should go back into the running of your Chapter.  Keep good records of costs and money raised as well as all expenses for your Chapter’s annual report to National Ladies Homestead Gathering due in March of each year. 

    What works for your Chapter?  Any inside tips or tricks you want to share?  We love hearing from you. 

    cultivating dreams  ::  growing communities


  • 09/12/2017 3:52 PM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    Willa Beth - HerStory

    Willa Beth has been a member of the South Hall, GA Chapter of LHG for two years where she serves as Secretary.  Here is her homesteading story:

    My first memory is the day my Great Uncle Joe gave us his old pony, Sherlock Surefoot.  I was three years old and stood barely knee high to my tall, skinny uncle.  The pony was fluffy and white, gluttonous and none too happy to be ridden.  My older brother and sister, Robert and Alice, were running in and out of the house, the screen door slamming behind them as they grabbed apples and carrots to feed the pudgy pony.

    "I touched his soft, fuzzy face and it was love, all at once."

    It was early spring and the wind was violently blowing my Great Aunt Ethel’s red hair and her blue dress all around making for a funny sight.  Mother and Aunt Ethel were deep in conversation but my dad, not wanting me to miss out on the new arrival, picked me up, smiling, and carried me over to where Sherlock was fenced in our corral.  I touched his soft fuzzy face and it was love, all at once.  Yes, I was one of those little girls who had a pony. Albeit a mean, ornery pony, but a pony none-the-less.

    Growing up on a small homestead surrounded by other farms was ideal.  My Grandparents lived just around the corner on a large tract which made our 40 acres seem small.  My Grandmother, affectionately known as Mimi, quilted, crocheted and knitted.  She also made sourdough bread and the best darn tea cakes you ever tasted. There were ever-changing ponds and creeks, forests and fields for my siblings, cousins and I to explore.  Like my parents, my grandparents had cows and grew hay which fed both our herds.  In addition to cows, we also raised ducks, sheep, bird dogs and lots and lots of cats. 

    During my teenage years, my oldest sister, Jo Wynn, moved into a small house next to my Grandparents and started raising all kinds of chickens and rabbits and a turkey named Troy.  She also grew a great assortment of herbs and was learning medicinal uses for each kind.  She was a hippy of sorts and believed in living off the earth and eating fresh and healing yourself through good nutrition.  Her influence combined with my pastoral childhood set me up to long for my own homestead. 

    But life throws you curve balls and dreams are put on hold. Unfortunately, my sister did not live past age 39.  The loss of my best friend/sister left a big hole in my life.  She taught me everything from how to grow mint to breastfeeding my baby girl. Then, a year after losing Jo Wynn, my first marriage failed and it was my role to provide for myself and my daughter.  We grew pumpkins in our back yard and had a compost bin, but, the dream of a larger homestead faded away and slowly, I stopped thinking about it.   

    "... we started with six baby chicks ... raising them in our bathtub..."

    Now, 15 years later, my daughter is grown and I am remarried and have three beautiful step-daughters.  With the help and complete support of my husband, Chris, we started with six baby chicks about four years ago.  We raised them in our bathtub while we worked on building a chicken coop.  One of the chicks began to stick its leg out and eventually fell over, unable to walk.  First I separated it from the others and called my sister Alice who is a veterinarian.  Alice came over and we created a paste of feed and probiotics and minerals to hopefully help this baby chick survive.  But, chicks are fragile and it did not live.  Alice explained that typically, out of 10 chickens, you might have six which survive.  Life in general is more fragile and more precious than I ever imagined. 

    About a year after moving to Flowery Branch, I received an email about Ladies Homestead Gathering and a new Chapter starting in Flowery Branch, GA.  Even though I was skeptical about it, my husband encouraged me to go and see what it was about.  After my first meeting where I met Esther Arkfeld, Jill Puckett and Jill Wolfe, I was hooked.  They were talking about fermenting and canning and making things like Mimi used to do.  Just like meeting my pony, Sherlock, for the first time, I knew instantly I was going to love this group.

    "...I started making sourdough bread, kombucha and homemade medicinal elixirs.."

    Through my association with these lovely ladies, I started making sourdough bread, kombucha and homemade medicinal elixirs like fire cider and elderberry syrup.  Then, I attended my first retreat hosted by National Ladies Homestead Gathering and the door opened wider.  I was astonished by all these women who had amazing skills which I longed to learn.  And they were more than happy to share my journey and help me along the way.

    With these new friendships, I feel like my life has really taken off and the hole left by the loss of my sister, Jo, is starting to feel more whole.  My passion for the homesteading lifestyle is blossoming again and I am on a grand adventure learning everything I can.  My family is looking for more acreage to build on and keep this dream alive.  With the support of my LHG tribe, I will finally achieve my goals.  There is so much still to learn! And, my sister Jo Wynn and Mimi are cheering me on! 

    CULTIVATING DREAMS  ::  GROWING COMMUNITIES


  • 08/28/2017 8:51 AM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    We All Need a Wingman!

    In the 21st Century age of technology the “butt dial” is a real thing. During a long day of trimming sheep feet, LHG member Jan Southers had no idea that she was calling fellow homesteader Mary Fucci’s phone over and over.  Mary could hear sheep in the background and knew that Jan was home, but when she would not speak on the line or pick up returned calls, Mary feared the worst. 

    What other choice did she have?  Mary and her husband Al got in the car and drove across town to check it out!  Not just around the corner, Mary drove more than 15 miles to be sure everything was okay. If actions speak louder than words, Jan’s bear hug testifies to the true friendship these LHG women share. 

    Even though a modern homesteader is one who has an attitude and philosophy of self-sufficiency, the women of Ladies Homestead Gathering believe in community and interdependence. Self-reliance isn’t about looking out for number one; it’s about building the strength of the flock.   Every member of the flock need s good wingman, and it feels great when you know your sister has your back!  LHG member Mary Fucci is a wingman, indeed!

    Picture of Jan Southers, and Mary Fucci of the Madison County, LHG Chapter in Georgia. 

    This story was contributed by Kelly Capers, a member of LHG. We would like to hear more stories of how we are supporting one another through building our community at Ladies Homestead Gathering.  Please contact us at info@ladieshomesteadgathering.org to send in your stories and pictures.

    Cultivating Dreams  ::  Growing Community
  • 08/22/2017 2:56 PM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    How to Get Your Chapter Involved in Your Community

    Homesteading speaks to our basic human needs like food, clothing and shelter. We learn all about canning, sewing and building things through attending workshops and demonstrations at our local Chapters.  But what about your local community?  What does your group offer to your neighbors outside of your LHG group?  As your Chapter grows and becomes a cohesive group of ladies, it is time to get involved and extend your hand out to the community at large.    

    Why reach out to our community?  Our goal is simply to help others through our knowledge and know-how as a homesteading group.  There are situations in which our expertise can help others.  We can also help by giving our time, talent and treasures to the community.  Plus, giving back gets the word out to a greater audience about LHG and who we are.  When people know who we are, they will think of us when they are planning a community event or have a need in the community which fits our group’s expertise. In turn, it will help grow your Chapter. 

    Here are some examples of how to give back to your community as a Chapter:

    Look for Isolated Neighbors

    Taking care of our older generation or people with disabilities by reaching out is a great way to reduce their isolation.  Organize a garden clean-up day or planting day at their home.  If they don’t have a garden, do their lawn maintenance for a day.  Fall is a great time to help when there is so much to do.  Homemade meals, fresh eggs or just taking the time to visit and listen is another way to give back.

    Contact Local School Groups or Clubs

    For instance, the Girl Scouts are always working towards a new badge or pin.  Your Chapter could help them learn a skill to level up.  Or start a mentoring program with the local 4-H Club by contacting the principal or PTA leaders.  And, don’t forget homeschool kids!  Maybe hold a farm day, show them how to knit or teach them about raising mealworms.  There are multiple skills which can be taught to kids of all ages with a desire to learn more about homesteading. 

    Beautify Vacant/Neglected Land

    Usually, there is a neglected lot or space, covered in litter or overgrown with weeds, which could use some tender loving care.  Coordinate with community leaders to organize a beautification project for your Chapter.  Depending on the size and scope of the project, possibly call on local landscaping companies or plant nurseries to donate their time and plants for the project.  Announce this on your website, Facebook or call a local journalist to get the word out so others can join in.  The more the merrier!

    Volunteer at a Local Park

    Community parks are dependent on government taxes for maintenance.  To supplement a lack of tax funds, many nature parks have a volunteer day each month to work on the landscaping or trail renovation.  You can either work with the other volunteers or provide the snacks for the group.  Be sure and wear your LHG t-shirts!

    Give to Women’s Shelters

    Speak with the director of the shelter to find out how your Chapter can help.  You can have a quilting project to give to the shelter.  Take food like fresh bread, garden produce, homemade soup or any type of comfort food to help the shelter.  Clothing and toys are always needed at women’s shelters, too.

    Look for Local Events

    Watch the local paper or websites to see what is going on in your area.  Sign up for email notices from local Farmer’s Markets, clubs and fairs to stay up to date with local events.  Your Chapter could even help organize an event as trade for allowing a free or discounted booth at the event. 

    Support Your Local Agriculture

    By all means, support your local farmers!  Invite someone who successfully runs a CSA to speak to your Chapter’s next Gathering.  By doing this, you are providing an outlet for the farmer to reach more people.  It’s a win/win situation.  It’s the same with inviting a master gardener or a “farm to fork” caterer.  All these people will benefit from speaking to your group and thus, you are supporting a local agri-business.  It could even be one of your own members businesses.  That’s a win/win/win situation!

    There are many other ways to reach out to your community.  We have only scratched the surface of a deeper community itch.  Things like historical societies are great for community involvement or garden clubs or Bingo. Okay, just kidding about Bingo.  Find your Chapter’s niche’ and work with it.  Make friends and broaden your sites.  It means growth for everyone involved.  And that’s what we are all about at LHG, growing together.

    In case you aren’t sure what to do or what is available in your area, try visiting http://www.VolunteerMatch.org which will match your skills to nearby opportunities. 

    Hot Off the Presses

    To get the word out, National Ladies Homestead Gathering has designated someone to help write articles and send press releases about what local Chapters are doing to help their community.  Contact us directly at info@ladieshomesteadgathering.org with a story or information on your Chapter's activities in the community. 

    Let’s hear from you about your Chapters involvement in your community.  We love cheering out ‘atta girls, so, give us some good news about your Chapter in the comments below. 

    CULTIVATING DREAMS  ::  GROWING COMMUNITY


  • 08/17/2017 9:46 AM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    Do you ever feel lost? Like you are drowning in a digital ocean of social media forcing huge tidal waves of information crashing down around you?  As if at any given moment, the sky will fall and the world as we know it will end?  If you fall victim to 24-hour news feeds or the incessant notifications on social media, you might feel this way.

    Even Henry David Thoreau, famous writer of Walden Pond, felt as if the magnetic telegraph would disrupt the otherwise tranquil rhythm of his day.  And it was only connecting Maine to Texas through Morse code at the time. His reaction was to build a cabin and for a year, live alone, away from the hustle and bustle of the late 1850’s.  Imagine what Thoreau would think of us today. 

    As a society who rarely looks up from their phones, he would marvel at our digitally induced disconnectedness.  Let’s face it (no pun intended), we like meeting with other people face-to-face, hearing their voices and tone and shaking hands. Having someone be genuinely happy to see you and greet you warmly is way more satisfying than a smiley-faced emoji any day.

    Ladies Homestead Gathering is unique because it is based on direct, face-to-face, hands-on interaction.  Building a community of like-minded women is the foundation of our local Chapters and why we gather as a group every month.  We are the only all-woman homesteading organization which offers knowledge, education and friendship, all in one awesome package through each local Chapter. Our greatest successes come from working together, hand-in-hand as a community. 

    So, how does Ladies Homestead Gathering build community? 

    Through Face-to-Face Gatherings

    You have the opportunity to meet every month with people in your town who are learning or practicing homesteading.  Neighbors you didn’t even know you had who have been living the homestead lifestyle their entire lives or are just getting started.  Fellowship is what it is all about (not the hokee-pokee).

    By Making it Open to All Women Interested in Homesteading Practices

    Gatherings are FREE to attend.  All are welcome who have a desire to pursue their homesteading interests.  There are benefits to being a member as mentioned in a previous post, but, you don’t have to be a member to attend gatherings or workshops.  Once a newbie feels comfortable and has made a few friends, they will join!  It’s inevitable.

    By Telling Stories

    Yes, we love to hear your stories.  We all want to be heard and recognized individually.  Allowing everyone to feel comfortable enough to tell their homesteading story bonds us together.

    By Holding Yearly National Retreats

    Once a year, usually in October, we gather from all across the USA for a group retreat.  Whilst connecting with other women, we learn homesteading techniques and make useful things.  And you get to take all your goodies home with you to share with your home chapters.

    By Providing Hands on Training

    Each Chapter offers demonstrations, as well as hand-on learning of different practices like canning, soap making or anything related to a homestead.  These are free, but, there are often optional paid workshops offered by more seasoned practitioners in various areas of homesteading.

    Through ‘Atta Girls

    Homesteading can present some rather unique challenges.  To recognize a fellow female homesteader’s accomplishment or success, we say emphatically, “Atta girl”!  At each Gathering, there is a time set aside specifically for ‘atta girl’s.  We can all use a little more support and encouragement!

    By Connecting People, Goods and Services

    You are a gardener with a fabulous green thumb to grow herbs.  An herbalist in your Chapter needs fresh herbs from a known source.  Put these two together and it’s a match.  On a homestead, it is the rare individual who can do everything.  We all rely on each other to fill the gaps in our capabilities and time.  At Chapter gatherings, there is time prior to the demonstration to share, sell or swap goods.  A perk of membership is the ability to post on the Swap & Shop Facebook page for your chapter. 

    Want to end the disconnectedness and meet new people interested in the same things? Come to a Gathering and see if it is a good fit for you.  To find a Chapter near you, check the banner above called Local Chapters and you will find dates and topics for a Gathering near you.  Not a Chapter near you?  Start your own by visiting our Home Page. 

    Cultivating Dreams  ::  Growing Communities
  • 08/07/2017 11:39 AM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    Each year, your Chapter will face the challenge of deciding what homesteading topics to present at each monthly Gathering.  The challenge isn’t coming up with topics.  The challenge is narrowing down the vast list of topics your members want to learn and share.  We are here to help.

    Below is a list of some of our favorite Gathering topics to help you along.  As your Chapter grows, your members will evolve and want to delve deeper into each topic.  The door keeps opening wider and wider to allow for more growth and greater knowledge within your members.

    1.      Herbs and herbal remedies – A demonstration by an herbalist in your Chapter or a Show and Tell of your favorite herb, its uses and value is a fabulous way to get everyone involved. 

    2.      Gardening – This topic is great as a Demonstration or a Homestead Visit and can include a vast array of sub-topics like straw-bale gardening or composting. 

    3.      Canning, Preserving Food – This makes a spectacular demonstration if you have access to a kitchen or hot plates. Consider asking everyone ahead of time to bring along a pickle recipe to share!

    4.      Instant Pot, Pressure Cooking – This is an easy demonstration because you simply plug it in and it does all the work.  Everyone can bring their favorite recipe to discuss and then enjoy a sample meal at the end of the demonstration.

    5.      Fermentation – It works well as either a Demonstration on one aspect of fermentation or as a Show and Tell. Learning to make and getting to sample fermented foods like sauerkraut, fire cider, kombucha, and sourdough bread can keep your members engaged and interested.

    6.      Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose – With some creativity, this can be one of the most fun Gatherings you will have!  Demonstrate how to make something with reused items or do a Show and Tell with each member bringing their best ideas. 

    7.      Sewing – Great for a hands-on project the whole group participates in, or a simple “how-to” on knitting, crochet, or quilting. At the NLHG retreat in 2016, members made slippers from old, felted wool sweaters and then went back to their Chapters and shared their new skill. 

    8.      Cheese and Butter Making – This is a fun demonstration where everyone gets to taste the finished product.  Ask members to bring sourdough bread or homemade muffins along with their recipe to add to the tasting.

    9.      Hand Tool and/or Power Tools – It can be a demonstration of one big tool or a multiple use tool or a Show and Tell where everyone brings their favorite tool and discusses how to use it.

    10.  Farm Animals – Care and keeping of all kinds of farm animals is an important topic for those in the midst of raising animals or those who are considering it.  This is perfect for a Site Visit or a Demonstration. 

    There are literally dozens of topics listed on our leadership page on Facebook at National Ladies Homestead Gathering Leadership Page.   If your chapter is new, start with the basics of each topic.  Then as the chapter grows and as your member’s expertise and experience levels grow, go deeper into each topic. 

    What topics are a favorite of your Chapter?  What gathering topic was your most successful?  Which one bombed and why?  We value your ideas and experiences and love to learn from you!

    Cultivating Friendships  ::  Growing Communities
  • 08/01/2017 1:03 PM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    Karen Smith Herstory

    When you think of homesteading, most people think of vast farms with huge tracts of land and oceans of grain or corn growing in the fields.  But a homestead isn’t defined by how much land you have or by how much produce you grow.  Homesteading is truly a mindset, a lifestyle, with a foundation in loving and preserving the earth and all its abundant resources.  It is a way of living sustainably by using what is right there around you.  One such person who epitomizes the homesteading lifestyle and mindset is Karen Smith.  She is an active member of the South Hall, GA Chapter of LHG.

    Almost everything Karen does has an air of conservation and an organic flair.  She has learned a lot through trial and error.  As an involved member of our LHG community, Karen openly shares her experience and knowledge, as well as her plants, seeds, and homesteading techniques with the South Hall Chapter.

    Karen was an Agriculture Major focusing on Plant Sciences from the University of Connecticut.  Karen grew up in Connecticut.   Her interest in plant sciences stemmed from dabbling in gardening tomatoes, squash and raspberry bushes. 

    After college she met her husband, Steven, and they moved to Buford, GA.  They were able to buy enough acres to have a few cows, plant fruit bushes and trees, raise chickens and a garden.   She began composting and experimenting with soil and earthworms.  As she learned more about organic gardening, she decided to stop tilling the soil, a practice which kills many of the micro-organisms that provide key plant nutrients. 

    "After giving homemade jelly to one of my boys' teachers, she asked me if I was from the country.  I said, no, I am just an old hippie."  ~  Karen Smith

    Karen possesses a unique talent for reusing and repurposing old items on her homestead and has taught our Chapter many useful things about conservation.  Last year, there was a serious drought in the southeast with 30 consecutive days without rain, a record in Georgia.  This caused the loss of plants, as well as low food production, and severely impacted the native bee population.

    To be more drought ready, Karen decided to make a rain gauge to determine if her plants were receiving enough rain. By using an old plastic peanut butter jar with the top removed, she attached a long metal gutter spike with a washer adhered with epoxy.  The gutter spike was then stuck into the ground and leveled to hold the rain.  From these homemade rain gauges, Karen could determine how much additional water the plants might need by keeping a record of the rainfall. 

    Then, with the help of her husband, she created a watering system for her blueberry bushes and tomatoes from five gallon buckets and a stiff old watering hose.   By positioning the buckets atop poles, this created enough gravity to pull the water down through the hoses which had been punctured with nails to allow the water to slowly seep into the ground around her plants.  As needed, they could simply fill the buckets and let gravity do the work. 

    Some of her water comes from the reuse of an assortment of food-grade plastic barrels she uses to catch rain water off of her shed.  She attached an old washing machine hose to the lower part of the barrel and a valve to allow the release of the water.  It’s an ingenious way to save water whether you have a well or are connected to the county water supply.  (Check with your county or city to be sure it is acceptable to collect rainwater in your area.)

    To help the bees, Karen attended a workshop on how to make nests for Orchard Mason bees and other solitary bees by using an open faced wren’s box or by reusing large baked beans cans.  Either can be mounted, south-facing, on trees or other structures, out of the drip line. Then she inserted small rolls of newspaper, about the size of your finger bunched together, as the nesting for the bees.  By creating a habitat for bees, Karen is helping the species flourish while also attracting pollinators for her plants. 

    Her efforts to deal with drought creatively by reusing and repurposing old items is an excellent example of homesteading know-how and perseverance.  These qualities have enabled her to be successful and to endure life’s little curve balls. We are thankful for Karen and her willingness to share her homesteading journey, its challenges and solutions, with us.  We continue to learn from her as well as from each other.  That is, after all, what Ladies Homestead Gathering is all about, sharing and growing together.

    If you have a special member, like Karen, tell us about her in the comments section.  How does she demonstrate the qualities of community?  What is her extraordinary talent? We love hearing from you.

    Cultivating Friendships :: Growing Communities
  • 07/24/2017 11:04 AM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    When your chapter is new, it can be challenging to determine what homesteading topics to delve into to support the interests of your members.  NLHG suggests spending at least one Gathering getting to know all guests and members. Tap into the knowledge and experience of your group. It’s also important to discover their challenges and interests.  Where are they in their homesteading journey?  Is this an urban group or mostly rural or a mix of both? 

    Voting

    Let Chapter members vote on topics for the upcoming year. Be aware of the seasons when planning next year’s topic calendar and be flexible, too.  Life happens and circumstances change.  Be adaptable and open to modifying the schedule if needed.  Also, have a back-up topic available in case something changes at the last minute.  

    Types of Presentations

    There are four different types of presentations to consider when planning your Gathering calendar; Demonstrations, Show and Tell, Personal Stories, and Homestead Site Visits.  Any topic can be a “demonstration”, while for other topics may work better as a show and tell.  Within each presentation style, be sure to cover these three basic questions;

    -          What is it?

    -          Why is it important? and

    -          How is it done?

    Demonstrations – Typically a demonstration is presented by one member with a questions and discussion at the end.  A presenter will discuss a particular topic, show how it is done and perhaps provide a few samples for the group to experience. 

    Show and Tell – Remember this from kindergarten?  Each member brings something pertaining to the topic and shares their experiences.  

    Personal Story – We love personal stories at LHG.  One member tells how they got started in homesteading, their experiences and future goals.  By sharing adventures, failures and successes, we encourage one another and build community.

    Homestead Site Visit – Everybody loves to see what other members are doing on their own homestead!  Be it a large farm with animals or a small backyard composting project, it helps to see it in practice and learn from another person’s experience.

    In each different presentation style, encourage presenters to include something hands-on for members to experience.  For example, if you are demonstrating a knitting technique, bring knitting needles and yarn (or ask your members to bring theirs) for everyone who wants to try it.  Or, if demonstrating how to making fire cider, bring the finished product to taste.  Learning requires all aspects of our senses and when we learn together, we build friendships and community.

    We value your input and love to hear from our Chapter members.  Are you more urban, rural or a mixed bag of members?  Do any of your members have a special talent or art?  Comment below!

    Look out for our next article next week on Top Ten Topics for Your Next Gathering. 

    cultivating friendships :: growing communities


  • 07/18/2017 10:27 AM | Willa Beth Smith (Administrator)

    “Wow! We finally have our own chapter in our own hometown with a group of excited, homesteading ladies.  Now what do we do?”

    Have no fear; National Ladies Homestead Gathering is here!

    Just follow a few of our hot tips, add your own local flare and your gatherings will flow like honey on a hot biscuit.

    Getting to Know You

    In the beginning, allow a lot of time for everyone to become more acquainted with each other. Perhaps start by asking several people to offer their homesteading story or what NLHG calls it, HerStory.  Are they veteran homesteaders? Are they just getting started? What homesteading activities do they enjoy? Are they seasoned or experienced in a particular aspect of sustainable living?  These questions and answers also allow the board to learn what knowledge each member can share with the group.  Creating these connections and community is extremely vital to the success of your Chapter.

    Setting Gathering Topics

    After learning more about your members, you will have some idea of the topics which most interest the group. At one of your early gatherings, allow members to suggest topics and make a list.  Allow discussion about the various topics suggested and see what sparks the most interest.  Then offer up at least 12 months’ worth of topics for members to vote on for future Gatherings.  Once members have voted and topics are approved, post each monthly topic on your Chapter’s website.  Look inside your group first for potential presenters/teachers. 

    Hospitality Table

    We want to set the tone for a welcoming environment by having a sign-in table with creative decorations.  An inviting table with a member to greet people with a smile sets a positive tone for all who are attending.

    We suggest having these five items on your hospitality table;

    1.       Attendance Sheet (This is mandatory. Keep a copy for your records and year-end Annual Report)

    2.       Name Tags – for members and guests

    3.       Merchandise – for Swap and Shops or Give-Away

    4.       Chapter Communication – Any literature about NLHG or upcoming events and sign-up sheets or fundraiser information

    5.       Pencils, Pens and Extra Notepad - For those who forgot theirs

    Gathering Format

    Here is an outline of a typical Gathering which lasts approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours:

    Ø  Meet and Greet – Allow about 30 minutes for social time prior to presenting the formal meeting.  Members and guest mingle and greet one another.  Some Chapters use this time to barter and trade their homesteading items with each other.

    Ø  Announcements – Share local events or LHG news or updates on your fundraiser.

    Ø  Welcome – President welcomes members and guests.  This is a good time read the mission statement and hand out new member cards.

    Ø  Tip of the Month – Such as a “gardening minute” to discuss a particular gardening pest or “herb of the month” and it’s medicinal value or show a new garden tool and how to use it.  This is very short and intended to run only for a few minutes.

    Ø  Atta Girls – This allows everyone to offer up a success story in the homesteading journey.

    Ø  Main Speaker/Discussion – This is when the topic decided on by the Chapter is presented and discussed in full.  It usually lasts from 30 minutes to an hour.

    Ø  Wrap Up – Finish with questions for the speaker and thank you’s.

    Ø  Give Away – Totally optional (see description below)

    Give Away

    As an on-going fundraiser, some chapters opt for a Give-Away at each Gathering.  They hand out a ticket to each person as they arrive and sign-in.  If someone wants to donate towards the Chapter, they can do so when they receive their ticket.  The drawing is held at the end of the meeting. 

    Give-away items are typically homemade and related to homesteading such as jelly, a kombucha SCOBY or fresh eggs.  This can create excitement about coming and leaves the meeting on a good note.  The Give-Away is just that, a give-away. 

    Now you are on your way to forming a thriving Chapter and creating a community of your own.  This information is also available online in the Chapter Handbook at https://ladieshomesteadgathering.org.

    For our existing Chapters, leave a comment letting us know what works for your Chapter.  We love to hear from our members and rely on your suggestions to help us grow together.  What is your most successful format for Gatherings?  What do you do differently?

    CULTIVATING DREAMS ::  GROWING COMMUNITIES
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