Monday, June 3, 2013

Wendy Jehanara Tremayne: Homesteading Away from Home

I’m hitting the road to promote my new book, The Good Life Lab. With several weeks of continuous travel ahead, I will be closing up my homestead for the very first time since I built it. I’d wondered about how I’d ever leave my homestead; after all, it’s alive, it contains precious life. There are plants, bees, and trees to consider. While building our homestead Mikey and I decided against raising chickens for this very reason. We thought it might make travel complicated.

Here’s how we prepared the yard, the gardens, and the harvest they produce for the changes ahead.

Under Seed
We won’t be home to care for starter plants that we usually grow in our kitchen window. Instead we will seed hot crops right in our garden beds beneath the cold crop canopy. While we are away the seeds will be watered by the timer-based irrigation system we made. Since we’ll be relying on those timers, we’ve replaced all the batteries with new ones.

We removed some of our lettuces and root vegetables, which were
bolting in the warm weather, and transplanted our hot-crop seedlings.

Strip the Linens from the Garden Bed 
For hot summer nights in New Mexico, I welded together an old metal bed to sleep on. We keep this bed in our garden, and I cover it in soft foam, blankets, and pillows. We sleep there under the stars instead of using power and burning energy, and we stay cool. It's also lovely to be under the stars! With monsoon season ahead, before we hit the road, we packed up the linens and stripped the garden bed.

Much of our food and medicine comes from wildcrafting in nature. Of course one has to be home to catch these plants when it’s time to harvest them. This week I caught native cota and ephedra plants and dried and tinctured enough to last us through winter. But we will likely miss the edible flowers that are soon to appear on local cacti such as yucca, prickly pear, and cholla. We may also miss the horsetail harvest. Horsetail (a.k.a. scouring rush), a strong diuretic, must be picked on time. This plant grows along rivers, but if left to grow for too long, plants pick up toxins from water and store them.

Ephedra is a stimulant and a bronchial opener. We make a lovely tea
with it that we call “Perky” and combine it with mint and hibiscus.

Native cota

Freezer Check-Ins
We store our garden’s harvest and the wild game meat we obtain from local farmers in our freezer. These organic and clean sources of food are valuable, so we have arranged for a friend to check in on our freezer and make sure it's still working while we are away.

We harvest waste vegetable oil and turn it into biodiesel that we fuel our cars with. Next month we won’t be home to pick up the waste vegetable oil that is given to us by local restaurants. We gave them extra containers to use to store the oil that we won’t be able to pick up while traveling.

Give Kombucha Daughters to Friends 
We are leaving our kombucha “mother” at home with plenty of sugar and tea to drink, but since we can’t guarantee her survival, we’ve gifted “daughters” to local friends. If our mother doesn’t make it, we can receive daughters back from these friends and start anew. Likewise we’ll lose our yogurt starter. We’ll begin anew when we’re home again. But we’re bringing our sourdough starter with us on the road, and we plan to bake wherever we stay and share our culture with others.

Solar Power & Bees
As we plan to travel, we appreciate the carefree nature of our bees and the solar system that powers our homestead. Both are easy to leave for weeks at a time. Bees are expert at caring for themselves. They will pick up fresh water from our irrigation system, and there are plenty of plants in bloom for them. PV solar power systems need almost no maintenance, just fresh water in their batteries from time to time. We enjoy knowing they’ll be just fine.

Be sure to check my tour schedule, and come out to say hello if I’m traveling through your town.

Wendy Jehanara Tremayne was a creative director in a marketing firm in New York City before moving to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where she built an off-the-grid oasis in a barren RV park with her partner, Mikey Sklar. She is the founder of the textile repurposing event Swap-o-Rama-Rama, which has spread all over the world; she is also a conceptual artist; a yogi; a gardener; and a writer. She has written for Craft’s webzine and Make: magazine and, with Mikey Sklar, keeps the blog Holy Scrap.

Photographs © Wendy Jehanara Tremayne and Mikey Sklar

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