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It's been a while. We're in the throes of the most productive time of year at the farm, harvesting tons of heirloom tomatoes and greens (among other things) and preparing for the quickly approaching autumn growing season. We've been hustling to get all of our farm goodies sold and distributed to CSA members but in my scarce free time I've been working on migrating Brooklyn Homesteader over to a new website that is no longer specific to Brooklyn since, well...I no longer live there.
So, as a result I created a page dedicated to the projects I'm working on, including teaching and farm events. The book I have been working on for an eternity will be out soon! Next season, I'll be tackling management of the farm by myself so it should be quite a ride! Please consider adding the new blog (which I've imported most of the content from this site to!) and following me on this crazy journey.
p.s. Big ups to McKenzie over at Oliver and Abraham's for designing my banner and buttons!
This holiday season, give the gift of a badass essential skill! Brooklyn Homesteader is now offering gift certificates for any of our online or farm-based workshops! We've been teaching for nearly 4 years at institutions like The New York Botanical Garden and 3rd Ward. We've taught private workshops during that same time as well!
We're offering classes on beekeeping, sustainable gardening, backyard poultry, and more! We're adding new classes every week! Classes on mushroom foraging and cultivation, raising dairy goats and intro to herbal medicine! Year-long passes ($225/ 12 months) and couples certificates (half off yr partners!) available as well!
All of our classes utilize strong visual presentations, hands-on activities and take-home references for continued study!
So help support the farm and give your friends and family members the gift of living a more sustainable, hands-on life!
Hey there, readers!
It's pretty weird to think about, but I've been blogging here at Brooklyn Homesteader for over 3 years and readership has grown steadily over that period, getting hundreds of hits daily. It's quite a change from when I first started. I meet people often that tell me they read the blog and it always floors me. It's an honor to have the opportunity to share my experiences with you all and I hope to continue to do so for a long time.
Anyway, as a result of our growing audience Neil and I will be modifying the website this fall to reflect the changes that have taken place here recently...namely the move, the inclusion of Michael's contributions and also opportunities for local businesses and friends to support the new farm via sponsorships, CSA shares, class enrollment and purchases of non-perishable farm goods. (think beeswax candles, dried herbs and tinctures, salves, goat milk soap, honey, etc.)
For now, I'll be offering a limited number of very reasonably priced 125×125 banners to select businesses, blogs, and organizations at 6 month or yearly rates or for barter (think farm supplies)! We've already got a few of my favorite Brooklyn-based businesses on board so far (come Sept, you can click and visit them!) so please get in touch and I'll gladly send some information your way.
Thanks so much for following me on this journey!
After 2 years of doing Backyard Homesteading Bootcamp from my tiny Brooklyn apartment and backyard I'm super stoked to be able to offer this all-day workshop in a more spacious, comfortable and downright gorgeous setting----here at Seven Arrows! We're just an hour away from the city. You can reach us by Seastreak ferry (recommended), by car or by New Jersey Transit which is totally awesome and super convenient.
Not much has changed in terms of the lesson plan (see below) but we've got access to amazing foraging, a great garden space, a bigger kitchen and lots of critters to work with. Believe me when I say it's going to be awesome.
Check out the description on the EVENTBRITE PAGE and sign up! Support the farm by taking classes with us!
"Ever wanted to learn how to grow, make and preserve your own food in a small space but need some hands-on guidance to do so?
Join Meg Paska, the "Brooklyn Homesteader", on her own turf as she teaches you how to raise chickens, keep bees, grow a garden, compost, forage, can, pickle, preserve and homebrew all from the Homestead at Seven Arrows, a new farm she manages an hour outside of NYC.
Coffee and homemade donuts will be served in the morning before the class commences.
It will tentatively go as follows:
- Planning and Starting a Vegetable Garden (with an emphasis on fall gardening)
- Chickens & Rabbits 101
- Food Preservation (Freezing, Drying, Canning, Fermentation)
- LUNCH ON THE BBQ
- Beekeeping 101
- Wild Edibles
- Homebrewing basics
- DIY Home and Body Care
- WIND DOWN with local beers at the cottage!
Attendees will get hands on experience in all aspects of the above mentioned topics and will leave with care packages of assorted goodies! (Samples of honey, wild edibles and DIY home care products)
Please email Megan with any questions."
For more info, click the link above!
The summery weather has me thirsty. For beer.
Yesterday I stopped by a favorite haunt, Brooklyn Homebrew, with one goal in mind: five gallons of hoppy, summery pale ale. I sometimes dream of cooking up something crazy in my cauldron, like a black ale, or a lager, but I always end up sticking to a good old IPA or, if it's dead-hot summer, a saison. This time around the Brooklyn Homebrew's house recipe pale ale sounded mighty fine, so I gave it a go. It's a partial mash, meaning some grain and some malt extract; I prefer these to all extract brews because they taste better, and they're a lot easier and less fussy than all-grain.
I learned to homebrew from the man himself, Uncle Charlie. Charlie Papazian's book, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, is known as the homebrewer's bible. It's the perfect book for complete beginners, but it also includes more advanced stuff to delve into over time. Highly recommended. But there are lots of free resources out there online, too. One of my favorites is a forum called HomeBrewTalk, which has lots of info and lots of wisdom for grasshoppers.
In my opinion, one of the best parts about learning from Uncle Charlie is his mantra, RDWHAHB... Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.
Believe me, it really comes in handy. There are lots of moving parts in homebrewing: temperatures to keep an eye on, time to keep an eye on, sanitizing to do to just about everything, did I just add the aroma hops instead of the bittering hops... it can be easy to get flustered, and something(s) will always go wrong-ish. But luckily, barring complete catastrophe, even if you make mistakes here and there your brew will turn out just fine. Trust me. I've had a carboy volcanically erupt in my bedroom... but what was left ended up being pretty tasty.
Why go through the trouble? HB'ing is a great hobby that pays dividends and gives good buzz. You can spend buttloads on fancy equipment or use pretty much all salvaged stuff, and either way turn out great beer. It comes in handy when you can't afford the good stuff as often as you'd like, or when all you've got for options in the neighborhood are InBev brands. And it's fun!
Well, without further ado, here's my home brew how to, photo-essay style.
I hope everyone out there had a great weekend filled with rest and relaxation and lots of good eating.
I'm back at my brooklyn homestead after a week of slinging feed, soil and seeds at Hayseed's Big City Farm Supply and I'm excited to share with you all that the folks at Bing asked me to participate in their new campaign, The Summer of Doing!
The new Bing has a focus on getting folks out there to do the things they oftentimes read up on via web searches. One way they hope to get people inspired to actually DO is through social media integration of web searches. If your friends have input on a topic that you are researching, say where to get the best street food in Hong Kong you'll be more interested in what your friends have to say about it and confident to get out there and do it!
Each week Bing will feature a new search term --something they want users to get inspired to go out and do. Each search unlocks the chance to win prizes, and learn about the new Bing in a fun, ever-changing way.
How to participate: Visit www.bing.com/doing to search the daily word, share it with friends, and enter to win the week's grand prize. ($1000 in goodies including a huge Skillshare credit, homebrew kits, a vertical gardening set and a cheese making kit!)
This week I'll be the expert for the term DIY-ing! Each day will have topic related to DIY and ways you can be more self-sufficient. From beekeeping to canning, cheesemaking to homebrewing, every day this week will have special blog posts, giveaways, interviews, Instagram photos, Pinterest pinning, Foursquare tips, a Spotify playlist and expert tips from yours truly. We'll even have a live beekeeping chat via Twitter at 5 p.m. tomorrow! (details to come)
Stay tuned for more fun DIY-ing news!! It's going to be a wild week!
(Photo by Alex Brown)
Get yr tickets before they are gone!
Ever wanted to learn how to grow, make and preserve your own food in a small space but need some hands-on guidance to do so?
Join Meg Paska, the "Brooklyn Homesteader", on her own turf as she teaches you how to raise chickens, keep bees, grow a garden, compost, forage, can, pickle, preserve and homebrew all from her tiny Greenpoint homestead.
Coffee and homemade donuts will be served in the morning before the class commences. It will tentatively go as follows:
-Building Raised Beds and Planning a Vegetable Garden
-Food Preservation (Freezing, Drying, Canning, Fermentation)
-DIY Home and Body Care
WIND DOWN with local beers and Q&A
Attendees will get hands on experience in all aspects of the above mentioned topics and will leave with care packages of assorted goodies! (Books on the subjects covered, seeds, canned and pickled items from the class, etc)
Please email Megan@BrooklynHomesteader.com with any questions.
Students are expected to bring notepads and pens, dress in light color clothes, be able to climb ladders and are willing to sign a waiver, as we will be getting up close and personal with stinging, venomous insects, boiling hot jars of food and eating weeds from the nearby park.
All other materials are included in the cost of the class.
I met Michael James Meier in passing last year at a Backwards Beekeepers meeting hosted by Brooklyn Grange, where he serves as their farm manager. I had been hearing stories of his resourcefulness and creativity. I also caught wind of how he jokingly refers to himself as the "Brooklyn Homo-steader" which I found totally hilarious and awesome! I recently met up with him to see if he'd want to pick up some of the slack on the blog and contribute some of his own musings to which he happily agreed to be involved! I'm really excited to have a different perspective shared on Brooklyn Homesteader for a change! Welcome, Michael!
You guys will see more posts from Michael in the future, focused on crafting with salvaged materials, homebrewing, beekeeping (this spring will be his first year!) gardening and eventually some livestock adventures of his own. In the meantime, here's a little Q&A with Michael to get you all acquainted!
So, Michael. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in a little town called Stuart on the southeast coast of Florida, just north of Jupiter and even more north of Palm Beach, and even more north than that of Miami. I've been living in NYC for about seven years and have tried out a few neighborhoods along the way: East Village, Financial District, Chinatown, Crown Heights, LES, and, now, Bed-Stuy (where I plan to stay put for a while).
When people ask you "What do you do?", what do you tell them?
Well, I worked in digital media and advertising for a couple years after school, helping big bad companies like Walmart, Kraft, and Goldman Sachs spew shit all over the internet. Mea culpa. The money was great, and I managed to pay off my hefty student loan debt. But luckily the experience was pretty polarizing for me, so I was able to eventually escape despite the material cushiness of it all.
I bit the bullet in early 2011 to make right with the world and pursue a career in urban farming. Right now I'm employed with Brooklyn Grange as farm manager alongside Ben Flanner for the 2012 season. Otherwise, I'm the proud father of two formerly-feral cat siblings (Boy and Girl); an enthusiastic, polite bicyclist; thrift-store rummager; community-gardener; seamster; knitter; found-materials artist; and otherwise homesteader.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Brooklyn homestead? What kind of projects do you have going on right now?
I like to experiment, so I've usually got at least one new project going at any time. But, generally...
Food: Right now I work with about 70 sq. ft. of container growing space on the roof of my apartment building, some clay pots but mostly stuff found on the street... buckets, storage bins, crates, and drawers. I'm also lucky to have two beds at my community garden around the corner (probably should keep that on the downlow). All in, I grow a nice haul of veggies: tomatoes, peppers, onions, beans, beets, carrots, kale, lettuces, and mustards. I'm shooting toward completely covering my veg needs, at least throughout the season, but haven't quite gotten there yet. But I like going to the greenmarkets anyway. I have played around with canning, but never get my hands on enough stuff at one time to make it worthwhile. I save seed. Too much seed.
Tipple: I brew beer year-round with a setup I bought (gasp!) at Brooklyn Homebrew. I don't get too creative unless I'm brewing for holiday presents; I usually stick to good ol' IPAs, or saisons in the summer heat of my un-a/c'd apartment. I'm thinking nice and hard about a still for this year.
Home: There's been lots of renovation and new construction in my immediate neighborhood since I moved here, so I've been a pig in shit. Lots of old wood, new wood, screws and nails. My dad got me a drill kit for my birthday a couple years ago, and boy has it come in handy. I've made lots of shelves and some little decorative odds and ends, but my biggest project so far has been a cabinet made with old red-stained cedar with ikea bed slats for shelves. It's missing doors, but for now it'll do. I also have a thing for taxidermy, and much to the chagrin of my poor roommates, I can really stink up the apartment when I don't know what I'm doing (which is just about always).
Other: I make my own toothpaste and deodorant off and on and make pomade with beeswax (soon enough, my own beeswax). I like to get crafty with my knitting needles and sewing machine, and there is nothing that can't be made out of burlap coffee sacks, let me tell you. My worm bin eats up most of my rubbish, and I use the castings in my garden.
How did you get into doing all of these things?
I was doing homesteady things for the fun of it before I even knew of the word, but I suppose that's how it always goes. Things just kind of developed over time. I guess my first real forays into homesteading were when I grew some veggies and herbs and foraged edibles in my backyard in Crown Heights. Once I caught the bug, it spread to other areas. I'd been doing the thrift store/free-box/craigslist thing, crafting, building stuff, and sewing and knitting here and there for years, but it all seemed to coalesce after I started to take control of my food. Along the way, I had delved deeper into food policy, economic policy, environmental issues, global corporatism, etc. and it began to make a lot of sense for me. What was becoming my homestead had already proven incredibly enjoyable and rewarding personally, so when I started to understand it as a way to rebel against evil, there was no turning back.
Who inspires you to keep living the sustainable life?
Probably the most influential piece of homsteady literature I've ever read is Dolly Freed's landmark Possom Living. Freed - especially as she was, then - is my homesteading idol. Otherwise, I'm particularly inspired by Vandana Shiva, Gene Logsdon, and Will Allen. To my other idols out there, sorry for blanking.
Want to describe yourself in five words?
Five words are not enough!
The number of home brewing posts on this blog (or lack thereof) is shameful. But I have a confession to make--I haven't brewed beer in a while. And when I did, I was a dabbler. I went to homebrewer's association meetings and events but you wouldn't find me posting on the Beer Advocate about all-grain clones or how to make a kegerator but I've made a few batches of easy Ales and that was it as far as my experience went.
I moved to Brooklyn and realized that I wouldn't have the space for storing carboys so I just let the hobby fall to the wayside. It never advanced beyond that. When I think of all of the beer I've consumed that someone else made, I feel the sting of failure quite clearly.
Recently, things have changed. I've got friends who love brewing and have all of the gear for it and a boyfriend with an encouraging desire to learn. I'm back on the home brew train again. Only this time, I'm rolling with some serious beer nerds so I'll be forced to expand my very basic working knowledge of the craft. I'm really looking forward to it.
First, we've got Jerry, who the folks that attended my Backyard Farming Bootcamp got to brew a batch of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter with in between lessons in lotion making and chicken handling. He's been brewing for some time and has a very relaxed approach to it. He's like one of those people who throws a bunch of stuff in a pot without measuring and it comes out delicious. He knows the rules and so he can break 'em with some level of comfort.
(Jerry bottling some home brewed porter)
Then there is Tom (insert Tom & Jerry jokes here) who is probably more enthusiastic about beer than anyone I know. He's a more regimented and organized brew dude. He also has strong opinions, which is a quality I value.
Neil, the loving and loyal boyfriend, has a nice big sponge-like brain and is good at babysitting bubbling carboys, wiping the explosions off of the ceiling (he's tall). He's going to be the sanitation expert, I can already tell. He can often be found vigorously scrubbing all of the gear in the bathtub after a day long session.
Me, well...I think I'll probably spend most of the time documenting the affair, asking questions and sampling. Maybe participating in the brainstorming and providing ingredients like honey and flavoring elements. I most recently provided some Newton Farm heirloom squash for a batch of Amber Ale with Kabocha and Buttercup and honey for bottling the EF Porter.
It'll be a group effort which always makes it more fun. We've got two batches in this month, and I'm hoping to get two batches started each month through the chilly months.
So, bear with me folks. The home brewing posts are coming. It's getting cold out and my cozy kitchen is perfect for brewing and hanging so I have a feeling you all are going to be in for some drunken beer posts all winter long.
There have been whispers of late at Jewel Street Paradise. Questions mostly, perhaps head shaking but certainly what seems to me like a quiet disdain. Maybe it was the rabbits, perhaps the worm bin and bales of hay in the basement. Perhaps it was the round of questioning from me regarding the homemade detergent that I thought had disappeared (it was only moved, my fault)... whatever it was, it seems that I've finally reached a point where the people I share a house with no longer completely understand my motivation to live a certain way. Beekeeping, raising livestock, gardening and self-sufficiency are usually done in roomy locales for good reason. I've done the best job I can to be conscientious, cleaning up the bits of straw that find their way to everywhere and tidying the yard on a daily basis, but what I see as perfection is seen as a blight by others. But the road goes both ways. I see grotesqueness where others see beauty, too.
And you know what-- that's ok. I've never wanted any of this to be a situation where people are expected bend to my ideologies or adapt to my lifestyle. Of course you sort of hope that it inspires people and they want to be part of it, but the truth is, not everyone's head is in the same place as mine. Some people just want things simple, uncomplicated. Everything in it's correct place so it needn't be worried about. When many people share that place, you've got to contend with the fact that little annoyances will mount up and become big problems in our minds, disrupting the flow of normal day-to-day thought. I've been on the other side of things, getting miffed over people making noise or not composting "right" or fussing with my laundry. None of them being particularly serious issues, but I let them get to me and they taint my experience of home. That's on me. I can't let resentment take me. None of us should allow it. It's a big challenge but simply, it's part of the deal when you live here. You just have to adjust to being around people, with all of their greatness and foibles, constantly.
Five years into living in Brooklyn and I am just starting to truly understand what that means. You are never really alone. Not everyone wants beer bottles and brewing equipment taking up living space. Not everyone finds the smell of a smoldering smoker romantic. Not everyone wants to wake to the sound of a chicken celebrating their daily egg. A few of us revel in it. But many do not. You've got to think about these things constantly if you want to get along.
But I won't complain, I've been very fortunate. I butt heads with the people I live with seldomly, and never to any extreme. They are all very accommodating and for their part they seem to enjoy some aspects of our little urban homestead. If they are put off by something, I am usually pretty good about reading between the lines and trying to improve the situation. I do the best I can. I want everyone to be happy. I want to be happy. It is our home. Sometimes I think it's all we've got.
I should thank my neighbors more often. I think that if they knew that I appreciated them for what they do and don't do perhaps they would simply say to themselves "Oh, that crazy Meg!" (I don't think of myself as crazy) when I bring home donated bus tubs of insect larvae for the chickens or a leaking bag of spent grains instead of possibly silently resenting it. After all, it's in part because of them that all of it is what it is.
What is "it"? It is home and we share it. It needs protecting too, even if it is from myself. We all look to this place as a sanctuary and it is so needed. I've got to figure out how to keep everyone happy, without having to sacrifice my way of life. If I don't have this, I don't have anything.