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The Aardsma Homestead (2001)

We live in the beautiful midwestern prairie, near the small town of Loda, Illinois. We have just over an acre, surrounded by corn and soybean fields. I love where I live! It's a great place to homestead and raise our large family.

We have a one-acre garden and grow everything from strawberries to potatoes. We garden strictly organically, avoiding the use of any chemicals. We market our produce to local folks from a stand in our front yard. Gerald, my husband, is the master gardener, and the brains behind the homestead. We do most of the garden work by hand, and also use a Troy-bilt Horse tiller. David, the oldest son at home (14) is the homestead manager, and does most of the hard labor.

We raise about 125 meat chickens every year. We get the baby chicks in the spring, raise them in a large portable coop, and butcher them in the fall. We move the coop to a new section of the garden every year, so we have natural fertilizer! We also have a Jersey milk cow which we milk twice per day. I make butter, cream cheese, mozerella cheese, ice cream, you name it! Boy, that stuff is delicious! It's hard work, but so rewarding. Right now we are raising one of her calves for meat.

Yellow iris in my perennial bed.

We have a unique barn that my husband planned and our family built. It is made of straw bales and covered with a large tarp. This has worked very well, and saved us a lot of money. The barn has a stall for the cow and storage for hay and straw. We don't have pasture for our cow, but we'd like to some day.

Rachel watching the new calf.

Living in the country has many joys, but it requires a lot of hard work and discipline. We have no romantic ideas about farm life. Cows have to be milked at 6:30 a.m. and at 6:30 p.m. every day. When the strawberries are ready to harvest, there's no time for a picnic. Canning beans on 100-degree days isn't a picnic either! But the work keeps us all occupied and out of trouble. When winter comes and I see the bounty in my pantry, I'm thankful for God's blessing and for life in the country.

Much more information about the Aardsma's homestead can be found in Gerald's "Homestead Notes" column in The Mother's Companion.


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