Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Homesteader: what does it mean?

I’ve had people stopping by apparently looking for information on Homesteading and leaving disappointed. Apparently they have been lead astray by my novel title ‘Homesteader’. I tried to avoid this by adding the sub-title ‘Looking for Sharon’ but obviously I wasn’t completely successful.
Homesteading today might include a box full of dirt on a fifth floor balcony in New York or a small acreage on the Blue Mountain 80 miles north of Toronto.
My novel, however, is about the acquisition of a comparatively large tract of land in the North West Territories in 1886. This ‘homesteading’ story could have been set in any part of the Western US or Canada since the laws and costs for acquiring land were similar in both jurisdictions. The timing could have been changed to a number of decades. There was still government land available as late as the 1980s in British Columbia although the laws had changed several times over the years. I chose the Calgary area since I had hiked or driven over some of the area depicted and it fit in nicely with the characters I had created in ‘The Great Liquor War’.
Not that I don’t have some familiarity with today’s form of ‘homesteading’. I’ve planted and weeded more than one garden. I’ve raised and sold (or helped butcher) several litters of pigs and milked more than one cow. In addition to some experience with range cattle I’ve also raised a few on my own small acreage.
Yes, you pick up a few hints over the years that might help. For instance, if you find yourself in possession of an old garden plot that is covered in a thick blanket of weeds plant Jerusalem artichokes. Plant them very thick. While you’re waiting for them to grow, surround them with a fence that is pig – proof and install a water system for those pigs. When the artichokes are well on their way, turn a litter of pigs in to the lot. The artichokes will smother out the weeds; the pigs will eat the artichokes (and weeds) as well as doing the initial tilling of your garden now ready for next season.
One of the things I’ve tried was a hay rake of my own creation which worked. With some variation I describe it in my novel ‘Homesteader’. The characters in the novel use it attached to the back of a horse drawn wagon rather than to a tractor.
By the way, Jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes and they are not from Jerusalem. They are members of the sunflower family.
Yes, there is enough material in homesteading now and homesteading then to make a book on either subject. But I prefer what I’m doing.

No comments:

Post a Comment