June 14, 2010
Despite gusty afternoon winds, 13 couples recently enjoyed attending the inaugural Homestead Bootcamp at Blessed Creek Farm (BCF) sponsored by Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC). From as far away as Grand Junction, Colo., husbands and wives (and some nursing babies) traveled to northeastern Colorado to learn what it takes to find, purchase, set-up, and manage a modern homestead.
Cary and Shari McMinn, owners and operators of BCF, have lived for the past decade on their remote farm property with their nine children they have homeschooled for 15 years. Wanting to share their knowledge of small farming, and how to raise a large family on a modest budget, they agreed to team with CHEC to help other like-minded families consider a rural lifestyle to survive the coming economic crisis.
Each day of the two-day camp was filled with explanation of sustainable farming techniques, hands-on skill development, and supportive fellowship. During both the husband’s and wife’s tracks in the morning, and the couple’s track in the afternoons, men and women alike gained the knowledge they needed to pursue their desire to homestead, looking forward to the many benefits, as well as becoming prepared for the difficulties that might need to be endured living miles from the nearest town.
Cary McMinn is a licensed architect and college instructor. He led the men both mornings in a S.T.E.W.A.R.D. worksheet based on Biblical principles, to take dominion over the land through responsibly raising livestock with rotational grazing, while shepherding their families by discipleship and provision. The men also discussed how to handle a “town” career or family business, while managing the work required to build and manage a homestead.
Shari McMinn is a CSU master gardener volunteer and spent the mornings teaching the women a variety of practical, low-cost gardening techniques, and small animal management practices that can improve eastern Colorado clay soil for abundant kitchen gardens. The women also discussed large capacity food storage for year round enjoyment of the garden abundance, as well as managing farm chores in conjunction with home schooling and other homemaking duties.
In the afternoon, the couples split into work teams to learn by demonstration, practice, then demonstration to each other, both fencing and conservation tree planting. Cary taught how to dig post holes, set wood posts with cross braces, pound t-posts, string barbed wire, install mesh fence, and twist vertical stays. In an adjacent area, Shari demonstrated how to plant two rows of conservation trees – one deciduous, one evergreen – by rolling out black fabric mulch and securing it with staples, cutting holes in the fabric, digging the tree holes, setting the trees, then damming the dirt to hold water more effectively.
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Between the morning and afternoon sessions, the McMinn children helped prepare and serve a sumptuous TexMex meal, with plenty of iced tea and lemonade, at tables under shade trees in their front yard. After all the cream pies and chocolate chip cookies were devoured, everyone joined in the boisterous fun of old-fashioned farms games including egg toss and tug-of-war.
In the post-camp surveys that the attendees completed, it was clear that the participants enjoyed learning more than they expected, and wanted to return for an advanced skills camp. Suggestions included more information on specific livestock management practices, alternative building and energy techniques, and hands-on activities such as beekeeping, butchering, candlemaking and soapmaking. Parents also asked if the next Bootcamp might include activities for their children to also learn what their role in homesteading could be.
Participants were hesitant to leave the fun and informative day, staying until dusk to ask more questions and swap personal stories. Each couple received a bag of catalogues and gift items donated to the cause from suppliers that included: Dadant Beekeeping Supply, Farmtek Supply, Morgan Conservation District, Miller’s Landscaping Materials and Feed, Miller’s (Fruit and Nut Trees), Murdoch’s Home and Ranch Stores, Premier 1 Fencing and Equipment, and Seeds of Change.