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Join Nicole and Misty Meadows Homestead & Apiary as they discuss homesteading with disabilities and keys to a happy marriage!
What You’ll Learn
- Advice on homesteading with disabilities
- Utilizing a freeze dryer on the homestead
- Keys to a happy marriage
For this episode we are joined by Steve and Starla of Misty Meadows Homestead & Apiary.
Steve and Starla both face challenges from medical disabilities, yet despite their struggles, continue homesteading in the shadows of Mt. Rainier.
Utilizing the fruits of the land, Misty Meadows Homestead & Apiary operates an Etsy shop to help offset their medical expenses, and help homesteaders network via Homesteaders of Instagram.
Resources & Links Mentioned
- Misty Meadows Etsy Shop
- Misty Meadows Website
- Misty Meadows on Facebook
- Homesteaders of Instagram
- Blog post on USDA Insurance
- Email us! Ask@HeritageAcresMarket.com
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Announcer: Welcome to the Backyard Bounty Podcast from HeritageAcresMarket.com! Where we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more! And now, here's your host Nicole!
Nicole: Welcome everybody to Backyard Bounty, I'm your host Nicole, and today we are joined by Starla and Steve, and they own Misty Meadows Homestead & Apiary and I'm super excited to have them on here. I've known Starla for about a year now, and she has an amazing little homestead, and they've got all kinds of neat stuff going on, on their farm over there. So guys, thank you so much for joining me.
Starla: You're welcome, glad to be here. Thanks so much. We're excited.
Nicole: So, can you tell us a little bit more about your Homestead & Apiary and all the neat stuff that you have going on over there?
Steve: Sure. Right now we are just outside of Mineral, Washington. It's a small place that we have there, it's about 13 acres, and we have, right now we have bees and chickens and we have a fairly large garden and we're going to expand onto that this year and hopefully we'll get some more fences up and get some more cows back in, we miss those. But yeah, right now our main focus is bees and chickens right now.
Nicole: And how many beehives do you guys have, and is there any specific type of chickens that you guys prefer to raise?
Starla: Oh gosh, I think we're down to 23 beehives. We had close to a hundred at the end of last year, but it was a pretty harsh winter, and our bees suffered greatly from moisture and the cold. So we went from probably at the very beginning of winter, it was like 66 hives.
Steve: Yeah, we had about 66 hives when winter started, and then they were doing a great first part of January, but then we had a lot of snow, a lot of cold, a lot of moisture, and we lost, yeah we lost a little over 40 of them. So it was quite a, quite a substantial loss.
Starla: Yeah, and where we live in Western Washington, it was pretty harsh for a lot of the keepers. We have friends that have lost about 96% of their hives. So we weren't alone in this loss, but it was still pretty devastating.
Nicole: Wow, that's terrible.
Steve: Yeah, it's you know, not only a big financial loss, but you know we look at beekeeping as livestock. As you know, the animal husbandry with that, you know taking care of his livestock and, and that type of a loss for, you know, for anything is pretty substantial.
Nicole: Absolutely. I don't know if you guys, I know we haven't talked about this outside of the podcast, but I know that the USDA has...I can't think of it off hand right now, but they have a program for beekeepers that you can register with them and then it's kind of like an insurance program. So if you do end up losing bees to things like weather, then they can help recuperate some of the financial losses from the loss of your hives. Do you guys have anything like that?
Starla: No we don't. We're going into our third year, so last year was our second, so we're still pretty new at this, but that's interesting. We'll have to do some research on that because that would be super helpful.
Steve: Yeah, I've heard something about that, you know like last year, but I wasn't too sure about it and then this thing has happened and didn't cross my mind again so I didn't look into it any further. But yeah, no it's definitely something to look into because it is a huge financial loss.
Nicole: I was able to remember, it's called the ELAP, E-L-A-P and I have a blog post on it and after we're done chatting I'll send you guys over a link to it and then also include a link in the description for the show for anybody that might be interested. It's a really good program that they have.
Starla: We've got Queen bees here coming in, in another couple of weeks because we're going to do some splits to try to get our numbers back.
Steve: Back up to around 40 or so for this year.
Nicole: Have you ever tried raising your own Queens?
Steve: Not yet. That's something that we want to get into. We have some of the equipment to do it that we've got from a beekeeper last year that we bought a bunch of stuff from and we just need to get more set up for things and then try to do that ourselves. We'd like to eventually raise our own Queens. We do our own splits, sell nucs and hives and stuff like that.
Nicole: There's a gentleman called Mel Disselkoen and he has, it's called On The Spot Queen Rearing and basically you remove the queen out of the parent hive and then they make new ones. So it's a free way to make new Queens and to expand your Apiary. And I use that to make up for all my winter losses. And then even make extra and it works really well, and the only extra equipment you need is either nucs or hive bodies, or something to move the parent queen into.
Starla: Really? I'm going to have to talk to you more about that because that's-
Steve: Yeah, that'd be great because it's $40 a queen and it adds up pretty quick.
Starla: Yeah, it does.
Nicole: Yeah, I'll send you a link to that as well. It's super easy.
Starla: And then as for our chickens, we have, gosh, close to 30 chickens. We have just your basic Rhode Island Reds, buff orpingtons, the Brahma's, the green, the two Cream Legbars that do the blue eggs, and then we probably would have, Easter eggers, yeah, about 17 meat chickens.
Nicole: I haven't dived into the realm of meat chickens yet. How do you like grazing them? Is that a lot of work? Do you find that it's worth it to raise them?
Starla: Yeah, they're really not that much more work. They do grow really quick. Last year was our first try at it. We did five, and rather than going the route of trying to block them and all that, we just skimmed them out. That seemed to be a lot easier.
Steve: It is. It is a lot easier because you can just get rid of all those feathers and everything all at once. You're not sitting there after the deal with all that in feathers and you know and it goes pretty quickly as far as skinning them and we just throw them in the smoker, or on the grill for a while and then we freeze dried quite a bit of it too. Not just freezing it, but actually freeze dried it. We have a freeze dryer we use for a lot of things.
Starla: Yeah we do like using that freeze dryer, it gives us some extra room in the freezer. You know, all the stuff that we freeze dry is shelf stable.
Nicole: I've looked into those freeze dryers and I desperately want one of those. Those things look so neat and super handy and practical to have around.
Starla: We really enjoyed it. We've had ours for over a year, is it two years now?
Steve: Almost two years now.
Starla: Yeah. I can't tell you how nice it is when we've been busy out in the garden, or with the bees to be able to just pop a can freeze dried meat or vegetables and rehydrate that and have a meal in just a snap. So, it's been helpful in a lot of ways.
Nicole: Absolutely, and do you freeze dry a lot of this stuff from your garden as well?
Starla: Yeah, we do vegetables. Not just meat, but vegetables, any fruits. So, it's been really handy, especially where we live. You know, if we have a little storm come through, the power goes out, you don't want to take the chance of losing our food in the freezer, which has happened and freeze drying it just makes more sense for us. It was an investment, but it's really paid off.
Steve: Well, you know, and the great thing about the freeze dryer is that we know what those foods are. Yeah, you can go buy your freeze dried food or whatever or MREs. So many of them have so many preservatives and everything else in them, but doing it ourselves it's just your own canning, and your own raising your vegetables, and your own meat. You know what goes into it, you know what there was there, so you don't have to worry about all those things.
Starla: Right, and we can do items that we really like as a family. It would not make a lot of sense for us to do a bunch of okra because nobody in the family really likes it. So I can really make sure they're meals that my family will eat.
Nicole: Yeah, that's, I think that's great. I, and then of course outside of the homesteading realm, it'd be great for camping and things like that too.
Starla: Oh, it totally is. It makes it so much easier. And we don't have to just have hamburgers, or hot dogs when we go camping, we can really have some nicer meals.
Nicole: So one thing that I think is really interesting about you guys and your story, is that you guys have been faced with some personal challenges and some disabilities, but despite all of that, you guys have been so strong and you're still able to maintain this amazing homestead with your garden and your bees, and your chickens despite the disabilities that you guys have faced. What kind of things have you found has made it more helpful for your challenges to be able to continue homesteading?
Starla: I think probably first and foremost, that we are a team. Absolutely, yeah, if we didn't have each other and we weren't working for each other and cheering each other on and that sort of thing, there's no way that we could do this. There's no way we could do this alone. So, on days where I'm having a really bad day, he's right there with me, encouraging me and helping me do the things I do, and when he's having a bad day, I do my best to help him as much as I can.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. You definitely need to, you know help, a lot of support for one another. And not only that, there are a lot of mechanical things. Yeah, they're a little expensive, like the big tractor. I could've got away with a smaller one, but you know the things that I can do with that tractor that I don't have to physically lift and things like that because of my back injuries and things like that, it makes things a lot easier to get done around the house, and the homestead. And so it's just, it's always working together.
Nicole: I know I've seen on some of the groups, people think that because they have certain medical issues or whatever, that they're not able to homestead.
Starla: But you really can, I mean, we work really well as a team, but we do have to make some adjustments.
Starla: Life goes on.
Starla: You can't just stay in bed all day. There's some days I really want to, (laughter) but there's still stuff that we have to do and there's still stuff that I can do. You just kind of have to make those adjustments.
Steve: Yeah, no, and I agree. And it's also, you know, you can choose to just stay in town where it's not the greatest, and because of your limited mobilities or whatever, or you can try to live out your dream and adapt your surroundings to what you want to do.
Nicole: And what about your beekeeping? Have you found any tricks, or anything that has made life easier with that?
Steve: Still working on that. But we've got to figure out something, because those honey supers get pretty heavy, and switching the boxes around and going through and things like that. They get pretty heavy. And last year I had a lot of a lot of help with that from my brother and some other people, which is great because you know it definitely needed that. And there's always people wanting to learn about beekeeping. So, you trade them a little bit of help for teaching them some knowledge and just sharing what we do know and, and continually learning. But there are some things that we need to do better to make that beekeeping part of it a little bit easier on my back. Bose there's days that I can only do it for a little while and so yeah, definitely, yeah. But, she keeps track of this stuff and you know, she's a record keeper [crosstalk 00:13:07]
Starla: I can't lift the honey supers or do any of that kind of physical work. So ,the pictures that I take or documenting so we can share with others about bees and how important they are. Kind of do a little bit of education. So that's my part in beekeeping, but if we could find ways to kind of help his back, that would be great.
Nicole: I know that my situation's a little different than yours, but last year I had a shoulder surgery and I wasn't able to do anything with the bees, and it was super challenging, and that was just for, you know, temporary, just one season. So, I think that you guys...really, it just warms my heart and I find it so inspiring that you guys really rely on each other, and I think it's really inspirational and I just love how you guys help each other. That's...that's just amazing to me.
Starla: Yeah, there's no way that we can do it.
Steve: You can't do it all by yourself, and you have to work together, you support each other, you help each other however you can.
Starla: And it helps we really like each other, you know?
Steve: Yeah, yeah.
Starla: That makes it a lot easier when you like your spouse.
Steve: Well, the thing about it is...
Starla: We see couples all the time that you just wonder? It's like, do you guys really even like each other? We can make life harder on each other, but that wouldn't get us to our goal.
Steve: No, we both have the same goal of living self-sufficiently without having to deal with other stuff that you buy in stores and things like that. I mean, how many recalls every year on the meat, on the produce, and everything else? And if we grow it, we know what's there. And if we butcher it, which is what we try to do, you know exactly what it is.
Nicole: Definitely. So, I just have to ask, because again, I just think you guys are the best. Do you have any tips and tricks for a strong marriage?
Steve: Yeah, we laugh a lot. A great sense of humor is definitely important.
Starla: There are days when I hurt so bad that I cry, but if he can make me laugh it makes a world of difference. There's so much laughter in our house that people that come visit us, they comment on that. We're silly and that's how we just get through.
Steve: And we talk a lot.
Steve: Communication is a big part of it, you know? And we do have the same goals, this is what we want and we work towards those goals. Some days we get more things done than others, but we talk about it and plan it out and we just work together. Only way you can do it.
Nicole: Well, you guys are just adorable. I love that.
Starla: Thank you.
Nicole: Yeah, it's not easy to find somebody that you get along with, and I just love that you guys have that in your life and are there for each other.
Starla: Yeah, that's definitely a blessing.
Steve: Yes it is. Yes it is.
Starla: There are things that I'll be thinking of, like I would like to do this in the garden because it will make it easier for me, and he's always so encouraging. He's always trying to figure out ways that he can accommodate my ideas, and my dreams. I just love him so much. He's just an amazing guy.
Nicole: You guys, you're going to make me cry. That's so cute.
Steve: Well, that's just the part about helping and supporting each other, and loving each other for who we are. We're not trying to change each other because we love those differences in each other. We just try to build each other up, and that's a big part of it. Helping one another no matter how, which way you can, and building each other up.
Starla: Right. And it makes our day to day tasks easier too. If I can't do something, he's not going to be mad at me. You know, today's Tuesday and he goes to men's prayer, and I like to be able to make them a treat. But, there have been times where I just can't do it, and I know it probably disappoints him a little bit. He never makes me feel bad about it. We're a team, however we can get through whatever we're going through, we're going to do it together. It's not that we don't go through hard times, but we really try not to make things harder on each other than we have to.
Steve: No, absolutely. Making it harder on your partner is only going to make it harder on yourself. You have to work together, you've got to support each other. Making things harder on your partner, is just making things harder on you.
Nicole: And how long have you guys been together?
Steve: Seven years.
Starla: Seven years, known each other since high school.
Steve: Yeah, we've know each other for 30, but yeah.
Steve: Uh oh, just aged ourselves, didn't I?
Steve: Well, you know, there's still things that we want to do around the homestead. Like one of the things that I really enjoy, and learning about more of, is blacksmithing. I love making my own knives, I want to get into doing more of that, and doing other things. So, we're working towards those goals. It's just another avenue, not only financial, but as far as doing the things that you want to enjoy, that you want to do with your life that you enjoy doing that it makes it a lot easier. Do what you enjoy.
Nicole: Yeah. That's, I think a key to life as well. I mean, what's the point if you're not enjoying it and sometimes you got to make it a point to enjoy your day-to-day.
Steve: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I know it's been hard on her the last several months that she hasn't been able to make her soaps, and things like that, that she enjoys doing. That adds income to us, you know? But, she'll get back to that. We'll get her area finished, and she can be able to do those again. But those are all goals that we have and we work at them together.
Nicole: Yeah, I know that you guys do the soaps, and the honey and stuff, and you've got a great little Etsy shop, but what other items do you guys make and sell from your homestead?
Starla: Well, we sell our eggs and make all kinds of different bones and salves with local botanicals like Cottonwood, or St John's wort. Different botanicals that have healing benefits. We make things with bee's wax. Bee's wax wraps, we're going to be making candles soon, honey suckers.
Steve: That's it. We have plans for some other things, but that's about it right now.
Starla: We're working on a canning kitchen right now. We hope that at some point, maybe by late summer, to start offering some small classes to those in our community that are interested in: how to can, or how to make soap, or how to use those different herbs.
Nicole: I wish I lived closer to you. I've been wanting to dabble in soap making for the longest time, but I have no idea how to do that.
Starla: You're always welcome to come visit.
Nicole: Oh, I would love to.
Steve: And the thing about it is, each bar of her soap is so artistic. It's not just regular plain old soap, it's better than anything that you can buy in the stores. It really is. It's like when I run out of the soaps that she makes for us it's like, "Man, I've got to go back and use this soap." So she makes more, you know, which is really bad. But I mean, her soaps they're tremendous. She does a fabulous job with them.
Nicole: I know, you've sent me some of your soaps and not only were they beautiful, but they just smelled great. They're so lathering and gentle, moisturizing and gentle on your skin, they're great. And then, yours are even more adorable because they're felted soaps, and I love all the little scenes that you put on them.
Starla: Yeah, that's been something that's been really fun. So, right now I can't really make soap stuff because; the strength of my arm is not doing really well, but I can sit there and felt the soap and come up with different ideas, it's just like this little creative outlet for me.
Nicole: I think my favorite one that I saw, you had a Bigfoot one, and I thought that was so cute.
Starla: Yeah, our area is well known for Bigfoot.
Steve: Yeah, we're in Bigfoot country here, so you might as well take advantage of that. It helps, to do the local things.
Nicole: And I know you've got those elderberry syrup kits on your Etsy store too.
Starla: Yeah, that's right. So, we gathered those out here near Mount Rainier out in the wild. We do a lot of wild foraging. Elderberries are so great if we have a cold, or flu. Kept us pretty healthy this winter.
Steve: Yeah, and that's another thing that we use in our freeze dryer. We freeze dry all those ones that we harvest, and before we make them into packs and stuff. But yeah, we harvest them, we freeze dry them, and package them up ourselves.
Nicole: Is there anything else that maybe we didn't talk about that you'd like to share; things about your homestead, or maybe your Homesteaders of Instagram, or maybe how you guys work together to make life easier?
Steve: Well, the one thing I could say is, if you're thinking about having a homestead or something and are limited on your mobility or whatever, just do it and work out a way to adapt their environment to what you can, and can't do. Don't let your-
Starla: Don't give up that dream.
Steve: Yeah, don't give up that dream because of a disability have it drive you even more, because doing the things that you want to do in life are important.
Starla: Yeah, and you may not be able to do it large scale. And even if you're able to do it at a small scale, and it gives you some sense of peace, and you enjoy it, then do it!
Nicole: Absolutely. And, I know that you're on social media, so if people wanted to follow you and gather some inspiration, where all can they find you?
Starla: We have a website now, it's MistyMeadowsHomestead.com, and we can be found on Facebook and Instagram at Misty Meadows Homestead.
Nicole: Great, and we can put a link to those in the description so that people don't have to search for you.
Nicole: Well, that's kind of all I had today guys. Steve and Starla, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, and to share your knowledge with us. I sure appreciate it.
Starla: Thanks so much. It was great talking to you. You take care.
Nicole: Like I said, we'll include all the links to everything that we've talked about in the description below, and thank you all so much for listening and we'll see you again next week!
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by HeritageAcresMarket.com. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show, please email us at: Ask@HeritageAcresMarket.com. Also, find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at: Heritage Acres Market. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week!
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