Severance woman discovers homesteading, learns about agriculture | MyWindsorNow.com

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Severance woman discovers homesteading, learns about agriculture

How to get started

» Do your homework: There’s a plethora of homesteading blogs online. Holcombe got her start with http://www.theprairiehomestead.com. Books are available as well. Holcombe likes to buy her books so she can reference them over and over again. Libraries are also an option and generally carry some homesteading books. Get to know folks in your area who are interested in trying or have already been successful in what you’d like to learn. Feel free to ask for their help.

» Start small: Holcombe recommends you start with one or two things you want to grow. That way, you can learn in chunks, and it’s not as overwhelming. You have time to tinker with what works and what doesn’t.

» Grow things you use: Holcombe recommends growing things you already use and enjoy. If you grow things you don’t like or your family doesn’t like, it can feel like a wasted effort.

Chickens clucked and bobbed around Cathy Holcombe as she collected their eggs. She placed the eggs in a basket before scattering feed. She left a couple fake ones in the coop to remind the chickens where they were supposed to lay. Sometimes, the hens stopped to admire themselves in the mirror outside the coop.

Holcombe's chickens don't live on her property. Her neighborhood isn't zoned for it. So she drives across the way to her neighbor's farm. He lets her house her chickens in his old coop in exchange for a couple eggs.

Holcombe didn't grow up around agriculture. She went to Western Washington University to study human services, worked as a call center manager and later helped her husband Brent kick off his own business, Holcombe Mobile Concrete Mixers in Ault. But she liked the idea of making something herself.

She lives in an ag area now, off Colo. 14, just within Severance, and she's entrenched in the idea of the modern homesteading movement. It's a movement toward self-sufficiency.

She got hooked on the idea after she tried her hand at gardening, which was a total flop for the first two years, and making her own cheese.

Holcombe didn't know anyone involved in agriculture. So she took to the internet to do her research. She found a couple of homesteading blogs and fell in love. Then she plucked up the courage to ask her neighbors for insight.

"We live across from Drake Farms," Holcombe said. "I made them cookies and made friends with them."

It took a lot of networking, reading and trying things out to establish the Holcombe Family Farm. Now, it's a semi-self supporting family homestead. Holcombe produces her own beef, vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, milk and dairy products.

Holcombe got her cow after some friends of hers involved with 4-H moved to Hong Kong. Her cow was patient with her through the learning process.

"I had to figure out how to milk because her utter was splitting," Holcombe said.

She loves knowing where her food comes from and growing it herself. She appreciates the effort and the process so much more when she sees it from start to finish. She makes a concerted effort not to throw any food away or let it go to waste. She learned how to can and preserve food to keep it for as long as possible.

It's important to her, too, that her kids know where their food comes from.

"My daughter knows how to milk a cow, she pulls carrots from the ground and eats them," Holcombe said. "Even if my kids live in the city, they'll know where their food comes from."

Even so, Holcombe still helps with her husband's concrete business. She wasn't able to grow as much last year because she had to be more involved. At the end of the day, she said, she's not a slave to the homestead. It's not a farm and doesn't require the same kind of upkeep. If she's not able to grow everything, she's glad she has the option of going to the grocery store.

An all-out move to homesteading isn't practical for everyone. Many folks live in apartments or rent their homes. Many are pressed for time. Holcombe knows that. But everyone can start somewhere, if they want to, she said.

The key is to start small. Holcombe advises people to pick two things they want to grow and try that first.

"I started with a crate on the patio," Holcombe said.

Blogs and library books can help folks learn for free. Others in the community are usually willing to share what they know, she said. It takes time, but it's worth it, Holcombe said.

Holcombe wants to check out Colorado State University's extension program to learn more about growing food. She thinks she'd like to get into consulting others on homesteading.

"It's not just about food," Holcombe said. "It's about creating something yourself. If you haven't done it, it's not easy to understand that feeling of richness."

— Kelly Ragan covers features and health for The Greeley Tribune. Have a tip? Call (970) 392-4424 or email kragan@greeleytribune.com.