Beekeeping. Canning. Blacksmithing. Maybe you don’t aspire a Little House on the Prairie lifestyle, but there’s something to be said for embracing the heritage skills that kept our grandparents alive. The Homestead Atlanta teaches a sustainable approach to life through hands-on educational workshops on a wide range of subjects. No, you probably won’t quit your day job to make horseshoes, but you just might reconnect with the sense of pride that comes from making something with your own two hands. Want to know more? Bust out the butter churn for this week’s Friday Five with resident aspiring homesteader Kimberly Coburn, Founder and Executive Director of The Homestead Atlanta.
Now that over 80 percent of Americans live in cities, it’s no surprise that people are trying to embrace a more handmade, authentic lifestyle at the ends of cul-de-sacs and on the top floors of condo buildings. We can’t all afford the space or lifestyle that a more rural approach with land entails — though, to be fair, the rise in remote working opens up all kinds of new agrarian possibilities!
But whether it’s kimchi fermenting on your kitchen counter, growing your own produce in whatever space you’ve got, or discovering the best spots around the city to forage for food and wild herbs (trust me, they exist), Atlanta is a uniquely wonderful spot to embrace homesteading. Our weather allows for year-round growing and our heritage is rich in traditions ranging from cooking to herbalism, moonshine to woodcraft. Some of us still have a grandmother or great uncle who loves to tell us what it was like when they were kids, and now we’re old enough to realize what a treasure that is. For those of us without that family connection, though, The Homestead provides a place to make sure those traditional skills are not only preserved, but re-infused with life and vigor and fun!
Beekeeping and blacksmithing sound pretty freakin’ cool, but how do these and other heritage skills tie in to the greater idea of wellness?
As much as we’d prefer not to think about it most of the time, our daily lives depend on a LOT of systems to work in just the right way. By learning how to make, grow, cook, and create things for yourself, you take control of your own wellness. Freaked out by what people might be putting in/on the food you eat? Grow your own. Tired of paying crazy money for probiotics? Ferment some delicious goodness for pennies. Want to avoid the funk that’s going around your office? Learn what herbs boost your immune system and can keep you healthy all winter. Plus, getting away from glowing screens and creating things with your hands is a crazy amazing stress reliever and restores a sense of balance. We don’t believe in self-sufficiency because everyone relies on their family, friends, and community to thrive. No one can do it completely alone… and who would want to? But by being more self-reliant, you tend to live a lifestyle that is healthier, more fulfilling, and resilient to unpredictable changes.
Which workshops have gotten the biggest response from the public? Beer brewing? We do love us some beer here in Atlanta.
Not gonna lie, any workshop with booze tends to fill up pretty fast. Our Herbal Holiday Spirits workshop where we learn about the herbs that go into some of our favorite adult elixirs and their effects is always a winner. People also go nuts for blacksmithing and foraging, both of which are super empowering in really different ways. We’ve also had lots of folks excited about our natural dyeing indigo workshops as well as all sorts of sustainability-focused offerings like tiny homes, aquaponics, and biodynamics.
People are busy. They’re rushing the kids to school while trying to answer emails at stoplights. Becoming a “maker” can seem time-consuming and, honestly, a little overwhelming. What’s an easy win folks can get as a jumping off point?
I think the key is doing something you enjoy. That way it feels like play and you’re more apt to keep it up! Plus, it SHOULD be enjoyable. Take a look at what you already like and ask “how is that made?” Do you love beer or cheese? Even if you don’t decide to make your own, learning how its done can give you a much greater respect for it. Vegetable fermentation is a great place to start because it literally takes water, salt, and time. It’s crazy how easy it is. Foraging is pretty awesome too. Learning what in your own backyard is edible or medicinal will blow your mind. One of the best plants for stings, burns and bites — plantain (the plant from the Plantago genus, not the delicious banana-like thing) — grows absolutely everywhere. EVERYWHERE! And you can be the baller who knows what to grab when your buddy becomes an appetizer for hungry mosquitoes or a target for irate bees.
‘Fess up. Are you the kooky lady on the block with chickens, a beehive, and a goat weed-eating your front lawn? What kind of old-timey activities do you practice in your everyday life?
I wish! I can’t wait until I’m a resident weirdo somewhere. Hopefully I’ll have so much honey, eggs, kraut, and crafts to share, I’ll be everybody’s favorite weirdo. As of right now, I rent, so I’m somewhat limited, but my kitchen is piled high with ferments and preserves. I love exploring different crafts (I’m digging leather craft at present because it’s a cool medium that kind of works like fabric, but kind of works like wood too), repurposing is my favorite and I have a pile of Goodwill treasures to give new life with some simple alterations. I make my own cleaning products — which is SUPER easy and cheap — as well as making traditional foods like bone broths and kefir. I have an indoor pink oyster mushroom kit that will not stop fruiting when I least expect it and a couple of liqueurs mellowing next to my bourbon and rye. There is so, so much I want to learn; I don’t think I’ll ever be done, but I just keep trying new things and keeping the ones I enjoy. Curiosity is a homesteader’s best friend and saving grace.
Keep up with The Homestead Atlanta on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. January workshops include Beekeeping 101, Cultivating Shiitake Mushrooms, Intro to Basic Canning, Cheesemaking Fundamentals, and Fermentation Fundamentals.