Amber Hendrickson writing on homesteading

What’s your New Year resolution?

This time next year, I plan to be full-time on the ranch my partner, Chris bought near Colorado Springs, at the end of 2009.

He wanted to have some space and a more peaceful lifestyle. I’m still dealing with the hustle and bustle of the city, working a 40-hour-week job…but I’m ready for change.

Chris had enough working for other people. He worked hard but that didn’t result in better pay. So he decided he was going to work for himself and looked for the quickest way to get there.

Back in 2010, while he was still in a job, he learned how to make soap by night and developed his first products, a range of three scents to sell at farmers markets and craft shows on the weekend.

Within two years he was able to go full-time into his business by selling not only soaps, but also lotions, salt scrubs, massage oils, shaving soaps, and more. He was selling them regularly at markets as well as online through eBay.

But that wasn’t all…

In 2011, he started raising 15 chickens because his mother’s doctor said she should eat good, fresh eggs every day. He began bringing the extras to market and when he discovered that people were fighting to get the eggs – and there were only a couple other people selling farm-fresh eggs – he realized he had an opportunity on his hands.

Over the past three years, that has grown into a decent sized farm business that we are continuing to grow. We’re now up to almost 1,000 chickens between our weekly hatches of new chicks, the roosters, and our old laying hens.

We do home deliveries for eggs (kind of like the milkman back in the old days), sell our pasture-raised chicken meat (processed by Chris and his dad), provide baby chicks to local families in the spring, and sell mature chicken manure as fertilizer.

The egg business is now proving to have more potential for growth, so Chris will shut down the bath-and-body products in 2017. This will allow him to focus solely on growing the egg business.

In order for me to be at the ranch full-time next year, we are expanding our product offerings to include heirloom produce and starter plants for our customers’ gardens.

We already work with local businesses in Colorado Springs to collect their food waste, keeping it out of the landfills and allowing us to add it to our compost piles…which we plan on selling to our customers in the spring. We plan to write a book on raising chickens and offer in-person classes and workshops on a variety of topics related to raising chickens.

To become more self-sufficient, this spring we are planning on building a small in-ground, 100% passive solar greenhouse that will allow us to grow year-round — even during the middle of a Colorado winter. If the little one does well, we will build a couple bigger ones based on different climates so we can grow our own tropical fruits and veggies, since that is not possible to do outside in Colorado.

They will also support an aquaponics component for providing fresh fish, sea food, and nutrient dense water we can use on our plants. And in the winter, the greenhouses will provide a warm, livable shelter in the event that our power goes out and our back-up generator doesn’t kick on.

Because we believe in taking care of our land, we are also putting many permaculture practices into place to reduce our need to “work the land” (which can actually do more harm than good) while still producing an abundance of food and creating a more livable habitat for our chickens and wildlife on the Colorado high plains.

Even though we have come a long way from those long nights learning to make soap and the growing pains of going from 15 chickens to 100’s, now 1,000, we are always still learning and trying new things.

But you know what…that’s what makes all the struggles and frustrations worth it.

Living on our own terms means living differently. It means getting used to adapting on the fly, letting go of certain conveniences, and, most importantly, coming up with solutions to do things better the next time.

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