The Suburban Homestead is now accepting applications for volunteers for 2017. I host from late February or March to mid-November and prefer to host two volunteers at a time who are willing to share a room and a double bed. Single volunteers are also welcome.
My suburban homesteader includes a tiny backyard flock of laying hens and approximately 2800 square feet of garden space, located in the Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania. The goal is to produce as much food as possible through organic methods, while demonstrating what degree of production is possible on a residential plot of land by ordinary people with no formal training in gardening or agriculture. In 2009 the homestead produced over 600 pounds of food from the backyard, and in 2010, over 760 pounds. Harvests have increased year by year. Since I grow for personal consumption and not for market, the homestead features a large variety of crops, including fruit trees, nuts, several types of perennial berries, a large garden of annual and perennial vegetables, and many herbs.
Other interests include light DIY/construction work to address on-site needs, permaculture, many methods of food preservation, occasional dumpster diving for construction materials, and all aspects of sustainability. Cooking from scratch using foods grown on site is a passion for me. I look forward to learning more about the world, other cultures, and many areas of expertise from volunteers. I enjoy playing Euro board games in the evening and would be happy to teach you a few. I also knit and often attend a weekly knitting circle, so feel free to bring your fiber arts project if you have one.
Plans for 2017 include continuing to develop a living fence (hedgerow) to replace the old wooden one, and adjusting gardening patterns as perennial crops such as blueberries, grapes, pears, hazelnuts, raspberries, asparagus and rhubarb begin to produce more abundantly. The espalliered micro-orchard of Asian pear and apple trees entered partial production in 2016, so they will need pruning maintenance and careful attention. I also experiment each year with some specialty herbs and annual vegetables from Asia and continue to extend the growing season with a small hoop house. Small batches of chickens and turkeys may be raised for the table.
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
Typically I host volunteers from late February through mid-November, for stays of 10 to 14 days at a time. Volunteers are expected to contribute about 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, mainly outdoors in the garden, on a DIY project, or household maintenance work. Additionally, help preparing meals and/or kitchen cleanup after meals taken in common is expected.
Homesteading encompasses food production and other self-sufficiency endeavors, and the work is often determined by season or the weather. During summer, the garden work begins in early morning to avoid the hot hours of the day. This work will start before breakfast on the hottest days. You should be physically fit for outdoor work, able to lift at least 40 pounds, and self-motivated.
I cannot accept volunteers who are less than 18 years of age, nor families traveling with minor children.
English, some Russian, limited Spanish and French
Volunteers are offered a small but private bedroom with a futon, and shared use of bathroom and the kitchen. Cooking is usually done daily from scratch, using garden produce throughout the year, and meals are taken together. If you like to cook you'd be welcome to prepare a favored meal. You are welcome to use the washing machine and a laundry line for drying while you are here. I have a wifi and plenty of books free to peruse.
My home is non-smoking and drug-free. Cigarette smoking by volunteers is acceptable away from the house. I respectfully ask that you not bring any illegal or recreational drugs to my home.
I have a pet cat with free access to the house. If you are allergic to cats this may be problematic, although I do my best to keep him out of the volunteer bedroom.
While I prepare many vegetarian meals, I also consume small amounts of meat. Dairy and especially eggs from the laying hens make a small but significant contribution to meals on a daily basis, and I have only limited amounts of fresh produce from late fall to late spring. I can most easily accommodate vegetarians during July, August and September. If your dietary restrictions or preferences differ, especially if you are strictly vegan or looking to volunteer outside of the summer months, I respectfully suggest you look for another host.
I am close to a bus station of a bus line (Bieber Tourways) with service to/from New York City and Philadelphia several times each day. I can pick up from and drop off at Lehigh Valley airport (ABE) or the Allentown Greyhound bus stop as well.
I can loan you a bicycle or suggest nearby walking/running routes. I also am happy to bring volunteers along to social events. I enjoy modern boardgames and will be happy to teach you some. There are movie theaters, small parks, and a large amusement park within biking distance.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
I have lived abroad and studied several foreign languages. So I am adept at communicating with people whose first language is not English. What I have to offer in a cultural exchange is my way of life - stewarding and producing food on a small piece of land, cooking very culturally diverse dishes based on the foods I grow, living frugally but with plenty of socializing, good conversation, and giving back to my community through volunteering and activism.
In my home I may be able to offer you a view of America that is different from what you've seen on TV or in the movies. Also, I live close to Old Order Mennonite and Amish communities. These people represent a truly different American culture. If you are interested, I can take you along on my monthly visit to this area.
I especially welcome those who consider themselves independent, outgoing, and curious about the world. I am always happy to teach what I know, but I leave it up to you to express your interests and ask questions.
5 hours per day/ 5 days