Sell-out crowd flocks to first-ever DIY Homesteader Festival

Christopher Kirouac of Bee Project Apiaries shows off a bee hive.

A chilly morning didn’t keep a sell-out crowd of 350 from learning some of the skills necessary to live off the land at the first-ever DIY Homesteader Festival on Saturday, June 1.

The family-friendly festival, held on a farmstead just outside Fraserwood, MB, featured workshops on soap making, home grain milling, lacto-fermentation, lasagna gardening, herbal first-aid, yarn spinning, mushroom growing, composting toilet construction, and lots more.

With 27 workshops falling under three broad categories – cooking and eating, farm and garden, and health and home – there was plenty of opportunity to cater to individual interests. And as the attendance demonstrates, there’s a lot of interest in learning those traditional skills.

“It shows that people are recognizing there is a gap in our skill base and what people knew a generation or two ago we just don’t really know anymore,” says Kris Antonius, who, along with Adrienne Percy, organized the festival.

Greta, 16-months, meets a goat at the DIY Homesteader Festival.

The two women recently slowed the pace of their families’ city-dwelling lives, returning to some of the traditions of the family farm. Last fall the Percy family purchased the 320-acre farm – dubbed Nourished Roots Family Farms – which hosted the DIY Homesteader Fest, and Antonius eventually plans to move out there with her family.

“For our family we’d been talking… for years and years about moving to the land collectively,” Antonius says.

The two offer workshops at Nourished Roots Family Farms, as well as share skills and resources, and blog about their experience at nourishedroots.ca.

The Homesteader Festival was born out of their desire to spread some of the skills and knowledge they know is out there.

“[We were] thinking about all the people who helped us with the skills they have and shared their wealth of knowledge with us over the past few years and just figured it would be great if those people who shared with us could also share with a whole bunch of other people,” Antonius says.

I headed down to the festival with my 16-month-old daughter Greta, fiancé, parents and (soon to be) mother-in-law.

First up for Greta and I at was Raising Healthy and Happy Chickens, where we learned some important considerations in deciding whether keeping chickens is for us. Although chicken-rearing is currently illegal in the City of Winnipeg, some attendees revealed they have managed to do it successfully – so long as they have their neighbours’ blessings.

When Greta had enough of the chicken talk, we wandered over to the children’s area, which was complete with nature-inspired crafts, face painting, a colouring station, and a play structure with sand box. Greta had fun playing with the other kids, although her too-big rain boots and bulky cold-weather gear made climbing the play structure difficult.

Dwayne Logan demonstrates how to make a comfortable seat out of two pieces of wood during the Outdoor Gear on a Budget workshop.

Next up we learned to create Outdoor Gear on a Budget. One highlight included learning to make surprisingly strong rope out of old plastic bags.

By the late morning most of the clouds had cleared leaving frosty fingers to defrost in the warm June sun. Lunch was catered by Integrity Foods, which uses local and sustainable items, and festival goers were entertained by live music. We used this time for a nap in the sun.

In the afternoon we learned about Raising Goats 101 – and Greta had a great time meeting the subject matter. Goats might not make great pets, but they certainly enjoy a good ear scratch.

Last but not least, while Greta got some more play time in with her dad, I got to examine a bee hive up close in the Beekeeping Hands On workshop. I started out donning a protective face net, but seeing how comfortable beekeeper Christopher Kirouac was around the hive gave me the courage to take off the veil. I even held a frame covered with bees.

For Antonius, the success of the event and the support of the community were heart-warming.

“We did have a feeling it would sell out, but we were not expecting the high level of support from the small family farms that wanted to get on board… even though they’re a brand-new small farm just starting out or a small rural company or urban business. It was very touching because they saw what was happening and they really wanted to get onboard and were inspired by it.”

She hopes festival-goers will spread the skills they learned.

“Hopefully each person can go home and share a bit with a neighbour or friend or family member and it can spread out from there,” Antonius says.

Our family is already looking forward to sharing some of the tips we learned for making budget-friendly outdoor gear. And we’re looking forward to next year’s Homesteader Festival.

A festival attendee holds a frame covered with bees during the
Beekeeping Up Close workshop.

Stacy Cardigan Smith

About

Communications Specialist with The Winnipeg Foundation, Community News Commons Editor, mom of two, health enthusiast, West End resident, cat lover and generally cheery gal.
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