Animal Hugger. Vegetarian. Organic Farmer in East Texas. Meet Melisa!
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Melisa caught our eye after she began posting photos of her garden on our Instagram page. We've been following her ever since! One quick look at her Instagram page and you will see how talented she is. She is a true inspiration for anyone else looking make changes in their life style.
Check out the interview below to learn more about how she got started growing her own food and living off the land. From all of us at SeedsNow we are proud to introduce you to Melisa aka @TXMBIRDIE (Follow SeedsNow on Instagram >
How would you quickly describe yourself?
What made you start living a healthy more self-sufficient life style?
Five years ago I had this wild idea to up and move from my native home state of Arizona and to move to Texas. I knew that when my husband agreed to move from the state we adored to a new place that we were not familiar with, he was also ready for a big change. I started out with the intention to blog as a way to keep up with my friends back home. I wanted them to see the drastically different lifestyle I was taking up since taking the plunge, following my dreams and moving to Texas. Around the same time that I attempted to start blogging, I started using Instagram and immediately started to use that platform along with Facebook to share my farming and gardening adventures. I love photographing all the new growth in my garden. It’s quite fun snapping a picture of a beautiful new veggie or fruit growing in the garden and posting it for others to enjoy as well. Any time that I can combine my love of photography and gardening is a good thing.
Did you start your blog when you started your transition to live this life style?I did start blogging around the same time that I transitioned to a more self-sufficient and healthy lifestyle. I had been a vegetarian for 25+ years but never really attempted to grow my own food. My first attempt at gardening was such a great learning experience. It was filled with so many opportunities to learn and grow. That first season had so many ups and downs, but was worth every bit of frustration as the knowledge I gained is invaluable. I became so passionate about growing food, I wanted to share it with everyone I could.
Have you always been this way?
Yes and no. I have to admit, I was not always mindful of being self-sufficient but I have always been very appreciative of the environment, farming and gardening. Unfortunately after living in a big city for most of my life, I became accustomed to the instant gratification, convenience and ease of just hopping in my car and running to a store down the street when I needed something for dinner. The thought of buying local rarely crossed my mind except when I would run across a cute farm stand when on a road trip or when I would go to visit my grandpa and he would make me weed his garden for hours at a time. Who knew all those years of him trying to teach me to farm and garden would pay off all these years later?
What sparked your passion?
Although I grew up in a big city, farming and gardening was in my blood. When I was a small child my parents and I lived on my grandpa’s farm in Phoenix, AZ. There he raised cattle, chickens, pigs and always had a plethora of vegetables and fruits growing each season. This was my very first experience to a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I have very vivid memories of days spent in the garden harvesting whatever he was growing and evenings spent enjoying the food we had harvested earlier in the day. I remember being a little girl and thinking that this lifestyle was what I wanted to live. Fast forward many years later to a time that I found myself ready to start an entirely new life that was centered on being more self-sufficient and being more aware of where our food was coming from. It literally was a lightbulb moment for me. I remember sitting at work and suddenly thinking to myself it was time to make a drastic change… and so I did. My passion for growing our own healthy, organic food was truly sparked after I saw the excitement in my family’s eyes as they would see me bringing in food to be served that was just harvested from the garden. There’s nothing quite like homegrown goodness cultivated from hard work and love.
What are some of the other things you would like to have other people understand about living a healthier and self-sufficient life style?
First and foremost, I would like others to know that there is nothing like growing your own food! It is so rewarding! It feels so great to know that we have the ability to provide for our family and that we do not have to depend on anyone (or any store) to do so.
Another thing I often find myself sharing with others is that this self-sufficient lifestyle choice is definitely not always one of ease or convenience. It can be incredibly hard, frustrating and disappointing at times, but it is worth it! The satisfaction you have when you finally figure out to make something, grow something or build something for your family, it is profoundly rewarding. The first time that I saw little sprouts popping up through my soil from newly planted seeds was such an exciting moment. That excitement grows from each experience that you have on your farming, gardening or homestead adventure. Soon, you will find yourself finding more and more ways to live on less, grow more food, conserve energy and be more self-sufficient.
What tips and tricks could you share with other people?
I think one of the biggest things I would share with others is to remember that starting a life of being more self-sufficient is that it is a process, not an event. It is not something that you can jump into in one single day and have it done perfectly right out of the gate. It is many days of trying to do a bit better than the day before and building upon knowledge that you are learning. As you try new things whether you are learning a new skill, getting dirty in the garden or building a new project that is challenging you, just remember to enjoy the journey and keep it fun! After all, if you are not enjoying whatever it is you are doing, why are you still doing it? Don’t get me wrong, some tasks on the farm are not totally enjoyable, but I do try to still have fun while doing them.
As for gardening, I do believe that one of the tips that I could pass along would be to learn your soil. Once you learn what kind of soil you are using, you can take your growing so much further. You can then figure out what grows really well in your area and go from there. Once you find out which vegetables excel for you in your garden, try to grow as much of them as your family can eat and then preserve, preserve, preserve!
The last tip that I would share with people is to continuously strive to learn new skills. For instance, this past year I set out to learn how to make homemade jam from the fruits we are growing here on our farm. It was so lovely having a pantry full of delicious homemade jam to use and to give away to friends. I also decided that I wanted to learn to make homemade soap, delicious homemade pies and how to preserve and can our food that we are growing. I took on all of those challenges and ended up becoming pretty proficient at them. When I first learned to do canning, I was so giddy as I heard the first pings of the lids sing to me to tell me that each one sealed correctly. There is something so empowering about learning how to do something new with your hands.
Have you ever made mistakes or failed doing something?
Oh yes! I have made plenty of mistakes and have failed at multiple things while following this journey. I do believe that it is in those teachable moments that I can grow as an individual. Many of my failures on the farm have created opportunities to slow down, re-evaluate and figure out another method of completion of the project at hand. One year we had a freak ice storm late in the spring that took out our entire garden in one swoop and boy was I mad, sad, frustrated and bewildered all at once. I didn’t stay stuck on that frustration for long though-I stepped back and figured out what my next move was. I simply replanted everything and still got the results I was looking for, it just took longer to achieve. You can bet the following spring I was much more prepared for crazy weather and had row covers ready and waiting, just in case!
How did you overcome any obstacles?
I simply learned to fail, but with a positive outlook. That was a hard lesson to learn at first. I kept learning in this process because I refused to give up. Sure, there were many times I would fail, but I would just keep trying. If I couldn’t do something that I tried the first time, I would try again a second time and even a third time if necessary. To overcome obstacles, I would keep at it until I learned whatever it was I was trying to accomplish. When I do find myself ready to throw in the towel on a project, I often think of one of my favorite quotes by Sumner Redstone: "Success is not built on success. It's built on failure. It's built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe." Now I just start each growing season being more prepared, more flexible and with plenty of hope for a great season. I always remind myself that there is always another season and year to try again if it doesn’t go as planned.
Unfortunately, yes. My husband and I have been told we are crazy for wanting to slow down, become more self-sufficient and live off our land. Some of our old friends do not agree with or understand our desire to be more in control of our lives. For us, becoming more self-sufficient was about creating a beautiful, simple life on our little farm and to be able to provide high quality organic food to our families. We try to stay positive despite the negativity that sometimes accompanies going on a different journey than those around you.
Have you ever dealt with a person who disregards your life style?
What are some of your greatest rewards with a lifestyle such as the one you live?
Our biggest goal from the beginning when my husband and I started dreaming about creating this kind of life was simple- we simply wanted a healthier more self-sufficient lifestyle. We wanted to grow our own food, preserve and can what we could and live a life that had more meaning. We really wanted to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy the rural lifestyle with our family and friends. The greatest reward so far is seeing our farm guests get excited about being on our farm and heading straight out to the gardens to see what is growing. They love helping to harvest veggies and fruits and they all especially love the garden to table experience as well.
Another reason farming and gardening is rewarding is the connection to life and growth that it instills in each of us. Gardening instantly connects one with the environment and the earth in a way few activities do. There’s something about being outside in nature and getting your hands dirty in the soil that you are working. You feel a sense of pride and responsibility as you tend to your farm and garden as things grow before you.
Lastly, one of the absolute greatest rewards with growing your own food is having a healthier diet. As you set out to grow your own food, you decide the seed in which you start with. For us, we always go for a high quality, non-gmo, and organic seed to plant. Once you start growing high-quality organic fruits and veggies and you experience the farm fresh taste of those items, it really helps you appreciate the taste and flavor of foods again.
What's your favorite variety of crop to grow and why?
It seems each year I have a new favorite item to grow. Recently I loved growing a nice variety of lettuce, carrots and radishes because I love to make lots of salads. I do have to admit, my absolute favorite items to grow is peppers - hot ones, sweet ones… all kinds of peppers!
Our family loves all the various flavors of peppers and we love the added spice to meals they bring. Growing peppers takes time and commitment, but in the long run we are always satisfied with the results of our hard work. Besides, having an abundance of peppers means we have an abundance of fresh, homemade spicy salsa! Yum!