BACK TO BASICS
Homesteading club revives traditional skills.
WRITTEN BY KELSEY FITZGERALD
PHOTOS BY CANDICE NYANDO
For many people, the term homesteading evokes images of Little House on the Prairie, or early settlers taming the wild frontier. But Marissa Ames, president and founder of the Northern Nevada Small-Scale Homesteaders Club, says that modern homesteading looks different even though it harkens back to yesteryear.
“Modern homesteading is, really, returning to what our grandmothers or great grandmothers did,” Ames says, “returning to sustainability, making things ourselves, doing things ourselves. It could include gardening; it could include raising meat, making cheese, sewing our own clothes, getting back some of the skills that our society has mostly forgotten.”
Ames lives and homesteads with her husband and two teenaged daughters on a one-eighth-acre urban farm in Reno’s Midtown district, where she raises turkeys, chickens, and rabbits. She gardens, “like, every possible square inch of the property,” and makes cheeses, soaps, kombucha, and vinegars. She enjoys cooking from scratch and canning.
In January 2016, recognizing a lack of support for people in the region who wished to partake in homesteading activities, Ames gathered a group of like-minded friends and formed the club.
“We decided to get the club together so that the people would have a one-stop shop for skills,” Ames says. “You want to learn how to raise rabbits for meat? Here we are. You want to learn how to sew? Well, there’s somebody here who can sew. And we can network our products to each other as well.”
Hub of knowledge
The club holds monthly meetings at Rail City Garden Center in Sparks and provides free classes and workshops throughout the year. Past classes have included topics such as how to choose the right dairy animals for your homestead and how to use a solar cooker.
Ongoing projects launched by Ames and other club members include a community seed bank for sustainable heirloom varieties of plants that do well in this region, a project to establish a supply of seed for Salmon River squash (a cold-tolerant species with resistance to gophers and deer), development of a new variety of tomatoes called the Arctic sun, and cultivation of rare varieties of Mayan corn.
Additionally, an active Facebook group with more than 475 members provides a place for homesteaders to ask questions, offer advice, sell or trade goods, and share resources. Ames encourages anyone interested in homesteading to join the group.
“We’re kind of a hidden wealth of knowledge,” Ames says.
Kelsey Fitzgerald is a freelance writer in Reno. She and her husband enjoy raising vegetables in their backyard garden.
For details on the club, including announcements of meetings and events, find Northern Nevada Small-Scale Homesteaders on Facebook.
For general homesteading tips, Ames recommends reading Countryside magazine, where she is a contributor.
Rail City Garden Center, where the club’s meetings are held, sells products that may be of use to the urban homesteader, including heirloom varieties of plants, natural pest-control products, gardening tools, organic poultry feed, hoop house supplies, raised planters, and much more. The garden center’s employees also offer classes on topics related to gardening in Northern Nevada on Saturdays starting at 11 a.m.
1720 Brierley Way, Sparks • 775-355-1551 • Railcitygardencenter.com
Pawl Hollis, owner of Rail City Garden Center, has a Saturday morning radio show called The Garden Show on KOH-AM 780 from 8 – 10 a.m., where he answers questions about gardening and other topics of interest to Northern Nevada homesteaders. For details, visit Kkoh.com/the-garden-show