What I love the most about Homestead Farming is that we can live simply and that the land provides all our basic needs — potentially! Also, I love that there are so many ideas to explore, so many different solutions to a problem that draws on human ingenuity, the sharing of ideas, and the tapping of existing resources. When something works, there is an abundance of food or other resource produced, which gets shared around — that’s pretty awesome too. As Lennie said in the book Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, “We could live offa the fatta the lan’”!

My name is Jacqueline Rojes, and I work as a senior software developer. I originally studied computer science, which was a last-minute switch from architecture when an uncle relayed his friend’s suggestion that I study IT. I loved Math and problem-solving, so Computer Science seemed like a closer match to my own interests and affinities than architecture (but it hadn’t occurred to me until someone mentioned it).

I was born in Singapore but have been living in New Zealand for the last 9 years. After a 2-year training programme with the US military in Florida, my husband was afflicted with itchy feet on his return to Singapore. He wanted to try life somewhere other than Singapore. Although I had fond memories of life in the US, I wasn’t ready to move. 8 years later, I came around and we started looking to immigrate to Australia. Our agent suggested New Zealand as an option. I was fascinated: “Are there even people there? Surely just Hobbits, no?!” We were fans of Lord of the Rings, so you could say the movie trilogy had a large part to play in our final decision.

Outside of work, my interests include natural healing, Christian spirituality and history, permaculture, and self-sufficiency with my Homestead Farm.

As a child, I loved spending time in nature: catching insects, and collecting flowers, leaves, and rocks. My grandparents lived in rural Singapore — their place was my before-and-after school care. I observed that the environment they lived in provided many resources that we used, such as fruits, vegetables, and water from the well when there was a water cut. I believe this was the seed of my interest.

When we moved to New Zealand in 2013, my husband and I could see ourselves spending our retirement years on a rural lifestyle block. We were looking at investing in a second property when the events of 2020 happened. At this point, we already had a wonderful urban garden, which my husband toiled to develop and I loved to spend time in. As the novelty of lockdowns and the novelty of working and studying from home wore off, my husband and I realised that we could make that leap to our dream lifestyle sooner rather than later, supported by the fact that the IT industry was quick to embrace remote working. We also had a close friend, also working in IT, who had already made this lifestyle switch long before us, encouraging us to do the same. In late 2021, we moved out of Auckland and bought a 13-hectare rural property, which was a 2.5-hour drive further north. That started our journey into a rural lifestyle and homesteading.

On our farm, we have cows, sheep, chickens, and quails. My husband gave up his job to work full-time on the farm, and we hope to earn an income selling quail eggs for a start. We have a few established fruit trees such as quince, plum, bananas, and apples. For vegetables, we grow mostly seasonal ones like pumpkins, courgettes, peppers, beans, and corn. I like the idea of plants that keep giving for years, so we started a bed of asparagus and artichokes — waiting eagerly for the first crops!

There are a lot of elements and challenges to running a Homestead Farm. Water security is critical — so it was one of the first things we looked at, getting extra rainwater tanks in place and installing a UV filtration system. This is an ongoing project, as we would like to secure our own clean water for our livestock and vegetables by building ponds and other water-saving measures.

We have solar thermal pipes that give us hot water for free. We have had some cold showers in our first winter — but a small price to pay! We collect small branches around the property to use as kindling, and chuck firewood for our heating needs.

We’re still working on our vegetable garden to maximise the produce from it, so we certainly hope to get most of our vegetables from there. Any excess will be preserved by canning or dehydration, mostly.

We have chickens and quails for meat and eggs (and in the future, beef and lamb/mutton). However, our poultry feed cost is our biggest recurring cost; this has led us to explore how we can supplement our birds with home-grown feed like maize, sprouts, and starting an insect farm.

Homesteading is a way of life, and given we have only just started, we have loads of goals, near, far, and ongoing. Some goals are more critical than others. For example, improving the pasture for our livestock using natural herbicide-free strategies would be something we would always be working on. Selling our quail eggs in the local farmer’s market is another very near-term goal. Growing an orchard is a nice-to-have goal.

Ultimately, all our goals are trained at becoming self-sufficient in some way or another.

With the current rising food prices and bare supermarket racks, more people might be naturally already asking the question about how they could be more self-sufficient. I would suggest getting involved in local community gardening to spark your interest and set off on a journey of discovery and engagement with nature. If you’re not ready to go there yet, raising a few indoor plants from seeds could be quite exciting — a bit like owning a Tamagotchi, if you’re old enough to know what that is!

For aspiring Homesteaders, I would also advise starting where you are — there is no need to relocate. Make small changes for more self-sufficiency: for example, grow sprouts in a jar, plants on a window sill or pots on a deck, or build up that urban garden, perhaps hydroponics in an apartment. Make your own hummus, bake your own bread (didn’t we all do that in 2020?), keep a few chickens or quails for eggs, and join a community gardening group. Relish the satisfaction of creating or growing things yourself instead of relying on store-bought products. Become more adventurous and add on as you go.

Technology and homesteading are not unlike each other. At the core of both are principles of reuse, efficiency, setting precise goals, testable outcomes, feedback loops, reduction of waste, purposeful design, agility, and constant refactoring — the similarities are myriad.

The environment you live in is a system, an existing framework that you plug into. You enter into a contract with it. It is governed by laws you cannot control or fully understand, but if you understand the terms of the contract, you can make a connection with it and reap its benefits. The system seemingly does not always function perfectly, but only because there are defects in the environment, caused by pollution, overworking the land, and not returning back to its nutrients, for example. Garbage in, garbage out.

Having stated that, homesteading does offer benefits to my career. Engaging in it offers an amazing recharge to a busy day at work on the computer. Another benefit I’ve found is when my mind is idling pulling weeds or tossing the compost, I get ideas for a software development problem. Win-win!

Finally, I’d just like to say that there is always more than tech. A technologist, or for that matter any person, was not cut out with a cookie-cutter. However, stereotypes are often built around them. They may have many common features and interests with each other, but it’s their differences that make them interesting. We maintain stereotypes of all people, but the truth is that everyone is a surprising, fascinating story when we get to know them. So we should definitely collaborate and exchange ideas and thoughts—within our professional domain and even outside it—because people are complex and multi-faceted, and viewing them within the constraints of technology only limits our view of what they can offer.

Jacqueline’s Blog: https://www.countrymanna.co.nz/

Jacqueline’s LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacqueline-rojes/

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