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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
1 Jul 2023

NextImg:IN-DEPTH: Modern Homesteading Conference Offers Practical Advice on Self-Reliance

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho—Traditional naturopath and clinical herbalist Patrick Jones said that in the beginning, “there were weeds—and the war began.”

The weapons to fight the weeds improved over the centuries, he said, as “our troops were well-armed. Our resolve was firm.”

But the weeds were winning; it was time for a new strategy.

Clinical herbalist and traditional naturopath Patrick Jones talks about the value of medicinal “weeds” during The Modern Homesteading Conference on June 30, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

“We had to become one with the weeds. It’s like Darth Vader said to Luke—’Come to the Green Side’—or something like that,” said Jones to peels of laughter at The Modern Homesteading Conference in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, on June 30.

The two-day event at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds featured dozens of guest speakers like Jones, each with particular expertise in modern homesteading.

Jones’s focus was herbs for humans.

The good news about weeds is that many are homeopathic powerhouses of healing and nutrition—”rock-star medicinals that can improve your life,” Jones said.

Incorporating everyday herbs and plants into the home medicine chest was one aspect of the conference’s overall mission of promoting resiliency and self-sufficiency.

The conference offered many practical takeaways, whether it was learning how to properly butcher a chicken or hog, home gardening, or using nutrition to treat illnesses.

“It’s one thing to dream of a homestead and watch YouTube videos about it. It’s another to commit and do it,” according to the conference’s website.

“Everything you hear at the conference is from people who have been using these techniques for years (usually decades)” in their home gardens, fields, and kitchens.

Katie Millhorn and Melissa Norris are co-founders of the inaugural modern homesteading conference in northern Idaho.

Katie Millhorn is co-founder of The Modern Homesteading Conference, a two-day event in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, from June 30 to July 1, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

The idea germinated when Millhorn and Norris realized there were no such events in the Pacific Northwest.

“There were lots of books online, but not on how to grow in a four-season climate,” Millhorn said. “There just wasn’t the knowledge out there.

“We wanted to come together as a local community and help each other with what we’re missing with online education.”

After two years of planning and brainstorming, homesteaders Norris and Millhorn put together a two-day program of events with a team of volunteers.

“We wanted a very free state with few restrictions, which is why we chose Idaho, my home state,” Millhorn told The Epoch Times.

The kick-off on June 30 drew hundreds of homesteaders of all skill levels from across the northwest and as far as Virginia and Texas.

A vendor stand in front of an assortment of wool yarn at The Modern Homesteading Conference in northern Idaho on June 30, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

“It’s been a labor of love. There’s so much energy today,” Millhorn said.

“It takes a lot of hours and organization. We have a fantastic team. It just took a bunch of different dreams combined into one.”

On the first day of the conference, there were seminars on using mob grazing to improve pastures and crop yields, using nutrition to reverse autoimmune disease, and brewing farmhouse teas.

There was also a panel of Amish guest speakers and practical demonstrations on hog butchering, dairy goat milking, sheep shearing, cheese making, and grafting heirloom apple trees.

Millhorn praised the Amish way of homesteading as a life that “we idolize in modern society. How do you make a family farm? They’re so full of knowledge.”

Heidi Villegas of Healing Harvest Homestead School of Botanical Arts and Sciences was among 70 vendors at The Modern Homesteading Conference on June 30, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

Interest in homesteading at the event centered not only on the goal of self-reliance but concern for what’s happening with the supply chain and world events.

“A lot of people are concerned about the food supply chain. And as a local farmer, it’s interesting to hear that,” Millhorn said.

“We have plenty of stock. Other local farmers have plenty of stock too. Americans have just gotten so used to buying things at a grocery store when you should be buying them from your local farmer.

“Especially after COVID, they learned the system is broken. It set people on fire on how to connect with the local farmer of produce or grow their own” and not have to rely on the system, Millhorn said.

A blacksmith demonstrates how to fashion a steel tool during a conference on modern homesteading in Idaho on June 30, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

Mother-and-daughter team Kay and Jordyn Clark of Portage View Farm gave a presentation on gardening in a northern climate to a standing-room-only audience.

The big lesson for the day was, “If you don’t eat it, don’t grow it,” Kay Clark said.

“Grow what you eat. If you do not eat broccoli, then do not plant broccoli. You’re wasting time, wasting plants. You also want to grow for your area.”

“Time is precious. We want to ensure we’re being proactive and not wasting our time.”

Popular garden varieties like Romaine lettuce, Roma, and cherry tomatoes do well in cooler northwestern climates like Idaho. The conditions might be too hot, cold, or wet in other places, she said.

“Make sure when you’re planting, it’s suitable for your area,” Kay said.

“Don’t keep growing things that aren’t producing, and grow what you eat,” Jordyn said.

Live chickens in a cage at The Modern Homesteading Conference on June 30, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

“We teach how to be sustainable. And to be sustainable is to find those varieties that work for you and to start small. If it’s overwhelming, scale down.”

The conference offered more than 70 vendors selling various organic foods, herbs, organics, and other products related to modern homesteading.

Ivan Keim, an Amish builder, and owner of Tiny Home Living, answered questions on how to build a quality tiny home.

Keim, from Ohio, launched the business a year ago with six basic designs—the 160-square-foot Kenmore being the most popular.

Still, many of his projects are custom builds.

A woman takes notes during a seminar on gardening in a northern climate at The Modern Homesteading Conference in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, on June 30, 2023

“Ohio hasn’t quite caught the bug like the western states have,” Keim told The Epoch Times, describing his business as a “one-man show.”

“The builder is me, myself, and I,” said Keim, who prefers to work one-on-one with his clients.

“We have models to offer, but I’d rather work with somebody where we figure out what they want. I build what they want versus you are buying what I have,” he said.

Keim acknowledged a growing trend in mass-produced sheds used for conversion to tiny homes. But it’s a risky project.

“A shed is built for a shed—for storing stuff. When you go to build a home, there are certain things you want to do than you would building a storage shed,” Keim said.

“To convert it to a house, I would use some caution.”

Brian Wattier of Colorado said he’s interested in building a shed for livestock or storage. Even so, he sees tiny home sheds becoming a thing.

“I do see it as a trend. People nowadays are being more creative with small spaces. They realize they don’t need that extra space to lounge around or whatever—or that mortgage,” Wattier told The Epoch Times.

Heidi Villegas, a certified clinical aromatherapist, herbalist, and life coach, launched a website in 2016 on the value of herbal medicine.

“It’s what people need,” said Villegas, a former elementary and middle school teacher, who believes there’s a concerted effort by Big Pharma to suppress homeopathic remedies.

“It’s harder to get the information out. When people search for natural remedies online, they’re presenting the medical side only,” Villegas told The Epoch Times.

“It’s something I feel passionate about. The fact is that plant and essential oils work when used correctly. And many times they’re more effective than over-the-counter and big-Pharma prescription drugs.”

A young girl holds a newly hatched chick at The Modern Homesteading Conference on June 30, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

Villegas said she uses herbal remedies and supplements to manage her health care needs, including high blood pressure, “naturally using plants.”

“Big Pharma is desperately afraid that people will become knowledgeable about growing their medicines with the plants that often grow in the backyard. It’s all about money and crushing knowledge from the people.”

While there’s been a resurgence of interest in herbal therapies, Villegas sees the government cracking down on herbs and supplements in medicine.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, Villegas said many herbalists didn’t talk about herbal remedies out of fear of reprisal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission.

“We used ‘C’ for COVID,” Villegas said.

Villegas said the time to start learning about herbal medicine is “right now.”

“It’s going to be too late at some point,” she said.

Celeste Issa of Off-Grid Doc in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, operated a booth with information on how to build a home first-aid kit.

“It is a good thing to have supplies at home—especially things you would use regularly,” Issa told The Epoch Times.

A young boy in a cowboy hat holds onto his father during a seminar on the correct way to prepare chickens at a conference on modern homesteading in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, on June 30, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

Off-Grid Doc kits contain at least 80 essential items like band-aids, gauze, painkillers, tools for tick removal, and salves for treating burns.

“A lot of people live far away from medical care. So having a few of those things at home is a good idea. Two o’clock in the morning if you get sick—you’ll be able to take care of yourself,” Issa said.

Did you know that the ubiquitous dandelion weed is good in salads—and supports the kidneys and the liver?

It’s a “package deal,” Jones said.

For cancer, try using Burdock, which also helps to ease the pain of arthritis, treat anemia, as well as psoriasis.

An Amish youth reads a book during The Modern Homesteading Conference in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, on June 30, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

On the other hand, Gumweed is an effective treatment for bladder infections. It also accelerates healing as a powerful anti-inflammatory, Jones said.

As an anti-spasmodic, it serves as a muscle relaxant.

The main takeaway on day one of the modern homesteading conference was that there was so much knowledge to take home.

Sisters Linda of Montana and Janet from Washington said they attended the conference to acquire more useful horticultural techniques as homesteaders.

“We’ve been gardening for quite some time. So we do a lot of canning. Our grocery store trips don’t amount to a lot,” Linda told The Epoch Times.