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Casey Family growing a homestead

by Janelle Jessen | May 4, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
Janelle Jessen

SILOAM SPRINGS -- For the Casey family, starting a new homestead is all about family and self-sufficiency.

John and Birdie Casey, and their three children Wylie, Lily and Charlotte, started planting fruit trees and garden beds on their 10-acres along Robinson Road near Siloam Springs last year and just moved into their newly built house in February.

The couple began selling fresh eggs from their chickens, plants and John's woodworking at the Siloam Springs Farmers Market this month. They plan to add fresh cut flowers and vegetables as the season progresses and sell in person at the market twice a month as well as through the online Farmers Market, Birdie said.

Both John and Birdie are following in their parents footsteps as they develop their homestead.

Birdie grew up on a homestead in Rogers and was inspired by her father, Rob Pekel.

"I always say my dad was organic before it was cool," she said.

John's family has owned a 600-acre cattle ranch along Robinson Road for three generations. His father, Jim Casey, lives next door and his brothers have land down the street. When John and Birdie had a chance to move to the 10-acre homestead, they jumped at the chance.

In addition to growing their own food and being self-sufficient, the couple is excited about the lifestyle the homestead will provide for their three children, ages 8, 5 and 3, who enjoy playing in the wide open spaces and hunting for fossils in the creek.

"We're very close with our parents," Birdie said. "We both grew up here, he in Siloam Springs, me in Rogers, but all of our family is here."

John learned wood working from his father and they create projects from wood they gather or harvest from their land, he said.

Birdie uses the gardening skills she learned from her dad, who still helps her on the farm. Pekel moved from Wisconsin to Arkansas about 40 years ago because he wanted to homestead and land was expensive in his home state.

Last year, he and Birdie wrote a book, titled "How to Grow Food," starting with the basics of soil, picking the right location, the best times for pruning and harvesting, and including their favorite recipes. So far, they have printed limited editions for friends and family members.

Pekel said his mission is to educate people how to be self-sufficient. It is important to get plants that are acclimatized for the local area so they will be successful with the least amount of maintenance, he said. Birdie and her father also use heirloom seeds they save from year to year.

Many people started a garden during the pandemic, but learning during a time of need is a little late, Birdie said.

"We want to show people it's easy and to get excited about doing it now so they have that sense of control of their source of food if this were to happen again," she said.

There are always plenty of projects to take on in a new homestead. In the future, Birdie hopes to expand her chicken coop and start raising pigs.

"I'm very proud of how energetic and what a go-getter she is," Pekel said.

For more information and to keep up with the Casey family as they grow their homestead, follow birdiecasey_homestead on Instagram.

Janelle Jessen
Janelle Jessen
Janelle Jessen
Janelle Jessen

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