Take the next step on your journey
Informal interviews with homesteaders, cooks, gardeners and employees will help you take the next step on your journey to a simpler life. Escape the chaotic, stressful world for about seven minutes and learn how to live a satisfying life, enjoying time with family and friends.
Karen Geiser, Local Homesteader and Gardener Extraordinaire
Karen Geiser lives on a family farm just down the road from Lehman’s and is a regular demonstrator and teacher at the store. Their family raises grass-fed meats and Karen’s favorite place is in the garden among the veggies, herbs, berries and flowers. She is constantly experimenting with unique plants, various growing methods and ways to feed her family well and delights in teaching others what she has learned.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Welcome to Solutions for a Simpler Life. This is Glenda Lehman Ervin with Lehman’s on the square in Kidron, Ohio. We’re glad you joined us. Today we are joined by Karen Geiser, local organic farmer and mother of five homeschooled children ranging in age from…?
Karen Geiser: 10 to 24.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: OK. 10 to 24. She is our go to expert when it comes to fermenting, gardening, home dairy and a host of other homesteading skills. So tell us where you’re from and how you got started gardening and living off the land.
Karen Geiser: Well we live just a mile down the road from Lehman’s on the farm where I grew up on. It’s actually the farm where our children are the seventh generation to live there. So I am very well rooted and my mom had a garden but it was just a very basic peas, beans, corn, tomatoes garden and we were the garden slaves. We had to weed, we had to do the ugly things. And it wasn’t until after I was married that I started reading a few books and experimenting and then that experimenting just snowballed.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: A lot of what you’re passionate about is the food that you consume and that your family consumes. Isn’t that kind of the root, pun intended, of gardening?
Karen Geiser: Well yeah! We have a lot of mouths to feed around our table and the state of today’s grocery store food is really hard to navigate. And so I want to know what’s in my food to make it as most nutrient dense as possible, to keep as many chemicals out as possible, and to let my kids graze. Right now we’re grazing berries and they’re grabbing things out of the garden when they’re hungry rather than looking through the cupboards for a snack.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: That probably is preserved.
Karen Geiser: Probably.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: In some way. Do you consider yourself a homesteader, an organic gardener, or both?
Karen Geiser: I would say all of those fit. So I garden organically for our family and I do sell a few things. We do sell salad greens, I do sell cut flowers for weddings. And then homesteading, we’re doing as many things as we can for ourselves and so it depends what your definition of homesteader is. So some things we raised just for ourselves for our family consumption. And then there are a few things that we do for sale.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Your sons also have a flower business don’t they? Two of your sons?
Karen Geiser: Yes, Bees, Boys, and Blooms.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: I love it.
Karen Geiser: So my 10 and 14 year old son sell bouquets and actually do quite well. They also have 50 dahlias of their own and sell them. I have to buy some from them and they sell them to the wedding florists. So that one of their little businesses.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Oh that’s fantastic. Do you have livestock on your property?
Karen Geiser: Yes. So we raised beef cattle that are grass fed. We also do some of the pastured broilers that we butcher ourselves and have customers that get pasture broilers. So those are the main livestock things and a couple of jerseys that we milk. So we have our own milk source.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: All right, silly question, when you say broiler, [do you mean] chicken?
Karen Geiser: So yes.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: OK.
Karen Geiser: Yes. So they are chickens that are meant to be roasted in the oven as opposed to a laying hen.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: OK great. You eat fresh from your garden all year round. How does that work? We live in Ohio.
Karen Geiser: We do live in Ohio but a book I bought at Lehman’s, probably it’s been 15 maybe even more years ago by Elliot Coleman, got me started. It’s called Four Season Harvest. And I thought, “If he can do it in Maine, then I can do it in Ohio.” So we have been eating year round ever since I bought that book using cold frames. Now I have a high tunnel it is not heated, it’s like a large greenhouse but it’s not heated. It’s just the sun that keeps it warm, but I’m growing spinach, kale, arugula, mash, other greens that we could eat literally all winter long.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: So if he can do it in Maine we can do it in Ohio.
Karen Geiser: Yes.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Which also means New York and Washington and some of those other cold states. I know that you have done edible flowers before which is awfully fun. How did you find out which ones are edible?
Karen Geiser: Well again reading books during the winter, that’s reading season for me. And so I will grab different gardening books and I’ve gone on different avenues of learning about all different salad greens different medicinal herbs, different cut flowers, and one winter it was edible flowers. So we grow nasturtiums and borage, calendula. We use pea blossoms and a number of other things that decorate up our salads. So when I do make salad bags, I include edible flowers in them and that kind of sets what I grow apart. When I go to a carry in meal everyone knows what I brought because there’s flowers on it.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Yeah. Well that’s that’s pretty too. Not only is it interesting and healthy and fun, it just sometimes people think homesteading or the simple life is all about hard work but there’s a lot of aspects of joy and satisfaction. I’m sure you feel very good when you can produce a meal for your entire family that you know that you created.
Karen Geiser: And just last week I had a high school friend in town and she wanted to come over I said, “Oh let’s do lunch.” And so I created a beautiful salad. Edible flowers. She has worked in high end restaurants in big cities and she said Karen people pay a lot of money for this. This is even better than what I served in the restaurants.
Karen Geiser: And that was just a real satisfaction to be able to share something that beautiful with her.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Oh that’s lovely. Honestly though wouldn’t it be easier to not work so hard? I mean it’s not easy what you’re doing. Where do you get the energy and why do you keep doing it?
Karen Geiser: Well I always say I’d rather spend my time in the garden and in the kitchen rather than in the doctor’s office or in a sick bed or whatever. And that goes for with my children, for myself. You work outside you enjoy the good food and you’re rewarded with good health.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Well that’s fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us today on Solutions for a Simpler Life. This is Glenda Lehman Ervin with Lehman’s where we stand for a simpler life. Thanks for listening. For more visit lehmans.com.