Joyce Amsden

The Farm That Raised Me

Some time ago, before the people forgot, a little girl was born to a large family on a small farm in Central Vermont. She grew up learning, helping and frolicking about the homestead. Joyce comes now to share her experience, skills, and love of the land with those who long to live a sustainable life of connection with the land.

See Joyce's credentials (at bottom)

Growing up on a two cow farm, sustainability, respect, self-sufficiency, interdependence, community, responsibility, homesteading, connection with the Earth were not words we tossed about, rather a way of life passed down through generations of people working the land. 

My dad learned in agricultural school the dangers of DDT and chose organic gardening as a lifestyle long before it was a trendy thing to do. The way he lived and ran the farm taught me respect for the earth. Hiking in the woods with him, I learned to be still, watch and listen for the animals and birds that shared the land with us. The fragrance of yarrow and wild ginger still transport me to those early lessons.

Except for certain staples such as flour, sugar, cornflakes, we ate the food we grew. At times,  when our farm was not producing them, we purchased eggs, meat or milk from our neighbors. My dad worked a part time job to create cash flow. My mom sold her knitting and baked goods.

My mother cooked simple, delicious meals from whatever bounty presented itself and preserved the excess for the long winters. Her pleasure in the long rows of canning jars and her contentment in the work of producing them lives in me still. She wasted nothing. When, at 7 years old,  I botched my first attempt at making brownies, she helped me make the resulting goo into a decadent bread pudding that everyone loved. 

Mom sewed our clothes and made practical, beautiful gifts to please her family and nurture her own creativity. The scraps of fabric from my Christmas pajamas became a doll quilt. She taught me the pleasure of creating and preserving food for the long Vermont winters. My mom told of when she my dad were starting out and acquired their first milk cow whose udder ligaments had broken down and was destined for the knacker man. My mother made a brassiere to support her udder and prevent injury to her teats. She made mittens for the children who came to school without them and dinner rolls for the firemen's fundraiser barbecues.

I helped with the work of the day before I played, but there remained ample time for romping in the fields, the brook, and the woods with my siblings. As a teenager, the solitude of nature buoyed me up and soothed my adolescent angst. Deploying the many crafts I had learned helped me to create an image of myself as an adult.

The joys and occasionally heart-wrenching disappointments of homesteading shaped my life, creating in in me a deep sense of connection, inner strength, creativity, resilience and community. 

My dad and I watched in stillness as the newborn calf slipped onto the straw floor to be nudged and licked by the mother cow until the new life stood, wobbling, and made her way to the awaiting udder. When Daisy slipped and fell and didn't get back up, this daughter soon matured to take her place as the giver of milk.

I raised my children in a different time in a less rural part of Vermont. I grew a garden, but we were not entirely dependent on it. My dad continued to feed our family with the bountiful garden he kept well into his 70's.

After my dad passed away, my elderly mother needed support to live at home. My youngest child had fledged, and I returned to the homestead to live. A few years of city life had given me a new appreciation for the homestead and I fell naturally into nurturing it and wandering the wooded landscape. 

When COVID arrived, my son was laid off from his job as a carpenter. He is a hard worker and not particularly comfortable being idle at home. He decided to start a garden. He had a lot of questions and I found that I reveled in his inquiries. It was a great way to connect with him and satisfying to see him learning how to water, deal with pests, light and shade issues. In helping him, I rediscovered my love of teaching and how much joy it gives me to watch another person learn, connect with the earth and care for plants. I watched him find purpose and calm in the storm of uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. 

I have had the opportunity to help friends, neighbors and family with various other questions related to homesteading and it brings me great pleasure to help them find their way to success.  There is a lot of information out there and much of it conflicting or confusing. So bring me your questions and get customized, science-based, experience-based answers. Let's get you homesteading!


  • BS in Elementary Education from the University of Vermont
  • Certified University of Vermont Master Gardener
  • Certified in Organic Gardening by the Texas Research Institute
  • Currently studying Therapeutic Horticulture through North Carolina State University

Copyright © 2024 Homesteading With Joyce. All rights reserved  |  Site Design by Whale Creative

menu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram