Providing lessons on homestead life

LYFORD — A family is looking to teach the community about homestead life.

The 160-acre piece of land known as Grace Heritage Ranch boasts a number of guided tours that teach everything from gardening and cultivating land to making butter from scratch.

Wisconsin native, Brian Schalk and his family traded a large home for the farm life, seven years ago.

Schalk works in the government and said the idea to move to a ranch was part of his plan for retirement.

He never imagined it would turn into a place for the community to learn about self-sufficiency.

Schalk said the decision to move came from wanting to try something different.

“We wanted to learn how to live off the land and learn how to supply our own needs,” Schalk said.

The Schalk family wanted to create a self-sufficient type mentality and initially just wanted to create this lifestyle for themselves.

“Friends started asking us how we were doing it,” Schalk said.

That was when he and his family came up with the idea to turn their new adventure into a community affair and open up Grace Heritage Ranch.

“We decided to do something for the community and the public,” Schalk said.

The ranch is a family affair and with the help of his children and the occasional volunteer, guided tours are open to the public on the weekends.

The two-hour tour includes a look at raising animals and cultivating land to grow vegetables and fruits for consumption.

Schalk said the tours are most popular among students.

School districts across the Valley keep the ranch booked up all week for field trips.

“Two years ago, we decided to do something for the fall and make it more self-guided,” Schalk said.

That’s when they came up with Autumn Adventures that include activities such as bale pyramids, pumpkin bowling and apple slingshots.

“The kids can shoot out the apples and the donkeys eat whatever is thrown out,” Schalk said.

Schalk said the ranch is part of The Maize, a national group that conducts corn mazes throughout the country.

“We don’t have a maze just yet, hopefully we can get one going next year,” Schalk said.

What is homesteading?

A lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing and craftwork for household use or sale.