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The good earth: Pawleys family turns a home into a homestead

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Mother Nature has met her match in Amber Bradshaw.

Bradshaw and her husband, Tim, have turned their “Home Depot yard” on Marsh Oaks Drive near the South Causeway into an organic mini-farm with herbs, fruits, vegetables, chickens, goats, honeybees and compost piles to recycle the scraps. Bradshaw has dedicated herself to an all-natural lifestyle and is spreading the word about the benefits by selling and delivering organic vegetables and natural products at competitive prices weekly.

“Is there anything she doesn’t do” a visitor asked. “Yeah,” Bradshaw said with a laugh, “make money.”

She started a nonprofit, Low Country Healthy Living Deliveries, six years ago after having an epiphany when she received a box of free food during some hard times for the family. Tim Bradshaw’s construction work dried up when the housing bubble burst. Amber said they didn’t qualify for assistance because they owned their house and vehicles. “We were desperate,” she said. “A church gave away free food, and I went to get some. It was a very humbling experience. I couldn’t believe I was in that place, but I needed it.”

Bradshaw said the box contained moldy bread, doughnuts, pastries and soda. “We were grateful because we had something to eat,” she said, “but it broke my heart that just because we were desperate I couldn’t afford proper nutrition for my family. We wanted to make sure we’d never be in that position again.”

The housing market recovered, and the Bradshaws encountered another hurdle: cancer. Her mother was stricken with the disease, and Amber has had five surgeries herself to remove tumors over the past four years. “We decided to start living more responsibly, removing processed foods, trying to garden grow our own food,” she said. “I started teaching workshops, composting, making natural cleaners. We started living healthier, stopped smoking and drinking.”

The family’s mission came into clear view: They would provide natural foods and products to all who wanted them. Amber began buying from area farmers and suppliers in bulk, filling orders and even delivering the boxes to houses within five miles of Highway 17 from Myrtle Beach to Georgetown for an additional $3.

If customers can’t afford to pay, they get a box of vegetables for free. “There is a huge gap between people who can qualify for food stamps and the people who can’t who struggle paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “We know because we’ve been there.”

She visits area farms to buy in bulk and travels to farmers markets early in the week. By Wednesday, the products are in her air-conditioned mud room and listed on the website, thecoastalhomestead.com. Customers start ordering the veggies and fruits in amounts they want. Vegetable boxes from Customer Supported Agriculture contain what the farmer has available, but Bradshaw’s boxes are all custom orders. Last week she had beets, okra, red potatoes, Roma tomatoes, two kinds of squash and cucumbers, garlic, green beans, corn on the cob, muscadines and Vidalia onions. A customer ordered one potato, one tomato and an ear of corn and picked it up at Bradshaw’s back door to save the delivery fee. A full box, the standard order, runs about $20.

Bradshaw sells grits that are ground in Galivants Ferry from non-GMO corn, sea salt from Bulls Bay and eggs. She freezes or cans all the food left over and has enough stored away to last through Christmas and the slow months of the construction business.

Her backyard menagerie includes chickens and goats. Amber said she caught her husband in a good mood when she broached the idea of a chicken coop. The chickens provide eggs for the family of five, and the goats give enough milk for their coffee. They catch rainwater to irrigate their yard’s herbs, vertical vegetable plots and a whimsical fruit cocktail tree that grows nectarines, plums, apricots and peaches.

Her 4-year-old has never been to McDonald’s. “I don’t think she knows what a chicken McNugget is,” Bradshaw said.

The family’s goal is to be self-sufficient with a well for potable water and a means of generating electricity through wind or sun. Amber wants to grow and harvest most of her own produce. “The list is never ending,” she said on her blog. “We always strive to improve the way we are living and our quality of life. It’s a journey and one that will never be finished. All it takes to begin your own personal journey is one step towards the direction you want to go.”

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