There has been quite a bit of discussion as of late about the pros and cons of homesteading. Why Homestead? And although those lists will vary for each individual, there will also be quite a bit of similarity as well. For me, homesteading has been a way of life for so long that I never really thought about it. And then the questions were asked and I found myself wondering about what the answers were as they applied to me. What is my why? Why keep going and not give up?
What is homesteading
All you have to do is google "What is homesteading" and you will get all sorts of hits varying from the Homesteaders that settled this land many years ago to the apartment dweller who grows a small garden on their balcony. Although none of them are wrong, people's perception can be quite different. They will quite often say that it is living out in the country on a parcel of land and growing their own gardens and raising their meat. According to Wikipedia, Homesteading is defined as " a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and may also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craft work for household use or sale. Pursued in different ways around the world—and in different historical eras—homesteading is generally differentiated from rural village or commune living by isolation (either socially or physically) of the homestead." And although this is a part of it, to the modern homesteader, this can look a whole lot different as explored by Homesteading Family in the article What is Homesteading?. It is suggested that "Homesteading today is about the mindset of being a producer instead of a consumer. Instead of asking, what can I buy? Ask, “What can I make, mend, repair, create, or produce?” Learn how to be self-sufficient.". This will look different for every person as it could be learning how to cook from scratch, buying from the farmers market or growing and preserving from a small garden. The article goes on to suggested that "Homesteading is taking any step that breaks the chains of the different systems that hold us back from the freedom we want."
Whether it be modern homesteading, apartment homesteading, urban homesteading or a homestead farm, the thing that unites them all is the desire to be self-sufficient and not be so reliant on the commercialized systems the way they are. It is a mind set. A heart's desire if you will.
In my humble opinion, although the various definitions allow for the grouping of like minded individuals, Homestead living is really just a way of life. Producing my own food, eating seasonally from what I grow or can forage, supporting local when I can't raise or grow it, preserving what I grow, forage or purchase and then eating from what I have preserved is just what I have done for as long as I can remember. It is what I do. As I explored in the About section of this web site, I did these things years ago when I would drive to a friend's parents house to plant my garden, and then spend hours learning to can it. My mindset was that it was cheaper and better for me. And although I was an urban homesteader of sorts, my heart's desire was to have some land on which to homestead farm. I wanted the farming based way of life that would allow me to raise more of my own food and to be closer to nature than I was in town, my urban homestead.
What is my Why?
To answer this question, my why also answers the question of how I would define homesteading. Although my definition would look similar to others, I would define homesteading as a way of life generated from the desire to live a slower, healthier, more self-sufficient, resilient lifestyle. A lifestyle that allows for a reduced environmental impact, knowing where my food comes from, knowing what is in my food, save some money, experience nature first hand, share surplus and to generate income from that lifestyle that allows for the pursuit of other goals. And as an added bonus, by sharing these experiences it gives me a chance to help teach others and for other folks who want this lifestyle but just can't quite yet, an opportunity to experience those same experiences as well, albeit vicariously.
However, this life is not for everyone and sometimes I wonder if it is for me. I realize that I will fail sometimes, but as I like to say too, they are not failures, just learning opportunities.
Why keep going and not just give up?
I feel this is a question that many people who live this lifestyle struggle with. After all, this lifestyle is not the glamourous one that is portrayed in movies and books. It requires commitment, work, planning, failures turned into learning opportunities, resiliency and did I mention work. It can also be expensive to get set up depending on how it is done. It is a journey that is often walked slowly and more often than not, alone.
I would be lieing to you if I said that on occasion, despite over 30 years, that I have not had the thought of selling everything and moving to a small town lot where the water just appears when you turn on the tap, the sewer just goes away, the garbage is picked up with no added expense, the driveway is short and can be shoveled easily, the mud is only fractions of an inch deep and the garden is watered without hundred's of feet of hose. I would not have the chicken houses to clean, pens to clean, animals to feed, fences to fix or the countless list of projects that require doing. It would be an even simpler life. Or, would it?
But after a day feeding when it is 40 below or trudging through mud to feed or fixing a fence that the horses broke on the coldest day of the year or weeding for hours on end or working on a never ending list of projects, I come into my house that needs cleaning, make myself a meal from food I have canned, grown or preserved myself and think that this is the way it should be. Tomorrow will be better and I make plans on what I will tackle the next day. I go to bed tired but with a sense of anticipation for the day ahead. I sleep like a baby. I wake up in the morning to do it all again with the realization that although to some this life would be a nightmare, to other's it is their dream. It is my dream.
But in reality, and although I would jokingly deny it, I could arguably be considered stubborn. I however, like to think of it as fortitude. But regardless of whether it is stubbornness or fortitude, it helps to push me through the times when my why does not and I am ready to sell it all. But when I get to the other side of it, I feel blessed to be living where I do and doing what I do and I decide that the small town lot is not for me. It may take me longer than others to get things done, but I will slowly get to where I want to be some day, one step at a time.
Homestead living, in whatever form, is a journey that does not have a straight flat road to the end goal. But rather, it is a winding, twisting, hilly, slippery bush trail that gives glimpses of beauty along the way that eventually opens to a view at the end of it that is spectacular! And along the way, I learn and appreciate the lessons that are being taught. Truly, blessings.
What's to like about homesteading
In a recent Christmas video from Heartway Farms called Homesteading Talk and Gingerbread House Contest | Holiday and Christmas Traditions 2022, they asked the question "What is your favorite thing about homesteading?". This really got me to thinking and I could not come up with just one.
Of course, there are many negatives to homestead living whether it be an urban homestead, an apartment homestead, a homestead farm, or a modern homestead but if we concentrate on the negatives one will never be able to see the positives, the likes, the blessings, that homesteading has to offer. Sure, sometimes I have to look for the positives but they are there, however small. The list of what's to like about homesteading will vary for each person depending on their circumstances, but for me, the list looks something like:
- I can have a garden as big or as small as I want it and I will know what what was put into it or on it. I can also have an orchard that I am developing into a food forest as I explore in Converting an Apple Tree Orchard and Fruit Orchard to a self sustaining Food Forest
- With the garden and what I forage, I don't have to buy as much from the store. It certainly takes effort but at the end of it, I have food sitting on the shelf that I grew, know where it came from and what is in it. There is certainly a sense of comfort and accomplishment when it is done.
- I don't have a lot of traffic. I have always joked that if people come down this far they are either lost or are coming to see me or my one neighbor at the end of the road. And although going for walks is rejuvenating and give me the chance to get exercise and explore my thoughts whilst enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, it also affords me the opportunity to go for a ride and enjoy the sights and sounds. It all helps to slow things down and ground me.
- I have nature right outside every door and window. The view is worth it all. It is amazing what that sense of peace and quiet can do for a person. I have had moments where it is so quiet, I don't want to close the door for fear of breaking the silence.
- I can raise poultry for use of my family and friends and also generate another income stream. Laying hens are a common homesteading gateway species that can be done at any scale. I explore this in the series Is a self sufficient homestead doable? Incubating chicken eggs for meat and egg laying hens and incubating turkey eggsI can also raise broiler chickens for the freezer and for sale. Another income source that I explore in I try Pastured Poultry for the first time with a DIY moveable chicken coop
- I get to experience the cycles of nature and the beauty, even in its smallest form. It starts with the first blossoms of spring.And, the first chick.And, the first foal.All the way through the remaining seasons back to the beauty of winter.
- I am able to bless another individual with the surplus I produce. Whether that be extra eggs to the food bank, a bag of potatoes to a friend, or a tray of homemade dainties such as Nanaimo Bars - A Nanaimo Bar Recipe for Christmas Dainties tray just to say Merry Christmas and that they matter.
- I am able to take my experiences and help others who wish to venture into this lifestyle, in what ever form. via in person, through this format, through social media and through the Homesteading Family Kitchen Community.
- It helps to build me as a person. Failures become learning opportunities for myself and others. As I mentioned earlier, screwing something up is inevitable. And that's okay. One can only hope that no one gets hurt and that it does not cause a huge financial strain. But rather, these "failures" as most people call them, are just learning opportunities so that I can take the next step as a stronger more knowledgeable person and do what's next in front of me. It is a reminder that homesteading and life in general is a journey.
I may be crazy to live this lifestyle as Homesteading Family identified in What is Homesteading?. And that's okay. I have been living this lifestyle even before it was the thing to do, so crazy is not new to me. Adopting this way of life can certainly be overwhelming for the first time homesteader as the interview First Time Homesteader with Jessica Sowards and Homesteading Family explains, but it is doable. I truly believe and feel that as The Prairie Homestead stated in 7 Reasons to Start Homesteading Today, "I am completely convinced pursuing a modern homesteading lifestyle, and becoming more intentional in how we live and eat, is one of the most satisfying and empowering things a person can do.".
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Thank you for joining me on the front porch of My Boreal Homestead Life as we explore this Homegrown, Homestead life, In a modern world.
- Homesteaders of America - 5 Reasons Why the Homesteading Lifestyle is Awesome
- Roots and Refuge - Homesteading
- Living Traditions Homestead - I wish I would have known more before moving to the country...
- John Suscovich - Are small farms sustainable?
- Farmhouse on Boone - Homestead
- Melissa K Norris - Homestead
- Homesteading Family - Want to Learn how to be Self Sufficient next year? Get Started Here!