Thursday, February 19, 2015

Are we homesteading?


So what is it that we are doing? What do you call having a life with a focus on producing your own food and using more traditional methods to do everyday tasks?

There are many people around the world who are travelling a similar path and are sharing their experiences with others. We started buying books about people in the past who have lived inspiring, thoughtful and more self-sufficient lives. Henry David Thoreau, Jon Muir, Helen and Scott Nearing, and William Winchester all challenged the ‘norm’ of their times and their books were eagerly shared. (Most nights I read to Michelle and this connects us to each other and to the characters and ideas of these stories. If Michelle reads to me I simply fall asleep and have to reread the passage again!)  

Amazon’s clever marketing tool which recommends similar books led us to more modern authors who told their adventures and challenges on the land. Books like ‘Four Seasons with a Grumpy Goat’ about a couple of people who moved to Tasmania and had humorous, if na├»ve, experiences with various domestic animals, and ‘Better Off’ about a man who encouraged his newlywed to come with him to hang out in an Amish-style community and learn from them for a year are good examples.

Then we found Jenna Woginrich. The first book we read of hers told about her dreams to be a ‘homesteader’ while renting in the Appalachian Mountains. We followed her story to owning Cold Antler Farm and making a living out of writing an eloquent blog which she turned into books. She also runs courses about her lifestyle. We loved her books and found that her desire for homesteading matched best with our steady progress in creating a rewarding and healthy lifestyle.

In the UK the term seems to be ‘smallholding’ but this, to me, conjures up an image of a business and has nothing that describes the lifestyle other than ‘small’. What we live on in Australia is commonly called a ‘hobby farm’ but I don’t like this term either as what we are doing at the moment is more than a hobby. The term seems elitist, as if it equates with ‘rural residential’ where richer suburbanites move to a larger property out of town with enough ‘room for a pony’ and a few sheep to keep the grass down.

I like the word ‘homesteading’ for a number of reasons. For so many people in this fast-paced world of high suburban real estate prices their house is simply an asset. Somewhere to spend nights and improve to move up the property ladder. Not a home.



Opportunity Farm – warm and cosy in the snow

Opportunity Farm is a home. It has little commercial value, but plenty of sentimental value and it is the place where we work and play as well as bring up a family. It is at the heart of what we do.

Stead[e1] ’ implies strength and stability – steadfast and steady. Many of the activities on Opportunity Farm are similar or identical to those carried out for generations. Many of the lifestyle decisions we value and prioritize are counter to the latest fashions and technologies –though embracing a blog may challenge that. The routines and natural cycles of living closer to nature provide a structure and purpose to our daily life.

I put the problem to Wikipedia:

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

That fits. It went on:

“Modern homesteaders often use renewable energy options including solar electricity and wind power and some even invent DIY cars. Many also choose to plant and grow heirloom vegetables and to raise heritage livestock. Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.”

Sounds like us. I am happy to be a ‘homesteader’. Further down the article was this gem:

It is less costly to purchase a handful of seeds, dig a trench in the earth or fill a few pots with soil, plant those seeds, water them, pull weeds near your crops, and harvest that food than it is to drive to a store, buy food that was grown using half a million dollars’ worth of equipment, shipped from 1,000 miles away using gas and more very expensive machinery, and all at great expense to the environment meaning the air we breathe and water we drink. The homesteader does not need to hire labour, they are the work force, growing the food that will sustain them as they harvest sunlight borrow water and air, and help the soil to thrive.

Many homesteaders express deep satisfaction with their standard of living and feel that their lifestyle is healthier and more rewarding than more conventional patterns of living.”

So that is why I am blogging about it. Writing about it keeps me more focused on ‘why’ and if one person reads my thoughts and is inspired enough by the activities happening on Opportunity Farm to take steps to be healthier and happier then there is reward.



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