The homesteading life has a romantic quality to it. Is it really romantic? Here’s how to achieve the state of mind of a true homesteader.
The Idyllic Homestead
When you think of homesteading, do you envision backyard gardens full of fresh fruit and vegetables, and chickens clucking away in a darling coop? Weeds and pests are probably nonexistent. The chickens lay plenty of eggs, are always healthy, and their poop doesn’t stink.
Speaking of poop, you can walk everywhere in bare feet and not fear an excrement minefield.
Maybe there are other livestock, too. And neighbors keep to themselves, except to trade excess harvests.
Harvesting happens at a leisurely pace, always at the peak of crop maturity, and most certainly doesn’t strain your back. Produce is transformed into inspired mealtime masterpieces (nutritionally balanced!) in no time at all.
Is your imaginary homesteader whistling while s/he works?
I could go on, but I hope you’re chuckling a little, because it means you’ve figured out this isn’t entirely real. We might have signed up for an effortless, romantic life, yet, what we have now looks so different. So chaotic. “I have so much work to do to get there,” we say, and then we work harder to complete more, and learn more, and be more in a day in order to work up to being a real homesteader.
But where is “there” when we have an unattainable ideal of what homesteading is?
Many folks simply don’t even start the journey because it seems like there’s just too much to learn. Instead they look longingly at those who are homesteading and think about “someday”.
Good news alert!
You don’t have to be an expert gardener, livestock farmer, kitchen manager, from-scratch chef, alternative energy guru, seamstress, wilderness survival master, and herbal healer to call yourself a homesteader.
If you have, or are developing, skills in any of these areas, then you are a modern homesteader, which is simply someone who is working toward a more productive home. Skills in any of these areas empower us to meet more of our own needs with the resources we already have.
Using the space we have–no matter how big or small–for the production of something useful, is an efficient use of time, land, and resources.
It is the opposite of the consumption model, whereby everything we need (and want) is outsourced by paying money for someone else to grow, raise, make, or otherwise produce it.
Though we may still have to outsource much of what we need to live in the modern world, our goal over time is to outsource less and less as we develop more skills. We know that the future will be captured by those with productive skills, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a willingness to continue to learn.
Oh, and the process will likely be messy, both literally and figuratively. It will probably not feel very romantic.
As we work toward our homesteading goals, it’s important to remember that the present is a gift. Don’t forget to enjoy it! All too easily we spend our time imagining the future while the present slips by undetected.
Make room in your daily life to be with yourself and your loved ones, to play, and to feel gratitude for your opportunity to learn homesteading skills. Can you spend a few daily moments without planning for the future?
The romanticism of the homesteading life is in the gratitude for the opportunity to be on this journey.
One Step at a Time
If you’ve ever had the goal of producing some of your own food or becoming a homesteader, but are worried that you’ll fail, it’s important to know that you don’t have to learn everything at once. The beginner’s mind is a beautiful thing.
Instead, improve your skills and efficiency over time to make the most of your space, and know that you’ll always have to rely on outside sources for certain things. This engagement with “outside sources” in your local community is the cornerstone of modern homesteading, which acknowledges that our future health, safety, and happiness is intricately linked with our community.
My romantic ideal? That I will more fully enjoy the present, recognizing the skills that I’ve already developed, and appreciate the effort that goes into mastering new skills. Oftentimes I get frustrated with the pace of my learning or with the pace of the development of my homestead, when what I really need to feel is grateful for the opportunity to be on this journey in the first place.
Gratitude emanates romance.
If you have a penchant for romanticism or need some inspiration for that romantic homestead life amidst the chaos of it all, here are some of my favorite stories:
- The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
- Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life
What about your journey? Are you frozen by an unattainable ideal? Do you have a daily gratitude practice?