On Becoming a Homesteader
I’m really a rookie when it comes to this homesteading thing. After years of living in suburbia, we bought a few acres off of a county road, and are building our forever home there. Homesteading is something I’ve been dreaming of for a while, and that dream is finally becoming our reality.
Although we are still living in a rowhouse while the house is getting built, I am a homesteader. I garden and put up the harvest. I make my own dairy products from raw milk, straight from a local dairy. A lot of my free time is spent clearing the brush on our land. So we’ll have places to plant, build animal shelters, and start homesteading in earnest next Spring.
I am learning all the time. I’m learning about Permaculture, soil restoration, raising chickens and beekeeping. I’m also learning skills that many have forgotten; how to can vegetables, grind flour, make butter, and bake bread. And all this feels like the right way to live a good life. One that appreciates the bounty of the earth, provides us with good food, and accepts our responsibility to care for our planet.
A Big Mess
Many moons ago, when my kids were still little, I sent my 4-year-old son upstairs to clean up the pit of destruction that was his bedroom. About twenty minutes later, I went up to check on him. He was standing in the middle of way too many toys, with Barney in one hand, and had done nothing at all. “Austen, why haven’t you started cleaning?” I asked. He looked at me with big teary eyes and said “The mess is so big I don’t know where to start!”
Sometimes I feel that way about the world we live in; humanity has made a terrible mess of things, and it seems nobody knows how to clean it up, or even how to begin trying. I view homesteading as a small part of the solution to a gigantic problem, something that can be done at the personal level. A chance to restore and improve our little patch of green.
On that day long ago, I told my son, “honey, you just start with one thing at a time.” Now, I try to apply that advice to where and how I live. One of the many unexpected gifts of homesteading is a realization that we, as humans, can not only fit into the natural world, but also become stewards of it. We can make a home not only for ourselves and our families, but also for the creatures and plants that share our planet. We can leave this world better than it was when we came into it.