It's easy to romanticize a simple life on a homestead. To earnestly wish for a time gone by and to feel like you've been born in the wrong century.
Trust me, I know this is true.
It's easy to imagine a world where growing your own food, harvesting your own animals, and living off the land as being an ideal life, one of worth and depth.
“It is the simple things of life that make living worthwhile, the sweet fundamental things such as love and duty, work and rest, and living close to nature.”
- Laura Ingalls Wilder
And to be honest, I believe this to be true. I believe in a homestead lifestyle in which you can sustain yourself as much as possible. I believe in the traditions of old; of the value placed on relationships and a partnership with nature. I yearn for a community of others that share that lifestyle, such as was had by the early pioneers.
Yet, I am thankful to be here today, homesteading in today's world rather than yesterday's. While there are definitely pitfalls and hardships of choosing to live this way in a society that values fame and fortune over nature and relationships, and while the American society isn't promoting the lifestyle choices of a young dreamer like me who wants to leave what's expected with her family to start a homestead, the reality is that homesteading today is very different than it was in yesterday's time.
I came across this article from Northern Homestead, and to be honest, it stopped me in my tracks. It really put into perspective the brutality and harshness of daily living for those early pioneers, and brought forth the realities of life on yesterday's homestead.
Anna grew up on an almost self-sufficient homestead. And while she didn't grow up in the late 1800s/early 1900s, her life mirrors a pioneer homestead life.
She begins her article talking all about the homestead itself. It sounds like a dream with its fruit trees, garden, cow, pig, and chickens. She details her life growing up, sharing about the home built by her father's hands, the use of the outhouse, the daily chores and duties, and the food growing and preservation. As I read it, I grew more and more entranced, eager and excited to hear more about this wonderful homestead that she grew up on. It sounded exactly like I imagined my ancestors living; it sounded beautiful and wonderful and like the perfect way to live a full, happy, and healthy life.
But after she finished sharing what the homestead was like, she ended with this:
"With so much homegrown, home raised, and homemade food you would think that we were the healthiest and happiest people around.
We were not.
My childhood memories include lots of nausea, throwing up (especially after butchering parties), as well as recurring colds and other health problems. My parents (also not healthy) were always busy doing everyday chores. And a big portion of our tight budget went for buying in feed for animals.
I do not recall seeing any of our domestic animals as pets, or even as being cute. They caused a lot of hard and unpleasant work. Butchering them was a normal cycle of life, we used them for food. Considering if they had a happy life or not, would not have crossed my mind. Our cow was stiff every spring and our pigs never saw sunshine. We cared for them in a way to get the most out of them. Still, our domestic animals did have a better life and care than most farm animals of today do.
We ate mostly from the garden, not because we wanted to, or thought that was healthier, no it was what was available and what our family could afford. The more products became available, the less self-sufficient we became."
-How People Lived Simple Yesterday by Anna, Northern Homestead
Wow. Talk about a curveball. A huge dose of reality was shoved into my lap and it forced me to stop and think about this homesteading dream that I wish to pursue.
And as I think more about it, even good 'ol Pa Ingalls had something to say about modernization:
“That machine's a great invention!" he said. "Other folks can stick to old-fashioned ways if they want to, but I'm all for progress. It's a great age we're living in. As long as I raise wheat, I'm going to have a machine come and thresh it, if there's one anywhere in the neighborhood.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods
So why is it then that so many yearn for this homestead life? Why do people who have all of these modern conveniences, who have everything at the tip of their fingertips, continue to search for happiness by simplifying what they have and living more closely with nature?
The difference is in today's world we can homestead because it's a choice.
If I don't grow enough tomatoes to last the whole year, I can always go to the store to buy some pizza sauce whenever I feel the urge to have pizza.
If D doesn't harvest a deer, we're sad to not have the meat, but we'll still be able to get something else to replace it.
If I don't get to preserving all of the garden's bounty, we won't starve in the winter.
If we don't make enough firewood to last us all winter, we won't freeze to death.
If I don't bake bread one weekend, my family will still have a store-bought loaf to make their sandwiches on.
I have never needed to make my own flour, churn my own butter, grow my own rice or grain, or milk my own cow to have those things. I've never needed to sew my own quilts, my own dresses, and my children's clothes to have them. I've never gone hungry because something I did or didn't do failed.
The difference between my life as a homesteader and my ancestors' lives as homesteaders is that I have a choice. My life doesn't depend on my household's sustainability, thankfully so. And though I do work towards being as self-sufficient as possible, I recognize that it simply isn't possible to be 100% self-sufficient in today's modern world living the life that I currently live.
Yet, there is value to this lifestyle.
There is a value in slowing down to watch the sunrise each morning, to hear the call of the chickadee as she warns others of your presence. There is value in pulling a beautiful orange carrot from the ground, wiping it clean with your hands, and enjoying that crisp fresh crunch. There is value in taking care of animals, of giving them a good life, and recognizing the sadness that comes with raising animals for meat. There is value in an evening without the television, without the news, without a screen. There is value in living simply.
And to me, it's an unmeasurable value. It's something I'm pulled towards, something I believe we're all pulled towards. We've all been designed to live as one with nature. God has provided us with what we need. And while I believe that modern conveniences and technologies have their place, I think it's important that we don't become overly consumed with the world and forget what we were created to do: be stewards of the Earth. We cannot let greed take over our natural calling, and selfishness take away our knowledge of truth that God has given us all that we need in our community. I truly believe that if we all came together and worked as a community, our lives would be so much more full and happy. If our food producers weren't producing for money, if we didn't need such mass-production, imagine how different our world would be. Imagine a community in which everyone shares their wealth, where the farmer trades milk for maple syrup. Where the neighbor trades a haircut service for a quilt. Where everyone took care of one another, of their elderly and sick. If people focused less on seeing dollar signs and ways to make more, and instead saw faces and hearts within each and every one of God's children. Life could be so different.
But our world is a broken one, and that is just the sad reality of it all. And so, like so many others, I'll continue to yearn and work for a simple life, one filled with joys in daily living and gratitude for the gift of life, while still using my dishwasher and washing machine and enjoying a Youtube series now and again. It can be a balance of both worlds, and we can encourage and support each other as we make our way along, as we each try to find our own place in this world. The trick is to find the balance that suits you and recognizing when the world is taking you away from your calling. And the hardest of all is to be true to your heart and to go where you're being led.
Be well, friends. Thanks for reading along with me today.
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