Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Almost 30 years ago I made one of the best decisions ever. It’s led to a surprisingly happy rural life for my family and I, and I’m very grateful for this. Part of my gratitude gives me the urge to tell others what I’ve found and to explain how it works. That’s what I’m doing here. Perhaps your own version of this life is just the thing for you, too.
Although I’m tempted to call what I do homesteading, that’s not the best description. The word “homesteading” implies some kind of Little House on the Prairie time warp, and while we do share something in common with Laura Ingalls and her family from the 1880s, there’s lots that’s different, too. That’s because the world we live in today has changed in ways that make modern homesteading better, easier and more satisfying.
The best word I know of to describe what I’m doing here in my rural life on Manitoulin Island is a term I made up myself. I am a “countrepreneur”, as in a “country entrepreneur”. Here’s what I mean by that:
“Countrepreneur: a person who combines small digital and physical business ventures, hands-on practical activities, a do-it-yourself attitude and hard work to earn a living in a rural setting without ever having to leave the property.”
A countrepreneur does a lot of things directly, as any old-time homesteader would. Growing food, raising animals, fixing machinery, building a house, and directly meeting energy needs as much as possible are all part of my life. But a countrepreneur also does everything necessary to earn the money they need with their own business ventures, without taking on work that makes them leave the homestead property. Why is this important? Time and focus.
Leaving your rural property for 8, 10 or 12 hours a day invariably means that the actual management of your gardens, forests, buildings and animals takes a back seat to your absence. I can work a full day on the money side of my countrepreneurial ventures and still find time to split firewood, convince a stray beef cow to go back into her pasture, change the oil in my 1953 Farmall Super H tractor, work alongside my kids while teaching them about life, and still enjoy a couple of home-cooked meals a day with my family. Being a countrepreneur means I don’t waste time, gas and vehicle wear-and-tear just getting to a place where I can begin to earn money. Taking geography out of the equation as far as money earning goes is a huge source of joy to me, and I do it in ways that are always evolving. I’ll tell you more about the details later, but in the mean time let me leave you with one thing.
One of the greatest joys I have on our homestead is working alongside my family most days, and eating most meals with them around the big cherrywood table I made for the kitchen. I often feel like John Walton sitting around the dinner table in that classic TV show from the 1970s, and that makes me smile big. The foods we enjoy around that table are so special, especially things like the apple pies my wife, girls and other ladies bake together a day or two each year during their annual pie bees.
You can watch one of their good, old-fashioned pie bees in action right here:
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