Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
We live in a world of modern conveniences. This begs the question, “why would anyone want to do all of that work to homestead?” After all, we can simply go to the store to get our food, clothing, and any supplies that we can dream of. In the rare instance where we want something that we cannot drive to get, we can simply order it online with one click.
With all of this at our fingertips, it takes a pioneering spirit to break the mold of modern society and choose the life of a homesteader. It does not matter how large, or small, your farm is, a pioneering spirit is an essential aspect of any successful homestead.
Building Deep Community Roots
While the internet has allowed us to connect with people all over the world, it also seems to have made us grow further from those that are the closest to us. Do you even know your neighbor’s name?
When homesteading was a way of life, there was a strong sense of community. For the most part, gone are the days of barn raisings, families helping out during planting and harvest seasons, and even families getting together to help watch and care for children! Our attitudes have shifted from, “how can we solve this together?” to “how will this benefit me?”
While our attitudes may have strayed from deep community roots, it does not have to remain this way. The shift will need to start somewhere and there is no better place for it to start then at your own homestead. Next time you hear someone in need of help, be it with fencing, harvesting, or even branding, ask how you can help.
Maybe you are not skilled in that area of homesteading, but that does not mean that you cannot offer your services in other ways. During harvest and planting season, a hearty meal is always appreciated! Small acts like this make huge impacts.
Respect for Elders
In previous generations, there were no articles, readily accessible colleges, blogs or any of the other resources that we take for granted. In order to survive, you had to listen to the wisdom that was passed down through the generations and from your elders. Those with years of wisdom that surpassed your own were to be regarded and respected, not tuned out with television or ear phones. Oftentimes, the ability to heed the words from the elders made the difference between the success or failure of your homestead.
We may jest about our elders starting their stories with, “back in my day”, yet this is exactly the information that we need to embrace. Respect for our elders does not just stop by learning from their stories. Care of elders is another key aspect of building and knowing your community. By taking the time to assist the community elders, you not only give back, but have the opportunity to grow in your own knowledge and skill set as well.
During these times, many people, including homesteaders, kept journals. These journals contained knowledge that was given to them by others, as well as success and failures of their own. These journals would not only help you repeat success, and avoid more mistakes, but could be passed down to the next generation. Everything from planting varieties, dates times, weather, to crop success or failure. No matter how seemingly insignificant the information, it was all included and learned from and then ultimately passed on.
Respect for Food
The mindset of waste not, want not has become all but lost on the modern disposable society. Whether it is an item of food, clothing, or used farm equipment, we have become a society that would rather replace then repair. Excess food was canned, smoked, or preserved in a variety of methods.
Not only will this save you money on your grocery bill and time in the garden, but it will eventually carry over to other aspects of your daily life. When you start looking for ways to preserve things, you will put more time, effort and care into what you already have.
Have a Skill or Trade
Another aspect of life in days gone by was the understanding that everyone needed to have some type of skill or trade. Truly, it is impossible to know and perfect all aspects of farming, homesteading, and providing for a family. That is why the community rallied together and combined their unique, specialized, trades and skills.
Today, this is no longer standard. Perhaps this is due to the removal of shop classes from schools, or the rise in the idea that trades are too “blue collar”, but it is vital to escape this mindset.
If you have livestock, you will need to have, at minimum, a basic understanding of carpentry. For the farmers using implements and equipment, mechanical skills are vital. Even the homemakers have skills that must be learned to keep the homestead running. From how to sew, to how to process game and livestock to cooking from scratch and with whole ingredients.
All of these things were once common knowledge and simply passed through the generations. These trades and skills are nothing negative, gender-specific, or demeaning, they are a step toward self-reliance and the success of your family’s homestead.
Understanding of Nature
Signs and behaviors from animals were often used by early homesteaders to influence their land management decisions. It was through time invested outside, and keen observations that they are able to discern these patterns and use them to their advantage.
Often times, these “old wives tales” are dismissed in our modern era of science. However, when you take a scientific look at many of them, there are legitimate reasons for the behavior of these plants and animals. Modern homesteaders need to embrace these forgotten signs, and use them to benefit their farm.
While the physical act of homesteading may be kept alive through your actions, we all have to work to keep the innovative, caring, and strong homesteading spirit alive as well. Homesteading and farming is far more than a physical act of growing things, it is a community, a mind set and a way of life that should be preserved.
Alexis Griffee is a sleep-deprived and coffee-fueled homeschool mom, homesteader, mule rider, military wife and a freelance writer for publications, including Countryside, Backwoods Home, Molly Green, and Hoegger’s Farmyard. Connect with Alexis on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.