Sustainable Happiness, Sustainable Homestead

Reader Contribution by Anneli Carter-Sundqvist
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A homestead is about so much more than just mindful ways of producing ones needs; the health of the land and landscape is nothing if the health of the homesteader isn’t there. The most sustainable homestead is one where the homesteaders like what they’re doing and therefore will keep doing it. And to me, one of the most certain ways to a long lasting pursuit as a homesteader, is to feel that I’m able to pursue other things in life too.

It comes with the homesteading territory, that it is a commitment. I also think it’s a trait among us who set out to live in self-reliance from our backyard that we are ambitious and hardworking; necessary traits I believe, to make this dream into reality. Since I came here in 2008 our Homestead has been everything to us and long before that the Hostel was all that mattered to Dennis. We’ve emerged ourselves, geeked out – and seeing how far we’ve come, how successful our aim for self sufficiency has been, how appreciated our Hostel is and what potential the Educational Program has, it has all been well worth the effort. To be committed is what it took – but the line for it to be over consuming is fine and sometimes hard to navigate.

Homesteading as a Way of Life

Homesteading is to me a way of living – not a phase, not a profession, nor a hobby, not something for the headlines. It influences our whole life – it’s how we eat and how we dress, it’s our social status, our finances and how we pay our bills, what we do on our vacation and how we spend the evenings. But the kind of full-on devotion we’ve been through where we’ve let it take pretty much all our time and energy isn’t necessary anymore. When I look around and see where the last few years have brought us – food and energy security, a business at home that meet our financial needs and a place to live that is beautiful and abundant – I realize that it’s time to make room in our life for something else. If we don’t need more, why strive to get it? Meeting ones need is easy compared to knowing when the needs are met and vain accumulation takes over. To keep this 100% focus on our homestead would for me at this point be to cross the line to consuming – it’d be unhealthy to me and to the homestead, that would eventually degrade as I lost my interest.

Finding the Time

I’ve written a book – a dream I’ve nourished since my teens and was a splurge I needed. I devote time to train for a couple of long distance road races this season and I also took the training to be a driver for the Ambulance Corps here on the island. That is very much removed from being a homesteader (exactly the point), and required a time commitment I, for years, have not managed to pry out of my schedule. Many have already approached me with doubt; how will I have time, in the summer, to set aside a whole day every week to be ready to go on call?

Well, I’ve put my foot down, for myself: If I can’t have time for volunteer contribution to my community, what then? Many make, as we do, most or all of the year’s income during the few summer months and as the spring comes I can notice a certain lament among my peers; the social time is over, the walks with friends, the spontaneous get-together. It’s true that the summer here on Deer Isle is very different from the winter, but I refuse to fully give in to that. The self-fulfilling prophecy that we’re all too busy is a highly unsustainable way to attempt sustainability, whether it’s for a homestead or a summer business.

I have high hopes for what Dennis and I got going here at our place, hopes for longevity and a self-reliant future. Hopes that will no doubt be reality if we, the homesteaders, stay as happy as we want the homestead to be.