Why Homestead?


Jenna WoginrichIf you knew me growing up you’d probably be surprised to find out that after a perfectly normal suburban childhood, I ended up standing in a chicken coop at 5 a.m. ankle-deep in straw and chicken poo.

After all, that was never the plan. I grew up in the complacency of small town America. We had a fine house with a beautiful back yard, neighborhood friends, and wonderbread sandwiches. Once a year near Halloween, my parents would take us three kids to a small family farm with a pumpkin patch. I’m fairly certain that annual trip was the closest I ever got to the farmlife.

Now, 26 and on my own in rural Vermont — things have changed. Bread comes from my oven — not plastic bags with twist ties. Eggs come from the chicken coop — not a styrofoam container. And vegetables come from the garden not the produce section (though technically, the garden is the produce section of the property, but you know what I mean.) My life went from an urban design job in the city to the path of an apprentice shepherd. While I still have a 9-5 job, my weekends are spent at sheepdog clinics and lambing seminars. The dream is to raise lambs up here in the gambols of Vermont. And the road to that reality is a lot different than the one I’ve been trained for in college. (They don’t teach you how to pull out an inverted lamb from a stubborn ewe in typography classes, just a heads up for any designers-turning-farmers out there.) Anyway,  I’ve been sweating, tilling, and stepping in random feces for a few years now and whenever someone who knew me before all paths lead to sheep runs into me, they always ask me the same question.


Why would a perfectly normal middle class gal, who had a nice city job, and a pleasant apartment pick up her life and shake it till trowels and feed sacks fell out? Why spend a year learning to raise chickens and keep bees and nearly pass out of heat stroke in the garden when eggs, honey, and broccoli are all for sale at the grocery store for less than the cost of that hoe in your blistered hands?

There are a lot of canned answers to this and you know them already. As fellow homesteaders (or friends there of) you get the whole “homegrown-satisfaction-quality-of-life-green-living” bit. All those reasons ring true for me too, but there’s something else writhing below those surface answers. Something deeper that makes me smile in the garden or laugh from my belly in the bird yard.

10/30/2008 9:33:29 PM

Jenna, I just read through all your writtings on Mother Earth News. It really brought a smile to my face to read about you leaving the city to pursue the rural farm life. My wife and I have been doing that for 4 years now. We are loving the counrty, gardening and our little flock of chickens. We are not in the debat stage of what to acquire next. We are in a wonderful rural area that has lots to offer locally. You are an inspiration. Keep it up.

Paul Gardener
10/6/2008 5:18:15 PM

Jenna, So wonderfully put! I couldn't agree more with you. My wife and I have our dreams of having some land one day too, but know ful well that there are many skills we'd have to have before making a good run of it anyway. In that vain we've decided to learn and build as many skills as we can on our suburban 1/4 acre in the mean time. It's a learning and growing process and it's a lot of hard work, but the rewards like fresh eggs, sweet juicy tomatoes and healthy foods are well worth the efforts! I look forward to your forthcoming book. It should be great based on your writing here. P~ http://apaetoday.blogspot.com

Teri Treehugger
9/12/2008 1:50:22 PM

I love reading stories about homesteading. I too would love to be able to leave the city and live off the land, but I am not able to at the moment. I recently read an article about a couple homesteading in the city. They have turned their yard into a food garden, put solar panels on the roof and so on. Similarly, I couldn't wait any longer and started a small, edible container garden this year. Next spring I plan to expand and grow more than I did this year. It's not exactly what I'm hoping for, but it is a start. I've realized that any effort towards a self-sustaining existence changes my experience of life. I am looking forward to discovering more of this as I go on. Teri Ottawa

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