I get it. Homesteaders are a little bit crazy, right? We seem like we want to regress into feudal-era societies, or be better off moving to Thailand. Our interests can venture a little too close to homeopathy and the kind of survival skills you’d be likely to find in zombie-preppers. Those Tiny House shows are cool to watch, but why would anyone in the 21st century actually want to live like that?
My unpopular opinion on the matter: no one should. I don’t want to fall into the trap of romanticizing the past. Life was not better overall under feudal lords; modern medicine and the Internet are both amazing, world-changing technologies, and I’m not in the interest of giving those things up.
And yet… there were a few advantages to our agrarian past.
- Houses and plots of lands that were passed down from generation to generation meant that you owned your home and, while you may have had to pay some taxes on it, you didn’t have a mortgage worth 1/3 of what you made every month. (Of course, you could still do this if you move in with your grandma. 😛 )
- Everything you ate was organic and in-season.
- We were typically in better shape, as our farms kept us away from a sedentary lifestyle.
- And let’s be honest… cows, goats, and sheep are all frickin adorable.
For me, my reason for getting into homesteading is a lot more personal. Due to medical concerns, I was unable to work throughout all of 2013. My husband and I were living paycheck to paycheck and I knew at this rate there was no way we’d be able to afford the American-Dream lifestyle we wanted. I had to have a serious look at our future and figure out a lifestyle we could lead, in case I was rendered incapable of working again.
Dreaming about owning a homestead and providing for our own needs without needing a mortgage gave me hope again, and that hope was instrumental in my healing. I now focus so much of my energy on learning homesteading skills because it drives me forward. And I think everyone needs that… a goal in mind that they keep focusing on and that moves them forward.
Anyway, that’s why on this blog I’ll frequently refer to what I call reasonable self-sufficiency. I like to think of it as kind of a middle ground between the hard labor we did in the 1700s and the high-budget trap we’re living in now.
- It involves owning your own house – even if it’s a smaller house than your neighbor’s.
- It involves growing a lot of your own food, but using modern advancements like automated irrigation systems to do this as efficiently as possible. (If a food doesn’t seem efficient, you can still buy it at the store; it’s all about little changes.)
- It involves alternate forms of power, including solar, so that you can still have the Internet.
- Best of all, relying on yourself and your skills means you don’t have to work a 9-5 job for forty years before you can retire. It involves living debt-free and getting out of the paycheck-to-paycheck loop.
Now – I’m not an expert, and I’m in no position to tell anybody how to live their life. But that’s exactly the point. You shouldn’t let anyone sell you the notion that you’d have been happier in 1700 any more than you should let the media sell you the idea of a high-budget lifestyle with a white picket fence to hold in your massive, looming debt.
The term reasonable is subjective; you get to decide which parts of the traditional American life you find reasonable, which parts of a homesteading lifestyle you find reasonable, etc. The point is that it’s all up to you – and I find that exhilarating. I hope you do, too.
Also published on Medium.