How (Not) to be a Homesteader

There’s that moment every morning here, when the kids are at school, and all the animals are fed and both they and the plants are watered when I sit down to my computer to get to work, and I take a breath.  Everyone’s taken care of for the moment.  There are always more chores, but they can wait until the income-producing work is done.

Life at Sithean might be called homesteading, if one stretched every definition of the word to transparent thinness like one of those giant latex bubbles that are sold on TV.  I view homesteading as increasing self-sufficiency.  I’d like that, but I haven’t noticed my trips to the grocery store dropping off, so I’m reluctant to evaluate it that way.  It probably couldn’t be considered a farm, although I do grow things in volume.  What it really should be considered is a teensy, tiny farmlet-style side hustle that keeps me in asparagus, salsa, pesto and eggs.

omelet

Which is not to say that’s the limit of it, or that I won’t become more self-sufficient here over time — definitely a goal, but for now realistically, it’s not a big money-saver to live here. Quite the opposite, most of the time.  It is though, an investment in the future.    Not just mine, but a protection of sorts for my children, a place of abundance in a rapidly changing world.  It’s a sanctuary, but a connected one.

In addition to the upcoming garden expansion, this year I added a cold-hardy cherry tree, bush apricots, blueberries and lots of perennial herbs.  Few of them will produce this year, and I still haven’t figured out where to put pear trees and cranberry bushes, but in the long haul, my goal is to grow and produce at least a large chunk of what fruit and vegetables we eat, supplemented by our local farm share.   To live a life where the apples we eat come from our trees, where the house is on route to paid for, and yet be within just a few miles of expansive civilization (read: Sushi and Thai food) is a gift.

As I read over blogs and books on sustainable living though, I find very few homesteader-types that seem like me.  I have not given up paid employment to go back to the land.  I still want to see Santorini someday.  I’d love to be off the grid, but every time I flick on a light I am grateful for it.  I am not planning for end times, although I am worried about the effects of climate change, effects I already see here, as spring comes later and summer lasts longer every year.  For me, this is a slow-burn process.

I was thinking about it as I was planting and weeding this week.  I’m not any of the things a typical homesteader might be.  I’m a single mom, a liberal who is a huge fan of the social safety net and more than willing to pay taxes for the betterment of society generally.  I’m not associated with any faith.  I drive more than I’d like to, I’m on planes a bunch, I color my hair, paint my toes, and I’m not giving up shaving any time soon.

In short, I don’t fit the profile of the back to the land movement.   I have no environmental moral authority, and I’m hardly an expert on much, except the stuff that I am.

For a long time, I assumed that due to this lack of street cred, I wasn’t the right person to write about the experiences of farmlet life.  But it finally occurred to me that I have a valuable perspective after another conversation with someone, who, like me, was an apologist for having 1.57 feet in modern society and the other .43 in a place not dissimilar from mine – that there are a lot of us.  People who want to live better and more lightly on the earth, but also cave to modern conveniences.  I’m doing things imperfectly, and learning as I go along, and figuring out what works for us.

One of the greatest gifts one can give oneself is acceptance.  An unexpected byproduct of me saying to myself, ‘hey self, you don’t have to be perfect at this to have something to offer’ is that the ways in which I had offerings expanded dramatically.  And the reception to those offerings has been equally dramatic.  I’m no longer an apologist for my life, which is something of a relief.   I may not get it right, or achieve a higher moral authority, but there’s a lot going on here that is worth a share.

 

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