Where to begin? I know I should have been writing about my homesteading journey from the beginning, but somehow other things have taken over and I haven’t taken the time to write out what I’ve been experiencing when I was experiencing it. I wish I had. The short snippets that I have posted on social media don’t even scratch the surface of all the deep underlying richness of what I have experienced, nor the raw disappointment and helplessness that comes along with this lifestyle.
Homesteading seems to be on a lot of people’s minds these days and is a movement that seems to be growing. There is a romanticism to it that draws people’s attention. Maybe we felt it as a child while we read the Little House books. Or maybe our high tech world feels like it is spinning out of control despite smart phones, tablets and computers offering tools to streamline our lives. The thought of simplifying or taking a step back calls to a deeper part of us. And when one dabbles in the homesteading lifestyle in ways of knitting or making homemade bread, something stirs in that deep unknown place, calling us, beckoning us to follow. Not everyone follows…but I did. And I didn’t follow at a slow pace. I ran headlong in that direction. I didn’t know what was in store for me. Moments of indescribable wonder and amazement yet moments of inadequacy and loss. Moments I wouldn’t trade because they speak to that deeper part of me, teaching me irreplaceable life lessons.
My homesteading journey began about twenty years ago when I started having health issues. I had the realization that I needed to start looking at what I was eating and so when I did, I experienced positive results. It was my “ah-ha” moment – what we eat affects us physically. At twenty-one, I just hadn’t thought about that before. I started exploring foods more and making different choices. Time progressed and more health issues popped up, especially after each of my three children were born. I became more intrigued with how our food was being produced and what was considered a “normal” diet. I started realizing the disconnect that I had with food, despite thinking I didn’t. For instance, I could not handle touching a store bought whole chicken. It was too much for me as I washed off the raw carcass before sticking it into a roasting pan. I found myself apologizing to what was obviously once a live bird, but yet I didn’t think twice about cutting up chicken breasts and cooking them up on the stove. I didn’t see the value of what I was eating, the value of the work that went into producing and growing my food, the value of the life that was given so I could eat.
About this time I was introduced to some ladies who came together once a month to share what they were doing at home rather than going to the store. Honestly, I did a lot of listening and asking questions because there wasn’t a whole lot being done at my home…bread, that’s about it. I started hearing about square foot gardening, ended up buying a book on it, and my husband implemented the practice in our yard. It was definitely different than the type of garden I grew up with, but it was effective with the life of living in a subdivision.
I started thinking about keeping chickens. Never would I have thought about getting my own chickens, but I realized by listening and learning about them from the ladies, it was something that I could handle and actually wanted to try. One of the ladies from the group was moving out of the country and had to get rid of her flock. We took eight of her hens and put them in a coop in the woods near our house. That first egg felt like magic.
It was all downhill after that. I realized I enjoyed working with the animals. I started dreaming of the day that I would be able to raise our own meat chickens and meat cow so that I would know what my children were eating. I had visited chicken houses and had watched too many documentaries on feed lots. I didn’t want that to be the norm for us.
My daughter was having problems with dairy, but she seemed to be able to handle goat’s milk. Again I started dreaming… dreaming of having our own dairy goat.
My own growing health issues related to food made me realize how important it was for me to know how my food was produced. We waited, and I kept dreaming while we waited. Eventually the housing market cooperated and we were able to sell our house, though we ended up renting as we searched for our dream homestead. We had an incredible realtor who didn’t give up on us and I am grateful for that. After a year of looking, we FINALLY found our place! It had fencing, barns and a shop along with blueberry bushes, an apple tree and many pecan trees! The house was not what I had thought I wanted but after being promised a renovated kitchen there was no way I could pass up it up. Thankfully we put a contract on the house and almost two months later we were able to call it home.
Over the last three years, I have had some incredible experiences that have taught me lessons that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have had not so incredible experiences that have taught me lessons that were hard. However, they worked together for my good, so I accept them and am grateful for them. In typical fashion, I threw myself into homesteading/farming from the get go. I probably moved too quickly and am finally learning to slow down and focus on improving things that are already going on here to make them more efficient. I am learning to say “no” or “not yet” to things. I am learning what I want to pursue and what is ok to say, “That isn’t for me.” I have made friends who live this life and they have been an incredible support, not only during the hard, but also by sharing their stories and experiences to help me learn,grow, and save me from some of the “hard”.
My desire is to share what is going on here to be that for others. Sometimes it is hard to share our failures with others because it leaves us wide open and vulnerable. That can be a scary place. A little over a year ago, I shared one of my failures regarding a rabbit on a homesteading Facebook page in an effort to spare others the same distress that my son and I had experienced. Recently I had one person come back to tell me that by sharing our experience, they were able to avoid the same devastation, not once but twice. Becoming vulnerable was worth it just for that one person.
I also want to share the “enchanted wonder” that comes along with the life where the type of work involved makes one slow down and experience the process, where the process is just as rewarding as the end result.
So here’s to finally documenting my homesteading journey. I would be honored to share that journey with you.