Today I am launching a new series called At the Heart of the Homestead. I have invited some of my favorite homesteading bloggers to share a bit about their homesteading journeys with us over the next couple months. Today I start out the series with my own family’s journey (adapted from a previously written one).
What is at the Heart of the Homestead?
For me, it signifies pure truth. Following what matters the most to me. It may be far from the norm and super challenging at times. It may be something that has me second guessing what I was thinking embarking on this path in the first place. But the end of the day, I am proud …of who I am …of this life I am living …of what I am striving for. That is what lies…at the heart of the homestead …my heart.
I remember quite clearly the very moment I set my foot on the homesteading path. I was 21. It was the summer of 2000. In a teeny backyard on the outskirts of the city of Coatesville, I planted my very first garden. It was a small garden, and I don’t even remember the reason for planting it. I was pregnant with my oldest and honestly, I think I picked up some vegetable plants at Home Depot as an impulse buy. Well, whatever the reason, that garden grew and grew. I remember picking the very first ripe cucumber and eating it. I was blown away at the taste. So THAT was what a cucumber tasted like?! I was dumbfounded that something that was grown right at home could have such a superb taste over what appeared to be the very same thing sold in the grocery store. There’s no comparison. And so it began…my pull toward growing my own food, for learning to keep it close to home, learning to bake, create, and make things myself, to homestead…to strive for my own little piece of self-sufficiency.
The past thirteen years have brought me along many different avenues in homesteading. Quite honestly, it’s been nothing short of a bundle of heart ache and head ache at times. I think that is important to remember (and I try to continually remind myself)…that at the core of homesteading lies the base value of doing what you can with what you have. And that thought can be applied across the board…to money, space, time, energy, etc. In the past I have found myself feeling limited by what I did or didn’t have. If you do not have very good soil, build raised garden beds; if you don’t have lots of space, grow some things in pots; if you can’t grow anything, join and volunteer at a local CSA; if you can’t afford gas to drive back and forth, find a farm to camp out at for a summer and grow some food. Find someone nearby to barter for fresh goat milk to make cheese. There is always a way to do something.
Homesteading is not easy. Homesteading is A LOT of work. On paper, homesteading might not even make much sense at all. However, my journey has taught me that some of the best things in life can (and never will) look “right” on paper…but instead they make sense in my heart. Pretty much anything with the word HOME in it fits the bill for me, and HOMEsteading is no exception. Home is where everything comes together. Home is filled with birth and death and the cycle of life. Home is real. Home is togetherness. Home is where my soul gets nourished. Home is the word cross stitched right smack in the middle of a heart on my mother’s wall. Home is where the heart is. It is true.
If you take the price of an egg, even organic free range eggs at the grocery store and try to break down the cost of purchasing the chicks and the organic feed, building a chicken coop…I’m pretty sure it comes just about even (if you’re lucky), and that’s not even taking into consideration the price of labor and everyday maintenance. However, for me the biggest reason it makes sense is because I know where and how my food came to be. I know the exact date on which it arrived, how and how long it has been stored, and how it was treated…with love and kindness. This is a hard concept to swallow at first. However, even if it comes penny to penny in the price of it all, even if it all doesn’t even out, it is still worth it to me. I consider it a big important lesson for the future of myself, my children, future generations, and our planet; to be able to feed ourselves.
In 2012, my family and I took a leap of faith into the giant unknown. It was a hard decision in some ways, but not in all ways. At the time we were struggling financially in a very big way. We had a mortgage and all the bills that go along with owning a house. It sucked us dry, financially and emotionally. The market had crashed and we knew we would never be able to make money off the house as we had hoped for, all the while our neighborhood was deteriorating into a place we did not want to raise our children. After a long struggle we made the decision to put our house up for a short sale and call it a day. In the meantime, we packed up our life and headed three hours north to the middle of nowhere on a whim.
We had been offered a care taking position on a little four acre plot of land, where we would care for a property, mowing and weeding, be responsible for general upkeep and maintenance of the house, along with caring for ½ acre of raspberry bushes. We began to dig deeper into the homesteading mentality. For nine months it was great …until the owners business went bankrupt and we were forced to move out quickly. Looking back, I can accept that although it was hard to be moving again, it bridged the gap…from there to here.
All of these quick transitions got me thinking, or rather trusting, that no matter what, it was all leading me somewhere. Even if I didn’t understand and couldn’t see the outcome, it was there…just waiting for me to stumble into it in due time. I held onto my dreams tightly and just kept walking.
In the fall of 2012, through word of mouth and friends, we were able to rent an old farmhouse on top of a mountain. Life on this mountain has been nothing short of adventurous, that’s for sure. Living off the beaten path is not for the faint of heart. Our knowledge of homesteading and self-sufficiency has grown tremendously during our stay here, and for that I am grateful. It has taught us what to think about and how to plan for our someday soon permanent homestead. The journey has felt intense at times, but looking back I don’t think I would trade in any of it for the world. We are on a mission. And our story is unraveling perfectly in a very special way. In fact, we are about to embark on the next leg of our journey very soon…but I won’t fill you in on that quite yet. I’ll keep you in suspense for a bit longer.