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How We Homestead Series: How It All Began

May 15, 2013

This is part 1 of a 5-part series on how 5 different bloggers homestead.  Please join us each Wednesday for a new post in the series.

It all started with a Countryside magazine.  Let me explain.

I began having daydreams of moving to the country in 2006.  Frustrated with the feelings of never having enough, not measuring up to what seemed to be others standards coupled with the growing concerns over the quality {or lack of} of the country's food supply I began wondering if it was possible to live a life that focused on the quality of life and not the quantity of things acquired.  A life that didn't leave me feeling like we always needed more.  Have you ever thought "if I just made X amount of dollars more then I would be ok financially" only to get there and within months you're still needing more?  That's the result of living at or above your means.  I wanted to attempt to live below our means. I also wanted to take some responsibility for the food that we consume, learn how to live with less, slow down our busy lives a bit and savor in the small moments.  Because of my love for animals, I dreamed that this would all happen in the country.

That year, while Jay and I were on vacation, we took a trip to a local bookstore so that Jay could pick up a magazine or two to read on the beach.  While there, a magazine caught my eye.  It was Countryside.  Intrigued, I bought it.  That evening I opened it up and began to read the stories shared by readers while Jay watched tv.  I immediately felt "yes, this is how I feel; this is how I want my life to be".  I couldn't believe the number of people who seemed to feel the same way as myself.  Those stories gave me courage and I also learned that this lifestyle now had a name - homesteading or self-sufficient living.  Sure, there were stories of those who took this lifestyle a little more extreme than I intended, but I had admiration for them.

The next piece of the puzzle I discovered, this time from a book, was a movement called Voluntary Simplicity.  Simply stated, voluntarily living your life with less "stuff".  I enjoyed reading about it and could feel in my heart this was the right path for me.  Now to share my findings with Jay.....

To my delight, he was completely on board and wondered, as did I, just how much into self-sufficiency and country living we should go.  So, we cut up the only 2 credit cards we had, I sold off most of my collections of stuff {only keeping what remained near and dear}, and we decided to look for a home just outside the city limits to give this new lifestyle a try.  Thinking of our new way of living, we wanted a piece of land with the house, it didn't necessarily matter how large, and the area needed to be zoned for animals.  The next step we did was we took the dollar amount we were approved for a mortgage for and cut that in half.  That's what we were looking to spend.  This way, our lives wouldn't be run based on our monthly mortgage payment.  In the end, we spent just over half of what we were approved for.

Here are some of the homesteading principles we've come up with for ourselves:
  • Replenish the soil that provides you with abundance.
  • Hand-make as many items as possible throughout the year and creatively recycle what we can.
  • If we must purchase something, buy used when possible.  Before each purchase, ask yourself if it's a need or a want.
  • When purchasing new products, support locally owned businesses and/or artist/artisans when possible.
  • Try to make use of what we've got.
  • Raise/make/grow what we can.
  • Live without debt.
In an attempt to not overwhelm ourselves since we do work 40+ hours per week outside of the home, we try to add a few new things to our repertoire each year.  This year's additions will hopefully include cheesemaking {soft and hard cheeses}, cold frames {if I can get my handy hubby to make them}, seed saving and canning with a pressure canner.

"Simple Living" or homesteading is not necessarily simple yet it's rewarding.  It's humbling and challenging but it teaches us so much.  We dove into chicken-keeping with not much knowledge and learned tons within the first few months.  We made mistakes, lost one chicken to pneumonia, but we grew and learned both as people and as homesteaders.  My first garden I literally tossed seeds into the beds and hoped for the best.  With everything else on my plate I didn't have the time to devote to it that I would have liked.  But guess what?  My garden grew!  Sure, I could have produced more had I taken care of each particular crop the way they desire and amended the soil, etc. but it worked and I've learned a tremendous amount since that first attempt.  The first time I canned Jay walked into the house and burst out laughing.  I was holding the jar lifter backwards.  {go ahead and laugh - I've laughed plenty about this since then} The taste of home canned produce in the middle of winter is a pleasure I can't believe I ever lived without.

There are two typical responses I get when talking to someone about homesteading or self-sufficient living:  1. that's really cool.  I could never do that, but it's really cool that you do.  or 2. why do you choose to live this way????

The simple answer for the question above is, to live an enjoyable and fulfilling life.  We all have ideas of what is enjoyable and what is fulfilling, and to us, this is it.  A low-stress, very busy, extremely rewarding, lots of hard work, high-quality real food, low consumerism life.  If we hadn't realized it already, we certainly realized after the death of both of Jay's parents at early ages that life, plain and simply, is too short.  However you define your ideal life, I sincerely hope you're living it.

Please visit the other 4 amazing women joining me on this series for their homesteading stories.
They are:

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