(I hear that title in the voice of my late grandmother, Dorothy Laakso, and I giggle a little bit.)
It occurs to me that from an outsider's perspective, I appear to have made a very strange decision in where to go in my life. This largely occurs to me because of the reactions I get from people who are not among my close friends. Otherwise, I only see my perspective. And that is? Well, I see that I made a decision to live the life of a homesteader but on a very low budget in order to allow me to get back on my feet after a divorce, learn what this sort of life entails without a huge commitment and so that I can save enough money to live the life I want to live. Now, I also see that anything worth doing in life is going to require sacrifice and hard work. I can work hard, that's for sure. But sacrifice had me thinking about how this decision would affect my kids. And I have thought long and hard about that. I also ask for their opinion and, so far, the sacrifice is worth it for them. What needs changing is being worked on and what can be improved is in process.
So let me begin by explaining what it means to be a homesteader in 2010. If you google "define: homesteader", you will get many definitions. The one I am working with here is this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homesteading. I sometimes think of it as Little House on the Prairie with solar panels and laptop computers. I have chickens for eggs, grow my own food as much as possible, store up food for winter and sometimes at night I read by candle light (or flash light). I am learning popular homesteading skills like canning and drying food for preserving. (I recently made and canned apple butter from apples grown on another friend's land.) Many homesteaders also employ elements of permaculture in their lifestyle. This makes sense because permaculture design is based on self-sufficiency, everything is tied to something else thus creating a cycle where everything is fed naturally. For this reason, we use a composting toilet. It takes a while to get used to, but instead of flushing our waste into clean drinking water to be treated chemically and released into the water system, we compost our waste into fertilizer for non-food plants... like oak trees! There is also a large community element to being a homesteader. We network and barter with other homesteader-minded people, like taking one person's fruit abundance and making canned or dried fruit to share with them. Both households benefit from this.
So, let me next go into what kind of life I want to be living. This is my dream and I have had it for a very, very long time. I want to buy land that is at least 5 acres or more in size. I want to build a home there. I would prefer land that came with an old Victorian farm house, but I'm flexible in how the house gets there and know that land is cheaper without the house already there. I can start out by moving my trailer there while I work on the house. I want an enormous food garden plus fruit trees, a flock of chickens, a few dairy goats, plus my herd of cats and a dog or two. I want solar and wind power electricity that I supply and maintain myself. (I should interject here to say that when I say "I" that this can be changed to "we". I am telling you *my* dream, but I'd prefer a like-minded partner to share it with me. I am lucky to have found Jamie, who was dreaming a very similar dream himself.) In this lovely farmhouse I dream of that is surrounded by gardens and animals, I will bake and cook wonderful foods which will be preserved and stored when it is in surplus. I want to can enough yummy things that I can send some off to my friends and family at the holidays. I will knit and sew and spin yarn and weave. I will have a wood stove with a rocking chair nearby so that when my bones ache, I will have somewhere to sit and knit. I will have a huge kitchen and a table where everyone can sit for dinner. I will write books and blogs and make scrapbooks and do all of the things that I am doing right now living in a 5th wheel travel trailer on my friends' land. But I will be doing it in a house of my own on land of my own. I was already doing some of these things living in a rented house in suburbia and in a tiny apartment in an urban ghetto. It is just going to make a lot more sense to be doing it where I can have the huge garden and all of the farm animals that I want to have.
Now to get into why it makes sense for me to be here in order to get where I am trying to go. First and foremost, I can save money living here. I put a lot of money into gas to get to and from town, which is a 45 minute drive minimum. But the rest of my money largely goes towards food for the kids and I. And we eat well as long as I remember to buy enough when I do get into town. We eat organic, I am picky about where my food comes from. The next largest expense is the hardware store. When things get broken and need fixing, that responsibility will largely fall on me and so I need to be prepared because, as I said before, the drive to town is long. This is mostly a matter of realizing what I need and making sure I have extra. I am incredibly lucky to have my friends, Shannon and Morpheus up here too, as I often can rely on them to help when I have failed to have what I need. It's a learning process and they are great guides on this path. So, I am saving money and I have help when I need it. In exchange for being here, I clean things up and play hostess. Since I naturally feel at home as a homemaker, I can manage to clean things up and play hostess. It's fun. I also jump in to assist Shannon when I can. Helping friends is not a hardship though. The limited expense allows me to save money now that I am catching up on my debt and working towards eliminating it.
For me, the decision to move here made perfect sense. Things just started to fall into place and a plan of action started to materialize easily for me. I am accustomed to being seen as weird, so I have no illusions that this will change any time soon. But what I hope to do with this life is to show others how much they also can become self-sufficient. I also hope that one day my family and friends will feel comfortable visiting me in my farmhouse, eat at my table of the food from my land and feel warm, welcome and maybe even peak some interest in learning more about sustainable living, homesteading or permaculture. There will always be a place at my table for you and a warm place to stay the night; I will make sure of it.
PS: Check out what the Dervaes family is up to: http://urbanhomestead.org/ There are others like me!