We all have our own personal style at preparedness, and the style seems to mature with you the longer you prepare. I have noticed this in others and myself; that we all gravitate towards the preparedness hobbies that best fit our personal inclinations—homesteading skills in the traditional sense just might not be your gig. I get that—it is another great reason why a close knit community of prepared people is a super idea. Let someone else make homemade candles if you just cannot get kicks and giggles out of dipping string repeatedly into a burning wax. (Tactfully) Identify others, identify their skills sets, and build out from there. However, I do not think that the “It’s not my fave” excuse will really be a luxury you can afford when it all goes down. That works in a modern everyone’s-a-specialist society, but not in the real world of hunger and hard work. If homesteading does nothing else, it builds the “somebody’s gotta do it” grit in yourself, your spouse, and your children—as I was reminded this week when I had to eliminate an animal that was born with spinal cord problems. As solemn as that moment was for me, I took my place as steward of land and animal, also taking the opportunity to reflect on just how homesteading is a beneficial crucial part of a prepared lifestyle.
- The animals and structure are already in place. Let’s face it: freeze dried food runs out eventually. A steady diet of it (even the best of it) will leave your body hurting for a fresh egg fried up in some tallow or lard. Just when do you plan on purchasing your livestock? There will be many, who in a panic, will not reserve enough breeding stock to supply for themselves and others too. Pack animals and livestock will be a true commodity. So will fencing and shelter. If you get it in place now, it will be life as usual for you later.
- You will learn your land. You will learn its flora and fauna. Before homesteading, I did not realize that I had such a mess of chokecherries down by the overgrown creek bed or that those Siberian Pea Bushes attracted the deer. Knowing your land is key to protecting it from others and to surviving off of it in lean times.
- You will develop a sense of stewardship. You will feel a loyalty to the land that provides for you and will become better at maintaining it properly with a long-term perspective. Sure, you could spray that nasty field of weeds this year, but you’ll lose a valuable cattle field for a season; so perhaps you’ll choose to cycle goats through it instead. They will eat the weeds, fertilize the land, keep Monsanto off your property, and provide meat or milk for your family. This is a singular example of how creating an active polyculture on the land will create a sustainable yield for decades to come. This mentality does not generally happen overnight; it is a seasoned approach developed through trial and error.
- Frugality. No one is as poor as a homesteader. But then, we homesteaders measure wealth in different ways. The bleating of animals, the rustling of the fruit trees, this is wealth to us. When it comes to recycling and repurposing, we become masters by necessity. Broken pots string together to scare the birds away from the garden, serve as plant markers, or work really well to provide drainage in the bottom of other pots. You never throw a glass jar away; broken furniture can serve as a chicken roost, a potting station, or a gate to a pasture. You get the idea. As a former rich kid, believe me when I say that this is a learned skill and an altered mindset that come only from practice (not Pinterest).
- Time Management. You will learn to live seasonally based upon the season’s chores and food availability. You will focus on the indoor stuff in bad weather, outdoor stuff in good weather. This sounds trivial, but if you are accustomed to a consistent career in which your to-do list has a line of checkmarks at the end of the day, well….homesteading is not usually that. You planned something that got rained out, or you fixed a broken fence instead of the original day’s plans. You will learn to appreciate the successes along the way and to relax about the diversions. Eventually. In either case, you will make the most of the moment and learn to “make hay while the sun shines”.
- You will be healthy and strong. I pounded fence posts for the first time in my life this past summer; I was unable to do it when I tried six months earlier. The time I spend in the sunshine has altered my overall mood, appearance, and contentment. I breathe deeply, I eat well, and feel good.
- Your children will receive a practical life education. Most kids in modern America have a connection to their food, their land, or even to hard work. If anything were to happen to our societal structure, how have you incorporated self-reliance into your child’s upbringing? Problem-solving skills, tenacity, hard work, a sense of priorities, the ability to face unpleasantness, the list goes on.
- Healthy Psychology. Tied to number 7, it is not just the harder stuff that builds your child (or you), but the fun stuff too. We have developed intrinsic motivators wholly unconnected…literally. No plug, no batteries. We reward ourselves for a hot day on the homestead with an icy dip in the mountain stream. We reward ourselves on long wintery homeschooling days with a family game of Monopoly. We know how to work hard, but we know how to have fun too. We do it “off grid”…homesteading style.
- Water. A lot of preppers store plastic jugs of it “just in case”. That is not a bad idea, by any means. But is it the best idea? When searching for our homestead, we knew the land had to have some type of water on it. This is not possible everywhere, I understand, but it makes things easier now while trying to irrigate crops or water animals during a drought. We use a Berkey Water purification system for our daily drinking water and I know—if it came down to it—the bucket brigade at the creek means that I never have to worry about clean drinking water in an emergency.
- A rural environment. This is the modern era—guys get pedicures and women get bicep tattoos. Likewise, homesteading is no longer confined to rural America. Goodness no—apartment dwellers can get into beekeeping and gardening, food preservation and other homesteading skills. I hope that we can foster that self-reliant attitude no matter what type of geological environment you may occupy. With that said, though, someone actively homesteading now will ultimately seek the place to stretch out. Like-minded neighbors are usually the result. If you are living out of the city limits with the hope of having livestock, your immediate (or even sprawling) neighbors are likely to have either the same tendencies or sympathy towards them. I must make a caveat that I know firsthand this is not the case everywhere. If you have yet to purchase land but are looking, talk to the neighbors. Wilson and I, when initially searching for land in Montana, came across land with so many covenants on it that you could not have more than a single family pet. The irony was that the land was originally Amish land in the mountains of Montana. As an aside, that land has been for sale for over two years now…but still. Find out about covenants, meet the neighbors. You will find kindred spirits in most rural areas far more effortlessly than you would in metropolitan ones.
- A physical connection to the Creator, which will serve as a moral compass in hard times. This isn’t hooey about how you do not need fellowship because fishing on a Sunday morning meets that need; that excuse is contrary to Biblical counsel. Still, there is something to it that when life hits me hard and I step out into the unforgiving snowstorm to check on the animals, I glance up long enough to see the deep hues of the pink and gray sky and think…for just a frozen moment…about my miniscule stature in light of an awesome God. And then I hustle my tail back into the house. The Heavens declare his firmament…not billboards, not the latest mobile app…the Heavens. When it all comes down in the end and you have the opportunity to help others in need, your long-term perspective of your smallness and your utter dependence upon God will guide you to do the right thing, should such a moment ever arise. And it will arise.
In the meantime, Wilson and I at Pantry Paratus hope that you will keep learning & working to produce, prepare, and preserve your own harvest. – Chaya