Home On The Range, by Rustic Barbie

When I first began this experiment, I must admit, I was under romantic ideologies. Can 21st century people step back in time and homestead like our forefathers? Whenever I passed an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, I would dream of the chance to do this. Then the chance was presented. Here is the scenario. Take a California Valley Girl to “Green Acres”, and see if she and her friends can do it like their forefathers. Granted, I have had modern luxuries, such as running water and electricity (sometimes, depending upon the weather). Still, even with the modern luxuries, this has been harder than I thought it would be.

Back in the 1860’s, you had to homestead for five years in order to own the land. I have a mortgage payment, and I am actually buying the land. However, for the past four years, I have tried to train myself to think like my forefathers had to do. Sometimes, I have cheated and used a lawn mower. I have the old fashion push mower, but I have indeed cheated and used the motorized mower and the weed eater. At least 3/4 of the time, I have done this all old school. Let me tell you something; I can bare witness to the fact that our forefathers were indeed amazing. The ingenuity and handling of hardships just amazes me.

I went from only using a microwave or ordering delivered take out to cooking on a wood stove. I went from turning on my heat with the push of a dial to heating my house with a wood stove. I have had to haul water, eat dinner by candlelight, and “break sod” for these gardens without the use of modern technology. In my old life, I had two houses– one in Philadelphia and one in Seattle. I would take a jet back and forth to whichever house I needed to be at. I had a Cadillac and a new Jeep, an auto garage door opener, and all the creature comforts. I left all of that behind to become “Rustic Barbie”. I seriously used to put my Jeep into four wheel drive when Seattle had frost to avoid crashing into the garage door. Wow! It has been a change.

You really have to hit the floor running in the morning. First off, it is a little chilly, so you have to start the stove. Secondly, you are hungry and want to cook. Third, it is time to start the day. You have to change your ideology in order for it all to work. Now, unlike my forefathers, I am seven miles outside of town, so I can get to services. I can go to the doctor, and I can buy food. Back then, they just did not have these options. If you did not store enough food, you died. Mortality rates were high, especially among children. So, I have had all the creature comforts of the 21st century nearby (and some on site), but it was still pretty hard to pull this all off.

The hardest part was to remove my ideologies of the 21st Century. Onsite, I have ebay. (GRIN) Technically, I can order in any product that you can imagine, but my forefathers did not have this option. So, I have tried to think up new inventions to compensate for problems. That has been one of my hardest obstacles. I am a “techie,” which means that the computer is one my best friends and the Internet is a lifeline– for products, friends, and support. Last year I disassembled a bread machine and made an oven that would work on my wood stove. Now, granted, I could have just bought the thing on ebay, but I was trying to use what I had available, as if I did not have ebay, to solve a problem. It worked!!!!! I was so amazed. I do not want it to sound like I have been so roughing it, because I have had it easy in comparison to my forefathers. I am simply saying that it was much harder than I suspected it would be.

It has been four years now. Let me tell you a couple of things. Animals are really kind of hard to take care of. Those goats are ********turds and will eat all of your gardens, if they get half the chance. The foxes will eat your chickens. Cougars will eat your sheep and goats; they are sneaky, too. You have to be very careful. Rattlesnakes are pretty respectful creatures and hate humans more than we hate them. So, although they are a hazard and are a concern, they really aren’t as scary as I thought they would be. For the most part, you just have to be respectful back. Dogs are a great tool on the frontier. They keep the coyotes and bears at bay. They also keep the deer out of your gardens. Cats eat mice, though it is seriously gross.

I woke up one night to a commotion in my kitchen and there were mice. I could not sleep with that thought. They had been on my counters.. Now to the experienced homesteader, this statement is funny because where there is food, there are mice. However, to me, that is not funny. I come from a place where you just call the exterminator for any problem at all. The nice guys come out and fix it, even the spiders. I was so freaked out that I had nightmares of mice. Eventually I learned more about them and made sure to eliminate the temptations that were causing them to come into the house in the first place. I even started to feel sorry for them and got a catch and release system. So, now I can release them back to the wild. My cats make sure that once the mice are released, they do not get back into my house.

There are many kinds of snakes. Some are actually good for your homestead because they eat mice and stuff, but they can and will come into your house if you have any opening at all. One time, Shadoe went to use the bathroom in the house and came out screaming. We had a snake in the bathroom. Joe killed it. I started sealing holes faster than you can say scary. I had nightmares for weeks of snakes in my bed or in my room, hiding in my clothes. I just could not deal with that.

Always make sure you shut your door, if you go to town. Not only can a snake come in, but so can your sheep and goats. One time I went to town. When I got back. I had a goat sitting in my recliner, and I had a sheep drinking from my toilet. Okay, that sounds funny, but I was not pleased.. There was a trail of poop down my hallway, and you could tell that both the goat and the sheep had been living it up in party mode throughout the house. Next thing I have learned is to never bend over to pick something up near a ram. WHOA! First of all, Rams do not care what species you are. They will try to mate with you. If you are near a ram and you are female, you better be very careful. Joe saved my butt a couple of times from that awful ram. I even tried to defend myself against that ram,and he just would not take no for an answer, even when I hit him on the head with a shovel to get him to back down. “Thank you, Joe!” In fact, it was downright scary.

Do not buy geese! We had one donated. Okay, I must admit they are great protectors, but have you ever been bit by a goose? It seriously hurts. Thank you, John, for showing me how to stop a goose from biting. The bruises were getting severe. Bees are pretty smart. I used to freak out and grab the fly swatter. Then I realized that they are brilliant creatures. So are wasps. If you have a bee in your house, open the door, point to the door, and tell it to get out. It is almost like they understand. If you point to the opening of the door, they will fly back out. It is like they get lost and are searching for a way out. It is the craziest thing I have ever seen. On the downside, if they have built a nest outside, they are territorial. You can not tell them to move. That part is a little harder. They are also meaner in mass. If you have more than one or two in your house, grab the bee spray.

Those are just a couple of the things I have learned. There is more, such as to make sure you have most of your supplies on site before winter. Around here you have to haul them uphill to the house. Ugh! I am not sure how many of you have an exercise membership. Exercise memberships here are asinine. Just wait until winter and try to haul in groceries. That is harder than you think it is. On the plus side, it sure makes for some very tone legs. Make sure you have the next day’s wood already staged. There is nothing like getting up and seeing you forgot to get the wood. Then you have to go gather it before you have even had your first cup of coffee. It is cold, and you want heat.

Now for the experienced person this is all just a no-brainer, but for me it was a serious life changing event. When I went through airport security, I had to be wanded because I wore so much jewelry that it would take hours to get it all off– rings on every finger, bangles all the way up my arms, nose ring, belly button rings, toe rings, anklets, necklaces, earrings all the way up my ears, arm cuffs, and more. You name it, I was wearing it…in mass. Out here, the jewelry just gets in the way. Try hammering with that many bangles. It is like strapping weights to your arms and trying to hammer.

There were other changes. I can no longer call limo service. I have to start the truck and take myself where I need to go. In the winter that scares me. Remember, for me, frost equals four-wheel drive; snow equals a long vacation somewhere warm. Thus, driving in snow equals insanity. I have really had a hard time with that ideology. It has been hard to change it. I can no longer call Safeway to deliver my groceries, like I did in Seattle. If the weather was bad, just order some take out delivery or call Safeway and have your groceries delivered. It was simple. Out here, you have to Fedex a pizza to yourself.

At the beginning of this year, I was very wary of plumbing. I have never done much plumbing, but my pipes froze and broke. Granted, I had help from a friend to do the pipes down at the well, but it was still a little intimidating. However, after my new experiences with plumbing, I found my kitchen sink was leaking. I went under there and fixed it, easy peasy, no questions asked. I am so very proud of myself!

I still love my high heels and furs. Other than showing off my legs and helping me walk “lady like”, my high heels have another good use, too. One-inch spikes are great in the garden. Walk with one-inch spikes down your row, putting one foot in front of the other, and you create a line of one-inch holes to plant your garden. three-inch spikes are awesome for aerating the yard, especially if you have a lot of friends wearing them and can have a little dance party. Just be sure to use the ones with ankle straps so that you do not twist an ankle. Fur is great, too! Even the fake fur is awesome. Just NEVER EVER wear it during hunting season! Now, I am into gardening and how to make this happen as old school as I can with free supplies. Non-GMO, organic food is what my goal is.

Well, I will wrap this up with the fact that I am very proud of our forefathers. This homesteading has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. The experience has been more valuable than I can tell you. If any of you ever get the chance, you should give this a try for just a couple of months. It will really open your eyes to what life was and what it is now in the 21st century. It will also open your eyes to what kinds of stresses that we add to our lives with 21st century achievements, products, and worries. In many ways we have advanced, but in many ways it was not positive.

Some of the lifestyle ideologies of the 21st century are the exact problems that are killing us. For instance my problem of take out or frozen dinners for every meal rather than wholesome, non-preservative foods was killing me, and I did not know it. If nothing else, try turning off the television and electronics for six hours and find something else to do that is old school. It is the most amazing thing.

Have a wonderful day. This “Rogue Barbie” is off to take a walk through the woods to watch my deer.

All My Love

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