Why homestead? For modern homesteaders, the homesteading lifestyle is a choice that supports their values. Choosing a simple homesteading life can be about self-sufficiency, spending more time with family, using fewer resources, growing healthy food, connecting with nature and much more.
Homesteading requires consistent hard work, and in a world that often values luxury and convenience, I was curious why so many of us are choosing the homesteading lifestyle. What I discovered is that homesteading is much more than gardening, preserving food and raising farm animals.
This homesteading lifestyle series was created to share the motivations, rewards, and challenges faced by different homesteaders and to answer the question – Why Homestead? Each Wednesday will feature a homesteader sharing their experiences.
You can read the other posts in the series:
Today we welcome Madeline from
How do you define ‘homesteading’ and how does it influence your lifestyle choices?
To me, homesteading is making a living for yourself and your family through whatever means fit best with your personal morals. Homesteading implies that you are taking control of your life by working for yourself, not others, as much as possible. It is an act of self-empowerment, as it allows you to remove yourself from societal expectations of how many hours a day you should work, what work looks like, what you look like, etc, and truly live how you feel is best for your own health, the health of other living beings, and the world as a whole. Homesteading, in many cases, also implies some level of removal from capitalism, and focuses more on making what you need for yourself or bartering with others, rather than the exchange of money.
This definition influences my lifestyle by making self-employment a priority, which is why I started my blog Stone Axe Herbals and the corresponding Etsy shop. While I do make a small income doing this, it is not very much as it is still a new business for me. Because of this lack of funds, I spend much of time working on mastering the art of frugality. Producing as much of my own food as possible is of massive importance to me, not only because I literally can’t afford to buy much food, but because I feel that I want the maximum amount of control over what is in my food, where it is coming from, and what quality it is. Right now, in the peak of harvest season, I spend much of my time canning- it has become one of my favorite hobbies instead of a chore! Positivity is a major deal breaker when it comes to homesteading so striving towards enjoying everything that I do is really important to me. Once the gardening season is over, though, I am looking forward to spending more time wandering in nature and reflecting what I see in artwork.
I went to college in Northern Vermont where they say “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without!” and while this is a very catchy saying, it is also a very wise one and I try to remember it daily. I spend 15% of my time just figuring out how to make it work, 50% following through, 10% considering what didn’t work, and the last 25% just letting it all go. “Better luck next year” is a constant.
I wouldn’t say that I have a conscious lifestyle, I just do what I can to be well fed, to be happy, and to better myself as a person; it doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that.
Why do you homestead?
I am very concerned with health and homesteading goes hand in hand with wellbeing. On an immediate level, the hard work of growing and foraging for my food makes my mind and body strong, and the real food that I produce nourishes both. On a community level, my skills can be shared with others to aid in their personal health, and the local ecosystem is not harmed by my agricultural practices. I do not apply any agrochemicals and try to keep my fossil fuel use to a minimum. On a global scale, my reduced reliance on fossil fuels, decreases the amount of pollution caused by the extraction and burning of oil, and also prevents the oppression of those people who happen to live on and around the land that sits above the oil, as well as those who breathe air, eat food, and drink water.
Also, my decreased reliance on capitalism not only allows me to have more control over my day to day actions, not to be subject to the goals of an employer that may not have a moral code that is in line with my own, but it also reduces the amount of taxes I pay. I would not mind paying taxes one bit if I knew that money was going towards bettering the planet and the lives of the humans, plants, animals, rocks, whatever, that live on it, but I know that much of my tax money goes to war and other oppressive endeavors that I do not want to support.
This is not true for all homesteaders, but for me it requires a certain level of solitude and removal from society. Humans are always taking. They drain you of your time, your energy, your self-worth, and resources. I’d much rather spend my time producing: producing food, ideas, art, happiness and to do this I feel that I require more time alone in the garden and the woods. Homesteading allows me more time to look introspectively to be in tune with my mind and body, as well as to ponder the issues of the world today. Homesteading is an expression of what I discover when I allow time to observe myself and the world around me, and to take action on what I find lacking.
What are the greatest rewards of homesteading?
One of the greatest rewards of homesteading is an honest, home cooked meal. I am a very food motivated person, and there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a root cellar full of canned goods, a garden full of produce, and a plate overflowing with pride, tradition, and hard work (and the best gosh darn food you’ve ever eaten).
What are your greatest challenges?
One of the greatest challenges of homesteading is trying not to put too much pressure on yourself. Guilt is a strong motivator and can help you get a hell of a lot of work done, but there are so many millions of things that happen in a day that are just beyond your control. As a homesteader it can often be difficult not to blame yourself if an animal dies or a crop fails, even when you know there was nothing you could have done. I strive to be a better producer and a more conscious consumer but I make mistakes, a lot of them, so I have to remind myself often that nobody can be perfect and that it is okay when the deer get into the garden or I buy a non-organic product at the store or I need to use a car to get somewhere. It is all about working towards perfection, not suffocating yourself in guilt for not being perfect.
What are your long-term goals?
My number one goal is to be happy and healthy and every other goal simply furthers that single aspiration. Some important ones include living completely without fossil fuels, producing close to 100% of my own food, to be entirely self-employed, and to pay the least amount of taxes possible.
One of my greatest goals is to be a grandmother, not in the sense that I want children and for those children to have children, but that I want to be someone who can heal and nourish people’s minds and bodies and to lovingly guide those around me toward kindness, strength, and thoughtfulness. I want to be covered in wrinkles from head to toe, to have the biggest laugh lines you’ve ever seen, feathers in my snow white hair, and maybe even a couple of blurry tattoos on my gnarled old hands alluding to my wilder days. I want to have a small, warm home with herbs drying above the wood stove, a big pot of mashed potatoes and gravy on the burner, and tea with honey at the ready. I think that if more people strove to be an elder, to be wise and experienced, to have food and love and words of encouragement to give, no matter their age, that the world would be a better place. Oh, and also world peace.
What do you recommend for others starting out?
If you are just starting out homesteading, be sure to stay creative and keep your options open, especially if you don’t have a lot of capital starting out. There are all sorts of resources out there if you keep your eyes open and don’t get too attached to one way of doing things. You can’t be too picky about the tangible things that you have or don’t have, especially when it comes to food. If you’ve got a whole ton of weeds in your garden and not many vegetables, eat the weeds! If you kill an animal, you better eat every stinking part of it that you can – yes I eat tongues, and bone marrow, and hearts and livers, and after you get used to it you will find that they are actually the best part of the animal! (I haven’t tried using intestines as sausage casings yet, but it’s in the works).
Basically, I pretend like I am a pioneer out west in the early days. Not only is this extremely fun, but it makes me work hard and remember the toughness of homesteaders that came before me, plus it helps me make decisions about what I do and don’t need. They were focused on survival. Period. If they could survive without a washing machine, so can I. If they can eat well without going to the grocery store more than a couple of times a year, so can I. It’s sort of like that saying. “what would Jesus do?”, but instead my dogma is “what would the pioneers do?”.
That’s not to say that you should deprive yourself either, but a little sacrifice is good for everyone. What you should not sacrifice, though, is your mental well-being. As I said a minute ago, creativity is everything when it comes to homesteading so keep your wits about you. Read books, make art, learn skills, laugh, dance, and sing; homesteading is about creating happiness so make sure that is your top priority!
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
While it is easy to get completely sucked into your garden and livestock, don’t neglect nature! Going in the woods, or the fields, or the rivers is vital for human health and happiness- make sure you do so as often as you have a chance. Don’t forget that nature has a lot to offer; not only will it improve your mind, but there is lots you can eat too! Foraging is a great way to get food, but it is very time sensitive, you’ve got to go in the woods often and observe to know when the walnuts are falling or the mushrooms are ripe for the picking.
I’m the creator and writer here at Stone Axe Herbals. I’ve been working in the agricultural field for 8 years now, but am finally ready to start a farm of my own! I spend most of my time combining my favorite topics: food, history, and health. We’re a bit tight on money right now, so I spend much of my time making traditional, money saving recipes from scratch. When I’m not cooking, though, I can often be found in the garden, growing heirloom vegetables to saving seeds. I LOVE edible and medicinal plants of all kinds and also spend much of my time tracking down wild herbs to add to my medicine box. I also love all creatures wild and domestic, but I’d have to say that beavers and raccoons are my favorites! As far as livestock goes, I’ve been studying draft horse management for the last three years and hope to own my own team sometime in the near future.
You can connect with Madeline at:
Her Blog – Stone Axe Herbals: www.stoneaxeherbals.com
Her Etsy Shop: Etsy Stone Axe Herbals
We would love to learn from you!
Please join the conversation by commenting on the post or visiting our Facebook page: Seeking Joyful Simplicity – Willow Trees Farm and answer any of the following questions:
1. Do you think homesteading is a fad, or part of a cultural shift?
2. What about homesteading does or does not appeal to you?
3. How does homesteading influence your lifestyle choices?