Homesteading - Live the Life or Pay the Price

08/31/2010

By: Jesse Turner

I've been told that you can get out of the rat race (become a homesteader) or be a city dweller; the only difference is you'll either be trading your time working to be more self sufficient (self employed, gardening, getting wood in for the winter, etc.) or trade time away from home, at work, to pay for the conveniences and bills (Overtime).

The person who told me this didn't see the difference in the quality of life; to this person, you exist here or you exist there, the price you pay is the same, it was all a wash in the end - and they call me the boring one.

I've had conversations with my brother in law - a dairy farmer - that have been very liberating and extremely frustating at the same time; being of the old school of thought he believes in hard work, being self employed and wouldn't have it any other way. That's the liberating part, the frustrating part is when he insists that in order to keep his lifestyle he must always juggle the bills and have that second mortgage to pay for new equipment. The same path, that many dairy farmers took, that eventually ended in failure, it's almost predictable just because of the sheer number of failed farms in my area.

I use farming as an example because I feel it closely parallels a homesteading lifestyle; where I see a difference is the farmer will go out and get a mortgage to build their homes or purchase equipment, while homesteaders will do without the mortgage and build their home as money allows, in the end they will have their homes built and paid for in far fewer years than the 30yr. mortgage holder. Other areas that show a vast difference is utilities, in my brother in laws case he has a problem with manure; he liquifies it, gives it away, buries it, throws it at the cows - from time to time.

The natural resources exist for him to implement methane production, but, he doesn't have the inclination to do so. Countries like India and China have proven the concept of a small biogas plant (methane) and have used it in energy deficient areas (methane producers on individual farms) of their country, why isn't its use more widespread here - I don't know, but, homesteaders that deal with very limited resources on a daily basis wouldn't let that kind of potential go to waste.

It becomes difficult to maintain your drive and direction when family becomes your harshest critics. Two people have been supportive of my homesteadng dream, my father and my wife; my father has always shared the same sentiment and my wife shared the same ideals of this new life right from the start (I feared she might have thrown me out or have me committed when I first mentioned it).

My brother in law - my wife has a large family - makes a 6 figure income and is buried in debt, he is also the most vocal opponent to homesteading; the arguement goes, him: "There's only one way to make a living today, you have to put in the hours at work because you can't raise a family on less than 6 figures", me: "Bullshit", and then it just kind of degenerates from there. If the previous statement were true then the world population would be "much smaller", easy, since that isn't the case then the rest of us must be doing the impossible - kinda makes you feel special, you look at it that way. One more thing, to my family, we're doing it, if you need a place to stay or hard times fall on you, our door is always open.

The other thing that nobody is immune to is "complacency"; how can someone that works 14 to 16hrs. a day be complacent about anything? easy, if that person doesn't recognise changing trends in their business, or if they simply have contempt for any ideas that deviate even a little bit from "conventional business practices". This will lead to deterioration in the business and eventually failure.

What I've found in the homesteading community is even though the lifestyle is considered "low tech", my favorite kind, this doesn't mean that a homesteaders mentality is stagnant, if anything it's the opposite, when faced with changing conditions and limited resources a flexible, inquisitive mind is a must, if a serious problem presents itself, a solution has to be found or your lifesyle may suffer or die completely.

Lastly, but not least, is my personal observation of homestead politics, and that is one of a "Libertarian" outlook; maximizing individual rights while minimizing government encroachment. My only addendum to this would be, all personal responsibility be shouldered by the individual (not look to the state to create laws to force others to comply, i.e. - cut your grass it's 1 inch longer than my grass).

Freedom is highly prized in the homestead community, conversations with many homesteaders reveal that it isn't freedom to do anything, i.e. - freedom to do harm, but, the freedom to act reasonably and responsibly that marks the true homesteader. Now that I've touched on a potentially explosive topic, as politics is always contentious, I felt it was necessary because it strikes at the heart of homesteading; If so much is taken away or put under so much regulation that it makes it impossible to sustain yourself, then how long will you be able to live a homesteading life?

It's just my opinion, but, it seems that the less we have to do with modern conventions, i.e. - financing (mortgages), utilities (electric, natural gas), the more unfettered we are and we have more of that precious commodity, time - NOT MONEY; that will allow you to investigate different ideas and better ways of doing things that could save money and enhance your life, instead of the other way around - working all the time and only using what spare time you have to dream about a better life.



Author Resource:-> Husband and father, one time itinerate merchant and story gatherer, that has settled down to live the simple life and recount some of the experiences that have led me here. Author and Admin. at
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