What is a homesteader? If you ask a hundred people you will likely get a hundred different answers. Homesteading is as varied as people. Each person views it in their own way. Some see it as a family farm, with tractors and cows while others see a tiny log cabin off grid, gardening and living a simpler lifestyle, while another may think of it as learning how to leave a smaller footprint on the world by becoming more self sufficient and self reliant. The truth is that homesteading and homesteaders are as different as snowflakes. That is the beauty of being a homesteader.
I admit that my view of a homesteader is nothing like my goals. The idea of homesteading evokes in me the simpler times of my grandparents era. If you didn’t grow it, shoot it, raise it or make it then you didn’t have it. It was that simple. The simplicity though, is deceiving. You see, their time was involved in doing the things they needed to to survive life. They were busy every day doing chores and living life. They didn’t drive a new car to a job (until later in their era) to pay for a house that sat empty all day. It was later that they moved away from their home and set up house in another state, working in the steel mills and auto industry to pay for a house. But I digress.
Even though they moved away, they had skills they brought with them. My grandmother could sew anything, and I mean anything! She was a highly talented seamstress and her skills were in demand in the city. She made wedding dresses, draperies, and even made the curtains in my high school drama class. People hired her to make all manner of things. I remember seeing her sitting at her sewing machine, making some new thing for someone. I remember having some of the best outfits around because we got a lot of her time making our clothing.
My grandfather worked in a steel mill until he got a job at general motors. He worked there until his retirement. He brought skills with him too. One I remember is making homemade wine. Another was making intricate chairs, tables and other items out of a soda can or beer can. He also was the one who made my bridal veil when I got married. My grandmother made my gown, and my grandfather made my veil. Both were beautiful.
I admire them for what they knew. I only wish I had sat and learned how to do those things but they are gone now. Yes, I can sew, but not like my grandmother. Yes, I craft items but nothing as magnificent as my grandpa could. Oh the loss of time and education that I could have had if only.
My homesteading goals have changed through the years. I used to work full time as did my husband. We both ended up medically retired, for different reasons, and only in the last ten years have we started embracing the skills of old. We both enjoy a variety of skills and we are learning new ones all the time. Our early homesteading type of goals were basically building a log cabin in the country so that when we retired we could live a simple life. Nothing fancy. The goals have changed now.
For one thing, since we both got sick and had to retire, our income if nothing like we thought it would be at retirement. The truth is that our retirement was used up while waiting for me to get on social security, which took three years. Our savings too. I was forty at the time and we thought we still had time to put away those funds for the golden years to come. Life has a funny way of showing you different. So, no seed money. We actually live on what we used to make in a week, except we have to use it for living a month instead now.
We simplified our life. We sold what we could, took inventory on what was important, and set up new goals. Those goals do not resemble the old ones with one exception…we wanted to live in the country in Kentucky or Tennessee. We live in Kentucky now but we are renting. Otherwise, our goals are completely different now.
Our goals today are to find some land, if it has a house, yay, but if not, put a mobile home on it. We no longer care about a big house. Simple is better. Living within our means. We cannot build a cabin because of our different health problems. We had to improvise then, so we decided as long as it is a roof, and warm in winter, we are ok with it. We do not need a big chunk of land either. A couple of acres will do. We can plant a garden and raise as much food as we can. No farm animals though. Well, maybe chickens at some point but nothing else because if we get down with our illnesses, the animals still need care. Revised plans. My husband would like a garage with a concrete floor, electricity and the ability to make himself a “man cave” where he can play music and draw and paint. He is wonderful at both things plus a bunch more. I want a craft area.
Homesteading can be whatever you want it to be. We wanted to try solar before, now, it is ok not to if we cannot. We wanted a log cabin before, now a trailer is fine. Keep it simple. Growing a garden, which is very therapeutic for me, is something I am doing now at our rental house. Our landlord told me to make the whole yard a garden if I want. I put our food up too, by canning and dehydrating. I try to stay away from freezing because if power goes out (here in eastern Kentucky it can be out for a long while) because of a storm or something, I do not want to waste food that spoils if frozen. We are composting now, which is a new learned thing for us. We have a front porch with a swing which we love to use.
So, until we find that land to use, we are content here, in our little four square rental home, becoming homesteaders. We are always learning, always growing in our skill sets. Learning how to use what is in nature to help us in life. Simplifying, changing, and growing. Are we homesteaders? Not to some, but to us, we are. We are not relying on others, but rather, on ourselves, to live a quality life. It doesn’t matter that our goals changed over time due to circumstances we cannot control, it matters that we rolled with the changes and keep revising our goals to suit the present, the now. Are we unhappy with the changes? A little, but truthfully, as long as we are happy, doing things we love, what are a few changes?
My question then is, what do YOU think a homesteader is?