If we are going to learn to live in a sustainable manner as one of the three main criteria for a homestead lifestyle, I suppose we should first define just what makes for a sustainable attitude. What IS sustainable and what changes do we have to make to live in a sustainable manner…or better yet, are we already there except for some minor tweaks?
First, let me say what, in my opinion, sustainability is NOT.
Sustainability is not about self-denial and deprivation. It is not about doing without nutritious foods, acceptable shelter, and a happy, contented life. It is not about stopping living and starting existing, and existing in drudgery at that.
Rather than changing our entire life into a life of denial, sustainability is about changing our perspective and looking at life from a slightly different perspective, slightly altering goals perhaps, and changing our “how-to’s” to achieve life’s goals. Changing those how-to’s yields an important side benefit in that, without turning into an eco-nut, we find ourselves taking better care of this big blue marble our Creator has given us. Good stewardship of the earth should be a rational, logical result of simply living, not something we DO, becoming tree-huggers, Greenpeace activists, or snap-to order followers acting according is the current “greenie de jour” to “save the planet” from mankind, but something we simply LIVE on a day-to-day basis.
Sustainability does not mean doing without for the sake of doing without either. There is actually a “competition” of sorts called The 100 Item Challange , where folks try to live with less than 100 items of “stuff”. Minimalism like this SOUNDS good…after all, making do with less IS a good idea, right?…but how do we define life’s necessities with an arbitrary number? If 100 personal items is the ideal, is someone who has 108 items wasteful? Is a head of a family with children guilty of child neglect because he or she manages to live a productive life with only 87 pieces of “stuff”?
No…sustainability is about stopping and looking at our life…looking at individual components…and deciding what it is we need, for our own idea of sustainability and no one else’s, to lead a content, comfortable life. We look at what needs to be our end-game, and we look at what we currently think we need to get there, then…
…while still focusing on where we want to be, we take one step to the side and get a slightly different perspective on what the path to our goal consists of.
We don’t need to look at our “stuff”, at least not at first. For an example, let’s look at transportation.
We don’t look in our driveway to see what we have; we look at our particular version of a homestead lifestyle and then look at what is needed for that life. Maybe one still has a “public job” to support the homestead financially or to maintain health care, and maybe that job involves outside sales for example. In that case it might be appropriate to have a car with a payment sitting in the driveway as a necessity of the job (be sure things like this are really needed, not just wanted and the job is an excuse), while the same vehicle would be an inappropriate expense for a homestead life if, say, someone’s homestead is approaching economic self-sufficiency and a “nice” vehicle with a payment is not a necessity for work. I personally have not bought a vehicle with a payment since 1993, and the largest payment I have ever had was $291.12 a month for 36 months.
Perhaps the homestead involved is agriculture oriented with a large market garden, home canned products, crafts, and has a homesteader who is capable and qualified to do handyman jobs for others to support the homestead. In a case such as this a new model car with a large payment is obviously inappropriate for a homestead from a financial sustainability standpoint. An older model pickup truck with no payment would be a much better fit. Again, look at where you need to be…in this case having transportation serving the needs of a small scale agriculture operation in conjunction with minor construction, then choose the appropriate path to get there with an eye on sustainability, in this case an older pickup truck instead of a newer sedan.
As an exercise, look at the following aspects of your lifestyle as it is now, and decide what your endgame is regarding each aspect. Look at your currently planned path to achieving that endgame. Then, take a couple of steps to each side and look at the same endgame with a slightly different perspective, seeing the same goal, but getting to it along a slightly different, and more sustainable, path. What do you currently see along the path that seems necessary now, but that disappears when looked at from a different angle?
Personal family finances. We often start adult life with the idea that we will live where the work is, save our pennies, and have the money to retire to the mountains or the beach. When we decide to change to a homestead lifestyle, the change often includes a move to where we are happy…where we would have retired to. Not having to save for a retirement home, since most homesteaders’ current home IS their retirement home, changes our savings needs. Besides the changed needs, have you adjusted your perspective on what you need to bring in financially to meet those changed needs, or are you still trying to make money a homestead life finds hard, if not impossible, to provide, that really isn’t necessary? Are you asking more of homesteading, financially, than a homestead life can provide?
Beyond life necessities, personal and family entertainment eats into a family budget hard. Think about what you and your family consider entertainment and take that step sideways to get a different perspective. Look at ways to get a bigger “bang for the buck” without losing entertainment value. Heck, you might even get more entertainment for far less money.
An example would be if you enjoy the theatre. Here in Jasper, Georgia, just north of Atlanta by about 75 miles, many folks go to the world renowned Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta for their theatre “fix”, by-passing less famous, and less “trendy” options locally. Community theatre, in the form of The Tater Patch Players , thrives locally, puts on four kick-butt performances a year, saves you a lot of money, feeds your love of theatre…and as a bonus, provides you with an opportunity to participate rather than just watch if you wish. If you look around there are a lot of entertainment values that can contribute to homestead sustainability AND help build homestead values with community building and community support…just take that small, perspective changing step. Dang…rather than spend a small fortune taking the family to an Atlanta Braves baseball game, folks where I live can see the Gwinnett Braves , the Atlanta Braves AAA farm team, for a SEASON ticket price of $19.95, less than a single game ticket in Major League Baseball.
Do these two things…change your perspective and look at the “stuff” in your life and see where you can make a reduction REASONABLY, not with a “how low can I go” attitude, but looking with a different perspective at just what is necessary in your life and what is extra that you really wouldn’t miss after six months. The more an item costs, in payments or in maintenance, the harder you need to consider the question, “Is that a want it or a need it item?” If the answer is “want it”, is it something you can integrate into a homestead philosophy?
Next, look at what you and your family do for fun and entertainment, the more expensive the recreation the harder you look at it. Will a different perspective let you have the same amount of fun in a different manner? Will creek bank fishing give you the enjoyment of bass fishing in a high dollar bass boat? Or…here’s that “different perspective” thing…do you fish to relax and catch fish, or do you just like riding in fast boats and the fishing is an excuse?
We have talked around the edges of sustainability, discussing a few specific examples, but mostly talking about what sustainability is, and changing our perspective to a sustainable perspective. We’ve been talking ideas, not specifics.
Here’s a deal I’ll make with you. You do those two things I suggested above, and I’ll get down in the weeds and start talking specifics of just what this sustainability thing is. Next in the Sustainability Series will be “What is a sustainable kitchen, part 3 in a series”.
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I’m going to cook dinner…Pollo Durango from the recipe section…y’all have a great evening, and I’ll see you later. Remember, up next in the series is “What is a sustainable kitchen?, part 3 in a series”.
Y’all turn the lights out when you leave, would ya?