Mar 182011
 
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The daily tasks involved in living in a self sufficient lifestyle on a small family homestead are too numerous to entirely cover in one blog post, or even on an entire website.  This section of JuicyMaters, the Family Homesteading category, is intended to cover the “what’s” and “how to’s” of many of the homesteader’s basic tasks as well as possible for one site (and within the author’s knowledge).  It is also intended to cover what I call “the four cornerstones of a self sufficient homestead”.

We’ll cover a wide range of topics (some have already been covered in earlier posts…check the archives) from appropriate homestead livestock to planting and maintaining a market (or personal) garden, from “putting by” (canning) the bounty from that garden to tips and tricks for running a frugal household… and much, much more.

Before you can deal with the day to day homestead issues however, you must first have a homestead to live on and run, and like any other place you live, a homestead needs a substantial foundation.  I’m not talking about a brick and mortar foundation under the physical dwelling, but rather the philosophical foundation that “homesteading” rests upon.

I would guess that there have been several thousand articles written about the “basics of homesteading”, with most addressing those day to day things I mentioned earlier.  In this article I’d like to address that philosophical foundation that must be present in a successful homestead.

Note:  While I want the Family Homesteading category at JuicyMaters to be a sort of “one-stop-shop” resource for current and potential homesteaders, I’m certainly not the be all and end all authority on the subject.  This article on the homesteading foundation, and other homesteading articles, are based on several years of research and expirience, but aren’t, and cannot be, EVERYTHING on the subject.

Please use the comment section below each post to add any information you may have based on your own research and/or experience.

Alternatively, use the comment section to just say, “Hi…I stopped by!” so I know someone is reading this stuff…LOL!

Based on my experience, there are four foundational pillars, or “cornerstones”, to having a successful, self sufficient homestead.  I’m not going to claim that all of these are absolutely critical to success, or that a homesteading venture will automatically fail without all of them, but I believe they make for a strong foundation, and any structure’s strength is only as strong as its foundation.  At least in my case, these cornerstones…ALL of them…are indeed critical.  Let’s take a look at them:

1.       Self sufficiency is as much about commitment and mindset as it is action.

Homesteading is not something you “try out” on a temporary basis.  About the closest you can come to trying out homesteading is to pack up the family, the dog, two chickens, a rabbit, and three potted plants and go camping.  That will give you as realistic a view of homesteading as you would get if you decided to take three months one summer and “try it”.  Homesteading is not about having a garden (you can do that in the suburbs) or having those two chickens and a rabbit (you can have those in the suburbs too, as pets).  Homesteading is about making a commitment to a lifestyle that happens to include gardens and chickens and rabbits, and to the work and acquisition of knowledge that will help you do that successfully.  That cannot be done on a two week, or even a three month, trial basis one summer.

 

Before you take the first step to actually “do” homesteading, ask yourself two simple questions:

 

“Why SPECIFICALLY do I want to homestead?”and “Do I want it bad enough to fully commit to the lifestyle right from the get-go?”

 

If your “why” is a generalized, “I’m tired of the corporate rat race and want to do something different.”, and your commitment level amounts to little more than, “Heck, I’ll give it a shot.”, then don’t even try because you are doomed to failure.

 

2.       Self sufficiency is NOT self isolation…it does require community.  Embrace it.

When I first moved out of the city to the little 2 ½ acres that has become my homestead, I did   not do it in order to homestead, I did it to check out of everything except actual life.  I pretty much wanted the world to just leave me the hell alone, and I would reciprocate in kind.

I was fortunate in that my decision to rejoin society (and quit being a hermit) coincided with my decision to live a more back to basics homestead life.  Despite not being able to see how     homesteading is dependent upon community (at least at first) I have found that a sense of  community is pleasant and necessary.

While a homestead family might exist in isolation they cannot live that way, and I’ll select living  over existing every single time.  Survivalism is existing, and we’re talking about homesteading, not Survivalism.

When talking about homesteading, community does not have to be writ as a “large C”   Community, involving all those things we’re trying to get away from when we become    homesteaders, but instead is community on a small, local sense.  If you are a churchgoer, it means actually getting involved with your church rather than just filling a pew on Sunday morning.  If you have school age children that you do not homeschool (or even if you do) it       means attending and participating in local school board meetings.  It means being involved, perhaps as leaders, in your local Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations.

It means being there to help an elderly or sick neighbor whose family can’t, or won’t, help them.  It means being more involved with your local farmer’s market than just showing up on Saturday morning to sell the bounty from your garden.

Are these activities necessary?  For existing…no.  For living a full, rich homesteading lifestyle?  Absolutely, without a doubt.

3.       Self sufficiency requires spirituality.

Wait!  Don’t leave yet!  Note that I said spirituality, not religion.

For some, including myself, spirituality and a belief in God and Jesus Christ go hand in hand.  For others, spirituality may simply be an acknowledgement that they’re not the be all and end all of     their domain, that there is something more powerful than them.  It is rather like one of the 12  steps in the AA program.  It does not ask that one believes in God, instead it only asks that we acknowledge “a power greater than ourselves”.

Regardless of what one believes about the origins of this earth we live on, very few believe that it simply ” is”, instead recognizing that it is a gift to us from “a power greater than ourselves”.  As with any gift it is our responsibility to take care of what is given us.  As in the above paragraphs on community, I believe this good stewardship is a large part of what separates living from existing.

4.       Self sufficiency is DAMN HARD WORK!

If you have a little bit of age on you, as I have, you’ll remember the TV show “Green Acres”, on CBS from 1965 to 1971, starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor.  Some people actually think that was a homestead lifestyle.  After all, they did leave the “city life” of NYC for a simple country life on a farm, right?

Well… kinda sorta, but not really.  I think the biggest clue was in the opening scene shown at the start of every show that had Oliver Wendell Douglas (played by Albert) plowing his fields sitting on his John Deere tractor wearing dress slacks, a white dress shirt, a tie (snugged up at the collar, of course), and a (buttoned) vest.  Um…  Mr. Douglas, yer gonna ruin that shirt.

Homesteading is hard, dirty (sometimes very dirty) work.  Depending on what homesteading type activities you include it can also be 24/7 work.  If you have livestock I can almost guarantee you that one of your dairy goats is not going to get sick or decide to give birth at 2:00    PM on a warm Tuesday afternoon.  It will be at 2:00 AM, on a cold, wet, windy late February morning.  And you will be there.

Any equipment you need to run your homestead will not break down except at the exact moment you need it the worst…  And you will fix it then, not after dinner, not after a nap   because you’re tired, and not tomorrow (tomorrow will have its own set of chores to deal with).  Oh, and YOU will fix it because homestead finances will turn you into a regular Mr. Fix-It (along with being a Dr. Vet, a Joe the Plumber, and a Tim the Tool Man Carpenter).

Even the regular chores can make unreal demands on your time and schedule.  Remember that dairy goat from a minute ago?  The one that decided to give birth in the middle of the coldest, wettest winter night of the year?  Well…when she isn’t delivering babies, she has to be milked.

Twice a day.

Seven days a week.

10 months a year.

And then…after all that…just when you think you can sit back with a cup of coffee and relax, all that community stuff I told you about kicks in.  The neighbor isn’t as good as you at animal    husbandry and needs your help birthing HIS goat’s kid.  Or there is a casserole to cook for tomorrow’s “dinner on the grounds” after church.  Or…or…or…

So…there are (my) the cornerstones of a successful Family Homestead.  It IS a mindset.  It IS a commitment.  And it IS damn hard work.

It’s also well worth it.

All about Bob the nutjob!

Bob is a N Georgia blogger, homesteader, yurt liver, self-sufficiency nutjob, pig farmer, political activist, politician baiter...and the best damn cook you know that doesn't make a living at it.He can be followed onTwitter. You can also "Like" our Facebook page.

  12 Responses to “The four cornerstones of a self sufficient homestead”

Comments (12)
  1. So you are telling me that homesteading takes a village? Don’t know if I am up to it.

     
  2. Nicely put!

    Been living between dream for years.
    And loving it. I work full-time off site &
    attempt to keep the 11 acres under control
    in the reamining hours of the day, and yes
    raise kids (human kind) too.

    But may I add:

    Never, never loose your ability to laugh

     
  3. Bob…your four foundations are right on. I don’t want to do country-style homesteading, but practice many of the principles you’ve mentioned in trying to live a green, self sufficient lifestyle in Ventura Ca. The hard part, is at age 64, I can’t do that much Hard Work, but find if I break down major jobs into littler tasks, I can still do a hell of a lot. I don’t do livestock; they’re like a ball and chain. I did keep chickens for a long time, but along with them came varmints, and I got tired of fighting off raccoons. My close friends all live a similar lifestyle, with gardens (which you can eat out of on a daily basis) and eco-friendly living. What you advocate is not “checking out’, but checking in with real living and life.

     
  4. In a word Ralph…yes.

    Not the government sponsored, government supported village of Hillary Clinton’s book fame, but the “village” you and I grew up in…the one where when you showed your ass two blocks down the street while out playing, the neighbor drug you home to mama…and didn’t have to worry about your parents whining about the damage to your self-esteem or hiring a lawyer.

     
  5. Absolutely! No sens of humor equals no sense.

     
  6. Hansi…I would call what you do “urban homesteading”, but there is a jackass couple out there in the Land of Fruits and Nuts”, AKA California, who has trademarked “Urban Homesteading” and is suing folks left and right for using the term…

     
  7. so……I’m reading my way through your blog and enjoying it. I had a wonderful childhood on a farm but couldn’t wait to leave it. Now, with the advantage of hindsight, I wish I had stayed there.

     
  8. I just bought my first home/land (21 acres) and I’m soooo excited! I have lived in the country all of my life and participated in the late night cow chasing (result of a torn fence), shooting fox/owls that creep up and steal chickens, up at daybreak to pick corn and other vegetables, sitting at the railroad tracks to sell produce, visiting the stockyard with my dad, tolerating the sound of a passel of guineas, etc, etc, etc. I should say I assisted in all of this. That would be more accurate. What I’m realizing now is that the way I was brought up was a true blessing. I also realize that even though I was there and helped out, there is still a lot to learn so that I can maintain my own place. Ever rode in the car with someone who was driving and you weren’t paying attention to where they were going? Kinda hard to find your way back. I look forward to recreating the lifestyle my parents helped us enjoy at my place. Like you said, it will be hard work. I’m single and work full time as an elementary teacher. Days are long, but this girl is strong and while I might not be the next best thing to Old MacDonald, I look forward to living off the land more than most.
    I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing.

     
  9. roz…I wasn’t raised on a farm, but I was raised in a small agriculturally based town, and couldn’t wait to get away to the “big city”. I moved to Atlanta in 1985 when I was 30. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. it took until I was 47 in 2002 to make my escape. Now I live qa semi-homesteading life in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains…and I’m finally in a place living a life where I found contentment.

     
  10. Mary…thanks for stopping by. I hope you keep coming by and find JuicyMaters both enjoyable and informative. Any questions on homesteading, yurts, or anything else here…just ask. What I can’t answer, another reader can.

     
  11. Yet another awesome post! Thanks again

     
  12. Thanks Clyde!

     

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