There seems to be a resurgence of interest in at least the idea of homesteading, a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. Or maybe I just think there is because I subscribe to a lot of online blogs and magazines on the subject. My current favorite that has a long history, starting in 1970, is Mother Earth News. I’ve read it on and off for years. I used to think it was a little out there when I was younger. Now I find it full of useful information, project ideas, inspiration, and ya sometimes it's still a little it out there. Have you read the ads?!
For my family there were a couple instrumental moments that really opened my eyes in terms of the importance of self-sufficiency. The first was the downturn of the economy, subsequent job losses, the struggle to find new ones. That was plenty to shake up my world. First eye opener; how quickly and easily your income can change through no fault of your own. We relied heavily on the steady income from just two sources.
The second realization came in the form of an unhealthy work environment which made me question a lot of things. Most importantly, “what do I want to do with my life?” (cause this ain’t it). I felt like I needed to reevaluate not only my career path but our lifestyle as well. I realized I was very happy with parts of my life, my family specifically, but very unhappy in terms of my day-to-day work and that alone had a dramatic affect on all aspects of my life. Bad job equaled stress, stress is evil.
Side note: I don’t want to imply we were out spending a lot on extravagance because we weren’t, not by a long shot. My husband and I were working decent full-time jobs, two kids, one mortgage. We didn’t have a big house or drive anything fancy, go on expensive vacations, or do a lot of mindless shopping. Between school loans, daycare, and keeping a family of four clothed, fed, and sheltered, we were making it work, but not exactly in style so to speak. I felt like we were working really hard to fit into a mold that, in the long run, would provide financial stability, health, professional careers… And yet it wasn’t magically providing those things. (I know I was naive, but this seemed to be how things were supposed to work.)
With my world shaken and stressful, I gained some very, very positive things. For one, some perspective. For two, I looked at the life I had and asked some simple but hard questions.
What’s most important to you?
What’s keeping you from those important things?
Where and how can we make changes so that we’re actually making the important things priorities? (don’t expect overnight results here, but little changes add up)
I think about self-sufficiency a lot and how it can mean a lot of different things to different people. For us it basically came down to being able to put what’s most important to us first.
For example, before, I worked 50-60 hrs a week. I saw my co-workers more than my family. I didn’t make enough money to set any aside. I wasn’t happy at work, so even though I tried very hard, I wasn’t always the most fun person to be around outside of work. Plus it was affecting my health. My job was the priority, mainly because I felt it had to be in order to maintain our current style-less lifestyle. If you would’ve asked me then what was most important to me I probably would’ve answered something like spending time with family and being healthy, but looking at my life at the time, you wouldn’t have believed me.
So began our journey to self-sufficiency, putting what’s truly important first.
2019 Update: Now, reading this many years into our farmsteading life, I'm happier than ever, healthier than I've been in years, and I feel like we're constantly on an exciting journey. What's next?