I like to consider myself a homesteader, although I don’t adhere to any of the typical notions of what may come to mind. Yes, we live on acreage, but in reality it’s one acre in the middle of 30 acres. Yes, we do hunt and fish for some of our food, but not all of it. In fact, we really need to find another source of wild game as our property is now on the fringes of society. Deer become a little more scarce every year. Yes, I’ve had gardens – anywhere from a small, re-purposed BBQ pit to a much bigger garden (I’ve even had two or three garden areas at the same time). To say that we could live off solely what we grow in our garden is exaggerated. We would starve if we had to live off of it. But, that doesn’t stop me from increasing our garden, trying new gardening techniques or even buying produce at the farmer’s market when our garden fails.
Then why do I consider myself a homesteader? Honestly, I’d say it’s a state of mind. It’s knowing that there is a better way to live, to raise my children, to learn from the “olden” ways of doing things. Modern life is not all that it’s cracked up to be. I love to garden. I love to can and quilt and sew…although my sewing skills really need quite a bit of practice. I can sew a straight line and that’s about it…although I have re-purposed pants and jeans into skirts (which is actually pretty fun to do).
Being a homesteader means I’m not afraid to try something new. Make laundry soap? Yep…I’ve done that. I’ve even made my own dish soap and realized I really like the way Dawn cleans my dishes. I make my own bread crumbs, hem our clothes, repair what’s broken, utilize what still has life in it, save old jeans and try something new each month. We process our own deer and make sausage. This year we hope to have a hog and chickens. Every year we expand our horizons and skills a little bit more than the year before.
In 2007, I taught myself to can. I started with jams and pickles and realized how much I love canning. My husband bought me an American pressure canner one year for my birthday. It is still one of my favorite gifts to this day. There was not stopping me once I figured out how to use it and didn’t hide around the corner when it started hissing and spitting. Now, I can our own chicken and venison stocks, soups and beans. We use mason jars for drinking glasses and when the cabinet starts to overflow with pints, I realize it’s time to start canning again.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a condo, a town home, in the middle of the city or in the middle of nowhere. Homesteading comes from the heart. It’s a passion for doing things differently, for not relying on what is available at the grocery store. It’s about re-discovering the old ways of doing things and realizing that sometimes they are better. Our dryer is great in the wintertime, but give me a hot day with a strong wind and you’ll find my laundry hanging outside to dry (which is just about all spring, summer and fall).
If you have a homesteader spirit within you but aren’t sure what to do, start small. Make your own bread crumbs or put up excess fruit (even if it means freezing it for now). Try your hand at making a small batch of jelly or jam. Or, create a simple meal from scratch each week and then work up to two meals. Before you know it you’ll be making all your meals from scratch (and realize how easy it really is). Don’t buy muffins, make your own. Have excess vegetables? Wash and cut them. Throw them in a stock pot with water. Bring to a simmer and make your own vegetable stock. You’ll use what you have without having anything go to waste. Don’t know how to can it? That’s okay. Let it cool, pour it into freezer bags and freeze it.
Want to grow a garden but don’t have the space? Plant some herbs in small containers and place them in windowsills or on a patio. Grow patio tomatoes. They’re easy to maintain and take up very little space.
Don’t be afraid of failing. That’s just part of life. The point is to get out there and try something new. Live the life of a homesteader…just do what you can with what you have. In other words, bloom where you’re planted. You’ll be amazed at the results.