The Accidental Homesteader

I love the grid.  I LOVE it. The only way I’m ‘getting off the grid’ is if somebody unplugs it and then rips my iPhone from my cold dead hands.  How Charlton Heston felt about guns?  That’s me with conveniences like internet and drive-thru Starbucks.

What I’ve learned since losing my job, however, is that almost everyone I know believes that my goal in life has long been to be a Homesteader.  This, my dear friends, is completely insane.

Homesteaders are hard-working disciplined folk who are motivated by ideas far stranger and infinitely more exhausting than any I’m likely to hatch.

According to Merriam Webster, the original term Homesteader was used to describe “a piece of government land that a person could acquire by living on it and farming it when the western part of the U.S. was being settled.” The modern Homesteader is not merely one who owns a tract of land and a makes a home on it, but one who strives to live a life of self-sufficiency by deriving as many products as possible from the land to live on.

In other words, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, a Homesteader is a lunatic.  Anybody who wants to work that hard must be half-cracked.

And yet, I find myself making this argument against Homesteading while one part of my brain considers whether or not I should pick and pickle some green beans this afternoon for fun cocktail garnishes and if those giant red semi-hot peppers I picked yesterday would freeze well for a chicken tortilla soup this winter.

Believe me; I harbor no particular love or attachment to these beans I planted.  I could turn my back on them and let them grow fat, tough and die without another moment’s thought. The thing is, to me this sounds like a pleasant afternoon activity. By my own definition, this shows that I’ve got some potentially clinical cracks.

I’d like to make this clear though: I am NOT going to pick and pickle beans for Jesus.  There is no ‘growing for God’ on my farm.

I’m also not planning to pick and pickle beans because the government and/or big business is trying to murder me with poisoned food at the grocery store.  And, by the way, I’m definitely not planning to pick and pickle green beans because I’m preparing for an undefined but soon-to-come end time where civilization as we know is indefinitely cancelled mid-season.

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Note: Our small farm is not in preparation for a zombie apocalypse.

Unfortunately, when I hear the word “homesteader,” I think of people whose motivations for ‘going back to the land’ are painted with paranoia or are doused with a religious fervor.

Ironically, I love a good conspiracy theory. I’m pretty sure the FDA and big business ARE permitting the sale of foods that are killing us.  It seems obvious that nearly everything in the middle isles of the grocery store is bad for you, fast food probably does lack any nutritional benefits and poisons sprayed on fresh food will also poison us… eventually.  I just can’t get myself into hysterics about it.  There are plenty of ways to make better choices without having to work your fingers to the bone.

I’m also my father’s child. He was raised in the Great Depression and his family was one of those trying to steal coal to stay warm instead of those who were able to get a steal on cheap hired help. His stories of eating lard and onion sandwiches were greasily imprinted upon my imagination at an early age and were deeply influential in my desire to have a farm. Even though I personally have never known a hungry day that wasn’t a self-imposed scheme to lose weight, it became my goal to live out Scarlet O’Hara’s vow:  “As God is my witness … I’ll never be hungry again!”

(Hmmm.  Melodramatic impulses, in a variety of costumes, appear to drive ALL small farmers. It seems I should stop throwing stones from my half-cracked glass house.)

Accidentally Very Busy

Getting a few backyard chickens is apparently a slippery slope for those of us with Melodramatic Impulses.

Having a small ‘hobby’ farm means that I’ve accidentally found myself very, very busy doing a lot of activities that are suspiciously similar to a Homesteader.

When you milk goats you get milk.  When you have raw milk you make cheese.  When you plant and weed your garden weekly you end up with lots of vegetables… and you can’t let all of that hard work go to waste so you spend hours more in harvesting, cooking and preserving them.  When you like beer, well, why not brew it yourself?  And, when you have free range chickens, you spend your time hunting for eggs and chasing hawks. Then there is the basic maintenance and cost of feeding the livestock.  Who wouldn’t decide to grow your own animal feed to save money?

And…when you live in the middle of a windy sunny country field, it seems only sensible to begin daydreaming about wind and solar energy.

(Wait, Grid!  Don’t worry darling!  We’re not breaking up with you anytime soon. I’ll always stay in touch, you massive hunk of all-night industrial power you, no matter what.)

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Granger taking a well-deserved afternoon siesta.

Homesteaders? Not us, pal, no way.

Luckily, what will save us from a speedy spiraling descent into the madness of self-sufficiency is our organic laziness. We are not hard-working lunatics, we lack discipline and work our fingers to the bone only on special occasions. But, we’ll just possibly get there, one day, {sigh} quite accidentally.