I grew up in rural Missouri, in two slightly separate worlds. My parents, like many, divorced before I can remember.
“In town,” we lived in a brick house. Me, my mom, her younger sister and, usually, some kind of pet. We ate dinner at the table, as a family, and only went out to eat once a week. Most Fridays, we ate dinner in the living room, in front of the TV. But only on Friday. We had everything we needed, and probably a little extra. My mom never let on that we were “poor,” so I didn’t know until I was old enough to realize that we weren’t “rich.”
Then, after my mom remarried, we lived in a bigger house with my step-dad. Not much changed: We still ate dinner, every night, as a family and breakfast every morning. One difference was that they started their own garden and started canning salsa, spaghetti sauce, green beans and pickles. And then my mom’s parents jumped on the bandwagon.
“In the country,” with my dad, we lived in an old, white, not-quite-farmhouse. Without central heat or air, and with sulfur water. In the summer, we’d sleep with all the windows open, fans running, on top of sheets so our bodies could breathe. Winter mornings were freezing, but I’d go take my bath and sit, directly, in front of the wood stove while getting dressed. Here, richness or poorness was never discussed either.
My dad and I spent much of our time at my grandma’s actual farmhouse, surrounded by miles of pasture, two barns, and the biggest garden I’ve seen to date. Throughout the gardening season, all the grandkids helped her plant, weed and harvest fresh crops from the garden or fields — blackberries and gooseberries, peas and green beans, onions and potatoes. (I’m not sure how much help we actually were considering my cousin and I once weeded the onions by pulling most of them.)
My parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins and most everyone I’ve come in contact with through my family has always worked, and worked hard. Some harder than others. Most, have probably worked and continue to work harder than I.
I am one of few in my family who has a college degree. With that comes a somewhat ease in the difficulty of work I do. But I still work, and have since I was 15. The few times I have found myself unemployed weren’t fun after the initial feeling of being on vacation. Yet, I still wouldn’t describe myself as a “hard worker.”
Do I do my job? Yes. Do I do it well? Yeah, I think so.
But “hard” work, to me, is building houses, digging ditches, laying bricks or any other kind of physically engaging, manual labor. No job I’ve ever had has been that. Yet, I’ve been interested in self-sufficient living, or homesteading, for the last decade.
The first time I seriously mentioned my aspirations to my mom was around 2003-ish. She — rightfully — laughed in my face. I was a junior or senior in high school who spent a good majority of her time: in her bedroom, on the phone, watching TV or listening to music. Outdoor activities had been a thing of the past for quite some time, unless you count sunbathing. The conversation progressed to her explaining how much work homesteading would be, and pointing out that I was/am kind of lazy.
A few years later, after a bit more research, I breached the topic with my dad — a skilled outdoorsman and, as far as I could tell, the closest thing to a homesteader I knew. Instantly supportive of my idea, he told me about how he had similar dreams (and so did my mom!). Turns out, they had planted a huge garden and subscribed to Mother Earth News (whom I would eventually work with), and we’d all lived in the house without central heat/air until I was 2 years old. On his own, he hoped to build a cabin, off the road where he already lived, and was considering goats.
The thing is, no matter how supportive my dad may have been, my mom wasn’t wrong. I am kind of lazy. I love watching Netflix and taking naps and just not doing much of anything in general. I’ve also learned, through trial, that I don’t care for gardening anything except herbs, succulents and some flowers. Yet, my desire to homestead is still fully intact.
How, you may ask, is that even possible? Here’s how.
My partner likes to garden, while I enjoy turning the harvest into yummy things via cooking, canning or baking. I’m interested in making (and have tried my hand at making) natural beauty and household products, as well as utilizing natural remedies for common ailments like upset stomach, burns/blisters and headaches. I’d love to start fermenting (if we had the space). Harvesting rainwater? Count me in. Backyard chickens? Yes, please. Goats? Bring them, too!
I still love the idea of providing, as much as possible, for ourselves. And, by doing so, reducing or eliminating debt, the need for money and full-time jobs. Maybe it’s not in the rural landscape I had once imagined, although that would be ideal because a smaller town and fewer people would be nice, But that’s okay. A simple CSA or house on a decent-sized lot would do, for now.