When I first suggested moving home, and begin the rejuvenation of my parent’s farm, Steph (my wife) became very excited. “We can Homestead…” she said with a wild-eyed, mouth-open expression of excitement.
My mind instantly went to a vision of Laura Ingalls Wilder running down a wildflower field toward a small valley containing 3 or 4 small rough board buildings with matching outhouse. Not exactly what I had in mind moving home and building a new house.
We were currently living in southern Maine and had outgrown our house. And because of some recent estate planning my parents had done, she and I were now the proud owners 55+ acres that had been deeded to us, as our portion of the 300 +/- acre Grinnell acreage.
My plan was to was move home, build a house, and while still working full-time at the fire department, help my father with the business and start getting the farm up and going again. Apparently the wife and I had different views about this…not to mention a whole different vocabulary. I had learn what this “new” term — Homesteading — was.
So what is Homesteading? You mention it too any one of the suburban/urban dwellers I work with in southern Maine, and you get anything from blank stares to “what the @#$$ is that?” I know they have a mental picture of the first generation “back to the landers” from the early 70s. Trust me…that’s not us.
Homesteading is a mind set of doing what you can to be self reliant. So what does that mean? First, It means figuring things out for yourself, or with help, and doing work yourself. That means projects, construction, repairs, and maintenance. Second it means doing what you can to fend for yourself when it comes to the basic necessities of life like water, food and shelter. Basically it boils down to this…do it yourself.
Now does this mean you can’t ask for help….NOPE! In your life you must know someone who is good at what you’re trying to do. Ask them to help you do the work and learn as you go. I have been lucky in that my family and friends have all had mad skills at certain things and your better believe I cashed in some chits. A little cash, sweat and beer go a long way. But now I have learned those skills and are able to pass them on. I also had skills that I was able to barter out to pay them back.
Now…do you need a ton of acreage in a rural area to do this? ….NOPE. Again, it’s a mind set. You could live in a rental apartment and have a very nice urban garden and produce your own food on your deck…you can have edible landscaping in your suburban slice of heaven. You just have to be willing to get dirty, be willing to learn, and accept that you may fail and have to try again.
So what if you want to do this and truly don’t have anyone you can ask….well…READ. Come to matter of fact sites like ours — OK, huge plug there but hey.. business is business — and see what others have done. Also, delve into a little history. Read about “Victory Gardens”…learn about recycling that doesn’t mean taking stuff away..but using something for what it was never intended….look at what folks did back before, I’d say, the 1960s. An important point here: use credible sources. Find your local library and spend a rainy afternoon digging through shelves that never get used. And of course ..there is the “interweb” but be careful, and use some common sense on the site your on….I’ll leave that there.
So I’ll wrap this up by saying, if you have a question…feel free to ask us…if we know…we will tell you…if we don’t..then we will tell you our thoughts and then head you in the right direction. That’s what we want this site to be. An honest practical approach to this “new” thing called homesteading.