Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
The Happy Homesteader
Anyone considering homesteading will get a strong dose of reality once they jump in, but it can be helpful to have an idea of what you're jumping into before you take the plunge. In the past posts of this series I've prompted you to imagine yourself in a few situations that almost every homesteader finds themselves in.
Yet, the new realities can all be dealt with by learning new skills.
But there is one aspect of rural homesteading that no skill can alleviate. This will be the last scenario that I ask new Farm Dreamers to consider while you plan your escape from city life to country folk. It's something that I hear people express fears about very often and it's something that no one can help you with. You must determine whether you can REALLY take this lifestyle on or not.
Where's the Bliss?
You are living your dream on your homestead! Outside the farmhouse is a beautifully tended garden that is bursting at the sides with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons. The pastures that surround your house are green and lush and the animals that graze them are frolicking and playing. The sun is shining and you take a moment to sit on the porch and sip a glass of cold lemonade. Life is bliss!
But the peaceful quiet that overcomes you grows into an acute awareness of how isolated and alone you really are. The only sounds that you hear are birds chirping. You don't see a house, or a car, or any other person and you know that your nearest "neighbor" is 2 miles away. At first you love the peace and tranquility but now concern begins to creep in. You shake the thoughts out of your head and start to think about that project you're going to tackle after your break. You run through the plans in your head and make a mental list of materials. Shoot! There are a few items that you need before you can start, so you'll have to run to the store. But the closest box store is an hour away. None of the mom and pop stores in the small town 15 minutes away will carry what you need and it's silly to make such a long trip to the closest city just for a few supplies. These days you don't get off the farm much because everything is just so far away and it takes a lot of gas to get anywhere. Instead you keep a running list of things and go only when you really need to. I guess this project will have to wait.
Discouraged, your mind wanders again about your isolation. There really is nothing around you. If you wanted to celebrate an anniversary with a nice dinner out you would literally have to be gone all night in order to get to the closest quality restaurant. Is two hours of driving each way really worth it? Maybe once a year for that anniversary, but probably not more. Man, you haven't had a night out on the town since you moved out to your piece of paradise. Not one concert, not one ball game, not that new play you were wanting to see. Heck, you don't even go to the movies any more because it's an hour to the closest theater and that, plus the movie time, means you'd be away for at least four hours. What if something happens while you're gone? What if the pigs get out? It's just not worth it. You'll watch the re-runs in your house instead. But not on cable TV...because you can't get cable TV!
Those TV re-runs start to get old. You see the commercials of the newest movie previews and the latest gadgets and feel a twitch of envy. When was the last time you went to a mall? You used to dress in style and get your hair cut, but you haven't left your homestead in weeks. Now you spend your days in dirty jeans and those fancy shoes in your closet are collecting dust. Sure, you wouldn't trade your life for the world and there are so many beautiful days out here, but once in a while it would be nice to feel like you're still part of civilization. You talk to your city friends on the phone and they're living it up! In fact, they just got back from vacation. Vacations are a thing of your past. Remember that trip you took to the beach before you moved? There's no way you could get away now. Who would milk the cow? Your friends think you're crazy for being so tied down and out of touch. You love your privacy and independence, but maybe they're right. Would you even fit in at one of their dinner parties any more? No one wants to hear your stories about slopping the hogs!
But there's more to isolation than just missing the conveniences and social gatherings. As the bull begins to snort and holler with wild eyes your mind flashes a scene before your eyes that evokes panic. What if you got hurt out here? There's a lot of danger in this new world. You saw an article in the local paper just last week about a man that was crushed to death by his bull..others were crushed by their tractors! Sure, you're careful, but accidents happen and who would know if you got hurt? You could call as loud as you want, but there's no one to hear you. You could dial 911 on your cell phone, but the signals out here are hit and miss. Would you be able to make it inside to the house phone? Do you have a house phone? And if you did, how long would it really take for an ambulance to reach you? There's no hospital in your small town and the closest one is still very rural. How skilled are those doctors? How old is their equipment? By now you are really missing the state-of-the-art medical facilities in the city.
It hits you. You-are-all-alone...
It's a fact that in order to be a hard core homesteader, you must live in a rural environment. You also must get used to living very frugally and working long hours outside. There is no skill that you can learn or resource that you can turn to when you are feeling isolated. If you are moving from a populated area to the country there will be many adjustments you'll have to make. Some lessons will be learned the hard way, some things will fall into place with ease, but there's no telling how hard the feeling of isolation will hit you. You'll have to get along without many of the conveniences that you were once used to. There will probably be sacrifices you'll have to make in your life. Will you still be happy if you don't have your friends or family nearby? Can you take pleasure in being a "home body" or will you still long for seeing the world? Do you want to raise your children in a small town or will they be missing out on valuable opportunities? No one can answer these questions for you and I'm afraid that I can't give a list of links and resources for you to educate yourself on. I saw this photo by Jill on Farm Dreams and thought it summed up a bit of country life. Either you look at it and long for a similar experience or you don't. I think the rural calling is either in us or not. All I can do is to suggest that you picture yourself in the scenario above and find out where your family's comfort level lies. Be honest with yourselves and then go find your dream. There is no perfect situation out there, but if the right property doesn't present itself to you on your homestead search, then keep looking. Figure out what you can and cannot compromise on. If moving too far away from the city is too much to ask, then consider it a deal breaker and search some more. If you're committed to your dream then you'll find your paradise.
Next week I'll finish this series with a happy ending. Take if from someone who has completed the metamorphosis...life can be bliss on a rural homestead.
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