Thursday, January 1, 2009

Slouching Away From Prosperity: Dan's Perspective, Part 3

Well, here it is, part 3. If you've read the first two parts at all, I commend you. There are other people out there, writing much better stuff on the subject than I. But then again, they aren't writing my perspective, now are they?

Herrick Kimball, a blogger I follow and admire, recently wrote yet another post on the economy and how he sees the nation moving toward a more agrarian lifestyle (read it here). I like what he says, and tend to agree with him.

The point of it all is this. Our economy is broken. And I'm sorry, but anyone who thinks our new President Elect can fix it is delusional. John McCain couldn't have fixed it either (just to be fair). If people are going to weather the coming fury of the storm already broken upon us, we're going to have to learn to live differently than we do.

Back in the 40's, the victory garden was the thing to do. Scrap metal drives, rubber drives.... all early recycling (and we thought it was 'new', it's actually 'vintage' - which may be why recycling is all the rage). Thing is, our country seems to have lost some of its identity, some of its solidarity, purpose of being. We've become a nation of self-centered people and the idea of doing something because our nation needs us to is a little out of fashion. Of course, providing food for your family and yourself is never out of fashion, nor is it really a national 'need' - rather a personal need. But I wonder how many people will actually decide they need to get their hands dirty and plant a garden?

You see, there's something to be said for self-sufficiency. Actually, I prefer to call it God-sufficiency, because I recognize that everything I have is from Him. That's what I like about homesteading. In the process of living the self-sufficient life, you develop a sense of security. Regardless of what happens in the economy, you know you can provide for your family - to whatever degree you homestead. So just what is homesteading?

Well, it's hard to define. Wikipedia defines it as a lifestyle of simple, agrarian self-sufficiency. Well, there's three words in that sentence that beg further definition... A favorite publication of mine, Mother Earth News, defines it thus: "Sometimes we struggle to define the meaning of “homestead” in today’s world. For our purposes, we’ve decided to define the homestead as any home that provides an example of sustainability and beauty, whether it’s a Chicago loft powered by solar panels, a Santa Fe suburban solar home or a straw bale cottage on the Kansas prairie. Many of them raise some of their own food and generate some of their own energy. Some of them are self-sufficient. Some of them are beautiful. All of them, by our definition, are inspiring."

To me, homesteading is the art, mindset, decision, process (all of these) of working toward providing for yourself and your family in such a way as to improve your environment where possible, or at least leave as small a footprint as possible. Now before you think I've gone all 'tree-hugger' let me just say that as yet at my house, there's more of the 'leave the smallest footprint' going on than there is 'improve your environment'. But what I want to emphasize is that anyone can be a homesteader! You don't have to live in the country on 40 acres (or even 5), or have a root cellar, or use an outhouse, or grow solar panels on your roof, or drive a water powered car, or wear hemp clothes. An apartment dweller can homestead by buying up quantities of veggies at a farmer's market or joining a CSA and learning to preserve them. A suburbanite can plant a small garden if only for those few crops they use most often (ie. tomatoes, onions, corn, etc.). We can all turn our thermostats down a little, ours sits at 69 in the winter and 75 in the summer when we actually use air-conditioning (and my wife says that's cold!). Again, laundry on a clothesline can save a lot of money in electricity. It's basically just finding ways to rely less on other people to provide your needs, and rely more on yourself.

Can you read a book? You can learn to garden. Can you surf the net? You can learn to preserve food. Can you push a broom? You can use a hoe and spade. My list of examples is small and probably not very good at inspiring people to think outside the box. But the ways of self-sufficiency are limitless. It takes a change of mind, heart, and attitude... and a little economic hardship might not hurt either.

I'm struck my something that recently happened. Someone I know bought a new home. It's not far from where they previously lived. Their family didn't outgrow the old house, neighborhood was fine, same school district. But they'd been looking at homes off and on for years now. There are three people in the family. They bought a 2500 sq. ft. home with a 3 car garage and a full basement. I don't begrudge them. It's a beautiful home and I'm very happy for them. I just don't understand it. It's a difference in mind-set, I guess.

Well, I don't know what all my rambling might spark in you. But hopefully it gets you thinking about ways you could change your lifestyle and do more for yourself. If for no other reason than economics - a lot of homesteading activities will save you money!

So here are some websites to check out that will give you more than you knew existed in terms of ideas, tips, encouragement, etc. to homesteading:

Mother Earth News


Backwoods Home

Take a gander at those... that should keep you busy.

Happy Homesteading!

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