Sunday, November 11, 2012

Coming Out of the Root Cellar

I have been thinking about the mindset of modern homesteading. Particularly, as it pertains to perception and peers. I think it goes without saying that folks who start producing their own food (urban or rural or anywhere in-between) are an independent lot. Many could care less what the neighbors think about their lawn-cum-garden or interest in wearing hand-knit sweaters and skirts over the latest brand styles...but there are plenty of people who do worry about what others think of them, and I don't think we should avoid talking about our brothers and sisters who are scared to "come out of the root cellar".

I am basing this on the emails I get most often from beginners, which fall into two types. Many come from people who see my life as a fantasy, and enjoy reading it but have no interest in farm life outside of literature. The other half is people who want to start but aren't sure how, and honestly, are apprehensive. They aren't weak-willed people, just dealing with a lack of finances and support. They came into homesteading later in life when they already had a husband or wife, kids, a suburban house, and a lifestyle they want to change but are dealing with rolling eyes and jokes from their social circle. And these are people who really, really, strive for a more sustainable life, but it's hard as all get out when everyone thinks you're acting odd, like a hippie, or idealistic. Some don't want to listen to complaints from their HOA, or hear their mothers in law tell them they are acting like those people on Doomsday Preppers. Others have spouses or parents or family in general who think it is daft to grow strawberries and make jam when it's on sale at your corner shop for a dollar. They feel they are fighting a battle they can't win due to poor location and circumstance. Many give up and go back to Wal-Mart and the mall.

I feel like it's been so long that I've been a part of this culture and lifestyle that I am losing sight of what it is like to get started under peer review. In a lot of ways, my moving around as a single person made it easier. I came into a new rental and town as "Jenna The Wannabe Farmer" and no one even blinked when I showed up to the office in wellies with a baby goat. But I was also working in rural Vermont at an Outdoor Sporting Retailer where people fly-fished and hunted grouse on their lunch breaks. The whole goat thing might not work for an accountant in New Jersey....

I wanted to ask you folks out there in the larger community some questions. And perhaps others who are "in the root cellar" can gain some confidence or ideas. Feel free to bring up any related ideas or stories or questions.

Do friends and family who don't share your lifestyle think less of you for your choices? Do they think this is a passing fad with you?

Do you think changes in our economy or lifestyle will demand a simpler lifestyle for Americans regardless of what they think?

Have you lost any friendships due to changing your life into one of agriculture?

How did you convince a spouse or children to get interested and involved?

Where do you see Homesteading in ten years?

Lastly, do you have any advice or a personal story that could help inspire or encourage a beginner?

32 Comments:

Blogger J.D. Collins said...

Do friends and family who don't share your lifestyle think less of you for your choices? Do they think this is a passing fad with you?

Yup, I've heard from friends that they believe that I'm out of touch because I embrace a simpler lifestyle.

Do you think changes in our economy or lifestyle will demand a simpler lifestyle for Americans regardless of what they think?

Yes, too much stuff has slipped our safeguards increasing risk to our food supply. Folks I've spoken to are beginning to embrace simplicity. Getting rid of what doesn't work anymore.

Have you lost any friendships due to changing your life into one of agriculture?

My friends are my friends for a long time now they accept me for who I am and who I am not.

How did you convince a spouse or children to get interested and involved?

I'm a childless widow, but my husband loved the idea of self-sufficiency.

Where do you see Homesteading in ten years?
Can't say as I live moment to moment.

Lastly, do you have any advice or a personal story that could help inspire or encourage a beginner? Embrace the fact that homesteading has a lifelong learning curve. We are dependent on Mother Nature so treat her well. Everything you need to be successful is there, in the ground, just love it and care for it and it will replay you a hundred times over.

My 89-year old mother knows when she's eating a farm-fresh vs. a store-bought tomato. Since I've been on this path her blood work has been excellent, heart stronger, and appetite increasing (she's gone from 76 lbs. whilst in a facility to 88 lbs. homegrown. That's a testament to homesteading!

November 11, 2012 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Kristy said...

I am a homesteader, been raised that way but there are still people who question it. I grew up in the same area I live now. Back then it was more farm than houses. As a kid people thought it was odd that I'd rather show a heifer at the fair then go to a party. In high school you were made fun of if you rooted for MSU (Mich State University) instead of U of M because MSU is an agricultural college (we refer to it as Moo U).
To this day, my dads side of the family think I am wasting my time and money raising livestock (even though that's how they were raised). They normally don't have the guts to tell me that to my face, but it comes back to me. Even my in laws look at me like my priorities are wrong from time to time (but they sure do like it when I give them some home grown, pasture raised lamb!) My response is who cares what everyone else thinks. I am doing what I love. It's the life I want and the life I am going to keep regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. My advice to anyone who's afraid of going for it because of others opinions - if it makes you happy then,that is what matters. People will always talk negative. Learn not to care/listen and you will be happier. You only get one life, make it the one you want.

November 11, 2012 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Great post! I've dealt with a lot of this in NYC. It's probably one of the more difficult places to grow your own food, as most people have literally NO outdoor space and see the city as the antithesis to the farm.

Here are my responses!

Do friends and family who don't share your lifestyle think less of you for your choices? Do they think this is a passing fad with you?

My friends and family thought it was really "cute" or "precious" at first, but now that I'm eating better than all of them, creating income for myself and have recently graduated to having my own small farm, I think they realize that I was quite serious about it and that with a little determination and an unwillingness to starve was all it took to make this "silly" hobby seem sensible and smart.

Do you think changes in our economy or lifestyle will demand a simpler lifestyle for Americans regardless of what they think?

I don't know the answer to this, but I think as people begin to feel like they need to go without due to financial constraints, they may open their minds to different elements of self-reliance. Especially if they see other people doing it without fear of criticism

Have you lost any friendships due to changing your life into one of agriculture?

Sure, pretty much all of my initial NYC party friends got really bored with all of my talk of farming and stopped calling. That's ok though. I'm doing what I said I'd do all along and many of them are still trying to figure out what they want to do. God bless 'em, I hope they figure it out.

How did you convince a spouse or children to get interested and involved?

I basically just told my bf Neil that this is what I was doing, so he could either come along for the ride or happy trails to him. It was never a secret that this was the life I wanted so this choice was always known to be on the horizon. We were fortunate when an opportunity to farm near the city (where he still works) came up. Logistically, it became possible for us.

Where do you see Homesteading in ten years?

I hope that it just becomes daily life. Common. I see no reason why folks can't focus on elements of a self-sufficient life and barter within their community for other things they need. I already do that here. A half gallon of goat milk or a dozen eggs for 5 lbs of venison or a loaf of bread. It's great. It feels good to make stronger connections with neighbors.

Lastly, do you have any advice or a personal story that could help inspire or encourage a beginner?

This sort of mimics what you say often, Jenna. But, if living this sort of life has been nagging you for some time, that is your human navigational system pointing you in the direction worth heading. Don't ignore it or dismiss it with excuses. You know where you want to go, so just be open, put it yourself out there. Try. Never stop looking for ways to get one step further in that direction. Be open to all possibilities and above all else, trust yourself. Never underestimate your gut response. It's more valuable than reason.

November 11, 2012 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger 3 Dogs Barking Farms said...

This past year or two my husband and I have started 3 Dogs Barking Farms basically out of our backyard and are growing vegetables for ourselves, family and to sell at a Farmers Market. I am actually surprised at how much support I have gotten from my friends and family. Although at my day job one close friend is totally supportive and some others think I'm nuts especially when I tell stories like had to go outside after work last night with my head lamp on to pick vegetable for drop off at the online farmers market in the morning....was chasing the neighbors cows last night out of my garden trying to get them back to the barn.....think i gave myself frostbite picking cabbages for market this morning and so on and so on. We haven't totally embraced the homesteading lifestyle yet but we have recently gotten chickens and we shall see where we go from there! As to the future and economy the reason I actually started to do this was because I couldn't afford to buy vegetables and our health was suffering so I said you have 2 acres you cant buy them why don't you grow them instead? Happy Homesteading and we would love to come check your operation out sometime we are just over the river in Northumberland!

November 11, 2012 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger NANCY LEWIS said...

I love that, "coming out of the root cellar" !

I was reared on a farm in eastern Illinois for the first eight years of my life. I'm now 59, an artist, urban farmer and homemaker and live in a medium-sized town in a metropolitan area. I've named our lot Fault Line Farm, since we live within spitting distance of the San Andreas Fault.

I always feel funny saying I am an urban farmer not because I am embarrassed about smelling like ducks and having grit under my fingernails, but because I don't want to peg myself, even though I feel farming in my blood and am dedicated to being a thoughtful custodian of our piece of the neighborhood. Maybe this is what you are calling being "in the root cellar" ! I'm just a person with agricultural roots who got caught in the migration away from family farms and spun into a different lifestyle for many complicated reasons, and want to keep my roots alive. But yes, it is hard to claim that label and I'm working on being brave.

I'm lucky that I know a range of people who have cows, bees and poultry who depend on that for income to those who raise a drama wheat crop in their yard to be showy. It's interesting that we all manifest that deep need to be connected to the land in such a variety of ways. As long as we are sincere in what we do, from growing one small pot of luscious lettuce to full scale farming as you do, then that goodness will spread, because we all want to feel part of something good. We want to feel safe and to eat what nourishes us. We want life to be meaningful.

Although I've had my hands in dirt my son's entire life, he has never been the least bit interested in growing things or making commitment to keeping livestock. Maybe that interest will pop up later in his life, but no amount of forcing from me will make that happen. I just tried to lead by example, and he got some info through osmosis, I'm sure. We are now engaged in a continuing discussion of GMOs.

To any beginner I would say, flame your passion. There are so many ways to obtain information, places to volunteer on working farms, moments to dream and set little seeds in motion. Think big and be open to opportunities, but start small so you don't overwhelm yourself. And read Jenna's blog every day!!

November 11, 2012 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Abby said...

I've become kind of a snob about homesteading. I tell my 30-something professional friends with SUVs and McMansions what they don't know about their food could kill them. They think I'm hilarious, call me a hippie. But, they're still always asking for eggs!

November 11, 2012 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Rois said...


We live in a blue collar neighborhood in the suburbs without a HOA,not a common spot to find homesteaders.
When we first started out neighbors thought we were just landscaping the front yard,then they saw that we were growing food and then people started to stop and ask us questions.So far after 6 years the questions and comments have been positive.We have even done some trading with neighbors for plants,seeds and fruit we don't have.
So I guess I would say to a newbie,you never know until you try,people may surprise you.If this life style is your passion live it that way,you only get one life to live.

I would also like to add,give your self a break and don't be too hard on your self.You can't go to Walmart and buy every thing you need for homesteading right out of a box.People see our homestead set up and say "Wow,I'll never get to where you are." I always answer it has taken us 6 years to get where we are.There have been failures,lots of hard work but lots of good too.Give it time,make it your own and enjoy it.

You may even end up with some hilarious stories to share.

Live the life you dream of!



November 11, 2012 at 10:35 AM  
OpenID ourgrowingpaynes said...

We're aren't full on homesteaders but we embrace the lifestyle as much as possible. Each year our garden gets bigger and bigger on our little plot of land. Our friends all know that we love to make things from scratch and be as local as possible. We've never had any negative feedback and I know if we were able to go off the grid and raise our meat no one would blink an eye. Any our extended family loves it as they get fresh veg when they visit. I think homesteading will continue to grow but I think it will be a cyclical thing. As the economy gets better people will pull away from it again. Which is a shame as it really enriches us to have a connection of where our food comes from.

November 11, 2012 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Elsie said...

I have had incredible support from neighbors and friends for what I am doing. Though I admit, most people aren't super interested in the day to day. We grow food and raise ducks and goats in an urban area. Our neighbors say that they love the farm noises and enjoy looking at the garden (which is very viewable from the road). When people stop by and ask about it, we always show them around and impress them with how charming our goats are and how easy it is to raise ducks and carrots... The neighborhood children are over a lot and they like to help with feeding the animals and weeding the garden (score!). My approach is to live and let live. I know it is a losing battle to expect everyone to do what we do. On the other hand, we have made great effort to mentor and support others in the area with interests in urban homesteading. This is not a change that can be forced. It is a whole lotta work, and if you don't love and value it, it is drudgery. I hope that by showing people how much we love and value it, it will open their minds and hearts to the options. I wish I had more farming friends, and when I do find them I question them unmercifully as I feel there is so much still to learn.

November 11, 2012 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Mac said...

We're too old to start over .. but did 'retire' in a semi rural area surrounded by small family farms. I grow much of our own food and procure the rest from said farms, hang out the laundry, make yogurt and buttermilk .. soak/sprout/dehydrate organic wheat to grind for our bread .. etc. etc. My family is past thinking I'm nuts .. someone recently asked if I'm Amish .. uh no ... and I don't really care what people think because at the end of the day I'm tired from hard work .. and can sleep peacefully knowing the larder is full.

November 11, 2012 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

I say don't worry about what people will think. Are you going to sacrifice your happiness because you might not be considered "cool"? No way!!!!!!!!! You have every right to live a more sustainable, happy life & now is the time to start. The economy is not good at all & our food is poisoned and the FDA doesn't do its job. Chemical companies are tainting our seeds and patenting heirloom seeds so that we can not have access to them. Time to change things (if only for yourselves and your family right now). Hopefully, others will follow when they see how happy we homesteaders are and how much healthier we become because of our lifestyle. I say "Go for it, Future Homesteaders".

November 11, 2012 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Dina Rosbeck said...

My husband and I are currently in the "wannabe farmer" stage. We currently live in a condo but are working toward saving for land. Yet we have a community garden plot, raise our two angoras, spin wool, can, compost, make our own toiletries, and eat and shop local. However we are known for our "Hippie/Amish ways" among our friends and family and we just kind of laugh because we are so happy and are not distracted by all the mainstream materialistic crap that everyone else is crazed about. When you choose this path, your priorities completely change and you learn to live with less and with what really matters.

November 11, 2012 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Christee said...

WOW - what great questions!

I am currently stabbing towards my farm. I have 8 goats, (2 of which are mine, the rest landlords), 22 chickens and a garden with carrots, spinach, tomatos, jalapenos, sugar snap peas, green beans, yellow onions, green & yellow bell pepper. I am currently out of work and have been trying to find a job outside of the "farm". I do go to school to obtain my associates in business so that I can run either a CSA or farmers market of my own.

When we were introducing ourselves in my communications class I listed off my critters and our teached labeled me "a farmer". I WANT to be a farmer but I don't believe that I am there yet. It also felt weird to say "yea, I am a farmer". I am the same age as my teacher, 40, and most of the rest of the "kids" are closer to age 21. Hell, one of them isn't even 18 yet! So, to me it felt a bit strange, almost hippie-like, to say that I am a farmer. I did feel like they would think I was/am a wacko old lady in the back of my mind.

I am married with 2 children under the age of 10. My kids really like the farm stuff but don't really like that there aren't any other kids their age to play with around our house. So I do struggle with that aspect. I just want them to have a more simple life with less drama and BS that goes on in the world these days. They do go to regular public school because I think I would lose my mind if I tried to homeschool them. Ha ha!

I am currently trying to talk my husband into getting rid of satelite. He can keep the TV but we would watch local programming for FREE rather than pay $100 per month for satelite. He is ALMOST there. I brought an antennea home yesterday from my friend to try out. We will see how it goes.

My father-in-law is SUPER paranoid! He has cameras that film the outside of his home, he has a handgun next to him INSIDE the house (he does not live in "the hood" either) which he totes with him to the damn pharmacy drive-thru ("just in case") and is still conviced that Obama is the Anti-Christ. So he thinks that when I went out to take some photos for my photography class and did not take my pistol I was stupid. *sigh* He thinks that since I do not like to listen to the nightly news that I do not know what is going on in the world and I NEED to know what is going on. I just laugh.

I KNOW that I will be a farmer but right now I do not FEEL like one since the land we are on is not ours and the finances are not all there. I also feel like I need to learn more so that I can do more. Although, I have named my farm Handbasket Farm so I am 1 step closer to my dream.

My critters pretty much take care of themselves right now. My dairy goat is (hopefully) prego and will be give me some babies in the Spring. The chickens are starting to lay more consistently now that the AZ summer is gone. Had some frost on the ground this morning and I was ECSTATIC! Fall & Winter are my favorite times of the year. I need to get my garden wrapped for the upcoming frosty nights so we can still have veggies.

It will all come together when it is right. I so appreciate all of your posts about waking up in the middle of the night with fear, I KNOW that and I love to hear your positive posts the combat the fears. It feels like a ray of sunshine in the scary dark and it inspires me. You are a beacon Jenna Woginrich and I admire you!

Love from AZ,
Christee of Handbasket Farm

November 11, 2012 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger R'Eisen Shine Farm said...

So, the short answer is yes- Kim and I have had to do a lot of coming out, especially since we are both covered in tattoos and often have crazy steaks of color in our hair etc. but more on that another day. I was mostly commenting bc we have that exact postcard framed and hanging on our wall! Made me smile.

November 11, 2012 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

I grew up in 1960-70's and my parents were involved with The Back to the Land movement. My father had a good job when my parents decided to do homesteading, mostly to be overseen by my mother. It was never profitable, but we ate well and my father's business supported us. We read Countryside Magazine and Mother Earth religiously. No one in my family was surprised when I left a well paying city job at the age of 29 and bought a farm. I've never had anyone tell me I was crazy, most people are intrigued.

I think modern life is simpler than homesteading. You just throw what you need in a shopping cart and don't think twice about it. But it also requires a lot of natural resources and cheap labor, so it's not sustainable. Anyone who thinks it's simpler for an individual to raise and slaughter a cow instead of buying a ready made hamburger is naive. Homesteading is better for the cow, but it's a lot of work for the homesteader. Things are going to get a lot more complicated for everyone as the easy modern life gets harder to afford.

When I started the farm I had to nicely tell friends they couldn't keep visiting so much because I felt like I was running a bed and breakfast. Met the spouse a few years into the plan and he was very supportive, still is, but he's also over the initial gung-ho energy that got the barns rebuilt. He was fine with downsizing the operation a few years ago when I decided no animals, just vegetables and fruit.

The homesteading mindset seems to wax and wane, but I think the lure of it will never fully go away. Look back through history and you can easily find references to "the simple life" during the Roman times. It has strong appeal to those unhappy with their jobs or their suburban drone lives, but most newbies don't realize how hard a lifestyle it is to physically maintain and finance. I always say "it's expensive to live like a peasant".

To those homesteading wannabes I would say it's most important to have a viable income outside of the homestead unless you can become a full fledged farm doing farmers markets and supplying restaurants. It's great if you can work from home or live on one spouse's income, but if not, take things slow. People make the mistake of buying the wrong land because it's cheap, or trying to do too much too fast before they know what they can really handle. The result is burnout. Don't feel bad if your homestead is a city lot, a rented plot or suburban backyard. You might be better off with just a small cottage holding. The lifestyle should be an enjoyable journey, not one full of financial bogey men, fears of foreclosure or people saying "I told you so". If you can grow some healthy food to feed yourself, your family, and some friends I think you are doing pretty well. If not, at least support the people who are doing it by buying at your local farmers' markets or actual farms.

November 11, 2012 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

I'll add my 2 cents, Jenna this is such an important topic , thanks for exploring it. when folks are at the point in their lives where they take direction from themselves and do not look to others for direction and verification, then they are ready to take the road less traveled. Take some steps to get there folks, do smaller things that you want to do but seriously had not considered actually doing. This will build you up to being that self confident person ,I cannot emphasize that enough. Farming on any level (from urban coops to hobby farms to huge complexes)requires gumption and self direction mixed with the ability to be a good neighbor and open to learning new things. A willingness to do without "stuff" in favor of a life style is helpful, martyrs do not cut it and nobody likes a whining farmer.I moved out here to the farm at age 53. I was a suburban divorcee RN with 4 kids. At age 51 I left my comfort zone and for one week I volunteered as a crew member on board the sloop Clearwater, our environmental flagship on the Hudson (built by Pete Seeger, 1968 I believe. clearwater.org) knowing NOTHING of ships/sloops. but I was eager, and the oldest volunteer that week. I came away with strength and courage a feeling of energy such as I thought I had "outgrown". My daughter (age 14) and I volunteered to work their festival, in the rain, ala Woodstock, again another self affirming empowering(and totally fun) adventure. Daughter Ali was wide eyed for the 3 days, completely spellbound by the majestic "coolness" of what her mom had led her to (she truly told me that!), and yes, Pete was there, we all jammed and sang together at night. When at age 53 I met Howard, a farmer and with his own business doing farm equipment repair, I listened to my daughter's opinion and she had NO intention of embracing rural life,45 min from her friends and life as she knew it). she was the only one left in the nest. BUT I made the decision to marry Howard and move out here.(thanks to Jon Katz, another story). I grew up farming, my kids had no experience in country living but I knew what they were missing. Ali had to change schools going into senior year, from a suburban high with a class of 400 to Argyle Central (K-12), senior class of 50. She cried, her stories would be such good reads, but after a couple months she was transforming, partying at pasture bonfires, dating, making friends,staring in the school musical that the ENTIRE town came out to see. For graduation, the class was led into the combo gym/cafeteria/audtorium by a bagpiper in kilt (Argyle being Home of the Scots). now at age she 24 loves the country life. In fact my older 3 also appreciate what Howard and I do, our grandkids (3 so far)will reap such benefits. Note: I made the decisions, not the kid. It was MY job to do that. I assured Ali that in good time she will be making her own decisions such as this and she could also do as she sees best. When folks realize that others will look to them as examples (not the other way around) and that the example they set is important, then they are ready to embrace rural life. They need the self confidence and creativity to change as needed, to find any and all ways of getting the mortgage money! They need the self confidence to realize that change is not failure out here, it is the way things are. One year you may get bills paid from logging, another year by fixing farm equipment, hostng showings and selling your art (we have many artists up here), another year by training horses, or writing books, blogging, and doing the workshops like CAF (great job Jenna) or like me, sell clothing and stuff you make...whatever it takes, but the trick is keeping all options open. When something dries up in monetary value,we look to something else. The possibilities are only as limited as the person. These are the folks in our community, how can we not love neighbors such as these?

November 11, 2012 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Wayne Jones said...

I come from a family where farming was always going on but was never a primary income. We always had chickens. Although not for egg or meat production we had chickens. Off and on we had pigs or cattle or horses or some combo of them them all. We raised mellons and corn and all manner of veggies. The differance today is the reason for raising our own food.

In my Granfather's day was one of economics. He simply had more time than money to spend on food. We had some land so he married those two things together to grow food.

Now for me it's more about know whats in my food and setting my self free from the INC. farms. If we can find a way to fill both our bellies and perhaps add to our bank account then all the better.

What others think be damned in my opinion.

November 11, 2012 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger KellyV (Kelly the Fifth) said...

Such thoughtful posts and interesting stories. May I say from a big city girl who will never farm but loves to read about farming, Jenna's blog and her readers are just the best. Miss Brenda London needs to start her own blog because her posts are always great reads and she, too, is a wonderful story teller.

November 11, 2012 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Eileen Hileman said...

You touched a nerve. We currently live on a very small farm outside Indianola WA. I am constantly asked - why do you garden, why do you want sheep,chickens, etc. It surprises me because this area is very supportive of CSAs. When we announced that after my retirement we would move to (hopefully) a larger farm in upstated NY - a dam broke loose. For every supportive comment there were 20 negative ones. I'm not sure if people are frightened by our self-sufficiency or they feel inadequate because they don't do it. It baffles me. I've learned to knit and spin at an age problably older than most beginners (encouraged by you Jenna) and I am constantly assessing what else we can do to become more self-sufficient. Our community is rapidly becoming a bedroom community for Seattle and I'm sure that adds to the comments we get.

November 11, 2012 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Do friends and family who don't share your lifestyle think less of you for your choices? Do they think this is a passing fad with you?

At first some just thought I was being silly by continuing to do things such as garden after I got out of college and got a “real” job. These were the ones who see moving to the city and doing away with the agrarian as moving up in the world and they were sort of confused I was drawn to the rural areas still and raising my own food. Now they just enjoy benefiting from my surplus veggies, preserves, and homebrew stash and having dinner parties among the garden when they get the chance. Luckily most of my friends and family still lives close to the land now or did in the recent past. I don’t think they can imagine me not growing or raising something. I caught a lot of flack when I did decide to move to the city for a job, because people couldn't picture me in that setting—then they saw what I was doing in my backyard.

Do you think changes in our economy or lifestyle will demand a simpler lifestyle for Americans regardless of what they think?

Countless people I know are putting in gardens for the first time or starting to barter with people who do raise their own food. These are people who have no experience ever doing such things and suddenly they’re all into it. Organic is so ridiculously overpriced at the store that some are saying they’re just going to do it themselves where they can. Think it’s a combination of things causing this, something deeper than the economy issues, but also impacted by the need to cut back on expenditures. I hear a lot that they've found its fulfilling.

Have you lost any friendships due to changing your life into one of agriculture?

I've made more friends that are likeminded the more I delve into things such as rabbits or bees or inquire about gardening solutions. Because I've always been this way I've never made a friend who doesn't know how I am already before they jump in.

How did you convince a spouse or children to get interested and involved?

Not applicable—free as a bird and can do whatever I like without consultation with another.

Where do you see Homesteading in ten years?

I would hope that more young people decide to become “educated” in this area and tackle it right away, instead of going into careers and then changing their minds and discovering homesteading or going into it having to educate themselves. I would think this would add depth to “homesteading” and insure its expansion and have a lasting impact on how we live in this country. But it doesn't really matter at what stage people decide to start living a simpler life and being more sustainable. Also, hope homesteading will make local the norm.


Lastly, do you have any advice or a personal story that could help inspire or encourage a beginner?

Do what you can where you are like Jenna’s always advocating and think of it as preparation for doing things on a larger scale someday, learn everything you can about everything and find mentors, plan to add dimensions into your homestead slowly—don’t bite off more than you can chew, and I know I've personally decided to sacrifice living exactly where I want to for a few years in order to take a job that would allow me to save up enough to buy property outright and get started without debt so that money isn't a constant downer on my “homestead” way of living. It was rough at first, but I believe it has added to the richness of my life immensely and the reward will be worth any sacrifice 100 fold.

November 11, 2012 at 6:02 PM  
Blogger Daisy Farm said...

I don't have time to worry about what other people think of me. If I am judged by: the type of car (1997 Honda Odyssey) I drive, shoes I wear ("vintage" shoes made in the USA), purse I carry (used Coach handbags made in NYC), IF I go to a salon to have my hair cut (no), why I don't dye my hair (why?), why I don't care about their opinions, then I guess these people aren't really of interest to me. I have always been my own person. For awhile, I lost myself in a destructive marriage but found myself again. My kids are better for it. I lead by example. Hard work is a blessing and a privilege. I consider it a gift that I am able to "farm" my suburban property and hang my laundry outside to dry. Haven't used a dryer in six years. I smile when I see my daughter's new house and backyard -- with a wash line.

November 11, 2012 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger missliss40 said...

I live in a once rural town that is slowly becoming a suburb of a city. If you live in a subdivision, you cant have any livestock at all, and have to have 3 acres to have chickens. I think too many people are becoming too snooty when it comes to their neighbors wanting to provide alittle of their own food. Its fine to have a garden, but you better make it neat and tidy and cant have any kind of shed that isnt attached to the house. They like to take their kids to the petting zoo, but a milk goat in next yard is totally unacceptable. Unless you live way out in the country, you cant afford acreage, any available land is slated for more subdivisions or strip malls and taxes are outlandish. I would just like to have 5 to 10 acres to grow my families vegetables and chickens for eggs and meat, a goat for milk and cheese. But it is almost an unacceptable life style in the part of the country that I live in.
My friends and family know me well enough to know that this is a lifestyle I want to pursue and they support it. My new husband is all for it. We are both creative, passionate, frugal, diy, people, homesteading just seems a natural lifestyle for us. Our goal is to have a small farm to provide food for our family and some income for ourselves. I hope our family, friends, and neighbors will benefit from it.

November 11, 2012 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

I love having my hands in dirt! I'm lucky that NL is not too bad. We can have 3 hens in the city but no rooster. Even though,it always amazes me how many people think you don't get eggs if there is no rooster. I've had to use my iPad more than once to explain chicken sex with diagrams.
I don't think I was ever in the root cellar, I've always had a garden where ever I go,even if it was just chives and other herbs in containers on a window ledge. I'm also the person who feeds my hungry friends so I think people expect me to be the earth mother hippy type even though I'm an old heavily tattooed punk rock grrl. In fact , I think tat sometimes I'm less of a root cellar type than they expect,lol..

November 11, 2012 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I find that family and friends really wonder how I will do all the work of the farm, that I bought in May 2012. Well, came home tonight after 2 long days of caulking and insulating while keeping an eye on my 4year old (lota of abc songs!) and still am alive and kicking! You do what you need to do to gain the homesteading life you want. City gardening just wasn't enough for me, even with a 15 tree orchard. Farming gets in your blood, a fact few people "get". I feel that as gas prices/food prices escalate local farmer's markets will become more and more valuable. And if the system crashes those who can raise food will be well set.

November 11, 2012 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I find that family and friends really wonder how I will do all the work of the farm, that I bought in May 2012. Well, came home tonight after 2 long days of caulking and insulating while keeping an eye on my 4year old (lota of abc songs!) and still am alive and kicking! You do what you need to do to gain the homesteading life you want. City gardening just wasn't enough for me, even with a 15 tree orchard. Farming gets in your blood, a fact few people "get". I feel that as gas prices/food prices escalate local farmer's markets will become more and more valuable. And if the system crashes those who can raise food will be well set.

November 11, 2012 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Great post, Jenna. I grew up in a rural area in TN and my husband in the TN Appalachians. Both families grew large gardens and my family had horses, goats, dogs, and barn cats, one who lived her entire 23 years on the property.
We were fortunate to have lived several places in the US nad Europe. We moved back to rural TN and started to build a house with plans for a wood stove.
My dad was VERY against the stove stating "This is how I take out the ashes", adjusting the thermostat on the wall. I heard so much about the stove, I finally had to say he could call the shots when he was paying for the house.
We have heated with wood 17 years, even after moving back to the family home in a rural tiny hamlet, still in TN.
We have a large garden, 250 gallon rain barrel, small orchard, cows on the property, and a shop where my husband builds fine furniture and refinishes for our house. I preserve food, make soap, quilt, knit,ect., and we occasionally use coal oil lamps. My brother-in-law thinks this is somewhat weird but never turns down any veggies.
There are several large farms that provide a living for families. Also more small homestead-like farms. So many people here live the country life and have many skills that allow this way of living.
We have part-time jobs that allow us live on the homestead. Most of our products are used in the household. And we able to be very indepedent.
I encourage anyone who has an interest to give country living a try. But be a good neighbor.

The Phony Farm, rural Middle TN

November 11, 2012 at 11:18 PM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

It seems like every 30 yrs or so, homesteading has a resurgence of interest. For some, it's a passing fad (which makes me worry for all those backyard chickens and goats). For others, it's a new way of life that they will pass respect for into their children. Growing up, my grandfather raised turkeys and he and my grandmother grew gardens that put local nurseries to shame. They harvested crops, stored them in a root cellar and fed the lot of us at Thanksgiving and Christmas with their own veggies (and there are 6 kids in my Ma's family-at the time, most had kids of their own)!

Growing my own food was never an odd concept, but I thought it strange that most of my family thought I was off my nut about a mile when I started raising chickens. Why was it acceptable for my grandfather to raise turkeys in the 70's, but weird for me to raise chickens in the current era? And I realized it was because we had become so reliant on the local grocery store that farming my own food was so far outside what had become the norm to my family!

Now that they've seen the light, my aunt has chickens and my sister (who is 8yrs older than me) just got chickens and nobody thinks its that weird that I eventually would like sheep and a cow...and quite possibly a few pigs.

Just having the courage to ignore what everyone else is saying is this first step in coming out of the root cellar, because eventually those people come around, or they don't; hopefully you don't have to live with them!

November 12, 2012 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

It has changed my life in such a positive way. In college and for my first few years in the real world I was always waiting for the week or month to go by but without anything there waiting for me, as though I had no purpose to my free time and just wanted to get through it. Now as a homesteader I find the joy of life in the free time. Each month and holiday means something to me, I will plant, harvest, cook or sew something meaningful and practical for my family. I am deeply satisfied in the daily ness of lfe and find it to be my steadiness in my crazy life.

November 12, 2012 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger chesapeake said...

I've learned largely to keep my mouth shut when I'm feeling preachy and open it up again when I'm feeling positively passionate. Right now "all" I have are a few butternut squash plants (so beautiful) in containers (grown from seed from a squash from the farmers market), about two thousand earth worms, two huge buckets of grub-infested compost cooking outside, and a gallon of kombucha brewing on the countertop. My dad thinks it's disgusting when I talk about SCOBY mothers, so I bring it up a lot. Because it's funny. :-)

I absolutely think changes in the economy will force people to change. The only time I get scared about our future though, is not thinking in terms of financial loss. I fear for our topsoil and how much is going away. I LOVE talking about compost. I love compost like you love sheep. I see me and my husband in the future going in our tiny house on wheels (speaking of getting weird looks from people) from rented land to rented land, turning it from rocky soil into inches of lush loam topped with thick mulch and then leaving it behind for the owner.

I convinced my husband by showing instead of telling (so important). Mostly in the tiny house arena. He is all about living off-grid and independently now and taking our bills to almost nothing. We're building our own house with cash, building it ourselves with my husband's backbreaking labor. We have big plans and are well on our way. I find that shutting up and putting a smile on our faces while we live our dreams is the best way to convert other people. They see the results, which are so much more convincing than the journey when you look in from the outside.

November 12, 2012 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Roslyn Phipps said...

My grandparents had a farm for awhile as I was growing up, and my husband grew up beside his grandparents farm, so the idea of gardens and animals was not new to us. What was new was doing it ourselves. We now live on my grandparents farm and are trying to reclaim land that had been left to grow over for 35 years. Small steps are what I suggest to anyone starting out. Sure the varieties in seed catalogs all look wonderful, but start gardening on the small scale. Plant things you truly love to eat, then as time goes by experiment. The same for animals. We started with pigs and hope to add chickens and turkeys next year, then later on down the road, cows. Support from family and friends is wonderful, but don't let them deter you dream. Remember it's your dream not theirs. My dad recently said "I never thought as she grew up Booger would ever be a pig farmer, lot's of things came to mind, but that was not one of them." He may not understand my dream, but he supports it. In ten years we hope to be even more self sufficient than we are now. If we can grow and raise it, we know that it is better for us, and we don't have to rely so much on large chain stores. The best benefit is the time we spend together working on things, it makes our marriage stronger.

November 12, 2012 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger missliss40 said...

I need to make an update to my earlier comment. In my small town, 20 miles outside of Milwaukee, there was a board meeting tonite to vote on the issue of keeping chickens and bees. It was voted that you have to have atleast one acre to own either and if you live in a subdivsion, you cant have them at all. You can not have a male goat or a pig of anykind unless you have 20 acres. I think we are moving backwards instead of forwards!!!

November 12, 2012 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Trish said...

Ugh, I so want to have a hobby farm but I am afraid to make the move. It requires money that I don't have to just get started. I was married to a die hard city man, separated a few years ago but got caught up in debt and a low household income because of the separation. The dream seems further and further away as I get older...

Just talking about my dreams of self sufficiency to others and I get eye rolls and "yes dear's"

Unfortunately I do allow what others think of my dreams, to deter me.

November 14, 2012 at 3:55 PM  

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