Friday, May 2, 2014

How Homesteading Changes Us

I want to write a series of essays on how living this way has changed me. Meaning, living authentically in my chosen lifestyle. I'm a homesteader and have found a way to immerse myself in my farm and writing as a full-time gig. And it has certainly changed how I think about topics, some 180 degrees differently.

So, for the past few months I have sat down at this computer and started a blog post titled "How Homesteading Has Changed Me." It would include everything from how I think about politics to how I buy clothes. It's a manifesto, really. A long post on how small choices and changes in my life lead to this farm, and how living this unconventional life on 6.5 acres has transformed me in ways I can't even fully comprehend. I think a lot of you can relate, or want to relate. Keep reading because I have a request for you guys to help me get through this. Because every time I sit down to write it, it is too much. Too much. I have not found a way to get it all down in one chunk. I end up writing about something as mundane as driving into town and it becomes 1,000+ words on sock choices and errands. And I know that sounds ridiculous but that is how much this life has changed me. Sock choices matter. Like, really matter.

So I want to write about how things have changed. Topics as varied as vegetarian-turned-meat-farmer to how I vote in elections now. Topics on personal things like dating and being a single woman in a world of mommy blogs and married farm teams online. I want to write about how my opinions have changed on food, clothing, shopping, entertainment, travel, and so much more. But more importantly I want to know what you want to hear about? What questions do you have for someone six years into homesteading that you might anticipate? DO any of these topics interest you? What else would you want to hear about?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will read what ever you post. You are a talented enough writer, with a busy life, to make anything interesting. Looking forward to reading more!

May 2, 2014 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

thank you lemon but do any interest you more than others?

May 2, 2014 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

How you spend your dollars. Do you order things online? Do you set foot in a grocery store anymore, and if so, what do you buy?

I feel your writer's "unblock," as it were...I recently sat down to write about food memories, and realized I could ramble on for days without coming to a point. Good luck on this project. It sounds like a tough one to wrangle, but I know you can do it.

May 2, 2014 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Controlled Jibe said...

Hi Jenna,
What a great idea. My husband and I are transitioning from a sailboat cruising lifestyle to a farm/homestead one. We are only a few months in and there are a ton of topics that I would love to hear about from your experienced eye:
- Setting realistic expectations / how they changed with time and experience
- How relationships with others have evolved (friends, family, neighbors)
- Any financials (expenses/income) that were significantly different than you were expecting
- Your changed connection with food
- Your changed sense of community, both in person and online

Okay, I could obviously go on, but I'll stop there! We're looking forward to your next installments!

- Katie

May 2, 2014 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger The Morrissey said...

You started with the sheep but would you pick a different animal (with four legs) to start with if you went back? For example goats could lead to milk, cheese, yogurt, etc that you could sell for a bigger portion of the year for income versus wool or ram lambs.

May 2, 2014 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Joshua Tolley said...

Speaking as one who's getting increasingly into politics now that he and his family are kinda sorta homesteading in the middle of nowhere, I'm interested in your political views. Moving from the suburbs to the fields quickly taught us both that 1) the government isn't there to help you, but 2) your neighbors are, especially if 2b) you're also there to help them when they need it. One neighbor of mine put it nicely: "Living out here, we all know what it's like to be stuck. So when people are stuck, you help them."

May 2, 2014 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I think you live in a farming community where what you do is considered "normal". I don't so people cringe when I say I'm going to butcher rabbits this weekend or the idea that I would rather sit here amongst my animals and all their poo instead of wasting money on entertainment elsewhere makes me different. I really hate leaving my house. I don't like driving in town. Shopping bothers me. I'm becoming some sort of hermit but I'm fine with it. I would like to know if people around you embrace what your doing or think it's weird. I know your fans love what you do but what about your family and people in your town. Do you feel unique in your community? People love to come over and look at the cute baby animals but no one I know would butcher their own chicken, take the time to plant a garden, or make anything from scratch. I only know 1 awesome woman who has tanned a rabbit hide. I've done it now and plan on saving up enough pelts to make a purse. I'm sure people will think it's strange but I will be able to pet my purse and my bunnies weren't wasted :))))

May 2, 2014 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Laylah said...

I'd love to hear about your feelings on approaching this life while single -- I'm also a single person embarking on the first steps toward homesteading and I think you're the only person I'm reading who is doing it without having a spouse on hand to share the challenge.

May 2, 2014 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

Getting closer to the land by growing food,keeping chickens, learning about growing and using herbs, eating local, has brought me far closer to the land than ever before right here in the city limits. For a while I pretended to be unchanged, but I am changed and now will tell anyone who wants to listen - most don't. But I've not figured out how to articulate it. So, looking forward to your well developed literary skills to do just that.

May 2, 2014 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

I am very in accord with what Kelly said about preferring to stay with her critters, poo and all, and not wanting to spend money on entertainment, etc. It can be isolating because not understood when you are not in a 'farm' setting. And with what others say about doing it as a single.

May 2, 2014 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Wandering Moose Farms said...

I would love to hear how you developed your relationships with your community. My family has been a part of this town for a very long time, but they weren't part of the community. Common Sense Farm, Tara and her husband, Brett - all the folks that you trade/barter with - how did it start?

May 2, 2014 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

thank you all! this is great feedback, keep it coming!

May 2, 2014 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

so far I am hearing: politics, living close to home/homebody and its taboo, community?

May 2, 2014 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Marlies said...

I too am interested in what you are writing about. There are times I do not want to leave home to run errands. I enjoy the spring peeps and listening to Mother Earth. There is comfort in the silence of country living.

May 2, 2014 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Tanya T said...

We are year 1 into our adventure and I agree - sock choices DO matter. We also never leave the house without our rubberized work gloves and usually - rubber boots. I'd like to know more about the pigs you raise for meat - how much do they cost to buy / feed? Is it worth the investment? More recipes. Have you considered canning? Do you store your potatoes / onions / carrots for the winter? How? Yeah pretty much just write and I'll read it.

May 2, 2014 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger jules said...

All of it, every little scrap, everything you said here and anything else. You are such an inspiration to me that nothing you can write about would bore me. I imagine that with the life you lead, you are never out of things to talk about or stories to tell. I'm up to any and all of them.

Thanks Jenna. You're the best.

May 2, 2014 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Northwest Girl said...

Hi Jenna,

I'm interested in knowing more about the differences between the storybook farmer and reality. Also I have been a bit surprised that you don't put up more food for the winter. Are you going to do any adventures in canning? Plus what used to matter more to you and how and why that has changed. Lastly, we are community too - besides money how can we help?

May 2, 2014 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger rubymay1029 said...

It sounds like you have another book in you that is going to come out one way or another. I suggest you give in to the book, outline your chapters and have at it. Some things are too important to be contained in a blog.

May 2, 2014 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger rubymay1029 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 2, 2014 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Ink and Dirt said...

I would love to see this come out as a book! I know that doesn't really help you much.

The vegetarian to meat farmer would be really interesting. But I would also like to read about how you made the shift from full time desk employee to full time at the farm. How did you keep it together? How did you make the money you needed? That's where I feel I'm at - no farm, but I can't figure out how to get the money flowing.

May 2, 2014 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Fr√łydis said...

I would love to hear about your sock choices! Really, anything and everything mentioned here so far.
Eating habit changes, social things, political thinking, doing it as a single person. I would love to know more about how you care for your animals, what you feed them and milking schedules and whatnot. I'm also a bit curious of what you actually grow, how much food you manage to produce and how stable it all has been from year to year. Do you ever have a really bad harvest? How does that work out?
You are very inspiring, and I greatly appreciate your blog updates. I feel my own barnfever burning a bit brighter with everything you post. :P

May 2, 2014 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Have been reading your blog for some years now and I'm amazed by the changes and the learning curve you set out for yourself. What I like to know is: What carries you? What keeps you going no matter what?

Thanks Jenna for all the inspiration given.

May 2, 2014 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Mary Wilson said...

I'm especially interested in sock choices, too. I think philosophy really lives in the details, and I love really specific posts that talk in really specific terms how you make the decisions you make, and how you decide what's important and what's an "oh, well, next time."

May 2, 2014 at 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna, I think anything you write on this topic would be inspiring. Why not make it a continuous series - you certainly won't stop changing.

I'd personally like to know what keeps you going in the hard times. As a long time reader, I know that you've had more than enough of hard times to have some fascinating advice on the topic. What keeps you going when all seems lost - too hard, too overwhelming and the deck stacked against you?

You stand out because you are actually doing something, living your dreams in front of all of us. It is really pretty amazing to watch. Keep going, you're doing great.

May 2, 2014 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger daisy g said...

To help folks like us who are working toward acreage and a farm of our own, putting things in the most efficient order. Animals, home repairs, gardening space.
Also, how you went about actually finding the spot you did. How you determined the region to settle in, how things came together for your purchase and how you reached out to others to learn your lifestyle. It all matters, and it will help someone, somewhere. I've learned so much from reading your blog, but more importantly, you have inspired me to further our journey toward starting a teaching farm. Thanks in part to you, we're gettin' there!

May 2, 2014 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger English sheep gal said...

Well, as others have said, I would enjoy reading about any of this, but I know you are looking for specifics.

I think my questions relate to changes about how you spend your time, attitude to 'having' to be there for example to milk the goat at set times of day.

When you lived in various other places, you still had quite a lot of freedom for travel, visiting other places, family stuff, whole days hiking to play dulcimer up in the mountains etc.

Although it is part of your lifestyle choice to add in all the livestock, and animals requiring training like Merlin & Italics, it also means being away from the farm, for any length of time is difficult. Does it feel like a sacrifice? Even to leave for 'work' such as when you were asked to be a speaker at the Mother Earth News Fair, or for 'fun' a family event, friends bridal shower, weekend at the beach.

I know you often write about the rhythm of your days at the farm - how this is what makes you happy, (how hard it was to fit in working full time and farming) but I wonder if not really wanting to leave the farm was how you always felt, or if there was an adjustment period - a feeling of resentment (not sure if that's the right word) at not being able to drop everything and head off on an adventure at short notice, without being so tied to CAF. Or if being able to be home at the farm as much as possible is what you always wanted, and you don't miss the freedom to travel etc.

May 2, 2014 at 8:45 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Hi, I think that people would like to learn from your mistakes. Write about the biggest regret, the best choice, the mistakes that you learned from, what prejudice you have found and how you dealt with those. Of course include the choices, and decisions that you work those are interesting to everyone.

May 2, 2014 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger Tam said...

Jenna, I think this should be your next book.

May 2, 2014 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Tam said...

Jenna, I think this should be your next book.

May 2, 2014 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I guess I'm curious about how your priorities have changed -- and that includes sock choice! (Other than as a fashion statement, socks aren't that important off the homestead). What things did you formerly think were important that you've gradually shed, or not even noticed you'd given up until they were gone and someone called your attention to it. What was replaced by animals, gardening and the focus you bring to homesteading?

May 2, 2014 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

Will definitely read absolutely everything, even 1000+ words about socks (maybe especially)...

I guess my main question would do you break the habits? I mean, I live in the middle of a big city, and like some other people are saying, it's not exactly a normal thing to want to rip up all those postage stamp green lawns, empty lots, and sidewalks and put in a goat shed, a chicken coop, and a garden. How do you do the thing??

Thanks for turning me on to GMM by the way, it never occurred to me to watch it (even though I've met R&L in person at VidCon!) but I'm going through the old ones now and they're pretty great.

May 2, 2014 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger Bottling Moonlight said...

I second (or third or fourth) the desire to know more about how you've built a local community. How did you meet like minded folk and how have you continued to grow that community? What was it like when you first moved there? Also, the details - definitely the details - of homesteading life. Lastly, I'd love to hear more about the changes in what your thoughts on consumption (both yours and society's).

May 2, 2014 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

I want to hear about how you do it as a single person. That is how I came to your blog to begin with, a link from another single woman homesteader. Your writing inspires me, and made me take on a few challenges I probably of would not have if not reading about your example first.

I don't have a "homestead" per say, but sock choice is very important to me. Comfort and warmth are always in style. I also try to buy only made in the U.S.A. clothing.

I also like hearing about your charming little outings in your community.

May 3, 2014 at 12:20 AM  
Blogger Francesca said...

I love all of your blog posts and books and every day I sit down at my computer and I am excited to hit the refresh button on your blog. Lots of ands in that sentence. Every day I see something new and inspiring on my screen, and I devour it whole. However, I would love more advice on how to get to where you, Jenna, are, imperfect as your position is. Necessary steps to take, both mentally and physically. Also, more information on your daily routine and what it takes to be a homesteader.

May 3, 2014 at 1:15 AM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

I spend my life alternating between Shakespeare and project management focusing on financial analysis, so I'd really like to get a better idea of a farm's financial plan. I know this is quite private and perhaps you won't want to lay it bare, but, for example, when you raise pigs, what's the ROI (Return On Investment)? What does it cost to buy and raise the pigs, versus how much meat you acquire? The same with chickens, rabbits, etc. How much does wood cost for a cord, and how many cords do you use a winter? How much is hay in your area, what does it cost to maintain horses, sheep, goats, etc. Everything the other readers are requesting would also be interesting to me, particularly how you created community once you moved to the new Cold Antler. Thanks, Jenna!

May 3, 2014 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger Sewing Machine Girl said...

How you make choices on time. What you do or don't do considering all the workload. What farm ideas happen or don't based on time available.

May 3, 2014 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Alix said...

I find whatever you write on interesting, because you are a good writer, but I love the homesteading and SCA aspects the best!

May 3, 2014 at 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally get the fascination with socks -- the right clothing for outside makes a *huge* difference in how pleasant (or safe) an activity is. I was particularly interested to hear about your kilt/jodhpur combo. (Don't have either at the moment, but love the idea.)

As a single woman in the process of saving up ... the single-person setting up of a farmstead is something I'd love to hear more about! Also, the things you feel you did right -- the "yes this was exactly the right thing to do first" things -- and the things you did wrong.

Also, how you prioritise your time. I'm in the process of trying to do a combination of writing/self-publishing/gardening/tutoring right now, and figuring out which task to do first and for how long is my biggest challenge at the moment. How do *you* figure out your priorities?


May 3, 2014 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

I am with Laylah and Dianna, please continue to share more about how you both find the courage and inspiration to go it alone. I am not giving up on my garden, chickens, pigs again soon, and agricultural based employment, nor do I want to quit on making sure my daughter can keep her horse (for which we clean stalls 6 days a week), but right now I am exhausted and feel like I failing instead of progressing. I would love to hear how you achieve some balance in all you do. Tam may be right this could be a book:)

May 3, 2014 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Personally, I would be interested in how you have dealt with all the responsibilities of a homesteader as a single woman.
A single woman myself, one of the toughest hurdles for me to start homesteading would be supporting the system on a one-person income (nevermind the stupid and outdated gender income gap to boot).
I would also be interested in how you changed your spending habits to get enough money to purchase your own land and farm. I would also be interested in how homesteading has changed the way you view time.

From what others have been asking as well, it looks like you may need to write another book to explain everything...perhaps in several volumes :)

May 3, 2014 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Nastasha Nelle' said...

How you deal with others attitudes toward your lifestyle (family, friends, etc.) and how you dealt with the transition into the lifestyle

May 3, 2014 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Anja said...

Hi Jenna, I love your blog. what I'd. love to read is how you build your community, how did relationsships with people change for the better or the worse, do you still shop online or just local or online but with small family run businesses, are you managing to store enough food frok the garden for the winter or do you buy, if/how your perspective changed to run the farm as a single. oh and of course how a vegetarian turned to become a farmer.
looking forward to hear from you

May 3, 2014 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

I'm with Karen Rickers on this. I would like to know more about the financial end of things. How you bring in money and how it is spent. I think it would be helpful for anyone contemplating quitting their job and homesteading as you do. Also, it would be interesting to know how you make the decision to do something the harder way (haul buckets rather than use hoses) and the easier way (buy wood rather than chop your own). Do you make your choices on cost? It would also be interesting to find out how much of your income comes from writing. Most of us here could not make their living writing, and we would have to find other ways to bring in an income. It's hard to leave the security of a job, yet most of us here have a serious case of barnheart.

May 3, 2014 at 6:54 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

It's so interesting reading these comments, because it seems like we would all have such different stories about how homesteading has changed (or would change) us. For me, I think the biggest thing will be about learning what real hard work is. Learning courage, coming of age, all that. I am personally more interested in the reflective, character-shaping parts, though of course are played out in the little sacraments of everyday life.... from picking socks to dealing with poop.

May 4, 2014 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Spruill Bros said...

Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this article plus the rest of the site is also good.

May 5, 2014 at 1:20 AM  
Blogger Back Achres said...

The political and dating would interest me the most. All would be read.

May 6, 2014 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Sanibel Gal said...

Hi - just popped over from Jon Katz's blog and love your stories and images. I am curious - how does one make enough of a financial living homesteading especially on your own. I am thinking of a life shift - just starting to think it all through and curious of financial feasibility!

May 11, 2014 at 9:47 PM  

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