The Case for Homesteading

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Editors Note: The following guest article has been generously contributed by Matt Sevald.

Recently, Pat Henry wrote more thought-provoking articles concerning the motivations of preppers wishing for an aptly named “reset” event. He rightly addressed their desire for no one to be harmed as well as their desire to (re)discover more meaning in their lives, while not glossing over the harsh realities of life off the grid. As I’ve told him before, I have noticed a pattern of his articles specifically targeting thoughts bouncing around in my head so often I believe it is more by Design than it is fortuitous, and so it is with this subject. I too am one who yearns for a reset event without calamitous upheaval. But why and is there another way?

Preppers stockpile water, food, security, and health care items for TEOTWAKI or even a lesser SHTF event. This is wise, but it does nothing to address the angst in the hearts of those seeking meaning in their lives. The argument could be made the meaning preppers are searching for is the ability to satisfactorily provide for their families, to which I say is only one side of the coin for people such as myself. What’s missing is a sense of genuine accomplishment in day-to-day living – a sense what I do matters in the grand scheme of things. This is not ego in a grandiose way such as building the pyramids or being wealthy or famous; rather I have been a productive human being, have not squandered my time here, and have improved the lives of those around me. I seek to feel and to be useful and to be in charge of my own life by living deliberately.

 

(Originally in this part of the article I wrote about 800 words detailing my disdain for the rat race aspect of my job, my frustration with the economy, and my revulsion towards the decay of American society and government overreach [reasons to wish for societal reset] but no matter how I edited it I sounded like a whiny Communist angry at “the man”. My thoughts are much more complex, but suffice to say, I hate the way our country has made it quite difficult for a person to be his own master. I have thus omitted it in order to better focus on the benefits of homesteading.)

Above I cited the Wikipedia reference for Walden by Henry David Thoreau which also succinctly summarizes the chapter “Baker Farm” thusly:

While on an afternoon ramble in the woods, Thoreau gets caught in a rainstorm and takes shelter in the dirty, dismal hut of John Field, a penniless but hard-working Irish farmhand, and his wife and children. Thoreau urges Field to live a simple but independent and fulfilling life in the woods, thereby freeing himself of employers and creditors. But the Irishman won’t give up his aspirations of luxury and the quest for the American dream.

I agree with Thoreau and see most of us as John Field caught in the rat race because we’ve been promised that piece of cheese. I would choose to do with less if I could start over; yes, I would choose to work smarter, not harder. As I have entered my thirties I have realized what key element is missing from my life: the lack of real, tangible freedom to be my own master. You see, the regular work-a-day world is like slot cars. You keep going, don’t rock the boat, and eventually you’ll reach the end. SOSDD as we used to say in the military. We’re pretty much expected to toil away to make other people rich (help them fulfill their dreams) while they toss us paltry wages to keep us appeased. If you can save enough from the tax man to eke out a little fun here and there, the tax man will be sure to reap the remainder from your heirs when you die.

GardenSigns

I don’t believe this is the way we’re supposed to live for several reasons. First and foremost as a Christian, I believe the Bible shows us God’s intended plan: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” Gen. 3:19. I believe this means we’re supposed to physically toil for our daily bread. Does your job require toiling? If it doesn’t, I bet you have a desk job like mine – one which is entirely unhealthy and killing us as we spend 1/3 of each day doing it. We abuse caffeine, get bathed in electromagnetic fields, sit, snack mindlessly, stare at computer screens (I have five), take work home / don’t leave work at work, use mobile devices, and wear ear buds (a double whammy). I don’t believe God intends for us to get cancer from the work which He commanded us to do, yet I can sure believe it’s a consequence for us deciding yet again to do things our own (“easier”) way.

Secondly, even if there is no God or no mandate to till the earth, our western way of life is not sustainable. Most preppers acknowledge this and see a complete collapse as a real possibility because of it. Going back to the articles which inspired me to write this one the discussion of “bug-in vs. bug-out” was breached and I’m throwing my hat into the ring on behalf of team homesteading. It’s sort of the best of both worlds in that: a) it’s your home so you don’t have to go anywhere unless under direct threat because; b) you’re probably somewhat removed from urban centers right from the get-go.

My third consideration is both providing for my family and for my own personal fulfillment as a human being – not ego, mind you, but the peace one finds in doing what he knows is right and good in life. Living the homestead life is work. Not work like you go to work, living is your work. You work all day from sun up to sun down so that you can eat for that day or the next. I’m not talking about hand-to-mouth, per se, but there’s not much room for error unless you’ve got a good root cellar full of wonderful meat and vegetables you’ve canned after you hunted, fished, or farmed. One might ask what’s so fulfilling about that, to which I say if I am going to work all day it might as well be for my family’s direct benefit, rather than to help someone else attain their dream in exchange for after-tax fiat currency.

RaisingChickens

It is for these reasons that I see homesteading as a viable method to rediscover purpose without a massive die-off related to a reset event. I’m also not talking about going back to the middle ages (though I do have a great desire to do so myself and would in a heartbeat via living history museum if I could). I’m not above using a gas chainsaw over an axe. Modern amenities can make life easier and even speed your progress towards your prepping goals. Three years ago I caught a stomach bug and was out of commission for three days. After unrelenting bouts of nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, fever, and all the other pleasantries I wanted to do nothing else but die. I had the conveniences of modern hydration, medicine, a warm and safe place to sleep, television and a loving wife who nursed me with all the kindness of an annoyed porcupine, but I was ready to end it all to escape the misery. I don’t want to be without modern medicine and have to cauterize a wound with a red hot knife, a biting stick, and some whiskey. But what I wouldn’t mind is knowing how to sew up a small wound and have the peace of mind that I could do those things if I really had to – whether to save my own life or that of someone in my family.

Many TV shows show us (often contrived) homesteading scenarios. One of the better ones, in my opinion, is Alaska: The Last Frontier. It follows the 2nd – 4th generations of the Kilcher family on their land in Alaska. What I like about this show is the constant work the families are shown doing from mucking chicken coops, to thawing frozen tundra to dig a new outhouse hole in the middle of winter because they slacked in the summer, to smoking fish, to making soap. Yes, it’s TV and designed to entertain, but there is truth shown here ready to be gleaned by the keen observer. I don’t think I’m ready to jump on the rewilding bandwagon just yet, but even they can teach us something.

What are your thoughts on homesteading? Is it realistic? More hype than substance? Are you too late in the game to attempt it?

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20 Comments on "The Case for Homesteading"

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the_ground_up
Guest
Love the article. You absolutely took the nagging feeling I was trying to explain in my own head and laid it out for me. I have had this small voice trying to wake me up now for 6 years and have almost completely accepted it on all fronts. starting out I thought about myself “oh man what are you thinking you are crazy, normal people don’t think like this” to “oh my gosh why won’t everyone wake up you are all crazy, and for goodness sake turn off mtv”. it has been a 6 year transformation or Divine Intervention as… Read more »
usmarinestanker
Guest

Thanks ground_up; I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think you’ve got your feet on solid ground. Keep doing your thing and live by example. Those who are ready to listen will, and those who aren’t, won’t – but that doesn’t have to stop you. Work hard for your goals and live wisely.

JoyfulSteph
Guest

I too find myself yearning to toil in the soil so to speak. There is no reason why my humble little 5 acres in Oregon couldn’t be more of a homestead. Rabbits, Chickens, Pigs & Bees Oh My. Thanks for all the work you and your followers put into offering resources and opinions.

Arita
Guest
My thoughts on homesteading? It’s for the young, healthy couples. Although I very much agree with the lifestyle, it would be near impossible for older people without considerable savings and good land to consider. It also works best for couples and families, but I am not sure this would not be possible for older folks no longer able to do the physical work required. Perhaps for elders, a viable alternative would be coops, but still, if not able to contribute as much as others and needing medical help, I’m not sure that would work out for anyone for long. So… Read more »
usmarinestanker
Guest
Thanks Arita. I think you’re right. Usually we only see older people homesteading if it’s something they’ve been doing forever already. Additionally, they also usually have grown children living on the same property or close by, or they live in a small community and get support that way. One of my dream goals is to bring my in-laws with us to a property whenever we’re fortunate enough to begin homesteading. My mother-in-law has expressed interest in living closely and I want to be able to take care of them. They’re in their 50’s and 60’s but have offered to take… Read more »
JD
Guest

All these nagging feelings and conflicted desires are addressed by NeoVikings, http://www.NeoViking.com Serve a hitch in the Terraformers, http://www.Terraformers.Neoviking.com, and become a NeoViking, and quit worrying about the past and start planning for the future.

Larry
Guest
Having been raised on a small family farm, this brought back quite a few nostalgic memories. Thank you. It also, however, reminded me of why such a scenario is ultimately unworkable for anyone not independently wealthy: property taxes and/or zoning. It’s clear that in the modern age no one of us ever really owns the house they occupy or the property they live on. If you don’t believe me, try not paying property taxes to your state/county/municipality and see what the official response is. I also read several stories last year about people being brought to court by their town/city… Read more »
usmarinestanker
Guest
Larry, thanks so much for your input. I am in the process of talking to as many people with genuine homestead and small farm experience as I can and your words are not falling on deaf ears. I share your concerns about taxation and code enforcement/nuisance issues that municipalities burden their citizens with – the price for large concentrations of people living closely. But as far back as ancient times, societies have taxed the land their farmers worked either through a percentage of crop/herd yield or as money. Have overall taxes become worse since you were in this environment? As… Read more »
Lawrence Black
Guest
Thanks for the response, Matt. And thanks for your service. To answer your question, property taxes have gone up since I first contemplated reviving the family farm when I graduated back in ’81. Although at a little over $5K for 100 acres they’re still low compared to urban and suburban property, it’s not the only roadblock. When my grandfather died, the farm was already in decline. We eventually had to have the old post & beam 3-story barn taken down because of threats to the house. The machinery was sold off earlier to help pay debts and taxes due. When… Read more »
Lawrence Black
Guest

Hey, Matt. A thought occurred to me after I woke up this morning that a great place for you to get information on small-scale, low-tech farming/homesteading might be the Amish & Mennonite communities in the Midwest and Pennsylvania.

usmarinestanker
Guest

Thank you much. They are on my radar and I would like to do some work study with them for a season at some point. As I get older their ways and community seem more and more the way I want to live, but with acceptance of technology.

the_ground_up
Guest
Larry, i am only 28yrs old and help my dad with the family farm. I didn’t understand it when i was young but now looking back i can understand the hardships that my mother and father went through trying to make ends meet back in the early – mid nineties. My mother stayed home full time and raised all five of us kids. I know that our struggles may not be near the hard times that past generations went through and i know this through stories from my grandfather and great grandfather as they were both farmers. Now it is… Read more »
Lawrence Black
Guest
I wish you all the best. A distant neighbor has gone organic (took him a long time to satisfy the state & get his bona fides) and now raises grass-fed milk cows and a couple beef which he sells to friends and family. We allow him to harvest hay on a parcel of land for free and he gives us a good deal on a half beef each fall and bush hogs as much of the property as he has time for. As I told Matt, reviving the property as a working farm just isn’t feasible. At least, not right… Read more »
The_ground_up
Guest
Thank you for the well wishes. I will admit that I have a leg up by being born into the place where I am now. I have just been spending the last few years trying to get everything converted over to where we can Operate in an off grid event. We are very low maintenance to begin with so its not a big switch. Unlike many of my neighbors I wish we had more people in our area to compete with. It is truly a form of farming that is solely dependent on hard work and ingenuity, not the CBOT.… Read more »
usmarinestanker
Guest
This is a great discussion gents. I wouldn’t even know what to do with 2,000 acres. Out here in Utah the ranchers just let the scrawny cattle wander the BLM sagebrush for months on end until its time to round them up for weather or for sale. I’m looking for around 40 acres myself, 1/4-1/3 wooded with a pond or a creek so as to live as organic or low impact as possible. The foodstuffs would be kept for our use alone or bartering and we’d find some other way to generate the cash flow we need. Ideally, I’d even… Read more »
The_ground_up
Guest
The soil salinization is a major issue and a sad one at that. our farm is in the Midwest on some of the most “productive” ground on earth. Year after year the farmers are unknowingly destroying the very thing that they rely on for their existence. I will do some reconnaissance in the spring with a shovel just to compare our fields with the neighbors and its a night and day difference. Each shovel on our fields is full of worms and bugs and has a very rich smell almost sweet. Their fields are almost void of all life. It… Read more »
edthegrocer
Guest

You need higher fences. The deer will clean you out. Just sayin’

usmarinestanker
Guest

I was contemplating that myself. I believe it is a stock photo that Pat adds to brighten up the article.

Pat Henry
Guest

It was just a stock photo, although any deer in my garden (in this scenario) would be quickly dealt with.

Pat

NRP
Guest

“Freezer Meat” as we like to call four legged invasive critters.

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