Question: What do you visualize when you hear the phrase homesteading, self-sufficient or self-reliance? I’m willing to bet that many of you visualize a natural setting. Perhaps a loving family working hard together. Something between Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons, for those of you old enough to know those television shows. We often picture a family living off the land, tending to crops and animals while being…well…self-sufficient.
Some of you may even picture the rustic family from DirecTV’s “The Settlers” commercial. After all, even their agency seems to view homesteaders that way.
When we think of homesteading and living self-sufficiently, many positive notions come to mind. Being close to nature, family members working the garden together, the feeling of independence and freedom. Birds serenading as we sip our morning coffee. A family snuggling next to a wood stove as the snow falls.
But, as the DirecTV ad suggests, many people frown on the notion of homesteading. They relegate homesteaders alongside cavemen and imagine a life of poverty, excruciating work, isolation and sacrifice. Even suffering.
Of all the decisions we contemplated when we began farming a decade ago, choosing to farm livestock was the easiest. That meant we would care for livestock, and then eat animals we cared for.
There were four reasons why this path was so clearly right for us then, and continues to be today.
The first reason is that we love animals. All animals. One of the things we joked about when we first bought our sprawling acreage was that we could have as many pets as we wanted. Here I am holding one of our dogs back when we lived in a suburban HOA (when our clothes were always clean and I had an awesome head of hair) 🙂
My wife, Liz, is attracted to pet stores the way Winnie Mandela is attracted to shoes, so it was easy for us to dream of raising chickens, cows, pigs, sheep and any other animals we could get our hands on.
But if you love animals, you can’t eat them…can you?
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The idea of homesteading is not a new one as many newly minted “modern homesteaders” will point out. After all, as a species we humans seemingly mastered the art of living off the land long ago. We mastered fire, clothed ourselves, and even preserved the food we figured out how to grow so it could later nourish us.
These were remarkable advancements, but we didn’t stop there.
Mankind continually “evolved” to become more “leisurely.” We abandoned hunting skills, opting instead to crowd tens of thousands of animals into small yards and houses. Then, we dosed the animals’ feed with antibiotics so they would live long enough to reach slaughter weight.
We traded fire for HVAC systems to the point where most people today have trouble starting a fire. We abdicated growing and preserving food at home to mega-farms and large corporations. Those vital skills have become near extinct for most citizens.
If you don’t think so, ask yourself this: when was the last time you made soap or operated a pressure canner?
Some say that Stamatis Moraitis forgot to die. The Greek war veteran was diagnosed by nine different American doctors with lung cancer in 1976. He was given six months to live and was encouraged to pursue aggressive cancer treatment. He declined and instead moved back to his native land of Ikaria.
Why? Funerals were much cheaper in Ikaria, Greece, from where he came from. He and his wife moved in with his parents, and he waited to die.
Then something incredible happened.