We often hear people say that they want to move out of the city because they want to raise their children in the country. Homesteading has taught us many lessons and strengthened our moral resolve more than I ever thought it could.
We were completely disconnected to things as basic as where our food came from or the changing of the seasons. It may seem strange to someone used to the fast pace of city life, but the quiet peace “out here” and the repetition of each day as we care for ourselves, our land and our animals creates a full life. It has taught us that there is no need for shopping, the latest video games, vacations, or fancy dinners out. Instead, we never want to leave the farm!
One of the most valuable lessons we’ve learned is that you can make your own entertainment. We walk in the woods, watch the antics of the chickens, make crafts, or bake when we have some free time. I recall a family visit when all the children spent the day visiting the livestock guardian puppies and making jewelry out of peacock or turkey feathers rather than sitting in front of the television.
For children and adults alike, the homestead teaches us that hard work pays off. I spent many hours weeding in the garden this year and we were rewarded with delicious and nutritious vegetables. The cabbage grows larger when it doesn’t have to compete for water with the weeds. The carrots grow straighter without competition for nutrients and there are less pests without the protection of the weeds where they could hide from the birds.
December is not planting time for us but the garden still needs maintenance. Knowing your hardiness zone paired with a planting guide let’s you know if it’s safe to plant. Check yours out here.
We are enjoying pots of slow cooked greens with an added ham hock for flavor. If you want to learn how to cook greens, then try this recipe. When there is an abundance, we blanch and freeze the greens for later on.
We also learn that solid preparation can carry you through the dark days. As the weather turns cold we know that the plants will stop growing. They will conserve their energy that is stored in their roots and lay dormant until the warm days of spring when they will come back to life.
In order to be prepared for winter we spent many months gathering home grown herbs and making tinctures that will heal us from the sore throats and colds that winter may bring. Mountain Rose Herbs can teach you how to make a tincture too. We have preserved mullein for coughs and respiratory infections, echinacea to boost immune systems when we’re feeling run down, marshmallow to soothe a sore throat, and sage to dry up a runny nose just to name a few. Pair that with the honey we collected from the bees a couple of months back and we have all the medicine we should need.
The shorter days of winter bring us more free time on our hands. There are less chores to do since the chickens aren’t laying eggs and the grazers are eating hay.
Also the weather can be wet and rainy so we spend more time indoors. When you’re homesteading you find this time to be invaluable. Sure, we spend some time watching movies and surfing the Internet, but this is really our time for learning. Each winter we inevitably decide there is some new skill we’d like to learn or some project we’d like to tackle. Knowing that the busy days of spring are just ahead and appreciating the idle time that you have in winter is a valuable lesson to learn.
For example, a few winters ago Liz was determined to teach herself to knit. She began learning on the Knifty Knitter and made scarves, hats, and socks for Christmas gifts. It was like knitting on training wheels, but we’re now stocked with books, Internet videos, and lots of yarn and she learned to knit just like Grandma used to!
The lessons that we take from nature are the most valuable lessons of all. There are so many opportunities for children to learn about life on a farm. One thing that we have learned we can count on is that nature provides a balance. Last month we butchered one of our heritage turkeys as we do every Thanksgiving. It’s always hard to say good-bye to the full grown turkeys at Thanksgiving time, especially since we have known them since hatching, but we take solace in the fact that we gave them a great life, one with purpose, and that by raising heritage breeds we are ensuring that their breed continues on rather than becoming extinct. We have come to expect there is balance in life and know that whenever a life is taken, it never fails that another is given. We’re reminded of this when we’re rewarded with a new baby calf! Life goes on one way or another.
The country has much more to offer than just fresh air. Homesteading teaches us how to survive, how to live independently, and how to be happy. We can take lessons from nature and from the animals, but the most important lessons are ones we can learn from ourselves when we try something new and realize how capable we all are.
Homesteaders are some of the most productive and inventive people I know and these are valuable lessons for any family. Try to learn something new this week and involve your family!