Growing a homestead life

Almost seven years ago, when we left the city to start a homestead life, I had such big dreams. Ones that I thought at the time were nice and simple too. I’d been dreaming them for a long time at that point… Growing my own food, watching free range chickens frolicking around, milking my own goats, raising and processing my own meat. I saw myself harvesting huge baskets of veggies, eggs coming out of my ears, and this simple, dreamy, romantic as tarnation life growing out of stunning soil. I saw myself being a heck of a lot smaller than 300 pounds while I was doing it too. I saw my wife and I, who had been successful in our former careers totally crushing this lifestyle. It would be all candlelit dinners of things we farmed and foraged, smiles and laughing… while we never fought about things like free range fowl or where to plant nut trees. It seemed so simple, I’d just step out from behind a computer screen and a life where I made a pretty darn decent sized paycheck, tuck my complete lack of understanding of a farm life in my back pocket and BAM! A homestead life would grow. Easy peasy. This organic farming thing was going to be simple! I just knew it! I mean come on now, we had four college degrees between us after all.

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Fast forward to now and to me… 150 pounds lighter, sitting on the semi-off grid 9.87 acre natural farming and permaculture homestead we own… finally being able to laugh, HARD, at myself for what has become the homestead truth of it all. That truth is, for us, that there is not much simple or easy about our real homestead life.  And in my humble opinion, anyone that tells you different – likely hasn’t been homesteading very long or has a situation that perhaps is a wee bit simpler–like a backyard homestead or a little raised bed garden, a house that has easy access to electricity, and a well paying outside job that pays the bills and the feed bills too.

So once again, it’s my homestead truth time. Homesteading the way we chose to do it is the hardest dang thing I have ever done in my life–making this transition and actually sticking it out, and detoxing 31 years of poor food and lifestyle choices out of my body. It’s been almost seven years since we first rented some land to try it and almost five since we bought our place. I had thought graduate school or my first few years of teaching college was hard long ago, but it now seems like a breezy vacation in comparison to the schooling I got on this homestead. Not to mention, that I’ve been doing this long enough now to know that there is no end in sight to the learning–It will likely take me until I’m 80 years old to truly tap into understanding the things I want to on this natural farm. It won’t be something I can get figured out in one season or one year… I’ll be a student of it forever and likely never consider myself be an expert. I’ll probably never get a degree handed to me for being a student of natural farming.

The stress of making this transition has almost sunk me at points. I’ve full on had crying ass meltdowns over homestead messes, chickens killing my kale or stepping in poop on my porches, having to go milk when I was sick or had nasty cramps, the fact that everything under the sun likes to eat ducks and chickens as much as I do, mexican bean beetles and squash borers, having to wash my dishes in a rubbermaid tote or my hair in a stock pot or most often–my total naivety of where I stood in the beginning and all the mistakes I made then that I’ve been paying for for years at this point. And I wasn’t alone in it either–there’s two of us….that have to talk about it all, and agree on it all too. We’ve been together eight years now–we have an unbelievable amount of love for each other and a really strong marriage. But that sure never kept us from having knockdown drag out holler fests over where the fruit and nut trees should get planted or if free range chickens were a good idea or not after I found one standing on my outdoor kitchen’s counter. (She pooped on it too, btw. TMI you say? Yeah, I thought so too while I was scrubbing it down!)

So, why is this normally positive as all tarnation permie farmer spouting all this negative juju to you this morning?

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Because, even with all the tough bits that I thought would knock me flat on my face–I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the whole wide world. This homestead life fits me like a glove and I love it all the way down to my toes and back. It’s all I want and I’ve come to know at least one thing – I’ve not given up or given in yet, even with all the hard. And to me that means I still want this life more than I want ease or convenience, nice clothes, clean hair, or expensive things….having a homestead life that makes me healthy and happy is more important to me than any of that. Learning the skills I have here means the world to me. I can grow things, plant trees, and I finally feel like I have begun growing “the plant thing”. I can build soil like its going out of style. I know more wild plants than I ever thought I could just a few years ago, and I learn new ones and their uses all the time. I can butcher squirrels, rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and deer by myself and put every single piece to good use. I can look at most farm animals and tell if they are healthy or not. I can cook or preserve just about any food that lands in my kitchen. I can start fires with a bow drill and do my very best cooking best with wood. I’ve helped build simple timber framed cabins. I can stomp cob like a champ. I’ve slept in primitive structures we built in 20 degree weather and finally don’t think I’d freeze, starve or totally panic if I got lost in the WNC woods. And I’m so dang grateful and excited for the thought that I can’t even imagine the skills I’ll have in another 7 years, or all the years (that by the grace of God) will come after that.

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This homestead, it’s what helps me take responsibility for making myself happy and continues to help me find my healthier self too. It provides over 80% of my practically paleo diet, it gives me exercise, sunshine and fresh air. It will be what helps me to keep the weight off that I shed a few years back and be as healthy as my doctors say I am now. It helps me stay sane while my partner and I navigate the 16804064_1446719112045668_875209610003180303_otough conversations and grow better communication skills. I fall in love harder every single day with myself, her, our land, and this process too. A real homestead life helps me find resolution, patience, and fortitude too. The chickens free range, and the poop doesn’t always make me have panic attacks. I’m just grateful for the nitrogen and keep several old brooms close.

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So, there’s the real homestead truth. It’s a hard transition to make….it’s a hard working life to choose to live. It’s learning from mistakes and growing because of them. It’s having to want and love this life more than anything else you might want to do with your time. But man, let me tell you, if you do want it, if you do love it – I’ve found it to be the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done with my life. We always finally do agree, and the trees get planted. The gardens get bigger and prettier every year. We learn, we live, we laugh a lot, we love… we homestead. And we never stop growing or being grateful for it. 

-the farmer (who now has to go help plant five black walnut trees… after it taking two full days for us to agree on where to put them… ;-p ) 

{And of course, like all things on this blog – these are just my opinions I’m sharing here! None of this may ring true for other folks! I’m sure there are people that have homestead lives that are simple or that eased into this transition with no problems or panic. That’s just not how it went for me personally, and I’ve always tried to be super honest about that on here and when folks visit the farm!}

One thought on “Growing a homestead life

  1. I’m so grateful to you and your partner for sharing your lives with me and the rest of the world. I long to live as you do….just can’t see my way to it. My husband is very I’ll, chronically ill..we moved to south Carolina searching for something simpler, healthier..and to be quite honest, haven’t found it. I know working in the soil soothes me, heals me, I’ve started planting my garden….and I’m looking forward to the day when I can do it full time. I wish you and your love every joy imaginable..thank you again for continuing to share your lives with me
    Sincerely,
    Chimene Taylor

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