Dear Fellow Homesteader, Beginning Homesteader, Farmers, Backyard Gardner, and DIY-ers,
I wish we could live with our yards and our acres back to back. So that the proverbial cup of sugar (or maybe you would prefer a spoonful of raw unfiltered honey) was just a snow path away, rather than texting or driving or connecting virtually. But here we are. And there you are…miles and miles away.
When we share our accomplishments hand in hand with our struggles we are humbled by the process. Homesteaders must, by definition, be the strongest, most humble people I know and be open to learning all the time. But, my friend, I write to you now to share and pat you on the back a little. It’s really hard work!
And it’s the most rewarding work I have ever done. This truly is a wonderful thing we all try to create for ourselves and to support our dreams and our families. Here’s the thing, though; YOU don’t have to do it all on your own to be a DIY-proud person. Don’t let the idea of doing it yourself, become just that – doing it alone.
I’m sure you have read books, magazines, gone to workshops, and maybe even had training in what you want to make, create, grow, and harvest at your homestead. Wonderful choices, I am sure and they can be very valuable. To each their own, of course. But sometimes I think I get stuck on figuring it all out on my own.
Aha, but that was a panicked lesson I learned with the first animals we got on our homestead. I tore through the books, the forums, and the blogs searching for what to do with the baby chicks. Why were they poking each other like that? I just wanted to know if they would really start hurting each other at such a young age and they were my first babies so of course I thought they were perfect until they were really brutal and funny looking… I attempted calling my neighbor who I had met once on the street in passing with small talk, but she had goats. Did she know about chickens? No one answered and I didn’t know how to quickly draft that message, “I’m freaking out about my chickens? Call me back?” I could have called the State cooperative extension and reached their local representative who knows about farming, animal husbandry, poultry, and livestock, but I really felt like I would be asking the silliest question in the world and they would laugh at me. And I bought them so I should know what I was doing – shouldn’t I?
So, I called my friend. I justified it by the fact that she loves animals and has her own menagerie. She giggled with me and said all that I needed to hear. Are they eating, are they drinking? If you see blood, call me back. They’re just figuring out where they are and what they can do, and “you’re going to be fine.”
In this life I have dreamed up and jumped into with my husband and family, we can do it ourselves. We probably will for the most part, and that’s just the stubborn attitudes we have for wanting to make it our own home, farm, and life. Books can bring you so far, and tutorials can lead you through the things you never would have imagined doing before. Determination is a wonderful thing, just don’t let it get in the way of your learning from being humble and asking someone to show you another way.
Yet, when you find someone else who gets all fired up talking about their homesteading escapades, something amazing happens. You do it on your own, filled with pride, learning lessons – but here is someone who understands, and who speaks that same language. For maybe one of the first times, you don’t have to explain why you do what you do (homesteading, raising your own animals, cooking from scratch, fill in your own awesomeness here). Seek these people out. Courting these new friends is tough work but valuable. No one needs to be a perfect fit that is impossible. These hardworking and quirky people are hard to meet up with too because sometimes they just won’t leave their work and land, even for a cup of coffee. But they will get you, even if you have chickens and they have sheep. You will remind them of why they got that piece of property and cut down every tree themselves, without a chainsaw. And they will help you remember to trust yourself. They make us laugh with their farm stories of newbie mistakes and the year they had the best jam ever, when cooked it on the gas range when the power went out because of the hurricane. Hurricane Jam 2009!
They remind us of why we started down this crazy path to begin with and help us finish the lovely homemade cider, cool and effervescent on a hot summer evening as we sit back, laughing at our dogs and children race around the yards.