One of the first questions I get when people hear we have a homestead is: what is a homestead?
That question is not so easy to define. Each homestead looks different to match the needs of the family it supports. If you think back to 150 years ago, a home had multiple purposes. Cars had not been invented yet. Stores were miles away. If you wanted something, you had two options: make it or do without.
Fast forward to now. We have stores on every corner, multiple cars in every garage, and more options than we can research. The irony is that many of us are living with too much. Too much food, too much weight, and too much stress. Enter homesteading into our lives. We are striving to lead a purposeful life filled with experiences, not stuff. Below you will find our top ten reasons we homestead.
#1 - More family time.
As our four kids are growing up faster than we thought imaginable, Vasek and I saw how little time we were actually spending together. With my 40 hour work weeks and his completely unpredictable construction work schedule, we kept seeing our family time slipping away. We made up our minds that time was the most valuable thing we have and that we had to be in control of it or it would slip away. Much like a budget is where you tell your money where to go, we needed to "rebudget" our time. We paid off debt and eliminated expense to the point that my paycheck would cover all of our expenses. Then the exciting work began.
#2 - We are what we eat.
Ask any physician about health and they will tell you that what you put in your mouth shapes your body and energy level. When you eat highly processed foods, which I did for far too long, you body slows down and accommodates what you put in it. This means that you will use all those empty calories as fat. You will be nutrient deficient. You just plain won't feel good. I think about all the time I wasted feeling lazy and sluggish because I was not feeding my body nutrient rich foods. Eating a mostly plant based diet is the key to a healthy lifestyle. And growing your vegetables ensures they are the healthiest produce you can eat.
#3 - Animals should be treated with kindness.
Many people openly gasp when I say we raise meat chickens and rabbits. They question how I (or my husband) could possibly kill animals we love. And the hard truth is this...in order for us to feel ok with eating animals, we have to know they lived the best life possible. If you visit our homestead, you will see how much we love our animals. We bring them fresh produce, hay, or kudzu daily. We play with them. We cuddle with them. We have seen the documentaries about animal treatment in the U.S. and cannot support that type of "factory farming." We had three options, go vegetarian (not really an option for my family's food taste), buy only animals we know are sustainably raised (very expensive for a family of six), or grow them ourselves.
Is it hard to butcher an animal we birthed on our farm? Yes. It would be harder to justify supporting a food industry that does not acknowledge the sacrifices the animals make for our diets. This is our choice to live out our values. It's not always easy but it is always worth it.
#4 - Our bodies are a temple.
We only get one body. It only makes sense to care for it. Many people treat their cars to high octane gas, regular tune-ups, and impeccable cleaning regimens. These same people eat highly processed foods, skip doctor's appointments, and use soaps and lotions filled with carcinogenic materials. This doesn't make sense. We should treat our physical bodies with more attention than our cars. This started me making my own deodorant, soaps, and skin care. As an added bonus, it is an income source and saves me tons of money at the store.
#5 - We are made to create, not consume.
Making soaps is just one of my joys in life. I have always loved creating things. I love sewing, knitting, and art. When I do these things, I feel alive. I feel useful. I feel purposeful. When I go too long without creating something new, I tend to feel useless and can become depressed. I have long felt we are made by a creator in his image. We should be creating things, too.
#6 - Life lessons are learned through action.
Ben Franklin is quoted as saying, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn." I remember all the really great teachers I've had used hands-on activities and real world problems to teach me. I want this for my children. It is one thing to read about mammals feeding their young with milk. It is a completely different learning experience for the kids to have to help a mama nurse the runt bunnies separately so that they get the first chance to eat. It's also really hard to see bunnies not survive because they got separated from the litter. These lessons are real and important. An added bonus is that I'll know their zoology grade in high school will be an A.
#7 - Money is not the only tool.
People say all the time that money makes the world go round. And yes, you have to pay your mortgage payment but it is not the only tool we have. As a working homestead, we often find ourselves with too much of one thing and not enough of something else. I can't tell you how many times a friend has, let's say a greenhouse and soil, and I have seeds. They may plant and care for my seedlings, in exchange for keeping some of the plant starts for herself. Work is also a valuable commodity. My kids have watched as Vasek helped a friend plant countless sweet potatoes for a friend. In return, that same friend came to our rescue with the knowledge of how to install a hoop house.
#8 - Food is money.
Hear me out. When we grow our own food, vegetables, fruits, and meats, we are not purchasing those things at the store. And we are saving the additional cost of organic groceries. We could not afford to feed our large family all organic foods. As it is right now, at the tail end of winter, we are spending about $80 a week on groceries. In the summer, this will be even less. Plus, what we have left over will make us money. We grow out 30 meat chickens several times a year. Our family will eat 6-10 of them for 20-30 meals. The rest we sell to friends and family. This offsets our cost for feed and the chicks and gives us joy to know we are helping other families make healthful choices.
#9 - Connecting with our community is vital.
One thing our society has slowly let slip away is community. We no longer know our neighbors or our farmers. We don't know where our food is grown. This community is so important to the health of our nation. When we know who grows out our beef and pay a premium for great sustainable meats, we are funding the very economy we want to see. If you visit a local farmer and share your love of pak choi, they will gladly add that to their seed list and provide it for you next season. You become an active and vital member of your community. These relationships will grow into the community you've always wanted.
#10 - Goats!
It is no secret that I love goats. I also love milk which is a by-product of goats. Baby goats are cute and playful. Adult goats are constant companions. (Goat meat is also delicious.) Without a homestead, I would not get the pleasure of spending time with these amazing loves. We will have kids on the ground in April if you want to experience this joy for yourself.
Vasek and Brooke
We are thrilled to share our homesteading successes and struggles with you. There's a steep learning curve here and we are ready for the challenges.