First Steps, And Getting Started
It is 6:20 a.m., one of my favorite times of day. A great time to write. The house is completely silent as I sit next to the antique wood cookstove in an old wooden rocking chair in the kitchen, waiting for coffee water to boil. It’s a good time to think back just four short years to the beginning of our homestead adventure. Sometimes we play the game, “Wow, we’ve come a long way! Remember this time last year? or “This time four years ago?” We really impress ourselves with how much we’ve learned and accomplished during these reflections.
Although the actual move to Maine from New Jersey took place four years ago this coming May, we’d been in the planning stages for months, perhaps years. We might have been planning this lifestyle without even knowing it, in that events both nationally and worldwide, and personally, have molded our thinking and attitude. For, you sure do need to have a certain attitude to live this way. Although as a reader reminded me, this was how life in Maine and probably elsewhere was. We sometimes chuckle while working at the wood cookstove, thinking that back in the forties and fifties people were so happy to be rid of their stove, in favor of one of those new fangled electric or gas modern ranges. Why on earth would anyone even consider cooking on one of these dirty sooty things? It is part of ‘attitude’, or ‘mindset’, I think. Knowing that we are not consuming grid-dependent non renewable energy is part of the reason, and also knowing that we can literally walk into the woods behind the house and grab our fuel to cook and keep warm with. Plus, the wood stove dries our laundry and heats water. But on the downside firewood is needed, and there is the mess. Splitting the wood is quite a chore. I do admit that we have our wood delivered split already, but for the stove I need to re-split many of the pieces. We use the woodstove anyway as opposed to using electric or gas, and I suppose the driving force behind that is in the knowing how we are independent of the utilities in that one area. For us that is a good and satisfying feeling. That is part of attitude. Another area of attitude is this idea of growing our own food. Although we do not grow all of it, it is nice knowing that if something happened to the grocery stores, we are mostly all set. As I sit here in late March, we have potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions (I need to grow more onions this coming year), and many root vegetables in storage, we have a greenhouse with leeks and spinach and lettuce growing, we are pulling out of the ground over-wintered parsnips, we have enough eggs to the point where we sell or give away the excess, we have two (soon to be four) dairy goats, and all of this is our food system. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? It is! We have several fifty pound bags of dry beans in storage that we sourced from a couple of towns over, from the person who grew them. Which brings me to my point in all of this. (Finally getting to the point: My creative writing teacher commented once that I tend to be rather ‘wordy’.) The beans are a great example of ‘attitude’ because we sourced them locally – we actually gave the money to the person who grew them. I don’t know about you, but this means something to us. Why go to the store and buy a bag of beans at twice the price, that were grown in another state or country, when you can buy them from your neighbor? Goya, oh noya! ( We actually grew our own beans that first year we were here, and we might do it again, but they take up a lot of garden space.) That, my friends, is part of the attitude I am speaking about. The eggs and the goat milk are examples of food items that you might just say, “Oh, just get it from the store, and be done with it.”, and our mindset is that first of all it is more fun to provide your own and what would happen if something happened to the stores and their ability to get food to sell (mindset)? I guess there is a bit of ‘prepper’ in us, you know, those folks who are preparing for economic collapse or whatever. I must admit that that has crossed our minds.
“When do you ever find time to watch the television?” you might say. As you probably already imagined, we don’t. We don’t even own one. There isn’t anything good on these days anyway, from what we hear, and what is on is mostly escapist in nature. (When we do have down time, mostly during evenings, we either play music, or engage in art.) But I want to get back to our first steps and getting started. If you are thinking about entering into this lifestyle, I do have some advice. Getting out of debt is probably a good place to begin. I am talking about consumer debt. Credit cards. Credit cards were invented so that consumers could borrow money, and the banks and Federal Reserve like this because that is how ‘money’ is created: from debt. Money is lent into existence. I will not play this game. I think there is too much money in the world, and thusly too much debt. This is a topic I could speak volumes about, but a homesteading blog is perhaps not the best place. Suffice it to say that it is part of what shaped our attitude and mindset – knowing how the money and banking system works, and how it is extremely unfair, if not unconstitutional. We decided that we wanted no part of this system, and try to engage in agorism as much as possible.
If you are trying to reduce or get free from debt, think about selling that thirty or forty thousand dollar motor vehicle that you might still be making bank payments on, and get perhaps a ten thousand dollar good used one. Since you’ll be living mostly off the land, maybe a pickup truck would be a good choice.
Another preparatory step could be paring down the amount of your belongings. People tend to do this anyway when they move to a new house. I, for example, got rid of a lot of clothing. I personally am trying to own no more than thirty articles of clothing. I donated all of my fiction books to the library, vowing to only own non-fiction. Reading a book of fiction to me is like watching television. But nowadays we like books about farming, gardening, and history and economics. Needless to say, although we had always been somewhat frugal, we became even more so in preparation for the move to the land.
Next I think you need to have something of a mission statement. In our case it was to provide as much of our food, shelter, and clothing needs as possible. And when not possible, to source them as locally as we can. To be a part of ‘community’, so that we can help our neighbor, and then perhaps they might help us, too. Last fall our neighbor moved some large logs for us with his machine, and we give him eggs and vegetables.
Thank you for all of the comments and suggestions. I’d like to respond to some in this part of the blog. Helen reminded me that back in the day, this was simply how we all lived, and we didn’t have a name for it. We just lived like this. I guess we use the term ‘Homesteading’ because we came across a book by Scott and Helen Nearing, and in it they refer to their move first to Vermont from New York City, then on over to Maine, as ‘Homesteading’. I suppose they used that term because the various Homestead acts in American history were not all that far behind them in the thirties when they packed all their belongings and loaded their truck and moved far to the north. When they arrived they began to raise their own food and to store it for the winter. After reading their book we realized they and we have so much in common. After settling in Maine, we have come to find that the term ‘homesteading’ is widely used, and I am guessing for this very reason. I think that for most of us ‘Homesteaders’, the thoughts of the Nearings are always in the back of our minds. Kevin and Carl pretty much agreed, and added some additional skills. You are so correct, and I continue to think about this, and sometimes I believe that we as a nation or a world could be headed this way again. Thank you Roger for the offer to discuss wheat. We might be in touch. Thanks for the encouragement. Sharon advised me to keep in mind that illness can set in at any time, and one day we might not have as much energy as we once had. Thank you Pete for telling me about the Sheepscot General Store. We will definitely check that out.
That’s it for this week. Thank you all for the the wonderful encouragement and I look forward to your comments and letters again. Please join us next week as we tell you how Goat Kidding Part 1 goes. Thanks!