So what is homesteading? Well, it’s not about where you live, it’s about how you live. Mostly it is about trying to become self-sufficient and making responsible and ethical decisions particularly in relation to what you consume. It’s about recognising the connection between a healthy environment, and healthy people. It’s about having a go, getting back to basics and actively participating in producing food for your table and pantry. It’s preserving home crafting practices, and passing this knowledge onto your kids. It’s not about saving time or money, but it is about living a more nourished life in every aspect. It’s not about rejecting technology. I am typing this on my new Mac with my smart phone at my side, but it is about being conscious of the social and environmental implications of technology. It’s about quality not quantity. You don’t have to live on a farm to be a homesteader. It’s not an address, it is a way of life.
So what is a day in the life of a wannabe homesteader like? There are days, and there are days. Some days are are filled with the mundane yet necessary tasks that we all need to do to keep the house running and the kids fed. You know, washing, cleaning, folding, shopping, homework, driving blah, blah, blah. But some days are a homesteaders dream, and I’m lucky enough to experience them on a semi regular basis. I feel like I am in a major life transition. I’m a nurse. After years of blood, sweat and tears that is brought on by having children, getting a degree, renovating and working, basically all at the same time, I’m free!
I’m creative. A maker, a tinker, a do-er, an artist, and in some seasons of my life the opportunity to indulge these attributes/desires/tendencies has not been possible. Like an itch you need to scratch, but can’t. Really frustrating.
Every morning my alarm goes off, and I hit snooze about three times before I get up. Not a morning person at all. Then the crazy school rush…uniforms, lunch boxes, lost school shoes, lost homework folders, ‘where’s the hairbrush?’ ‘Have you had breakfast?’ ‘Who put the TV on?’ ‘Get in the car!’ As neither my husband or I are natural early risers, the morning vibe tends to suffer. Chaotic definitely describes it. Kids just don’t seem to sense the urgency to get out on time and if the opportunity presents itself, will use the ‘getting ready time’ wildly inappropriately. My eldest will mysteriously vanish outside in his Pj’s for a jump on the trampoline (about 2 min before we need to leave) before coming in to tell me that he had forgot to mention that he had a project due tomorrow…great, there goes my night. The middle child, refuses any kind of breakfast food known to man. After offering her approximately 25 different options she will settle on eating an avocado with a spoon, slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t let her eat the salami, olives or sushi for breakfast as requested. The youngest…this kid has skills I tell you. Where do I begin. If he hasn’t accidentally dumped a whole plate of scrambled eggs into an open cutlery draw, dodging the wet hairbrush that is necessary to tame his impressive bed head, fallen backwards into the dishwasher snapping the door off or discovering that he left his shoes outside yesterday afternoon…and it rained all night, he is smuggling. He tries to smuggle things to school, like toys etc. The problem is that he becomes so fixated and pre-occupied with it all day at school, that the teacher has all kinds of trouble trying to get him to do any work. This has resulted in us having to frisk him every morning for contraband. He hides it in his pockets, in his bag and then started to hide it outside, so that after we frisked him, he would go out to the car picking up the booty on the way. During one morning frisk, while I was checking his bag I noticed he was standing funny. Strangely rigid. Well like any parent these days I took a photo, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me plus, its a great one to add to the 21st album. He was attempting to smuggle lego out of the house…in his butt crack!! Fortunately it was on the outside of his pants, which made it slightly less disgusting. Sheesh. The day has begun.
Once I get rid of that lot, let the serenity begin. Coffee, stat. Breakfast. Tidy the kitchen. Feed the sourdough starter. Check the water kefir. Sit down and check and respond to emails, answer any questions on social media etc. Shower. Turn eggs in incubator. Head outside with my basket, gloves (to ward off the dreaded ‘man hands’) and music. Water and feed chickens, check chicks. Collect eggs. Feed and water the pig (dodging plover attack). Oooh and aaah at the cuteness of piglets. Swing by the garden for the morning inspection. Any bug attacks? Sign of disease? If so act immediately. Pick things that need to be picked (best done in the morning, or late afternoon). This is usually when I plan dinner, or future dinners. What do I have a lot of? What can I make with it? The contents of the garden definitely determines our menu. Enjoy the sight of it all and take it all in. Plan for the future. Feel slightly dismayed by knowing that time, money and willing helping hands would really move this thing along faster. Decide on one job to get done today and do it. Water the garden. Check and water the seedlings. Go back inside. At this point I may need to pack fertile eggs for the post. Meet people at the front gate who want to buy chicks etc or quickly jot any ideas down for future articles. In between loads of washing, doing paper work, and running errands I may read something, write something, start making something, plan a recipe, take a picture etc.
At 2:45 head back to school for the kidlets. Listen to them fight in the car about what music to listen to or how hungry they are, the whole way home. Feed them. Tie the dog up and send the kids to let the chickens out (the dog loves chicken) and take food scraps to them. While they are doing this I quickly measure out the flour and starter for the sourdough and start it kneading in the machine and leave it to rise. Turn eggs in incubator. Go outside to enjoy the afternoon with the kids. Look for strawberries. Get them to pick peas. Feed the pigs. Help the kids collect more eggs. Move a few barrow loads of compost. Check on the pumpkin progress.
The kids are usually still outside while I get dinner started with whatever I picked that day. Dinner invariably involves a few more dashes outside for herbs, onions or anything I’ve forgotten. Once the mozzies come out, the chickens get locked back up, the dog gets let off and the kids come in for bath/dinner/homework in no specific order. Around this time, the bread gets quickly kneaded into shape, placed in the tin and left to rise for a bit longer.
We have a bit of a family relax time…TV, games, craft or whatever. Put the bread in the oven to bake. Put the kids to bed with the usual bedtime stories, prayers, repeated calls for drinks of water and getting in and out for the lamest reasons…eventually we say “get up one more time and your in trouble” to which they still get up repeatedly, and get in trouble. Once parental fatigue has kicked in ‘trouble’ just seems to be more weak threats of getting into more trouble. I think they have figured this out. I must say, I feel quite sympathetic towards my daughter in particular. She is a night owl, and so am I. I remember as a child being made to go to bed and just not feeling tired at all. I get it, but just stay in your room.
Get bread out to cool. Husband by this point has taken up his position i.e., asleep on the lounge, remote in hand. I quickly tidy kitchen (sometimes not), gather school things for tomorrow, and then I switch into full creative mode. I love this time of night. The house is quiet and I can do whatever I want. Write, read, sew, knit, draw, paint, preserve or even experiment with a recipe. The best.
Some days I think, ‘screw housework’ and I spend the whole day outside. Other days I long to be outside, but am stuck in front of the computer all day doing accounts. We all have those days.
Mostly I would say my ‘homesteading’ has grown from curiosity and creativity which then turns into revelation, understanding and appreciation. For example, I might think ‘how do you make cheese?’ I’ll research, read up on it, and then just give it a go! Having a crack at cheese making has helped me understand what milk is made up of, the real difference between pasteurised, homogenised and raw and it has helped me appreciate the time and attention that a real artisan crafted cheese has taken to make. I would be less likely now to buy cheap supermarket cheese (mass produced and aged in plastic), and would happily pay more for ‘real cheese’. I now eat less cheese, because as much as I love it, I’ve seen how much milk you need to produce it, and eating a wheel of cheese a day suddenly doesn’t seem to be very sustainable. In fact, originally cheese making was a way people preserved milk (before UHT) in times of plenty, so they would have some to eat in times of need.
5 Steps To Becoming Homesteader
- Grow something – Even if it’s just herbs. Cooking from your own garden is pure joy, and a great way to get in touch with the seasons. Every little bit helps to take pressure of the food chain.
- Make something – Have a go at makings something from scratch that you would normally buy from the shops. Simple suggestions are bread, butter, ricotta, dips, cleaning products and ginger beer.
- Preserve something – Out of the abundance of your garden and the season, preserve some of what you harvest. This may be in the form of drying, pickling, bottling, freezing or making sauces, jams, relishes etc.
- Swap something – Birds of a feather flock together, and this is also true for homesteaders. If I’ve got too many eggs, any you have too many zucchinis, lets swap some! Aside from being fun and community building, it’s practical and helps both parties go to the shops less.
- Repurpose something – We live in a world that is obsessed with the newest and latest fashion. Everything is disposable. Learn to appreciate items that are quality and repurpose them when the time comes i.e., old bedsheets/curtains can be sewn to make playhouses or carry bags. An old wooden crate can become a planter box. An unused basket can become a nesting box.
I hope you all give it a go. Be sure to tag @thehomegrowncountrylife in any pics you put on insta of your homesteading efforts!
For more info on how to make sourdough click here.
For more info on building a raised garden bed click here.