Off-Grid Agrarianism

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The zoom.

I have been trying to put together a number of blog posts lately. I wanted to share the chicks – some purchased, some hatched at home – that are running alongside our laying hens, increasing the flock. I have some garden photos filled with weeds and potatoes and some turnips I might pull and ferment in the coming days… and did I mention weeds? Oh, and there’s ongoing construction on the kitchen and some handmade kitchen cabinets that were designed and framed by Stewart and my talented Step-Dad while he and my Mom visited. Stewart’s nearly finished them with a few little helpers wielding a paint brush.

But every once in a while there is something that keeps me from getting to those happy things. More often than not I’ll write up those somethings and never publish them. Sometimes, though, they come through the editorial process and live amongst the gardens and the homestead construction that is only a part of the agrarian picture.


The reality.

I’ve been sick, off and on, since November. I’ll spare you the details and simply say that now that I know what I was dealing with, I’m pretty sure I’ve had minor symptoms since I was a teenager. For whatever reason things came to a head in the fall and have sort of dragged on for months, pretty well draining me in the process.

So when I woke up this morning and made breakfast and cleaned off the wood stove and listened intently to my children with what felt like a clear head, I knew something had shifted. Mid-morning we all headed to the garden to plant beans and weed with Ruthie Bear by my side, Daddy working intently on construction in our absence. We made lunch and made beds and the girls and I laughed and danced and played.


To be able to see that something needed to be done and to then do it was just lovely. To then have the energy to really be with my children showed me what I had been missing terribly for quite some time.

When Stewart was down with adrenal fatigue for some months, we often said that one of the most valuable physical resources on the homestead is an able body. Money and natural resources are nice, but if you can’t actually do something with them then what good are they? That sentiment has proven true once again.

I don’t know how I am going to feel when I wake up tomorrow, or if I even will. But there is something that continues to be brought before me through these years of agrarianism, its accompanying lack of comforts, and all that has gone on between the lines.


It is the absence of some things that I have needed most, for it is through their hollow that truth and light shine brightest. This is the place where my own dirt is plain to see and those things I prop myself up with are laid bare. It is in this space that I see what I really cling to and how breakable everything is but Him. It is these times that reaffirm that doing this doesn’t make us righteous; it only shows us how deeply we are not.

There is always a carnal part of me that wants to turn away from this life and this hardship; that wants to mask it all with the distraction and ease that have long been my salve and bandage. The thing is, I don’t always handle these struggles gracefully. I am not always tough or content or gracious to everyone at all times through these trials.

Maybe that is why I continue to have them… maybe that is why I have come to appreciate them… maybe they’ve shown me enough to be terrified of where I would be without them.


It is true that much of the work out here is physical, sometimes exhausting, and not always without frustration. Progress is often much slower than what we are used to in our culture, for better or for worse.

This work does not exist in a vacuum, however. There is a spiritual work that runs parallel with the digging and the dishes and the building and the dirt. Sometimes the gardens and the animals take a back seat to the struggle and the day-to-day of raising a family. Sometimes I’m doing well to keep the children fed and tucked in at night. Sometimes I look at Stewart and ask him if he too feels the magnification of our inadequacies through agrarianism.

Maybe that’s not the whole of the reason we’re here, but maybe it’s reason enough for me.


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Boy am I grateful for homegrown food. The most recent batch of roosters to hit the chopping block weren’t even ours but we’re glad to take them. Store-bought food is either frighteningly cheap (in every single way) or crazy expensive and maybe a little more worth it. I stand there in the grocery store staring at the chicken and I wonder what has gone terribly wrong in that chicken’s life for it to cost a fraction of the value I’d put on these roosters we butchered at home.

Maybe it’s because we haven’t grown a lot of our own food, or maybe it’s all the failing we’ve done in the process, but that stuff seems impossibly cheap. Then again, you don’t see golden fat globules when you make stock from the store-bought stuff.

I wonder, too, about the time involved in such tasks as butchering and rearing animals. These tasks are more than hours on a punch card and that food is something that’s almost impossible to buy these days. Some things can’t be quantified, like standing next to your children and showing them how to butcher a rooster, or deep nourishment that money and supplements can’t buy.

It’s a drop in the bucket of our food needs, to butcher some roosters when they need culling. But you’ve got to start somewhere.