{from our garden: lettuce, potatoes, beets, onions, cilantro}

NOTE: Gardening and preserving is keeping me pretty busy these days. A few articles that bear repeating will fill in the gaps on the days when the to-do list is too long. This post was originally published in April 2009.

Throw out the word homesteading in a crowd and you will get very different reactions. Some look at you like you’re crazy – picturing the pioneers crossing the prairie in search of land, only a covered wagon as your shelter. Others (myself included) perk up at the thought of a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle.

The good life. The simple life. Call it what you will. We are entering a time when sustainable and self-sufficient living may not be just another option – suitable for some and not others. Soon it will be the only option, lived out of necessity, not just desire.

Going green is quite chic these days. Buy organic, reuse grocery bags, change your light bulbs, cook from scratch, don’t buy plastic water bottles. All good ideas – but they don’t address a deeper need for change. These are all answers to the question "What if you changed your habits?" Difficult habits to break, indeed, but perhaps we should pose a different question: "What if you changed your life?"

{comfrey flowers in the garden}

In order to change the way we live, we must first change the way we think. The truth is that the life we have been living is not sustainable. The way that we grow our food, transport ourselves and all of the goods that we rely on to survive can not be sustained.

Our way of life almost entirely depends on finite resources that will soon be so depleted as to cause world wars.

That is unless we do something about it. What if the American dream involved massive gardens, chickens in the backyard, clotheslines and piles of compost? What if we replaced our expensive homes with modest ones, (saved for, not mortgaged), surrounded by a little bit of acreage? What if we tore up our pretty lawns and turned them into sweet June strawberries and juicy August tomatoes? What if we traded our eggs for our neighbor’s milk, bypassing battery farms and rBGH? What if we could share our bounty with those in need, instead of placing jars of hydrogenated peanut butter into the food bank? 

{summer snack: sugar snaps dipped in butter}

Through homesteading we have an opportunity to do all of the above plus learn truly useful skills that go untaught in universities. We can know exactly where our food comes from because our sweet little toddler’s hands are the ones picking the cucumbers. By not supporting them we can vote against big-agribusiness, plastic corporations, pharmaceutical companies, and a government that is heavily lobbied by all of the above.

We can set aside the old American dream of working for 35 years and then retiring, consuming mass quantities of unsustainable goods along the way. We can teach our children that the every day processes of sustaining life through food, water, cleanliness and shelter are to be learned from, not dreaded. We can empower one another to rely on God and each other, not big businesses that simply see us as dollar signs. We can stop destroying our resources and start showing our children how to steward them.

It is called homesteading and I believe it is the only responsible way to live.