Did you know that there are unwritten rules in homesteading? I’ll admit, with seeing so many different ways of doing things out there when we’ve been trying to learn all there is to know in our baby days of homesteading, I would have told you there’s no one way to do things. How much easier would it have been if someone would have handed me the ABCs of Homesteading: The ten simple steps to having the perfect homestead of your dreams when we closed on our house. But of course it’s not that simple.
In my last article, I talked about my family’s recent trip to Lehman’s Country Living Workshop. In addition to the always amazing Joel Salatin, I got to hear from Stacy Lyn Harris. She’s a mom of seven and my ears always perk up when I have the chance to learn from someone with even more kids than I do. So, while my six kids were off making noodles, creak stomping, and learning about how to make a good fire in the kids’ program, I was sitting pen in hand to hear how this homeschooling, homesteading, beautiful mom of seven was making it work. In the day and age of perfectly cropped and filtered Instagram posts, I knew you couldn’t fake it in homesteading. You can’t crop and filter a garden into producing or a goat into going along with your plan – frankly I’m not sure you can convince a goat to do anything you want it to do. I was ready to hear what Stacy Lyn had to say.
I love how she framed her entry into homesteading. She talked about learning to cook what her husband brought in from hunting and using homesteading as a means to serve her family. Yes, her children were in training to actually be helpful down the road on the farm, but the purpose of their training was not their assets as workers, but her desire to serve them and form them into sufficient people. Whether they followed in her homesteading steps or not, they would be problem solvers, inventors, and have unmatched work ethics. She knew that homesteading equals freedom, independence and that determination and adaptation are cultivated just as much as the vegetables coming from the garden. Determination outranks potential and that you must be a constant learner though trial and error, and resourcefulness is always rewarded.
And then she started in on these Rules On The Homestead.
If you don’t work, you don’t eat. When her daughter wanted to make pound cake, but no one had collected eggs, it couldn’t happen. Little ones learn the hard way that if you don’t inspect your veggie garden for bugs and pull out the weeds, the food can’t grow. Just like Joel Salatin talked about in the keynote, Stacy reminded us how children get to learn consequences to their choices and actions before it’s detrimental to life.
Failure is part of life. Your only choice is if you will be a good failure or a bad failure. If you’re a good failure, you view it as a challenge, not a burden. You figure it out and thrive. If you’re a bad failure, you pitch a fit, blame those around you, and pout all the while missing the actual lesson. After all, failure brought about Stacy’s passion for cooking and turned into a series of cookbooks. It turned into her son discovering he could use tallow from venison to graft a tree.
Everything worth doing is hard work. I love this idea. I’ve heard it among successful people. John C Maxwell talks about it in his books as well. Everything worth pursuing is up hill. That said, you have to find the joy in your journey, because no one will model your life if you’re miserable all the time.
You won’t have everything you need at every moment. As a homesteader, you will learn to prioritize problems. Mice eating into feed bags or a leak in the barn is a bigger deal than overgrowth in the back pasture. You will learn to invent solutions because you can’t just go out and buy a new whatever-just-broke. You will keep thinking and trying and looking at the problem because not solving it isn’t an option.
There are always happy moments. Slower chores give you time to think. Time to listen to the story of a little one. You get to see the wonder of the world through the eyes of a child. Frankly even if you don’t have little children, or children at all, you get to see something come from almost nothing. You get to see a seed smaller than your smallest fingernail turn into an enormous zucchini plant. You get to turn animal waste into nutritious plant food through compost, and table scraps into tomorrow’s breakfast by feeding your food waste to your pigs and chickens.
When you come to this life with the wonder and awe it inspires, you witness the miracles of even small farming every day. Stacy Lyn reminded me that there is purpose in simple living. Everyone brings something to the table…literally. Your family bonds coming through the hard times and everyone learns to see the world a little differently.
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