Friday, December 26, 2014

How to successfully homestead

There are lots of books out there, and we've found our share of inspiration in them.  Some of the favorites are of course the Nearing's whole lives but especially Living the Good Life, John Seymour's Fat of the Land, Harlan Hubbard's Payne Hollow, all of Gene Logsdon's stuff but especially The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening.  Likely more.

Then there is a whole genre unto itself of "How we failed at homesteading."  They usually call it something else, like "A Year Doing Something".  They have all sorts of reasons it wasn't their fault, or it wasn't really failure.  And maybe it wasn't really failure.  But if the goal was homesteading, it was failure.

So it occurred to me the other day after a chance e-mail interaction that I know how to succeed at homesteading.  Learn to not spend money.  Pretty much period.

Except buy your land because otherwise all your effort is for naught, abandoned on someone else's whim (or your own whim).

Now, there are times to spend money, or money spent that you won't regret.  I don't regret installing our septic or improving our road, and if I had the money now, I'd improve the road some more.  But the fact is, we can improve the road with some effort and discipline ourselves.  By "littling along" (which if I remember correctly came as a term from Harlan Hubbard). In the meantime, in the wet, we'll park in the bottom.  And walk.  And if we get use of that stone boat, or when we fix that tire on the cart, or when we fix that brake on the truck, we'll little along with some rock fixing it along.

And if I were building again, I think I'd do with a bucket toilet.  Although not having actually lived with one, I don't know for sure, and especially with young kids with poopy diapers but I'd say that could be thought around.  I just haven't done it.

The easy way is the spend money way, and it is the way of non-thinking.  There are always more options than you've thought of yet, so if you don't like (or can't afford) any of the options on the table, keep thinking, there are more you haven't thought of and one of those is better.

A lot of people think they will work and save up enough money to "go live on".  Something like that crossed our minds but we got out here before seriously trying it.  I've known some people who tried but I've never known anyone who wasn't seriously rich who didn't blow through whatever money they had. We did save up, put back, and left untouched enough to "finish" the house.  This meant a big check to the roof guys.  This meant I got the expensive kitchen sink I wanted.  But most things we tried to "buy along", as we went, out of the income we had.

A lot of people think they can make enough money off their land to pay for their land.  Again, I've never known anyone who did this -- at least not anyone who didn't sell it for development during that insane build up to 2008.  Pay for your land -- don't ask it to pay for you.  I mean, really, you owe it; it doesn't owe you.  Be a steward.

And then finally, have less, be more.  It is really all about the skills.  That last post title was a bit of hubris as there's a LOT of grace involved in that, but there always is.  Quit buying your life and make it from scratch.  That doesn't mean be an idiot about it and not allow anything not made from ingredients you also made to pass your lips, but it also means knowing the difference in making cookies and eating some store bought ones that passed through your oven.  Do stuff that is worth doing in and of itself -- not that you are doing only for some end result, only for someone else's eye.  If there is only one possible job out there that will satisfy you and you will sell your soul and all your days to attempt to get there, just go ahead and shoot yourself now.  You only control you not all those other people.

So spend less money. And do more.  You'd actually be of use to your community then.  Little along, making progress, allowing organic evolution, learning, ever changing but ever . . . not changing too.  Because the individual IS important.  The family IS important.  Because the earth IS important (thus, you know, not spewing pollutants unbridled, or eating excessive crap because the earth and your health are not separate).  Because not being exploited nor participating in the exploitation of others IS important. It remains, unchangingly, important, even as other things do change because change is the one thing that never changes.

Where ever you are, who ever you are, what ever you hope to accomplish, if you find yourself hemorrhaging money, stop.  Especially if homesteading or being even slightly kind to the earth is part of it.

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