Sunday, August 29, 2010
Making My Way
I got to thinking this morning as I pulled out one of my many autumn inspired cookbooks, that I needed to add to my homesteading skills. To be a homesteader...someday. But, what I came to realize is that to some extent, I'm already there. I'm getting ahead of myself a bit though, let me back this up so I can explain.
See, I guess my homesteading skills really began when I was a child. I was the last of three and that being the case, I think my parents were more confident in their parenting skills enough to let me sorta figure a lot of things out for myself. Or, perhaps they were just tired of explaining everything by the time it came to my turn, either way, it worked out pretty well for me on some levels. I've always been a very independent person, even as a child, I don't think I was clingy or needy. Quite young, I learned to make things happen for myself and not wait around for someone else to do it for me. That's a skill that is completely invaluable for any person. One we're trying so hard to teach our youngest who will just whine and complain until someone gets sick of it enough to do whatever it is for him. But, that's a whole 'nother blog topic for another day.
I was able to figure out how to ride horses when there was no money to buy or board one. I swapped labor for meager riding time until I was graced by a friend to ride her pony she had outgrown. Then, it moved on from there and when I outgrew that pony, another horse presented itself for my care, then when that one left, another, until I was able to free lease a horse of my "own". I had Dixie for 2 years and it was the best two years of my childhood. And, honestly, with the grace of God and a whole lot of sweat and tears on my part, I learned an amazing amount about how hard work and perseverance really pays off. I was a very hard working child, I don't think anyone can dispute that.
My parents also believed that we were to work around the house. No free rides in our home, for sure. My parents both worked full time and that being the case, we girls were left with a hearty set of chores that needed doing. I learned to cook and clean and wash clothes and dishes at a young age. Of course, at the time, I hated every minute of it (well, except for the cooking part), but those were skills that were invaluable to me as an adult and mother to my own two miscreants. As an early teenager, my father taught me to chop wood, and stack it, effectively, so it wouldn't fall over under a snow load. Pretty funny now that I don't know how he learned that skill. He grew up in the south and didn't need to know how to chop wood...I'm gonna have to ask him that. But in any case, when it came time for Music Man and I to buy our first house (which heated primarily with wood from our own land), it was another invaluable skill. Since Music Man had never needed to chop wood outside of a few camping trips with his buddies, he didn't know how to do that. Guess who had the skills to teach him? You guessed it, moi. And he wasn't too proud to ask all the right questions and then run with the newly learned skill. And now, he can wield a chainsaw like nobody's business, and I only taught him how to chop! There is deep intrinsic value in being able to heat your home when you need to, having the skills beyond how to turn up the thermostat.
I also believe that I got the homesteading bug early. My parents went through a "back to the land" thing in the 70's. I remember books in our home that included building a house into the side of a hill (I found that interesting even then and would look at those books a lot), as well as Mother Earth News subscriptions. Yep, I guess they had some hippie gene in them somehow since they sold our house, renovated a bus into a camper of sorts and took us on the trip of a lifetime up the east coast for 3 months to decide where they wanted to settle next. As an adult, I realize how daring that was, but then it just seemed exciting. We visited people they "met" through placing an ad in Mother Earth News and we met some interesting and great people along our travel. Once we flipped a coin (and I do mean literally, it was between Kentucky and NH and the nickel came up NH), we settled into a life that I don't think became as self sufficient as they wanted, but was interesting just the same.
Now, I've taken those skills and residual inclinations and formed a life uncommon, I do believe. Though we have many modern conveniences, and I don't shun them when I need them, cause I love my laptop and my washing machine, I also have skills that are from generations before me. I can split and stack cords of wood (with an axe mind you, not a splitter), I am able to can tomatoes and a host of other fruits, I can pickle peppers (hehehe, but really, I'm able) and cukes and make jams and jellies. Preserving food is a huge part of homesteading, in my opinion. In my childhood of making money to support my horse, I learned how to muck a stall, collect the eggs and get goats and sheep back into the pen that are wandering in the neighbor's garden. I can cook just about anything I want to, including complicated dishes and simple fare. I don't believe in chicken nuggets from a box or a Mcwhatever...I make my own from fresh chicken and breadcrumbs and eggs laid fresh that morning, and my kids gobble them up. I know how to start a fire, even when the wood isn't always perfectly dry, I can sew quilts, clothes, curtains, whatever I need for my home. I have figured out how to grow a respectibly successful garden. I can bake bread. I know to save up water in left over juice bottles because when the power goes out (and it will my friends, it's winter in New England), we have no pump. Still need water even without a well pump, so better start saving up beforehand. Running to the grocery store to empty water shelves after everyone beat you to it just doesn't do. I know to keep candles and lanterns handy, as well as the hand crank weather radio and flashlights for those times as well. I can read the position of the sun to know what time of day and year it is. And the list goes on. But, you get my drift.
I decided today that even though I don't have the chickens yet (we hope they are coming in the spring) or the big garden (ditto on the garden), I do have many of the skills I need to call myself a homesteader. We don't have the barn, or the acreage, or the animals, but I have the skills to know what to do with them once we do have them, and for that I am thankful and perhaps a little proud. Most of these skills I taught myself and have been able to pass on to others (I'm teaching my dear friend how to can tomato sauce next weekend and have taught a couple of my nieces to sew...and well, my kids are getting the benefit of it all. They are already pretty good cooks in their own rights).
I decided to stop thinking about the homestead in the future and just allow that I'm already a homesteader...with skills yet to learn.
Wishing you some self-sufficiency of your own, ~Peacemom