Sane & Sustainable Rural Living Part 3

Click if you missed the first or second part of this series.

Every so often I find someone who has given up on the homesteading life after trying really hard. It’s a shame to see, so I try to help. Here’s my response to a discouraged homesteader named Jan. She posted a heart-felt video on YouTube about why she walked away from the homestead she shared with her man and children. Watch her great video here, then read my note to her below.

Steve’s note to Jan, discouraged homesteader:

Dear Jan,

My wife and I both grew up in cities, and we began homesteading with a bare piece of land on an island back in 1985. We built our home from local stone and timbers, we’ve raised/are raising 5 kids and are still happily doing the modern homesteading thing. I’m sure I’ll die and be buried out here.

You mentioned that you experienced mental exhaustion, financial strain, physical hardship and I understand all this. May I offer an insight from experience? It seems to me that you did what many homesteaders do. You approached homesteading as an exercise in primitive pioneering, an exercise that’s too hard and dark and isolated to sustain. The hardships this caused you led to an abandonment (temporary, I hope), of the life that led you out of the city in the first place. In my experience, mentally sustainable homestead living doesn’t have to be dark, hard, scary and isolated.

The fundamentals that attracted me to homesteading include the ability to support my family with my hands and my heart without ever leaving my land; the opportunity to live close to nature and wrestle with it/cooperate with it as I make my way through life; the opportunity to live authentically and sustainably; the chance for our kids to grow up with both parents home all the time. These things are entirely possible for you, too, and they don’t demand that you live as if it were 1850.

A little electric light, a little indoor space for the kids to play, and the occasional bit of chocolate and a good bottle of Italian wine is okay. In fact, it’s a very valuable part of the psychological side of “sustainability”.

The main thing I’ve found important about homesteading is not “getting off the grid”, or producing all your own food, or living in a yurt or any one of the dozens of homesteading icons that distract from reality. The main thing about homesteading is living in the country, never leaving your land to earn money, working with your hands and head and heart on your own projects, and feeding yourself directly as much as possible without neglecting the other important things in life.

How much better would your rural life look if you and your husband earned enough money to cover the basics and then a bit more, all without leaving the property? This one, fundamental thing usually makes all the difference.

Ultimately it comes down to the difference between our urban ideal of what homesteading is, and the reality of living in a natural world that’s not all sweetness and light. But despite the realities, homesteading is still the best life there is in my book. Just don’t fly too close to the sun.