The idea of homesteading has been one that I have entertained for many years. I have always loved the idea of living off the land, tending to a flock of chickens or a herd of cattle. My head was full with the romanticized notion of living off the land and producing everything I could ever need. My garden would never wither, I would never be plagued with pests, my goats would never think to kick and buck as I milked them...I had no idea of the rude awakening that was coming my way.
Don't get me wrong, the past five years have been wonderful, but it has been full of disappointments and hard work. These trials make even the smallest success that much sweeter. You reach a point at which every small victory is something you crave. Learning to put up a fence, watching that first tomato grow, learning to milk a goat, collecting that first fresh egg. All of these first moments that we work so hard to reach are truly wondrous. I truly believe that we are all meant to enjoy these moments. I believe that there is a part of us the needs to be in touch with the Earth. I don't mean in a hippie sort of way, but I think there is something in us that needs to work in the soil, to get our hands dirty, to accomplish things truly meaningful and valuable in our lives. Things that last.
So many of us work our lives away in cubicles and offices because we are taught that is what is expected of us, and that is what normal people do. How many of you have worked away the days in a windowless box not knowing if the sun is shining? How many of you have worked for years in a job that makes you successful by society's standards and yet you feel miserable? How many of you work hard, but you know that if you didn't come to work tomorrow it wouldn't make a bit of difference? I've been there too. Today we are told that happiness resides in the shiny and the new, in the expensive and the extravagant, in deeper and deeper debt. Yet deep down we know that we are not happy. We need something real, something meaningful, something that will still matter when we are gone. We won't be remembered for the car that we drove or the clothes that we wore.
The path to creating a homestead is not always easy, but once I began, I immediately knew that I was finally heading the right direction. My therapy became pounding in t-posts, rolling around rolls of fence, and raising barns. Once the infrastructure was complete, we brought out the four horses (2 miniature horses, 1 mule, and 1 quarter-horse) and our six potbelly pigs. Seeing them out in the pasture as I cam home every day gave me a profound sense of accomplishment, and I wanted more. Soon we added four goats in with our pigs, and three livestock-guardian dogs to look after them. I never knew that watching a goat browse could be exciting, but I was fascinated with trying to learn what they ate and what they didn't.
This lead me to try and identify the plants and trees on the property. I still don't know half of them out there, but I know more than I used to. I started a garden (it's pretty pitiful as you will soon see) to start producing some food on the farm. There are few things as rewarding as starting plants from seed and seeing them grow so quickly. I have even learned a few things about making my own jerky. There is a good redneck story behind that. One of my wife's coworkers saw a deer struck by a car, and she called my wife to tell her about. She called me to tell me all about it and I said, "Get that sucker!". So my wife ended up field dressing this dear with a scalpel (she's a vet) and taking it to the butcher shop. One hell of a woman, I know. Anyway, so we wound up with a freezer full of deer and I learned how to make jerky from ground venison. If you have never had it, it's amazing.
So this post is getting a little long. In the future I will address many of the skills and ideas that I have mentioned here in far greater detail. My hope is to show you how important homesteading has become in my life, and how fulfilling it can be. I had no idea what I was getting in to when I started, but I have acquired so many new skills, and I owe it all to the wonder of homesteading. Until next time, take care!