Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 Acres and a Dream - Homestead Living

I’ve had many interests over the years:  reading, writing, music, athletics, photography, hunting, fishing, gardening (both flowers and vegetables), bonsai, hiking, being outdoors, the Bible, the ministry, the pursuit of God, and especially living close to the land.  I’ve always been close to the land.

In 2004 we bought five acres with the intention of building a home there one day. It’s been nine years.  Right now we have our home for sale and it looks like an offer will be coming soon.  When it sells, we will build our ‘empty nest’ home on the five acres and the next chapter of our lives will begin.

Our dream is an agrarian lifestyle.  The goal is a simpler, sustainable, more self-reliant way of living.

I’ve always dreamed about homestead living, which means being able to partially support myself off the land.  I’m not talking about running a profitable farming business or getting off the grid by living with no electricity.  Rather, growing some of my own food, lowering my financial dependence on others, and experiencing the pure enjoyment of a simpler life.

A homestead is neither a farm, nor a rural residence. 

·        A rural residence is basically a suburban house plunked down on a larger lot, and any outdoor design will be primarily concerned with landscaping and appearances. 

·        A farm is more like an industrial complex or a big business.  It will have many buildings, large equipment, and many tons of products (seed, fertilizer, grain, milk, meat, produce, etc).

But a homestead is different. It’s kind of a blend between the two.  It’s more than a rural residence, and less than a farm in terms of size and output.  A homestead uses the land for self-reliant living.  The land is for utility, not just appearances.  It can have a large garden, multiple small gardens, or raised bed gardens.  There might be a backyard orchard (fruit trees, etc), and some livestock such as chickens, goats, rabbits, or quail.  A couple of out-buildings would be included too; such as a barn, workshop, and greenhouse.

That’s not to say the place would look messy.  A productive homestead can be neat, attractive and pleasant, and at the same time capable of efficiently producing.

“Making a living” means different things to different people.  Does it mean club memberships, cable TV, trips to the spa and health club, a couple of nights on the town each week, and travel?  Or does it mean something else? 

How would you define it?

For me, it’s a simpler life.

Sure, it’s hard work.

After a day of digging in the garden, weeding, picking produce, planting fruit trees, etc, I am exhausted and dead tired.  But I am also very satisfied because I have done something tangibly constructive and meaningful; something that contributes to my lifestyle.

I’ve considered the alternative.  I could spend a lot of money on labor saving devices, then moan about how cubby and out-of-shape I’m getting, and then spend more money on a membership at the local gym.  For me it’s better to get in shape the old fashioned way – through hard work, exercise, and manual labor – and to eat as much homegrown food as possible.  Besides, when I’m working in the garden or chopping wood and I drop in the bed exhausted at night, I don’t have time to go out and blow money on useless consumer goods.

It's a dream; one we are moving towards.

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