What It Means To Me To Be A Homesteader

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Homesteading In The Old Days

We hear the word bantied about.  Homesteader, Modern Homesteader.  Many have differing views on this meaning.  Homesteading is working the land around the home.  The word stead is key however.  It means advantage, as in to stand one in good stead.  Thus, to me homesteading means working the land associated with a home where there are advantages reached to put a family in good stead.

Why did I become a homesteader?  I grew up that way.  I was raised on a small family farm outside of Wilsonville Oregon, a 30 minute drive south of Portland.  While we only had five acres in the 70s, it was the era of greenie recycling, and passive solar designed homes, with moms canning and dads gardening, with kids playing badmitton in the back yard and a day and age when the earth had a meaningful place for a time.  It seems that firecrackers, horse back rides in neighboring hay fields, and long summer days were all tied to the nostalgia of that period.  I was born in 1969.  My parents raised me that way.  Again we are moving into a similar mindset with another wave of back to the land movements emerging all around.  I however, never really changed.

When I was young my mother canned.  I remember the applesauce and juice making from our fruit trees, my dads amazing garden with grape vines and fruit trees all over our property.  Fruit to me was what I did in the afternoon, scaling plum, apple, pear or cherry trees to eat sweet afternoon desserts in my flip flops.  Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and such were always staining my hands during those long summer days.

Collecting eggs, plucking chicken feathers, butchering rabbits with my grandpa, having to put the cow we raised in the freezer and the pigs we raised in the freezer, were all a normal part of my childhood.  I spent many a night sleeping in the manger of my horses stall.  The manger was the old angular kind my grandpa had built the was the width of a stall.  So, I could curl up inside it in the hay with my horse eating the hay around me while simultaneously nuzzling me.  Those horse breaths were some of the warmest moments of my childhood; warm with love and steam, all heating me on the exterior but filling my soul so full that to this day those are my happiest memories.

To me homesteading is just that.  It is a connection between Grandpa and grand daughter.  It is a link between old ways and new all to steward land for the benefit of a family.  Our little farm was more than just food, it was memories and a way of life that honored the little things, appreciated the cycles of nature, connecting me intrinsically to the land, climate and animals that relied on such things.  As a child this was my laboratory, my teacher and my friend.  Homesteading shaped me.

Homesteading is also about adventure.  My Grandfather would always come visit with wild tales of his adventures.  And, his great wisdom was always present at the farm.  He didnt have more than an eighth grade education as many did.  I believe he was born in 1911 if I remember right.  He was an explorer.  He would dig all over the Southwest, which of course is outlawed today.  But back in the day he would bring out his latest dig finds and show us indian bowls and arrow heads, rattlers of snakes where he cut the tail himself and made the rattlers and old ceramic jugs from the forts out west.  Tales of gold in the Superstition Mountains and stories of legends and the ways of the west always filled my imagination.  When Grandpa would come visit and stay for a while he would build fence by hand himself.  An old man with grey hair but a man who could work a 12 hour day.  He would cut the tree to make the post.  He would hang the wire and stretch it.  And, he would make his own gates out of wire to a tree post and a loop like the old ways out west.  This was a great man who did everything by hand.  He built his own horse trailer once.  Who does that?  He did.  He built everything himself.  I would look at old pictures of him up in the mountains in Wyoming on his horse hunting or some such thing.  Other pictures, old warn and black and white, would show him shirtless with old denim holding up a long string of fish like they could catch back then.  Homesteading, and the older generations who participate in a family homesteading effort, are like that.  They are loaded with stories of adventure and wisdom.  They are ageless in a way with a sparkle in the eye.  Their weathered hands tell a story, that main stream media would never see or even recognize.  these great men and women are the heart of the great adventure I call homesteading.

This childhood of mine sculpted me.  So much so I did not even understand or appreciate it as a child.  It was simply my life.  As an adult the vivid contrast between the values I was raised with as a child and the values I saw around me in the world woke me up.  This awakening I experienced is an awakening millions of other Americans are also experiencing now.  It is an awareness that there is something wrong – with too much consumerism, too much detachment from root understanding of natural principles, excessive technology and not enough outside time, and a complete and utter detachment from the food supply chain not to mention drugs as the new way to placate EVERYTHING.

NO!  Something is wrong with that.  I read research just this week that for the first time American life expectancy is dropping.  Yes, can you believe that?  After all this great progress in technology, food and medicine we are dying younger.  That is the awakening I am talking about.

My Grandpa would tell me to go outside and play or work, go to the garden, do things by hand.  If my imagination was lacking he would talk of different Indian tribes and their way of life and bring out his arrow head collection for which there were thousands of arrowheads.  My mind would explode and I would be on fire in the mind with wild musings of great things past and present.  Such is the way with homesteading when you merge elders and their wisdom into the mix and throw in curious young children ready to embrace their world – their natural – world.

I encourage you to spend time in nature with your family and engage in your local farms.  And, follow our blog and the thousands of others who also blog on the journey of homesteading they are experiencing.It is great to learn, enjoy, connect and imagine through following bloggers.

My childhood was a dream.  And, now as a nearing fifty year old grandmother – I get to live my homesteading life until the day I die.  As a retired empty nester, I can with my husband, live close to the land for the remainder of my life.  And that is me living out my homesteading dream.  And then this farm will pass on to our children and then theirs.  And the cycle will continue I am sure.

God Bless! L. Davis

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