The homesteading bug bit me early. Quite early. For many of my formative childhood years, I lived with my hippie parents and two brothers in a secluded geodesic dome home on a mountain in rural Pennsylvania. In that open-plan, woodstove-heated home, separated from public roads by a half-mile of private, unpaved lanes, we were always prepared for power outages and being snowed in for days at a time. Out there, we had to be a little more self-sufficient than the average family.
I loved the mountain, cooking up meals of mud and hemlock cones with my brothers, and the smell of freshly split wood. I can’t honestly say, however, that I loved being separated from civilization, as I felt we were. I was a social butterfly trapped in a rural homeschooler’s body.
So despite my early years on the mountain homestead (with a composting toilet, no less!) and a full 12 years of homeschooling, I turned my attention more to fitting in to society than living in an alternative one.
After Jason and I married in 2003, my thoughts turned homeward again. On our newlywed/college student budget, someone had to cook dinner every night. There was no money for dining out, and the college meal plans we’d enjoyed before were no longer an option. The discipline of planning and cooking meals from scratch was exciting, and we both discovered we were good at it. We loved cooking for one another and trying new things.
We grew in our cooking abilities, and learned how to can and preserve food too. We began canning apple butter and peaches and salsa and giving away jars and jars of it at Christmastime.
But it was not until I quit working full-time and gave birth to my daughter that I felt truly free to pursue more of my homesteading interests. Since I was no longer used to getting paid by the hour at work, I was more willing and available to pour hours into butternut squash pasta sauce or knitting hats as baby gifts. My time as a stay-at-home mom was worth less money, but could save us a lot of money if I used it well.
I dusted off the sewing machine (and swore a lot) as I re-learned how to make simple garments. I learned how to knit and bake bread. I dabbled in yogurt and cheese. With my baby on my back, I worked for a season on an urban farm, where I acquired a basic knowledge of how to grow our own food.
And the more I tasted of this life — making and growing, knitting and sewing — the deeper I wanted to go. It dawned on me how much we are missing as a society when we deny ourselves the pleasure of feeding our families; how much more flavor and meaning our meals hold when we grow, weed, harvest, and cook them ourselves. Gardening and cooking from scratch gave me a sense of empowerment as a mom to feed my family the bounty of the earth, not just whatever was convenient.
I want my kids to see me laboring directly over their lunches and dinners; their pajama pants and pillowcases. I want them to see my love in action, cooking, providing, sewing, preserving. I want my tiny kids to watch their food grow from seedlings to salad, from an egg to roast chicken. I want them to love and respect animals for the work they do, not just as cute pets, but as powerful partners.
Most of all, I want my home to be a place of provision and abundance, where we make the most of what God gives us and revel in His creation. I want to be in the hot kitchen in August, canning the garden’s overflow. I want to watch as new life comes into the world. I want to honor life by watching it go out again. I want my kids to grow up with a deep sense of connection to the family, community, and land that has nourished them.
I don’t want to be a spectator in life; I want to be a player. I’m done with all the layers we’ve used as a society to shelter ourselves from the realities of life and death, abundance and scarcity. I know there will be blood, sweat, and tears. That’s how I know it’s worth it.