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What Is Homesteading? A Deeper Perspective

An earlier post on this blog addresses the question, “What is homesteading?” In that article, I give the expected answer. I give the practical answer. Maybe better to say, the tangible answer.

I give an answer that people can easily sink their teeth into, can visualize.

But a while back, as I was walking to my homestead garden, I was thinking about the trials that the homesteading lifestyle can bring in general, and the struggles I’ve had this spring specifically. Namely, about how all the rain during the past nine months had ramped up our already-high average annual humidity of 74%, bringing fungus to most of my fruit-bearing plants (canes, vines, trees, and bushes) and destroying much of my potential fruit crops.

I was wondering whether it was worth adding more fruit plants to the mix next year. Did I really want to commit to spraying so many items with a fungicide every two weeks, starting in March and going through July? Because if I’m to have grapes at all, and more of everything else (except goumis), that’s what I’d need to do.

In the meantime, the words from a long-time gardener that I heard on a podcast a couple of weeks ago reverberated through my head: You need to fall in love with Mother Nature. Her meaning was, there will be pests and diseases and calamitous storms. But if you realize that it’s all par for the course for someone growing their own food, and accept that you can’t control it and that there are reasons for those things that gardeners and homesteaders usually consider inconveniences, you will be at peace despite what might look like dire circumstances in your backyard garden.

You’ll be able to love the hungry cucumber beetle or cabbage worm, rather than despise it.

As a person of faith, I put a slightly different spin on the woman’s words. I believe that God is ultimately in control, and part of my faith-walk as a homesteader is to pray about my struggles and trust Him to work everything out according to what He knows is best.

With all that circling around in my mind, I revisited the question, what is homesteading? A lot of people will couch it in terms of “getting back to the land.” But in our modern, citified world of convenience, we take that phrase and interpret it as making the land do what we want, when we want it to.

As if our five acres of land were a giant smart phone that should be able to produce a quart of strawberries per week from May through June, or make the incessant rain stop, at the swipe of a finger.

But the land is anything but. Whether your homestead is an eighth of an acre in a suburb, or 100 acres somewhere in Idaho, that piece of property isn’t ours to command. It’s ours to steward.

And stewardship involves care. And care involves proper planning. And planning takes time. As does the care.

Parents are to steward their children well, nurturing them and guiding them as necessary so that they’re able to successfully navigate the world when they grow up. But we all know (or, I hope we know) that even parents who do everything right end up with sick children, children who make bad decisions, children in juvenile court. Why?

Because ultimately, we can’t control other people or much of what happens around us.

So it is with homesteading.

I went into this journey thinking that if we just set up all the right systems, follow all the rules, everything would fall into place. We would “take dominion” over our property, and it would behave the way we wanted it to. I also believed we could have everything up and running in just a couple of years.

Why did I think that? Because I’m a spoiled Westerner who has lived in a city for most of her adult life.

Can you say, “Unrealistic expectations?”

That spring, going into summer, I was forced to take a long, hard look at the question, “What is homesteading?” Yes, it’s getting back to the land. It’s endeavoring to produce as much of our own food as possible. It’s living more simply and more self-sufficiently.

But above everything else, homesteading is living in tune with the rhythms and melodies of creation. It’s understanding that the army of black beetles that often march onto my tomatoes every August – and spends the entire month happily munching away at every single plant – need to eat, too. It’s accepting that the various fungi attacking my various fruit plants have a purpose in the cycle of nature, even if I have no clue what that purpose is.

What is homesteading? It’s a joyful dance to the music of the symphony of nature. Sometimes the notes seem to clash, or the rhythm to be jarring. I finally realized, the other day, that the times when the instruments of creation seem to be at war with me, it is only because I have lost the rhythm, have given up the dance.

It’s because I’m trying to control, rather than flow.

What is homesteading? It’s a delicate dance between my desire to live less dependently on the corporate world, and the ebb and flow of natural patterns and forces beyond my control.

It is staying in step with all that surrounds me so that I can keep dancing, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but always with grace and faith and trust.

And yes, I do believe the dance is leading me to buy more fruit-producing plants. 😉

Happy homesteading. Or shall I say, dancing?

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