Those who grew up on a homestead or farm understand this sharing of life to a degree. It was a necessary element to survival! And I loved it!
I remember using the neighbor’s baler when ours broke down beyond immediate repair. When rain-clouds threatened, we would often borrow a second hay-wagon in attempt to put up our hay before the coastal skies let loose. If our crop was safely tucked inside the barn, we’d drop our schedules and go help the neighbor.
I remember rock-picking parties as our friends attempted to clear land for grazing. Laughing, talking and tossing rocks, doing it with others made a monotonous chore fun! I can clearly recall situations when we hung meat at a friend’s place because we didn’t have room at our own.
Sharing life didn’t always revolve around work! There were parties; good old-fashioned cider pressing parties, harvest parties, a celebration of the season’s end. I do believe it was the previous work that made these parties so rewarding!
Somehow, in spite of the hard work, the dirt, the cuts and bruises, I found myself feeling connected to those around me. We worked hard and though it wasn’t always without complaint, we did it together.
Wherever I Go, It Rings True
When I left home and moved to the north, this theme still proved strong among the cattle and grain farmers, the small scale homesteader. It was strongly contrasted by the environment (and lives) of oil-field workers.
Upon being married, my man and I attempted to live just outside a town saturated by the oilfield dollar and long working hours. Expensive, cold, industrious and busy, we realized it didn’t suit the newly married us.
We left our greenhouse, ducks, chickens, small home and a good paying job behind in pursuit of a healthier environment and lifestyle. Our simple belongings packed into our mini-van, we moved south to stay with a friend until we found a home.
That friend happened to live on a community farm.
Developing a Love for Community Farms
After setting up at the farm, we were expected to help with chores. This included animal care, weeding and harvesting, cleaning and taking meal shifts for the 6 young adults who lived there.
I was amazed how easy life was, how little it took to care for the farm when we did it together! And the amazing thing? Our hopes were recognized and we instantly had access to wholesome, healthy food!
The folks of the community farm adopted us as weeks of house-searching slowly added up. We were offered a farm-share (at cost) for our time there and when, 4 months later, we finally found a rental home, the offer was renewed. We, with great delight, accepted it before moving into our new home a mile down the road.
Because we now lived at different locations, one of the members set up a community facebook group for quick communication. There, we post questions and receive notifications for farm-related activities. Weeding (several) communal crops, butchering day, the arrival of honeybees, perhaps a dinner and discussion about purchasing a steer or bull together.
We do it together.
The Seed Was Sown
I’ve always loved sharing and working together, but in this valley, its highly emphasized. Perhaps due to lower income, many folks would rather trade than hand over cash. They pool resources together and share tools, meat animals or laying hens.
Life is much easier when raising food with others. As a gal with limited energy, suddenly options are available and manageable for me! And I love it!
As part of the community farm, I get to harvest raspberries or strawberries every other week (on rotation schedule) rather than facing the overwhelming task of harvesting berries for 6-8 weeks straight. When the communal crops (corn, potatoes, garlic) need weeding, everyone pitches in.
When we press apple cider, no one gets tired of doing a particular job because we can trade off. When its freezing cold out and we’re butchering beef, there’s always someone who can take over which enables frozen fingers to thaw. Because we share, suddenly the work isn’t overwhelming and everyone’s needs are met.
A Trend I Hope to Carry On
When my husband and I one day (we hope and pray) have our own land, we want to offer opportunities to others who were like us. We want to share with others who desire to raise their own food but don’t have the land or finances available.
And until then, we gratefully benefit from those who have been generous with us and in turn, are generous when we can be! Its amazing, really. When given to, something just bubbles up inside of me and I love giving back, not out of obligation but from deep gratitude.
For now, homesteading equals living off land that isn’t our own. There are perks and quirks to it, but overall, I think its amazing.
What about you? Have you ever experienced this sharing of life? What was your experience?