Most of us who grew up on a homestead or farm understand this sharing of life to some degree. It was a necessary element to survival! And I loved it: borrowing a hay baler if ours broke down when the rain-clouds threatened, helping neighbors complete a slow-going fence for arrival of livestock, butchering or hanging an animal down the road when we didn’t have space. There were good ole’ cider pressing and harvest parties…somehow I felt more connected to those around me!
When I left home and moved to the north, this theme still proved strong among the cattle and grain farmers, the small scale homesteader, and was strongly contrasted by the lives and environment of the oil-field workers.
Upon being married, we tried living in a town saturated with the oilfield pay and rush but then decided we wanted a change. My health wasn’t holding up so well. Yep. We left our greenhouse, 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 without a home lined up and lived in the back yard of a community farm, thinking we’d be there a few weeks.
We were expected to help with the farm chores which included animal care, weeding and harvesting vegetables and berries, taking meal shifts for the 6 young people who lived there. I was amazed at how easy life was, how little time it took to care for the farm when we did it together! And the amazing thing? Our hopes were recognized! We instantly had access to wholesome, healthy food!
The folks of at the community farm adopted us as the 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 accepted it and moved into our new home a mile down the road. Even now, we can often be seen at the farm, weeding our personal garden with its prolific weed crop or the much nicer community plots, collecting berries or checking on the honeybees we purchased together this spring. We have a facebook group for quick communication and there we post questions, receive notifications for garden weeding days, record the progress of the hen’s laying, of how the corn, garlic and potato patch is coming along, new ideas that make for even less work…you get the picture!
I’ve always loved sharing and working together. In this valley, its strongly emphasized! Perhaps due to lower income, many people want to trade instead of hand out cash. Or they pool resources together and share tools, meat animals, laying hens, etc.
The farm stirred something in my soul! Life was so much easier when homesteading with others, regardless of what it was! And with my health issues, suddenly options were available and manageable for me! And I love it! If all that we have access to was on our own land with just my man and I caring for it, we couldn’t possibly manage it all. For example, as part of the farm community, I get to harvest raspberries every other week (on rotation schedule), rather than facing the overwhelming task of picking the raspberry patch every 3 days for 6-8 weeks straight. Because we share, suddenly the work isn’t overwhelming and we still have our needs supplied for.
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: trustworthy and have the know-how, the desire for homesteading 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 a happy feeling inside, from deep gratitude. For now, homesteading=living off land that isn’t our own. And I may say, it’s almost better than having our own land. Certainly more manageable.
Life can be simpler if we make effort to choose wisely, communicate well and open up options to those who do not have! If you get a thrill out of living pioneer style (see Four Lessons From the Homesteaders of the Past) you’ll quickly find living life with those around is indeed the true, old-fashioned way to homestead!