Are you one of “those people?” Someone who loves raising and preserving your own food but SQUIRMS inside at the “homestead” label, one who doesn’t feel right about carrying the title?
I must ‘fess. I’m one of them.
Shocking, I know! After all, doesn’t my blog (and life) center around raising and preserving food, on nutrition and healthy living? How could I turn my back on a title that has done so much good?
Well folks, its like this.
The Homesteader in my Head
When I think of homesteading today, I think of the unusual human who chooses to lead a life of seclusion in the middle of nowhere. They bathe in a wash-basin or the creek. They cook over a wood stove. They fish and hunt, eat simply while living off grid. They travel to town 2x’s a year for bullets and bulk food supplies. And then they return to who-knows-where.
More disturbing honesty? When I think of someone who leads that lifestyle, I think of a hermit!
Somehow, homesteader and hermit are intertwined in the strangest way!
Before You Decide This Post Has No Value…
I’m not saying my perspective is right. I don’t mean to imply that those who do define themselves as homesteaders are in the wrong. Perhaps its just me. I always was behind the times!
But when I have tried to label myself as a homesteader, I’ve felt cheap; even fake. I felt like I was being false to… something. I’m not sure what?
And so I’ve chosen to honor that feeling: homesteader I am not.
But suddenly, this presents a problem: what label do I give myself and the lifestyle I lead? When we have our own home, our land with its buildings, what will we call it?
I stewed over this dilemma for a while. I considered alternative options. Here are the names or titles I unearthed while stewing!
“a tract of land (with buildings) where agricultural crops, domestic livestock or birds are raised”
I discovered that today, you can “farm” just about anything! From elk, bison and reindeer (true story) to domestic livestock, trees and grains, potatoes and mushrooms, rabbits and birds, fish, worms and even maggots… it all comes under the name of good old farming!
Perhaps this is why fewer and fewer individuals are using the term: it encompasses a very wide field!
I find the title of “farmhouse” endearing! Perhaps this is because I grew up in one with a wondrously large kitchen! Most old fashioned gals have a thing for farmhouse kitchens!
However, charming (and charming-less) as those days were, they are history. Besides, I don’t live on farmland (or plan to) in the near future.
“a farm with its buildings”
This name is old and uncommon. In fact, I had never heard (or noticed) it until my brain was muddling through options. One day, while relaxing and reading Anne of Green Gables, I stumbled across it.
As Matthew brings Anne home from the train station, they crest the hill overlooking the village of Avonlea. The author speaks of a gentle-sloping valley with “snug farmsteads scattered among it.”
Its a cozy way of putting it: “I live on a farmstead” or “welcome to the _________ Farmstead!”
But sadly, as I’ve already said, I don’t live on anything that resembles a farm or farmland!
The Hobby Farm
In my Canadian English dictionary I couldn’t find a definition for this word! However, I did find the word “hobby.” By definition its something a person especially likes to work at or study apart from his occupation.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m honest, I have to admit this less-than-charming name suits my “homesteading” activities.
In fact, this is what my parents called their farm. Not a homestead. Not a farm or even farmstead. They carried a no-nonsense approach. It was what it was: a hobby farm.
Year ’round we moved from one activity to the next: putting up hay, raising and butchering our own meat, hunting and fishing, doing chores, milking cows, keeping poultry, horses or other animals, canning and freezing food, chopping firewood….
In spite of all this, my father held a regular job and never thought to define himself as a farmer or homesteader. Neither did my mother.
Hobby farmers. That’s what we were.
“a farm with grazing land that is used to raise domestic animals in large numbers”
Unless you live rural and own more than a few acres, most wouldn’t think to use this title. While folks who live in cattle or horse country will often (for kicks and giggles) put the title “ranch” to their driveway sign, very few with less than 100+ acres would actually say “hi my name is _______ and I live on a ranch.” Somehow, this title is reserved for those who take the lifestyle seriously.
Ranchers don’t dabble. And ranching implies that you have a large operation.
In spite of the fact that I grew up wearing a cowboy hat, spent thousands of hours training (and riding) horses and enjoy wrestling calves or herding cattle from horseback, I’m not a rancher. Nor do I plan to become one.
“a small house, most often found in the countryside”
Cottage is an old English term and was often accompanied by thoughts of simplicity. English cottages usually had a garden just outside the kitchen door (see potager garden), ducks and geese roaming the land and usually, a milk-producing animal nearby.
In spite of my hobby-farm background, I chose to hang my hat on this one. I don’t currently live in a cottage, but the house we hope to build in the near future is indeed a cottage.
Within every cottage, the focus rests on simplicity (see Cottage Life: My Aim, Goal and Desire).
To me, the cottage life is relaxed, free of the pressure that come with homesteading. In the cottage, you do what you can and enjoy it! In the cottage, you don’t attempt to live so self-sufficiently that you burn out and find yourself wondering why you didn’t invest more into relationships, into enjoying the life you had.
“We lead a simple cottage life,” or “Welcome to the ___________ Cottage” goes over quite well. It implies country living but leaves room for almost anything.
Before You Explode in Defense of Your Favorite Label…
Before you attempt to send me a “but homesteading changed my life” email, know this: I don’t really care what you call your natural living activities. Regardless of the handle you hang on it, I whole-heartedly applaud and cheer you on! I don’t refer to myself as a homesteader because based on my own definition, I can’t honestly do so.
Now, the truth: this post isn’t about you! Its actually about me.
Every day I see it to a greater degree: I’m strange. And like most humans, even the strange ones don’t like being alone in this life!
I want to know if there’s anyone else out there who has had misgivings about taking up the “homestead” name?
I’d also love to know what you use in its place!