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Fundamental skills of happy homesteaders

Social capitalThe last section of Radical Homemakers is about the fundamental skills necessary to survive as a radical homemaker.  Hayes' list includes:

  • nurturing relationships with friends, family, and community
  • entering the non-cash economy
  • learning to learn on your own
  • setting realistic expectations and limits
  • redefining pleasure
  • rediscovering the taste of good food
  • losing your fear

I was intrigued to find that her fundamental skillset matches up nearly perfectly with the non-technical projects I scattered through The Weekend Homesteader (all guidance we learned the hard way during our first few years on the farm).  So my first thought question for this week is: What kinds of lessons of this sort have you learned, or, conversely, what do you feel is the biggest stumbling block you face in reaching a happy homesteading lifestyle?

Meanwhile, Hayes explained that most of the radical homesteaders she interviewed seemed to be somewhere along a three-part learning curve.  First came an eye-opening stage when they renounced the mainstream consumer society.  Next, they became Shannon Hayesengrossed in recliaiming homemaking skills --- learning to garden, cook, and so forth.  Then, finally, they reached a rebuilding stage where they began to reach outside their homestead to embrace their creativity and engage with their communities.  Mark and I have definitely followed this path, and we're stepping between stages two and three at the moment.  Where are you along the learning curve?

I've enjoyed hearing your thought-provoking responses to this book club selection!  For those of you new to the club, you can read the previous posts here:

We'll be taking a week off, and then we'll dive into the first chapter of The Holistic Orchard on September 3.  If you're interested in trees and/or permaculture, I highly recommend you join the club this time around since my understanding of the orchard ecosystem has been altered just by perusing the book's first few pages.  The Holistic Orchard is more scientific and less philosophical than the books we've been reading lately,  while still being quite easy to read (and there are lots of pretty pictures!), so it should give us a good palate-cleansing break from a summer of deep thought.

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The list of skills didn't strike me as specific to homesteaders. They sound like generally useful life skills...
Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Sep 19 13:34:59 2012

Community seems to be a theme lately. One of the things I liked about the guys in The Bucolic Plaque is how they very quickly made friends in their weekend town. We've not done much of that, but it's in my mind to do so. Once we get up to the land on weekends, we don't want to go anywhere at all, and we have almost no neighbors. Community building will require work for us.

As for biggest impediment - extracting ourselves from our careers/jobs, that we sorta actually like at times. We're all the time saying - we'll do such and such (e.g. making cider) once one of us is retired. I'm sure it's not impossible to be a full-on homesteader with both in a couple having full-time jobs - but it's pretty darn tough. We do what we can, and one area we've learned as a result is the Realistic Expectation skill she mentions :-)

Comment by De Wed Sep 19 15:03:33 2012

Roland --- She covered the more specialized information in the previous chapter. I do think those skills, even though they're handy for others, are essential for homesteaders. I didn't feel as much like I needed them until I moved to the farm!

De --- I've been pondering the Bucolic Plague more, and I agree that community is something they did very right. In fact, it occurred to me one day as I was working in the garden, that the fact the couple are gay might be relevant there --- my gay friends tend to be more community oriented than my straight friends, probably because you have to look harder to find people who will give you the time of day if you're in some kind of minority. So, while community usually ends up at the neglected bottom of my list, who am I to say it's not the right thing for them to put it at the very top of their list and work their whole homesteading experience around it?

Comment by anna Wed Sep 19 16:43:01 2012

Redefining pleasure and learning have never been a problem for me.

This homesteading bug bit me in a couple of years after I bought expensive land (at the PEAK of the market), so extracting myself from the cash economy will take some work. Actually, homesteading skills may a saving grace....allowing me to get by on less, so I can afford the premium for land. Working/commuting 11 hrs. per day is my biggest stumbling block to building community and relationships. By the time I get home and hammer out the chores and projects, going to see my neighbor is about the last thing I want to do. Thank goodness for online community and inspiration.

Comment by Paula B. Thu Sep 20 20:19:08 2012

Paula --- I suspect everyone has skills on the list that are easy and skills that are hard. I agree with you --- learning is one of my favorite things to do and is the primary reason I love homesteading. That and eating good food! :-)

I hope you figure out the work issue soon! I know from experience that it's hard to work homesteading around a job.

Comment by anna Fri Sep 21 09:13:33 2012

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime