Have you ever tried to explain to a mainstream
American why you homestead? The conversation often goes something
"Okay, now explain to me again why you put so much effort into growing
tomatoes. Did you know they're less than a dollar a pound at Food
Me: "Yuck! We
can't even eat storebought tomatoes any more. A sun-warmed,
organic tomato picked straight off the vine is so delicious..."
My eyes mist over and I start counting the days until our summer garden
is in fruit again.
(snapping her fingers impatiently): "Hello!? Are you still
there? Did you mention something about me not being able to use
an indoors shower when I visit you?!!!"
Me: "Yeah, we haven't
gotten around to that yet. The garden and orchard just seem more
important right now."
Mainstream American: "So
hire somebody to install one. Duh!"
Me: "I'd rather wait a
few years until we have time to do it ourselves. I don't think
it's worthwhile to work 40 hours a week outside the home so that we can
have modern conveniences."
(frantically trying to change the subject away from homesteading): "Did
you see that cool car commerical in the Super Bowl last night."
Me: "Super Bowl?
Is that baseball?"
Which is all a far too long way of saying that
one of my favorite parts of Rachel Kaplan's Urban Homesteading was her explanation of why
she thinks homesteading is important. Rachel writes that people
considering homesteading for the first time often think about what
they'd lose in the endeavor, but that
lifestyle isn't about what you do without, but what you gain. As
a result of living more simply, we have more time with people who
really matter and our souls (and bodies) are nourished by being part of
the ecosystem. We're more self-sufficient, so losing a job isn't
a disaster and we know how to rebuild after a fire or hurricane.
And, of course, there's a deep satisfaction involved in making things
with your own two hands.
That said, Rachel
explains that she's not seeking self-sufficiency but community
sufficiency, achieved by building guilds of people (and plants,
animals, fungi, and bacteria) who fill all of the niches in her
book considers the big picture right from the beginning, looking at
social justice and peak oil as ethical reasons to homestead that
transcend the personal.
I'd be curious to hear
what your own goals and beliefs about
homesteading are. Do you homestead to be prepared for the
apocalypse? Because you don't want to get a job? Because
you're enthralled by the beauty of a garden in full leaf? What do
you say when that mainstream American tries to understand your life
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