Homesteading skills – of the kind that make us self-sufficient – are falling by the wayside in today’s modern world. Here’s how to resurrect them – and why you should.
We may have a highly-skilled workforce here in the U.S., but in terms of the skills needed to support ourselves and our families with our own hands, well, these are no longer so evident for most of us. In fact, when it comes to being able to provide the basic necessities of life for ourselves, we may be one of the most helpless nations on earth today.
Think about it: You spend your whole day working for a corporation just to earn a paycheck so that you can go to the store and buy food (and other items) that someone else spent their whole day making (for a corporation) for you to buy!
Does this seem backwards to anyone else??
We have literally outsourced our own well-being and self-care to others – and in the process we have lost many valuable skills of self-sufficiency.
If the time comes when we have to grow, preserve, and cook all of our own food, many of us would be next to helpless.
We have distanced ourselves so much from our food supply that some people don’t even know where milk comes from – or what part of a plant a carrot is! (Seriously – I have heard people ask this!)
I’m not advocating a return to the Dark Ages, nor that everyone should go “off-grid.” But I do think that it is time that we start to take matters into our own hands, and keep alive the skills that have helped keep our species alive for thousands of years – you know, just in case…
As this article from The Grow Network says, “We can improve our resilience and long-term comfort right now, starting at home. Homesteading, which is centered on gaining practical skills, tools, and local supply systems, is a great starting point.”
Here are some practical ways that you can build and utilize modern homesteading skills today:
Let’s face it, it will probably never be easier to begin homesteading than it is today. Even if there is no giant collapse or apocalypse, we are peaking many of our most important resources. Population is going up, resources are going down, water is becoming more scarce, and the weather is getting worse.
Take advantage of our current manufacturing and supply systems that make goods cheap and easily obtainable. Recycle, reuse, re-purpose, and buy conscientiously. Vote with your dollar whenever possible. But when these things are not possible, don’t let trying to buy or obtain things “the right way” be an impediment to becoming a homesteader. No matter what the advertisements tell you, buying a hybrid car or eating organic lettuce will not make it all better. On the other hand, converting your lawn into a food forest and vegetable garden, even if you have to use big brand potting soil and non-sustainably resourced lumber, will probably actually help in the long-run.
The point is – start turning your home into a homestead today, using the fastest means you can afford. Do not let mental hang-ups over the “best way” to do things be a barrier to action.
Homesteading is Not Just for Hippies and Environmentalists
A few generations ago, nearly every home was a homestead. I don’t mean that everyone raised 100% of their own food and supplied all their own energy, but every working home was somewhat self-sufficient without being dependent on an insanely complex network of suppliers for all of the family’s needs. Homesteading doesn’t mean doing it all yourself, it means taking steps to make your home and your immediate community a place that will sustain you in good times and in tough times.
All You Need is Your Noggin
If you already navigate our complex world, then you can easily re-purpose that same intelligence to create a functional homestead. Homesteading is not magical or difficult. OK, actually, it is a little bit magical. Growing your own food restores your connection to nature. Sharing freely with your neighbors restores your faith in humanity. Managing your limited resources gives you an appreciation for the things you have. And these experiences can transform you in magical ways. But homesteading is not difficult. It does require effort and there is a learning curve, just like anything else worth doing.
On the effort front, stop mowing and start planting. Put down that TV remote and go take a class to develop a useful skill. As to the novice factor, accept that you will briefly be a bumbling idiot when you start homesteading – just like you are on the first day of a new job or the first night at a ballroom dancing class. Then stick with it, learn from people who know more than you do, pay attention, and be willing to ask questions and try new things. If you do it like you mean it, you will get good at in a very short amount of time.
Homesteading today needs to be a re-evolutionary process, which means we need to look back as we move forward. The past was not a panacea of perfection, neither is the present, and I can totally guarantee you that the future won’t be either. But hopefully we can blend a bit of “tried and true” with “new and cool,” to come up with something that works for us now. For example, a root cellar is still a very reliable way to store food without using electricity, but now you can dig it out with a gas-powered excavator instead of a shovel.
This is not about giving up all of our hard earned comforts. This is about finding ways to make what is really important to us sustainable in the long-run.