I’m not the best homesteader.
The blackberries spread themselves into my garden each summer, the geese escape to forage from the neighbors whenever they can, and every winter I find an uncompleted list of “foods to put by this summer” at the bottom of my book pile.
I have big plans, weak follow through, and a tendency to forget everything while writing to do lists. My greatest skill as a homesteader is probably my ability to enjoy it all: winter, summer, spring, & fall – each season feels ideal as it’s approaching, glorious when it begins, and natural as it continues into the next.
The truth is, there are no ideal homesteaders. There might be a few awful ones, let’s not pretend, but most just approach life with different priorities.
I’ve met grim puritans working day and night to wrest a living from the unforgiving land; daring pioneers building fortresses of independence against an intrusive state; and hippies weaving baskets and absent-mindedly pickling watermelon rinds. It’s a fascinating collection of individuals.
Our little house is full of joyful bohemians, reveling in our homemade cyganeria. The land is a moody-but-ultimately-indulgent sponsor, shaking it’s head as it hands us another bottle of wine: “you really should finish some of these projects”. We will finish them, but only when the time is right.
But almost all homesteaders, no matter how grim, are changed by the land. When we live close to it – outside of the distractions of cities and towns, with limited media and the firmness of the natural world pressing in on all sides – we can’t help but become something a bit wilder than we were. We’ve ‘surrendered to the earth’s intelligence’ as Rilke writes, and ‘rise up rooted, like trees’.