Shifting attitudes in homesteading

Homesteading – a lifestyle of self sufficiency and mindful living. Homesteading can be difficult to define, but with the events of the pandemic, the shift in ideology moving to homesteading in some capacity is hopefully going to drive a cultural change where more people make the change to live life outside society’s rules.

Whether you’ve been a homesteader for years, or the recent events have spurred the shift in ideology, none of us can deny that homesteading and the ideology that follows it hasn’t made a resurgence. No-one is prepared for a pandemic. Well, I lie. If you’re a prepper, then maybe so – but regular folks aren’t prepared. If the toilet paper fiasco or every lockdown since covid has been active is a testament, it’s that in general, society has a fear of being in lockdown and not being able to wipe their ass.

My question on the toilet paper issue keeps coming back to one thing – what are these people planning on doing during lockdown? How much food do they intend to consume? Worst case scenario is, you run out of toilet paper. So, go and have a shower. If you’re in the privacy of your own home, who cares how you wipe your ass.

I actually said this on my personal social media in the first QLD lockdown and one of my family members got very bent out of shape about it. Apparently, my comment was ‘too much’. Too much of what? The truth?

Let’s face it – the pandemic is something that has forced many of us to rethink the direction of our lives. Some people are so scared they refuse to leave the house. Others are so scared they believe the rhetoric of misinformation currently circulating. Regardless of your level of fear and which direction it comes from, the pandemic has shown us that society in general has been living in such a short term capacity that the threat of being in lockdown caused many of them to fear not being able to wipe their butts, a phenomena only a Hollywood movie could normally conjure.

For many of us, particularly homesteaders, we were only inconvenienced by lockdowns. But even then, I had no need to go out or go to the shop. I had enough food in storage, and there was no restriction on going to your local store.

When I returned to the office after sometime, the Director who is in charge of my pastoral care (because my team is spread out all over Australia and my actual Director is in Canberra), asked me how I fared during the first 9 months of the stay at home order, and how I’ve been managing since. My answer – “I live in the bush. It didn’t feel any different to me”.

What does that mean?

  • I had access to local, organic produce from nearby farms which was delivered weekly
  • I had access to my own garden of vegetables for food
  • Because I’ve been a homesteader for many years and live in a flood prone area, I have stockpiles of food and supplies for at least 6 months minimum
  • I have chooks for eggs and meat
  • I had already purchased my pasture raised pig earlier in the year which had already been butchered and in the freezer
  • I have a soap making business, so have a way and means to make body soap, pet soap, laundry soap…you get the drift.
  • I was working full time in my IRL job and not spending $600 per month in travel expenses just to go to work
  • I bartered eggs for honey and beeswax
  • Etc, etc, etc…

The shift in ideology for some may only be temporary. The pandemic has challenged our understanding of having everything a few clicks away. And whilst some may only be ‘temporary preppers’ until the next big emergency, those of us who homestead and have been doing so for some time didn’t feel that inconvenienced.

Mentally – this has been the best time of my life. I’m a total introvert. I get drained by exertions of energy. Being locked on my homestead for months, not having to have forced, fake interactions with others, was my dream come true. That was a pivotal moment for me, when I realised that I could work full-time and homestead at the same time. And then the next shift came when I realised I didn’t want to work my full-time job anymore and wanted to homestead full-time instead. And now the rush and urge to move onto a few hundred acres completely away from the rest of the world is what drives me every day. The next shift in life is when I am mortgage free and on my farm, where societal norms are not required and where pandemics and other global events don’t impact me.

If there has been a shift to homesteading, then I truly wonder how long lasting it will be. Personally, I feel that people have long followed the ‘rules’ – you know the typical get married, have kids, buy a house, work the same job for many years until your mortgage is paid off, suddenly you turn 60 and you’ve been nowhere, seen nothing, experienced nothing, and are so sick and tired and sore that you can’t do anything anyway. Breaking away from those ‘rules’ is the sweet spot where homesteading lies – you’re just far enough that nobody can be bothered with you, isolated enough that you can do what you like, and independent enough that you don’t rely on the outside world to live your life.

I also think that homesteading in its many shapes and forms, has long been a pipe dream people wish they could do. And nobody seems to realise that you don’t have to follow the ‘rules’ to be successful, and if you listen to any entrepreneur who has made it in life, they did so because they worked hard and didn’t let the ‘rules’ stifle their creativity and drive.

I remember posting on a subreddit I used to be part of that followed the FIRE principle in Australia. I specifically spoke about being in a homesteading community where people didn’t need money and could barter their wares between the neighbourhood. All the comments that followed were from people saying they could only dream this dream and watch homesteading channels on YouTube for their fix. Nobody actually had the guts to say, “I want to live my life like that”. People are scared of falling outside the lines of what societal norms perceive as regular, and the notion of selling it all, moving very far away, and looking after farm animals and a vegetable garden seems like it’s more of a far away dream than it actually is.

But I feel in some cases, it’s changing. There will always be people who prefer city living, or having access to schools and shops and dentists and sporting facilities – but there are also people who have been yearning for more, for something different, for something more gracious and satisfying. The more people that move back to regional areas or take up homesteading as their full-time job, the more a bigger cultural shift will start to emerge.

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