Last December I contributed to an online article, Fulfilling a Dream: Living off the Land on the Ruple Properties blog (see Homestead Opinions Featured in New Online Article). All participants answered four questions, and portions of our responses made up the bulk of the article.
Much of what I said in my response didn’t make the cut. One question, in particular, is a popular one among readers of this blog, so I’ll post it and my expanded response.
The interviewer asked: “If someone wanted to begin [homesteading], what is the first thing you would tell them to do/try? Or one thing that would make for an ‘easy start?'”
I would urge those who want to try this lifestyle to start now, wherever they are.
I would recommend two books: my own Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm (audio book now available!) obviously, but also Jenna Woginrich’s Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life (reviewed fully on the blog). Ask your local independent bookstore for either of these titles. Watching them try to find mine should be entertaining . . . .
Try the lifestyle before you “buy.”
Begin cooking all meals from scratch. Stop loading your dishwasher, start washing dishes by hand. Then, start washing them with a limited amount of hot water.
Reduce energy use, particularly electricity. Learn what you can do without. Try going without power for one night each week, then expand. Make a game of it if you can (see “Pioneer Night”: Making Conservation and Emergency Preparedness Fun). Look at everything in your life that requires on-demand power: electricity, gasoline or other liquid fuels, etc. Experiment with using less, or doing without. If you can, walk or bicycle to work when you can. This will also help you get in shape—and you’re going to need to be in shape!
Learn how to identify, harvest, and use the wild edible plants in your area (or the region to which you plan to move). Start including them in meals so that you become accustomed to their different flavors and textures.
Kill your television! Wean yourself off of it as much as you possibly can, and devote the time you used to spend watching T.V. to the new lifestyle: do more household chores by hand, learn new skills that will be useful in the new life, or entertain yourself in less restrictive, more proactive ways, such as making music, telling stories, even reading a book. Stop playing video games, limit time spent on the Internet (but keep reading this blog, obviously!). Look for other time wasters, and try to channel that time and energy toward your goal.
Regard all of these suggestions, and any more you may think of to adopt, as The New Reality. Do not think of these as something you’re going to do for a while before going back to the way you used to live. Don’t ever assume you’ll be able to return to the old ways on a remote property. It might happen someday (I’m sure someone out there is killing themselves to invent the first 12 volt dishwasher) but if you look forward to that day to “save you” from the drudgery of what you’re doing, you’ll likely never make it.