If I were called upon to line up our Homestead Core Values in order of importance, Family would fill the first position (see Homestead Core Values). The importance of family may be the anchoring value in our home. Family is the . . . what, exactly? The core core value, perhaps the prime value. I think we can assert that our devotion to family formed the primary motivation for moving to the homestead in the first place.
I cover this thoroughly in the Family section of my book, Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm but to recap briefly, we chose this lifestyle primarily because it would allow us to escape the normal patterns of work and education, which separate families most days of the week, sending parents to jobs, and children to schools. We sought a way to spend our days together, working and learning as a family.
This is not to say that the more traditional arrangement is bad. It works well for many people. I’d go so far as to suggest that the arrangement actually holds many families together! But we felt the loss of precious time with Aly as she grew up, and we worked toward creating an environment where we could center our lives around the family, more independent from dividing pressures.
I think it worked, as far as raising Aly. She’s now an adult, out on her own in the world, working toward her own future. But, from the age of 12 until she left for college, she never felt deprived of family.
Ironically, our focus on family narrowed the definition of the term beyond our usual parameters. I rejoice in the concept of family as a more inclusive collection of people, beyond blood ties (see Space and Time Enough for Family). As such, extended family definitely falls well within our area of concern.
Unfortunately, our semi-remote home and more primitive amenities challenge older, less mobile parents and relatives, making it hard for them to visit. This, of course, gets compounded by the cost of traveling to Alaska in the first place. As our relatives age, they become less likely to visit here. Michelle’s parents, who used to come at least once a year, can no longer hike to the homestead (see Limits to Visiting). Indeed, it makes Michelle and I wonder whether or not we’ll manage to age in place. Further, our limited resources restrict our ability to travel outside to visit family in turn.
Even so, as a couple, Michelle and I continue to enjoy each other’s company, working and playing together far more than most couples manage (see Homestead 2.0). Even with Michelle’s part time work in town, we maintain a strong family atmosphere, to the point that family lies at the center of all we think and do.