Modern Day Homesteading
I consider my family modern day homesteaders. We started with 160 acres of raw land, which actually was an old homestead and still had some of the original fruit trees. We built our own home from the trees on the land, started a garden, and installed an off-the-grid power system. We live as self-sufficiently as possible, and the only major difference between my family and the original homesteaders is we had to buy our land and the modern conveniences of our home.
Apparently, there is a small trend in the United States for families to give away their possessions, get back to the land, and choose a simpler life. Take for example the Harris family of Austin Texas, who aspire to be organic homesteaders in Vermont.
Now they are trying to get rid of it all, down to their fancy wedding bands. Chasing a utopian vision of a self-sustaining life on the land as partisans of a movement some call voluntary simplicity, they are donating virtually all their possessions to charity and hitting the road at the end of May.
Voluntary simplicity is a movement that began in the 1980s and encompasses bringing personal lifestyle practices into alignment with ecological values and cultural change that reject consumerist values and careerism. Mary E. Grigsby, author of Buying Time and Getting By: The Voluntary Simplicity Movement, explains:
If you think about some of the shifts we’re having economically — shifts in oil and energy — it may be the right time. The idea in the movement was “everything you own owns you.” You have to care for it, store it. It becomes an appendage, I think. If it enhances your life and helps you do the things you want to do, great. If you are burdened by these things and they become the center of what you have to do to live, is that really positive?
Living Simply with Children
Most parents want an improved life for their children over their own lives. The growing trend of parents to limit possessions and live simply reflects their own desire for their children’s lives not to be ruled by materialism and consumerism. According to Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads, and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Childhood and the Joy of Parenting:
For most American families, “living simply with children” is the ultimate oxymoron. Between Mom and Dad working full-time jobs, the kids being shuttled from day care to lessons to sports-wolfing down fast food along the way-and the never-ending need to buy and spend to “fit in” to America’s consumer culture, family life can indeed be incredibly complex.
The simple life means less toys, less scheduled activities, more time together as a family, more self-reliance, etc. I am reminded of Helen and Scott Nearing, who abandoned city life during the Great Depression to live off the land.
The New York Times has dubbed the renewed interest in voluntary simplicity and homesteading “Chasing Utopia“; however, I feel it is more grounded than dreams of an idyllic life. A simple family life does not mean that an ideal family will be created, but it does ensure that parents are modeling and sharing with their children the values they deem important.
Toblerone @ Simple Mom says
Great post! I just “stumbled upon” you, and I’m so glad I did. I’ll be exploring more of your site. Thanks for sharing.
Wendi Pinkerton says
I was suprised to find a place like this. When my parents moved from Kent, Ohio to a place in the forest called Beallsville, Ohio. I was 7. My Dad called it “Homesteading” but I thought he had made it up. My parents bought 75 acres of really forest and brush with a small old farmhouse and an old barn. I remember my Dad going around the house with a huge sythe ( spelling?) Whipping down all these briars and tall weeds so we could plow gardens and at least make it to the barn as the place had been abandoned for some time. There were four rooms in the house and believe it or not,an outhouse.
I was raised with no TV, no radio,no sodas or sugar. We had animals that we ate and fruit vegetables that we canned and ate fresh in the summer. Had milk from our goats and fresh milk from the dairy farm way down the road. (non pasturized with the thick cream on it and everything and I never got sick or fat from it) Everthing I lived on was from our garden or some type of animal we had. We even tried goat and groundhog and that was disgusting my book.
To make a long story short, I thought it was pretty cool to find this place. I’m glad that people are still doing this..When I was growing up I hated it,but I learned to live without a grocery store, microwave dinners,fast food,cars,telephone,and all the crap the media tells us we need. I can grow anything, I learned what plants and roots you can eat from the forest, I can kill,clean and cook almost any animal. (No offence Vegan/Vegetarians)
Pretty cool huh? Keep on keepin on people!!!
Wendi Pinkerton says
I forgot to add that because we had no TV, radio or any other outside influence from the world, I learned to appreciate books by authors such as Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, all of the Nancy Drew mysteries and all of the Hardy Boys mysteries. I read the Encylopedia, Black Beauty, Alfred Hitchcocks’ many works, and others. I was around 8 or 9 when I learned to appreciate books. This was also right around the early 70’s when there were a lot of chaos and things going on after the war and I don’t think my parents wanted us to be exposed to it, which is a little paranoid.
Thanks, Jennifer for this informative post with great links. I would love to read the books you mentioned and learn more about this. Thank you!
Great post! What you say is very true. In today’s society it seems so many people are saddled with credit card debt and extra weight the things we “consume” end up consuming us. Perhaps the Amish have it right after all?
I think the idea of voluntary simplicity with children takes a bit of courage, but I see it as a the kind of courage that says “We as a family can take control of our schedule, we can be in control of the family budget and finances, we can choose the life we want to lead and not have it chosen for us by advertisers and marketers.”
It’s liberating when you realize the guilt to keep up with the Joneses’ clears away and you actually feel more confident.
This book you mentioned sounds like a must read.
Debra Junker says
What does your wardrobe consist of?
nancy edwards says
My husband and I started to homestead in the early 70’s when the movement was called “Back to the Land”.
Now we are in our 60’s, no debt, still gardening, still canning and are looking forward to down sizing to a small, solar home someday. It does work and is very rewarding. Good luck to the next generation.