Thoughts on homesteading: introduction

Greg Scott suggests that after three years at this project, it might be time for me to write down some reflections on the journey for the sake of those embarking on similar ones. I think he’s right; it only took a few minutes of jotting down lessons we’ve learned and conclusions we’ve reached to create an alarmingly long list of them, most of which I haven’t yet written much about and many of which merit full-length posts. So as time and inspiration permit in the days ahead I’ll be adding to this new series.

I dithered for awhile on what to call this series. “Lessons learned,” or even “lessons learned so far,” The primary lesson we’ve learned—or, maybe better, premonition we’ve had confirmed—is that given the scope of the three years is not a long time at all but a very short one, barely time enough to justify saying that we’re on our way down the path. So I’m only willing to call the topics in this series “thoughts,” no matter how lofty or settled or strongly held they may appear as I write about them. I don’t offer them as any sort of guidance, but only as anecdotes from our ongoing journey that we’ve found instructive; my hope is that some readers will find them helpful in stimulating their own thinking.

Whether these are actually thoughts on “homesteading” is something I will leave up to each reader to decide. I don’t know exactly what to call the kind of life we are pursuing here in Kentucky, and a true homesteader might reasonably object to my calling it that. But the other possible names—”agrarianism” in particular—carry even greater baggage with them. So I’ll use the word “homesteading” here to describe what we do, meaning an attempt to live a rural life in which most of our labor is devoted to meeting our needs directly.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on homesteading: introduction

  1. Thanks, Rick. I, for one, look forward to your review of the journey so far.

    Hope to see you in August.

  2. I appreciate you sharing your experiences. I am endeavoring to start “homesteading” this summer and have lots to learn. Thanks for following the advice.

  3. I’m looking forward to learning from your experiences and wisdom. Heaven knows I’ve learnt enough from my own mistakes in my homesteading endeavors!

  4. While I’ve been eagerly awaiting the first installment of your thoughts on what you’ve learned, I hope you don’t mind if I chime in on one very important lesson I’ve learned. That is:

    Learn from the mistakes and successes of others.

    For example, I’m a fan of Eliot Coleman; I’ve read his books and have tried many of his practices. But, being the indepenedent sort, I have a tendancy to “do things my way.” So I have often taken “shortcuts” by skipping ingredients or procedures that he recommends. This year, for example, I was making soil blocks when a friend stopped over and was intrigued by the concept. I let him borrow my copy of “The New Organic Grower” where the ingredients and process are explained and he was off to the races. But afterwards when I saw his blocks and seedlings, I noticed that his blocks had better germination, stonger plants, and the blocks themselves were sturdier. I asked him what he did, and he told me that he just “followed the directions in the book.” Smart guy. That’s when I realized that my soil block “shortcuts” were actually costing me alot. I hurried to remake my blocks and re-seeded with success.

    The lesson here is that even though I can’t learn everything from books (there is no substitute for experience) I can get a big head start on the learning curve if I’m humble enough to take and use good advice.

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