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The Modern Homesteading Bug – 5 Ways to Know If You’ve Got It

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There’s this affliction that’s been going around for a few years now – it plants this really vivid dream in your head of escaping the rat race and moving to the country.  Of growing your own food, collecting your own eggs and of your children being raised under the influence of nature instead of video games.

It’s a niggly bug that buries itself in your psyche and won’t let go. With every city siren, rude neighbour and complaining customer at work, it gets louder and more in your face. And it’s infecting millions.

I know. I used to be a victim. But I found the cure: I just did it.

Well, OK. Truth be told it wasn’t quite that easy, but ultimately, that really was the answer.

So what is this mysterious affliction?  I call it the ‘modern homesteading’ bug, but it also goes by ‘the back to the land’ movement, rural living, and a number of other monikers.

I caught it more than a decade ago, when I spent a week at a cool little hostel in the backwoods of Powell River, British Columbia.

Fiddlehead Farm was an original West Coast homestead, carved out of the thick forest by pioneers more than a hundred years ago.  What would possess anyone to put themselves through that kind of torture to make a life for themselves, I’ll never know (if you’ve ever hacked through rainforest underbrush, you’ll know what I’m talking about – it’s virtually impenetrable, and they carved out entire productive farms from it).  But they did, and by the time I visited it was a quiet, cool little oasis of sustainability that welcomed visitors from around the world.  And it infected me with the bug.

Sadly, Fiddlehead Farm no longer exists, razed to the ground by new landowners because it was a safety liability.  But I do know that its spirit of self-sufficiency (and sheer funkiness – in a good way) lives on in many of us who were lucky enough to spend time there.

So this affliction, this modern homesteading bug – how do you know you have it?  Here are 5 ways to tell for sure:

Sign #1:  You find yourself reading every gardening and rural living magazine you can get your hands on.

Grit, Mother Earth News, and so many others... they’re superb resources for anyone thinking of moving to the country – and even for those of us who already have.  Some hardcore and experienced homesteaders find these magazines too rudimentary for their tastes (crazy, isn't it?  I know!!!), but as someone who is a relative newbie at this rural living gig, I’ve found (and still find) them all invaluable and very enjoyable reading.  There's definitely a place for the more technical (and dare I say, harder for the average person to read) journals, but these magazines fill a necessary niche, and I for one am really glad they're available so readily.

Well worth checking out if you’re just starting our your research into modern homesteading and rural living.

Sign #2: You find store-bought factory farm eggs totally inedible.

This starts to happen as you get introduced to ‘real food’.  And once you’ve had a farm fresh, free range egg, there’s absolutely no going back.  The difference is so distinct, so HUGE, there’s actually no comparison between them and their factory counterparts. I don’t even think they’re in the same food group (though many nutritionists would beg to disagree… and that’s OK – we know the truth).  The thought of eggs produced by happy hens who you’ve cared for yourself is something that just oozes self-sufficiency.

Of course there are issues with some commercial feed (think GMO corn and soy), but even at that, hens that have a chance to scratch grass and dirt, eat bugs and greens, and actually run around and spread their wings (as compared to living their lives in a couple square feet of cage and never once feeling the ground on their feet), are going to produce superior nutrition in their eggs.  To believe otherwise just seems bizarre to me.

Sign #3: Your teeth are wearing out from clenching your jaw.

This is actually kind of serious – I was actually wearing down my teeth from gritting them together while I slept – and probably during the day, too – to the point where my dentist ordered me a ‘nightguard’.  Since moving to our rural home, it’s no longer an issue and I threw the nightguard away.  Enough said?

Sign #4: You find yourself vacationing on working farms, at vineyards and in quaint, rural towns – and checking out real estate while you’re there. 

Oh, and you don’t want to go home.

Ever.

I always knew I’d end up back in a small town (I grew up in one – the one I live close to now, actually!), and always found myself visiting other small towns when I went on holiday. The bottom line is that once you’ve got the rural living bug, it’s pretty hard to get rid of – especially when you spend your holidays basking in the quiet of a small community.  The only cure is to actually move to one and see how you fare.

Sign #5: You’re reading this blog.

Now, I don’t want to make any assumptions, but if you’re still reading this, it’s quite likely you’ve thought about moving to the country at least once.  I’m honoured that you’re here, and taking time out of your busy day to read my post.  My goal is to provide both inspiration and a reality check to those seeking a rural lifestyle – it’s not always easy, but it IS always rewarding.  At least so far!

So, have you been bitten?

If you answered yes to 3 or more of the above questions, I’m happy to tell you that you’re probably totally done for!  If you’re still dreaming and haven’t started doing the research, what are you waiting for?  There has been no better time in our history to make the move:  countless superb online resources to make the transition easier, lots of products and materials to take out the guesswork, and a tonne of support via this blog and other rural living forums!  If you want it, you can absolutely do it – there is always a way.  I spent years planning our move, and finally, when the time was right, we took the plunge.  Risky?  Sure, maybe from the outside.  But the proof is in the pudding, as they say: it’s worked out better than I could have ever imagined – just as I knew it would.  And it can be the same for you…

So What Now?

If you’re thinking of making the move, we’ve got a some resources we think you’ll find super useful:

  • 5 Mistakes Newbie Homesteaders Make – Don’t Let This be You! is a 45 minute audio interview with modern homesteading guru Robin Wheeler – and it’s information I think everyone who moves from the city to the country needs to have in their research arsenal.  Trust me, you don’t want to show up as one of those ‘city people’ who drive the locals crazy – at least not one who thinks they know it all.  Because we don’t… at least not compared to those who’ve been doing it for years and years and years.  It’s well worth a listen – it’s downloadable, and it’s free.  Get the audio here:  5 Mistakes Newbie Homesteaders Make 
  • Our Facebook page is a great place to connect with others who are living the modern homesteading lifestyle, or just pondering the possibility.  ’Like’ the page today and I promise I’ll do my best to make it worth your while!  You can find us on Facebook here:  facebook.com/modernhomesteading 

Do you pine for a rural lifestyle, or have you recently made the move from city to country?  We’d love to hear about it!  Please share in the comments below – your stories might just help others make that decision to take the plunge and live out their dream…

charlie greene
7/26/2011 1:19:44 PM

I just love the way you did it! Just do it! If you look at where we are at as a society and what we have lost of off-shore job markets, technology, financial markets etc. the only direction I can see for anyone less than 30 is back in time. A farm of any size is the only direction they should be headed. Just thnk of being able to grow,store,preserve and eat your own food. Farming is not an easy life style but it sure is rewarding. Having left the corporate jungle after thirty years I find my self looking back with hind-sight as to the choices that I made. I look at our older son (36) who is right in the middle of the "Techi" race and listen to the absolute stress that he go's through on a daily basis. He has choices that he can make and I can only give him the expierence of my own carrier. Basically, I generally advise him to go get 40 acres of good furtile land and start to live life on life's terms. At some point one realize's that money is not everything. There is a lot to be said about the love of labor. If you have ever smelled the fresh dew in the morning or fresh cut hay or walked behind dairy cattle as they were walking down the lane at milking time and the smell of milk hung heavy in the air, or sat behind a manaure spredder instead of on the tractor pulling it and came out covered head to toe in what makes things grow, you just haven't lived yet.


cindy murphy
7/22/2011 6:55:49 AM

Great post, Victoria, and great comments from other readers as well. We're living the small town life here, and absolutely loving it. Thanks for sharing, and enjoy your weekend.


muck boot diva
7/21/2011 6:44:30 AM

Ha! Your blog here is me to the "T". We actually bought the farm already -- still kickin' though. We hope to move there in two years. You can read more about it on my actual blog www.muckbootdiva.com where I mention little tid bits of my homesteading experiences. MBD


jen gunning
7/19/2011 10:37:04 PM

I grew up on a farm and have always said it's the best way to spend a childhood (I also had 3 other farms to visit with great/grandparents so it runs deep for me :-). However, I married a city mouse and we have now settled in a small suburban town outside of Philly. But, I am making steady inroads on our 3/4 acre plot. We now have a small garden and I'm raising milkweed so the kids can tend the Monarch caterpillars like I did as a child. Next spring I will finally realize my 15-year dream (since we were married) as I've finally convinced my husband to allow a small chicken coop in th back yard. The kids are ecstatic and have chosen names for their hens...Gloria, Ruby and Henry (yes, Hen-ry). My coup d'etat will be moving to the bigger acreage with the old (renovated) farmhouse...still plenty of those around these parts. Then my circle will have come fully 'round. As my mom always says, "You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl!"


leslie
7/19/2011 7:56:36 PM

I enjoyed reading this. I met all 5 items. I have the itch so bad that it seems like that is all I can think about. I daydream about having a place where life is a little slower, where my son choses to play outside instead of with video games. I dream of peaceful nights on the porch listening to nothing but nature. I dream of setting the table with food that I grew, food that I know is healthy for my family, and food that I know what went into it. I dream of having chickens run around the yard and getting to enjoy fresh eggs from happy chickens. My dream is so big and strong, but yet seems so far away. I am learning slowly on my 3/4 acres with a small raised garden. I cannot have chickens due to the fact that I live in a neighborhood, so I rely on my local farmers market to help me out with that, for now. Thanks for the blog. I now know that this is more than just a "phase" and that I am not going crazy, just the opposite, I am starting to get sane.


leslie
7/19/2011 7:56:13 PM

I enjoyed reading this. I met all 5 items. I have the itch so bad that it seems like that is all I can think about. I daydream about having a place where life is a little slower, where my son choses to play outside instead of with video games. I dream of peaceful nights on the porch listening to nothing but nature. I dream of setting the table with food that I grew, food that I know is healthy for my family, and food that I know what went into it. I dream of having chickens run around the yard and getting to enjoy fresh eggs from happy chickens. My dream is so big and strong, but yet seems so far away. I am learning slowly on my 3/4 acres with a small raised garden. I cannot have chickens due to the fact that I live in a neighborhood, so I rely on my local farmers market to help me out with that, for now. Thanks for the blog. I now know that this is more than just a "phase" and that I am not going crazy, just the opposite, I am starting to get sane.


victoria gazeley
7/19/2011 2:27:12 PM

Nebraska Dave, I think bringing the country to you can sometimes be BETTER, as it inspires others to do the same AND can have a huge impact on urban and suburban communities. Love it! And Dave Larson, thank you! I concur re the benefits - and as Nebraska Dave is doing, bringing it to the city can have similar plusses. Let's hear it for homesteading indeed! Thanks so much for stopping by... :)


nebraska dave
7/19/2011 9:01:48 AM

Victoria, this is a great blog post to inspire those that have the bug to seriously consider following their dream. I started life on the farm and lived there until I drove off to college to find my way in life. Throughout the last 45 years of life I always intended to go back to the homestead life. Life got complicated and I lost my way and became a product of corporate Amercia. Now in my retirement years I have revisited my roots and although it's not possible to get out in the country, I'm in the process of bringing the country to me. My 50 X 100 foot plot of dirt isn't much but it is truly providing me with an urban homestead in the middle of the city. I've chosen not to have animals because there are times that I'll be gone for a week to ten days. I've tried to automate all the watering of the plants. The projects even on this small city working homestead has definitely kept me busy this summer. Between the grandson projects, gardening, and patio building, I've managed to keep out of trouble. The garden harvest is looming up on the horizon so I better get busy and finish up some of these projects to be able to on to the next one. Have a great home steading day.


dave larson
7/18/2011 6:39:41 PM

Love your blog. What would be the consequences of this modern homesteading movement gaining more momentum? Happier people? Revitalized small towns? Healthy living? All good things. Let's hear it for homesteading. We love living on our desert homestead in Arizona and love hearing about the experiences of others!! Thanks for sharing some of yours.