If there's one thing I hear over and over from readers who have a dream of rural living, is that it's their spouse, family or friends who are keeping them from their modern homesteading dream.
Let's face it – while the number of people desiring a rural lifestyle is growing, most of North American society thinks we're either dreamers and 'not being very practical', or we're flat out bonkers. So if you have a burning desire to get out of the city or suburbs and into the wide open country and you've got loved ones raining on your parade, what do you do? How do you convince them that you're onto something important?
I was fairly lucky when I announced my plan to return to the country and live in a little cabin in the woods. Most of my friends either wished they could do the same, or were at least supportive. My spouse, on the other hand (a born and bred city boy) had no interest in packing up and moving. Truth be told, it was just one more difference that we weren't able to overcome, and the relationship was really long 'over' by that point (we've got a much better relationship now - go figure). So no, I'm not a success story in that department, but if I had been in solid relationship, you bet your booty I'd have pulled out all the stops to convince him that moving to the country was a good idea. I'd have done everything I could to prove to him that living a rural life would be better for our family and our relationship.
So at this point, all I can tell you is what we have gained and learned by pursuing our dream, and touching on what's going on in the world right now that makes rural living a very valid, and dare I say wise choice.
Benefit #1 - Stress Levels Go WAY Down
There's something about all the background noise in the city that seems to keep us all jacked up, even if we don't know it. At least it was that way with me. Between the sirens and the noisy neighbours, sleep was something that eluded me more often than was healthy. But here, I've stopped grinding my teeth at night and overall feel way less stressed, even though my workload has probably tripled. There's just something about waking up to birds and not screeching tires that soothes the soul.
And with all the work required on a homestead, even a teensy tiny one, we're in better shape, even without going to the gym. With all the wood chopping and piling, mowing, gardening, building and other chores necessary to keep a modern homestead functioning, our muscles never lack for things to do. While I'm hardly an example of fitness any more because I spend so much time in front of the computer for my business (and researching homesteading skills and topics!), I know that I'm much healthier now than I was then - even when I was running 3 miles a day and biking to work.
Less stress means we're happier overall... and healthier. Now there's a selling feature!
Benefit #2 - We're Less Reliant on the Industrial Food System
With all that's going on today - droughts, floods, climate shifts, crop failures, topsoil loss, civil unrest, GMOs, food recalls, pesticides, complete economic restructuring, loss of nutrients in conventionally grown crops, and everything else we see in the news - it only makes sense to try to wean ourselves away from the industrial food system as much as possible. Many 'in the know' are saying that we may see basic food prices double - or more - over the coming year.
So, the more food we can grow, raise or glean ourselves, or buy from local growers and producers, the better off our families will be: our food sources will be more secure and less reliant on transportation and big agriculture, and unless we're using raw sewage or something on our veggies, it will be safer because you'll know what's gone into and onto it.
While it's possible to grow vast amounts of fruits, vegetables and poultry on a suburban property, it's pretty clear that it's a tad easier to be self sufficient when we've got more space.
Benefit #3 - We'll Avoid Much of the Craziness
the Next Few Years May Bring
As the economy continues it's dramatic shift and families and individuals are affected in so many ways, we're seeing a lot of fear rising up. And what happens when people get fearful? They do crazy things.
I remember a few years ago in Vancouver when we had heavy, heavy rains and a landslide washed into the mountain water supply. It was muddy from the tap, and there was a region-wide boil water advisory affecting about 2 million people - most particularly, the advisory was directed at those with compromised immune systems. Well, you'd have thought someone had dropped 12 tonnes of raw sewage into the lake - the line-ups for bottled water began almost immediately, and there were actual fist-fights among store customers as the supplies dwindled. This when all we had to do was boil our drinking water (we just filtered ours with a bio-filter and suffered no ill effects)
If a simple boiled water advisory creates that kind of panic, I honestly have no interest in seeing what will happen should we be faced with an actual disaster in an urban area. For some reason, rural towns seem to fare much better with these sorts of situations, as their residents are pretty much used to things like power outages, muddy water and the inconveniences that come with living away from big city centers. You learn to make do and not whine and complain. Well, most of the time, anyway...
So as the economy continues its shift and food prices rise as a result of drought, floods and everything else affecting big agriculture this year, I think we'll sadly see more and more people doing more and more desperate things. For those who live in a community that's working on becoming more food secure (city or country, doesn't matter - there's good people doing great work everywhere), they'll be far more comfortable, and less stressed, than those who ignore all the warning signs and just take their chances that 'the government will look after them'.
The bottom line is this - without prepping in some way, whether it be just getting a few weeks to a few months of food put away either by purchasing freeze dried meals or learning how to can and dehydrate food, we'll all be paying more for food a year from now (likely a lot more). Now what's that going to do for our stress levels?
Benefit #4 - Our Children Are More In Touch With the Natural World
My little guy has been a nature nut since before he could walk. I remember watching him in the courtyard of our townhouse, where the only wildlife to be found were pillbugs and the odd ant. I also remember thinking how sad it would be for a child this in love with nature to grow up surrounded by concrete and steel. It was one of the big reasons I wanted to move to the country, and I'm so glad we did. Seeing him now, surrounded by all sorts of critters (and now our chickens) and revelling in everything the natural world has to offer, I know I made the right decision.
Even his school is surrounded by trees and water, and is right across the street from the beach. There's a creek running through the property, and they regularly see eagles and hawks, vultures and bears, right on the school grounds (you might not think bears at school is a good idea, but everyone is safe... ;o) What a way to grow up! I had a bit of that when I was little, but we lived in a subdivision (albeit a small town subdivision) and our school was the typical flat building surrounded by gravel and playing fields. Not a creek in sight...
Now, not all children are nature nuts, obviously, but spending time outdoors is good for everyone. Getting in touch with the cycles of life, getting dirty and wet, understanding what it's like to be cold and feeling the sun on your face, exploring the edges of your capabilities - that's what childhood should be about, and it's so much more accessible in a rural community. And for their self-esteem, sense of adventure and imagination? There's nothing like it.
Of course, small towns have their drawbacks as well - but in our community, at least, we've got access to brilliant music teachers, fabulous teachers and a tonne of activities... even some we wouldn't find in the city. And not to mention that with all the hard work involved in keeping a homestead running, they'll keep their bodies limber and their minds active. It's pretty hard to be bored and get in trouble when there's just so much stuff to do!
Benefit #5 - We're Part of a Community
It's pretty much impossible to 'do' this homesteading thing without connecting with others in a big way. And while it's easy to be anonymous in the city, it's not quite so in the country. Sure, you could go hide away in the bush and never see anyone (personally, I'm quite happy hanging out at home), but I've had enough experience now to know that I can't do this thing alone. Nor would I want to, not that I've met all the wonderful people that seem to surround us.
Asking for help, by its very nature, builds community. And that's a very good thing should we face the kind of food price increases and job losses that are looking likely - we're going to need each other like we haven't in decades. Thing is, most small communities have never forgotten what it's like to be dependent on neighbours - especially those that have lived through a natural disaster or other calamity. It's only those of us from the city who find it easy to disconnect from everyone around us and just do our own thing - until we realize that that's just dumb (speaking for myself, of course!).
I'll tell you, there's just something really comforting about knowing that other people have got your back.
If you're facing doubters in your own life, hopefully this has been helpful. Whether they think you've gone completely off the rail or just can't imagine why you'd want to leave the comfort of the city for an uncertain future on a homestead, maybe this will provide a bit of food for thought to pass along. It goes without saying that this life is not for the faint of heart, and there are many times I wonder what the heck I'm doing here. But at the end of the day, I rest well knowing I've made the best choice for my family. Of course, there are other serious questions that need to be considered, and lots more to discuss on this topic, but if it's your dream, I say go for it! Life is supposed to be an adventure, right?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's article. If you've got experience with moving your family to the country, or have any stats or great reasons to make the move that you'd be willing to share, we'd love to hear from you in the comments below! We're all learning from each other, and the more we put out there, the more we get back... ;)