The Power of Mentors for the Rural Living Newbie

| 3/15/2011 1:01:18 AM

A photo of Victoria GazeleyAs an urbanite, I had this long-held dream of homesteading, of living off our own rural property, collecting eggs from our free ranging chickens, picking and putting up our own organic vegetables and fruit, and working from home. I think I even romanticized it a bit (ahem...). The reality of rural living, of course, was a little different.

I'll start by telling you that I’m an individualist at heart. Only recently have I learned to ask for help when I can’t figure something out. My usual modus operandi is to just hunker down in front of the computer (I design websites for a living, so there’s LOTS of 'hunkering' going on) and sift through blog posts and tutorials til I figure it out. Now, that works for website building, but for homesteading and rural living skills? Not so much.

Back in early 2009 when we moved into our little homestead (and for years before), I spent a LOT of time studying, reading, and taking courses and workshops on a zillion different topics related to modern homesteading, rural living, and self-sufficiency. Books, blogs, website forums, you name it… I visited and studied so many I lost track of who said what.

Wood Stove 

Then one day after we moved into our little cabin, I realized something: I didn’t even know how to start a fire. You know, so it would stay lit.

Sure, I’d read about it, watched some online tutorials (if you can believe it), but I’d never actually started one myself. It was a complete mystery to me, and to be honest, freaked me out a little bit. And because I was so afraid of looking stupid, I remember distinctly being a bit offended when my dad came down and showed me how to build a fire like I was a little kid who’d never lit one before. But truth was I hadn’t, and of course, didn’t want to admit it. I told him I ‘got it’ and then tried to start a fire after he left. It petered out so fast you’d have hardly known there was a match near the thing. Needless to say I had to go back and ask him for another lesson - clearly all that book/web learning I’d done didn’t apply to our particular geography, climate and firewood. So after feeling like a schmuck for not knowing how to do something simple like start a fire, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will get your skills upgraded fast than working with a mentor.

Nebraska Dave
3/18/2011 8:33:38 PM

Victoria, I would say that my Dad is the first and has been the most influential mentor of my life. Just as with you I didn't know or care about all the stuff he knew in my younger years. However, in later years I actually remembered many of the things that he tried to instill in my skill set. I guess I actually was listening and didn't know it. Now that he can't do that any more I have teamed up with a group of like minded folks that know how to fix or build anything. We volunteer our skills to be used in close disaster situations or in new church sanctuary builds. We have spent many days in Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, and Missouri. Mentors are a must in life whether you are home steading or just living life. Don't forget that someday you too will be a mentor for that homestead green horn from the city. Have a great home steading day.

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