Homesteading Today and What Challenges Can Arise
By Chris Downs
Homesteading today has different challenges than in the 1800s. However, technology has made it easy to get confused about what information to believe and still grow nutrient-rich and healthy food. Food that not only provides nutrition but also protects the Earth we live on.
Back in the 1800s, the earliest settlers in America made their way from the bustling East to golden opportunities out West. The safest way for pioneers to navigate the tough terrain to the West was the wagon train. These wagon trains crisscrossed the Old West on trails – some of the most famous being: The Overland, Santa Fe, Chisholm and Oregon Trails. Along the way they saw incredible beauty and observed two surprising things they never saw coming.
First: Passing wagons observed discarded old household goods along the trail. Second: The trail they were traveling was littered with graves. Starting in the East and heading West, the pioneers were committed to seeking fame and fortune in a rush of enthusiasm, but they had no idea what that commitment would cost. As for the belongings discarded along the way – it became clear to the pioneers that if they were to reach the next water hole they had better balance between their immediate needs and their eventual wants. If a bedroom set stood in the way, out it went, they let it go. If a piano was too heavy for the horses, out it went, they let it go. And if luggage was too cumbersome – you guessed it – out it went, they let it go! Better to discard those things that stood in the way of reaching the West than the alternative. The alternative? Those who hung on to their unnecessary paraphernalia for dear life more often than not were the occupants of the graves that littered the trails.
What to keep as a necessity was an important decision. To live or die depended upon their decision.
The pioneers who successfully made it to the West figured it out. Those who clung to the past and all their unnecessary paraphernalia didn’t make it to the next water hole. They wore out their animals, themselves and family unable to cross the mountains. Those who let go of the past and divested all the unnecessary paraphernalia were those who were ready to claim their new future.
As we are working on our new farm project at 8,600 feet of elevation here in Colorado, choosing what to bring and what to get rid of is important. Luckily for us, the house next to our farm had been empty for six months.
The owners built a new house and had moved. Building a business, a new home and raising four children with no time for themselves, the move has been great for the family that moved away. As the house sat empty, the need for cleaning and preparing for sale quickly led to a house in need of help.
We were able to make a deal to clean up the property as well as bring all of the off-frid systems up to good standing. This is a win-win for us as well as the home owner. But we did have to decide what steps to take first for a healthy environment.
The mice had been living in luxury. We evicted them and with dust masks, gloves and cleaning gear, once again made this house clean and sanitary for us and our family. Just like in the 1800s there are challenges with water, food and heat and security.
Wild donkeys have a way of getting into everything. The solar power system needs to be maintained to provide power for the furnace, lights, hot water heater and the water well pump.
Coyotes roam the fields looking for a meal, so small children and small pets need to be educated about their safety. Cougars live in the area, but one of the biggest challenges is the below zero temperatures with lots of wind.
Our clothing had to be upgraded to keep us warm while working outside. The batteries in the backhoe were brought in at night to keep them from freezing and losing all of their charge. The free-range cattle can go through a weak fence if the grass looks greener on the other side. The antelope either jump over the fence, or walk between the rails. The mountain sheep come and go and are great to watch and enjoy their company.
The crows come and yell at us when a storm is on its way. They give us time to get inside before the clouds drop their liquid or frozen moisture on top of us. Once the house is livable, our next goal is to get the greenhouse completed so we can start growing food year round.
The plan is flexible and dependent upon many things. So just like the pioneers of days gone by, we too are ready to change our plans to achieve success.
Here are 10 things that we have found to be helpful to keep our spirits high and goals in mind.
Share our time and our expertise by helping others. Knowing your neighbors and being helpful in a very remote area increases your social life. It also can be the only person close by when you or they need some help.
Learn new skills like first aid, read books about homesteading, Grit, Mother Earth News, Capper’s Farmer and other homesteading tips, tricks and survival skills.
If you have the internet, keep in contact with friends and family.
Learn to be a good electrician, mechanic and seamstress, it comes in handy.
Waste less food. It will save you money and in the event you can not get supplies for a month or more, can save your life. You can have all of the money saved up you want, but if you are not prepared properly, you can’t eat money.
Eat healthy food. I have to admit, we do like sugar. Living away from a city is great therapy for sugarholics. Our well water is clean and healthy. Our food is organic and nutrient rich. But if we make poor choices in our staple foods, our health will suffer.
Keep your family close and invite friends and neighbors over once in a while for company. It is good for your health to laugh and share some great food.
Keep your relationship with God strong. Our spiritual health is very important. Be willing and able to spend time with yourself. Calm your mind and listen to what is placed on your heart.
Learn from the mistakes and share with others.
Wake up each day, knowing that today is a present. Enjoy it!
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