August 20, 2015

Homestead life from City life

The chaotic emptiness of lives crammed alone into cities is unnatural to the creatures we are born to be.  As human beings, we are all descendant of peoples who automatically lived in tune with nature and the land.  It is natural to long for a more meaningful way of life because our humanity is physically linked to taking care of the land.  Our true nature, our righteous place, is to live honouring her majesty and reaping her harvest.

Today people live like tourists in this world, instead of like the heirs to the kingdom that they are.  No longer living in the security of familiar clumps but scattered by the winds of fortune has left us vulnerable and without allies.  We are not to live like the showy short-lived annuals interested only in looks and spreading our seed.  It could be said we live like the invasive weeds as we monopolize resources, overtake others to get ahead, and don’t want to share not even with our own.  It should be said we are the hardy perennials who happily develop, mature and survive for generations as intrinsic members of our communities.

Traditionally to survive and thrive the extended family lived and worked together easily sustaining the group.  Without pretence a mosaic of personal attributes and limitations, whole heartedly pulled the same cart up the same hill.  This sustainability trait is mimicked in the natural world whether a pride, colony, hill, or clump all work for the greater good.  It is in your interest to gather and support the natural allies of your life.

Essentially, people are all doing the same things at the same time.  We all sleep then rise, work, eat, clean and socialize.  Our needs are all similar.  Our skills and resources are different however as our weaknesses are others’ strengths.  If we truly lived as the family of man, we would talk to our neighbors and find efficient ways to save time and resources in maintaining our lives.  This is a simplistic example but you see the solution is obvious.  It has evaded us partly because we have refused to expose our needs and share with others.

One homestead can comfortably produce for the needs of three families.  Homesteading can be implemented with one person, or many people.  It is not possible for a couple to manage a completely self-sustaining homestead, the work and pressure would be too much work to bear.  It can work well with two households, each member contributing part-time labour.  With less people, the need for production is reduced, but not the labour needed.  It is just as much effort to produce food for one as it is for two or three more.

In every century, people have left the status quo to pioneer on their own in search of a better life, so it is true today.  We are not hacking through the wilderness to carve out a living and start all over in isolation hardship.  That would be irresponsible and counter productive at the very least.  It is not too late to find the land that will sustain your life.

There are miles of land in this country desperately in need of stewardship; farms already built, but for the most part underutilized.  We have to renovate and rejuvenate what has been created and build upon that as our foundation.  What we are about to embark on is a lifestyle of using resources already available to us to reshape our lifestyles to live more in tuned with nature.  We must take the wisdom of the old ways and combine it with the benefits of the twentieth century.

Rural properties are different to assess than real estate in the city.  To be efficient and self-sustaining a homestead in the country must have its own infrastructure.  There are five main factors to consider when purchasing land to homestead.

Number one is it must have water easily accessible, right on the property.  It may pumped from a well or run with gravity from a surface water source, or even be facility to capture rainfall.  In all cases consider the maintenance and upkeep cost requirement of the equipment.  Is there enough water pressure?  Can you purchase water rights?  Any property with a natural clean water source should be considered.  A small piece of property with clean water is more valuable than a multi-million dollar estate where water has to be delivered by truck.

Number two is proximity to modern amenities like power, roads, regulation septic tank, and services perhaps like a post office, convenience store, or garbage pick up.  Can you put the water where you want to garden or put animals?  How easily could you get to help in emergency situations?  Will your road be cleaned in the winter?

It is a big sacrifice and leap of faith to relocate to the country, to grow your own food and to live away from the modern excitement of the city.  You may have to deal with limited health care and schools, few shopping conveniences, and isolation in changing weather conditions.

A person must have enough amenities that they feel comfortable when they are resting.  In my opinion anything less than a toilet with sceptic tank, fridge, stove, running water and a reliable heat source would make any woman not want to stay.  If you relax by watching television, then bring a television or your Nintendo, computer, or piano.  Don't be ashamed have to what you need to relax and have fun alone and with others.

There is a limiting social factor to rural living overcome this by making the most of all your interactions with people.  Exchanges with others are valuable and necessary for growth.  Read the closest bulletin board regularly.  It not only shows who is selling what, but local happenings you can participate in such as clubs, fundraisers and events such as farmers markets and fairs.
Number three is the natural qualities of the land.  Walk the property, explore the areas that aren’t being utilized and find out why not.  You don’t want a property that has so much water it is like a marsh, it only creates a natural obstacle to raising food and the mould and bug problems may be insurmountable.  Does the ecosystem sustain wild mushrooms or animals or berries?  Can you have a garden or a fish pond?

Do the attributes of the land match your needs and lifestyle?  We chose to live by a lake for fishing and swimming and a micro climate which allows us to grow plants and animals with greater diversity.  It is an asset to be able to create alternative power from your property; hydro, solar, wind, geothermal.

Don’t fail to see the value in a southern facing property; the more sun you can utilize to grow food, the more food you can grow.  The earlier the snow melts in the spring and the later the frost comes in the fall also extends the growing seasons.  These factors can not be modified and have more value than the appeal of any building.

Fourthly, assess the buildings on the property and their condition.  What are they insulated with and does is it energy efficient?  Did you check the windows and doors for drafts?  Are the windows double paned for energy efficiency?  Do all the taps, toilets and sinks work?  Does anything leak?  Do all the lights and electrical outlets work?  Where does the sewage go from the house?  Electrical and septic upgrading may be necessary for insurance reasons, which can add greatly to the cost of the house.

Before you buy a house, look at the foundation holding the building up.  Is it straight and firm or is it bowed and sinking; is it dry and free from mould?  While you are in the basement look at the hot water heater and water pipes; are they old and need to be replaced to be energy efficient?  Degradation to the foundation including water seepage will continue unless intervened with costly repairs, this would not be a preferred property.

Besides being expensive, sometimes the machines and people aren’t available in the country, to do work for you, as immediately as you would expect in the city.  Consider the additional costs to be incurred above the price of the property to bring it to a manageable standard.

Pens, fencing and shelters for animals on the property are certainly assets worth paying more for.  Outbuildings can be used further revitalized for storage and accommodation.
It is better to use established buildings, as long as they are sound, to house animals rather than build new ones.  You might build a new pen that works terrific in the summer but sadly watch the roof fall in from the weight of the winter snow.  Unless you are an experienced builder there are too many variables to success and you will be putting your animals at risk.  Choose a place where buildings that have stood the test of time and will continue to functions through all the seasons.

Your first year should be spent studying how the property works.  Know how your water and septic systems operate, don't assume.  Understand what could go wrong and have a solution at the ready.  The problems with an old furnace, a leaky pipe, broken fencing or the need for insulation will always become obvious.  Make note of potential problems as they present themselves to the thought of fixing them when the time and resources or urgency presents itself.  

Plan ahead your course of action for a fire, severe weather, water shortage, and power outages.  It is much better to face problems and solve them as you can, than be faced with the cost of unexpected hardship.  Seek low cost low tech solutions for potential problems.  Prepare for the worse knowing this security will cushion your success.

Although nature appears gentle, is not passive.  Nature is the most powerful force.  It always shows what is inadequate about what you have done or not done, and you deal with the consequences before you can do what is better next time.  Until things mature, and perpetually run in sync, there will be glitches in the system.  Be accepting of this is the process being diligent to make adjustments as necessary.  It is not a hardship but a loving, sacrificial commitment you are making for the planet.

If we are going to protect the earth from the deluge of human destruction then it is going to take each of us protecting a piece at a time, it must be our conviction.  Please don’t ignore this opportunity.  If you do not, I assure you the corporations exhorting nature’s vitality and profiting from the depletion of our country’s natural resources will not.  Do your part to nurture a patch, let it feed you and the world.  Eventually all pieces will join to create for the earth a protective quilt of stewardship and paradoxically set a framework for capital-less existence with a light footprint for generations to come.

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