Have you heard the old Shaker song, “Simple Gifts?”
Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free.
Tis a gift to come round, where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in a place just right,
T’will be in a valley of love and delight.”
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend, we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn, t’will be our delight,
For by turning, turning we come round right.”
Is the “good life” more complicated than you expected?
Did you think that the homestead lifestyle was the same as the “simple” lifestyle? But when you actually started learning all that was needful to live more “simply,” you found that it was a lot more complicated than you had anticipated? When you bought your pressure canner, your dehydrator, your grain mill, your juicer, your Vitamix, and your pasta machine– to say nothing of the butter churn, cream separator, honey extractor, and 4 dozen essential oils – you racked up more credit card bills than you can pay off in a year. Those goats that you brought home for fresh milk, needed a barn, a milking parlour, and a playground, plus fencing that would rival Alcatraz, to keep them off the hood of your new Ford farm truck and out of your medicinal herb garden – that you planted last summer. Then there was the chickens that were supposed to give you farm fresh eggs at a fraction of the store price, but instead racked up bills for a chicken condo, fencing, nesting boxes, and organic feed at $15 a week – and then took the winter off. Now you are buying eggs from a neighbor at $5 per dozen, while Henrietta continues to consume your feed. Sound a bit complicated?
Did you buy your land, and start clearing it and building your future homestead dreams, while you kept your day job? If you did, good for you. But you may be feeling exhausted, trying to work the homestead on weekends and vacations while you keep one boot in the city. The goal is the “Simple Homestead Life.” The reality is exhaustion, unexpected bills, winter, and no time to take a day off.
Let’s examine the dream, “The Simple Homestead Life,” more closely, and perhaps bridge the impasse between your “dream” and reality. First of all, “Simple,” as the song “Simple gifts” refers to, is not the opposite of “complicated.” “Simple,” in this context refers to singleness of heart and mind. An “herbal simple” is an herbal preparation made up of a single herb rather than several herbs. The opposite of “simple” is “compound” or “duplicity” not “uncomplicated.”
Here’s 7 simple gifts that will help you uncomplicate your homestead journey. Think of them as compass points that will increase the JOY of the journey. As part of this post – there is a worksheet that you can download that will give you journal prompts to help you think through each of the 7 simple gifts, and how they apply in your specific circumstance. I hope you find the worksheet helpful.
The first gift is K.I.S.S. — Keep it simple, Sista’
Applying the concept of “simple” to the homestead lifestyle means that there is one, single prevailing value that all decisions and actions stem from. There is no internal conflict, tearing you between opposing values – such as the value to impress your clients or boss and the value to live within your means.
Websters (1828) Dictionary defines the adjective “Simple” as
Single; consisting of one thing; uncompounded, unmingled, uncombined with anything else.
Plain; artless; not given to design, stratagem, or duplicity; sincere.
Artless; unaffected; unconstrained; inartificial.
Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount when he said the “The lamp of the body is the eye; therefore when your eye is sincere, your whole body also is full of light; but when your eye is evil, your body is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:4; Matthew 6:23) In this drash He reminds His listeners, we shouldn’t have a divided heart, trying to serve two masters. Simplicity is having a single eye – an undivided heart, and serving only one master. The opposite of having a single eye – a single focus, if you will, is being double-minded, unstable, torn by opposing values.
Consider what your overarching values are that motivate your homestead decisions? My motivation may be different than your motivation. Is your motivation fear? Is it a desire for security? Is it the pride of doing it all by yourself? Is it a desire for control? Is it motivated by worship and faith or oneness with nature?
Your answers to this question will inform your journey. Check out the worksheet for more on this.
The second gift — faith
James 1:5 to 8 says, “now if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in trust, doubting nothing; for the doubter is like a wave in the sea being tossed and driven by the wind. Indeed that person should not think that he will receive anything from the lord, because he is double-minded, unstable in all his ways.”
Everyone has faith in something or someone. It’s not my purpose here to make you like me or convince you to borrow my faith. Your faith might be in yourself. It might be in your traditions and cultural gifts. Your faith might be in HaShem or the Messiah. Your faith might be in your denominational creed. Your faith might be in the organic lifestyle. Your faith might be in the government or even in the industrial food-drug-medical-agricultural system. The point is that where you place your faith matters.
What difference does my faith make? My garden doesn’t care what I believe or who I believe. I put in a seed and it grows, I get my zucchini just like everyone else. Afterall everyone can grow zucchini, right? Well, not quite. I admit, this illustration is over-simplified but illustrations are like that.
Let’s look at this more closely, using the zucchini as an example. If you put your faith in the industrial system – you’ll just buy the package of zucchini seeds you find at the rack in the grocery store. It might be genetically modified but that doesn’t matter. You’ll want to get to the zucchini as quickly as possible, or skip the seed and just buy the potted plants at the garden store. The goal is food — cheaper and faster. You’ll use 20-20-20 fertilizer and about halfway through the season, your plants will wilt. But you got enough zucchinis for the winter, so you’re good with that. There weren’t too many bees this year – and lots of the flowers on the plants didn’t mature. Well, there’s always next year.
On the other hand if you have trust in the organic lifestyle, any seed won’t do – you’ll look for open pollinated heritage seed. You’ll take care of the soil and be sure to dig in lots of well composted manure before planting. Your plants will grow longer, give you more flowers and if the weather cooperates, more zucchinis over the season. You have flowering bushes near your vegetable garden to attract native bees, so you find your zucchini’s covered with bees, too. Your harvest is prolific. You’ll have extra to share with neighbors. Your garden becomes a way to connect with neighbors and to serve your community. You’ll also let a few of the zucchinis reach torpedo size in order to save the seeds for next year. You’ll dry the seeds and package them to share at “Seedy Saturday” in order to help other gardeners keep this heritage variety alive.
What do you trust in? Who do you believe? Who can you trust? When our trust is divided between opposing worldviews, our life become conflicted and more complicated. For instance, if you trust the whole food, crunchy mamma bloggers who advocate organic, whole foods, scratch cooking, and bone broth, coconut oil, and fermented foods but then hear of an amazing sale on Krft. Dnnr and the prepper voices start pushing you to stock up, before it’s too late – this gets, well, complicated.
Every message that you hear has an underlying faith message. Understanding these messages will remove their subconscious power over your decision making and help you make more satisfying decisions on your homestead.
The third gift – Mentors
Mentors can help you find the right road. Mentors are living the homestead lifestyle and they’ve already made a few mistakes. They can help you avoid those ones – even if you have to make a few mistakes on your own.
When you find the homestead lifestyle getting too complicated and overwhelming – look for mentors to show you the easier way. Facebook is a terrific resource. Bloggers from the Homestead Bloggers Network are vetted for their values and experience, and can help you, too. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment on a blog or ask for advice where you need it. Most of my Homestead Blogger friends love to hear where you struggle so that they can help you overcome in those areas of your homestead.
You can download the worksheet for the post and work through each of these areas. This worksheet will help you sift through your thought processes and worldview, so that you can move toward a more satisfying, simple life on your homestead.
This is part 1 of a 2 part post.