When I ask friends and clients what they dream of, most responses include “land, freedom, and space.” When I probe further, the details almost always include some version of “homesteading.” It seems as if this desire is natural, intuitive, in-born. Although the degrees of desire vary vastly from caring for a beautiful lemon tree in a kitchen, to full-blown ‘living-off-the-land in remote Alaska,’ the underpinning is rooted in this seemingly primal instinct.
I grew up in the farming communities of Ohio, and even though my journey took me to the East Coast, the West Coast, and the Pacific Northwest (living in a camper trailer I might add), to exploring, and finally settling, at Aal Together Now Farm in Colorado, this thread of husbandry has been woven throughout. My yearning to own, care for, invest in, cultivate and enjoy dirt has grown over the years. Maybe it’s innate, maybe it’s because of our world, but I find myself captivated by exploring, and taking seriously, the steps to ‘homesteading light’. I like to call it that, as life for my family right now doesn’t allow for off-the-grid living. We’re in though, for our version!
You see, learning to consume foods grown on our own land, and harvesting honey from the bees we see pollinating our flowers, facilitates a sense of wonder that we don’t find in the day to day grind. We now watch our dahlia bulbs multiply each year, and bake whole grain breads harvested from local farmers (along with the stinky sourdough starter that we feed each week.) We’re even trying to train our donkeys to be useful and willing farm participants.
Honing My Craft
In spare moments over the last few years, I’ve been researching—by reading or hands-on classes and tours—how the people in my community are tapping into their own passions for farm-related techniques. A farm down the street sells raw milk and uses only draft horses to farm their land. A greenhouse a few miles away grows tropical fruits to feed family and friends, and the self-appointed “grain lady”, who has a passion for whole wheat sourdough bread, has formed an alliance to grow, harvest, and mill local grains. The dedication of these homesteaders to their respective arts has inspired me to hone my own mini-homesteading craft, borrowing their processes and sourcing locally as much as possible for our family.
Tipping the Scales Towards Beauty
For those of you who know me, you know it’s impossible for me to chart new territory in any endeavor without pairing beautiful details. Homesteading in any form, minus out-of-the-ordinary particulars, is simply not part of my make up. So here goes the hospitality, the design, and the art of modern homesteading. Can the milk bottles have signature curves and vibrant, recognizable labels? Can the rows of lilacs have sweet surprises like spunky gnomes, and the drying racks snazzy clips? Greenhouses are ripe for a design moment all by themselves. I have dreams of hosting seeding classes in my own! You better believe we will be collecting wild flowers in the most unfamiliar baskets, and drinking tea out of cups from a local potter. Where is the appeal in homesteading books beyond photos of smashed tomatoes in the same Ball jars? (And don’t get me started on the unflattering overalls donned by the whole lot.)
Maybe my desire for the eye-pleasing details is not needed, frivolous, critical….but what if the contribution of tipping the scale from utilitarian homesteading to alluring style is just what we need to further draw us into the farm life? Oh the satisfaction of owning dirt!