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Intentional homesteading: it could help increase employment opportunities, among other possibilities.

My wife and I are homesteaders. We love many things about this lifestyle--fresh air and quiet nights, and lots of freedom from the rules and regulations required in the city. But we struggle with some difficult issues that cause problems for many homesteaders: loneliness and the scarcity of good jobs. I have to drive 50 miles to the nearest city for work. To save money on gasoline, I stay in town for three or four days at a time while I'm working. This is hard on my wife, increasing her feelings of isolation on the homestead.

Because I believe that homesteading is important, that it fosters the creativity and freedom that America needs to meet the challenges of our uncertain future, I spend time thinking about ways to make homesteading more successful. The ideas that follow are designed to improve homesteading, using the model of intentional communities.

Intentional communities have been in the news for several years. People with similar interests get together to design housing developments and neighborhoods. Perceived needs are met by careful design. Some communities create extended "families" by placing retirees in close proximity to young families. Some groups encourage the use of renewable energy or large-scale gardening.

To make homesteading work more effectively, we can design homestead communities with the intention of making them more profitable and less isolated. The issue of isolation is addressed because a community is being created. Community members would share common objectives and live in the same area. To increase employment opportunities, carpooling would be possible. Within the community, people with useful skills like computer expertise or automotive repair know-how would be able to create home-based businesses. Another way to increase job opportunities would be to locate the homesteading community as close as possible to a job market.

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Intentional homesteaders would differ in the way they chose to share labor and materials. Some communities could share tools, recreational facilities, laundry equipment, even work assignments. Other communities could simply share space, purchasing large tracts of land together and developing them, then letting each homesteader meet his or her personal needs.

The upside of creating community is that we can benefit by having others to share the ups and downs of homesteading. The downside is that we will have to deal with other people as we share the ups and downs of homesteading. Some homesteaders like to be completely on their own. They cherish isolation. So be it. Intentional homesteading wouldn't be for everyone. Those of us love who homesteading, but who need to improve employment situations and wish to be less isolated, might find intentional homesteading to be an intriguing concept.

An example of intentional homesteading--a fictional story

Five families decide to pool their resources and begin a homesteading adventure. They purchase 50 remote acres of land. The acreage is 25 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart store and a city of 100,000. Because the land is remote, its price is reasonable. Also, because of its location, the land is not over-regulated with zoning and codes. All legal matters were studied by a lawyer before the group purchased the land, avoiding potential problems. The requirements to get into and out of the community are spelled out in advance and written in a legal document, signed by all participants. There are jobs available in the city. By carpooling, those who work in the city can afford to drive to town. One member of the homesteading group plans to create income by establishing a daycare center at the homestead.

The homestead property is carefully laid out. The members desire to be within walking distance of one another. This leaves most of the land available for agricultural use. Some of it is leased to a local farmer, which keeps the land listed as an agricultural property, saving tax dollars. Because the homesteaders are trying to keep operating costs low so that they don't have to have as much income from outside, they choose to have several things in common. They share tools for the community garden. They have a common laundry. One member, who is semi-retired, builds a large garage where the homesteaders store a pickup truck and a small tractor which they purchased together. The retiree makes a few extra dollars taking care of all things powered by gasoline.

The homesteaders choose to meet once a month to govern themselves and to take care of money matters. Because they don't want to create a power-mad association president (it almost always happens), each adult member of the group is required to be at the monthly meeting. Each member has a vote.

No homestead is utopian. Sometimes things and people are difficult. By sharing responsibilities and costs, and by creating opportunities for employment and friendship, homesteading can be a great lifestyle choice for more people in the future.

BY JACK AND MARILOU DODY

RUSH, COLORADO
COPYRIGHT 2009 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Country neighbors
Author:Dody, Jack; Dody, Marilou
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
Words:811
Previous Article:Why wait to homestead? Start where you are!
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