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Why homesteaders have more fun.

On the surface at least, most Americans think they live in the best possible world. Heavens, compared with their scrabbling ancestors, they I've like royalty! Or so they say.

The picture we get of those ancestors is one of impoverished people living under primitive conditions, working from dawn to dusk (and longer in winter) at strenuous and unpleasant chores. In stark contrast, we moderns just push buttons, work 8-hour days, have weekends off and get two weeks' paid vacation.

And yet, in study after study, poll after poll, most people claim they don't have enough time. They don't even have time to cook and eat! Even if they only work 40 hours a week and do minimal housework, they have no time for relaxation, and, even less for enrichment. They're too busy shopping, chauffeuring and shuffling.

This being the case, it's no wonder that many moderns think homesteaders are crazy, superheroes, or both. How in the world can someone have a job, live a more-or-less normal life, and still manage to milk goats, feed and water chickens, plant and tend a garden, and then process and prepare all that food... before cutting firewood or spinning enough yarn to make a sweater!

Well, admit it: you are pretty good. You're skilled, organized, and efficient. But there's more to it than that. If you're a successful modern homesteader you have a certain attitude that takes some of the wrinkles out of life and expands your appreciation of it.

Let's take a closer look at those hard-working ancestors or at any so-called "primitive" people. Were their lives really so barren?

About 20 years ago several families worked on Countryside. When the magazine was finished we also gardened, butchered, planted trees and field crops, and made firewood together. And then we had celebrations and festivals. (Other people might have called them parties, but they were much more than that.)

Several of these friends and co-workers had been in the Peace Corps in Africa. As we worked and talked, they frequently mentioned how hard the Africans worked, with few labor-saving tools. But they also had more leisure than most Americans. And they had many more festivals and celebrations. More parties. More fun.

We must be doing something wrong

It's also well-known that hard-working medieval peasants celebrated more festivals and holidays (feast days and holy days) than we do today. Many "primitive" people found time to sing, dance, make music, tell stories and create art. They crafted marvelous beadwork and basketry and pottery that went far beyond utilitarian. How come all we do is work, get our "entertainment" from tv, and have no creative outlets at all?

How can moderns, with all their luxuries, conveniences, and assumed sophistication, have less time for living than more "primitive" people had? How can modern homesteaders, who work and live pretty much like anyone else, accomplish so much more than other people--and without cracking up?

There are many reasons, but one that's paramount is -- homesteading is fun! Homesteading is leisure. Homesteading is satisfying.

Most of us don't seem to have the ability, or the desire, to escape the trappings of modern living. We work our tails off just to keep up with the Joneses. Then, homesteading is superimposed on that.

Not many people would care for animals and gardens and perform other homestead tasks if they didn't enjoy them. For those of us who spend half of our waking hours behind a desk, a cash register, a steering wheel or a machine, homestead tasks are a welcome change of pace. They're a form of leisure. In that regard, they're "easy," and they enable us to tackle the other aspects of our lives with renewed vigor and a fresh outlook.

Homestead activities are also works of art. We create things, and whether it's a sausage or a straight windrow of hay, a skein of yarn or a from-scratch gourmet peasant meal, it's physical evidence of our skill and knowledge and effort.

How often have you baked a wonderful loaf of bread that was so beautiful you hated to slice it? Split and stacked a rick of firewood so perfectly aligned you didn't want to take away an armload to burn? Weeded the garden so diligently it could have provided a photo for a seed catalog cover? The perfect cheese. The new or newly cleaned henhouse. Rows of sparkling jars of freshly canned garden produce. The list goes on and on.

Homesteading is filled with such achievements. It's filled with pride and satisfactions.

Their completion proves that we are artists with skills and talents not everyone has... and of course we have made something useful that adds to our security, which is another form of satisfaction.

To those who don't know any better, homestead accomplishments just represent labor... and time. They see only the energy expended and the leisure lost, but they're blind to the rewards.

I never cared for the term "hobby farmer," but in this context, and perhaps realistically, it's not so bad. However, a "hobby" in this sense is much more than just a form of relaxation.

It's even more than a way of life. It is life, beyond the sidewalks.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Belanger, Jd
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 1, 1993
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