What is a homestead, anyway? A patch of grass to call one’s own(ish)? A bevy of small animals to round out a sense of self-sufficiency? Or growing and tending to absolutely all of one’s own needs from one’s own tiny bubble? As you can see, I am perhaps not tied to any of these descriptions. A homestead to us is a place where you feel you are taking responsibility for your actions and your place in the world. That can, frankly, be anywhere but for us feels more solid in this place where we feel we have enough room to take that responsibility in the actions we find necessary and pleasurable.
Don’t get me wrong: I love self-sustaining systems, feedback loops, and reliance on positive action but I think that they can come about in many different fashions. First, I don’t think that everyone has to make everything for themselves or they are a failure (I don’t even really use the ‘F’ word for anything, it’s not a useful word, unless it’s funny). Second, I think the key element is personal responsibility (yes, yes I do contribute certainly -more significantly than I would like to- to the landfill. We try and try to lessen our garbage impact but it is a constant struggle. The weight of our stuff -people- is more than the weight of the world, which is not even counting our garbage!), in whatever way it needs to be expressed and accounted for. And third, I do think there should be an ecological concern or even morality involved with homesteading (of any kind, anywhere) – what kind of world are we making? But all of those parameters I hold onto are my own – and you need to make your own. Every day is a new day to start again.
Today, the lovely baker got up early and baked amazing breads (and took care of the chickens, which technically is the child’s job – somedays she’s good at it, somedays not). These breads take days in advance to make – not only must the Sourdough Starter (her name is Doris) be fed and maintained but once the orders are taken, the process of building her up for those orders begins. Then the breads are portioned, proofed, shaped, and proofed again overnight. And then they can be baked, packed, delivered, then enjoyed. We’re not a process facility – we’re just a kitchen, with one baker (I’m ornamental until we get a commercial kitchen – then my Kimchi, Fresh Ricotta, Jams, Pickles, and random what-nots can return). After he bakes, he delivers to the Portland area then back up to the Augusta area where he will also visit the Farmer’s Market, then return home to check the maple taps and collect sap. He will likely boil tomorrow and for the next three days while trimming more browntail moth nests and chopping wood. Then the bakery process begins again.
The start of Spring (technically) brings about a lot of indoor work for me. The end of Winter mending and making household textiles will move into starting seedlings and preparing garden beds while I continue to write my neverending (though I might be seeing an end in sight this year) dissertation on ‘intentional living’. We are embarking on some more business shifts, TBD, which will hopefully help us into a new phase of homesteading – cultivation of community.
It is so nice to see some ground these days, though it is still chilly – it feels like gaining ground. Maybe that is a new view of homesteading , a ‘gaining of ground’ in whatever way moves us forward.