A couple weeks ago my sister-in-law gave me some of her sourdough starter. I like to cook, but have never baked a loaf of bread in my life. Baking scares me a little, with its math and science and all. So I read up on it and took her advice to “just bake something” even if it wasn’t perfect. The first warm, crusty miracle that I pulled out of the oven and sliced up for my family satisfied that primal parental desire to provide. I made it out of flour, water, and salt. That’s it. The rest was age-old method provided by Google.
In my search for sourdough recipes, I started reading about the art of homesteading. For me, there is undeniable appeal to buying several acres and some farm animals and cutting ties with a modern society that is so deeply flawed. Slowing down, getting back to our roots, learning life skills, teaching our children where food comes from, and gaining freedom from the commercial food supply...this pandemic has left me thinking about more than just the availability of toilet paper.
A semi-serious late-night discussion with my husband fleshed out some of these runaway ideas as I surfed Zillow while blurting out my concerns about raising our kids where we currently live, from materialism to drugs to GMOs. True to character, my patient and practical husband reminded me of some of the logistics: do we want to wake up at 5am every day to milk a cow? We’re finally through the sleepless baby years. Shovel endless manure? I complain about our Newfoundland’s contributions to the backyard. Embrace rural life? I get upset if there’s no Starbucks within a few miles. Homeschool the kids? This pandemic has taught me that I most definitely will never be an elementary school teacher. Not to mention we live near a ton of family. We have jobs. We have culture. We have commerce. We have diversity. We have historical sites. We have excellent schools. We have a great house in a nice neighborhood.
But most importantly, we have this home. We have what goes on inside these walls and in this yard. He reminded me that how we raise our kids may be more important than where. And I realized two things: we don’t need a farm to adopt a homesteading mindset, and we are actually already practicing some of its principles. We make a lot of our food from scratch and let our kids help in the kitchen. We eat as a family. We do chores. We keep a compost bin. We teach them to love animals and that plants are alive. We grow a little garden every year and eat what it gives us. We planted an almond tree, blueberry bushes, and potted lemon and olive trees. I send the kids out to pluck from my herb garden for dinner. We share what we bake with neighbors and drop cut flower bunches on their doorsteps. During this quarantine, I realized with pride that my kids don’t really ask to leave the house for activities. They are truly happy at home, with each other. Ours is a home that provides, which is the simplest definition of homestead.
So while I admire those who are brave enough to truly live off the land and forge their own paths, for the time being I’m going to combat the crazy in this modern world by making this little plot and the people living on it as strong as they can be, in body and spirit. I’m going to expand our garden and keep baking. I’m going to watch my two year old grin from the middle of our strawberry patch, barefoot with his face smeared pink. I’m going to let them play in the rain. I’m going to dig in my heels to slow things down as much as I can, even when the pace seems relentless. I’m going to try to teach them what matters, even when they begin to worry about GPAs and rankings. I’m going to try to make life more enticing than screens. And when the noise of our modern life becomes too much, I hope they will choose home instead, and the peace that comes from sharing it with one another.
And maybe some chickens.