What does homestead mean to you?
A little ranch far from neighbors, with chickens and goats in the yard?
Maybe a full-on farm with cows and fields of grain?
Maybe homestead means to you a farm stand and a CSA?
Horses in your own pasture, a brook running across your property, fertile soil, enough water.
But what if…what if homestead means something else? What if there is another meaning?
According to Webster’s the word ‘homestead’ is a noun that means a place where a family makes its home, including the land, house, and outbuildings.
So what if your land is a collection of tin cans filled with hardware store soil and compost made in a bucket under the kitchen sink? What if your outbuilding is the garage and your house is a condo in the city?
What if your homestead is a rented duplex in the middle of nowhere high desert, with very little rain, rock-hard soil, and no fencing?
Maybe that’s when you make your homestead internal.
Yes. I am coining a term. Internal homestead.
Internal homestead, for me, includes the following:
- Building a source of income that does not depend on the traditional economic infrastructure. That means we work for ourselves. My goal for my family is a business that will travel with us where ever we find out external homestead.
- Being prepared to teach our children ourselves. That means having a wide range of books, art supplies, paper, pens, glue- and Popsicle sticks, empty yogurt containers, beans for counting, volcano-building supplies, and patience to answer 1,000,000 questions. It also means, even if my kids are in traditional school settings, realizing that public school is a tool and not the total educational package. Grace Llewellyn calls it Guerrilla Learning.
- Eating mindfully. Eating in season, storing food that is plentiful and inexpensive for times when it is not. Learning how to grow food so that when our external homestead allows it, we are ready. Believing that those saved tin cans and hardware-store soil, fed by kitchen-scrap compost, can be how we learn. It can also be fresh basil on our pizza.
- Being good stewards of our resources. Resources meaning our money, our energy (personal and otherwise), and our things. Internal homesteading means managing our income so that we can live within it. It means being aware of our energy intake–electric power, travel time for our food and other purchases, gasoline, use of chemicals and plastics and other stuff. It also means being aware of our energy outgo. Are we spending our time doing work that doesn’t satisfy us? Are we so tired from this work that we don’t have time to enjoy each other? Our energy is precious, and homesteading means acknowledging that.
- Taking care of our health consciously. That means no more forgetting that a certain-someone is over 40 and less than ten years younger than his dad was when he had a heart attack. Or that a certain-someone-else is nearing 40 and exactly ten years younger than her mother when she died of breast cancer. Eating right, avoiding food that makes us sick (gluten), and moving some–it’s about feeling good and maintaining good health and energy when we’re focused on our internal homestead. Not about losing weight.
- Learn skills that will make us more self-sufficient. From learning to sew, to making butter in a mason jar with Ruby. Even if I don’t have chickens now, teaching myself how to take care of them will come in handy when I do. Learning how to do useful things will only help us if or when there comes a time when things change sufficiently to make those things necessary. Teaching myself how to can marmalade might not be life-or-death when there is sufficient jam available in the grocery store. But knowing how it’s done will be hugely important if that stops.
- Live from a place of optimism and hope. Even when I feel myself getting overwhelmed with fear over Climate Change and Peak Oil and War and $4 a gallon gas, my internal homestead allows me believe that it is possible to survive, and even thrive, in a changing world.
- Connecting with people on a level that sometimes makes me uncomfortable. Reaching out to neighbors, to make sure that our elderly neighbor isn’t alone every day, or that our friend Albert can ask for a ride to the grocery store. Explaining to the people in the grocery store who give me funny looks when I buy cases of potatoes or apples what I plan to do with them. And doing it with infectious enthusiasm. Even putting myself out here, so that I can savor each and every connection I make with you.
- Finding a place of peace and balance. Accepting that Thursday Afternoons are my happy place right now, and that’s ok because every day I’m moving toward something more. Something better. Not letting the bad stuff–the negative energy, stress, trauma–into our internal homestead.
Sometimes, lately, I find myself wondering if we are the engineers of the next revolution. Women–some of us wives and mothers, but not all–who have found a way to connect across space with such power that we can make a difference in the world. Will it be us who bypass the scientists, the journalists, the politicians, the industries, and find the innovation to bring about real change? Will it be us who band together and figure out a better way? Maybe it will be. Maybe it will be us, and our internal homesteads, who make the difference.
I’d love to hear about your internal homestead. Will you share?
More finer things here.