Upon learning that i wake up four hours before i need to leave the homestead in order to get myself and all the plants and animals ready for my departure to my day job at 4 am most people laugh at me and call me ridiculous. They think it’s overkill and i must be there sauntering around the oatmeal pot or applying my makeup for 45 minutes in total. In reality it takes me 3 minutes to apply foundation, 1 minute to apply blush, and 2 minutes to don jewelry and hand lotion. Its putting up my hair that takes the longest. If i spend more than 10 minutes on the task i’m late. I’ve budgeted for 6 minutes but am shooting for 3. People don’t understand what it is that i’m doing and i know that so i just laugh with them and go on with my day. It’s easier to pretend i also think i’m ridiculous than explain what it is i’m doing and why it takes so long.
It takes so long because im fitting a full time job into 3 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the evening. Homesteading is not a weekend hobby. It demands as much time and attention as my day job. So, i just do one when the sun is up and the other when the sun is down. I have a day job because in this day and age homesteading is not really a financially self sustaining venture. it can be at times but you must have a large nest egg tucked away in the bank for the years when the weather tricks the trees and bushes into blooming right before a hard and prolonged freeze. Then there will be nothing to harvest, nothing to sell. The flowers bloomed. The bees visited. The ice came. It won’t happen again until next year. Sometimes a piece of equipment or the well pump or some kind of machine busts or needs maintenance and then you have to have thousands of dollars tucked away in the bank. I dont have an infinite nest egg in the bank and so i have a day job that funds all the expenses, including the mortgage, on the homestead. Many people think this makes me “not a real homesteader” but i would argue that if i could make myself presentable to show up for a job in healthcare daily while boiling water for baths and pooping in a bucket in the winter, i have every right to straddle both worlds and call myself a homesteader as well as a healthcare practitioner. I get my fill of people at my day job and i get my fill of the wilderness on the homestead. The only thing i dont do is sleep. We can rest when we are dead. Life is now.
In the morning breakfast and lunch has to be cooked from scratch. The budget does not include preprepared foods. Bread must be mixed and kneaded by hand, then baked in the oven. Oats can be made into oatmeal or oat cookies. If oat cookies and jam are desired one must place the oats into the blender and turn it on until the oats are a fine powder. The result is oat flour. Take the warm flour and combine with liquids to make cookies. If i was wealthy i’d buy vanilla hemp or oat milk and apple sauce to mix in but on a budget gluten free bread and cookies are made strictly with water, water and honey for the cookies. When you are poor you realize that all those extra ingredients in the grocery store are doing something for texture, color, or preservation, but they are not needed. When you cook and bake from scratch you will find that you consume what you make with little to no left over. That means when you are done cooking you will need to cook again, and then again. Cooking and baking will be a continuous process throughout every day because the foods are cheapest in their raw unprepared forms and so you will need to wash, chop, grind, mix, bake, boil, and saute two times a day on weekdays and three times a day on weekends. There is no dish washer. There is one plate, one bowl, one cup, one jar to use as a container for water to take to work, one of each utensil, a pair of chopsticks, cooking utensils, and pots and a pan. These have to be washed by hand with soap in the sink after every meal. The water that comes out of the faucet is not drinkable. Drinkable water must be filtered for myself, the dogs, and the chickens every morning in half gallon increments drawn from the well house spigot and placed into a special filtering pitcher that removes the sulphur from the water. It is the best tasting water on the earth after running through the filter but it is totally undrinkable before this and will result in a case of dehydration level runs if you drink it before it has gone through the filter. The filtered water is added to the chicken water dispenser which i dont fill all the way daily because when they do peck the earth out from beneath it and tip it over, it stings to lose a full dispenser of filtered water rather than just a gallon. The dogs are given their water. I fill the jar with water and place it in the cup holder of my car. Then i drink water with breakfast, use it to take morning meds, and possibly to cook or bake with. Because i live in between two quarries the dust must be batted off of my clothes before i put them on and off of my towels before i use them to bathe. I read my devotionals, go through one passage of the bible and highlight anything new i gain an understanding of, pray, spend a small amount of time meditating…. The door is removed from the chicken coop and the dogs go out to play and potty in the dog run. I then check the temperature and the weather report for the day and cover or uncover the plants and well house pipes as necessary, turn on or off the heat lamp as necessary. Now it is time for a bath. I pull down the metal Gibsons’ basin and place it in the middle of the floor. I put a folded towel down as a bath mat and place a shoe box with a cup, a wash cloth, and bar of soap on it beside the basin. I use a pasta pot to boil water and then mix in some cold water to prevent scalding. I dump three pasta pots of water total into the basin and then place it beside the basin to act as a table for the bath towel to sit on. I first wash my hair with my knees on the folded towel on the ground. I shampoo and deep condition twice a week. Otherwise i am just wetting and combing it. I pin my hair up. Then i add a tiny bit more boiled water and get in to bathe. The cup is to place water over limbs and the cloth is to dry them so the living room doesnt become a pond. When i am finished i get out and dry off. Then i come back and wash my feet which must hang out of the tub for the majority of the bath because you can only have a tub as big as you can lift and carry when full of water. I apply deodorant, makeup, do my hair, and then return to drag the tub outside and dump the water off the side of the porch. Everything i will need for the work day must be packed and loaded into the car. A walk is done to check the land for predators before i leave the chickens in the pen with the coop door open. I also check to make sure i remembered to remove the cap off the water dispenser when i was done adding water to it in the chicken pen. More water is put into the filter for later in the day. I tea tree oil my feet, don socks, and lace up my work shoes. I wash my glasses with dish washing soap. I package up my lunch and put the now cooled pots in the refrigerator or wash them and put them up on the board of wood im using as a counter on top of Sili’s dog crate. I include an empty ziploc bag so i can turn it inside out, stick my hand through it, and remove my retainers later without ever touching them. I put the dogs in their crates, turn off the lights, turn on the lantern, lock the door, and make my way to the car. Once everything is situated in the car i turn it on and start down the dirt driveway. This begins the part of my day that includes my day job in a city 40 minutes away or two towns over. All of this takes me 4 hours and there is no moment where i am doing anything less than hurrying when getting ready in the morning. I would love to have a couple kune kune pigs but there are several things that keep me from investing in them. Namely, i have a rule against owning anything i can’t bring indoors during an icepocalypse when they purposely cut off our electricity and heating devices are rendered useless. Pigs couldnt come inside the house. I dont have a tub that big and if i did i couldn’t drag it and it wouldnt fit through the door. Also financially it would be something else to feed, and finally it would equal something else to get ready in the morning. I’d have to wake up even earlier than midnight.
I made a recent trip to the city to get my car fixed and what i saw was people living on top of people. There was every modern convenience one could desire and all of them had services that would deliver them to your door for you, already paid for through an app with your card. Anything you desired you could have with the click of a button and the charge of your card. However, i couldnt get over how little space everyone had. There were high rise apartments and huge houses with tiny baby yards, barely wide enough to string a hammock in lengthwise…and there were yards with zero trees in them. It was a bathroom for the dogs to use and nothing more. There wasnt enough room for a swing set or a barbecue station. It was like an afterthought…a strip of grass in case the home owner had a dog. Stuck in gridlock traffic at 4 pm i noticed a little boy in the car in front of me. His mother was on the phone. He was in the back strapped into his car seat. The window rolled down and the boy began hanging a piece of paper out the window. He had drawn something and he wanted someone to see it. So he rolled down the window and was waving it at complete strangers looking for some kind of approval or response. I hurried back to the hill country where i felt at ease.
While i was in the city, people i knew there expressed to me that they werent sure why i would want to live without door dash, central market, or a dish washer. Why would i want to be somewhere that i couldn’t take a hot shower and the bath water had to be boiled? I was thinking about this question because it is one that falls on my ears in a ridiculous way but i can see the people saying it are being earnest. Why would i want to be here doing things this way? Gratitude. That is the answer i finally settled on. When i have to filter the water to drink it, it means so much more than water from the city that just comes out the faucet when you lift a handle 24 hours a day. When i have to boil the water and get the temperature just right for this bath, the hot bath is so much more profound than when you turn on a faucet and hot water comes out all day long. When i have to grind the flour and knead the dough to make the bread that i eat smeared with jam in the morning, the warm bread means so much more than frozen bread i popped into the microwave. Because i did it with my hands it means something. Because the supply is not unlimited and plentiful, the times i get to enjoy something are more profound. I am not cut out for a life of surplus. My soul craves struggle and a life in its raw format. It is the only way the act of anything is meaningful to me. For me, the day’s activity IS washing dishes, making the bath, cooking, baking, filtering water…. In the city, these things are five second endeavors and now you have to figure out what else is the point of your time. I need to do these tasks in order to live well, and that is what makes them necessary for me. In the city, you now have to work harder to find meaning in tasks. You end up saying, “im doing this because it brings me relaxation, or im doing this because it helps me learn new things about the world…. Making bread brings me relaxation. Reading the bible and meditating helps me learn. Making a trip to the feed store helps me learn. My daily activities check those boxes and so i dont have to build in hobbies to put back what is lost when daily tasks become simplified by technology and only take us seconds to complete. I do enjoy visiting the city three times a year simply because my family member fills my belly with convenient foods i cant get where i live and these are a treat. However, the city life is not for me. I am most comfortable in a raw environment surrounded by wilderness where things take time and muscle to complete.