In life it doesn’t seem to matter what undertaking you do, be it getting married, changing careers, going into business, starting a family, buying a new house, buying a motorcycle or homesteading, there is always someone right in your face telling you a horror story about their uncle, aunt, cousin, friend from school, or next door neighbor, that was maimed, killed, put in the hospital, got divorced, or went bankrupt, or… well you get the idea. There is always someone, or in some cases a lot of someones, to tell you that you have made a bad choice, a wrong choice, a stupid choice, crazy choice, or that they would have done it different.
So in order to prepare yourself to deal with family and friends, when the inevitable questions come, here is a list of 10 questions I have been asked, and that you are likely to get asked—these or some variation of these:
1. Are you crazy?
Yep, that is the first and the toughest of all the questions. Honestly, you do have to be a “quarter bubble off plumb” to have even thought about homesteading. Some people will just shake their head and mumble something about “the poor dear.”
I readily admit that I often have opinions that run contrary to the “norm”; that fashion, current trends, and the accepted way to do things, hold little interest to me. So, if that alone makes a person crazy, then YES, I am crazy.
However, it strikes me that it is often the asker whose sanity should be questioned. Usually the person that is asking is working hard to get further and further behind. Both partners have to work full-time and take all the overtime they can, or work another job. With mortgage, car payments and credit card bills they are like a lot of Americans and Canadians just two paychecks away from bankruptcy. Their “have got to take home each month” is something like $5,000.00 plus, just to pay their bills and utilities; they can’t afford to even think about retirement.
We have managed to get our basic cost of living down to the point where we could make it on one full-time minimum wage job if push came to shove.
Now who is crazy????
There is nothing crazy about looking out for one’s self, for not relying on governments or social agencies to provide for or take care of you, for being prepared to face any emergency, to have learned skills to survive and enjoy life, to being part of the solution not part of the problem.
IT IS CRAZY not to be self-sufficient. It is crazy to not learn to produce as much of what you need as possible. It is crazy to be a slave to fashion, to let other people tell you what to think. It is crazy to think that security comes from your job or your pension.
2. How will you live?
This one always tickles me. Yes, we will live in a house. Yes, we will have power, but we will supply it ourselves. Yes, we will have a bathroom and running water.
We will be in control of so much more of our life. Every time the electric or natural gas rates go up, we won’t even notice, and when a power outage occurs we wouldn’t know unless someone told us about it. The increasing cost of food will impact us less as a result of being in control of a lot of our own food production. A huge bonus is that our food is without chemicals or preservatives. We will live nicely without graffiti, boom boxes, yelling neighbors only feet away, and ever increasing crime.
How will we live? Just fine, thank you!
3. Why would you want to go off and live in the country?
Peace, quiet, wide-open space, nature at your door step, room to enjoy the things I want to – walks, gardening, raising animals.
To sleep all night without police sirens, and fire alarms. To not have to make my house look just like the other 50 homes in the same subdivision. To be able to just turn the grandkids loose so they can run, play and roam.
What’s not to enjoy? OK, a blizzard can be more difficult on the acreage than in town. But it will not bother us nearly as much. We just throw another log on the fire, and carry on like usual. On the other hand, if the folks in town are without lights and heat they are forced to sit and wait for someone to fix it—in sub-zero weather, that is not only dangerous but can be a matter of freezing or not freezing, a matter of life and death.
4. How can you get by without cable TV, high speed internet, and all the things that the city offers?
I admit that I do miss high speed internet, but we are getting by fine on dial up. Since we are now living a slower paced life it is not as frustrating as we’d imagined.
Cable TV—135 channels and NOTHING TO WATCH. We don’t even think of TV anymore. In the last 18 months I bet our TV hasn’t been turned on more than 20 hours and that was when I watched the Stanley Cup Play-offs and some RoughRider Football (Canadian Football League, Grey Cup Champions—GO RIDERS GO—ok, just a bit of very biased team spirit here). Yes, we do watch movies. The library has a nice selection of DVDs and if, we are desperate, Walmart has DVDs 2 for $10 which we can watch and re-watch with no late charges. As for missing TV, nope not at all, and it frees up a lot of time for other projects. One of the side benefits to not watching TV is that you don’t have to watch the commercials, so you are not thinking you HAVE to have the latest shade of lipstick or the newest whiz-bang electronic toy, or those new expensive high fashion clothes that will end up at the thrift store in a few months. You are not affected by the ads for Another Credit Card, Low Financing on a New Car, Furniture that you do not have to make payments on until 2010 (which means that you have to pay for the stuff long after it is worn out).
As for the amenities of the city. We live close enough that it isn’t difficult to take in a movie (if we wanted to—though we haven’t even thought of it yet), go to a restaurant (my home cooking is way better and a lot bigger portion than at a restaurant), take in a hockey game, and visit the library. Frankly, a lot of amenities that the city has to offer aren’t even used by most people anyway.
5. Are you totally Crazy?
See question #1 Do you notice a recurring pattern here?
6. Do you know anything about raising (insert here – Horses, Cows, Sheep, Pigs, Goats, Donkeys, Rabbits, Lamas, etc etc etc.)?
But I can learn. It is funny, but when I first started working in a restaurant no one asked if I know how to cook or serve. They trained me and I learned. When I started working construction, they didn’t ask if I knew how to build a house. They trained me and I learned. When I was just out of high school and I went to work in a fiberglass boat factory they didn’t ask if I could build a boat. They trained me and I learned.
So guess what… I will read books and magazines, talk to people that raise whatever creature I might be interested in raising, research on the internet, and I will learn. By the way, there is this great web site, Homestead.org (maybe you’ve heard of it), they have articles that cover everything you might need to know about living in the country and a lot of people that you can ask all kinds of questions… (pause for a commercial break).
Variations of this question can be… Do you know anything about Building / Construction, Plumbing / Electric, Water wells, Composting, Gardening, etc, etc, etc…
The answer is always the same, “Nope, but I can learn!” Ok, once in a while you do actually know something about this or that, but there is still more to learn.
7. Whatever possessed you to do something like that?
OH the list is long for this one…where do I start? Increasing crime, Government interference, raising energy costs, rising food cost, noisy neighbors, loud traffic, too many people in too little space, graffiti, boom boxes, the guy mowing his lawn while I am trying to sleep, the people partying while I am trying to sleep, noise, traffic, take your pick. More than all those reasons, a desire to live a simpler life, to be self-sufficient, to control how our food is grown, to show our kids and grandkids that there is more to life then a video game and a 40 year mortgage.
8. Won’t you be tied down with an acreage/farm/homestead?
Yes, I will, and I love it.
This summer we visited one of our sons in ”The Big City” and camped in a nearby campground. I stood at the door of our tent and saw 272 camping sites, with the RVs side by side with only a couple of feet between them, and tent sites with the next tent only 10 feet away. I turned to my wife and asked why we were there, seeing that, at home, the closest neighbor is a quarter of a mile away. She smiled and reminded me that we were there to visit our son.
Why would you want to go someplace else? We have lots of room, a garden that we love to work in, wildlife to watch, fun things for the grandkids to do, projects to work on.
This is what I want to be doing, why would I want to get away from it? I am trying hard to be here more, not less. I am finding that I resent the intrusions that take me away, like work, appointments, shopping.
9. Don’t you want to retire in the city where it will be easier?
The short answer is a resounding “NO!”
Do I want to be one of the Mall-walkers who get their exercise walking up and down the mall hallways? Not really. Do I want to spend the afternoon playing cards at the seniors center? NO.
I am looking forward to an enjoyable retirement and I am trying to get there as soon as possible (not get old faster, but to be on the homestead without working a “city job” sooner). There is so much that can be done and so much I want to do on the homestead, and it can be done at a nice steady pace. Retirement is meant to be a time where you do what you enjoy doing, and that is what I fully intend to do, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
10. Do you really believe all that stuff you are saying about living cheap and being self-sufficient?
YES. I not only believe what I am saying, I am living it day in and day out. Everyday we are looking for ways to take more and more control of our lives. We are moving forward toward our goal of being off-grid, being self-sufficient and to live a sustainable lifestyle so we are better prepared to deal with whatever the future holds.
There may well be other pointed questions that you get asked. Yes, you will find that you have to explain over and over, what is, to you, a very obvious decision. Most of all you need to be sure in your own mind that you are going to homestead because you know it is the right choice, be that homesteading in the middle of nowhere or if you are an urban homesteader. Our society has managed to create a way of life that finds people trading their time (working a job) so that they can purchase all the things that in previous generations the family provided for themselves. For us, it is time to move forward and go back to being self-sufficient.