Is it a Simple Life? Is it Self-Sufficiency? Or, is it Self-Reliance. In all honesty, I really don’t like any of these terms, whether living on a farm or in the city. There is nothing simple about having responsibilities for animals, pastures, gardens, and a home, not to mention equipment and building maintenance. ‘Self’ anything bothers me as well. First of all, I am neither ‘self’ sufficient or reliant. I know, without a doubt, that I am first and foremost reliant on God, and cannot be sufficient without Him. And although the Bible verse that is the very basis of my life reflects living a quiet life, that isn’t always achievable, either.
So how, exactly, do I define my lifestyle? I have given it much thought in the odd quiet moments down at the pond, or while driving. I can tell you what we do. I can tell you what we don’t do. I can list each individual category, such as animals, hay, gardening, and other things that fill our daily schedule, and I can even give you details as to what is needed and when. But to conjure up a single word or phrase is almost impossible.
Our biggest goal on the farm is to provide as much of our needs as possible on only sixty acres of land. I know. It really does sound like quite a bit. I wasn’t sure what we would do with all of it when we first got here, either, until I learned just how much land one single cow needs to survive comfortably. Consequently, no less than forty of those acres are tied up for livestock and hay. There is approximately fifteen acres in the back that is still ‘unimproved’. This has been set aside for hunting purposes. The remaining five is taken up with our house, gardens, outbuildings, ponds and trees used for windbreaks.
Still, we are able to provide for ourselves most of our meats and vegetables. Over time, we will add fruit where ever possible, and small ‘pocket’ gardens for the bees. Some of those things we’ll be able to use ourselves, such as herbs and buckwheat. Some, like sunflowers, will be for their aesthetic value. We also have come to terms with our limitations. There is no way we can grow enough wheat to provide for our needs. Besides not having enough land, we also cannot afford the large equipment needed to harvest it. We can grow small areas of it and harvest by hand, but that amount might produce ten or fifteen pounds of flour after all the dust settles. Considering during my high baking days I can use fifty pounds of flour in a bit over a month’s time…well, you get the picture. Through our animals, we also reap the side benefits such as eggs, milk and cheese. Okay. We could supply our cheeses. I just have to practice more at that one. We can grow enough meal corn, and probably will if we can ever find either a good used grinder at a decent price or find someone who already has one and do some trading. Other staples such as sugar, salt, spices and oils – not to mention shoes, clothing and other essentials in life – have to be purchased, and we are okay with that. We fully understand that we cannot step fully back in time and provide 100% of our needs. If you stop and think about it, they couldn’t either. Like our ancestors, we accept those limitations, and do all we can with what we have. For the rest, we have jobs that provide an income so we can go to the grocery store and purchase that which our land cannot provide. And we are good with that.
So what word or phrase can we use to describe our life? After much consideration, we have finally decided that there really isn’t one that suits us. Instead, we have opted to say that we are just Simply Living. We are just simply living our lives in a manner that honors God and the land He provided for us. Our daily life leans backwards toward a time where just surviving meant being a part of Nature, instead of just living in it. It is a life that puts whole new meaning on being a good steward of the land. To take care of the land and to replenish what we have used (through composting and other means), means to survive for another year. If we add something, we must be prepared to support it and care for it without a great expense, and there must be a benefit. Bees are a prime example. I don’t mind taking up space for them, but it also means providing forage and water. In return, our fruits, vegetables and herbs are pollinated and we are rewarded with honey, which can take the place of granulated sugar in several ways.
The best part of this is that Simply Living doesn’t mean you have to have sixty acres or more to acquire this type of lifestyle. Simply Living just means that you are enjoying your life to its fullest, learning to live with less, using things you have for more than one purpose, providing at least a small portion of what you consume (just growing one tomato plant or a windowsill herb garden applies!), and depending more on your own talents and abilities and less on ‘the outside world’ for your needs.
If you want to learn more ways to do this, join me for Simply Living Monday. Each Monday I will post helpful hints, tips, recipes, or ideas for ways to do it yourself, rather than rush to the store, where you spend your hard-earned money on something that has less quality and taste than something you can do yourself. There are already two Simply Living Monday posts available – the first one on Music for your Soul, and the second one offering some of the many ways you can use honey. This Monday? We’ll be having fun in the kitchen. I hope you will join us!