Make no mistake about it, what we are doing here is not, and has little hope of ever being, sustainable or self-sufficient.  But that doesn’t mean those aren’t fundamental goals of the modern homesteader.

First of all, sustainability to me means not just for a community or a country, but for the world.  Four people on 50 acres, even if it were a desirable prospect for the average person (and I know very few who even like to entertain the thought) could hardly happen in this country.  In a country like India or China the proposition would be laughable.  Few would applaud the latest self-sufficiency movement of urban homesteaders louder than I do, because I realize their goals have much more hope of being sustainable in our current global reality.

Because the nearest grocery store is 20 miles away we are more dependent on fossil fuels than city folks, and maybe even most suburban folks, too.  But city and suburban life aren’t for everyone, so I will continue to dream up some way that country life could ever again be considered remotely sustainable and somewhat self-sufficient.

I’m brand new at this, but like any industrious idealist, I have no doubt that we can make it happen, for us.  I certainly don’t have the answers to translate our inevitable success at homesteading, itself a loaded word as well, into a potential solution to fix any of the world’s problems.  Right now I’m just asking a lot of questions.  And with every new question I look to those who have come before me.  Sometimes they are old-timers, but other times they are the young, like Jenna Woginrich.  In her new book Made from Scratch:  Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life, this 26 year old says,  “The scary thing was that I was completely dependent of fossil fuels, and so was everyone I knew.  My gas-heated apartment, my groceries from the supermarket, my station wagon parked outside-everything was part of the system.  And if the system broke, I was going to be hungry, cold, and immobile.  So I threw my hands in the air.  I was done with Walmart and Wonder Bread.  I wanted something real.  I wanted something basic.  I wanted a lifestyle that was no longer a part of the problem, or at the very least was constantly striving to be less involved in it.” Thanks Jenna, my sentiments exactly.

The answers I’m continually seeking in this new lifestyle are sometimes practical, sometimes philosophical, and the words of all the others who are trying it their way too are always useful and inspiring to me.

What else I’m reading these days:

The Modern Homestead Manual:  What it REALLY takes to Succeed Beyond the Sidewalks and Power Lines by Skip Thomsen and Cat Freshwater

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour

VoluntarySimplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich by Duane Elgin

Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by U.S. Department of Agriculture

Natural Beauty from the Garden by Janice Cox

The Woodlot Management Handbook by Stewart Hilts and Peter Mitchell

Lost Arts and Celebration of Culinary Traditions by Lynn Alley

Preserving Summer’s Bounty A Rodale Garden Book

Storey’s Basic Country Skills by John and Martha Storey

Texas Gardening the Natural Way by Howard Garrett