If you knew me in real life, you would probably do a double take when you read my site title for the first time. Why would I choose to call myself “Hardheaded Homesteading Housewife” when…
- I live in the suburbs.
- I grew up in the suburbs, and so did my husband.
- I went to college for a career that had nothing to do with agriculture (read more about that here).
- I don’t own livestock (unless you count my cats).
- I have a full-time job (outside the home) that I don’t plan to quit any time soon
- I don’t have children (yet).
- I have a small garden that needs a LOT of work if it’s going to produce a significant amount of food.
I’m not that hardheaded…okay, the hardheaded part is pretty obvious to anybody who knows me.
So what gives?
What It Means to Be A Homesteader
The word “homesteader” may be completely unfamiliar to you, or it may bring back memories of reading Little House on the Prairie and watching Pa stake a “claim” for a piece of land that the family had to live on for seven years in order to own. You may imagine little self-sufficient farms, or Amish farms, or off-grid communities who live in the woods and haul water by hand.
None of that is inaccurate, per se, but the homesteading movement is a lot more than that.
In fact, I didn’t really know what “homesteading” was until I stumbled across Jill Winger, a blogger at The Prairie Homestead. I had googled a recipe for hamburger buns, and found her website. When I read her definition of homesteading, it struck a chord with me. This is what I do, I thought. This is me.
As it turns out, there’s homesteading stuff all over the Internet, and different
people take it to different levels. Some people live off-grid (no electricity) in the woods. Some people have a farm with a full-time business. Other people grow a garden in their backyard, and some people are just trying to cook real food in tiny apartment kitchens.
What do these people have in common?
They are trying to revive old skills, get back to their roots, and take control of where their food is coming from. They are rejecting the convenience of modern society for a life that is harder…but that is incredibly rewarding. They are focusing on their families, fostering creativity, working with their hands, and choosing to ACT instead of passively letting life pass them by.
Taking Control of the Food Chain
One of the major themes of “homesteading” is the idea of making “real” food and knowing where your food is coming from. Our society gravitates toward fast food, boxed food, frozen dinners, and strange, chemical-filled concoctions that don’t don’t really resemble the food our grandmothers made in their kitchens. Homesteaders tend to reject this, partially for health reasons but also because eating that way disconnects you from the food chain. Many people today have never seen a farm, and don’t realize what is involved in food production. Children don’t know the names of vegetables that were once common, and misconceptions about animal production run rampant on the internet.
Yes, you can buy a loaf of bread from the grocery store. Yes, you can buy strawberries in a carton from Mexico. In fact, you can buy pretty much whatever you want. But homesteaders want to make their bread from scratch, pick their strawberries at a U-pick farm (or from their own garden!), and produce things, instead of simply consuming them.
It’s healthier, true.
In most cases, it’s better for the environment.
It tastes better, pretty much every time.
But it’s also more rewarding.
When I make a salad of fresh spring greens from my garden, and drizzle it with homemade dressing…I feel connected with my food. I watched the plants sprout, grow, and produce leaves. I harvested the greens, taking care to leave plenty to regrow. I washed them, dried them, and tore them into bite-sized pieces. And when I eat that salad, I am appreciative of the bounty that nature can provide. I don’t take it for granted, and I don’t rush through eating it. And you know what? That means something.
To me, homesteading also means connecting with local farmers and buying local as much as possible. Maybe I can’t have my own milk cow and a gigantic garden (yet), but I can still know where my food is coming from. I gravitate toward farmers markets and U-pick farms, as well as community farmers. I know that my money is supporting families. There’s no corporate middlemen when you buy local, and you can address concerns with the people who are actually growing your food.
Concerned about pesticides? Talk to your farmer. Concerned about animal welfare? Talk to your farmer. You’ll find that most small farmers (conventional, organic, organic practices but not certified, or something else entirely) care about what they are producing and strive to treat their animals and their land with respect. It’s true that there are large-scale factory farms that are terrible, with animals that live in their own poo and land that is neglected and deplete in nutrients. But 95% of farmers? The small farmers that you’ll find in your community? They don’t do that. And I believe in supporting them.
Most homesteaders reject at least some of the convenience that is made possible by modern society. For some, that means living without electricity and washing clothes by hand.
But…that’s not me. I have a TON of respect for that, but I like my washing machine and my dishwasher. I like my power saw and am glad to have access to a mechanized rototiller.
But I still reject a lot of modern conveniences. As I already talked about, I reject convenient packaged food, but it goes further than that. I like to make things for myself. Instead of buying cleaners, I mix them up myself. Instead of buying raised planting beds, we make them. Instead of buying Ikea furniture, my husband builds stuff.
Is it harder? Sure. But to us, it’s worthwhile.
It’s not just food. Some people might gravitate toward building projects (like my husband). Some people gravitate toward crafts and homemade decor (this is NOT me). Other people gravitate toward sewing and clothes-making (also not me). And some people want give up time every day to muck stalls and milk cows (this is me, though I can’t do it yet), or grow plants (me!). For some people, the only thing they can do is put a tomato plant on their apartment patio. Those people can still be homesteaders. You certainly don’t have to completely reject all modern convenience to be a homesteader. But to me, homesteading means rejecting some…in order to work with your hands and reap the rewards of “doing it yourself.”
To us, it’s better to do something for yourself than to sit back and watch TV every night. It’s better for our bodies, and it’s better for our minds…and it’s better for our hearts.
Since I really started this, I don’t get bored anymore. There’s always something to try, something to create, and something to learn.
As a homesteader, I reject boredom. I reject complacency. I reject doing nothing simply because there is “nothing” to do.
Don’t get the wrong idea – I like relaxing. In fact, I value relaxing more now than I ever did before starting a homesteading lifestyle. We have a Netflix subscription. We have a movie collection. I own a TON of books and I love to read. But I relax intentionally, because I’ve worked hard and decided to take some time for myself. It’s not just a default setting of “welp, I’m home and don’t have anything to do, so I guess I’ll relax now.” And let me tell you: when you relax less often and with more intention…it feels a heck of lot more enjoyable.
What It Means to Be a Housewife
The terms “housewife” often brings to mind an image of a woman from the 1950s who stays home, has dinner on the table at the exact moment her husband walks in the door, and somehow cleans her whole house while wearing a dress and high heels.
That ain’t me.
I don’t even own a pair of high heels.
All the stay-at-home moms in the house – or people whose own mom stayed home – might have a different image: a hardworking woman whose life largely revolves around her children. She cooks and cleans, but she also runs play dates, hosts birthday parties, chaperones field trips, and handles all the paperwork and homework help.
That’s not me either. I don’t have kids yet, and I can pretty much promise that I won’t ever be chaperoning a field trip, much less joining the PTA. If I’m watching somebody else’s kids, they’d better be paying me cuz it’s just not worth it. (Thanks Mom. Don’t know how you did it!)
Unlike “homesteading” my appropriation of the word “housewife” didn’t come from the Internet. There is no “housewife movement.” I think ‘housewife’ actually has more of a negative connotation these days, meaning a woman who doesn’t work (gasp!) and spends all day trying to please her husband (double gasp!). Most stay-at-home moms don’t even call themselves “housewives.”
So what is a “housewife” to me?
Family Before Career
A big part of my self-identification as a housewife has to do with the fact that I put my family and home first. They are my top priority. I don’t have kids yet, so that means that my husband is my top priority, along with my cats, my home & garden, and my close family members. When I do have kids, they’ll be included in that list. My career comes after all of that.
That does not mean that I don’t work outside the home. It doesn’t mean that I slack off at work and don’t care about my job. But it does mean that when I go to work, I’m going for my family – not for me. I’m working to provide supplemental income to help my family meet its goals, not to create an identity for myself.
I’m not trying to derive fulfillment from my job. If I was offered a promotion that disadvantaged my family, I wouldn’t take it. It I was given the opportunity to travel somewhere interesting for work, I wouldn’t go. When the day comes that I need to quit my job to run my homestead or stay home with my kids, I won’t hesitate to give my two weeks notice (well, 9 months notice. Let’s be honest, I’ll have kids long before I have a full-time farm).
But I will be no more of a “housewife” when I quit my job someday than I am today, when I go to work five days a week. My priorities will not change.
Please don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my job. Actually, I like my job pretty well – and I think everybody should try and do a job they like, or at least don’t hate. I work with kids, many of whom have disadvantaged backgrounds, and I take great satisfaction when I can help one of them. My coworkers are some amazing people, and I like chatting with them in the copy room or in the hall. I even take on extra hours at my job, chaperoning athletic events to make a little extra money.
But my reason for working is that it makes the most sense for my family. It’s that simple.
Serving my Husband
I’m not ashamed to say that currently (with no kids), my husband is the one I am working hardest for. I want to make him happy, and make his life easier. I plan meals he’ll enjoy, buy fun surprises at the grocery store (like dark chocolate and mangoes!), and clean the house with him in mind. My focus is on being his wife.
And no, this isn’t sexist, because he is equally as focused on being a husband. Since we both work outside the home, Matt does at least half the cooking, and does most of the dishes. He works on building projects and helps with the yard and garden. He cleans the litter box 90% of the time. We both do the things that we are good at, and we share the work. In fact, I think it’s fairly obvious that he serves me as much as I serve him.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I am focused on being his wife, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I am a Christian, and I take a lot of inspiration from the passage in Proverbs 31 that describes the “ideal wife” (Proverbs 31: 10-31)
The woman in the passage is described as taking care of her children and household, making sure everyone is fed, clothed, and prepared for the winter. She clearly serves her family with her labor and her love. However, she is also described as selling products and using her earnings to buy land – a vineyard. Her duties are clearly not constrained ONLY to the house, even though that is where much of her labor is.
I like this woman. Society hasn’t put her in a box. I think too often we think of women either as someone who is at home, and ONLY at home or someone who works and is “progressive” and focused on her career.
Why do we insist on limiting women in this way? More importantly, why do women limit themselves in this way?
I believe in putting my family first, and that means not limiting myself exclusively to paid or unpaid employment. It means working in whatever way is best for my family in any given season of life.
What It Means to be Hardheaded
Well, this means I’m stubborn.
I blame my parents. They’re stubborn too.
It means that when my cat knocks over the seeds that I painstakingly started, I replant.
It means that when I fail to figure out a certain cooking technique, I keep trying until I understand it.
And it means that when it looks like we will NEVER get our full-time farm because land is EXPENSIVE these days…I keep saving up and working toward our goals.
It also means that when people criticize the tomatoes growing in our front yard I smile, nod, and ignore them.
When people question why I chose not to pursue medical school, I smile and tell them it was the right choice for me.
When people tell me that avoiding vegetable oil is stupid because it’s too hard to cook from scratch, I ignore them and say a prayer of thanks for the skills my parents taught me.
When people say that it’s dumb to pursue a hobby farm in the modern day and that we’ll definitely fail, I smile and say that we might – but we’ll try anyway.
When people question ANYTHING that my family and I are choosing to do, I smile, nod, and politely ignore them.
Being hardheaded is about keeping going when the going gets tough, and about not letting people get to you.
Pursue your dreams. Make decisions for YOUR family, and only your family. Definitely think through your choices and have backup plans, and be realistic with your short-term goals. But don’t let society tell you how you have to live your life. Only you can decide that.
And only I can decide how to live mine.
I’m stubborn, and hardheaded, and willing to pursue goals and dreams that may be contrary to what is “normal.”
My family has embraced the idea of homesteading, seeking to grow some of our own food and produce things ourselves, instead of simply consuming.
I am a housewife, with my first (earthly) priority lying with my husband, and family.
I’m a hardheaded, homesteading housewife, and I bid you all a wonderful day where you pursue your passion – whatever that is – like I’m pursuing mine.
[This post was part of the Homestead Blog Hop]