Growing up, I never aspired to be a homesteader. It never crossed my mind. My parents didn't even know homesteading was a “thing” back then. It wasn't a part of dinner conversation. We didn't discuss raising chickens, where our dinner came from, or heirloom versus GMO seeds. When my parents were “preparing me for the future,” it did not include teaching me how to butcher animals, preparing produce for the farmers market, or canning food for the winter. But, they still prepared me for homesteading.
I grew up in a small rural community in Wisconsin. We lived in the village of Rosendale which had a population of 777 while my sister and I were little girls. My parents moved us there just before I started school, believing a small town would be better for a young family rather than a big city (which I agree with and appreciate). Our little town was close enough to larger cities to make getting groceries relatively convenient, but far enough away that when we were kids we could just run and play where ever we wanted.
My mom worked full-time as an RN and found her gifts and talents to be with the elderly population who were terminally ill. She worked in Hospice for many, many years which is probably the most physically and emotionally challenging job I know. Being a Hospice nurse in rural America means driving hours per day, being on call overnight and on weekends, and being called to patient homes at all times of the day or night. Hospice nurses are not only caretakers of the terminally ill, but also part of the support system for the grieving family. She was very good at her job and I don't recall her ever complaining about it.
Later in her career, she transitioned into working with the mental health community and was a Psychiatric Nurse at a state mental health facility. These facilities serve the most seriously affected patients who are either ordered there by courts because of criminal history or are a danger to themselves and the public. Here again, another physically and mentally exhausting job.
By now, are you thinking, how on Earth could a nurse prepare someone for homesteading? Well, let me tell you. She's been much more...
5 Ways My Mom Prepared Me for Homesteading
1. Joy of cooking
Some of the best memories I have of spending time with my mom are in the kitchen. Even though my mom worked full-time, she made a real effort to make dinner most evenings. They weren't all from scratch, but she did a great job providing a warm home-cooked meal for our family. As I got older, I began helping her in the kitchen and she would let me chop the vegetables or brown the meat. She taught me about measuring and how to read recipes. She taught me about packing brown sugar and leveling flour. I remember her looking through cookbooks page by page and saying, “Mmmm, that sounds good!”
On the weekends, my mom would bake a lot. She would listen to classical music or “oldies” as she baked and would let me crack the eggs, or mix the cookie batter until it got too thick for my little arms to mix, and then she would let me lick the bowl or the beater at the end. It made her so happy to cook good food for people.
For me, it has come very naturally to cook and bake. I really, really love it. I love to cook good food for people and I love it when...well, when they love it. I'm sure some of this is genetics, but I attribute most of it to my mom.
So how did this prepare me for homesteading? Leaving the city to become a homesteader was all about providing a better, healthier, more natural life for our family. I cook almost every meal for our family. Mostly from scratch. If I didn't absolutely love to cook, I would absolutely resent this lifestyle.
2. Love of gardening
Gardening has always been important to my mom. Growing up, she was a flower gardener more than a vegetable gardener, although she grew a few veggies here and there, and also had amazing raspberries. Every spring she would load up with annuals from the nursery. She spent hours and hours planting and watering...weeding and cutting back. I think for my mom, it was therapeutic.
As I got older and she became busier with her career, I helped her with planting, weeding, and watering. At around 13 years old, I became very interested in herbs and their therapeutic and medicinal uses. I received a subscription to the magazine Herb Companion and my very first book on herbs for Christmas from my mom. In the first year of high school, I started taking classes with the Ag Department and learned about planting, propagating, and selling plants. I started infusing oils with herbs for bath oils and body oils. My mom was very supportive and encouraging.
The love of gardening that I learned from my mom has allowed me to grow and preserve food for my family. I love the entire process.
3. Work Hard
Growing up, I saw my mom work hard at everything she did. There was no slacking. There was no leaving something half done or undone. She did a good job, and did it right the first time. My mom set her standards high for herself both personally and professionally, and taught me the same thing.
My mom taught me how to clean a bathroom, vacuum and scrub floors, how to do the laundry, fold clothes, hang laundry on the line, how to iron and hang clothes properly on hangers. She taught me how to strip and remake beds, and how to dust. This may all sound ridiculous to mention, but now that I have children of my own...I realize that it takes work and effort to teach children these skills. They don't just pop out of the womb knowing how to properly wash dishes or hang laundry on the line.
As a homesteader, if you don't work hard, you don't survive. Leaving things half done means having to finish them another day. Deciding to cut corners or taking shortcuts on projects means having to redo them in the future...wasting more time and money. This is not the lazy life. This is not the easy way out. You are your boss. You are your movitator. You decide what time you set your alarm for in the morning. Being a hard worker on a homestead determines whether or not you have food stocked for the winter, whether you get the sale at the market or your competitor gets the sale, whether your animals are clean and healthy or they are sick and neglected. This is a very difficult, yet rewarding, lifestyle. I'm glad I learned to work hard.
4. Never stop learning
My mom is one of the smartest people I know. She is always hungry to learn. After she graduated high school, she receive a 2-year RN degree. She returned to college when I was in elementary school, while also working full-time and raising a family, to earn her Bachelor's in Nursing. Then, when I was in high school, she returned to college again to earn a Master's Degree in Counseling while working full-time as a Hospice Nurse. In her retirement, she continues to take classes just for the fun of it. She's always reading. She's always learning on the internet.
Her continuous desire to learn has rubbed off on me. I don't have a resumes filled with degrees, although I do have a Bachelor's. But, throughout my professional career and my personal life, I've continuously sought to learn everything I can about subjects pertinent to my life. If you came into my house right now, you would see shelves and shelves of reference books. If you scanned my Bookmarks, you would find pages and pages of articles that have been saved for further review.
I must admit, I am not the typical “reader.” You won't find me on the couch or on a hammock reading the latest novel. I have no idea who the up and coming authors are, or even famous historic authors for that matter. I haven't read any of the “absolute must reads” or even any of the “classics.” It's a tad bit embarrassing, but I really have no desire to read any fiction whatsoever. But, I can tell you how to grow food and flowers, how to preserve food, raise animals, make soap, clean my house naturally, build animal housing, and millions of other useful things.
There is no “Homesteading University.” I didn't grow up on a farm. I don't have farming relatives. Success for us is dependent on learning...learning through books, articles, social networking groups, neighbors, and through trial and error.
5. Music and the Arts
“You're kidding me, right? Music and the Arts prepared you for homesteading?” Is that what you are thinking? Hear me out.
From a very early age, my mom began exposing me to music and the arts. Like...literally. She even intentionally played classical music when she was pregnant with me. Music was such a big part of our lives. My mom played music while she was cooking, and when we cleaned. My sister and I both took piano lessons and then also played in the band. My mom played the violin and even played in the Oshkosh Symphony while I grew up. My mom started buying season tickets to the nearby community theater for us girls when I was young. We saw all kinds of musicals and plays. Man, we had so much fun. Both my sister and I were in school plays, and I was even chosen to be Annie in our community theater's musical, “Annie”. I began to enjoy singing in middle school and was involved in different choirs throughout high school.
As I started having children, I began singing to them and teaching them songs. I sing around the house and sing to the animals. I began singing in our little country church just recently. I just always have music playing in my head.
Anyway, on the homestead, music gets me through the day with a little skip in my step. Doing the dishes isn't so bad when you are singing. The baby goats love a song too!
But seriously, the main way music and the arts has prepared me for homesteading, is through the process of performance. I am not naturally an outgoing person. It is very uncomfortable for me to talk to people I don't know. I don't make friends easily...because I am afraid. But, because I have been performing in one way or another since I was young, I can separate myself from that part of me and “just do it.” I can talk to people at the farmers market. I can give tours of our homestead and teach people about what we do.
Most of all, I can stand in front of a video camera and record a YouTube video. That is super scary! But, we are committed to sharing our life with others and teaching them about homesteading and self-sufficiency. There are so many fears associated with recording videos and publishing them for the world to see. If I hadn't been performing in some way all of my life through music and theater, there is no way I could stand in front of a video camera...let alone have people all over the world watch me on a video! But that's what we are doing, and it's a ton of fun!
If you haven't discovered our YouTube Channel already, you should check it out. We would love to have you as subscribers and for you to also Like and Comment on each one!
So, Mom? Thanks so much for preparing me for homesteading! You are such an amazing person and I am so thankful for the ways that you prepared me, inspired me, and influenced who I have become.
Take care everyone! Thanks for stopping by and may God continue to bless you every single day!