Phil and I realized as soon as we moved here last year that whenever we weren’t at work, at church, or at a family function, we would be working hard around here to create the kind of small homestead we envisioned. Still, I’ve sort of had a hard time conceptualizing exactly what we are doing; we’re sort of feeling our way along as we go. But total self-sufficiency isn’t likely and we don’t intend to be actual farmers, and we both work full-time (though luckily I have summers off), so what’s the end goal?
Recently in The Christian-Agrarian Work Ethic, Herrick Kimball (The Deliberate Agrarian) quoted Willis D. Nutting‘s essay The Better Life, which is part of a book of essays entitled The Rural Solution: Modern Catholic Voices on Going “Back to the Land”:
“The opportunity for real, soul-satisfying work, so rare in our day, is found abundantly in rural living. Here a man can make long-range plans and can carry them out without exploiting his fellow man; for the things that he uses are things that exist to be used: soil, plants, animals, building materials, etc. he can live a whole life of work without once using another man as a mere means for carrying out his plans. And neither does he become a tool of someone else. With the materials at hand he can employ the splendid coordination of mind and hand to create something of value for his family. He can fulfill his real nature in real work. And this work is much more joyful than any mere recreation. As a matter of fact this work carries with it its own recreation, so that the man who works does not have to worry about how he is going to have his good times. The work itself is a good time even though it be hard […]
Around me live several men who are “homesteaders.” They work in town or in school and live in the country. They spend long hours in the evenings working on their land. Their companions on the job or at school go to the movies or play poker in the evenings, but these men work at home. Their companions spend money; they save it. And when you talk with these men you come to realize that their interest, their real life, is in what they do at home. On the job they carry out someone else’s plans. That is drudgery. But at home they are their own masters. They are exercising their autonomy which is necessary to human dignity. These few hours of autonomy constitute for them their real life. Their rural homes give them their one chance to be human.”
Mr. Kimball explains (highlighting mine):
Willis Nutting’s essay does not imply that everyone should be a farmer, or that one need be a farmer to experience the human fulfillment found in agrarian work. He himself was an educator and, according to his biography, lived an agrarian lifestyle. His essay speaks of men working their industrial-world jobs for the necessary income and then, instead of pursuing industrial-world amusements, recreations or leisure in their spare time, they pursue productive, creative work on their homesteads.
Perfect. Without being able to put it into word, this is what Phil and I have both felt. We work for money in the outside world, and though we like our respective occupations well enough, our real joy is in the countless hours of hard manual labor we put in around here sinking fence posts, building raised garden beds, weeding, mulching, learning about forestry, felling trees, learning to hunt and fish and then clean and cook what we hunt, refinishing or building things we need or want, building the chicken yard and coop (stay tuned for The Thirys and Their Poultry, Part II next spring, when we will hopefully have better success than last year’s attempt), and on and on.
Will we ever be self-sufficient here? Doubtful. We’ll certainly try to raise as much of our own food as possible. And we’d like to add a word burning stove in addition to the fireplace so we can use some of the dead trees on our land as a source of heating fuel. But what we’re really doing here, as Mr. Nutting put it so well, is seizing our chance to be human as God made us to be.
If that kind of thing interests you, too, then I can point you in the direction of others who are like me (us), who work in the outside world but then retreat to our homesteads where the the work is hard but deeply satisfying. Here are just a few:
- The Smallhold (works full time but farms part-time, too, with eye toward self-sufficiency)
- Good Wife Farm (works full time, raises goats, rabbits, and pigs, and gardens/cans)
- The Cultured Home (seems to have gone inactive at the moment but lots of good older posts)
- The Deliberate Agrarian (who used to work at a job but now runs his own home business)
- Practicing Resurrection (the blogger used to be a lawyer but now farms for a living)
Feel free to mention other blogs if you know of any similar ones.
Also, I just learned about Steward Culture Magazine, a free online magazine which…
“seeks to promote Bible-based stewardship agriculture. This simply means we advocate for creation-friendly thinking that emphasizes the fact that we don’t own the Earth or even some small piece of it. Creation is simply a gift given to humans who are commanded to be its stewards as God’s representatives.”)