How We Homestead Series - Part 2: Living Simply

This is part 2 of a 5-part series on how 5 different bloggers homestead.  Please join us each Wednesday for a new post in the series.  To read part 1 {How It All Began}, click {here}.

The word "simple" is interpreted in a number of ways.  The same can be said about the term "living simply".  As an example, our life at this point looks pretty simple.  We have a cute little farmhouse, a small menagerie of animals, a large garden, and a tidy but somewhat weed-ridden yard.  We, for the most part, make much of our own food from scratch, enjoy working on projects around the house, and value our time spent together.  And they lived happily ever after.....the end.  Right?  No, nothing is ever that simple.

What may not be visible is the behind-the-scenes work for all aspects of our life.  The garden takes composting (regular, vermicomposting, and leaf mold), cover crops, crop rotations, winter and spring prep, seed saving/ordering, weeding, and daily watering and bug checks.  The animals need food and water twice a day, even in snow storms, a clean place to live, attention and care.  The house is 154 years old as are the outbuildings and need their own upkeep.  Making food from scratch takes planning and sometimes getting up earlier or staying up later to prepare.  Any type of life requires sacrifices and we find those we make to live our lifestyle to be completely worth it.

So we do, in our opinion, by intention have a pretty "simple" life.  We do not, however have a quiet or sedate life.  As noted above, our life is busy but in a different way.  What does a simple life mean?  It means that we have cut out a lot of the excess from our lives and went back to the basics.  Excess in terms of "stuff" not needed, junk mail, excess food items that don't need to be purchased or don't get used {I now use my meal plan shopping list to shop from}, etc.  Don't get me wrong, we still have plenty of "stuff" but it, for the most part, has meaning now.

One of my favorite definitions of living simply comes from Linda Breen Pierce in her book "Choosing Simplicity".  She states "living simply is not about rejecting the material comforts in life.  However, it does involve unburdening our lives, living more lightly with fewer distractions - whether they are material things, activities, or relationships.  It means letting go of anything that interferes with a high quality of life".

A change in lifestyle often means a change in friends as a result of "letting go of anything that interferes with a high quality of life" as well as having different goals and purpose.  This proved to be true for us.  Many friends continue to be in our lives but there were a few who we have lost complete contact with.  We've also gained many new friends, some of which have the same interests or lifestyles, as our lives are evolving.

Examples of things we've done to simplify our lives include:
  • We have no credit cards.  We live within our means - if we don't have the cash to pay for it then we don't need it.
  • We do, however, have debt - a mortgage and two car payments {the last car payment is next month....yippee!}.  We put half down on each vehicle and took out a 3-year 0% finance loan for the remaining balances.  Additionally, we will drive these vehicles, as we did our last, for 10 years or so before needing to purchase vehicles again.
  • We eat good food.  We are trying to grow 100% of our fruits and veggies consumed throughout the year.  For the last couple of years we've averaged about 87% of our veggies and only about 10% of our fruit.  We're striving for the 100% of veggies this year and about 25% of our fruit.  {the fruit trees and bushes need another year or so to begin producing an abundance}  Grown by us means we know that the food is healthy, nutritious and free of salmonella and other infections/diseases.  We try to buy any additional fruits, veg as well as our meat from local farmers when possible.
  • We are each others best friend and spend a lot of time together.  The projects that we complete are usually a collaborative effort and product of both our hard work.
  • Our home is where memories and a sense of comfort combine.  We have planted every flower, bush and fruit tree in addition to the garden.  When they emerge in spring we can take satisfaction in our efforts of years past.  Inside our home, it's filled with photos taken by me as well as things we've collected based on a time or place we've been together or a family member or friend we hold dear to our hearts.  We've purged {sold on ebay, garage sales or given away to others} much of the stuff that we could live without and slowed down our rate of consumption.
  • We are constantly trying to decrease our waste.  Food waste goes to the chickens or the compost bins.  We are making a conscious effort to buy fewer items that have excessive packaging, re-use items in new ways, and use less disposable products such as plastic bags, paper towels, etc.  {I'm reading a book, The Zero-Waste Lifestyle by Amy Korst which is proving to be inspirational in this aspect.}
  • Our focus shifted from doing things with friends such as going out to dinner, going shopping, etc. to enjoying time at each other's homes over home-cooked meals while sharing stories. 
  • We are trying to conserve energy, money and resources.
  • We try to remember to live in gratitude.  Being grateful for everything that happens in our life, regardless of whether it seems positive or negative at the time, allows us to take our life off of autopilot and embrace changes and challenges as they come.
My intention was not for this to read as though our life is perfect and that everything runs smoothly because it isn't and it doesn't.  We certainly have days where the dirty laundry is piled, there are dishes in the sink, the garden needs weeding, I spend most of my day caring for a sick animal and something within the house needs to be replaced.  It happens.

We also have things I'd like to see us continue to work on such as getting rid of the tv {or at least cutting down the time it's on - my husband feels this is crazy talk}, doing more biking and hiking which we used to do every other weekend, and investing in solar power for our home.

Our imperfect life has stress, but a lot less stress and a different type of stress than our old, also imperfect, life had.  We have consciously decided not to wait for "someday" to start living the life we dream of.  We are doing it now.

I'll leave you with one additional quote that I find inspiring from Linda Breen Pierce:  "Simplicity requires a two-step process.  First, we must invest the time and energy to discover what stirs us as human beings, what makes our hearts sing, and what brings us joy.  Then, we must proceed to create the life that reflects the unique people we truly are."


Our Neck of the Woods said...

Oh I just love that last quote! It sums everything up perfectly. I'm so glad you guys didn't wait for "someday" to start living the life you dreamed of. Someday may never come!

I am very impressed that you have been able to grow about 87% of your veggies consumed throughout the year. That is so amazing! One of our big goals is to grow enough to eat in the summer and have enough to put up to last us through winter, but we aren't there yet.

Great post, Staci!

Buttons Thoughts said...

Oh you have written what it is truly like to live in the country the things you give up but also those things you gain. Both lifestyles have stresses and that is the thing that is not understood when people see farmers or homesteaders in their gardens with your cute furry animals and surrounded by a bounty of fruits veggies and baked goods but they must realize this is NOT a life for everyone it is HARD work and things go wrong in ways you could never imagine.
I am happy I chose this life and I can see you are too there is nowhere I would want to be.
Thank you for talking about both sides. Good luck on your continuued successes. B

daisy g said...

So much of what you write rings true for me too. We are in some ways, living parallel lives, although we'll probably never meet living so far away from each other. You're a good soul, Staci. So glad I got to know you. ;0)

Leslie Kimel said...

Staci, I'm enjoying this series so much! I definitely want to read Choosing Simplicity.

I have the same problem with the TV. I'd like to get rid of it, but Rob would be miserable. So we'll be keeping it. Simplifying only works if you are both eager to do it.

Tracy said...

I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for writing and sharing.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Thanks so very much all - I sincerely appreciate the comments!

luckybunny said...

All very good and useful information and things to do. I like when you mentioned you and hubby are each others best friends and do lots of things together. So important in this lifestyle. Most people don't know what it's like to be with their spouse so much and do so many things with them, they are not used to that!

Amber said...

Staci - I love all of your points and the way your family is working on simplifying. I really like the quote you gave from the "Choosing Simplicity" book!

Liz said...

Just one more reason I love your blog! This series you ladies are doing is wonderful. I have enjoyed each post by all of you! Terrific and inspiring!