Winter one: done
reflections from a new homesteader
I’m publishing this in a bit of a rush, which never yields the best work. But, things are volatile in the household these days. One day we are planning how to move things forward on the land for Spring, the next we are lamenting the difficulty of not living in a population center, with the added hardships of supply chain failures, high prices, lack of child-based social activities, looming WW3, etc. Today feels like a day in the former category, so it’s a good day for an update.
We survived our first winter in Vermont. The snow ran deep. The power failed a few times due to high winds knocking down trees. We largely hibernated along with the rest of the region. And now we are emerging, starting on the plans forged in the Homestead Incubator (renamed Homesteading 101 for the Spring cohort), which was expertly stewarded by Ashley Colby and Carlton Galbreath with some galaxy brain guest lecturers and dedicated mentors.
Far from suggesting anyone can do this (and to be clear, even I am not “doing” much yet) I nonetheless want to highlight the fact that lifestyle changes can be made on a larger scale than we used to think possible, especially the move from urban to rural living. If you’re like me, you’ve got fewer excuses than ever for planning a change. You’re a member of the laptop class, you have a remote job, emergency savings, a house with equity. All that privilege strips you of the common rationalizations for not making a big change that could improve the odds of you and your family surviving the growing chaos of our terminally ill civilization (or at the very least, the coming economic downturn).
So, yeah, recognize your privilege, and then, go forth and gentrify. Be humble when you land in your new spot, get to know your neighbors even though they might not be in sight, lead off with questions instead of proposing solutions. But also, realize that just because folks have lived in one spot for decades or generations, doesn’t mean they always know best; there is need for improvement and “folksy thinking” doesn’t always provide the best way forward with those things. You have a role to play in improving life for yourself and those around you. As Ashley likes to recommend, “be indispensable.”
For our modest Spring efforts, we will start a small garden (a truckload of compost arrives any day to use in a no-dig bed or two), and we are planning for chickens if we can get through some of the preventive maintenance issues we have with the house. A gate for the deer fence around the apple trees, bird repellent for the barn (ultrasonic devices are apparently a scam), septic in the cottage, replace the heating oil tank, cut trees, burn brush pile, repair siding on the house, spread gravel in the driveway.
On second thought, the chickens might have to wait.
For regular readers of the Doomer Optimism substack, enjoy a 20% discount off of the upcoming cohort of Homesteading 101 with the discount code “DoomerOptimism” until April 22. Join us! - Ashley