Photo Credit: Cottonbro/Pexels
October 15 is Rural Women’s Day and I wanted to celebrate by highlighting some great life lessons I’ve learned from being a homesteader. About four years ago, my husband and I decided to buy acreage in the middle of the New England woods and start a rural homesteading life. We chop all our own trees for firewood to heat our home, build and maintain trails around our property, tap our trees to make maple syrup, and enjoy beekeeping.
As someone who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, I had no idea what I was getting into with living on a homestead. I had never swung an axe or tended to a garden. I learned about homesteading and beekeeping through library books and YouTube videos. I made mistakes along the way, but learned to correct them and improve the following year.
These six life lessons aren’t exclusive to homesteading, but all are things I’ve learned over the past few years living a rural life. It can be hard, it can definitely be exhausting, but nothing is sweeter than the rewards.
Small Changes Lead to Big Impact
Accomplishing a little bit at a time, rather than all at once, is great for setting a pace with larger projects so you don’t become overwhelmed or burned out. When we decided to build a new deck, it seemed like a huge undertaking at first. But each day we do a little bit of work on the deck, just a few boards or nails at a time. And after a few months, we are now able to enjoy a wonderful outside space that we built with just a few minutes of work each day.
Enjoy Life Unplugged
One of the most rewarding parts of my day is when I get to take a break from work, step outside, and surround myself with the sights and smells of nature. Being present, aware, and enjoying our property without phones or digital distractions is something I focus on daily. I enjoy walking through fall foliage or snowshoeing on a clear winter day. And while it’s very tempting to grab my phone to get an adorable video of that chipmunk trying to fit five acorns into his mouth, I try to leave the phone indoors. Taking in fresh air, away from my computer, makes a huge difference in making connections with the outside world.
Know When to Ask for Help
We try to DIY and be as self-sufficient as much we can. But sometimes, we just can’t do everything alone and need to bring in experts to help us with the big stuff. Asking for a helping hand on a project can make all the difference between just getting it done and making it amazing.
Slow Down for Family Time
In our fast-paced “always on” world, it’s nice to set aside small moments to slow down and enjoy time with the people you love. Taking 30 minutes to make a homemade dinner for my husband and me (instead of ordering pizza, which takes 30 minutes to be delivered anyway), setting the table, and turning off the TV makes a huge difference in the tone for the evening. It gives us a chance to catch up and talk about what we can make progress on together.
Things don’t always go as planned, so having a backup plan can be critical. Don’t be afraid to try a few different ways to accomplish a goal before you get it right. Beekeeping is a great example for us. I documented a few beekeeping setbacks we had last year and encountered new challenges with our hives. I researched and tried a few new solutions so we don’t make the same mistakes twice.
Celebrate Hard Work
For us, there’s nothing better than sitting next to a cozy fire, reading a book, and sipping a glass of wine. The most rewarding part is enjoying the journey: We chopped down the trees, cut the wood into smaller pieces, hauled it back into the house, split it, stacked it, and carried it by hand into the fireplace. We know how much goes into having a cozy fire, and that work makes the experience more enjoyable. Celebrate your accomplishments, big or small, and take pride in the work you’ve done to get where you are.