21st Century Women Homesteaders

I’m often asked how I do it all here at the Lazy B.  If my husband is with me, they look at the two of us when posing the question.  I had someone say to both of us recently, “you must get up at 3 or 4am to get all your chores done.”

Well, we do get up early but he goes to his computer and I go to the outdoors.

 Yes, I am married and I have 6 children but I am the one who runs the homestead.
Dave, my husband, has his own business in media and he travels all over the world.  For example, since January 1, he has been home 17 days out of 47.  He arrives home today from Nicaragua.
Our garden went from the fence to the foundation of the house
Our garden went from the fence to the foundation of the house in Seattle.  This is Victoria.

 

My kids?  They’re getting older and starting to establish their own lives.  Once they reach their Senior year of high school, I try to ask very little of them when it comes to the farm.  I want their focus to be further education and getting a degree – that’s very important to me.

My eldest girl is an RN in ICU at a local hospital in Athens.  She no longer lives at home.  My next two girls are in college.  One graduates this year and the other next year.  My son is a senior in high school and also taking college courses at a local college.  That leaves my two youngest girls.  My youngest loves living on a farm but despises the work!  Under duress she’ll do what I ask but honestly, sometimes it’s easier to just do the work myself.  That leaves my 9th grader.  She loves the farm and is very willing to help me with the animals – not the weeding and gardening :-)

Lazy B Farm is my dream, my passion – I am a lone homesteader with the support of my family.

My very dear friend gave me a book for my birthday.  It’s called “Staking Her Claim, Women Homesteading the West.”  Ya know when you receive a gift and the timing is perfect?  This book is perfect for where I am right now.  It’s the encouragement and inspiration necessary to keep me going when I feel like I constantly struggle to keep the balance between home and homesteading.

I get asked this question quite often, “Cyndi, my husband’s supportive of what I want to do but he has a regular job and really isn’t interested in working a farm or homestead.  How do I make it work?”

Yep – it’s tough.  You have to really want this lifestyle and be willing to go it on your own.  My biggest struggle?  Balance between family life and working the farm.  I love to work outside, be with the animals, construct, create, plant and grow, etc and what suffers is all the duties inside the home.

If you’re at the dreaming/planning stage, how much does your husband want to be involved?  Set appropriate expectations for both of you.  When your husband is able to lend a hand, be grateful and let him know.  It helps so much.  I know Dave would like to help more but it just can’t happen and I’m okay with that.  He’s working his job and that allows me to do mine.  It drives me to do a good job with the homesteading so I can help lessen the financial burden on the family.  That financial burden includes the health of the family – doctor visits, dental visits, over all better health from the homesteading lifestyle. ( It’s been a long time since my kids have had a cavity!) It also includes the opportunity to barter, sell extra goods, hold classes to teach, etc.

Homesteading is work, hard work, but so worth it all.  It’s a commitment of heart and soul.

From “Staking Her Claim” –  “Several themes emerge in the body of literature written by single women homesteaders.  The desire for freedom, independence, and escape from the pressures of their former lives as well as the hope of economic gain and security are some of the reasons single women homesteaded, and these themes surface in every account.  The importance of cooperation also emerges as an underlying theme in virtually every story by or about a women homesteader.  Examining these themes sheds light on a question readers of their narratives inevitably ponder: why did single women homestead?”

Most of the women I know today who are homesteading are “single” in some sense of the word.  Either they are single in their living arrangement or they are single in their endeavor to homestead.  Whichever the case, we all face the same struggles these women of yesteryears faced.

One of the greatest encouragements to me has been the formation of our Ladies’ Homestead Gathering.  Listen to this, “Another form of cooperation the stories describe is the practice of pooling their resources with other women to cope with the difficulties of homesteading. … Women recognized the advantages of pooling their resources, having someone to share the work, and having the companionship during the seven months of each year they were required to live in relative isolations on their claims.  Cooperation with sisters, friends, masculine relatives, and hired help increased the odds that single women would succeed in homesteading.”  (Staking Her Claim by Marcia Meredith Hensley)

We are afforded this form of cooperation in our Ladies’ Homestead Gathering and you know what?!  This could help your odds of success in homesteading!

Being married and homesteading certainly has its challenges and I don’t have all the answers.  I do have Dave’s support and yes, homesteading gets in the way of family life sometimes.  Constant checks and trying to balance are necessary.  Immersing myself in a group of ladies who are like-minded has been invaluable.  My closest friend is a farmer/homesteader and she understands the nuances of this lifestyle and the struggle it presents to women.

Dave’s support is important and just as important, the support system of other like-minded women.

Advice from 100 years ago…

“A significant number of women homesteaders had some sort of professional training.  Many were schoolteachers who found that teaching a rural school while homesteading was a good way to augment their income. … However, the amount of education she had seems to have had little bearing on a woman’s success as a homesteader, and experience with farming or ranching was also not a prerequisite for success.  Instead, requirements for success seem to have more to do with one’s nature.  Cecelia Weiss calls it ‘pluck,’ and Elinore Pruitt Stewart explains it thusly in a letter to her former employer in Denver:

‘To me, homesteading is the solution of all poverty’s problems, but I realize that temperament has much to do with success in any undertaking, and persons afraid of coyotes and work and loneliness had better let ranching alone.  At the same time, any woman who can stand her own company, can see the beauty of the sunset, loves growing things, and is willing to put in as much time at careful labor as she does of the washtub, will certainly succeed; will have independence, plenty to eat all the time, and a home of her own in the end (1914).”

I resonate with these women of a hundred years ago.  I can learn from their writings.  I am passionate about homesteading and though I understand it’s not for everyone, it is for me.

 

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