The musty smell of our basement surrounded me on the wooden steps down to our cupboard containing glass jars of garden vegetables my mother canned months earlier. Home canned pickles, tomatoes, and yellow beans among other garden goods spread out over several shelves of our large cupboard.
In those days, I never heard the term homesteader or prepper. People still practiced canning food from their gardens, because their parents and grandparents had. Simple country living happened because we lived in the country, and while this lifestyle was becoming less common, it was still common enough that no one thought twice about growing or raising their own food. I knew many kids growing up that had similar lifestyles to the one we lived.
Most people can’t raise or grow food, these days. Those that pick up that skill, and related crafts, gain the labels of prepper, homesteader, or kook. TV shows and movies love to portray preppers as gun wielding para-military crackpots, and homesteaders (though they might not call them by name) as bead-bearing, pot-smoking, hippie-wannabes.
Motivations for raising your own chickens or pressing your own apple cider may vary. Some people just want to get back to nature and live off more natural foods. Others may desire to provide for themselves and people they care about. Neither group fully trusts government regulators or the companies that produce our foods, or they feel the quality of homemade and homegrown products far surpasses those made by big corporations.
Movies and shows portray extreme homesteaders living an Amish lifestyle, rejecting modern medicines, fuels, and equipment. They portray preppers as paranoid horders of water, food, medicine, fuel, equipment, and arms. The vast majority of homesteaders are not going to refuse to see a doctor when they have cancer (relying instead on meditation and the power of healing crystals); and the vast majority of preppers don’t set boobytraps, own any razor-wire, and definitely don’t want their children packing knives and guns everywhere.
Radicals get press. Real people get ignored.
Real people in our community include farmers who everyone else admires on some level. They include hobby farmers who often wish to make the move to professional farmer someday. Homesteaders just want to use their own hands for their own upkeep. My parents probably fell into the category of spendthrifts who just strive for self-sufficiency out of economic self defense. Latter-day Saints grow gardens and keep extra foods stuffs around out of a religious desire for provident living. Outdoorsmen learn a lot of the survival skills often associated with preppers, just because they love being out in nature. Anyone living in rural areas knows the store becomes a week or two away when a nasty storm hits. Preppers that have been through an earthquake, fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or imagine them happening, also join the crowds of normal people labeled as kooks because they learn skills needed for self-sufficiency. Even foodies, that just love fresh herbs and vegetables, fall into our community.
Our community in all its spectrum has crossover interests. We can share knowledge, resources, purchasing and political sway to help our entire community. Many of the areas of interest that overlap include:
- off-the-grid utilities
- solar and wind power for personal use
- harvesting seeds
- canning fresh foods
- drying fruits and jerky
- country-style living … even within the suburbs
- raising chickens
- edible landscapes
- sharing goods and teaching neighbors our skills
Our motivations and backgrounds differ, but we can meet in the middle on many issues. That’s good for all of us.
We’re use to hard work. Hard work isn’t glamorous, and it becomes even more difficult when we start labeling each other and turning up our noses at people that share common interests with us. It is wonderful watching a YouTube video from a farmer, spendthrift, or outdoorsman that teaches me something my family can incorporate into our lifestyle.
Let’s enjoy and embrace what we all have to offer. Our common interests really make us a common community. We can focus on what we have in common, rather than looking down our noses at “those kind of people,” whoever “those kind of people” are.