This Month’s Question:
Homesteaders are often encouraged to be as self-sufficient as possible. How can I overcome the pride of being self-sufficient so that I can reconnect with my community?
Ivan: Our human tendency is to want to be independent. We do not want to rely on others, but the irony of it is, God created us to be dependent on each other when he created a man and woman in the Garden of Eden.
It seems like today’s driving force to become independent is part of a cycle that we as a society are part of. In the early days of the American settlers, everybody was homesteading and they needed each other and depended on each other as the need arose. As America developed and our government was established and developed into a powerful body, our society became more dependent on government to develop infrastructure and guidance; government aid became a prominent thing when misfortune struck.
Any time that we become dependent on a larger body we will also give away some of our independence to them. In more recent years we have become aware that relying on government for our everyday needs may not be the best solution and are trying to become more self-sufficient in our everyday living. Any time that a society goes too far in one direction and the pendulum swings back, we tend to over-correct ourselves. In our case we are trying to do it all ourselves versus doing it as a community.
This question reminds me of a story told to me by an older gentleman in our community. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the majority of the Amish in our community were farmers and they depended on each other to harvest their crops. It came to the point where their family and a neighboring family could afford a baler together, so they bought one as partners.
First, they would make hay for one family and then help each other make hay for the other family. They did this until they could both afford a baler and then they no longer helped each other.
This is a common theme: as our income increases, we tend to buy tools and equipment to become more self-sufficient, but in the end it does not bring our community together. Working together has a way of developing our relationships. When we sweat together, grit our teeth together, and bear pain together, we also get to enjoy the sweetness of victory together. A special moment is always more enjoyable when it is shared with somebody else.
I like the term “interdependence.” We are depending on each other as a smaller body and community. A community member may have a work day to work on a building project and a number of people get together to help. Later, another community member may have a work day for a project he has. We all get together to help out. We could possibly hire a private contractor to do the work. This may be needful at times but will also eliminate our ability to come together as a community.
Borrowing tools, equipment, or animals from each other is another way that we can become interdependent. I may have a skid loader that a neighbor can use and he may have a tractor that I can use if the need arises.
This spring, another person in our community borrowed our bull. This was helpful to me because I did not have to keep him in another pasture until I was ready for him. Our neighbor kept him and was able to use him in the duration. It was a win-win for both of us. Sharing sire animals in this way can be very helpful for homesteaders who do not have a large enough herd to keep one themselves…
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Ivan, Emma, and their four children live on a 12-acre homestead where they strive to raise as much of their own food as possible. Each year they have a large garden, harvest from their orchard, use raw milk from their own cow, and process chicken, turkey, beef, and pigs for their freezers. Ivan is a minister in the local Amish community. He builds tiny homes and animal shelters for a living. His models can be seen on tinyhomeliving.com or by calling 330-852-8800.
Jerry and Gloria Miller, along with their six children, operate Gloria’s home farm, a 173-acre organic dairy. They milk between 60 and 70 cows with a few small cottage industries supplementing the farm income. Jerry is a deacon in his local Amish church.