I retired from corporate life rather early, to spend more time on our small farm dealing with the demands of raising chickens, dairy goats, honey bees, and produce – with the hope that we could also provide a small supply of natural food and products back into our local community. But, I grew up in an era when staying at home and “not working” had a bad stigma associated with it.
So, as I try to adjust to “staying home” on the farm, I find myself questioning the value of this new role. Women of my generation were supposed to grow up, get a career, be working mom’s, and retire in their 60’s to suburbia. The last place one should want to end up was on a farm or homestead – what would be the value of that?
I actually have plenty of things to “work” on, but perhaps feel a bit guilty. I no longer work at the frantic pace it seems that corporate life required, and have time to ponder questions like the value of being a homebody. And, I’ve been taking time for creative pursuits; like writing, drawing, and painting, things I haven’t done since graduating high school.
While considering the “value” question, it occurred to me that the views of society in the United States shifted drastically over the last several generations. And, maybe not in a positive way. My grandmother or great-grandmother wouldn’t have questioned their value on the homestead. You see, they produced or helped produce almost everything they needed and were quite self-sufficient.
There’s the story of how a rooster did a sneak attack on my great-grandmother, and how she didn’t tell anyone until after they finished the roasted chicken dinner that night (she killed and prepared him all by herself). The stories go on and on, but the constant theme is that they were “producers”, not consumers. They produced their eggs, dairy, meat, produce, sweetener, clothing, heat, water, light, and most everything else it took to live. No question about value there.
Today, we seem to be a society that values consuming rather than producing our own goods for living. Many commute to a job daily, place their kids in day care if they’re not in school, shuttle kids back and forth to extracurricular activities, eat out often, watch television, and play computer games. The idea that’s constantly enforced (via television, radio, internet, etc.) is to make lots of money at the day job, so it can be used to consume lots when not working.
As I think about that shift in our society over that last several generations, it makes me think that there is value in being a “homestead homebody”. We still consume lots of things that we don’t produce ourselves, but we generally know what we’re eating, how it was raised, how it was prepared, what we’re putting on our skin, and we try to help teach like-minded folks.
I came to the conclusion that what’s “valuable” about “not working” is helping to produce rather than just consume by: 1) raising, collecting, and selling natural eggs, 2) raising and selling Nigerian Dwarf goats, 3) milking Nigerian Dwarf goats (the milk is awesome, better than cow milk), 4) writing and selling homestead themed magazine articles and books, 4) making yogurt, cheese, or butter, 5) raising honey bees and selling honey, 6) teaching others how to raise dairy goats, chickens, or honey bees, 7) growing fruits and vegetables, 8) preserving fruits and vegetables, 9) preparing home cooked meals, 10) doing lawn care and landscaping, 11) cleaning livestock pens and stalls, 12) making natural skin-care products, 13) writing a blog, 14) packaging and marketing products, and 15) figuring out how to do all of the above (wish I’d been smart enough to ask the Grandma’s how way back when).
Whew, glad that’s out of my system and I can continue to happily “not work” knowing I’m adding value. I was even toying with getting some help this summer. What do you think about the push to consume versus produce in today’s society? Is it changing back to a producer oriented society or not?