I've been thinking a lot about homesteading lately. Obviously, where we live has the biggest influence on me, but recently, I read a bunch of literature about it. Opal and Helen are obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books, I read The Worst Hard Time about the Dust Bowl and I am currently reading Out of the Dust to Opal. (Helen doesn't like it.) My grandmother (b. 1918) and grandfather (1920-1999) grew up in Hoover, Texas. (Try the Google Earth view - it looks just like the real thing, even though its 2-D.)
The convergence of all of this is people trying to make it in agriculturally marginal location. The Deadwood Valley wasn't homesteaded until the turn of the century, largely because it was so inaccessible and the amount of arable (flat) land so small. The homesteading in the Southern Plains took place around the same time with the big boom happening during the Roaring Twenties. In both cases, families only tried farming for about a generation and then gave up - spectacularly in the case of the Dust Bowl. The last person to really make a go of farming in Deadwood was Tom Alexander and he maintained that it'd have been impossible with a family. It was just too hard and too marginal.
Where does that leave us? Muddling through to a way that is sustainable and sustaining. I read and hear about people who get fanatical and produce all the food they consume for a year. We could do it - but I don't think its either sustainable or sustaining. The amount of work and energy it takes for your return (you really want to give up coffee and tea?) mean that eventually you wear down and quit. Sustainable should mean truly sustainable: it worked for Mizu's folks, it'll work for us, then the girls, then their kids and on and on.
We are on a middle road right now. Our household is five adults and three kids, with my folks living just across the creek. Two of those five work outside the home, one runs the garden, one is engaged in remodeling the house to accommodate everyone and one is parenting the girls. It's a really nice balance. It'll change as everyone ages, but perhaps there is a consistent core we can find.
That's the project of 97430...