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From City Slickers to Homesteading

Maybe you remember the 1991 film starring the late Jack Palance, Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, Helen Slater, and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) that tells the story of three wealthy men in the throes of midlife crises who attempt to find themselves on a cattle ranch. Getting far more than they bargained for, each returns to their lives in New York City changed men, ready to face their former lives with a new outlook and a set of skills that most who are raised in a “concrete jungle” traditionally don’t learn.

Of course City Slickers is a comedy with a Hollywood-style ending where everybody wins and finds deeper meaning in their lives in the hopes of enriching their current circumstances. But for those of us who know that clearly “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” the necessity of swapping out the apartment or suburban home in the concrete jungle for a cattle ranch has to be something that is weighing heavily on your mind.

No Shakespearean Play Or Comedy: This Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life!

One hardly needs to spend much time contemplating the future. A quick check of today’s news in comparison to yesterday’s proves that nothing’s changed. It is grim, and as we all know, it’s not a question of if but rather when things will implode. If you weren’t concerned, you wouldn’t be a regular at Off the Grid News, reading and printing out articles that will help you prepare for the future. From learning how to care for livestock and how to feed yourself to determining the best weapon to use to hunt and how to care for your body when conventional methods are no longer available, the more information you have to prepare, the better.

For many, there is a lingering question that seizes them when taking that first step: “How do I/we go about it?” How do you extricate yourself from the rat race, away from suburbia or the big city and go from growing a few heirloom tomatoes and raising chickens in your backyard to finding a small piece of land and “getting out from under” before it really hits the fan? Far more than stocking up on everything from supplies and ammo and filling your bug-out bag, making that transition takes time, money, a mindset, and of course faith.

It’s Not A Cliché: Just Do It!

There are many ways to go from having a thought to acting on it. There really is no right way to go from being a consumer one day to living on a farm and homesteading the next. I can give you advice based on our experience and hopefully some pieces of it may help you take the steps toward self-sufficiency.

Three components must be in place before deciding whether you can do this:

  • Conviction/Faith
  • Immediate family must be on board
  • Feasibility and a good plan

Many call it faith, some call it conviction, others call it chutzpah, but you need it in bucket loads to make this work. You have to believe that you are doing the right thing. Everything is in place for us to be consumers and part of this all-consuming society. Maybe our ancestors lived a certain way that we want to emulate, but that’s not how people live now, and it’s not how society even wants you to live. If you are looking for a sign, so to speak, it may not come in the form you are hoping it will. Signs all around us speak to us daily, you just have to be looking in the right places and ready to interpret them.

Many still believe the market will correct itself and things will go back to normal. We know this is not going to happen. But knowing it and acting on it takes a whole lot of guts. You’ll be called everything from crazy to stupid, but you must believe in yourself and move forward. I have come to believe that when people have called us crazy for doing this, inside they are actually fearful that we’re right; that in fact we do know something they don’t and they wonder why they can’t see it. But you will do what we did. You call on your faith, strengthen the bond with your family, and move forward. As with everything in life, the first to go against the grain is considered a rebel and set aside or even written off. Don’t let anyone tear you down, and keep your plan in place.

It is really important that your spouse is on board. It isn’t necessary for your siblings and parents to agree with your plans, but it really does help if your spouse shares your vision for the future. This isn’t a choice between which washing machine or shotgun to buy; to execute this takes both of you to agree that the future is bleak. It might sound silly, but if one of you believes that things will return to the days of yesteryear and the other knows that “ain’t gonna happen,” you will have problems.

Create a feasibility plan. We have been conditioned to follow society’s vision for our future to:

  • Go to school
  • Go to college or find a trade
  • Meet someone
  • Fall in love
  • Get married
  • Have a few babies
  • Stay at the same job for forty years or more
  • Retire with a pension
  • Enjoy being a grandparent

Start Your Homesteading Before You Even Leave The City

Knowing how unrealistic much of this list is today, create a new one that goes hand in hand with the inevitability of the new future. It could look something like this:

  • Figure out where you want to buy a farm
  • Sell your house
  • Become debt-free
  • Be ready to revise your plans when unplanned things happen
  • Work your farm
  • Learn how to hunt
  • Learn to be crafty
  • Learn new things
  • Homeschool your kids
  • Be prepared to have to work, if need be
  • Be ready for when family realizes you really hadn’t lost your minds
  • Be prepared for them when they beg you to take them in
  • Enjoy the fruits of your labor

You’ll need some money to live sustainably. No matter how much planning we do, things cost money and usually more than we think they will. Even if you plan to build your own house, your goat pen, or chicken coop; wash everything by hand; take up quilting; power your home with alternate means of electricity; and collect rainwater; at minimum you need the raw material and tools to accomplish these things. And all of these jobs take time and money to achieve.

Where In The World Will You Live?

One critical component to living a prepper lifestyle is where will it be? Despite how bleak things are, in general (although it varies by state and county), prices are not keeping pace with how bad things are. It is still pretty expensive to buy your own home, and now that there’s a rumor that stuff is going to hit the fan, farms are no longer being abandoned but are rather a hot commodity. There are many off-the-grid communities popping up around the country. That’s an option. If you have figured out that what your house is worth is less than the price of a new farm in the U.S., consider moving to a developing country instead. Prices are generally far cheaper, and for the most part (again, it varies depending on the country), Big Brother is not only unwelcome in other countries, he’s a nuisance to have around. This should be a pretty big consideration wherever you choose to live. Getting there is half the battle; being happy once you move offers a whole new set of challenges.

If you are having difficulty selling your house in a down market, there are tips our there that can help you. The more you can net from the sale, the better. You will need a pretty large amount of capital to get started, and your home is still going to be the best place to find this (unless you are fortunate enough to be in a family member’s will and testament). You absolutely want to avoid buying a house on credit. The point is to move away from borrowing in the present and paying off in the future. It’s part of why the economy is in the mess it is. Going into this new lifestyle debt-free is the smartest way to make this all happen. Not only do you need all the money you can gather, but you also don’t want anyone coming after you if you are unable to pay for something you bought on credit.

Be Prepared To Plan And Revise Often

When my husband and I first moved to Puerto Rico, we thought we were going to do as everyone else does here: grow and sell coffee, plantains, and citrus. Remember, we’re city slickers – I was raised in New York City, and he was raised in the nation’s capital. We had no clue what farming entailed when we bought our farm.

Going organic meant cutting down the coffee trees, getting some goats, and planting different plants than the ones everyone else has on their farms here. This is one example of being prepared to revise your plan when needed. In getting goats, we had to build a tropical goat pen (which meant learning how to do this and having all the tools and raw materials on hand), and we had to read a few books and articles on how to care for them. Far as I know, there are no goats running loose on the streets of New York, and so this has been like learning a new language for me. Many of the things we learned from scratch have in many ways been a lot like being back in college.

We got involved with the farm bureau, and the first thing that they expected us to do was use chemical fertilizer and herbicide, despite the known dangers. Like buying the biggest house and car you can afford, it’s conditioning to do things the monoculture way. Using the three sisters method and doing things the way our ancestors and the indigenous people did them required learning, patience, and a lot more time. Things don’t grow as quickly with goat pellets as they would with chemical fertilizer. However, things taste better and don’t expose you to carcinogens.

Learn To Be Crafty

I am making no assumptions about you, but I was definitely a city slicker in every sense of the word. I worked in an office, I drove a car to work (albeit a fuel efficient one), and I gave little thought to the money I spent on clothes and necessities. If a skirt’s hem became snagged, I took it to the cleaner’s and asked the seamstress to mend it. If the heels of my shoes became worn, I gave them to Goodwill and bought a new pair. If something in the house broke and my husband couldn’t fix it easily, we called someone. We had more money than time, and on the few precious weekends that neither of us was traveling for work, we didn’t want to have them taken up fixing things.

From creating cleaning products that are natural and safe to use and making shampoo to canning, cooking, and beyond, when the raw materials to make the things we use on a daily basis aren’t available, will you be prepared? The time to start isn’t when these things are no longer able to get to the supermarket because the U.S. was ultimately unable to negotiate safe passage of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, but rather now when things are relatively calm.

Homeschooling Your Children

Many of you already see considerable value in homeschooling your children. Between having some control over the curriculum and having the freedom to have your kids with you as much as possible, I don’t have to tout the benefits. Most of you already know them.

Be Prepared To Work If You Have To

No matter how well prepped we were, we found that things didn’t happen as quickly as we wanted them to. We bought a well-established farm, but because it had been one of the largest coffee producers in the area and we had decided not to pursue coffee and go organic, we needed capital to do this. Neither one of us wanted to step foot back in an office, and so I started freelance writing. Prior to writing for Off the Grid News, I had actually never written professionally.

Going back to work is not a step backward, as I had originally felt it was. You don’t want to go into debt while you are financing your future, and the best way to do this is to work or get used to bartering. The more established we become in the area, the more comfortable we have become entering into bartering arrangements. Along with being ready to adjust your plans, be prepared to have to raise money. It happens. But take comfort in knowing that you aren’t raising capital for a 70-inch plasma TV, but rather a backhoe, a tractor, or a stable of goats. It is an extremely different feeling when your money goes to pay for something that will directly or indirectly feed you vs. having something your friends can ooh and ahh over.

That Day Will Come

My family continues to think we have both taken leave of our senses. Nobody on my side talks to us, and they tell people we are playing games and one day we will wake up and realize that it’s too late to get back into the rat race. My husband’s family was always supportive but probably thought we were a little weird. Once they came to visit and saw what we were trying to achieve, and why, their questions about what we were doing made it clear they had started considering the possibility that we had been right all along. A few “jokes” were made like, “get that apartment ready, we may be joining you one day.”

The Fruits Of Your Labor

Well, we’re hardly there yet. We have a whole lot more work to do. We are eighteen months in to harvesting our own fruits and vegetables, and the goats and chickens are as much a permanent fixture as our dogs and cats (hangovers from city slicker life that have both come in handy living on a farm). We look forward to the day when we are feeding ourselves completely and no longer having to jump in our cars to buy any food or supply, but that’s a ways away.

Having said that, however, I can tell you that each time we eat something from our farm, create an addition to the goat pen (to make room for another), or someone refers to us as farmers and no longer the retirees, I feel like we finally have what I love to call “farm cred.” We have many more steps to take, but I feel like we have successfully made the transition from city slickers to homesteaders. And so can you!

©2012 Off the Grid News

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