I’ve always had a fascination with the older ways of living as told by my parents and grandparent: turning the soil, watching your food grow and plump over the course of a months, a more self-sustainable life, yet one that always made the time to help a friend or stranger. There was always coffee. Pawpaw told me of how during the Depression they would dry their coffee grounds out in the sun for a second or even third use before finally retiring them. There wasn’t much air condition. Dad would tell me of how when it too hot during a Louisiana summer it was cooler and more comfortable to sneak out and spend the night in top of the chicken coop. Everything had an alternative use. Dad would even tell us that old corn cobs found a second utilization in the outhouse. There was mischief in his eyes but something tells me that it was true.
My mind often mulls over some words regarding some famously wholesome people:
“[W]here our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet and good, tilled earth. For all hobbits share a love for things that grow. And, yes, no doubt to others, our ways seem quaint. But today of all days, it is brought home to me: It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life” (Lord of the Rings film).
While I certainly value cool air conditioning, toilet paper, and perhaps most importantly, fresh coffee, I experience a longing for simplicity, and a thirst not only for the knowledge of how to grow or make something for myself but an understanding of it.
As Catholics we have a respect and love for tradition. As humans (though not all would admit to it) we cling to tradition. It is stability in uncertainty and chaos, and it has great value in the stability of the future generations. The roots of mankind can be traced back to the most beautiful garden, where there was natural harmony and balance. It is satisfying to the soul to be able to partake in the original harmony of Eden by means of the homesteading life.
The homesteading life minimizes the throw-away culture in our home. It would be much easier to toss out uneaten leftover veggies on a plate that took minimum effort to obtain (i.e. a store ->pot -> table), rather than leftover veggies that were bought or collected as seeds, nurtured in a hothouse, transplanted to a tilled garden, watered constantly, debugged, fertilized, staked, picked, prepared, and cooked.
Waste becomes an insult to effort. By minimizing waste we become more financially responsible, more environmentally sensitive (true meaning of the word conservative), set an example for children (who are more likely to eat foods if they are involved in the growing process), and it also seeks to return to the original harmony of Eden, in which waste was non-existent.
Then, the Homesteading life offers physical health through fresher foods, physical exercise, sunlight, fresh air, and a “little dirt” that’s “good for the immune system” as the older generations say. But even greater than the physical health opportunities are the spiritual ones. The art of growing things and hard work creates the perfect analogy for the spiritual life. Our Lord himself drew these connections in his parables.
Yet it is more than an analogy. It actually aides in spiritual health. As Catholics we believe in the tremendous redemptive nature and grace that springs from sacrifice, the
dignity of work. What we physically do to our bodies affects us spiritually. We see this during the Lenten times where we practice mortification of our bodies through fasting to tame our will and strengthen us spiritually. Through growing our own food we learn that the patience of watching the plants grow will eventually bear fruit, that the sacrifice of being consistent in tending farm animals, and watering and weeding plants is essential to production. Through these physical homesteading exercises we are taming our will to become spiritually more consistent with prayer and patient with growth.
As this is the first blog post I think it is appropriate to set the mission of the Catholic Homesteader blog. We aim to explore and experience the beautiful connection between the art of homesteading (and it’s expansive definition) and the Catholic faith. We want to learn more about the practical aspects of homesteading through a journaling of our successes, failures, and dialogue with our readers (we are passionate but we have so much more to learn). We hope that we are challenged with this written accountability and lastly, we hope to create a community, to be inspired and inspire others.