Lush organic gardens. Healthy, happy meat animals raised on pasture. Fruit trees weighted with bounty untouched by pesticides. And freezers and shelves filled with food you’ve raised and put up yourself. Maybe this is the vision you have for your life, but one thing stands in the way: You’re not an outdoor person. Heat, bugs, hair, poop—it’s not only unappealing but downright disgusting to you. If only you could have the benefits of a self-sufficient life without actually, you know, going outside!
Often when faced with this conundrum, people simply shrug and pay exorbitant prices for organic produce, pastured eggs, and grass fed meat. Or maybe they give up on a sustainable diet and lifestyle altogether.
I propose another way. Learn to enjoy the outdoors, and become a “lazy farmer.” Before you click away, let me encourage you: You can both come to enjoy nature, and avoid much of the yuck factor along the way.
Tip: Hear how this family homesteads in a trailer park.
Learn How to Enjoy Nature
1. First, start spending time in nature with no strings attached. Go outside during the most pleasant part of the day. Just stroll or sit. Look around you. What do you see? Let nature’s soothing palette give your eyes a rest from bright screens and artificial color schemes of the indoors. Do you see a tiger swallowtail butterfly flit over the weeds? Is that a flash of bluebird’s wing? Look up and just watch the leaves flutter.
- Close your eyes and feel…the sun on your face, a soft breeze on your skin, the crispness of a winter day.
- Smell. What’s out there? Fresh-cut grass? Wood smoke? Newly-turned dirt? Lemony magnolia blossoms? Pine needles warmed by the sun?
- What do you hear? The sound of wind in the treetops? Birds chirping? Cicada’s buzz?
Soon you’ll find yourself enjoying this mindful nature therapy—if not a full-on love affair, you’ll at least come to appreciate the outdoors more than you do now.
2. Only go outside when it’s nice. I’ve lived in the Deep South for many years, and much of the day in summer is unpleasant. During the hottest time of year I have been known to go outside in the morning until about 10 and in the evening after 4. You can get a lot done in those cooler hours. Most of the time you don’t have to torture yourself by pushing through dangerously high heat or really unbearable weather in order to have a garden and a few animals.
3. Manage the unpleasant factors. If you’re troubled by flying insects, make sure that you knock down wasp nests and mud dauber homes before they’re well established. Find an essential oil blend that keeps the mosquitoes at bay, or wear lightweight pants and a thin long-sleeved shirt. Purchase high-quality clothing for chilly weather and learn to layer effectively. Wear sun glasses and a hat when the sun is extra-bright.
Tip: Learn about insects that are beneficial to the garden and won’t hurt you at all!
4. Choose low-maintenance plants and animals. Not all living things are created equal. Roses require more frequent care but zinnias are nearly as hardy as weeds. Holstein cows are a relatively sturdy breed, but Jerseys are delicate. Rhode Island Red hens can be aggressive and cannibalistic, but Buff Orpingtons are known to be typically mellow and gentle. A little homework will save you lots of energy and frustration.
5. Change your perspective; find beauty. Some parts of homesteading are just no fun. I never grew to enjoy cleaning out the chicken coop. But even in the midst of unsavory jobs, it’s important to remember the ultimate goal. In the case of cleaning the coop, beautiful fresh eggs daily more than made up for the occasional nasty job! Look for the beauty of the whole, not just the inconvenience of one part of your homestead lifestyle. (Sounds kind of like life in general, doesn’t it?)
Tip: Here’s some answers to the question Why Should I Raise My Own Chickens?
6. Take baby steps. You don’t have to become a full-on homesteader overnight, or ever. Fill one flower bed with lettuce in the fall. Buy three chickens and a tiny, moveable coop. Let yourself dabble in the homesteading arts and find what you enjoy most. You don’t have to do it all.
Want to learn more? We recommend The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan.
Maybe you’ll consider these ideas and still decide at the end of the day that homesteading isn’t for you. But on the other hand, maybe it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you think. Give it a try!
What holds you back from becoming more self-sufficient?