I was a philosophy major, which means I’m the kind of person that is always asking “Why?” I don’t find the “how” interesting at all until I find out the why. I was never the least bit interested in gardening until I began to learn about the problems caused by industrial agriculture in this country. When I learned about the degradation of our soil, the concentration of our food sources into three or four mega companies, and the tenuousness of the whole system, all of a sudden it seemed very important that I should be able to grow some of my own food.
I oppose on ethical terms the industrialization of agriculture. I am not okay with factory farms where animals live tortured lives and die tortured deaths. I’m not okay with my food being sprayed with cancer-causing chemicals. I’m not okay with GMO food, food that doesn’t make seed and is owned under a patent by a corporation. Corporate control of food should make all of us nervous.
It was only when I began to be concerned about the state of things in my country that I started asking the questions of “How?” How can I extricate myself from what I believe is an immoral system? How can I grow my own food? How can I prevent weeds? How do I get rid of insects? Why won’t my tomato plants make any tomatoes?
A lot of people are becoming disenchanted with the food system in America. Some of them are growing tomatoes on the patio and some of them are moving onto acreage and living off grid. I’m somewhere in between. It all starts with a determination to live differently, to get out of the system.
For me, there’s another layer as well. I’ve never liked living in my home. The house itself is fine. It’s the setting that irks me. I don’t like the suburbs, both because of practical realities like having to drive everywhere (everything is spread out and there are no bike lanes) and also because of what they represent (rampant consumerism). Ever since we moved here 12 years ago, I’ve been trying to move.
My yard has always been the typical blasé suburban yard. I don’t find the suburban setting to be inspiring in the least. Cookie cutter houses annoy me, most of the yards are boring, and I don’t find the houses or the yards inspiring or relaxing. Most people do enough to their yards to satisfy the HOA, but they’re not all that interested in being outside. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that lot sizes are getting smaller while house sizes are getting bigger. Most people want to stay inside their homes with the A/C blasting and their devices plugged in.
Nothing about the suburban setting feeds my soul. I grew up on an island off the coast of North Carolina, literally inside of a national park, surrounded by stunning natural beauty. The suburbs by comparison are depressing. It’s like growing up in a family of gourmet chefs and then being forced to eat PB & J on white bread for every meal.
I find that a lot of times when I’m home, I would rather be somewhere else. I would rather be out in the wilderness on a camping trip, or in my kayak, or at the barn spending time with my horses. All of those things fulfill me in a way that being in my suburban home never has. I would like for that to change.
I’d like to have something pretty to look at, something that draws me outside into my yard, and something that makes me want to stay home, instead of constantly wishing I were somewhere else.
In the past I’ve thought that the only way to make myself happy would be to move onto land. I envision an old barn, a creek, and fields for the horses. It doesn’t make financial sense to move though, and my kids and my husband are very happy where we are. Rather than uproot them, it makes more sense for me to transform the small piece of land we already have into something inspiring.
Trying to garden and homestead and become more self-sufficient has launched me into learning the old ways of doing things, and one of the principles that people used to live by is to make do with what you have. Before our economy turned into the consumer nightmare that it is today, people used what they had or they did without. Everyone nowadays thinks that they need the best and the newest of everything, all the time. Learning to be content with what I have and where I am is a wonderful way of connecting with the old ways.