Life on the Homestead Post COVID-19
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many lives and livelihoods. Many of us have spent time hunkering down in our homes, eating too many goodies, wearing jammies and sweatpants with t-shirts, and swiping online apps, only to see hundreds of messages accumulate while we quarantine ourselves. It is a time that revealed just how dependent we are on many basic things as food, water, and entertainment. But for some, it isn’t that way. Some people have accepted the challenge by becoming more self-sustaining to get through the pandemic with much less stress. This group of people, who don’t experience the total unrest we see around the country, are called “homesteaders.”
Homesteader and author, Tasha Greer says, “Homesteading is something you can do at all different levels. It is about finding ways to do more yourself so that you are not at the mercy of external whims or events like COVID-19. Homesteading is a skill you learn so you have more food put away for tough times. If you prepare to buy things to put in a shelter, you will have more options.” Greer adds she can live off the grid at any moment, but she doesn’t because she likes her comfort.
According to Shawn Harding, President of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, “Self-reliance is a key factor to homesteading, as well as keeping a strict level of vigilance.” Harding adds, “Farms did not survive the last several months alone, and connections made with the public highlight how much we really do rely on each other and what we can accomplish for a strong resilient food supply chain.” The question that is asked frequently is, “What can we expect from post-COVID-19?” The answers show us what homesteaders are currently doing and will continue to do even after the pandemic releases its grip on the nation.
Homesteaders are known as “preppers,” and have the essentials to move forward. Deborah Nieman of The Thrifty Homesteader believes, “When people ask me if I’m a prepper, my answer is: I don’t give myself that label, but if there was a zombie apocalypse, I would know where my next meal was coming from.”
Finding ways to increase self-sufficiency is a homesteader’s life. This includes making sure they know where their next meal is coming from by growing their own food, which is what homesteaders do exceptionally well. The misconception is that several acres are needed to grow crops.
Whether you live in the city or on a farm, suburbanites have shown incredible creativity changing habits on ways of using space. It can be a roof or a sunny windowsill in the kitchen. Changed habits are easy to apply. For example, Meegan Fotner suggests planting a fruit tree in a bucket that is sitting in the corner of your garage. “Just drill holes in the bottom, fill the bucket with dirt, and place a seedling fruit tree into the soil.” She then sets it outside.
Homesteaders utilize resources by researching the internet, communi- cating with neighbors and friends, speaking to farm owners, and con- tacting local agricultural offices.
Some homesteaders have built pantries to stash away canned goods, paper goods, and necessary toiletries. If homesteaders are concerned about electric usage or any issues that may arise, they are the first to practice off-grid cooking using solar, campfire methods, grills, wood stoves, and fire pits.
Another issue practiced by homesteaders is water conservation. “We will be creating a berm for runoff water so it will be directed to follow the pathways and structure of our crops,” states homesteader, Adrianna Champella.
Nearby, in an eastern county, homesteader Logan Parker built a cistern. “We can lower water bills and don’t have to depend on anyone for water,” Parker says.
In an area known as Seven Lakes, North Carolina, several residents have set up a series of rain barrels for rainwater harvesting systems. They have also constructed cold frames, built worm bins for vermicompost, and made use of solar power.
Looking ahead to planting, post-COVID-19 shows movement toward soy because it has a low intensity of inputs, which would be ideal if there were issues in getting things such as fertilizers. Welfare animal feed manufacturers have implemented flexible work arrangements and have restructured work shifts, such as Tractor Supply Company, to help workers maintain safe distances. This structure will also enable homesteaders to collect feed supplies as essential goods.
Prepping increased when Wall Street stocks became depleted. Many became proactive and used outside resources, which is fundamental to homesteading. “Being less dependent is always a goal,” states Champella. “You have to stay on top of things in order to ride the waves.”
Those who didn’t own goats and chickens recently purchased animals for supplies of eggs, milk, and meat. Economist Scott Irwin states, “When the grocery store runs out of eggs, it’s hard to have omelets — unless you have your own chickens.”
Post COVID-19 has created a new lifestyle, even for homesteaders.
It does not, however, give way to worrying about the virus. It is about how homesteaders change habits that bring more self-sufficiency to the family.
Because homesteaders are spending more time at home, they are purchasing plant starts or seeds and growing more food. The garden in- industry has grown appreciably since the pandemic began. An example is written by T. Dodrill, author of New Life on a Homestead. The author writes, “Instead of planting flowers, plant lettuce or purple tomatoes.” Dodrill suggests, “Homegrown or purchased food can be canned, dried, frozen, or pickled for the future.”
The impacts of COVID-19 will linger for some time. To become more financially solvent during the pandemic, many homesteaders are creating new fields of opportunity. Some are setting up outdoor vegetable and fruit stands, selling to neighbors and passers-by, even selling crops door-to-door. Many homesteaders have begun growing and selling potatoes and squash or a continuous harvest of beets, radishes, carrots, and turnips while others have grown herbs and distribute them to restaurants and suburbanites.
Several computer-savvy homesteaders have been offering and will continue to offer online classes and virtual lessons on a variety of topics, from raising farm animals for profit to growing plants for biofuel, an industry with less impact on gas emissions.
Homesteading, the environment, people, and animals are like the four seasons — always there, always challenging, and one step ahead, offering everyone a bounty of skills, green space, and self-sufficiency.
Originally published in Countryside March/April 2021 and regularly vetted for accuracy.