I never particularly wanted a dog or a cat growing up. I’ve never been able to keep a plant alive for longer than a couple of weeks. And, living in the broiler-oven state of Texas, I don’t really even like going outside all that much.
So what on earth made me decide to give up my normal suburban life as a nice, respectable, professionally-attired middle school teacher, move to a little old farmhouse on three acres, and start working from home as a writer so I could spend more time mucking around in the mud, trying my hand at homesteading?
The goats made me do it.
It’s true. Call me crazy, but I am absolutely, positively, head-over-heels in love with my little herd of miniature dairy goats.
And in our old suburban neighborhood, they just weren’t quite fitting in.
Not that I minded them, of course. And our sweet neighbors never said a word against them. But as they grew from adorable kids to equally adorable (at least in my eyes) adult goats, they started making more noise than our retired neighbors deserved to have to put up with every day. (To read about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that eventually set our plans to move into motion, check out my blog post on the Mother Earth News website.)
At first we relocated the goats, renting pasture land a few minutes away from our house and driving out to feed, water and generally commune with them each evening. (And yes, communing with goats is not only possible, it’s one of the highlights of my day. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!)
But I missed having my goats at home, and my husband, a chicken fanatic from birth, had always wanted to live in the country anyway, so we decided to move our two boys and our three goats to a place where we could all enjoy each other’s company away from the pressures of city life.
How did this goat obsession of mine come about in the first place? It must have been some sort of divine prank, because one day, out of the blue, it suddenly occurred to me of all people, a busy working mom who knew nothing of vegetable gardens or farm animals, that it might be fun to plunge headfirst into the world of modern homesteading. I can just see the angels giggling in delight as the notion hit me, anticipating a rapid influx of newly departed plants and animals into the heavenly kingdom.
But God knew what he was doing, because urban homesteading quickly became a balm to soothe my stressed-out soul.
Whether the teens under my tutelage had gotten out of hand during class, or exams were piling up to be graded, I would find solace and a centering calm in heading out to the backyard to milk my goats.
Picking ripe grapes from the vines we had planted and tended, and then learning how to make – and can! – grape jelly from them, made me feel surprisingly self-sufficient, and skilled in a way I never had before.
Making creamy lye soap with my goats’ rich milk forced me to slow down, move deliberately and carefully, and take the long view of things.
For me, urban homesteading became the antidote to the frenetic pace of modern-day life, while at the same time imbuing me with a newfound sense of self-assurance. I suspect that others who embrace this lifestyle feel the same way.
The wonderful thing about modern homesteading is that it encompasses so many different activities. A high-powered New York businessman with some tomato plants growing on his balcony is practicing modern homesteading. A suburban soccer mom with a few hens in her backyard for eggs is practicing modern homesteading.
Anyone who tries their hand at canning or cooking from scratch or making crafts…anyone who composts or switches to solar energy or builds their own smokehouse for meat…anyone who takes any steps at all towards becoming more self-sufficient – they are all practicing modern homesteading.
So why did I give up my heels for mud boots? Because I simply couldn’t resist the allure of a life fully immersed in this kind of activity. There’s something meaningful in the work of our hands – when we create things from raw ingredients, or coax new life from the soil, or affectionately nurture animals who provide us with food. And I want to revel in those little miracles every day. Plus, my goats made me do it. And I just couldn’t let the girls down.