The Self-Reliant Lifestyle Is Not Cute and Trendy…It’s A Lot of Work

by Erica Nygaard

Originally Published at Living Life in Rural Iowa

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This weekend has been busy. I am getting ready to post several pictures on Instagram about what I got done this week and I am still struck by how much work gets done around here every weekend. What strikes me, even more, is how much work there is to do everyday and weekend. But that is what it’s like when you want to be self-reliant.

I choose this life. I wasn’t delusional about what it would entail. Being a prepper is work. Being a homesteader is work. Being self-reliant is work. Being frugal is more work. All four of those together means the work never lets up. I know people who can’t handle it and I don’t blame them. There are days I can barely handle it.

Some of you probably think that all I do is run a blog and hang out here at home. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I work as an office manager Monday through Friday, 7:30 am – 4:30 pm. I run an eBay store that I have been adding more and more inventory too. I have two very active teenagers at home and two young adults who live with their husband or boyfriend. I have two grandchildren. And I blog and write for other sites.

I am not asking or seeking sympathy. Like I said before, I choose this life.

What gets me, though, is the people who think this kind of life is cute or kitschy. What we do to thrive or survive is trendy. Like raising chickens is adorable. Like raising a garden is so good for my health and the environment. Like everything I do to save money in a day is so consumer conscious.

Spare me the trendy terms and the idealistic attitude. That is not why I do it.

I raise my own food because, quite frankly, I save myself a lot of money and I know where some of my food comes from. I enjoy raising my own food, but some days it is a lot of work. The weeding never ends. Sometimes I have more food to preserve than I have time to do. There are times I take a vacation day or two from work just to can tomatoes. I get frustrated because my chickens and the other wildlife ate my berries before I got to pick them. I wish the chickens would figure out that I really don’t want them on the front porch.

I raise my own laying chickens because the eggs are really that much better than store-bought eggs. They help fertilize the yard which means I (meaning mostly the teenagers) get to mow more often. They like to eat bugs which is why they get to free range. Besides that, free-ranging chickens eat less feed which means I save money and get better tasting eggs.  However, reference the front porch comment and berry comment again.

I prepare because I truly believe everyone should. I think you should be prepared because that is the responsible thing to do. I prepare because I don’t want to be in a situation of begging for handouts if I can help it. I want to have plenty of food and water on hand so my kids do not go thirsty or hungry. I want to be able to survive a power outage and more. I want to be prepared for natural disasters and economic downturns. However, preparedness can be work. I garden and raise my own food in order to be better prepared and less reliant on the system. I can and preserve to have more food on hand. I buy the supplies and learn the skills so I know how to take care of my family and myself.

I can and preserve my own food because, again, I like knowing where my food comes and I take a great satisfaction in knowing I produce it. I like being less reliant on a food system that takes pleasure in hiding chemicals and harmful additives to food. I make a lot of my own food and make a lot of food from scratch because I know what is in the food. I have a daughter who is lactose-intolerant and there is a lot of dairy hidden in food using names that I cannot pronounce and are not even natural. By preserving our own food, we can all be healthier and more conscious of what is in our food.

I like saving money and making money. I will not even be ashamed of either of those things. I am a borderline workaholic which makes this life even remotely possible. I juggle a lot of balls every day. I think a lot of people who are in my shoes would say that. There is a lot of people who do this without an outside income to rely on. There is a lot of people who barely scrape by every day and would think I am wasteful when I have a lot of weeks where I barely scrape by. There is a lot of people who live this life and do not think this life is cute or kitschy either.

I hear a lot of people who “crave” the simple life. I might have that phrase in my byline, but I would not be sure that I could accurately say that I live it either. Simple is not running from one place to another and trying to get more accomplished in a day than there are hours in a day. Simple is not trying to balance kids with work, with home life, with keeping a house, with keeping animals, and with trying to raise my own food. Some of that is simple, but not all combined together. While most people live in the rat race, chasing the “American Dream”, and being in debt to their ears, this life I live is not always simple. It just looks better than those people.

Again, I choose this life and everything in it. If you wish you could do all the things I do, then do more than wish for it. That is what I did. Wishing does not make things happen. Wishing does not do anything, but make you keep wishing. If you want to be a homesteader or a prepper, then do what you can to make that happen. Just be aware that this life is a lot of work, but the results are rewarding.

I won’t delude you either. I would not be where I am at without some help. I have a guy in my life who does what he can every day to get stuff done. My kids do chores, clean the chicken coop, and mow. I live on an acreage rent-free, but I pay all the bills except property taxes and pay for almost all of the upkeep. I have a lot of people who support me and live this life as well so they can commiserate with me. I do get out of the house and have fun periodically because I need to relax.

Another thing about this life – it comes with great disappointment sometimes. Your garden doesn’t turn out well or your cucumber plants become victims of the wildlife. Your entire flock of laying hens is killed by a mink. Your only vehicle has to go into the shop for very expensive repairs. Your kids or you become ill resulting in unexpected medical bills. You lose your job and have to rely on your food storage to get you through.

This life is a learning experience. You will witness some great miracles and some devastating losses. You will feel as though you are walking alone in it or, worse yet, feeling like you let your loved ones down. You will feel a great joy every time you bring home a flock of baby chickens or watch a calf or a piglet being born. You will go to bed bone tired but satisfied that you put in a full day’s worth of work. You will be awake at night wondering how you are going to fix a car or a tractor or how you are going to pay that bill. You will watch your kids grow up learning these skills and you will know that they will be able to survive on their own.

Does this life get any easier? Yes and no. Yes, because you learn what to do, you learn skills, and you start to have systems in place. No, because you will always have more work than time, you will be short of money when you need it most, and you will be thrown curveballs when you never expected them.

Like I said before, I choose this life. I want this life. I want more for myself and my family. I can’t see the appeal of a consumer-driven life with keeping up appearances and being in debt. I truly think everyone should live the life I am living. Honest labor never hurt anyone and you become more appreciative of what you have.

However, it is not cute or kitschy. It is not trendy. It is and always will be a lot of work.

About the Author


Erica writes about preparedness, homesteading, frugality, parenting, and life in general at her blog, Living Life in Rural Iowa. A mom of four who has survived divorce, poverty, kids going to college, and teenagers! Always keen to learn more about what she writes about. Grab her book, The Prepper’s Yearbook, HERE.

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