The Humble Housewife

My mother was a housewife.  It was easier and more affordable for her to stay home with all of us kids.  We started caring for foster babies when I was young so there were no less than five of us at any given time.  The home was her domain and everything was tidy and clean and healthy supper was on the table nearly every night.  In the evenings she and my dad would often escape together to go get a Coke and take a drive with the portable cassette player singing tunes sans children.  I always assumed she would get a job when we all moved out.  But she didn’t.  It took awhile for me to realize, she has a job.  And even though my dad is retired, she still has the job. She is a full-time homemaker.

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Women are brilliant nurturers, mothers, and just asking one’s husband to get something that is clearly right in front of him in the cupboard but he can’t find it is proof that the home is our domain.  Men are our warriors, our providers, our heavy lifters.  There are exceptions, of course, but homesteading on a prairie practically off-grid taught me that our roles are not to “put us in our place” or “keep us in the kitchen,” they were (are) practical ways for survival.  Yes, we can all switch roles, but it took Doug a quarter of the time to chop wood, move hay, or fix something.  And if he goes to clean something, put something away, or heaven forbid, sew something, odds are I am going to have to do it again so we just stuck to our roles!  Men innately take pride in providing for the family.  Women in the past always took care of the children, took care of the home, took pride in their work, and would often make a little extra money for the household by selling hand crafted items.

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We have noticed over the years of raising children, and even as empty nesters, that when I have a job we spend more money.  At that point, I don’t have time to clean the house so we hire a house cleaner.  I don’t have the energy to cook so we go out.  I need a break so we go do something.  We spend a lot of money and eat terribly.

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I always stayed home or had my own business that I could take my kids to when they were growing up, but what about now?  I think about the judgment I passed on my mother in my late teens for staying home and making dad “do all the work.”  Is that how society will view me?  Now that my businesses have closed we have been talking about me being a homemaker.  We are modern homesteaders in the city.  We preserve as much food as possible.  We have chickens.  I crochet and quilt and sew.  We use a wood stove in the evenings.  I write books and this blog and I do get some small royalties.  I teach a few classes in my home and I am an herbalist.  Can I give myself permission to be a homemaker too?

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We purposely chose a city where our mortgage payment can easily be covered by one person.  We don’t have fancy cell phone plans or cable.  We have designed a life where I can be a housewife, which is where I am happiest.  I love nurturing, folding warm clothes, having a hot meal ready when my husband gets home from work, having the errands done so we can relax together on the weekends, hand making Christmas presents, caring for my animals, and being there when my grown children and grandbabies need me.  It is the hardest job I can think of but it suits my busy, independent nature just fine.  Yes, I think I will thrive here.

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If we give ourselves the option to be anything and to do anything, let us also give ourselves the right to be homemakers.  May we all give more respect and honor to the housewives, the homemakers, the stay-at-home Mamas, and the stay-at-home Grammies in our society for they keep the heart of the family and home beating strong.

 

 

It Takes Two to Homestead

“What does your husband do?”  Um…same as me.  I have been asked this dozens of times as if we could only manage if he moonlighted as a software engineer or cook for Pizza Hut.  He was working at the coffee shop for fun two days a week last winter and had to quit because his Honey Do list was expanding at an alarming speed without him home.

My cousin is excited to go off grid.  She asked me how Doug and I homestead without jobs or income.  I thought it was time here on Farmgirl School to set the record straight.  If you want to be a homesteader, here are some of the facts.

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1. You must have a cottage industry to pay the bills. 

Yes, we will be practically off grid when we move but we will have rent, propane, cell phones, and internet still.  We aren’t leaving forever to be hermits.  We also will need money for gas and car repairs since we don’t have horses and will need hay and chicken feed (and dog food and cat food) and a few groceries that we don’t make or grow yet.  Not much, our total income required will be $1500 per month.  That’s wonderful but we still need an income to make that much.  We are herbalists.  We have a pretty elaborate Apothecary here.  We make over fifty herbal medicines, salves, beauty products, honeys, and teas.  We grow the herbs, and sell our formulas at farmer’s markets, craft shows, and over the phone and internet.  I always say “we” but here’s the breakdown.  Yes, this is my creation.  I am the intuitive healer.  I am the one who developed all of these medicines, who continues to study, research, and create the most effective medicines out there.  Then Doug steps in.  He is the empath and loves talking with people and he is a natural salesman.  When people come by the booth I generally raise my book higher.  Not because I don’t like people, I do, and one on one I am great, but I am no salesman.  Doug is a retired IT guy, he makes sure the computers are running well, that I can get to my email, the website, my blog.  He develops labels, logos, and marketing materials.  He fills product, loads the car, does markets when I have other things to do.  He has memorized the answers, understands the science, and can help people as well as I can.  Without me there wouldn’t be an Apothecary, without him there wouldn’t be a business that could sustain us.  Not make us rich, just sustain us.  That is just what we want.

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2. There is Women’s Work on a homestead.

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Now, don’t get your apron strings in a knot, this is the truth.  Though we help each other when needed, there are definite divisions in our workload.  If I had to go outside and pound eight foot fence posts into the ground, run fencing, wrestle 150 pound goats, bring in hay, chop firewood, haul firewood, and till, I would be out there for awhile.  By the end, I would either be crying or off to find a glass of wine and a book.  I don’t like that I am not as strong as a man, but I have come to accept it.  Doug handles the heavy work of the farm like a pro.  It’s actually pretty sexy.  I am okay being in the kitchen (barefoot with a baby on my hip is fine too).  I am naturally inclined (as most women are) to nurture.  I enjoy canning hundreds of jars of vegetables and fruits.  I enjoy getting three meals a day on the table.  I love that my husband enjoys my cooking.  I feel pride that we provided a lot of it.  I enjoy a clean house (though right now it never seems to be).  I love to decorate.  Heaven forbid there be large posters of Broncos players in my Laura Ashley living room.  I will take over the decorating.  I enjoy sewing and making gifts.  I enjoy homemaking.  I like putting clothes out on the line.  I love my garden.  We help each other in our respective areas but a homestead runs on old fashioned ideals.

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3. Homesteading is hard work but worth it.

“When do you ever have downtime?” I was asked yesterday.  Often times we are asked when we ever work.  Since folks aren’t around here all the time they don’t see the inner workings of this homestead.  Right now with the farmer’s markets, harvesting, putting up food, and moving it may look like we don’t have much down time.  We work very hard physically for a good part of the year but it is enjoyable and feels good.  It is much healthier than sitting at a desk for eight plus hours a day.  It is really satisfying work.  If we don’t feel good or are injured we can rest.  Our schedule is completely made by us.  We work very hard during the warm months so that we can rest and do things we enjoy in the cold months.  We always have to milk the goats and feed the animals and do housework but our life is a string of pleasant events.  We eat fresh, unprocessed foods.  We enjoy good company and have great friends.  We get plenty of fresh air and enjoy the antics of animals.  We have a lot of time together.  Watching friends and family lose spouses, we realize that each day we are together is a gift.  And we have a very fun, quintessential Grammie and Papa’s house that will be host to many fond memories for grandkids and a respite for our children.

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I suppose one could hypothetically homestead by themselves but they would only get half the work done and still require outside help.  It would be a tad lonely.  I’m not saying one couldn’t do it, but it sure makes it easier to homestead with two.  Without me there wouldn’t be a homestead, without Doug there wouldn’t be a homestead.  Life is sweet here.