It's been about a year since we started this journey into homesteading. We are not near as in depth into homesteading as many are. We don't have solar, we aren't 100% self-sustaining, we live in town, we still eat out at restaurants, we use city water for our yard and gardens, etc. BUT, we have made a lot of progress over this past year, with the help of family and friends! I think we've done a pretty good job of slowly implementing projects, animals and goals into our homestead and not trying to do everything at once. It's really exciting to see how far we've come and to continue making goals and plans for the future.
To celebrate all we've accomplished, I wanted to share some thoughts on WHY we decided to start living this way. Many of you who have known Eddie or myself for a long time, whether you're family or friends, know we haven't always been this committed to living "naturally," "old-fashioned" or sustainably. It may seem weird that we're living differently than the majority of people around here, so I figured I'd let you all know what led us to this way of life.
WHERE MY JOURNEY BEGAN
I started creating my Sunkissed Botanics products back in 2015. Since then, I had been dreaming of us owning a home with some land where I could grow lots of herbs and flowers for my products. But I never thought we'd be doing all we are now! That's the beautiful thing about learning and researching and talking to people: your eyes are opened to new ideas & new ways of thinking and you become inspired to do more & try new things.
Learning about herbal medicine, natural remedies and holistic healthcare as I've been creating my business, and when I was pregnant with Jude, took me down a rabbit hole. My eyes and brain were opened up to so many truths and so much that is right in front of us but we don't see - because we don't CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVE or QUESTION the "norm". From learning about the epidemic of prescription drug abuse; the money that runs the pharmaceutical companies and incentivizes doctors to prescribe medicine instead of treat the root of the problem; the "industrialization" of childbirth & the rising cesarean rates in the USA; the incredibly long time that females are on hormonal birth control or other hormonal drugs and then the issues that stem from that (infertility, low sex drive, depression, etc); seeing family and friends around me suffering or passing away from cancer and diseases at an alarming rate; chronic pain and fatigue in so many people I know; the rise of big stores promoting cheap, "healthy" food; and the decline of nutrients in our soils - which in turn affects the nutrition of our foods. You just can't learn about this stuff and then forget it! (See underlined sources above.)
THE PROBLEM WITH OUR MODERN FOOD SYSTEM
Almost everything I mentioned above is connected somehow. And the root of it all? MONEY AND DESIRE FOR CONVENIENCE. Now I may be offending some people, and I'm sure by now some of you have rolled your eyes, or stopped reading already - but the proof is in the pudding. Just look around you. How many people do you know are constantly getting sick, have or have had cancer, have allergies, have autism, have IBS or other digestive problems, have dietary restrictions, have hormonal problems, have issues with infertility, have autoimmune diseases, the list could go on.
In an effort to make our lives easier, and to conform to our fast paced, work-sleep-work-weekend -do it again lifestyle, I believe we have sacrificed our health and well being. Now yes, you may say, people are living longer than they were 150 years ago, which is true. That's because we do have cleaner water, higher regulations for food safety, more knowledge of how to stay healthy and clean, better childbirth outcomes (in some places), medicines, techniques and technology that can save lives, etc. This is all wonderful! But in all of this great progression of knowledge and science, I feel like many of us have lost touch with some of the simplest ways to stay healthy.
Animal meat and animal products were a staple in traditional diets. ALL OF THE ANIMAL. Animals that were raised in small flocks or even just by themselves, had access to land, grass, water, sunshine, and were able to run around freely and get exercise. Now, most of our animals live lives of confinement, fed diets they were never meant to eat, are given hormones, vaccines, antibiotics, and their food is grown in not so healthy ways either. Then we consume that milk, meat, butter, cheese, bacon. Do we stop and think if all that stuff that the animal consumed will affect our health? Or do we stop eating animal products because of all that? Then we lose out on the wonderful and absolutely necessary nutrients and vitamins that animal products have to offer our body.
Our grocery stores are lined with boxes of food with ONE main ingredient- enriched flour. Flour from wheat that was sprayed with RoundUp to dry it out before it was processed. A huge percentage of anything that is in a box or bag (bread, cereal, crackers, chips, granola bars, "healthy" snack bars, baby foods), have pesticides or herbicides in them & very little, if any, health benefits. Take a look at this study conducted by the EWG to see all the products (even organic) that tested positive for glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp. Along with that comes high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and artificial colors - all of which wreak havoc on the intricate biological processes that our bodies are conducting every second of the day.
Today's industrial, large scale farming practices are so intensive that they deplete our soils' health and destroy the soil biology. "Heavy tilling, multiple harvests and abundant use of agrochemicals have increased yields at the expense of long-term sustainability." (Source) Then we also have the effects of constant herbicides being sprayed all over the land and pesticide being sprayed all over the crops. This kills beneficial plants, pollinators and beneficial insects that help control the "bad" insect population and pollinate our trees and crops. This all affects the nutritional quality of the food that we're eating AND the food that the animals we eat are eating. There is a huge difference in the amount of nutrients and vitamins in a bell pepper grown in healthy compost in soil that hasn't been tilled over and over or sprayed, than a pepper that was not grown that way. At the same time we are working to get something from our land, we should be regenerating and nourishing our land! The best and most sustainable farming practices are those that include different species of plants & animals, rotational grazing, seasonal breeding, and free ranging animals. See Polyface Farms or Burroughs Family Farms. The most nutritious, robust and healthiest plants grow with other plants, not just alone in a HUGE field full of one crop.
Fermented foods and drinks were a huge part of traditional diets. It was not only used to preserve food but to make foods easier for your body to digest. They nourish our healthy gut flora, which helps with digestion, skin problems, headaches, and a myriad of other health issues. Doctors and scientists are just starting to learn about the amazing ways that your gut determines the health of the rest of your body. What used to be nourishing, fermented, "soda", is now Coke, full of artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Homemade cheeses, fermented vegetables, sour kraut, they're all making a come back, but a lot of what is in the store, still has preservatives and unnatural ingredients in it.
SO, WHY DID I JUST GET ON MY SOAP BOX?
+ Number one, because I'm super passionate about this and I want to share the knowledge I have to help my friends and family, and anyone else who may read this, become more aware of what they're putting in their body.
+ Number two, I'm a firm believer in using FOOD AS MEDICINE. Put simply, input=output. Energy in=energy out. What you put INTO your body, determines what your body DOES FOR YOU (or doesn't do for you). If you give it high quality foods, fats, and small amount of toxins, processed foods and medicines, you will get good energy, good health, good sleep, good MENTAL health, good quality of life. I know it's not always that simple, there are real disorders and real physical problems that need more than just good food. But nourishing, high quality food & drink is ALWAYS a great place to start and will always, more than likely, make the problem less of a problem. Before you put something into your mouth, whether it's food or drink, think, "what will this do for me or to me?"
+ Number three, all THAT above is why we are doing what we're doing. If I can't find good fruit and veggies, I'm going to try and grow it; if I can't find good meat, we're going to try and raise it; if we can't find good bread, I'm going to bake it, and so on and so forth.
GETTING BACK TO OUR ROOTS
Once we started living this way, it just become kind of a chain reaction...I began learning all I could about organic gardening with no till/dig methods, and I learn of course that composted chicken manure is amazing fertilizer, so we get chickens; then we also get the benefit of their delicious eggs, which are one of the most nutritious things you can eat (pasture raised). We had all this over grown pasture, and learn that sheep are great foragers, so we get sheep to keep our corral and pasture under control & regenerate it with their manure. We also plan to butcher some of them to enjoy their meat, use their lard for cooking, use their bones for broth - none of them will go to waste; none of them will die in vain. Now the sheep and chickens live together & we learn that intermixing livestock species is great for their health and helps prevent diseases and parasites - bonus! Then we research more about sheep and learn you can milk them. Their milk is one of the most nutritious milks on earth and is great for making cheese! So we decide to get a milking sheep. (More on that in another post!)
Our new lifestyle is empowering, it's amazing, it's beautiful, it's tiring, it's full of challenges, it's how I believe we were intended to be eating and living, and it's SO fulfilling. I'm constantly in awe of God's creation around our homestead: watching our sheep give birth & how she knows exactly what to do to care for her new lambs, the instincts the chickens have to run for cover when they hear a hawk or how they freeze up at night when you approach them, planting the tiniest seed and seeing it turn into a huge flowering plant just months later. And learning more & more how intricately our bodies work every second to keep us alive, breathing and moving. I love sitting down to a dinner with my husband and son, knowing we are filling our bodies with wholesome, nutrient dense foods, that will give us energy, and vitality and boost our immunity to sicknesses and diseases. Why waste a meal on low-quality, fast food, frozen foods or processed foods- when you can use that meal to nourish yourself and your family?!
To reiterate the title of this post, we are getting back to our roots - to the traditional way of living and cooking, how our grandparents and great-grandparents ate and lived and provided for themselves. Obviously not fully and with a modern day twist, but a more old fashioned way of life none the less! We enjoy the simplicity and serenity of it. I find so much passion and joy in our day to day lives. And we love that our children will grow up knowing where their food comes from, learning how to work hard for it and enjoy it.
I know not everyone has the time and/or resources to grow, raise, ferment - but you can do a few or one of those things, whether it's on a big or small scale! Join a community garden or CSA, grow a few veggies and herbs in your yard, buy in on a grass fed cow share, learn to bake sourdough bread or make your own cheese, learn how to ferment your food/drinks, read the labels on the food you buy, get to know your local farmers, mainly just try to eat REAL FOOD! It's delicious and you don't have to be on a diet. Sautéed veggies with melted cheese over a bed of wild rice with some barbecued meat; eggs fried in butter with some homemade bread on the side - that's so good for you, it's easy to make and it's delicious to eat!
If you made it through this whole post, thank you for taking the time to read it! I hope you read something that inspired you, opened your eyes and/or helped you see your food in a different light. If you have questions, comments or anything else to add to this, I'd love to hear what you have to say.
Until next time. xoxo