I have been thinking a lot about this, and it apparently crested today. Consider this a ramble. And I know full well that this puts me on yet another list. What's one more?
Over the years you and I have complained about modern homesteading magazines. The way they expect us to spend large sums of money to homestead properly, you know, have that newest greatest gadget. Or how they portray a homesteaders garden to be unattainably perfect, weed free, pest free and completely organic. Well we have discussed all this in the past. The reason I bring it up again is because I am uncomfortable with the new batch of "homesteaders" that have cropped up in the blogosphere.
Uncomfortable because they proclaim themselves experts after 6 months. Uncomfortable because they regurgitate the same BS. Uncomfortable because some of their advice is dangerous and they do not tell you how to take precautions. Uncomfortable because they seem to be attempting to out do each other in prettiness. Uncomfortable because they over romanticize or blow uncomfortable happenings out of proportion. Uncomfortable because they are gaining popularity and neglect responsibility. Uncomfortable because it doesn't seem like they are actually homesteading but using the growing popularity of the word to promote themselves.
I am contemplating losing the word homesteader from my bio and blog title. I adore the homesteaders that I have become acquainted with. But the popular movement is not really something I want to be associated with, if it keeps this course. I am even thinking about pulling my book. I don't care if things get popular. What I care about is the truthfulness of the lifestyle. And it seems to be getting rarer all the time to find. Sometimes I find it difficult to believe that all these people that post repurposed items, beautifully done, daily are actually producing these things. They would have had spent a year perfecting all this pretties to be able to post them so close together.
Some of these pretty homesteaders have recently informed me that I am irrelevant. First, I never thought I was relevant to anyone but my family and friends. But I can see where they were going with it. Since the accident I have less and less contact with you. I also have been posting less projects and I am not even putting in a garden. It's becoming more of a basic farm blog. Second, if I wanted to be relevant I would buy more of the modern homesteading gadgets and spend less time actually doing things. (That was sarcasm)
I should have died multiple times these past two years. The electrocution by water, the stroke, the electrocution through my skull, the motorcycle wreck. Being relevant to people that enjoy throwing me off their property because I am blunt really isn't on my priority list. When I see something I don't like I try to fix it. Unable to succeed at that, I know to walk away. I am not walking away from homesteading. It is what I do, what I enjoy. No, I will still do that, but I need to find a new word for what I, and the other old school homesteaders are. One of my pet peeves is pop culture. Modern homesteading blogs seem to have moved in that direction. And it is only good for those that are selling.
I will not compromise myself by telling you pretty things. When pleasant and happy things happen, I share that, but not romanticize it. When tragic things happen, I share that, but not over dramatize (unless it is tongue and cheek and I am actually making fun of my stupidity).
Pretty 'steading is consumerist driven. Their repurpose projects have you buying materials rather than what you have laying around. Pretty 'steading is about out doing the Jones'. It's about hypocritical advice, reuse! Repurpose! Be frugal! Buy this junk that is twice the price it should be because trash is popular! Gmo's and hybrids are the same! Don't eat any corn! Don't eat meat! But keep pet chickens! Prepare for the end but without real skills! Spend time making pretties to barter! Cut and paste, cut and paste other peoples advice!
But where is the new skill sets? Where is the first time you had to get bloody to save an animal? Or kill one? I'm sad, doesn't qualify as a true emotional response to this lifestyle. You are not writing for me, you are writing for those that have little to no experience. Even if you have little or no experience. You're writing to share an experience, to teach, to learn, so you need to express it more. At least in my opinion. If you are talking to me, more than likely I understand the depth of sad. However those that have never experienced that type of tragedy have no idea the gravity of this emotional roller coaster. Teach them.
I am not writing this for any reason than this pop trend annoys me. It pushes aside and downgrades those that actually homestead. It almost seems like yuppies looking down their noses at those dirty hippies. Homesteaders are a hugely diverse group, but pop culture displays the old school 'steaders as hard core Christians, or lunatic pagans, white and angry. Not the kind, caring group of every faith, political alignments, race and sex that I know. Pretty 'steaders are appearing and they are given over to the green movement as super stars. Of being experts and mentors. Look she painted pallets! Awesome. But I know people that have built their houses from pallets, not because it was cool, but because it was all they could use at the time. Those are the kind of people that should be getting paid to go on tv, to lecture, to be mentors. Not someone that says what ever they need to to be liked. Wearing high heels around livestock isn't cute, it's a tad silly and potentially dangerous.
Pretties are nice. Something we do on long winter nights, or rain soaked days. They are nice to look at and most the time functioning. But pretties do not make one a homesteader. Never has, and in my mind, never will. If you have time to create a 1/4 acre gnome village, do you have time for animals? Don't get me wrong, it's cool and all, but homesteading requires more.
Now I didn't gritch when a plethora of blogs popped up years later after I started this blog, taking my niche of mistakes. My long time readers should remember that under the blog name, it said "a beginners tale of mistakes". The Wall Street Journal even quoted it. At that time homesteading wasn't really known in the blogosphere. There was about four of us talking about this lifestyle. There were plenty of farm and ranch blogs though. Then more and more homesteading blogs popped up, and I was thrilled! These people were like me. They were willing to share, and chat, and learn from one another. Now that is awesomeness. Then the green movement hit hard. Several of those homesteading blogs turned into just that. No longer really talking about homesteading, but reducing their carbon footprint. I did touch on that subject here. But after about a month or so, I realized it wasn't really me. I do things that do reduce my footprint, but not because of that. I could care less if you want to be green, that's on you and what you want in life. I am merely outlining trends in pop culture here. Next came the preppers. I really enjoyed them in the beginning (still am in love with the "old timers"). They wanted to learn so much, sucking up any educational skill sets that we were willing to part with. Suddenly that too became consumerist driven and there was an influx of those that wanted to only buy and hoard store bought canned pastas. As this shift happened, a few more homesteading blogs slipped by the wayside. I don't know if this is something they too truly believe in or if it was to be popular in this crowd set. All I know is the trend shifted again. And now the Pretties have descended upon us.
I realize that people homestead in their own way. And I have embraced them all. But what I am talking about just doesn't seem like true, honest homesteading. It feels more like a fashion show of I can do better than you. I would hope that we can agree that homesteading is about making a piece of land yours, creating a real sustainable self reliant life with little help from the big corporations, to be prepared for long hard winters, and man-made or natural disasters. To come out the other side able to prosper and function with our skill sets. Not having our chickens well dressed for a nuclear winter (that's me obsessing over chicken sweaters), or having more ammo and spaghetti o's than our neighbor. To have a house full of pretty, tire furniture that we made while neglecting to work on our gardening skills. I enjoy my white trash skills, but not at the expense of my homestead.
I suddenly feel like I am in the movie "Heathers".
I readily admit that I enjoy some of the pictures they post, some of their DIY projects are neat and functioning. However there has got to be a better name for what they do other than homesteading. So you can knit a sweater for a chicken. Cool. But there should be more substance, more meaning, less look at me. I guess I can't really blame them, they are selling themselves for fame. Everyone wants to be notice, has a need to be special. I however have avoided it like the plague. Only writing for websites when they have asked, taking it on as a new adventure, eventually ticking someone off and being asked to leave (more like ordered). Like I am doing now.
Consumerist driven homesteading isn't all bad. It has given a platform to some that truly deserve the label teacher. It has enabled us to sell our wares readily. It has stirred more interest in what we do. The general public is now looking at us. No, not us, the pretty people. However the trickle effect works here. Some readers wise up and look for the truth. Most don't. . . Shiny! There is always positive and negatives in trend shifts. But I loathe being misrepresented to the world at large. In the beginning I was constantly being referred to as Hitler (by people that apparently have no grasp on history), that was a gross misrepresentation of what homesteaders do. Now I am not comparing Pretty 'steaders to Hitler (haha! I know a bit about history) but they to misrepresent what we do. Homesteading is rarely pretty, and we lack the time and energy to create large, none function items that really have no business on a homestead. Nor do most of us have the money to spend on these things. I am not talking art here. We all take moments to do the things we love other than running a homestead. We prettify our surroundings when we get the chance. What we don't do is make picture perfect cuisines, large pieces of furniture, delicate and time consuming deserts, or chicken sweaters on a daily basis. (I haven't really seen a chicken sweater, but I am sure they are out there). We do those things when we have a moment to ourselves. Then it sits around, half done, for a few months until we remember it again, or is that just me?
If you have the time and the money, then go for it. Enjoy all the pretties you can create. But don't bash the rest of us for being white trash because our chicken condos aren't as eloquent as yours. Or we neglect to paint our newest project. Sometimes we don't have the money for paint, sometimes paint is irrelevant to the project because of the harsh conditions it is met with. Most the recent pretties I have seen wouldn't survive the day here. We are rather rough on things. It has to be durable.
And for the love of honesty, stop naming your blogs "the real" or something equally misleading. A homesteading neophyte was perfect for me when I started this blog those many years ago. It is still relevant to this blog today. Even though I have been doing this awhile, there are always new things to learn, old things to tweak, and to grow as a person. I thought about the name before using it. What person wants to learn something from a newbie, or does it have to do with porn?
To the few out there that write truth, I applaud you. I know it is hard to be blunt to the readers at large, to be able to put up with the criticisms and the attacks. I am not commenting as much as I use to, but I am still reading and following your adventure. I ache and cheer with you. You are my heroes. And I hope beyond hope that you too will not fall for this consumerist homesteading, this pretty competition just to get readers (I have seen several blogs fall).
Thank you to the hard working, bloodied, tear eyed individuals that stop at nothing to live their dreams. You have always kept me on my toes. And I know when I have needed you, you have taken the initiative to step up and talk to me. I hate seeing the homesteading community cave to the distant, cold, cliques that have rapidly developed.
(And before commenting, notice the tag says editorial. This is my opinion. It maybe a harsh one, but I have been thinking about this for awhile now. And if you make the occasional pretty things, don't take this personal, it obviously isn't about you. Read it carefully rather than jumping. Thank you.)
Oh. My. They are real! The chicken sweaters are real! After I wrote this I looked it up. Ok I get warming up those birds that have feather issues. But do you have time to make sweaters for your entire flock? Found the picture at this ezine about urban homesteading.