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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Pop culture Homesteading

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.


Anonymous said...

little sister, I can't believe you are letting a bunch of smug naysayers
get to you with their nasty mouthing off. Tell em' to kiss you where the sun don't shine! These people try to make themselves feel better by making someone like you feel bad. Would you like me to write a guest article and tell them what they can do with their opinions? Just like people to try and kick you while you're down. f*ck em. your friend always who thinks you and your family are pretty great! the mohave rat

SeaMaiden said...

Keep your word - homesteader. The people worth knowing know the difference.

Phelan said...

It's not about naysayers, or being pushed around. It's about negative trends. Maybe I didn't put it into words correctly.

Carolyn said...

Great post! I too get annoyed and disappointed with the "trendy" homesteading/prepping/green/whatever movement. But like you said, some people can read through the crap and then move on to other, more accurate places for information. IMO, if it doesn't have swearing, blood, screaming and REAL trash-using projects, it ain't homesteading!
The pretties will eventually move on to the next trend. Maybe it will be Morlocks or something.

Unknown said...

I kind of like the pretty, now I have something to talk about with the "pretty" moms at the school when I'm there. Also, they buy things from me on occasion (like my pretty eggs) so that's something. I can't call what I do homesteading either, though. Or farming. Maybe a hobby farm. Or gardening with livestock. But it's certainly not pretty and I qualify for the "swearing, blood, screaming and REAL trash-using projects" comment.

Anyway, keep your title, you will most likely be here after all the pretties have moved on from pallets and canning jars, except for the ones that found the real dirt and got pulled in ;). Whatever gets people outside planting stuff can't be all bad.

Anonymous said...

Thank You!!
You have put into words what I have been thinking, the people who live the life style are a tough hardy breed, living and practicing the life style by choice, not because it is vogue!! Over the years what we do has been called many things, back to landers is just one, crazy hippies is another, but all comes down to wanting a simpler life style that respects the Earth and is wholesome Not plastic.
I have not been following you for very long, but you and yours are the real deal, I know a little about it been a practicing homesteader for 40 years and one of these days I hope to get it right.
Jim (Hagar) on some forums, do not have the time or words to have a blog.


Unknown said...

I got one for ya', Hon. There are humans being bred into this world that just aren't wired for common sense and civility. SMH.... Where's Alfred Hitchcock when ya' need him?! Those poor birds.

Rae said...

Hear hear!!! Man, I do love your blog. One of the first I followed. :)

I started blogging just to keep track of things. For example, when did we pick up our turkey poults last year? I can just go look on the blog. It also serves as a way for family and friends to see what we've been up to lately. We're not homesteaders. Just a couple that likes to raise our own meat, grow a few veggies, and not live 10' from our neighbor. I have jack for readership, as I disappear for months at a time, don't write tutorials or do giveaways, etc. Don't really care, as that's not why I write.

I've hit the follow button for numerous blogs after reading an interesting post, only to have them go rapidly gag-worthy and have to delete them. I have one that will NOT go away. I delete it, and it returns. The gal is mental, in over her head, writes like a teen who just took her first poetry class, makes loads of awful mistakes because she didn't bother to read/learn first, and people eat it up. Baffles me. The bad thing is that blogs like those are everywhere, and that's where a lot of the newbies are getting their info. It hurts to think about.

Keep tellin it true, lady. We dig it. And perhaps you'll teach folks a thing or two. :)

Oh, and the chicken sweaters... Thanks for the pic (not so much)... Now must clean coffee off my keyboard.

Catherine said...

Thank you for putting into words so much of what I've felt over the last several years. I started to comment on your post here, but realized I was writing a blog post. I'm going to link to you and add my take over there, so I don't end up hijacking your blog comments. :)

HotFlashHomestead said...

It's just one old woman's opinion here, but homestead is a big word, and I believe there's lots of room for everyone within it (as you can tell from the name of our own hobby farm). Honestly, if you hold to the most rigorous definition of the word, it should be reserved to people who were granted acreage of government land, lived on it for five years (while building their own homes and barns and remaining completely off the grid and self-sufficient) as pioneers did who traveled to Wyoming and Montana in the late 1800's. Those were the true homesteaders, honestly. It's not the use of the term that bothers me, but as Rae pointed out above, the bloggers/authors who flit from interest to interest, shallowly, mastering nothing and endangering their livestock and neighbors with the results...then writing about it as experts. One blogging gal even kept chickens for a couple of years then wrote a book about chicken-keeping, painting herself as an expert! After just two years! Those are the dangerous people, IMO.

Unknown said...

I agree with your post. Too much commercialism. But there are people who are neither in the " preppy" frame of mind, not truely homestaeders who do appreciate a goog blog. I am one of those. I grew up in a smaller town and had chickens, ducks, rabbits, and quail the whole time I was growing up. I moved to a large metropolitan area and had no place for a garden or any sort of livestock for decades. I am now a few years from retirement, have my 20 acres with a large pond in the country, and am looking forward to an orchard (recently planted) and a large garden, as well as fish from the pond. I will never be a complete hardcore homesteader at this late date, but try to think that way. Don't worry about the people who just want to play at it. Some of those will eventually get the message and actually do what you are doing. The rest, well, what differnce does it make to you. I read a number of blogs and even though I am not a genuine homesteader, I can tell who just talks the talk and who actually walks the walk.

You keep on walkin'!!!!!

MamaHen said...

I believe I understand what you mean. Unfortunately, due to the Internet's very nature, it is the ultimate format for huge egos and "I can outdo anything you can" to flourish. Especially given most of our society's unlimited fixation with materialism and drama. I find it terribly frustrating to see wildly popular blogs telling people how to build things that I know are horribly wrong and can ultimately end up very badly. One blogger especially tells all his readers that you can't possibly do what he is doing using traditional concrete forming methods but he actually has no idea what those methods are because I have asked him. No clue. But his readers eat it up and he edits his blog to appear always correct. So, I just pray he doesn't kill one of his kids doing what he does and move on. What I'm saying is that that type of "celebrity seeking" is in every type of blogging that involves the DIYers or similar. It is frustrating to watch but as has been stated before here, people with a brain will discern the difference. Perhaps things will change eventually but most of our society is just hooked on flash and "bling" and have no clue as to what real substance is.

small farm girl said...

Can't we all just get along!!!! hehehehe

Sandy Livesay said...


Your post was dead on, you put it into words correctly!!!

Thank you!

Phelan said...

Just to be clear, I am not mad or angry. A little annoyed, that's all. Some of the complaints in comments here, are actually covered in the post. I am not trying to pigeon hole homesteading. There is a paragraph that talks about the diversity of homesteading.

This is not about money. This is about 6 month experts, dyiers that only post about repurposing and calling themselves homesteaders, about dangerous directions with no warnings about harm, and popularity without taking responsibility.

I hope that clears it up a bit more.

Lamb said...

*stands up and cheers*
Great post, Phelan!
I also need to clean up my keyboard after seeing those chicken sweaters!

My personal favorite was seeing some ladies chicken coop that had been done as a "Victorian Parlor" with white lace curtains and doilies and lovely chairs, etc. Yeah. For chickens. I can only imagine all the chicken poop on those cute doilies and curtains (massive eye roll)

This morning I was head butted and stomped on by goats, pooped on by chickens, chased by that damn gander again and discovered 3 rotten eggs hidden under the back porch. (So THAT"S what that smell was!)
Homesteading isn't pretty. Or clean. Or pain free.

Spider said...

Please don't let them get to you. Where else am I going to go to find honest homesteading stories? The trendy homesteaders are the ones that need to find a new name. Reading about original homesteading back in the 1800s, it was hard, it was tough, not everyone proved up. The life was brutal, and sometimes people died. The trendy homesteaders are going to fade away when a new trend pops up anyway.

P.S. I like your propensity for ticking people off, it makes you real.

Warlock Sundance said...

WHat a post.....well....your first commenter pretty much said it all....and I stand with Mr. Rat....

Practical Parsimony said...

Sometimes the pretty homesteaders make me feel momentarily bad about my make do chicken coop--rubbermaid boxes. I make no claim to homesteading. Two hens and food grown in buckets are not homesteading in any form, but they are real and hard for me given my physical disabilities. Add the severe lack of money and I get by.

There is no swearing, blood, and only a bit of screaming on my blog.

However, I am heading the homestead direction. I will never have a chicken parlor with a chandelier or have chicken sweaters. There is a bench placed outside the pen so I can watch them. I would consider knitting snoods for their combs, maybe bonnets.

My heater for the chicken water to keep it from freezing in the winter was made 100% from things in the basement. However, someone took that idea and posted a chicken water heater and told what to buy to make it. My whole purpose when I post reuse posts is to show what can be done with almost nothing."Practical Parsimony" suits my blog.

If I ever have more money, the same principles will apply that I use now. "Pretty" is not what I am for unless I am redoing a lamp. Using what I have or can scrounge is my goal.

Even those of us who are not heavy into the "homesteading" movement do recognize a "pretty" and seemingly egotistical blog.

I laugh at the model poses of some of the women and poses of their children.

I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

And where ARE these people finding all these free pallets anyway?! Any that you can get free around here are good for firewood at best.

I loved your post. If I see one more pallet with lettuce growing in it I will scream. Or boots with lettuce or....


Doom said...

Don't you dare let the poseurs take the term. Let them pick some hip, fictional, artsy name that means what they are. Homesteading is, was, and always will be a lot of hard work truncated by moments of pain, joy, horror, blood, rest, and the other real gusto of a life lived and work done.

Let them pick hobby horticulturist or aristocratic nurseryman or some such. Life doesn't fit in the lockstep think of the New Yorker, or in glossy fabricated photos. Let them go back to their fantasy worlds. Best not to tread on those who really makes their world go around or your heritage. *snarls*

Robbyn said...

Thank God, finally!!!!!!! And there doesn't have to be a designer photo of every "moment" either (though you know I do love my camera and photo glutting)...
"homesteader" has turned the green version of yuppie and posh. Bleh. My ideal is somewhere along the line of Eustace Conway, my grandma, and whatever works for us. You blog was the second homesteading blog I found out there back in the day, right after a sheep blog. I ditched the Dervaes blog after EVERYthing was self promotional and "hip." Whatever new term the OLD homesteader is, I hope its the non-Martha Stewart version of real life and real life survival, with the personal touch of the individual. Whatever you call it, you rock on, Marcy. I've learned a lot from you and will continue to. Thanks for being real.

kath said...

I agree with you 100%. Maybe they should call the yuppie wannabees "gentleman farmers" because that's essentially what they are. I don't read any of their blogs. I always thought that the goal of homesteading was to live completely off the grid, and know that if everything went to hell, they could still survive without any commercial means. I don't homestead. Because of you, I respect the process too much and because of you and all you've gone through, I know that I just don't have it in me to go through all of that myself. I learn so much from you that has helped me in my rural/suburban life. Anyone who would criticize you has no idea what homesteading is.

Meredith said...

Oh yes... we just started on this venture a year ago, and I've spent countless hours doing research on every new skill we've picked up. Plenty of my homesteading education is through reading blogs and I've noticed a lot of these homesteading yuppies.

I wonder what's going to happen when they lose interest in this fad. Will all of their chickens get sent to the humane society because they aren't cool anymore? I guess only time will tell. Part of me is excited and feeling hopeful that so many people are interested in the simple life and getting back to the land, but part of me knows that it's just a passing trend and only a few will stick it out.

By the way- have any of you seen Williams Sonoma's Agrarian section on their website? I chanced upon it while shopping for a wedding present. They have $1,500 chicken coops for sale, as well as raised bed starter kits. I mean come on. Who is actually spending their money on this stuff?

Phelan said...

Meredith, I had no idea. That is bizarre. I think I am speechless.

Good luck in your new adventure!

Robbyn said...

...sidenote...DARN...there goes my chicken sweater blog.......

(evil laugh........!!!!!!)

Robbyn said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I googled the dang chicken sweaters...

I am speechless.

Robbyn said...

(wondering if I should start a farm animal manicure/pedicure salon...)

Coffeekittie said...

But Phelan, if you stop labeling your blog as Homesteading, then how will people who really want to know the truth of it find you?

I too, like another commenter wrote, get excited about the apparent rise of interest in more self-sufficiency, and I too believe that sadly, it's just a phase for most. But! There are people out there, mostly unheard from, who are doing it the real way.

I'm on the list for Mother Earth News and it's sister magazines for reviewing and rating ideas for them to cover in their rags. Always, and always again, I chose the articles with substance, and write in to steer clear of the unaffordable or downright ridiculous expensive single-use machinery.

You are always!! the first blog I check on when my mood is high enough to touch base with other homesteaders. I'd take you with me to a desert island - LOL.


CoralDreams said...

please keep the name's the only way I found you...but "old-school" is helpful too

Stephanie in AR said...

Hurray! My sister & I have been having this same discussion the past month. I just got tired of looking for info and finding all these know-it-alls who don't really know anything. I thought maybe I was being picky or jealous or imagining the "in-crowd" of what I was reading. I posted something similar about an hour ago. It's frustrating isn't it?

Unknown said...

Super glad I stumbled upon this blog. I think we might be kindred spirits.

Unknown said...

Super glad I stumbled upon this blog. I think we might be kindred spirits.

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