Am I Really a Homesteader? (How I Got Here & Where I’m Going)


Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.Warning: This post is a little long, and at first it might not seem homesteading related. But I want to start to really tell my story and my truth as I move deeper into the homesteading lifestyle and share more of myself here with my readers. This is the story of how I evolved into the person I am today: a homesteader, writer, country girl, punk rocker at heart and so much more.

I turned 31 yesterday. It was uneventful. I blogged and worked all day. I mommed. My husband worked on our new house. Our old house where we still live was quiet and I spent most of the day alone as my daughter slept and my phone lay dormant with a dead battery. 

It certainly doesn’t compare to my 21st birthday, full of drinking and debauchery and meeting new friends in foreign lands (I lived in Europe when I turned 21). Instead, 31 is peaceful, and this birthday has been a time of reflection rather than a time of raucous celebration. And that’s just fine with me. Because that’s the life stage that I’m in right now:)

But as I reflected on my life until now and on all of the stages I’ve gone through, I thought hard about this homesteading journey that I’ve found myself on. Is it really a forever thing? Is it just a phase? A stage in my life? Will I still want to live this way at 41? 51? 81? 

Ten years ago, homesteader wasn’t even a part of my vocabulary, let alone a title I gave myself. Back then I defined myself as a world traveller, a University student, a writer and a bit of an anarchist. Today I am much, MUCH more of a homebody than a traveller (homesteaders often are, but funds and family circumstances don’t exactly allow for a lot of jet setting these days either). 

Two degrees and tens of thousands of dollars later, I’m finally no longer a University student. I am definitely still a writer. That I have always been. And deep down I’m still a rebel at heart, although I don’t know that I would use the term “anarchist” anymore.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon this homesteading lifestyle and fell in love. And the rest, as they say, is history. It is now a piece of me and a large part of how I define myself. Have I changed? Did I used to be someone that now I’m not? Am I someone now that I will no longer be ten years from now? Of course! But I prefer to use the term “evolve.”

 

Related: The Difficult Path to the Simple Life

 

On Rebranding Myself

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

In my “punk rock” days, I was definitely more into music and straight up rebellion than gardening and self-reliance, but I’ve realized over the years that they go hand-in-hand and those days helped shape who I am today and the values system I continue to live by.

A family member with a career in marketing said to me the other day “you should do something where you teach people how to rebrand themselves, because you’ve rebranded yourself many times over the years.”

She continued, “you used to be a skater girl, then a punk rocker,” and as she trailed off, I filled in the rest…

I was a punk rocker for a good few years. It was during the “anarchist” days throughout high school and my early twenties. I was really only ever a wannabe skater girl. I was too scared of hurting myself to ever actually ride my skateboard. Go figure… This country girl at heart has just never done well with concrete!

But I was most definitely a punk rocker. I was angsty in my teenage years, like many others of a similar age. I was also a writer for a local youth newspaper because I had always been a writer. I’d been writing since I could hold a pen -anything and everything. And this continued throughout my teen years. I used this gift to write music reviews of bands I loved, listened to and even got to meet. I used it to write social commentary on the ills of society. And I used it as therapy, because writing has always helped me to organize my thoughts and clear my mind.

I was also aware and engaged in politics and social issues and held a deep disdain for authority figures who abused their power; For unfair laws and practices that benefitted the rich and while taking power away from the poor and marginalized; For social conventions and accepted norms that brought harm to our planet and the people on it, and for so much more that I thought of as wrong with the world.

I dealt with it by rebelling and wearing my contempt on my sleeve in the form of studded leather arm bands and tattoos. I listened to punk music where others used their guitars and microphones to reinforce the message that society was doomed, governments were corrupt and there was basically no hope for the future, so let’s all get drunk. And I did. I drank too much and did whatever I could to get out of my mind and forget that the world was as shitty and unfair and unforgiving as it appeared to me in the sober daylight hours. And it worked. For a while.

But as I aged and matured, I began to grow out of this angsty teenage stage of life and look for meaning and identity in other places. 

When I went on to University, I had the opportunity to do a study-abroad program in Vienna, Austria. I snapped it up and went off to Europe for a few months. I travelled across 16 countries while I was living there and had the time of my life. Travelling started to open up a whole new world to me. 

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

I caught the travel bug bad, and when I got home I was already planning my next trip. But I was still a punk rocker at heart. And I was still a writer. I was enrolled in journalism school after all and was still writing social commentary about all of the things that pissed me off when I was fully entrenched in my “punk rocker” stage of life. I just didn’t wear studs anymore.

 

My Travelling Years

In my early and mid twenties, I became a world traveller. It’s sort of what I was known for at this time in my life. I had done my stint in Europe, and it wasn’t long after I’d returned home to Canada that I was invited to participate in a volunteer program in Africa for a few months. Of course I jumped at the opportunity.

 

Related: Living “Off the Land” in Africa: Finding Homestead Inspiration In An Unlikely Place

 

I ended up living in West Africa for a few months and it changed my life and perceptions in so many ways. Read more about my time in Africa here, and how it helped shape me into the person (and homesteader) I’ve become today.

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

This is called “African Homesteading” 😉

I was exposed to a completely different way of life and the culture shock was like a defibrillator to the heart. My experience living in West Africa changed me in profound ways that I only now understand as I reflect back on my experience almost a decade ago. But when I returned home, I was still that punk rocker at heart. Africa had only reinforced to me that the world is divided among unfair lines, that the unequal distribution of global wealth is one of societies greatest downfalls and that ignorance can dehumanize even the most beautiful people because we fail to look past the surface and only know what we hear from others who are like us.

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.I was still a writer too, and now I had started documenting the world through the lens of a camera. So I guess you could say I was a photographer too. Not a great one, but it became part of my arsenal nonetheless.

And by now I was definitely a world traveller. I couldn’t wait for my next big trip.

 

The Corporate “City Girl” Days

I had always grown up in the city, I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, and that’s where I always came back to. So when I returned from Africa, that’s where I returned to.

I finished up the last few requirements of my journalism degree and by this time I was itching to get a job in the “real world.” I ended up getting hired on as a travel consultant with a major agency and got assigned to an office right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. I felt like a big kid now.

I had finally moved out of my mom’s place in the suburbs and was living in the south end of the city. I took the train downtown to work every morning, enjoyed drinks and appies at some of the hottest spots after work on many an evening, and took the train home at night. 

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

I worked in travel sales and looked at brochures and flight routes day in and day out for a year and a half, and my heart still ached to see the world.

At home, inspired by the self-sufficiency and cooking skills I’d picked up and been privy to in Africa, I started to learn to make a few meals for myself and even grew a small herb garden and a few tomato plants (although I honestly don’t remember if they ever even bore fruit). 

A piece of me wanted nothing more than to travel forever, and another piece of me yearned to create a life for myself and (one day) a family in a comfortable home where I’d spend my days in the kitchen creating things from scratch. I guess it was the first real thoughts I had had about anything “homestead” related, but those thoughts were in a stage of infancy back then and I had no idea what they would lead to.

At 24, I was still a world traveller. I still had places to knock off my bucket list, and that was my priority. But being a travel agent downtown was stressful. There was always pressure to sell more, mark up higher and work longer hours. 

One time, I went to visit some good friends (my friend whom I had lived with and travelled around Europe with and her new husband) at their new home on a small, rural island off the west coast of B.C. I remember the feeling I had as soon as I got off the ferry and met my friend. I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm come over me. And as we stood on her balcony later, overlooking gardens and forest and deer roaming the backyard, enjoying the silence of the forest with no traffic or city sounds to interfere, at that moment I knew that at some point in my life, I needed out of the city. I needed to be here, or in a place much like this.

But I returned to the city and to the traffic noises and to my stressful job and planned my next move, which, at this point in my life, was not to some small, rural island, but to the very large and exciting island of Australia. I would travel there to see my other good friend (whom I had lived with in Africa) and would spend a year there working, travelling and gathering more incredible experiences to fill my memory bank with.

 

How I Met My Mister

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.I had also recently met my now husband, Ryan, and we maintained a long distance relationship while I was there. After four months of flying solo, he joined me in Melbourne, and we’ve been together ever since.

We split the rest of the year there between living in Melbourne (sometimes in a tent in our friends’ backyard and other times in a rooming house with a bunch of strangers), travelling all over the country (from the East Coast to the West Coast and the Outback in between), and living  in a trailer park in Byron Bay, where I worked as a maid and ran home daily screaming about cockroaches and big, disgusting spiders. 

Ryan did the occasional repair job or got a travel sales gig in town every now and then (we had met working at the same travel agency). But between maid work and his occasional paid gig, money was always really tight. So this is where we really learned to live frugally as we needed to get creative about making our money stretch. 

One of the main ways we did this was by cooking almost everything from scratch. We would make our weekly trip to the grocery store, load up on all of the basic, staple items that were on sale for a reasonable price and walk back a fair distance with a shopping cart we had “borrowed” from the store. Then we would cook up all sorts of meals from scratch with the basic meat, veggies, bread and dairy products we had purchased from the store. Sure we weren’t baking the bread from scratch, but I loved the empowering feeling I got from creating a tasty, nourishing and overall satisfying meal with our own two hands from a few basic ingredients. 

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

Ryan and I ready to cook up a meal for a visiting friend in our doublewide trailer in Byron Bay. This is where I learned the true value of frugality and how to make a dollar really stretch. P.S. Check out those tans!

Other than the occasional tin of soup or package of cheap ramen noodles, this really was when my love for cooking from scratch grew from the seed that had been planted during my time in Africa to a healthy seedling waiting to be nurtured into something bigger.

 

Home Is Where My Heart Was

When we finally returned home from Australia in 2012, we began settling into domestic life in our new condo back in the suburbs of Vancouver. For the first time in years, I couldn’t wait to put down some roots in one place and start nurturing my newest passions, which included cooking from scratch and setting up a comfortable home.

And that’s exactly what I did. And a couple years later we got married. And I went back to school to get my teaching degree because, even though I was still a writer, and a punk rocker at heart who had now earned a gig writing social commentary under a pseudonym for an edgy new local magazine, I was now in the market for a more stable life with a stable job that would give me enough time off to do the things that now called to my soul: Domestic activities like cooking and crafting and creating and keeping house.

So I became a University student once again. But quite honestly my heart wasn’t in it. Not fully anyway. 

In my downtime, I started watching cooking shows that inspired me in the kitchen, and both Ryan and I started watching a lot of documentaries about the food industry and factory farms and how it’s all produced. And the punk rocker in my heart watched in contempt as a fire burned in my belly that urged me to do something about this injustice, this deceit, this awful practice of pumping out pesticide-ridden, hormone-injected, horribly raised and treated, overly-processed food (some of which can hardly even be considered food) in order to turn a profit and feed the world’s population for a cheap price tag (but a very hefty cost to our overall health and well-being). 

And so I started down the path of wanting to know where my food came from and how it got to my dinner plate. And that eventually led me to my local farms and farmers markets. And to watching shows about farming and homesteading and self-sufficiency. And it got me really excited, because for the first time, I felt like I could make some real, tangible life choices that were in line with my beliefs and with who I was and always had been deep down. 

 

Related: Why I Homestead

 

Homesteading aligned with the writer in me who knew deep down that I wanted to share what I was learning with the world. It aligned with the punk rocker in me that was disgruntled with the status quo and wanted to be a force for real, positive change in the world. It aligned with my quiet, rural soul that longed to find peace somewhere out in the country, closer to nature and far away from the traffic sounds and bright lights of the big city. It even aligned with the traveller in me who was never afraid to pack up and lay down roots in a new and unfamiliar place. And I figured I could be a teacher and a homesteader at the same time, so why not?

As we learned more about the homesteading lifestyle, we made plans to move to a more rural area of our province and even set a rough date to do so, but we still lived in our condo in the suburbs for at least a couple years after we even started talking about moving. 

In the meantime, I learned as much as I could about this lifestyle I wanted to lead. I took out cookbooks and homesteading guides from the local library, tried new recipes and grew a few herbs (although growing anything on our north-facing, shaded balcony was tough). 

I became really familiar with our local farmers and farmers markets and started learning more about cooking with organic, local foods, what grew well in our area (and in the area we planned on moving to), what wild edibles were available to us and how to forage for them, and even how to preserve seasonal foods in the most basic ways, like freezing and infusing them in oils and alcohol.

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

I fell in love with cooking healthy meals from scratch with local, seasonal ingredients. This was the slippery slope that eventually led me down the homesteading path I’m on today!

Eventually, the time came to move. And while the move itself was actually quite traumatic (which I plan to write about someday in a future post), when we finally settled into our new home on Vancouver Island, I knew we had made the right life choice.

For the past three years we have lived here, in the same place where we started out: in a 100-year-old farmhouse on a one-acre lot with a small garden we put in and an equally small greenhouse and a few fruit trees and a huge yard that we share with our neighbours who free range chickens and sell us their eggs. 

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

Our current house that we will be moving from soon. We’ve learned so much living here in just 3 short years. We grew our first gardens here, learned how to can food here and acquired many other valuable skills we will take with us as we continue to evolve on our journey.

During our time here, we have really dove in deep to the homesteading lifestyle and continue to dive deeper. While we don’t grow nearly all of our food at home, we do grow a variety of fruits and vegetables each year and have acquired all sorts of homestead-y skills over the past three years, like organic gardening, canning and preserving foods, baking bread from scratch, candle-making, DIY-ing many of our home and body products, building our own garden beds, greenhouse, composter, hoop houses and indoor growing stands, and much, much more.

This year, we purchased our first house as we now have our second child on the way and need to move out of this wonderful “starter homestead” that we’ve been renting. We’re actually downsizing to 1/4-acre lot, but one with much, much more established garden space than we have here with huge potential for food production.

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

Our new house. Small but mighty and brimming with homesteading potential!

No, we still won’t grow all of our food for the year on our little plot of land. And no, we still aren’t quite in a position to have livestock yet. But with every day, week, month and year that passes, we continue to move deeper into this homesteading lifestyle, and even on the most difficult days, I never doubt that this is the right path for me and my family.

The writer in me has found a niche as well, and has flourished with passion ever since I launched this homesteading blog a year ago, on my 30th birthday. The punk rocker in me feels like I’m sticking it to the system by increasing my self-sufficiency and making conscious life choices that align with my core values rather than willingly lining the pockets of the people and corporations that I loathe. The quiet, rural soul in me is finally finding peace out in the country, doing what she loves best: gardening, cooking, creating and living a slow, simple life. The University student in me is glad to have finally found my true calling in life, and to be able to put those writing and photography skills from journalism school to good use. 

As for my teaching degree, while I did work as a teacher for a few years, I decided that’s not for me. But I do know I want to homeschool my own children, and I feel confident that I have the skills to do that. And the traveller in me? She’s fulfilled having seen much of the world already and is happy to be in one place for a while, putting all of her experiences, learning and skills to use in this new stage of life. 

Have you ever wondered whether you can really call yourself a homesteader or felt like other people think homesteading is just a phase you'll grow out of? I have. But guess what: I am a homesteader, among many other things that led me to where I am today. This is my story.

So as I sit here, now 31, reflecting on my past and on all the things I’ve done and people I’ve been, I wonder “am I really a homesteader?” And I know that the answer is yes. It’s a piece of me now just like all of the other pieces of me. And it always will be.

Sure, I may evolve over time. My passions and interests and talents and skills will grow and change and adapt, but I will always be all of the things that make me who I am, and I am proud to add homesteader to that list.

Because at the end of the day, I’ve never rebranded myself. I’ve built my character over the years. I’ve spent time really getting to know who I am and what my purpose is. I’ve travelled the world in search of myself. I’ve studied, rebelled, experienced and written for years trying to find the right path for me and my soul. Now I’ve found it, and while I don’t know exactly what that path will look like 10, 20 or 50 years from now, I know that I’m headed in the right direction, and that, in fact, I always have been.

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1 Comment

  1. Gerald Banda

    Very inspiring!

    Reply

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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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To help with this, we turn to herbs and essential oils in addition to practicing a healthy, natural lifestyle. And you’ll often find me on here encouraging you to do the same.

Natural medicine, when used correctly, helps to support all of the organs and functions of our body so that we are less susceptible to sickness and disease should it get in our bodies. While it can be used for acute conditions, it’s best when used preventatively, so if you haven’t yet, now is the time to start whipping up some homemade herbal remedies to start using before we get too deep into the season, and to have on hand if and when illness strikes.

My affiliate partners @ultimate_bundles put together an eBook with 54 herbal (and oily) recipes that you can easily make at home to help boost immunity, treat illness, promote sleep and relaxation, improve complexion and keep dangerous synthetic chemicals out of your home and body.

It’s totally free to grab it right now but it’s only available for free until tonight at midnight.

👉 Grab your copy by clicking the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead.

And if you’re also looking for some new essential oils to add to your home apothecary, remember to use coupon code HOME15 on your next @planttherapy order to get 15% off your entire order (only until the end of November).

Take care of yourselves and stay well everybody! ❤️
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#herbalmedicine #selfcare #naturalmedicine #herbs #aromatherapy #allnatural
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Only a few hours left to get your hands on all the freebies on offer at the Handmade Holiday Gift Mall, including my full video tutorial on how to make your own scented soy wax candles (always a hit at Christmas time:)

Plus, for a limited time only, use code HOME15 at planttherapy.com to get 15% off your order of essential oils to use in your homemade candles!

Click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead to get your hands on all the goodies now!
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My heart is so full right now. I’m sitting here crying happy tears as I watch history unfold. Such a breath of fresh air after the past four years.

I’m feeling hopeful for the future of our planet, our people and democracy all around the world for the first time in a long time.

Feeling so proud to call America my neighbour tonight. There’s still a very long road ahead to heal the deep divides and wounds of the past, but I’m confident we have what it takes to turn this ship around and ensure a long and prosperous future together. All of us.

Now let’s all get to work and get those borders open again soon!

Congratulations USA!!! 🇨🇦❤️🇺🇸
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As we come closer to wrapping up the year that was 2020, I've started to reflect on the lessons I've learned. I distilled it down to 6 humbling life lessons that 2020 has taught me or reinforced in my life about gardening, homesteading and life, and I'm sharing them with you today in hopes that they might help you put this year in perspective too:

—> Lesson #1: We cannot control everything (and that's okay)
—> Lesson #2: Always diversify (crops, income streams, skills, etc.)
—> Lesson #3: Be grateful for the good (we cannot have the good without the bad)
—> Lesson #4: Hope for the best but prepare for the worst (stay positive but be realistic)
—> Lesson #5: Every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow (seek to find the lessons)
—> Lesson #6: There's always next year (one ending is just another beginning)

Join me for a heart-to-heart in the garden as I take one major disappointment (tossing a box of homegrown tomatoes in the compost) and make the best of it by using it as a catalyst to reflect on the year and the growing season and find the lessons and meaning behind it all.

Click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead to watch the full video or go to https://youtu.be/XnnbsAqrd5A and let me know what hardships or disappointments YOU'VE overcome and what lessons you've learned this year in the comments.

Remember, we’re all in this together 🖤
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#2020 #lifelessons #nosuchthingasfailure
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When I first made up my mind to pursue homesteading and started growing my own food, I had no idea where this path would lead me. All I knew was I was unhappy where I was in the city and in life, and I had to make a radical change for my own physical and mental well-being. Homesteading, gardening and this lifestyle of greater self-sufficiency and sustainability called to me; It lit a fire and a passion in me and gave me purpose and meaning, and the more I explored it, the more convinced I became that this was the path I was meant to be on.

Less than a decade later and not only am I still on this path with more enthusiasm in my heart and fire in my belly than ever before, but it’s also led me to connect with so many other amazing homesteaders, gardeners and people who are just as passionate about this lifestyle as I am.

This morning my humble little Instagram account was featured on @humanswhogrowfood which features amazing people growing food all over this beautiful planet. To be able to think of myself as a peer among these greats is beyond my wildest dreams when I first started out as a city girl with zero gardening or homesteading experience. It’s a testament to how far I’ve come, but also to the whole world of beautiful souls out there working to put more homegrown food on tables all across the globe.

Today, with everything going on in the world, I’m feeling reflective, honoured and humbled to be a part of such an amazing community of people. Thank you to each and every one of you! The world may be messed up, but we’re alright.

Also, go follow @humanswhogrowfood if you’re in need of a little faith in humanity right now. So many amazing people out there growing food and doing wonderful things! 💚
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#humanswhogrowfood #peoplewhogrowfood #homesteadersofinstagram #growfoodnotlawns #homegrown #gardenersofinstagram
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