How It Started Vs. How It’s Going


The full, raw and unfiltered story of my homesteading journey, and how I've gained so much more than a pantry full of food.When I first started homesteading, I had a burning desire to become more self-sufficient and live a more sustainable life.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a rebel at heart, and learning how to homestead and become more self-reliant was a way for me to “throw a proverbial middle finger to the system” and live life on my own terms.

As a teenager, I was the girl who drove around town with punk rock music blaring from my car, Misfits sticker on the back and studs around my wrists. I felt misunderstood and angsty and like I desperately didn’t fit in with the world I grew up in. 

Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of friends and learned how to “survive” growing up in the city. It’s always where my roots will be. But I always knew in my soul that I wanted something different; Something more.

 

The search for something more…

When I entered my twenties, I evolved from that teenager into a young adult, and I started actively searching for what I felt was missing in my life; For where I felt I belonged.

I travelled the world, lived on three different continents, went to school, worked all sorts of jobs and met so many beautiful souls along the way. I experienced things beyond my wildest dreams, and made unbelievable memories with incredible people that I will forever be grateful for. But even though I searched, I never found another place that really felt like home, or a life path that felt like it fit.

On one of many international trips, taking the train to Salzburg from Vienna, Austria, where I studied abroad in my early twenties.

When I was 25, I returned back home to Vancouver from my final big trip abroad with the man who would eventually become my husband, Ryan. While we were still living in the city, we went through a phase where we started watching a lot of documentaries about our food system and our healthcare system and politics and the environment and on the corruption across all of these areas and industries, and suddenly I began to get the feeling that it was all of this that made me feel like something was off in my life.

It was the rat race of living in the city, being dependent on these systems and industries that I didn’t want to be a part of, handing my money over to corporations I didn’t support and feeling like a helpless consumer instead of an empowered producer and co-creator of my own life.

It was also at this time that I first began to hear the term “homesteader” being used to describe people who were consciously opting out of these man-made systems, producing their own food and living life on their own terms, closer to the way nature intended us to live.

Ryan and I started cooking from scratch to save money while living abroad in Australia. Looking back, this was the very beginning of the slippery slope that led to my obsession with cooking and growing food, and ultimately ended with us pursuing a homesteading lifestyle.

I was also suffering quite badly from anxiety and depression at this time, and was desperately searching for ways to heal and feel better without prescription drugs, which had only made me feel worse when I was prescribed them. I started becoming interested in living a more natural, sustainable life that was more in line with my values and with what felt right in my heart and soul. I started to connect the dots and got really excited about the idea of moving out of the city and living a more rural, natural, self-sufficient life somewhere else. It’s like a lightbulb went off and I just knew in my heart that this was the path I was meant to pursue.

Luckily Ryan was on board, and so we made a plan and eventually made our move out of the city and settled on Vancouver Island where we live now. Since day one of our move here, many things have gone sideways and we’ve been faced with all sorts of roadblocks and setbacks. To kick off this grand adventure, Ryan was in a massive accident with our truck and trailer on the way to our new home. We lost both the truck and trailer, thousands of dollars worth of belongings and most importantly, one of our beloved pets: Our cat, Puss Puss, who ran into the woods near the accident site and was never seen again.

 

The accident that (almost) changed everything

This was what our trailer looked like after the accident. It was a miracle anyone survived at all.

Ryan somehow came out unscathed, except for a broken arm. If it weren’t for the armchair in the back of the truck that we almost didn’t bring, the top of the truck would have been crushed and the outcome could have been much worse. It was my grandpa’s armchair, and I still believe that his spirit was somehow involved with saving Ryan’s life that day.

The months that followed the accident were some of the hardest of my life. I suffered from PTSD, I searched high and low for our cat, came face-to-face with bears and wild animals as I scoured the woods, spoke to psychics and pet communicators, hired bloodhounds and basically went to the ends of the Earth to bring our fur baby home. But it wasn’t meant to be, and we never did find her. Luckily we still have her brother, who has been the most incredible companion through thick and thin.

Puss Puss on the right, with her brother Lucifer, who has been the best companion I could ask for through all of the ups and downs of life.

I’ve never openly written about the accident or about losing Puss Puss before, in part because it’s hard for me to relive, and in part because I’m afraid that people will mock me for the level of devotion I had/have for a cat. But as anyone with pets knows, our fur babies are part of our family, and especially at this time, we didn’t have our own children yet, so she really was my baby and I felt that I’d failed her by forcing her to move in order to pursue my homesteading dream and allowing this to happen to her.

One of the psychics I spoke to during this time accurately predicted that I wouldn’t find our cat, but he did see a baby in our very near future: A girl. We hadn’t planned on having a baby quite yet, so it felt like it was out of the blue. But within a couple months, I was pregnant with our now 6-year-old daughter.

 

Brighter days ahead: How a new baby and a new hobby gave me hope and purpose

Life began to move forward and I began to find healing as we started our new life on the island. I threw myself into gardening and homesteading in the spring of 2016, and actively started practicing some of the homesteading skills I’d been learning about and tackling the projects I’d wanted to try for so long. Having the pregnancy (and eventually a new baby), a new teaching job AND our new lives as “modern homesteaders” to focus on helped get me through those difficult months and gave me something to focus on and reasons to wake up excited for each day.

Our first grape harvest with our daughter Evelyn, who was only about a month old at the time.

Shortly after having our daughter, Evelyn, I became pregnant again. We were ecstatic! I’d always wanted to have two children who were close in age. As an only child on my mom’s side and the oldest with a half sister and half brother roughly a decade younger than me on my dad’s side, I’d always wished I’d had a close sibling like that of my own. Ryan is two years apart from his brother, so he wanted that too.

But around 4 months into my pregnancy with our second child, we found out something was very wrong. After multiple tests and specialists, we got the news that is every expectant parent’s worst nightmare; That our baby had a serious and irreversible medical problem that occurred during early development, and if he survived birth he would be faced with a lifetime of surgeries and struggles that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

 

The angel we lost, and what we gained in the end…

As badly as I wanted to hold him in my arms, we knew that the most compassionate, selfless decision was to spare him from suffering. We made the heartbreaking decision to terminate our pregnancy at 24 weeks. I gave birth to our son, Phoenix Rain on June 15, 2018. I share more about our experience with this loss and terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons right here.

A treasured keepsake: Handprints and footprints to remember our son, Phoenix Rain.

Since losing Phoenix, I’ve had three more early miscarriages, with the last being last summer, 2021. The losses have all been incredibly difficult, and at times I wondered if we would ever have another baby. But in my heart and soul I knew we were meant to have another child, and I’ve always felt very strongly we were meant to have a boy.

Over the past 5 years, we’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of trying (and failing) to complete our family. At the same time, we’ve also gone through numerous job losses and changes, started two businesses, bought our first property, and completely transformed from city kids who didn’t know a thing about producing food or living a self-sufficient life, to growing hundreds of pounds of food each year, canning and preserving dozens of jars for the pantry, baking our own bread, raising chickens, making our own herbal medicine and truly creating the life of our dreams.

It’s been a wild ride to say the least, and although there have been many hardships along the way, I’ve never once felt that we were on the wrong path. In fact, homesteading –and the empowerment that comes from living this lifestyle– is what has helped me to feel in control over my life, even when everything else has felt out of my control. In fact, through all of the struggles and challenges we’ve faced since moving here, my anxiety and depression have never once been anywhere near as bad as they were when I lived in the city.

This lifestyle –while hard work– has given me so much purpose in life, and has helped me to feel both empowered and connected to something greater than myself, even during the most difficult times and darkest hours of my life.  It’s so much more than a garden, or a pantry full of food.

 

My spiritual awakening

Over the course of the last decade or so, my faith has also evolved and been strengthened in ways I never could have predicted. Growing up, I used to consider myself an atheist, but I now have no doubt in my mind that there is something bigger that we are all a part of. Some call this God, some call it the Universe, some call it a higher power. We can argue all day about semantics, but I believe that we all essentially believe in the same thing and understand and connect with this power in our own unique ways.

I never would have expected that our homesteading journey and the way our life has unfolded as we pursued this adventure would turn into the spiritual journey that it has, but in many ways I feel we were meant to follow this path because our souls were meant to have the experiences and learn the lessons that are put in front of us. I think this is true for all of us, whether we choose to believe it or not, and I feel strongly in following your heart and the path that calls to you, because I think that’s a nudge from the Universe (or God) that you are meant to pursue that which lights up your heart and soul.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t be faced with challenges, setbacks and failures along the way. In fact, it’s inevitable that you will face these things, and that your faith and perseverance will be put to the test. But in my experience, it’s also these challenges that teach you the most and help you to grow and evolve as a person, as a homesteader, and at whatever else you’re doing and becoming.

Crops fail, animals die, babies don’t make it. You learn that nature is cruel, but also beautiful and life-giving and full of abundance. You learn to appreciate everyday miracles in a different, more intimate way, and the lessons you learn from the hardships you face help to shape you as a person in ways that you could never have imagined. But you also learn to be grateful for every small blessing. When one crop fails, you’re even more thankful for the crops that survive and thrive. When certain things don’t work out as planned, you’re even more grateful for the things that do.

Homesteading and gardening have taught me to count my blessings. While challenges and failures are still hard, I try to take the lesson for what it is and move on, and I always try my best to be grateful for the one perfect tomato on the vine, rather than dwelling on the dozen that didn’t work out.

 

On having faith and putting one foot in front of the other

All of this to say, even when times have been tough, I’ve never once felt like giving up on this lifestyle or on our big goals and dreams. We’ve persevered through thick and thin, and although we’ve failed and come up short many times in both homesteading and life, we’ve always picked ourselves up and kept going. 

After the loss of our son, I decided to quit my full time job as a teacher and stay home with our daughter while working on my blog and on building a business where I could do and teach what I love and earn an income from home on my own terms to support myself and my family.

I’ve shared many parts of our story on the blog and in email newsletters and social media posts before (although I don’t think I’ve ever shared the full story in as much detail as I just have here). More and more of you have joined me over the years and have taken a vested interest in our family and our journey, and shared your own stories and hardships with me. My readers, along with the many other bloggers and homesteaders that I’ve met online, have become an invaluable support system and community that I never knew I needed, but that I’m so glad that I’ve found; People who “get it” and who don’t think I’m weird for wanting to stay home, bake bread, feed chickens and grow vegetables! 

If you know, you know;)

So many of you have rooted for us and our family, cried with us when we’ve lost babies, prayed for us and offered love and guidance along the way. All I’ve ever really wanted is to be a living example to others of what is possible when you set your mind to something, have faith and continue to put one foot in front of the other no matter what.

All of this being said, this is my incredibly long way of announcing that after years of staying true to our path, having faith and continuing to put one foot in front of the other, we just found out that we are expecting a healthy BABY BOY, due to join our family in just a few short months! 

After many long years of trying (and failing) to complete our family, we’re elated to be expecting a healthy baby boy to join our family by the end of this year!

I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant, and while I’ve obviously known I was pregnant for a while, I didn’t want to get too excited until I had my 20-week anatomy scan, because that’s when it all fell apart with our second pregnancy. I had that scan the other day and not only did everything look perfectly healthy and normal, but we learned that we’d finally be getting the son we’ve long hoped for.

It’s been a long journey, and on the medical end of things, it’s taken a lot of digging, advocating for myself and getting second, third and fourth opinions trying to figure out why I was experiencing so many losses. In the end I found out I had something called Chronic Endometritis, which is essentially a low-grade infection in my uterus that I believe was caused by the c-section I had when I gave birth to our daughter; A c-section I didn’t want and probably didn’t need, but that I felt pressured to get in the deliriousness of the moment.

I’ll never know for sure what caused it or if it was indeed the root of all my pregnancy problems, but when I pushed for more testing and finally got a simple round of antibiotics (after being told over and over that there was nothing wrong), the endometritis cleared up. I got pregnant again almost immediately and so far we have a healthy baby boy on the way.

It’s been an emotional past few days, but in the best way possible. I’ve done a lot of reflecting and have just been sitting in so much gratitude to the Universe for answering our prayers. I feel that my faith has been affirmed in so many ways, and I’ve felt so incredibly blessed to be living a life that lights me up, provides me with so much abundance and has put so many amazing people and beautiful experiences in my path.

But I’m also grateful to myself for persevering when times got tough, for following my heart and keeping faith even in the darkest hours, for standing up for myself and advocating on my own behalf (and on my family’s behalf) as we tried over and over again for a healthy baby, and for always dusting myself off and trying again, stepping out of my comfort zone and pursuing my biggest goals and dreams even when I knew the road ahead would be hard.

Life hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park for just about any of us these past few years. Ever since COVID hit in 2020, everyday people from all walks of life have struggled to make ends meet; To keep their businesses open; To stay healthy (both physically and mentally); To put food on the table; And to stay true to themselves and their convictions even in the face of severe societal pressure, division and fear mongering from the top down.

More people than ever before in modern times are taking an interest in homesteading and in becoming more self-sufficient because it’s more obvious than ever how important this lifestyle and these skills are becoming. But at the same time, more and more people are feeling hopeless, defeated, and doubting their own abilities to provide for themselves and their families and persevere through these difficult times.

If there’s one message I want to share with you loud and clear right now, it’s to never give up.

 

Trust the path, and never give up

Yes, times are tough right now. Yes, you will face challenges and hardships on your path that will feel insurmountable in the moment. Yes, you’ll cry, and sometimes you’ll even fall to your knees and curse God, or wonder if there is a God at all. But I promise you that if you pick yourself back up and you keep trying again, God –or the Universe, or a higher power, or your higher self, or whatever you choose to call it– will be there to support you. I promise that even when it seems as if everything in your life is falling apart, there are always blessings wherever you are willing to look for them.

Always count your blessings, no matter how small.

This is as true in homesteading as it is in life in general, so no matter what path you’re on, no matter what obstacles stand in your way, just remember that you are strong enough to overcome them. You are not powerless. You are powerful! But sometimes you’re going to need to dig a little deeper, and believe in yourself and in something bigger than yourself that you were made for something more, and you are meant to succeed, even when it seems like everything around you is falling apart. 

As Marilyn Monroe one famously said, “sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.”

The Universe is always conspiring for you, not against you. If there’s one lesson I’ve taken away over the past few years, it’s this.

When I first began homesteading, I had a burning desire to become more self-sufficient and live a more sustainable life. I was the girl who drove around town with punk rock music blaring from my car, Misfits sticker on the back and studs around my wrists. I felt misunderstood and angsty and like I desperately didn’t fit in with the world I grew up in. 

Today I’m the mama with stretch marks on my belly and battle scars on my heart. I’m the woman who gardens and cans food and makes her own tinctures and believes in something greater than herself and fights every day to stay free in a world that feels increasingly engineered to keep us hopelessly dependent. Today I feel whole and at peace, and connected to a higher power and a higher purpose. I feel like I’ve finally found the place where I belong.

I don’t know what the future will hold for me or for anyone else, but one thing I do know is that no matter what happens, I’ll be ready to face it head on, and I’ll always have a space right here for anyone who wants to join me. 

Oh, and I’ll have a pantry full of homegrown, homemade food for my family, and for anyone who pulls up a chair at my table.

What about you??

 


CATEGORIES
HOMESTEADING
REAL FOOD
NATURAL LIVING

4 Comments

  1. Michelle

    Anna, such a beautiful journey u have been on. I truly believe that God put us through so much bc he knows we can handle it and come out stronger on the other side. Sorry about the heartbreak and trying times.
    I was raised in a rural area from birth to 16. Moved to the city when I was 16 bc everything was a convenient. My husband of 27 yrs and I moved back to the rural area 17 yrs ago and haven’t looked back. My grandmother had a garden that was so huge she canned enough food for all 7 of her children and their kids to last them through the winter months. And for her and her husband. Now I can for my sisters house and mine and my 4 nieces and nephews plus my household and wouldn’t change it for the world. I remember my grandmother canning and bc of her is the reason why I still do it. My mom..bless her.. couldn’t can.
    Bless u and ur family.
    White Cloud Mi

    Reply
  2. Amanda

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and congratulations!!!! 💙💙💙

    Reply
  3. Debbie sykes

    Anna Thank you for sharing your journey and I’m so happy you and Ryan are going to be parents again stay safe and take care it will all be worth it in the end. Happy gardening and canning all the bounty!! It’s hard to lose so much I lost my second daughter in June I was devestated and still wonder why but I do know she isn’t suffering so I am thankful for the tender mercies of my Father in Heaven.

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      Hi Debbie,

      I’m so sorry to hear of your loss! Obviously there’s nothing I can say to take that pain away, but I have found healing in believing that things all work out the way they’re meant to, even if we’re not aware of the reason why. I feel our son is coming to us in divine timing, and that perhaps the losses were because his soul wasn’t ready to be born yet. I know that not everyone takes comfort in this belief, but for me this is what has helped get me through. Love, healing and prayers to you. I sincerely hope that someday you welcome another healthy baby into your life <3

      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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Since the weather is often cold, dark and gloomy, there aren’t as many fun, free things to do outdoors, so it’s easy to blow your budget on other things that will help you beat cabin fever like eating out, going to the movies and even going shopping just for something to do.⁣

But the flip side to this is that, once January hits, many people are motivated by the fresh start the new year brings and are ready to hunker down for a while and get their finances on track after the holidays. So in many ways that makes winter the perfect time of year to adopt some frugal habits. ⁣

Visit this link https://thehouseandhomestead.com/12-frugal-living-tips-for-winter/ or the link in my bio for the full list of Frugal Winter Living tips, and if you're already looking and planning towards Spring you'll also find more frugal living tips for every season linked at the bottom of the list!
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Our#homesteadpantrychallenge is in full-swing and now that our little one has arrived, simple and frugal pantry meals are a necessity to ensure we are getting adequate rest and not overdoing it during these newborn days. ⁣

When I'm staring at the pantry wondering what to make, I love referring back to this list for a little bit of inspiration for either bringing back an old recipe, or creating a new one. ⁣

𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁'𝘀 𝗜𝗻𝗰𝗹𝘂𝗱𝗲𝗱: ⁣
Breakfasts⁣
Soups⁣
Homemade Breads⁣
Main Dishes⁣
Snacks & Sides⁣
Sweets & Treats⁣

So whether you’re trying to save a little extra money on your grocery bill, or prioritizing rest this season these 35 frugal recipes will help you get good, wholesome, delicious homemade food on the table every day, which means you have one less thing to stress about. ⁣

Check out the full list at https://thehouseandhomestead.com/frugal-recipes-roundup/ or visit the link in my bio. ⁣

Eat well friends:)
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I hope you had a wonderful and restful end of holidays, and are also feeling ready to get back on track with your daily schedule here in the new year. It can sometimes feel like a lot to get going, but those "regular days" help us to regulate our rhythms, and in turn help us slowly, gear up for the Spring season ahead. ⁣

In our Winter Issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, my friend and fellow homesteader, Ashley Constance of @alittleselfreliant wrote "Breaking Your Cabin Fever" a list of ideas for staying productive over the winter months. ⁣

If you're feeling a bit restless and up to it, this list of ideas is a perfect way to get back into a daily routine. ⁣

From making and creating, to preparing, planning and organizing you'll be feeling ready for Spring in no time. ⁣

To see the full list, subscribe to Modern Homesteading Magazine here at https://modernhomesteadingmagazine.com/subscribe/ or visit the link in my bio.
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