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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Modern Homestead, Part 2

I am beginning to formulate the idea that reinstituting the concept of the homestead could be one way to counter the malaise, obsession, and addiction that I attribute to our modern society's overuse of technology. My grandma made a very good point yesterday. She thinks the internet is trouble, because people will write something on Facebook or someone's blog that they would never say in person. A friend of mine says that's like blaming the gun rather than the person holding it. They are both right.

There's no doubt in my mind that we are too plugged in. TV is largely to blame for the fact that kids don't play outside much anymore, and both excessive TV watching and disassociation from nature lead to depression. Add the plugged in time of video games, cell phones, and internet use, and what have we become? People are notoriously too busy to get together in person, and I think they often make themselves busy on purpose. Real relationships and intimate, face to face, or even voice to voice, interactions are just something people have largely lost the ability to handle.

Just having a gun in the house presents a danger that would not exist otherwise. And it has been proven that TV and other technology easily become addictive. In our instant gratification society, blasting an online comment at someone without thinking it through (hello, attention span, where are you?) results in all kinds of drama. If you at least sit down and write a letter first and get your reactionary emotions out of your system, often times you get enough therapy in the process and don't even end up sending the letter. Or you take the time to revise it. With technology, it is too easy to forget that there is a living, breathing human being with feelings on the other side. Recently a family member half my age who lives across the country chastised my comment to another Facebook friend and told me what I should have written instead! I was posting on my own wall, and the subject had absolutely nothing to do with her. This is the risk with a social network.

So how can the homestead help? If you read the Little House on the Prairie books, you will know that pioneer people had no such time for idle gossip and the frittering away of hours upon hours of life that can never be retrieved (except maybe Mrs. Olsen!). Farmer Boy tells the story of Almanzo Wilder between the ages of 8 and 10. He helps sow and plow the fields, haul wood with his own team of oxen, shear sheep, make candles, cut ice from a pond, train his oxen, gets up in the middle of the night with his family to save a crop from freezing, and all manner of such hard work. He also sometimes goes to school, and after all of the other things I mentioned, he does his chores. I don't imagine anyone in his family was obese or nature deprived. Laziness was not an option. Getting up after the sun rises was not an option. And harrassing your sister was cause for a whipping.

Not everyone can be a farmer or even live out in the country, but homesteading is becoming popular even in urban areas. Gardens are grown on rooftops and abandoned parking lots. People grow food and raise chickens in very small yards. (Ironically, in my rural village, one cannot raise chickens inside the village limits!) Even if you live in an apartment and you don't have a yard, you can grow plants, flowers, and herbs in pots. Anyone can feed the birds and have a birdbath in the yard. Plant flowers that draw butterflies and hummingbirds to them. Encourage the livelihood of bees, without whom the planet would die. Live with a pet or two. Cook most of your own meals. Make contact with nature in some way a priority every day.

Ah, priorities. If television viewing is a priority, I believe such a person has largely lost sight of what is important. Please know I have been guilty of being too plugged in and zoned out. But we don't watch television in my home (but do watch video movies). I have no idea how anyone has time to watch TV now that I have not had it for over 4 years. I am going to take a sabbatical from the computer as of today, when I finish writing this, for more than a week. I need to detox. I challenge you to do the same!

If you center your day with the homestead idea in mind, you know what needs to be done. Feed your family and sit down together for meals. Plant seeds, weed the garden, harvest what you've grown. Water the flowers. Walk the dog. Spend time with your child, reading, playing board games, homeschooling, doing household tasks together. Invite a friend (by friend, I mean a real one, not the "friends" you have on Facebook who aren't actually friends) into your home. Visit your grandmother, write a friend a real letter in your own handwriting, donate things you no longer want or need to charity, learn a craft you can do with your hands, or to play an instrument or dance. Pray, meditate, read something edifying to your spirit. Write a poem or your memoirs. Dance with your daughter. Walk instead of driving your car. Bake cookies for the neighbor kids. Clean out your refrigerator, drawers, and closets. Pursue your passion! Oh my, where has the time gone? You are pleasantly exhausted from physical exertion and spending your day in meaningful activities, focusing on your priorities, and you haven't turned on the TV or your computer once! Now we are living, people, living our own lives, taking care of our own business, too sane to poke our noses where they don't belong.

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