We planted a new tree on Monday. It is a lovely, but young, honey crisp apple tree. There’s nothing overly special about this particular tree. We purchased it on end of season clearance from our local Tractor Supply store. But this tree is symbolic for our homestead. And in more ways than one because it has taught me my most important homesteading lesson.
This apple tree was given to us as a gift. A couple of months ago, my mother-in-law, Mary Sue Lee, lost her battle with advanced dementia. It is a dreadful disease that robs the person of their memory and leaves their loved ones with a gigantic hole in their hearts as they watch this special person slowly drift away right before their eyes. My aunt wanted to do something special to help us remember my mother-in-law and an apple tree seemed like the perfect way to do it. It also fit perfectly with our desire to add another apple tree to our small homestead so that we could grow our own apples and meet the needs of our family. A classic “win-win” situation!
After we got the tree home, we got ready to plant it in the perfect location. Like any good homesteader, we used a number of things we already had available on our land to help us with the planting. We got compost from our chicken coop and freshly fallen pine straw from some of the many pine trees growing nearby. But as we started the process of planting the tree, I noticed something was a little different.
Why We’re Homesteading
When my wife and I were married 17+ years ago, it was unlikely we’d ever heard of homesteading anywhere outside of a history textbook. No, we were looking forward to living the nice, quiet, typical suburban life that many Americans enjoy. And in fact, we did just that. We purchased a house on a cul-de-sac, started a family there and were very content. But as our family grew, we began to feel the ache for a different kind of lifestyle. One where we could be outside. One where we could teach our children and let them learn by experiencing the world around them. One where we could be a part of God’s creation and let go of many of the stresses of “modern life.”
When we were looking for a new home, our heart’s desire was to find a place that was “out in the country.” We wanted to get away from the manicured lawns and postage stamp sized lots. We wanted to look up at night and see the stars. We wanted to be able to turn over the soil and grow a large garden. We wanted a place where we could raise chickens. And we found our place just outside of Wendell, NC. We’ve lived here for a little more than two years now and we’re slowly starting to make this place our own.
My Most Important Homesteading Lesson
Which brings me back to that tree. As I stood there digging that hole, I took the opportunity to teach my kids how to plant the tree. I showed them what the tree needed. I showed them why the compost that we got from our chicken coop was so important to helping that tree grow. I explained to them how the tree will take a few years before it would produce enough apples for us to harvest for our family. And that’s when it clicked for me: homesteading is going to take a lot of patience.
Homesteading: Where Do We Go From Here?
We have so much to learn. I didn’t grow up with my hand in the dirt. I’m still not even sure I really like vegetables (though I’m willing to give them a try!). But I know for certain that this is where we are supposed to live and this is the way we are supposed to live. Our children will likely remember those lessons from planting the apple tree and that is where the impact is made. They are growing up with their hands in the dirt. They do spend their days around chickens. In fact, they climb trees, play in a creek and go for hikes in the woods behind our house.
So, where do we go from here with our homestead? I’m taking away that lesson from the apple tree. I’m going to exercise a lot of patience. I’m going to learn. I’m going to put one foot in front of the other on this journey. And we’re going to learn how to be modern homesteaders.
Welcome to our journey. We hope you enjoy the ride!