The term “Simple Life” is often tossed about on homesteading discussion boards and articles. The perception seems to be that living on and taking care of a homestead is somehow “simpler” than a more conventional modern lifestyle. Visions of a quiet farm, hens softly clucking, pigs sleeping in the pen, with the farmer and his wife sitting on the porch watching the green fields wave in the breeze come to mind. I would call our way of life many things, but not simple. It is exhilarating when new babies are born. It can be devastating when an animal dies. It is sad when it is time for harvest. It is joyful when everything is going along smoothly. It is frustrating when everything seems to fall apart. I can go from the depths of vexation and grief to the heights of joy and contentment all in a single hour. One thing this life never is….boring.
Perhaps by simple people are referring to using less machinery and more manual labor. I suppose that is accurate, although I’m not sure simple is the proper term for all the physical work we must do. Machines are amazing workers and the modern American has the equivalent of at least 30 servants in their home in the form of machines that don’t complain or require days off and a salary. This is a double edged sword as that salary would have gone to feed someone’s family. In Victorian times, there were actually riots among farm laborers because the newly invented combination harvester could do in a mere afternoon the work of ten men for week.
Maybe simple just means there is less distance between us and the source of our food. This is definitely true of homesteading. We look the consequences of our food choices squarely in the face, and often that face is cute and fuzzy. We know intimately how much work it is to grow a tomato. We have hauled every bale of hay that goes into the fresh creamy milk and every bag of grain that fills the egg carton. If the trucks stopped running, we’d still have cheese, milk, meat, eggs, and veggies. There would be things we sorely miss…sugar and coffee for instance, but we’d be okay.
So is our life style simpler than any other? I don’t think so. It seems to me that just living is pretty complicated. Yet there is something terribly satisfying about observing the seasons, harvesting what we have sown, and learning to take the good with the bad. Perhaps there is something deep in all of us that needs this connection with the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.
After all, it is but a mirror of our own lives.