When people ask me why we started a homesteading lifestyle, the short answer is because we wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. But what does health really have to do with homesteading? Why do so many homesteading bloggers write about health? Most of you know that we grow a lot of our own food — 100% of our meat, eggs, dairy, and maple syrup, as well as a good chunk of our vegetables and fruit. But why? I came up with what looks like six reasons, but ultimately for me, they all come back to health.
If you are eating a better diet, you will be healthier. Research has shown that about 80 percent of medical problems in the US are directly related to diet and lifestyle choices. We eat things that didn’t exist in our grandparent’s time, and we spend way too much time sitting. By limiting our diet to what we grow or what other local farmers grow, we are much healthier than most people. We have blood work done every year, and all of our numbers are great — cholesterol, blood pressure, and so on.
As for activity … My husband is 59 and ran a half-marathon two years ago with what would appear to be zero training. You see, he walks the equivalent of a half marathon on our farm several days a week. According to his Fitbit, which was a gift from our children, he walks 20,000 to 35,000 steps every day. So, when our oldest daughter wanted to do a half-marathon, my husband told her he’d be happy to join her. Because of a knee injury I had four years ago, I have to limit my steps to about 7,000 per day, but that’s what I cover by simply doing chores. Obviously my husband does most of the outside work around here since he walks four to five times as much as I do.
Many people are drawn to homesteading because they realize that when you are growing your own food, you are far more financially independent than people who have invested in traditional finances. For example, the average gardener spends about $70 per year on their garden but harvests about $600 worth of produce. There is not anything you can get on Wall Street that pays back more than 10x your investment in a few months. Plus, whenever there is a recall on a food, you don’t have to worry about the food you’ve produced.
When you see people grow old, you know that personal independence becomes an issue for some. My father kept a garden into his late 80s, and I firmly believed that his garden was one of the things that kept him in such great shape. As the saying goes, “Use it or lose it!” It was not until he lost a leg to diabetes that he slowed down. But then he came to live with me, and by simply improving his diet, I got him off all his diabetes meds and kept his blood sugar normal for the rest of his life. Caring for him the last few years of his life has motivated me more than anything to keep myself moving and keep my diet clean.
Some people like to be prepared for whatever natural or human-made disaster may come next. If you live in the city, you can only store so many cans of food in your basement, and you are severely limited with perishables, such as produce, eggs, and dairy products. However, if you have a homestead, you’re continuing to produce food regardless of what happens in the rest of the world.
One goal that my husband and I have is to keep ourselves healthy so that we don’t have to rely on medication to stay alive, and we’ve been successful at that so far — even though I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease four years ago. I’ve reversed it completely by simply changing my diet.
Some people move to the country and get a few animals simply because they love animals. But then they realize those chickens provide awesome eggs or those goats provide delicious milk, which you can use to make cheese. I’ve known more than a few people who got started because they loved animals, and then they realized the benefits of having livestock as pets.
I definitely fall into the “animal lover” category. In fact, one reason I wanted to have animals is because it would provide me with a natural source of exercise. Although I could never stick to an exercise routine, I can stick to my daily chore schedule. The treadmill never called to me the way my goats do!
In addition to the savings on garden vegetables that I mentioned above, you can save even more on fruit. Plant a tree and with minimal attention, you can harvest fruit for many years to come. If you have enough land to support grass-fed lamb and beef, that can also be produced at quite a savings. And of course, the healthier you are, the less you spend on medical bills.
One of the things I love about producing my own food is that there is no packaging. We haven’t purchased a carton of milk in 16 years, which means we have not put any milk cartons into a landfill. The same thing goes for all of the yogurt and cheese we produce from that milk. We preserve vegetables and fruit in canning jars, which can be reused for years to come. Most weeks, we only fill up one small bag of garbage in our kitchen because little of our food is packaged. Most of our food comes from within about 100 yards of our kitchen, meaning that there are zero transportation costs associated with much of our food.
In terms of packaging, did you know that most of it is bad for your health? Cans are lined with bisphenol-A, known as BPA, which is an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it messes with your hormones, such as estrogen, insulin, and thyroid. It is also used to make plastic bottles, as well as phthalates, which are also endocrine disruptors. When you know how much packaging is made with endocrine-disrupting chemicals, it should not surprise anyone that we have epidemic rates of thyroid disease, infertility, and diabetes.
The intersection of health and homesteading
All of my reasons for homesteading are related to health, and your health definitely affects your ability to homestead. If your health goes, then you can’t live as independently, you can’t be as prepared, you ultimately have to give up some or all of the animals, you’ll be spending more money on medical bills, and you won’t be able to live as sustainably. Staying healthy is absolutely essential to homesteading, but by homesteading, you can stay healthier.
Many people would love to be able to improve their health by eating better, eliminating toxins from their environment, and exercising more. That can be challenging when you are relying on the grocery store and restaurants for all of your food. It’s even more challenging if you don’t have great options for getting enough exercise. But by growing as much of your own food as possible, you are in an excellent position to make lots of positive changes, such as eating healthier and getting more exercise naturally.
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