365 Independence Days

We’re bringing you another classic lecture from the 2017 Homesteaders of America conference! Last time, we shared Joel Salatin’s vision of What is a Homesteader.

Today, we hope you’re encouraged by Esther Emery’s inspirational talk where she shares the real legacy that her mother, the author Carla Emory who wrote Encyclopedia of Country Living, passed on to her.

Excerpt from 365 Independence Days

She would have wanted to talk to you about 365 Independence Days. 

The title to her introduction to food preservation is 365 Independence Days.

A person has to choose what they’re going to struggle for. Life is always a struggle, whether you’re struggling for anything worthwhile or not, so it might as well be for something worthwhile.

“Independence Days,” she says “are worth struggling for.”

And she would know.

In my mother’s lifestyle, in my mother’s growing up in her generation, she would have understood independence and freedom to be a factor of what you can do with your own hands.

She would have believed that your independence is related to your capabilities. What can you do? What do you know? How to do how much knowledge do you have?

That right there is your independence.

Below you can find the full transcript from Esther’s lecture. We hope you will be blessed and encouraged by her life story and wisdom!

365 Independence Days

You know, I came a long way to be here today. I came all the way from the Idaho Rockies. I don’t speak very often. This is a bit of an exclusive engagement and so, of course, I say to myself when I’m coming here, “What can I say in this amount of time? How can I pack generations of knowledge and inspiration into one talk?” I wrote I wrote and wrote I wrote 10,000 words. It’s all in the pages here and then I said, “I just want to talk to people!” I just want you to feel like I’m here talking to you and I want you to know that my mother sent me here to talk to you because she did she passed away in 2005. My mother is Carla Emery. And at that time I didn’t know what a gift I was saying goodbye to. In the way of young people I didn’t know how to value my mother. I didn’t know how to value the legacy of previous generations, but the good news is that there is forgiveness for that.

There are always ways to access again the legacy that you’ve left behind. And my mother left it for us in the form of a book. This is the original old-fashioned recipe book. This is what my mother wrote before she knew she was going to be famous, when she thought she was just writing down some recipes for a few friends.

And I’ll go ahead and tell the whole story.

 Of course, a lot of you also know about me. That I am now an off-grid homesteader. I live off-grid in a what is now a timber frame cabin that my husband built. We lived in a yurt for three years. We left the city to make a homestead life for ourselves in the woods of Idaho.

And I do want to share that with you as well. So I want to tell you about my experiences as a homesteader of this generation and I also want to share with you some of the wisdom of being a homesteader in the previous generation.

365 Independence Days

I’ll start with my mother’s story.

She was born in 1939 in Montana and during her first winter as a baby, they lived in a little cabin with wood for heat. Her parents had worked in California to save enough money to buy some land.

I think a lot of us know about that idea, that story. They had worked in California for an actress named Dorothy Lemour to save up the money to buy a little piece of land and when they were almost ready and almost had enough my grandmother got pregnant. So they hurried up real quick to get up to Montana and get their piece of land. By the time winter fell they had their little cabin. They had enough wood for the winter, or access to wood, and they were able to hunt venison for that winter. That is the kind of world that my mother was born into. Her parents continued to farm. They were wheat farmers. They lived off-grid because off-grid wasn’t a thing. There just wasn’t electricity. They did for themselves because that’s what their reality was and that’s how my mother was raised. Well, when she was a teenager she left the farm. I don’t know how many people know that about Carla Emery, who’s one of the founders and lights of the modern homesteading movement.

By the time she was 18, she was out of there. She went to Chicago, she went to New York City, she got a college education, and then a graduate degree. She went to China, she went to Taiwan, she traveled. She stood on the corner in Manhattan selling her poems for five cents a piece.

She was a part of the hippie movement. 

Well she’d been in New York for a while and a long time away from Montana and a long time away from her youth when she saw across a bar a man in cowboy boots. She suddenly felt homesick and that man was my father. They were two displaced westerners in New York City and they fell in love.

They went back to the woods, not of Montana, but of Idaho which is right next door and they did what my mother at the time called keeping house which is what a lot of us now call homesteading. 

Now a funny thing about my mother is that those 10 years that she had spent wandering around going to New York City, going to Chicago, she had missed the part where her peers, her rural community, was gradually and steadily modernizing.

Electricity had come to all the farms in Montana. People had vacuum cleaners, they had blenders, they weren’t keeping so much food because the refrigerators were easy to use so she didn’t have really a knack for modernizing.

So she came back to Idaho to set up her own house and she was the old-fashioned one. She was the one who still did things the old way.

She said that either she couldn’t afford the fancy things. Or maybe she didn’t need them. (And maybe those two things were one and the same.)

So here she was keeping house in her own way kind of an old-fashioned way in the woods of Idaho and what should happen but people started coming out from the cities looking for places to squat, looking for land, looking for this dream of a kind of life that was a more true kind of life. It wasn’t self-sufficiency so much that was the buzzword back then but being connected to the earth and living a life connected to the earth and it was called, The Back to the Land Movement.”

My mother looked at these people and said, “By God, they’re going to die.” She said these people know nothing, they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. They’re going to kill themselves. So she took it upon herself at that moment to start to write down some recipes, some techniques, some old ways of doing things. She started to write down things that her mother had taught her, things that her grandmother had done, the ways of surviving before electricity, the ways of surviving when it’s just you and a long winter, three feet of snow, and you’ve got to get through that winter. How are you going to survive?

She put an advertisement in Organic Gardening saying that she was going to write this thing called The Old-Fashioned Recipe Book. I think she charged $1.75. She started getting orders right away which was a bit of a shock for her because, of course, she hadn’t really written it yet. So then this developed a long-term relationship with her community and  with her readers. She wrote the book, piece by piece, and it ended up becoming a collection of other people’s information. It ended up becoming this gathering of the Old Timer’s knowledge, the Old Timer’s information. 

It was her passion.

For 40 years she became what she called an “encyclopedist” of old ways, the ways of self-sufficiency, what we now call homesteading. And whether she knew it or didn’t know it she hit a nerve in 1974. She took her books (she typed them all up word-by-word) to a craft fair and her table was mobbed. Because this was a time in the 70s when there was a great yearning, a craving for some kind of self-determination, a different way of life.  There was a backlash against progress.  There was a backlash against things seeming too easy or going too fast and there was a ground swell of passion for getting back to the land. 

And my mother became a celebrity.

I’ve written my own book since then and in one of the reviews of my book the reviewer described my mom as a minor celebrity. I got a little something caught in my throat because she wasn’t a minor celebrity.  She was a short-lived celebrity. Her time of celebrity was very short, but she was a household name. She was on Johnny Carson and Good Morning America. She was very steadfast in communicating her message about a better way to live, a simpler way to live, and a passion for not letting these ways of life get lost.

Her passion really was that we can’t let these things disappear. We can’t let this knowledge disappear. It has more value than any of us know. 

She was very passionate about getting a lot of people to hear that message, so much so that one time she took her goat to New York City and she and her goat stood in the office of a television producer until that producer would come out and talk to her about being on their show. So my mother was responsible for putting a goat on national television.

365 Independence Days

Before I came here to talk to you today, I thought I have so many different things I could say. I could talk to you about my own off-grid life and what it’s like to be a millennial.

What it’s like to be somebody who was raised in a concrete jungle trying to get back some of these skills, trying to get back a homesteading lifestyle.

Then I thought, “What would my mother want me to talk about if she were here? Which one of her many talks would she think was right for this time and this moment?”

I got my answer pretty quickly. 

She would have wanted to talk to you about 365 Independence Days. 

The title to her introduction to food preservation is 365 Independence Days.

A person has to choose what they’re going to struggle for. Life is always a struggle, whether you’re struggling for anything worthwhile or not, so it might as well be for something worthwhile.

“Independence Days,” she says “are worth struggling for.”

And she would know.

In my mother’s lifestyle, in my mother’s growing up in her generation, she would have understood independence and freedom to be a factor of what you can do with your own hands.

She would have believed that your independence is related to your capabilities. What can you do? What do you know? How to do how much knowledge do you have?

That right there is your independence.

Well, I was born in quite a different reality.

My mother was a celebrity and also a homesteader. This has come up in my life as well. Sometimes those two things don’t go together perfectly. She was a celebrity and she was being taken down to California and paid a lot of money to be on television. 

Te last time that she did that she was on a show with an actress who was saying that if she could live her life over again she wouldn’t have any children. And my mother thought, “I’m living two worlds here. I can’t live this Hollywood life and also be a homesteader.”

That day she gave it up.

She said no more television appearances for me, no more running across the country with goats. I need to stay home. I need to make my homestead work.

She didn’t call it a homestead yet. She called it keeping house. She needed to stay home and keep house.

Of course, she was keeping house on 300 acres with animals with a pasture and orchard. She was keeping house completely self-sufficient or much more self-sufficient than many of us can even imagine at that time.

She came home, and at that point she had six children, and decided that her most important project at that time was to have a seventh child.

And that child was me.

But the reason I tell you that, the reason I tell the story like that is I want you to understand my experience. My mother couldn’t have known it, but, at the same time that she gave up on Hollywood, Hollywood was giving up on her.

The decade changed over into the 1980’s and America basically changed its mind. America was no longer interested in self-sufficiency, didn’t care so much about farms or land or animals. 

More interesting things were happening. Things like electronics and eventually the internet. The economy was rising again. The mood of the country was changing and she became a has-been. A lot of people no longer cared about a woman with a cookbook. A lot of people no longer cared what it would be to have self-sufficiency. There was a disease of forgetting.

Exactly what my mother had warned against. Exactly what she had tried to prevent, a forgetting of the value of these old skills.

Because of that the income from my mother’s book disappeared. Her husband, my dad, at that point wasn’t working. There was bad luck, there was illness, there were catastrophes. By the time I was three years old the land was subdivided and sold off. By the time I was five years old, my mother was raising me as a single mother in town. We didn’t even have a garden.

That’s the world that I was born into.

So I’ve given you that contrast to homesteading women coming from different realities. The reality that my mother lived in where it made sense to have skill because the land was available and there was an opportunity to practice things.

And then the world that I came up in where there wasn’t any land, there wasn’t any opportunity, and the whole thing sounded like a fantasy.

To me, in my generation, ranting sounded like kid stuff. We had to be responsible, we had to take care of ourselves. For me, freedom meant economic stability and economic stability meant not having anything to do with farms, not having anything to do with animals, certainly not learning how to grow my own food.

None of that made sense to me.

I was working with a different understanding of how to define my freedom.

As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I was constantly taught that my freedom, I already had 365 Independence Days, I already had. 

So what I really needed to do was to be innovative and to explore boundaries and to go out and conquer the world. To not worry about any rules of any kind and really to be as inspired and fast-paced, and kind of unrealistic and unbound as possible.

That was going to be my freedom and I try to give that words because I think when we understand the difference between generations, when we understand what’s really going on in America today and why this homesteading conference and this homesteading movement is so vital, we have to understand that we’re working with a culture which has defined freedom as something different from self-sufficiency.

365 Independence Days

For a lot of us trying to get back to my mother’s idea of 365 Independence Days takes a little bit of changing, a little bit of attention, a little bit of processing.

I lived a very free life. I lived a very do-whatever-you-want kind of life and I was good at it.

I went right to the city and was a theater director. I had a lot of success and then, lucky for me, my free, follow-your-own-heart kind of life stopped working so well.  

I felt like, in the internet age, almost as if everything I touched would move because all the information that I have is coming through other people and other sources. I felt like there weren’t boundaries to my life. I didn’t know where the edges of reality were. I know that sounds kind of high-minded, but I was a person in crisis and thought, “I need to find the bottom here… I need to find a ground that I can stand on.”

So of course I did the obvious thing which was to go for a year without the internet. 

And I did it.

I did it. I went for a year without the internet and that’s what’s written in my book, What Falls from the Sky.

I had this experience of dropping off the internet and it gave me some real questions about what is and isn’t reality and why that matters. It gave me some real questions about what is important. Is it more important to be able to see the sky or is it more important to be able to check your email?

I didn’t really know why. I didn’t really know why I was doing it, but I felt this incredible pull towards something which I now can only call reality. And an incredible pull towards a lifestyle in which I was going to have more control, more independence.

Where I could actually say, “I believe in something.” And have that mean something because I can live a life that plays out what I believe, rather than just having to buy whatever I can buy and whatever I have the money to buy it with.

This was my moment of transformation which led my husband and I to leave the city and begin our own homesteading journey.

My husband and I had three children, a six month old, three year old,  and five year old. We moved on to three acres of bear land in the mountains and we made it work. We lived without electricity. We lived without running water. We built everything we have with our own hands.

We now live in a home. We now have gardens. We have pasture. We have a pond. We’ve accomplished a tremendous amount and are incredibly proud.

Those are our 365 Independence Days.

My husband and I have a YouTube channel. We had no idea when we put out a couple of videos that anybody was going to care. If we had we might not have started, honestly. But our first video that went viral, our video that that people really responded to, was called “10 Things We Wish We’d Known Before We Went Off-Grid.” We didn’t know at the time how important the message of that video was. It’s so important!

It’s a joke, right? We just made a little joke about all the things that we really

knew, but didn’t act as if we knew when we moved off-grid. The things that, of course you know but, you aren’t living your life as if you knew them like.

You can’t move the sun and water runs downhill.

Well, we haven’t made any videos lately because we’ve been working like dogs at our homestead the last couple months, but we have one on deck and I’ll go ahead and tell you the gag of it so that you can be the first to know. You can tell your friends we’re doing another “10 Things We Wish We’d Known,” only this time the gag is that every single one is, “water runs downhill.” Because, folks, there are ten examples on my homestead of things that were designed incorrectly because I didn’t think about how water runs downhill. 

That’s real!  I’ll give you a couple examples. One is our animal fencing. When we first came we hadn’t done animal fencing before, but we’re smart people. We pulled it off. We have our little barn and we have our fence and it’s all stretched tight. We live on a hillside. Everywhere we live is pretty sloped, so when we got to the gate we cut out a nice flat spot for the gate, right? We cut out a nice flat spot for the gate in the spring and it was fine, there’s no problems. 

Well, in the fall the fall rains come and that spot’s kind of muddy, but you know what? I’m a homesteader. I’m tough. I just put on my boots, right? I don’t complain about mud. I walk through that mud to take care of my animals and I’m still okay. The snow comes and I’m still okay. I just shovel the snow out. Not a big deal. But then in January the snow melts and it freezes again and we have two months of this in January and February. I’ve got two inches of ice under my gate. I can’t get to my animals without a pickaxe. That’s real. And why is that? Why did that happen? Say it with me: Because water runs downhill. 

I’m going to give you another example. I hope you’ll take this seriously as well. Around the same time that we built that gate, my first year off the grid, I slipped and fell. My husband was out of town. I have three tiny children and no emergency services, living truly off the grid with no communication except a neighbor. Sometimes we used walkie-talkies. I had nothing on me. I blacked out temporarily. My three children were in a yurt, a tent in the woods, no warmth, nobody I could call. 

I mentioned this on social media and you can imagine what happened to me… the irresponsibility of being a mother in that situation without emergency services, in a situation where I could be hurt. I got I got all sorts of attacks, but how did I get hurt? I got hurt on an icy slope between where we park our car and the yurt where we lived at the time. Nobody on social media ever said to me, “Esther, you get out there with your shovel and fix that path so it’s high and dry.” Nobody ever said to me, “Fix that path so it doesn’t gather ice. Keep yourself safe. Be responsible. Be a responsible adult in this world. Pick up your shovel.”  

Right? Nobody ever said that to me, but that path is high and dry. Now it doesn’t gather ice anymore and why is that? Because water runs downhill. Hallelujah and praise God for water runs downhill!

The reason I want to share those stories with you is because in that simple phrase, water runs downhill,  I’m finding something that I was always looking for which is a reality that pushes back.

Something that’s going to be there for me, that I know is true. So that I can then grow against it. I can become more responsible. I can become a more capable person. Water runs downhill is just one example of a whole world of physical realities that are completely available to us both for spiritual regeneration and understanding an ability to engage with our land, with our environment, and, ultimately, with where we grow and get our food.

Something that’s going to be there for me, that I know is true. So that I can then grow against it. I can become more responsible. I can become a more capable person. Water runs downhill is just one example of a whole world of physical realities that are completely available to us both for spiritual regeneration and understanding an ability to engage with our land, with our environment, and, ultimately, with where we grow and get our food.

I’ll tell one more story. In my family we have a thing we say. We say, “Remember your true things.” 

Also from that early time when we lived in the yurt when we had no electricity. You don’t know what dark nights are like if you’ve lived in the city and then suddenly move to the woods. You have no electricity and my husband was out of town again. (All the interesting thing happens when my husband’s out of town.)

My children were pretty much completely screen-free and I don’t know if there are screen-free kids out there, but a funny thing about screen-free kids is they become very sensitive to what they see on screens. I had gotten a DVD and didn’t watch it with them. I was just trying to get through dinner. It was a very special, unusual occasion because, of course, I had to use the generator to charge up my computer. I hardly ever did that and my son, who was six years old at the time, watched a cartoon of Superman. He was really scared afterwards. He said, “I see those those bad guys and I don’t know if they’re still here. I don’t know if they’re outside.” 

So I took him to the door and we’re in perfect blackness here. I had a candle but I didn’t run it all night. The only light is from the wood stove which is just a little red glow. I said to him, “Remember your true things. You see these trees? Do you see this amp tree? That’s your true thing. This porch, this space, that sky, the sun… there’s no sun at that moment, but the stars. This, all of these things around you, the wind, these are your true things. I can’t make the Superman bad guys go away, and I never will be able to, but I can tell you this: Remember your true things and they’ll be there for you.” 

He started to feel a little better and that’s become our family mantra. I say it when they’re misbehaving. I say it when we all get hung up on some plastic toy and I say it when we get hung up on worry and concern for things that aren’t really the most important things. I say, “Remember our true things,” and it helps our family to be sustained spiritually.

And it helps us from doing stupid things like having an icy path or two inches of ice in the bottom of a gate.

My four-year-old, Sadie, went into town with her dad a few months ago and when she came back she was telling her sister a story. She said, “Stella, guess what happened to me in town today? Just tell us what she said at the grocery store. The lady said I had good manners!” And her sister, who’s eight, said, “Sadie, that’s not a big deal at all. That always happens whenever we go to the grocery store. People say we have good manners.” 

So I got a real good laugh over what kind of manners that is, arguing over whether we have good manners. But I also thought about it. It’s true. People do comment on their manners and that’s ridiculous because they’re being raised in a mud pit. 

I certainly don’t have good manners so I’m thinking about what people mean when they say my kids have good manners. 

I think what they mean is that my kids come into the world acting like it’s going to be good to them. My kids come into a new relationship acting like they’re going to be able to handle it because they live in a world where things do what they’re supposed to. They live in a world where the laws work where the sun comes up in the morning and it goes down at night and you build your own house with your own hands and you cut your wood and when you plant a seed it grows. 

That’s the kind of world my kids are growing up in and that’s the kind of world my mother wanted for me and that’s what she meant when she said 365 Independence Days.

It’s been a long journey for me to understand that because I grew up in a world of screens. Here’s a thing about screens: they’re not the enemy, but they’re such an effective distraction. Screens, and bells and whistles and flashing lights, all these different things, are such an effective way to keep you from looking at the sky.

And such an effective way to keep you from remembering what your work is as a human being which is to provide for yourself and for one another. Which is to provide shelter and food and warmth. Which is to take care of ourselves. 

We’ve got a really, really good lie going on right now which is this idea that only a few people need to be concerned with food and only a few people need to be concerned with health and the rest of us can just kind of worry about whatever it is we’re supposed to be worried about (which I guess is a lot of things) and leave the food production up to just a few people.

I don’t think that’s right. 

We eat, which means we need to be concerned with food. And if we’re concerned with food, we need to be concerned with where it comes from, which means from the land…

Which means we need to be thinking about our true things.

I have a way of thinking about it, which is that our food production really just means self-care. It is this great work of providing for ourselves.

If we were to think of that as a business, if we were to think of that as a corporation, most of us are working in the mail room, okay? We’re working the worst jobs. We’re working the jobs where you’ve got no authority, where all you get is whatever is handed to you. We’ve got no power over our food supply. We need to find a way to get back up into middle management where we belong. Right? Management in a situation where we know what the big plan is, we know what the boss is talking about, and we can interact with that. We can say,  “I’ve got an idea! This is how I’m going to manage this land. This is how I’m going to solve this food production problem. I’m not going to hang out in the mail room where all I can do is carry messages.”

That’s what I hope to encourage all of us here today- to get into middle management when it comes to our self-care and our food production.

And the number one, best way, to do that is to remember our true things.

I’m going to share a simple formula. I think there are a lot of experienced homesteaders here, which is great, but I remember what it was like not knowing anything. I remember what it was like when my sister gave me four cucumber plants. Three of them died immediately and the fourth one I watched. I said, “Grow! Grow, come on grow!” When it finally gave me one cucumber I was so excited! We took a video while we picked it. 

So I know what it’s like to feel like we just don’t have these skills. Kids who grew up in concrete jungles, we just don’t we don’t know. We just didn’t have a chance. And even with a mother like mine who instilled in me values that prepared me very well for the homesteading life, the actual skills, the actual processes can be really unfamiliar. 

That’s why I want to offer to you a formula, a nice easy formula. 

If you have somebody in your life who wants to start out getting better with food production you can share this with them. Or if you’re a beginner this may be helpful for you. It’s a funny thing because it comes from two places. My mother used to say, “All you need to garden is four things: water, sun, soil, and seeds.” I looked for it in her book. It’s not there. I think it was so obvious she didn’t bother writing it down. I think it’s a little like water runs downhill. 

So this summer I realized I needed to turn it up a notch on my food production. I’ve been gardening well and I enjoy gardening but I’m nowhere near food self-sufficient. One of the resources that I turn towards is an author named Alan Savory. If that’s not a name you know write it down. He’s particularly interesting in terms of talking about using herd animals to regenerate grasslands, but he has a system called “holistic management” and when I wanted to bring it up a notch on my homestead, to really produce more food, I went to Alan Savory. I read every single word of his book on holistic management and he has this section which is about the Four Windows into an Ecosystem. Four ways that you can access, look at, judge the health of, and influence the health of your ecosystem. You know what they are? My mom popped right out of the page. I was like, “Mom, you’re in a book by Alan Savory!” Different decades, different continents: Water, sun, soil, and seeds. I share that with you because if you’re facing three acres or one acre or an eight-by-ten plot, whatever you’ve got, that’s a great formula to go through every single season.

What can I do to improve water in this situation? What can I do to improve sun? What can I do to improve soil?  And then bring in the seeds. 

And you can carry this through your own development from being a beginner where water means connect the hose… to where I am right now where water means I’m building rainwater, harvesting earthworks. To maybe you’re building a pond, maybe you’ve got a ram pump. Maybe you’re using perennial grasses to keep a ground covered and you’re thinking about that as the water cycle. How to keep the water in the soil or in the air or in the plants? You don’t want any water ever running across the ground because it carries away topsoil and nutrients. 

So Year One you can be thinking to yourself, “Does the hose reach?” And Year Six you can be really engaging in middle management with the question of my ecosystem, the health of my ecosystem in regard to water. You can go through this, as well with sun and soil and seeds. 

The sun thing is interesting because I feel like I just gave a lecture about how you can’t move the sun, but Alan Savory actually has been really useful to me in understanding what my job is interacting with living ecosystems in regard to solar energy. 

When I first started out I read somewhere that firewood is stored solar energy. When I first read that, I’m going to confess, it sounded a little out there to me. I thought, “Well, you know, this is kind of spiritualized.” 

It’s not at all. It just actually is. Firewood is actually stored solar energy. In fact, the sun is the source of energy that’s running everything and it’s being  transformed, it’s being converted by plants into biomass. So when Alan Savory talks about sun he talks about a conversion rate. How well is your ecosystem converting solar energy into biomass? 

Then, as the gardener, as the person in middle management responsible for a certain space, how are you cutting back woody material that isn’t able to convert quickly in order to give the sun access to the green shoots that can grow fast? It isn’t only lawns that need cut back. You find that when you get up into middle management you really do prune everything. 

You can again go through this process where, as a beginner, I go through my checklist and I hit the word sun  and am I going to plant this in a sunny spot? But then as you’re becoming more and more responsible for a space or maybe for a larger space you’re saying, “How can I prune and cut back so that I’m maximizing the conversion rate here? I’m maximizing this ecosystem’s ability to convert solar energy into biomass.” Again with soil, again with seeds. You can follow it with me but I wanted to share that with you because I know what it feels like to think this is too hard and there’s too many sources of energy. 

So this one simple formula, by two different great teachers, on two continents, can always, always be there to help you out.

Water, sun, soil, and seeds.

And it really is just as simple as that.

I’ve heard a lot lately about if you need to homestead and you don’t know how to start where should you start ?

I think a lot of people ask that question. I used to think it was stuff and then after that I started to think it was skills. I want to tell you where I am now which is that I think it’s values.

Because there’s no earthly reason I should have succeeded on my homestead. No earthly reason I should still be alive out there. Honestly, my mother could not, was not able to give me the opportunity to practice homesteading skills. 

When I started canning it was in my own kitchen as an adult and I made every mistake you can make. With all my cooking, all my gardening, I’ve made every mistake you can make. But the thing that my mother was able to give me was a legacy of values.

And the most important, the most primary of those being 365 Independence Days. 

Life is going to be a struggle anyway. Life is going to be a struggle anyway. Do you have something worth struggling for? 

I believe I do. 

I believe my mother did. 

I believe as homesteaders of America we have something worth struggling for… to reconnect with our “true things,” to reconnect with something I can only call reality, to recognize that as long as we eat we are responsible for food. 

And as long as we’re responsible for food we’re in relationship with the land. 

And as long as we’re in relationship with the land we need to know how it works. 

We need to get out of the mail room and up into middle management, a place where we can engage with the reality of how living things work and be active, creative participants in those processes. 

We will find in the process that we’re gaining spiritual health by reconnecting with our true things, the confidence to be able to face the world saying, “I can do this. I have authority here. I have power. I have the ability to move through life and use my own hands to take care of myself.” 

There’s no such thing as hard times when you can do for yourself. 

So if you could leave here remembering just one thing that I said today it would be this: water runs downhill. 

If you could leave with two things that I said today the second would be that we’re not going anywhere. 

My mother’s generation had a ground swell, a passion for the DIY life and sustainable living. Here we are in another one. 

We are in a time where people care. This is a time right now which could be a really powerful moment. A time where people are interested in learning how to do more. It sounds good to have our hands in the earth. It sounds good to be able to plant and care for ourselves, to be in relationship with the animals, to know where our food comes from. 

Our food supply isn’t getting any better. We know that. We know our food supply is going to become less and less nutritious and more addictive. 

Why? Because greed is a thing. 

Greed is living in plain sight. Greed is a thing. And so we have no reason to put ourselves in subjection to a system that doesn’t have our best interest in mind. We don’t have to think of this in terms of fear. We don’t have to think of it in terms of anxiety. We can just move back to our true things.

My mother was an advocate for that in her generation and I am an advocate in mine. I can’t wait to see which of my children or yours will step up and keep this going. 

Because it isn’t a fad and it isn’t a trend. It’s about being human. It’s about being human instead of machine. It’s not going anywhere so remember your true things. Keep the faith. Don’t quit.

365 Independence Days with Esther Emery
365 Independence Days with Esther Emery