Jill Winger is one of the original homestead bloggers to start sharing her homesteading journey online. She has been living this lifestyle for well over a decade, and she has gained insight and perspective over those years that she loves to share with others in the homesteading community. In this conversation, we dive into comparison, money mindsets, community enrichment, and more. Whether you are a new homesteader or have been living this lifestyle for years, may Jill’s encouragement meet you right where you are.
In this episode, we cover:
- Jill’s early start in homesteading
- Bringing a realistic perspective to what homesteading looks like in real life vs. online
- Examining money mindsets in the homestead world
- Keeping in mind the full picture when we are tempted to envy someone else’s success
- What it looks like to begin reaping the benefits of years of hard, unseen work and sacrifice
- Discerning when it is time to scale back in your homestead or business
- How old-fashioned living can benefit you no matter where you live
- Extending the gifts of homesteading beyond the borders of your own property
Thank you to our sponsor!
Premier 1 Supplies is your one-stop shop for all things homesteading! Visit Premier1Supplies.com to browse their catalog.
Jill is the founder of The Prairie Homestead, one of the foremost homesteading websites since 2010. She is dedicated to helping others learn how to grow their own food and live a more fulfilling, old-fashioned life.
Her practical and authentic style of teaching and storytelling has won the hearts of hundreds of thousands of homesteaders across social media and through the top-ranked Old Fashioned on Purpose podcast and best-selling The Prairie Homestead Cookbook.
Old-Fashioned On Purpose by Jill Winger
Jill Winger of The Prairie Homestead | Website | Podcast | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Pinterest
Homesteaders of America | Website | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Pinterest
Breaking Homestead Stereotypes Transcript
Amy Fewell Welcome to the Homesteaders of America Podcast, where we encourage simple living, hard work, natural healthcare, real food, and building an agrarian society. If you’re pioneering your way through modern noise and conveniences, and you’re an advocate for living a more sustainable and quiet life, this podcast is for you. Welcome to this week’s podcast. I’m your host, Amy Fewell, and I’m the founder of the Homesteaders of America organization and annual events. If you’re not familiar with us, we are a resource for homesteading education and online support. And we even host a couple of in-person events each year with our biggest annual event happening right outside the nation’s capital here in Virginia every October. Check us out online at HomesteadersofAmerica.com. Follow us on all of our social media platforms and subscribe to our newsletter so that you can be the first to know about all things HOA (that’s short for Homesteaders of America). Don’t forget that we have an online membership that gives you access to thousands—yes, literally thousands—of hours worth of information and videos. It also gets you discount codes, an HOA decal sticker when you sign up, and access to event tickets before anyone else. All right. Let’s dive into this week’s episode.
Amy Fewell Welcome back to this week’s episode of the Homesteaders of America podcast. This week I have the notorious Jill Winger with me. Welcome to the podcast, Jill.
Jill Winger Thanks so much for having me on. This was a hard one to schedule with you and I’s schedule. We really had to work at this, but we did it and I’m proud of us. So here we are.
Amy Fewell We did. Right? I am proud of us. I said this to a friend the other day. I’m like, “I don’t know. It seems like I’ve canceled three times. She’s canceled three times.” It’s like, I understand because we’re very busy homesteaders, right?
Jill Winger Yes, like every time. Normally I can keep the stuff on my calendar in place, but every single time, it’d be, like, a non-negotiable. I couldn’t. You know, I couldn’t make it. I’m like, it’s always Amy. Like, it’s always Amy for some reason that I cannot make it. So thank you for your patience.
Amy Fewell Oh, well, thank you for your patience. Mine was always like it was cloudy and the internet didn’t work, so I didn’t even have a very good reason.
Jill Winger That totally happens to me sometimes. 100%.
Amy Fewell Yeah, that’s great. Okay, so before we get really into conversation, I have a hard time believing there are people who don’t know who Jill Winger are, but I have a hard time believing people don’t know who Joel Salatin is either, and people still don’t know who he is. So why don’t you tell our podcast audience all about yourself?
Jill Winger Yeah. So I think I’m best known as one of the original homestead bloggers from back in the day. The Prairie Homestead is where it all started for me, and I’ve been homesteading here in Wyoming ever since 2008 and just been sharing my story. So I now have podcasts and books and all sorts of things, but I just really love teaching old-fashioned skills, and even more so recently, just helping people think bigger and ask questions of our modern world. And sometimes that leads them down the homesteading path. Sometimes it leads them toward more unconventional things, different unconventional things, but I just love helping to inspire those conversations.
Amy Fewell Yeah. And so I follow Jill… I mean, we probably started homesteading around the same time, but I didn’t really get into the homesteading world necessarily for a few years later. And so Jill is the OG homesteader.
Jill Winger Like the grandma, basically. The homestead grandma, at this point.
Amy Fewell That’s good. I mean, we call lots of people different names. Thank you for stewarding this community because it wouldn’t be the same without you, right? So Jill has a ton of stuff on her website like canning courses, and you can buy her books and products and all kinds of things. So we’ll link all that below so you can actually check her out. We won’t take up your time too much talking about all those on this podcast. But Jill is also really well-known, for me—which is one of the reasons I like following Jill—for being just bluntly honest and especially when it comes to farming and homesteading. And so we are going to kind of unpackage that a little bit today. And Jill also has a new book that’s… Is it already out? I’ve gotten my copy, but that doesn’t mean it’s already out yet.
Jill Winger Yes. It’ll be September 26th, so I’m not sure when this airs, but it’ll be end of September 2023.
Amy Fewell So right around that time. So, Jill, one of the things that you’re really known for is busting up those homestead stereotypes. Not every homestead has to look the same. Not every homesteader has to be poor. I wonder if you could talk to that just a little bit, like your experience in homesteading. Obviously your homestead doesn’t look exactly like everybody else’s, but then it may. Like there are some homesteaders who do it the way you do. So maybe just unravel a little bit where you are because not everybody knows your location and how that differs, and then how you like to break out those stereotypes and break people out of that mold so they can trailblaze their own path.
Jill Winger Yeah, it’s such a funny dynamic because I’ve always been a little bit of a rebel. I’ve always steered more towards the unconventional path, and I think that’s why homesteading was so attractive to me back in the day. I mean, I started as you did, before it was even a term really. If you said, “I homestead,” people would be like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Like, no clue. And so I loved it for that reason. I loved it that people are like, “You are making yogurt? What is wrong with you? Like, why are you canning? No one does that.” I loved being at the beginning. And so we come to homesteading for this unconventionalness, but it’s fascinating to me how quickly even within a movement like homesteading, we start to organize ourselves into tribes and packs of, you know, you have to do it this way. We make all these rules. You have to look like this. You have to dress like this. Your homestead has to be like this. And so as I’ve watched the movement mature, which has been wonderful, I’ve also been like, “Come on, guys. You forgot why we joined this in the first place, because now you’re creating a whole set of rules and stipulations that you have to check off before you can call yourself a homesteader. And I just really push back against that because I feel like that is preventing people from taking first steps and from getting into this lifestyle and having it ultimately change their life. So our homestead… Even within the movement, I love to still be the oddball. I love that we homestead in Wyoming. A lot of homesteaders are back east. The climate back there is so much easier and more temperate, and I think that’s fantastic. And everyone’s like, “Why do you live out in Wyoming? It’s a horrible place to homestead.” And I’m like, “Well, kind of, but I like being the Wyoming homesteader. I’m okay being the outlier.” Our homestead is a little more ranchy than the traditional farmy homestead, and it’s really changed a lot over the years. When we first got it, it was really sad and really pathetic and it was a major fixer upper. Not a cute, charming fixer upper with good bones, just a bad fixer upper. Nothing charming, no good bones, not much to work with. And so over the years, it’s changed, but it doesn’t necessarily have the same aesthetic, like with the big red barns or the perfect white farmhouse that a lot of people think of when they think of a homestead. And I’m okay with that. Another thing I push back on a lot, which sometimes gets me in trouble, is clothing for homesteaders. That’s been such a thing. When I first started sharing it online, that was not a thing. All of us homestead bloggers ten years ago were like, it’s like stained t-shirts and hoodies and your barn clothes. And now to share homesteading online, there’s this pressure, you have to wear white linen dresses and aprons and fluffy ruffles and lace. And I’m just like, what is happening? I do not dress like that. I don’t dress like that for photos. I don’t dress like that in real life. There’s nothing wrong with doing any of those things with having a white farmhouse or a big red barn or wearing a lace dress to pick your pickles or pick your cucumbers out in the garden. But I don’t just want people to think that that has to be that way, because it’s not normal.
Amy Fewell Right. It’s not normal. No, it’s not normal. And that’s what I love about you, because I think we need more of that in the homesteading world. Because, okay, when I have dresses, I like to keep my dresses clean. And so when I think… I do have some homestead type dresses that I can get dirty that are just convenient, but I don’t know. I agree. You did a video one time. Do you still have it up? Please tell me you didn’t take it down.
Jill Winger I haven’t taken anything down. Even my controversial stuff, so it should still be there.
Amy Fewell Yeah, you did a video one time about going out and milking your cow in this puffy dress and apron and all that. And I just love that because, like you said, those things are wonderful. Those things are awesome. You can do those things if you want to, but it’s not the epitome of a homesteader. It is not necessarily what all homesteaders is. I mean, most of us look like we just got up and walked out of a trailer in the morning because we’ve got stuff to do and we’re moms or we’re doing various different things and we’ve got ketchup on our shirt and all kinds of other stuff. So I love that you do that on your social media. And yes, it does get you in trouble. Sometimes I sit back and just, you know, with my popcorn and watch the comments and it’s great. And it’s not controversial. It’s just breaking down the walls of tradition, basically, is what it is, because so quickly, we think going back to a way of life like this is traditional and it is, but we don’t have to look like we stepped out of the 1800s either. So I love that you do that. So one other thing that you do talk about that can sometimes be controversial, and we have briefly talked about this in passing or whatnot, is the money mindset in the homestead community. There are a lot of different mindsets that you have to be poor or you have to live in poverty to be a real homesteader or whatnot. I wonder if you’ll talk to that just a little bit.
Jill Winger Yeah, that one is tricky and there is such that… I remember, I think the first time I ever interacted with you, you were sticking up for me on some old YouTube video where some…
Amy Fewell Probably. I like to do that.
Jill Winger And I was like, oh my gosh, she is such a cool person that she’s sticking up for me when this mob is coming after me. Because we had… Justin Rhodes came to our homestead and he was taking videos of our life and people were upset that we have a nice shop. We saved up our money. We built it mostly ourselves. And people were really offended that we have a nice shop. And you stuck up for me, and it was kind of one of the first times I started to see that that poverty mindset within a homesteading world come into place. And yeah, so many thoughts on that. I was definitely raised within that mindset. I had a lot of beliefs around money, that money was bad, that people who had money were inherently bad, that they had got it, of course, by dishonest means, because no one had money through honest means. That was the story I told myself. And when my husband and I first were married and we bought this homestead, the reason we bought such a horrible fixer upper is because that’s all we could afford at the time. My husband had a good job then and I was working part-time, but it wasn’t an awesome salary. It was just a nice, stable salary. And so, you know, we had our mortgage, and I know what it’s like to clip coupons. I know what it’s like to only buy things used, to go to garage sales and Goodwill. We didn’t eat out. We didn’t go to movies. We didn’t do entertainment like everyone did. We We drove old cars. We were Dave Ramsey all the way trying to stay out of debt, living below our means. I had like a $2,000 Ford Taurus with a dent in the side that I drove for years and years. And so, I’ve been there. I know what that’s like. But then something happened. As we started to homestead and we started to grow… You know, I believe humans are meant to progress. We’re meant to mature and expand and continue to get better in things. And so as I was putting time and intention towards online business, I started to get better at it just with lots of reps. Like I was really bad at it at first, and then I just put in a ton of reps and a ton of time and I started to grow. I think anyone would want to grow, right? I think that’s everyone’s goal is to get better. And when you get better at online business or entrepreneurship and you add more value to the world, more money starts to flow to you. Again, it takes time, it takes repetition. But that’s just the side effect. And again, I’m always like, people… I think that’s what everybody wants and that just started to happen. And so where we were living very frugally… We still live frugally, honestly, but we had more padding. We could buy more fence posts at one time. We could afford to pour the concrete for the house addition. We could do more things. And our homestead started to grow faster. And it was really hard for me to wrap my mind around it, and I honestly would sometimes self-sabotage myself because the growth of our business and the growth of our salary made me uncomfortable. It made me feel like… Because I had to combat all those beliefs that I had carried from childhood, that money was bad, people who made money were bad, like I didn’t deserve it or whatever. So I’ve come through a lot of that. This is a long, rambling answer, but I don’t know. When I see people attacking those in the homestead world who are able to buy a nicer homestead or have a stock trailer or have a truck to pull the stock trailer, I’m kind of like, but isn’t that the goal? Not to become wealthy, but isn’t it the goal to get better and to expand? And maybe that means someday you get a nice truck, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it means that someday you have nicer fence lines, maybe it doesn’t. But if that’s the path that we’re all working towards, I don’t know why we attack those who are a little bit further down that path. So that’s my thoughts on that. It gets tricky, but yeah, there’s a lot of that mindset in the homestead world and I wish it wasn’t like that.
Amy Fewell Yeah, we’re the same way. So, you know, we bought our house… not this house right now, but our first house when we got married. That was 15 years ago that we bought it, and it was on a half acre. Small, tiny little house, like 896 square foot. And we homesteaded on that half acre and we did whatever we could do. And we did that for 14 years until we could afford this property. And that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. The people that are in the spotlight are often… They weren’t where they are now 14 years ago or ten years ago or even five years ago. And so it’s really easy for people coming into this community to believe, oh, well, you have money, that’s why you have all this. Okay. No, it wasn’t always like that. Like you said, you bought a small house, you put in the work. And I think it’s funny how we have this homestead community and the thought of hard work got you to where you are is mind boggling. It’s like, no, that’s not true. Because I think a lot of us have. We grew up in that mindset. I did too. I grew up in that mindset. And it’s very prevalent in like Christian communities that money is bad. People who make money are bad. If you’re wealthy, then you must be cheating somebody out of something. Don’t get me wrong, there are people like that.
Jill Winger Sure.
Amy Fewell But it’s not everyone. And it’s like having to unlearn these mindsets, it’s super freeing, and it causes you to just be better. It causes you to be a better steward of your money. It causes you to be more frugal and make more frugal choices. And if you’re not growing, you’re dying, right? Why are you in the same spot you were in 15 years ago? It doesn’t make any sense. And so I love that. You gave the perfect answer, because that’s how I feel, too. And I think a lot more people in the homesteading community need to realize that. If you are choosing a homesteading to live more frugally, then shouldn’t you be also making more money? Shouldn’t there be more money in your bank account to save up for more fence posts, to save up for a truck? My husband, he loves to tinker on trucks and cars and old junk. And I’m just like, why? And so up until… Well, see, we’ve been married 17 years this year. This is the first year in our entire marriage and in my entire life that we’ve ever bought a brand new vehicle. Like, ever. Because we have no debt. That’s like our only debt. And so it’s funny because people will see you driving around in a new car or this new thing and it’s like, but it’s the only thing I have, like I don’t have anything else. And so I just want to encourage you guys that are listening, like don’t judge a lot of these big named homesteaders because they’ve been doing it for forever and they’ve made that choice to put in the hard work and steward their money well. And you can do it, too. Like anyone can do it. And I’m sure you have this all the time, like you coach people in business. And that’s one of the hardest things for people to jump over is you have to put in hard work. It’s just like homesteading. You have to put in the hard work to grow a business as well, especially if it’s homesteading minded.
Jill Winger Amen. And I think that that’s the second part of that is… You know Dave Ramsey says, “You live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later.” And I think you and I are starting to get to that point where we’re living like no one else later. And what it takes, like you said, is that doing what no one else is willing to do. And that’s not a popular thing to say in today’s day and age. People do not like that. They’re like, “It’s just privilege.” And I’m like, are there parts of my life that were privileged? Sure. But I wasn’t born into money. I was raised in a trailer park neighborhood. Like I don’t come from inheritance and privilege and wealth. Sure, there’s things… We all start at different places in the world. That is undeniable. That’s just life. We cannot all start off on the exact same footing. But you have to be willing to do things that people aren’t willing to do. And all these years leading up to where you see us now and people look at us, we have green houses and shops and arenas and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I never do that.” I’m like, but we had 13, 15, 16 years of grind where the neighbors would be driving by every weekend going to the lake with their camper, we would be out there putting in post holes by hand. People are watching Netflix every night; I would be reading business books. People are going to concerts; I’m sitting at home listening to podcasts on how to market digital products. So I’m doing things… Success leaves clues. And I’m doing things, and people like you and I, you can watch us. Watch what we’re doing when no one’s watching because that’s giving you a clue of how we got to where we are today. And I think so many people miss that. And they just, again, they just like you said, they look at the the the beginning and the end, and they see that end and they’re like, “Well, obviously it was handed to you.” And I’m like, “Oh, you didn’t see the 15 years it took to get here.”
Amy Fewell Right. Oh, no. Right. You know, the tiredness, the three hours of sleep you get, the hard work and sweat you put in. I mean, we are getting ready to put up a high tunnel and we found it on Facebook for 3,000 bucks. So we still shop frugally. But, you know, when I post that on Instagram, people are going to be like, “Oh, must be nice to have a greenhouse.”
Jill Winger Must be nice? You want to see Jill go from 0 to 60 in, like, no time at all. Say, “Must be nice.” I’m like, “I’ll tell you what’s nice.”
Amy Fewell Must be nice. Oh yeah, it’s great. It’s really great when you have to get it from your family, too, like your friends and family. And it’s like, “Y’all know what we’ve been through.”
Jill Winger Family can be the hardest. Family can be really hard.
Amy Fewell Yeah. I love unpackaging that. It can be because a lot of those people are still stuck in that mindset, you know, because it’s something they were taught. It’s something they taught you. And so we decided to be that chain breaker in our family, like, no, this is not who we are. This is not the truth. And that’s like homesteading, right? Like Big Ag is not the truth. Big Farm is not the truth. And so we decided to break those chains and start homesteading. And I think we could do a little bit more breaking of that poverty mindset in the homestead world to get where we are.
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Amy Fewell Okay. Well, now that we’ve stepped on some toes, let’s change it a little bit more.
Jill Winger We’ve stepped on a lot of toes.
Amy Fewell If you’re still with us, thank you. Let’s talk about your homestead, because you and I had a conversation—I guess it was probably last year—where the both of us were kind of feeling like we’re pulling back a little more from social media and maybe putting more time into business or into just living, you know, just living life that we say that we live. So what has that looked like for you over the last year since we last saw each other?
Jill Winger Yeah. Oh, man. I have had… I think the last couple of years, I’ve had a really rethink my relationship to business and social media. You go through those growth periods on your homestead and in business. I actually had Austin from Homesteady here last week, and we were talking about this very thing. They’re going through a period of scaling back on their homestead where they just got so big and like all these different avenues and all these other things. And he’s like, “It’s too much. We’re not living simply anymore.” And I thought that was such an incredible thing and such an honest thing to hear him say. But I realized that in my business as well, I had been hustle, hustle, build, build, grow, grow. That’s great. There’s seasons for that. And then I realized I needed to go under a season of pruning, just like with a tree or a plant in your garden. Out of control growth isn’t always good. We have to keep it focused. And so I’ve been doing that a lot over especially the last year, the last couple of years. I used to think that more was better in my online business, and I’ve ratcheted way back. I stopped doing YouTube. A lot of people ask me when I’m coming back to YouTube, and probably never. We’ll see.
Amy Fewell I know. That was like a thorn in my side.
Jill Winger YouTube is a major thorn in my side, and I had to get honest with myself. I’m like, okay, Jill, you can’t write blog posts, write emails, do YouTube, do a podcast, and social media. What do you love? What do you feel most called towards? And YouTube didn’t make the cut for many reasons. I know there’s a lot of people who love it. That’s fine. But it wasn’t for me, and I had to give that up. And that was hard because I felt like there was that expectation. Like if you’re a homestead platform, you obviously have a YouTube channel. And I’m like, but I’m going to blaze the trail in the unconventional path and say no.
Amy Fewell Always. Yeah.
Jill Winger Yeah. I took a major break off of social media. I just went dark, basically, last year. I was finishing writing my book, but also I was just like, I don’t understand why I’m doing this right now. I just feel like I’m checking off boxes and going through the motions and creating content that I’m supposed to create. And I started to fall out of love with it. I mean, I love my businesses. I’ve always been so passionate about it. And when I started to lose that spark, it quite honestly scared me. And I’m like, is this the end? Is this where The Prairie Homestead dies? I don’t know. And so I had to just get quiet and sit with that and explore, okay, do I shut down the blog? Try that idea on for size. Do I stop the podcast? Do I stop social media? And so I thought through that ultimately decided I don’t want to give it up. I love my audience, I love creating, but it had to be within different boundaries. And so, yeah, stopped posting on Instagram. My assistant would post on Facebook and she just would like repost old articles. I kept the podcast going because that’s something I really love— having good conversations. But I stopped emailing. So I just went dark for a little bit and just reevaluated what was my zone of genius and how I could just lean into that. And so I also kind of rethought my content in general. Again, I think it’s just… Even in homesteading, like we talked about a minute ago, we can fall back into ruts. We can fall back into doing the shoulds and the obligations and just like checking off boxes. And I don’t want to live my life like that even within a platform that I love. So I think self-reflection is something that’s really important to me, especially over the last little bit.
Amy Fewell Yeah, we do that with our homesteads, too, right? Like what’s not working? Or where is it not working? And what can we add? What can we take away from? Like you were talking about Homesteady. They have all of these things that they’re doing. They have a lot going on. And so we all do. You know, even homesteaders who don’t have a platform have a lot going. Some of them have way more going on than I do personally, but you have to do that. You have to self-reflect and you have to take time to rest. There’s a lot of homesteaders that do one year sabbaticals, just letting their land rest. And that’s awesome too. Just giving yourself a break and taking that year to do nothing. Right? That’s a goal that we’re working towards. I think I mentioned this in a podcast recently where we’re working towards growing like three years’ worth of food over a three year time period. And then on that fourth year, resting a year and then coming back the following year and just working ahead so that you can take that time off because you need it. Your body needs it, your brain needs it, everything, your kids need it, your spouse need it. And so I think it’s really awesome that you can set that example as an influencer, but also as a homesteader and a mom and a wife. It’s pretty amazing because you don’t ever hear that, right? You don’t ever hear somebody say, “I’m taking a break.” And normally when they say I’m taking a break, they’re not coming back. But it’s okay to take breaks and get everything under control and pursue something different because, again, that’s how you grow, right? It’s always changing. Things are always moving. So you and I often talk about… I don’t feel like I see a lot of other people talking about this, but you and I have talked about on our social media quite a lot about stuff that’s in your book that’s coming out. So you talk a little bit about the Industrial Revolution and how the family unit in general in America kind of got off course. And so why we’re here in homesteading. So I wonder if you’ll talk about this just a little bit. For those of you watching on YouTube, it’s called Old Fashioned on Purpose: Cultivating a Slower and More Joyful Life. There’s the cover. It’s so pretty, by the way. But all right, tell us a little bit more about this book and what people can expect when they get it.
Jill Winger Yeah, so when I set out to write it, I didn’t want it to be just the typical homestead book. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I felt like I wanted to take it a little bit deeper and really get to the why behind homesteading. Also, you know, it has troubled me over the years, like I know what homesteading has done in my life and I see what it’s done to other people’s life. It’s really important in our modern culture. I’m not going to say it’s the only solution, but it’s a really big part of the solution. And I also know, as I’m looking at these principles and how crucial they are to us in our human development, that not everyone can buy a homestead or buy a milk cow or move to Wyoming or move to the country. So I’m also very cognizant of that. So I was sitting with that tension for a while and thinking, okay, every human needs these ideas. They don’t have to all buy a milk cow, but every human needs to have a piece of this. How can we bring it and distill it down so it’s accessible to even someone in New York City or someone in the suburbs? Because I’m like, these principles are too important to only be available to those of us who live in the country or have the nice little farmhouse or chickens or whatever. And so that was kind of the impetus for the book. And then I got super deep into the science of the principles that we love and follow as homesteaders and the history. And kind of I wanted to ask the question like, how did we get here to our modern world where we’re so off kilter? Everyone can admit—I don’t care what side of the political aisle you’re on—things are not… They don’t feel right. Like everything just feels a little off. And I’m like, why do we when we feel like that in an era of more convenience and more ease? And our lives are better than they’ve ever been. We don’t have the death rates and the diseases and the hardships that we did. So why are we more miserable than ever? And so I just started to really ask those questions and dig into it. And it was quite the ride, quite the journey. And getting into the hows of growing your own food and cooking from scratch and working with your hands, building community, and kind of how historically and scientifically those have been proven to have a really big impact on human development and happiness. So there’s practical pieces in the book, but I really wanted to go deeper beyond that.
Amy Fewell Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s much needed in our community, as you know, which obviously that’s why you wrote the book. You know, it’s pretty incredible because so many people… Like you just nailed it. It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on. I would say most homesteaders… I mean, there are some groups, right? But most homesteaders have that mindset, like, no one’s going to save us. No political party is going to save us. Nobody’s a good fit. I’m going to write in my own name during the presidential election. You know, it’s like this aha moment where people are finally waking up and saying the whole thing is a sham. Like this whole thing is just out of control, and there has to be… This way of living has got to grow. It just has to because this is where ingenuity and genuineness come from. And the backbone of America was, back in the day, small farms, family farms, and small business. It wasn’t big controlled environments. And so one of the things that we talk about at HOA or on the blog or in books and with people on the podcast is like it’s almost like creating a new system beside a broken system. And how do we do that? And, like you said, how did we get here? And so I’m excited. I’ve only just started reading this book because I just got it like last week. And so I’m really excited to read this, and you guys, we’ll link it in the show notes below and on the blog posts and all that stuff so you can order it and take a look at it and learn more about it, which is pretty cool. All right, Jill, I’ve kept you for 30 minutes already. I wonder… I know you’re busy, right? I wonder if there’s anything that’s burning in you to just share with the HOA audience, whether it’s about homesteading or business or life in general. What is something that you wish everyone could just know that you could speak into them?
Jill Winger Yeah, I mean, I think this is just pulling from a life lesson that I’ve really been reminded of recently. Don’t shy away from the hard. Whether you’re homesteading right now and you’re dealing with harvest or there’s stress on your homestead, or you’re working towards buying the homestead or moving to the homestead or you’re just trying to convert your suburban backyard into something that you’re proud of, lean into the hard moments. Don’t let it scare you away. And I think a lot of homesteaders know that. But even myself, I need to be reminded of that sometimes. We just completed—not completed—I would say we came to a really cool point in a really big project we’ve been working on. And it was the hardest project we’ve ever participated in in our entire lives. And that says a lot because Christian and I—my husband—we’ve done some pretty crazy things. And this was a project that we all cried. We’ve all wanted to give up. We all thought it was maybe a lost cause. And then we got to this this mountaintop experience. And it was the most incredible feeling. And I was just reminded like, you know, for the last year’s worth of hardship around that project, it all was worth it in that moment of perseverance and resilience. And it just was such a great reminder. And I just want people to know that. If you’re going through a hard time on your property or in your projects or in your business or whatever, don’t let that scare you off because there’s so much good that comes right on the other side of that. So keep that pioneer spirit and just keep on trucking, I think is my message for today.
Amy Fewell Yeah. You know, one of the final things I’ll talk about is, you know, you do have a lot of projects going on. And ultimately homesteading is wonderful, but eventually your homesteading lifestyle has to influence your outer community. And that’s what you’re doing. Do you want to talk just a minute about what you guys are doing? Like you have the soda fountain, you have the school, you have all these things you’re working on, and how your lifestyle is now branching out as it should and just completely involving your whole community now.
Jill Winger Yeah, it’s been such a big revelation for me. We started off—and I don’t think it’s wrong—but like, you know, most homesteaders, we started off very focused on our little nuclear homestead and that’s what needed to happen at the beginning because we had so much to do here. And it was new and it was exciting and we were learning all the things. And so all of our lessons revolved around our own personal property. And, you know, now like 15 years in where we’re sitting back and going, well, okay, the homestead is not done, but it’s pretty well established. And we have our routines and our processes. And Christian and I a couple of years ago started to go, you know, we live this life that we love, that we’ve created just the way we want it to be, but we’re not really having an impact on those around us. Like we have this wonderful little island of specialness. And we didn’t feel right keeping that to ourselves. And we also have developed, thanks to homesteading and entrepreneurship, a set of pretty specific skills. We’ve spent a lot of time and money creating those skills within ourselves and we’re like, I think it’s time we felt really called to like share those with just our little community around us. And so as people know, if they follow me, we started to figure out ways to invest back into our community, whether that was with projects or just our time and our energy. And that has been so rewarding. Also extremely hard, like extremely hard because sometimes you go into these small communities or big communities and the problems are there for a reason because either no one wanted to tackle them or nobody could figure out how to tackle them. So when you come in and you’re going to solve that problem, it’s not going to be easy and people are messy. I’d much rather deal with a grumpy milk cow then the town council member who’s just difficult. So there’s lots of messiness and stuff there. But investing in our soda fountain and being more involved and just civics in our little town… We did the charter school was the project I was referring to a minute ago. That’s a whole story. We’ve always been homeschoolers, but we felt really call that we were needed to help start this project-based charter school in this little town of ours. I’m so glad we took that leap. And a lot of people— not a lot, but we had a few go, “Why are you doing soda fountains and schools? That is not about homesteading.” I’m like, “Oh honey, it’s everything about homesteading.” Because homesteaders, even the old ones from 150 years ago, they didn’t exist in a bubble. They were extremely community minded. That’s what it was all about. Even if their homesteads were far away from each other, they put massive effort into getting together for dances and church and schools and parties. And so I think, you know, build your homestead, do what you need to do to get yourself stable. But I think the next logical step as we mature and grow… Like you said, if we’re not growing, we’re dying. The next logical step as we grow is to figure out how we can take all these and wonderful things were learning and growing on our homestead and bring it out to the world around us. So it’s been exciting and hard and messy, but I love it.
Amy Fewell Yeah. It’s amazing how much people are against schools. Because we started a school in our church. This will be our third year. So we start actually next week, and it’ll be our third year. And so my husband and I took that on and a couple other people in church. And even church people were so against it, and it was like, why? This is just like a no brainer that we’re getting kids into a more homestead minded, church minded, safe space, and suddenly you’re against that. And so any good thing that you’re going to do when you broaden into your community is always going to have opposition. It’s going to be you people you least expect the opposition from. It’s going to be, like you said, town councils and government sources that are going to be against you, too. And so that’s next level, right? Like we homestead; we’re great there. But then if we’re going to create a better system, if we’re going to create a better America, at some point you have to level up, right? You have to influence the community around you. If you want your community to feel safe, you’re going to have to be the one that influences that community around you because everybody else is just waiting for somebody else to do it.
Jill Winger And that’s just an important point I think in the homestead world, and I’ve said this and felt it in the past too, like self-sufficiency, we get so hyper-focused on that term, and that’s fine. I understand that. And it’s easy to feel like, especially in our current climate, that the world’s against you and we have to just tuck in and protect ourselves and our family. I understand that. But like you said, we cannot effect change if we’re only hermiting out just on our little property all the time. Like yeah, get your house in order. Absolutely. And then figure out how you can help those around you because we’re not going to do much if we’re just making sure that we’re… You know, us four, no more, we’re good, and ignore the rest.
Amy Fewell Yep. I agree. That’s a pretty good word, y’all. So listen to that and start focusing on your home, but also on your community. And gosh, we’ve talked about a lot in 35 minutes. We just crammed it in there.
Jill Winger And some semi-spicy topics too. So we’ll see what kind of feedback we get.
Amy Fewell Yeah. I like it. I like spicy topics.
Jill Winger Yeah, me too.
Amy Fewell All right, Jill, well, thank you for joining me this week for the Homesteaders of America podcast. I really appreciate it. I always love talking to you, whether it’s here or in person. It’s just wonderful. You guys check out Jill online. Again, all that information is in the show notes below. Grab her book. I know I can’t wait to read it, so you guys read it along. If you’ve read it, comment in the section below. And we will see you next time. And don’t forget, happy homesteading.
Amy Fewell Hey, thanks for taking the time to listen to this week’s Homesteaders of America episode. We really enjoyed having you here. We welcome questions and you can find the transcript and all the show notes below or on our Homesteaders of America blog post that we have up for this podcast episode. Don’t forget to join us online with a membership or just to read blog posts and find out more information about our events at HomesteadersofAmerica.com. We also have a YouTube channel and follow us on all of our social media accounts to find out more about homesteading during this time in American history. All right, have a great day and happy homesteading.