The word “coronavirus” wasn’t even a common word until January/February of this year. In fact, a coronavirus can be something as simple as the common cold . . . but we don’t walk around calling it “the coronavirus”. Somehow, the recent pandemic has labeled COVID-19 as exactly this. Whatever it is, and whatever we call it, I think we should have a conversation about homesteading and “the coronavirus”.
I was recently contacted by a large media company asking me if I thought we would see an increase in homesteading and prepping due to the recent outbreak here in America. I thought it was an interesting topic to think and report about. Would a large outbreak cause people to consider a homesteading lifestyle? Or will they simply rush to the store in a panic, become temporary preppers, and once danger has passed, go through their stash of toilet paper and tuna fish without considering the next “crisis”?
I think you can guess which one it will be for many. But I want to tell you why I hope more people will embrace the homesteading lifestyle during, and after, this situation we’re seeing across the world in 2020. I want to tell you why it’s important to encourage it, not discourage it. And I also want to take a very real look at why homesteaders may be less likely to be affected by the virus––physically, mentally, and with food storage.
In February of this year my entire household contracted the flu. For the first time in our fourteen years of marriage, my husband and I had the flu. Fourteen years. We’ve never gotten the flu shot. We’ve never gotten the flu during that time. But, of course, we’ve taken precautionary measures to help reduce our, and our children’s, exposure to the flu during flu season. In fact, it looks a lot like how you reduce your exposure to COVID-19––wash your hands, carry hand sanitizer with you, don’t touch stuff in public unless you have to, stay home more often, and don’t let your kids lick the windows in the Chick-fil-a play area. It’s simple.
Now, I often got the flu as a child. Back then we didn’t get swabbed and told what kind of flu we had, though. We just told them our symptoms and they said, “you have the flu”. Did we always have the flu? Probably not. Science has come a long way since then. But I would say that six out of ten times, I for sure had it based on symptoms, incubation period, and duration.
Once, when I was 18-years old, I was hospitalized several days for a sickness no one could tell me about. The consensus? It was some weird, mutated flu strain and before I left the hospital they wanted to take about 10 vials of blood and multiple swabs before sending me on my way home. Back then I didn’t think anything about it. Hindsight is 20/20.
So, when our household got the flu in February, I won’t lie, it wasn’t fun. But it was nothing like I remember it being when I was a child or teenager. My husband and I were recently talking about it, and when I asked him why the severity of the flu didn’t seem as bad (and both of our children got it––one 8 months, one 10 years old), he had a great response.
He said, “it’s because we live a different lifestyle now than we did then.”
It’s true. Growing up, and in our younger adult years, we lived off of processed foods, take out, and sugar. I was often sick, and when I was sick I felt like death. While I didn’t feel amazing this time around, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t function for a long period of time either.
Our children eat the fruit of our labor. We purchase very little processed foods––only as treats. That doesn’t mean the 10 year old won’t climb into the cabinet and eat said treats all at one time. But it does mean we have a very limited exposure to processed foods on the average day. Sure, we eat out. But it’s not nearly as much as the rest of society. We grow our own food. Preserve our own food. Purchase mostly organic food from the grocery store and farmers market, and use very little (if any) chemical cleaners inside of our home. We utilize natural remedies. We haven’t had to take fever or pain reducers in over a decade (not counting the recent bout of flu, where we did). We literally had to go and purchase a fever reducer for the first time in many years when we got the flu this year. And the only reason we took that is because we had extremely high fevers that nothing was helping.
In fact, homesteader’s are generally healthier, more active, and more satisfied with their lifestyle than others. We eat better, sleep better, physically work harder, and are aware of our health more than the average person. Because of this, we always have an upper hand. And for many of us that have turned to homesteading, we’ve noticed an increase in good health and wellness.
Could it be that our homesteading lifestyle caused us to get over our symptoms more quickly, and to lessen the severity of the flu symptoms? Could it be that our homesteading lifestyle prepared us for the flu? Absolutely.
As a family herbalist I learned long ago that the first line of defense in your health regime is to live a healthy lifestyle. It’s not to take all the herbs every single day, or wash your hands every two hours. It’s to be in control of your food source. To cook from scratch. To have a stress free environment––not in the “everyone needs a safe space” kind of way, but in the way where you choose not to feel stressed on a regular basis by saying the right “yes” and the right “no” with your time. You choose to live a simple life. I don’t consider gardening and homesteading to fall into a stressful category. Hard work? Absolutely. Stressful? Not often.
Did you know that 2.8 million people die each year from obesity or obesity related health issues? 2.8 million every year. That’s far higher than the death rate of the flu or the recent coronavirus. But did you also know that these very same people could be at a higher risk?
Did you know that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), you’re less likely to get sick if you are physically active (and that doesn’t mean walking on a treadmill), eat healthy foods, are mentally and emotionally stable, and conscious of your surroundings?
Do you know what makes me mentally and emotionally stable? Homesteading.
Do you know what makes me strive to be more physically fit and healthier? Homesteading.
Do you know what contributes to our emergency food storage?
We work hard, physically. Which creates a stronger body in the long run. It challenges the mind. It creates a lifestyle that my children enjoy. It teaches responsibility and good character. It creates a joy that I could’ve never imagined. The pride of working hard for something that feeds your family is astounding.
We have an appreciation for food storage, and often times our food storage looks like the eggs we collect each and everyday from a chicken coop. Food on tap, anyone? If we want to get technical, most homesteaders should have a year’s supply of food storage on hand at the end of each harvest season, if we’re trying to live a self-sufficient lifestyle. And that food storage should come right off of, and out of, the ground you raise it on and grow it in, or from utilizing local connections. We’re all on a journey, and whether you have a year’s worth or a week’s worth . . . I simply encourage you to make wiser decisions with your overall health. And, honestly, I think that’s why most of us are in this homesteading thing.
As I continue to read reports and watch the news (mostly news in other countries so that I get whole truths), I am aware, but I am not consumed.
I am aware that there is a pandemic happening. I am aware that there is a very real possibility that our communities could begin shutting down. I am aware that we could contract this virus by shaking hands, touching door knobs, and simply standing next to someone at the grocery store. I am aware that this could impact our family members who are older, or who have cancer and are on chemo. It’s no different than the flu. But the one thing I am not––I am not consumed by it.
They say that when the depression hit in 1929 that the people in communities that were homesteading never even knew about it. Partially because they were so poor that a homesteading lifestyle is all they knew. But also, because they were so self sufficient in their way of life that a stock market crash didn’t even effect them. Goals. Those are my goals. Are they realistic goals? Maybe not. But my goal as a homesteader is to be active in assembly and community, but also proactive in the daily life of my family, my homestead, and my life.
I have a pig, pastured poultry, and venison in my freezer. I have an abundance of canned items leftover from 2018 and 2019. I have emergency food storage. Not because I just run to the store to get it all (though we did stock up more), but because this is the life we live. Plain and simple.
We have herbal regiments that we take to boost our immune system. Not because of COVID-19, but because this is the homesteading lifestyle we live. We are already doing all the things that we should be doing, even before the panic erupted.
We aren’t scared of a virus. We’re already prepared for that mentally, physically, and with food storage simply because of the lifestyle we live.
Because homesteading isn’t just about gardening and livestock. It’s about being aware, but not consumed. It’s about living a lifestyle detached from a corrupt food and pharmaceutical system. It’s about taking responsibility for your life and your family’s lives. Because after all, our lives are our own responsibility. And we’re worth it.
It does sadden me, however, for the people not living this lifestyle. And that’s why I hope, as a homesteader, that you encourage others to homestead long term during and after this time. That their eyes won’t just be opened for a fleeting moment, but for a lifetime. Check out what a local homesteader had to say about her decision to homestead.
We turned to homesteading after 9/11. That morning, I was sitting in traffic on 395 and saw the plane crash into the Pentagon. It was life-changing. Later that year, we decided we no longer wanted (nor needed) city-living. We began our search for the perfect country home and eventually moved to the Northern VA countryside in 2003. After having worked in national politics and for a US Senator, I stopped commuting to DC and worked locally in Marshall. Within a few years and after lots of farmhouse soapmaking, I started my company (now 10 years into it). Former DC suburbanites, we now grow our own herbs and veggies, keep bees & chickens and support local farmers. I can’t imagine ever going back to our old life. What we have now is real and pure… and truly gratifying.––Cindy Lawson DeVore
When I asked the question on my personal Facebook page if people thought more people would turn to homesteading because of the current pandemic, there were mixed feelings. The most common one, however, was, “no, not unless they already felt the nudge to homestead.” But we know now that, more often than we think, there is an instinct instilled inside of us already that nudges us to a simpler homesteading life. It’s why we get concerned about our food when crises happen. It’s why we take vacations to countrysides and gawk over beautiful gardens. It’s why people buy pastured chickens and pigs instead of growing it themselves.
I made a post on social media this week about the importance of having emergency food storage. I was surprised by the amount of people who said I was furthering the hype and fear mongering. Someone asked me why I was afraid of coronavirus. My response, “I’m not afraid of contracting the virus. I’m concerned about the people who don’t know how to live a self-sufficient lifestyle when a crisis like this heightens. I’m concerned about communities shutting down.”
The people who will flood the streets because of the hype. The people who will suddenly get serious about their food only to find that there’s none left. Then where do they go? You want to see panic? You’ll see it if that happens. That’s not fear, that’s just truth. We see it time and time again in natural disasters. And this is the importance of living a life where it doesn’t affect you, because you were prepared before it even happened.
Prepared not just with food and natural remedies. But prepared by living a lifestyle that physically, mentally, and emotionally edifies you. That enriches your soul. That gives you a better quality of life.
Doesn’t that sound amazing? Why aren’t we sharing about it more? In the midst of a chaotic situation, could we all promise to share about our lifestyle? And then, could we all promise to teach others how to live it? Not in a stuck up way that says, “I’m better because I’m more prepared.” But in a way that says, “hey, I know where you are and how you feel, let me show you a better way.”
There are people within our own organization that are feeling the direct impacts of the virus outbreak in the state of Washington. As homesteaders, they are prepared. But what we don’t ever consider is the mental and emotional exhaustion that happens as you watch your surrounding community completely shut down around you. People in a panic. People not making eye contact with you because they are concerned you’ll sneeze on them or talk to them. This is a reality that’s happening in our own country. It’s real. This is what preppers have been prepping for over the last four or more decades.
Even here in Virginia, you can’t find a bottle of hand sanitizer within a forty-mile radius of my current location.
But here’s what I hope we’ll do . . .
I hope we’ll see that our homesteading lifestyle is a gift. You have been given a gift of sight to see that this lifestyle is a truly amazing, and necessary lifestyle. If not for your good health and sanity, but for the mere fact that you’ll never experience the fear of not being able to know life skills. Do you realize that more fear in people probably stems from not understanding how to take care of themselves rather than dying from a virus? That’s why grocery store shelves are empty.
I hope we’ll see that our homesteading lifestyle is to be shared and expanded, not placed in a box away from people. People lack even the basic skill of cooking. Who’s going to teach them if their ancestors are gone?
I hope we’ll be empathetic, not apathetic, towards those who are truly scared and worried about the pandemic in their communities. Many of us have no idea how contagious fear is in even the bravest of hearts until we’re living in the middle of something we never thought we’d see.
And I hope we’ll realize that this homesteading lifestyle isn’t just a way to grow our own food. It’s a way of life––an old way of life––that is truly the difference between feeling the weight of “life or death”. A way of life that we should appreciate not only because we are naturally prepared for whatever comes our way, but because we have the ability to take care of ourselves in a society that screams that someone else should take care of you. A society that screams that you don’t need to grow your food or be in control of your health care because someone else can do that for you. If nothing more, I hope this has taught our society that the mindset of “someone else can take care of you” is completely and totally false.
Friends, I wish you well. I wish you health and happiness. I pray your seeds germinate and your crops grow well this spring and summer. And I hope that you’ll embrace this lifestyle, and appreciate this lifestyle, more than ever before.
More than anything, I wish you peace during a less than peaceful time, in every way, in our country.
Grow those seeds. Love your family. Turn the tv off and homestead. And if someone asks . . . show them the way to a better lifestyle . . . a homesteading lifestyle.
About the author:
Amy Fewell is the Founder of Homesteaders of America, and is an author, photographer, blogger, wife, herbalist, and homesteading mama. Find her most recent books, The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion and The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook online, and visit her blog at http://www.thefewellhomestead.com.