Gardening

Recently, I went to visit my brother. I found myself drawn to his neighbor’s backyard that was a vegetable garden paradise. 

The folks living there were busy harvesting the last of the veggies. By my estimation, this small backyard likely produced an incredible amount of food for this family.

Many times, people will say to me, “We would grow our own food if we had a homestead like you. If we only had enough space (or knowledge or experience), we would be homesteaders and grow food and raise chickens for eggs, just like you. But we don’t, so we can’t.”

Listen to me. You can. I get excited when I see a small planting box with a few tomato plants. The tiniest of efforts can be so rewarding. As we begin the journey into autumn, consider what you can do to benefit the planet and yourself by growing some delicious, nutrient-dense food. But consider these things with a full picture of what that means.

A decade ago a windstorm knocked out power to my home for a week. A few months later, an ice storm did the same. We were truly concerned that an extended time without power would leave us vulnerable. Thus began our journey toward self-sufficiency and homesteading. From our tiny, backyard, raised-bed garden to our multiple gardens and our menagerie of animals on 14 acres, we have come a long way.

Today, not only do we have our own little homestead operation, we have also developed relationships with others who are of like mind, specializing in areas outside our expertise.

I understand there are many who are leaving the suburbs, concerned about social unrest and the uncertainty of available resources. I know it sounds like a wonderful solution to move out onto a bit of land, grow food, dig wells and split and burn firewood in the woodstove. Before you make that move, let me make a few suggestions:

1. Know your limits.

“We’re going to move to the middle of nowhere and live off-grid, completely self-sufficient!” If you have never done anything like this, I would encourage you to just say “no.” Homesteading is hard work—cold hands in the winter, dripping sweat in the summer, carrying bags of feed and bales of hay and armloads of firewood, digging holes for fence posts, lifting, hauling, moving, and so much more. It is work.

Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him” (ESV).

2. Find community.

True homesteading is a community effort. Harvesting fields, processing chickens, butchering hogs and raising barns historically were all community efforts. The level of trust necessary between neighbors was vital in these efforts. People grew more veggies than they needed, sharing with one another the abundance of the harvest. No one needed social media. “Social” happened as neighbors worked together for the good of the community.

Sounds like church!

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44-47 ESV).

3. Study and learn.

People ask me if I grew up on a farm. Nope. They wonder if I have lived like this my entire life. Not at all. I grew up riding my bike on the streets of my suburban neighborhood. We grew a large garden, and regularly gathered apples from one uncle’s place and grapes from another.

Concern for “what would happen if?” pushed me into the effort. I simply set my mind to study and learn about growing food and raising animals. YouTube videos, books, magazines and online articles all have been my training ground for learning how to do what I do. (Currently, I have been watching teaching videos on how to harvest and process pigs, preparing for another first.)

Before we go into the world to make disciples as we are commanded, we should study and learn.

2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (ESV).

4. Don’t be anxious.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 ESV).

’Nuff said. To God be the glory!

Denny Dillman is benevolence pastor at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.