I always had a secret fantasy of living on a farm. I have always been attracted to very primary/basic vocations and activities. I never wanted to be in a high rise working a job in middle management selling widgets (or like on the movie “9 to 5,” working for a company called Consolidated where no one even knows what they do.) But since I am disabled and can’t drive, living rurally on a farm and growing my own food seemed so preposterous I never gave it much consideration.
Even though I grew up surrounded by farmland in the midwest, I was a city girl and barely grew more than a bean plant in a styrofoam cup for science class. I went to college, got an M.Ed degree, and worked some jobs in academia. My side hustle became home health care. I got married, had three children (plus two step children) and live in the burbs in the Pacific Northwest with a light rail train less than half a mile away.
As climate change became more of an impending crisis, and I found myself standing next to my teenage son at Greta Thunberg’s School Strike rallies, along with seeing that our government and corporations are not going to do enough to take charge of this issue, I began to ask myself, “Besides voting and political activism, what should I be doing here? What does it look like to have a sustainable life?”
I started watching and reading about off-grid homesteaders. I found Off-Grid with Doug and Stacy, the Swedish off-grid Talasbuan with Tova and Matthias, and The Hollar Homestead with Megan and Ben and many others in books and blogs and vlogs. I found all of these people to be inspirational to me in different ways. But I wondered, where do disabled people fit in to THAT world?
If we go “back to basics,” does that mean that disabled people go back to dependence, invisible lives warehoused in institutions, or even being left to die? What if you can’t drive to the country? What if you have to stay close to your dialysis center, what if you can’t wheel yourself in a power chair all over the farm and squat to garden? What will happen to people when they age in these homesteads? How will they survive when they are elderly (which also means disabled?) I wanted to explore what back to the land would mean for the disabled. Are we a part of this? Or will it be another thing that goes on without us and in the myth of “self-sufficiency” we will be marginalized again.
I am Deafblind with chronic kidney disease. My husband is blind. Although he sees nothing, I do have some usable hearing and vision, but not a lot and it changes constantly. We are VERY dependent on our technology. Our computers, iPhones and digital braille devices are our links to the world. In fact, promoting and teaching access technology is how we make a living. We are also very dependent on public transportation and ride share since neither of us drive. I am dependent on medical care. Although I am currently not on dialysis, I have stage IV kidney failure. At some point in the future, I will either need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Currently, I am tied to the medical lab across the street from me which monitors my well-being on a regular basis via blood and urine tests. My family is not really the ideal candidates for shoving off into the wild blue yonder.
Another issue we (and some, but not all disabled people) have is that we have some serious gaps in knowledge about how to do some everyday things. This goes beyond disability as our generation that has lost so much of the skills that our grandparents and great grandparents had as second nature. Growing food, building and fixing things, canning, storing, sewing, etc. is not anything I ever learned. My husband grew up on a potato farm in Sweden, but even he has issues with some of these things, too, as he was not given a lot of the same opportunities as others might have gotten to learn these skills. Being disabled can lead to even less opportunities to learn new skills and thus more gaps in knowledge. Often, rather than teach disabled people things, people cast us aside and just do it themselves without even bothering to teach us. As blind people, we can’t even easily watch a person and get an idea of what to do. Manuals and books are often inaccessible and Youtube instructional videos are also many times out of our reach. So, Nik and I are really, really, really, really really green and unknowledgeable about many things that others know how to do with their hands. I certainly think all of these things are things blind people are capable of doing, but the instruction and opportunity has just not been out there for us. So, we will try to learn, but will surely do stupid stuff and it may take longer for us to figure out.
But what I hear these homesteaders saying over an over again is to use what you have, do what you can. If that isn’t the exact philosophy of the disability community, I don’t know what is. Actually, as I learn more about Permaculture (which before I thought was some type of plant!) I see overlaps between the paradigms of this philoposophy and that of disability culture. I know that if I knocked off everything on my master list, it will but make a tiny dent in sustainable living, but I would like to learn how far I can go, and go as far as I can. Who knows? Maybe I will get an acreage some day!
This blog is mostly for me to be kept accountable, but I decided to make it public because there is such community and a wealth of knowledge out there. I would love for anyone who wants to follow our progress to follow me and to comment and offer advice or ideas. I thought about doing a vlog, but at this time, vlogging is such a visual pursuit and I am unable to edit video, take quality video, etc. My pictures are struggles enough, but at least there I have some tech that can help me. I may try to do a few videos, but I know I can write and put up photos, so we will start there.
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