In November 2012 I was honored to be awarded Grit Magazine’s Homesteader of the Year award! Words can’t describe how elated my husband and I were for this recognition. Below is the winning essay that was chosen during the final selections – I hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed the writing!
Living the “simple” life has rewards & benefits that outweigh all the hardships.
I was raised pert near off grid, in an organic and sustainable way in the woods of South Alabama. Now, keep in mind my people didn’t call it by those words – they called it necessity or just plain livin’. I grew up with a sense of thrift, I was taught to care for our Earth and all the wild things, I was encouraged to be resourceful in my endeavors and above all I was taught to live small – that things aren’t what mattered, that knowing how to grow your own food matters and sharing what you have matters more.
I carried the lessons of childhood, my skillset as it were, into my career as an interpretive naturalist. I’ve always tried to live relatively sustainably, however I recently made the decision to go whole hearted. After traveling, learning and living for a while, I took a significant step back to the old ways from whence I came. This shift was mainly brought on by a career choice. I decided to leave a steady paycheck – purchased from a company whose disregard for environmental ethics I had grown to detest – and exchange it to help create a nonprofit environmental education organization that would devour my savings, and offer no paycheck but the simple gratification of inspiring a greater awareness our natural world.
My husband and I purchased a grandmother house that was born in the 1850’s. This beautiful old beast is 20 miles away from any healthy town in rural Georgia, and there are several miles of dirt road and a couple of creek-crossings before you reach her driveway. The floors are crooked, the roof leaks, and the electrical wiring must have been installed by Thomas Edison himself. But she has wood floors, antique hand-built fire places, a porch you could live on and land enough for a garden and chickens and serenity.
There are no visible neighbors – even a lady has the option of cutting the grass with no shirt on, or bathing in the front yard under the water hose. When we embraced the idea of homesteading in the middle of nowhere I envisioned the land, garden, chicken coop and flower beds like pictures in a magazine – all with Pinterest worthy photo opportunities.
In reality, this lifestyle that we tend, has been a lesson in truth and ingenuity. I occasionally do bathe under my water hose in the front yard, because there’s no other option when the ancient plumping that feeds the bathroom lays itself to rest. And luckily, we are very near a decent swimming hole, so when the well pump develops an attitude problem the swimming hole becomes the washing machine and bathtub for ourselves as well as our out of town city-folk guests.
I’ve learned that a true homesteader can and does routinely wash dishes and brew coffee from rain barrel water and that life is richer without television, cell phones and even sometimes without electricity. I know now that the garden can feed you – if you set your mind to it – even when there’s no rain falling and the sunshine is cooking the vegetables on the stalk.
Homesteading continues to show me that the best lessons are the ones you teach yourself- plucking a chicken is much easier if you singe the feathers beforehand, knives have to stay sharp, candles should always be available, fresh grown herbs are medicine, jelly jars make great drinking glasses and nothing that can be reused should ever be thrown away. I also know now that, snakes can be safely relocated, yes you CAN skin a deer all by yourself and when a tree falls on the house you can just smile a confident homesteader’s smile, because you know right where you put that extra tarp – and now you’ve got firewood for the winter to boot!
According to Hank Will, Grit’s editor in chief, Pierce-McDonald’s dedication and approach to homesteading caught the staff’s eye.
“Your mindset on the homestead can make or break you. With Tauna’s can-do spirit and sense of humor, she’ll trump any challenge that comes her way,” he says.