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yours, mine, and ours

by rory feek

As much as there is a desire to be more self-sufficient in homesteading, there is just as much of a need to rely on our neighbors and be an integral part of a community we’re part of…   

My nephew Mikel, who works with me every day here at the farm, has an eighteen-month-old baby boy named Theo.  Since Mikel’s last name is Hunt, and the baby’s full name is Theodore Bear… you can imagine, how much we all love seeing little ‘Teddy Bear’ Hunt stop by.  He’s as cute as can be and is a welcome addition to a family tree that already has a few wild limbs growing here and there.

Like a lot of families this day and age, Mikel’s is a blended family.  When he and his wife Hannah married a few years ago, he brought with him his now-six-year-old daughter Olivia, and Hannah brought her now-sixteen-year-old daughter Annabelle. So now with little Theo, theirs is a world of yours, mine and ours in every way possible.

One Saturday morning recently Mikel came and processed the meat birds he’d been raising and brought his wife Hannah along. I offered to help, especially since it was Hannah’s first time, and as we all stood at the table, working and talking and laughing, it reminded of the ‘yours, mine & ours’ philosophy that I’ve been trying hard to put into practice here at our farm and in our community for the last couple of years. Doing my best to make available, things that we have here that could be a blessing to someone else - being aware of things that others have, that could be a blessing to us - and at times going in together on things, that can be a blessing for the whole community.

Having lived here on our farm for nearly 24 years now, and being aware how easy it is these days to do life separately from those around me, I have been thinking a lot the last few years about community.  About the disintegration of community in our lives.  How in times past, we used to need each other more. Rely on each other.  We not only lived next to each other, we did life together.  And how life is meant to be shared, and when you set yourself up to play a part in a community, you ultimately find friends and meaningful relationships that you would’ve missed out on.

In today’s big-box retail world of Home Depot, Lowes, and stores similar to them, the goal is to encourage every family and every home to purchase all the things they need and not be dependent on others. To fill each and every house, barn and garage in America, full of the same things. And most of us have bought into that philosophy, whether we realize it or not.  That might be the best thing for their bottom-lines, but it’s not the best thing for us as people.

Like most of other folks who spend a good bit of their time and lives homesteading, I have a desire to be more self-sufficient. But at the same time, I also have a strong desire to be deeply connected to the community I’m part of and to do that, I think it’s important to for us to ‘need’ them and hopefully they ‘need’ us too.  Sometimes it’s challenging to our egos to ask, “would you giving me a hand with this?’, or “could I borrow that”.  And in exchange, want them to ask us the same things.

I believe we are blessed to be a blessing to others.  And so for me, if there’s something I have that can be helpful for someone else, that’s what it’s here for.  I’ve found that when it comes to making big, or even smaller purchases, the first thought I think is, “can this be a blessing for more than just me and my family?”.

A year or two ago, when we bought the plucker, scalder, cones and other supplies from the company Featherman and built a chicken processing room here at the farm, our goal was to not only create a place where we can process the meat birds that we grow here, but also provide a place where neighbors and friends can come and process their birds too.  And since then, many have either come to do just that at our place, or borrowed the plucker or other items and taken them to where they’re doing their processing.  Honestly, we knew that what we built was more than we needed, but we also knew it was an opportunity to invest in the needs of our community.

Last year when our friend Jim, who’s farm is a few miles from ours, bought a skidsteer (something we desperately need from time to time at our place), he said, “what if you guys buy the big trailer needed to haul it, and you can use my skidsteer when you need it, and I’ll use the trailer when I need it?”.  And so that’s just what we did, and it’s worked out perfectly for both of us.

As we continue to pay attention, we keep seeing and finding new opportunities that come up where we can put this idea in place.  Where one of our neighbors has some equipment or a wood shop that we can come use when we need it, and in return, they come and use what we have.  We’ve recently started working on creating a full auto-shop in the bus barn where neighbors and we, can do a lot of the maintenance on our vehicles. We’ll have a place with a car lift and it will be a blessing not just for us, but for the neighbors around us too.

So look around your garage, or barn, or house and consider letting your neighbors know what you have that could be a blessing to them.  And since you already have it, ask them to consider not buying one, and borrowing yours instead.  You’ll be surprised at how you opening your doors to others, they will in turn begin to think the same way and open the same doors to you.

Life is meant to be shared, and when you set yourself up and actively choose to play an active part in the community you’re part of, you’ll ultimately find friends and meaningful relationships that you would’ve missed out on.

*this article was originally written for and part of the August 2023 issue of Plain Values magazine.

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