With the decay of the family unit, we have looked for ways to safeguard family relationships. That is partly what led us to work together as a family to build our off-grid homestead. The first parts of this theme speak of our worldview and the decision to live debt-free. Now we will look at how we have chosen some practical ways to build strong family ties by living off the grid in a tiny house.
Building a homestead from scratch has its challenges. Building it without connection to grid power increases those challenges, especially after being accustomed to relying on it. This is a perfect setting for a team of workers collaborating to accomplish otherwise daunting tasks. It is adventuresome, exciting, healthy, invigorating, satisfying, educational, and unifying. When friction or bickering raise their ugly heads, collaborators must stop and work out a resolution if progress is expected. We cannot run from conflict long or everything grinds to a halt and everyone suffers till it is resolved.
Before the industrial revolution, it was normal for families to work together daily on their homesteads. The introduction of modern day machinery, appliances, and electricity encouraged many to move to a more convenient city life. Losses to the family structure were huge. Fathers left home every morning for a “real” job to support a more expensive lifestyle, and to provide their family with the “best” of life. One income could not support all the new “needs” so mothers left for work as well, and entrusted their children to the care of others much earlier in life than before.
Stay-at-home mothers are in the minority today, but fathers who work at home with their families are rare. Every person in the modern family has a separate social life outside the home that pulls and competes for affections and loyalties. Even church life fragments the family into various age and social groups. Any wonder why peer and social pressures win over family relationships and values?
Years ago, it became a dream of ours to work together with our children rather than go different directions every day. Strong family relationships may be possible with “normal” jobs and school, but less likely. Instead of working out, I have been free to save and live with less rather than earning money. It is a privilege to live thriftily, share almost every growing moment with our children, and study things like natural health and diet and intensive growing methods, saving tremendously on medical and food bills.
It has been much tougher to bring Silver Oak home. The transition from self-employment away from home to a home-based enterprise has been very challenging. We have cut expenses dramatically by our lifestyle choices, enabling him to sell or give up many landscaping accounts we previously depended on. It has been financially difficult, yet every day spent at home developing a more productive homestead and other streams of income, is another day speaking more into the lives of our children. Our children will not be here forever, and we won’t regret time well-spent with them.
When Silver Oak works at home, Farmer Boy is his right-hand man, learning many valuable skills alongside him. This preparation for manliness beats being stuck with his mom and sisters all the time. Whatever Silver Oak does, Farmer Boy gets excited about. In free time he builds structures, connects plumbing lines with leftover PVC, wires imaginary “electrical” projects, changes tires on his wagon, and plants his own garden patch. One day in town he pointed out the upper control arms and ball joints on the monster truck next to us. How did he ever know what they were? He had helped Silver Oak replace those parts on our pick-up. What confidence-building learning experiences loaded with good memories to carry him into manhood! Oh…if you’re worried, he’s above average in reading skills, and pretty good in math in case you’re thinkin’ he’s missin’ his book-larnin’. ?
While we each have various chore assignments, our favorite way to accomplish things on the homestead is working together. Together we have made a long driveway, built our deck, dug a well, erected a windmill, created raised row gardens, cleaned out barnyard and rabbit manures, spread literally tons of mulch and manures, planted many trees and edible shrubs, put the cover on the bio shelter, cleared lots of palmettos, pulled weeds, planted and processed sugarcane, installed solar panels, cut firewood, made pretty scarves from panty-hose, done laundry by hand, and much more. Our favorite time spent working together is in the morning before the sun gets baking hot, around 6 or 7am till breakfast time. We have made many good memories this way.
A tiny house also helps build family ties. When we go somewhere else for the night our children actually prefer to be together in the same room to sleep. They enjoy each other and keep each other straight. No one sneaks around without someone noticing. It is a great safeguard in this age of easily accessed morally damaging materials. We do have designated times and places for privacy and belongings, especially for the older ones, and they are expected to respect each other’s boundaries. In this small space we work around each other, help each other, and keep things picked up for space to do the next thing.
Sometimes things are a disastrous mess, we get in each others’ way, and we grouch at each other! But my favorite thing is hearing the children sing together in harmony going about their various household tasks…which could not happen as easily spread out in a big house.
This lifestyle does not automatically solve all family problems. It’s a challenge learning to include a child or two in all our work, rather than “efficiently” doing it ourselves. However, being together a lot naturally fosters stronger family ties and identity, encouraging our children’s hearts to be turned to us as parents, and our hearts to be turned to our children (Mal. 4:6; Luke 1:17).
Living off the grid in a tiny house is not for everyone, but we enjoy it! Stick around for part four of this series.
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Note: Credit must be given to Silver Oak for editing, critiquing, commenting on, and offering Scripture for what is written. This is his vision (as well as mine), and he blesses me for taking time to write it down, freeing him to answer the many projects calling his name “out there.”
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