the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life

Romanticism Debunked


A follow up on yesterday’s Instagram post.

Do you know how hard it is to knead dough for 10 minutes straight? It’s winter so you’re wearing a sweater, but about two minutes in you start sweating and have to fineagle the sweater off without getting dough all over it. Then your hair gets in your mouth, but you don’t dare try to pull it out for fear of getting flour in your hair. If you’re a newbie to baking like me, your hands cramp. You can’t skimp on the kneading – if you do, you end up with dense, crumbly bread.

Have you ever used a whetstone? It’s a huge learning curve, and there are hundreds of videos on Youtube with conflicting techniques and different advice. The motion used to sharpen must be learned through muscle memory, which means the only way to get it is to practice hundreds, no thousands of times. I practiced sharpening for over two hours yesterday, and only felt slightly more confident than when I began. My knife was noticeably sharper, but nowhere near where I’d like it to be. Sharpening with a whetstone is a true practice of patience.

Has one of your friends ever found a dead worm in your house? The little bugger escaped from his new home, and conveniently died right on our living room carpet. When they’re dead, they are hard little sticks. You get a really weird look, and you know deep down your friends think you’re crazy for keeping worms as pets. It takes the worms a while to adjust to a new home though, so for now you just pick up the dead ones when you see them and hope nobody else notices.

I don’t write this to be a complain-y pants. I write this because it’s easy to be lulled into the romanticism of self-reliance. You can picture yourself ambling among rows of tomato plants with fat juicy fruits, the gentle summer breeze blowing your hair. You can imagine the way fresh baked bread with homemade jam tastes. You can envision the smiles on your friends faces when you hand them a bottle of homebrew you’re proud of. But what you never daydream about is the really hard work that this lifestyle takes, and the endless mistakes you will make. You don’t picture your hair matted with red clay, glued to your forehead in the oppressive summer heat while you attempt to train the stubborn tomato vines onto a stake without breaking any fruits or leaves off. You don’t imagine the mess canning jam leaves behind in your kitchen. You don’t picture painstakingly cleaning and sanitizing ten pieces of equipment and twenty beer bottles so your batch doesn’t skunk.

I’m guilty of romanticizing homesteading on this blog, because hey – part of the reason this blog exists is because I want to turn others onto this lifestyle. The rewarding aspects of this life DO exist, and damn are they sweet. But everything comes at a cost, and in this lifestyle that cost is your hard work and mental fortitude.

8 thoughts on “Romanticism Debunked

  1. I have yet to take the plunge into homemade bread, but it’s on my life goals to-do list. I would love to stop purchasing store-bought bread, but homemade bread is a tough thing to master! It’s not something I’m focusing on at this point, but maybe come this fall I’ll start giving it some serious effort. I’ve made a few loaves in the past, but nothing that I’d want to replace the bread full time (it’s a bit tough when having to feed a 5 year old too – she isn’t that picky, but she does love her PB and Honey sandwiches haha.)
    I completely agree with the point of your post though…I feel like in many cases a self-reliant lifestyle is incredibly romanticized both online and even on the TV shows which showcase it. In reality is is a TON of work, but it’s work I feel that is ultimately rewarding!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hard work and fortitude, so true. Kudos to you and your hand kneading, for I do have to admit that I have a powerful mixer to knead bread and bake, otherwise it just wasn’t going to happen. I would rather put my effort into gardening, where I do use all non electric or non gasoline powered tools; this kind of sweat I revel in.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s