FYI – Live Free or Die follows five individuals who are living off the grid.
The series airs weekly at 10/9c on the National Geographic Channel
in the US, and will be picked up internationally later in the year:
National Geographic Channel asked me and a handful of other
homesteading bloggers to weigh in on the topic of ‘Rewilding’.
Rewilding: Finding the Sweet Spot Where Humans and Nature Connect
The goal is to become happy.
When I made the decision to move to the country and take up homesteading, I was in a state of distress: mentally, physically, and deep in my soul. I was empty, nerve-driven, and my heart was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t sure exactly how it would work, but I knew the forest would save me.
I live on an acre beside the forest. Year by year, I’ll be growing more and more of my own food; building, repairing, making my own stuff; becoming less reliant on a money-paying jobs; taking control of my own destiny.
Rewilding has been a quiet decision to return to nature and settle in. Nature is like an extraordinary symphony being played by ingenious musicians. We can choose to learn the music and blend in or crash through the orchestra pit and knock over all the instruments. It feels better and smarter to play in tune with the orchestra and participate in its rhythm.
This is the kind of life where every action is productive and meaningful and every breath draws in the full experience of living.
Quality becomes more relevant than speed. When you’ve grown a food item yourself, its value multiplies ten fold. Every lettuce leaf becomes a treasure. Not a single one gets thrown away or washed down the drain. The value of my work, of my food, of nature’s bounty is immediate and palpable. There is no such thing as waste when one lives in the wild. Each flake of bark, each grain of soil, each bird sound, and each tiny mushroom holds value.
Now I take pleasure in simple things: chopping wood, gathering berries, collecting mushrooms. Putting sweat, muscle, and breath into activities that produce tangible immediate results is extremely satisfying.
Since diving into the wild, my low-grade ever-present health problems have virtually disappeared. No more digestive issues, no more fatigue, no more chronic aches and pains.
Don’t get me wrong, the presence of the forest didn’t magically provide total healing. I had to make conscious choices about eating, sleeping, and other habits. The forest makes all this easier though by drawing me towards a lifestyle that incorporates its essence. Its impossible to live in this woodland atmosphere without being drawn into a cooperative kinship with it. Activities like producing plastic garbage just feel wrong. Eating cheezies, frozen pizza, and sugary cereal just feels wrong.
Practicing organic gardening has a direct impact on my health. Digging in the dirt and eating what I produce (spray-free) increases the number of beneficial bacteria in my gut. Clean dirt = no more digestive issues.
Blending in with nature’s way means growing a diversity of food crops and growing them in a way that encourages even more biodiversity – providing plant hosts for a variety of microflora, insects, birds and other critters. In a diverse eco-system, every ugly bug, annoying insect, and skittering rodent serves a purpose. This doesn’t mean I’m inviting mice to live in my walls, but I am intentionally creating a garden that allows a place for it all. Its realistic too: by choosing poly-cropping over mono-cropping, I can ensure that if the bugs destroy my tomatoes this year, I’ll still have squash and beans.
To make this move a success, I’ve done some research. I’ve learned about local edible plants and mushrooms; I’ve listened to old-timers relate their lifestyles and their attitudes; I’ve researched DIY skills and building methods; read about other homesteaders. This is not a nirvana where laziness and slacking off prevail. I work, every day, most of the day. But homesteading work doesn’t feel like toil. I’m doing it for myself and it has become pure joy.
Rewilding means taking control of one’s own destiny. Not being pushed around by the tides of popular living. It means getting grounded rather than running around. It means being influenced and touched by things that have meaning, rather than the empty mall-culture that surrounds us. We can stop being victims of a cynical social ethic, of mixed up TV morality, of ignorant media commentators, of greedy food corporation execs. We can stop being victims, period.
What now shapes my thoughts and my soul is something eternal, grounded, solid, and permanent: nature.
10 TIPS FOR REWILDING YOUR LIFE
- Grow some food. Even if its in a pot on your balcony. Make sure the seeds are organic and non-GMO. And please, no spraying. Mother Nature never heard of such nonsense.
- Go outside every day. Look at the sky, the trees, the soil, the insects. Observe and breathe.
- Build something with your own two hands. Make it out of natural materials or make something that serves a function. In other words, don’t bother making a decorative thing that will sit on a shelf – make clothing, toys, games, tools, storage boxes, furniture, etc.
- Change your internet habits. Switch from following stuff about celebrities or anything else shallow to following pages about nature, wildlife, natural diets, organic gardening, homesteading, DIY, whole foods recipes, green living.
- Change your TV habits. Make the same switch as for the internet as above. Turn off the celebrities, the angry news, the commercials, the teenagers, the nonsense. Unplug it or give it away. When the TV is gone, you will discover hours and hours of time to do real stuff.
- Change your buying habits. Start buying less and making more of your own. This includes meals. Stay out of drug stores – they are full of chemical junk and devoid of life. Think about what happens to what you bought after you are through with it.
- Change your relationship habits. Seek out people who have a deep need to reconnect with nature or are already living the life.
- Change your eating habits. If it comes in a crinkly, colored package it is bad for you and for the wild. Change one new thing every week. Eat more vegetables and whole foods rather than processed foods. Treat your body like it counts. Gradually switch each food item to organic: start with organic bananas – easy, cheap.
- Exercise. Outdoors.
- Change your saving habits. Stop buying small items, crap items, single-use disposable items. Put the money into savings instead – so that you are preparing for making that big change later when you are ready to dive into rewilding 100 percent.
Re-wilding is accessible to everyone. Its not just something for extremists who want to eat raccoon and live in a mud hut. It can be incorporated into ordinary, mundane everyday actions, thoughts, and emotions. It takes planning and practice and integrity. The steps must be consistent and continue over time.
Do yourself a favor: rewild. Every day. A little bit at a time. It will become addictive and will soon become who you are.