“Survival games are a subgenre of action video games set in a hostile, open-world environment, where players generally begin with minimal equipment and are required to collect resources, craft tools, weapons, and shelter, and survive as long as possible.” (Wikipedia)
Survival gamers have the potential to be great homesteaders. Clearly, they’re interested in all the right elements. They’ve already been paying for introductory classes online, $60 at a time.
I first fell in love with survival games in 2013, and I fell HARD. DayZ, Don’t Starve, Rust, and 7 Days to Die were the most prominent games of the time, and I logged hundreds of hours on them. And though I grew with a passion for survival scenarios, it wasn’t until 2017 that I put the two things together and it spelled “homestead”. I’ve skipped straight over LARPing and gone for living it.
If it’s in me to make that leap, it’s probably in you, too. But where to begin?
Homesteading evokes images of country farms and living like the Amish. No phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury… living in closer harmony with the land, a kitchen functioning as a true heart of the house, alive with baking and canning. Fresh food, without any chemicals you didn’t add yourself. A simpler, more economic life. And if the apocalypse comes? We’ll be just fine out here. We are the Wilderness Family.
Realistically, we can’t all do that. But we don’t need to. If we limit interest in homesteading to those who have successfully obtained some acreage and are raising livestock, it limits the usefulness of the concept. If 100,000 people move to the countryside and start farming (which would be AMAZING), that has less of a positive impact on the environment than if every citizen living in New York were to turn off unused lights. Not off-grid; just less-grid.
So urban homesteading, taking bits and pieces from full frontal homesteading and bringing them into a smaller space, but not limited to people living in the city. I was listening to a great podcast along these lines today, The Modern Homesteading Podcast by Harold Thornbro. As he put it, “I’m here sitting in front of a computer.” Modern homesteading feels like it might sum up what I’m thinking of, sort of the sister to the maker movement. Don’t give up electricity, or Netflix, or computers and consoles. Keep all those things, but start learning a few things about taking care of yourself.
Like what kind of things? Here are just a few of the skill trees available in homesteading:
- Home brewing. It may or may not be cheaper than stopping by the corner liquor store, but brewing your own beers, ciders, wines, and meads is a fun skill to train up.
- Canning. Even if it’s just a matter of making a big batch of homemade salsa, canning offers a long term solution to large food quantities from a fall harvest… or just a big sale at the grocery store.
- Fermenting. Making your own pickles and kombucha is SO EASY. You pay top dollar for probiotics, and yet they are some of the simplest things to produce.
- Dehydrating. Home dehydrators come in all sizes. I got mine on Craigslist for a fraction of retail price. I’ve made dried bananas, pineapples, apples, pears, peaches, and beef jerky so far.
- Gardening. The form this takes depends on the space available, but even if you just have a sunny apartment window, you could grow some herbs. Have you seen how expensive fresh herbs are at the market? I’ve grown big beautiful fennel plants in a living room window, and gardening is NOT my strongest skill.
- Meal planning. Planning a week or a few days in advance makes it possible to buy larger quantities for better deals. Food is one of our biggest monthly expenses, whether it’s eating out, or just willy-nilly runs through the grocery store at the end of a long work day. Trust me, that’s better than take-out, but it’s expensive. A little planning, even if you don’t do it every week, saves a big chunk of change. Food you cook yourself is almost always healthier than take-out, too. I’ve gone overboard and tried to plan every single meal, and especially at first, you shouldn’t do that. But if you can make a double batch of spaghetti sauce and freeze half of it, you’re on your way.
- Budgeting. If your dream is to own your own home, or if you just want to retire as soon as you can, budgeting is a huge aspect of homesteading, and a skill that will make your life easier in so many ways. I wish Dave Ramsey kept the religion out of his program for us atheists, but his advice is good, and if you want to make this stuff a habit, you need to basically brainwash yourself a bit (in a good way). Read budgeting books, and listen to budgeting podcasts. It makes it easier to say no to a shopping spree at the mall.
- Buying used. I could buy dozens of homesteading books on Amazon for a relatively reasonable price. I could borrow dozens of homesteading books at the local library for free. Buying used clothes and equipment at yard sales, on Craigslist, or at thrift stores is just smart. Shake the attitude that you’re too good for Goodwill.
- Solar power. This doesn’t have to mean huge solar panels on your roof. I have a solar charger for my iPhone. There are lots of small solar options. As a poor college student in my first studio apartment, I laid black garbage bags on the floor where the sun shone in strongly and skipped paying for heat.
- Upcycling. Reducing trash volume by finding new ways to use old things is not only good for the environment, it’s also potentially lucrative. Upcycling is SO HOT RIGHT NOW.
- Recycling. Most towns have a recycling program. We do, though we don’t use it as much as we should. That’s one of our New Years Resolutions, by the way. If you want some motivation for upping your recycling game, check out the graphic novel my husband’s been reading, Trashed. It’s a sobering look at a fact that most of us would like to ignore.
The skills and activities that make up homesteading are good for you, good for your wallet, and good for the planet. Here are just a few of the many features homesteading offers:
- Explore! Get back to nature and restore your connection to the world around you.
- Craft! Ferment your own pickles and brew your own spirits. Leave the throw-away economy behind and fix things that are broken. Give hand-crafted jams and jellies at Christmas time.
- Build! Create your own structures, from solar water heaters to chicken coops to raised garden beds and permaculture.
- Cooperate! Barter with local NPCs members of the homesteading community. A full and vibrant trade system that evolves with your skill levels.
- Improve! Level up your knowledge and sense of well-being by taking your fate into your own hands – literally.
You don’t have to let go of modern conveniences to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of a little self-sufficiency. And you don’t have to do it all at once. As you can see if you follow this blog, I dove in head-first, in a whirlwind of trying everything at once, and within a few months it practically burned me out. Since then, I’ve slowed down, but I know this is going to be a permanent and important part of my life.
Side story: I was in the grocery store grabbing a few things the other day, and got to chatting with a couple of the people in line. We remarked on how packed the place was, and they said it was because a big snowstorm was coming. Now, I was in the express lane, with just a few things for baking cookies. I laughed and said, “Maybe I outta be stocking up a bit more than this!”
But then I thought about it. I had 2 batches of Bolognese sauce in the freezer, as well as a Guinness beef stew, a sausage kale soup, and several servings of mashed potatoes. I had jugs of water on hand for my pickle and kombucha-making efforts, so I didn’t really need water (nobody every actually does, but every snowstorm, the water disappears from the stores like clockwork).
And that was the first time I felt it. I’m sure homesteaders will know exactly what I’m talking about, but as a gamer and a newbie to the scene, this was my first time. I felt self-sufficient. It was a tangible moment, and I’ll never forget it. People need to get back to feeling like that, instead of helpless about our society and where it’s headed. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but I would love for you to feel that same moment I did, because it was wonderful.