What’s wrong with Jill Winger? Did she take Laura Ingalls Wilder a bit too seriously? It’s a question worth examining when considering the lifestyle of this modern pioneer.
Ten years ago – on impulse – Jill and her husband bought an old neglected farmstead in Wyoming, 40 miles from the nearest grocery store. It was, Jill admits, something of an act of defiance. “We were two twenty-something city kids pushing back against the typical suburban existence we were supposed to fall into,” she remembers. “Instead, we set out on a wild adventure of renovation, homegrown food, and life lessons.”
The life of a modern homesteader started off as a “faint whisper” in Jill’s mind – and very likely that whisper originated from the influence of the Little House books. Though modern homesteaders don’t face the same challenges, Jill admits being clueless what they were getting themselves into. They only knew city life and city comforts weren’t for them. “It was less of a battle cry, and more of an awakening,” she admits. “A blossoming. A falling in love with the notion of a hybrid lifestyle that combined the best of the old ways with a sprinkle of modern convenience.”
Ten years later, Jill and her husband (and three prairie-raised children) have emerged as towering advocates of country life. “Most people tell me it’s their dream to move their family away from the rat race and live in a quiet, rural place like ours,” says Jill. “That said, I know most folks can’t just up and leave one life to start another.”
Arguably the biggest beneficiaries of this radically different lifestyle are the Wingers’ three children. “I’m a whole-hearted believer in the magic of an unstructured childhood and intentionally allowing children lots of free time to play and explore, unfettered from the demands of an activity-filled schedule,” says Winger. “But regardless of where your family may live, you can absolutely include the best parts of an old-fashioned childhood into your situation – no acreage required.”
For those longing to duplicate the leap of faith made by the Wingers, Jill points out the biggest obstacle: Fear. “I think fear plays the biggest role in extinguishing prospective homesteaders,” she observes. “It’s really a problem that’s not unique to homesteaders. The familiarity of comfort zones is what stops most folks from really chasing their deep dreams. If folks can learn to lean into that fear, and find a sense of exhilaration at the prospect of starting a new venture as complete beginners – with all the accompanying failures and missteps along the way – really nothing will be out of their grasp.”
The benefits don’t just take place on the plains of Wyoming. “Homesteading is not just where you live, but actually your frame of mind,” says Jill. “I think a family living in the middle of Manhattan can still occasionally ‘leave the rat race’ in small ways. They can set aside one night a week that all electronics are put away and no one is rushing anywhere and the family makes a meal together from scratch. But when we’re surrounded by a culture that tells us easy is better and screens are more satisfying, the hardest thing is to ignore those incessant voices and insist on forging our own path – one that is best for our family, no matter where we live.”
Follow Jill’s homesteading life over at The Prairie Homestead.com.
The Wingers’ decision to seek a simpler life is the reason Lehman’s is proud to host Jill Winger on Saturday, July 13 during Lehman’s Christmas in July celebration. At this free event, Jill will be speaking during two sessions about topics that she covers in great depth in her Heritage Cooking Crash Course boxed workshop, which will be available to purchase in our store, premiering on July 13th!
Session 1 begins at 11 am and will cover:
- Pressure Canning
- Water Bath Canning
Session 2 begins at 2 pm and will cover:
- Wild Yeast
- Sourdough Bread
Michelle Visser will also be at the event speaking on DIY kombucha (10 am) and making and baking with maple syrup (1 pm).
Come learn how you, too, can slow down and achieve a homesteading lifestyle … with or without acreage.
Update 7/1/19: Jill’s session topics have slightly changed and have been updated in this article. We hope to see you there!