Ever wonder what living a truly connected, grounded, meaningful life in our modern, high-speed world really looks like? How to buck convention and find true contentment outside of society’s prescribed paths? My guest today, Jill Winger, did too. And her unplanned journey into the world of homesteading not only changed her life, it touched a nerve and sparked a movement guiding thousands back to their roots.
Jill has become a leading voice in what’s known as modern homesteading, bringing together the wisdom of rural, farm-life and old-fashioned approaches to work and life with modern context, tools, and applications to reclaim a sense of ease, simplicity and sanity in a world that increasingly feels like it’s anything but. Her new book is Old-Fashioned on Purpose: Cultivating a Slower, More Joyful Life.
In our conversation, Jill unravels the ethos behind homesteading as a mindset, not just a rural lifestyle. We explore pillars like growing your own food, working with your hands, and building real community. She shares why these traditions reconnect us to what humans inherently need.
And, for Jill, her experience buying a farm and raising a family on it wasn’t exactly a matter of tradition, In fact, her family, at least at first, didn’t understand the choice, because it was so different than both what they’d done, AND what they’d expected her to do. Jill opens up about navigating this decision, seeking balance, from raising kids on the homestead to the harsh realities behind fulfilling dreams like opening a restaurant. She offers honest wisdom on pushing through messy struggles to find the beauty waiting on the other side. No sugarcoating. Just truth.
I walked away fascinated by Jill’s world, and I think you’ll find inspiration and takeaways from her lens on modern homesteading, whether you live on a farm or a downtown high-rise. Her invitation to take small steps back to our roots stuck with me. As did her reminder that how we choose to live each day matters more than where.
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Jill Winger (00:00:00) – One of the questions I get most often is like, how do I start this homestead thing? I’m not going to move to Wyoming like you did. So what do I do? And I always start with the food. I especially love growing something. It could be a tiny garden in your backyard. It could be an herb garden on the windowsill. If you live in an apartment, you could put some stuff on your balcony if you have one. Because just the mere act of growing something, of creating a deeper relationship with nature, of getting your hands in soil, it does something for us as humans. It changes us. And I feel like if I can just get people to take that first step, then I know nature does the rest. This collection of skills and just this way of moving through life is really important. It carries a lot of the pieces that keep us human, that keep us content, that keep us mentally healthy. We got to have a way to weave these pieces back into everyone’s life, regardless of if they live on acreage or not.
Jonathan Fields (00:00:50) – So have you ever wondered about just kind of running away from a lot of the madness and the complexity and the pace and the grind and the hyper connectedness of modern life and finding a simpler, more ease filled option or wonder what living a truly connected, grounded, meaningful life in this modern high speed world really looks like, or how to buck convention and expectations and find true contentment outside of society’s prescribed paths? Well, my guest today, Jill Wenger, did exactly that and her unplanned journey into the world of what she calls modern homesteading. It not only changed her life, it touched a nerve when she started sharing it and sparked a movement guiding thousands back to their roots. Jill has become a leading voice in modern homesteading, and she describes what that is in our conversation, bringing together the wisdom of rural farm life and old fashioned approaches to work in life with a modern context and tools and applications to really help us see things differently, reclaim a sense of ease and simplicity and sanity in a world that increasingly feels like it’s anything but.
Jonathan Fields (00:02:00) – In our conversation, Jill unravels the ethos behind homesteading as a mindset, not just a rural lifestyle, which is something that you can port to any situation. We explore pillars like growing your own food, working with your hands and building real community and what she really means by these things and how it’s truly accessible to anyone, anywhere. And she shares why these and other traditions reconnect us to what humans inherently need. And for Jill, her experience buying a farm and raising a family on it, it wasn’t exactly a matter of tradition. In fact, her family, at least at first, didn’t understand the choice because it was so different than both what they’d done and what they’d expected her to do. Jill opens up about navigating this decision seeking balance from raising kids on the homestead to the harsh realities behind fulfilling dreams like opening a restaurant. She offers really honest wisdom on pushing through a lot of the messy struggles to find beauty waiting on the other side. No sugarcoating, just truth. I walked away really fascinated by Jill’s world, and I think you’ll find inspiration and takeaways from her lens on modern homesteading.
Jonathan Fields (00:03:13) – Whether you live on a farm in a suburban neighborhood or an apartment in a high rise in a major city, her invitation to really take small steps back to our roots stuck with me, as did her reminder that how we choose to live each day matters more than we’re so excited to share this conversation with you. I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project. I’m fascinated by your story. And clearly I’m not the only one who’s fascinated by the decisions that you have made and what you’ve created around it. Because the homesteading or the modern homesteading movement is really become a movement. I mean, this is not just sort of like a couple of people saying, let’s take an alternative approach to life. This has become huge. I mean, there’s a giant, giant community. So I’m so curious about it. I’m fascinated by what’s behind it. I’m fascinated by your decision and your own journey. So why don’t we start there actually, because as we’re having this conversation, you’re in Cheyenne, Wyoming, not surrounded by a whole lot of people within a whole lot of miles.
Jonathan Fields (00:04:13) – But this was not sort of like the early path that you were on. No, it.
Jill Winger (00:04:17) – Wasn’t. Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting story because, as you said, the homesteading movement has become a movement, especially in the last three years or so. The pandemic really increased all the interest surrounding these old fashioned skills. But prior to that, we were still very much immersed in a lifestyle. I ended up accidentally kind of starting one of the first homesteading blogs back in 2010. When I first started my own homesteading journey, I didn’t even know it was called Homesteading. I just had this strange pull. My intuition just told me I needed to reconnect to the land to get back to my roots. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know what that would look like, but I just started following those little sparks of interest and it became this roaring flame that is now consumed my life in the very best of ways. But it’s been fascinating. You know, when I first started, I didn’t know anyone else, especially my age, keeping chickens, wanting to learn how to can you trying to figure out how to make cheese like I was such a weirdo.
Jill Winger (00:05:09) – And little did I know ten years later, 15 years later, I’d be joined by a whole bunch of people. So a very interesting twist, but fun nonetheless.
Jonathan Fields (00:05:16) – So this was 2010 when your journey into homesteading kicked off. Paint a picture of life before this?
Jill Winger (00:05:22) – Yeah. So I was raised very conventionally typical 90 kid, you know, just all the normal things, normal food, lived in a little subdivision. I’d always had something in me that was a little bit abnormal in the sense that I wanted to live in a country like all my friends were into, like the typical little girl things. And I was like, I just want land. I don’t want to have party dresses and Barbie dolls. I want land. My parents were kind of like, okay, honey, that’s nice. But it never left me like that. Desire always was at the forefront, you know? And I got a little older and I got closer to graduation in 18 years old. And everyone’s like, What are you going to do with your life, Jill? And I’m going, The normal paths didn’t feel right to me.
Jill Winger (00:06:01) – They just didn’t feel interesting. And so I decided to kind of get people off my back on the college discussion, basically, and also take that next step into adulthood by attending a little college in Wyoming that had an equine like a horse training program. So I’m like, this will kind of check the boxes and I can at least be doing something I love while saying I’m going to college. So I moved to Wyoming. I ended up eating. My husband got married. You know, fast forward through all the details and we were looking for that first starter home. And again, I didn’t want to take the normal path. I’ve always had this desire to kind of go a little unconventional, a little off the beaten path. And we said, okay, we don’t want the house in town with a white picket fence. What else is there? And we ended up buying a rundown fixer upper long before fixer uppers were cool and long before buying a farm was cool. It was very much eyebrow raising situation among friends and family.
Jill Winger (00:06:52) – And that land was what prompted this next step.
Jonathan Fields (00:06:56) – Yeah, I mean, I would imagine that the family’s kind of feel like, okay, so she’s kind of going along the prescribed path and then like this becomes a move which, you know, I would imagine everyone around you started really questioning you in a really major way. Yes. And the decision that you wanted to make.
Jill Winger (00:07:11) – Absolutely. I remember one time in particular, I was eight and a half months pregnant with our first child. We had a family barbecue down in Colorado that we were supposed to go to. And simultaneously, coincidentally, the goats that I was trying to buy were also in Colorado. So we picked up the goats, the dairy goats, drug them to the family barbecue in a very nice neighborhood in Fort Collins, Colorado. And they’re like sitting in the trailer screaming because the goats are loud. And we’re sitting there like eating hamburgers and everyone’s looking at us like, You guys have officially lost your minds. Congratulations. Like, I don’t know.
Jill Winger (00:07:44) – It was funny and it was awkward, but it just we knew we kind of had to push back against what was normal and endure those raised eyebrows to get to where we want it to be.
Jonathan Fields (00:07:52) – Yeah. Do you have a sense for, you know, because this was a through line, as you described from the time that you were a little kid. Do you have a sense for like what was really happening underneath it? Like, what was the yearning or what was actually what was the drive for space, for land, for something different?
Jill Winger (00:08:08) – Like a lot of young children had a love for horses and it manifested for that. But I think what was actually happening, I think I was feeling at a really young age what all humans ultimately feel. But it gets easy to ignore and buried under just the trappings of modern life. And I think we all have a yearning to be more connected to nature, to return to our roots, to become more of an active participant in our life. And for some reason, I was really tuned into that as a kid.
Jill Winger (00:08:34) – I’m not exactly sure why because say this is. Like nicely as I can. My family is not in that same vein. My parents aren’t that way. Necessarily, my extended relatives aren’t that way. So I just had that strange little spark. But I think now it’s been interesting because I felt that so early, But now to see so many other humans feeling it now, it’s a really neat phenomenon to watch. I just I just had it maybe a little earlier than the rest.
Jonathan Fields (00:08:57) – Yeah. So when you make this decision young, married, about to have kids, did you have any skills? I mean, like I’m imagining you show up. You’re like, okay, so there’s a farm. It’s far away from a whole bunch of people. And you show up and you’re like, We just bought this. When you wake up the next morning, do you actually know what to do to make a farm run?
Jill Winger (00:09:21) – No, not really. Definitely didn’t have the perfect collection of skills we had. Both my husband and I were still in our early 20s, you know, young and kind of clueless.
Jill Winger (00:09:30) – But we had somehow maybe it was subconsciously we just kind of knew we had we had a few random skills. So I had experience with horses, which would later serve me well dealing with large animals like milk, cows and such. I’d also been a vet tech for a while, so that gave me some just confidence with dealing with animals and medical things. My husband, he was an electrician at the time, so he was well versed in construction, which did help us a lot in terms of this fixer upper needed a lot of work, so we were able to build the fence ourselves and start figuring out all of that. So there’s a fly, so I’m weaving. So we had those random skills, but the rest we really had to fill in. And so when it came to figuring out how to milk a goat or making compost or putting in a garden like that was all stuff we learned on our own as we went.
Jonathan Fields (00:10:11) – How do you learn that? My mind is like, just like go to YouTube and like had to milk a cow or so.
Jill Winger (00:10:18) – I think the very best way in the ideal situation is you have a mentor. You know, a lot of people in previous generations had grandparents or parents who that was the family skills that was just part of being human, was knowing how to do those food preparation things or growing food or building things. As we sit now, of course, we’ve lost a lot of those skills and so I honestly didn’t have mentors like like people might have had in previous years. And so, like you said, it was I didn’t have YouTube, but I had books, so I would go to the library. There was a lot of books I found from the 1970s back to the land movement, which is kind of the precursor of modern homesteading. And so they didn’t have all the trendy, cute books that we have now for homesteaders. So I’d go back to those dusty 1970s volumes, and that’s where I learned a ton. With things like milking the cow, I realized the best practice was to get the information from books here and there, read as much as I could, and then put the book away and go try it.
Jill Winger (00:11:10) – And then I’d go outside and I’d realize, okay, this isn’t working. I don’t know why this is happening. And then I go back to the bookstore. I try to figure out who I could call. And it was that mixture of book learning, but also actually applying that knowledge immediately, which was kind of the magic formula for me. Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:11:25) – It’s sort of like trial and error. So you’ve used the phrase modern homesteading a couple of times now, and we should probably just define that. So when we’re talking about modern homesteading, what do we actually talking about?
Jill Winger (00:11:35) – That’s a great question and it’s a really popular one. There’s a lot of definitions that float around. I use the term modern or specifically the word modern in front of homesteading, just to denote that this isn’t the old time homesteading movement where you got free land from the United States government that officially is no longer in place. I think it went away in the 70s. To a lot of people, homesteading is, Oh, okay, you’re getting the chickens, you’re going to grow the garden, you’re learning how to can.
Jill Winger (00:12:01) – Maybe you’re wearing an apron, you’re looking you’re trying to take on these old fashioned skills. And I think that’s a decent enough definition. I prefer a little bit deeper and I just think of it as a way to move through the world with a higher sense of awareness and how to consciously choose a more intentional life versus the default industrial setting of our modern lives. And so that’s how I define it, because I don’t think it’s as much about how much land you own or how many farm animals you have, as much as your mindset.
Jonathan Fields (00:12:29) – It’s interesting that you phrase it that way because I’m thinking to myself, and we’ll dive a lot deeper into some of the elements. But right away I’m also thinking of somebody thinking like, I’d love to bring more simplicity in my life, but I’m not going to go buy a farm. I’m not going to move out. You know, the notion that this can be as much a mindset that you bring to a lot of what you do, in addition to the fact that like, you don’t necessarily have to make these really big, extreme moves to experience a lot of the benefits of it, that there are subtle shifts, there is more local environmental shifts and mindset shifts that can really get you to the place or at least close to it.
Jill Winger (00:13:05) – Yeah, and I think that’s one of the most important pieces that I’ve seen, especially as the movement gets bigger. Just acknowledging the fact that not everybody can move to the country or even wants to. But I still believe wholeheartedly that this collection of skills and just this way of moving through life is really important. I think it’s it carries a lot of the pieces that keep us human, that keep us content, that keep us mentally healthy. So I’m like, you know, we got to have a way to weave these pieces back into everyone’s life, regardless of if they live on acreage or not. And it’s really important to me as a homestead mentor and teacher.
Jonathan Fields (00:13:36) – Let’s talk about how that actually that journey touches down, because you start out on your own. This is basically like when you first make this decision with your husband. This is not about, hey, let’s create this thing and then it will become a I’ll become a teacher and a mentor and then start a movement. This is just your choice.
Jonathan Fields (00:13:51) – It’s a personal choice. This is the way you want to live your life and raise a family. But somewhere along the way, this goes from your personal choice to I wonder if there’s something bigger that’s going on here or something bigger that we could share. Or maybe it’s not just us. I’m curious about that evolution.
Jill Winger (00:14:10) – Yeah. So let’s say we initially bought the farm in 2008 and then we had our first child in early 2010. And at that point I quit my job as a vet tech and it came home with her. And I quickly realized I love being a mom. I loved having a newborn. I also was going stir crazy a little bit because I’m super high energy. I’m pretty type-A, however you want to define that, and I just need a lot to do. And so I loved being a mother, but I’m like, okay, I did all the baby things. I did all the dishes, I washed the laundry. The diapers are changed. Like now what? And so I was in this little house out in the middle of nowhere, like just losing my mind.
Jill Winger (00:14:45) – And so late 2010, I started the blog The Prairie Homestead, and it truly was just an outlet for me, just a way to express creativity. We had started, you know, we were really diving into this homestead journey now that I was home full time and I wanted to talk about it and nobody around me really cared. They kind of thought it was still pretty weird. So I would just blabber on my blog post about the great mail I got and how I was making pumpkin cream puffs and why I bought these chickens. And so it was really just an outlet for me. I don’t remember the exact time frame, but it was maybe a year or so into that that blogging. I had an old friend from college messaged me on Facebook and she’s my my age and she’s like, Oh my gosh, Jill, I love what you’re writing about. I want to do that someday too. And I still remember where I was standing in the kitchen when I read her message, and I was like, What? Like someone else would do this? Oh, my gosh, I’m not the only one.
Jill Winger (00:15:37) – And it was just this little shift in my mind of like, what if I start to help people down the same path? You know, I’m not an expert, but I’m at least a few steps farther than someone who’s just starting out. And then that idea of being able to provide value and coaching for people so they could get that same satisfaction that I was feeling, just felt like so exciting. So I started to shift the blog post a little bit more into like, how can this serve someone else versus just talking about my day? And that’s when I really started to see that traction.
Jonathan Fields (00:16:05) – Yeah, it’s like it becomes a little bit more prescriptive so that people you’re like planting seeds is like and here’s a little bit more of like how this can happen and inviting people in. I mean, it must have been interesting once you sort of like had that moment. It’s funny that you literally say, like, I can remember I was standing when that happened because probably to the like, the friend that sent you a message, it was just kind of like a like a quick offhanded message, no big deal.
Jonathan Fields (00:16:30) – Like, how cool would it be? Maybe someday I could do this. And for you, it was like it was a lightning bolt moment that just changed a lot of things. So I’m curious. I’m fascinated by the concept of sliding doors. Do you ever wonder what would have happened if that one message never arrived? Do you think you would have still found your way to the same path?
Jill Winger (00:16:49) – I think ultimately I would have because I was already on that. I was already on that path. I could see how it was just like this snowball of momentum. But I often do wonder, take it back a couple steps. I don’t think if I would have made that initial leap to move from my childhood home that was comfortable and safe to Wyoming, that first unorthodox choice, I think if I would have stayed put, I don’t think my life would be on the same path now, and I don’t think I would be near as fulfilled just knowing the sequences that took place after that choice. So yeah, it’s funny when you think about like it’s like those Choose your own adventure books.
Jill Winger (00:17:19) – Do you remember those? Yeah, yeah. You know, you pick this one, you pick this one. Yeah. It’s fascinating to dissect that.
Jonathan Fields (00:17:24) – Yeah, it’s amazing. So you start to basically build out the Prairie homestead. At what point in your mind does this start to become a wait? There are more people and then more people and more people and there’s something actually really substantial going on here that I want to become even more intentional about. Like this is a legitimate movement and now maybe there’s even some sort of business and impact plus business opportunity that we can build around this.
Jill Winger (00:17:53) – I think a couple a couple years into maybe two years into the blogging, three, 2 to 3 years, I wrote my first e-book eBooks were like all the rage, super cutting edge back then, you know, And I wrote my first e-book called Your Custom Homestead, and it was like this multi-step process to do what I did. And that was my first big business move because, you know, I was charging like seven bucks for it or something.
Jill Winger (00:18:15) – And I had I had the sales page and I was like promoting it and I was learning how to market and I hit launch day and I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. And that morning the dings on my email, every single time I get a sale, it would get a ding and it just like was nonstop for hours and hours and hours and it was so exciting. And also like, oh my gosh, like. This is actually a thing like this is actually something that not only that people are wanting, like they actually are craving this information, but maybe this could be something that’s more than just a cute little hobby I have that I do during nap time when the baby sleeping. So I think it was in that 2012, 2013 mark where I realized there was potential. And I also realized I really liked business like, I love the homestead side of things, but there’s something about entrepreneurship I had never considered before. I don’t come from an entrepreneurial family, but I’m like, This is amazing.
Jill Winger (00:19:05) – I love everything about it. And so it kind of started these two parallel journeys, which sometimes I think people look at and they’re like, These don’t go together. Like you’re an entrepreneur. You’re like social media girl, and then you’re like homestead like, But they just fit for some reason. And that’s when I kind of started to realize I had two parts of my personality there, and I really liked both.
Jonathan Fields (00:19:22) – I love that because on the surface it does look like it’s like, wait a minute, isn’t it supposed to be back to the land simplicity, doing everything by hand and now you’re building like this mini digital empire. Effectively, I am building a company and building a business and building brands, which would eventually become multiple different things. The question is, I guess for you, it’s just like you’re a multifaceted human being. Like we all contain multitudes, right? And it just works for you. And I would imagine, you know, this is a choice where people would ask you and it’s really it’s like, look, this is the thing that works for me.
Jonathan Fields (00:19:56) – I’m not saying this would work for anybody else, but this is the way I’m wired and I’m good with it.
Jill Winger (00:20:02) – Yeah. And learning how to be comfortable with that, I don’t fit. It’s funny because when I hang out with the hard core homestead crowd, sometimes I don’t really fully fit into that box because a lot of them are like, no phones, no technology. And I get it. Like there’s days I wish I could just ditch all of it and like good by phone, I’m going off grid. But, you know, so I don’t really fit into that crowd. And then I go hang out with like the super successful entrepreneur mastermind crowd. And then I love it, but they’re like, Wait, you’re going home to milk the cow? That’s like really quaint. Like, Oh, you’re wearing cowboy boots to the to the gathering. Like, it’s just so funny because I don’t fully fit into them either. But I love both groups. I love that I, I don’t know, I’m just really content being kind of a mesh of both.
Jonathan Fields (00:20:39) – Yeah, I love that you made this really interesting distinction also between, I guess, what you call cottagecore versus hardcore.
Jill Winger (00:20:47) – Yes, that’s a little bit controversial. Social media sometimes. Yeah, I, I have to be careful what I say as I don’t want to be like the gatekeeper or anything like that. With the rise of the Homestead movement, which has been wonderful in so many ways, there’s also this Cottagecore movement, and if people aren’t familiar with that, it’s this idea you’ve probably seen the accounts or the websites or the Instagram profiles. It’s they’re so aesthetically pleasing and it’s usually women, sometimes men, but they’re wearing these period appropriate gowns and clothing and aprons and their their hair is flying in the wind and they’re out gathering eggs or they have goats frolicking along the field with them in wildflowers. And it’s just beautiful. Very curated. Right. Very much staged, but very curated and very appealing. And I found that I love those accounts for their inspirational appeal. But I when I look at my life and the homestead life, I’ve lived now for, you know, 13 years, I’m like, there’s a disconnect when I actually lived it.
Jill Winger (00:21:43) – So I know that those photos are beautiful and awe inspiring, but they’re rarely real life. And so I try what I’m teaching and coaching. I like a pretty photo just as much as the next person. And there are absolutely days here on our homestead that are just picture perfect. But I’d say there’s more days when, you know, an animal dies or there’s mud. We’ve had so much mud this year or right now. I mean, there’s flies. There’s flies literally trying to land on my face as we talk because that’s farm like farm and flies go together. And so I think it’s important as people start to embark on a homestead journey, whether that’s big or small, that they don’t feel discouraged when their life doesn’t look cottage core 24 over seven. And I just want people to know it’s okay for there to be weeds and for there to be manure and for there to be flies sometimes. And that’s just kind of part of the normal progress of the journey.
Jonathan Fields (00:22:26) – Yeah, I almost feel like there’s been a bit of a shift in social media over the last few years.
Jonathan Fields (00:22:32) – Also not just in this domain, but like more generally away from the shiny, happy, perfect imagery and videos because everyone realizes that like for the most part it’s just posed, you know, like it’s a moment that you set up for the camera. But also there’s such a yearning for human connection and like, how do we connect most through vulnerability, through actually sharing the hardships we’re going through, like our flaws, our struggles and things like that, rather than the shiny, happy, perfect life. And when you invite people into the reality, I have to imagine that that’s actually more enticing and appealing because you’re letting people know, you know, like this is actually real life. And I’m going to be honest with you and also share like the hard side of this and somebody else may not be living modern homestead life, but they’re going to have a hard side of their life and that feels more relatable.
Jill Winger (00:23:26) – Yeah, I think we humans are definitely hungry for that vulnerability. And I think especially like you said, with we had that period of social media, which I do feel it is shifting as well where it was.
Jill Winger (00:23:35) – All about the perfection and the curation and the aesthetics. I know for me personally, when I create content, when I am just vulnerable and real, that is absolutely what resonates the most with people. I did. I did a podcast a couple of weeks ago. We own a little restaurant and we had a really rough early summer with staff. Like it was just just impossibly difficult. Yeah, like so.
Jonathan Fields (00:23:55) – Many restaurants.
Jill Winger (00:23:56) – Like so many restaurants, that it’s a hard time to be a restaurant. Yeah, I had done so much speaking to this idea of building community and it’s fun and it’s amazing. And everyone should build a community, which I still believe. But I’m like, You know what? I spent so many days crying over this restaurant situation. I also need to let them see that side because I don’t want them to feel blindsided if they get into a community. And then it’s hard. And so the episode I did was just like, Hey guys, here’s what happened. It was brutal.
Jill Winger (00:24:19) – We’re surviving. Here’s how we’re overcoming it. That silly episode got more downloads than anything I’ve published in months, but people are just hungry for that. And I think for anyone listening who’s a content creator, I think that’s a really important thing to remember.
Jonathan Fields (00:24:33) – Yeah, I also wonder if this goes through your mind as you’re sharing that. What’s coming back to me is actually a conversation that I had on the podcast a couple of years ago with this wonderful author who wrote a memoir, and a lot of it was about her mom. And when she was when she was a young mom, her mother would sort of like had set the example untold, the stories of like, I didn’t need any help. Everything was perfect. I handled it all. I built a career and I raised a family. And this person that I was talking to was sharing how she was really, really struggling. And she needed help and she couldn’t figure out how to manage it. And she came to learn later in life that her mom actually had like full time help.
Jonathan Fields (00:25:07) – And it’s almost like when you set the expectation that you can do this thing and in a very particular way and you don’t need this and that, like, are you maybe even causing harm or setting up like a tone where or at least you’re creating an expectation that people, quote, should be able to actually do this in a particular way without help, like with rugged individualism and figure out their way through. And it’s just not the reality. And it’s almost like you’re participating in setting others up for failure and suffering along the way. If you don’t just own the fact that this is hard and we all need help along the way.
Jill Winger (00:25:44) – Absolutely. And I think about that a lot as I create content and I think it often happens inadvertently. I think a lot of the creators out there don’t necessarily mean for that to be the portrayal because, you know, you can’t always control what people think or how they perceive you. But yeah, that’s one of my biggest reasons to continue to just put it all out there, the good and the bad.
Jill Winger (00:26:02) – You know, I love talking about when we have brand new babies on the farm. I also will share when something dies because if you don’t, if you only share the good, it is so isolating when you’re the person, you’re watching all the influencers and you’re like, Oh, their lives are so amazing. And then when you know your stuff dies or your garden gets ruined or you have bugs eating your potatoes and you’re like, I’m obviously there’s something wrong with me. And I think one of the most powerful messages we can tell other people is that you’re not alone. You’re not alone in the hard stuff. You’re not alone in the mess ups and the failures. And I think that’s what people really need to hear right now.
Jonathan Fields (00:26:31) – Yeah, I so agree. And I think it’s so powerful when you’re actually willing to share that. And it’s not even like you have to say you’re not alone. If you just show your life, people would be like, Oh, wait, Like I had my version of that last week and I feel a little bit more seen.
Jonathan Fields (00:26:47) – One of the things that you dive into is, you know, over the years, you’ve sort of distilled out a methodology of like, this is sort of like the nuts and bolts of what modern homesteading is all about. And I’d love to dive into some of the elements of that. One of the sort of like the opening ideas is, is the notion of growing your own stuff, which as I sit here having this conversation for the first time ever, we have like a tiny little vegetable garden in our backyard. Yay. It has been magical, you know, like every day I’m out there with my daughter and we’re like checking it out and like, tell me more about, like, what this is about and why you think it’s so important.
Jill Winger (00:27:24) – Yeah. So one of the questions I get most often is like, how do I start this homestead thing? How do I do the old fashioned stuff? I don’t I’m not going to move to Wyoming like you did. So what do I do? And I always start with the food.
Jill Winger (00:27:34) – And I think, you know, the food can be kitchen. And that’s a huge part of it, just learning how to cook. But I especially love, like you said, growing something. It could be a tiny garden in your backyard. It could be an herb garden on the windowsill. If you live in an apartment, you could put some stuff on your balcony if you have one. Because even if you’re not growing a huge percentage of your groceries. Right, you’re not going to offset the grocery budget that much or anything like that. Just the mere act of growing something, of creating a deeper relationship with nature, of getting your hands in soil. It does something for us as humans. It changes us. And I feel like if I can just get people to take that first step, then I know nature does the rest and I know the domino effect that will happen is a little bit sneaky on my part. I’m like, Just grow the lettuce and I know what’s going to happen next.
Jill Winger (00:28:20) – We’re going to you’re going to love it. You’re going to feel good and you’re going to feel less anxiety and the soil is going to feel healing to you. And then you’re going to be outside more. And then I know what’s going to happen. And so there’s so much there. And that’s what I love to speak to is, yeah, it’s about lettuce is fun. Home grown lettuce is a blast. But the other benefits you get, the other things you harvest are even better.
Jonathan Fields (00:28:38) – I’m just thinking about our experience and we go out there every day now and there are days where we’re like, Wow, this has grown so much. And there are these baby little cucumbers are starting to emerge. And then there are other days where it’s like, This is dying. What do we do about it? I have no idea. And where do we go? What do we do? And it’s remarkable to me how quickly we start to care about like like these plant things, like almost like they’re animate beings and they’re in our care.
Jonathan Fields (00:29:05) – And it caught me by surprise.
Jill Winger (00:29:08) – It caught me by surprise too early on. And what caught me even more by surprise in more recent years, the last 2 or 3, four years is it went from just having a relationship with the plants to now having a relationship with the soil. And when you start to really understand the inner workings of soil, you know, as Americans are just dirt, it’s just dirt under our feet, under dirt, under our fingernails, we have a very denigrating view of it. But as I got deeper into my relationship with the natural world, I started to realize that soil is really the foundation of everything. And that is taking me on this amazing journey just towards more ecological stewardship, about being more aware of the impact I’m making, good and bad. And so is this, this amazing domino effect that happens. But yeah, I think that, like you said, we as humans, what you’re feeling there I think is so natural and so healthy. And I think we all need that.
Jill Winger (00:29:54) – I think we are wired to be in that close communication with nature, whether that is a worm or a beetle or a lettuce plant or a flower or a squirrel in the city park, I think we need more connection than we have. Then at least our modern society sets us up for.
Jonathan Fields (00:30:11) – Yeah, I so agree. And it’s interesting also and I’m curious whether like how you experience this also, you know, the land that we have is an itty bitty little thing, but there’s this sense of responsibility to the land, even though for me, it’s this itty bitty little thing, I would imagine for you, it’s vast as acres large, but the sense that like you’re beholden to it, to keep it healthy in some way. And also it’s the weirdest thing. We have a garden box, but like there’s there’s there is this knowing that I don’t actually own this. Yeah, this is not mine. And that took me by surprise too.
Jill Winger (00:30:47) – Isn’t it interesting how you just start to feel more connected to all the things? Just the nature of the plants and even more other humans? Because you realize this is mine.
Jill Winger (00:30:54) – Just for now. It’s mine to steward for now, but it’s not mine like in that sense. And so it’s I think that’s why I say it’s that domino where I’m just innocently growing some lettuce. But now you’re starting to rethink your your philosophy of everything. And I feel it so deeply. The sense of responsibility, which is sometimes heavy, you know, especially we run cattle, we run a large group of cattle, we sell beef, we beef nationwide. And knowing the difference between good cattle management and bad cattle management, there’s a big gap. You can either restore soil or you can damage soil. And so just always thinking about those things. And the more I learned, I was like, oh, we need to do this better. And I think there’s a lot of forgiveness in nature for us learning and us fumbling. But when you start to see yourselves as partnering with nature instead of just like lording over it, I think it’s really exciting.
Jonathan Fields (00:31:42) – Yeah, no, completely it kind of seems flows naturally into one of the other things you talk about.
Jonathan Fields (00:31:46) – Which is the notion of working with your hands. And actually, when you write about this, you referenced a book, which is a book that really changed me a number of years ago, which is shop class as Soul Craft by Matthew Crawford. And it really speaks to your ethos also, which is this notion of not just the value but the pleasure, the joy of working with your hands, like manually physically, which so many of us have left behind because it’s sort of like devalued in modern culture in a lot of different ways.
Jill Winger (00:32:18) – Yes, I was so fascinated when I got to that part of my book research to dive into not only books like shop classes, Soul, because it’s such a brilliant work, but why do we devalue manual labor like we do? Like why is it looked down upon even today? And as I kind of dove into it, I lay a lot of that responsibility on the threshold of the industrial revolution and the factory mindset that came as a result of that. And I mean, there’s a lot of nuance there, so we can’t get into all the ins and outs, but it was really this idea of trying to sell the populace on their old quaint, rural ways were inferior.
Jill Winger (00:32:55) – So you need to move the city and you need to get in a factory job and buy, buy, buy, buy to keep the big engine of economy going. And lots of factors there, of course. But I think that’s where we’re still kind of feeling that like, oh, you just work with your hands, your blue collar. Okay, well, we automatically look down on that. Whereas when we take that modern mindset, we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot and we miss out on so much joy. Crawford talks about in his book like there’s there’s so much pleasure to be found in using our hands beyond tapping a screen or pressing a remote. I even I had a wonderful woman named Dr. Kelly Lambert on my podcast a while back. We talked about this thing in our brain called the effort driven rewards circuit. And in essence, we are literally wired when we move our hands and we’re creating whether that’s kneading bread dough or needlework, we’re fixing a car. We’re, you know, repairing something.
Jill Winger (00:33:47) – It sets off happy chemicals in our brain. The dopamine is those those chemicals that we know make us feel better. And so she’s such a proponent of weaving these meaningful, handy works into our normal, everyday existence because she’s like, you know, if people are feeling down or a little bit anxious, just like it’s one of the very best ways to kind of kickstart some of those those good brain chemicals. And so I’m just fascinated about how far we’ve moved away from that and how we can get back.
Jonathan Fields (00:34:12) – Yeah. And same same on this side. I know I’m a maker. Just that is my wiring. And I’ve I felt over a period of years that a lot of my creation process and moved into the digital realm and I start to feel this underlying discontent almost on the level of like a low grade suffering. And I’m like, what’s going on here? Like, in theory, I’m making stuff like that’s what I’m all about. And what I realized was that I had moved away from the physical process of creation, like working with my hands with raw materials, and I was missing it.
Jonathan Fields (00:34:44) – There was a real chasm, there was a gap. And as soon as I started to move back to that and be more intentional about it, it’s like the gap closed and I got happier and more satisfied. But it is interesting culturally, as you described how there was sort of like a whole generation or a few generations where it was sort of like, Oh, that’s what you do when you like in some way, like can’t do knowledge work. Yes, that’s the default when you can’t make it on this other thing, rather than there’s so much power and grace and fulfillment and also need for all of these different for like working with your hands. It is like incredibly valuable and useful as a human being. And yet culturally, I feel like still so many of us like, don’t see it that way.
Jill Winger (00:35:27) – Yeah. What I’m curious to observe over the coming years is with these advent of I think it looks like the first thing that I will replace is the knowledge work, right? So I’m like, Oh, what a twist, plot twist where that could be more easily replaced.
Jill Winger (00:35:44) – And then the plumbers and the electricians and the carpenters potentially could become more valuable. I suppose you could outsource some of that in manufacturing and factories and such, but it’s really hard to have a robot come in and fix the toilet when it’s not working right. You still need a smart human to be able to do that. So I’m curious if there will be a pendulum swing back. I just think those forces of society and culture are so interesting on how they shape us. But but yeah, I hope it does come back. And I do see honestly, social media. I have a love hate relationship with it, right? You know, there’s times where I’m like, I’m on the computer too much or it’s influenced me in ways I don’t love, but I do love that it is spreading awareness of these things so people can listen to this podcast and go, Oh, what if I weave some handicrafts into my week next week? So I’m curious as we bring these subjects to light, what will happen 100%?
Jonathan Fields (00:36:28) – And I think it’s not an either or proposition.
Jonathan Fields (00:36:30) – It’s a yes. Yes. Okay. Well, this is exactly the example that you’re setting. Right? You know, on the one hand, you’ve got physical businesses. You’ve also got digital and remote businesses, and you’re like out there on the farm, like working with animals. You don’t necessarily have to choose between in fact, there are ways to figure out. How to make them all work in harmony. I mean, I know plenty of craftspeople now are illustrators who are friends and artists who love the work that they do. But the way that they actually earn their living is by also spending time building their profile in the digital realm. And it works harmoniously. And they’re really thankful for the fact that they can support themselves. Now doing this because of that, I think there’s definitely a way to figure out how to dance with it. Like depending on who you are and where you’re your motivations and your impulses and your pleasures lie just as a human being.
Jill Winger (00:37:18) – I couldn’t agree more. And I think at least for me, as my life has become more complex than it was in 2010 with one baby and just sitting in the house all day.
Jill Winger (00:37:25) – Right. I have more businesses. I have more irons in the fire. I have more responsibilities. It would be very easy for me to just go, you know what, homesteading was a good phase in those early years, and I’m I need to step away from it now. I don’t have time to grow things or canned tomatoes yet. I have chosen to consciously continue even in the midst of the chaos, because just exactly like you said, I do spend a lot of time on the computer now. Like today I had three interviews. I’m preparing for a book launch. I have websites to build. I have emails to answer. So I was on the computer a lot today, but I literally scheduled it in an hour and a half to go ride my horse this morning and work on my roping skills because that is tactile. It’s in the physical world. It makes me so happy. It’s using my hands. It’s connecting with nature and I have to have both. I find that if I don’t have both and I’m just sitting in this chair on the computer, my creativity tanks, my motivation tanks.
Jill Winger (00:38:15) – I don’t produce as high quality work. And so I find that I need to have both. And I think that most people would benefit from both. You know, maybe it’s just like I do the office work, then I go walk through the garden barefoot and just commune with nature or just those sort of mixing of old and new past and present, I think is I think it’s really going to carry us forward, hopefully as a more balanced culture.
Jonathan Fields (00:38:35) – Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And I think also as somebody who is creative or looking to make things in a weird way, like people talk about getting stuck, you know, I’m trying to figure this thing out. I’m trying to make something and I’m just kind of stuck. And the ability to have these two realms to kind of like move seamlessly between I think sometimes the release valve for stuckness in one realm happens when you’re in the other, you know, and the ability to move between them rather than just stay in one and try and grind your way through it and say, Well, let me just let that sit and go over to this other place and like all of a sudden, like the resolution comes to you, it’s actually really helpful to be able to move between these two different things or 3 or 4 different realms, whatever it is, for you in your life.
Jill Winger (00:39:16) – Absolutely. I could not agree more. I think that’s really the magic piece for me creatively.
Jonathan Fields (00:39:23) – One of the ideas that you share all said it’s the idea of escaping the human zoo. Yeah, so the language is wonderful around that. But take me deeper into what you’re actually saying here.
Jill Winger (00:39:32) – There is definitely more awareness about this kind of coming. I see it more on social media here and there, but it’s just idea, this idea that modern culture, especially if you live in a big city, which is unavoidable for many, right? It’s one of the most unnatural human habitats we can imagine. If we think about where humans are really designed or wired to be. And then we can trust that with city life, with its asphalt and concrete, most of the time it’s a ton of artificial lights. We’re surrounded in structures that are completely manmade versus anything that nature made. And it’s not to say that you should never be in those environments because that’d be pretty hard to avoid, but rather how can we be aware of that and then start to be a little more conscious of like, okay, my body needs this because I am a biological being, I am not a robot, and so I’m going to need to be mindful of the artificial light that’s coming in.
Jill Winger (00:40:20) – I need to make sure I’m not being exposed to just human environments or human made environments. 24 over seven. I’m going to be in there for a while and then I’m going to go out and put my feet in the grass, or I’m going to go breathe fresh air. I’m going to go stand under a tree. I’m going to go interact with nature. And so I think about that a lot. Even here on my homestead, there’s those influences that seep in. You know, when I’m sitting in this office. Chair Humans are not designed to be sedentary. We’re designed to be moving constantly. And it’s okay to be sitting here for eight hours and then go work out for 30 minutes. That’s better than nothing. But really, we’re kind of wired to be in that constant movement. So it’s not that I’m trying to achieve perfection, but it’s just being really mindful. And I think even those little baby steps of watching the light that we’re exposed to and paying attention to how we move our bodies, how long we’re sitting, those sort of things can be a really big shift.
Jill Winger (00:41:10) – Again, you don’t have to have a farm to do any of that.
Jonathan Fields (00:41:12) – Yeah, and just the notion of being aware of your environment and how it affects you, I feel like so many of us actually are really just tune that out. We just kind of say like, we’re in the city. It is what it is. There are certain things that have to accept and we don’t even realize how much all the little different things are affecting us and our ability to thrive or mood or happiness or health or well-being or relationships. I mean, things as simple as one of the things you write about under this context, like, like staying in the dark. There’s value in actually not having light at certain times a day or like at night in particular. Yet so many of us don’t do anything to sort of manipulate the environment that we’re in in a positive way to affect us so that we feel the way we want to feel more regularly.
Jill Winger (00:41:59) – Yeah. And I think we’re also we’re just kind of we all get out of tune with our bodies, me included.
Jill Winger (00:42:04) – So you just kind of get into that feeling, Oh, I just don’t feel right or I just feel sluggish. I feel a little depressed, I feel a little off. And then it’s really hard sometimes because we’re bombarded with so much unnatural environment that to really go, okay, wait, this is maybe why I was on my phone till midnight last night, all that blue light and I wasn’t getting good sleep. And I was in a bedroom with lights all over in it. And so, you know, maybe that’s why. And maybe I need to just go outside. And if I’m feeling stressed, it’s my body’s not designed to sit in a chair for ten hours a day and just be bombarded with a ton of crazy tasks. Maybe I need to put it away and just walk outside and get fresh air and move my body. And so I think, like you said, just awareness, not perfection, but just those little, little steps add up in a big way.
Jonathan Fields (00:42:44) – Yeah. I mean, part of what you’ve built here is a movement, but also a community, you know, where people can interact and find each other and support each other and say, hey, like, like share ideas and share experiences.
Jonathan Fields (00:42:55) – And this is, in fact, one of the other pillars. One of the things that you speak to is the notion of the role of community. And I wonder, so many of us have been reacquainted with that over the last three years when we spent so much time in isolation. And granted, we had digital connections still. But I feel like the pendulum for in-person community also like being physically in person, with community, with people that we really connect with, is swinging back. Also. Yes. Take me deeper into sort of like your exploration of community and why, especially in the context of the modern homesteading movement, you feel like it’s so central.
Jill Winger (00:43:33) – So this is actually one of my pillars that I am more of a newbie to, and in that I’ve only been really embracing this the last four years or so. When we first started homesteading, you know, we were isolated. I’m so focused on having young children and building my homestead along with my husband, that we were very much just focused on this property.
Jill Winger (00:43:53) – That was everything. And perhaps that phase in our life, that was just what we needed to do. And then, I don’t know, four years ago ish, we started to just have this feeling like, you know what? Our homestead is doing pretty good. Our businesses are at a good place and we feel like we’re missing something. Like we knew people around us, but we were not like actively contributing to the community structure. Now we live about 40 minutes from a big town, but we’re about nine miles from a tiny town of 175 people. And I just kept. Feeling like, Oh man, I talk with my friends. If someone would just do this for this town, it would be better if someone would just start this. Someone would just, you know. Somebody needs to do that and that’ll fix this problem. And I heard myself say that I’m like, Jill, you can’t just say that and not do something like, we all prescribe for other people. But I’m like, okay, it’s time.
Jill Winger (00:44:39) – If you put your money where your mouth is and go like, take some action. And so we tried a few little things. We ended up buying a restaurant, which is a whole nother story, which has been a roller coaster in and of itself. We’ve helped start a charter school, now we’ve been involved more. But those steps, even though it’s taken us a little bit away from the homestead, I think have been one of the most fulfilling aspects of our old fashioned journey thus far. Just because, like you said, screens are fine. I’m thankful for screens. I’ve made some really good connections and friends via the internet, but nothing can ever replace that face to face human interaction. And I think what the pandemic did show us, I think after we all were so isolated for so long and we all got real burned out on Zoom calls, I’m hoping that it reminded us that we need human eyeball to eyeball, face to face contact more than ever. That’s just when we feel more most connected in whole.
Jill Winger (00:45:31) – And so I just found that to be such a gratifying experience. Also messy, also frustrating sometimes also like days where I’m just like pulling my hair out. But you can’t have the good parts without that struggle. I think they have to go together when we’re talking about human interactions and communities. So I’m really passionate about that.
Jonathan Fields (00:45:48) – Yeah, I mean, it’s so great. I think it’s just like we were talking about with social media. Like the way that humans connect is when you’re open and honest and vulnerable and that, yes, that involves a certain amount of mess because at any given time we are all moving through a certain amount of mess in our own lives. And when you share that, sometimes it meshes in positive ways with others and sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s the nature of it. So so you brought up along the way, you also ended up with a restaurant and which is a great way to be at the center of community also, but having some experience about a decade. My wife was actually in a large restaurant group in New York City before we we headed out.
Jonathan Fields (00:46:27) – So I know that industry really well. It is brutally, brutally hard in the best of circumstances. So it’s I’m fascinated by the fact of like, okay, so here’s you like and you’re trying to build a restaurant and also kind of a restaurant that it has a feel and really is there to support the community and be a center, a hub of conversation and connection and sharing meals together like genuinely and yet at the same time, like behind the scenes running a business, that that is often just extraordinarily difficult. Like, does that change the way that you feel about a desire to be a social hub for connection within the community?
Jill Winger (00:47:07) – Um, it depends on the day. There are days.
Jonathan Fields (00:47:09) – Of like.
Jill Winger (00:47:10) – Right, I just want to be a hermit again. Oh my gosh. Right, right. I will preface that by saying we do have a team that runs a restaurant. Like I just we were talking about like not doing it all yourself. I physically cannot do it myself. So we have a great manager right now.
Jill Winger (00:47:22) – We have a full staff of employees. We did it at the beginning of the summer. We had some turnover and that’s why I was so stressed out. But we have great team now. They’re running it smoothly. I go in and I’ll I’ll work there a couple times a month just because I like to feel the heartbeat of the staff and be there and hang out with the locals. I’m in and out, but not there all the time. But yeah. What was your your question was does it change?
Jonathan Fields (00:47:42) – One of the biggest desires that people have is to write a book. One of the other ones is to own a restaurant. Yeah, everyone wants to write a book and everyone wants to own a restaurant. And the dream when somebody says I want to own a restaurant is you walk into the space and you see it filled with people and there’s like conversation and amazingness happening in connection, and you’re walking from table to table. This is my restaurant. Oh, how do you like. Yes. And like and that’s the fantasy that we all have.
Jonathan Fields (00:48:05) – And it’s like there’s a beautiful community that and we’re kind of like the shepherd of that community to a certain extent. And there’s this noble intent behind it and a little bit of ego often too. But then the reality, the lived reality of that is often the exact opposite. Does that change the way that you feel about sort of like really getting behind, bringing community together?
Jill Winger (00:48:26) – I think it would have surprised me more. It would have changed the way I feel more if I hadn’t experienced an element of that, that same dynamic elsewhere in my life prior. I have found, like having now written books and having now owned restaurants and having done other big things and fulfilled other big goals and dreams. There’s always the glamorous side and there are totally days where I walk into the restaurant and it’s exactly like you said, the tables are full. Hi, Jill. Hi, Jill. How are you? It’s just like, oh, it’s so fun. It’s just as fantasy. But of course there are days where I’m pulling my hair out.
Jill Winger (00:48:55) – Everything’s out of stock. I can’t get French fries. You know, the grill’s broken. Somebody called in sick, But I think I can’t. I don’t know. At this point in my life, I realize I can’t have the fantasy moments without the hard part, too. I realize they come together. And same with the book. You know, I had the moment this week where I got my upcoming book in the Box for the first time. So I held the copy and it’s like, you know what? Everyone dreams of the moment of holding your work in your hand, and it’s real. I know it was two years of blood, sweat and. Tiers to get to that point. So I’m like, I get this mountaintop moment because of the valleys. And I think it’s the same with the restaurant. I get the mountaintop of the restaurant because I’m willing to go through the valleys. And honestly, I don’t know if a lot of people are willing to go through valleys. And that’s one of the things I really encourage.
Jill Winger (00:49:37) – Whether you’re homesteading or you’re an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to power through the hard times, the valleys, in order to get to the parts that are social media worthy or the moments that you’ve been craving. So I think it was less of a surprise in the restaurant world just because I’ve experienced before.
Jonathan Fields (00:49:52) – Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. I love the notion of like, you’ve got to say yes to all of it. You can’t cherry pick the highlights and then just ignore all the other stuff. It’s part of one big basket of experience when you think about what you have been building over the years now, the state of the sort of modern homesteading movement and your role in it, like you’re somebody who has really become front and center in this movement and you think about the next ten years, do you have a sense for what you would love to see happen?
Jill Winger (00:50:25) – Yeah. My vision, my dream would be I would love just to see more people who are on the outskirts of the movement now.
Jill Winger (00:50:33) – Like there’s always the early adopters, right? Who are willing to do a little, a little more crazy thing, a little take a little more risk. I think they’re already in the movement. My goal is to get the people who are right now in the cities, in the suburbs, in the apartments, and they’re maybe not even aware the homesteading world exists or they’ve seen it from afar on social media. And they’re like, cool. But that’s not for me. I can’t have that because I’m not going to move and live on a farm. I want them to understand that just through day to day choices, through growing some lettuce, through working with their hands, from engaging in the community around them, that they can actually have a piece of it, not just so they can say I’m a homesteader, but just so they can start feeling that human experience to its fullest and really start to engage. And so that’s what I am hopeful that we’ll continue to branch out. We’ll continue to find ways to apply these principles for folks who live in more urban areas and get more creative with community gardens and community outreach and things like that.
Jill Winger (00:51:30) – So I hope that’s where it’s headed.
Jonathan Fields (00:51:31) – Yeah. So as we have this conversation, as you’ve shared, like your mom raising kids in a homestead environment, and often as you know, as a parent, every parent knows this. It’s never about what you say. It’s always about what you do and what you model for your kids. And oftentimes the choices that you make as a parent, kids look at that once they have a growing sense of agency and identity and they’re like, some kids are like, I am so excited to continue along with similar choices and values. And other kids are like, I outright reject this. Yeah, you’re really invested as a parent also and in a family. Do you have a sense for what you hope for with your kids in the values and the traditions that they might continue? Do you look at it and say, like, I really hope that they continue along with like the same way, or do you kind of hold it lightly and just say like, they need to be who they need to be?
Jill Winger (00:52:22) – I think it would be easy for me to say, Oh, I hope they continue farming and homesteading and ranching and doing all the things.
Jill Winger (00:52:27) – And I do like if they want to stay close and you know, as adults, their families are a mile down the road and we share tomatoes and milk cows together. I’m definitely not opposed to that. I think it’s more about the principles for me than anything. You know, my parents gave me the gift of when I moved away from home to do 1200 miles away to go ride horses for a living. They thought it was weird, but they they gave me the gift of allowing me the space to do that. And so I want to be able to give that same gift to my kids if they want to go do something, if they want to go to New York City and be on Broadway, if that’s your passion, I’m going to give you that gift to allow you to exercise that. But what I do hope and what I’m pretty confident as it stands right now could be wrong of what they’ll continue forward with is just that awareness. You know, I hope that if they are living in New York City, they’re aware of what they’re eating, they’re aware of their impact on the environment.
Jill Winger (00:53:18) – They’re making good choices in terms of moving their body and making sure they’re working with their hands. They’re mindful of the world around us. And so that’s what I hope most of all, that they’ll continue forward with no matter where they end up.
Jonathan Fields (00:53:29) – Yeah, that makes so much sense to me for those listening in right now and they’re kind of nodding along saying sounds really cool, but maybe they’re living in New York City or they’re living in somewhere where it also also sounds really foreign to them in a lot of ways. Yes. What’s an invitation for sort of like a simple first step in?
Jill Winger (00:53:48) – I would say start in your kitchen. Maybe you can’t grow something in a pot yet. That’s okay. Just start with cooking a little bit more. I think we’re in such a culture where ready made and fast food and convenience is so put on a pedestal and that’s okay. I still eat convenience fast food sometimes, but maybe instead of eating out 3 or 4 times a week, you take one night a week and you use a family or you on your own commit to cooking something from scratch that you haven’t made before.
Jill Winger (00:54:14) – And if you’ve never cooked, that can be something extremely simple. But you can kind of tailor that to your comfort level. I’d say find something that’s. Interesting or invokes curiosity in you, because when it’s something you’re curious about, it’s going to be more gratifying once you try it. And it’s that same domino we’ve been talking about. I think if people can just try something new, they’re going to get a little bit of dopamine in the kitchen. Then they’re going to try the next thing. I’m going to try the next thing. And what happens is we have this amazing snowball effect and food’s a big deal. What we eat affects how we feel, how we sleep, our mental health. It starts to affect our local community and our economy. If we’re starting to buy more local, it affects the environment. And if we’re buying food from 1200 miles away versus our backyard. So it can make a really big impact in a really simple way. And we’re all eating anyway. So I think it’s a really easy place to start.
Jonathan Fields (00:55:04) – Yeah, I love that. It feels like a good place for us to come full circle as well. So in this container of Good Life project, if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?
Jill Winger (00:55:14) – When I think of it, I just think of connection. Connection to the soil, to our food and to our communities and ourselves. And I think that can look a lot of different ways for a lot of people. But that’s the beauty of it, is I think if we can live in a lot of different forms as long as we’re connected.
Jonathan Fields (00:55:31) – Thank you. Hey, before you leave, if you love this episode, safe bet you’ll also love the conversation we had with Natalie Basile on the history and contribution of black farmers in America. You’ll find a link to Natalie’s episode in the show notes. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable and chances are you did.
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