Believe it or not, I actually get a chance to read fiction novels from time to time. Sure, summer is arguably the busiest season for a homestead, but sometimes I just can’t help but pick up a book that isn’t going to teach me something…at least not in the same way as nonfiction books.
As you may have guessed by my title, my recent books of choice have been the Nancy Drew series. I read this series first as a child, and I decided it was time to revisit the stories I loved back then. Books tend to reveal more when they are read more than once, and Nancy Drew is no exception. I think there are a lot of life lessons we can learn from Nancy, and I decided to share a few of them here, including a few that I feel correspond directly to homesteading.
- Nancy is always kind. Even to complete strangers she meets along the way, she stops to lend a helping hand. If someone asks her for help, even if it might put her in danger or inconvenience her, she is there to do what she can. Nancy does for the least of these, and never asks for anything but friendship in return.
- She avoids gossiping, but knows when to listen to it. There’s a fine line between engaging in the spreading of rumors and simply engaging in conversation — a line all of us have crossed, if we’re honest — but Nancy always stays on the right side. However, she doesn’t simply avoid it and walk away. Nancy knows how to listen, and not just to lend a sympathetic ear. She picks up on important details that can help her down the road. Oftentimes we can benefit by simply listening to what others say and keeping our own mouths shut.
- She is honest. Nancy does not lie or hide the truth, and this makes her a trustworthy person in whom people feel comfortable confiding. People know that Nancy will not deceive them or take advantage of them. When they come to her with a problem, she will truly try to solve it, not benefit from it in some way, and she will give her honest opinion and advice. Honesty is the best policy.
- She has a wide variety of useful skills. Nancy knows how to do just about anything. She is a quick thinker, she is skilled, she can do most things for herself, and she is excellent at troubleshooting when the first trial fails. Nancy is not the type to have others do everything for her. Having a wide skill set and the ability to troubleshoot is absolutely necessary to homesteading, and one of the essences of homesteading is doing things for oneself. To homestead is to develop a variety of useful skills.
- Nancy knows when to seek counsel. Nancy is a smart girl. As the point above notes, she has no trouble figuring things out on her own or getting stuff done. Yet this does not stop her from seeking out advice when she needs it, whether it be from her father, Hannah Gruen, an authority, or a trusted friend. She is wise enough to recognize that multiple people coming together can solve a problem much faster, and that even the smartest and most self-sufficient folk need some advice now and again. Homesteaders sometimes get caught up in the “I need to do this myself” attitude, but there are times when we do need help. And that is okay.
- She doesn’t let her age or inexperience interfere. Nancy would never be the type of person to make an excuse for anything. Thoughts such as “I’m too young” or “I’ve never done this before, so I can’t do it now” never enter her mind. Instead she faces trouble head on with the certainty that one way or another, alone or with friends, she can accomplish her goals. No excuses. So what if you’ve never raised chickens before? You can do this.
- She is brave. I will be the first to admit that I am not going to follow strangers down deserted roads or climb through dark, hidden passageways like Nancy does. Truth be told, some risks really shouldn’t be taken, especially alone. There’s still a lesson here, though, and it applies amply to homesteading. Homesteading involves risks. “What if I don’t get a return on this investment? What if something happens to my livestock? What if my crops fail? What if that [insert large animal here] tramples me?” There are a lot of “what if’s,” but the one sure thing is that homesteading requires a good helping of hope, faith, and even bravery. Sometimes you just have to dive in and pray it works out.
- She develops strong, positive relationships. Nancy has a wide network of friends and relatives with whom she has good relationships. She doesn’t let being busy keep her from socializing. In fact, she incorporates her work with the development of her relationships in many ways. Homesteading is an isolating lifestyle. (And trust me, I am the worst about being a hermit homesteader.) The work, though usually enjoyable, is time consuming and tiring at times. It’s hard to go out for a night on the town with friends when you have to wake up the next morning to milk your goats. And sometimes it’s hard to connect with people who don’t share your lifestyle. Not everyone understands the desire to homestead or cares to hear homestead-related anecdotes. But connecting with other humans is important not only for our emotional well being, but also to build a network of people to whom we can turn in times of need or share with in times of bounty. We get by with a little help from our friends (and family).
- Nancy appreciates the great outdoors. She enjoys being active outside, taking hikes, spending time on the lake, or just enjoying nature. In book 2, The Hidden Staircase, Nancy mentions that her father taught her that nature is a great way to clear one’s mind. It is such a valuable thing to appreciate nature and enjoy time spent in the outdoors…especially if you homestead. All that garden and livestock time will be spent outdoors, of course, and you will likely find that you enjoy that much more than indoor chores.
- She never gives up. Nancy embodies tenacity. Even when she’s down to nothing, at her wits end, locked in a closet by burglars, or generally in a situation that seems hopeless…she just keeps trying. Those of us who homestead know that some days, months, and even years on a homestead are hard. Sometimes it seems like everything we plant dies, the weeds are overtaking our entire lives, the weather is against us, and/or our livestock just keep having problems, illnesses, injuries, or even deaths. Homesteaders must be tenacious if we are to keep homesteading. Sometimes the going gets tough, but the tough keep going!