Core Principles

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day. In case you were like me and did not know about the origins of Earth Day, it “began in 1970 after peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace. Today it is seen as a way to demonstrate support for environmental protection.  Earth Day is now coordinated by the Earth Day Network and is celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.”  Thank you, Wikipedia, for that information.

How did I Celebrate Earth Day?

As Dave Ramsey quotes often on his excellent radio show about getting out of debt and winning at life:

One of Dave Ramsey's favorite quotes as seen on Twitter. Courtesy of Dave Ramsey and Twitter

One of Dave Ramsey’s favorite quotes as seen on Twitter. Courtesy of Dave Ramsey and Twitter

I put in a full day at the office attending meetings, working through issues and answering e-mails.  At one point in the day, I took a look at the Small Scale Gardening Newsfeed on Facebook, and there was a post from Modern Steader that caught my eye.  It was titled “Introduction to the 7 Core Values of the Modern Steader.”

Core principles, mission statements and goals are something near and dear to my heart.  I have been involved in helping companies large and small develop core principles, mission statements, goals and performance measures for the majority of my career, so I take a keen interest when someone or a company publishes their core principles for the universe to see.

Modern Steader’s Core Principles

7 Core Principles of the Modern Steader. Courtesy of Modern Steader

Introduction to the 7 Core Principles of the Modern Steader. Courtesy of


In case you missed it, Modern Steader‘s seven core principles are the following:

  • Thrive on hard work
  • Strive for self-reliance
  • Constantly develop craft skills
  • Have a thirst for knowledge
  • Respect the connection to the land
  • Use resources efficiently
  • Support the local community

Modern Steader’s core principles are simple and to the point.  These seven core principles resonate with me, and I am completely on board with each one.  In his post, Dave from Modern Steader asked three basic questions:

  • How do these values represent you?
  • How many of these have you thought about before and which ones had you not considered?
  • What do you feel is the most important value here for you and how has that affected the way you live your life?

Those are great questions.  Since the crash of 2007-2008, I have considered and tried to adopt these core principles in my own life.  The economic downturn was a massive tipping point for me and my family, and the changes experienced since the downturn are quite dramatic.

The changes since 2007-2008 and adoption of these core principles had been brewing for years prior, however.  As a person interested in history, I read about the people that lived in the 1800’s or 1900’s when modern conveniences were not available.  These people lived, and thrived, by using what they had to clear the land, build a house (without running water or electricity), break the sod and raise families.  These people had knowledge, grit and determination that we might not have in the modern era.  While they needed these skills to survive, they also relied on others to help on big projects, i.e., barn raising or birthing livestock.  These days, we simply pull up YouTube on our iPhone or iPad and complain that the internet connection is too slow.

Pines planted in the old gravel pit in Central Wisconsin - 2013

Pines planted in the old gravel pit in Central Wisconsin – 2013

These core principles, fueled by passion, desire, grit, determination and perseverance, have propelled this nation for over 200 years.  These core principles have change lives.  It is the stuff that my grandparents had when my grandfather left his “safe and comfortable” insurance job in Kenosha, Wisconsin, bought and operated a small resort in Central Wisconsin, bought some old farm land, planted an 80-acre tree farm by hand and mined gravel.  It is the stuff that drove my dad to play football at the University of Wisconsin and for the National Football League yet ran a small hobby farm in Central Wisconsin (for a brief period).  It is the same stuff that drove my brother to plant 20 acres of pine trees in that same tired old gravel pit in an effort to reclaim the land (see the picture above).

Small Scale Gardening Themes

Small Scale Garden Themes

Small Scale Garden Themes

Last fall, I had written “themes” for Small Scale Gardening in a worn notebook, and it amazes me how these “themes” align with the Modern Steader core principles.  The themes I wrote down are the following:

  • Learn skills
  • Lower the cost of one’s lifestyle (minimize footprint)
  • Eliminate debt and stay debt free
  • Conserve and control resources (particularly water, energy, transportation)
  • Establish roots in the community
  • Be useful to others
  • Lead by example
  • Take control of your health as much as possible

Over the years, I have stated these themes and core principles to my wife, family and friends.  While they probably think I am a bit off my rocker, I understand where I have been, what I am doing now and where I am going.  It really comes down to this: I simply do not need the stress and the pressure of trying to keep up with the Joneses in this world.  I call this the “hamster wheel of life” where you are endlessly working and stressed trying to keep up.

We can minimize our footprint so that we don’t need stressful jobs and debt that impact our lives and health.  The beauty is that my wife agrees that we can succeed by adopting these themes and core principles, and she is beginning to champion some of these themes on her own.  I am a very lucky and proud husband!

Small Scale Gardening is about maximizing small spaces and resources.  While I am focused on gardening, preserving food and wine making, there are other skills that I am learning in the process, i.e., composting, carpentry, hydraulics, plumbing, managing social media, podcasting, budgeting, starting up/managing small businesses, etc.  These are important skills to learn, but I need to continue to push out of my comfort zone and continue to engage the community around me.  After all, I am really here to learn, contribute and teach others how to make the most out of what they have.

This was a fantastic post from Dave Creech at Modern Steader.  I am proud to be a member of the Modern Steader Tribe, and I am thrilled that they are part of the Small Scale Gardening Tribe as well.  Let’s grow this together!

Your Turn

Rescued rhubarb planted in the summer of 2014.

Rescued rhubarb planted in the summer of 2014. Looks good so far on 4/20/15!

Core principles guide your journey through life.  What are your core principles?  Are you following those core principles?  If the answer is no, why not?


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