What is Homesteading

What comes to mind when you hear the word “homestead?” Do you think of a sprawling garden and a big red barn? A log cabin in the woods with chickens in the yard?

Maybe the word brings Little House on the Prairie to mind.

Is homesteading only historical? Is it limited to only certain people in rural areas with lots of land?

Or can it be more than that?

Let’s take a look at what homesteading has been in the past, what it is in the present, and what it can be in your future!

What Is Homesteading?

Let’s start with the legal definition of “homestead.” According to Dictionary.com it’s a reference to a homestead law that protects a home from seizure. This is a modern definition, but not one that addresses what homesteading is as a verb.

History of Homesteading

What has homesteading meant in the past? Let’s look at recent history.

Homestead Act of 1862

In the United States settlers were granted land by the Homestead Act of 1862. A legal adult (aged 21+) or head of household could make a homestead claim and receive 160 acres of land. To keep it, they had to live on the property, build a home, and farm the land.

By this Act, 270 million acres of public land was turned over to private citizens. And these people came from every walk of life, from single women to previously enslaved people. Even non-American citizens could qualify under the Act as long as they declared their intent to become a legal citizen.

Further Back in History

In its broadest sense, a homestead is where you settle and make your home. The word comes from an Old English word that means “a settlement.” 

Our ancient ancestors started settling in one place, working the land, and producing what they could on it. Those people could actually be considered the first homesteaders!

Homesteading in the 21st Century

Modern homesteaders take the same principle of building a life at home and give it a new twist. Gone are the days of free land, but the homestead lifestyle lives on.

Series of 3 pictures, tomatoes on vine, chickens, woman working in garden

Homesteaders strive for self-sufficiency, sustainability, and connection with the environment. What that looks like differs from person to person, but the awareness of how we affect our environment and how we are affected in turn is always there.

Modern homesteading has really come to mean two things:

A Personal Journey

Many homesteaders begin their journeys when they realize that modern conveniences come with a price. And that price is higher than they are willing to pay.

So we look to the older ways. Skills that your grandma or great-aunt had, but somehow they didn’t pass the knowledge down to you. And they’re not around anymore for you to pick their brain.

Fortunately, you can find information to help learn those skills in books and online. More and more people are realizing how important these skills are! And some are coming forward to teach what they know.

I named our homestead Crooked Path for the many twists and turns in life that have led to homesteading. And the way that life continues to refuse to be straight-forward! 

You may feel like life has also led you on a twisted, crooked path. I’m here to tell you “Embrace it!”

If you’re seeking the independence of growing your own food, and the security of knowing exactly how it was produced, this is the place for you!

A Social Movement

Homesteading, while often associated with a self-sufficient lifestyle, is impossible without help. Even if it’s just an encouraging word!

If you’re going it alone, find a homesteading buddy! It will be one of the best “tools” in your homesteading toolbox!

The internet is not just a source of information for homesteaders, it also brings community. It can help you find other homesteaders in your area. And it can also connect you with homesteaders of all kinds everywhere!

Are You Seeking a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle?

Do you have a tendency to look at a modern convenience and wonder what people used to do before? Or wonder what you would do if you no longer had it?

Asking these kinds of questions, and finding your own answers for them is where self-sufficiency starts.

During World War II we had Victory Gardens. Backyard chickens, canning, and root cellars all used to be far more common. Over time the super-store replaced these more sustainable practices.

The sacrifice is that often we don’t know where our food comes from or how it was produced. And that food often travels many miles to get to the store for us to buy it.

Mindset of Self-Reliance on the Homestead

There are two ways to know where your food comes from and how it was produced. You can buy from a farmer you know and trust. Or you can grow it yourself.

Cultivating this mindset of self-reliance is a core principle in homesteading.

It’s hard work. But it’s also rewarding to reap the benefits of your labor!

Imagine sitting down to a meal that was prepared using foods that you grew yourself!

There will always be things we can’t grow ourselves. (No one wants to eat food without salt!)

But a homesteader is always asking themselves “Can I do this myself?” And then exploring possible answers to that question.

How to Get Started as a Homesteader

So you’re sitting there reading about homesteading, watching videos, and it makes you want to do something!

What’s stopping you?

Can You Homestead?

Are you feeling like you don’t know enough? I’ll tell you a secret, we are all still learning! You don’t have to know it all (or even very much) to get started.

Do you think you can’t because you live in town? Plenty of homesteaders don’t live in rural areas! 

It’s not where you live that makes you a homesteader. It’s claiming the title. Own it!

You are a homesteader!

Take that mindset, think about what you want to learn to do, and just start.

You’ll be amazed by how much you’ve done and learned in just a few months!

If it’s something you really want, you’ll make it happen. And I’ll be cheering you on the whole way!

Homesteading Activities to Try

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a few ideas in a variety of areas to get you going. These are things you can do whether you’re looking at suburban homesteading or living in an apartment in the city.

Homesteading will mean different things to different people. Explore what you want to and decide what lifestyle choices you want to make!

My best advice is start slowly. Small changes over time will have a huge impact. 

Visit the local farmers market

Talk to the local growers! They know things about your local climate, what grows well, and how to cultivate your garden that you might not even find online. They tend to be a friendly bunch, and love it when people ask questions!

Make yogurt or farmers cheese

Yogurt and farmers cheese are simple recipes that are a great introduction to preserving milk! You can make them with ingredients from the grocery store. And you don’t need access to fresh cows milk.

Start a small vegetable garden

Try growing a patio tomato, a small 4×4 raised bed, or even some potted herbs on a window sill! Don’t worry if you don’t have a “green thumb.” You can absolutely develop one! But you have to start somewhere.

Do some research

There are some things that I don’t recommend trying without learning a little about it first. Keeping livestock is the biggest one.

If you can have backyard chickens, they are wonderful! The baby chicks at Tractor Supply are adorable! But don’t go into it completely blind. Animals are a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Watch some videos, read some articles, or borrow a book from the library before you bring home those adorable baby chicks!

What’s Next?

I hope you now have a clear idea of what homesteading means to you.

Picture yourself a few years from now. What are you doing? Are you proud of what you’ve learned and accomplished?

Take a minute to think about what you would like to try as you start your homesteading journey. Then let me know what you would like to do in the comments!

I believe in you! You can do this!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *