You may be wondering what is homesteading, because you are interested in adopting some of these old fashioned principles in your own life.
Developing traditional skills has had a recent uptick in popularity in recent years. After years of praising convenience food and way of life, people seem to want to return to their roots! For Grey and I, the allure to homestead living started when we got engaged in 2011, and we’ve been hooked ever since! Homesteading is very much a learning lifestyle, since there are always new old fashioned skills to be learned.
The term homesteading is thrown around a lot these days, but what does it actually mean? This article will not only highlight the actual definition, but get into a little bit of history, and how we use the term today.
What is Homesteading?
To officially define homesteading it makes sense to go straight to the dictionary which states that homesteading is “an act or instance of establishing a homestead.” Okay…well what is a “homestead then? Dictionary.com defines a homestead as: “a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale for debt.” OR “any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.” OR “a tract of land acquired under the Homestead Act.”
Now that we have basically defined homesteading in it’s actual definition, lets talk about the definition as the way people are using it today.
Today, we use the word more informally. In fact, you might use the word to describe any household that gardens and keeps animals to feed their family.
What is the Homestead Act of 1862?
It would be difficult to define homesteading without mentioning The Homestead Act of 1862. This refers to the historic homestead of the pioneers traveling west.
Under this act, “public land in the western United States was granted to any US citizen willing to settle on and farm the land for at least five years”.
The Homestead Act of 1862 was established to help settle the American West. The federal government granted almost 10% of the United States to homesteaders through this act and its successors!
What is homesteading today?
Today homesteading isn’t defined as simply as as it used to be. When it is used in language today, people are typically talking about a wide array of activities, beliefs, motivations which makes it difficult to tack down one definition. BUT there is one main philosophy that is common to every type of homesteader: a desire to be more self-sufficient. The reasons to move towards that goal might be different, but the end is very similar.
How to get started?
If you are reading this, chances are you are interested in implementing some part of homesteading into your own life. The good news is that you do not need to wait until you buy your dream homestead. In fact, it is best that you don’t. Homesteading successfully is nothing more than developing many skills and mastering them. Start practicing right now.
Build old fashioned skills
The list of old fashioned skills to learn is truly endless! Here are some quick ideas to get you thinking what you might like to learn.
- Baking sourdough
- Cooking from scratch
- Fruit tree care
- Animal Care
Get your family on board
If you are interested in homesteading, it is best to have support and not do it alone. Homesteading can make for some wonderful family time and teach kids valuable lessons! If you are looking for age appropriate homestead chores check out chores for homestead kids by age . Start by planting a backyard garden together or raising chickens for eggs.
Develop a do it yourself mentality
Homesteaders are often resourceful people that use what they have. If you re wanting to learn the skills of sustainability change your mindset to a outsourcing to a do it yourself mentality. Learn to repair old appliances or farm equipment. If what you are needing can be done by you, try doing it yourself to save money and develop the skills! This will also move you in the directions of being financially self-sufficient.
Why do people homestead?
Homesteading in the modern world is done for a variety of reasons. Though the results might look similar, there are wide ranges of motivations for why someone would consider turning back to clock to learn the skills of yesterday. Below are some common types of homesteaders.
This type of homesteading is probably what most people think about when it comes to imagining what homesteading is. Rural homesteaders typically have zones for gardening, orchards, and a variety of animals. They often are continually moving towards a self-sustainable way of life. Not all rural homesteads are alike. Though this is not an exhaustive list, here are some examples of what you might find on a rural homestead.
- Have a private well. This can be an electric, or hand pump…or both! As well as a rainwater collection system.
- Some type of alternative energy like solar or wind.
- Installation of a septic system or a composting toilet system.
- Often have fruit trees, and annual gardens planted to feed family, and to sell as a steady source of income.
- Raise poultry for meat or eggs
- Have cows for meat and/or dairy
- Care for sheep for dairy and wool production
- Alpaca fleece production
- Developing skills of canning and curing for long-term food preservation
- Homeschooling children
Urban homesteaders often find themselves in a home with a small yard, and want to make the most of it! Often times they are driven to live more sustainable lives, but not always. Suburban homesteaders have unique challenges because they are required to work around city and town ordinances.
There has been a boom of urban homesteaders and edible landscaping in recent years, to return to a more productive home. If you are wondering exactly how it might look, imagine a larger homestead or farm, minus the large animals. Many backyard homesteads have extensive gardens, fruit trees, bees, chickens, and even goats! Often times suburban homesteaders are making use of alternative energy, like solar, as well.
- Space saving gardening zones.
- Community gardens
- Farmer’s markets
- Bartering, sharing, trading services, and labor exchanges help the community as a whole
- Using grey water systems for plant watering,
- Biking rather than drive to live green within the city
- Using vertical planters to maximize growing space.
Prepper homesteading is like rural homesteading however there is an underlying current of preparing for something to happen versus rural living as a way of life. Homesteaders who are peppers often view this way of life as a back up plan if there was a catastrophic event.
Many but not all preppers will develop a property that is not their primary residence. The rural property that is stocked up with supplies is often a back up plan that they intend to “bug out.” They may visit this property frequently to check on the state of things, but do not live on site.
Though prepper homesteading and survival homesteading have many similar components, they are different. Survival homesteaders typically have a much bleaker view of the future, hence the name “survival.” They often have a military or outdoorsman background and are prepare themselves both mentally and physically for a potential disaster.
Like prepper homesteaders they stock up on supplies needed if and when society took a downward spiral. The goal is to be organized before this event happens. Often times the goal is to develop a property that is remote and has natural protection.
Lessons from a long time homesteader
You learn by doing, not just books
As much as books and internet can really help in the learning process, they alone are not enough. Most homesteading skills require action. Doing the chore and leaning from success and failures is the only way to effectively learn a new skill. Reading only provides a small slice of the knowledge.
There are no sick days
Homesteading is hard work. If you get sick or just don’t feel like doing farm chores just saying no isn’t an option. The animals still need to be fed, and fruit still needs harvesting. Just opting out without a plan b isn’t allowed on the homestead. If you have a family, it helpful to have everyone involved in the chores, so that if someone is sick, someone else can take over. Even kids can get involved in the chores! Read chores for homestead kids by age.
You need a village
The more you get into the homesteading lifestyle, you’ll realize that true self-sufficiency looks more like a strong local community that is sufficient. No one can do everything themselves. It is a good idea to start finding local people that raise what you don’t and support each other through trading and purchasing each other’s goods. For example, you may raise your own sheep but you probably do not produce the minerals, hay, and occasional medication that they may need. Find local people.
Having a strong local network also allows you to take occasional breaks, when you need. Them it isn’t easy to leave the homestead, but I wrote an article that gives some helpful things to remember when someone is going to be watching your homestead. Read how to vacation with a homestead.
It takes time to reap a reward
The rewards do not happen right at first. Sure there is the reward of hard work and making progress on goals, but usually first year gardens do not produce like you would hope. In fact, thier tends to be a lot of failure in the beginning. That’s okay! Don’t let a slow start discourage you. You’ll need to develop a certain amount of grit to keep going.
Avoid going off grid right from the start
New homesteaders often throw themselves into the world of old fashioned living by wanting to do everything all at once. Buy land. Get all the animals. Plant a huge garden. Go off grid. Start selling farm products. It all sounds great, but that is a recipe for failure. The best practice is to use modern conveniences to help you get on your way with one skill at a time. Build up to an off grid system. Why make things harder for yourself?
Internet access is helpful
Since many of the skills of yesterday are lost due to the rising popularity of convince food and technology, many homesteaders are not learning from past generations. Having resources like books and internet access will expedite your growth in homestead skill building. Use all the modern tools you can to expedite your learning.
Homesteading frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What is the difference between farming and homesteading?
Basically and farm is used for larger food production and a homestead is smaller. If land used for agriculture is more than 400 acres it is considered a farm, while less than this acreage is considered a homestead.
Do homesteaders make money?
Some homesteaders in today’s modern day make money directly from their homestead. Selling eggs, soap, meat, veggies, and teaching classes are all ways that a homesteaders can monetize their farm.
How many acres do you need for homesteading?
More acreage means you might live out a dreamy country life with the ability to continue growing without being limited by space. It isn’t needed though. Many people raise a ton of food with just a small backyard.
Can you homestead on 1 acre?
Yes. Many people even find themselves raising their own food and living a homesteading lifestyle on suburban lots! You actually need very little space to raise quite a large amount of food. Not to mention all of the homesteading skills you can build inside like canning, cooking from scratch, soap making, candle making, and sewing.
How do I start homesteading?
You do not need a lot of land to begin your homesteading journey. Start by building the skills you will need to properly keep a homestead.
- Start researching
- Decide what skill you would like to learn
- Focus on learning one skill at a time and mastering it.
- Work on becoming more self-sufficient gradually
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Fed up with the fast paced modern world, Grey & Brianna made drastic changes to live slowly and intentionally. Read more about their unlikely story back to calm. If you want to send Grey & Brianna a quick message, then visit their contact page.