By definition a homestead is the house a family lives in and the adjoining land. By that definition, a homestead could be anything from a 20,000 acre ranch to a suburban or urban home with a yard. While I still think of homesteading as purchasing a house with acreage, at least 20 or 30 for a small homestead, the reality is that I am a homesteader.
Homesteading is more than just the home you occupy and the land you have, though. It’s a philosophy and a lifestyle. Homesteaders, no matter where they reside, choose a life of self-sufficiency. It’s striving for maximum independence and self-reliance. Through the things I’ve learned about gardening, food preservation, animal husbandry, and other helpful topics I’ve been able to give my family a life close to the land. We raised, butchered, and ate various animals. We ate the vegetables we all worked to produce. There were things I didn’t learn when I was younger that I wish I had but I haven’t given up on learning to do them.
The homesteader is often referred to as a subsistence farmer, meaning enough food for themselves and their families is grown on their land. This also includes feed for any livestock they may own. This description is, in my mind, a bit off. Subsistence implies mere survival and this can be grossly untrue of the modern homesteader. I grow as much of the produce my family will use as I possibly can. If I have so much that I know we won’t eat it all I take the extra produce to a local food bank. Many folks around here set up produce stands to make a little extra cash with their excess. If you’re growing enough food to sell or give away you aren’t simply surviving. You’re thriving.
Another characterization of a homestead is that it is living in isolation. This is untrue of many modern homesteads. Except for the very rural homesteads most modern homesteaders live within a reasonable distance from a town or village. Some people who are practicing, to the best of their resources, modern homesteading live right in villages, towns, and even cities. I’m in a rural area but certainly not in an isolated one. But I’d love to be out, away from even our tiny village. My son and I joke about moving to Alaska and living a true homesteading lifestyle.
Modern homesteaders, in addition to living on and working their land for their own food, generally choose to plant only heirloom vegetables and raise heritage livestock. I refuse to raise anything, plant or animal, that isn’t from heirloom seeds or heritage stock.
We’ve chosen a homesteading lifestyle because we wanted to avoid the unhealthy options for crops, meats, poultry, and fish being offered commercially. I don’t want to eat or feed my family GMO fruits and vegetables. We want to be able to plant my vegetable garden with seeds we’ve saved from last year’s crops. We want to know what the animals we eat have been fed. And 23 want to be secure in the knowledge that we don’t depend on the government, the grocery stores, or the food industry for our meals.
You can live a homesteader lifestyle almost anywhere. There may be some things you can’t do on the land you have due to space limitations and/or zoning laws, but, to some degree, almost everyone can become more self-sufficient. We love our life and we believe that most people would choose to be as independent as possible given the chance.
The ultimate goal of most homesteaders is to have enough land and solitude to live a life of complete self-sufficiency. But you don’t have to already own land and have livestock to get started. Grow your own vegetables or as many as you can. Learn to preserve food by several methods. Learn to make your own clothes or take up woodworking. Think of all the things our ancestors did in their daily lives and begin, as much as you’re able with the land you have, to do those things yourself. You’ll find that being self-sufficient gives you a feeling of pride unlike any other.