What is a Homestead?
Updated: Jun 16, 2021
Modern homesteading is the act of becoming a producer instead of a consumer.
Upon hearing the term "homestead", the mind typically conjures a vision of a covered wagon, bumbling across the dusty plains. Passengers would be on the dusty trail, in search of their "claim" to begin living a life of prosperity. This was the American dream. The Homestead Act of 1862 sent thousands of people from the big cities of the United States out into the great American desert, mountains, and valleys to establish their acreage. This would be achieved by simply proving they could remain inhabiting their desired property for five years. Truthfully, the reality of the Homestead Act is that it actually caused immense strife and destitution for the Native Americans, and this is a topic that must not be ignored. Nevertheless, the term homesteading has come roaring back into our culture as more people seek to find freedom from all-enveloping consumer society.
Nowadays a Homesteader is an individual or a group who utilizes the land they live on to supply a large amount of what they need to live. They produce as much as they can for themselves, usually creating a business based on their surplus. Many homesteaders actually live in the city, with rooftop gardens, chickens in a backyard, etc. If that is what works for you, I encourage you to keep doing it! City life is essential for many and I wish that all urban dwellers engage in homesteading any way they are able. However, some folks are heading for rural areas of the United States, in search of old farms or vacant land in the vein of the American settlers of the 1860's. Back then going off grid was a necessity, now it is a luxury.
Homesteaders are pioneers in the sense that they are either exploring a new territory amongst their modern peers, or they are learning how to best achieve self-sufficiency; a journey in itself. They are gaining and reapplying lost knowledge of days passed.
"History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new." (Ecc 1:9)
Disgruntled with their current mental health and well being, people are beginning to seek desperately for a more spiritually sound way of living. The answer lies in a return to nature lifestyle known commonly as "homesteading". Being able to supply your household goods, as well as your medication in the form of incredibly nutritious home grown gardens are truly a thing of beauty and wonder to the common person today.
The homesteader of the 1800's had to essentially supply themselves with almost all the necessities of life. There was nobody else around! Therefore many settlers had productive farms. These folks would raise cattle, goats, chickens, pigs. They would have lush orchards with apple trees, bramble berries, cabbage and squash. They would have kitchen gardens packed full of garlic and herbs, not only for cooking but for medicinal reasons especially. As the nearest doctor could be highly expensive and potentially days away, the pioneers usually had to provide all their own healthcare.
Today, there are an abundance of people in nearly every corner of the Earth, making the need to be completely self reliant minimal. In almost every backroad area you can find someone already living a homesteading lifestyle. There ought to be strong new communities built on the surplus of today‘s homesteads!
In modern times, you can build almost any style of house, drive any kind of car, shop at any kind of store, practically anywhere!
Self sufficiency is mostly and impractical goal with everything at your fingertips these days. Homesteading in this regard has become a more loose term than ever. Yet living a life of subsistence is a satisfying and empowering goal that all humans can benefit from achieving.
Contrary to homesteading of yesteryear, one does not have the freedom of simply settling on land, providing their own food and shelter, and living the content life. There are mortgage or land payments, property tax, insurance, cell phones, internet, TV streaming services, just to name a few expenses... It is vital that in order to make it as a homesteader, you need to be able to supply your own income for these costs as well!
Expenses combined with many legal restrictions are making it one of the most difficult times to get back to nature in history, but it is possible! Not only that, it is therapeutic and inspiring. Albert Einstein is quoted saying,
"Look deep into nature,
then you will understand everything better."
and that is the ultimate goal of the modern day homestead. To find understanding from a life closer to the Earth.
A home, embodied by mindful, hard working, and self reliant people, cultivating and co-operating with all other life (soil, plant, animal, etc.); these are all things that define what it means to be a homestead.
There are far more informational and detailed books of how to do so, some of which can be found in the Essential Resources of the High Altitude Homestead.