What is Homesteading?
While it would be convenient to assign a specific definition to what a homestead is, it would not do the term justice. Homesteading has, by its very nature, evolved over time. The one constant? Self-sufficiency. Does that mean you have to grow or raise everything you use or consume? I think not. It would be foolish to assume that the original homesteaders raised or grew 100% of what they used or consumed either. It would be logical that they would have traded or bartered with each other for the necessary resources.
It seems in the current culture, the definition is even more fluid. Encompassing homesteads in the urban, suburban, and pretty much any other environment you can think of. So what does it really mean? We think it means that if you are making an effort toward being self-sufficient, you are a homesteader. Do you grow a garden? You are a homesteader. Do you maybe only have room for some potted plants? You could still consider yourself a homesteader. If you use your resources to produce more resources (food, fuel, etc.), you are a homesteader.
Homesteading became an official, government enforced entity in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law. While that law was repealed in 1976 by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, there are still some states that offer protections to person’s who are homesteading. There are many ways to get access to this information, but I found searching through Google to be sufficient to find the information that I was looking for. Of note, however, you should be careful to make sure the information you are looking at is up to date.
How to Start?
This is a question we’ve seen a lot around on the web. And the answer to that is rather vague. How you start is really up to you. Our story is here. Our advice is to start small. Test the water and see what you are really interested in and give yourself the opportunity to learn about it without risking a lot of resources. You also don’t want to overwhelm yourself and give up right out of the gate. We risked that and almost gave up.
Do you want to raise animals? Maybe start with a few chickens and see how you like it. Do you love the idea of growing your own food? Maybe start with growing a couple of things that you know you love to eat. Do flowers make you feel happy, or do you just love having herbs you’ve grown yourself? Maybe grow a few in pots or a small spot on your land. See how you feel, and then consider some other questions as you consider growing:
- How much time do you want to devote to your homesteading projects? This is has been a major difficulty for us. We often underestimate how much time projects will take. This is something I am hoping we will get better within 2018.
- How many resources can you put into your project before seeing returns (if there are any)? If there
is one certainty with homesteading, it is that things don’t work out the way you think they will more often than not. That is not to say you shouldn’t try. We will all make mistakes. It’s what you do with them that matters. Not to mention factors that are outside of your control.
There is also the balance between time vs. resources. If you devote fewer resources to a given project, often times that means you will have to devote much more time. Conversely, if you are able to put more resources into a project, that often means you won’t have to devote as much time. So then the question becomes, what do you really want out of it? Does it make you feel more fulfilled to build that chicken coop or just to purchase it and put it in place? Do you enjoy weeding, or would you rather invest in plastic mulch (or some other weed suppression system)?