{What Is Homesteading?} And Why We Call Ourselves Homesteaders

I don’t own a tractor (that’s my grandfather above). In fact, I don’t even own 100 acres of land with roaming cattle, horses or sheep. I don’t have a farm store, and I don’t even have a farm. But I’m a homesteader….
The word “homestead” has meant so many things throughout history. In the 1800’s it was often spoken about in reference to the The Homesteading Act of 1862.

The Homestead Act, enacted during the Civil War in 1862, provided that any adult citizen, or intended citizen, who had never borne arms against the U.S. government could claim 160 acres of surveyed government land. Claimants were required to “improve” the plot by building a dwelling and cultivating the land. After 5 years on the land, the original filer was entitled to the property, free and clear, except for a small registration fee. Title could also be acquired after only a 6-month residency and trivial improvements, provided the claimant paid the government $1.25 per acre. After the Civil War, Union soldiers could deduct the time they had served from the residency requirements. [National Archives and Records Administration]

Further down the history timeline, in the 1970’s, our parents and grandparents (and some of our hippie friends) may have began the next homesteading movement. They refused to be controlled by a government that was more concerned with money and prosperity than health and family. Publications such as Mother Earth News began popping up and rising to popularity quickly. The 1970’s movement gave a new meaning to “homesteading” — it wasn’t just about “farming” and land use anymore, it was about a way of life — a life of self sufficiency and doing things the old fashioned way. It was a movement of a better lifestyle, not just for their generation, but for ours.
Here we are now in the 21st Century, and we can thank those 1970’s “hippies” for our homesteading term now. In today’s society, the word “homesteading” is a term used by many people, but ultimately it means the same thing. Homesteading is when you strive to live a self-sufficient lifestyle and conserve the methods used by our ancestors. These homesteaders are dairy farmers, backyard garden and chicken keepers, vegetarians and meat eaters, old and young. Some have a 1/4 acre, some have 300+ acres. Some have cows, while others have rabbits. Some milk goats, and some just have a garden that they preserve every year. No matter where you live or what you’re doing, as long as you are striving to become more and more self-sufficient every year and are living off of your land, you can consider yourself a homesteader. Tractor and money not necessary. In fact, homesteading is the perfect way to spend less money by doing your own work and preserving your own harvests.
Homesteading in its truest form, however, isn’t just throwing some plants in a jug, eating some tomatoes that Summer and considering yourself a homesteader. In fact, many would take offense to that. Homesteading is hard work, but it is joyous work. This past Summer I was incredibly bummed that we didn’t get to plant the garden that we wanted to plant. However, we utilized the farmer’s market a lot and I was still able to support them enough so that I could can several veggies this past season. This year, it’s going to be different!
By popular opinion, here are some things that make you a true homesteader (some, or all):
  • You live off of your land. You plant a garden that supports your family’s needs, and preserve what you can for the coming Winter. You harvest your own meat (if you eat meat) directly from your backyard — be it chickens, rabbits, goats, or even venison. It doesn’t matter if you have 1/4 acre or 1,000 acres, you live off of the land that you have, and you enjoy it. You are keenly aware that food from the supermarket doesn’t taste nearly as good as the food you’ve grown yourself, not to mention it is filling your body with unnatural things. You shudder at the thought of eating those veggies stored in metal cans or microwaveable bags. You might not even own a microwave.
  • You own farm animals which have a purpose. That means chickens aren’t just for entertainment, they are for eggs or meat. Rabbits aren’t just cute and cuddly, they are for pelts and/or meat. Goats aren’t just things you walk around on leashes, they are there for milk and/or meat. If you choose not to do these things, that’s ok too! But homesteading, in its truest form, means that everything on your property has a purpose (except maybe that lazy black dog sitting on my sofa).
  • You actually work on your homestead. You get your hands dirty in the garden. You clean out coops, stalls and hutches. You build things (or help), even if you’re a girl. You get muddy when it’s raining, and you freeze your fingers off when it’s -2 degrees outside and you have to water the animals. You help your animals give birth when needed, and tend to the babies not just during the easy times, but the hard times too. Not only do your animals serve a purpose, but you serve a purpose. You’re a modern day Adam and Eve for goodness sake, own it!
  • You strive to live all naturally. You make your own herbal medicines and know that the weeds in your yard can be used to cure a toothache rather than just being run over with the lawn mower. You might make your own hair care products. You are trying to reduce your carbon footprint and the chemicals that leach into the soil from the things that you pour down the drain. And you have found a brand new love for cooking meals from scratch rather than popping a frozen pizza into the oven for dinner every night.
  • You try to be self-sufficient, and encourage others to be as well. All of the above, plus sharing. Homesteading and natural living are contagious, and you want everyone to live just as healthy as you do. It pains you inside to watch your friends and family constantly get sick or go to the doctor when you know that if they just put a little elbow grease into their lives, they would see a major difference in their health and lifestyle. You have a brain full of knowledge and it excites you to share it…never withholding any of it. Because after all, it’s not a competition, it’s a lifestyle that should be treasured and conserved in its purest form. You realize that you are constantly learning, constantly growing, and believe it or not, you know you’re not a know it all. You enjoy new knowledge more than anything.
These are just a few of the main points that make you a “homesteader”, and one of the reasons we really enjoy homesteading. Homesteading isn’t just a thing, it’s a passion….it’s a lifestyle. I know plenty of “farmers” who could care less about self-sufficiency…and I don’t call them homesteaders. I also know plenty of farmers who love self-sufficiency and fight for it…I value them as homesteaders in our community, and I have learned so much from them.
The moral of the story? You don’t have to have a large farm or the family genetics to be a homesteader. All you need is a little land, some calloused hands, a tender heart, and a whole lot of passion and drive. We homestead because we want a better life for ourselves and for our child. We want to be dependent simply on God and on ourselves….not the grocery store or the government. We homestead because we are passionate about life and the freedom that we can enjoy while on this earth. We are passionate about homesteading, because we were given these hands and feet to make an impact not only on others, but on this beautiful Earth that was given to us. Why waste it?
What are some of your favorite things about homesteading? 
What would you add to this list? 
Feel free to chat on facebook or in the comments below, and I just might share a few of them! 🙂

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