“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]
- 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.