In an increasingly commercialized world, it can seem as though humanity has lost touch with its roots. The ingenuity and hard work it once took to survive have been largely replaced by grocery stores and chain shops. For those who are discontent with how heavily the average citizen relies on commercial goods, there is another option. Homesteading can be as complex as raising your own livestock or as simple as canning your own jam, but it always allows for greater distance between an individual and the interconnected, commercialized modern world.
What Is Homesteading?
Homesteading is a practice that hearkens back to the days of the early settlers, when families were isolated and had to be self-sufficient. Today, modern homesteading refers to living as independently as possible. Homesteaders achieve this by growing and preserving their own food, raising their own livestock, and making their own clothing or home necessities. Thanks to modern technology, some homesteaders are even able to produce their own power through solar panels.
History and Resurgence
As early as the days of the ancient Romans, people strove for a way to connect with and exist off of the land. In 1862, the United States passed the Homestead Act, which awarded settlers 160 acres of land in exchange for developing the western half of the country. Since there were few developed towns, settlers had to rely on whatever they could grow or create themselves. Neighbors traded skills with each other and worked together for large projects.
The idea of homesteading was reintroduced in the 1960s as a way to bring families back to the land. It was during this resurgence that the emphasis on home solar and wind power developed. Today, homesteading includes everything from backyard gardens to foraging in the woods. Do-it-yourself projects are essential to the sustainability aspect of homesteading, and many people will teach themselves to weave, sew, or build anything they need.
Benefits of Homesteading
Homesteaders who grow and make their own food can reduce both their dependence on nearby grocery stores and, by extension, their food expenses. Similarly, making home necessities from scratch helps reduce monthly costs and allows the homesteader to fill their home with items they have a personal connection to. If an individual has a particular skill, such as baking or carpentry, they may be able to trade with neighbors for items that they can’t make themselves. The true reward of homesteading is the satisfaction of providing for oneself and the healthier physical and mental lifestyle that results as a by-product of that decision.
Tips and Tricks to Get Started
Few can dive wholeheartedly into homesteading, so begin with small steps. Instead of buying jam from the store, visit a berry patch and learn how to make and can jam at home. Instead of buying a new shirt, find a pattern and make a new one from old or donated fabric. Start a windowsill planter to grow herbs or salad greens. As a new homesteader becomes more confident in their skills, it may be possible to branch out into attaining and looking after livestock, curing and storing food for winter months, and investing in solar panels to provide your own electrical energy. Homesteading can be as remote as a farm miles outside of town or as close as homemade pies in the kitchen. Go slowly and enjoy the journey.