Lately I have received some great emails from readers asking about homesteading. Do I consider myself a homesteader? This may be a surprise to you: no I do not. I am certainly no expert on the subject and really this is what our website is all about; learning.
I am working towards becoming a homesteader. Now you might ask, ‘What is a homesteader?’
The easy answer to that question would be all about the Homestead Act of 1862 in the U.S. where the government offered ownership to farmland at no cost. Obviously, anyone who accepted this offer was considered a “homesteader”. But as a modern movement, what makes someone a homesteader? That my friends, is up for debate. I don’t believe that anyone has a real definition for the term in its modern application.
For me, a modern homesteader is someone who has the skills and resources to be reliant solely on themselves. A homesteader will grow, raise, harvest, and preserve their own food off the land that they have and barter or trade for the items they cannot produce themselves. Even in the nineteenth century no one was able to do everything, so they bartered their surplus for supplies and products they couldn’t sustain on their own land. Not everyone can be a blacksmith or a cobbler or grow acres and acres of corn. So we trade.
In the last few hundred years this has –quite unfortunately– become a trade of paper money instead of a trade of goods. But there is no reason we cannot continue to trade or barter goods today! In fact, I am becoming much better at bartering. To many modern Americans this is a foreign concept. It feels dirty and illegal, but it’s not. So far this year I have bartered: seven dozen eggs for a lemon tree, rabbit manure fertilizer and a dozen eggs for an electric dehydrator, seedlings for seedlings, one ounce of angora wool for a small book, and eight ounces of Frühlingskabine honey for baked baklava. It’s an interesting world to delve into at first, but soon you will notice that people to barter with just pop out of the woodwork.
So you see, you do not need to produce everything you need to be a homesteader. You just need the basic skills and knowledge to prosper on your own. I have noticed that many people refer to themselves as “homesteaders” simply because they have a garden or a couple of chickens. That’s wonderful, but what else are you doing? What are you still relying on? Because that is truly the key. Reliance. Homesteading is not for the faint of heart. So you raise livestock animals… can you butcher them for a meal if you needed to? So you grow a garden… could you live off of what you produce?
Some of you may not agree with me –and that’s alright– but I feel that many modern conveniences just stand in the way of our own self-reliance. It is not that we aren’t capable. We are just not willing. We often pick out pre-packaged, bloodless meat from the grocery store and foreign fruits from the bins at the super market. By purchasing these items, you are simply passing off the hard part to someone else. You are trusting that these animals were raised well and processed humanely that these broccoli were cared for and the soil was nourished in a healthy way. You are trusting someone else, someone you have never met, to be forthright and honest and responsible for your food.
Homesteading is not just about working a little harder or getting your hands a little dirty. There are harsh realities and lessons to be learned. It really is all about responsibility. You are now responsible for taking that life to feed your family. You are now responsible for planting seeds at the right time. And you are responsible for yourself.
So no. I do not consider myself or my family homesteaders… yet! But I am most certainly working towards that goal. Everything I write about here and everything I learn about on the way is just getting me one step closer to being a true homesteader. It is not as intimidating as it seems… It is all a part of getting back to the way things once were. Work along with me.