What is Modern Homesteading?
Many people think that homesteading requires a lot of land, a rural lifestyle, or at the very least, a backyard big enough to have chickens and grow a garden. Many would argue that “living off the land” is the defining factor of homesteading. But, in many ways, modern homesteading is a mentality and lifestyle that can be practiced anywhere.
Even if the outcomes range on a spectrum from cooking all of your meals from scratch to living completely off-grid, the primary goals of homesteading are self-sufficiency and sustainability.
The amount of land you have and its location can play a significant role in what homesteading looks like for you, but it doesn’t need to stop you from pursuing the goals of maximizing your family’s self-sufficiency and sustainability.
People come to homesteading from as many directions as there are people. Some choose it consciously for environmental reasons, some have grown up with it, some have a vague notion of wanting a simpler life, and some come at it from a prepper’s perspective of wanting to ensure their family’s survival in the event of a worst-case scenario.
At its heart, the homesteading mentality is minimalist and anti-consumerism, it’s characterized by a love for hands-on learning, and it’s often aligned with eco-conscious behaviors. Here’s why I think homesteading is for the minimalists, hands-on learners and creators, and environmental stewards of this world.
Minimalism in Homesteading
The desire to live a “simpler” life often grows out of an acknowledgment that we’re somewhat addicted to spending money on items that aren’t necessary or truly wanted. While many minimalists focus on the negative psychological effects that buying unnecessary goods and having cluttered homes can have, many homesteaders focus on breaking their dependence on purchased goods as a way to free themselves from the tyranny of consumerism. That tyranny can mean many things, but an example might be working at a job they hate in exchange for a bunch of stuff they don’t really need.
Homesteaders who do leap into trying to make a living off the land will also tell you that minimalism is a necessity. The income for extra things simply doesn’t exist. It forces you to only purchase what is truly valuable to your family. Both the minimalist and homesteader, while coming from different directions, tend to arrive at the same conclusion: we’re healthier and happier when we have less junk and more time and mental space to do the things we enjoy, including spending time with the people we care about.
Love of Hands-On Learning in Homesteading
The list of skills needed for homesteading and self-sufficiency is seemingly endless. There are plenty of extensive homesteading skills lists that are hundreds of items long, ranging from learning how to cook from scratch to how to cut down trees to craft your own furniture.
While there are a few “soft” skills, like kin-keeping and bartering, as well as more cerebral skills, like planning and budgeting, that come into play with homesteading, the vast majority of homesteading skills are hands-on.
Broadly categorized, with a few examples for illustration, they include:
- Gardening — knowing when, where, and how much to plant, protecting soil health
- Food preparation — cooking and baking from scratch, making butter, making yogurt
- Food preservation— canning, dehydrating, freezing, fermenting
- Raising animals — keeping poultry for eggs and meat, keeping cows for milk and meat, beekeeping
- Textiles — sewing, knitting, quilting, rug-making
- Homemaking — budgeting, soap-making, candle-making
- Herbalism — creating herbal products that boost immunity and assist with healing
- Survival — basic first aid, hunting, fishing, plant identification, navigational skills
Homesteading is for creators. It’s for people who love to do things with their hands, and it’s for people who feel a sense of accomplishment when they’ve taken on a new project and have mastered a new skill. There’s always something more to learn from homesteading.
Environmentalism and Stewardship in Homesteading
It shouldn’t be too surprising that homesteading shares some commonality with environmentalism. Sustainability and stewardship are common phrases you’ll find in both camps. With homesteading, there’s an underlying understanding that in order to have the land sustain you, you must take care of the land. That goes for the animals you keep as well as the global environment. Homesteaders know that to live sustainably, you need to take care of your resources.
The minimalism that’s embedded in homesteading also plays a role, somewhat naturally leading to reduced use of plastics and packaging.
If you’re canning your own food in jars that you’ve used for years, you’re not buying new glass or plastic containers.
If you’re making your own bar soap, you’re not purchasing bottle after bottle of body wash.
When you repurpose old items and fix broken tools, you’re not out there buying expensive replacements or alternatives.
Off-grid homesteaders often live the ultimate environmentalist lifestyle, even if environmentalism isn’t their primary motivation. They typically live using alternative forms of power, including solar and wind.
Homesteaders and environmental activists may or may not align on how to fix certain environmental issues, but I believe that we fundamentally agree on living a more sustainable lifestyle.
Learn More About Backyard Homesteading
If your quest for a more minimalist lifestyle or your desire to live in a more eco-conscious way has brought you to the idea that you might want to try backyard homesteading, there are plenty of resources to get you started. For a comprehensive look at the lifestyle, I recommend The Backyard Homestead as an initial resource.
There are also some incredible free resources online and on social media that you can start to follow, including:
- Cedar Swamp Homestead
- Homesteading Family
- Epic Gardening (excellent gardening advice, especially for city-dwellers)
- the Imperfectly Happy home
- From Scratch Mag
- The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Why are you interested in homesteading? Let me know by leaving a comment.