Are you curious about homesteading? If so, you've come to the right place. In recent years, interest in homesteading has become increasingly popular.
Disturbing events impacting food supply security, health and wellness, and the global economy have prompted families to look for homestead land and think about becoming more self-reliant. In today's world, that often includes a homestead lifestyle.
Maybe you want to try some basic homestead skills, or your children are doing a pioneer unit in their homeschool day. My mom uses gardening, chicken-keeping, and homestead crafting activities to teach my sisters.
Read on to discover more about the definition of homesteading, getting started with an urban homestead, apartment homesteading, and how to incorporate some basic homestead activities in your life.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
What is Homesteading?
However, an internet search produces two common definitions.
Homesteading and Self-Reliance
The first definition refers to living self-sufficiently and sustainably.
Most of the time this involves a family group living together in a home or homes on a property. They plant a large vegetable garden and keep animals to produce homestead meat and provide food for their own use. They're combining homesteading and survival.
Often, these families sell their extra produce. So basically, they'll provide or make most (or all) the things needed for their family to survive. They may also pursue these activities to finance their homesteads.
As expected, according to Dictionary.com, the formal definition of homesteading comes from the word "homestead."
A homestead is "a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale from debt." As a verb, it simply means "to acquire a homestead."
Today, we use the word more informally. In fact, you might use the word to describe any household that gardens and keeps animals to feed their family.
What was the Homestead Act of 1862?
The second definition refers to the historic homestead. This was made popular by The Homestead Act of 1862. If you study pioneers, the westward journey, or the 1800s in America or Canada, you'll come across many references to the homestead.
Under this act, “public land in the western United States was granted to any US citizen willing to settle on and farm the land for at least five years”. In Canada, a similar law called the Dominion Lands Act was enacted in 1872.
The Homestead Act of 1862 was established to help settle the American West. The federal government granted almost 10% of the United States to homesteaders through this act and its successors.
Ownership of Land
The Homestead Act of 1862 program granted full ownership of a 160-acre plot to citizens willing to relocate to the area and work the land for at least five years. Since this act was passed during the Civil War, the program was only open to citizens who had not taken up arms against the United States Federal Government.
Several similar acts were passed after the Civil War, aimed at helping with Reconstruction in the South. These acts also included black Americans in the program. This led to one in four black Americans owning their own farms by 1900.
Variations of the Homesteading Acts were accepting applications in the United States right up until 1976 when it was finally discontinued.
If you live in North America, you likely associate the word "homesteading" with a mental image of the pioneers. During the late 1700s and early 1800s, European immigrants spread across the west, and many of them were homesteaders.
Although the idea of this lifestyle has existed for thousands of years, it became less popular through the 20th century due to the increased industrialization of America. This was compounded by a shift from rural-based communities to the densely packed urban ones we commonly see today.
What is Homesteading Today?
Today, this phrase often refers to the act of growing your own food and raising meat for your family's survival.
As more people become interested in self-reliance and sustainable living, urban homesteading has become more popular. More and more families in cities and the suburbs grow gardens and dabble in small animal husbandry. Whether you live in rural or urban areas, start homesteading right where you are.
Start slow to build your confidence. Even if you live in an apartment, get comfortable with simple hands-on activities to introduce you to the self-reliant lifestyle.
Try Simple Activities First
The easiest way to start involves producing some of your own food. Try planting a low-cost garden or baking bread. If you have a garden, make sure all your family members help during vegetable harvesting time.
Take some time to try your hand at traditional homesteading skills. Get a taste of it before you decide to buy a property and perhaps even move off the grid to homestead like the pioneers. If you have kids, try some basic homesteading activities with them, or consider homesteading and homeschooling.
Get Your Family Interested
Get your spouse and kids interested in homesteading by planting a backyard garden to grow your own food. You could also learn how to raise small farm animals, like meat rabbits or chickens for meat and eggs.
These micro-livestock animals require a relatively small plot of land to raise and will give you a recurring source of fresh eggs and meat to supplement your garden produce.
Note: if you live in town, check the bylaws first. Every county or municipality will have different regulations for keeping small animals.
Another important aspect involves a do-it-yourself mentality. Whether you need to build furniture, repurpose old items such as used appliances, or work on other homestead projects, try to do things yourself. Get creative.
Try to use materials you already have to avoid purchasing new items. Then keep this mindset to help you reduce, reuse, and recycle. This will help to minimize your spending and make you more financially self-sufficient.
Simple Activities To Try
Try these activities to get started:
- Raise your own backyard chickens
- Plan a vegetable garden
- Grow food to feed your family
- Start herbs indoors
- Read up on pickling for beginners
- Start creating your own homestead kitchen
- Stock a root cellar
- Build your own furniture and other items
- Try dehydrating food to preserve it
- Start smoking fish or drying fish
- Urban foraging
- Learn about Canning and preserving
- Make your own clothes
- Study a couple of the best homesteading books for beginners
You'll find many ways to try your hand at homesteading activities. If it makes you more self-reliant, try it out.
Homestead for Self Reliance
By becoming more self-reliant, you reduce your dependence on stores and companies. You learn to provide and produce what you need to live. As a result, the rising cost of living won't impact you as much when you don’t need to buy as much.
Now you know about the history of homesteading, try creating your own homestead. Don't want to create a full homestead? No worries. To begin with, try doing just a few of these things. And you might find you soon want to do more.
On the other hand, you might find this lifestyle a perfect fit for your family's values, interests, and ideals. Later you might even take the leap to try homesteading off the grid with off-grid energy alternatives like solar or wind power.
This post is part of the Homestead in Your Homeschool Series.