The Art of Modern Homestead Living
Homesteading is a way of life that encourages you to embrace all aspects of self-sufficient living. Whether you’re on a couple of acres or living in a small apartment, you can practice being a homesteader by finding creative and frugal ways to provide for yourself and your family.
Homestead Living 101
Homesteading and permaculture are concepts of self-sufficient living, and together they can help us create resiliency and sustainability.
Self-sufficiency is a lifestyle based on preparedness skills and habits that anyone can practice. Homesteading combines old-world skills with modern-day preparedness, and when we include permaculture, we can incorporate the intelligent design of nature into the mix.
Permaculture can teach us how to work with nature rather than against it, find opportunities for reduced waste through closed-loop systems, minimize labor, and enhance personal and community resiliency.
Why Start Homesteading?
In a world of continued chaos and confusion, we are all just trying to survive; many of us are struggling to do this in such an abundant and modern time, which is unnecessary, Especially when we begin to take back some of the control.
Providing our food, water, shelter, housing, energy, and medical needs can relieve individual stress in our local economy, freeing up resources for those unable to do for themselves.
Beyond providing for ourselves, there will be times where you find yourself with an abundance of certain resources, whether a vegetable crop, animal byproduct, fuel, or fertility source, giving you the opportunity to barter or simply share the surplus with others.
Modern homesteaders plan for tomorrow but also consider the planet's needs today.
After all, we are living, breathing, and growing our food on this planet; Giving back benefits us as much as it does the environment. Homesteading opens opportunities for independence and financial freedom, leaving you with more time to pursue hobbies you enjoy, learn new skills, earn money through your homestead, or simply spend more time with the family.
Throughout history, we find homesteading skills at the backbone of human survival.
In the past hundred years or so, we have faced wars and the great depression; those who thrived knew how to grow and source food, and how to use the land for medicine, shelter, and heat. Many of those skills have been long lost, especially in some cultures, like our western world.
I can remember when I first started canning and preserving food, my mom asked: “why waste all that time when you could buy it from the store?”. This is the mindset of generations who have lost the art of self-reliance; Yes, I can go to the store to buy it, but what am I buying, what’s in it? How was it farmed, processed, and shipped?
What about emergencies, lack of money, food shortages, or unpredictable situations? Then where would my food come from? When I grow or buy it from a local farmer, I know where the ingredients come from. I know the processes and amounts included when I've made it myself. I have control.
Some homesteading skills are vital for survival, but also thriving in any circumstance. Often, homesteaders are healthier and have more resources because they don’t solely rely on commercially produced products.
Combining Homesteading with Permaculture
Homesteading habits give us back some control over the most important things: food, water, medicine, etc. In combination with permaculture, we can practice using fewer resources while producing more, reducing our waste and contributing to regeneration.
Homesteading gives us what we need to survive, and permaculture shows us how to use what we need from the land while giving back to the planet so it continues to feed and provide from us and the planet for millenniums to come.
When individuals, groups, and communities start doing more for themselves with earth care in mind, there can be food security and sustainability.
Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient. - Aristotle
What is Homesteading?
As mentioned, homesteading is a lifestyle based on habits and skills that help provide more of your family's most essential needs, like food, water, shelter, and heat.
There are some misconceptions about homesteading. It’s not just for rural and suburban residents; anyone with access to usable outdoor space and places to cook, bake, preserve, or store food can be considered a homesteader. The best part of modern homesteading is you get to choose what and how much you want to do for yourself.
I jar my soups and stews, which is a healthy and budget-friendly choice, but I also have the option to purchase items that can free my time for other skills like making soap or growing microgreens, raising chickens, etc. Homesteading doesn't have a set formula; it’s about doing more for yourself, as much as you are willing to do.
Can Anyone Start Homesteading?
Homesteading is for anyone who wants to do more for themselves, whether that be for health reasons, to save money, or to relieve stress from the economy or the environment; perhaps you're just tired of the rat race and are looking for something to connect you back to nature and simplicity. Homesteading is for you!
However, it’s only for those willing to learn and put in the work. The point of homesteading is to recognize what we are using, and consuming and to then figure out ways to make our own, or in retrospect, at least learn how to support individuals who are doing and making.
Another misconception is that you have to do everything from making quilts to milking cows to be a homesteader; we live in a modern world where we are lucky enough to have access to many amenities and products. We can't build Rome overnight; as you know, that’s impossible; great things take time.
A new homesteader should focus on the most important things first, not the end-game results.
Rewards and Benefits of Homesteading
Homesteading habits for me started as a way to save money and provide healthier food for my children, which of course, are both good enough reasons. However, I realized beyond savings and more nutritious food options, I learned firsthand that having food stock was necessary for any unforeseen situations.
Over time growing more of my ingredients was challenging yet very rewarding, but there is nothing better than a handful of fresh peas from the garden or early summer strawberries from the patio.
The value sets in during a mid-winter storm, after you’ve been snowed in, and yet you can still enjoy the spoils from last season’s harvest that you’ve frozen and canned; no running to the store is required.
Knowing and practicing these skills gives you peace of mind you cannot get from relying on the economy and industry. Health, saving money, and peace of mind are some of the top benefits, yet not the only ones.
Insulation from Economic Turmoil
As mentioned, we can relieve some of the stresses on the economy and the environmental resources by doing more for ourselves.
The world is in dire straits in many ways, the climate being one of them, and an economic collapse doesn’t seem so far-fetched these days. Anything that we as individuals can do to use and need less, the better for everyone.
When we buy seasonal food from locals, the money stays in our community, and it's not shipped to corporations who then spend that money on processing, packing, and transportation; in other words, a ton of energy is wasted.
As gardeners, we can practice organic methods that give back to the earth while providing ourselves food and medicine, another relief from industrialized farming, and your contribution to soil regeneration through composting. We can contribute to the world just by doing more for ourselves. Isn't that amazing?
Designing Your Homesteading Lifestyle
There are many benefits to practicing homesteading, but it is an active lifestyle; Of course, anything worthwhile is worth the effort. Besides, if I am willing to work hard for someone else's dream just so I can earn money to buy food, I know I can work hard in other ways to provide the things I need.
When we understand that concept, putting in the work doesn't seem so intimidating. It's true that many people want to be homesteaders but don’t start because they are intimidated by the time and effort required, but as I said, you don’t have to be.
You get to choose how and where you want to start. Homesteading doesn't just happen in big backyards and small farms. It's a way of life with habits and skills that anyone can practice.
Building Community Resilience
A successful homesteader practices self-sufficiency habits with a do-it-yourself mindset. DIY is the unwritten rule of homesteading.
How can I make it, bake it, find it, grow it, fix it, and so forth? But, of course, that mindset can also pull you too far from the convenient world, making you feel as though you have to do everything yourself. Finding a balance between them is important.
Heading totally off the grid to build a new lifestyle with no money, experience, or help probably isn’t the best choice; I say this from personal experience. You can’t do everything yourself, we can be jacks of all trades, but we cannot master them all.
Your long-term goals may be different than mine, but at the end of the day, we are both working towards doing more for ourselves. Just because I make sauerkraut doesn’t mean you have to.
Go ahead, buy it, and make something else that is more beneficial to you. Try doing some home inventory and self-evaluation. What food, products, and services do you pay for that you want to do more of yourself? How do those fit into your reason for wanting this lifestyle?
Sometimes the first things you need to do are as simple as reducing the number of cleaner varieties you buy to get ready for making your own or starting a compost to reduce waste and build soil. Do more for yourself, one habit at a time.
Sustainable Living on the Homestead
Sustainable living is something many of us had never heard before just a few years ago; However, sustainable living is the end result of fully combining homesteading and permaculture.
When we are sustainable, we can find a balance between people care and earth care, and sustainable living is a life that combines everyday living and working with nature.
You may be familiar with concepts such as zero waste, minimalism, tiny living, off the grid, biotecture, food forests, holistic living, among others. Each one of those, along with homesteading and permaculture, are all the basis for Sustainable living.
Many modern homesteaders are looking into this concept of sustainable living on top of wanting to homestead. People want more simplicity, smaller living, and renewable energy. All these practices lead to a lower-cost life with more food and health abundance.
It is how we can reduce our impact on our natural resources daily and, of course, significantly reduce our waste. Using organic methods with permaculture designs can also lessen work in the garden, making it more enjoyable and less like, well work!
For example, a no-dig garden and soil building practices mean you don’t have to till every year; cover cropping and mulching bare spots help retain moisture for less watering. Nature has things worked out well, and permaculture allows us to design efficient food and medicine gardens that maintain some of themselves.
Everything we have talked about are just ideas and suggestions. The point of this piece is to get you to think about what kind of homesteader YOU want to be and how much you want to do for yourself.
As mentioned, we have access to the world with just the touch of a button, and this technology can also connect us, not only for learning but for connecting and building community, on and offline. Building a community can seem counterproductive when we are trying to create a self-sufficient lifestyle, yet we cannot possibly master and do everything ourselves.
It is the same for others who are on this journey. I know plenty of homesteaders who do things I don’t, which opens up learning and sharing opportunities.
For example, it's reasonable to trade some fresh jam and bread for a jar of home-canned moose meat or trading products and services. On our homestead, we make T-shirts as one of our side hustles.
This winter, we are exchanging a few custom t-shirts for a hand-knitted sweater for my dog; it sounds funny, but it’s a good trade and will cost us less time and money.
Communities can be together in one place or spread out all over the world thanks to our modern technologies.
I encourage you to find your people and build a community working towards the same goals, learning the same things, and connecting with others is how we thrive beyond survival. Include local members of your area whose services and products you buy and use now as part of your community.
They need your business, just like you need their service or products. Think of your community as those who work together to help one another, one way or another. The people who add value to your life through goods and services that benefit your food security, holistic health, and housing needs are part of your community.
When we simplify our needs and wants and work hard to do more for ourselves, we can have so much more than anticipated. Homesteading is the gateway to humble living, and adding sustainability leads us to more modern homesteading, giving us added purpose and reward.
I grew up as a city kid and never imagined myself spending my summers with hands and heart deep into the soil, planting and harvesting food, or endless days of baking bread, and canning food.
This lifestyle has brought me more joy than I ever imagined, the work is hard yet pleasurable, and rewarding. I’ve worked hard for many people, and I can tell you when it comes to working hard at home, with and for your family, the reward is so much greater than any paycheck.
The more I homestead, and the more I include sustainability into our life, the more time I have for my kids, for learning, for hobbies, I feel healthier, and the cost of living is much lower. I can admit this lifestyle may not be for everyone, but I do believe everyone can do a little more for themselves.
For health, for the planet, to save money or make a wholesome income, you have the power to learn and try new skills or habits. Let homesteading be your guide to humble and abundant living.