The homestead. Many of us envision rustic cabins amid a vast field of wilderness. Cattle low and the sun beats down. Women scrub deep-dusted clothing on washboards in cool brown water by day, and darn holes in old socks by candlelight at night. Men split logs, feed livestock, plow the fields, hunt for their food, and do whatever it takes to keep their families alive.
Homesteading has an often romanticized history. But owning and cultivating your own plot of land in order to provide for the grand majority of your needs is no small task- indeed, one that would be overwhelmingly daunting to the average American today. Most of us would prefer Wal-mart and electricity, thank you very much.
Despite being accustomed our cushy lifestyles, a strange phenomenon is occurring across the country. Many people are beginning to see that our resources are being used at an alarming rate, that much of the food on our supermarket shelves is non-nutritive and even toxic, and that excess is unnecessary and destructive to our environment- in short, that our consumerism is wildly unsustainable.
There is currently a renewed push for living more consciously and self-sufficiently. More and more people want to try growing their own food, owning backyard chickens, or starting a compost pile. Folks are learning to make safer, homemade versions of household products. Traditional skills develop a fresh appeal as we realize that we can do very little for ourselves now without buying something or hiring someone to do it for us. The homestead lifestyle grows increasingly sensible as we become more aware of the harvest we have set for ourselves to reap.
Today, however, it is nearly impossible to continue on “homesteading” in the same way as, say, the western frontier pioneers. None of us are traversing the country by ox-drawn covered wagon to find our own suitable land to fell our own trees to build our own cabins to literally be in charge of every aspect of our living. No, we have communities around us, grocery stores within a short drive’s time, and resources coming out our ears for living cheaply, easily, and comfortably.
Besides the realities of modern lifestyles, finances are also a deterrent to starting an old-style homestead. Few people are able to afford a large hunk of land on which to stake their claim and build an extensive homestead complete with a barn, livestock, and acres for farming. Less land is available and that which is comes at a high price.
So what’s a modern man to do who wants to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on The System?
Adapt a homesteading frame of mind.
Get creative! Look at what you have around you! Discover the resources you didn’t know you had. Are there weeds growing in your yard? Great, most likely you can forage for your salad. Are you allowed to have fowl in your backyard? You might be surprised at the growing urban chicken movement. Do you have a stove? You can search for well-sourced, inexpensive bulk produce and learn how to can it so you have it off-season at a low price. Can you make something yourself instead of buying it? Fix something instead of throwing it out? Fantastic. Resourcefulness and frugality are part of the whole bit too. Jill of The Prairie Homestead says that she truly believes anyone can homestead. I wholeheartedly agree with her!
Today, homesteading is a conscious choice. It can happen all at once, but little changes are far more manageable. I am by no means an expert, and I’ve got lots to learn- we are just one family working to take small steps to get away from the consumerist norm.
What tiny changes are you making to put on a homesteading frame of mind? I’d love to learn from you.