The Modern Homesteader
The use of the term "homestead", "homesteading", or "homesteader" has taken on a new interpretation within our modern culture and society today. Homesteading is for people who prefer to live a quieter and simpler lifestyle in contrast to city or urban dwellers.
This does not mean that we are lazy. In fact, most people soon find out that homesteading is a lot of work. Sometimes, back breaking work! But, the independence of being your own boss, the peace and quiet from buzzling highways and city noise and other distractions, the joy of having pets or livestock, and the satisfaction of raising your own chemical and anitibiotic free food to eat is priceless.
On our forty acres we do all this in a sustainable way. We have room for pasture, for grain crops, and a very large garden that will keep us and the animals fed with nutritious food all year long. Sometimes, we also find it necessary to raise money in creative ways. In fact, modern technology has helped us raise income from the comforts of our homestead.
When we think of homesteads or homesteading today we must look back to the Homestead Act and remember that it was initially promoted by the government to get people to settle in undeveloped areas. The Homestead Acts permitted people to obtain free homestead land in exchange for developing a homestead farm within a timeframe such as five years, and then it was theirs to keep. It was all about a pioneering way of life and self-sufficiency.
Today these Homestead Acts are no longer in force in Canada and most of the United States but homesteading today and the idea of living on homestead land still exists amongst many people who are tired of the urban way of life and the complexities that go along with urban lifestyles. Many old homesteads or a suitable homestead sites are available today for modest prices in rural areas or near small dying towns.
Many of these homestead farms or abandoned homestead sites already have adequate septic systems, water wells or irrigation systems in place, which can be a huge cost savings, as well as labor, in comparison to starting out from scratch at today’s market prices for such amenities.
It may be true that those who live on a homestead farm may experience a frugal living, but in exchange we have a healthy lifestyle, and we may have to use alternative energy such as solar or wind to provide our electrical needs but it makes us feel good that we are providing our own sustainable energy. In fact, our local power company regularly shuts the power down for hours to do repairs, or whenever a storm hits it could be down for a day. People who live-off-the-grid say it with pride, – “we always have power” – even if it has to be monitored or self-regulated.
New technology also makes it possible to generate electricity on the homestead without using solar or wind. Living on the homestead has never been easier.
Homestead Farms and Rural Living
Living on the homestead requires that one learns to be self-reliant or just do without some luxuries, that we practice frugal living, learn to plant and harvest a homestead garden, and live in our owner-built home or old homestead fixer-upper without having to pay for a mortgage for the rest of our lives.
In fact, many suitable homesteading properties could be bought and paid for in as little as five years. The secret might be in buying smaller plots of land depending upon location. Generally, the closer to the city, the higher the price; the smaller acreages can be astronomical, in addition to local bylaws regarding livestock, so caution is needed here. Sometimes that one half (80 acres) or quarter section (160 acres) is still the way to go even if it is more than you really need. Our personal plot is a mere 40 acres, but is still more than I use for livestock, but the surrounding forest provides ample firewood.
Most people who live on a homestead also want to have a garden plot or raised beds where they can enjoy fresh produce in season.
Many homesteaders want to raise and feed their own livestock such as chickens, goats, pigs or hogs, lambs, rabbits, and sheep without the additives or medications pumped into commercially-grown livestock. Many also include horses for riding or as pets and a few become work animals.
If you are thinking about homesteading – research the subject well, prepare yourself financially for the “just in case” events, and take the plunge. You will wonder what you were waiting for. Of course, there are always hurdles. That is part of life.