What is Homesteading?

The image that usually comes to mind is a self-sufficient farm, full of animals, jars of home-canned food on the shelf, and a loaf of homemade bread in the oven. While all of that can certainly fall under the umbrella of homesteading there are many other interpretations of the homesteading lifestyle as well.

The origin of homesteading comes from the homestead act of 1862 where land was given to families in an effort to encourage western migration. Those families had to stay and work the land for five years before it was given to them. It sounds like a dream but it was often very difficult for the families settling the west.

Backyard chickens

Homesteading today is a mindset before anything else. It is a can-do attitude. Homesteading starts as a little spark when you look at something you just purchased and realize you could produce it on your own or the realization that our modern, consumer-driven society is not a sustainable model. Next thing you know, you are shopping for seeds and weighing the cost of backyard chickens.

Right now our family is on 1 1/2 acres of rented land, in a small city. We are making our dream come true while we search for our forever home. But this is not where it all started. Our story began in a town in southern Arizona. We were learning about the health benefits of organic food but struggled with the cost. That’s when we got the bug to begin producing our own food.

Chickens for egg production

We started with chickens, the gateway animal, 25 of them filled our little suburban backyard. Next thing you know turkeys and quail were added to the menagerie. I would have put a cow back there too if I could have figured out how to do it!

We quickly realized that we had been bitten by the homesteading bug. That set us on a mission to grow as much of our food as we possibly could. We now have a big garden that feeds us through the summer and into the winter. We have learned to can, dehydrate and freeze any surplus. We are raising our own chicken and beef too.

Homesteading is not a list of boxes that need to be checked off until you become a homesteader. It is the way you look at and interact with the world around you. Our dream is the big land, where we can live off-grid and be as self-sufficient as possible. But we have learned that homesteading can happen anywhere.

Garden produce

Homesteading is a progression. It is something you can do in an urban apartment or on a sprawling farm. It usually starts small. Maybe you buy a couple of herb plants and realize the joy of growing your own food. Something that costs several dollars for a meal or two you can sustainably produce on your windowsill for pennies.

Not only is the cost difference convincing but the fact that it grows and continues to produce is inspiring. Soon you have a tomato plant in a pot on the patio and a couple of lettuces in another pot.

What about all of the food scraps you throw out? Couldn’t those be put to good use too? Now you are deciding between a compost pile, worm bin or a small flock of chickens. I am sure you are seeing the progression.

Farm fresh eggs

It can take you as far as you want to go. You might end up at an off grid farm out in the country where you raise animals for meat and have a market garden. With enough to feed your family, put up food for winter and take the rest to the farmer’s market.

Maybe you are more of an urban homesteader who wants to bring change to the community around you. You have solar power, gray water, and rain catchment systems and are producing more food than most people think possible by utilizing vertical growing and permaculture.

Homesteading is a return to basic skills. As you learn to be more of a producer and less of a consumer you realize the joy that can be found in the simple things. Learning to heat your house with wood, growing your own food, cooking from scratch, herbal remedies, caring for animals, the list goes on and on.

Canning apples

You develop a new way of seeing the world. Instead of being concerned about having the career, the house, the car that society thinks you need, you realize that none of that brings lasting joy. However, when you take a bite out of that sweet, crunchy carrot that is the fruit of your own labor, you experience a joy you can’t find at the grocery store.

It is a joy that only comes from laboring with your hands, being patient, nurturing, and producing something most people take for granted. Learning these skills is liberating as you realize you don’t have to rely on someone else for your most basic needs.

As exciting as it all sounds, it can be daunting. If you are looking to start your homestead journey, here is a guide to starting today in five easy steps.

Your Turn!

  • How did your homestead journey begin?
  • Are you a country, farm homesteader or an urban homesteader?
  1. I am a six acre homesteader in a Tiny House! I loved your article!!

  2. I used to live on 3 acres of land with a house that I helped a family member buy, but later lost in foreclosure.
    We had chickens, goats, American Guinea Hogs, rabbits, ducks, a mini cow and her bull calf. We built a greenhouse and planned on doing aquaponics and raising our own tilapia and garden produce, fruits and veggies on the top of the IBC aquaponic containers. We also grew gardens of yummy foods! When we lost the house we lost everything. It has broken my heart but not my spirit. I pray that I win my disability case (fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s and Chilblains in my feet and toes, migraines, back and neck pain, carpal tunnel….) and am able to find the right piece of land so I can start over!
    For now I rent an apartment and have a tiny 3×4 piece of “land” that I am allowed to garden how I want to. I just won some seeds from one of our fellow YouTuber’s, Chico from He Provides Homestead, so I will soon be planing some pumpkin, watermelon, zucchini and cucumbers!
    I love to watch your videos of you and your family, and also the ones where you collaborate with Esther!
    I make my own water kefir and Jun tea and eat as healthy as possible for not being on my own land. I also use little electric, except for the internet, fridge and cooking. Also a bit to watch DVD’s. I am alone with no family or pets so that is a nice distraction when it is lonely at night. During the day however, I am usually working on ATC’s, mixed media projects, or making cards. I often create YouTube videos of my arts and craft creations too. My channel is Roberta’s Artistic Adventures.
    Thank you for sharing your lovely stories of family and faith, of health/illness and how eating right can make a huge difference, and simply for being the generous and loving spirit you are! God bless you, SisterFriend!

  3. We’re urban homesteaders with a dream to own an orchard somewhere! We’ve got our chickens, our gray water, our year round fruit trees, and too many herb plants on my windowsill.

  4. We have lived in the country most of our 47 yrs of married life. Raised 10 children besides assorted chickens goats pigs cattle. Always had some garden but always dreamed of growing & raising all of our food. All of the 10 are out of the nest. most with a brood of their own. Most like growing things even if they have to life in town. It is an attitude as well as a lifestyle. Knowing how to do things for yourself is important. Knowing that milk does not originate in the grocery store & that farming is important & necessary should be known.

  5. I live in Johannesburg South Africa where I practice homesteading of sorts! Enjoying your site…Thank you

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