What does it mean to homestead? Well, by definition, I don’t believe we are really using the word properly. An actual homestead is just the place of one’s residence. Let’s look at how we use the word today, and what it really means to us. This post may contain affiliate links.
A Homesteading Series
A month or so ago I put together a series on Homemaking. One of the topics I blog about here is homemaking, and I thought it would be good to have a series of posts talking about what my thoughts are on homemaking. I often get questions about the way I do this or that in regards to home, so writing that series seemed like a way to answer those questions in an organized fashion.
Since then I have been paying attention to the kind of questions that people ask me. Lately, I have had a lot of questions regarding how we “homestead”. Things like how long we raise our chickens, what type of breed of pig we raise, why a jersey cow? Is it hard work to keep a milk cow? Questions like that. So, I thought a logical next step would be to write a series on Homesteading.
It is easier for me to get into a mindset, think about a topic thoroughly, and then write about it. Often here on the blog I jump around from topic to topic, maybe sharing a recipe one week, and a how-to build something the next. That works fine for lighter topics. However, when it is something in-depth I do better getting it all out and then organizing it into a series.
That is what you will be getting from me over the next few weeks. I will also throw some how-to’s in there and I will likely offer you some sort of printable here and there. But, the main focus of my writing will be this Homesteading Series.
In case you are wondering, I imagine I will put together a series on Homeschooling as well. I get lots of questions about how we do this or that with regards to home school.
So, What Does it Mean to Homestead?
In our modern culture the word homestead conjures up feelings of pioneer days, doesn’t it? Cooking from scratch, gardening, animal husbandry, canning, and overall just a simple make-do type of life.
Here is an excerpt from Mother Earth News, this shares how the term homestead really originated and how it “evolved” over the next century.
This is taken word for word from this page, https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/what-does-homesteading-mean
The Homestead Act
In the middle 1800s, the word homesteading was synonymous with The Homesteading Act of 1862, which provided public land grants of 160 acres to any adult citizen who paid a small registration fee and agreed to live on the land continuously for 5 years, after which they would be granted a deed to the land. The program formally ended in 1976 under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. But its unofficial end was in 1935 when President Franklin Roosevelt withdrew the public domain lands to institute a nationwide land conservation program. During the life of the Homestead Act, 783,000 men and women “proved up” their claim and were granted title to the land.
The Back to the Land Movement
In the 1970s, the word homesteading evolved to mean a lifestyle as tens of thousands of young adults and other adventurous souls threw off the cultural mantle of urban and suburban living and returned to their ancestral rural roots. These “back-to-the-landers” were the core readers of Mother Earth News and the impetus for its creation, beginning in January of 1970. Over the next three decades, the character of the term homesteading has emerged to include self-sufficient living in urban and suburban settings as well as on rural acreage.
What Does Homesteading Mean to Us?
If you have been around here for a while, you may have picked up on the fact that I enjoy thinking about things from lots of different angles. So, what I want to unpack is what homesteading means to us. When we call ourselves homesteaders, what are we saying?
A Homesteading Attitude
I shared in my homemaking series that we started dreaming of homesteading way back when we lived in the city. I began to look at myself as a homesteader and I began to live as though I was one. My desire was to learn all of the old skills, grinding wheat, baking bread, gardening, animal husbandry.
Attitude once again is everything, and I really think it comes down to having an attitude of wanting to know how to do things for yourself. A self-sufficient attitude if you will. It doesn’t mean you have to be fully self-sufficient or even that you grow most of your own food. It just means you want to know how to provide for your own needs. How to fix your own stuff, and wanting to know where your food comes from.
Part of this is a desire for things that used to be second nature to most people, things like cutting up a whole chicken, making soap, and keeping bees. A draw to a simpler way of life where we delight in doing the most basic of things.
Below I will list four reasons that we chose to live a homesteading life.
1. Wanting Work
One of the main things that drove us to this country “homesteading” life was the desire for more work. Does that sound contrary to the culture we live in now? Actually, that was the idea. We purposefully chose to do things opposite of what we were seeing in mainstream America. Here are four ways we were hoping this extra work would benefit our family.
Work builds up your children
Children need worth. Just like every other human on the planet. We need to feel like our life has value. We need to have purpose. It is how we were created, God created us to work. Work has now been made out to be something we should try to avoid. Technology is supposed to help us to have less work. However, we truly believe that work is of great value in building character and worth in our lives.
Observing our modern culture will show you that less work for young people is not paying off. We have generations of “entitled” people who at their core are unhappy. They are stirring up strife and trouble in large part due to the fact that they don’t feel like their life has worth.
Work Keeps you out of trouble
It’s true. There’s not much time to get into trouble if your hands are busy! Keeping your hands and mind busy doesn’t leave much time for nonsense. That might sound simplistic, but it is just the truth.
Work Benefits the Family Bond
Driving this point home may take some persuasion at the time of the job, but I have seen it over and over again. After a day of butchering chickens, everyone is beat. It is usually a long day and the work isn’t especially pleasant. However, there is a spirit of unity and accomplishment. A measurable achievement that pays off for the rest of the year. A freezer is now full of chicken, and you know exactly where it came from!
Work Prepares Children for the Future
Of course, children should enjoy being children. We strive to provide a pleasant childhood for our kids. However, we are raising these children to someday be adults! If they don’t have a work ethic they will be just about useless to society.
We must help our children to not only have a work ethic, but to also be problem solvers. They need to have the ability to think outside the box and to figure things out.
My husband works as an engineer in a factory. He can testify to the fact that multitudes of people are entering the workforce with no work ethic or problem solving skills…and unfortunately some of these people have an engineering degree! Frightening!
2. Gaining Knowledge of our Food Source
We wanted our children to know where food comes from. And I don’t mean the grocery store. One of the hard facts of “homesteading” is the awareness that everything we eat costs something. If you are a meat eater, some animal had to give it’s life in order for you have that steak, or burger or strip of bacon! There is sacrifice.
Even if you don’t eat meat, there is a sacrifice in raising vegetables. Hours and hours of planning, planting, tending, harvesting and storing. Anyone who has a garden knows that there is a sacrifice in growing food.
I won’t get on a soapbox, but we are against “factory farms”. We live in an area that is heavily populated with chicken, hog, and turkey farms. Thousands upon thousands of animals in confined housing. It is a stinky disgusting way to farm. It affects the land and all the surrounding people.
However, this is the way we have come to “do food” in America. This way of life provides a living for families and puts cheap and easy food on the table for others.
However, it doesn’t make it good or right. So, what are we to do to combat this? Well, we have chosen to raise all of our own meat. Complaining about it and still supporting it by buying chicken at the grocery store would make us pretty large scale hypocrites!
What if you can’t raise all of your own food? Buying local from small farmers practicing humane farming is the next best thing!
3. Understanding that Animals are Not Humans.
This one may make you feel uncomfortable. However, we want our children to understand that animals are not human. Their value and worth is different than ours.
I was raised in the city. I have struggled with this far more than my children. When our pigs are loaded in the trailer and hauled off to the butcher I feel like I have somehow betrayed them! However, my kids that were born here on the farm get excited saying “I can’t wait until we get the bacon back!”
I have to make a conscious effort to get rid of my thoughts of Charlotte’s Web! The truth is, those animals are of great value. Their sacrifice will provide life for my family for the next year! Also, they are not human, they do not think like we do, they do not feel betrayed!
We provide the absolute best life we can for these animals while they are here, and in turn, they provide us with the absolute best meat.
4. Wanting Wide Open Space
This one is what I think I wanted most of all. To be honest I think I had kind of idealized the rest of it. Raising animals and fruit and veggies is hard messy work. There are times when it is absolutely exhausting and disgusting!
However, living with wide-open space is one of the most amazing benefits of country life. I dreamed of my children running around with kittens and dogs following them everywhere. We are living that life! It is an absolute dream come true! It was a lot of work and sacrifice to get here, but it is so incredibly worth it!
5. Keeping Our Children’s Innocence
We lived in the city until our oldest was 9 years old. Even with him being as young as he was, it was becoming increasingly obvious that keeping his innocence was going to be a struggle if we stayed where we were. If you think you can just let your children run with the neighbor kids and they won’t be exposed to pornography or other filth, you are likely wrong!
We wanted to let our children ride their bikes and run and play without worrying about other kids with cell phones showing them about the birds and the bees.
Do you know you can keep your children’s innocence and still teach them about where babies come from? Farm life provides it. Our younger children all understand that animals must mate in order for there to be animal babies. We talk about it openly, they witness it and ask about it. There is nothing vulgar or inappropriate about it. It is simply the facts of life.
Side Note: Reminding Ourselves of our Goals
We have to frequently remind ourselves of the reasons why we homestead. It is important to not get sidetracked. This isn’t an easy life, although in many ways it is a simpler life. That is what it means to homestead.
At times we have been tempted to make this a money making venture. However, for us that would add a level of stress that we haven’t been willing to embrace. We do sell some meat and milk from time to time, but at this point we are nowhere near making a living from this. We are absolutely ok with that! That is not one of our goals.
My husband is not a salesman, and he tends to err on the side of generosity. I have had to bite my tongue many times when he has given away an entire steer or pig. This life does give us the opportunity to be generous, and I think it’s important for our children to see their father giving away food or grossly undercharging for it rather than being miserly.
Those are the Reasons Why We Homestead
In the next few posts I will share about the following topics. If you have any other questions than the ones I will be answering in this series, please feel free to ask.
- Beginner’s Guide to Raising Meat Chickens. Cornish Cross vs. Heritage Breeds
- Guide to Raising Dairy Cattle for Beef
- A Guide to Dairy Cow Breeds
- Guide to Raising Pigs
- Equipment Needed for Home Butchering Chickens
Here are My Other Posts on Homesteading
Here is an Amazing Free Resource!
I will be sharing an entire post on this later. Here is a chance to get this amazing FREE E-Book! This book is a collaboration of 10 homesteading women including myself! I am so excited to share this with you!