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What does homesteading really mean? Is it roughing it in a tiny cabin in the middle of Alaska? Or can you homestead in an apartment? Regardless of your living situation, there are seven reasons you should considering homesteading – and two reasons you shouldn’t.
Homesteading is not a number of acres, or chickens, or whether you homeschool or not. Homesteading is a mindset and a way of life – kind of like minimalism. You can homestead in the city, in an apartment, in a cabin, or a large house – on the grid or off the grid.
If the homesteading life has ever appealed to you, let me lay out the six reasons we’ve decided to homestead (and two reasons you might not want to!)
You’ll notice a lot of these are connected. That’s why homesteading isn’t simply gardening and canning. It’s gardening, canning, sewing, folk medicine, hunting, foraging, and homeschooling all wrapped into one. That’s why I blog about all sorts of different things! At the foundation of each of these categories, however, lies one very basic concept = self-sufficiency equals freedom.
1. Financial Freedom
Living a simple, self-sufficient life means you need less money to support your lifestyle than you neighbor does. The homestead financial plan means getting rid of debt, spending less than you earn, and investing more inside your home than outside of it. It’s about repairing instead of replacing. It’s about growing or foraging instead of buying. It’s about having fewer bills, so you need less altogether, and can spend less time in a cubicle (see time freedom below).
Getting rid of debt does a number of things. Having less debt means there’s one less bill to pay. If your car is paid off, you don’t have credit card debt, or built your house from scratch, that $400/mo that you would’ve been spending on your car note, can now go to whatever you want to spend it on. It also means you can live on less money, and that you’re not controlled by anyone. The average American has $16,000 in credit card debt and pays $1300 a year in interest on that money.
If something were to happen and you were no longer able to make those debt payments, you could lose your house, your vehicle, or they could garner your wages.
Financial freedom also means spending our money on what’s important to us. Lynne Twist talked about the energy behind money in ‘The Soul of Money’. She focuses on how money is neither good or evil, but what we do with it, the current, or energy we put behind it is. If we “vote” with our money, we should buy things that are important to us. Every time you skip the drive through, instead of helping out McDonald’s profit margin, you’re investing your money in your health, your home, and your future.
When we repair a broken piece of furniture, we’re keeping more money inside our home, and “voting” on our own abilities, instead of cheap, toxic furniture built in China. When we grow our own food, we save money, invest in our health, built the soil around our homes, and continue biodiversity. Which leads me to number two:
2. Food Freedom
Living a homesteading lifestyle means growing what food you can, preserving in-season food for the Winter, investing in your community and buying what you can from local farmers.
How many times have we seen stories of Glyphosate in our cereal, or arsenic in our children’s food, or old chicken being repackaged as fresh. I’m especially skeptic of our big food industry due to my son’s carrageenan issues. Carrageenan is a substance derived from seaweed and is used as a thickener in a LOT of organic products. The only problem is that is has been proven in studies to cause GI inflammation.
In 2016, The National Organic Program’s Organic Standards Board voted to remove carrageenan from the list of additives allowed in organic food production. In 2018, the USDA put it back. Why? Because manufacturers would have a hard time replacing it. Not because it was proven safe for our health. Think I’m kidding? Here’s the report: Office of the Federal Register. So whose interest does the USDA really care about? Ours, or manufacturers?
My son has a violent reaction to carrageenan, and it has become harder and harder to find organic products without it. It’s in nearly every soy milk, creamer, ice cream, and turkey lunch meat out there. And it seems every time I go to the grocery store, they’ve snuck it into more foods.
Besides not trusting our food chain, we vote with every dollar we spend. So spending a dollar at a local farmer’s market, or to grow your own, makes the statement that you prefer to invest in your community and small scale farming than large, chemical-laden agro-business.
3. Energy Freedom
This may be the hardest category to homestead in for those who are still renting or living in the suburbs. Living “off the grid” is important to any homestead. The ability to generate your own power is extremely useful in the case of emergencies, natural disasters, or simply to reduce your monthly electric bill! Check out my post on Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill But Stay Warm This Winter. for more ideas.
If you live off-grid and use solar panels, or generator, you know that every kilowatt of electricity costs money (or sunlight hours, or gallons of gas). No matter what our living conditions, using less, wasting less, ultimately means needing less. Needing less means you won’t be caught off guard should the power go out. Get used to using candles, cut your cable bill, spend more time outside, layer on the sweaters in the Winter.
4. Freedom From Stress
Homesteading means a different set of values, goals, and priorities from what our current society promotes. It’s a return-to-the-land movement, a simpler set of values, a reevaluation of priorities. Do you need that high-paying job? Do you need to keep up with the Jones’? How many social responsibilities do you really need? Living a homesteading lifestyle means recognizing the freedom and beauty in living more simply.
Living more simply doesn’t always mean less stress. There will always be stresses in Homesteading. These are the stresses of work that must be done now. The harvest won’t wait to be canned, that baby goat isn’t going to wait for you before she’s born, that fox doesn’t care that you’re tired – if you haven’t tucked your chickens in that night, she’s going to take advantage.
But I find these stressors wholesome and they come from stewardship of the world we’ve created around us, not from the external world’s perceptions and demands of us. The stress of a lengthy commute, a 9-5, the kids in every sport imaginable, running a million errands, and worrying about looking more tired than the mom next to you in the school pick up line, is a constant stress. It wears on you day-in, day-out.
The stress of putting your seeds in the ground on time, or harvesting the pears before the deer get them, or an early frost killing your plants, are brief stressors. You’re stressed in the moment, but once you’ve done what you can, you can let it go again. Which science has actually proven is beneficial for us.
If you find that your daily lift is stressful and overwhelming, please join me for my FREE 7-day self-care and stress management email course. Sign up now! I touch on identifying your stressors, self-care tips and tricks, and herbal remedies to support you on your journey.
5. Freedom of Time
Piggy-backing on #4, living a simpler life means also having more time. When we leave the hustle and bustle of the rat race behind, we suddenly find ourselves with time to pursue other interests and hobbies. We have time to be with ourselves, nurture our relationships with friends and family, care for our homes and land. You may have longer hours some days, but there’s always an ebb and flow.
Not rushing around doing errands, (which always seem to be about keeping up with the Jonse’s), or perfecting your instagram game, or commuting to a 9-to-5, means there’s time to live in the moment. To take in the beauty of that Monarch. To show our child how to pick tomatoes, or tend to livestock.
6. It’s the Way We’re Meant To Live
People have been self-sufficient for thousands of years! Before the industrial revolution, there was literally no other way. People grew what they needed in their backyards, hunted wild game, traded with their neighbors for goods they couldn’t produce. If humans have evolved to work with our hands, growing things, nurturing things, being outdoors, over thousands of years, suddenly spending most of our hours indoors, sitting at a cubicle, must be completely foreign to our bodies.
And the science backs this up!
Here’s a TED talk on how we’ve evolved to run or walk, barefoot, over long distances.
Studies have shown that mice who had to dig for a treat had less stress hormones, slept better, and were overall healthier than mice who had to push a button for a treat. (What does this say about working with your hands versus sitting at a computer?!)
In fact, most of our modern illnesses come from our modern way of life. The leading cause of death in the US is heart disease – which is directly related to our diet and lifestyle. Our bodies haven’t had the time to evolve to our current lifestyle.
7. The Homesteading Community is Amazing
While I might be biased, I have never met a community of more generous, gracious, loving people in my life. My fellow homesteaders are they type of people who are so excited about this way of life, they will drown you in it’s bounty. Pear harvest? Have a bushel. Need a tree cut down? Have my chainsaw. Want a goat? Mine just had babies, take one.
More than things, though, they’ll share their knowledge. I’m teaching my young neighbor how to can and garden. Another friend of mine is new to raising chickens, so I’m going to walk her through raising meat chickens next year.
In fact, next weekend I’m going to the Homesteaders of America conference, and I can’t wait to report on it. It’s going to be amazing! I can’t wait!
Now For the Two Reasons NOT To Homestead
I won’t lie and tell you everything is rainbows and butterflies. Heck, little house on the prairie had it’s share of heartbreak. Here are the two reasons I would warn someone away from homesteading:
It’s Hard Freaking Work
As I said above, the weather doesn’t wait for you, the babies don’t wait for you. If it’s canning season, you’re working 10 to 12 hours a day, putting up food. If it’s Fall, you’re chopping down firewood until your arms want to fall off. It is a LOT of manual, physical labor. And while this labor might be good for you, there will be days you want to quit.
Which leads me to reason number 2:
Not just hard, physically, but it’s hard emotionally. Losing an animal is never easy. Watching a sick animal is never easy. You’ll spend countless hours and energy growing a garden, only to have it mowed down by squash beetles. You’ll raise a flock of hens from 2 days old – putting 6 months of love, care, and food into them before they even start laying – to have them wiped out by a predator.
The rain will flood. The sun will scorch. Animals will die. Things will break. You’ll get sick or injured and have to watch something fail. But you’ll get up the next day and try again. Why?
Because there’s 7 Things Homesteaders Do Differently. Are you one?