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Twenty First Century Homesteading

July 18th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Plowing the field

Plowing the field

When I was a child, my mother decided that we were going to homestead.  We lived in the country so it was an easy shift to put more focus on growing your own food.  We gardened and we raised animals for food.  We had magazines on goats, chickens, making your own cheese, shearing your own sheep and plucking chickens.    It was a trend of the times and although we supplemented our food, we in no way came close to being totally self sufficient.

Times have changed, the homesteading trend has come and gone and come again but does homesteading still mean the same thing?  The tendency to get back to basics seems to be tied to times of economic hardship.  However, I think that in the twenty first century homesteading has changed.   Today there are more people living in the suburbs and there are fewer farms so there is less opportunity to move out to the country and become self sufficient.   Rather than making homesteading less popular, it has made it more creative.

It seems that homesteading is more a state of mind than a vocation.  To homestead is to become more self sufficient.  It is to grow and make what you can and to re use what is available.   It is part frugality and part returning to the basics.  It isn’t a product of rural living, it is bringing a taste of rural living to wherever you live.

Basics of Homesteading

Grow Your Own –  More and more people are growing their own food.  Even apartment dwellers have discovered container gardening and community gardens.  Square foot gardening has grown more popular in the suburbs and produces a surprising amount of food.

Pick Your Own – Farms and orchards across the country, allow you to go out and pick your own fruits and vegetables at a considerable discount.   Modern day homesteaders can add variety at a pick your own farm without the hassle of having the space and time to grow them.

Make it from Scratch – Many are rediscovering that meals made from scratch not only taste better but are healthier.  With so many news stories about bacteria contaminating our food, people are making more from scratch just to be able to control the raw ingredients.   Things made from scratch usually have fewer preservatives and more nutrition.  For those on special diets, you can control the amount of sugar, salt and cholesterol.

When you think of making things from scratch, you generally think of food but you can make most anything from scratch.  Clothing, furniture, household decor  items can all be made from scratch and usually they are better quality and less expensive.

Canning & Preserving – Whether you grow your own, pick your own or just buy it fresh, there are multiple options for canning and preserving food.  There are many more options today than in the past.  Freezing fresh fruit and vegetables can be as simple as washing, blanching and putting it into a freezer bag.  There are vacuum packing gadgets that will keep it fresh longer.  There are tons of websites on canning, pickling, freezing and preserving food.

Re-use & Recycle – One of the most basic concepts of self sufficiency is to use and reuse everything.  In the old days, feed and flour bags were often remade into clothing, dish towels, linens, etc.  Today’s plastic bags are not good for making into clothes but they can be re-used as trash bags, totes and other creative ideas.  Reusable cloth shopping bags are available at almost every grocery store.  You can recycle or reuse just about everything if you are creative enough. Toilet paper & paper towel rolls can be used as seed starters.  Plastic containers can be reused as freezer containers.  Old clothes can be made into quilts that are not only useful but also can preserve those memories.  Even pantyhose can be reused in many different ways.  My latest pair are currently being used to sprinkle sevin dust on the garden.

Frugality – While to many being frugal is just being cheap but to those of us who make it a lifestyle, it means living well on less.  It means saving where we can so we have more to spend where we want.  It does not mean buying the cheapest option of anything but finding a balance between cost and quality.  Frugality has been a part of every homestead as very little is wasted or thrown away.

Self Sufficiency – I think that homesteading is all about becoming more self sufficient and spending less of our hard earned dollars on things that we can do, grow or make ourselves.  Self sufficiency is about using what we have available to the best advantage.  For example, we live on a small farm and a good portion of our farm is wooded.  We use the wood to heat our water and our home.  We have a good amount of sun so we also use solar energy to heat water for the barn.   Becoming more self sufficient can be as small as mowing your own grass or washing your own car.  It can be as simple as catching rainwater to water your garden or your lawn.

Homesteading is not necessarily moving to the country and giving up on the grocery store.  We can simplify our lives in many ways and save money along the way.  I personally think that our life is better, richer and more satisfying than it was when I just went out and bought whatever we needed.  I live now on an income that most would think impossible but I don’t think that we are poor.

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Tags: Canning · Gardening · Recipes

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