What is a homestead?
Let’s start at the beginning. According to Miriam-Webster A homestead is: homestead noun
home·stead | \ ˈhōm-ˌsted
1 a: the home and adjoining land occupied by a family b: an ancestral homec: HOUSE
2: a tract of land acquired from U.S. public lands by filing a record and living on and cultivating the tract
When most of us think of a homestead, we get mental images of the prairie life depicted in popular movies and TV shows, however the modern homestead can look very different from those of our pioneering forebearers complete with running water, all modern electric, entertainment and more. Lets dive into this a little.
Homesteading in 2019 means so much more than the general picture we get in our heads from TV and movies. A homestead is a place that dreams can come true. It’s a place that, as long as you’re willing to work for it, can become almost anything you can dream of.
The modern homestead doesn’t have to be a large plot of land in the middle of nowhere; it can be anywhere from the small container gardens of the inner-city to the backyard gardeners of the suburbs, to the person who bought an old rundown farm in the hopes of breathing life back into it.
A homestead is a place where you work hard for what you have and work to connect with your environment and become closer to the people in your life. It is a place where you learn to depend on yourself for as much as possible and learn to flow with the seasons. It is a place of long days and sunburns in the summer and long nights of loading wood into the fire to keep warm in the winter.
The modern homesteader is looking for a promise within a dream given to us by our parents, our grandparents and as far back as our familial lines may go. A promise to live our best lives in harmony with nature and the seasons while raising our crops and children with healthy foods that will help them grow, not make them sick.
Homesteading isn’t so much a place in our modern era, but a state of mind that we can follow no matter what our geographic location may be. Because of this, the modern homesteading movement is broken down into 2 major sects: 1. the classic or traditional homesteaders and 2. the “Modern” homesteaders. Let’s look at each one individually since they have very different approaches to the homesteading lifestyle.
The Classic/Traditional Homestead
A classic homestead is what most people think of when they think of the word “homesteading”. It is made of hard work and callused hands in flowing prairie dresses and suspenders. This isn’t all that far off for some of us who consider ourselves modern day homesteaders.
For some of us, it is all about abandoning the modern world to get back to a simpler way of life that is closer to the land and the people we love. I know several people who live this way and respect them more for their convictions than anything.
Living a classic homestead life, often off the grid (no connection to the power grid) is hard. It means that you literally work from sun up to sun down, toiling to get the harvest in and preserved before winter hits, or tending animals in the dead of winter, hoping that they have enough heat so you can get a few hours of sleep.
The classic homestead is something that takes an immense amount of work and dedication, something that most of us wouldn’t be able to do; but despite all the work, the rewards of living a lifestyle that allows you the freedom to make your life what YOU make of it instead of relying on someone else makes it all worth it.
If you are interested in seeing someone who is doing an amazing job at both living the classic homestead lifestyle and teaching others about it, I highly recommend 1000s of Roots on YouTube and their blog. This is a channel that I subscribe to and watch on a regular basis to get ideas for our garden and learn along side of an amazing family. I really can’t recommend them enough for anyone looking at classic homesteading.
I know how to live like this thanks to my parents and the way I grew up, but I much prefer to get out my Kitchen Aid mixer to whip up a batch of cookies when people come over to help us with logging, building things or other projects around the TreadlingHome-stead instead of having to light the wood fire in the stove, regulate the temperature, mix the dough by hand and then bake in the middle of summer with no A/C to relieve the heat. Which brings us to the next type of modern homesteaders, the “Modern” homesteaders.
The “Modern” Homestead
For me, the word “homestead” evokes feelings of peace, love and family because that’s what my dad always called my childhood home: a 3 acre plot of land sitting at the bottom of a hollow in Southwestern Pennsylvania, complete with 2 flowing creeks, a large 1 acre garden and my DIY/self-sufficient parents ❤ It was a great place to grow up and I still love to visit them all the time.
Homesteading is so much more than just the “home and adjoining land”; it’s a way of life that harkens back to an older, slower way of living that most modern American’s have lost. It’s nostalgic for many of us.
Most Americans think that there is only classic homesteading, but for those of us in the “Modern” homesteading movement, we know otherwise. The modern homesteading movement is filled with people like Josh and myself, who have tattoos, piercings and love hard rock and metal music as well as bonfires and tending our land and home.
People and families who consider themselves to be Modern homesteaders tend to follow a slightly off beat drum in the sense that we enjoy the modern life with all it’s quirks, but tend to hold very traditional family values and gender roles. We also tend to want be able to escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world and immerse ourselves with gardening and raising animals, similar to how our grandparents and great-grandparents did. We tend to accept people as they come and appreciate that they are trying to live a better life, even if they don’t look like they would enjoy it.
Because of the type of people Modern homesteading tends to attract, it doesn’t have to take place in the prairies of the American Midwest, but instead can consist of someone in NYC who wants to grow some of their own food in a container garden in their apartment, or the suburban family who wants to feed their family farm fresh eggs and veggies but want to save some money. We are an extremely diverse group and tend to own smaller plots of land than our classic homesteading counterparts.
Josh and I of course fall into this Modern homesteading category, as I love being on the electrical grid and thank the gods every time the central air kicks on in the summer.
I enjoy the modern amenities that come with this life, but I also understand the need to do things yourself and be able to support yourself if something would go wrong, like the breadwinner losing their job for instance. Would you be able to support yourself and feed your family? Would you even know where to start? That’s what Modern homesteading is all about. Being prepared for any situation that may arise and still being able to live comfortably.
Get Started Modern Homesteading
Since Josh and I are Modern homesteaders, we are going to focus on that aspect for the rest of this article.
It is much easier to get started with Modern homesteading than it is with classic/traditional homesteading. All Modern homesteading requires is for you and your family to have a change in mindset that instead of growing your manicured lawn or decorative house plants, you are going to grow things you can eat to help you become more self-sufficient.
Self-sufficiency is the backbone of all homesteaders. We rely on what we can do for ourselves and what we can produce from our land as much as possible. Of course, no homestead stands alone. I know, this sounds a bit contrary to “self-sufficient”, but it’s true. Every modern homestead was built on the knowledge and help of others.
For instance, the TreadlingHome-stead relies on the knowledge of my parents and grandparents to helps us as a living resource we can tap into that has firsthand knowledge of what they have tried and if it worked and why or why not. In addition to talking with friends and family, I also do a massive amount of research on a weekly basis to refresh my memory of things I already know, or if I want to find a more efficient way of doing things around the house. I have even been able to share a few tips with my parents and grandparents along the way 🙂
It all takes time and a willingness to learn, either in-person or by reading to become a homesteader. No one homesteader has all of the answers. We are all at different stages and have slightly different ideas of what a homestead is, giving us each a unique set of skills we can share with our homesteading community.
A great example of this is even though I live on-grid, I have learned ways to become way more energy efficient through 1000s of Roots. Their off-grid homesteading lifestyle has inspired Josh and I to make changes around the TreadlingHome-stead to be able to be less reliant on electricity, and still be able to live the modern life we enjoy.
That’s kind of what getting started with Modern homesteading requires. A ton of research, then taking what fits into the type of life you want to live and making it all work together. It’s the small changes that lead to big results.