If you are anything like me, recent events have caused me to do some thinking. I’ve also felt angry and powerless. The Standing Rock protests, a leadership that denies climate change, the news that the Arctic is the warmest it has ever been. There is so much going on that seems so hopeless. Sure, we can send donations and we can write letters to our politicians in protest. For me, that doesn’t seem enough. I find that the easiest way to feel empowered and to feel I’m making a difference as an individual is by homesteading.
What is Modern-Day Homesteading?
Homesteading was a term originally used to describe the actions of people who took advantage of the Homesteading Acts of the 1800’s, which gave ‘free’ property to those willing to move West and farm the land. People who took advantage of these land-act programs had to fend for themselves. There usually weren’t stores down the street, so they had to grow their own food, create their own tools, etc. They were required to be self-sufficient, or independent on their own.
Today, homesteading is still a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is relearning the skills used by those in the past. I love the phrase “heirloom skills” to describe the tangible tasks of homesteading: growing food, saving seeds, creating textiles, making herbal medicine, cooking from scratch, raising chickens, etc. I also see homesteading as a way to be in tune with nature and to respect life. It’s an easy way to have authentic interactions with your surroundings.
Self-sufficiency is a tricky word or concept in a modern-day world. I think it’s pretty much impossible to live completely self-sufficient, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving for it. Often thought of as owning a cow and acres of land, homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, but by the lifestyle choices they make.
Whether you want to call it modern-day homesteading, sustainable living, or self-reliance, this is a movement of daily actions. Actions that give a subtle middle-finger to corporate control, to the government, to the mainstream. Coincidentally, I see these actions as also leaving lighter footprints on our Earth.
Growing your own food or buying from a local grower reduces carbon emissions from transportation, and it also takes away just a bit of Monsanto’s power. Collecting rainwater both conserves precious water, and it also stands against the privatization of natural resources. Buying organic reduces poisons in our soil and water, and also takes away from chemical company profits. Making your own herbal medicine helps you be in tune to nature and your own body, but also gives a big f-you to Big Pharma. Riding your bike instead of driving can reduce pollution and also claim independence from oil.
I am not anti-government and I would be a hypocrite to say I’m against corporations (as I type on my Apple computer, wearing a Patagonia sweater….). Modern-day homesteading is not about abandoning all that is modern, but it is finding a balance. What issues are most important to you? What kind of choices can you have an active part in? What things in your life can you control?
In the recession, homesteading got lots of attention, with people looking for ways to save money. I’ve read articles that say the homesteading movement isn’t as popular. Now that “we” have money again, “they” say there is no need to grow your own food, keep chickens or hang out your laundry. But I disagree.
As we now embark in a new future, one with questionable political guidance and climate stability unknown, I think that now more than ever we need to shift to a self-sufficient lifestyle, and to embrase homesteading. Will it work? The outcome is uncertain. But is it worth trying? Absolutely.
Stay tuned for part two: ways to start or expand your homestead, regardless of where you live. I’d love to know, what value do you think homesteading has in modern life? Leave me a comment!