What is Homesteading?

What is Homesteading in the USA and UK

What is Homesteading?

What is homesteading? What images does the word conjure up in your mind? The term ‘homesteading’ can mean different things to different people.

In its most basic form, the word ‘homestead’ simply means your home and surrounding land that belongs to you. So if you break it down like that, nearly everybody has a homestead.

When we think of the lifestyle associated with homesteading, we often think of the American pioneers. The Homesteading Act of 1862 enabled people to claim free (or extremely low cost) land from the government if they could improve the land and farm it. If they were successful, then after five years the land was theirs to keep.

In England (UK), we don’t have that kind of heritage. Vaguely similar schemes in England might be the Allotment Act (1950) where people are able to rent a small plot of land at a very low cost where they can grow their own vegetables. In Scotland larger farms are available to rent under the Crofters Holding Act of 1886. In England rather than talking about homesteading, we would be more likely to use the term smallholding, which is a small farm of less than 50 acres.

A Way of Life

Modern homesteading has become synonymous with a way of life where people aim to be more self-sufficient. There are many activities that we often think of as belonging to that way of life such as; growing fruit and vegetables, raising animals, preserving food and cooking from scratch. For some people it may mean living off grid, home-schooling children, supporting local growers and producers. Then there are the more creative endeavours such as building your own farm structures, making soap and cleaning products, sewing your own clothes.

I think the homesteading way of life can be summed up like this: it is about becoming more of a producer and less of a consumer. It is also about becoming more independent and relying less on institutions and supply chains.

The Kitchen is the Heart of the Homestead

While we often think of homesteading as having a farm and producing our own food, a lot of homesteading activities actually take place inside the home, especially in the kitchen.

This is great, because we can start a lot of these activities even if we don’t have acreage. Things like cooking from scratch, preserving food, making soap and craft making can all be done in a small home.

Even some gardening can be done in a small space. We can make use of windowsills, balconies, patios and small gardens to grow food.

There are even some livestock that can be raised without a lot of land.

Why Do We Homestead?

We originally started growing some vegetables in our back garden because we moved into a house that had a small veg patch. We didn’t want to let the space go to waste and we thought it would make a great family hobby that we could enjoy together.

When lockdown came and the supermarket shelves were bare, we decided to see if we produce a bit more ourselves so that we would not be so reliant on the very fragile supply chains.

I also think that it is a really healthy way of life. It gets us out in the fresh air no matter the weather. We get to bend and crouch and lift and carry. We get to enjoy the birds singing in the trees and see the rabbits rush over to be stroked and made a fuss of. It really is good for our mental health as well as our physical wellbeing.

Why Do You Homestead?

Do you homestead and if so what is your motivation? Let us know in the comments below.

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