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Unlocking Homesteading: A Deep Dive into the Lifestyle

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What is a homestead and what is the definition of homesteading? These terms are associated with the American frontier and the pioneering spirit of settlers. Homesteading is a lifestyle choice that includes self-sufficiency, sustainability, and a return to a simpler way of living. In this comprehensive blog post, I will delve into the movement, explore its roots, and focus particularly on the role of gardens in this lifestyle. I like to use the term sustainable living to describe this concept as well.

So, how can cultivate a homesteading mindset to transform the way we live and interact with the environment? The term “homesteading” gained prominence in the 19th century when the United States government offered vast tracts of public land to anyone willing to settle and cultivate it. For the sake of this blog, I will use “plot”. This initiative aimed to encourage westward expansion, agricultural development, and the establishment of communities on the frontier. Homesteaders were individuals or families who took up the challenge of turning untamed land into thriving homes, often facing numerous hardships and uncertainties. Wouldn’t it be great to be given a bunch of land? Thing are a little different now!

There was something called the Homestead Act of 1862; however, it is no longer in effect. Today’s homesteaders are individuals who seek a more sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle, often in rural or semi-rural settings. The movement embraces principles of environmental stewardship, frugality, and a desire for a deeper connection to the land.

Although sustainable living was much a necessity before our time, this concept is making a comeback in today’s fast-paced world, where the connection to nature is often lost. Nature Deficit Disorder was described by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. In his book, he described the reduction in outdoor nature time resulting in behavioral and physiological problems, mostly in children. Louv doesn’t go over the behavioral and psychological problems in detail in the book, however he discusses the myriad of factors that contribute to the decrease in nature time.

It is important to understand how much things have changed. Consider the American frontier and the expansion of the West in the 17th century. Nature was a major part of the culture of the time.  Frontier life was full of work immersed in nature. Land needed to be cleared, farms developed, hunting for food was a part of life, and the building of one’s homes was a part of this time. Life was synonymous with nature. It was nature. Since this time, there has been a separation from nature. Cities were built, roads were paved, and suddenly there were urban and suburban environments. We went from horse and train to auto, plane and train.

At its core, it is about self-sufficiency. Plot owners aim to produce as much of their own food, energy, and resources as possible, reducing reliance on external sources. This self-sufficiency extends beyond the garden to encompass various aspects of daily life, including energy production, water supply, and even crafting essential items.

Homesteaders prioritize sustainable practices that have minimal impact on the environment. This involves embracing organic farming methods, permaculture design principles, and renewable energy sources. By adopting sustainable practices, plot owners aim to create a harmonious relationship with nature, ensuring the long-term viability of their lifestyle.

Modern Homesteading

Homesteading today in the purest sense is less common; however, the garden is often considered the heart of this endeavor and is more common. Many practice urban homesteading on a small scale. It serves as a vital source of fresh, homegrown produce and contributes to the overall self-sufficiency of the homesteader and it can be done in a relatively mall backyard. Beyond its practical utility, the garden is a place of connection, growth, and renewal. Some people keep chickens and other livestock in addition to growing food.

Gardens can feature a diverse array of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and sometimes even small livestock. This approach not only ensures a constant and varied food supply but also promotes a deeper understanding of where food comes from and the effort involved in its production.

What is homesteading?

Sustainable gardens often incorporate permaculture principles, which focus on creating sustainable and regenerative systems. These principles include companion planting, mulching, composting, and water conservation techniques. By mimicking natural ecosystems, plot owners enhance the productivity and resilience of their gardens.

I try to promote the food growing side of this movement in my book Backyard Big: Growing Food in Your Backyard. In this book, I go “into the weeds” about growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs. I include many of the permaculture principles such as composting, mulching, and water conservation.

In the spirit of self-sufficiency, homesteaders often engage in preserving and canning the surplus from their gardens. This allows them to extend the availability of fresh produce throughout the year, reducing reliance on store-bought goods and minimizing food waste. My preservation techniques mostly consist of freezing and storing food items; however, preservation and canning is very popular.

Essential Skills

For plot owners, developing gardening skills is paramount. Understanding soil health, plant varieties, seasonal planting, and pest management are essential components of successful homestead gardening. Continuous learning and adaptation to the local climate and conditions contribute to a thriving garden.

While not every homesteader raises livestock, many choose to integrate animals into their homesteads for additional food sources, soil fertility, and a more comprehensive ecosystem. Animal husbandry skills include caring for chickens, goats, bees, or other livestock, ensuring their well-being and utilizing their contributions to the homestead.

The ability to preserve food through techniques like canning, fermenting, and drying is crucial for extending the availability of homegrown produce. Homesteaders often develop proficiency in these skills to make the most of their garden harvests and minimize waste.

Homesteading for Beginners by Elise Baker.

Homesteaders embrace a do-it-yourself (DIY) mindset, honing skills in crafting essential items, building structures, and repairing tools and equipment. This self-sufficiency extends beyond the garden, contributing to a holistic approach. For example, create a composting bin using materials like wooden pallets, wire mesh, or even repurposed plastic containers or create raised garden beds using reclaimed wood, pallets, or other materials. There are people that make a living from the DIY movement.

Self sufficient gardeners and plot owners are not without their challenges. The initial investment of time, effort, and resources required to establish a homestead can be daunting. Unpredictable weather, pest pressures, and the learning curve associated with acquiring new skills can pose challenges for even the most dedicated home owners.

Despite the challenges, the rewards homesteaders experience are numerous. The satisfaction of growing and producing one’s own food, the sense of accomplishment from overcoming obstacles, and the connection to the natural world are deeply fulfilling. Moreover, the potential for increased self-sufficiency, reduced environmental impact, and a simpler, more intentional way of life are compelling reasons for individuals and families to embrace this movement.

Tips for Homesteaders

For individuals venturing into the world of homesteading, taking gradual steps and starting small is a foundational principle. Initiating your journey with a modest garden and progressively expanding it as you accumulate experience and confidence is a prudent approach. This method ensures a more manageable learning curve, preventing the risk of feeling overwhelmed by the complexities inherent in self sufficient gardening.

Embarking on a sustainable living and gardening path constitutes an ongoing educational journey. It involves staying well-informed about the latest and most effective practices in gardening, sustainable living techniques, and other pertinent skills. An invaluable strategy is to actively seek knowledge by participating in local groups, engaging with communities, attending workshops, and delving into reputable resources. This commitment to continuous learning becomes a cornerstone for success in the multifaceted realm of urban growing.

Contrary to the perception of urban growing as a solitary pursuit, building connections and fostering relationships with like-minded individuals is immensely beneficial. Whether forming bonds within your local community or establishing an online presence, these connections provide a network of support, a source of valuable advice, and opportunities for sharing resources. The collaborative spirit that arises from community engagement not only enhances the urban growing experience but also creates a sense of unity among individuals pursuing similar lifestyles.

Homesteading, by its very nature, demands resilience and adaptability. Acknowledging that setbacks are an integral part of the journey is crucial. Whether facing crop failures, challenging weather conditions, or unexpected obstacles, it’s essential to view these experiences not as insurmountable hurdles but as stepping stones for personal and collective growth. Embracing setbacks becomes a mindset that propels homesteaders to learn from every challenge, fostering a continuous cycle of improvement and a deeper connection to the land they cultivate. Urban growing can be a fulfilling lifestyle that thrives on the principles of perseverance and adaptability.


In conclusion, homesteading is more than just a trend; it’s a lifestyle that taps into the fundamental human desire for self-sufficiency, connection to nature, and a simpler way of living. Your garden symbolizes the commitment to growing one’s own food, practicing sustainable agriculture, and fostering a deeper connection to the land. Aspiring homesteaders can embark on this journey with a focus on essential skills, a willingness to learn, and a resilient spirit. By doing so, they can not only reap the tangible rewards of a bountiful garden but also experience the profound satisfaction of a lifestyle that is more self sufficient and simple.

Be sure to check out other homesteading blogs and resources as you start your adventure. Check out my blogs, Ten Reasons to Grow Your Own Food, How to Grow Your Own Onions, What is Urban Gardening, and Garden Seed Starting. I list some excellent products to research this movement below.

Check These Three Books Out!

Mini Farming Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham.
Field Guide to Urban Gardening by Kevin Espiritu.
The Homesteading Handbook by Kelly Reed.

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