How To Start Modern Homesteading, And Why You Should

Modern homesteading? What on earth is that? It's an exclamation that I've heard a lot recently. It tends to happen every time an age old idea or concept makes a comeback or experiences a renaissance. Maybe we should be calling it Homesteading 2.0!

Homesteading has been around a long time, and the concept has evolved. What homesteading WAS in the 1800's when the Homesteading Act allowed Americans to apply for free land to set up their own farms is just not the same as homesteading is today.

A lot of people still search Google, hoping to find swathes of land that they can rent or acquire for free to live the dream, become self-sufficient, grow some produce and experience life off the grid, as our forefathers did.

My Family And I Modern Homesteading In Australia

So what does the modern homesteading movement mean in 2017? What are it's aims?

Here are a couple of really inspirational videos from people in very different types of homestead, both living an exciting and inspired life. Enjoy!

I truly believe that homesteading is different for everyone. We al have differing passions, skills, mindsets, ambitions. No homesteader is going to focus on all the same things. We'll choose bits that we like, omit parts that don't fit well with our skills and life view.

But, the majority of urban, suburban and rural homesteaders are ideologically similar to some extent. Not necessarily in politics or background, but what they (we) see as important. And these central beliefs make us all 'modern homesteaders' to some extent, if not by name, but by actions.

There are SO many variables that make the homesteading lifestyle different for everyone. Your skill levels (which can always be improved and diversified), your income levels and disposable income, the size of your family, and of course, your location. Are you in the middle of nowhere living off the grid in a cabin with 100 acres and a river running through it?

Or, are you in a 32nd floor apartment in the middle of Manhattan with only a balcony as a garden?

Do you work 70 hours a week and come home too exhausted to do a thing, or are you a part time worker who has time to immerse yourself in community gardening and the local barter system?

These things make a difference.

But, and this is the cool part. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, modern homesteading is a movement that you can, and must be a part of. Things are changing in this crazy world. Tech and connectivity is becoming more and more integrated with our everyday lives, but there are an ever growing group of people who are preserving some of the important things that are dying off.

Things like:

  • Growing your own food and sharing it with friends and members of your community
  • Raising some animals if you have the space, and giving them the best life you can
  • Minimizing waste by reducing consumption and composting food scraps
  • Using sustainable energy systems wherever possible
  • Reducing emissions by reducing car and transport use
  • Preserving food for use out of season, through fermentation and canning
  • Spending more time with others, building community and connecting with others
  • Reducing reliance on chemical cleaners and making your own
  • These are just a few areas that one can become skilled in (if you're not already), to embrace the homesteading lifestyle and enrich your life.

    There are so many misconceptions when the word 'homesteading' is mentioned, and a lot of awesome people who could make a massive impact on not only their own lives, but the lives of their family and friends are put off. They think that they don't have what it takes to make the change and lead a simpler more fulfilling life.

    Here are a few of the misconceptions I hear regularly:

    Homesteading Myths That Hold You Back

    You Need A Massive Plot Of Land To Start Homesteading

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, if you want to raise your own cattle, spend a lot of time fixing fences, and not see another soul all day, you're going to need some land.

    If your dream is to go totally off grid and grow ALL your own food, you're going to need a little land, perhaps an acre, but with a good system, probably a lot less.

    But homesteading and self-sufficiency is a matter of scale. And although we all like that warm, fuzzy feeling when we achieve certain goals, the homesteading lifestyle is inherently tied to looking after not only ourselves, but the planet too.

    Anything, however small, that we can do to reduce our consumption and waste generation, we should do it. If you have 100 acres, then going totally off grid, raising animals in a kind and sustainable way, growing some crops, riding horses, creating a woodland, are all awesome goals that make a massive difference.

    But what about of you are apartment homesteading, with 4 rooms and a balcony as a garden? Does that mean you can't make a difference? Absolutely you can!!!

    Vertical gardening on a balcony, fermenting gluts of own grown or local vegetables into sauerkraut or kimchi, participating in a community vegetable garden scheme (many big towns and cities have them), using a Bokashi indoor compost bin to compost your scraps. Making your own cleaning products from natural ingredients like apple cider vinegar and baking soda. Riding a bike to work rather than taking the car, or organising a car share to save on fuel and pollution.

    The opportunities for growth and participation are endless. This definitely does not mean that you should become obsessed and lead a miserable life trying to save the planet. But mindfulness and learning are incredible skills to acquire. You tend to look at life very differently when you have a passion to make a difference in some way.

    So, please don't let size matter (snigger). Some of the most awesome homesteaders are doing it in an urban or suburban environment, not out in the hills or out of earshot of another living soul. Also, some of the most vibrant and active homesteading communities are in the middle of cities, in exactly the places you would never expect to find a thriving band of merry men and women living such a life.

    Trust me, micro homesteading is alive and flourishing.

    Here's another misconception that many would be homesteaders face..

    To Be A REAL Homesteader, You Have To Live Totally Off Grid And Grow ALL Your Own Food

    I think you may well have surmised from the previous section that this misnomer is defunct. Whether you are 100% self reliant (I really don't think anyone is these days) or growing only 20% of your own food, you are doing what you can. The city homesteading family who are able to grow some salad leaves and tomatoes, and buy in some cabbage to ferment into nutritious sauerkraut are doing a huge thing...for them!

    It might not be huge some someone else, but who should judge that? What makes MY huge endeavor less worthy than YOURS?

    I certainly believe that everyone, whether landowner or apartment dweller, should be focused on creating some of their own food, and buying at a local level for the remaining grocery needs. Food miles matter, eating seasonally matters, investing your dollar or local currency in your local producers matters.

    Us humans have spent much of our existence scattered, it was threats that brought us together into town and cities, as we sought protection from marauders and other miscreants that would harm us. We sought community, with people who were like us, it was a way of being able to identify 'outsiders' who may pose a threat.

    Well, things have changed and most of us live in a multicultural society these days, where you give little thought to someone with a different skin tone or dialect. This is of course, a good thing. Community is a good thing too. Humans thrive by living together in communities. Forming connections and alliances can go a long way to improving your life and health, both mentally and physically.

    5 Actions You Can Take TODAY To Join The Modern Homesteading Movement

    Start A Vegetable Garden

    Growing Vegetables In Boxes

    It's crazy to think that growing your own vegetables could be considered an act of insurgency or counter-culture. But when you consider it, the big food companies, and the governments that subsidize them really don't want you to do it. You're like a guerrilla fighter, part of some underground movement that is taking control back and refusing to be part of the status quo that is plying us with poor quality food which is designed to make us overeat.

    Imagine how the private health care system would suffer if we were all fit, lean and healthy. What would happen to the drugs companies if diabetes just vanished as more and more people grew their own food and ate high quality, local produce.

    I know I sound cynical, but ill-health caused by poor food is a booming industry, with huge businesses making massive profits. And they tell us they are doing it for moral and philanthropic reasons...ha!

    Start Fermenting Your Vegetables

    Kimchi stored in kilner jars

    Fermented food is super healthy. The fermentation process adds massive amounts of healthful bacteria and nutrients to vegetables that would otherwise spoil if they weren't eaten up.

    Even if you don't grow all your own vegetables (who does?), if you see a seasonal glut of cabbage or other veggies, ideally from a local farm shop or farmers market, pick them up and ferment them.

    I love to ferment sauerkraut and kimchi in a 5 liter fermentation like this one on Amazon. I make a good sized batch, ferment for a week, jar it and it lasts for ages. It's an incredible condiment to add to your meals.

    Fermenting sounds hard, but the reality is that it is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health and prevent waste.

    Compost Your Food Scraps

    Bokashi composting bin and accessories

    As homesteaders, we want to minimize waste leaving our property, always striving to recycle waste and put it to use.

    For those with a garden, composting outside is a great way to put vegetable scraps, grass cuttings and leaves to good use, to enrich your soil. Trench composting is even simpler than creating a compost pile, you just bury your vegetable scraps in the ground and wait for them to break down.

    For those with little outdoor space, or with a desire to compost more materials, such as meat and some dairy, the Bokashi composting system is awesome. Just keep a Bokashi  composting bin like this one on Amazon on your worktop and add your scraps to it each day. It's virtually odorless, and you end up with rich fluffy compost really quickly.

    If you fancy composting with some other critters to help out, worm farming is an excellent plan.  There is a ton of information on worm farming on this site and around the web, just do a search in the search bar at the top left of this page to learn more.

    Join A Community Vegetable Garden Scheme

    People working in a communtiy garden

    Community is at the center of life. Or it should be. Wester societies are moving further and further away from community and human connection. Geez, I've even heard about people who have never talked to their neighbors, and they've lived next door to them for years.

    I'm all for some privacy (fat chance with Facebook out there), but being part of a local community initiative like a community garden does a lot more that just provide vegetables to eat.

    Sharing work, anecdotes, being part of something bigger than just yourself is extremely good for your self- esteem, outlook on life and mental health in general. Humans are sociable creatures by design. Spending some time with others, and taking a share in the crops at harvest time is definitely something worth getting involved in.

    Recycle Stuff

    Recycled plastic bottles crushed into a cube

    Recycling has really taken a hold in recent years, with the concept of reducing landfill becoming a lot more focused in people's minds. Ideally, not buying heavily packaged produce is the ideal way to minimize waste. Every time you refuse to buy vegetables in plastic packing, you are voting with your money. Sure, you think that your one vote can't make a difference, but enough people doing that has an impact.

    For stuff you can't avoid, try to reuse and then recycle. It takes no time and the impact is huge.

    Summing Up

    The homesteading movement is alive and well, and growing exponentially as people all around the world embrace a simpler, less cluttered life where their actions have profound effects for themselves, their families, their towns, and ultimately the planet.

    My message is simple really. Start today, do something, anything to get you started. Learning and acquiring skills takes time, but the rewards are immense.

    If you have started homesteading recently, or have been doing it forever, leave a comment and share your experiences. Are you on acreage or in the city? What has worked for you and what has been hardest? Your comments will help others to get started in their journey, so don't hold back.

    And if you like this, share it and spread the word!

    Happy Homesteading!

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