Homesteading is a lifestyle choice that’s certainly not for everyone. It’s about stripping life back to the basics and living as self-sufficiently as possible. This means saying goodbye to supermarket shelf products and living off the fat of the land. For most people, homestead is largely around food and may involve growing crops and raising one’s own animals. Some homesteaders go even further, living off-grid when it comes to water and energy, whilst some even craft their own textiles and DIY cleaning items.
Why do people do it?
To the average person, homesteading might seem a little extreme, but there are many benefits that can make it an attractive venture.
Homesteading firstly cuts out all the chemicals that come with commercial foods. For those wanting to live as organically as possible, this can be a huge pull factor. You grow the food and so you know what’s going into it. There also perceived health benefits to eating organic such as lower risks of cancers, which draw many people to this lifestyle.
As well as being better for your health, homesteading can also be better for the environment. By rejecting plastic bags and foods using chemical fertilisers and mass-produced foods, a family can quickly reduce their carbon footprint. This doesn’t even include the benefits of going off-grid, resulting in less fossil fuel usage.
For some, homesteading may simply be a rewarding personal challenge. That feeling of self-reliance can make everyday life far more satisfying for homesteaders as every meal that ends up on their plate is grown/reared themselves.
Lastly, homesteading can be a great way of cutting living costs. Yes, you will have to initially buy the produce you grow and the livestock that you raise. However, compared to the amount we spend on weekly shops on average, this is nothing. Opting for renewable energy can further eliminate having to pay bills. This allows for more disposable income. It’s common for many homesteaders to centre their career around their lifestyle. This may include farming, breeding pets, creating organic textiles or doing some form of natural craft. In all cases, planning is essential in order to get the financial benefits from homesteading.
What foods do homesteaders eat?
Whilst the diet of a homesteader may seem limiting, there are actually endless options – meals just take a little more work as you’re cooking with ingredients from scratch.
When it comes to crops, essentials include potatoes, carrots and onions. These are all root vegetables that are rich with almost every nutrient the human body needs. Most people homesteading will grow a variety of fruit and vegetables. Even as an urban homesteader living in an apartment, it’s now possible to grow many foods such as oranges, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, as well as many other foods with the help of indoor growing cultivators.
Those with more space may branch out into cereal grains such as wheat, corn and rice. Beekeeping can even allow for the production of honey.
When it comes to animal products, cows and chickens meanwhile are key livestock for providing milk and eggs. This can lead to all manner of creative food options from home-made pasta to home-made cheese. Animals can then of course be reared for meat. Some people homesteading may even take up hunting and fishing.
Homesteading is all about living organic and free-range. Meals don’t have to be any more basic, they may just take longer to prepare due to working with raw ingredients. Learning to minimise waste is important and many homesteaders will aim to get a use out of everything. Soups, stews and curries can be a great way of getting rid of excess foods and leftovers.
How do homesteaders live off-grid?
The modern homesteader is very different to that of centuries past. Living off-grid no longer means doing without electricity or indeed the internet. Many homesteaders will buy their own home generators, whilst those wanting to go renewable to power their whole homes with solar panels. There are also now home wind generators and even home hydro-electric generators that can be used instead or in conjunction to provide power.
Meanwhile, when it comes to gas consumption, homesteaders will generally insulate their properties to use as little heating as possible. Heating for water may be done using a material propane, or alternatively electricity generated sustainable. Some people will even use traditional hot furnaces and fireplaces to provide natural heat.
When it comes to water, this can be collected in a well or in rain barrels and then purified. Greywater recycling systems now exist that can help to re-use waste water from the shower or kitchen for keeping crops watered or even flushing the toilet. When it comes to sewerage this can generally be sent to septic tank, which can be collected and taken away.
All of this isn’t easy and may cost a fair bit of money to install, however in the long run you’re likely to make up these costs by never having to pay a utility bill again.
What legal obstacles do homesteaders face?
Whilst homesteading may feel like a break away from the system (and in most ways it is), it doesn’t grant you freedom from taxes or various land laws. Homesteaders must still abide by zoning regulations for example, which may prevent going hunting on other people’s properties or living off fruit or vegetables that are technically on someone else’s land. Various rights still need to be upheld for animals and employees too. This means having an income that can allow you to afford the likes of employer liability insurance and animal health checks.
Some areas may have their own laws that make going fully self-sufficient difficult. For example, in some areas of the US, you’re not allowed to collect rainwater to use on your garden. Some land may also have restrictions – you may not be able to raise animals on it or build upon due to local planning committee regulations, despite the land seeming perfectly suited to that purpose. By and large, however there are many legal creative ways around these obstacles – they may simply cost more money, such as renting an allotment for growing crops if you can’t on your own premises.
How do I begin homesteading?
You may at first want to ease yourself into homesteading, before going full-out. Whilst urban homesteading is a thing, it is more limiting than living rurally in terms of being able to live off-grid and raise your own livestock. Buying a rural property may be needed, which can then be converted into the homestead of your dreams.
Alternatively, you could consider a self-build. This would allow to design and construct a home to your specs – one that could be well-insulated and with various water recycling systems in place. A self-build can be much cheaper than buying a property, although it depends on the cost of the land you want to buy.
Start by buying a few vegetables and fruit to grow yourself and slowly transition to living organically. You can then start to think about livestock. Working on a farm or having some experience in agriculture could be beneficial before starting your own homestead