Have you ever heard someone call themselves a “homesteader” or talk about how they’re “homesteading” and you just didn’t quite understand what they meant? Maybe someone called themselves a homesteader, and you didn’t really agree with their assessment. Whatever the case, there are some signs to look for that will help you answer the question “what is a homesteader”.
A while back I asked my readers on the Survival at Home Facebook Page to fill in the blank for, “You might be a homesteader if __________.” There were some really good answers, but the funniest (and most hopeful) by far was “You dream of sustainable bacon.”
Sustainable bacon you say? Sign me up!!
All kidding aside, just exactly what is a homesteader? While I believe some of my friends hit on some extremely good points (that we’ll talk about later in the post), there is much more to it. You don’t have to have lots of farm animals, a big ol’ green tractor, and a 40 acre “homestead” to actually be a homesteader.
First, Let’s Define “Homesteading”
The typical person hears the word “homesteading” and immediately envisions a house on lots of land, a barn, chickens, cows, pigs, huge gardens, tractors, hay bales, and people doing lots of work to tend all those animals and gardens. That may be partially right in some circumstances, but I think homesteading is so much more — or less.
Wikipedia says this about homesteading:
Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.
That makes total sense to me, and it even lends credibility to some urban homestead concepts that people talk about — including apartment homesteading!
In my mind, homesteading is doing things the way they used to be done. Making things for ourselves instead of relying on stores to provide them for us. This also crosses-over into into the definition of “prepping“. If SHTF happened and you could make everything you need, you would survive just fine — but that’s something we will get into more in depth in another article.
Making what you use is just part of homesteading. Homesteading also covers growing what you eat, reusing everything you can to avoid throwing it away, and generally doing things for yourself so you don’t have to depend on someone else as much. Any time you are trying to be more self-sufficient in life, you can consider yourself a homesteader.
So What Does a Person Do That Makes Them a Homesteader?
Now that you know what a homesteader is, what are you doing that defines you as a homesteader? I’ll tell you some of the things that we do in our apartment that makes us “homesteaders” as well as covering a couple of other things.
Growing your own food is an awesome feeling. Knowing that you can plant some seeds (preferably non-GMO organic heirloom seeds), water them in, and weeks later pull food right off the plant that grows there is very empowering. It also helps you to know where your food is coming from, that it isn’t genetically modified, and that there have been no harmful pesticides sprayed on them. Granted, it can be a lot of work to have a garden of any size, but the feeling you get coupled with the money you save at the grocery store is well worth the labor you put into it. Plus, if you have never grown a garden before, I’m here to tell you — it’s very therapeutic! Even in an apartment, we grow herbs and veggies in containers on our patio. I JUST found these cool containers and I am so going to try them!
Being frugal is more than just breaking out your coupon book while you’re out shopping (even if they attach to the cart like this one). Living a frugal life is more about knowing the value of things, getting your money’s worth (and then some) out of everything you have, and not wasting anything at all — including your money. Using a budget book to budget what money you have will also help keep things in perspective. There are quite a few articles on this site about frugal living that will help you learn more about the topic.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle
This goes hand in hand with being frugal and getting more than your money’s worth out of what you have. Learning to repurpose things will extend the intended life of the item and keep you from having to buy something else. For example, reuse old pill bottles for emergency survival kits, cut milk jugs and 2-liter bottles to make planters, and make emergency candles from glass jars.
Make Your Own
Make your own what? Make your own everything! If you can make it, make it! Things like household cleaners, spice mixes, laundry detergent, and dishwasher detergent are just a few things you can make yourself.
This doesn’t just go for stuff inside, either. Use your imagination (and your power tools) outside to make things instead of spending big bucks on them at a big box store.
If you are growing a garden or happen to find a really good deal on produce at the farmer’s market, you can put up a bulk of fresh fruits and veggies to enjoy year round. Get yourself a canning set and some mason jars and you can store just about any kind of food. You can even can meat (which I wasn’t actually aware of until a few months ago).
If you’re not savvy to the taste of canned meat, use a food dehydrator to make it into jerky. You can also dehydrate fruits and veggies and vacuum seal them in plastic bags (or mason jars). If you have a bug-out bag (go bag, 72 hour kit, etc) you could create little snack packs of dehydrated fruits for your emergency gear.
Of course everybody has food in their freezer. Buy food in bulk to save money, then use your vacuum sealer (or just some zip top bags) to separate everything to be stored as meal-sized portions. We regularly buy bulk meat package deals from a local butcher and separate it out into 1 pound portions.
You Might Be a Homesteader If…
So as I said to begin with, I asked my Facebook fans to fill in the blank, and I got some really great responses. In fact, this post used to be called “You Might Be a Homesteader If…” but I decided to add onto the value of the responses by fully explaining what I think a homesteader truly is. Before I changed it, though, I had more responses in the comment section answering the question, too. Here are some of the responses:
If you save your bacon grease.
It’s always nice to know someone else saves their bacon grease. I use bacon grease to season dishes, sautee veggies in for soups and stews, and soon, I have even made candles with bacon grease (post on that yet to come). My mom had a container kind of like this that strains the fat always. Her container always sat on the kitchen counter next to the stove. Myself, I just reuse glass jars to hold the grease. I strain it through a mesh strainer lined with a paper coffee filter into a Pyrex measuring cup, then pour it into the jar. I also keep my grease in the fridge so it lasts longer.
If you choose to live off the land rather than the system.
Wow! What a powerful statement. That pretty much sums up the “homesteader spirit” if you ask me. That’s great in ideal situations. I would much rather live off the land and be totally self-reliant.
You never get a day off.
That sounds about right. You are always busy doing something as a homesteader, especially if you have animals and gardens. Weeding, tilling, sowing, harvesting, feeding, clipping, cleaning — there is always something to do. But that’s part of the fun, right? Knowing that you’re doing everything yourself and not relying on others to do it for you. It is very tiring, but just as gratifying, I think.
You have transported goats in your car.
Small animal hauling trailers are available, but if you can’t afford one yet, this would be the next best thing. Having animals in your car does not sound like a very appealing idea. However, if you need to bring your new animals home, using what you have to transport those animals shows great homesteader spirit!
At least one thing in your deep freeze or pantry comes from your garden.
Most homesteaders I know have a garden of some size. We do container gardening here, and I’m already planning a small scale aquaponic garden, as well. Those folks that grow so much food they cannot eat it before it goes bad usually save the remainder by canning or freezing. This means home grown food all year long in some cases. If you haven’t learned the basics of canning, dehydrating and freezing food yet, Food Preservation & Storage at Home is a great book to get you started.
Your pockets are empty.
This one really made me think. I know you can have empty pockets and not be a homesteader, but can you be a homesteader and not have empty pockets? If you grow enough produce, or your cows and goats produce enough milk, I would say yes, you can have money in your pocket. I don’t think most hardcore homesteaders care too much about money, though. As long as their bills are paid, they’re happy living off the land.
Some other good responses:
- …chickens think the doggy door is an easy access entryway for treats.
- …you regularly find pine shavings in your hair and chicken poop on your shoes.
- …you haul more feed and animals in your vehicles than people.
- …you make and grow far more than you buy.
- …your fingernails are more accustomed to dirt than nail polish.
- …there is a competition in your house for who gets the scraps (chickens, rabbits, pigs, or compost pile).
- …you never have more than you can use.
What do you think?
I would love to hear from you. What do you think a homesteader is? Go ahead and give me a good “You might be a homesteader if” line, too. I’ll probably add it to the list!