When many people think of homesteading they think about a cabin in the middle of a big woods completely off the grid, living off the land and this certainly can be homesteading at its finest. However these days homesteading has taken on a deeper and somewhat more inclusive meaning, it is characterized by a lifestyle of self-sufficiency and sustainability but this comes in many forms and can look different from household to household. Today we use terms like “modern homesteader” and “urban homesteader” which challenge our thinking as to what a homesteader really is.
So how do you know if your a homesteader? Can you call yourself one even if you don’t live in that cabin in the middle of nowhere completely off the grid? I will tell you that being a homesteader isn’t defined by where you live It is determined by you. In this article I want to give you 5 characteristics of a homesteader today.
A Homesteader Holds To a Philosophy.
This may seem like a strange identifying characteristic but it’s an important one. To be a homesteader you must first think like a homesteader. You must believe in the importance of freedom and self sufficiency, you must believe you have the ability to provide for yourself and not be dependent on others to provide for you. This philosophy does not rule out the help of a community but rather operates as a resource in the community as I will explain later. A homesteader believes in themselves and their ability, they believe in the land and it’s provision, they believe in the design of nature to give of its resources, they believe in using what they have as an asset and giver rather that a liability and a taker. In short a homesteader is an optimistic thinker who strives to figure out a way.
A Homesteader Is a Learner.
Every homesteader I know is constantly trying to learn something new. They want to learn another way to preserve their food, they want to know how to make a richer more nutrient based compost, they want to learn a new skill, a new recipe, a new way to build something. Yes, the homesteader always has the desire to learn.
When we think of education these days we often have images in our mind of someone working there way through college, flipping their way through overpriced text books preparing for a specific career, and there is a place for that but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about spending time with grandparents and letting them pass on their wisdom of a better way from another time. I’m talking about building relationships with those who are doing something you want to do and letting them be a mentor to you. There are even times we must crack open a book or use the internet to learn something new or better. We live in a time where we have endless resources at our fingertips and no excuses for being uneducated in whatever we desire to learn and the homesteader has this desire.
A Homesteader Is Not Just a Thinker But a Doer.
One of my favorite passages from the bible is James 1:22-25 it says “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” This verse teaches us that thought without action is nothing, at least nothing that has a lasting effect and I agree. We can know a lot about how to plant a garden, how to preserve our food, how to take care of livestock, how to care for bees, etc… but if we never actually do anything with that knowledge what good is it? Homesteaders are people of action, they are doers not just thinkers. They plant that garden, even if its just in pots in a window seals; they preserve that food even if that just means they go to the farmer’s market and buy some vegetables and blanch and freeze them; they work towards financial freedom by paying off their bills and living within their means so as not to be in bondage to a system. They don’t just think about it and talk about it, They Do It!
A Homesteader Gives Back.
I believe one of the biggest differences between a homesteader and the average person is their attitude towards not just taking but giving back. When we take from the soil we give back to the soil and do it in a way that has long term benefits not just instant gratification so we can plant another crop which is the thought process of many farmers and fertilizer manufacturers today. This is why we hold to organic methods, we want our children and grandchildren and generations beyond to be able to benefit from the land. When you see a 70 year old homesteader planting a tree they are probably not planting it for themselves but for the next generation. When your out talking to your neighbors about how to plant a tomato or where they should put an apple tree on their property, this isn’t for you but for them. This is the mindset of the homesteaders I know, they want the world to be a better place, they want other families to eat healthy and live a rewarding life, they want to see children grow up and hold onto the wholesome traditions of the past, they want others to embrace the joy and freedoms they are experiencing. Homesteaders Are Givers!
A Homesteader Is Part Of a Community.
Sometimes people are confused by the phrase self sufficiency, they think this means doing it alone but what it really means is using one’s resources to meet their own needs. This doesn’t rule out community as one of your resources. You really can’t grow, raise, build, and repair everything you need all by yourself. For example, you may want to eat grass fed beef but you don’t have the land to raise large livestock, Joe down the road has the beef you want, so you barter with Joe with what you do have to get that beef. You don’t have what Joe needs, than you sell your produce at the farmer’s market to make the money to buy the beef from Joe. This is being just as self sufficient as raising grass fed beef yourself and it’s done within the context of community.
Community is also an important part of our growth and progress. We learn how to do new things through community, we receive help and encouragement and this often gives us the strength we need to take the next step and start something new. There is a saying “fear hates community” and sometimes jumping into a new venture can be a little overwhelming, but with community we find the courage to go for it. Homesteaders flock together, not just because we want to but because we need to if we are going to become more self-sufficient than we were yesterday.
So there you have it, 5 characteristics of a homesteader, 5 things to look for in yourself and identify with and declare “I Am A Homesteader!” Not because of where I live or how I dress, not because of how much land I have or what’s growing or living on it, but because of who I am, what I believe, and what I do.