How do you define homesteading?
For the longest time, I was afraid to use the term “homesteading” to describe what I do here at Seven Oaks Farm, the ‘home’ of Home Garden Joy. I thought “homesteading” too grand a word for it. To me, homesteading conjured up images like Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. If I wasn’t raising and butchering my own livestock (or at least keeping a few hens for eggs), trying to live off grid, and dyeing my own cloth for clothes, I wasn’t doing homesteading right.
In that narrow, limited view of homesteading, I had somehow confused a vision of primitivism with modern homesteading. In my mind’s eye, I thought a homestead had to be a log cabin with a pump for water and a spinning wheel in the corner.
How Do You Define Homesteading?
Modern homesteading, however, can be defined as anything from growing some or all of your own food to completely living off-grid.
The best definition I can wrap my head around when I try to define modern homesteading is a quote from a great book by Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America. This is how I answer the question, “How do you define homesteading?”
“Are you a producer or a consumer?”
Most modern Americans are close to if not 100% consumers, producing little or nothing for their own use. They consume food produced in factories, fuel produced in refineries, clothes made overseas, and entertainment made in Hollywood.
Some of us, however, are dedicated to producing as much as we can on our own. We produce by growing our own food – some or all, depending on our abilities, space, time, and talents. We produce by canning and preserving the harvest for later use. Some produce by raising meat animals, animals for milk and eggs, or animals for fiber. Others produce by engaging in handicrafts that produce finished goods for enjoyment, necessity, or consumption (sale): quilting, knitting, sewing, needlework. Yet others produce their own entertainment, eschewing mindless popular entertainment to pick up and learn an instrument, play family board games, or use their leisure time for personal enrichment.
It is this category, the producers, that are the ones who I believe are engaging in modern homesteading.
- Take whatever steps we can to reduce our dependence upon ‘big corporations’ for our food, medicine, entertainment, and leisure activities;
- Find great personal enjoyment in creating;
- Make do, use up, or go without – just like our grandparents or great-grandparents did;
- Believe that people can be self-reliant no matter where or how they live.
This is the Modern Homesteader’s manifesto and creed. We are a new generation of people who believe there is a better way to live. We want independence from the great mechanism that is the consumer society. We believe in creativity and self reliance.
Give this definition, do you feel your are a modern homesteader? Share your thoughts.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.