Homestead plans... big and small
After reading one of my earlier posts, a friend suggested that I write a post devoted to the definition and background of homesteading so that she can better understand my journey. I have been completely obsessed with homesteading for as long as I can remember so I didn't even stop to think that some of my friends and family members, who at this time are 100% of my reader base, might not be as familiar with the concept as I am.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word homestead as:
a : the home and adjoining land occupied by a family
b : an ancestral home
c: a tract of land acquired from U.S. public lands by filing a record and living on and cultivating the tract (as in the Homestead Act of 1862, or the "I missed the boat by a couple hundred years act of 1862")
While this definition works for the old-fashioned pioneer homesteads, the meaning has changed over time. A homestead is a place where you live and work with the land and nature to produce food or other commodities in an attempt to be more self-reliant. Homesteading is a way of life in which you do the above.
In my opinion, the beauty of modern homesteading is the ability to decide just how far into it you want to go. Do you want to cut ties with the world and live "off-grid"? Well... good luck. That's not my idea of a good time. I love my dishwasher. For me, homesteading is somewhere in the middle - I want to make my own butter... I would just prefer to make it in the food processor than with a hand churn. I want to know where my food came from. I want to know it lived a good and happy life. More than anything, I want to rely on myself.
Growing up I was completely obsessed with "the olden days," as I think many kids are. I loved costumes with bonnets and petticoats. I loved reading books about pioneering. My favorite American Girl doll was the spunky, animal loving Swedish pioneer girl Kirsten. I've always been a headstrong, "I'll do it myself" type.
I came of age in an era where the present technology surpassed the wildest dreams of the generations before us. Phones got smaller, TVs got bigger and you could get any kind of food anywhere you wanted. Hell, I can make a phone call from my watch! There was no frontier left on which to homestead... not that I could see from my little corner of Connecticut anyway. Farms were great, massive things... food factories.
Maybe modern homesteading has always been around but it is really seeing its renaissance in my generation. People are tired of the "more, more, more" way of life. Smaller houses are en vogue. CSA's are growing in popularity as people begin to rethink the way they eat and relate to food. Everyone knows someone with a flock of backyard chickens. It's not just hippies and end-times preppers anymore. Still, until very recently, the idea of homesteading seemed unattainable. I have no skills of note. I wasn't raised on a farm. I don't have land. And then I began to realize that a homestead doesn't need to be a 100 acre farm. A quarter acre of well thought out space is enough to farm for a family of four. Add another quarter acre and you can raise substantial livestock.
So where do I see myself in five years? The dream homestead is a half acre of farmed land, an acre of pasture, and if we're really talking about dreams, more acreage of natural land. Our house is currently 850 square feet. Although I know Marcel would like something bigger, we know that we can live happily in a home that size. I foresee ducks, chickens, quail, goats and horses. I see a self-sufficiency garden. Unless my gardening skills increase in a major way, I don't think I want to try a market garden. Instead, I would focus on growing lavender, farming bees for honey and beeswax, and creating wonderful and delicious things to sell from our plants, bees, goats and fowl.