What is Homesteading

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As the Western World becomes more & more aware with regards to climate change, the effects of pesticides on the environment & our bodies & the merits of organic living, one of the things that keeps cropping up more & more is homesteading. 

When we think of homesteading, we might think of the Wild, Wild West, or the colonisation of North America, when homesteading was a common way of life & governments encouraged families to move to less-desirable locals such as Alaska & the Mid-West, by giving start-up grants to homesteaders. Certainly homesteading is rooted in that time & is a lifestyle reminiscent of days gone-by. 

Homesteading, as a way of life, has never truly gone away, however. Today, this off-the-grid lifestyle is moving back to the forefront of our collective minds as more & more, homesteading becomes synonymous with eco-consciousness & sustainable living.

An Introduction to Homesteading

What is Homesteading?

With all of that being said, the question remains, what is homesteading? In it's simplest form, homesteading is a lifestyle built on self-sufficiency. This self-sufficient lifestyle can take on many forms including sustainable farming, preservation of homemade foodstuffs, small-scale textile work & other do-it-yourself practices.

A common misconception with regards to homesteading is that you require a huge block of land to do it successfully. The reality is, you don't. At it's core, homesteading is a lifestyle based on self-sufficiency of the family. In general, this means you're living in such a way that you grow & raise the food that your family needs. You make the clothing & textiles for your family. Typically, you aren't worried about selling eggs, vegetables, or other goods & services to generate income. While some homesteaders do trade goods & services with other homesteaders, this is done on a very small-scale. 

With the need to generate income taken out of the equation, homesteading differs from traditional farming. Whereas a farmer wants to grow enough crops to sell to grocers & other retailers, a homesteader is concerned with growing enough crops to sustain their family for the year. Growing crops & living off the land in this way means you need a lot less land because you are producing far less food.

Additionally, homesteading typically involves raising only animals which serve a purpose within the homestead. These animals are typically ones whose upkeep is extremely sustainable & efficient. What this means is that cows typically are not the animals you'll find on a homestead. Cows require a lot of space & vegetation to feed on. Additionally, when slaughtered for meat, a cow produces excessive amounts of meat. Considering most homesteads make use of natural refrigeration practices (think: root cellars etc.), most of the meat produces from a cow will go bad before it can be consumed. 

Chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, llamas & alpacas are all common animals involved in successful homesteading. These animals tend to serve multiple purposes & require small amounts of resources to maintain. Chickens produce eggs. When slaughtered, they produce a reasonable amount of meat & their feathers can be used in the creation of blankets & warm clothing. Similarly, goats require a small amount of space, far less food than a cow, they produce milk & can be slaughtered for meat & materials.

Why Live Sustainably?

There are many reasons why people turn to homesteading as a way of life. There are those who worry about the idea of "dooms day", who want to be prepared for the eventuality of large-scale disaster. There are those who are concerned about our impact on the environment & worry that the traditional hallmarks of a western lifestyle will take its tole on the environment & leave little, or nothing for future generations. There are many others who are aware of the problematic nature of factory farming & the food that we eat which is riddled with additives & unnecessary fillers which have a detrimental affect on our health. Others are turned off by the greed & selfishness inherent in living within a capitalist society.

In short, living sustainably & living organically is a responsible & forward-thinking way of life. While homesteading might not be a way of life for everyone, there are many ways that we can augment our lifestyle in a way that is more responsible & sustainable.

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