Going Against the Grain: Homesteading On Your Own Terms

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Many of us vicariously dream of homesteading through our favorite blogs and TV shows we follow but seldom think of ourselves as homesteaders even though we garden, raise livestock or engage in any number of homestead-esque hobbies. We don’t think of ourselves as homesteaders because we think we have to live off-grid or be completely self-sufficient before we can don that prestigious title. Well, guess what?! I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if you’re reading my blog, you’re probably homesteading and you don’t even know it!

That’s right, I said it. You’re a homesteader!

We’re homesteaders! (Or maybe you stumbled upon this page by accident and despise all things homestead-ish. Stick around. I’m funny sometimes, too.) Homesteading doesn’t have to be an unattainable existence sectioned off for the wealthy or wildly ambitious. It just requires a passion for the “old ways”, an understanding of why generations before us did it this way and how our “new ways” can foster a better understanding of the world around us.

Allow Wikipedia to explain…

“Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale…Modern homesteaders often use renewable energy options including solar electricity and wind power. Many also choose to plant and grow heirloom vegetables and to raise heritage livestock. Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.” Wikipedia

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Homesteading is also a philosophy. It’s a symbiotic mix of values, interests and awareness that revolve around stewardship, resourcefulness and frugality that are lived daily through the way we interact with our environment. Are you drawn to canning or crocheting because it’s trendy or are you using it in a way that furthers values like those associated with homesteading? If you see it as a passing fad train and you’re jumping aboard to be on trend, well, do your thang, man. I ain’t mad at ya. But if you see it as a way of thinking that involves changing your way of life, one action, one day at a time, then you may be a lifelong member of my tribe…and we accept converts, too.

Homesteading and mainstream living are not mutually exclusive ideas. I recently bought Eve and Eivin Kilcher’s cookbook,  and was reading through the foreword by their cousin and musician, Jewel, as well as Eivin’s introduction and found a beautiful statement about what homesteading is to them. (Yes, I said I read the foreword.)

“Homesteading is not just an old idea, nor is it a new trend. It’s a perpetual mind-set. It is about finding a piece of the world, no matter the size, and building it into something to be proud of.” – Eivin Kilcher, Homestead Kitchen

Moreover, homesteading is about quality not quantity. You may choose to grow your own garden from heirloom seeds, raise free range chickens or forage for mushrooms so that you ultimately have control over the quality of the food on your plate. You may also work in the corporate world and have internet and running water. That’s okay!

“I realize of course that not everyone has the good fortune of inheriting prime Alaskan acreage on which to grow their own food. However, the homesteading mind-set can be cultivated anywhere – in a window-box garden that produces salad for a family each week, in a hive of bees on the roof of a city apartment building, or on a small farm adjacent to the neighborhood.” – Eivin Kilcher, Homestead Kitchen

I have a longstanding love affair with Alaska, the Kilcher family and their show. It was so refreshing to hear some of the most homestead-y of homesteaders talk about eating their fair share of fast food and ordering fair-trade, organic supplies online. They’ve also endured a lot of criticism for being just miles from a large town while their show, Discovery’s Alaska: The Last Frontier, tries to portray them as extremely off-grid and far from the resources of mainstream society. While this portrayal may not be completely true, they are absolutely homesteaders; living off the land, raising children up to carry on their same traditions and values, and cultivating a deep relationship with the earth and all it has to offer. Even those who are REALLY doing this thing we call homesteading grapple with criticism and struggle with doing things the “homesteader’s” way.

No matter what you’re homestead looks like, where you live or what you make, homesteading is a matter of the heart and mind. If you create, grow, farm, raise, make or do with the intention of honoring the traditions and ideas behind it, you are a homesteader. Welcome to the tribe, y’all!

If you’d like a copy of Homestead Kitchen, click here to purchase your own!

It’s a beautiful cookbook full of delicious recipes straight from their kitchen or those of their friends and family and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the show or looking for a unique cookbook for themselves or even a gift for a friend.

Peace, love and cheesecake!

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