Inspiration and Thoughts: Defining Homesteading

This initial post of my new blog, Homesteading Now, will serve as a way for me to introduce myself to you, and give some background information about what my partner and I are doing, why we are doing it, and why we think this is a viable alternative lifestyle for many people today.

After an extensive career in retail trying to sell items to people that they probably did not need, oft times with money they did not have, we left that world behind us and settled a whopping six hundred miles to the north, in Maine. We wanted to leave a consumer-driven economy, and begin living as simply as we possible. Short of living in a tent, that is.

If I am going to write about ‘homesteading’, it might be helpful to define what this word actually means. According to Wikipedia it’s a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may involve the small scale production of clothing and craftwork for household use, or for sale. This country has a history of various Homesteading Acts, which I will let you the reader investigate. Even Russia recently has offered one hectare (2.47 square acres) per person if they moved to a mostly under settled region of their country.

I envision the nineteenth century homesteaders, the pioneers of old, loading all of their worldly belongings into a conestoga wagon, and then moving westward, with hopes of a new life, whatever that might be. We largely duplicated the act, except we used a rented truck and migrated north, with high hopes, and a pail of compost. Whereas the settlers of yesteryear had to begin building a home, we only had repairs to make, however extensive. But we did need to get a garden planted right away.

Another part of the equation for us, and I think as part of the definition of homesteading, is this idea of growing all of our own food. That concept is almost amusing if you stop to think about it. We do grow all of our potatoes, carrots, tomatoes for sauce, etcetera, etcetera. We grow all of our own of many foodstuffs, but at the end of the day…we still need to go to the store to purchase flour for bread-making, grape seed oil for cooking, sugar, coffee. So are we completely self sufficient? A big resounding No. I will say that our goal is to supply as many of these needs as reasonably possible, but I will not be upset that we cannot provide our coffee. Instead, knowing that our coffee is organic and was sourced from a company based in Maine is a good enough compromise. However, we are planting wheat for the first time this year, for bread. We will learn how to grow it, and how much we need to plant, to last a year. We are even kicking around the idea of planting sunflowers for pressing our own cooking oil. That is what we had to do with potatoes and carrots, and other vegetables. Last year we planted one package of organic carrot seeds that cost about four dollars, into a garden row thirty inches wide by eighteen feet long. We grew sixty-three pounds of wonderful organic carrots that we store in the cellar. I can tell you that our storehouse of carrots alongside the potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, squash, cabbage, beets, garlic, onions are still lasting quite nicely even now in March. It has taken us four years just to learn how to grow all of these foods, and to store them. In future blog posts I will cover the various trials and tribulations that took place to get where we are now, which is growing about eighty-five percent of our food.

Does this mean that you have to give up everything to homestead? You don’t have to give up your career; you do not need to leave the work force as early as we did. Homesteading can be developed by degrees. Start as small as you like and progress as you are interested and able.

But I believe the most important aspect of homesteading is attitude, meaning, why on earth would someone endeavor to take on this lifestyle? For every person and family this is unique. I can tell you that for us it is an amalgamation of ideas, philosophies, and frankly, partly being unsettled with how events are unfolding in the world and even our country.

And homesteading IS a lifestyle. I think a homesteader needs to enjoy hard work, getting their hands dirty, being somewhat strong and in decent physical shape. It helps to be debt-free, which is part of our mission statement.

So that about sums it up for this initial post. I do not mean to dissuade any would-be homesteaders out there. Rather, I am trying to encourage you and maybe teach what we have learned so far. But we have a long way to go ourselves. And by writing this blog we will be sharing with you as we learn. This spring, summer, and fall, I will be writing about our laying hens, greenhouses, composting, solar system, cooking and baking on the antique wood cookstove, firewood…  Oh gosh, the list goes on and on.

This is a particularly interesting time on the homestead, as our two dairy goats will be kidding starting in about three weeks. I will be writing about that. But the next post will be about getting started. Our advice on how to begin this journey. We went from very comfortable and upscale life on the Jersey shore owning and operating a high-end gift shop, to selling it all and packing the truck, and moving to rural Maine on eighteen acres to subsistence live. We will outline this project and perhaps detail how you might be able to make your own kind of transition.

Go ahead and grow those carrots (or garlic, or salad greens) in the back yard, and learn how to make compost. See you next time, and don’t forget to check out our Facebook page GatheringBasketFarm.

Stephanie Reiser

About Stephanie Reiser

After many years in retail sales, writing, and part-time editing for a small newspaper in New York, I began studying organic gardening and farming, and animal husbandry. I began to read a lot about homesteading, off-grid living, consumerism, materialism, economics, and economic history.