Homesteading and Sustainability? What do those two words mean to you? They may conjure up pictures of barefoot hippies living in communes so far removed from your normal that those words aren’t even relevant to you. Would you be surprised to learn that along with our barefoot, hippy friends there are moms and dads, professionals and homemakers, children and students, grandmas and aunts, bosses and blue collar workers all longing and working towards a lifestyle based around self sustaining cycles of security and provision? People, just like you, who are using homesteading and sustainability to create a net of safety and abundance, wherever they live and in whatever ways are meaningful for them. So, let’s see what that looks like.
Homesteading and Sustainability
First, a few definitions:
Modern homesteading, simply put, is provident living. As Deborah Neimann writes in her book, Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living:
“Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small-scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for the household use. Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.”
Did you notice words like “self-sufficiency”, “agriculture”, “preservation”, “production” and “lifestyle”? Producing some or all of the necessities of life oneself, is the goal of every homesteader.
Should you be thinking that you’re property isn’t big enough for a large garden and small farm livestock, or even a clothesline and a bee hive, please pay special attention to her provision that homesteading is irrespective of where someone lives; deliberate living is what sets the homesteader apart from the person who doesn’t consider his home a homestead. If you live in a small space and would like some inspiration for your homesteading efforts, please visit Tenth Acre Farm and The 104 Homestead, both of whom are homesteading in very small spaces and in municipalities, as well.
In it’s most basic sense, a sustainable system has the ability to support and maintain it’s own activity over time. Here’s an interesting perspective from the online Business Dictionary:
“In economics: Continued development or growth, without significant deterioration of the environment and depletion of natural resources on which human well-being depends. This definition measures income as flow of goods and services that an economy can generate indefinitely without reducing its natural productive capacity.”
When thinking of your own home or homestead, sustainability is the possibility that, without significant input from outside and without consuming more than you produce, you can achieve self-sufficiency in a way that works in harmony with your land and resources. It prevents you from extorting the land for selfish purposes, while provides abundance through the hard work of you and your family. The term “sustainable” has a socio-political connotation in our modern culture that may or may not have value to you, but is different from our discussion today. For us, when thinking of homesteading and sustainability, we’re concentrating on creating self-sustaining cycles of abundance for our family in ways that work with nature and with what we’ve already been provided.
Sustainable Homestead Skills
So, what does a sustainable homesteader know how to do? What does this homestead lifestyle look like when self sufficiency is our goal? I can’t really answer that for your because the journey to provident living is so personal – you will prayerfully or meditatively (whichever you prefer) find that answer for your family yourself. However, I can highlight a few ideas I feel are important that may point you in a direction that will have value for you.
In the Garden
Permaculture is a philosophy and practice of gardening that has great value for the self sufficient, sustainability seeking homesteader. You may not have heard the term permaculture before but perhaps you have hear of Back to Eden, Lasagna Gardening or even Square Foot Gardening? In brief, permaculture gardening methods seek to mimic the systems of nature to produce food in copious amounts, even in small spaces. To learn more, please consider the book Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway – a fantastic book for newbie permaculturists!
In the Kitchen
Food production is a big part of a homesteaders life and to see that nothing goes to waste, we learn, not only to grow as much of our own food as possible, but we also learn how to preserve it in any way we can. Canning, dehydrating, freezing, smoking and fermenting are all various methods a sustainable homesteader employs when it comes to making provision in our pantry for our family throughout the year. We worry less about market prices and shipping strikes because we’re so busy providing food for ourselves that those problems are farther removed from our lives. For information on homesteading, permaculture, fermenting and more, please visit Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment and Homespun Seasonal Living.
For a great book, try Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon.
In the Home
The modern homesteader is very concerned with living as frugally as possible so as to ensure that we are not consuming more than we produce and to keep our family living within our means. This practice is part philosophy, part skill. To learn the homemaking skills that our grandmothers knew requires some work on our part because these things simply aren’t a part of our culture anymore. Industry, upcycling, sewing, economy and more are all abilities that you and I can acquire – we just need to put in the effort. To learn those granny skills, please visit Joybilee Farm and Melissa K Norris.
Our homes are the place where we practice resource management and that can include learning NOT to consume something. Or, to consume less of it. Capital savings and energy savings, even energy production through technology like solar power, certainly has a place in the modern sustainable homestead. Wrapping our heads around the idea of conserving, recycling, repurposing and making do with what we already have takes practice. That’s all. We just commit to begin to day to do more, use less. To help inspire you in that goal, please visit Attainable Sustainable. For practical, down to earth advice on every day, homestead family life, please visit Schneider Peeps and Farmish Kind of Life.
Ever thought of tidying up as a sustainable, homestead skill? Well, try this post.
The best training you’ll ever be involved with is that of your own hands. To help you with that, we’ve written The Do It Yourself Homestead!
The Do It Yourself Homestead covers eight topics, with each one given its own chapter:
The Homestead Kitchen, The Homestead Garden, Greening the Homestead, Livestock Wherever You Are, Homestead Finances, Family Times, The Homestead Community and The Prepared Homestead.
There are four levels of homesteadyness (a totally made up word) in The Do It Yourself Homestead, ensuring that it truly has something for everyone.
Are you a HOMESTARTER, the curious and courageous novice?
Or do you belong at the HOMESTEADISH level, with a bit of experience under your belt?
Perhaps you’re a HOMESTEADAHOLIC, eagerly pursing homesteading wherever you live?
Are you the sage HOMESTEADED type who fully identifies with the homesteading lifestyle?
With each level comes its own education, challenges, goals and projects. Extensive resources are recommended in every section to provide further reading and study for the serious homestead student. Challenges are issued to help you expand outside of your comfort zone and build up your homesteading community – especially the community that is your home and family. Also included are countless quotes and interviews with real life homesteaders, all on varying lot sizes. Each one has a different family make up, a different vision and a different voice but each are inspiring homesteaders. Provided, too, are abundant bonus materials including a DIY Homestead Journal, homeschooling addendum to the book and free downloads. Four hundred pages of quality, DIY homesteading information and encouragement! Please visit our shop or click below for more information.
However you choose to up your homestead goals this year, I wish you the best of success! If there’s something you’ve learned, succeeded or failed at that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below. You just never know how your words might inspire and assist others’ on their sustainable homesteading journey.