Monday, August 2, 2010

Am I A Homesteader?

I am not.  I hadn't really thought about it until a series of posts on other blogs got me to thinking about whether or not I am a homesteader.  Here's the definition from Wikipedia:

As of 2010[update] the term may apply to anyone who follows the back-to-the-land movement by adopting a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. While land is no longer freely available in most areas of the world, homesteading remains as a way of life. According to author John Seymour, 'urban homesteading' incorporates small-scale, sustainable agriculture and homemaking.

I gave this blog a name with "Homestead" in it a little over a year ago.  It was aspirational in that I'd like to support myself wholly from the land.  Eventually.  Right now I have a good-paying full-time job in the city.

So there I was, thinking that I'm working towards being a homesteader, when some recent blog posts brought me up short.  The discussion was about something else, but I realized that some of the issues apply to me, how I spend my time and money, and the choices I make.

If one of my crops don't work out, I stop by the grocery store on the way home and buy a replacement.  I couldn't come half-close to feeding myself on the measly beets, broccoli, and tomatoes I planted.  I never even really thought about what it would take to feed myself year-round.  I would starve if I had to feed myself.

As long as I have this job, I'm going to buy wood instead of splitting my own.  I tried to split my own wood last year, but threw in the towel after several sweaty afternoons and little progress.

There are a ton of other examples where I've taken the easy way out because I have a paycheck to cushion me from hard decisions and hard work.  Take my recent decision to skip picking blueberries for market because it's, "too time-consuming."

There's a term I've heard used, not endearingly, about people like me.  It's, "Hobby Farmer."  Here's the Wikipedia definition:

A hobby farm is a smallholding or small farm that is maintained without expectation of being a primary source of income. Some are merely to provide some recreational land, and perhaps a few horses for the family's children. Others are managed as working farms for sideline income, or are run at an ongoing loss as a lifestyle choice by people with the means to do so.

Here's where I catch a break.  It's in the expectation.  The 'stead may be a small (very very small) income stream right now, but I expect it to be my primary income some time in the future.  I'm a homesteader wanna be!  There's lots of us in various stages of homesteaderish-ness.  Some of us are still in our city apartments or suburban homes dreaming of a little space and a few plants.  Some of us, like me, have the plot but don't know how to work it.  But it's getting better.  Every year I'll learn more and get closer to the goal.

So I'll leave "Homestead" in the title of this blog and work to be worthy of it.

There's one last thing.  If I had to feed myself off this land, I wouldn't starve!  I know people that are real homesteaders around here.  If I actually had to feed myself I could barter my muscles and work for my food the old-fashioned way.  Just like real homesteaders do.


  1. I think most of us 'aspire' to homesteading. I manage to grow/preserve about 50-60% of my own food. But I have a job, too, so there's the rub. It is definitely a necessary job, as the only things earning their keep here are the chickens. And they cover the ducks, too. I think the aspiration and the working-towards it are just as important as the 'being' it. It keeps you focused.

  2. I suppose everyone's definition of "homesteading" is different. Who says you can't have an outside job and still have a homestead? Probably very few people desiring a homestead in the most complete sense of the word wouldn't give up an outside job as source of income if they could. In many instances, that outside source of income is the only thing that enables the homestead to exist and grow.

    Who could say "I want to have a self-sustaining homestead" and have it happen immediately? It's something you have to work at and develop over time. To me, you definitely have a homestead. Just look at all you've achieved in the last couple of years toward that end.

    As Bloody Mary says, "If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"

  3. I can't imagine how anyone can go from living in a subdivision, apartment, or just a small urban plot to complete homesteading overnight. At least for us, the learning curve alone has taken years; and we aren't homesteading 100% by any stretch.

    Back in the days when people depended more on their land, there was a great deal of bartering going on. More and more of my city friends are beginning to talk about and growing food in their backyards. I hope they produce enough to have a surplus of some variety of food, so we can do some bartering.

  4. You are doing amazing with the goals you have and the dreams you share with us.

  5. I picked up your blog I think from Melanie's. Your post was very thoughtfully written and hit home with me also as I too have "Homestead" as part of my blog and name of my little hobby farm. As a teacher in the inner city, I rely on that job for my income but I think just working in the city provides that push and connection to keep my dream of really living from the farm a reality. Its such a learning process but one I would never give up! Thanks for being honest and sharing;)

  6. Thanks folks! I LOVE those chickens - they certainly do earn their food. If I ate mice, the cat would be doing pretty well, too. He brings me 2-3 mice a week. Maybe there can be a thing called, "Homesteader in Training." Then I can be a HIT. Hee hee.

  7. "Homesteader" works for you and for many reasons. It's worked for me as well both literally and figurativly.
    In the '60s I cut my leg with a chain saw while slashing line for a survey of land my father leased from the BC government with the intention of homesteading.
    In the '70s, while living in Ontario I raised perhaps 20% of my yearly vegetable needs on a small city lot.
    In the late '80s I was a 'Hobby Farmer' raising and selling about 30 hogs per year (inclding my own pork) and about 50% of my vegetable needs.
    For the past 12 years we have raised about 40% of our vegetable needs on an acerage in Northern BC.
    And my latest novel is titled "Homesteader" and is about some one taking advantage of Canada's Homestead Act in Southern Alberta (at the time it was part of the North West Territories) in 1886.