Under the Homestead Act of 1862, a person could "stake out" his homestead, literally mark his boundaries with stakes, and it would be his if he "had built a house on it, dug a well, broken (plowed) 10 acres, fenced a specified amount, and actually lived there" for five years. (The Homestead Act of 1862)
That was then. Now, the concept of homesteading is limited to one being able to buy or lease land, sometimes with and sometimes without shelter. It's further extended to include owning or renting a small farm with or without modern conveniences.
Homesteading is not unique on the frugal living scene in that it takes creative, resourceful and independent living, all the things that define any frugal person.
The big difference (and I'll leave it up to you as to how big you think that difference actually is) is that when you homestead, you don't consider it to be a horrific hardship to do without certain things. Thirty minute showers, icemakers, instant heat and midnight runs to the grocery store are foreign to someone who lives "beyond the sidewalks."
Just how frugal is it to be the stereotypical backwoods family? Food made from absolute scratch, even down to the 'first, dig a hole' type, where one plants potatoes if one wants to eat a baked potato is pretty frugal!
Besides growing your own food, you can barter goods, services or products for your neighbors' goods, services or products, harvest wild foods and cut your own wood for heat and cooking fuel.
It costs less to not need a thermostat of any kind, not even a programmable one. The house cools down when the fire dies down and warms up when you get up in the morning and get it going again. If you're not home, the house automatically cools down again. Talk about a smart house.
Much of your food can be within a 30 second walk instead a ten or thirty minute drive, and it's a lot cheaper (and healthier!) to pick your salad from your own garden than from the bins at the grocer.
Eggs can be delivered absolutely fresh every day from your own flock of hens, and if they deliver more than you can eat, you can always sell or barter them. Or preserve them for later. Or feed them to the dog.
Instead of porch lights the moon lights up the night for free.
No, it's not always this idyllic. There are times when the cow or goat gets sick and you're caught by a storm and all the wood is wet and won't burn and hail flattens the tomatoes and you begin to yearn for dinner out in high heels and a new hairdo.
There's a lot more frugal way to handle those times than going to town. Just look out your back door or window. Watch the sunset or the deer. Go pick some fresh strawberries or peas for dinner. Take a walk in the twilight or do any of the dozens of things that makes homesteading a frugal paradise.
Even if you're not of that persuasion, learning how to do some of the many frugal things a homesteader needs to know can only make you richer in many ways.
There are "back to the land" magazines on the Internet, of course. The Internet is a great place to find information and community, as you already know, but for the homesteader, it can be a life line.
Countryside and Small Stock Journal - countrysidemag.com/past.php
Such topics as "Drying Food with the Sun," "How to Make Vinegar," "Things Prudent People Should Know About Their Money and Their Future" and "Heating with Wood."
Backwoods Home - backwoodshome.com
The tone that parts of this magazine takes might offend some of you. Ignore it and dig into the many helpful and encouraging articles. Down to earth crafts and stories of how people actually did it are the usual fare.
Mother Earth News Online - motherearthnews.com
An "uptown" version of the original Mother Earth News some old-timers remember, it still has some informative articles for the common folk. In my opinion, it's getting better. Again.
There are many, many sites and pages on the Internet dedicated to self sufficiency, homesteading, rural living, country living, small farms, back to the land, whatever name you call it.
If this is your dream, dream it to the fullest. Then go for it. Will you ever regret it? I don't know and you sure won't know if you never try.
Pat Veretto is a work at home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances and is the moderator of The Dollar Stretcher Community at http://community.stretcher.com/forums/.
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