Homesteading: Rethinking Family Priorities

There is a new trend developing all over the world today, but it has a name as old as time: homesteading. Pioneers from every century have participated in the ritual. But what is it- exactly? Wikipedia describes homesteading as a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and the production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. What a great trend!
What’s most shocking about this trend, and the reason for its recent resurgence in popularity is that scientists all over the world are proving over and over that this lifestyle is the healthiest way to live, live well, and live long. Hmmm…maybe less really is more! While no lifestyle is entirely stress-free, the homesteaders lifestyle is intended to be out of the rat race, living simply so that others may simply live.
The first wave of the homesteading trend started with the Tiny House Movement. The premise behind this movement is that you don’t really need three thousand square feet of living space to feel accomplished in life. In the 1990’s, students were graduating high school and college with diplomas and degrees but were unable to find a job paying a livable wage. Untold numbers of young families could not find affordable housing and were living in their parents basements, or in substandard quarters in neighborhoods ravaged by poverty, despite working 40, or even 60 or more hours a week. Many had degrees they couldn’t use because overseas labor forces were cheaper to obtain by large corporations paying millions to their CEOS and pennies to their workers. Young families wanted the privacy and security of a place of their own, where they could come and go as they pleased, without having to check in with their parents or report their whereabouts. A place they could customize, decorate, and make unique. The RV world was enticing to these seekers because of the maximized use of small spaces, but they wanted something more permanent that the local taxing authorities considered non-mobile. These desires brought about an entirely new emerging market of park model mobile homes, that could be set on a permanent concrete foundation, and assessed just like a site built home. They were different than condos, apartments, or even mobile homes. They were tiny homes. Self-sufficient, private, and affordable on any budget, people started buying portable storage buildings on skids, securing them to a poured concrete foundation, and building their dream homes in micro-scale. They were able to acquire a small plot of land, instead of the large parcels needed for full-sized homes. The smaller parcels also came with smaller pricetags, which left more of the monthly budget for the tiny house payments and utilities, which were also much cheaper than they would have been in a larger home. About the size of a typical dorm room, but with much more privacy and security, the singles and couples were already used to the space allotment and adapted well to the convenience and affordability of the movement.
A tiny house built on a permanent foundation can be financed with traditional mortgage products but for much shorter terms. Instead of a 30 year mortgage, you can get your entire investment paid off in about 10 years. You can add barns, shops, fences, and other improvements to your homestead with the money you are saving on your tiny investment. Instead of every penny going toward maintaining an expensive home, you now have freedom in your budget for the things that matter most to you, like the pony you promised the kids.
Living in a tiny house requires some sacrifices that might just save your sanity as well. The money you save alone can afford you a more luxurious lifestyle. Because you pay less for taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, and property maintenance, you have more money for things like vacations, traveling, and leisure entertainment. You can afford higher quality, better made, better fitting clothing because you need just a few solid, mixable pieces rather than three closets full of stuff per person. Following the trends of the Silicon Valley tech group, the Tiny Homesteaders are jumping on the minimalism bandwagon as well. Here’s how it works: Pick a base color for your wardrobe that mixes well with everything, like blue, gray, or black. Choose a suit that looks incredible on you, and get 5 identical copies, one for each business day of the week. Change your daily look with colored accessories like ties, belts, scarves, or jewelry. The accessories take up minimal storage space, so you can have many different color and style options on hand, and because your suits are a solid color, everything matches automatically. No coordination required. Alternatively, instead of 5 identical suits, you could vary the colors of identically made suits, like two black suits , two blue, and one gray, and have mix and match options like wearing the black slacks with the gray jacket, or the blue jacket with the gray slacks. This works really well for females who want to add a couple of skirts to their wardrobe. You get two identical black suits, one with slacks and the other with a skirt. This minimalistic approach not only takes up less space in your closet, it also helps you get dressed quicker and frees your energy. Science has proven that we waste about 25% of our mental focus and clarity each morning on trying to figure out what to wear that day. If all of your suits are identical, you just grab a scarf, tie, or belt, no matching required, and you are on your way with no mental energy wasted. Throw in a pair of jeans, a couple of t-shirts and a hoodie for the weekend, and you are all set.
In a tiny home, you won’t have room to store your grandmas china, so you will have a great excuse to pick and choose the dishes and tableware that you really love, and eat from it every day. Gone are the china hutches and pie safes from yesteryear. Pick one great set that really speaks to you, because it will likely be on display 24/7. Your tiny kitchen may only have one or two cabinets, and you may need those to store food. So invest in one of those hanging pot racks for your few, carefully selected pots and pans, and plan on leaving the dishes, tablewear, and glasses out on the table all of the time, or hang them on a wall or shelf. At mealtime you eat, then wash, dry, and redecorate with them!
The next step in the homesteading process came about from the desire to eat high quality, nutrient dense food that was easily affordable and readily available. Why not grow your own? Science started publishing data worldwide highlighting the obvious fact that obesity, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Celiac disease, lupus, and a host of allergies and other ailments were virtually unheard of just 100 years ago, but are now considered national epidemics. They began to promote grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish and game, and vegetables and fruits grown without pesticides and fertilizers, and stored without preservatives. People are relearning how to preserve meat with salt and honey, and how to home can vegetables and fruits. They are also learning how to eat seasonally, meaning you eat the fruits and vegetables that naturally grow during a particular month. For example, in the fall your garden may be abundant with onions, cabbages, pumpkins, squashes, potatoes, and other root vegetables, but in the spring, you may have more salad greens, berries, and other fresh fruits. Their underground cellars not only help preserve their stored food, they double as storm shelters, completely safe from the elements. By downsizing everything, they vastly improved their health, energy, and mental clarity. Not only is it much cheaper to buy seeds and grow your own food, it’s incredibly rewarding. You come home from work and use the waning hours of daylight to weed, water, mulch, or harvest your garden. And since you are using your evenings to grow food and care for your tiny-farm animals, you can cancel your cable and movie subscriptions, because who has time to watch TV? Cha-ching, more cash in your pocket! As you move away from electronic stimuli, you find yourself more at peace, and more able to realize and live by your own morals and values, rather than what is imposed on you by the media. It’s a saner lifestyle to say the least. Now, you actually have time for a hobby!
There is nothing on earth quite so satisfying as making something from scratch. Whether it’s a loaf of bread, a crocheted or knitted sweater or scarf, a leather belt, or a wooden bookshelf, handmade goods are very durable and very satisfying to the crafter or hobbyist. Thus the next phase of the homesteading lifestyle came about as a byproduct of more free time, a desire to save money, and the satisfaction of a craft well done. Many people are discovering that spending an evening hand stamping a leather belt is much more rewarding than watching another rerun episode of the Simpsons. And in the process of learning new crafts, they are discovering how people acquired valuables before they actually had money: bartering.
It turns out that in the homesteading economy, you can still trade a dozen eggs for a jar of fresh, unpasteurized yogurt, or that handmade rocking chair you made this Winter for, say, one of the neighbors baby goats in the Spring. And homesteaders are not only trading their crafts, they are bartering their time and energy as well. You help me build a chicken pen for my chickens and I will help you fence in that corral for your kids pony. If you plan to slaughter your grass-fed cow but will have more meat than you need at one time, trade half with a neighbor for fence posts, chicken wire, or sheep wool you can use to knit your next pair of winter socks. When you go fishing and catch more than you can eat or preserve, trade some for some fresh eggs or hand churned butter. No cash needed.
And if you have the forethought to design your tiny house with a wood burning stove or fireplace, not only will you save on the cost of gas or electric heating and cooking, but you can also cancel your gym membership and chop firewood instead! You’ll be amazed at the calories you’ll burn and the energy and satisfaction you’ll feel. And you don’t have to kill trees for their wood. You can burn pallets and other discards, or get a permit from the forest service to harvest dead timber (trees that were killed by lightning strikes or bug infestations).
Like the pioneers who explored the old west, homesteading may not be for everyone. Some of us like our pampered lifestyle and luxury living, no matter what it costs. But for those of us who believe the last 100 years of scientific facts and data gathering, if you embrace the homesteading lifestyle, you will not only be around longer to enjoy it, you will be saner in the process. Because learning new skills, hobbies, and techniques, being more active, and eating a seasonal, whole foods diet eliminates most or all of the maladies plaguing society today like Alzheimer’s, cancer, dementia, food allergies, heart disease, diabetes, and a list too long to describe. Live simpler, live better, live longer, needing less money, and having more time to do the things that matter most to you and those you love. Homesteading offers it all.

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