The modern definition of homesteading has evolved considerably over the two centuries since it was first coined and it has nothing at all to do with the Homestead Act or how the government uses the term homestead for tax purposes.  Most people who are familiar with the term at all understand it as living off the land, but then that’s only part of the definition and that could also include farming.

But unlike how we understand farming, homesteading is a term that is continuing to develop and a more modern and appropriate definition would have to include the words “sustainability” and “self-sufficiency.”  Of course the meanings of these words are also debatable, and I’ll be getting to those too in a future posting.

Homesteading is a whole system, meaning all aspects of life are included.  It is not simply about sustainable lifestyles, not simply about becoming stewards of nature, not simply about living self-sufficiently, not simply about simplifying, but about all these things and many more.

The goals of the homesteader may center on reducing their dependency on external resources, but they also incorporate a communal and global vision including at the top of the list energy independence, small-scale diversified farming and sustainable agriculture, holistic livestock management, and bio-diversity.

Handy hubby and I are a long, long way off from coming anywhere close to these goals, but we have made the first step and it has already proven to be an incredible journey.  Initially, on a very practical level it will require becoming a true jack of all trades:  homebuilding (not just general contracting but also electrical, plumbing, and septic solutions) , gardening and canning/preserving, animal husbandry, bee-keeping, tree-felling and forest maintenance, and many homesteaders would include on this list all the “lost arts” of our ancestors, like candle and soap making, as well as producing one’s own bread, cheese, wine, beer, and the potential list goes on and on.

Where does one acquire such skills when so few in our culture today has ever even witnessed them except maybe on television?  Ironically, the internet!

Here are a few fantastic sites of those that are there, and doing it:

www.sustainablebuild.co.uk (devoted to green building)

www.homestead.org (”rural living principle and practice”)

www.daycreek.com (useful information on cordwood building, renewable energy, and permaculture)

www.sustainablesettings.org (teaching some of the old skills, but many more new ones, including a brilliant philosophy and hands-on training)

Cold Antler Farm (she also hasn’t quit her day job, but she’s way closer than I am and she’s published a book about her experiences and keeps her blog updated with lots of animal tales)

“There need not be any limit to our tenure. We can learn to live happily, producing all the food and other goods we need, without wasting the resources that are going to be needed by future generations. There, in the concept of the creation of a sustainable way of life, is our next frontier.”  ~Robert Rodale Our Next Frontier

I’ll keep including the best of the rest as I keep researching and include a list of great books next time too.