The idea of homesteading is not a new one as many newly minted “modern homesteaders” will point out. After all, as a species we humans seemingly mastered the art of living off the land long ago. We mastered fire, clothed ourselves, and even preserved the food we figured out how to grow so it could later nourish us.
These were remarkable advancements, but we didn’t stop there.
Mankind continually “evolved” to become more “leisurely.” We abandoned hunting skills, opting instead to crowd tens of thousands of animals into small yards and houses. Then, we dosed the animals’ feed with antibiotics so they would live long enough to reach slaughter weight.
We traded fire for HVAC systems to the point where most people today have trouble starting a fire. We abdicated growing and preserving food at home to mega-farms and large corporations. Those vital skills have become near extinct for most citizens.
If you don’t think so, ask yourself this: when was the last time you made soap or operated a pressure canner?
Although the modern age has given rise to many conveniences, technologies, and possibilities, many of us are wondering if we have gone too far.
Because we now find ourselves barely able to live on our own in the natural world, having accumulated too many allergies, too many dependencies on modern conveniences, too heavy a reliance on government assistance and, not that the mirror will let us forget, too many excess pounds to make it in the “real” world.
For the growing number of us who recognize and are disturbed by this, the reassuring voice of Mother Nature is calling her children home to a simpler life.
The Call of the Wild
For some, the call to self-sufficiency can be viewed as extreme and is taken very literally.
These folks are inclined to head deep into the woods, make a cabin out of earthen materials, and learn to fend for themselves. They need no money and as far as the rest of us are concerned, they are out of sight, out of mind.
In fact, some reality television shows feature people like these, most notably in Alaska. Ironically, these people’s desire to be so isolated and independent from society made them such a novelty to us all that we “civilized” beings invaded their world with camera crews, thereby sabotaging their dreams of seclusion.
However, I believe this is not what most people want when they contemplate homesteading. Rather, they seek to become “modern homesteaders.”
What Modern Homesteaders are Really After
Modern homesteaders look for a compromise between the conveniences of contemporary life and the independence of traditional life; for a way to blend the two together to live in society yet be as self-sufficient as they desire.
This article aims to reach those of you who aspire to be modern homesteaders.
Those who long to get closer to nature and increase your self-sufficiency and personal security by living more independently “off the land.” Those of you who daydream simply of growing your own food, cooking meals from scratch and not caring what day it is, but rather, understanding what season it is and what foods are in season.
For meat eaters, this includes the hope of raising your own livestock with love and respect and perhaps learning to hunt wild game and butcher the meat yourself before placing it on the grill or, better yet, pressure canning the meat to last for years. Who knows? Maybe you are hoping to save the feathers and pelts, tan the hides and take pride in making leather, crafts, jewelry, or your own clothes.
Yet modern homesteaders like these prefer to not travel back to life of the early 1800s. While society is functioning as “it” is today, they would like access to local hospitals, though they hope their new lifestyle and diet will mean medical attention is rarely, if ever, needed. Still, they sleep better knowing that “it” is there.
Similarly, modern homesteaders may enjoy entertainment such as sports, concerts, movies or even watching Alaskan homesteaders on television, but they do not want it to be necessary.
Often, those new to homesteading, the way my wife and I were 10 years ago, think they will want these distractions, only to find the call from suburbia growing fainter each year as they become one with the land, at peace and at home. Let the natural world be your entertainment. Let the landscape be your gym.
While the Alaskan homesteaders featured on reality television may not be aware of the Internet, most people are and they know the information genie is out of the bottle.
It’s hard to imagine living without a resource so valuable to so many people around the globe, a resource that did not exist a mere generation ago. They may be able to kick the habit of frivolous social media sites but they know the Internet can inform them and teach them many skills, including the homesteading skills they so long to learn.
They also know the Internet can be a tool to provide income to help them achieve their homesteading dreams. So as long as times are good and the grid is up, modern homesteaders want access to this tool, a tool that must be paid for. With money, so modern homesteaders understand how important it is to know how to make money homesteading.
They want to enjoy life, to eat as much nutritious and flavorful food off the land as possible and live as they see fit, but, if they get an itch, may choose to indulge at a fine restaurant.
They (we) do not see themselves as weirdos and do not want to be weirdos. Rather, modern homesteaders recognize the dangers of the absurdly perilous world that we have collectively created and are looking for an escape route—a Plan B.
They desire to opt out of the rat race…of depending on modern society. However, they don’t necessarily want to be excluded from this society.
In short, most modern homesteaders don’t aspire to retreat deep into the Alaskan wilderness, never to be heard from again. They just want to live THEIR dream, not someone else’s.