There are homesteaders. And then…there are homesteaders. There are those trying to be self-sufficient on 1/10 of an acre and those who have thousands of acres and haven’t been to a store in 16 years.
We fall in between those two extremes.
We live in the foothills in northern California, just up out of the valley. Our home resides at approximately 800 feet above sea level and we have 20 acres of a combination of steep terrain and a little semi-flat. This is not pasture land.
However, with some clearing, we could easily get a few cows, maybe a horse, some goats and a pig. We moved from a parcel that had 13 acres of irrigated pasture and farmland and about 12 acres of raw forest.
We found that for us, the negatives outweighed the positives.
This new homestead is more what we want. A smaller chunk of land that, if needed, could be left entirely alone and the whole thing wouldn’t fall apart. Low maintenance. Our old property needed irrigation changed daily, constant upkeep with the battle against blackberries and water grass, and the mud that arose from too much irrigation water.
Those issues could be at this new place, but only if we put them there. Essentially, our land can be left alone and still survive, and we can work on it a little at a time.
It seems that blackberries follow us wherever we go. That has been the first struggle. Trying to clear them to a point that we can utilize our driveway as best as possible. But one we continue to fight.
We don’t have a large garden this year. This is mostly because we plan to be taking several trips this summer and won’t be home to manage it. Don’t want to put in all the work and have it all die! So, any canning I want to do this year will be supplemented by farmer’s markets and neighbor’s gardens.
In the meantime, I’m an avid planner, pouring over my homesteading and gardening books with my graph paper in hand. I have many versions of my gardens and orchards planned. I am actually grateful to have the full year+ to observe our landscape and determine the best locations for various crops based on sunlight, wind, etc. Animals will be added (again) to our homestead after our summer, but again, we want to be prepared. We don’t want to set ourselves up for failure.
Another way we homestead is through stocking up. Some call it “prepping”, but I hesitate to use that word. I don’t “prep” because of a zombie apocalypse, I “stock up” because I live out in the sticks, I hate to have to go to the store all the time, and it makes me feel better to have a lot of food on hand in case we have a lean financial month. I know that I always have the supplies for my baking projects, as I buy dry goods in bulk. I have a huge FIFO can rack (which I LOVE!!) and it’s great because I can fill it when items are on sale.
One last way in which we homestead is that I make most of our meals from scratch. Yes, I am guilty of having corn dogs in the freezer sometimes, as we all need a little break every once in awhile, but those are not the norm. I do, however, enjoy making my own corn dogs! So I’m not anti-fun food.
There are many ways you can homestead in any given circumstance. To me, homesteading is more of a mindset. For us, it’s a conscious decision to live a more intentional and purposeful life, focused on quality over quantity. That means quality time, quality food, quality projects. Even if that means having less because of it.
What does homesteading mean to you?