Homesteading the Modern Way

Reader Contribution by Carole Coates
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It’s never too late to grow into a modern homesteading lifestyle.

For decades, my husband and I struggled on and off to live a simpler life. When we were just youngsters, we thought it would be great to move to an abandoned farm, spruce it up, and eke out a subsistence living. But we never quite had the confidence to try to make that happen.

Then the other stuff of life got in the way.

Every now and again, we tried our hands at some other rendition of’ ‘simplicity’—growing a kitchen garden, foraging in our backyard and city parks for some of our food, giving only homemade Christmas and birthday presents, minimizing our belongings. Some practices stuck, but more fell by the wayside.

After a decade or so, we really did make a big change in our lives. We purchased about ten acres of land in a faraway place. With no jobs, no local contacts, and virtually no experience under out belts, we hand-built our forever home—just the two of us with two children and a couple of pets in tow. But, try as we might, we couldn’t help but go into debt to do it. So, we once again looked for traditional employment which, along with raising a family and continuing to work on the house and property, used up our energy.

Finally, with children grown and gone and retirement looming, we were able once again to shine a bright light on how we wanted to live our lives.

We carved out a 5,400 square foot garden space, we built a clothesline in the back yard, and, as soon as it was possible to recycle in our community, we were on board.

It made my heart soar when I first heard the words ‘modern homesteading.’ As I read up on the concept and the movement, I realized we were part of it. Not by everyone’s definition, but everyone isn’t what we’re about.

What Is Modern Homesteading?

If you have outdoor space and no HOA restrictions, a ‘solar clothes dryer (aka clothesline) is a simple but big step towards greater self-reliance. Photo by Ron Wynn

Here’s my definition of the modern homesteading life we’re happily living. The overarching theme is this: it’s an attempt, not necessarily to be self-sufficient, but to become more self-reliant. Anything you can do towards that end is better for the environment and better for your soul, so it counts.

•It’s making conscious choices about consumption, energy, ecology, food—what you eat and where it comes from.

•It’s being able to separate needs from wants, then focusing on the needs part of the equation.

•It’s wanting less—being happy, content, satisfied with less.

•It’s anything that helps you walk more gently on the earth.

•It is, to whatever extent works for you, doing for yourself (whether it’s gardening, sewing, food preservation, energy use, gift-giving, etc.).

That’s a pretty generous definition. I know there are people who do all of this and more with a house full of young children and little in the way of resources. I applaud them. Hats off for the commitment, vision, and circumstances to make it happen. It’s just not the way things came about for us.

And, for whatever reason, it may not work for you. That doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams of building a better lifestyle, community, and world. Those efforts should be encouraged and embraced.

How To Turn Your Dream for Modern Homesteading Into Reality

It’s perfectly okay to take baby steps. That may be the best way to dip into the homesteading pool. Every decision that moves you closer to the simple life is an important one and becomes another incentive to take another step. 

This small solar panel electrifies the fence around our large garden every day at zero operational cost. Photo by Ron Wynn

Here are some of the ways we’ve gone about modern homesteading:

•we stopped junk mail;

•we reduce, reuse, recycle;

•we compost;

•we pay bills online—no paper;

•we built a solar electric fence;

•we let the sun dry our laundry;

•we bought into a community solar garden;

•we do our own home maintenance and repairs;

•we minimize gift-giving and give homemade when it works;

•we turned off the TV;

•we garden and preserve garden produce for year-round eating;

•we invent our own solutions;

•we live with one car;

•we eat at home;

•we shop at the farmers’ market;

•we support local charities;

•we say no to drinking straws.

What would you add to the list?

Carole Coatesis a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here.You can also find Carole atLiving On the Diagonalwhere she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.


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