Rural, Urban and Suburban Homesteading

Read advice and excerpts about homesteading.

Image by palmettophoto1 from Pixabay

For over 35 years, Mother Earth News has been teaching readers the basics of homesteading and how to be self-reliant. Whether you dream of creating an urban or suburban homestead, or a rural farmstead, these practical skills, tools and home business ideas will help you move 'forward to the land.'

Americans are the epitome of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. From the country's beginning in the 1600s, American settlers, pioneers, homesteaders, back-to-the-landers and farmers have relied on their ingenuity and creativity to live well on less, engaging their rural communities in the process.

Homesteading may be an old-fashioned word, but the concepts of self-sufficient living; building a home (not just a house); and developing a home business are as appealing today as they were in the Homesteading days of the late 1800s. We, as a people, have always been inspired by the Laura Ingalls Wilder family, Daniel Boone, Henry David Thoreau, Joseph Smith, Helen and Scott Nearing, Carla Emery and Eliot Coleman. Through their writings on self-sufficiency and how to do things yourself, they have inspired thousands of people to give the notion of homesteading, rural living or farm life a try. They have shared with us their successes and failures and the joys and sorrows of the adventure. Their reports on building barns and outbuildings, tool usage and starting a home business are the modern homesteading Bibles. We admire and envy their ability to be self-sufficient.


Excerpted from Mother Made Me Do It by Jim Schley, Mother Earth News October/November 2003

In the late 1960s and early 70s, countless Americans in search of a hands-on, homemade life headed off the beaten track to find land of their own. In some areas these back-to-the-landers attempted to resuscitate rural communities and local economies with new approaches to agriculture and the revival of artisan crafts and old-time skills.

In 1975, Jim Schley moved from Wisconsin to rural New England to attend college. In the long Connecticut River Valley that forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, he found a place to sink his own roots: a gorgeous, water-lush land of conifer forests, dramatically distinct seasons, and strong traditions of subsistence farming and logging.

During this time, Jim met scores of people who had built their own houses and who grew most of their own food. Some had dowsed and then dug their own wells. Many had milled lumber for their homes from trees that were hauled out of the forests by horses. And some produced their household electricity with small hydro-turbines, wind spinners or solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Even though many of these folks were former suburbanites, their energetic creativity meshed well with the longtime regional traditions of homesteading: seasonal cycles of work; hunting and foraging; cutting wood in the winter; sugaring in the spring; and growing and preserving fruit and vegetables.


Excerpted from The New Pioneers by David Gumpert, Mother Earth News September/October 1971

When Sue and Eliot Coleman sit down to eat in their tiny one-room house, they use tree stumps instead of chairs. When they need drinking water, Sue walks a quarter of a mile through the woods to a freshwater brook and hauls back two big containers hanging from a yoke over her shoulders. And when the Colemans want to read at night, they light kerosene lanterns.

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