Homesteading: A Way of Life

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Are you considering being a homesteader? Someone who is more self reliant, living in harmony with your natural environment and getting back to a more basic lifestyle? It sounds appealing, but what is involved you may ask? Actually there is no easy answer to that question, as it differs from person to person and location to location. Homesteading in the suburbs or an apartment is much different than homesteading on a mountain or other rural or remote location. Choosing to homestead in a hot arid location is much different than choosing to homestead on an island or the deep woods. Much of being more self reliant and living in harmony with your surroundings depends on where you choose to homestead. Therefore homesteading depends primarily on where you choose to homestead and the conditions associated with that location.

Some things are common to homesteading regardless of your location. First and foremost you should be firmly committed to homesteading as a way of life. You will need to expect the unexpected and have the patience to deal with sudden unexpected difficulties. Being flexible is important because some situations never seem to work out the way they are initially intended. The problems we encountered homesteading on a mountain are likely different than those others will experience in their chosen locations but the above mentioned similarities seem to be fairly universal.

Possessing a wide range of skills will help make the transition from being reliant on others to being more self-sufficient. Not having a broad range of skills should not hold anyone back as they can easily be developed along the way. You may have to barter or exchange talents with neighbors or friends as it is rare that one person will possesses all the skills needed.

Transitioning from a life that is dependent on goods and services in close proximity to where you live versus a lifestyle of being more self reliant takes time to develop and is best achieved in measured stages. If being self reliant and homesteading is your goal, anything that can be done prior to making that lifestyle change by way of preparing yourself is a wise move. Prior to our making the transition from city life to rural life we took small engine repair courses, spent time at the library checking out self help books on plumbing, electrical, automotive, first aid (human and canine) and other areas where we lacked experience or ability. We did not have a computer back then but today most folks have computers so doing an online search or scanning the Mother Earth News web page for topics would do equally well. All of this proved to be highly valuable preparation and later provided the confidence to tackle otherwise daunting projects.

If you are the type person who, when faced with a sudden unexpected breakdown reaches for the phone to call the nearest repair person then perhaps being self reliant might not be such a good choice. Clearly homesteading is not for everyone.  Some folks prefer having everything done for them and purchasing goods and services instead of providing more for themselves. We often hear people telling us that they couldn’t live like we do. It clearly is a different lifestyle and requires a lot of work that otherwise would not be required. Moving the switch on a thermostat is far easier than cutting, splitting, stacking 10+ cords of firewood. However if you are willing to tackle your own maintenance, repairs, some production of your food, then possibly homesteading is in your future.

There is no question that being self reliant and living in harmony with your surroundings is a different lifestyle. As you acquire more skills your confidence grows which can be the most rewarding lifestyle that you could ever imagine. Not everyone chooses to heat with a wood stove and cut their own firewood along with the other various tasks involved. We choose to live with wood heat and love the radiant warmth of a wood stove on a cold day/night in spite of the hard work involved. A lot of different types of work are associated with being a homesteader but you will sleep well nights and at the end of the day have a feeling of satisfaction that defies explanation and you will probably surprise yourself in the process. Living in a rural location and being self reliant, produces a level of personal satisfaction that is second to none in my opinion. Other homesteaders will know exactly what I mean and those who want to be homesteaders will hopefully see the benefit by those of us who have already made the commitment. When we move from our mountain homestead we will take our self reliant lifestyle with us to where ever we go. Whether it is growing herbs or tomatoes on a patio or having a few acres to garden homesteading is a lifestyle that will remain with us where ever we go. Being a homesteader is a fulfilling way of life that is not easily abandoned. 

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their mountain lifestyle go If you are in the market for a mountain homestead go