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In the mid-1800s, homesteading was synonymous with The HOmesteading Act of 1862. The Homesteading Act was a United States federal policy that provided public land grants of 160 acres to any adult citizen who paid a small registration fee and agreed to live on the land continuously for 5 years. After doing so, they would receive the deed to the land. The Homesteading Act ended in 1976.
Because of The Homesteading Act, many people still think of homesteading as requiring acreage and being incredibly rustic and off-grid. You may picture Little House on the Prarie or even the Amish community, but that isn’t entirely what homesteading means today.
Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by growing at least a portion of your own food, food preservation, scratch cooking, and in some cases, depending on your skills, even homeschooling and craftwork.
Modern homesteaders may have acreage, but they are just as likely to live in a suburban neighborhood or even in an apartment. Just because there are zoning regulations doesn’t mean you can’t homestead exactly where you are, it just means that it will look different for each family.
I have found the main thread that ties all homesteaders together to be the conscious decision to live a life of self-reliance, with minimal help from others, where the family unit pulls together to make things happen.
I am a Suburban Homesteader
We live in a multi-generational household on .36 acres in eastern Pennsylvania.
We have gardens, but also participate in a CSA and support our local farms. This year we added laying hens, but I still have to purchase some eggs over the winter months. I love to bake, but sourdough is my nemesis. I can a lot of our produce, but I freeze all of our vegetables because we prefer them that way. We buy our beef by the side. We homeschool. My daughter crochets and knits, and my son and I sew. My husband knows how to fix things so we don’t just throw things away. We keep a stocked pantry, and some of it is store-bought staples. We cook meals from scratch, but I have a thing for McDonald’s fries and we all love an easy dinner from either the local pizza place or Chick-fil-A.
We’re fairly normal, and like most of the other families we know. Our suburban homestead allows us to balance our desire to do it all with the reality that we don’t have to. But, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we are also the face of the current homesteading movement and have been for over 20 years.