Not that long ago, most Americans were homesteaders, much like Little House on the Prairie. They grew and preserved their own fruits and vegetables, raised their own animals for meat, milk and eggs, and made do or did without. Money was scarce and people’s work paid them in goods or barter, for the most part. But as America modernized, with refrigeration, better manufacturing practices, and more efficient transportation, homesteading dwindled as it was replaced by a consumer society. People no longer worked to make and grow, instead they worked for money to buy what they no longer had time to do for themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a thoroughly modern woman. I work a full-time job and shop for most of my needs. But the song of the modern homesteader calls to me. As I grow older, I realize that time really is more valuable than money and the time to do what interests me is the most valuable of all. While I love my job, I often daydream of the garden I could grow, the beer I could brew, the cheese and bread I would make, if only I had the time. And I am not alone. There has always been a culture of homesteading, lurking about the edges of society, people living self sufficient with little money. Honestly, most of these modern pioneers have been regarded as odd, strange, weird or plain crazy. But as the modern life continues to move faster, the more people desire to move slower.
When the economic bubble popped in 2008, many people found themselves with no job or income but with oodles of time. Some of these people began growing food, canning and preserving, trading skills, and recycling in the most complete way by reusing, re-purposing, and refurbishing. No one thought to label these modern, urban homesteaders as weird because they were friends, neighbors, and loved ones. And a movement that was born out of necessity has now become a passionate mission. Even with the slight improvements we are seeing with the economy, many of these urban homesteaders refuse to return to their past consumer ways and others are joining them. Myself included.
I don’t have time to try all the different types of homesteading tasks all at once but I try to do one or two items on my homesteading bucket list a year. I think that gives me the best of both worlds. I have attempted to make mozzarella cheese which didn’t entirely work but was the best cottage cheese I’ve ever had. I regularly bake my own bread using the 5 minute artisan method. And I just bought a few vital supplies to home brew my first ever beer.