You may have heard people talking about “homesteading” recently. So what exactly does that mean and why has it become so popular?
You might’ve heard the term, but its meaning has changed drastically over the years. Modern day homesteading spans a broad spectrum of activities, but it generally means living a purposeful life of self-reliance and often involves agriculture and food preservation. It may also include production of textiles, clothing and craftwork for use or sale.
The formal definition of homesteading is derived from the word “homestead.” According to Dictionary.com, a homestead is “a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or from sale from debt,” and as a verb it means “to acquire a homestead.” However, the use of the term has become more informal over time, and we can now use it to describe gardening or caring for animals for the purpose of feeding the family.
Disturbing recent events such as the pandemic or natural disasters have prompted people to think about the impact of their own food security, health and the global economy. More people have become interested in sustainable, environmentally-conscious living. So they’ve adopted a do-it-yourself mentality.
North Carolina is a very agriculturally productive state, given its diverse topography and climates. Farmers in the state produce over 80 different kinds of commodities, from Christmas trees and sweet potatoes to pork and seafood. According to the Department of Agriculture, as of 2019 there were 46,200 farms operating on a combined total area of 8.4 million acres. But homesteading doesn’t have to be on a large scale. You can start small right where you are, whether you live in an urban or rural area.
Start Your North Carolina Homesteading Simply
Many people who enjoy homesteading start by producing their own food. You can simply start with a vegetable garden. Get your family and friends involved with harvesting, canning and preserving your vegetables for year-round use.
Or buy chickens. A lot of urban areas now allow you to maintain a number of chickens on your property. Just be sure to check your town’s bylaws first.
Some other things to try:
- Pickle and preserve fruits and vegetables
- Smoke or dry fish to preserve it
- Start foraging
- Build your own furniture and other functional items
- Make your own clothing
Expand Your Space and Skills
If you have a space that allows for more livestock, you can get goats for milk and cheese. Get lambs that you can use for wool for making your own clothing or even knitting. If you’ve never tried knitting, it’s the perfect fall and winter time activity so now may be a good time to try.
Expand your skills too. Many community colleges and towns offer recreational classes that are tons of fun, and they’ll teach you everything from sewing to blacksmithing and woodcarving.
We are also fortunate to have John C. Campbell Folk School in our state. They offer over 800 weekend and week-long classes year-round and currently offer online classes during the pandemic. Be sure to check out their website for what you might like to try.
Living a self-sustainable lifestyle can be very rewarding, not to mention thrifty. So whether you want to start small or your’e ready to go all in, now may be the time to give homesteading try. Your learning curve could be fun!