May
26 - 2009

The meaning of modern-day homesteading

This morning’s newspaper delivery brought an interesting little article about urban homesteading in The Denver Post, titled “Green (1/8th) Acres sprout in the city.”

With its “urban Gothic” photo, it caught my eye, and even more so when I realized that the female member of the profiled couple is in my knitting/spinning group. (She noted that the reporter didn’t write about her knitting, spinning and sewing her own clothes, all just as worthy of the “homestead” title as growing your own food.)

The article profiles several different setups of urban homesteaders, city farmers, whatever you’d like to call them, in the Denver-metro area. The online article has links to some of the sites the text references.

Articles like this one are booming right now, along with their eye-catching, sensational photos (“Look! People with tattoos like to grow things too!”).

Do I “homestead”?

The article did make me look at my little city lot in a different light. I wouldn’t apply such an intentional title as “homestead” to it, and yet on our own 1/8th acre we grow a portion of our summer vegetables, soon will be growing a fair amount of our summer fruit (if the squirrels don’t eat it all), and continue considering city chickens.

We are making our own beer, and Mr. Cheap started his own hop plants this year to grow that crucial ingredient. I knit and thrift and re-use and spin my own yarn. We make bread and pickles and yogurt and dog biscuits and, perhaps soon, cheese; I do some washing with homemade soap and other cleaning with simple products that are easy on biology.

What is a homestead?

Does that make it a “homestead”? I suppose it depends what you think a homestead is. The simplest definition is “the home and adjacent grounds occupied by a family,” and for that one, we qualify.

A familiar term from history class is “land acquired from the United States public lands by filing a record and living on and cultivating it under the homestead law.” I doubt many of us know what the homestead law is, these days, and our urban domiciles, purchased and mortgaged, don’t usually qualify.

Maybe homestead just means “home,” and in that regard, we certainly measure up. In that case, the new “homestead” craze would simply mean that people are finding ways to make their home the home they want, whether they want to live a sophisticated country life or an urban life with an herb garden or create their farm oasis in their city yard.

Do you homestead?

So, what about you? Do you homestead? How would you define homestead — as homemaking, as doing it yourself, as growing rather than buying? Or something completely different?

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