Homesteading myths abound. Honestly homesteading has become kind of a catch-all term that can mean different things to different folks. Let’s take a quick look at 10 of the most common myths:
Homesteading Myth: you must live in a rural area, far removed from civilization to homestead.
Nope. You can live the homestead lifestyle smack dab in the center of a bustling city. Who says you can’t grow food in pots on an apartment balcony 15 stories up—or on the roof if you have access? Most cities also have community garden access. None in your city? Find an empty lot, check with your city officials and start one!
Reality check—although the dream of living in a rural area appeals to most of us homesteader wannabes, the reality of life is that most of us won’t be able to come up with the money to purchase that dream property and quit our jobs. Moral of the story–homestead now, wherever you are.
Homesteading Myth: you must have a large enough garden to supply all or most of your own food.
Of course not! You can certainly garden anywhere if you enjoy it (even indoors on a small scale). You can shop at farmer’s markets, join a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, or purchase produce in bulk at your local market when it’s in season.
You can supply many of your own nutrients with a tiny indoor ‘garden’. Learn about growing micro-greens. There are many people not only growing their own, but also making a bit of money selling them at farm markets and to local chefs.
3. Food Preservation
Homesteading Myth: you must preserve all of your own food and have enough on hand to last at least a year.
Honestly? Not many folks have that kind of room for storage! I do believe in having the skills to preserve foods in several different ways—you never know when you might need them. I also know how appealing those photos showing row upon row of sparkling jars of yummy looking home-canned goods looks. (If I had that room, I’d be tempted to just stand in there and marvel at it!)
There are other methods of food preservation besides canning. Dehydrated food, for instance, requires no special equipment. Dehydrated foods take up very little room and done properly have longer shelf life than canned foods. Check out all of your options!
Homesteading Myth: you must cook all of your own food from scratch, including bread—which should be made with sourdough starter that you collected yourself.
Phew! I’m exhausted just writing that! Again, it’s a good idea to have the skills to bake your own bread. And it’s also nice to know where yeast comes from just in case.
Cooking from scratch sounds hard; time consuming, hot, exhausting. And what if you were never taught to cook? Bloggers and the internet in general give us a microscopic view of cooking, I think. Beautiful pictures of perfect food are literally everywhere you click! (Never a dirty dish or messy kitchen in sight!) I’m a cook. I love to cook. But even I don’t have time or the inclination to drag out 27 ingredients to make a meal.
Reality check—scratch cooking doesn’t equal gourmet cooking! Home cooking can be simple and quick. I rarely spend more than 30 minutes preparing a meal. There are plenty of yummy recipes out there to save you money and time in the kitchen.
Making bread from scratch is therapeutic to me. Kneading dough has a meditative quality. But, there are wonderful small bakeries in every town and city. Find one. Ask questions. Buy baked goods that spoil quickly (less toxic preservatives).
Gardening, food preservation, and cooking all amount to one thing as a homesteader: do the best you can to avoid highly processed commercial foods. You can accomplish that anywhere!
Homesteading Myth: you must go completely off-grid to be a ‘real’ homesteader.
Homesteading is not an all or nothing deal. Yes, you should try to reduce your usage of electricity and water as much as you can, but if you live in an apartment or home without a fireplace you’re not going to be able to heat with wood. You may or may not be able to hang clothing outside to dry. Do what you can.
If you have a home, you should try to capture at least a little bit of rainwater, but it’s not always realistic to think that you can use only that water for everything. Besides, for now at least, all municipalities require you to be hooked up to water and sewer.
Homesteading Myth: you aren’t a real homesteader without chickens.
Sure, it’s part of the dream for most folks. Sadly, while more and more cities are becoming chicken-friendly, most are still not on-board. For those who live in rental spaces, animals/pets of any type are not allowed. Again, check local farm markets or take a drive just outside the city. You are sure to find someone selling fresh eggs nearby. I do urge you to try fresh eggs at least once in your life. They truly are nothing like the factory farmed eggs at your grocers.
Not allowed chickens or traditional farm animals? Try fiber rabbits. They are a bit of work to keep their fur in top condition, but how cool would it be to shear your angora rabbit, spin it into yarn, and knit yourself a scarf? Definitely real homesteading—anywhere!
Homesteading Myth: you must do everything yourself and not need any help.
You do, on occasion hear about a hermit out there in the wilderness who has been totally alone for 30 years, but that is by far the exception. For one, humans are social creatures. We need other people in our lives. Historically, people lived in small, geographically local communities. They shared the burden of some of the chores of living. Just like today, everyone had a few things that they were really good at and enjoyed. There will always be folks who are masters at baking, gardening, animal husbandry, sewing, knitting, or any other homestead skill you can name.
Skill-trading, or item bartering is the way most homesteaders get it all done. Take a look at an Amish barn-raising. The entire community comes together with all of their skills and plenty of food and drink. They raise a barn from the ground to under cover in a day!
Homesteading Myth: you must quit your job and make all of the money you need from your homesteading efforts.
Unless you are one of the lucky few who have had a high paying corporate job forever and have managed to save a few year’s worth of that salary, most folks are going to need to work off the homestead. It’s a tough juggling act, but then most homesteaders are pretty tough folks!
While you still need that job, study and brainstorm ways to economy-proof your homestead. What can you make and sell from your homestead? Do you have a skill or trade that you could do from your home? What skills could you teach? Does your homestead produce more of anything that you could sell at a farm market? Are you a writer? A web-developer? Do you have any skills that you can market online from home?
Once you get enough different revenue streams going from your homestead, maybe then you can quit or at least scale back on your work in the city.
Homesteading Myth: you must make all of your own clothing and mend it until it can’t be used any more.
Sewing and mending skills are important and everyone probably should know how to sew on a button, but beyond that it’s a matter of time and interest. Do your best to opt for clothing that is made of sturdy fabric and is well constructed to get longer use.
Weaving, knitting, crochet, tatting, quilting are all skills that come in handy on a homestead. Many of these skills have skipped a couple of generations. Folks are eager to re-learn them! So besides using these skills for yourself and your family, you can teach classes (in person or online), sell items you’ve made, trade these skills with another homesteader for something you need.
10.You Can Do It All
Homesteading Myth: you must be able to do all of these things and keep up with them.
No. No. And no. No-one can do it all. There simply isn’t time. For most of us, the dream is a dream of a simpler life—not one of unending chores and tasks that run us ragged from rising to bedtime. Your homestead should be your sanctuary, your joyful place, home. Not many talk about it, but lots of homesteaders burn out and chuck the dream. It is hard work, but if it isn’t also rewarding what’s the point?
Build a community, both local and online. Make space in your day for hygge moments; stop to watch the chickens, take a moment to enjoy the smell of the bread in the oven, sit on the porch and share a cup of coffee with your significant other, pick a few flowers and add them to your dinner table. These things are part of being a homesteader too. Relax. Go at nature’s pace—she’s not in a hurry, and you don’t always have to be either!
The true goal of modern homesteading should be to become more self-sufficient than you are at the moment. Each new do-it-yourself skill that you learn, each meal you make on your own, each tomato that you grow (or buy from a local farmer) gets you closer to the goal.
Seriously, stop comparing your homestead to the one you see online. No one can ever show you the whole picture. Revel in your own homestead journey! There will be failures as well as victories. Celebrate the victories along the way. Mourn the failures, get up and try again.