“What makes a homestead?” is a question I have been asked a lot over the years. Most definitions have a common theme: it’s a home attached to the land. My belief is that your perception is what makes your home into a homestead. Here are some examples of how our home life is integrated into the land we sit upon.
Sense the seasons
I don’t need to look at the calendar to know what time of year it is. The Asian pears bloomed weeks ago, replaced by apple blossoms that are just now beginning to fade. We’re harvesting thick, lush spinach leaves and the fava beans are reaching for the sky. The smell of our garden after a hard rain followed by a few days of brilliant sunshine tells me this is spring in Portland.
It’s a shift in your mindset when your home becomes a homestead. Books, website and the advice of others will guide you. But there is a rhythm to nature that requires all of your senses to be in tune with it. When that becomes second-nature, you’re knee-deep in homesteading.
Eat from home
Most nights making dinner requires running downstairs to the cellar to grab a jar of something preserved, pulling out a bag of frozen produce we picked last season or filling our harvest basket straight from the backyard. We’re thoughtful about what we eat, where it came from and our homesteading efforts make a dent in where we source it.
There are exceptions, of course. Kids, jobs, modern-day pressures on our time mean that sometimes getting food on the table means it was prepared by someone else. That’s part of what puts the “modern” in our modern homestead. We’re balancing this lifestyle with our desire to live in the city and do other things to make a living.
I firmly reject the notion that there is a hard-and-fast ratio of homegrown food to qualify a homestead. If you plan a significant number of meals around what you grow or preserved, that’s enough for me. It’s not a contest.
Process is valued
Making food from scratch creates a sense of balance and stillness in my life that I truly crave. I love the process of baking and cooking just as much as the final product. The same goes for tending livestock or raising crops. The process of cultivating our homestead is just as meaningful as the act of harvesting.
Bonus points for having the entire family lending a hand! Everything goes slower with kids, so I’ve tried hard to slow down as well. It’s more important to me that Juniper helped me harvest eggs or roll out the homemade pizza than whether we eat dinner on time.
My thoughts on the construction side of our homestead have evolved over time. Ten years ago we DIY’ed everything: chicken coops, pergolas, fences, pathways, etc. Years of working as a landscape designer has taught me to respect and value the serious skill of a professional builder. I would rather design the larger projects and have an expert build it right, rather than do it all myself and then have to rebuild later on. There are still lots of smaller projects for my DIY skills.
A photo posted by Renee Wilkinson (@hipchickdigs) on
Beyond the garden edge
Homesteading reaches far beyond our own little urban plot. It has woven itself into our vacations, pastimes and charitable work. We avoid travel during peak harvest times or we travel to places based on what’s in season there. We spend weekends hiking trails where we can forage for wild foods. We volunteer with organizations like the Portland Fruit Tree Project to harvest food for both ourselves and communities in need of fresh, healthy foods.
Homesteading is just as much a holistic lifestyle as it is a place enclosed by a fence. We can no longer tease out what counts as “homesteading” in our daily life. The lines are beyond blurred and happily so!
I would really enjoy hearing your thoughts on what makes your home a homestead. Do you have a budding homestead or are you an old hat? How is your space more than just a garden or windowsill or balcony? Tell me about it in the comments below! I’m excited to hear what you have to say.