Grit Blogs > Homesteading with Mrs D

Redefining Homesteading

By Robyn Dolan 

Tags: homesteading, sustainable, self sufficient, livestock, garden, chickens, dairy, urban homesteading, Robyn Dolan,

 homestead chicken coop 

Homesteading has become the "in" thing to do these days. I see lots of companies capitalizing on that. But their definition of homesteading isn't the same as mine.  

A $1300 chicken coop. Really? Do the chickens lay more eggs? Is it self-cleaning?

Solar systems costing upwards of $20,000. How is that ever going to pencil out as saving on electricity? Sure, you're off the grid, but you're still dependent on expensive equipment that has to be supplied and serviced by someone.  

How sustainable is your garden if you are purchasing all kinds of fancy soil amendments?

To me, homesteading is living more simply and sustainably. It means using what you have on hand. It means thinking outside the box instead of running to the store every time you need something. I am not against modern conveniences. My car gives me freedom. My washer and dryer save me time and pain. The internet enables me to work wherever I can connect, and my computer and Kindle carry tons of paperwork and books electronically for me. In fact, hey, if somebody

wants to spend $1300 on a chicken coop, that's fine with me. I might even admire its "purtyness". But I don't call it homesteading.  

So how do I define "homesteading"?

In the city:  keep some chickens, if allowed. Mix the eggshells, chicken poop and fruit and veggie scraps from the kitchen into the garden soil to amend it. Grow what you can and eat it. Go hunting or fishing on the weekend. Make a camping trip of it and bring home your catch. Can, dry or freeze your extra food and eat it. Conserve water. Do dishes in a dish pan and throw the water on the garden. Buy your clothes from yard sales or thrift stores and embellish and alter them on the sewing machine. Save your recyclables and turn in what you don't re-use for cash at the local recycling center.

On the road:  Whether you live in an RV or just travel a lot, there are a number of things you can do to homestead on the road. In an RV:  drive slower to increase gas mileage. Cook from scratch. Learn to recognize a few wild foods you can gather and eat, like dandelion greens (great in salad or sauteed), mint (wonderful tea), crab apples, pinon nuts and fish. Choose dispersed camping or inexpensive campsites instead of always pulling in to hook up. 

In a car:  If you are on the road a lot for business, children's activities, or other reasons, pack a cooler and a snack bag or box. The cooler will have water, fruits and veggies and sandwich stuff or other perishables for the day/weekend. The snack bag will have dry goods (snacks, raisins, coffee, tea, etc.), dishes and utensils. For hot meals pack a small camp stove and fuel. You can set up at a rest area, park, or large parking lot to cook your meal or heat your water. Sandwiches are easily assembled on top of the cooler.

At the homestead:  Here in Northern Arizona it is very dry, so we conserve and reuse every possible drop of water. Dishwater goes on the garden, rinse water and bath water go into the washing machine or flush the toilets. Cooking water is cooled and put on the garden. We grow what we can and eat what we grow. We preserve any extra and eat it later.  The milk from the goats and cow is made into butter and cheese. The whey is used for cooking or fed back to the chickens. The shells from the chicken eggs are crushed and fed back to them for extra calcium and grit. We fish and eat what we catch. We eat the cows and goats and chickens. Bones get made into nutritious soup broth, then the bones are fed to the dogs. Meat scraps get fed to the dogs. Bread scraps go to the chickens. Fruit and veggie scraps go in the compost heap, thence to the garden. Need I say it? The animal poop goes on the garden.

Our gym is the wood pile, the hay bales, the garden, the repairs that need done. Our entertainment is the dark night sky with billions of stars, watching the critters play, taking a walk around the property or playing with the critters.

Old milk jugs become feeders, planters, grain scoops and watering cans. Old buckets are used for kindling, water, toolboxes and planters. Old clothes and linens are used for cleaning rags, then oil rags, then sometimes even compost. We make do, rarely buy new, frequently do without. Not because we have to, because we have found that living more simply is simply more living.

For more of Mrs. D's Homesteading adventures, stop by the website and blog: Around The Homestead.