Did you know that the literal meaning for the word mortgage, in French, is 'death pledge' ? This insightful interpretation of the word mortgage can be examined a few ways. Will the stress of the pledge you made to pay the debt, cause your demise? Did the French know outrageous interest rates would make it nearly impossible to pay off a home? Whether you consider it a mere coincidence that the word mortgage has such a nasty connotation, or not, we can agree that money spent would be better invested in happier pursuits. Self reliant living and homesteading can make life easier. Many people choosing to homestead want to do so because of a desire for freedom. They believe in their ability to eliminate the deadly debt that came along with the purchase of a McMansion in the suburbs.
Many believed that the purchase of such a home would make them happy. What they soon realized is that they had made themselves slaves for the next 30 years. All for what? A chance to impress the friends who work 65 hour weeks to pay their mortgage? Homesteaders aren't snubbing their noses at the Jones'. Well, at least we all aren't. For many we just want a stress free life and we are taking a different route to get there. This route may include gardens, solar power, rain water catchment, or other devices that change the way money is spent.
What does it mean to homestead?
The truth is homesteading may be very different from one plot of land to another. Homesteading is more than "a place where one resides." Homesteading can be done in the middle of a city, in a rural subdivision, out in the boondocks, or in the wilds of Alaska. You see it's a feeling, a knowing you get, when what you are doing is right, and true. Sure, the general goal is to be self reliant, or less reliant; but what that means is left up to each individual.
Do you need to be a farmer to homestead?
You could be, but it is not necessary. You can run a successful homestead without ever touching an animal if you so choose. Part of running a homestead is knowing what you're needing. A vegetarian doesn't need to raise beef, a person allergic to soy doesn't have to grow it. If you have a need and you cannot supply it, you produce something else to be traded, bartered or sold. A homesteader is independent, because, he or she takes accountability for personal well-being. If you neighbor needs eggs and you need peaches it isn't uncommon to swap one for another. A homesteader may also barter with skill's in exchange for something of value.
Are homesteader's poor?
That depends upon who you ask. Wealth is relative to the individual. A hobby farm may not net much profit but it generally supplies many of the families needs. For instance, fruit trees will cost you initially but they will supply all your families fruit needs with excess when they mature. The fruit can be sold at fresh farmers markets, or made into jam's and jellies. As a homesteader you recoup the cost of the trees when you no longer buy it's fruit in the store. Everything in this lifestyle is a give and take. The same scenario can be said for the urban homesteader. For the cost of a few seeds, and some dirt in a bucket, a person could be well on their way to food production. Homesteading is, as simple as, supplying your own needs, and eliminating financial stress with your own hands.
Can anyone homestead?
Homesteading is not discriminatory. Anyone, anywhere, can decide to change the way they live at ANY time. A person can be in their teens, thirties, fifties, any age, with no prior knowledge of gardening, ranching, and the like. The only requirement's to homesteading are a desire for a self reliant life, and a willingness to learn. Homesteading can start where you are, and take you to where you want to go.
How can I start a homestead?
First you must take 'stock' of what you have. If your knowledge of homesteading is limited then it is time to do some research. Learning is a major part of this journey. We 'self reliant folks' always learn, and evolve. We watch the season's change, plant what grows well in our area, and battle the varmint's big and small. To us small time folks, livestock is treated like family; sometimes better. You might start with sowing some seed, and years down the road harvest the wind, rainfall and the sun. Along the way many of us find that we grew too.
Once you know what you have, it's a good idea to assess your needs. Needs always come first, and they supersede wants. To be self sufficient you "need" to pay off debt; even though you may"want" something shiny and expensive. If you can't eliminate debt entirely then at-least pay it down and annihilate wasteful spending. As a homesteader you can stop wasteful spending by; growing your own food, harvesting rain water, and living within your means. "Eating out" is replaced with fresh picked salads at the picnic table. Those who strive to be self sufficient buy items used, fix what broke, or do without it entirely. This life isn't without its sacrifices, however the rewards are less '9 to 5' and more of everything else. Growing seasonal vegetables may be enough to satisfy a person. However, if you want to know where you milk and eggs are coming from debt reduction has to be a priority.
What is your ultimate goal?
If you have a clear vision, of what the outcome will be, you can plan and set goals to get there. No homestead is complete without a dream. A self sufficient person knows where they are going and how they will get there. Beware of your actions and how they permit or hinder your goal of realizing your dreams. Self reliance is a journey that evolves one step at a time. You must have the tenacity and 'grit' to walk a mile.
Where can I find help?
There are many self reliant forums on the internet. Folks' that began just like you can give advice on the 'how tos of homesteading.' Often these free spirits talk about the joys and hardships of debt free living. Some may be veterans to the life, while others are just learning the concepts. Self sufficiency groups are a great way to ask questions and gauge the feasibility of your plans. Many of these groups produce helpful materials in the form of books and magazines. These guides to debt free living are valuable to many people.
Life's greatest pleasures are often simple. Changing the way you live will make an impact on how the "roses" smell, and if you can even stop to sniff them. You don't have to give up creature comforts to homestead, but you do have to give up bad financial habits. It is for your own good, even the French agree.