Homesteading: The new ‘Return to the Earth’ movement?

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    We now have worries about healthy store-bought foods after a few big food scares in the last couple of years stemming from melamine in milk. Mad cow disease in various countries, salmonella in just about everything. If you subscribe to FDA warnings in your email box, like I do, you get almost daily warnings about food products being pulled due to “possible contamination” from just about anything. Not just that either. Some products get pulled due to the addition of incorrect ingredients, mislabeled ingredients, too much or too little.

    montgomeryWe also worry about our children growing up around healthy air. Asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are on the rise, with larger numbers in city areas or areas with higher industrial site. I suffer from chronic bronchitis. I grew up around an oil refinery that had multiple EPA violations for air quality. Our high school was a short distance from it. Once I had complained about it, and an old man told me, “Well girl, they would not have put the school there if the refinery was bad for you.”

    Granted, that old man would be 86 right now, and when the school was built he was in his twenties or thirties; they didn’t know as much then as we do now about airborne pollutants.

    So with these worries, what do we do? Some people are homesteading to make their lives better. Homesteading, according to Wikipedia, refers to anyone who is part of the ‘back-to-the-land’ movement and chooses to live a self-sufficient lifestyle. Google “homesteading” and you get about 351,000 results. That is a lot of information for someone who wants to research this way of life. There are online forums to exchange ideas, discuss livestock and farm equipment, and just chat about life and the struggles you face living on a homestead.

    You don’t have to live a homestead life to benefit from the information. Homesteaders can give great gardening advice to the backyard gardener, because the homesteader learns a bit more. Their diets are based on what they grow themselves. They can also give great advice for people who want to start raising animals. I have a small flock of chickens that I’m learning to care for, and I’m learning more every day.

    Most “green” or “organic” magazines offer information that most homesteaders use themselves; some publications tailor articles specifically toward them.

    The main goal of a homesteader is to first find their “little piece of heaven” in the world. Then they start building, maybe even a house if there is not one. They carefully plan the garden based on what they may or may not need in the coming year. They slowly work toward raising animals. Then most strive to live totally “off the grid” by providing themselves everything they need: water, electric, heat and their choice of cooking methods. Sometimes that means learning how to cook on an old wood cook stove, or a bread oven for breads and all-day cooking, which also provides extra heat in the winter.

    For anyone who thinks homesteading sounds like a great idea, research it before you dive into it. If you cannot live without the internet, video games and constant television, it might not be for you. Homesteading is a lot of work. Experiment to see if you have the space in your current home. If you want to be a homesteader, get as much information as possible and plan it all out before you do it. Otherwise, you may not like it when you homestead.

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    Jennifer Montgomery
    Jennifer Montgomery is a mother of three, currently experimenting with homesteading. She also is the "mom" of three cats and a dog. She is trying her hand at writing and hopes to publish a few books.

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