Homesteading: Is It For You?

Are you cut out for homesteading? Is homesteading cut out for you? Read here to find out.

The Homestead Act of 1862 gave a person a chance to claim their own land. All one had to do was mark the boundaries, dig a well, build a home on the land and plow and plant the fields. If one did this and lived there for five years, the land was theirs.

Nowadays, with the Homesteading Act no longer in effect, the term "homesteading" has taken on an entirely new meaning. It is the term coined to describe those people who have left the busy, 9-to-5 world behind and are living a frugal, self-sustaining life.

The "simple life" can sound ideal to those of us who are weary of the hustle and bustle of the daily bump and grind, cranky bosses, rush hour traffic and a mountain of credit card bills for the latest gadgets that we haven't removed from the box yet. But is the simple life really simple? And is it for you?

To figure out if homesteading would suit you, begin by asking yourself these questions: Are you a person who enjoys conveniences? Do you like take-out food, laundry services, and prefer to have someone cut your lawn for you? Do you like to take long, hot showers? Do you relish your weekly trips to the salon to get your hair and nails done? Do you like going out to restaurants, night spots, or parties frequently? Does your tool box consist of a hammer and a screwdriver that you haven't touched in a year? Is your idea of "roughing it" going to a hotel without room service?

If your answer was "yes" to all or most of the questions above, homesteading may not be for you. The truth is, the simple life is not all that simple. Homesteading requires work; you only get out of it what you put into it. Life on a self-sustaining homestead may require such things as caring for crops, tending livestock, building things yourself, doing most of your own repairs, creatively finding a source of income, learning to barter, and being satisfied without many of the luxuries found in the big cities. Convenience stores, an active night life and a constant supply of hot water are some things that homesteaders are willing to forgo for an independent lifestyle that is satisfying in other ways.

If your answer was "no" to most or all of those questions, ask yourself a few more: Are you a person who finds satisfaction in doing and making things for yourself? Are you good at working with your hands, and don't mind getting them dirty? Are you hard-working and frugal minded? Are you creative, yet practical? Do you enjoy being outdoors? Do you adapt to situations easily and make the best of things? Are conveniences and luxuries low on your list of priorities? Do you feel more relaxed and peaceful when you are away from the city and out in nature for a long period of time? Are you satisfied with a quiet home life?

If your answer to most or all of these questions was "yes," then homesteading might be for you. While homesteading is by no means easier than any other way of life (in fact, the labor can be much more grueling than most 9 to 5 jobs), it can be extremely satisfying and immensely rewarding for those that value quiet, privacy, self-reliability, and living a less cluttered, more natural lifestyle.

If you think you might want to try your hand at homesteading, you should prepare yourself well for the endeavor. Do your research. Educate yourself on things like home and farm repairs, building, keeping livestock, digging wells, farming, canning and preserving, and any other information that applies to frugal country living.

You will also need to financially prepare yourself for homesteading. A self-sustaining homestead does not become self-sustaining overnight. A lot of work has to go into your homestead before you can support your family entirely from your labor and land. You will need to buy land, and, if you can't afford it outright, will have to make mortgage payments. If the land has no house, you will have to build one, and with most state laws, usually in a certain amount of time from taking up residence on the land. You will also have to pay taxes, buy things such as building materials, tools, possibly animals, farming supplies, and be prepared for a bad first winter or the possibility of a failed crop. It is highly beneficial to have enough savings to help get you through those first years, which can be very lean, or even disastrous without adequate preparation. If your savings aren't as much as you like, at least try to find another means of having an income, such as a home mail order or internet business (but remember, this will take time from running your homestead, which will require the most attention and work in that first year).

Homesteading is not an impossibility for most people; it simply takes some thinking and planning ahead, and a lot of good, old-fashioned hard work. But for those who are suited for the homesteading life style, the rewards can be well worth the effort.

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