I Am An Urban Homesteader

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I’ve had many people ask me what that means.  Historically, homesteading goes back to the Homestead Act of 1862.

Photo By the National Archives

Abraham Lincoln signed the original Homesteading Act into law which allowed anyone, who had never taken up arms against the U.S.,  to have up to 160 acres of undeveloped land west of the Mississippi River.  This law even allowed slaves to participate. The law required you to file an application, improve the land, and file for deed of title.

In 1909 an update was made and the Enlarged Homesteading Act went into law allowing land suitable for dryland farming and increasing the number of acres to 320.  In 1916, the Stock-Raising Homestead Act went into law allowing settlers 640 acres of public land for ranching purposes.

Eventually 1.6 million homesteads were granted and 270,000,000 acres of federal land were privatized between 1862 and 1934, a total of 10% of all lands in the United States. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976, except in Alaska, where it continued until 1986.

This wasn’t an easy life for the early pioneers and settlers. Only about 40% of applicants fulfilled their contract and gained their land.  However, it was the hope of a better and sustainable life to pass on to future generations that led them to embark on a homestead.

Today, land is no longer free, however, homesteading still carries the same values and work ethics from which it came.  The early settlers worked the land and toiled in labor in order to live.  Today, homesteading encompasses the same work ethics and value in working with our hands to better provide for our families and serve a mighty God.

Homesteading today is defined as, “a lifestyle of simple, agrarian self-sufficiency.”

This includes raising animals, growing vegetables, canning and preserving, homemaking, home schooling, being involved in a community, fellowship… simplicity.

Simple living… no, not really.  It takes time and energy to homestead, however, it’s about consuming less and producing more.  It’s about cherishing real things such as animals, fresh eggs, fresh milk, vegetables growing on a plant and through it all seeing His mighty creation and knowing that He’s real.

Why Should Living in the City Prevent Me From Homesteading?

It shouldn’t.  Not all of us have the means of living on an acreage so we do with what God has given us and are content in what we have.

We are Urban Homesteaders

As a city girl, Latina, from Southern California, I had never seen a farm animal well into my twenties. Well, dirty ones at the Pamona Fair, but that doesn’t count, right?!

From my experience, living in the city distances ourselves from the reality of what food really is. Living and breathing plants and animals. We are ignorant of what it takes to raise animals and grow vegetables that we take it for granted. We assume food will always be there waiting for us at the grocery store without implications to our health.

It’s not our fault, however, with the ever expanding local food movement, urban homesteading has become a reality for many of us to once again be in touch with our food system directly. As a result we’ve also started to can and preserve, regain traditional techniques such as making bread, broth, cheese, charcuterie, and stepping into a do it yourself mentality.

Over the course of 6 years, I started with one small backyard garden to a myriad of organic gardens throughout my area that supplies much of my families food for the year.

I’ve been able to raise chickens in my backyard for meat and eggs.

I can and preserve my harvest.

I teach my children life time skills.

I’ve learned so much over the past 6 years.  Much more than I ever thought I could learn and do. What it has taught me is that life is special and created.  It has taught me to truly care about how we raise our animals.  To be aware of the conditions in which they are raised.  To understand that they are living and breathing and must be treated with respect… even love.

It is unbelievable to step into the backyard and have 10 little pairs of chicken legs come bawking at me with rumps shaking behind as they know I am bringing them food.  It’s also amazing to be able to know how vegetables come to be.  Believe it or not, as a city person, I can bet that most people have never seen a tomato growing on a vine let alone an eggplant or okra.

It’s amazing!  To see vegetables grow on a plant is wierd, cool and completely shows the miracle of life and that God created everything to sustain us.

One of the most important parts of urban homesteading is also supporting our local family farmers.  I’ve had the honor to befriend some of the greatest people raising grassfed beef, pastured heritage breed pork, free range chickens and organic vegetables.  As an urban homesteader we need our local family farmers to provide us with what we don’t have room to grow or raise.

Urban Homesteading is also about community and sharing with each other what we are constantly learning and paying it forward.  Since starting this blog I have had the honor to meet passionate, forward thinking individuals making a difference in forwarding the movement.

People such as…

Annette from Sustainable Eats

Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS

Alicia from Culinary Bliss

Miranda from An Austin Homestead

Pamela from Seeds of Nutrition

Diane from Peaceful Acres

Jenn from The Leftover Queen

Sarah from Heartland Renaissance

Amy from Homestead Revival

Katie from Riddlelove

Mely from Mexico in My Kitchen

Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen

Dina from Known by Name

And many others that contribute regularly to Simple Lives Thursday.

As you can tell Urban Homesteading is about people.  It’s about our relationships with God, our families, and our friends.

So yes, I Am An Urban Homesteader

Today is the Urban Homesteaders Day of Action. To support urban homesteaders as myself and keep the word urban homesteading and urban homesteader free of trademark please sign the petition on my sidebar at change.org and join the newly created facebook page, “Take Back Urban Home-steading(s).

To learn about the trademark debate of the word Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading by the Dervaes family, please read Food Renegade’s post, Take Back Urban Homesteading.

35 Responses to "I Am An Urban Homesteader"
  1. Candi says:

    Great post, especially in light of some recent happenings in California. I LOVE your site and while I don’t always comment, I do enjoy reading each post. Keep them coming!

  2. Pamela says:

    Diana – so beautifully written! Thank you for linking me, I feel honored that you have done such. Pamela

  3. The Mom says:

    Beautifully said, with some gorgeous photos. What we’re doing is so important. You are an inspiration.

  4. linda says:

    great post… was a joy to read and the pics are great!

  5. Thank you for walking the walk!! You and your boys give such promise for the future (plus your birds are beautiful!)

  6. I share your joy in the acts of homesteading. As I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and following all your projects, it was nice to get the look back through pictures of all the things you’ve done and learned. I think it is so beautiful how your children are part of the journey — that’s very important to me, too!

    Thank you for including me among your internet homesteading friends. I feel the same way about you. I am blessed to know you through the internet, and hopefully one day in real life! God bless you and yours, Diana!

  7. You are awesome girl! It is a marvelous job you are doing.
    I am sending this info to my sister that is looking forward to spring and start planting.

    Hey! Does balcony container planting counts? :)

    Have a blessed week.


  8. Lorie says:

    I value all those things you value as well but being a full time working out of the home mom with two young boys have not figured out how to incorporate all I am learning from Wardeh’s sourdough dairy cultures classes, and Cheeseslave’s Meat and Seafood course. Still want to learn more about canning and find a source for fresh eggs.

  9. Sarah says:

    Such a beautifully written post – and one I wholeheartedly agree with! Kindred spirits . . .


  10. Martha says:

    Beautiful pictures ofyour experiences.

  11. Diana,

    I read of this on Twitter the other day….it’s just crazy!!! I signed the petition. I really enjoyed reading of your journey. I think it’s wonderful that our country really is returning back to its roots in so many ways.

    I’ve been living a frugal lifestyle for many years now out of necessity…learning how to make things from scratch when I couldn’t afford to buy them (tortillas, bread etc). It has been an eye opening experience & thankfully I have a larger food budget these days. But I still try to live simply and live by one of my favorite mottos “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

    Now that the economy has taken such a dive…I feel blessed that God had led us down the frugal path early on. We haven’t felt the economy since we had always lived this way. In fact, things are better for us than back in the days that were “boom time” for so many. So happy to have “met” you here online!! I love visiting your blog & reading about your family!

  12. Willene says:

    And where is the facebook like link ?

  13. Very nice article on homesteading Diana, and I loved all the photos.


  14. Laurie says:

    Gorgeous pictures, well written post.

    One question – Did you mean to say “city” instead of “country” in the second heading?

  15. Tamlynn says:

    I enjoyed this article, especially all the pics.

  16. The pictures really complement your post. I also spend a lot of time ensuring my son learns these important life skills, so those were particularly neat to see.

  17. City Share says:

    Great post. I love the photos of your sons in action. I didn’t know about the debate to TM the phrase Urban homesteader, so I’m heading over to Food Renegade to learn more. I always learn so much reading your posts.Thanks.

  18. Cara says:

    Homesteading is my dream. It’s something my husband and I work towards being able to say we do daily. We are on year 3 of an organic garden in our city apartment. Our landlord won’t let us have chickens here, fortunately I am able to get local pasture chicken eggs without a problem. I just stumbled upon your blog while reading about rendering fats. I’m very glad I did!!! I look forward to reading more!! <3

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