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Homesteading today in America
today is very different than it used to be.
Of course these days you pay for your land - every dollar! Congress
passed the Homestead Act in 1862 where any person
of 21 years and older could file for 160 acres, a quarter mile each
side of unclaimed land. In order to secure homestead land you had to
house or homestead, plant some crops, dig a well and live there for the
next 5 years. If you fulfilled these requirements you were granted your
By 1873 if you planted trees you could
have an extra 160 acres of homestead land. This was because it was
believed at the time
that trees produced rain, and rain was always welcome. If you were
prepared to move into the more arid regions of the country you were
allocated 640 acres. However, by 1973 the Homestead Act was repealed,
although the practice continued in Alaska until 1989. Today there are
no more land grants anywhere in the States.
today still exists as a concept. It is
the yearning to scratch around in a little bit of dirt that is your
own, even if you have to pay for homestead land these days and try and
be as self-sufficient
as possible. Many people are going back to the land due to food issues,
current use of pesticides and how they affect our health.
Buying land that has not
before or even has a homestead, allows you to have a blank canvas to
work off. If you are working with an existing structure and fields you
will need to analyze how efficient the farm has been laid out and
whether there is room for improvements.
Look at your needs and what it is you
want to raise on your homestead. Remember that you are hoping to live
off the land. Therefore make sure that the crops and animals that you
want to raise will make you enough money to be self-sufficient. For far
more details than can be made here go to our page on Homestead
Land showing you how to avoid the pitfalls of
buying rural land and where to position your
Where to Locate your Animals, Orchard and Veggies
Locate your animal housing far enough
from the homestead so that you don't get nasty smells wafting by, but
not too far away that you will have to make a arduous trip every time
you need to feed, water and care for them. Build their enclosures big
enough to allow for more animals if you need to expand.
Locate your vegetable
garden and herb
garden close to the house for convenience sake. Both should have good
access to a constant water supply. Herbs are great to plant not too far
from the kitchen door.
Think of your homestead as a unit. Each
part should benefit the other and work together in harmony. For exampleraising
chickens will produce excellent, nitrogen rich
manure for your vegetables and compost
heap. By placing them in
orchard they can feed on the fallen fruit, fertilize the soil and keep
the bugs down without damaging your trees. Fruit tree prunings,
vegetable peelings and vegetable matter can all be used in your compost
heap to be returned back into the soil for enrichment and goodness.
could be allowed to forage in your vegetable garden. Unlike chickens,
they won't do a lot of damage (although the will eat your lettuces!) and will definitely keep your snails and
slug population down, along with other insects like grubs and
caterpillars that would otherwise feast on your plants.
Land should be set aside for green
manures and cover
crops to disc back into the soil. Crop and
rotation for both plants and animals should be practiced to minimize
disease to both.
Conserving Water for your Animals and Crops
Land is not your only resource you need
to care for. Water is a precious resource that seems to be getting more
and more scarce these days and therefore we need to conserve
When you have ground run-off harvest that water by
placing a dam at the bottom of the run-off area. Put in underground water
tanks and rain
store excess water that comes off your homestead roof. This is free
water that you can use on your vegetables and herbs.
Going off the Grid
Think about your power needs and
whether you want to rely on municipal power or if you want to live off
the grid. More than 200 000 Americans live
off the grid, and you could be one of them. It does
mean a little bit of planning and investment upfront for the solar
panels and other equipment, but this money is generally recouped within
Aiming for Self-Sufficiency
To be totally self-sufficient you will
need to think about keeping
or cows for milking and meat
and a few
sheep. Barley, wheat and oats can also be grown in addition to your
fruit trees, nut trees, soft fruit and vegetables.
We hope to meet many of our
homesteading readers through our pages where we ask you to make a
contribution. This can be either a recipe, retelling of an experience,
ask a question or whatever. So come on in and enjoy being part of your
homesteading community. Click here if you are looking for some good homesteading
and country living books.
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