Urban Homesteading

You may never have heard of the term ‘homesteading’, or you may be waiting for your home-made shampoo bars to set up while you bottle pickled cabbage as we speak.

Either way, ‘homesteading’ is the latest, and fastest moving, trend among the 25–50-year-old age bracket in the world.

Before you roll your eyes at yet another whacky millennial movement, take a look at that age span again. Gen Y AND Gen X have found a common cause.

So, what is homesteading? Basically, it is about taking things back to a homestead lifestyle. Think home made cheese, fresh eggs from your own chickens and wooden furniture. Gardens filled with things that can be eaten instead of only decorative plants. Cotton and wool, rather than polyester and lycra, and it is catching on.

Described by one highly influential 20 something as ‘our escape from reality’, it is a movement that harkens back to the days of a simpler, slower time where making the effort was worth it.

Yes, you can buy yoghurt, by why wouldn’t you make it? If that seems like the exact opposite of the rhetoric of a few decades ago “Free yourself from the burden of making it, just buy it” then that is no mistake.

In a remarkable turnaround, it turns out that the children of those who opted for ‘all the modern conveniences’ have decided that Grandmas way was best.

A 30 second scroll on the internet will offer you recipes and life hacks for everything from home-made health, beauty and cleaning products to tips on sewing sheets and pillows, raising ducks and pot-bellied pigs for food, and preserving fruit for winter.  

In reality, most of us truly do not need to do these things anymore, but the fact that a growing number are starting to, is interesting. Certainly, the current pandemic has moved things along. We may not have NEEDED to learn how to grind wheat into flour, but if we have the time…why not add to our skillset?

Most of the people embracing the homesteading creed do not have acres of land to play with. In fact, more than 80% of all of those who identify themselves as ‘homesteaders’ live in urban and suburban homes.

People in apartments in New York are spending good money and electricity keeping their vertical herb gardens alive throughout the winter. Young families living on their quarter acre allotment of the Australian dream are keeping a hen house where the trampoline used to stand. Up and coming chaps in The City in London no longer buy lip balm. Why would they when they have all the ingredients they need at home to make it? The tiny strip of land in front of your home would be the perfect place to grow tomatoes, don’t you know? Everyone, but everyone, composts. It is easy when you can buy a handy-dandy urban composting unit that can be fitted next to your sink.

And that is the most remarkable thing. Unlike our grandparents and great-grandparents, who would have longed for our modern conveniences and often made things because it was cheaper or there was no other choice, the homesteader of today is prepared to spend substantial coin and time on a less convenient way of living. Irony? Yes. Understandable? Somewhat.

Today we can buy anything we want, but what we can’t do is control its manufacture. What we miss is the control. What we miss is the human connection to our consumption. We miss using our hands to take responsibility for ourselves. We yearn to feel in touch with nature, human or otherwise.

As we wrote in the previous article ‘One handmade ring to rule them all’ (link at the bottom of the page), knowing the backstory to the things around us is driving the market of home-made, handmade. Making pesto from scratch may cost you more than making it, but you know you want to make it anyway. Even if it looks a bit lumpy. While Grandma would have happily reached for the jar on the shelf in the supermarket, their grandchildren are attempting to keep basil alive in the bathroom.

It may well be an ‘escape from reality’. Very few people adopting this approach actually live on a homestead, but the fact that they dream to is a fascinating look into where we are headed in the future. Once again, finding the balance between what we want, and what we need, is making itself known.

Read about the explosion of online boutiques at www.mygreynomads.com/one-handmade-ring-to-rule-them-all

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