Homesteader’s: The Life of Self-Sufficiency

An urban homestead that you might come across.

Today in the world we might have all witnessed apartments or houses that are covered with solar panels, or have a plethora of fruits and vegetables growing on the apartment balcony, or maybe even chickens running rampant in the streets of your very own neighborhood. We might think to ourselves, “These people must be hippies!” or “Those people are insane!” Of course we think that because it is different from most of modern society’s daily life. I mean who just owns chicken’s besides farmers?

These “Hippies” would be considered today as “Homesteaders.” The article “5 Modern Homesteading Myths: Busted,” by Jill Wagner, discusses 5 common myths outsiders might have about “Homesteaders.” These myths consists of having to be a hippy to homestead, you need to have a lot of land, you need to be brought up in a farmer orientated family to be good at homesteading, you need to be completely of the grid, and you can only homestead if you start off with free land (Wagner). Just like these outsiders, I myself had these perceptions of homesteaders until I understood what “Homesteading” actually is and what it takes to become a “Homesteader.”

Back in about the 19th century or so before the civil war, the American government granted federal land to young settlers to begin building their homes and lives in the American west according to Eva Holland, the author of the article “Opting Out: What Is Homesteading, and Why Does It Matter Today?” Holland also explains that we again adopted this style of life in the 60’s and 70’s. After witnessing the devastation of the Vietnam War and the OPEC crisis, some Americans that had a do-it-yourself attitude decided to go back to a life of self-sufficiency (Holland). Which brings us all the way up till the present, where homesteading has been transformed.

In the present, defines “Homesteading” as “a federal program to improve deteriorating urban areas by offering abandoned or foreclosed houses to persons who agree to repair them and live in them for a specified number of years.” (Homesteading).  Depending on where you live this can be also known as “Urban Homesteading,” or “Suburban Homesteading.”

Since we have these vast and monstrous cities, people today have adopted homesteading and the do-it-yourself, eco-friendly, simple life attitudes and have begun to homestead in or around these monstrous cities. But the interesting thing about homesteading is that you don’t have to buy and repair an abandoned home to become a homesteader, anyone can be in their own homes. Even though they have categorized homesteading on where homesteaders may live, homesteading is still homesteading no matter if you do it in an urban or rural area.

There are many ways to become a homesteader, the article “14 Ways to Be an Urban Homesteader” by Beth, describes to us 14 ways we can become a homesteader in the city. Some possible things we could do to be an urban homesteader is to simply hang your clothes outside to dry, take a walk or the transit to your locations, buy from your local farmers market, or invest in some alternate energy such as solar panels for your establishment (Beth). These are only some of the basic requirements for becoming an urban homesteader, but someone who wants to become a homesteader doesn’t need to do all 14 ways given by Beth.


Mr. Heinisch’s garden, looks like he has a little work to do!

For instance, I want to introduce to you my own father, Dave Heinisch. A 53 year old man who was born and raised in Waukesha, WI where the winters are harsh and the spring and summers are rewarding and beautiful. He is a man that loves the outdoors, has a do-it-yourself mentality, and loves to save a buck or two however he can. He also owns his own printing company and lives a normal middle class American life in the suburbs.


Asparagus growing in Mr. Heinisch’s garden!

Though he doesn’t consider himself to be a suburban homesteader, he definitely portrays the actions of a homesteader on his weekends in the spring-summer time. When spring comes around and the beautiful pink and purple flowers around his house begin to sprout, you can find Mr. Heinisch outside prepping and tending to his garden to begin growing his raspberries, asparagus, cucumbers, and jalapeños.

I had talked to my father about what type of benefits he gets out of growing his own fresh food which he replied, “It is one of my hobbies, it is relaxing and it can be very rewarding when you have a handful of fresh picked raspberries to eat.” I will admit those raspberries are fantastic, and they don’t last very long in our home. But homegrown food isn’t the only thing that makes Mr. Heinisch a homesteader.

He enjoys going downtown Waukesha during the summer through early fall to go shopping for a variety of different delicious, but cheap, vegetables and fruits at the “Waukesha Farmers’ Market.” I asked my father what is his favorite thing to get at this market is, he replied with enthusiasm “The honey is just phenomenal at the farmers market, every time I go there I have to get some. It is a must.”

The thing about Mr. Heinisch is that he defeats all 5 of the myths that Wagner discusses in her article. My father and my mother both bought this house that I am in right now with their hard earned money, so this land wasn’t free. Since he lives in the suburbs near the city, he doesn’t have a whole lot of land so there goes that myth. Also, he is most definitely not off the grid because I used the internet at this house to research urban homesteading. He isn’t a hippie at all (far from it), and wasn’t brought up into a heritage or family of farmers. But just because he defeats these outsider perceptions, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who might exhibit these traits.

Actually, there are people out there that consider homesteading as life. A man named Su Ba, who is a retired man, is working on his second career as a small farmer and writes about his homesteading experience on his blog “Homesteading in Hawaii.” One of his most recent blog post’s titled, “An Outsider’s Viewpoint of my Homestead Farm Life,” Su Ba writes about a time he invited a lady named Mary into his establishment to give her a tour of his life as a homesteader. Mary was interested in Su Ba’s homestead because she wants to go back to a healthier and greener way of life.

Su Ba gladly showed Mary around and explained to her how he lived his life. Su Ba is a small farmer who displays many traits of a homesteader; he baths with rain water, also washes his dishes and everything with rain water, his primary energy source is solar panels, and he only has a fridge for technology besides the solar panels, has livestock, and grows all sorts of fruits and vegetables. He is the epiphany of an urban homesteader, he is completely self-sufficient and lives a very green way of life.

Although during this tour of his homestead, Mary wasn’t so thrilled at what it meant to live a green and self-sufficient life. For instance, at the end of the tour Mary had a list of worrying questions for Su Ba like “Do you get sick often?” and “Bees are in your garden? They can kill you!” Also, Mary wasn’t thrilled about leaving her technology behind and bathing with rain water (Su Ba). This story of Su Ba and his visitor Mary gave me some insight on homesteading. Homesteading isn’t for everyone, and however much you want to put into it is what you’re going to get out of it.

An article called “Don’t Be an Urban Homesteader Asshole” by Erica, explains how you don’t have to give up your entire life and go all out just to be a homesteader. You don’t have to quit your job and be 100% committed to growing your own food and buy 10 lambs to take care of, you can simply make tiny changes in your life that are more self-sufficient and green without losing all of your money for that awesome car you have always wanted (Erica).

The Waukesha Farmers Market, Downtown Waukesha.

The Waukesha Farmers Market, downtown Waukesha.

Take a look at my father again , he puts in about 50 to 60 hours at work a week. But this hasn’t stopped his quest to grow some  juicy, delicious, red raspberries. He just makes some changes in his daily life that fits him into the category of a homesteader. Mr. Heinisch only wants to grow his own fruits and vegetables. Plus occasionally go to the Waukesha Farmers’ Market when it is that time of the year. Therefore, that is all he does and that is what he is going to get out of it. He doesn’t give up his life or job for these two things, he simply does it because he enjoy the outdoors and some green in his wallet.

If you’re really into the outdoors and you want to take homesteading to the extreme, go ahead! If not that’s ok! It isn’t for everyone. But we might not realize that we might fit into this subculture by our everyday routines. After reading this article, some of us just might find out that we are homesteaders!


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