Prosperous Homesteading has been out for a little over a week now and has been selling extremely well. But based on the feedback so far, the concept of “homesteading,” as defined in this very practical book, needs to be better explained. Yes, you can register your house as a “homestead” to shield it from foreclosure or to lower your taxes; would you then be homesteading? No.
Homesteading is not a hobby, a business or an individual pursuit; it is the main activity of a family. It is an essential “lifehack”—a way to get around the strictures imposed on us by a crumbling society that is set in its ways and incapable of even considering absolutely essential changes. It is about insulating yourself and your family from the vagaries of a system that is running amok, and about regaining a viable future and peace of mind.
A little over a decade ago I stumbled on another lifehack: seasteading. We sold the house and the car, moved onto a sailboat and sailed off. This has allowed me to quit the corporate job and to devote the bulk of my time to doing research, writing and generally enjoying life. The sailboat, as a lifehack, has allowed my family to break out of the “iron triangle” of house—car—job by which much of the population is enslaved.
Although seasteading has allowed us to drastically reduce our expenses, and has given us a lot of options, as a solution it is incomplete: we still require an external income, and in a precarious economic environment such dependencies are not to be taken lightly. Homesteading solves this problem, by making the homestead produce everything the family needs, including the surplus wealth needed to maintain it and to buy the few things that have to be bought.
So, what is “homesteading”? It is most certainly not gardening. Most people who garden still shop for food, while prosperous homesteaders grow everything they eat with the exception of those things that can be purchased in bulk much more cheaply than they can grow them, such as grains (to be milled on the homestead as needed, because stockpiling flour doesn’t work), and items that the homestead cannot produce, such as salt and spare parts. Other exceptions include luxuries such as olive oil, coffee and tea.
Homesteading is not farming, because farmers generally produce some number of cash crops that they sell instead of concentrating on producing everything they use and cutting out shopping for food. Farming is a highly regulated activity; homesteading is hardly regulated at all. It is possible to operate a business from a homestead (and this is often a good idea); but it is a terrible idea to treat a homestead as a business.
So, what is homesteading? It is the activity of finding and slashing every umbilical cord that binds you to the outside, debt-based economy. It is the process of eliminating just about every expense by making the homestead provide food, water, fuel and, last but not least, capital. It is the accumulation of capital, in the form of farmland and livestock, that allows a homestead to pass the homesteading legacy on to the future generations—to the children born on the homestead.
To prosper as a homesteading family, expenditures must be redirected from things that don’t produce and don’t last to things that do. Bills for cable television, mortgage, insurance, fossil fuels and numerous labor-saving devices, comforts and luxuries are eliminated outright. Electric and water bills are either pared down or eliminated (depending on the local situation). Expenses for nonproductive assets, such as shelter (a.k.a. the house) are slashed. Instead, money is redirected toward productive assets: land, livestock, tools and implements.
Some people who commented on last week’s announcement have asked a reasonable question: What about community? Yes, community is very important, and it was precisely the presence of the surrounding community of prosperous homesteaders that has allowed Jeffers and his family to find a way to prosper as well. Thus it can be said that a prosperous homestead requires prosperous homesteading neighbors. Strong families make strong communities. To survive, communities must be intergenerational and make an explicit goal of providing for their children. In essence, a homesteading community is nothing more than the extended family.