Some Thoughts on Homesteading

Ralph Borsodi


Since the Homestead Act of 1862 was repealed for all states except Alaska by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the term today cannot mean in practice what it used to mean under the provisions of the original law. I suggest that a suitable working definition can be obtained from one of John Denver's fine songs:

Blow up your TV, throw away your papers,
Go to the country and build you a home.
Plant a little garden, eat a lotta peaches,
Try to find freedom on your own.

In essence then, homesteading today has several aspects, some of primary definitive importance and others of lesser consequence. Among those of the first order of importance I would place these:

Leave the city and establish residence in the country. Become as economically self-sufficient as you conveniently can, concentrating especially on the areas of food self-sufficiency and energy self-sufficiency.

Forsake exposure to prolefeed. I think that if these three criteria are met then the activity you are engaging in can legitimately be called homesteading, regardless of the specific nature of such minor aspects as:

Type of dwelling - you may live in a houseboat on a Louisiana bayou, a log cabin on the plains of Nebraska, or a cliff dwelling in the mountains of New Mexico, and still satisfy the definition of homesteading.

Method of food provision - you may depend primarily on hunting in the wilderness areas of Wyoming, fishing in the coastal area of Oregon, or farming in the hills of upper New York. The extent of your gardening and/or animal husbandry operations does not really define the homesteading activity. What is important is that you become as self-sufficient as you can and as separated as possible from the complex and delicate system of food supply which staves off imminent starvation for 95% of the general population.

Source of entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Here there is such a wide range of options available that I don't think any specific comments are needed. I do believe one thing strongly however - you gotta blow up that goddam TV. I think a homestead with a TV is, psychologically, a contradiction in terms. One of the fundamental movtivations behind the homesteading activity is the need to find freedom from many of the cognitively debilitating effects of modern society. And surely the most devastating of these is the pernicious influence of television programming.

Of course there are many other non-essential characteristics of the homesteading activity which in the practice of different lifestyles assume different degrees of personal importance. This is especially true in the matter of energy self-sufficiency, since different lifestyles are based on a wide range of levels of energy utilization. I omit them from consideration because my purpose here is only to show the fundamentally important principles of homesteading: Self-reliance, Economic independence, and Psychological sovereignty.

There are varying degrees to which these ideals can be attained by individuals. You can begin living a life of increasing simplicity and independence wherever you are Right Now. You gradually, one step at a time, master a series of skills, until you are ready to divorce yourself from the Enclosing Grid of American culture entirely. You may never get to the level of Total Independence, but any step away from Fragmented Living is an improvement.

Ralph Borsodi:

Living in the country has been called the simple life. This is not true. It's much more complex than city life. City life is the one that's simple. You get a job and earn money and you go to a store and buy what you want and can afford. The decentralist life in the country, on the other hand, is something else again. When you design your own things and make plans about what you're going to produce and really live in a self- sufficient manner, you've got to learn...you've got to master all sorts of crafts and activities that people in the city know nothing about.

The satisfaction lies in making your own living, as opposed to making money and buying your living.