A New Kind of Pioneer – Women and the Homestead Movement

"The Prairie is my Garden" by Harvey Dunn

It should come as no surprise to anyone by now that I fantasize about being a pierced, tattooed manifestation of a Steinbeck novel, only with less Greek tragedy and droughts. In short, I’ve attempted to start down a path that I’m hoping will lead to me looking very much like the mother in this painting–a nurturing, self-sufficient, knowledgable woman with a wicked paring knife. The daydreams I acted out in my backyard when I was a kid of “living in the wilderness” have grown into full-fledged adult ambition, with my aim growing more and more appealing every time the economy plummets to a new low.

What has been surprising to me, on the other hand, is how many other people are beginning to feel the same way. I can’t tell you how many of my friends are at this very moment starting gardens, tending chicken coops, and/or rigging solar panels to their roof, and time and again the word “homesteading” comes up to describe this shift towards self-sufficiency. I hope…actually, I pray that it isn’t just a fad. I hope that my generation is the one to finally call time-out on the relentless industrialization of our world and start to actually assess the value of working with our hands and providing, as much as possible, for our own needs.

Specifically, I’ve noticed many of my female friends becoming very passionate about homesteading. Many, but not all, are Christians, and I believe there is a strong spiritual component to them embracing these values. I also think there’s a reactive quality involved, a sort of “land on your feet” response of these strong, smart women to the sometimes appalling roadblocks that stand in the way of them and provision for their families, i.e. $6 for a gallon of milk when you make minimum wage. And last but not least, I think many of these urban frontierswomen would agree with me that so much of homesteading speaks directly to our sense of femininity. Through gardening and farming, we are able to nurture plants and help them grow. Through maintaining a home, we are able to “nest” and create a hospitable, enjoyable environment for the people we love. Through having a limited amount of space and resources, we are able to foster our creativity and ingenuity. And multi-task? Don’t even get me started.

But enough from me–since this new homesteading movement is still in its infancy, I was interested to see how other people define the word and what it means to them. I asked two eloquent homesteading mamas that I know to answer the question “What does homesteading mean to you?”, and this is what they said:


“To me, homesteading is reconnecting with the earth, each other and with Yahweh God in practical ways, such as:

Working with our hands and get the tactile, cathartic experience of touching creation. Kneading bread, digging in a garden, hand-washing, hand-crafting, hand-making.

Build a home with local and common materials, thus stewarding our resources well.

Feeding and clothing our kids with things we’ve grown and made, thus enriching our bodies and souls and empowering our families to look within to what we can do, rather than asking others to meet our needs.

Trusting our instincts, the wisdom of past generations, and the natural cycles and resources of the earth to often have greater, simpler and healthier answers than those found in western medicine and science.

Trusting our bodies when it comes to birth and child bearing and healing.

Trusting each other enough to build a greater future together, one where we live and learn in a connected and whole hearted ways, as vital members of our community.

Trusting God’s promises and seasons to bear fruit in our lives as we live simply, steward the earth well, and learn to love each other.” – Haley


“Homesteading, to me, means reclaiming the knowledge of past generations. It is a movement towards living simply. Becoming self-sustainable. Cultivating gardens. Raising thoughtful children.

This leap into becoming an urban homesteader, however, does not occur overnight. It creeps upon you, and my hope is to be swallowed, consumed if you will, into realizing all the glories of being a woman in the 21st century. And that is daunting!

The glorious reality is that it’s within all of us to create & explore the gifts, talents, and arts of building our homes & incorporating all this into a lifestyle that becomes seamless. We can knit sweaters, raise bees, churn butter, bake artisan breads, sew, make music, hang our clothes on lines to dry, make yogurt, breastfeed, cloth diaper, preserve the fruits of our gardens. The best part is in the sharing with one another.

Homesteading is building a community to trade secrets & barter goods. To build one another up & encourage everyone along the way. It’s also a means to laugh, weep, sing & dance together! And that, ladies, is something to rejoice in!” – Tracey

So, to turn the question on the questioner, what exactly does homesteading mean to me? I’ve already slipped a good amount of my two cents in, but to try to sum it up I’ll say that homesteading means to actively participate in the essentials of your own existence, and by doing so, maintain your connection to and appreciation of the dirt beneath our feet that we call Earth. It means to live as simply and independently as possible. To waste nothing and share everything. To reject the American Dream in favor of a better reality.

What about you?



Filed under art of hospitality, DIY

4 responses to “A New Kind of Pioneer – Women and the Homestead Movement

  1. Wow- I love it. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts. I never really identified it until you said it, but I too have had this desire in me to be like the homesteading women of yesterday. What a rich, hard-working life! I used to love reading about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was a kid, and daydream about living in my own home carved into the side of a hill. Have you ever read “The Red Tent,” by the way? I think you might like that one too…

  2. Victoria / Justice Pirate

    I’ve always been really into it and honestly don’t know ANY women around NJ at all who would agree with me, so it is nice to see that there are people around who are into that. It was great that I got to read the Little House books and my two homesteading books this year. It really reestablished why I would rather live in a country environment over this suburban-too-close-to-NYC environment.

    I really want to be more simpler. It is a challenge I think I should consider more.

  3. Pingback: Guest Post: Needs and Wants, or What Living in a Commune Taught Me About Contentedness « The Debt Free Family

  4. Verla-Marie

    I appreciate your words and especially this line, “It should come as no surprise to anyone by now that I fantasize about being a pierced, tattooed manifestation of a Steinbeck novel.” I’m not tattooed, just a simple girl that makes quilts and fabric art. Occasionally making pies from scratch, but does long for more chickens and goats in my life. Great words!

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