Why I Can’t Take on the Popular Homestead Label

Does the "homestead" title make you squirm? Consider these alternatives!

Are you one of “those people?” Someone who loves raising and preserving your own food but SQUIRMS inside at the “homestead” label, one who doesn’t feel right about carrying the title?

I must ‘fess. I’m one of them.

Shocking, I know! After all, doesn’t my blog (and life) center around raising and preserving food, on nutrition and healthy living? How could I turn my back on a title that has done so much good?

Well folks, its like this.


The Homesteader in my Head

When I think of homesteading today, I think of the unusual human who chooses to lead a life of seclusion in the middle of nowhere. They bathe in a wash-basin or the creek. They cook over a wood stove. They fish and hunt, eat simply while living off grid. They travel to town 2x’s a year for bullets and bulk food supplies. And then they return to who-knows-where.

More disturbing honesty? When I think of someone who leads that lifestyle, I think of a hermit!

Somehow, homesteader and hermit are intertwined in the strangest way!


homestead label


Before You Decide This Post Has No Value…

I’m not saying my perspective is right. I don’t mean to imply that those who do define themselves as homesteaders are in the wrong. Perhaps its just me. I always was behind the times!

But when I have tried to label myself as a homesteader, I’ve felt cheap; even fake. I felt like I was being false to… something. I’m not sure what?

And so I’ve chosen to honor that feeling: homesteader I am not.

But suddenly, this presents a problem: what label do I give myself and the lifestyle I lead? When we have our own home, our land with its buildings, what will we call it?

I stewed over this dilemma for a while. I considered alternative options. Here are the names or titles I unearthed while stewing!


The Farm

“a tract of land (with buildings) where agricultural crops, domestic livestock or birds are raised”

I discovered that today, you can “farm” just about anything! From elk, bison and reindeer (true story) to domestic livestock, trees and grains, potatoes and mushrooms, rabbits and birds, fish, worms and even maggots… it all comes under the name of good old farming!

Perhaps this is why fewer and fewer individuals are using the term: it encompasses a very wide field!

I find the title of “farmhouse” endearing! Perhaps this is because I grew up in one with a wondrously large kitchen! Most old fashioned gals have a thing for farmhouse kitchens!

However, charming (and charming-less) as those days were, they are history. Besides, I don’t live on farmland (or plan to) in the near future.

homestead label

The Farmstead

  “a farm with its buildings”

This name is uncommon, is originally English from all I could tell. In fact, I had never heard (or noticed) it until my brain was muddling through options. One day, while relaxing and reading Anne of Green Gables, I stumbled across it.

As Matthew brings Anne home from the train station, they crest the hill overlooking the village of Avonlea. The author speaks of a gentle-sloping valley with “snug farmsteads scattered among it.”

Its a cozy way of putting it: “I live on a farmstead” or “welcome to the _________ Farmstead!”

But sadly, as I’ve already said, I don’t live on anything that resembles a farm or farmland!

 homestead label


The Hobby Farm

In my Canadian English dictionary I couldn’t find a definition for this word! However, I did find the word “hobby.” By definition its something a person especially likes to work at or study apart from his occupation.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m honest, I have to admit this less-than-charming name suits my “homesteading” activities.

In fact, this is what my parents called their farm. Not a homestead. Not a farm or even farmstead. They carried a no-nonsense approach. It was what it was: a hobby farm.

Year ’round we moved from one activity to the next: putting up hay, raising and butchering our own meat, hunting and fishing, doing chores, milking cows, keeping poultry, horses or other animals, canning and freezing food, chopping firewood….

In spite of all this, my father held a regular job and never thought to define himself as a farmer or homesteader. Neither did my mother.

Hobby farmers. That’s what we were.

How to Mulch with Grass Clippings


The Ranch

a farm with grazing land that is used to raise domestic animals in large numbers”

Unless you live rural and own more than a few acres, most wouldn’t think to use this title. While folks who live in cattle or horse country will often (for kicks and giggles) put the title “ranch” to their driveway sign, very few with less than 100+ acres would actually say “hi my name is _______ and I live on a ranch.” Somehow, this title is reserved for those who take the lifestyle seriously.

Ranchers don’t dabble. And ranching implies that you have a large operation.

In spite of the fact that I grew up wearing a cowboy hat, spent thousands of hours training (and riding) horses and enjoy wrestling calves or herding cattle from horseback, I’m not a rancher. Nor do I plan to become one.

homestead label

The Cottage

“a small house, most often found in the countryside”

Cottage is an old English term and was often accompanied by thoughts of simplicity. English cottages usually had a garden just outside the kitchen door (see potager garden), ducks and geese roaming the land and usually, a milk-producing animal nearby.

In spite of my hobby-farm background, I chose to hang my hat on this one. I don’t currently live in a cottage, but the house we hope to build in the near future is indeed a cottage.

Within every cottage, the focus rests on simplicity (see Cottage Life: My Aim, Goal and Desire).

To me, the cottage life is relaxed, free of the pressure that come with homesteading. In the cottage, you do what you can and enjoy it! In the cottage, you don’t attempt to live so self-sufficiently that you burn out and find yourself wondering why you didn’t invest more into relationships, into enjoying the life you had.

“We lead a simple cottage life,” or “Welcome to the ___________ Cottage” goes over quite well. It implies country living but leaves room for almost anything.

homestead label


Before You Explode in Defense of Your Favorite Label…

Before you attempt to send me a “but homesteading changed my life” email, know this: I don’t really care what you call your natural living activities. Regardless of the handle you hang on it, I whole-heartedly applaud and cheer you on! I don’t refer to myself as a homesteader because based on my own definition, I can’t honestly do so.


Another Confession

Now, the truth: this post isn’t about you! Its actually about me.

Every day I see it to a greater degree: I’m strange. And like most humans, even the strange ones don’t like being alone in this life!

I want to know if there’s anyone else out there who has had misgivings about taking up the “homestead” name?

I’d also love to know what you use in its place!


Are you one whom the homestead label doesn't fit? Consider these alternatives!


















8 Replies to “Why I Can’t Take on the Popular Homestead Label”

  1. Great article, thanks for sharing. Love this “Now, the truth: this post isn’t about you! Its actually about me”.
    As bloggers, we are told to write for our followers and try to think what they: want, need, etc. We often lose who we are in the process.
    We are always afraid to offend, rock the boat or be too exposed.
    Love this.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Amber and I’m grateful for your feedback! Thanks so much! I’ve been very happy carrying the “cottage” title. It encompasses everything about who I am, and I love the fact that I can stop squirming! 🙂

  2. Interesting definitions. I have used both the terms farm and hobby farm for our neighbourhood operation. I’ve always been a little bit squirmy about “hobby farm”; It almost sounds demeaning, but before we made any money off it I found it the most accurate. I’ve mostly embraced “homesteader” because it is commonly understood in an internet niche. It’s funny that you equate it with isolation, because in our case it’s the exact opposite! I just find it best describes the activities I write about. That said, if you’re not comfortable with it than don’t use it! We each have the right to define our own identity.

    I feel similarly about “prepper.” I actually never heard the term until I started blogging. Now I can’t believe the dedication and prevalence that some people have to it! It’s very popular, but it’s not me and doesn’t feel like a good fit, so I just avoid it :).

    1. Thanks for the feedback! Its great to hear perspectives on the various terms. Interesting to see what “fits” different individuals and their mentality.

  3. Interesting article. We go back and forth and you’ll find me using a lot of different terms on my blog because most of them fit in one aspect or another but none of them fit in total. I tend to think of “homestead” as having a goal of providing for yourself vs a “farm” which is for commercial profit or a goal of for-profit business. Hobby farm sounds like someone puttering around in retirement–to me. We tended to use “small farm” and “homestead” because we are raising our own meat/food and selling for a small profit to try and pay for (and maybe pay OFF) the farm itself. But the big row-crop farmers around here all laugh and say anyone that doesn’t grow corn or only work ON THE FARM full time is just a hobby. You’re right, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter to anyone else and each to their own. 🙂

    1. Love hearing your thoughts Jamie! It really does depend on a person’s past experiences, doesn’t it? I love that regardless of the name given, we are all working toward a common goal!

  4. Autumn,
    I really love your post! I always had a romantic impression of this lifestyle growing up in suburban Florida. My husband and I decided to save some $ to start a garden and get a small flock of chickens and have been continually drawn in from there for 10 years now. We are looking to invest in a bit of land and pursue even more. Trying to label what we want to do has been hard and we just sort of went with “homesteading” because it seemed to fit the definition of providing for our family. We’re not looking to produce to sell, which I had come to understand was “farming”. If we do get a surplus…maybe throw out a sign and get some extra cash…right now we are still looking for the property with what we need. Even though this was for you, obviously it has helped others. Thank you again!

    1. I love the pieces of your story shared here! That you began raising food even when you didn’t have the “perfect” situation is so admirable. All the best while you save and search for your own homestead! My husband and I are in the middle of same process. Patience is so important, something I’m not always great at 🙂 Loved hearing your thoughts!

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