Charlie's Blog: Homesteading vs. Gardening


Homesteading vs. Gardening

A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.

For many years, I aspired to be a homesteader. I wanted 12 acres or more of land in the country. I fantasized about windmills and solar panels and fields and orchards. I saw an alternative style home with a well stocked pantry and a root cellar. I had big ambitions. Today, I have put that dream to sleep. I have no bitterness or regret about this. I just came to the realization that I was being an idiot. I embraced sensibility. Now, I aspire to be nothing more than a simple backyard gardener.

I do not intend to throw shade on homesteaders. I have friends who are homesteaders. My wife and I are avid fans of the homesteading channels on YouTube. We were subscribed to Mother Earth News for 6 years. We just admit that we cannot function at the homesteading level of prepping. And we don't need a homestead. Here are the things that brought me to this conclusion.

1. I don't eat meat, eggs, or dairy products.

I confess that I do not comprehend the economics of raising animals for food. If I was still an omnivore, I would hunt and fish to get animal protein. But to buy feed for animals in order to feed yourself is bizarre to me. Why not buy groceries with that money instead?

With gardening, you are raising vegetables. There is an initial investment in tools and other equipment, but it is low cost after that. I do not have a vast space for vegetable gardening, but it is sufficient. I also have modest expectations of cutting my grocery bill in half. With inflation as it is right now, this is a no-brainer. I also use the lasagna gardening method which makes use of waste items that cost nothing. For me, it is not enough to garden. I garden on a budget.

Because I don't raise and tend animals, I don't need the real estate for these critters. Animals need pastures and pens. I don't need animals.

2. I think solar power and wind power are pipe dreams.

We follow off-grid homesteaders who have no electricity except what they produce. I was keen on doing this until I looked into the economics of solar and wind as a replacement for being on the grid. It is a waste of money. James Howard Kunstler agrees.

I believe you are better off insulating your home than trying to produce your own electricity. I think having a fireplace or a woodburning stove are smart ideas. A gas or diesel powered generator is also smart for power interruptions. A small solar panel and battery is not a bad idea. But you are not running your air conditioner with this battery.

I am always going to be on the grid. When the grid fails, I will have to live like the Amish. Everyone else will, too. The guy with the expensive solar and wind array will be laughing until he has to replace that bank of batteries.

3. I need the internet.

Internet in rural areas is terrible especially in my county. This makes living deep in the country a negative for me. I am prepared for when the internet goes down for everyone, but I want access to it right up to the moment the Zombie Apocalypse hits. How else can I post to my blog? How else can I watch the homesteaders on YouTube?

4. I am unable to maintain or afford a large property.

I am a traumatic brain injury survivor. I can barely maintain a modest property. I do the best I can, but I still wouldn't have a large homestead if I was in better shape simply because I can't afford the land or the property taxes on that land. I would have to buy a tractor and equipment and fuel and on and on. When I think about it now, I wonder why I ever considered a homestead in the first place.

One of my homesteader friends points out that the homesteaders on YouTube make their money from homesteading videos and not homesteading. I wouldn't know, but we both had a good laugh over that.

Over the long term, age and injury are going to diminish your ability to work on a homestead. I think a modest garden is more sensible for older people.

5. I do not believe in the Zombie Apocalypse.

I understand that the zombie thing is just a placeholder for all sorts of possible future scenarios and catastrophes. But I thought about it for years and came to some conclusions. If nuclear war or the sweet meteor of death strikes, I am dead. I just need to be in a state of grace when it happens. I don't need a homestead in those scenarios. I need my rosary beads and a good priest.

Conventional war, civil unrest, and civil war are also possibilities. But you don't need a homestead for those things. You need resources to fight or to escape. When the Red Legs came to the homestead of Josey Wales, they killed his wife and son and burned his property to the ground. Josey didn't go back to plowing after that.

The scenario I see that is most likely is an economic collapse on the level of the Great Depression. I have already lived through economic hardship both on the large scale and the personal scale. And it can never hurt you to prepare for hard economic times. The preparation for Great Depression II is frugality. Homesteading is not frugality.

We are already in hard economic times as I write this. It can get worse, or it can get better. I am just glad to be adjusted to a modest and frugal lifestyle. That was the lesson I learned from the survivors of the Great Depression. You make do with less.


There isn't a name for the way I choose to live and prepare. I believe in living a simple lifestyle, and the homesteading lifestyle is not simple. It takes a great deal of money and labor to do homesteading. It doesn't take a lot of money and labor to tend a garden and stock a pantry. So, I am just a gardener now. This was something they did in the Great Depression. I may fail as a gardener, but this will only confirm that I would have failed with a homestead. I just see this current strategy of mine as being sensible. I think everyone should replace ambition with sensibility.