What can we learn from the homesteaders of the 1800’s?


At one time in history, people grew their own food, raised their own animals and had no other option. With no grocery store or even a market in some places, they were completely dependent upon themselves.


Homesteaders would often settle close to town, but not always. Some ended up farther away from town. This meant that they were even more reliant upon themselves or trading with neighbors(if they had them.)

With no market or neighbor, they relied heavily on their own knowledge of healthcare. Mothers oftentimes delivered babies alone, without a midwife or doctor. There may have been another mother to assist the delivery, but there was little they could do in case of complications.

Once a child was born, they didn’t have a great chance to see their second birthday. Childhood diseases, SIDS and complications from birth were all factors that they simply didn’t know much about.

If children did make it to their teen years, they were already middle aged. In some areas, the life expectancy could be as low as 30. They did what they could with the knowledge they had. They survived and some even thrived, but not without hardships.

They survived by the basic skills they were taught by their parents and grandparents. With no electricity, healthcare, or grocery store, they learned how to sew, cook, garden, butcher and hunt at a young age.

Now that times have changed, we go to the store and buy mostly commercially grown veggies and meat. Those of us that are close to the farmer's market cat utilize locally grown farm-fresh food, but for many a supermarket is their only source of food.


Many are detached to where their food comes from, but people are beginning to educate themselves. There’s a growing concern over how this food is being grown, fertilizer use, plastic use, the rising prices of meat(while farmers are struggling) and the concern over pandemic-like scenarios.


With this concern, people are starting to question how a generation long ago lived without these modern conveniences. They’re starting to realize that they don’t know basic skills to survive without relying on the grocery store. They’re realizing that they don’t know how to grow a garden, hunt, fish or even patch a pair of pants if they needed to.

The good thing for us, nowadays, is that we have hundreds of thousands of books worth of information right at our fingertips. There’s millions and millions of pages all across the internet that we can read from and learn. There’s courses, books and other people we can connect with outside of our local area.

That’s something they simply didn’t have back in the "day," but they survived plagues, depressions and many tragedies without a pot to piss in (literally.)


How did they do it? Fortunately, for me, my grandmother was raised to to be self-sufficient and in turn, raised my mother the same way. They taught me how things were done and lessons that their grandparents learned in the hardest of times.


I'd like to share a few of these with you.

No-Waste

There wasn’t anything to waste. They utilized all of the parts of an animal, including bones, hide and intestines. If they had an over abundance in the garden, they would trade with neighbors or make a trip to the farmers market. If nothing else, it would just be eaten up!

If they did purchase from the store, packaging was reused. Worn out clothing would have been cut up and used in blankets or for patches.

Food Preservation

Root cellars were utilized heavily. Root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots and onions were stored here. Meat was often stored in salt, or smoked. Canning had only just been invented and didn't gain popularity until the end of the 1800's.


Horsemanship

It was a capital offense in this time to steal a horse. You could be hung for it. Before the tractor, cars and other mechanical farm equipment, equine were it.


Horses are smart and they require a certain knowledge to work with them. In the “old” days, they trained their own horses, mules and donkeys from the ground up. By that I mean, they trained them to ride or drive, then trained them from then on for whatever their job was to be. Horses require a lot of knowledge, especially to train.

Carpentry Skills

There’s a big difference in buying lumber from the store and harvesting your own. They built barns, cabins, houses and sheds, that are still standing today, with materials found in their backyards.


Sewing

Making shoes and clothes was vital to surviving winter. Deer, rabbit and wolf hides could be used to make coats and boots. They weren’t picky, though, they couldn’t afford to be. Whatever hides they had, were used.


Everything was made from scratch.

Not only were they cooking bread from scratch, they were growing grains to grind into flour. They had butter, but only because they milked their cow, then churned it. Oftentimes, there was a woman in town that made fabrics and clothes from scratch. Homesteaders with a little money could purchase these, but not everyone had money.

With no store, everything was grown and harvested themselves. They then turned those resources into what they needed!


Healthcare System

They were their own doctors. Many rural areas didn’t have doctors. Even with the most advanced medical care, they still died of illnesses that are easily treatable, today.


Today, we have access to basic medical training that is far more advanced than anything doctors knew, then. There’s even courses on holistic, natural medication and herb gardening.


Hunting, Fishing and Trapping

An important part of surviving, they learned to hunt deer, squirrel and even buffalo and elk in some areas.

Fishing was important for fertilizer and food!



Civilization has survived longer without electricity and grocery stores than it has with them. We’ve learned to conquer coldness, hunger and illness, with basic essentials that we get from the Earth. We have faced the toughest of times and overcame them to become the modern society we are today.

Now that times are becoming harder by the day, many people are looking to get back to simpler times. We’re beginning to look at how they survived through those tough times. They knew how to take care of themselves and we could all learn a thing or two from them, I think.



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