Judging by the various copyright dates in a variety of homesteading books, going back to the land has been popular several times over the decades. It has changed character.
The oldest books like “Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold, “Plowman’s Folly” by Edward Faulkner and titles by Louis Bromfield are more about farming in the old way. They espouse using manures for fertilizers, smaller fields one man can take care of, conservation practices to reclaim and protect this land. They called into question the abusive, wasteful practices commercial farmers were using.
The farms got bigger. The reliance on artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides increased. Irrigation allowed raising water hungry crops in dry areas.
Another big push for going back to the land came in the 1970s. One popular book was “The “Have-More’ Plan” by the Robinsons. The book itself was part of the previous movement, but addressed the needs of those moving back to small places seeking to be self reliant. That last is a pipe dream.
Small homesteads are becoming popular again with the same dreams of self reliance. It is possible to raise much of your own food. An orchard provides fruit which can be eaten then or preserved in jams, jellies and by drying for later. A well planned garden can do the same.
Poultry for eggs and meat. Goats or a cow for milk. Cow? Aren’t goats better?
A cow gives lots of milk and provides a calf for meat. Smaller breeds like Jerseys are good homestead cows. The cream rises for butter. And the cow must be bred and turned dry for two or three months cutting off the milk supply.
Commonly it’s said that six goats can be raised on what one cow needs. I’ve never compared the two myself. I do know six goats can be a lot of work. More than a cow? I don’t know.
Goats need better fencing. Goats need more attention. Goat meat is good to eat. Cream doesn’t rise in goat milk so butter takes a cream separator. However, breeding three goats early and three goats late will provide milk year round. Keeping a good buck can be a nuisance.
Why is self reliance a pipe dream? List all the things you need every day. Would you raise sheep to make thread to weave cloth to make your own clothes? Would you go back to using horses or mules instead of a truck and tractor? Would you give up your electricity and running water or else put in your own source of power?
Going back to the land does provide a good way to live. Food you raise yourself tastes much better than you can buy. You can raise varieties not available otherwise And you know how that food is raised. I’m all for that.
Hazel Whitmore and her mother didn’t intend going back to the land, but had to in “Old Promises.”