The Homesteading Lifestyle

On the eve of a local conference, a Q&A with two couples embracing self-sufficiency

Have you ever heard of homesteading? If you haven’t, you will. Although it’s a relatively old term, coined when the original homesteaders had no choice but to grow their own food and be completely self-reliant, today it has a brand new meaning and is being embraced by people across the country.

Today’s homesteader can live on 100 acres and have herds of cattle, or they can live in a high-rise apartment with an urban jungle of produce growing right on their balcony or rooftop. There’s nothing hippy or weird about it — these are simply people who care about their health, their food, and the Earth that they’re leaving behind to future generations.

Next week (October 13-14), thousands of homesteaders and those interested in the movement will come from across the country to the second annual Homesteaders of America conference in Front Royal (the parent company of this newspaper is a partner in the event). The two-day gathering will feature presentations from leading figures in the homesteading community, how-to demonstrations and dozens of vendors.

We talked with two area couples who are passionate homesteaders. Maybe their enthusiasm will motivate you to join the movement, too!

Caroline and Robert Murphy Courtesy photo

Caroline and Robert Murphy, Elioenai Farm

Second year homesteaders in a rural area of Reva

What are your homesteading activities?

I grow vegetables (squash, tomatoes, corn, asparagus, beans, sweet potatoes & white), fruit trees (Asian pear, apple, peach, cherry) and berries (black, raspberries, blue), keep chickens and ducks (both for eggs only), raise Nigerian Dwarf goats (for milk and breeding and selling kids), and do a lot of canning and freezing.

How much time do you spend on homesteading?

I’m full time (24/7) on the farm, and my husband works full time outside the farm, and then helps me on the farm too.

Did you have any experience with homesteading before you started?

Not with the livestock, but my mother taught me a lot about gardening when I was growing up, especially the fruit trees and the berries.

Why do you homestead?

We like to know what goes into our food. Our goal is to be self sustaining. It’s very personally rewarding.

What is your philosophy on homesteading?

We work with a holistic approach, and use herbs and natural remedies as much as we can. We buy chemical free feed. I feed my dairy goats alfalfa hay, because the better you take care of them the better the milk is for us.

What motivated you to get into it?

My husband has breathing problems and the doctor suggested goat’s milk! So that’s why we started.

How has homesteading improved your life?

We feel that we are eating the healthiest food possible, and we are both taking care of ourselves. Our children have grown up and started their own families. This is our second honeymoon, our second life. We love the country and the beautiful surroundings; we love listening to the frogs in our pond. My husband taught me to drive a tractor! I love it!

What advice would you give people just starting out?

Start slow. Buy excellent quality livestock. Feed them quality food. Never stop learning about the homesteading life. Read a lot, watch a lot of YouTube videos, and reach out to the homesteading community. The people around here are so amazing about giving their time and expertise. So many people are so helpful, you just have to reach out and ask. I thought when we moved here that we were going to be doing this alone, and so I guess one of the major surprises was everybody helping us so much.

What surprised you most about homesteading?

The attitudes and different personalities of the animals. They’re each really unique.

What’s the hardest part of homesteading?

Losing animals when they die. That was a surprise for both of us. We don’t raise our livestock for butchering, and we get attached to them, so it’s hard to lose one.

Brian and Casey Dowell

Live on 10 acres in rural Northern Culpeper County

What are your homesteading activities?

We currently have 20 laying hens, three pigs, two sheep, and a vegetable garden.

How much time do you spend on homesteading?

Brian: On a normal day we spend about two hours on gardening and animal care, sometimes more when we have big projects to do. I have a full-time job off the homestead and Casey home schools our children.

Why do you homestead?

Casey: We homestead because we enjoy it and like knowing where our food comes from. It’s rewarding watching your hard work prosper and provide for your family.

What motivated you to get into it?

Brian: I think what got me started homesteading is my background as an avid hunter. Once our family started growing we became more interested in consuming healthier food. We started out with a few laying hens then added pigs to supplement our venison supply. Every year we increase the size of our garden. I believe God wants us to be good stewards of the earth, and we try to accomplish that through rotational grazing our pastures, managing our wooded land for wildlife, and using our trees for firewood and construction materials.

How has homesteading improved your life?

Casey: We live a much healthier lifestyle now. Our oldest child use to be a really picky eater before we started homesteading and now she, as well as our other two children, will eat just about anything you put in front of them because they have grown up living on the homestead. The kids get excited about collecting eggs and watching the garden grow, I think being involved helps them want to try new foods. I feel that a big benefit to homesteading is that it has brought us closer as a family since we all pitch in and work together.

What advice would you give people who are starting?

Brian: Don’t try to accomplish all of your goals at once. Set priorities and start small. There are often many ways to complete a task, figure out what works for you. YouTube is a great learning tool.

2018 Homesteaders of America Conference

When: Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Warren County Fair, 26 Fairground Road, Front Royal (about 10 minutes from I-66 exit)

Tickets: Available at the door, online at and via Facebook @2018 Homesteaders of America Conference

Special Guest Speakers

JOEL SALATIN, Polyface Farm; author and farmer

EUSTACE CONWAY, Turtle Island Preserve, Off Grid Homestead, and Mountain Men

STACY LYN HARRIS, Author, RFD-TV Co-host, TV-chef, and homesteading wife and mama

AMY FEWELL, Founder of Homesteaders of America, author, herbalist, and homesteading wife and mama

DARRYL PATTON, The Southern Herbalist, Master Herbalist, Wild Forager

OFF GRID with DOUG and STACY, Off-grid YouTubers and homesteaders

PRATT FAMILY HOMESTEAD, Homesteading YouTube family

GINA PHELPS, Certified Healing Food Specialist

ANN ACCETTA-SCOTT, Blogger at A Farm Girl in the Making, author, and homesteading wife and mama

JANET GARMAN, Timber Creek Farm, author and wool enthusiast

JEREMY CHAMBERS, Independence Acres Homestead

TOMMY ALDERMAN, Alderman Farms

JASON REHR, Big Bear Homestead

JOSHUA LANGFITT, Blacksmith at Historic Smithfield Plantation

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