Thursday, November 8, 2012

What both the Preservation and Homesteading Movements Have in Common

Hello, friends! I first just want to welcome all my new followers- I'm so excited to get to know you and am humbled that you are interested in my musings here at the Roost :)

Oh, and this is totally off the subject, but recently I found Rosemary (our old, ruthless hen who is desperately trying to maintain her top pecking order spot) trying to lay an egg underneath the old church pew bench on our porch! LOL

Rosemary trying to hide from everyone and lay an egg in peace

I know I've talked before on this blog about historic preservation and sustainability--and why the "greenest" building is the one that has already been built. If you missed this post, please click here to learn more.

Today I want to discuss ways in which the recent homesteading or "back to the land" movement can also be tied into the historic preservation movement (or at least, in my mind). Hopefully we can educate the throngs of people jumping onto the homesteading bandwagon about the merits of historic preservation and why it should be relevant to them!

So, here we go:

Historic farms and their siting/topography: most old farmsteads were sited in ways that maximized energy conservation and efficiency (winds, sun, access to water, etc.) For example, in the North Carolina mountains, early settlers positioned their homes often at the bottom of hillsides surrounded by mountainous terrain that offered protection from harsh winds, but high enough to be above the flood plane. A stream, creek or spring ran near the house most of the time, in order for a spring house to be placed upon it for easy access to water as well as a method of keeping dairy products cold.  Energy independence is a common theme/goal in today's homesteading community, and the farmsteads of yesteryear achieved this without even knowing it by the siting of their houses to best take advantage of the outside elements.  Many modern homesteaders are forgoing their dyers for outdoor line drying of clothes, hand-washing of dishes, and even weaning themselves from electricity.

 historic farmstead in Haywood County, NC

Some historic farmsteads retain their various but useful outbuildings which were meant for practical purposes: springhouses, smokehouses, bank barns, root cellars, poultry houses, corn cribs, livestock barns, etc. Some of these, such as a root cellar for example, can be extremely practical for the modern homesteader as it essentially preserves fall and winter root vegetables and squashes without the need for refrigeration. Already existing outbuildings from a historic farm reduces the need to build new, thus saving energy and money!

outbuildings in Haywood County, NC

Historic buildings themselves (until around the mid 20th century) were designed to be as energy efficient as possible without having air conditioning. The careful placement of windows, the use of fireplaces or wood stoves, and the materials used in construction were meant to last and aid in keeping the house cool in summer and warm in winter.

Many historic farms already have infrastructure in place for the keeping of animals (chickens, goats, turkeys, cattle, hogs, etc.) and often had a water source nearby.

Even through the first quarter of the twentieth century, some cities and many small towns allowed yards for the keeping of a small flock of poultry and a garden. Many cities are returning to this idea, with chicken ordinances allowing for a small flock of hens to be kept in the city limits. This is more difficult to attain in suburban neighborhoods with so many having homeowners association restrictions. Of course, historic districts too have local design guidelines but many downtowns are now allowing homeowners to keep a flock of hens in their backyard.

Both movements share a fundamental passion for saving and preserving old traditions, whether they be homesteading, gardening and farming traditions or traditional building patterns.

I'm not sure about you, but I think this connection between the homesteading and preservation movements is pretty darn cool!


  1. Hi Megan,
    I came across your blog through one of the blog hops and I am glad I did! I am an architectural designer and furniture maker and have always had an interest in architecture for as long as I can remember. It's amazing how many people today are moving back to the way things used to be. As you said the farms were built for purpose and efficiency, and to take advantage of nature.

    1. Hi Rob it is so nice to meet you! Thanks for visiting!

  2. I never really thought about the connection between homesteading and historic preservation but you described it really well! So interesting to see what they have in common. I love that they both are about preserving old traditions - I try to do this whenever I can!

    1. Yay! Me too....always a work in progress though!

  3. Stopping by from The Mustard Ceiling. Elizabeth designed my blog too. She's great!!


    1. Hi Jen! Yes, Elizabeth is great, isn't she? Thanks so much for stopping by!