Homesteading and a carnival
Technically, a homesteader is someone who settles on public land in exchange for producing something on that land, generally under the Homestead Act which became law on January 1, 1863.
The passage of the Homestead Act by Congress in 1862 was the culmination of more than 70 years of controversy over the disposition of public lands. From the inception of the United States there was a clamor for ever-increasing liberalism in the disposition of these lands. From 1830 onward, groups called for free distribution of such lands. This became a demand of the Free-Soil party, which saw such distribution as a means of stopping the spread of slavery into the territories, and it was subsequently adopted by the Republican party in its 1860 platform. The Southern states had been the most vociferous opponents of the policy, and their secession cleared the way for its adoption. Homestead Act of 1862
The practice officially ended with the Federal Land and Policy Act of 1976 when the government decided that the best use of public lands was to keep them under federal control. It is actually quite interesting to look at maps of the United States which detail federal lands; the further west you look, the more land held by the government.

Who were the homesteaders of the early part of the 20th century? They were newly arrived immigrants, farmers without land in the East, single men, single women, freed slaves...basically anyone who was willing to work for a fresh start.
What united this diverse group of people was the desire to own their own land. Together they were responsible for one of the most significant and enduring movements -- both physically and culturally -- of the expansion period of United States history. By granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, the Act allowed nearly any man or woman a chance to live the American dream.
The idea hasn't totally faded into the history books. Ellsworth County, Kansas brought it back in 2005 to encourage population growth. And the word at least seems to be gaining new life, if with a different meaning. When I first heard of urban homesteading, I knew that a shift in definitions had occurred, reaching for an ideal that once defined part of our history. Land meant hard work, responsibility and, above all, independence.

Something, I suppose, which the "homesteaders" of today hold in common as they strive for a simpler life not cluttered with commercialism and "keeping up with the Jones'." For more, check out the Carnival of Homesteading. You'll find some delectable recipes, ideas for simpler living and learn how to sketch a barn swallow.

Update: Make that two carnivals. The Carnival of Homeschooling has also just been posted and for once I'm going to link to it the same day!

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