Homestead Cabin Fever – LivingMini®

Homstead_CabinSo, I’m kayaking in West Glacier, Montana. The river guide, Ryan, is steering the raft ahead and I overhear the conversation in the raft – which is about his homesteading life.

Being intrigued by all types of mini living, I strain to hear. (After the river trip, I was supposed to meet up with Ryan to interview him properly, but I got sidetracked taking pictures of some newlyweds and eating bad nachos at a biker bar – but that’s another story).

A True Mountain Man

Here’s what I found out about Ryan’s mountain man existence:

Rafting• He lives in a 250 sq. ft. homesteading cabin.

• The cabin has no electricity.

• He survives the winter by killing 2 elk and on the crops he grows (and then cans) during the summer.

Wow – talk about rugged.

What exactly is a homestead cabin?

Good question! 

The Homestead Act, signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862, gave an applicant freehold title to up to 160 acres of undeveloped federal land outside the original 13 colonies.

The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 increased the number of acres to 320. Eventually 1.6 million homesteads were granted and 270,000,000 acres (420,000 sq mi) of federal land were privatized between 1862 and 1934, a total of 10% of all lands in the U.S. (I was totally surprised by this figure — really — 10%?)

The Homestead Deal

Part of the homesteading “deal” was that the claimant had to improve the land. For instance, it was required that 1/8 of the land be continuously cultivated for agricultural crops and for the claimant to live on the land – hence the sprouting up of homestead cabins.

Roughly 40% of the applicants who started the process were able to complete it and obtain title to their homestead land. Interestingly, homesteading in the U.S. only officially ended in 1976 (1986 in Alaska).

Now, when I returned home and talked excitedly about men living in homestead cabins, I usually got one question in return: Was his last name Kaczynski?  Y’all be raining on my parade.

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This entry was posted on Friday, August 27th, 2010 and is filed under Home.

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