Homesteading can be a fun and rewarding experience.
Aside from the obvious benefits of living off the land and having control over your own food and energy, homesteading is also a way to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
Homesteading can be a challenging and rewarding experience, but it does come with its own set of challenges and complications.
In 1862, Congress passed the Homestead Act, which gave free land to anyone who agreed to improve it. The only money exchanged was the fee to file for a deed of title.
Four million homesteaders accepted the government’s offer to better their lives and eventually settled 270 million acres of federal land, 160 acres at a time.
To own their new acreage, each homesteader had to “prove up” the land by building a home, living on the land and making improvements.
The first homes, known as “prove-up” shacks, were hastily raised shelters that put a roof over a homesteader’s head while he or she focused on cultivating the land.
Homesteaders quickly claimed the “low-hanging fruit” — land that received adequate rainfall. But much of the West was desert land that was nearly impossible to cultivate.
In 1877, Congress enacted the Desert Land Act, with less stringent requirements to fulfill.
But that act proved problematic too.
So in 1894, Congress passed the Carey Act — named for Wyoming Sen. Joseph Carey — creating a new way to distribute federal land to farmers: It allowed private companies to develop towns and build irrigation systems that would make the deserts bloom.
Magic Valley irrigation projects developed by diverting water from the Snake River at Milner Dam remain the most successful of the Carey Act projects.