7 Tips and Tricks for Starting Your Own Homestead

Have you ever thought of giving up all the stresses of life, your job, your schedule, and your possessions and starting over with fewer distractions? This may sound like a fantasy, but itโ€™s becoming a reality for people who become homesteaders.

Homesteading is an agrarian way of life, not quite farming and not quite off the grid, that prioritizes self-sufficiency and simplicity. People who homestead often live on small farms or farmettes and do their best to grow, raise, or make what they need to survive.

white textile on brown woven basket

There are many levels of homesteading, from the avid gardener with a day job to all-in, full-time farming. The degree of self-sufficiency is really up to the individual, their capabilities, and their needs.

And thatโ€™s what makes homesteading such an attractive way to live. You can do it as much or as little as you want in a way that meshes with your life. Thereโ€™s no wrong way to homestead.

Homesteading is an ideal lifestyle for people who want to reduce the stress and anxiety in their life. Stress levels in America are at an all-time high, and becoming more self-sufficient is a wonderful way to relieve some of the pressure. Here are seven tips to start a homestead.

Think about food sources

A chief concern for all homesteaders is food. Will you grow it? Will you raise it? Will you make it from raw ingredients? What kinds of food will you still need to purchase from the store? These are all critical questions every budding homesteader needs to consider.

Raising food is always an option, but you must have enough space and resources to feed and care for the livestock. Chickens work well for novice homesteaders, especially since they produce eggs and can be butchered for meat.

If you arenโ€™t sure about where you want to put a henhouse, consider a mobile range coop. You can move these chicken houses around your property to evenly distribute the chicken waste and provide them with fresh food sources. Chickens love insects and will happily eat bugs off the plants in your garden as they fertilize the consider a mobile range coopground. A win-win!

Gardening is a must for all homesteaders. Think about the types of fruits and vegetables you like to eat and research their growth season, preferred conditions, and needs before committing to a garden plan (more on that later).

Find a property 

Most experts agree homesteads should comprise about 1 acre per person living on the homestead. So if you have a family of four, you should aim to find a property with at least four acres.

Going bigger is always an option, but remember, the more property you have, the more work takes to maintain. Most homesteaders canโ€™t afford to take time away from farming to manage their excess lands.

When looking at properties, think about how you want to use your land. Animal farming takes up much space, whereas crop farming is compact. You should also evaluate the topography of the site. Flat lands with some forested areas work well for homesteaders.

Also, consider where you want to live. For most homesteaders, this depends on their commitment to the lifestyle. Those who plan to be completely self-sufficient may be content to live two hours from the nearest town. However, access to emergency services, like EMS, police, and fire, should also play a role in this decision.

Research your resources

When you look at the land, donโ€™t just see it for its acreage but for what lives there. The existing animals, plants, and geologic formations reveal a great deal about what it would be like to live on that property.

For example, you may notice a lot of small games, like rabbits and squirrels, scurrying around. To many homesteaders, those are important sources of food! Or you may observe several pine trees around the property. Although beautiful year-round, these trees attract pests that could interfere with crop farming.

Ultimately, your land is a resource, and as a homesteader, itโ€™s your job to cultivate and protect the resource responsibly. If a large portion of the property is wooded, the timber you cut to make way for farming could provide an additional source of income. Likewise, if there is a healthy bee population, consider adding a few hives to harvest and sell honey.

One of a homesteaderโ€™s most important jobs is understanding what a piece of property has to offer and determining how it can be used to sustainably self-sufficient.

Find a water source

The most important natural resource on your property is water. Water sustains all human, animal, and plant life on your land, and your homestead simply cannot survive without a reliable source of clean drinking water.

Surface waters, like ponds and streams, are the most obvious choice, but they usually require treatment to meet drinking water standards. So instead, most homesteaders drill wells to access clean drinking water.

They arenโ€™t alone. More than 100 million Americans use groundwater wells for drinking water. Interestingly, wells are among the safest and highly reliable water sources. If you use a well, test your water annually to ensure it meets safe drinking water standards. 

Plant a garden

Gardening, or crop farming, is a critical component of homesteading. Every homestead needs an array of herbs, fruits, and vegetables in every growing season. To do this, get familiar with USDAโ€™s hardiness zone map to learn about what grows in your region.

Ideally, youโ€™ll plant a spring garden in March with peas, carrots, onions, and lettuces. A summer garden in May or June with tomatoes, cucumbers, various squash, and peppers. And a fall garden in July or August with broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts. This isnโ€™t an exact science, and you should consult the Farmerโ€™s Almanac planting calendar to get details about when to plant in your region.

Fruits are a little different. Most berries, like blueberries and raspberries, grow on perennial bushes that return annually. Other fruits, like pears, apples, nectarines, and peaches, grow on trees that take several years to reach maturity before they bear fruit. Again, research where to plant and how to care for fruit vines, bushes, and trees. They are a worthwhile investment that yields a bigger payoff every year.

Harvest and preserve

A big problem for many homesteaders is winter survival. So what do you do when the growing season ends and the garden is empty? Hopefully, youโ€™ve done your due diligence and preserved much of your harvest.

Few families can consume everything a homestead garden produces at one time. So instead of selling the produce or letting it go to waste, homesteaders preserve their fruits and vegetables by canning and pickling.

Food preservation can be challenging, especially since poor preservation can result in food poisoning. Consider buying a book about the canning process and carefully follow the instructions to preserve your produce safely.

Manage your waste

One of the biggest advantages of homesteading is reducing your waste. Far less plastic and packaging end up in your trash can when you don't buy food or consumer goods. But that doesnโ€™t mean you wonโ€™t create any waste.

Homesteaders can manage their waste by sorting it. For example, organic waste like food trimmings, peels, and eggshells can be turned into compost, paper and wood waste can be burned, and glass, aluminum, and cardboard can be recycled.

Youโ€™ll have to find a regulated facility to take your household waste outside these items. As a result, many homesteaders avoid using disposable products, like paper towels, plates, and napkins, to avoid creating excess trash.

If youโ€™re tired of participating in the rat race, homesteading may be just what the doctor ordered. Do your research and carefully consider this lifestyle before deciding if homesteading is right for you.

Krystal | Sunny Sweet Days
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