Perhaps you want to move from the hustle and bustle of the city, away from the rush and into the hush of rural living. Every year thousands of people make this choice, to leave the convenience of urban life and to embrace a simpler, more sustainable way of existing.
A way of life where nature meets necessity and the sound of owls hooting replaces car horns and sirens. A place where food is fresh, air is clean and tranquility resounds. Where your hands stay dirty but your heart is happy. Many call this practice homesteading.
There was a time in history when homesteading was all that existed. The family farm was a way of life for the majority of people. Today, there is a subtle, yet increasing, move back towards a simpler way of being. A style of life that reduces stress and enjoys all that the land has to offer.
Here are just a few of the cited benefits of homesteading:
- Less stressful living – homesteads report a significant decline in stress levels compared to previous life in an urban center.
- Pride in provision – it is a wonderful thing to be able to provide for your family from your own land.
- Security – many homesteaders claim they feel more secure on their homestead than anywhere else.
- Bonding – homesteading brings families together.
- Better physical health – homesteaders report that the physical labor of running a homestead combined with more nutritious food and a less stressful life helped them become and stay healthy.
- Learn new skills – when you take up homesteading, it is likely that you will acquire news skills and hobbies.
Not that starting a homestead is easy, it is especially more challenging if you are not prepared for what might come. However, lessons are always learned through the challenges in life, and starting a homestead is sure to present plenty of these “growing” moments.
Here are just a few tips from seasoned homesteaders, who wished they had the knowledge they do now before they started their homesteading journey.
Before you start a homestead:
Perhaps you are in the market for a homestead. Here are just a few things to keep in mind as you set out on your search for that “perfect” place to call home.
- Is this really something you want to do? It is important not to buy into the “romantic” notion of homesteading. It is a lot of work and not everyone is cut out to do. Don’t be discouraged if you find that it is not really the kind of lifestyle you desire. If you just want to have a few chickens and a garden and reduce your carbon footprint, that can still be achieved even if you live in an urban or semi-rural setting. It is also important that your partner agrees on the kind of lifestyle you both want. There is nothing worse than acquiring a homestead only to find out that one partner is not so set on it. Be sure you have lots of open and honest discussions before moving forward.
- Do your research: Too many people jump blindly into thinking that living a sustainable lifestyle is easy. Doing your research before you embark on such a journey will help you keep things in perspective and give you the opportunity to prepare. If you have friends or family that homestead, be sure to ask lots of questions and spend lots of time on their homestead. Read books, watch documentaries and gather as much knowledge as you can before diving in. Here is a great list of books to get you started.
- Define your goals: Know ahead of time what it is that you want to accomplish on your homestead. For instance, how sustainable do you want to be? Do you want to raise livestock, have gardens, fruit, chickens, live off grid, on grid etc….. Once you have a good idea of what kind of homestead you are looking for, it will help you firm up your search parameters.
- Location: It is a good idea to know where you want to live, at least, a general area. Do you want to be super remote or just a little outside of town?
- Don’t blow the bank: When considering your homestead property, don’t spend all you have or over extend yourself. If you use all of your savings to purchase your home and land, there will be no money to create a system of self sufficiency. Always error on the side of spending less, not more.
- Think about generating income: Many people who begin homesteading leave the hustle and bustle of their city jobs behind for something less stressful and more rewarding. Before you finalize the deal on some property, think about how you might be able to generate some income from your homestead. Some ideas include starting a lavender farm, raising alpaca, selling raw milk products, spinning wool and making clothing, selling fresh organic produce etc…
- Know the land: If you are buying property for your homestead, be picky. Be sure that the land is going to work for the type of homestead you desire.
If you plan on using the ground to grow crops you may want to take some soil samples. This will help you determine if the property is fertile and what you might have to add to augment the soil to make it workable. Also, be sure that there is a southward facing area for growing food.
Will you want to raise goats, cows, chickens etc? Most likely you will choose at least one of these, if not all. Be sure that the land you choose is suitable for your needs in this respect. It is a bonus if there is already a fenced pasture and some outbuildings that will work for shelter and food storage.
Also, keep your eye out for things like natural windbreaks, flooding, accessibility to water for livestock, slopes, drainage etc.
If the property you are looking at doesn’t have water, you will most likely be drilling a well. Be sure that others have had good luck with water in the area and you may even want to have the property doused.
If you are looking at raw land, be sure to consider access. Is the property on a maintained road, will you have to maintain it, what is it like in the winter, rainy season etc.? These are all questions you will want to have answered before you make a purchase.
- Practice simplicity: Many people who embrace homesteading would acknowledge that they practice simplicity. However, it is sometimes hard when you are first starting out to know exactly what that looks like. This is especially true if you are coming from an affluent urban lifestyle. If you are moving to a new homesteading property, begin to practice simplicity before you move. Simplicity looks a little different to each person so take some time to figure out what this means to you. For some, simplicity may mean living off grid with a composting toilet while to others simplicity may mean being thirty minutes from the store versus five minutes. Whatever simplicity means to you, practice it before you move to your homestead. Remember that the whole idea of homesteading is about having more time to enjoy life – this often means less money and the fact that you provide for your needs yourself rather than being dependent on others. Living in a simple matter means living with a small footprint, reducing expenses and possessions and reducing consumption.
- Consider a fixer-upper:You can always start out small and add on. If you are handy and can get a good deal on a property that you can fix up without much expense and a lot of sweat equity, that is ok too as long as you have plenty of time.
First things first:
So, now that you have acquired your homestead you may be wondering what to do first.
- Start small: No matter what your goals are, always remember that it is important to start small, don’t overwhelm yourself. You can always leave room for expansion later. Don’t try to crow acres of crops or raise all kinds of livestock if you have never done it before. Give yourself some time to get the hang of homesteading before you go big.
- Don’t set unrealistic expectations: Don’t put pressure on yourself to make your homestead look like something out of a magazine. Unrealistic expectations can set you up for disaster if things don’t come together the way you expect them to. It generally takes some time to get a homestead set up and if you spend all your time worrying about looks, you will not have any time, energy or resources left for things that really matter to your sustainability. There will be plenty of time later for you to worry about aesthetics.
- Organize your projects: Before you dig into projects, take the time to organize according to time, resources and your budget. Start with the ones that are instrumental to being self sufficient. Things like a garden, greenhouse, fencing for animals, root cellar etc…Keep track of all of your projects in a notebook or a computer file, along with your estimated and real expenses. This will help keep you as organized as possible. It is when we are least organized that we end up spending more money and time than we really have to.
- Connect with local homesteaders: Seek out other homesteaders in your area that have the same way of thinking as you. It often helps to make this connection. You can learn a lot from folks who have been homesteading. Often homesteading families set up a support network that is useful for information and resource sharing and even comradery.
- Relax: Don’t forget that you have moved to a place of sustainability for a number of reasons, one of them is hopefully to relax and let down just a bit. Don’t forget, in all of the hustle and bustle of getting started in homesteading that you miss having fun and just enjoying your new adventure. A good rule of thumb is not to work every single second of each day. Spend at least one day a week just enjoying your home and property.
Super Practical Tips:
- Construct your outbuilding so that you can expand them later.
- Use temporary electric fencing so that pastures and fenced areas can be rotated so that the land can rest. This is also a good option while you get the feel of the land.
- Install water spigots all over your property to make watering animals and plants easier. This is an easy DIY project.
- Purchase only a few animals at a time until you get the hang of raising livestock.
- Scan your local newspapers and Craigslist for free or discounted items. You can usually find a plethora of items perfect for your homestead at good prices.
- Take care of the most important needs first, shelter, food, and water should be top on your list.