Homesteading is very trendy and hip right now. It means so many things to many different people.
It can range from growing a few vegetables in your apartment (I am not joking- this is called urban homesteading!) to owning and managing hundreds of acres of crops and animals.
But for most people, homesteading lies somewhere in between.
It starts as an attitude.
The desire to be self sufficient.
To return to a more natural way of life
To live a more sustainable life
To cut excess packaging and cut grocery bills
To cut energy bills
To teach your kids(and yourself) some useful skills
Wikipedia defines homesteading as: “a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.”
Homesteading can be an extremely rewarding lifestyle.
To know that you have provided your own food for your family by depending on your skills, the weather and the land available to you is incredible. If you can slash your weekly grocery bill by 60-90% that is a big help as well.
Of course there are also many challenges along the way.
And much to learn.
Every day you are doing something on the homestead and there are very few days off.
But if you decide this is for you then develop a plan and move forward one step at a time.
At first, homesteading can seem overwhelming. There is so much to think about and get used to and learn. But many have done it successfully before you.
You will be amazed at how far you go with your homesteading in just a couple of years.
Check out the journey here from Guildbrook Farm- maybe you can relate. They have built a successful homestead on approx just 1 acre
Urban homesteading is the ability to start now-wherever you are.
Start today, even if you have not bought land yet.
Urban homesteading is starting to homestead in as small a space as your apartment!
You do not need to wait until you have saved up enough money to buy 40 acres of land.
Many people’s “great ideas”, hopes and dreams, never become a reality because of the number 1 flaw:
They never get started!
Do not let this happen to you
Instead start where you are right now.
Homesteading starts with an attitude of self -reliance.
What can you grow in the space you have available?
What can you make at home?
Can you start to cut back on wasted water, air-conditioning?
Can you start to can or preserve excess food?
You will be surprised at how much you can achieve with a very small space.
Start learning the skills you will need for homesteading now
When you are urban homesteading, you produce a significant part of the food you consume either through plants or livestock. It is often associated with a desire to be more environmentally conscious.
It may include different aspects such as:
Trying to use alternative energy sources like solar
Riding bicycles where possible instead of the car
Raising animals. Common choices include goats, fish, worms, bees, chickens and rabbits,
Growing fruit and vegetables
Making your own clothes
Nearly everyone can start a herb garden without much space and at very little cost.
Food preservation- canning, drying, freezing, cheese-making and fermenting
Of course, always check with city by-laws and your landlord (if applicable) that these types of activities are allowed where you live.
Starting now will provide excellent training to prove to yourself that you actually enjoy being self sufficient. It will also give you a glimpse into some of the difficulties that may occur when homesteading.
Make sure that you love feeding a few animals every day.
Make sure that you get joy out of seeing your first tomato grow or cooking a meal using basil that you grew from a seed.
Make sure that you enjoy working reducing your energy needs and harvesting your own power.
Better to test it out and find out now.
There are very few “days off” being in the garden and tending to the animals.
A gradual process is usually best and much less stressful.
Instead of selling your swanky city apartment, buying 40 acres rural land, and then discovering that you do not like it after all, start the process now and gradually learn the skills you will need later.
When you are ready to buy land safely and profitably, for your homestead project, don’t wait 10 years to save up for your 40 acre parcel.
Why not get a small parcel, maybe 2-5 acres?
This way you do not bite off more than you can chew. You get to learn how to manage a smaller homestead and hone your skills. Later if you do wish to scale up to 20 acres or 40 acres, you are more prepared.
You will be able to sell your existing homestead to a grateful young couple looking to start their homesteading journey as much of the set up for them has already been done!
With owner financing you do not have to save thousands of dollars up front.
You can make a down payment, then make small monthly payments and start using the land right away.
By the time the land is paid off, you will already have a successful, thriving homestead. Plus you will have spare cash to buy your animals and crops in the beginning.
You can also make homesteading into your small business by selling off excess produce in local farmers markets or roadside stalls.
Organic food and “straight from farm-to-table” food is super popular these days.
People love knowing where their food came from.
Suburban dwellers with not much space may be able to keep chickens or rabbits as they do not take up too much space. Perhaps you can keep them on your balcony. Or maybe you have a small yard. These provide a great source of egg and meat.
Another useful resource that may be available in cities or suburbs is a community garden:
This is a fabulous resource. Everyone in the neighborhood contributes to the garden, helps with the work and shares the produce.
It will give you a lot more space to really develop your green thumb. Plus there will also be a lot of wise gardeners there who are happy to share their knowledge and help you out with tips learned from many years on the job.
This is a brilliant homesteading “hack” and a way to learn gardening and growing fast.
As you can tell, homesteading really is a state of mind. It doesn’t matter where you live. If you desire to be independent and rely less on consumerism, this is the way forward.
You can keep or discard the creature comforts along the way as you make a few changes and get your skill level up.
Once you have a few acres available, you can really get going and scale up.
Again, you do not need hundreds of acres to make a real go of homesteading and support a medium size family.
Usually 1 acre to 5 acres is plenty to have everything you need and a surplus of food.
With this size parcel, you will typically have chickens, rabbits, ducks, a couple of cows, a couple of horses, pigs and maybe some goats and bees. You would have a large herb garden, fruit garden, vegetable garden, orchard and maybe a greenhouse.
You may grow enough food for your animals as well.
Though some smaller properties may need to buy some of this to supplement their own produce -for example buying in extra hay in the winter months.
You will be using primarily the food from your land to prepare meals. You will be learning freezing, canning, dehydrating, fermenting and preserving the rest of your produce to prepare for the lean months. Or in case you have a bad season.
You will also be learning how to to fish and hunt.
None of these animals are “need to have’. They are simply options available and these vary enormously from homestead to homestead depending on space but also personal reference.
A dairy cow can provide butter, cream milk, yoghurt cheese.
Any surplus milk can also feed the pigs and chickens.
Cows also produce lots of manure to improve soil fertility. This is very important and saves using artificial fertilizers. With good manure and crop rotation, your crop yields should improve every year. You may need to bring the cow inside shelter during winter months.
Here is a great article on the economics of keeping a cow and the financial benefits.
Of course there is also the daily benefit of those gorgeous big brown eyes befriending you every morning.
Chickens are usually the first animals purchased in homesteading.
They do not require much space. There produce high quality eggs and later meat. They are easy to look after and they eat almost anything! You can move their chicken cop around different parts of your land to improve soil fertility over your acreage with their scratching and dunging.
Just a dozen hens should give you enough eggs for a small family with a few to occasionally sell or give away in summertime.
You would have to buy a little grain for them, and in the winter some protein supplement, unless you could grow enough beans.
You could try growing sunflowers, buckwheat especially for them. They love it!
Start with a few pigs. You would generally need to house them in a pigpen.
You could feed them some milk from the cow, plus some of the garden produce you are growing including some specially grown fodder crops.
You may have to buy in some wheat, barley or corn.
If you have a boar or borrow one, the pigs may produce 20 piglets a year. You could keep a few to fatten up for your bacon and ham needs. Then sell the rest 8-12 weeks old which would bring in some much needed cash.
Your homestead may choose to have a few goats instead of a cow or to supplement the cow. Goats also produce great milk and dairy products but not a much volume as a cow. They also produce less manure than a cow.
But they are cheaper to feed and require less hay and grass.
If you have the size acreage, it is a good idea to have both.
One important part of homesteading is the meat. You will also need to think about whether you will slaughter your own animals for meat, whether you sell surplus stock to others to slaughter them.
How you plan out your homestead will depend on your goals as well as how much land you have available. Some homesteaders divide their land into thirds. ⅓ for house/ranch and other buildings, ⅓ grazing land for animals and ⅓ arable land for growing vegetables and crops.
Some decide to leave the grass as permanent pasture. Others decide to rotate crops (between grass, clover and herbs and crops) every four-six years, increasing the soil quality over time.
Here is an example of a homesteading of a 6 year crop rotation:
Year 1 Grass
Year 2 Legumes (peas and beans)
Year 3 Cabbage family
Year 4 Potatoes
Year 5 Root vegetables (carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips)
Year 6 Grass again
There are many variations of this used in successful homesteading
But if you can make an effort to rotate your crops and grass every year, your soil fertility will improve and your crop yields will improve over time.
Remember to leave some space to grow fodder crops for your animals as well. The animals will also eat any surplus crops you may have.
Also grow fruit in the right season- berries, melons etc and you may consider a small orchard with fruit trees
For many families who begin homesteading, a business just pops up naturally.
It is not unusual to start with a few goats and pigs then within a couple of years you may have 15-20! You may have excess produce, eggs, meat, milk, cream and butter.
However you may go into homesteading with a business plan in mind, and make it work from the start. You may plan to produce canned foods, fresh meat, eggs, vegetables and sell to the community or to local restaurants.
Others prefer to keep their day job- some will negotiate to work remotely or part-time, then gradually use their skills locally. This keeps some cash flow coming in while you get set up.
Perhaps you are great at carpentry, blacksmithing, marketing, writing your novel or starting a blog?
Homesteading aims to reduce your costs drastically as you become more and more self-reliant. You will notice reductions in your grocery bills, your gas bill, your energy bills and so on.
But of course there is no denying that there are some set up costs in the beginning which may take a year or so to reap the benefits. There is a lot to learn so make sure you take your time and have some contingency plans -just in case you have a bad crop season or a disease afflicts your animals one year.
If you have recently started homesteading, comment below about the greatest challenge you have found so far.
And of course, do not wait to start homesteading- Take one small step forward and start today!
As always check in with the current land we have available to purchase with generous owner finance terms