Homesteading means you're living a self-sufficient lifestyle involving anything from growing your own food to producing your own energy. Whether you live in the city or the country, you may be dreaming about homesteading. Your plans might be pie-in-the-sky dreams or you may be ready to start right this minute, but wherever you are right now, you should know that you can take a step toward your homesteading dreams today.
It can be hard to figure out where to start. You may wonder what to do first, especially if you know nothing about owning land, farming, or going off-grid for energy. This article seeks to demystify this a bit and give you some concrete first steps to take that will begin your homesteading journey right now.
Where to Start
Pick one or two projects that you can start in the next month or so. For example, if you live in the suburbs, you might want to get a few laying hens to keep for eggs. You'll need to research how to raise chickens, find out your local laws to make sure it's legal, and plan for a chicken coop. Then, buy or build one and order baby chicks or buy older pullets or hens. That's enough to keep you plenty busy for an entire season.
If that seems like too much, start smaller. Have a fireplace? Consider putting in an insert for wood heat. Have a sunny windowsill? Grow some lettuce and herbs for salads and cooking. Have a nice-sized backyard? Put in raised beds and plant a veggie garden this season.
Besides starting a small project or two this season, take the time to read up about homesteading skills. You can go with a compendium-style book like "The Encyclopedia of Country Living," or something more focused like "Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables." Also, "The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency" is a great place to begin, as it breaks down projects into tasks that can be completed in a weekend, and you'll find projects that are a fit even if you're a suburbanite. Take a look at more great homesteading books and consider subscribing to a small farm magazine.
Once you've soaked up as much information as possible about how to homestead, you'll be itching to start planning, but you've got to get your priorities in order. There are many facets to homesteading: growing and preserving your own food, raising animals (or not), and producing your own energy are among the bigger goals that most aspiring homesteaders have.
You'll want to consider which of these is most important to you so you can focus your energy appropriately. For example, if energy sufficiency is at the top of your list, you might choose to convert to a diesel car and begin running it on waste vegetable oil or outfit your suburban home with solar panels before even buying land. If you know your heart is with raising animals for meat and egg production, and you're okay living on-grid for a few years while you do that, this information is going to dictate your next steps.
Identify a Property
For many of us, finding that "place in the country" is a key part of homesteading. Buying land may have made it to the top of your list of priorities. If so, start looking. It can take time to find a good piece of land suitable for homesteading. Remember that you don't need 40 acres, or even 10, to have a homestead.
Plan the First Year
Plan your first year on your homestead, whether you're doing that in place, in the suburbs, or in the city. If you can look ahead to a move, whether it's a work in progress or still in fantasy land, that can help you move from dream to reality.
How many acres do you need for homesteading?
That depends on your homesteading priorities. You can begin homesteading in a city apartment with zero acreage or start a micro-farm on under an acre. Even a small acreage such as two or four acres can provide for a family. However, if you want to use the land as a woodlot for energy needs, 20 to 40 acres may be more appropriate.
How do I start homesteading with no money?
The best way to start homesteading with no money is to start where you already live. Use the land and resources you already have to start a sustainable lifestyle. In addition, turn to your local cooperative extension office for additional resources, including classes, on homesteading.
Can one person run a homestead?
That depends on the size and scope of your homestead. Of course, if you're running a homestead on many acres involving agricultural practices, it can be tough to go solo. If you are starting out with backyard vegetable gardening or raising chickens for eggs and meat, you may be able to run it on your own. One major benefit of a one-person homestead is the ability to make your own decisions on how you set up your sustainable lifestyle.