Archive for the Homesteading Category

How To Build A Chicken Coop

When you’re starting out with chickens you need to have a place to lock them up at night.  Building a chicken coop will be one of the first thing you need to do before you order your chicks or pick up some pullets (young hens).  I love how chickens just naturally gravitate to their little home when the sun starts to go down, roosting inside all on their own.

how to build a chicken coop for your chickens

The coop is an important part of your plan to keep your birds safe from predators that lurk in the night.  So we want it to be a sturdy structure that keeps the bad things out, the chickens in, provides a place for them to nest and lay their eggs.  First a few bits of terminology so you can get caught up to speed if you’re new.

  • Roost: a bar that chickens sit on and sleep on at night
  • Run: the fenced in area that chickens walk around during the day
  • Nesting Box: a separate area where hens sit to lay eggs in
  • Hardware Cloth: metal mesh that has very small openings
  • Bedding: saw dust, wood chips, hay or saw

So those are some of the basic terminology, now let’s get into some of the details.

The Coop

my chickens in my gardenYou can build the coop out of whatever building materials you have on hand or repurpose shelters to suit your needs.  When I built my coop I just went and bought a few sheets of plywood, created a box and sealed the entire inside.  Whatever you build it out of, the coop needs to be about 2 square feet of floor space for each chicken you have.  Much more than 2-3 feet per bird assuming they have more room to range during the day doesn’t do much because they all like to pile on a roost and cuddle up with each other anyway.

Height wise I usually build the coop so that I can easily clean it and room for at least 2 feet above the upper most roost.  If I have a lot of chickens I’ll make sure whatever it is, I can stand up straight if I need to go inside.

For the floors of my coop the biggest piece of advice is to make the inside as easy to clean as possible, really think ahead on this part.   I design mine so all the corners inside are not 90 degrees and no little nooks.  To do this I build my coop, then lay in a 2×2 cut at an angle so when I lay it in with glue all my corners are 45 degrees, which is much easier to clean.

Once I have my coop inside done I always sealed with a super heavy polyurethane. I coat every surface several times, making sure to soak it into the corners.  I put several layers on all surfaces then let it dry.  Next I focus on adding more layers to floor and the first foot of the walls.  You want a super thick layer of poly covering every inch of your floor and sealing every crevice and seam.

I let the whole thing dry and off gas for at least a few weeks.  If you build your coop before you even order your chicks, you’ll have a lot of time for all the fumes to escape by the time the chicks are grown up and ready to be put in the coop.

Roost Bars

chicken on roost in coopA roost is just a bar that chickens like to sit on, usually about a foot or so off the floor of the coop or ground.  I’ve had chickens that all piled onto a single bar leaving several empty and then I’ve had others that didn’t use them at all.  I usually add them because it seems like most chickens like to roost because it makes them feel a little safer.  The top most roost is often taken up by the alpha hen and the rooster if you have one, but some flocks don’t get too tied up in pecking order.

The roost bars can be branches cut from your woods or a 2×4.  You want your roost to be about 2 inches wide and not metal if you can help it.  You want a flat level surface around 2 inches wide because chickens like to sleep flat footed.  They can grip if they need to though.

Ventilation

Many first time coop builders forget that coops need to breath, even if you live in very cold climates.  This is because their droppings put off a lot of moisture and ammonia, so you want a way for that to vent well.  You want to make sure that there is at least some ventilation, but make sure it hardware cloth over it so predators can’t get in. The rule of thumb is around 1 square foot of ventilation per 10 square feet of floor space in the coop.

Nesting Boxes

You want one nesting box for every 3-4 hens you have.  All a nesting box needs to be is a small more enclosed area roughly 1 cubic foot in size with some hay on the bottom.  I’ve done everything from milk crates to 5 gallon buckets on their side.  Just make sure you can easily get into the nesting box to grab the eggs as they are laid and they you can clean them easily.

Make sure you can see well into your nesting boxes because sometimes you find things other than hens in them.  Here is a black snake that snuck into my nesting box.  The joke was on him though, that egg was a plastic egg that we were using to teach the hens to use the nesting box.

snake in nesting box

A Chicken Door

This door only has to be about a single square foot, maybe a foot and a half tall so that a single chicken can come and go into the coop.  The door should be able to be closed up tight at night with a lock that raccoons or other critters can open.  Some people build in a sliding door that operates on a motor with a special sensor that closes when the sun goes down.

golden comet chicken

When I did my permanent coop I had it so the chicken door opened directly into a fenced in chicken run.  The run was covered too and the whole thing tied into the coop itself so that I didn’t have to be there each night to lock the door.  Even if you have your coop in a protected run like I did, its still good to have a door because sometimes you want to shut them up in coop for you to clean things or if a predator is spotted.

A Light

Many people put lights for some heat in the colder months.  Unless you are in a very cold part of the world, I wouldn’t suggest this.  Experience has shown me that if you put a light in a coop and then one night it gets broken or burns out, you’ll end up loosing all your chickens.  I live in North Carolina and for many parts of the US I wouldn’t worry about it.  For colder parts of the US, I’d just build a bigger coop so you can keep them inside for a week if you have to when it’s super cold.  Chickens are pretty hearty.

lights in a coop

The last parts of a coop are your nesting boxes for the chickens to lay their eggs in (usually one box per 3-4 birds) and some sort of bedding to catch droppings from.  Chickens put out a lot of droppings and they tend to concentrate under the roost bars.  However you plan to handle droppings, make it bomb proof because it can get messy quickly and if you build your coop to easily clean out, you can make your life a lot easier.

Chicken Tractors

Many people who want to get into chickens want to try a mobile chicken tractor, which is basically a coop with no bottom that you move to fresh grass every few days.  I’ve done both a fixed coop and chicken tractors and I think chicken tractors are my favorite because it cuts down on the cleaning (no floors, the chickens just poop on the grass) and it reduces the amount of feed I need to buy.

Here is my old chicken tractor:

chicken tractor

There are a few things you need to consider if you decide to go the chicken tractor.  Whatever coop you design it should be able to be moved easily by the smallest person in your household, it makes it difficult if only some of the people can actually move it each day.  As you can see above there are wheels on this tractor, I later switched them to larger wheels because some of the bumps and lumps in the grass would catch the edge of the coop or the wheels.

Consider where you’re going to store feed and how you’ll get water to them.  Where is the closet storage spot?  Where is the closet spigot and will your hose reach to the far corner of the yard?hens and a rooster

Finally make sure you have enough room, if you have more than a few chickens you’ll need to move that coop most days so that the chickens do remove all the vegetation in that one spot to the point that it can’t bounce back.  You want the grass to get roughed up a bit, but no more.  This will let the grass bounce back and grow stronger.  Having enough space is easier in the summer months because things grow so quickly, but in the winter you may find that a spot where the chickens were takes 30-60 days to heal.

Waters

There are three main types of water devices for chickens: Bell, nipple and standard waterer/fountain.  Larger operations tend to use the bell style, I don’t have much experience with those.  The older style of waterer or fountains work pretty well, but I’ve found they get dirty pretty easily.  That leaves my favorite type of waterer which is the nipple style.

chicken waterers

These are just a little valve with a shinny metal tab sticking out that the chickens peck at to get water.  Sometimes you need to show your chickens how to use them, I just take one or two of them and hold it right in front of the nipple.  Basically chickens see something shinny, peck at it and get wet.  Eventually they figure it out and the rest of the flock follows suit.

The nipples are cheap and can be installed into a 5 gallon bucket or into a run of pvc pipe.  This means I can do long runs of these that are tied into a water system so I can set it up for several days of water without any extra work.  An important side note is that you can’t uses these on chicks.

Feeders

There are several types of these, I still haven’t found a favorite type, so let me know what has worked for you in the comments.  I am looking for something that will feed the chickens easily for a few days automatically.  Right now the best option is a vertical PVC pipe about 6″ wide with a opening cut at the bottom.

So that’s some of the key things you need to work into your design when you build your own coop.  Let me know what you plan to do for yours in the comments!

Your Turn!

  • What kind of coop do you hope to build?
  • What tricks have you learned?

How to Homestead: Tackling the Challenges of Going Off-Grid

Living off the land, growing your own food and taking life back to simpler times—for many this sounds like the ultimate dream. In the hustle-bustle craziness of modern life, it’s no wonder people are ready to forget their commute, stop shopping, turn off their TV and learn how to homestead.

living off grid

Homesteading takes us back to simpler times. The idea of self-sufficiency, independence and forging your own way? Well, that’s the very fabric of the American dream. But the reality of homesteading—living off the grid, growing your own food supply, being self-reliant—is a lot to take on, especially all at once. Before you quit your day job and buy a brood of chickens, you’ll want to be certain you’ve planned for the many challenges of going off-grid.

If you’re hoping to learn the logistics of how to homestead, these are the challenges you’ll need to tackle.

1. Setup

The biggest conundrum when going off-grid is the cost. Living truly off-grid is romanticized and when you combine it with setting up a homestead, expectations may further exceed reality. I’ll be honest, with enough money anything’s possible of course, but realistically I would say choose one or the other to start.

inverter, charge controller, panel

I hear from off-grid newbies (grid muggles, as I like to call them) they think they’re going to go into the woods, build a cabin and live off the land. For most of us, it’s not so simple. To feed a family of four, you’d need at least two acres of land for food. You would also need roughly 25 average-sized solar panels to sustain enough electricity for four people, possibly more (you can read about my solar panel setup here). That’s not even considering the additional concerns of water, sewer, shelter, animal husbandry, gardening, food storage and more.

After living off the grid for the last few years, I can say there are quite a few considerations without growing my own food. The best method for living out your homesteading dreams is to take your setup in steps and plan on a decent upfront investment.

2. Electricity

Solar electricity is the biggest component of going off the grid. After all, that’s literally what the “grid” refers to. Homesteaders and anyone who plans to live off the grid will need to research exactly what sort of electric wiring and solar panel system you’ll require for your particular situation. I have a great guide: Shockingly Simple Electric if you’re looking for a resource to get started.
solar panels for homestead

I have 15 solar panels installed, which is enough to run everything I need in my place. My setup cost around $20,000. However, if you plan to run an electric water heater, a microwave, washer or other large appliance—or if you have a larger home—you’re going to need more than just a basic solar panel system. Forget those systems you see at home improvement stores—these small solar panel systems offer only enough power to charge your phone and laptop.

As I said above, for a family of four, expect at least 25 solar panels. You’ll also need a generator or two if you expect less than 8 hours per day of southern sun. This is especially important in the winter. Calculate your electricity needs based on the times when you get the least amount of sun. In the summer, you may generate more electricity than you require, but in the winter, you’ll be prepared.

3. Finding Land

Back in the day, true homesteading involved laying your claim to land by setting up a sustainable farm plot. In 1976, the federal government ended homesteading in the continental United States. Homesteading continued in Alaska for ten more years—but since 1986, if you want to live on a plot of land, you’ll need to purchase it.

The biggest challenge of homesteading involves the initial cost of land and setting it up, but there are also costs to maintain your homestead. Even with the smallest home possible, there are plenty of expenses involved. How will you access the land, install your well and septic, and clear land or setting up planting beds?

Minimally, if you plan to house livestock such as chickens or goats, you’ll have several things to consider.  They will need a shelter for to protect them from the elements, a place to store feed and bedding, as well as fencing to keep them in and predators out.

For your garden you’ll also need seeds, seedlings and basic gardening supplies. The easiest route is to purchase land and set up your small house. Slowly adjust to off-the-grid living and take baby steps as you start to get into homesteading.

4. Legality

I’ve written before about the laws involved with living off the grid. The habitable structure definitions included in most municipal ordinances will exclude several factors of off-the-grid living. Many tiny house dwellers skirt this issue by putting their house on a trailer, but this only gets you out of some of the legal requirements. When you involve livestock, you’re also looking at additional legal concerns.

tiny house planning

Again, my big disclaimer is to do your research before you start. Look into all the laws involved and restrictions in your living area. (You can check Municode here for a guide for most but not all municipal coding and government sites.) Going against the rules may result in fines or worse, so make your choices wisely. This is again where baby-steps come into play (you may be sensing a theme here). Thinking you’ll build an off-the-grid hobby farm tomorrow just isn’t realistic.

However, most of us can start a garden on our plot of land, grow a few vegetables and possibly keep chickens. Bite off what you can chew and always study local restrictions first. Don’t underestimate the power of a friendly appeal to your zoning board and code enforcement. You may also need the expertise of a contractor as well as a lawyer.

5. Shelter

cabin in woodsIf your plot of land already contains a shelter, taking it off-grid may be a matter of adapting by installing solar, heating and on-site water solutions. Honestly, it’s often easier to get around the legal issues if your plot already has a dwelling on-site. Many ordinances require an on-site dwelling of a certain size. So, in theory you could turn an existing structure into a barn or storage, while heating and powering a smaller, more sustainable house on the same plot of land.

If you have a family to consider, you may need more space than I (a single guy) requires. Then again, the extra help with your homestead may be welcome. If you plan to raise animals, you’ll also need shelter considerations for your livestock.

The shelter requirements are obviously very different depending on your climate. A desert yurt in California may not require a heat source like a cabin in Montana. If you plan to homestead, the climate is a huge factor as well. Growing seasons and weather are vital factors for producing enough food.

6. Water & Sewer

catchment tanksMany grid muggles think living off the grid applies to power. Throw up a few solar panels and you’re set, right? Living off the grid also applies to water and sewer as well. When it comes to the issue of water, this is one of the other big logistical challenges.

If you live near a water source, you may be able to carry in enough water for daily use. But you need to realize that water is 8.5 lbs. per gallon, so huffing buckets of water will get old really fast.  My suggestion is always spend the money to build out a high quality water system– one that brings clean drinking water to your home and the other areas of your farmstead. If you’re also hoping to grow your own food, water is more of a concern. For hundreds of years, farmers have worked with well water and irrigation systems. After the initial cost of setup, these are viable options and fairly easy to maintain.  Water is one thing not to skimp on.

Your shower and sink drains can be made to be “grey water”, but it requires the use of sustainable soaps that won’t harm crops or the land with runoff. Your sewerage or “black water” may require a more in-depth system (like septic). There’s also the possibility of incineration or using humanure but there are many restrictions, so certainly explore what’s allowed in your area. While you can conserve your water usage, chances are you’ll need a system and longer-term plan, especially for a homestead.

7. Heat

wood stovePart of the homesteading mystique is the idea you’ll chop enough wood to heat your home. If this is your plan, be sure you really, REALLY enjoy chopping wood, because you’re about to spend a large portion of your day doing it. You should also plan on having a fairly endless supply of forest.

Alternatively, you could do what I do, which is rely on some propane for heating. Let me tell you, although it may seem like “cheating,” investing in propane and gas is well worth your time. You can use propane for your stove and water heater as well which will save you a lot of money.

Unless you have an extra $50,000 to invest in solar panels or a robust hydropower turbine (flowing water and a drop on your land), you’re going to need to rely on fossil fuels. Fortunately, propane is relatively inexpensive.

8. Food

When people dream of making the leap to homesteading, they’re most likely referring to food and farming. This is an area where homesteading is fun, satisfying and really shines. If you’re on the grid and in a temperate climate, growing some of your fruits and vegetables for the year is a realistic endeavor.

If you’re off the grid or live in a less-temperate climate, then you’ll probably need to supplement some of your food supply with trade or purchase. Using storage solutions such as a root cellar (much cheaper than refrigeration), canning and preservation will make sure your family eats healthy and saves money in the process.

Growing a garden requires less land and fewer resources than livestock, so carefully measure your costs and expectations. For example, to raise chickens, your coop may require an initial investment of $500-$1,000 and around $15/month to feed. So, measure it against the cost and your need for eggs before you jump in.

9. Health

A homesteader I know lives about four hours away from town in Montana. While working on clearing her property, she dropped a rock on her hand, slicing off a finger. After weighing her driving distance from the hospital, she realized she wouldn’t make it in time to save her digit and now lives with nine fingers.

first aid medical kit

This story isn’t to scare you off from homesteading, but just a reminder, the further off-grid you go, the less access you will have to necessities in case of an emergency. Because I still live relatively close to the city, I can get what I need any time. This may not be the case in rural areas.

Homesteaders benefit from basic first-aid training and from stocking up on medical supplies. While you don’t need a whole pharmacy on-hand, be prepared to deal with stings, scrapes, burns, cuts and contusions. When you live far off from the city, an ambulance might be hours away, so think worst-case scenario and take precautions.

10. Neighbors

As homesteaders we need to consider our neighbors, because not everyone thinks this life is as great as we do.  In the country we may have enough land that we don’t have to worry much, but if we are homesteading on an urban or suburban lot, we need to consider the people around us.

Obviously, making sure you’re respectful and adhering to your zoning laws and ordinances will help you keep the peace. Not every neighbor is thrilled when a beekeeper moves in next door, smoke from your wood stove drifts over to their yard, or your loud generator is running at 3am.

neighbors meeting

A benefit of living in a small home or relying on your land to grow your own food is that your life is simplified. No longer are you tied to the social constraints and obligations of society. You may choose to live in a rural area where you’re more isolated from others. As long as you’re happy with solace, this setup works great. However, there’s no shooting the breeze with your buddy across the fence or knocking on the door for a cup of sugar. Self-sufficiency has positives and drawbacks.

Ultimately, if your sights are set on homesteading, it’s certainly possible. Be realistic about your expectations when you begin. The first step is planning, doing your research and setting a realistic budget. I’ve found it best to take the homesteading setup process one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be living the life you dream of!

Your Turn!

  • What do you see as your biggest challenge?

Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – Should You Prepare?

The cold wind howled with a chill we hadn’t felt since last winter. We bundled up and threw a couple of extra logs on the fire. It all seemed pretty normal for a late fall day in Idaho. But the temps kept dropping and then everything went dark. The house was cozy, but I knew that without power to keep the furnace running, the outlying rooms would start to get cold. I gathered the kids and their bedding close to the wood stove, and we hunkered down for the night.

 

wood heat

 

Are you prepared if the power goes out? What if there is a storm and you can’t go to the grocery store? Our story could have panned out much differently had we not been prepared.

Maybe you don’t face the threat of harsh winter storms or hurricanes but chances are you rely on the income from your job. What if you were to lose that without notice? Would your family go hungry?

No Pay!

Several years ago when the government was busy arguing over the federal budget our family went through two periods of no pay. During those times we had food to eat and money to make our payment. It was scary because our lives were in someone else’s hands but we didn’t fear whether we could feed the family. Our family ate like kings as co-workers applied for unemployment benefits.

 

home-cooked meal

 

Through all of these experiences, we have learned how important it is to be prepared. Does that mean that you need to build a bunker and stock it with two years of freeze dried meals? No. You can prep without being a doomsday prepper.

You want to stock up on some essentials – where do you start?

 

Scenarios to consider Cooking during disaster

  • Your climate – What are the extremes in your area? If you lost power during one of those extremes what do you need on hand?
  • Power outages – Can you still cook? What discomforts will you suffer? Will your animals have water?
  • Economic distress – What if computer networks fail and you cannot use your debit card?
  • Job loss – Can you feed your family for the next three months as you find work and wait for the first paycheck?
  • Natural disaster – Flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, wild fire, extreme heat, extreme cold. Every year part of the US is hit with a natural disaster. If one hit your city would you be prepared to weather that storm?

 

After considering different scenarios choose which ones you feel you need to be prepared for. Now decide how you can insulate your family from the effects of those situations.

 

 

Job loss is a risk everyone faces, even if you are self-employed. Does your family have provisions to get you through a hard time? I have heard people talk about losing work and going home to bare cupboards. How do you choose what to spend that last paycheck on? Will you get work fast enough to continue paying your bills?

How much do I really need?

dry goods storage

I like to keep at least three months of food on hand at all times. Six months or more is even better! That way if the car blows the transmission you will have a lot of breathing room. Of course, a savings account goes hand in hand with all that we are talking about.

Having food storage is like a dedicated savings account that is set aside just for feeding your family. If you are buying food and preserving it while it is in season, you will have a great return on investment!

Keep these items on hand
Food

  • Cooking supplies
  • Water
  • First aid supplies
  • Medication
  • Toiletries
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Gasoline
  • Propane
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Fire wood
  • Clothes line or drying rack
  • Bushcraft knife
  • Tools to make repairs

 

Your Turn!

  • What preps will you start building up today?
  • What gaps do you have in your preps?

What You Should Know About Prepping and Homesteading

Scenes of ramshackle cabins in the secluded woods flash on your screen featuring characters that remind you of Grizzly Adams. He hunts and forages all of his food and cooks it over the campfire while muttering about living off of the land.

Next on your watch list is Survivor Bob. He has preps stashed in the forest, a carefully curated survival kit on his back and lives in a missile silo. He can lock his doors and not resurface for two years if an asteroid hits Washington and the government collapses.

off-grid living

Both prepping and homesteading have been popular on television lately and have gained a lot of attention from the media; but what is prepping? What is homesteading? What are the pros and cons of each?

Homesteading starts as a mindset that says “I can produce that!” rather than feeding the machine of consumerism. It is a movement of self-reliance. It includes everyone from the apartment dweller who cans produce purchased from the farmer’s market to the off-grid, self-sustaining farmer.

Prepping is also based on self-reliance. But rather than the lifestyle of a producer, their focus is one that prepares for one or more catastrophic events that propel them into a survival scenario.

survival

There are positives to each way of thinking, and the line between them is often blurred.

Many homesteaders are motivated by perceived changes and threats in the world and want to be prepared to live without the commercial supply line. More and more, peppers are realizing that stockpiling two years of MREs is not sustainable and have begun learning traditional homestead skills.

What can we learn from homesteaders?

Fall gardening

  • How to grow your own food
  • Self-reliance rather than an entitlement mentality
  • How to be frugal and make the most of our resources
  • A can-do-attitude and a desire to gather and learn new skills
  • Simple living

What can we learn from preppers?

  • Being well equipped for an emergency.
  • How to stock up on first aid supplies.
  • Have a plan if you are forced to leave home in a survival situation.
  • Survival is often a mental game. Peppers have played out scenarios in their mind so that they can quickly and accurately react.
  • You can prep no matter where you live.

 

There are pros and cons to every decision we make in life. Carefully weighing them out is vital. The debate about whether prepping or homesteading is superior is foolish and divisive and needs to end!

Learning lessons from each other is essential to life; no two people are alike. Think of this as a spectrum rather than two separate lifestyles. Find where you fit and make the most of it!

I fall more in the category of a homesteader than a prepper but find myself inspired to keep more emergency supplies on hand when I talk to my prepping friends. We face the possibility of significant winter storms that could have us holed up in the house for a couple of weeks at a time. If we aren’t prepared for that, it could be a dangerous scenario.

 

What are the pitfalls of homesteading?

  • Very labor intensive.
  • Not sustainable in poor health.
  • What if an emergency forced you to leave your homestead?

How does prepping fall short?

  • Can become too focused on prepping to enjoy the simple pleasures of daily living.
  • What happens when the preps run out?
  • Eating MREs for two years is less than satisfying.

Are you Grizzly Adams, living off-grid, or are you Survivor Bob, ready for a major catastrophe? Be inspired by both. Stop and smell the fresh herbs on your window sill and then take a hard look at what you can learn from your prepping or homesteading friends.

Your Turn!

  • Are you a prepper or a homesteader?
  • What skills or preps do you want to add to your current lifestyle?

5 Things Most People Get Wrong About Being A Homesteader

You envision this perfect homestead, chock full of adorable animals, lush gardens and delicious meals at the end of a long day on the farmstead.  It’s human to think the grass is greener on the other side, to think that the simple way of life is the ticket to a happy life, but experience has shown that people get many things wrong about homesteading.  Here is my list of 5 things most people get wrong:

Growing all your own food

garden beds

You hear this time and time again, “I’m going to grow all my own food!”  The tough pill to swallow for many first time homesteaders is that you simply can’t do it all.  Talk to any seasoned homesteader and they’ll tell you they can meet many of their needs, but not all of them.  Common things are items that can’t be grown in your climate, or that require special equipment to process or things that aren’t cost effective.

cost to grow wheat flourSome examples:  For me in my climate, North Carolina, its very difficult to grow good citrus without a lot of headache. Another example, is flour. Flour is possible for you to grow and process with about 2,000 square feet per person for a year’s worth of flour. But, I can buy the same amount of flour for much less.  I took a look at my local big box, and a name brand organic flour costs $1.22 a pound!

The truth is you will never be able to learn the intricacies of every plant, animal and farm. Good, and even great, farmers have bad crop years.  You can grow a sense of community by growing and trading a crop that you’re good at.

Homesteading isn’t an inexpensive way of living

While some cost savings can be had, I attribute most of the cost savings to a mental shift in how you use money.  A lot of homesteaders keep deep pantries to take advantage of sales when they buy. Most homesteaders are DIYers when it comes to fixing things, they buy used, and other cost-saving behaviors.  The truth is, you can adopt these habits now, in the city, and save big.  When it comes to homesteading, the cost savings is negligible because you need land, equipment, materials and feed.

An example:  University of Wyoming did a study on raising your own beef vs buying retail. The difference?  You save $235 dollars on that meat per cow.  But if you factor in time and say you, on average, spent 5 minutes tending that cow per day (very low if we are realistic), average time to butchering is around 2 years, that’s 60.8 hours of time ($3.86 per hour). The average hourly wage in the US is around $24 per hour, that means I could work a side gig for a week and eclipse that: 10 hours vs 2 years of work and not able to take a vacation.

It’s a lot harder than you think

You may have dabbled with things here and there, but until you take the leap you don’t understand what its truly like.  I remember the first year I went from two 4×8 beds to 1/3 acre; from 64 square feet to 14,500 square feet.  With the growth I added a few labor saving items: timer drip irrigation, a standup broad fork and push precision seeder.

That summer was one of the hardest gardening years of my life.  Everything was brought to another level of labor and when something went wrong, it went wrong in a big way.  Even the good things were tough.  I remember one day harvesting 350 lbs of produce in July. It was 95 degrees and so humid the air felt thick.  I got it all harvested, washed, processed and stored, then collapsed on my couch and didn’t wake up until the next morning.

You’ll probably still need a job off the homestead

There are a lot of costs that you can offset by running a homestead. You can barter, trade, and earn money from your wares, but its very difficult to go cold turkey from a steady paycheck.  This isn’t to say it’s not possible, but its very, very difficult.  Take it from me, someone who made the leap from full time traditional to self employment, it’s hard. It took me about 5 years to fully make the leap.

One of the biggest advantages to homesteading with a job is health insurance and a retirement plan.  I’m going to avoid the politics on this, but right now for just me at the cheapest health plan available ($7,500 deductible), I pay $5,400 a year as a young healthy guy with no medications.   My self-employed friends with families are paying around $23,000 a year for the same plan that I have.

So, if you have two adults in your household, there are advantages to having at least one of them working a traditional job.

You think independence will be great – you’re wrong, it’s awesome!

I have had conversations with friends who live what most would call a “typical” life, and they try to understand what it’s like to live outside the norm.  You try to explain it and you try to share what it’s really like and how clear it has become to you. The movie The Matrix tries to explain it with the blue pill or red pill metaphor, but until you actually take that blue pill and your eyes are opened, you cannot possibly grasp the gravity of your old life.  It’s absolutely true.

desing your life

I don’t even know how to put it into words, how profoundly different my life is now that I’ve taken that leap. I’ve become self-employed, live in a tiny house and living a life on my terms!

 

Your Turn!

  • What surprises have you found in your own journey?
  • What appeals to you about homesteading?