What is Homesteading?

The image that usually comes to mind is a self-sufficient farm, full of animals, jars of home-canned food on the shelf, and a loaf of homemade bread in the oven. While all of that can certainly fall under the umbrella of homesteading there are many other interpretations of the homesteading lifestyle as well.  Over the years we have figured out what homesteading means to our family, but here’s some of the basics.

what is homesteading

 What is the Homestead Act of 1862?

The origin of homesteading comes from the homestead act of 1862 where land was given to families in an effort to encourage western migration. Those families had to stay and work the land for five years before it was given to them. It sounds like a dream but it was often very difficult for the families settling the west.

 

The Modern Homesteading Movement

modern homesteading

Homesteading today is a mindset before anything else. It is a can-do attitude. Homesteading starts as a little spark when you look at something you just purchased and realize you could produce it on your own or the realization that our modern, consumer-driven society is not a sustainable model. Next thing you know, you are shopping for seeds and weighing the cost of backyard chickens.

Right now our family is on 1 1/2 acres of rented land, in a small city. We are making our dream come true while we search for our forever home. But this is not where it all started. Our story began in a town in southern Arizona. We were learning about the health benefits of organic food but struggled with the cost. That’s when we got the bug to begin producing our own food.

Chickens for egg production

While the Homesteaders of 1862 were pioneers off in the wilderness, today it’s all about becoming self sufficient and building skills to grow your own food.  Many people take advantage of off the grid systems like solar power, wind turbines and other energy methods.  A variety of animals can be raised on your homestead including chickens, ducks, quail, bees, goats, and pigs.  Some people even branch out into larger animals such as cows or horses.

Homesteading For Beginners

start a homestead

We started with chickens, the gateway animal as we like to call them, 25 of them filled our little suburban backyard. Next thing you know turkeys and quail were added to the menagerie. I would have put a cow back there too if I could have figured out how to do it!

We quickly realized that we had been bitten by the homesteading bug. That set us on a mission to grow as much of our food as we possibly could. We now have a big garden that feeds us through the summer and into the winter. Our Family have learned to can, dehydrate and freeze any surplus. We are raising our own chicken and beef too.

Starting Small Is Important

Time and time again I see new homesteaders wanting to do it all, only to get discouraged and burned out.  Our family did the same thing and boy did we learn this lesson the hard way.  Start with one or two homesteading skills and spend your first year focusing on those before adding anything new.  Starting small is also budget friendly, so take your time and do it right.

Define Your Homesteading Goals And Your Ideal Life

homesteading goals

before you jump head first, take a few minutes to consider what you want to achieve with your homestead.  Think about your life and what you want it to be.  Make sure that anything you do on your homestead is getting you closer to your goals and supports your ideal life.  Too often people think homesteading has to be done a certain way, but it’s a very personal thing.

I’ve seen many people get all the homesteading items (gardens, tractor, cows, etc) only to realize they couldn’t ever leave their farm because they have to milk the cows twice a day!  Make sure you consider how different paths will impact your life and if that’s something you want in the first place.

Get Started Homesteading:

  1. Walk around your property and take an inventory
  2. Look at current needs, brainstorm how you could meet those needs
  3. Make a list of homesteading projects and order them in priority
  4. Choose the top 1 to 2 items and spend 30 minutes researching each
  5. Set a small baby step goal to do this week towards that larger goal

Beginner Homestead Resources:

Building A Homestead From Scratch

Homesteading is not a list of boxes that need to be checked off until you become a homesteader. It is the way you look at and interact with the world around you. Our dream is the big land, where we can live off-grid and be as self-sufficient as possible. But we have learned that homesteading can happen anywhere.

Garden produce

Plan Out Your Homestead

A little planning can go a long way, make sure you plan out your property and all the locations of your little farm.  Consider how you’ll bring in materials, the daily tasks you need to do, what tools will be needed most often etc.  Put the things that need the most tending closest to your back door, while things that don’t need as much attention can go back further from the house.

Don’t Skimp Infrastructure

building a homestead

I’ve seen even some of the more senior homesteaders not spend enough time on their infrastructure.  While you want to stay flexible, having a solid foundation is important.  What things make up your homestead’s infrastructure?

  • Water lines – have water right where you need it, buried lines below the frost line
  • Access – A solid path or driveway for wheel barrows, tractors and dump trucks
  • Storage – good storage is critical.  Keep equipment out of the rain
  • Power – Solar or grid, get these lines in the ground to where you need it now
  • Fences – one of the larger expenses, but a good fence is critical
  • Workshop – A place to fix and build things
  • Compost Bins – Every homestead makes waste, have bins to make great soil
  • Garden Beds – Spend the time and money to build quality beds that will last

Homesteading Is A Progression

It is something you can do in an urban apartment or on a sprawling farm. It usually starts small. Maybe you buy a couple of herb plants and realize the joy of growing your own food. Something that costs several dollars for a meal or two you can sustainably produce on your windowsill for pennies.

Not only is the cost difference convincing but the fact that it grows and continues to produce is inspiring. Soon you have a tomato plant in a pot on the patio and a couple of lettuces in another pot.

What about all of the food scraps you throw out? Couldn’t those be put to good use too? Now you are deciding between a compost pile, worm bin or a small flock of chickens. I am sure you are seeing the progression.

Farm fresh eggs

It can take you as far as you want to go. You might end up at an off grid farm out in the country where you raise animals for meat and have a market garden. With enough to feed your family, put up food for winter and take the rest to the farmer’s market.

Maybe you are more of an urban homesteader who wants to bring change to the community around you. You have solar power, gray water, and rain catchment systems and are producing more food than most people think possible by utilizing vertical growing and permaculture.

Homesteading Skills – Back To Basics

A good homesteader learns to be more of a producer and less of a consumer you realize the joy that can be found in the simple things. Learning to heat your house with wood, growing your own food, cooking from scratch, herbal remedies, caring for animals, the list goes on and on.

Canning apples

You develop a new way of seeing the world. Instead of being concerned about having the career, the house, the car that society thinks you need, you realize that none of that brings lasting joy. However, when you take a bite out of that sweet, crunchy carrot that is the fruit of your own labor, you experience a joy you can’t find at the grocery store.

Homesteader Skill Ideas:

It is a joy that only comes from laboring with your hands, being patient, nurturing, and producing something most people take for granted. Learning these skills is liberating as you realize you don’t have to rely on someone else for your most basic needs.

As exciting as it all sounds, it can be daunting. If you are looking to start your homestead journey, here is a guide to starting today in five easy steps.

Your Turn!

  • How did your homestead journey begin?
  • Are you a country, farm homesteader or an urban homesteader?
7 Comments
  1. I am a six acre homesteader in a Tiny House! I loved your article!!

  2. I used to live on 3 acres of land with a house that I helped a family member buy, but later lost in foreclosure.
    We had chickens, goats, American Guinea Hogs, rabbits, ducks, a mini cow and her bull calf. We built a greenhouse and planned on doing aquaponics and raising our own tilapia and garden produce, fruits and veggies on the top of the IBC aquaponic containers. We also grew gardens of yummy foods! When we lost the house we lost everything. It has broken my heart but not my spirit. I pray that I win my disability case (fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s and Chilblains in my feet and toes, migraines, back and neck pain, carpal tunnel….) and am able to find the right piece of land so I can start over!
    For now I rent an apartment and have a tiny 3×4 piece of “land” that I am allowed to garden how I want to. I just won some seeds from one of our fellow YouTuber’s, Chico from He Provides Homestead, so I will soon be planing some pumpkin, watermelon, zucchini and cucumbers!
    I love to watch your videos of you and your family, and also the ones where you collaborate with Esther!
    I make my own water kefir and Jun tea and eat as healthy as possible for not being on my own land. I also use little electric, except for the internet, fridge and cooking. Also a bit to watch DVD’s. I am alone with no family or pets so that is a nice distraction when it is lonely at night. During the day however, I am usually working on ATC’s, mixed media projects, or making cards. I often create YouTube videos of my arts and craft creations too. My channel is Roberta’s Artistic Adventures.
    Thank you for sharing your lovely stories of family and faith, of health/illness and how eating right can make a huge difference, and simply for being the generous and loving spirit you are! God bless you, SisterFriend!

  3. We’re urban homesteaders with a dream to own an orchard somewhere! We’ve got our chickens, our gray water, our year round fruit trees, and too many herb plants on my windowsill.

  4. We have lived in the country most of our 47 yrs of married life. Raised 10 children besides assorted chickens goats pigs cattle. Always had some garden but always dreamed of growing & raising all of our food. All of the 10 are out of the nest. most with a brood of their own. Most like growing things even if they have to life in town. It is an attitude as well as a lifestyle. Knowing how to do things for yourself is important. Knowing that milk does not originate in the grocery store & that farming is important & necessary should be known.

  5. I live in Johannesburg South Africa where I practice homesteading of sorts! Enjoying your site…Thank you

  6. Just bought a 40 acres lot south of the South Rim Grand Canyon. Will be planning to live off grid with solar, grey water system etc. Thanks for the info, will be trying the homestead style slowly and surely!

  7. We fought the fibromyalgia with a lot of pain pills and tears not until we had to give a try on natural formulas, we purchased a herbal treatment from totalcureherbsfoundation.com  which help her a lot and bring her back to normal again, the herbal formula reverse the symptoms grammatically and she’s totally free from the Fibromyalgia that cost her pains for ages .

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