How to Start Homesteading
Food shortages and stay-at-home orders during the pandemic drove many people who had never considered the idea to look seriously at incorporating homesteading concepts into everyday life. For the first time, a ton of people had time on their hands to explore their dreams of a simple lifestyle. As things begin to return to normal, now is the perfect time to begin homesteading. The great thing about homesteading is that anyone can learn the skills to become more self-sufficient whether you live in an apartment, have a small yard, or are trying to develop a larger property.
What is a Homestead, or Homesteading?
In the most traditional sense, the concept of homesteading refers to the practice of being self-sufficient. A homestead is a place that provides everything a family needs to survive. Homesteaders grow their own food, preserve and store food they grow, and raise livestock for food and other uses. While some people think of homesteaders as people trying to lay low and live off the grid, the reality is that many people incorporate aspects of it just to be more self sufficient. Incorporating homesteading concepts into daily life is hard work but the payoff is worth the effort.
Homesteading is a way to reduce our dependence on commercially-prepared food and wasteful packaging. The modern homesteader cares about the quality of food they serve their family and want to reduce the impact they have on the environment. When you start homesteading, you'll quickly realize how much money you save doing things yourself. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction when you make a meal that you grew yourself.
Why Should You Start A Homestead?
Getting started with the homestead lifestyle doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Using some simple homesteader practices will actually save you some because you won't be paying for packaging and marketing. In turn, these wasteful products won't go into landfills. The less manufacturers need to make plastics and Styrofoam for food packaging, the less waste goes into the environment.
By far the best benefit of starting a homestead is the quality of food you'll grow and raise. There is simply no way that factory farms and ranches can care for crops and livestock as well as you can when you homestead. You'll get better flavors and healthier results doing it yourself. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that your friends and family are eating clean, fresh, and delicious food grown at home.
It's easy to get carried away when you start thinking about all the things you can do. The best way to get into homesteading is to start small. It's important to consider the size of space you have available, how much space your homestead will require, and how much time you will have to invest in keeping everything healthy and productive.
Small Scale Homesteading for Beginners
It's amazing how many simple tricks you can use at home to start homesteading. We'll share with you some of our favorite homesteading life hacks that help us eat the best food on Earth. You'll learn how to start homesteading. If you've ever wanted to get into the homesteading lifestyle, today is your chance.
Would you believe that the USDA estimates that 20 to 30 percent of the U.S. food supply ends up in landfills each year? That works out to about one pound per person per day. A significant proportion of that waste can be converted into nutrient-dense soil that will grow outstanding crops. You can set up a compost bin in as small of an area as three foot by three foot with bare ground underneath.
A compost bin can be made of a plastic tub with the bottom cut out, wood, or even be a pre-made compost container. Make sure there is good drainage from the compost bin but direct it somewhere that it won't get tracked around.
You can put grass and lawn clippings, fruit and vegetable waste, and even eggshells in your compost bin. You'll want to regularly turn the compost with a small pitch fork or a shovel to keep it mixed. The mixture will decompose through the action of worms, fungi, and protozoa. The result will be a dark and rich soil that improves the growth of your plants.
Composting reduces the amount of waste you throw in the trash. Setting up a compost bin doesn't cost a lot of money and you'll never need to buy organic potting soil again.
A great way of getting started homesteading is a garden. There are tons of resources available to learn how to grow all sorts of fruits and vegetables in even the smallest spaces. You can use containers, raised boxes, or build an in-ground garden and produce more fruit and vegetables than you imagined possible. The compost bin you made earlier will eventually feed the plants with nutrient-rich soil. Plant cuttings and leftovers can go back into the compost bin to create a self-sufficient fertilizer.
A simple way to provide a constant supply of fresh herbs is also one of the simplest tricks. The next time you buy celery, basil, parsley, mint, or any of your favorite herbs, save the bottoms. You can put them in a glass of water and put them on a windowsill. Roots will often sprout in a few weeks and you'll be able to continuously harvest your favorites. Just change the water weekly and you'll never need to run to the grocery store for that fresh sprig of mint you forgot.
Countertop and window sill planters are a great way to grow fresh produce when you don't have a piece of land that allows for a garden.
Use Every Space
Tomato and strawberry plants grow well in hanging baskets making them ideal for small spaces, patios, and other spaces. Many herbs like mint and thyme also make excellent hanging plants. A popular way to grow herbs and vegetables in small spaces is the use of wall baskets.
Containers and In-Ground Planting
Larger plants like cucumbers and squash grow well in raised bed planters. You can make a planter from scraps of wood, pallets, or buy boxes you simply assemble. A climbing trellis is ideal for these plants and makes harvesting easier.
Many places in the U.S. have less-than-ideal soil for growing plants. If you want to build an in-ground garden, you should start by digging out the area you want to plant at least eight-inches deep. Try to remove rocks, roots, and other obstacles that will inhibit plant growth. Mix your compost into your existing soil before planting your seeds.
Not everyone has the space to raise sheep, cattle, or goats but there are other animals you may be able to raise. Chickens are increasingly gaining legal favor in urban and suburban areas. Chickens come in a number of different varieties for different purposes. There are types of chickens known for egg production, meat production, or both.
Chickens for Meat and Eggs
One of our favorite meat birds is the Cornish Cross. This tiny chicken is ready for harvest in 10 to 12 weeks and can weigh up to 10 pounds. These birds don't require lots of room and don't get old enough to properly crow.
White Leghorn varieties of chickens are popular for egg production. Each hen will lay around 300 eggs each year. A bantam variety offers lots of eggs from smaller than average birds. They can be kept in smaller areas but are just as loud as regular Leghorns.
Small-Scale Meat Production
Rabbits are also a popular meat animal to raise for homesteading. Rabbits are prolific breeders and are reasonably easy to keep in small spaces. A doe rabbit may produce as many as 30 kits in a year and will remain productive for three to five years.
A Note on Laws
Be sure to check and understand your local laws before starting any of these practices. Some areas restrict compost bins as a public health and safety nuisance for which you can get a fine. Most areas that allow chickens do not allow you to slaughter the animals at home. Even container gardens could get you in trouble if you are using too much water in restricted areas.
Preserving Your Harvest
One of the things you'll learn when starting a homestead is that you will produce more than you can use during the growing season. Learning to preserve food will ensure you have a year-round supply of fresh, home-grown food.
Many of your favorite vegetables and fruits are easy to freeze. A good rule of thumb is that anything you can eat straight from the garden can be frozen straight from the garden. Many vegetables benefit from blanching before freezing to preserve freshness. Blanching simply means that you'll put the produce in boiling water for a few minutes, then chill in an ice bath to stop cooking before freezing.
Learning to can produce is a fun experience that is an excellent way to get everyone in the family involved. Canning supplies are not expensive and they are reusable season after season. Canning doesn't require any special tools other than a large pot and enough jars and lids for everything you want to preserve. A pressure cooker is helpful for ensuring you get perfectly canned food every time, but it isn't essential.
A great way to preserve meat and vegetables is dehydration. You can use a commercial food dehydrator to make vegetable chips or beef jerky. Preserving meat by drying is an easy DIY homesteading trick that ensures you have high-quality protein year-round. Check out this awesome video about making jerky at home to see just how easy it really is.
Homesteading is What You Make It
If you dream about becoming more self-sufficient, living a simpler lifestyle, and producing your own food, you'll want to start using homesteading practices in your daily life. Beginners can learn to start homesteading on a small scale so that the process isn't overwhelming. It's a great opportunity to involve friends and family who want to know how much better a homestead lifestyle can be.
Starting a homestead doesn't require that you live on a farm or have an acre of property. Homesteading doesn't even require that you own land. Your homestead can be as simple as growing and preserving fruit and vegetables in your kitchen. You don't have to live like a pioneer to get the benefits of starting a homestead. All you need is the desire to be self-sufficient and the ability to put in the work to make your dream of a simple life come true.