Homesteading means something different to almost everyone. For some people it means, quite literally, working a large piece of land. Others, a smaller piece of land. For some, it’s self-sufficiency and total off-the-grid living. And yet for just as many, homesteading is simply a frame of mind, or a way of living.
Our family homesteads on just one acre of land, out in the country of North Carolina. We don’t own a large farm, and we don’t have a barn full of animals. If you asked us to define what homesteading means to our family, it would probably include raising our small little backyard chicken flock, turning our front yard into a large garden, homeschooling our kids, and working from home.
No matter which category or definition you fall into, you can homestead, too. No large parcel of land needed! Here are a few ways to homestead no matter where you live:
1. Work with what you’ve got; accept your limitations. Plan for bigger dreams. In today’s economy, most folks can’t afford to buy a big homestead anyhow. Acreage is expensive and out of reach for many families. That’s okay. Work with what you’ve got. If you live in an apartment or urban environment, you’ll have less space but you can still accomplish a great deal. Start a plan to save for that parcel of land you really want to buy.
Which leads us to step two…
2. Save money. Quit eating out. Stop wasting money. Cut out the cable. (Trust me, your kids will survive.) Stop the magazine subscriptions and expensive coffee outings on the way to work. Cut back the extras and non-essentials.
Take a serious look at your budget and track where every cent of your income goes. Get a notebook and write down your income and outflow for three months. Track every single cent you spend, even if it is on a piece of gum. Sure, many of us are stretched to what feels like the max – but odds are, you can cut back somewhere. You won’t know until you take a hard (and sometimes painful) look. Perhaps you will be able to save enough to make your homesteading dreams a reality sooner than you might imagine.
3. Pick your interest areas and learn a new skill. As I mentioned above, homesteading means something different to every person. What works for one homesteader may not work for another family. For example: Our good homesteading friends raise goats on their farm. In a silly moment, I thought I needed to raise goats, too…you know, to be a real homesteader. Well, it turns out raising goats isn’t for our family. At all. It was a massively failed experiment.
Choose the homesteading activities that fit your family, your interests, and your lifestyle. For our family it is raising chickens, gardening, making our own soaps, and running a few small businesses. (We tried really hard to make our own little candle business – another failed experiment.)
Start small. Learn one new skill at a time. Stick with the things you enjoy and that you are relatively good at. Failure isn’t entirely a bad thing if you learn something from it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your homestead be. Choose a few things and get busy researching them and seeing if they are indeed the right fit for your homesteading efforts. As you get better at homesteading, your skill set will naturally increase!
4. Produce. Don’t just consume. Remember that old depression-era saying?
Use it up,
wear it out,
make it do,
or do without!
Adopt this mindset. Right now. Make your kids learn it and adopt it as well. You’ll save oodles of money and you’ll learn a great deal of skills in the process.
My first experience with this mentality was one day when our washing machine broke. I had no money to go and replace it right away, and I wasn’t willing to put a new washing machine on a credit card. So I had to learn how to wash clothes in the bathtub, the old-fashioned way, until we could save up enough money to replace it.
It wasn’t a fun experience, and I hardly look back at those days with any sort of fondness. However, I will say that I learned what it meant to save money for a rainy day and I also learned a skill that I daresay most Americans don’t know how to do anymore…washing clothes by hand for a family of five! We did eventually replace our washer (with cash, no credit) but I can say I now know how to wash our own clothes should the grid ever go down or I find myself in that situation again.
The moral here? Stop “buying stuff” to solve your problems. Live debt-free, even if it is painful. Learn to make do. Occasionally that means learning to do without something.
5. Grow something. Part of producing and not just consuming is learning to grow your own food. Even if you can’t grow a full garden, you can grow something. Start with a tomato plant or some lettuce seeds in a container on the back porch. Most homesteaders start small when it comes to gardening, and then they “catch the bug” and crave being able to do more.
It’s a process. But you won’t know until you actually begin.
Need more ideas? Now that you’ve begun those baby steps to homesteading without a homestead, you can try a few more things to expand your knowledge and skill set. Here are a few next steps to consider:
- Get involved in community groups like garden clubs or 4H.
- Read good books and magazines on homesteading or similar topics of interest. Share them with others.
- Take a class – a beekeeping class at the community college is on my list for 2014!
- Start buying homesteading tools and supplies as you find them on sale. Save them for your future needs.
- Never stop learning! Become a perpetual student of life and you’ll find more skills and interests.
- Consider taking your hobby and making it into a small business. I sell essential oil products like soaps, lotions and so on for a nice little chunk of change! Our children sell our chicken eggs for profit.