The lives led by human beings in 2023 are complicated messes of material possessions, media pressures, and corporate control over everything from food to fashion. The resultant stress is becoming far too much to bear.
Many people want a way out. They wish their lives were simpler and their schedules less full, but only some know how to get there. The truth is, changing the lifestyle means completely upending your life as you know it, and only a few people are ready to take the plunge. Are you?
If your answer is yes, you might be interested in homesteading. This way of life requires you to live off the land as much as possible, minimizing material possessions and growing or making most of your food from scratch.
Homesteading may sound impossible, but it isn’t. Thousands of Americans live this way and are usually happier, more fulfilled, and healthier, too! Here are a few tips and strategies to build your own homestead.
1. Make a Plan
Every successful endeavor, whether it’s a new business or a new home, starts with a plan. First, you need to strategize to get a handle on what you have, what you need, and how to start this new life properly.
Make a list of your assets. For example, do you own your home? If so, how much property do you have? Generally, you’ll need about 1 acre per family member to sustain everyone in your household. Any less, and you may need to find a new property with more space.
Also, think about the tools you’ll need to homestead. Of course, a garden is essential, and you just might need a tractor with a tractor canopy if you plan to farm large fields. You’ll also need basic gardening supplies like a shovel, rake, hoe, spade, and high-quality working gloves.
A few other basics homesteading supplies include:
- Compost bin
- Rain barrel
- All-terrain vehicle
- Fencing supplies
- Seeds and seed starting supplies
- Canning equipment and jars
There is much more to planning a homestead than buying supplies. How large do you want your garden? What do you want to plant? Would you like to have animals on the homestead? If so, what kind and how many?
But there are some life-altering decisions you need to consider in your plan, too. For instance, will you work outside the home, or will homesteading become your full-time job? If you have children, will they stay in school, or will you homeschool them instead?
There are no easy answers to these questions, but addressing them before you begin your homesteading journey will help you be more prepared and increase your success as you embark on a new chapter of life.
2. Find a property
Whether you think your existing property will make a good homestead or you need to buy something to meet the needs of your new lifestyle, there are several things your land must have to be an excellent homestead:
- Location: How close do you want to be to amenities like the grocery store, emergency services, or your kids’ school? The answer depends on how off-grid you want to live.
- Space: Don’t forget, you will need about 1 acre per person to sustain everyone living on the homestead. So if you have a family of four, you should aim to find a property with at least four acres.
- Facilities: Besides a dwelling to comfortably house your family, you’ll need outbuildings like a garden shed, barn, and chicken coop to take care of your homestead’s assets.
- Farmable land: Having enough acreage is crucial, but you must also have solid ground to grow crops. You’ll need about a quarter acre of flat, well-drained land that gets at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily to grow a successful garden.
- Natural resources: Identify any additional resources you can use, including timber, small game for hunting, or even enough direct sunlight to install solar panels. As a homesteader, you need to be able to see your property for its life-sustaining resources.
- Water: The most critical resource on your property is water. In the absence of public water or a natural spring, wells are an excellent source of freshwater. You may be surprised that over 100 million Americans use groundwater wells for drinking water.
When it comes to homesteading, the goal is to have the right amount of everything you need, nothing more, nothing less. So make sure your property meets all these requirements, at a minimum, before starting a homestead.
3. Go Renewable
One thing many homesteaders uncover as they plan their new life is the need for more resources on their property. With public utilities, homesteaders can find access to water and electricity.
Water is easy to come by because most homesteaders prefer a well, anyway. Surface water sources rarely meet drinking water standards, and using public water can sometimes defeat the purpose of homesteading. If you choose to use a well on your homestead, test it once a year for bacteria and other contaminants.
Accessing electricity, however, is another matter. Solar is a viable option for homesteaders who can’t access or choose not to use public utilities. But this renewable energy requires precise amounts of direct daily sunlight and doesn’t work for everyone. And despite the many benefits of wind energy, few areas suitable for farming get enough wind to generate a meaningful amount of power.
Instead, many homesteaders choose to reduce their electricity consumption. They do this by adding wood stoves or geothermal heating systems. Tankless water heaters are another excellent option to conserve both water and electricity.
Consider looking into biogas, too. This renewable energy source comes from the human and animal waste produced on your homestead, although it isn’t very popular. Regardless, biogas is a proven, affordable way to heat your home (and manage your waste).
4. Plant a Garden
Every homesteader, without exception, needs a garden. This is where you will get fresh fruits and vegetables and many herbs and spices for cooking. But growing a garden isn’t as simple as sowing a few seeds and occasional watering. You’ll need to make a plan before you even buy your first seed packet.
Select a spot with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. It should be flat, well-drained, and have easy access to water. If you notice pests nearby, put up fencing, raise the beds, or even add a few chickens to the yard to keep bugs down—more on that later.
Then check out the USDA’s hardiness zone map to determine what you can plant and when. This map divides the country into growing zones, and you should only plant fruits and vegetables that will thrive in your zone.
You should also divide your growing season into spring, summer, and fall. Then, use the Farmer’s Almanac growing calendar to determine when each plant species needs to go into the ground. This ensures you’ll have a healthy crop that survives the elements of each season.
5. Add Animals… Maybe
Most homesteads include a few animals for the basics, like eggs, milk, cheese, butter, and more. Remember, having animals doesn’t always mean breeding them for meat unless that’s what you want.
Generally speaking, the larger the animal, the more space it’ll need to graze and live. Chickens only need a small coop and can be free-range or corralled in the garden. They are expert insect eaters and fertilize the ground as they go!
If you want to venture out from chickens, you may want a cow or goat for dairy products or even a few sheep or a llama for wool. There isn’t a precise formula for adding animals to a homestead; it’s entirely up to you.
Think you’re ready for radical change? Homestead life is a good life as long as you know what you’re doing. So start slow, take your time, and give yourself lots of grace as you embark on a totally new way of living.