What is Homesteading?
The original pioneer homesteaders were the first to settle in a new area and had to improve their land, plant crops and build dwellings in order to survive the harsh climates. If they fulfilled and sustained the land in this way, after a period of 5 years the own became their property. It would have been a hard bleak way of life and one that required an abundance of skills and tenacity.
Modern homesteading is more about a change in lifestyle, one that consists of the need to feel closer to our roots and become more conscious about the way we live and the things we eat. It’s about creating a relationship with nature, the path our food takes from farm to table and adopting a sustainable, self sufficient approach.
It’s about not having to rely on the outside world and economic situations to be able to support and nurture our families. Today it’s a complimentary mix of old-fashioned skills and modern day conveniences working together with the space that you have available. While it’s not necessarily easy to do, it is incredibly rewarding and can help you create a feeling of independence and control over your life.
Although there is a small trend of people moving to the countryside and even starting small farms, modern homesteading doesn’t necessarily involve owing a huge area of land, many can start on a small acreage or even with the urban homestead movement, in your own backyard.
Urban homesteading is becoming more mainstream as people look at ways of incorporating small scale agriculture, home food preservation and container gardening into city or suburban life. Many cities and urban development’s support this move towards self sufficiency, allowing such opportunities as vegetable co-ops, backyard beekeeping, and the raising of chickens. You will of course need to check with your local authority as to what is allowed in your area.
Why Consider Homesteading?
- We are all becoming more aware and more motivated to live a healthier lifestyle and by growing and raising your own food you can improve the health of your whole family. After all homegrown food tastes the best; no chemicals, no processed rubbish just good natural, home grown and organic. Food in it’s natural unadulterated form (ie: no added sugars, additives, colourings etc) is just plain yummy. It tastes different but it’s a good different, as it’s meant to be. Imagine growing juicy sweet and in season strawberries that actually taste of strawberries instead of the watery, available all year round, looks like a strawberry but tastes of nothing version that the grocery stores pump out by the box load.
- It’s a family affair. Learning where your food comes from and the path it takes from farm to table, the processes of growing, harvesting, and preparing to the end result of having the fruits of your labors on the table in front of you, is a powerful lesson for all ages.
- Producing your own food is cheaper than buying them from a supermarket, with the added benefit of using far less energy and producing less waste.
- Self sustainability and self reliance = security. The skills you learn through homesteading enables you to look after, clothe and feed your family. You’ll be able to fill your pantry and freezer and store enough food last through the seasons with plenty on hand in case of an emergency.
- In planting vegetables, herbs, or fruit trees, we help to improve the ecosystem create and create habitats for birds, butterflies, and pollinators.
There are many skills that are advantageous to have or to learn. These skills will enable you to live a self-sustainable life by relying on as few outside sources as possible. Here are some examples
The green fingered ability to grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs is probably one of the most important. A well stocked garden can keep you fed year round. You’ll also need a fully stocked shed in which to keep all the tools and equipment you will need. It’s important to find the right shed before you buy, so make sure you’re considering all the options available. If your garden is small then perhaps a giant shed isn’t needed, just a small one to fit your tools and maybe a box or two. Making a shed is a great skill if you’re starting to homestead, but if you don’t feel like building your own, you can get custom built on site sheds from backyardstorage.com.
Harvest Preservation and Food Storage
Learning the skills of canning, pickling, preserving, drying, and smoking keeps your pantry full and cuts down on your trips to the grocery store. Master the knowledge of long term storage of your bountiful garden harvest with an organised root cellar.
Making bread and cakes from scratch is easy and enjoyable. You can often make them healthier than store bought with a few substitutions of ingredients. Plus they have the added bonus of making your home smell great.
Stock up your freezer with an afternoon of cooking several dishes. You can also prepare many slow cooker recipes in advance, freeze and dump in the crock pot on the day you need them. A couple of afternoons of prep can fill your freezer.
Many aliments and problems can be relieved with common edible household items. For example Ginger helps with nausea, honey can be used to make a cough syrup and milk can ease sunburn.
If you are lucky enough to have cows, sheep or goats on your homestead then using the milk to make your own cheese, butter, yoghurt or ice cream would be quite rewarding. If you don’t have space for livestock then you can still make these with grocery store milk.
Propagation and seed saving
Save money on your garden by learning how to successfully grow plants from cuttings and how to save seeds to use for next year’s crop.
Foraging is simply the act of finding and harvesting wild foods. To do this you have to be able to properly identify every plant that you intend to harvest so that you know if it is safe for human consumption. If you cannot identify the plant 100% then DO NOT eat it.
Hunting & Fishing
Hunting and fishing is a great way to fill your freezer. One deer or elk can produce 50lbs of meat. That’s a lot of family dinners. Just make sure you use all the best equipment if you want to have a successful hunt, as it really does make all the difference. Most importantly, you’ll need specialized binoculars for hunting so that you can optimize your accuracy when shooting.
Many crafts are useful for around the homestead such as sewing, quilting, candles making, and making body lotions and soaps. In addition many of these crafts can be sold online or at craft fairs to provide an additional income.
This is a skill that not everyone will have the stomach for but if you raise your own livestock or chickens then it’s handy to be able to do this yourself.
Make your own laundry detergent, insect repellent, and cleaning products with ingredients to have to hand or can find in your garden. Find simpler or quicker ways to do tasks.
If you can garden, you can be a beekeeper. There’s many pluses to becoming a beekeeper: Bee’s help to pollinate your plants, you would also be helping sustain the honeybee population which has been in decline over recent years and while most people think of the yummy honey they will produce, in addition there’s beeswax, bee pollen and royal jelly that can be harvested. If you wanted to get into bee keeping, visit a Beekeeping Store where you can find the supplies to get you started.
Keeping chickens is relatively inexpensive and a much healthier alternative to factory farmed poultry. Whether you are raising chickens for eggs or for meat, no homestead is really complete without it’s own brood.
This may seem like an odd skill to add into the list, it’s all dependent on how you wish to homestead. While many are happy to grow raise and harvest to feed their own family, some homesteaders and hobby farmers are looking to earn an income from their hard work. Whether you are running a farm stay / vacation rental, selling your crafts online or attending the local farmers market, branding and marketing is important to set you apart from your competitors.
Animal care and husbandry, composting and vermiculture, woodworking & carpentry, home brewing / distilling, grazing practices & crop rotation, aquaponics / hydroponics, recycling.
How Homesteading Can Save You Money
- No gym memberships are needed here! Homesteading keeps you fit. Keep s you fit. Exercise and fresh air keep you healthier and in turn lower Doctors trips and medical bills.
- Making meals from scratch, especially if you are bulk cooking, saves on regular expensive visits to the grocery store. Maintaining a well stocked root cellar and pantry from your harvest means you will have available food year round.
- Raising chickens provides organic, fresh non gmo eggs for a fraction of the price you pay at the store
- You develop a nothing goes to waste mentality. Recycling, reusing and repurposing will become a regular habit. You learn to live more simply
- Using a wood burning stove lowers bills
- Composting waste and kitchen scraps provides you with fresh organic fertiliser
- Drying clothes on the line, saves on electricity (dryers use a shocking amount) and leaves your clothes crisp and fresh.
- Crafty DIYers can make most of the things you’d normally buy at the store…made for a fraction of the cost. Whether it’s clothes, body lotions or handmade furniture
- Many homesteads can implement alternative energy methods and save on bills
- Hunting and butchering your own meat gives you a freezer full of food that’s not stuffed full of antibiotics or hormones
- Save on water bills by collecting rainwater for your vegetable garden
- You learn new skills that enable you to fix things yourself rather than paying someone else to do it for you.
- If you work from home you will both time and money on the cost of commuting
- Self sufficiency means less trips to grocery store or running errands and so money less spent on gas.
And that’s just a few examples of how homesteading can save you money. As you get more experience and learn new skills we are certain you will be able to add to this list.
If you are new to homesteading the trick is to take your time. Don’t try and do everything at once. Sit down with the family and make a plan with the goal of increasing your self sufficiency a little more each year.
It’s a great way to get the whole family involved in creating a simpler, back to roots more self sustaining way of life and have more fun while doing it.