In the beginning..

jill111 / Pixabay

Not wanting to go into the details of how I found myself in my current unfortunate living situation, the facts of my life will definitely color everything I am attempting, so here’s the lowdown.  At 43, I am back with my parents, in a small room, with no income, no car of my own, and very few belongings. Everything I do in the garden has to be approved by them, because after all, it is actually THEIR garden. That means I won’t be getting money to improve it and set things up, unless it’s something they want. It also means that they’re limiting my scavenging, because they don’t want their yard to be “messy”.  When it comes to prepping, it means I am VERY unprepared, because I own next to nothing of my own. I also have fibromyalgia, which means chronic pain, fatigue and depression get in the way of everything I am trying to do.

This is the reality of my start.

First things first, I need to be generating an income. I am a full time college student, primarily as a way to postpone my student loans, but also to gain skills that will help me in the future. It’s not a degree I need; I have several of those. It’s a lot of knowledge, skills, stamina and savings. So, I have chosen to do this in three steps.

MartinStr / Pixabay

Step 1) Vanliving. I am one step away from being homeless right now, and the best I can do next is to take a step sideways, and live in a converted van or rv while continuing to prep and save money. Until then, I have joined meetup groups and focused on researching and practicing with whatever I have on hand.

Step 2) If I don’t want to live in a van for years, I need to start out with mortgage that doesn’t cost more than living in a van would. Considering the areas I am looking at, that puts me between 50k-100K for a LIVABLE place, not empty land. It also means I will probably be upgrading to a backyard garden in a semi-rural area without the privacy and space I long for. I’d rather put money into a mortgage, and keep saving, because renting a place would be a waste of time and money. I wouldn’t even be able to save up, paying a thousand per month in rent. Since I don’t intend to stay long, I am more likely to spend my time and money on portable projects that can go with me when I move. I won’t be planting any trees or buying another dog. A few chickens, maybe?

Step 3) Dream home? To know where to start, I need to visualize what I ultimately hope to achieve. Here’s what I have so far: 5 Acres Minimum, but 20 would be nice. Pacific Northwest, from Northern California to Washington. I love the ocean, but a source of fresh water and fishing is going to be more important. If I buy a place with a house already on it, I won’t have to worry about zoning, permits, installing plumbing, etc. Just starting out, I wouldn’t mind at all if I still have utilities, as long as the ability to live without them will be possible. Hopefully I can find flat land and soil that’s good for farming, but there are ways to work around such things. With my limitations, I am probably going to hire someone to help me set up and run the homestead. Who knows? Maybe I will meet someone to share my life with, and all its joys and hardships.

2554813 / Pixabay

After a lot of consideration, meat animals are going to be more responsibility that I don’t want, so I am hoping to have neighbors to trade with or buy meet from once or twice a year. I have a 6 yr old small dog right now, and I will probably be getting egg laying chickens, so some type of guard animal is definitely a consideration. Dog breeds and alternative options, like donkeys and Alpacas, will be discussed elsewhere on the blog but for now I am inclined toward getting a large herding dog or two. Even peacocks are a possibility! Pyrenees are probably the most frequently recommended dog breed, but I want something that can scare off or fend off any human intruders too, and a Pyrenees is NOT the dog for that. (They’re cute, fluffy and all around friendly.) I haven’t ruled out fish for aquaponics (Tilapia, Trout, Perch or Koi). And I have considered an “emergency pig.” (Juliana Spotted Mini?) Maybe I will name her “Lucky”, because if everything goes well she will only be a pet. I definitely want honeybees!

Why am I set on the Pacific Northwest when land is so much more expensive, my options are so much more limited, and I am subject to a lot more zoning restrictions? Not only that, but if the U.S. ever does get attacked, the West Coast is the easiest target and there are many important military sites and bases. I HAVE taken that last one into consideration, and won’t be living within 100 miles of a major target city.

I have lived in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. I also have relatives in Alaska. The Pacific Ocean is my heart. Also, weather in these areas permits for year round farming, or close to it. There are still State and National Forests all over here. But for me, the most important part is that I am much more likely to be around accepting people, who share my religious and political views. It’s something everyone might want to consider, themselves, when looking for their dream homestead. No matter how isolated you go, there will always be people around, and you need to get along with them.

Homesteading 101

You’re ready for a new and exciting rural life. That’s great! But in order to get there, you need to know where you’re going. What does Homesteading mean to you? Are you choosing homesteading because you want a life lived closer to nature, self-reliant, self-sustaining? Does that mean you want to live “Off The Grid”? What does that even mean? Maybe you’re a prepper, and you’re starting to think about what happens AFTER “the day after”. Or you would prefer to get a head start. Why wait until catastrophe strikes to learn how to make a homestead work for you? For that matter, aren’t you better off getting out of the city sooner, rather than later? When I finally decided to live a life already self-sustaining and off grid, I asked myself “Would I prefer that lifestyle, even if nothing catastrophic ever happened?” For me, that answer was a resounding “YES!” and I decided not to let the opinions of anyone else continue to hold me back.

For many people, this decision involves the whole family. So when you ask yourself what you want, also ask why. Then be sure to discuss it with the other members of the family. Deciding to home-school or finding a place close to a good school for your children are things you may have to consider.

If you want to go off grid is it for the environment, to save on bills, or so you have a system setup that is likely to fail if public utilities fail? Some might only want a bug out location, which would be more like a vacation set up. You wouldn’t necessarily need a long term sustainable garden or animals. You would need the ability to stockpile foods and subsist in isolation for a few month. If you do want animals on your homestead, which ones suit your lifestyle best? Most people start with chickens, but Guinea fowl and Quail are also popular choices as all three provide similar services. Plus, Quail’s eggs sell for a LOT of money if you can get a buyer. Will you have bees for honey? That might not be safe if anyone in your household is allergic to them.

If you are primarily concerned about going green and eating garden grown foods, most of that can be done in an urban setting, and you wouldn’t need to buy a lot of land. If you are willing to look, you can probably find butchers not far from you that have higher standards for the meat they’re selling, and buy half a cow from them to last you a long time. It’s less expensive than store bought and easier than keeping cattle. You would definitely need a big freezer, though. If you’re more interested in seclusion and nature, then you can often find places where utility companies still get to that property, or you can set up your own systems out of necessity.

Going off grid doesn’t usually save a lot of money, at least not for a while. Startup costs can be prohibitive. There are places that will reimburse you for installing solar power or using a rain water catch system, as well as offering tax deductions. Unfortunately, there are a lot more places that have zoning laws “for your safety” or for the environment that don’t allow you to set up your own water supply, septic system or even disconnect from utilities at all! (There’s also occasionally ways around this.)

Once you’ve decided what you think you want, try it out where you are now. If you’re planning to live off produce grown on your own homestead, you should be sure you’re able to keep a garden going and see if you even like it. Make grocery lists that match what you are most likely to be eating, and eat that way now. Planning to handwash and hang dry? That can be done no matter where you are. You might even be able to set up a graywater (or greywater) system in your house. You can switch to camp and military style showers, and keep close track of your monthly water usage. How can you reduce the amount of electricity you are using right now?

Take a deep breath, figure out what you want, and start small. This is a drastic lifestyle change for most people and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the possibilities and the dangers. Try to take it one step at a time.