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.

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