Are you running out of steam from the constant hustle and bustle of trying to keep up with the Joneses? You are not alone! I was right where you were a few years ago. My husband and I lived in the suburbs on less than half an acre with six dogs, two parrots, and a cat. We were stressed from working jobs to maintain a materialistic lifestyle and up to our necks in debt with multiple vehicle payments and a huge mortgage. Both of us dreamed of wide open spaces, financial freedom, and a place that felt like home. If this is a lifestyle you’ve also dreamed of, don’t wait years- start today. Here are ten ways to homestead no matter where you live and start living a simpler, more sustainable life today.
BEFORE THE FARM
As veterans who suffer from anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), we struggle in public settings, like restaurants, shopping centers, and even grocery stores. Eventually, we withdrew from social settings and stayed home as much as possible because being around people at work, and living in a crowded neighborhood, was taking a toll on our mental and physical health. David and I knew we needed a change, and for us, that meant we had to leave the suburbs behind.
So, we decided to leave our demanding jobs, sell our suburban home, downsize to a smaller, more affordable home, and cut down to one vehicle. It was meant to be, because we found a small cottage with forty-two acres for sale in New Castle, Virginia. It needed work, especially the barns, but from the moment we saw the farm, we knew it was the place for us. The farm was perfect for us, with rolling hills, mountain views, multiple barns, and space to garden. We know we will turn it into our dream farm with time, but until then, we are working on being debt free and learning to work with what we have.
A homestead doesn’t happen overnight
We have learned to repurpose and rebuild using materials already on the farm. I discovered a passion for growing my food and cutting flowers. We still have a long way to go before the farm is fully self-reliant, but we’re doing what we can over time. Homesteading is not an overnight success; it takes patience, determination, drive, and a little bit of craziness, regardless of whether you live in an apartment or on two hundred acres.
Knowing what I know now, I wish I had started homesteading years ago. Contrary to widespread belief, you don’t need acres and acres of land to grow a garden or have a homestead. People think that just because they live in the city, they can’t homestead. That’s not true at all! Sure, you can’t have donkeys and goats, but the homesteading lifestyle can be lived anywhere.
With everything that’s been on in the world, are you yearning to get back to basics? Do you dream of a lifestyle allowing more freedom, security, and money in your pockets? Then homesteading might be for you!
1. Grow your own food
You don’t need to live on a farm to grow your own food. You can develop an herb garden (rosemary, basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, mint, lemongrass, dill, oregano, sage, etc.), strawberries, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, peppers, and tomato plants on a patio or small balcony. You’d be surprised how much you can grow in vertical garden planters like the one pictured below from GreenStalk. Don’t have an outdoor space? Not a problem; set up a room indoors with shelves and grow lights or use a sunny kitchen window. For containers, you can use anything around your house, from leftover mason jars to 5-gallon buckets. Get creative and have fun
2. Make your non-toxic cleaning products
I started making my cleaning products a few months ago and immediately saw a difference. My eczema doesn’t flare up as often or severe, and my husband’s breathing issues have been fully resolved. You can make most homemade cleaners with just a few simple, all-natural ingredients that you already have in your pantry. White vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, and essential oils go a long way when cleaning your home. You can even make your laundry detergent. How neat is that? Check out these fantastic household cleaner recipes by Good House Keeping, grab your ingredients and start making your all-natural homemade cleaners that work just as well (if not better) than their store-bought cleaning products.
3. Compost on the Homestead
You only need a small space to turn your kitchen scraps into beautiful compost to use in your garden. There are so many benefits to composting. Composting reduces waste, cuts methane emissions from landfills, improves soil health, and conserves water. Using a bin is the simplest and cheapest method for small-scale, at-home composting, and it doesn’t take up a lot of room. You can either buy a compost bin or build one yourself. If you build your own, make sure to include a removable top to add more compostable materials as you accumulate them on your homestead.
4. Scratch Cooking
Cooking from scratch means cooking a meal without using a prepared mixture of ingredients. Cooking from scratch will improve your health, save money, and taste better; it’s something you can do as a family. If cooking from scratch seems overwhelming, keep it simple and start small. You can start stocking your pantry with five basic staples: flour, sugar, rice, oats, and spices. Then you can store your fridge and freezer with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and dairy products over time. Cooking with these staple foods allows you to control what you put on your family’s dinner plates by knowing the amount of sugar, fat, and salt in each meal.
While there are a lot of benefits to cooking from scratch, you don’t have to cook every single meal from scratch to be a “real” homestead. Homesteading is a mindset, and it’s essential to find your balance. If your balance is cooking one meal a week from scratch, that’s perfectly ok. Do what works best for you and your family!
5. Preserve Your Own Food
Once your garden starts producing, you don’t want your fresh food going to waste. That’s why preserving is another important homesteading skill to learn. If you’re a total newbie like me and are not confident about pressure canning, you can preserve your harvest by freezing, dehydrating, or even freeze-drying it. One of the most accessible home food preservation options for homesteads is cool storage and room temperature storage, such as an unheated basement, root cellar, or crawl space. Crops that require minimal processing for storage include shell beans, dry corn, pumpkins and squash, and root vegetables. Good candidates for root cellar storage include potatoes, carrots, cabbage, beets, apples, onions, and garlic.
Check out these fantastic articles to learn more about preserving your own food.
National Center for Home Food Preservation
A Guide to Home Food Preservation: How to Pickle, Can, Ferment, Dry, and Preserve at Home – 2021 – MasterClass
8 Ways to Preserve Food At Home – The House & Homestead (thehouseandhomestead.com)
6. Learn to DIY on the Homestead
Sewing is a good start in learning to repair and extend the life of your clothing. But you’ll want to expand your knowledge into other skills so you can fix items around your homestead if they break without paying a fortune for a professional. Building tables, cabinets, coops, and animal shelters will save you a lot of money if you can do it yourself. We learned how to remodel our barn, build cells, and install fencing by watching tutorials on YouTube. Thankfully, these days you can find how-to videos on anything.
7. Add chickens, ducks, bees, or rabbits
Most homesteads raise some livestock. Even the smallest homestead can support a few animals when carefully chosen. While having cows and goats may not be an alternative for you, keeping chickens, ducks, bees, or rabbits may be an option. If you are, the first step is to check your local zoning ordinances, which are available online, or call your municipal city clerk for help.
Urban beekeeping has grown increasingly popular, and major metropolitan areas such as New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles have passed laws permitting beekeeping. The Local Beekeepers’ Associations can guide you through the rules and requirements to ensure your beekeeping project is legal. Honeybees benefit not only your garden but also your neighbor’s garden. Not to mention the fantastic honey you can harvest every year. You can also make candles, lip balm, lotion, deodorant, and soaps out of beeswax.
If your local city/county code allows it, chickens or ducks are also a popular option. Poultry can help with insect control, provide fertilizer for your garden, and provide fresh eggs! Once you make an omelet or bake a cake with fresh, organic eggs, you will NEVER want store-bought eggs again. Want to make some extra income? You can sell eggs at your local Farmer’s Market or sell to friends or neighbors.
Another famous self-sufficient goal for homesteaders is raising rabbits. Rabbits produce the best manure, and you can compost it or use it directly in your garden. Homesteaders raise rabbits for meat and angora rabbits for wool. If raising rabbits for meat or wool doesn’t interest you, they also make cute family pets. (I know, I have four house bunnies!)
8. Adopt a Frugal Mindset
Another important part of homesteading is being frugal. The easiest way to blow through money is to buy things you can’t afford. Stop purchasing credit cards because you spend way more money on something overall, and paying them off is challenging. Start by only making purchases when you have the cash for them. That will mean waiting more prolonged, but you will have peace of mind and be relieved of financial stress. You will also appreciate the money you’re saving since it’s not going to interest payments.
9. COLLECT RAINWATER
It’s incredible how much water you can collect from a brief 20-minute rain shower. Collecting rainwater will reduce your monthly water bill and stormwater runoff, decrease the need for imported water, eliminate build-up in household appliances, and it’s an excellent source of water for your garden! Unbelievably, some communities (and even states) prohibit collecting rainwater, so check your municipal code before installing rain barrels.
10. Remember – Take it easy on yourself
Regardless of how prepared you are, you will fail. Plans don’t always work out, priorities shift, leaving tasks incomplete, the weather changes, and animals get sick. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you measure once and cut twice, lose an animal to predators, or when you don’t reach your goals as quickly as you thought you would. Having a homestead is not for the faint of heart. It’s challenging, dirty, exhausting, and time-consuming, but if you’re willing to put in the effort and hard work, homesteading is an advantageous way of life.
You don’t have to own a farm to get started. By gradually becoming more self-sufficient and simplifying your life, you can slowly move step-by-step toward your goal of living the life of a homesteader, whether you live in the city or a small suburban lot.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope this post was helpful. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments!