So almost every time I start telling people what Joe and I want to work towards doing I hear a friend or a family member tell me “you want to homestead!?” Somewhat as a question and mostly a statement of shock or disbelief. I generally say “yes” and sometimes add “but not the way you’re probably imagining” which generally brings on the questions. By adding that statement to my answer I am basically saying that I don’t intend to move out into the country and raise cows, not that there is anything wrong with this, but I know it’s not for me. I’m still a novice when it comes to gardening, let alone raising cattle, pigs, growing multiple acres of food, processing all of these resources into usable food and materials, cooking, cleaning, raising two kids, etc. Running a completely self-sufficient homestead is a full-time job for more than just one person. It’s a lot of hard work, and frankly there is plenty that isn’t so appealing, so I’ll take a pass. For now.
It’s not practical for us to run a true homestead, but we do dream with our rose-colored glasses of what that would be like! Instead we are doing what many aspiring self-sufficient, back-to-landers are doing these days and finding a nice compromise of modern living and homesteading.
You may have heard of urban, suburban or some other such description to explain the location of homesteading that is being done. Well, I tend to look at homesteading as the means and methods being employed, and for us, I’m not even sure where we really fall in those categories, but I do know what we’ve done to jump start our journey into this wonderful world of self-sufficiency.
So here is a little list of what we first did to get things going and it’s not as hard as you think:
1) Get Educated: go to the library, go online, read blogs (wink wink) start talking and learning what is involved. Everything is less intimidating with a little knowledge tacked on. Plus this is a good place to start deciding what you are really looking to do, whether that is a just a couple of things or going the whole mile, and you get the added bonus of realizing what is possible where you live and what is not.
2) Consider Your Strengths and Weaknesses: I am not a morning person, but Joe is, so if we ever move beyond having chickens to say goats, he would most likely be handling the goats in the morning (animals love routines..hmm..just like kids). I, on the other hand, am very detailed oriented. I keep track of seeds, the rotation of our garden, and other little details like fertilizing and pest control. Knowing these things about yourself ensures a better chance of succeeding in your endeavor to be more self-sufficient.
3) Dream, Just Not Too Big: Dream your dream, have fun with it, put those rosy glasses on and smile about the sweet freedom becoming self-sufficient provides but taking into account points 1 and 2 along the way. It’s something many have probably stated but is worth stating again, don’t over-do it. Consider what is possible and stick to that, there is always time to add on later, when you have a better handle on the basics.
4) Start Off Small: Container gardens or a little 4×4 plot in your backyard are great ways to introduce yourself to gardening/farming, an essential skill in homesteading. Grow basic foods, learn to save the seeds, preserve your produce, and cook using what you’ve grown and using it up so there is little to no waste. Maybe try your hand at composting (there will be a post later about this!) and see how you do at incorporating your food waste with your yard waste which just so happens to make a delicious snack for your plants! The point is, go slow and steady to avoid overwhelming yourself.
5) Start Planning Now: Whether you’re a novice, or an expert gardener/farmer/homesteader, planning is key to being successful. Sure it’s winter outside, and we have healthy layer of snow on the ground here, but Joe and I plan our garden out, think about what we ate a lot of, and what didn’t work so well for us this past growing season. We think about the possibility of expanding or just trying to use our current space more efficiently, if possible. We learn new details and information each time we strategically plan for the spring thaw. It’s our third season this year and we’re very excited to see what it involves!
Please share your story with us in the comments!!