How to Start Homesteading: What You Need to Know


Homestead

When you are working toward self-sufficiency, homesteading allows you to make specific lifestyle choices that fulfill your survival needs independently. Homesteading can encompass a wide range of choices, including growing your food, creating your energy sources, and producing your clothes. 

When you start homesteading, you need to establish clear goals and priorities to execute the project successfully. This includes research and consideration of workload and financial commitments. You should start with small and manageable tasks and understand that homesteading is a continuous process that will require consistent maintenance.

It can be a challenge to become completely self-sufficient, especially if you have never tried homesteading practices before. Small or major lifestyle changes can be made for a self-sustained home environment from a city, suburb, or countryside.

This article will explain how to approach homesteading for the first time. 

Identify Homesteading Priorities and Goals 

Before you start any project, you should first identify why you want to get into homesteading and what your goals are. This will help to keep you focused on your objectives and end up saving you both time and money down the line.

Everyone has a different reason for getting into homesteading, which can only be accomplished by making self-sufficient life choices. 

The projects you choose to tackle first should be in line with these priorities and what makes the best sense for your family.

Goals and priorities not only apply to the actual changes you make to your residence but also the reasons you choose to homestead. There are multiple advantages and benefits to homesteading that may be driving your decisions.

Environmental Benefits

Homesteaders work closely with the environment, especially when growing their food and living off the land. This often leads to a better relationship with the environment and a need to take care of it for survival. 

For those who produce their own energy, a popular solution is harnessing wind or solar power. These are two environmentally-friendly solutions that limit your carbon footprint.

Homesteading also allows you to be more resourceful, such as creating enriched soil for compost or repurposing old materials for new benefits. 

Financial Security

While the initial investments to create a fully self-sustaining home can be significant, the long-term savings are a significant appeal to homesteaders.

Bills and expenses are lower when you are producing everything you need to live. Growing your food and producing energy are two major cost-reducing measures. 

Regardless of your streams of income, a fully sufficient homestead puts less pressure on a family to worry about the cost of living.

Homestead Exemptions 

If your homestead is registered with the state, there are financial exemptions that you can benefit from. You will need to check your state laws for the specific benefits you could receive. 

Homestead exemption benefits may include

  • Reduced property taxes
  • Protection from creditors seizing property
  • Transferred rights to a spouse after death

Simplicity of Homesteading

If you are looking for a change of pace from your everyday life and want to live more simply, homesteading can offer a solution. It is a commitment to frugality and independence, which can be much simpler than ordinary modern life. It should also be noted that, while it is simpler, this lifestyle requires work. 

Traditional homesteads may be large plots of land that are lived off of, but not all homesteads are the same. Taking your current home and incorporating homestead projects is just as legitimate as an entirely sustainable property.

The outcomes should reflect your goals and priorities for ideal living.

Do Your Research on Homesteading

Before you start homesteading, you will need to do your research on the practicality of it, given your current lifestyle and resources. This includes your property limitations, financial resources, environmental conditions, and willingness to commit the time and energy needed to sustain the homestead.

Not everyone is suited for running a homestead or has the resources to do so. Research will help you determine this feasibility. 

The property you live on is a large factor in determining how you can effectively homestead and what your limitations might be. These are some of the considerations that must be made to ensure you are investing wisely: 

  • Permanent residence: Determine if the place you are currently planning on homesteading is going to be a permanent or temporary residence. You may not want to invest lots of money and time into a place you plan to leave anytime soon. 
  • Size of land: The size of your property will determine what types of projects you can do. Do your research on the space and resource requirements needed for certain projects and how realistically those could materialize. Many homesteaders’ first steps are to grow their food and raise animals, which may require ample space. 

You should also address the time and financial resources you will need to dedicate to homesteading. Because you are aiming to be self-sufficient, this does mean that you will need to put in the work to create that independent system.

If you cannot dedicate ample time to running the homestead, you may end up wasting resources. 

Being able to successfully homestead will also depend on your location and climate patterns. Some parts of the country are more suitable for growing certain crops and growing year-round. You will need to examine your natural environment to determine if it is ideal for agriculture. 

Some of the important environmental considerations to make include: 

  • Weather conditions: Certain areas will be more suitable for growing plants than others. Part of your research will be understanding which crops are best suited for your climate. This is important to do beforehand because you may waste time and money on plants that will not successfully grow.
    You may have to build a greenhouse to grow all the plants you want, which will add to the upfront cost. 
  • Natural resource availability: You should also look at the natural resources that are already available to you and how they would best benefit your homestead.
    For example, if you have a creek or natural water source nearby, you can use it to run simple irrigation to your gardens. 
  • Animals: One of the biggest risks to your garden is animals eating the crops. This can happen in any environment, including suburbs, but rural areas are most susceptible. This can include bugs, which are common in any garden area, as well as rabbits, deer, squirrels, and other small vermin.
    In rural areas, bears and other large areas may also be a concern. You will need to build tall fences or other coverings to protect your agriculture. 

One of the best ways to do your research on homesteads is to connect with other homesteaders. You can learn from their successes and failures to save money and time. Having these helpful, first-hand resources will make it even more clear if homesteading is right for you and your family.

There are also many online groups to share ideas and advice as well as larger homestead organizations with membership opportunities, such as Homesteaders of America.

Homesteading Takes Real (Manual) Work

While the long-term benefits of homesteading include a simpler lifestyle, the time and energy required to create a homestead can be significant.

This is especially true in the beginning stages of creating the ecosystems and measures needed to live off the land. You are trading in many modern conveniences, which often means sacrificing your time. 

Starting a homestead is hard work and time-consuming for the following reasons: 

  • Building infrastructure: Homesteading requires you to create the methods and structures for living off the land. It takes significant time to put these measures in place. Preparing your yard for a vegetable garden, creating a pen for chickens, composting, building barns, and creating irrigation systems are all projects that will require time to set up properly. 
  • Starting from scratch: Part of homesteading is to start projects from scratch, which takes more time than the convenience of ready-to-go meals or items. Using raw materials to create a finished product will take considerably more time.
    Especially when aiming to be fully self-sufficient, there may be lots of projects to tend to daily. This will require long hours and early starts each day. The types of items you grow will also determine what times of the year are busier than others.
  • Skill development: There may be a steep learning curve if you have never done homesteading activities before. Learning how to garden properly, tend to animals, sew, and maintain other projects is time-consuming and labor-intensive.
    While setting up the initial infrastructure is the most challenging, some of these activities will require regular maintenance and work. 
  • Environmental forces: Especially when working off the land, you will be subject to weather and seasons that are out of your control. This unpredictability does increase the workload when you have to make adjustments and respond to changes or damage caused by external factors. 

If you are willing to put in a lot of time and energy upfront with a potentially steep learning curve, you may be cut out for homesteading. While the workload will lessen over time, there are still daily tasks that need to be completed to maintain a working homestead.  

Homesteading Can Be Expensive 

Counterintuitive to the goal of homesteading, the initial financial investment needed can be high.

If you are planning on living on the land with full self-sufficiency, this often requires considerable funds to get set up. However, using cost-benefit analysis, these startup costs will typically pay for themselves in the long run and end up saving you money. 

The cost of building a homestead will depend on the size and location of your property, as well as the projects you plan to complete.

With any project, you should establish a budget and only tackle those that fall within this range comfortably. You should also consider that material and labor costs may be higher than expected, so consider giving yourself some wiggle room. 

Expect to invest a couple of thousand dollars when working on even small lots, depending on the types of projects you take on. Because there are a significant number of factors that will influence the pricing, you should research the material costs of your projects given your location and resources. 

The initial costs of starting a homestead typically include: 

  • Land and home: If you are purchasing a plot of land for your homestead, this is often the highest cost. Building a home on the land will raise costs even higher. This may not apply to all homesteaders who may already live on the land they plan to make changes to. 
  • Animal structures: If you plan to raise animals, you will need a barn or similar structure to keep them in. The national average cost for a 1,200 square foot barn is $45,000. This is for a fully functioning barn with electrical, plumbing, and well-crafted design.
    You will also need to build pens and have the necessary tools for feeding and maintenance, which often includes wood costs for fence building. The additional cost of purchasing the animals must also be considered. Over time, breeding these animals may help to drive down costs. 
  • Equipment: Your specific homestead will dictate the type of equipment needed, but this could mean tractors, gardening tools, hardware supplies, and woodworking tools. Consider renting equipment for larger projects or borrowing from other homesteaders. 
  • Gardening: Seeds, soil, irrigation, protective coverings, and tools needed to grow your food will require an initial investment. Ideally, these systems pay for themselves rather quickly with proper attention.
    You should also be mindful of additional costs related to bad weather or bugs that can destroy plants. The return on investment for gardening is high compared to purchasing vegetables at the store. The value of your crops may be nearly three times as high as the supply costs.

The cost of homesteading is tied directly to your priorities. For those that live in cities or suburbs, you are likely working on smaller and, therefore, less expensive homestead projects. Regardless of your undertakings, make sure that you have the financial resources available before starting.

Your Homestead Budget

It is incredibly important that you create a budget for your homestead to manage costs and stay on track. This is not only essential for the building of the homestead but also for managing yearly operating costs. Many people who live on homesteads do not have traditional jobs, making your expense management important for adequately allocated funds as needed. 

These are important budgeting steps to take when starting to homestead: 

  • Goal setting: It is recommended to set goals for several reasons as it is concerned with homesteading, but all budgeting should start the same way.
    Setting financial goals applies not only to how much you plan to spend but also your income expectations and goals. This will help to drive decisions and allocate spending to prioritized categories. You should create short and long-term goals and plan homesteading projects accordingly.
  • Calculate starting costs: As mentioned, there are going to be potentially expensive costs to getting your homestead started. The most important cost to consider is making sure you can fully fund the project with quality materials for long-lasting benefit. 
  • Project estimated annual costs: You should have a target goal for how much your supplies and bills will be each year. Trying to stick to these numbers will allow for better financial decisions and a better understanding of how to run the homestead more efficiently. This includes both fixed and variable expenses. 
  • Use a spreadsheet: Log all information, including sources of income and costs, into an organized spreadsheet. You can easily keep track of values as well as compare from year to year as your homestead practices become more consistent.
    As systems become more efficient over the years, you may see costs drop. If they are going up, you can make lifestyle adjustments or investigate the rise further. 

Start Small with Homesteading 

Homesteading can be a very large undertaking, so it is wise to start small with only a couple of projects at a time. This applies to any sized homestead as it helps to manage the workload, budget, and expectations about homesteading. You may find that homesteading is not right for you, and this is best to learn before you commit to expensive changes.

Take a look back at your priorities list when choosing which projects to start with. Write down a list of all the projects and goals you have for your homestead. This may be a short or long list, depending on how self-sufficient you plan to be. From this list, narrow it down to 1-2 projects you can see through to completion (with costs and time commitments considered). 

Below are some projects you should consider when starting to homestead. These are smaller, but very useful additions to a homestead. Eventually, you can work on building larger structures, expanding these projects, and creating water and energy systems that lead to great self-sufficiency.

Given the potential constraints of your homestead size and location, these factors may determine a lot of the projects you can do. 

Herb and Vegetable Gardens

Growing your herbs does not require much space, provides you with most of your seasonings, and is much more cost-effective than purchasing bunches from the grocery store regularly.

A good vegetable garden requires soil with good drainage, areas with shade and sun depending on the plants, and whether you grow from seed, divisions, or cuttings. A vegetable garden can be used both for food and medicinal purposes. 

Fruits and vegetables are also excellent homesteading projects that will provide sustenance for you and your family. They are a little more labor-intensive than herbs; you will need similar materials but also properly time the crops for best growth 

Raised beds are the best way to grow these plants for greater root growth and rich soil. You can choose plants that grow at different times, so you always have food available. 

Preserving Food and Cooking Skills 

Especially with large gardens, it may not be possible to eat everything you grow before it goes bad. This is where preserving, drying, and other cooking methods come in.

You can keep stockpiles of food in the winter months as well as make sure nothing goes to waste. Canning, pickling, fermenting, and curing are a few of the popular methods to learn.

Homesteading will often introduce you to a wider range of cooking skills because many people aim to make their meals completely from scratch. This type of project may seem daunting at first but becomes more efficient with practice. 

Compost

If you are going to garden, making compost will help to eliminate food waste and provide you with rich soil to put back into the garden. There are multiple types of composting to consider based on your resources and preferences. Not only are you creating a source of nutrients naturally, but you are also minimizing your output of waste. 

Build a Chicken Coop

Raising animals can be a little daunting to beginning homesteaders, so starting with chickens is an easier introduction. Fresh eggs are a great source of protein! You will want to build a sturdy structure of plywood and mesh wire for open areas and make sure that each bird as at least 3 square feet of space to prevent overcrowding.

Read much more about keeping chickens and other poultry on my other blog, PoultryParade.com.

Sewing and Textile Creation

Making your orn clothes is a useful skill to have that takes homesteading to the next level.

Sewing is a great skill to know, even if you choose not to make the fabrics yourself. This can be for clothing as well as household items. Textile and fabric creation is a bit more challenging as it requires access to raw materials you may not have. Crocheting and knitting are also great skills to master, especially for winter clothing and blankets. 

Homesteading is a Continuous Process 

Running any level of homestead will require not only the initial set up work but also an ability to maintain it.

Self-sufficiency is not a modern and convenient practice and often results in consistent manual labor and daily chores. Fortunately, many homesteaders find these tasks fulfilling and enjoy doing the work to keep their homestead running. 

This is important to know as you are thinking about getting into homesteading because it can often be romanticized. While it is a beautiful life for many people, it will require you to get your hands dirty.

You can expect work to get easier as time passes when projects are completed and the infrastructure is put in place, but they will require upkeep and consistent attention. 

Agriculture and raising animals are the two most common examples of consistent work you will need to do to keep them healthy and growing. Your final product will likely suffer if you are not giving them enough time and attention. 

Quick Tips for New Homesteaders

We have covered the most important things you need to know about starting a homestead, but we also wanted to provide you with little tips that homesteaders wish they had known when getting started.

These will help you to be more efficient and get a head-start on projects you may need to prioritize over others (all of these will depend on your goals of course): 

These are our top quick tips when starting your homestead: 

  • Plant fruit frees ASAP: If you want to have ample fruit on your property, you need to plan ahead of time. Most fruit trees will take between 3 and 5 years to produce fruit. This should be one of your first projects as you’ll often see the results of other projects before the fruit comes. 
  • Invest in quality materials: Especially if you plan to stay at your homestead over a long period, investing in quality materials is worth the investment. With all the work you have to do daily to maintain the property, having to replace or fix faulty materials and construction can be time-consuming and costly.
    A common example of this is investing in good fencing. These will be required for keeping animals or having closed-off areas, and using better wood or metals will prevent damage. 
  • Keep tools in good shape: After using tools around the homestead, make sure you clean them and keep them out of the elements. Taking care of tools will make them last much longer and avoid unnecessary expenses with early replacement. 
  • Don’t quit your job: Many homesteaders choose to give up their streams of income as they aim for self-sufficiency. With the ample upfront costs associated with homesteading, you will need a sizeable nest egg for costs as well as emergencies.
    If you don’t have this saved up, try to maintain an income source until you reach financial security. 
  • Find a community: Having access to a network of other homesteaders will help you to make good decisions or gain advice for projects you take on.
    They may also be able to swap goods they produce with you to gain extra benefits. Knowledge is power, and having access to other resources will make your homesteading experience more productive. 
  • Be flexible: Weather, accidents, and dozens of other daily occurrences may occur without anticipation. Homesteading requires a fair amount of flexibility and creativity to think quick on your feet when change comes.  
  • Consider hobby farming: If the amount of work in starting a homestead seems daunting, look into smaller scale hobby farming. This allows you to participate in self-sufficient projects that do not majorly sacrifice your convenience and time. 

Getting Started With Homesteading 

Homesteading is a rewarding lifestyle toward self-sufficiency if you are willing to put in the time, effort, and capital to do it right. No matter where you live, everyone can make little changes or additions to their properties to become more independent and embrace homesteading. 

I highly suggest easing yourself into homesteading to make sure you can successfully execute the projects you start, manage your financial commitments, and determine if working towards a fully self-sufficient homestead is the best lifestyle option for you and your family!

Rasmus

Hi, my name is Rasmus. I'm a huge fan of alternative living arrangements and the many ways people are escaping the 9 to 5 grind. Whether it's van dwelling or homesteading, if it allows for more freedom in your life then I'm all ears! I've been exploring different aspects of this lifestyle for over three years now and have learned so much. From solar power to worm farming, if there's something out there that helps us live differently - I want to know about it!

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