Beginner’s Guide To Homesteading – Step By Step
HOMESTEADING … it is a word that is becoming more and more popular these days. You likely have heard about homesteading online or even know someone who homesteads.
The homesteading lifestyle gives people the opportunity to be producers instead of consumers, enjoy the simple things of life, be in nature daily, live a healthy life, and get back to what really matters.
To some this may seem like a step back in time, a step away from progress, but to those who are looking to go their own way, that are not satisfied working 9-5 to get by, who want to be free from the modern rat race, it is the dream.
WHAT IS HOMESTEADING?
Okay so maybe you have heard the term homesteading, but what does it really mean?
Homesteading can mean many things to many people but at its core homesteading is – Striving towards a life of self sufficiency. –
When I first heard of homesteading I pictured an old farmhouse with chickens free ranging outside, a milking cow in the barnyard beside a huge garden overflowing with food waiting to be stored in a root cellar for winter. Although this is a beautiful picture, and one many homesteaders are striving for, it is not the only type of homestead.
You could be a homesteader on a small lot in the city, with a little garden out back, making the most of the land and resources you have while learning traditional skills.
Everyone has to start somewhere, it is about the desire to live a homesteading lifestyle not where you are at on your journey.
Homesteading began in the late 19th and early 20th century when the Canadian and American governments offered “free” land to immigrants who were willing to move west and settle the land. The Canadian government would sell 160 acres for 10$ if the family built a house and cultivated the land in 3 years, which proved to be very difficult. The American government had a similar incentive to encourage western development. The people that moved west for these government incentives were called homesteaders.
Now the term homesteader has been adopted to refer to people who have a desire to live a similar lifestyle as those who first moved west. The 19th century homesteaders had to produce what they needed, live off the land, learn many trades and be self-sufficient to survive. Similarly, modern homesteaders get back to the land with their lifestyle, however many take advantage of modern conveniences.
My husband and I decided to become homesteaders because it is a way for us to live out many of our passions on a daily basis. We both always dreamed of one day being farmers, and homesteading allows us to be multiple types of farmers at once.
Also, homesteading allows us to live more sustainably. Producing our own food and living simply on the homestead helps us to consume less and be better stewards of our environment.
Homesteading is a way for my husband and I to be outdoors, learning new things and working together to make the most of every day. If you want to get to know more about our story check out my about page.
HOW TO START HOMESTEADING
Now that you know what homesteading is, let’s get into how you can get started today!
Step 1. Consider If Homesteading Is Right For You
Making the decision to become a homesteader will impact your whole family, therefore if you have a partner it is important to include them. This is because homesteading impacts how your family eats, how you spend your time, where you live, and really most aspects of your life.
You can homestead on your own as a single living person, however if you live with others it would be a challenge to go full fledged homesteader without them.
Ask yourself these questions to get an idea of if homesteading is for you:
Do you want to know where your food comes from? Do you have a desire to produce what you use? Do you like to spend time learning new skills? Do you enjoy being outdoors? Can you cook from scratch or want to learn how? Do you want to live a healthier simpler life? Are you willing to invest time and effort into achieving these things?
If your answer was yes to any of these then homesteading may be right for you!
Step 2. Set Your Self-Sufficiency Goal
At what level do you want to homestead? Do you want to produce your own meat? How about your power? Do you want to grow your fruits and vegetables?
It is good to think about what your goals are for homesteading, and how much you want to produce yourself. Setting these goals will help you make homesteading plans and will also be important to keep you motivated when starting out.
Being a homesteader doesn’t mean you have to produce EVERYTHING.
It is not my goal to be 100% self-sufficient. My husband and I have set goals for one day producing our own vegetables and meat, however we do not plan on producing our own grains. We also have the goal to live off-grid but still plan on buying propane and gasoline for some things.
Our goal is to be more community-sufficient than self-sufficient.
We want to produce the majority of our own food, but for things that we do not produce our goal is to source as much as possible from our community. For instance, I currently buy my flour and oatmeal from a local mill and plan to continue doing so.
How self-sufficient do you want to be? Set your goals and start working towards them!
Step 3. Determine Your Priorities
Once you have set your homesteading goals, consider what your priorities are. Identifying your priorities will help you to make a plan that balances them and your goals.
What homesteading goals are most important to you? If you decide that living off-grid is your top priority, focus on achieving that and allow yourself some grace for not achieving other goals as soon.
Homesteading takes time and is a journey. Don’t expect to achieve all of your goals in the first year. Give yourself time and focus on your priorities.
Other life priorities
It is also important to consider other priorities you have in your life apart from homesteading that will impact your homesteading plans.
Do you want to travel? If the freedom to travel is important to you then you may not want to include livestock in your homesteading plans. Although there are ways to prepare your homestead for traveling, you should keep this life priority in mind when making homesteading plans.
My husband and I prioritize being close to our families. This caused us to pass on some ideal pieces of land for a homestead because we valued the location more.
Step 4. Start Today
If you want to start homesteading the best thing you can do is start now!
Regardless of where you live there are things you can do to start a homesteading lifestyle.
Do you compost? Compost is a valuable product on the homestead, it is a free source of rich soil for using in the garden. If you make composting a regular part of your life now there will be one less thing to get used to later on in your homesteading journey.
A big part of being a homesteader is producing what you need. What things do you buy that you could make yourself?
On our homestead we do not yet produce all of our own food. So instead I shop at the local farmers market for fresh whole foods. Buying lard from a local butcher and using it in my cooking helps me get used to using an ingredient that we will eventually be producing ourselves.
Homesteading is a way of life not a piece of land so get started now, whatever that looks like for you!
Step 5. Learn The Skills
Homesteading requires you to acquire many different skills. When you are just starting out with the homesteading lifestyle it is a great time to learn skills you will need in the future.
While you are dreaming of one day having your own goats to milk, start learning all you can about them. Do your research, buy some milk and practice making your own dairy products!
While we were living in a basement city apartment and dreaming of homesteading my husband gave me the book Story’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats. Reading this book has taught me a lot of what I will need to know for having our own milking goats in the future.
There are so many skills required of homesteaders. You need to be a butcher, a baker and sometimes even a candlestick maker. If you are not yet able to take a major homesteading step, it is the perfect time to learn as many skills as you can to prepare yourself for the future.
Step 6. Build Relationships
It is important when getting started with homesteading to build relationships with mentors you can learn from and contacts you will need services from.
For example, if you are interested in having livestock on your homestead it is important to find a vet in your area before you bring home any animals.
Other connections that you may need are hay farmers that will sell to you, bulk food suppliers, and animal feed suppliers. Also, getting to know producers at your local farmers markets will help you get to know people to potentially trade with in the future.
Learning from others is an essential part of homesteading. When you are starting out find mentors that can teach you various skills and guide you to success.
Mentors can be online or in person. There are many bloggers and Youtubers in the online homesteading community who create valuable content for you to learn from. These people have real life experience to share with you, at any time from your own couch.
If you are looking for some online mentors these are the top 10 homesteading blogs and channels that I follow and learn a lot from.
To keep in the loop with all the homesteading experiences and tutorials that I share join our online community! I would love to be your mentor and help you on your homesteading journey.
Along with your online mentors, I encourage you to develop relationships with people in your community who can teach you homesteading skills. Although most information can be found online these days, there is something beautiful about building face to face relationships and learning skills in person.
I have many mentors in my community who I learn different skills from.
My neighbour and friend up the road has been preserving food from her garden for years. She has taught me to make apple sauce and garden relish, and I know she is willing to teach me more this canning season. Another neighbour invited me over to learn how to start a raspberry patch since she has been growing raspberries for 20 years.
There is another farmer in my community who raises pigs and he let me come learn how to butcher them this year. I knew he processed his own pigs so I asked if I could come along and watch.
If you are interested in finding mentors in your community a good first step is to spend time with those who are older and wiser than you. Most of my mentors go to my church and are retired. If you know of someone in your community who has a skill you want to learn just be friendly and ask them if you can come learn while they are working. Most people are happy to pass on their knowledge and experience to others.
Step 7. Budget
Although growing and raising your own food can often save you money, homesteading is not free. Before quitting your job and jumping into full fledged homesteading it is important to figure out your budget.
Take the time to write down all of your expenses and predict how much money you will need to live. Consider animal feed costs, housing expenses, insurance, groceries (since you likely will still need some), vet bills, and any/all potential expenses.
Once you have an idea of the amount of money you need to maintain your life and homestead think about ways to reduce your expenses. Are there things on your list that you can live without? Do you need two cell phones or could your family share one? Can you eventually save money by producing your own solar energy? Can you cut feed costs by finding alternatives to livestock grain?
Once you figure out what you will need to live and minimize it as much as you can/want, consider what funds you have and how much money you need to bring in each month to make your homestead successful. Knowing this estimated monthly income will help you be sustainable and realistic as you start your homesteading journey.
Every family is different and will have different needs, so figure out what you need to live and make a plan for how you will bring that income into your homestead each month.
Step 8. Make A Land Plan
Although it is possible to have a tiny urban homestead, many of us interested in homesteading dream about a big property for growing and raising food. If owning land is one of your homesteading priorities it is helpful to make a land plan.
Determine your budget for land, what you want the property to have, the location, your timeframe and start looking!
Buying land is exciting but can be difficult, especially if you are looking for specific things in a specific area. Going through the traditional method of getting a real estate agent to look for land can be successful, however do not limit yourself to only what is on the market.
If you have an area in mind that you are interested in, get out into the community and ask around. You never know who you may talk to that knows of someone with land.
Also, don’t be afraid to find a piece of land that you like and contact the owners about selling. Google maps can be a helpful tool for checking out land parcels. If you find a piece of property you are interested in but do not know who owns it, take the PID number to your local authorities and they can often provide you with the owner’s name (there may be a fee for this). That is how my father found the land that we homestead on.
Step 9. Start Your Garden
A great first homesteading endeavour is to start a vegetable garden. Growing your own food is essential for living a more self sufficient life, and is very rewarding. If you have never grown food before, gardening can be a bit intimidating but it really is quite straightforward. All you need to do is choose a location, prepare the soil, plant your seeds, water and watch them grow!
Okay, so it may be a little more complicated than that but the best way to learn is to jump in. There are so many gardening resources online that can help you as you go.
Seed starting is a great first step, and saves you money on your garden. Buying little vegetable plants from a nursery can really add up when you are growing food for your family. My Beginner’s Guide to Seed Starting walks you through every step if you are trying this for the first time.
After planting your seeds there is more work to do, but seeing plants start to grow is a great motivation to keep going with gardening.
If it is your first year gardening I recommend starting small. Don’t expect to grow all of your own food in year one. By starting small you allow yourself to learn without being overwhelmed. Next year as you gain confidence gradually increase the size of your garden.
Step 10. Preserve Your Harvest
If you live somewhere like me where you can only grow food for a season it is essential to start storing your crops for the year.
A big part of homesteading is producing and preserving your own food. One great way to preserve crops is in cold storage such as a root cellar. Although root cellars are great for storing root crops they are uncommon these days, but there are ways to store crops for winter without a root cellar which is what I do.
Even if you do not grow enough food for the year in your garden, buying produce in season locally and storing it yourself is a great way to save money and get practice storing food. I buy extra potatoes, carrots, squash, and cabbage most years to supplement what we have grown and store them for winter in our barn.
There many methods of storing and preserving food such as canning, fermenting, and freezing to name a few. I recommend trying at least one new recipe or method each preserving season, to expand your skills but not to become overwhelmed with all of the possibilities.
Persevering your harvest is a lot of work but the effort is well worth it when you can share a healthy homegrown meal with your family even when there is snow on the ground.
Step 11. Acquire Animals
An exciting step in beginning your homestead is getting animals! Although having a family dairy cow may be your dream it might not be the best starter livestock. Start small and work your way up as you get more confident with keeping and caring for your farm animals.
Chickens are a great homestead animal to begin with, they are easy to keep and have low start up costs. Basically all you need is a small coop, some chicken feed and water. I have been keeping laying hens for many years and love how simple and rewarding it is. There is nothing like going out to the coop for fresh eggs and frying them up for breakfast!
From experience, I highly recommend having a shelter built before bringing home any animals. If you decide to start with chicken and are ready to build a coop here are my top 6 design tips for you to keep in mind.
Meat pigs are another valuable animal to eventually add to your homestead. After a few years of having chickens we decided to start raising pigs and love having homegrown meat for our family. Pigs were a great next step for us to take because they are only on the homestead for around 6 months and do not require too much care.
Whatever livestock you add to your homestead remember to do your research, buy from a trusted and healthy farm, be prepared before bringing critters home, and start small.
Step 12. Teach Others
The final step I encourage you to take as you begin your homesteading journey is to teach others. I know this may sound a little strange for you, a beginner, to teach other people about homesteading but hear me out. As the old saying goes the best way to learn is to teach.
Even if you feel like you are still new to the homesteading life I guarantee you know more about it than someone else, and likely already more than most of your friends and family. Even while you are starting out you can teach others what you are learning. By sharing what you learn with others you will gain confidence, retain what you have learned, be encouraged to learn more, and become known as a homesteader.
It can be intimidating to teach others, especially when you feel like you have so much still to learn, but when you share with others it benefits them and you.
If others see you as their go to person for all things homesteading it can encourage you to keep going on your journey when things get hard. If no one knows you want to become a homesteader there is no one to hold you to that dream.
I hope you will take this step to be a mentor, contribute to the homesteading community, and teach others the skills you are learning.
TIPS FOR HOMESTEADING SUCCESS
- A successful homestead doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process. Enjoy the process, and find ways to homestead wherever you are in the process.
- Be proactive with budgeting and creative with homestead income possibilities
- Learn to live with less and be satisfied in the simple things
- Find joy in the small successes
- Start today and make at least one action each day towards your homesteading goal
- Be in community with fellow homesteaders
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Homesteading
Homesteading requires you and your family to be present, work hard, connect with the land and live more simply. However, it is a lifestyle filled with rewards; from seeing a seed grow into a bountiful harvest, to spending time in nature, to improving the health and wellness of your family.
These are only a few of the reasons why so many people are moving back to this simpler way of life. I hope this guide has helped you on the start of your homesteading journey.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO START HOMESTEADING?
Leave your answer below even if it is just a few words.
If you have made it this far I think it is safe to say you are seriously interested in beginning a homestead. I encourage you to write below your goal for homesteading, being bold enough to share your goals with others has been shown to make you more likely to take action in achieving those goals!