Learn how to start homesteading right where you are by building essential old fashioned skills that you can build on.
This post contains affiliate links which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure here.
Understand what homesteading is
With the term homesteading thrown around so much these days, it isn’t always easy to know what it exactly means these days. Most of us know the general lifestyle that we are moving towards when we say that we want to homestead, but understanding the actual definition is a great place to start if you are just getting started.
Although homesteading typically applies to country living it’s also possible to homestead in an urban environment. Sustainable living, small scale permaculture, and frugal living are all part of the homesteading process.
READ: What is Homesteading? This article will help you understand the ins and outs of homesteading and it’s rich history. Plus, the various motivations of different homesteaders.
Know what homesteading involves
It all seems so romantic when you are just getting inspired by instagram feeds, but knowing what daily chores on the homestead actually look like can be a large reality check. Look into the parts of homesteading that are less ideal to really know if it is for you.
Day in and day out of taking care of livestock (including illness and predators) and being tied to caring for the garden (even when you want a break) can be physically and mentally demanding. It is important to check with your family to make sure they are also interested in this lifestyle since it seem to be a family affair.
Have an honest conversation with someone that has been homesteading for a few years about their impression so far. Ask them questions like” what is it like to leave for a few days when you’ve got a homestead to take care of?”
READ: How to Go on Vacation if You’ve Got a Homestead This article goes into depth about what it takes to get the homestead ready to leave for a few days away.
Define your ultimate homesteading goals and work backward
The end goals or most homesteaders isn’t exactly the same. When Grey and I first became interested in the lifestyle in 2010 we both had very different reasons for why we wanted to start homesteading. Knowing your personal why will get you through the tough times and also help you break down bite sized goals to your larger goal.
You may want to live the homesteading lifestyle on the smallest plot of land you can and simply make the most of what you already have. OR You may want to eventually make a large move to expand your operation. Define the goal so you can start making small steps today. Even if you plan on upscaling your homestead…you shouldn’t wait until then. Get started TODAY with a few backyard chickens or a pot of herbs.
What are your long term goals?
- Live a healthy lifestyle close to nature?
- Learn old fashioned skills to teach the next generation?
- Do you want to move towards zero waste?
- Live off grid?
- Raise livestock or your community?
- Landscape with edibles?
Just jot down some of your long term goals to point you in the right direction.
READ: How to Stay Motivated Homesteading This article will encourage you to choose your why to keep going when the going gets tough.
Become a perpetual student
When we started homesteading over a decade ago, I had NO IDEA that homesteading is a lifestyle of constant learning! I simply wanted to learn to can food and it snowballed from there. Every year there are no things to learn and new curve balls thrown at us from different weather patterns, new animals, challenges etc.
Challenge yourself to constantly learn for more seasoned homesteaders, books, podcasts, videos, and first hand experience. Homesteading is truly an incredibly dynamic and rich lifestyle with endless ways to learn.
READ: 101 Homesteading Books You Need At Home This is the ultimate booklist for homesteaders to build your self-sufficiency home library! Check it out!
Decide where you ultimately want to live
Even if you are planning on staying in your current location long term, it is still important to make this decision when thinking about long term goals. Knowing the characteristics of the property or kind of property you will end up with will help determine the types of animals and amount of foods that you grow.
Are you wanting something remote and off grid, or right in town? What kind of soil will this property have? What type if terrain? Remember avoid getting ahead of yourself, even in the long run, you don’t need hundreds of acres to homestead. You would be surprised how much food you can grow in a small space.
Here are some thing to consider when setting goals for land in the future:
- Water access. Do you have nearby lakes, rivers, or ponds that you can use for water? Is there a well on the property? How much rainfall does the area get per year?
- Land safety. You don’t want to live somewhere that’s prone to drought if you’re growing your own food, and you also don’t want to be near oil fracking sites or other potential health hazards.
- Community. Sometimes the community you’re a part of is just as important as the land you buy. You will need to make friends and network with people in your area. If they have different religious or political views than you, it might be more difficult to fit in with the community, especially in a small village.
READ: How to Start Your Dream Homestead Garden Ever wonder what it takes to get the garden of your dreams? Read this article to do just that!
Get out of debt and start saving
Homesteading for most of us is about moving towards a sustainable local community and self sufficient lifestyle. Getting out of debt is a huge help when working towards reducing household expenses and living self sufficiently. After you are out of your debt an emergency fund will definitely come in handy once you start homesteading.
This lifestyle is full of surprises, and you want to be prepared. If you want to homestead, but aren’t currently getting out of debt is only moving you closer to your goal. This long term goal will pay off. Plus many of the homesteading skills you will soon develop (cooking from scratch, mending clothes, etc.) will help you get there.
READ: How to Beat Inflation at the Grocery Store This article will give you tips and tricks to fight the spike in grocery store prices.
Make a budget
During the journey of getting out of debt, and even once you are debt free, it is important to set a budget no matter how much income you have. Knowing where your money is going will speak to you about where your priorities are. It will also ensure that you have enough funds to buy the things that ultimately align with your goals. The longer you homestead, the more conscious of consumerist tendencies you might become.
At first it is so easy to get overzealous with doing “all the things” but I promise you want start small and go long RATHER than start big and go short. We have seen so many times when new homesteaders get super excited and bite off more than they can chew right from the beginning. Rather than burn yourself out, just tackle one homesteading skill at a time and go from there. You will thank us later!
READ: Homesteading for beginners (What you Actually Need to Know) This is a great place for beginners to pick something small and go with it.
Transform your kitchen into a working kitchen
Far too many kitchens that are idealized today aren’t actually working kitchens. Magazine worthy? Sure! They look gorgeous! If you are wanting to actually produce something in your kitchen. Functional working kitchens can also be beautiful.
I like to incorporate practical things that I use everyday into my decor. Above all for the homesteader is that the kitchen is equipped and set up in a way that will allow you to put up food you are bringing in from the garden or practice those sourdough baking skills. Prioritize actually PRODUCING in the kitchen.
Simplify your life
I have talked before about how we lived in a 800 sq. ft tiny house for seven years as a family of five because I think it is important to have the skills to live a simple life. Break the consumerist cycle of always getting the next best thing. Just say no to keeping up with the Joneses. You will feel so happy and light to find joy in simple things. Long time homesteaders are no stranger to making the most out of what they have and eliminating what doesn’t add true meaning and value to the day to day.
What can you just say no to say no to. You might find that if you are just starting homesteading, it is completely essential to say no to something to make room for all your new old fashioned skills.
READ: Family of 5 Living in 800 sq ft These tips will not only help with the practical aspects of living in a small home, but also the emotional toll that it can take.
Learn to preserve food
Growing and producing the food seems to get all of the glory in the homesteading world, but preserving the food is equally important, since everything will be waste if it is not put up on the shelf for family enjoyment. Preserving food takes all kind of forms it could mean dehydrating, freeze drying, canning, pickling, fermenting, curing, etc.
Start with what is the most appealing to you and get good at that one thing and then branch out. I started with canning and now enjoy many other forms of food preservation.
Make friends with other homesteaders
One way to stay motivated on your homesteading journey is to talk to like minded individuals about what they are up to on their property. It is encouraging to learn from each other, and laugh about the many learning opportunities that they are. If you don’t know anyone in real life that shares the same passion, there are plenty of people online that you can buddy up with to talk about all things old fashioned.
It is helpful to find people in your area that are familiar with raising food in your specific climate, plus not to mention the long time tradition of sharing seeds, sourdough starter, and trading for homemade goods.
Find a mentor
Raising your own food can be serious challenge, so having someone to learn the ropes is a huge help. A mentor is someone that has been there done that. Befriending someone who has paved a path will allow you to potentially learn from the mistakes they learned the hard way. A mentor is someone that feels the pain of having tomato horn worms wipe out an entire season of tomatoes. A mentor can help you grow leaps and bounds and be a great friend along the way.
Homesteading is more about (seemingly) failing than succeeding. We don’t believe in failure if you can learn something from the process, but there are a lot of discouragement along the way. In order to get better you’ll need to be able to accept constructive criticism and feedback about where you went wrong. This is the only way to improve in the future and turn those “failures” into lessons.
Get aquatinted with your growing season
It is easy to get into trouble when taking tips for other online gardeners because they can be in a completely different zone and climate than you. You’ll need to get your hands dirty and learn the old fashioned way to really understand your growing season. Since every year is different, this truly takes a while to get a handle on, and even then you cannot control everything in nature.
Even if you do not grow your own food currently, you can start paying attention and practice eating seasonally by shopping farmers markets.
Start a garden
This does not need to be a large undertaking. Again, start small! Are you noticing a theme? Most plants WANT TO GROW. You just need to make sure they have the fertile soil, sun and water they need to survive. Start in pots and move up from there. We ended up settling on growing an in ground garden and are constantly experimenting with new ways of gardening.
Compost is the lifeblood of the garden. We use good quality compost and frequently brew compost tea to add beneficial microbes and nutrients to the soil. Composting isn’t something that most people think about getting good at in the beginning but the farther along you go in your gardening journey the more interested you may become in creating your own high quality organic compost.
Learn to mend and sew clothes
Homesteaders are excellent at making do, and stretching an item to the max! Mending and making clothing is a highly useful skill in the self-reliant community. The good news? This is a homesteading skill that you can start building without your dream homestead property. Mending clothing, especially, can help you save money and reach your homesteading goals faster.
Learn to build and repair
Along with mending clothing is learning to make repairs. Knowing how to make simple repairs can save a lot of money. Grey is super handy around our homestead and has saved us from having to outsource repairs on equipment, plumbing, fencing, and home. Learning to build your own infrastructure can not only save money, but be more functional because it is built custom to what would work best for you.
READ: How to Build a Hoop Chicken Coop This guide will show you exactly how we built our hoop chicken coop tractor for raising our meat chicken and our egg layers.
How to create a permaculture homestead
Permaculture is one of the most sustainable ways to raise food on your homestead since it utilizes the land available to create closed loops modeled from nature. When you create a permaculture homestead the emphasis is on observing and interacting with your land in a way that makes sense.
How to find land for a homestead
Though you can start homesteading right where you are, many people will find themselves wanting to get more space for their homesteading projects. Finding land for a homestead can be a major obstacle for some homesteaders since it takes patience and a good bit of luck! After determining what your budget can allow, make sure you consider:
- Acreage. More acreage isn’t always better. Keep in mind that a lot of land can end up being distraction because it needs to be maintained.
- Water. A natural water source is ideal for most homesteaders because it can make the property more self sufficient. Though it isn’t necessary, it is something to keep in mind when looking for your ideal property. It is important to know the state of the well and water rights of the property you are considering.
- Property rights. You can’t assume you have all rights to the property that you are considering. Ask about easements, mineral and water rights to make sure you will not be restricted on the property that you purchase.
Common homesteading activities
Homesteading skills and activities can be quite endless when you dive into the world of old fashioned skills. Here are some common daily actives that a lot of homesteaders take part in:
- Keeping animals like: cows, pigs, chickens, lambs, bees, and turkeys.
- Cooking from scratch
- Preserving and canning
- Fishing and hunting
- Making dairy products from milk like cheese and butter
- Starting seeds gardening
READ: What to Have on the Homestead | Homestead Planning This article will guide you in where you might want to start if you are a beginner.
Why should you start a homestead?
Many people come to homesteading purely for the lifestyle but there are so many other benefits to dialing back to clock.
- Homestead exemptions. In some states within the United States you may be eligible for a homestead exemption. this basically will allow homeowners to protect the value of their home from creditors and taxes.
- Security. The Homesteading lifestyle can provide increased food security and the feeling of safety. It can also lower your bills making many household financial outflow less.
- Pride. Homesteaders take pride in being truly producing and providing for their family.
- Less Stress. Living close to nature can reduce stress levels, even in the city. Homesteading gives people a reason to go outside and spend time in the sunshine.
- Sustainable lifestyle. Taking part in activities like composting can boost a household’s sustainability and help lower financial burden. Living a life close to the land will leave a better place for the next generation.
- Better health. Homesteading has all kinds of physical benefits, like exercise, reduced stress, time outside, meaning and purpose, and not to mention nutritious food. Gardeners have a long lifespan because it is an activity they can continue to stay active with until their old age.
- Increased self-confidence. Homesteading will give anyone a boost of confidence since it empowers you to know how to do things! Having a “can do” attitude is a learned skill that comes from a growth mindset.
- Family bonding. Homesteading is an activity that the entire family can enjoy partaking in, which makes it perfect to bond over. There is almost nothing better than sharing a meal that the entire family helped grow and prepare.
Read on the history of homesteading
If you are interested in the origins of homesteading read What is Homesteading? This article will go into more details about the homesteading act and the government gave settlers got public land for free to encourage people to go further West. The only catch was you had to pay a small fee and live continuously on the land for at least 5 years. After that, the land was transferred to the occupants.
Reading up on the history of homesteading is quite interesting and a great place to start if you are just beginning.
Can I get free land through homesteading?
It was more common around the inception of the homesteading act BUT it is still possible in some states….if you are willing to move somewhere remote. In modern times you shouldn’t expect to get hundreds of acres for free anymore though. More often than not, getting land through the homestead act looks like a lot in a subdivision. Just make sure to read the find print to know what you will be responsible for.
How to start a homestead frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What states allow homesteading?
Most states allow homesteading. Some state laws are more friendly to the homesteading lifestyle. Many popular states due to the ease of lifestyle are Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri.
Can you be self-sufficient on 1-acre?
You’d be surprised how much food you can raise on one acre of nutrient rich land. You can definitely provide much of your families nutritional needs and enough to trade with another family that raises different types of food, but you would need a little more to supply all of your needs. Larger animals require a good amount of acreage to be maintained without buying tons of feed. Sheep and chickens to fine on one acre, but if you were interested in raising cows, you may need more.
How much does it cost to start a homestead?
The cost can vary widely depending on where you are starting and what types of accommodations are on your existing property. Homesteading is more of lifestyle that you should move towards.
How many acres do you need for homesteading?
That depends on your homesteading priorities. You can begin homesteading in the city with zero acreage or start a micro-farm on under an acre. Even a small acreage such as two or four acres can provide for a family.
How do I start homesteading with no money?
The best way to start homesteading with no money is to start where you already live! Use the land and resources you already have to start homesteading. Just start learning right where you are, while you save for larger goals.
Can one person run a homestead?
This depends on how big and how many things there are to manage. If you are running a homestead with many different types of animals and crops, you may need help. If you are homesteading in the city you might be able to manage it solo.