The original idea of homesteading was that settlers had to make of piece of land sustainably profitable in order to get ownership, and even though these days it will undoubtedly require a little capital as well, homesteading—making whatever land or space we live in sustainably profitable—is certainly on the rise.
For many, gardening is no longer just a hobby but a way of life. From the rooftops of big cities to lawns and sidewalks to entire villages, more and more people are trying to become self-sufficient, growing their own food, catching their own water, producing their own electricity and building their own homes. Though these commodities—food, water, shelter—might not be money in the pocket, they are certainly very valuable.
Sustainability is not a personal thing anymore but has become an effort to save the planet as well as ourselves. On the opposite end of the spectrum, profit in the Wall St. manner of speaking has lost a lot of its luster in recent days. This has created a massive movement away from consumption and into production. Homesteading is one way to do that, and it’s not that difficult to get started.
1. Start Small and Scale Up
It’s hard when something seems so enticing to not just completely jump ship, buy a ten-acre lot and get to it, but resisting that immediate urge is just what you have to do. Homesteading requires a lot of skills, from growing vegetables to conditioning soil to possibly building a home. Start small. Get a home garden going, even if that’s just herbs in the kitchen window, and learn all you can. Then, move on to making great composts and rich soil, expanding and diversifying your crop. Then, start with some small building project like a pizza oven or a trellis for your passion fruit vines. If you have to do all of this for the first time and at the same time, the homesteading project becomes too overwhelming.
2. Volunteer for Knowledge
One of the best resources available to you is experience, and the beauty is that it can be obtained at no cost. Lots of homesteaders—farmers, builders and permaculturalists—are looking for volunteers. You go, you work for room and board and you walk away a few steps closer to having your own homestead. It’s all free. It puts you in the know and in the community, where people are very happy, excited, and inspired to share what they’ve learned. When you get yours going, you’ll be happy to do the same for beginners. Look for opportunities on HelpX, Work Away and WWOOF, and especially try to volunteer in climates similar to the one your hope to live in.
3. Practice Making Your Own Stuff
Homesteading means becoming more self-reliant, which requires learning some ropes around the kitchen. Start practicing. Go to farmer’s markets and green groceries and buy up all the seasonal, cheap fruit and vegetables. Make jams, pickle, dehydrate, ferment, freeze, can, make nut butters, and learn how else to preserve food. Get into making your own condiments, vegan ice cream (or sorbets) and whatever else you might want. Once your homesteading the idea will be to not need the supermarket for such things.
4. Transition Into Simplicity
Before you are out in the sticks living on rice and beans, having to make your own bread every time you want a sandwich and harvesting your dinner contents from the land. Learn to live this way. Find out if it is for you. Can you be happy on seasonal fruits and vegetables only? Can you be bothered to make all your own bread? Are you happy without restaurants, cinemas, shopping malls and barrooms? These are honest questions to consider, and the answers are worth testing. Homesteading often means rural surroundings where going out might not be an option or running to the supermarket means driving an hour. Push your resolve.
5. Progress in Stages
Anyone with money can buy a piece of property, but that doesn’t mean it’s a homestead. Give yourself goals, such as six months of honestly going about the previously listed steps before looking for a place. Then, really think about what you want from the place. Do you want energy independence? Do you want your own water source? Do you want to build an eco-home yourself or remodel or turn a key? Are you prepared for these things, with some know-how for building, repairing and so on? The more you plan, the smoother it will be, which is not to say there won’t be challenges. There will be. Take on a little at a time. Convert a small piece of the property then move on to the next project. Homesteads aren’t built in a day.
Now, once you get yourself really battle-tested, it’s time to actually get to work. Finding the right piece of property should be done with patience and with a list of requirements and possible compromises. You’ll need a nest egg to get you through the beginning (food takes a while to grow), and then it is time to put all those skills to use. You’re a modern-day homesteader.
Image source: Stefanie Brimacomb/Wikimedia