Here’s some tips to help you out if you are just getting started or thinking of homesteading.
Start Small and Have a Plan
You don’t have to do everything at once! Before you go putting in a 2 acre garden, start with a smaller, test garden. Get a feel for what grows and doesn’t grow well in your area. Once you get a smaller garden established, build it up and expand gradually. If it is too big, too fast you may find you bit off more than you could chew.
You may want chickens and goats and rabbits and pigs and…. But I recommend adding one animal species at a time. Add one, learn everything you need to know to care for it properly, get it part of your routine, then expand. Do things gradually so you don’t overwhelm yourself. We have lots of plans here on our homestead, but one thing at a time. You don’t want too many irons in the fire.
Do you plan for your homestead to support only your family, or do you want it to also turn a profit? Do you have an idea of what you want to be able to produce on your homestead? Sit down and plan out what it is you want to do. You could even make a time line of sorts. “This year I am going to add this. Year 2 I am going to add this.” Be clear about your goals and then start figuring out how to make them happen.
Don’t Incur Debt
Do things a little at a time. Don’t go getting a second mortgage or maxing your credit cards to pay for all the things you want to do. Save up. Buy a couple fence posts every time you go to the farm store. Put them in a few at a time. Do it gradually and you can do it without debt…and without wearing yourself out in the process.
Starting homesteading is going to cost more than you think it will. Be patient.
Know the Commitment
Homesteading is a different kind of life. When you are homesteading, you can’t just up and take off on vacation. There are responsibilities that you have to tend to. Animals to feed. Gardens to maintain. When you begin homesteading, you are committing yourself to the responsibility of everything you are building.
At the same time, you do need to know that flexibility is important. My original plan for life stock on our homestead, was chickens first, goats second, rabbits or other things down the road. The chickens I ordered the day the closing papers were signed on the property. Then a few months later, I began putting in some of the fence posts for the goats, when a gift of heritage rabbits was offered to me. That caused a pause in the goat plans, in turn, to build rabbit housing and prepare for adding them to our homestead.
Homestead plans are like a checker board, and sometimes you have to move around pieces to make everything happen.
I can not stress enough the importance of educating yourself. When you begin homesteading, you will find yourself hungering for knowledge. If you’re anything like me, you will be wishing your grandparents were still around so you could sit on their porch and pick their brains. There are so many things that their generation saw as common knowledge. Skills we have almost lost.
Start building a library of resources, join homesteading groups in your area. I have an article where I discussed ways for you to acquire homesteading skills and knowledge as well as some of my favorite books. You can see that article here: Homesteading Conferences, and Other Great Ways to Learn New (Old) Skills. I prefer physical copies of books where I can make notes in the margins and highlight certain sections. Having a great digital library of resources is great too.
Don’t be afraid to talk to older farmers in your area. They are a wealth of information about everything from finding a local butcher for the hogs you are going to raise, to what variety of green beans seem to grow the best in your area.
DIY Is your Friend
As a homesteader, you will learn to become the best do-it-yourselfer, fixer-upper, repurposer, recycler and repair man there is. Embrace the old saying “Use it up, wear it out, make it, make do or do without.” If you want to live a homesteading life that is self-sufficient and debt-free, you will need to learn to do things for yourself. You can’t always buy something new. See if you can fix it first.
Have a Well Stocked First Aid Kit – Human and Animal
Let’s face it. Things happen. The barbed wire whips back and gets you in the arm. The hen gets her comb ripped by a brutal rooster. Injuries happen not only to humans but to your animals. Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your home, but also make sure you have some good, basic things for animal care as well.
As an example, I always have Blue Kote on hand. Blue Kote is an antiseptic that stains a wound blue. Chickens attack red and that means they’ll attack the wounds of another chicken. If you stain it blue, the other chickens will usually leave it alone.
Embrace The Dirt
You are going to get dirty. You can not be a neat freak. Seriously. Now I’m not talking about your house. You can keep your house spotless. But outside? You are going to get dirty, you’re going to get sweaty, and you will even get pooped on. I’m just being honest.
Invest in some good soap, and just roll with it.
People Will Think You’re Crazy
It’s going to happen. Someone you know – a relative, a person at church – someone is going to think you are nuts. They’ll say, “I don’t know how you can do that.” They’ll really question how you can butcher your own animals. They might even question your faith in God. (See Article: Is Self-Sufficiency a Lack of Faith in God?)
But for every person that questions your sanity, there will be a dozen that admire your determination. They’ll scramble to buy your extra eggs, and gush over the jar of strawberry jalapeno jam you give them as a gift.
You Will Fail
We all have Pollyanna dreams of the perfect homestead, but the truth of the matter is that failures will happen. You’ll plant too many tomato plants in the raised bed because you forgot how big tomato plants get because you haven’t gardened in seven years and slugs will have a hay day and the chickens will get more tomatoes than you do. The slugs will love you. So will your chickens.
There is no such thing as a mistake on the homestead, only learning opportunities. And you will learn a lot!