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Homesteading Basics

Homesteading Basics 101

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Without question, there has been a growing interest in homesteading and returning to the lifestyles of our not so distant relatives. Although a majority of us have transitioned to dependency driven lifestyles that we were trained to believe were sustainable, the fact of the matter is, these are failing infrastructures. In order for us to become self-reliant and sustainable, we must revert back to the traditions that worked for our grandparents; owning a farm, growing a garden, raising livestock, etc. Homesteading today is quite a bit different than what it was back in the early days of pioneering and settling this land. Today we have more modern tools, even if they are hand tools, they have been redesigned to improve functionality and efficiency.

The Basics:

This post will cover the basics. This information is provided to give you valuable insight about the fundamentals of self-reliance that will be imperative on a homestead, such as:

• Water
Food
• Shelter
• Personal Hygiene
• Clothing

With the economically uncertain times we find ourselves living in, homesteading can provide a method of building wealth that has very little to do with money. In fact, the more you can do, or accomplish yourself, the less you must earn to pay someone else to do it for you. So far, the IRS hasn’t established a tax on growing your own food, raising your own livestock, or making your own clothes, which are all things we can do for ourselves that would otherwise cost us money.

Homesteading Basics

Image Source: http://amishfarmstay.com

Before you decide to get into homesteading, you should ask yourself the following questions and answer them honestly. If you lie to yourself, then the results of your homesteading efforts will reflect this.

#1) What is your current budget?
#2) What is that budget spent on?
#3) What items do you and your family use on a daily basis?
#4) What activities do you think would improve your lifestyle?

Now that you have the answers to those questions, it’s time to get started on the planning phase of the homesteading project. Bear in mind, you do not need to complete everything all at once; pick a project, adjust your focus to the project, build/work on it until it is finished. It is finished when you are satisfied with the results of your efforts and the functionality of the system.

Step #1:
Water! The spot you pick to establish a homestead on must have access to good, clean, safe water. Water scarcity and contamination are always concerns of living in urban areas. California and Texas experience vast droughts frequently. Stories such as the one out of Flint, Michigan where the water supply is contaminated with lead, are also more common today than they were in the good old days of yesteryear. If you do not have safe, clean water on site at a homestead, all else is immaterial. You will be unable to take care of yourself, your family members, or any livestock/pets you hope to have.

If you have safe, clean drinking water on the homestead, it still isn’t a bad idea to have it tested periodically; this can be done by contacting your local land conservation department. You should also put together a water storage plan to accommodate for any emergencies. While most modern homesteads have a well, they are also modern and do not come equipped with a hand pump, therefore a power outage will cause the water to quit running.

Step #2:
Crop cultivation is the next thing to talk about. Gardening is something you can do now, before a homestead has even been erected. This is an excellent method of reducing dependency on the industrial food chain, so it will also play a vital role in improving your overall health. It is also one of the best ways to save money/build wealth. The less money you spend on food, the more you can put towards other, more important things. Not only should you grow your own food in abundance, but you should also learn how to prepare, can, and preserve it for future use.

Urban gardening concepts, such as container and vertical gardening, will help those living in concrete jungles take back some control over their lives and the food they eat. Community gardens, or neighborhood garden, are also becoming more common in urban areas, and they can help alleviate the dependency on industrial food chain supplies.

Step #3:
Food preservation comes next. If you are going to grow your own food, it only makes sense to learn how to preserve it. The food from a crop will come to harvest at the same time, and if you cannot preserve it properly, a large portion of it will rot before it ever gets consumed. Food preservation provides you with the ability to store excess/surplus edible to last throughout the year.

If you are unable to garden, for whatever reason, then consider visiting a local farmer’s market and buying your produce in bulk. It is far cheaper, cost per unit, to buy in bulk and preserve for later use than it is to buy prepackaged grocery store products to set on the shelf. Stocking your pantry with plenty of healthy food options will ensure there is plenty of to eat should hard times fall upon us.

Raising livestock will also help offset dependency on grocery store food, be healthier for us to consume, and allow us to control what food sources the animals are raised on. Chickens are one of the easier animals to get started with. They will eat almost anything, they require very little space, and the produce eggs on a daily basis, which can either be eaten, or sold off to increase supplementary income. Rabbits are also easy to raise, as long as they are kept away from the garden.

Step #4:
Increase the sustainability of the homestead itself. Most people have the misconception that homesteading refers to living completely off grid; this isn’t necessarily true. While many homesteaders do try and strive for complete independence from the grid, many of them start off rather small, with something such as a wood stove. Installing and using a wood stove to produce heat will eliminate the need for a modern furnace. You can also install and use passive solar systems, or small scale solar projects, to reduce dependency on the grid.

While off grid energy equipment presents a sexy concept for those involved with homesteading, these systems often cost quite a bit of money. When you are first starting out on the homestead, focus on small energy conservation methods that have the potential to provide a return on investment. Fix or replace leaking windows, fix or replace leaking doors, improve insulation in the attic, etc. These types of projects will reduce the heating bill in the winter, as well as the air conditioning bill in the summer.

Repurposing is also an excellent way to increase sustainability and reduce unnecessary expenditures. Rather than throwing something away just because it doesn’t work as intended, is in a word, ridiculous. The items you are thinking of throwing away, can and should be used for something else. This will reduce your desire to run out and buy the latest trending product, which will reduce expenses and in turn save you money!

YouTube is a veritable well of valuable information. You can find videos to help you repurpose almost anything and everything you currently own. You can also educate yourself on repairing things that break. I personally use YouTube to find videos to fix things that break, and I work on them until such a time they are either satisfactorily fixed, or they require a true professional to fix them, but I always learn something from the experience, which is also a valuable homesteading commodity.

Make your own personal hygiene products and house cleaning equipment, and you’ll not only save mountains of money, you’ll reduce the number of toxic chemicals you and your family are being exposed to.

Step #5:
Learn productive skills. The more you can provide for yourself, the less you will require from the outside world. Sewing will allow you to make your own clothes; they may not be the Levi’s or Skinny Jeans the rest of your friends are wearing, but who really cares…clothes are meant to be warm and provide an initial layer of shelter against the elements.

Butchering skills will also come in handy if you are raising your own livestock, otherwise you must find someone who knows how to butcher and process animals, and that can be quite expensive in itself.

There are several other skills to acquire, but you get the picture; every time something needs to be done around the homestead, try to do it yourself. Do the research on the project, grab the necessary tools, and get started. Even if you make mistakes and end up needing professional assistance to complete the project, you gave it your best shot and you’ll be wiser for it.

Advantages of Homesteading:
Homesteading is the lifestyle that will provide you the freedom and liberty you were always promised. By learning how to provide the things you need for yourself, by yourself, you will not only save money, but you will require less of it.

Homesteading puts you into the seasonal swing of things…growing your own food, raising livestock, adapting alternative solar energy…which improves your awareness of natural rhythms and should improve overall health conditions.

Homesteading, if done correctly, will improve your overall health through physical activity if nothing else. There will be plenty to do around the homestead, each and every day, from sunrise to sunset. If you ever find yourself bored on a homestead, then you’re not running a homestead properly.

Homesteading may also expand your circle of friends. As you get more ingrained in the lifestyle of homesteading you will begin to make friends with your homesteading neighbors, which will eventually lead to a more robust cycle of bartering for the goods and services you require.

These are just some of the more obvious advantages to homesteading. As you expand your knowledge and understanding of homesteading, you will find benefits and advantages that are intimately personal to you. Some folks may find gardening to be the very thing they needed to calm a busy mind. Other folks may find that the daily chores associated with homesteading are more taxing than the overpriced gym membership they were paying.



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