HOW TO START A HAPPY HEALTHY HOMESTEADING LIFE
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That title makes it sound like I should have a well laid-out step-by-step plan to start homesteading all ready for you to dive into, right? Not so fast!
I’m trying to organize all the ideas and thoughts scampering around in my brain (because in the country we “scamper” not run). But I realized before we can get to the HOW, I guess we should address the WHAT and WHY. So…
What is Homesteading?
I’m sure you have some preconceived notion about homesteading. You’ve watched Little House on the Prairie, How the West Was Won (my fave), or any of the other vintage movies and shows about country life. Probably NOT Green Acres though! I actually consider Some of these are more Pioneers than homesteaders. They went forth into an untamed land and carved out a home with their own bare hands.
While entertaining and informative, their Pioneer Life is NOT for me (cue music from Disney “A Pirate’s Life For Me”). Great, now that’ll loop through my head all day.
First of all, I believe homesteading is an attitude.
No matter where you live, if you have the desire to live a less connected to all the consumerism in the world, no matter how little, you’ve got at least a small homesteading bug.
Today, homesteading comes in many forms.
There is the all-in, totally committed, self-sufficient model where you grow/raise everything you eat, you generate your own power, and you may or may not use money for anything.
At the other end of the spectrum is someone living in a small apartment in the city. They yearn to be more in touch with nature, do something for themselves, or harken back to the good ole’ days. In this model, I believe having a pet and a window-sill herb garden qualify you as an urban homesteader. Please, just don’t try to milk the cat!
I want to show you how you can get started right now, now matter where you currently live, so you’re ready to make the big leap to “”Green Acres” at the right time with the right skills.
According to our friends over at Wikipedia:
“Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.”
So if you can also add a skill like knitting or crafting of any kind — you’re definitely a homesteader, even in the city!
Obviously you can “homestead” at any level between these two extremes. Start small, wherever you are, and build from there if you wish.
Some people have absolutely NO DESIRE to live out in the country, and that’s OK.
My daughter-in-law would never be happy if she wasn’t in the city, close to all it has to offer. However, she still likes to have a couple potted tomato plants on the patio, and to create handcrafted items to sell. That’s enough for her. Maybe that’s you, too.
Now that we’ve covered the WHAT, let’s talk about…
WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER HOMESTEADING
Even it its simplest form, homesteading, or at least getting involved with some of the activities and skills associated with homesteading, has proven beneficial to the human experience.
Do you recall ever hearing about therapies for PTSD, rehab, stress reduction, and the like, which involved some manual skills? Think:
- Basket weaving
- Wood working
- Being around animals (equine assisted therapy and therapy dogs)
Some people cook to relieve stress, some go fishing. Any of these activities can help make you more self-sufficient, aka homesteading.
Even if you don’t suffer from any of the conditions above, homesteading-type activities can improve your health and well being.
I sometimes have trouble sleeping through the night — funny how we revert back to where we started in life as we get older.
But there is a HUGE difference on those days when I’ve been physically active versus sitting in one place for hours. And it’s not like I have to go run a marathon or chop wood for hours.
Some form of physical activity, preferably outside in the fresh air, does wonders for clearing the mental cobwebs, as well as your physical well being.
Usually all I have to do is go for a walk in the woods, or play with my horses for an hour. I’ll sleep soundly all night (that is, unless something like a loose horse or a pack of coyotes shows up outside my window, again).
For you city-steaders, this could be as easy as walking the dog after work. It’s good for both of you. Or you could spend some time at a community garden plot. Putter amongst the roses or tomatoes for a bit, rake some leaves, etc..
Not only the physical activities are helpful — the concentration of something like knitting, crocheting, or even cooking, can get you out of your head and make some of the worries of the day fade away for a bit. Sorry, staring at a blue screen, small or large, just doesn’t cut it.
We need to unplug and join the real world.
Aside from the tangible physical and psychological benefits, practicing a more self-sufficient, simpler life can change your overall outlook.
Less trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. You learn to be happy with what you have, no matter where you are, and realize less really is more. Feel more uncluttered physically and mentally when you strive to only worry about things that really matter.
I realize almost everyone has to have a J-O-B. Not everyone is lucky enough to have found a way to make a living doing what they love.
But try to place more importance on living your life fully instead of only on the fringes. I think if you make it a priority to do things that bring you peace and joy, however you can fit them in, it seems to change how you deal with the more stressful areas of your life. It sure works for me.
Homesteading and the Kiddos
Don’t even get me started—I honestly feel sorry for the kids of today when it comes to how disconnected and helpless so many of them are.
Also because it’s a different world than the one I grew up in. Where you didn’t lock your doors, and kids walked by themselves quite a ways to school (ten miles, one way, uphill, in the snow, teehee). We ran around and played all over the neighborhood for hours without our parents knowing where we were. Yep, those days are gone.
Homesteading is such an awesome way to teach children how to be resourceful, confident, learn useful skills, appreciate nature, take pride in something they made themselves, learn to care for another living creature.
All of these are invaluable lessons. There are plenty of activities kids can do in the garden, the hen house, with the animals, and in the kitchen. I think a lot of kids these days are missing many of these basic experiences.
Do you really save money by homesteading?
In its truest form, obviously you have to have money to start a homestead.
You need to acquire land, shelter, tools, supplies, animals, perhaps dig a well, the list is long.
There are ways to barter to accomplish some of this, but it would be hard to say you could start an actual homestead with little money. It can be done, but it is extremely hard.
Of course, once you have it all in place, and have your skills and systems down, you need very little to sustain it.
But in simple terms — just implementing a few homesteading activities and skills into your normal life can save money. Cooking from scratch is high up on that list.
You know how much it costs to eat out, even something as simple as a sandwich. I guarantee that what you paid for that sandwich out, would cover the cost of several sandwiches at home.
And when you add the idea of buying ingredients in bulk, especially food that is in season and you can preserve, the cost goes down even further.
Add more savings by growing a large portion of the food you consume and preserve. There’s also the added benefit of knowing exactly what’s in your food — no small consideration!
Skills like sewing, knitting, making your own cleaning products and home remedies are other ways to save money.
You can even earn some by selling your handmade items.
So, think you’ve got a handle on WHAT homesteading is (or at least what it COULD be), and WHY you might want to consider adopting some version of a homesteading lifestyle?
Now we can get down to HOW to start down this path.
I’ve already mentioned a few ways how you could start, no matter where you are or your current situation.
Here are what I think are some of the easiest changes to make NOW to get into the homesteading state of mind.
Try out the ones that seem interesting, or that you feel would fit into your world. Have fun — try something you’ve never thought of before — you might like it!
7 HOMESTEADING SKILLS TO GET YOU STARTED
We’ll get into the details of each of these in future posts. For now, just ponder the possibilities.
- Start an Indoor Herb garden
- Container gardening
2-COOKING FROM SCRATCH
- Meal Planning
- Batch Cooking
- Freezer Cooking
- Crock Pot/Slow Cooker Meals
- Make-Ahead Meals
3-PRESERVING FOOD (CANNING/FREEZING/DRYING)
You may not have a bumper crop of tomatoes in your garden yet, but you can watch for sales, or even check out some of the local farms around your area. Buy items at a good price and preserve them for later.
I bought 10 lbs. of fresh blueberries from a farm near me for $20. Quite a difference from the grocery store’s $4 for about a cup! I also have a friend who has pecan trees in her yard — I got LOADS of pecans — shelled! Priced nuts lately?
4-LEARN A CRAFT OR HOBBY
Not only can you save money by providing items for yourself, you can earn money by selling items at craft fairs, on Etsy, or trading with others. Maybe your hobby is playing a musical instrument — give lessons! Some hobbies to consider:
- Making soap
- Wood working
- Camping — if you’ve never camped (GASP), give it a try, even if only one night
5-RAISE CHICKENS OR DUCKS FOR EGGS
The first chicken I ever raised was a chick I was given in 5th grade as a science project. And I lived in the city. And he turned out to be a rooster. Fun. Even if you only get 2 or 3, and you buy them full grown (it takes a few months for them to start to lay eggs), give it a go. They are pretty easy to manage for beginners. Of course, if you don’t actually eat eggs, I’d pass on this one.
Get to know your neighbors. Swap the use of tools and resources. Find a community garden. Shop locally at farmers markets and small businesses. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish just by swapping with someone else.
7-REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
This goes without saying. Switch to cloth napkins, cut up old t-shirts for cleaning rags, save jars and containers that will help with food storage, use cold water when hot isn’t absolutely necessary. The list goes on. Turn out lights, turn off electronics, use LED bulbs, take shorter showers………
I think we’ve covered enough for now. Chew on all this information and see what you think you be able to do right now to get started down the homesteading path.
We will revisit specifics in future posts. So stick around!