Is homesteading still a viable option for those desiring a simpler, more natural life? The answer is YES, but with some qualifications.This article will discuss how to start homesteading from scratch with no money, and if it’s even possible. I’m going to suggest that it definitely IS, but the new homesteader needs to start small, build some skills and experience, and then upsize as more funds become available.
It’s also refreshing and inspiring to know that you don’t need to move to a 100-acre ranch in the country to start homesteading. Homesteading from scratch really involves a mindset, a desire to minimize unnecessary consumption, to become more self-sufficient and self-reliant, to be creative and inspired to live a simpler life.
In the 1800’s after the Homesteading Act was passed, Americans were able to apply for a 160-acre block of land for free and to move there to begin a new life as a homesteader. Many people took the government up on the offer and moved themselves and their families into the unknown.
Table Of Contents
- How To Start Homesteading From Scratch – Initial Considerations
- 7 Things You Should Know When Starting a Homestead From Scratch
- 1. Your Desired Level of Self-Sufficiency
- 2. How to Garden
- 3. Learn How to Preserve Your Food
- 4. Choose The Best Land for Your Needs
- 5. How to Build Anything and Everything
- 6. How to Upcycle
- 7. The Type of Equipment You Will Need
- To Conclude
How To Start Homesteading From Scratch – Initial Considerations
Homesteading today is unlikely to begin with finding free property unless you inherit some of have a kindly relative who has a few acres to spare. There are no national homesteading programs that provide land in exchange for developing it. The programs that do exist are local and tend to be in remote areas of the country.
This means that most likely you will be buying your homestead property, and possibly acquiring a mortgage to do so. Or staying where you are living right now, and creating a homesteading lifestyle without the need to live on a large plot. Many people are getting into urban homesteading, creating an oasis of food production and sustainable living in the middle of cities and towns. It’s a growing movement that is amazing to be a part of.
So, take some time to focus on exactly what it is that you want from a homesteading lifestyle.
Is it the open country, acreage, large animals, isolation? Do you want to create a full-time living from your homestead? Or are you just trying to eat better, use less polluting transportation, reduce waste, live a more sustainable life? These things are important to know. Many of us get really tied up in the idea of a large farm with no neighbors and idyllic views, but the reality of such a venture isn’t always as easy and tranquil as it may appear in our dreams.
Check out this inspiring video from Becky on starting a homestead from scratch
Even if you are able to acquire a larger plot of land and build on it mortgage-free, there will still be property taxes. Therefore homesteading today will require more cash money than in pioneer days, if you really want to live on a homestead in the country. This means you will need a plan to support yourself, with one or more work from home businesses, or an ‘off -homestead’ job. It is possible to make money by running your homestead as a mini farm, raising vegetable crops and livestock to feed yourself, with a surplus for sale.
More and more lifestyle homesteaders are turning their produce into cash by running stalls at farmer’s markets, it’s a growing cottage industry which is actually a lot of fun too. Meeting people with similar interests is a great way to build connections and friendships.
However, don’t underestimate the learning curve required to be successful at some of these endeavors; it can take several seasons to learn how to reliably and efficiently produce most crops. And if you are depending on your mini homestead for cash flow, you will need to focus on crops that provide a quick turnaround. This would rule out starting an orchard for example, as most tree fruit will take several years to bear a crop. Even most small fruit will produce nothing the first season. One business that does provide relatively quick cashflow is a market garden.
The start-up cost for this homestead business can be quite low if you start smart. You could begin by growing vegetables for yourself and perhaps a few friends and neighbors. You could even solicit some cash from them to help with the start-up costs and pay them back with vegetables from your garden. Market gardening is easily scalable; that is, you can start small, then as your skills and confidence grow, you can expand to the limits of your property (and your ambition). This fulfills one of the requirements of homesteading today.
Raising meat chickens and weaner pigs are two more possibilities for the modern homesteading beginner.
Day-old meat chicks will be roaster size and ready for sale in 10 to 12 weeks; weaner pigs will reach market weight in about 4-5 months.
This means that, in most areas, these livestock animals can be raised in a summer season. Raising your livestock in warm weather only means low start-up costs.
These are great starter farm businesses, and the whole family can help out. Kids can get involved looking after the animals, and learn where their food really comes from.
These three homestead businesses have the potential to provide you food and folding money. But before you jump in, you need to ask yourself if you are ready for the realities of homesteading today. Needless to say, there will be hard work, but beyond this successful homesteading requires a mindset of self-reliance.
You are 100 percent responsible for the success of your homestead; you need to value function over form, have a tolerance for setbacks, and have a genuine love for going your own way. Your life partner better have these characteristics, too, or it will be an unhappy little homestead.
So if you are immune to stress, treat every problem like a learning opportunity, and believe that the only real security is what you can carve out for yourself, you may be ready for homesteading today.
When most of us think of homesteading, we imagine a log cabin similar to the one used by the Ingalls family in the pioneering days of this country. But, in all honesty, homesteading can be a rewarding experience that pays off in many different ways.
Want to know more?
7 Things You Should Know When Starting a Homestead From Scratch
1. Your Desired Level of Self-Sufficiency
This may sound like something simple, but it is actually the single most important consideration before you start homesteading. There are those who simply want to grow their own vegetables and others who want to raise their own animals. There are those who take things even further and live completely off the grid. No matter which category you fall under, it’s important to gain a deeper understanding of how self-sufficient you want to be so you can plan accordingly.
Once you’ve achieved your short-term goals and decide that you want to take things a step further, don’t be afraid to try new things. But, having that initial success is great motivation for the beginner homesteader.
2. How to Garden
If you are going to be a homesteader, you will have to know how to garden properly. Doing so will that ensure you can produce healthy plants to feed you and/or your family.
There are tons of different gardening methods, so you will have to do your due diligence to find a technique that works well with your needs and capabilities.
For any homesteader, whether city based or not, starting a vegetable garden close to the house should be the first step. Sheet mulching is a great way to start creating weed free, productive beds that will get better and better as they age. It’s a super cheap way to cover existing lawn, to introduce organic matter into the soil, and to attract worms.
For the really space restricted, vertical gardening can work really well. DIY potato towers, trellises, and vegetables grown in pots and tubs are great of you are homesteading in an apartment.
Planting perennials in the first year, although not an immediate income of food strategy, is a sensible thing to do. As mentioned, fruit and berries take time to mature, but once they have had a year or so in the ground, you’ll be getting small amounts of crops, mainly for personal use. As time goes on, you can often value-add to the crops by processing them into jams and chutneys. I’ve done this with cabbage and other vegetables, fermenting them into sauerkraut and kimchi and selling them, works wonders for the hard-up homesteader.
3. Learn How to Preserve Your Food
Whether you would like to compensate during tough financial times or are concerned about a time where going to a grocery store isn’t an option, being able to grow and preserve your own food is an essential skill to have.
Important elements to learn include:
1. How to process the food safely
2. The materials you will need to preserve the food
3. How to create delicious fermented food recipes that will help will improve your health and increase the life of vegetables that would normally spoil in a few days.
You will also need plenty of mason jars or a ceramic German style fermenting crock (these are excellent for fermenting larger batches), as well as lids and rings to seal them There are some excellent wide mouth lid kits for fermenting, which have airlocks built in. A pressure canner can drastically reduce the amount of time this process takes and gives you the option to water bath or pressure can your food.
4. Choose The Best Land for Your Needs
It’s possible to homestead on a working farm with tons of acres or something as small as a half-acre, it all depends on the needs of the individual. To find the right amount of land for you, you must decide how self-sufficient you would like to be. For instance, if you would like to have cows, pigs, and other farm animals on your land, you will need more space than someone who just wants a small garden and a few chickens.
The most important thing that you have to understand when searching for land is that everything must have its place. So, map out everything you want to see if it will fit. You might be surprised at how little land you will need.
While you are searching for your land, it’s also a good idea to figure out the type of home that you would like as well, choices include RVs, old mobile homes, inexpensive tiny houses, and more. It’s your land so the choice is up to you, just remember to pencil it into your map so you will have enough space for everything you need. It’s worth remembering that if you already live in a small property, apartment homesteading is a great way to get started on your journey until you raise some cash to get a bigger property.
5. How to Build Anything and Everything
At first glance, this tip may be intimidating, but you must not let it deter you. While it’s important for every homesteader to have some carpentry skills, you don’t have to be an expert, as long as the things that you make are functional. Also, having the ability to build things will save you a lot of money and you can upcycle many times as well.
6. How to Upcycle
The successful homesteader doesn’t waste anything. Scraps can be used for compost for animals or soil. Rabbit and chicken drippings can be used for fertilizer. Ashes from the fireplace can be used to enrich your garden soil. Do some research on the internet to find out all the other amazing ways that you can upcycle and save yourself some real cash.
7. The Type of Equipment You Will Need
Believe it or not, you won’t need much equipment to begin homesteading, just the basics like nails and a hammer. Sounds too simple, but for creating raised vegetable beds, compost bins, you really don’t need much. As time goes by, you may need to invest in a tiller if you have large areas, but I really do like the no-dig gardening methods, they take a little time to get going, but save a lot of fuss and work in the long run.
There are plenty of other tools to make your life easier, but this isn’t something you should worry about in the beginning, or check out thrift shops and boot sales to pick up tools really cheaply. Craigslist and eBay are great for finding any tool or accessory you might need.
Homesteading from scratch with no money isn’t easy, but if you take your time and put it in the effort, you will find yourself on a journey of amazing knowledge and freedom. Enjoying the journey, every little success, learn from the ‘failures’ and never give up. The satisfaction from changing your life for the better, leaving old ways and bad habits behind as you move towards pastures new (metaphorically speaking) is SO exciting and rewarding. Once you learn how to start homesteading from scratch, you’ll never look back.