These days, more and more people would like to get into homesteading. Some don’t really know how to go about it, as their lifestyles are so different than what they would like to pursue. Some folk mistakenly think that to get into homesteading, they’d have to sell their homes, build a log cabin out in the wilderness and produce all their own food and clothing. Personally, I believe that the homesteading lifestyle would be good for many people. I love to see others experiment with it, but I often hear of “new homesteaders” experiencing a whole lot of stress. To unravel this mess and plot a sane course into homesteading, we need to start out by defining it.
What exactly is homesteading?
There was a time when the term signified that a family moved to the wilderness and started from scratch, making almost everything they needed from what they farmed or hunted. In recent decades, however, the term has come to describe a lifestyle of self sufficiency and continual learning. Thinking about it, this is how I’d define present day homesteading:
“Modern homesteading is a lifestyle, in which one seeks to produce more of their own food and do more for oneself. This is for the purpose of skill building, learning, better quality and/or frugality.”
Essentially, one can get into homesteading by picking out something of interest and learning to do it. It is not necessary that one be living like Jeremiah Johnson or some other mountain man. The key is to start learning how to make, raise or produce something you need. Having learned that, you can add another learning project, etc. Too many people who want to get into homesteading allow themselves to get over stressed.
Here are some tips for how to get into homesteading successfully:
1) Try not to master too much at one time.
This is, perhaps, the biggest mistake we see among those who are new to homesteading. Learning new things introduces stress, so keep it enjoyable and try not to tackle too many new things at once. This is key.
2) Keep it fun.
If, at some point, you find yourself dreading the activity, and that, consistently, STOP.
Have fun! Savor the moment. For families, be sure to make it enjoyable. Always remember that the “homesteader” is more important than the homesteading project and that learning is more important than the finished product.
This is especially true if you have family involved. Ones family is the greatest “project” possible. Approach homesteading in a way which makes children want to do it, and your spouse (if you have one) supportive. One of the saddest experiences I’ve had was to encounter the adult child of a gardener, who HATED gardening because one of their parents prioritized it over kids. On the other hand, I myself associate gardening with good times I spent with my parents and siblings.
3) Consider, first, those things which truly interest you.
This is a good start to “keeping it enjoyable.” Everyone is different. What do you like? If you love gardening, then that’s a good place to begin. If you can’t stand gardening, then think about something else to do. Other aspects of homesteading include: cooking, fishing, hunting, small animal husbandry, bee keeping, heating with firewood, canning or even fish culture. The possibilities are endless!
4. Start with something apt for your circumstances.
One wouldn’t want to start raising sheep if they had no pasture. Even renting a pasture might be a show stopper, as having to travel to one’s flock is likely to be too time consuming for the person who is just starting out. An apartment dweller might be able to do some kind of gardening, either container gardening or perhaps by getting a plot from a community garden. Cooking is something that almost anyone can do. Fishing and foraging are also great activities which can often be pursued without owning land. The point is to start with something that is fairly easy to do in your circumstances.
For some, even who live in the city, raising rabbits for meat might be an option.
Did you know that Homesteading Edu has an entire course on meat rabbits?
5. Avoid debt
Of course it costs money to get into most activities, but be careful not to accrue a lot of debt in your homesteading venture. As has already been mentioned, get into it “little by little.” As you learn and succeed you may be able to start a fund for new projects, using money you’ve saved or earned by what you’re successfully doing. Don’t fall into the trap of buying lots of accessories when, in fact, you can get by with what you have or with very few additional tools. This is an especially common pitfall, I’ve seen, with new gardeners.