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The term "homesteading" can mean a lot of different things to different people.  Wikipedia describes Homesteading as "a lifestyle of agrarian self-sufficiency".  You don't need 40 acres of land to do it and of course you don't need to do it all at once.  "Homesteading", in the terms noted above, is a lifestyle you work at day in and day out.  The more you learn, the more you want to learn until it becomes natural.  The key is to start slow and tackle one thing  at a time.

Here are the 7 basics we believe anyone can do, no matter where you live, to get started on a more self sufficient and healthy lifestyle:

  1. Start a vegetable garden: If you have any space in your yard you can start a small row garden or raised beds with square foot gardening.  If you live in an apartment and have a patio, you can do a small container garden.  The key is to start small and work your way up, growing more each year as you get more comfortable.  Start with staples like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and spinach.  You won't be canning a winters worth, but you will be eating something you grew and loving it.
  2. Start a compost pile: Composting is easy to get going and is very good for your garden.  If you have yard space it's easy to get started.  There are tons of plans on the Internet on how to build one and our first was made of used recycled pallets.  If you are in an apartment you can still get into the composting game small scale with vermiculture.  We've not tried this yet, but plan on putting up a worm farm in the garage for the smaller stuff and gain the benefits of worm castings and tea.
  3. Buy Local:   Buying local supports our local farmers and farmers markets.  The produce and goods are usually fresher, more selection and you can find out how it was grown (organic or not).  The added bonus it to have a chat with these local farmers or farm hands.  Most are more then happy to answer questions and share stories.
  4. Buy in Season:  Buying in season means your buying local, but deserves it's own point.  When you start, especially when you start, you won't grow everything you will need to hold yourself over till next growing season.  You should however buy bulk produce when in season and learn to preserve them to hold you and your family over.
  5. Learn to preserve:  Our first attempt at preserving was making jams and jelly's from strawberries and raspberries.  These are easy and don't require any special equipment, but give TONS of satisfaction!  Learning how to can/bottle safely is important and an investment as you'll need to buy a pressure canner, bottles, lids and supplies.  This is an upfront expense, but well worth it.  Our pressure canner paid for itself in the first year by preserving our harvest and what we bought bulk in season... items we didn't have to buy at the store.  Compare a homemade bottled green beans vs. a can from your local supermart and you'll wonder why you never started earlier.
  6. Reduce Consumption: Reduce the use of electricity by getting rid of unused appliances, use power bars that you can power off to reduce vampire loads (appliances that still suck power even if they're "powered off") and most of all be conscious of the KW's you are using.  We invested in a device called The Energy Detective (TED) to monitor our usage and help trim things down.  It's nice to know what your bill will be before you get it.  Reducing consumption also ties into consumer choices: buying items with less packaging, buying used and recycling items.  By growing and raising your own food where possible and buying local and in seasion, you are reducing your overall consumer footprint.
  7. Simplify = Eliminate Debt and Clutter:  You've heard it all before... Declutter first.  If you're not using it, sell it or donate it... if it's not good to be donated or sold why are you holding on garbage?  Second is to get rid of your debt.  You will never be free to do what you want until you are debt free. There are lots of books and programs out there so pick one that works for you, but it's pretty simple: Live below your means aka spend less then you make!  Pay cash for everything and cut up the plastic... nuff said.

These are the steps we've taken over the past  5 years to get where we are today.  There are many other items and skills not noted above like hunting and keeping animals such as chickens, rabbits, etc... but these are baby steps.  Once you feel comfortable with the baby steps you can move forward with your journey of self sufficiency.

We started in the city and took the baby steps noted above to get where we are today, living in the country on 2 acres and expanding on our knowledge and skills daily and with every season.  Do we think we've "made it"?  Heck no!  The more we do and learn the more we realize we don't know and need to learn, and that is the fun of it all :o)


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