7 Homesteading Baby Steps

Take a second, share with your Friends!

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)


To Bee or Not To Bee

Take a second, share with your Friends!

[easyazon-image-link asin="0470430656" alt="Beekeeping For Dummies" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51dTr3Th84L._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="127" height="160"]
After some discussion and a bit of reading, we decided to start beekeeping.  It's something we've wanted to do at our Urban Homestead, but just never got to that point.  Now we're settling in at our new country homestead, it's time...

The seed was planted last year actually... There is an Agricuture Festival in our community every year, and last year we have the wonderful opportunity to meet some local beekeepers.  They had an awesome display and had some honey tasting... YUMMY!  It was hard to leave that booth and I'm sure we were there for close to an hour, but that's all it took to get the ball moving again.

Unfortunately we were not in the position to do anything our first year.  We just moved to our new house, had many renovations and a newborn to tend to first.  Now that things are falling into place though, we started researching and planning this as a 2012 project.

Our goal is to read everything we can and try to learn from the beekeeping bloggers out there.  Of course we know that hands on and having a local mentor would be awesome, so we're going to see about finding and joining any local Beekeeping / Apicutlure clubs.  Having someone local or a local group we can lean on during our startup would be fantastic, especially for sourcing equipment and bee's locally, if possile.

Can't wait to get things going... The following are a few books we just bought to get started (ya Beekeeping For Dummies, but it's actually a pretty good book for us just starting out ;o)

[easyazon-image-link asin="0470430656" alt="Beekeeping For Dummies" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51dTr3Th84L._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="127" height="160"] [easyazon-image-link asin="1592536077" alt="The Backyard Beekeeper - Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51rR6nbNeDL._SL160_.jpg" width="128" height="160"]

Thinking of picking up the following but not sure yet... would be interested in any recommendations.

[easyazon-image-link asin="0801485037" alt="The Beekeeper's Handbook, Third Edition" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/511JJK7YRRL._SL160_.jpg" width="160" height="121"] [easyazon-image-link asin="1906388970" alt="Beekeeping: A Seasonal Guide" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ibI7YtjSL._SL160_.jpg" width="107" height="160"] [easyazon-image-link asin="1592536522" alt="Better Beekeeping: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Stronger Colonies and Healthier, More Productive Bees" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/416gMHpI4GL._SL160_.jpg" width="128" height="160"]

Can't wait to get started!!

Back to Basics Homestead

Homesteading 1 Acre of Land

Take a second, share with your Friends!

Planning a 1-Acre Self Sufficient Homestead

Although this is not technically a recent item in the news, it's an article about an excellent subject.  John Seymour published an excellent book called "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It", which has gone through several editions, growing with each one.  I've read many different Homesteading / Self-Sufficient books and this one is by far my favorite.

Mother Earth News recently covered one of the items covered in this book.  It's an excerpt of the book covering different aspects of starting and maintaining a 1 acre self-sufficient farm.

This is not a one stop guide, but more of a starter guide to wet the appetite to lead into more research and reading.  It covers items such as raising livestock, growing fruits, vegetables, garden plot management and more... The article is worth the read and if you like it, you'll love the book for sure!

[easyazon-block asin="0756654505" align="none"]

Back to Basics Homestead

Collect Homesteading Books?

Take a second, share with your Friends!

Like probably most off you out there, I have collected a large number of reference books and material.  I have to say I have a book addiction ;o)

I like browsing through Amazon and Chapters looking for books on everything from Renewable Energy, Homesteading, Gardening, Seed Saving, Water Harvesting, Permaculture Designs, Household Skills/Crafts, etc...  I love creating lists and seeing what others have in their lists for inspiration.  Yes we do have the Internet, but you can't beat the feel of paper in your hands.

Most of the books we've acquired are not cover to cover reads.  Most are thumbed through for reference to subjects I'm researching or a project in progress.  They're also great for ideas and to find that next project, like we all don't have enough ideas right?

Here are a few of the books in my collection.  I'll be posting a review on each of them:

[easyazon-image-link asin="1616082615" alt="The Back to Basics Handbook: A Guide to Buying and Working Land, Raising Livestock, Enjoying Your Harvest, Household Skills and Crafts, and More (Back to Basics Guides)" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513qIQCcEML._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="112" height="160"]

[easyazon-image-link asin="0789493322" alt="The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51X8H41P89L._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="124" height="160"]

[easyazon-image-link asin="0973323329" alt="The Renewable Energy Handbook: A Guide to Rural Energy Independence, Off-Grid and Sustainable Living" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51LHZOxmHHL._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="103" height="160"]

[easyazon-image-link asin="0470430656" alt="Beekeeping For Dummies" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51dTr3Th84L._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="127" height="160"]

[easyazon-image-link asin="0865715807" alt="Design for Water: Rainwater Harvesting, Stormwater Catchment, and Alternate Water Reuse" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51uSQNCEoqL._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="133" height="160"]

[easyazon-image-link asin="1591862027" alt="All New Square Foot Gardening" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61XhFTDM0xL._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="112" height="160"]

[easyazon-image-link asin="1603420355" alt="Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient when the Unexpected Happens" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Bc7lW3e-L._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="127" height="160"]

[easyazon-image-link asin="B002RX46GW" alt="The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/514HpDVIARL._SL160_.jpg" align="left" width="107" height="160"]

Hmmm... Just looking through these makes me want to run through them ;o)  What are you reading?  What's on your bookshelf or wishlist?  Would love to hear your recommendations.

Back to Basics Homestead