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Homesteading 101: What You Need to Know to Begin Living Off the Land

You know more now than ever before, and perhaps you feel you simply cannot “un-know” it, so you need to make a change. Awakened consciousness regarding how we live our lives, specifically the sustainability of our lifestyles and the hyper-consumerist culture in which we participate means that homesteading is becoming more popular.

Whether it’s financial debt, feelings of powerlessness against the one percent elite, or simply wanting to live a simpler, environmentally-friendly life, you’ve come here because you’re curious to know if homesteading is for you.

In reality, living off the land has many different levels, so we’re looking at the top five things you need to know before committing further to this type of lifestyle.

  1. Plan: Just How Self-Sufficient Do You Want to Be?

You may be surprised to read this, but you can homestead even from a city apartment. The question is how far do you want to go? Are you looking to grow your own vegetables or will you take it a step further and live entirely off the grid? Being a Weekend Homesteader is a great place to start as it reduces the seemingly major step of living off the land to individual tasks to complete during your time-off work.

Once you have a plan and a goal you can even start forecasting for your first year ahead.

  1. Find the Land

This is arguably the most important element in homesteading so make sure you do your research and think of all the variables ahead of making the purchase:

  • Check the quality of the land – hard or rocky soils will be much harder to make productive and hills can also provide a major issue for gardening. A mixture of field and woodland leaves you with options as you’re guaranteed firewood fuel as well as flexible planting area. And remember – buy as much land as you can afford as it’s going to be harder to add to it at a later date.
  • What is allowed in the area? Check the rules on planning and official zoning with the local municipal office. Would you be able to add a wind turbine or solar panels?
  • Are there any existing buildings? It’s going to be far easier if there is already a livable place to live on it and even more so if there are warehouses and sheds.
  1. Grow Your Garden and Make Your own Pantry Staples

Producing healthy plants every season to feed your family takes some knowledge. You’re trying to be self-sufficient, so self-study and trial and error will be major themes in your early years if you’re learning from scratch. There is the till method, or the compost and woodchip method; GMO farming or organic gardening.

Many believe organic gardening/farming is the healthier and more environmentally responsible option, but this also could mean more labor from your part.

There are some tricks out there though; by investing in a greenhouse – building your own greenhouse that is – you can extend your growing season as well as grow varieties of fruit and vegetables you previously never thought possible given the natural climate.

Be frugal, be self-reliant and make your own pantry staples such as bread, cake, butter, sour cream, vegan alternatives and even clothes. You could also sell your produce should you wish.

  1. Upcycle Everything

As you will know, homesteading is about upcycling everything. Waste is the enemy so think about how much you can re-use once you start this journey. As a first step, you’ll want a compost heap for organic kitchen veg and fruit scraps. Ashes from the fireplace can also be used as fertilizer and if you choose to have animals, their droppings can also be composted for 90 days before being used as manure for your garden or farm. The Amish people whose culture closely embodies homesteading is known to prioritize reducing and even eliminating their waste by reusing items in creative ways.

  1. Get Your Grit On

This feels like stating the obvious; however, homesteading is not an easy option. It can and will be exhausting, so you’ll need extreme dedication and pure hard grit to make this work.

Whatever your reasons for considering homesteading and living off the land, it can be the ultimate solution for a lot of people who are committed to making it work. Acknowledging the points above too will help prepare you against some of the unknowns and put you on your way to a simpler life.

[About the author: Emily Folk works as a freelance conservation and sustainability writer. To see more of her work, check out her blog, Conservation Folks, and follow her on Twitter.]

Photo by Alexander Shustov

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