In this day of economic uncertainty, many of us long to become more self-sufficient with our food supply. Alongside this goes the wish to eat cleaner, without the chemical additives and pesticides. This is where homesteading comes into play.
Homesteading is a self-reliant and self-sufficient mindset.
You can have the self-sufficient homestead mindset wherever you happen to live. There are skills you can practice and philosophies that you can embrace, even if you don’t have any land to your name right now, or ever.
You don’t have to go off-grid and live in the middle of nowhere to be a self-sufficient homesteader at heart.
There are so many things you can do even in an inner city apartment.
Below is a list of 10 skills that you can pick and choose from to start working on to become more self-sufficient.
Pick one skill and work on that first, once you have that up and running, add a second skill. This is the best way to make these skills a lasting habit and a new self-sufficient way of life for you and your family.
What are the Benefits to Living a Homestead Life?
You don’t have to be relying on someone else to provide your food. Every little bit counts – raise some plants on your window sill or go hunting or fishing in the weekend.
When you grow something, you know what is in or on it. You can be organic, free range and pasture fed, without the price tag.
Homesteading Saves you Money
We pay for convenience. Modern day life is so very full of conveniences, we don’t even notice we are paying for it these days. That 99c bread you buy? You could make fancy artisan bread, worth $4 for less than 50c.
That plumber you paid to fix a leaking tap? You could learn how to change a washer, and fix it for less than $1.
Any food that comes in a packet? Guess what, you could make it from scratch for a fraction of what the shop charges you, and you will know what is in it!
A packet of 50-100 heirloom seeds may cost you $3-5 but that money would only buy you 2-3 heads of broccoli from the store.
If you want to save some cash and pay off some debt, homesteading is for you!
Leaving a Legacy
When we have children, it is our mandate to prepare them to cope with whatever may come in life. Training our children to provide for themselves is a lesson in independence and responsibility.
Also digging in the dirt is good for you! It helps with self-esteem, and general relaxation and feelings of well-being.
Remember there are no rules about what makes up a homestead. Anyone who is taking charge of their food sources and providing for themselves qualifies! This is true whether you are in the city, on a quarter acre or on a hundred acres.
How to Live a Self-Sufficient Homestead Life Wherever you are Today.
1) Work out your goals
What do you actually want? Are you happy where you are? Do you want to move to a bigger plot of land, or have you got what you want now? Be realistic about your property and its capacity. This is a long-term decision, so don’t rush it.
If you want to move, there are so many things you can be doing in the meantime to learn and prepare for a bigger homestead.
Meanwhile here is what can you do where you are even if you have a small backyard. My advice is to start small, one thing at a time. If you are planning out your property, have a look at our permaculture planning article, it will help you work out what to put where at your place.
2) Start a Garden
The very foundation of providing your own food is gardening. If you aren’t sure where to start – try reading our How to Start a Garden from Scratch series.
If you want a more in depth, vastly more helpful option – you really should do our Productive Gardener course.
I always try to use heritage breeds of plants. Heritage plants are higher in nutrients and are better tailored to growing in different environments.
Growing vegetables from seed is the best way to get heritage plants, and the cheapest option as well. In the US I recommend Seeds for Generations. They are a family based, multigenerational, real deal company. In New Zealand I have bought many seeds from Carol, she is great to deal with.
If you’re considering using your awesome homesteading skills in the future to decrease your need for a cash income, look at ways to grow something, somewhere now, today even.
Community gardens are one option, but so is hooking up with someone who might loan you some land. Get creative. Grow planter boxes on your balcony or windowsill. Set up a veggie plot amongst your flower garden. Just do something!
If the weeds are getting you down. I have one word for you:
You really won’t regret it. I promise.
3) Start Canning and Preserving.
You don’t have to grow a thing to learn to can things. Get in on the super seasonal specials as they come up and buy in bulk.
I bought 15kg (30lb) of tomatoes and made salsa, canned tomatoes and HUGE amounts of my delicious tomato ketchup.
Low acid fruit and vegetables NEED to be pressure canned for your safety.
You can also pressure can meat, stocks and milk. This will save space in your freezer and reduce your reliance on electricity.
In order to pressure can food, you’re going to need a pressure canner – your two main options are the All-American pressure canner and the Presto pressure canner – both are workhorses that will last for years.
The All-American is initially expensive and it weighs a lot but it has no parts that need replacing.
The Presto is less expensive and more lightweight (can be used on ceramic cooktops) but it has rubber gaskets that need replacing occasionally.
Those are the only essential differences and both are great canners. I have the Presto and I love it. They even shipped to NZ for me!
Don’t forget other low-cost methods of food preservation, too! Dehydrating, pickling, wine-making, Lacto-fermentation, curing – there are many other ways to preserve food.
I do not recommend freezing as a reliable preservation method unless you are running it on renewable energy.
You cannot rely on electricity in a storm or other such brown-stuff-hits-the-whirly-thing events and you risk losing your whole freezer full of food.
4) From Scratch Cooking
Along with preserving your food, cooking from scratch is one of those things you can do even in a city apartment. You can start perfecting your skills right now.
Learn how to make sourdough from scratch, even making your own sourdough starter.
Get some good, homestyle from-scratch dinner recipes under your belt like our pork carnitas.
5) Get yourself some Chickens
Be warned – chickens are the gateway drug to homesteading animals. They are little, easy to care for and are very productive.
This is especially so if you get yourself some multi-use dual purpose breeds like Light Sussex or Orpingtons. They lay around 300 eggs per year for the first 2 years, will breed and raise their own young and you can eat the spares at about 6 months of age.
6) Grow some Meat Rabbits
Rabbits are the easiest and most productive animal that you can keep in your backyard for meat. We have a huge section about meat rabbits if you want to read up on them.
You don’t need much land, and as they are considered pets rather than livestock you can have them in the city. Some people even raise meat rabbits in their basements quite successfully.
7) Buy a pair of Dairy Goats
However they do take up a fair amount of space, if you are more limited on space you can look at one of the smaller breeds. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are significantly smaller, but still put out a massive amount of milk for their size. Sadly, we do not have this breed in New Zealand.
Goats are very social animals so you do need to have at least two. If you are planning on milking them, they need to have a baby at least every 18 months.
Most people that keep goats ‘freshen’ (let them have a baby) every year. You can either keep a buck on site – but be warned they can be stinky and gross. Or you can find someone else with one and ask if you can borrow him for a month once they have finished.
8) Reduce your Electrical Reliance
Electricity costs. A lot. It is very relying-on-someone-elsey (I would say unempowering… but… yeah… puns). The amount you pay is somewhat out of your control. To counteract this, you can look at alternate sources of power.
- Try to get a place with a wood burner, or better yet a wood-fired cooker like ours!
- Get a wet back and radiators or central heating pipes. The outlay is high, but the running costs are less.
- Install a solar power system, or at least some panels to heat your hot water.
- Cook outside in the summer over a well-contained fire.
- Swap your appliances for low usage ones.
- Use LED bulbs.
- Turn off your hot water if you aren’t using it.
- Invest in a Kill Switch that turns everything off when you leave the house or room.
- Have shorter showers or fewer showers. I think we shower far too often these days anyways, but that is a rant for another day.
- Learn to can or dry your surplus fruit, veggies and meat so you don’t need such a big freezer.
9) Bring back the Art of Bartering
- Use your spare eggs and vegetables to trade for goods and services.
- Get to know your neighbours and share tools and resources.
- Get involved in community gardens and seed swaps.
- Support cottage industries by shopping at the local markets.
10) Pick up some Productive Hobbies
Other homesteading skills that make great hobbies that you may like to hone include:
Knitting and sewing
DIY and building your own things
Herbal medicines and treating illnesses naturally
Mechanics and maintaining your own tools
Camping, hiking and bushcraft
What are you doing to develop your homesteading skills? Let me know in the comments below!
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