A step-by-step guide to self-sufficiency

 

The modern world is almost too easy, and you have everything you want at a click of a button or under one supermarket roof.

Having bananas in the fruit aisle all year round isn’t normal and living like this means you consume without thinking or knowing what the area you live in can produce.

Once you are on this consumer train, your life just becomes about buying things, so you just have to make money no matter what, the more money the better. This means you are at the whim of global companies and governments.    

You might think you have it all, but really you just have “stuff”, and you have no life skills.

 

What is homesteading

 

Homesteading is a lifestyle philosophy, with the goal of taking back a little self-sufficiency in your life.

It can also be called smallholding or crofting depending on where you live.

I call homesteading a philosophy because it can be hard to define, as everyone is different, has different views, and live-in different climates and environments.

Perhaps the traditional view of a homesteader is someone who owns their own home on a plot of land. Where they can grow their own fruit and vegetables and raise their own livestock.

They will build their own furniture and craft their own clothes. They will prefer to be as off-grid as possible, and have their own sources of renewable or natural energy rather than relying on grid power.

They will look to trade and barter goods and services rather than sell things for money.

However, there is no right and wrong way to be a homesteader. Someone could rightfully claim to be a homesteader if they lived in a city, but they lived a back-to-basics minimalist life.

They could buy their food from seasonal food and farmers markets, they could spend time reading instead of watching Netflix, they could learn how to sow or knit their own clothes, you could even sell these on Etsy.

Any way you can be self-reliant is a positive, even if you just grow your own herbs on your bedroom windowsill. Anything is better than nothing.

 

What are the benefits of homesteading for beginners

 

There are many benefits for beginners to take up homesteading, regardless of what that means to you.

For the purposes of the article, we will now class homesteading as what I defined as the traditional view, so owning a plot of land and working it to feed and clothe you and your family.

Below are some tangible and non-tangible reasons why beginners might take up homesteading:

 

Own your home and land

 

Most people are in a debt cycle of credit cards and mortgages and may never truly own their own home.

You cannot be self-sufficient like this, as you have to earn a certain amount of money every month to keep your head above water.

Owning your own land gives you freedom, the freedom to live your life by your own rules. To reconnect with mother nature, and to be in touch with the seasons.

 

Government may actually help you

 

Whilst your goal to too be less under the thumb of local, national, and international governments, the irony is they may actually help you in the beginning.

Whilst it is the thing of the past in countries like the UK and Canada, it is possible to get free land from some governments still.

There are still some places in America that offer free land, but they are obviously going to be in remote areas with limited amenities. But I see that as a positive.

Like with most things, there are catches. Like there will be rules on what and when you can build, and you might be liable for community costs.

So, make sure you know what you are letting yourself in for, as nothing is really free nowadays.

Again, depending on where you are, there might be tax breaks and grants you may be able to apply for. So, do your research and get whatever you can, as its rare that governments work in or favour.

 

Reliance on others

 

You are less reliant on the success of a company to keep you in a job, less reliant on your car or train getting you to work, less reliant on the global food chain to make sure you have pineapples all year round, and less reliant on government whims.

You are more reliant on yourself, your family, your friends, and your skill set. This is how humans have lived for thousands of years, and we are quickly losing sight of that.

Homesteaders usually make less money, but they spend less, some people chase sportscars, but I take more joy in been able to build my own log cabin.

Having your own land and getting your hands dirty actually provides greater security to you and your family in my opinion.

I think that self-sufficiency protects you from the modern world, you are less affected by stock market fluctuations, employment levels, globalisation, food supply issues, epidemics, pandemics, war, and natural disasters.

 

Family unit

 

How many people have a family but have very little connection with them, even the family dinner is becoming a thing of the past.

Modern devices and living can actually separate a family even when you are sat in the same room, why are you commenting on someone’s photo on Instagram who you have never met, when you could be talking to your partner who is sat right next to you playing on their tablet!

Whereas on a small holding it is all hands-on deck, if your dairy cow gets sick in the night then the whole family will have to work together.

People might think that sounds like hard work, but homesteading is hard work that unifies and builds strong family bonds.

 

Mental and Physical Well-being

 

Working 9-5 in an office under artificial light, then spending an hour in the gym, before sitting in front of the TV is not how humans are meant to live.

Homesteading is hard work, but it is rewarding work. The hard labour will keep you physically fit and being outdoors will help you be mentally fit. You will always be on the move, and you will always be learning new skills.

Waking up and having a coffee, watching the sun rise over your own land is much better than grabbing a Starbucks and fighting to get on the subway train.

 

Food chain

 

There are issues with the modern food supply, we know this as we are amid an obesity epidemic in the developed world.

Where the food supply is flooded with processed grains, processed sugar, industrial seed oils, factory farming and animal welfare concerns.

As a homesteader you will naturally avoid these issues. You will know exactly what you are eating because you will have grown it yourself or traded it with someone you trust.

You will be eating better quality and more nutritious foods, that are better for the environment. It is a win win.

 

Homesteading for Beginners: a step-by-step guide

 

Homesteading can be daunting for beginners, its hard to know where to start. Below is a general guide to set you on the right path, but as we know the detail depends on what you class as homesteading and where you live.

 

Step one

 

Define what is homesteading to you. This might seem obvious, but it is something that should be given a lot of thought and should be thoroughly discussed with whoever is joining you on this journey.

Someone might think homesteading just means raising a few chickens and growing a bit of veg, another family member might be envisioning starting a raw milk empire.

So, make sure that everyone who is on board, knows what they are letting themselves in for.

 

Step two

 

Now you have decided on what homesteading means to the people involved. You should evaluate what skills everyone involved has, and how these match up to what you want to do.

If there are skill sets missing, you need to know how and when you and your family will learn these skills.

 

Step three

 

You need to plan and set goals. If you were applying for a new business loan, you would be expected to provide a business plan. You should develop a homesteading plan, even if it is just for your eyes only.

For example, do you want to become fully self-sufficient with your own food supply. If you do, how long will this take, what will you need to do, how can preserve the food to give it a longer shelf-life, and where will you store the food.

 

Step four

 

Once you have a homesteading “business plan”. You need to choose somewhere to live, and it must be appropriate to what you envision homesteading to be.

For example, if you want to mainly raise livestock, then you will need land that is suitable for that. Just like if you are a vegetarian and intend to grow all your own fruit and vegetables don’t live somewhere with harsh and long winters.

You may ideally want to live hundreds of miles away from a city, but if you intend to make money from selling clothes how are you going to do this if you have no internet access or live 3 hours away from the closest town.

Where you choose to live must match, how you intend to live.

 

Step five

 

So many people nowadays live paycheck to paycheck and people are used to living this way.

Homesteading is not like this, and beginners needs to be away of that.

There may be huge costs in the beginning, as you may have to buy land and build your home. You may need to buy raw materials for fencing, drainage, and energy supply.

Then once that is sorted, there are regular outlays like fertilizer and animal food.

You may earn a lot of money in one month of the year by selling lambs or calves, but that money must last you for 11 months. It is a different way to think about budgeting, it’s the boring stuff but it must be done.

 

Step six

 

Make friends with other homesteaders or find a mentor. You will need help and you will need access to knowledge, but even if you are thriving it will be good to be able to trade goods.

You might make the best damn bread in the country, but you might have no decent butter to put on the bread. Your neighbour might do awesome butter though.

You might be great at building fences but have no clue how to help a sick cow. Homesteading is about self-efficiency, but it doesn’t mean you will refuse help when needed.

 

Step seven

 

Start small, start with easy things, start with things you think you can do, and progress from there.

For instance, if you intend to grow your own vegetables. Start by growing ones that are easy to grow like Green Beans, radishes, and potatoes.

Then you can progress onto fruit trees that are more temperamental and time consuming.

Or if you want to raise livestock, then start with chickens, and work from there, building up to having a herd of cows for instance. Allow your skill set to grow over time, if you jump in at the deep end you may drown!

 

Step eight

 

You need to live seasonally, and you need to plan for the season you will be living in. Ideally you will grow enough to eat all year round, so you will need to plan your crops and livestock to match the seasons.

If you want to be self-sufficient with food all year round, then it is no good only planting fruit trees as fruit only ripens for a short period of time of the year.

So, you need to plan a range of crops, to be planted at different times, so you have food ready to harvest throughout the year.

It’s a bit easier to raise livestock all year round, but some planning is still required as you wouldn’t want your entire herd of goats ready for slaughter at the same time.

 

Step nine

 

You should build planned surpluses into your inventory. Firstly, you need enough to sustain you and your family.

For example, you need to grow and raise enough food for yourselves. Then you may need extra to sell or trade. Finally, you need extra on top of that to store for future use in case of seasonal lulls, bad winters, disease, or pandemics.

This will likely mean you setting up an emergency food store for short, medium, and long-term food storage.

A good example of this is that you can eat green beans fresh for short-term consumption, you can pickle them for medium-term storage (usually up until a year), and you can pressure-can them for long-term storage.

If anything bad happens, then you still need to feed you and your family, so make sure this is built into any plan.

 

Step ten

 

A beginner homesteader will have certain strengths and weakness, eventually over time you will become a master of various skills and so will your family.

This doesn’t just apply to growing veg and raising cows, but making furniture & clothes, repairing ones you already have, carpentry, using tools, mechanical work… eventually you will be able to do it all. 

 

Conclusion

 

There is a lot for beginners to consider before starting their homesteading journey, and it could be so daunting that you may never start.

My main advice is that; yes, you need to do some planning and do things correctly, but don’t over procrastinate. At some point you will have to get started, and turn a dream into a reality.

Just be positive and have a can-do attitude. Things will go wrong, bad things will happen, but if you learn from them… you will be a success.