Are you looking to start a homestead? Does a self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle seem appealing to you? Then check out these tips on how to get started from our regular contributor, Megan Wild.
Tips on Starting a Homestead
Do you pass by quaint roadside stalls brimming with delectable fresh produce and wish you could live a peaceful, self-sufficient farm life? Do you already have a small vegetable or flower garden in your backyard because the idea of homegrown sustainability is one of your family’s goals? If so, you may be ready to start your own homestead!
Homesteading is a lifestyle that includes small-scale farming, animal husbandry, food preservation and textile or craft making. Don’t worry, you don’t have to dive right into all of those elements at once. It really is a lifestyle change that takes time and practice, but will ultimately result in the pride and satisfaction that you’re moving toward a life of self-reliance.
Here are some tips on how to transition into starting your own small homestead.
Get to Know Your Surroundings
Is your property able to support a homestead? You don’t need hundreds of acres, but you will need to do research to make sure you have enough sunlit space for your garden and a big enough pasture for any animals you wish to raise. It’s also extremely important to check with your local zoning board to ensure that everything will be up to code.
Get in touch with nature and learn what plants and natural structures surround your property. Are the local shrubs poisonous, or are they a natural medicine you can use at home? Is there a clean stream perfect for keeping cows watered as well as backup in case your well dries? What wild animals are native to your area, and are they a threat to your produce? These are just a few things to consider, and you will have to build your homesteading activities based on the land you have available.
Chickens and Goats and Cows, Oh My!
One of the biggest reasons people turn to homestead living is the growing concern over ethical animal treatment. By raising your own animals, you are in control over their happiness and the many uses they provide for you and your family.
Chickens are often the first animal homesteaders start with as they’re easy to maintain and don’t require large pastures. Not only do many people tout the taste of free-range eggs over commercial eggs, but studies show that free-range eggs are healthier for you overall. Watching chicks hatch, or looking for fresh eggs, are fun activities everyone in the family can participate in watching and doing. For chickens that no longer lay, you then have a cruelty-free source of poultry and feathers to be used whenever.
When it comes to meat and milk, cattle and goats are great for both. Just make sure you’re completely read up on the proper care and handling of any livestock you choose to own before you buy any. Once you have their pasture and housing situated, you can start going to auctions. Even if you don’t buy the first time, this is a great way to get a feel for what other experienced farmers do and the types of cattle you could buy. Don’t be afraid to speak to the sales manager at the auction, as they will help acquaint you with how things are run.
After your animals are settled in their new home, make sure you continue to look after their care. Get in touch with your local veterinarian before and after making any purchases. They can tell you what vaccinations are necessary and which warning signs you should watch for.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Growing a vegetable garden is not so different from a flower garden. With careful planning, you can have both to utilize throughout the growing season. Tomatoes, squashes, peppers and beans are all easy starter vegetables. You don’t have to sacrifice the beauty of a regular floral garden — consider switching to colorful herbs such as lavender or chamomile or even rose varieties that produce large hips, which are great for brewing in tea. Let your children participate in the digging and planting when you first get started. It’ll make hunting for hidden vegetable bounty under the leaves all that much more rewarding.
You want to make sure you benefit from your garden year round, so dry or can your produce properly when you’re not eating it fresh. This will help you cut back on wasted veggies that aren’t eaten in time when your crop really booms. You’ll also stock your shelves for the winter.
Attitude Is Everything
Finally — and most importantly — remember that it takes patience and an open mind to change into this new lifestyle. You may make mistakes, and you may fall on hard times. However, the benefits truly outweigh the costs when you earn your self-sufficiency.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find homestead life to be extremely rewarding and you’ll thank yourself for all the hard work you put into it.
Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!
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