If you've been reading this blog so far, you may have noticed it has a common thread. But if not and this is your first time here, welcome! You're probably wondering what the heck is homesteading and why do I bother blogging about it?
WHAT IS SELF SUFFICIENCY?
According to the dictionary homesteading simply applies to life on the homestead for a pioneer. It's what we learned about in grade three, from life of a gold miner to starting a farm in the prairies and coming to Canada with only a few dollars a day. Heck back then, land was being given away.
It was a cruel world, a world of survival and making a go of it for you and your family with what you had.
People raised their own animals and grew gardens. They sewed their own clothes and cut down their own trees to build homesteads and keep warm during winter.
It's the life we wonder and may dream about when we read (or now binge watch on Netflix) “When Calls the Heart,” Anne of Green Gables, or better yet, “Hell on Wheels.”
But wait, we aren't in the 1800's.
I still haven't answered your question have I? What is homesteading in todays modern world now that we have electricity, and well Walmart?
HOW TO START HOMESTEADING
Homesteading today starts with the home… as it's written quite honestly. It's about the lifestyle of how we make our house a home. Wether a flat, suburban townhome, a large family home or a farmhouse. It's finding a place you love and making it your home.
And in making a home, homesteading is a place a family lives and works together.
It's about living simply with what we have and working towards providing for ourselves as best we can when it comes to meeting the basic necessities of food and shelter.
HOMESTEADING LOOKS LIKE
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD
RAISING FARM ANIMALS
cooking from scratch
The list of skills goes on and on, read more about homesteading skills to learn and embrace in your homesteading journey in this post here.
From the extreme to being an off grid fully prepped homesteader for expected disasters, to the basics of growing herbs on your window sill. It's an adapted lifestyle that looks different for different folks.
But it's more than that…
It's really the idea of freedom and becoming less reliant on modern conviences. Conviences that have removed us from hard work and knowing where are food comes from – let alone how it was raised.
It's the feel good sense of pride you have when you look at your plate. Everything you see is local, fresh, non gmo, organic, free range, grass fed, just simple real food you played a roll in.
Or simply, pulling a carrot from the soil and thinking- “I grew this!”
Then taking a bite. Nothing, honestly nothing- tastes better than the “heck yes, I did this” feeling!
Its a way of slowing down this rat race that we're spinning on and reconnecting with our roots, and our land.
It's a fun, exciting and satisfying lifestyle. But it also is a lot of hard work. Work that tends to go unappreciated by some and seen as crazy to others.
It's a journey of course, a journey to feeling like I can proudly say, “we produce what we need”
When we first moved to our homestead, we had 10 acres of cleared farm land needing much upkeep and love. The small farmhouse was falling apart and had been completely neglected. We saw the property with rose coloured glasses and new that this was the place to make our dream home a reality.
It was then I started my pinterest board called 10 acre haven. My mind ran wild with all the possibilities of what we could do on our acreage and all the things we could learn and do together. The ideas were endless. The board became the inspiration board for our free time projects, step by step how to guides and crazy ideas to get us going. We jumped in head first.
The bloggers that inspired me right from the start, ones that filled that board for all my initial questions and ideas. I recommend you spend time on their sites and as you get your feet wet in this whole modern homesteading thing.
Victoria at A Modern Homestead
She writes about frugal living tips, from scratch cooking recipes and gardening methods perfect for what we need. I love her simple, practical posts about homesteading life. Her frugal living tips were very helpful when we bit off more than we could chew when it came to our mortgage to fund this dream. Plus she's also a teacher, so we're cut from the same cloth as you might say.
Anna at Celebrating a Simple Life
Anna has a great blog about homesteading life, she discusses topics like gardening and raising ducks and chickens. She also was a great support and go to when I started this blog. She's worth checking out.
Jill from A Prairie Homestead
Jill's a former city kid turned homesteader in Wyoming that helps others grow their own food, create instead of consumer and build a homestead life no matter where they live. Be prepared to need a second cup of coffee as her blog will consume your entire afternoon. I absolutely love her story, and it lights me up thinking that maybe I'll be as wise as her in 10 years.
What Homesteading means to us
For my husband, he dreams of having 100's of acres or more to ranch cattle. He'd love to quit his day job, ride around on a horse herding the fold and wear his cowboy boots and hat all day. It's part of the reason why we named our little piece of land a ranch. Did you know a ranch doesn't have to be 1000's of acres? We didn't until we researched how to name a farm, but that's another story.
Modern homesteading really is about living simply, within your means and being grateful for what you have. It's the way of life my mother showed us throughout my childhood. Mom was always in the kitchen making all our meals from scratch, gardening in the spring and preserving the harvest in the fall.
For me, homesteading is about taking big risks. By that I mean being open to new learning experiences, vulnerable to making ALOT of mistakes at the beginning and finding a passion for things I never thought I would.
How this shift has changed us
Now I walk outside, collect eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables and meat from the freezer that we raised. Our grocery bill has lessened, as we shift from consumers to producers.
We now budget for animals to feed and in return thank them for all they give us. From eggs, fertilizing, clearing and tilling the land our chickens and cattle bring us a sense of joy I never knew I could have.
At 23, we wanted the peacefulness of the country. We never expected by 30 we'd have a friends and family praise our lifestyle that we chose and so interested in learning more about what we do and what we've learned.
I never thought that by buying a little chunk of land and starting to grow our own food would make my grandparents so proud.
That one day, I'd have a full blown conversation about raising chickens with my grandmother, as she recalls raising them as a young girl.
Living this life with my boys, really has helped me come back to my roots in many ways.
I've even noticed I sleep better and am less anxious.
When I go outside in our backyard, dig in the garden, pet the cows, collect the eggs and take a deep breath I know this risk was well worth it. And it's only just beginning.
Homesteading Skills to Aquire
The list of homesteading skills to learn in the journey to becoming more self sufficient is an exciting endeavour. I feel we still have only just jumped in and yet we've learned so much.
If you're reading this blog, and you've read this far, you're already a homesteader! If you're learning, dreaming and making steps towards a healthier, more sustainable and self-reliant life then cheers, you've joined the club!
- Cook from scratch
- compost food scraps
- eat farm fresh eggs, from a farmer or from your own chickens
- learn to knit, crochet, sew
- make your own soap
- incubate chickens
- raise animals for meat
- make your own candles
- forage for wild edibles- yes that includes picking blackberries
- can and preserve food, from the grocery store a farmer or garden
- make or use non-plastic food wrap
- make bone broth from scratch
- ferment your own food
- make your own wine, beer or cider
- grow a garden
- have an orchard
The list goes on and on.
It's a journey
One of the reasons I decided to start this blog is to share our journey in learning these skills with you and to help you grow your own and build a homestead life that you dream about no matter where you're at in life.
So far, I've learned how to keep chickens. How to incubate eggs to hatch chicks, how to care for those chicks and tending to the flock. When I once held up my first home grown tomato as a trophy, I now can produce a garden beyond plentiful during the peak of the season.
I can replace our produce grocery list with next to free fresh vegetables I grew and preserved and I'm getting to the point where I feel I can now share the abundance with my extended family and neighbours.
We've learned to raise animals that live a happy, spoiled life yet in a cost effective way and provides grass fed, local, hormone free meat to my family.
As a mother, this makes me feel pretty proud. Yes I'm tooting my horn a bit, but it's an addictive journey. There is still so much we want to learn.
How to raise bees- and not have them swarm away
How to start our large food forest garden- otherwise known as an orchard.
How to make soap using what we've grown at home
Benefits of Self Sufficient Living
I'm not surprised that we started really focusing on homesteading when we got married and started our family. There are things from our childhood we wanted for our kids- like time to play outside and make memories with our families.
We also wanted our kids to have something we didn't have- wide open spaces to call our own and farm animals to tend to.
But the reason to move out into the country and homestead was also supported by all the research I had learned about in my studies in becoming a sport, health and physical activity teacher. And what I noticed as a teacher in regards to childrens upbringing, academics and wellbeing.
The research easily stands behind this lifestyle choice.
-Working in the soil has proven to reduce depression
-Time spent in nature may lower the risk of depression and improves overall mental health
-Children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to struggle with drugs and alcohol and report feeling closer to thier parents than those children that do not.
-Playing outside has been shown to decrease ADHD symptoms in children.
And there's something to be said about working hard and the effect it has on a child's confidence. How can we not learn empathy by caring for animals?
Oh, and by now I think we all know that working towards being self-sufficient is better for the Earth. So I'll leave it at that.
How to start homesteading Today
You probably are already homesteading to some degree, no matter where you live. There are four different types of homesteads with many options for skills to learn and acquire. It really is a journey and a lifestyle worth acquiring.
An Apartment Homestead
Remember that homesteading is about simple living and working towards being self sufficient. It's also about balance. There are so many things you can do from an apartment to live more sufficiently.
Grow a container garden.
Container gardens are easily to do, and there are endless ideas for growing fruits and vegetables in containers. My in laws live on a float house and their container garden around the deck puts most backyard gardens to shame. It's possible.
Foraging is seeking out wild local edibles to eat and preserve. Here on the west coast of BC. Nettles, berries, and chantrelle mushrooms are very popular foraged foods. I do recommend that you get a local guide book or take a class in your area.
Participate in a community garden.
Community gardens are popping up all over the place with the popularity of urban gardening. My favourite book for growing food in small spaces is Grow Great Grub, organic food in small spaces. Highly recommend this book for those of you in apartments. You'll feel completely inspired.
Preserve your own food.
When we lived in town, I'd ask my neighbours to pick their fruit so I could learn to make jams and jellies. If it turned out, I'd share a jar or so with them as a thank you. No-one ever turned me down. Watch for sales, know when things are at their lowest price of the year in grocery stores and get preserving.
Grow a herb garden.
Herb gardens are easy to grow in small spaces, from your kitchen window to pots on your balcony. Fresh herbs make all the difference in cooking.
From Scratch Cooking
Try and get creative and challenge yourself to make as many pantry staples as possible. There's nothing like fresh bread and from scratch cooking. Buy in bulk and make your own mixes for pancakes, cookies, scones, bread. Make sour cream and yogurt from milk.
Go for a walk in an urban area during the summer. Except instead of walking on the sidewalks, walk through the alley's and take a peak at peoples backyards. I can't help but peak over fences and I'm amazed at how much food can be produced from a backyard.
Square foot gardening methods and raised beds are great efficient methods for growing your own vegetables. Berry bushes and dwarf fruit trees make establishing an urban orchard a manageable task.
It is possible to grow your own food on a 1/4 acre. Urban homesteaders have small gardens for their families. A small flock of chickens or ducks for eggs and meat if their city allows it.
One Acre +
A smaller homestead is considered about 2 acres of land. On a small scale homestead of this size you can grow a garden, an orchard, a berry patch, have greenhouses and raise rabbits, chickens, ducks and goats along with bees.
One of the downsides is not being able to produce enough food for your livestock over the winter. You'll need to purchase hay from a farmer to get through the winter months.
A larger more traditional homestead
I consider a traditional homestead 5+ acres of land. With this size of land in our area we are able to apply for farm taxes if we live on an agricultural land reserve plot. Which we do. With this size of land the ideas for homesteading are endless.
We should be able to provide enough food for our families plus extra to sell to our community members. This is where homesteading and farming really combine. From personal needs to running a farm business as a family.
The ideas for providing for ourselves and making an income from our home are endless. There are many ways to make money homesteading. Lately this is really firing me up. To be a homesteader, to make this lifestyle choice and be able to make an income to stay home with my boys longer really speaks to me.
And I know it resonates with you. Especially if you've read this far into the article. There are so many of us out there, and with starting this blog I've noticed there really is a strong community of homesteading women out there living this dream.
And in conclusion,
Now you know what homesteading is, are you thinking of leading a more self sufficient simpler life? What ideas sparked an interest in you? Participate in the conversation, comment below with any thoughts or questions you might have.