With all of modern benefits and technology of today, why would anyone want to go backwards in time to be a modern-day homesteader? Lots of folks would! Today’s world and the stress it brings would cause many people to ask themselves if it’s all worth it. Is there an alternative to the present-day lifestyle? Yes, there is! Let’s talk about “How to Be a Modern Homesteader”.
The attraction and allure of modern homesteading is indisputable.
So many people dream of living out in the country one day, producing their own food and living from the land, all with different goals in mind!
- There are parents, with children that are diagnosed with various incurable diseases, that seek a chemical-free life of fresh air and organic foods that they grow themselves.
- Others might include the “rugged individualist”, who wants to live off the land. These folks might go so far as to build a home with only sustainable energy, in order to be “off-grid”.
- But most, including myself, just want to distance themselves from the “hustle and bustle” of American “9-5” life and raise their children close to the land.
We wanted our children to know where food comes from!
Do you know how many college students can’t tell you with any degree of certainty what animal lays the eggs they eat???
Further, we wanted our children to climb trees, wade through the creek, discover bird nests and ride horses. Our children also understand what hard work is and have a great work ethic.
The entire family enjoys being outdoors and appreciates nature.
The joy of pursuing self-sufficiency and providing for ourselves as much as possible is what keeps me going when the days are hard.
Not everyone gets this kind of opportunity in life, and I’m so grateful.
What Makes a Modern Homesteader Successful?
After 25+ years of homesteading (11 of them out in the country) I’ll admit that there are certain qualities that will determine the success of someone desiring to pursue modern homesteading. It’s not for everyone.
- Living debt-free – I start with this because it will truly determine your success at modern homesteading. While living a sustainable life is less expensive in the long-run (and who can put a price tag on independence?), initially the start up costs can be hefty. You will not only need cash to set up your homestead as well as keep paying the bills, but you need time to be at home, working on things. Someone who needs to be at the office everyday from 9-5 to keep the bills paid will not last long (unless there is a non-working spouse at home, and then still not guaranteed).
Before you embark on the homestead life, may I encourage you to take the time, even if it takes years, to get your financial house in order? It will be worth it in the end.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen families move into a house with some property, or to an old farmhouse that they want to fix up.
They start out with big plans and aspirations! We’ll see lots of activity on the property for a while with gardens, livestock, building barns, etc……then things start to slow down.
You won’t see the family outside working like you did before.
Sooner than later, the “For Sale” sign goes up.
One of several things, if not all, has happened:
a) There was never “unity of spouses”. One of the pair gets tired of working so hard and doing without the things they were used to having previously.
b) It turned out to be more work than they bargained for. The nostalgia wore off.
c) They ran out of money.
Take the time to put an exhaustive plan down on paper, researching the cost of everything and counting variables outside of your control.
2. Practice Contentment – To be a successful homesteader, long gone are the days of running to the mall to peruse the latest fashion findings. You will learn to wear what you have.
When you DO purchase new clothing, you’ll be shopping at Duluth and Tractor Supply for the most durable and warmest clothes you can find.
If you hope to get to the point where you’re growing your own food, making your own energy and living independently, every single dime of your budget needs to go to only necessary purchases!
*You will need farm equipment like a tractor or front loader.
*You’ll want to buy or build barns or run-ins for your livestock.
*You’ll want to purchase the equipment you need to can and preserve your own food.
*Then you’ll need a pantry and a freezer to store away all of that glorious food!
and the list goes on and on.
My point is this….
If you have a shopping problem, get over it before you head out to homestead.
3. Find a Way to Make Money from Home – As your homestead takes up more and more of your time, you’ll find it more and more difficult to have one foot out in the work world and the other in the manure pile.
You will want to spend your time nurturing your homestead, believe me!
There are zillions of ways to make money from your homestead.
There are also zillions of ways to build a “side-hustle” that could replace your job, in time. I love sidehustlenation.com for this!
4. Learn How to Grow Food in Your Zone – A homestead located in Florida isn’t going to be able to grow the same things as someone who lives in Ohio.
Do an exhaustive study about what crops grow best in your area, what type of soil those plants need and how long your growing season is.
Read gardening books and talk to people who love gardening.
Call your local Extension Office, they can be an amazing source of education, soil testing and every preserving food!
Take some time to think about how you can grow the most food for your family on your property.
Raised beds might work best for you, which will require some labor and money to build.
Plowing up a garden plot might be your best option (it is for me). You’ll need to have someone with a tractor and disc attachment to come over and plow that up for you.
Then, you’ll want to improve that soil with compost and manure. People don’t realize that you can’t just put a seed in the ground and expect it to grow.
It doesn’t work that way.
You’ll be surprised at all the things you never knew about soil that you will become a master at! Soil matters, a lot.
5. Keep Livestock – Keeping animals is a beautiful part of modern homesteading!
There’s nothing like eating eggs from your own chickens or enjoying honey from your own hives!
Even if you live in the suburbs, city ordinances are becoming much more permissive with backyard chickens. Do some research and find out what the laws are in your area!
Another small livestock that works well anywhere, but especially when space is limited, is rabbits!
Because rabbits reproduce so quickly, one doe can give anywhere from 150-250 pounds of meat per year!
Rabbits are quiet and easy to raise.
6. Learn Multiple Food Preservation Methods – This is so critical! You can grow and raise all the food you want, but if you don’t know how to can and preserve food, you will still be a slave to the grocery store.
Many times, people get stuck here. If you’re like me, I didn’t learn how to do any of this kind of stuff when I was growing up. I didn’t learn to can until I was in my 30’s!
But, once I got a taste of how wonderful it was to be in control of my own food, I couldn’t get enough!
You will need to spend some money on equipment to get started, but most of it will be a one-time expense.
Dehydration is probably the easiest and fastest way to get started with food preservation. There are plenty of dehydrators on the market.
However, if you’re serious about your dried food and want to make sure it keeps, I can’t recommend strongly enough the Excalibur dehydrator!
I’ve had mine for close to 20 years now and it’s a total workhorse! I doubt that I will ever need another dehydrator!
Freezing is another simple way to get started with food preservation! You can begin with the freezer above your frig at first, but you’ll soon need a chest freezer!
Canning would be the next step into food preservation!
You’ll need your canners, books and accessories, but once again, these are usually a “buy once” purchase!
As for learning how to can, there are plenty of videos on YouTube to teach you how. However, if you can learn from a family member or friend, I suggest you take advantage of that opportunity. Learning in person is so much more effective!
7. Provide Meat for Your Family by Hunting and Fishing
Providing food for your family is always on the mind of the modern homesteader, whether that be through gardening, raising livestock, foraging or even hunting and/or fishing.
Some of you grew up hunting and fishing and that’s wonderful!
There are others of us who didn’t grow up learning that skill. But we can learn!
Hunting and fishing can bring some of the highest quality meat, organic no less, to our family’s dinner table.
8. Learn and Practice Off-Grid Cooking
While there’s nothing wrong with using your indoor oven/stove, the modern homesteader is always looking for ways to be more sustainable.
There are so many ways to cook off-grid, and we’ll discuss just a few of them in this post.
Rocket Stove – These have been around, in many forms, for thousands of years. With 4 cinder blocks (about $8) you can have an off-grid option to cook!
Propane Grill – Why not cook on the grill in the fall and winter? On nicer days, there’s no reason not to and save on your home’s power usage.
Open Fire – If you and your family enjoy camping, you’ve likely cooked over an open fire. There are many ways to do this as well, but don’t make it harder than it has to be!
Solar Oven – I love my solar oven! Especially in the summer, I can put dinner in it early and just let the sun cook it all day!
Thermal Cooking – Thermal cooking has also been around for thousands of years! Even today, in Africa, women dig a hole in the ground, start a fire and place their pot of food inside for the day. Modern thermal cooking looks a little different, but it’s cool in that you only have to heat your food up for a few minutes, then you put the inner pot into the thermal cooker and leave it for the day. (Yeah, run on sentence, sorry!)
Talk about an effective way to use fuel!
9. Water Catchment System
If you are fortunate enough to have a well on your property, by all means use it!
For those who do not have a well (like me), the modern homesteader is always looking for ways to catch water!
For me, setting up a water catchment system makes the most sense.
Do you have what it takes to be a modern homesteader? You don’t know what you’re missing!