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Homesteading alone brings it’s share of challenges. Without the help of another, trying to be self-sufficient can wear out the strongest among us. Should it even be attempted? I say YES! This is the second installment of my post “How to Homestead Alone – and Not DIE in the Process“. I believe that you CAN homestead alone, but you’ve got to be strategic about the way you approach it. Here’s “How to Homestead Alone – The Journey Continues”.
Calculate your exact needs
Homesteaders tend to be enthusiastic. We over-commit, or at least I do. Over-doing things will create more work and expense for you, so let’s pare things down a bit.
If you are homesteading alone, you’ve got to keep your homestead “lean and mean”. If you are growing your own food, you will only want to grow what you can reasonably deal with and preserve. Here is a sweet little calculator that will help you decide how many plants you really need for your size family. Avoid the temptation to grow more and create more work for yourself.
Container gardening might be a good option for small families. Containers take away the chore of weeding and are much more manageable when you’re by yourself. Watering is simplified and you’ll use a lot less water as well.
Along the lines of raising your own meat and eggs, once again, calculate your needs and stay within those limits. If there are just two of you, then you would probably do well with 2-4 hens. They will give you 3-4 eggs a day, which is plenty! Free-range them if possible and use all of your scraps to supplement their feed.
If you want to raise broilers, then think about how much chicken you eat a month and multiply by 12. Our big family eats one chicken per week, so I raise about 50 broilers. They take 12-16 weeks and then they go to the freezer. This keeps the feed bill and labor to a minimum.
Raising beef and pork is much more labor intensive, and I would frankly discourage it. If you could barter with a livestock farmer, I would strongly consider that. More about bartering below.
The exception might be if you are familiar with raising larger animals, but keep in mind that when you’re raising them for meat, you’ll need a trailer or a way to take them to be processed.
Avoid collecting animals
One thing I’ve noticed about living in the country is that people think you are a petting zoo. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to take someone’s cat, dog or otherwise unwanted farm critter. If you’re homesteading alone, you must limit the number of animals that you care for and purchase food for. I feel that farm animals need to “earn their keep” and bring something of value to the homestead.
Cats can be great “mousers”, but you only need one. Dogs are wonderful, but one will usually guard the livestock and home sufficiently. You don’t need someone else’s problem. Learn to say “no”.
Bring it all closer to the house
Limit your steps to your chores. The closer your garden and animals are to your residence, the better. Making it possible to virtually step outside your house to be able to pick a tomato or gather eggs will make life so much more manageable! Granted, you might have critters looking in your windows (and possibly poop on your patio!) but that’s just part of having animals….and another good reason to limit the number that you keep!
I have 10 acres, and every year, I move things closer and closer to the house. I just moved my beehives a few weeks ago to make it easier to get to them. You don’t have to do it all at once, but make a plan and work towards it.
Barter for labor – Tutoring, Baking, Sewing, Babysitting, etc.
Hard labor is the most difficult part of homesteading alone. Trees fall and need to be chainsawed and hauled away. Fences need repair and roofs leak. You simply cannot do it all.
Bartering, or exchanging good and services in lieu of cash, is a practice as old as time. However, bartering is making a HUGE comeback! Use what you can do or grow without much effort to trade for labor and other materials you need.
You might feel tempted to short change your talents, but you have more to offer than you realize. Are you a math whiz? Can you sew? Do you like to bake? Do you enjoy babysitting? These are all things that can be bartered! Tutor kids who need help at your local school by posting an ad on Facebook. Offer to babysit or do a few hours of after-school care to earn some money or barter for what they can offer.
Many times, older single men are pretty darned handy around the house and would love to come fix your “whatever” for a home-cooked meal and some fresh laundry!
See where I’m going with this? You can’t do it all yourself, but you can create a community for yourself to get the help you need. Of course, you’re going to want to be very careful who you let in your home, referrals are always best. Use your best judgement, but don’t let it stop you from looking for the right people. Churches are another good place to find bartering opportunities.
Reduce outside chores
How much time in the summer do you spend mowing? Can you reduce that time by planting wild flowers or just letting it grow up? I’ve seen people mow paths instead of mowing all of the grass. If you have a large parcel, could you rent the land out to a farmer to plant? This would earn a little money for property taxes.
If you have trees and bushes that create extra work for you, consider having them removed. Minimize your outside workload as much as possible. If it creates work, get rid of it.
Consider using landscape beds for gardening, “edible landscaping” is all the rage anyway. You’ll be hip right along with the millenials!
Keep routines simple
Morning chores should be a simple as possible. With your critters close to the house, their feed and supplies should be in good order and nearby as well. Use airtight trash cans to store feed and reduce pests. Keep waterers clean and located close to water source. Letting chickens free-range keeps down coop cleanings in the summer. I would recommend the “deep litter method” in the winter to keep work load down.
Keep expenses under control
Finances are key, so create financial resilience. Keep your need for purchased goods to a minimum. Use what you have on hand as much as possible. Reduce utility consumption. The less your overall expenses are, the less stress you’ll have to create income.
Learn to make your own personal products and cleaning supplies. Check out my Pinterest board as well.
I would love to hear how you’re homesteading alone in the comments!