So it’s 2021 and you want to learn how to homestead? I think it’s the perfect time!! With all the happenings of 2020, it has really showed us how fragile our food system and supply chain is. All the better to become your own grocery store, your own heat supply, your own hardware store.
Homesteading can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In my eyes, as a homesteader and rancher myself, homesteading is becoming as self sufficient as you can, in regards to food, water and resources. Growing your vegetables, raising your own meat, eggs and dairy, and learning skills that make you less dependent on the government is what does it for me! There are idyllic ideas of homesteading, and while it’s all true, it really is a lot of work, but totally worth it – I promise.
Starting a homestead can feel overwhelming. But I have made 10 easy steps divided into season to make it easier and more manageable. A couple things per season, and next year you will be able to look back and say, ‘Wow! I did it!). So let’s get into it!
How to Homestead During Each Season
So the first thing to think about is what homesteading means to you. If it only mean growing a garden and raising hens for eggs. Or it might mean getting a dairy cow, or a years supply of firewood for your stove. I think the best place to start is to write down your dream list. All those fun things that have been rolling around in your head about homesteading.
We just moved to Alberta, a new ranch that is pretty bare. So now would be a good time for me to make a list of everything we want on our homestead too.
Here is my list:
- Vegetable garden (to produce food for the year)
- Greenhouse (to shelter plants from strong winds and expand growing season)
- Orchard (somewhere in the coulee’s)
- Laying hens for eggs
- Meat birds for chicken
- Pigs, Lamb, Cattle (this is easy for us because we raise livestock for a living and sell meat to the community)
- Make more of our household cleaning and pantry staples
- Can from my garden this year everything that we will need for the winter (broth, soups, veggies, sauces, jams, etc.)
- Be prepared (in regards too enough food, water, ammo, safety supplies, etc.)
Now depending on where you live or how much land you have, your homestead will look a little different. If you have a small backyard, likely getting a dairy cow or some pigs won’t be practical. But planting a garden, raising egg layers and meat birds or rabbits could totally work!
Things you should keep in mind include:
- How much pasture lands you have: this will decide quantity and specie of grazers.
- How much forest you have – if your whole property is forest, chances are grazers like sheep and cattle won’t be a good fit, whereas birds and pigs can for sure thrive in a forested area
- Size of land – like mentioned above depending on the size of your plot that will dictate what your homestead looks like
- Budget – keep in mind homesteading can be expense. Some people have this thought in their head that its super frugal, but things add up. Feed, livestock, fencing, soil, mason jars, etc. So depending on how much money you want to spend at the beginning, you can try execute your dream list in stages.
- Timeframe – some goals will take longer than others due to budget, desire and other constraints.
3. Start Seeds
Growing your own food is one of the core fundamental things to do when starting a homestead. It’s often the first thing that people do, and for good reason. Its low risk, low capital, but has a high reward. Having a vegetable garden is like no other feeling!! So naturally, if you want a garden in May, it’s a good idea to start seeds in March. Starting seeds can save a ton of money, as its relatively inexpensive to get the seeds, a tray and soil, but you get so much in return!
If you think about it, lets say you want to grow enough tomatoes for the whole year (because you’re going to can some for sauce) and you want to plant at least 12 plants, thats already $50 bucks just in seedlings! So, that $3 pack of seeds is looking pretty good and getting you even more pounds of tomatoes! If you’re looking for a way to organize your seeds and free printable seed starting schedule, click here.
4. Build Raised Beds
The next thing to do is to actually decide where you will be growing and what you will be growing in! I love raised beds because they are super easy to build, beautiful, customizable and grow less weeds. You can look at my super easy tutorial, here. Building the raised beds nice and early will give you time to plan your garden and have them ready and waiting. You can also order soil and fill the raised beds so the soil has a chance to warm up before you plant in it.
5. Build a Chicken Coop
Chickens are usually the first animal someone gets when they want to homestead! They are easy, affordable and offer eggs and meat! Getting a chance to build your own coop is super fun. We have designed our very own mobile chicken coop which are all the rage these days and for good reason. Mobile chicken coops are moveable, allow the chickens to roam outside (with electric net, or free on your property), allow their manure to spread fertilizing your soil, and the chickens consistently get fresh pasture. Build it now so you are ready for your chicks!
6. Learn To Make Things You Usually Buy
Another thing about homesteading is being more self-reliant, so naturally making things you usually buy is such a fun and money saving thing you can do. For example making an easy DIY cleaner is something that can be cost effective and work just as well!! I love using vinegar and essential oil for that. Another example is chapstick or deodorant, even your own Landry pods! There are tons of recipes out there! It doesn’t have to be time consuming as you can make in bulk and guarantee that your family has chemical free alternatives.
7. Plant Your Garden
Summer is the actually time to plant your garden. It can be overwhelming so I recommend starting small with your first garden. You will get the hang of it each year and you can always add on. Some super easy veggies to plant for beginners include: lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, peas, tomatoes, cucumber, squash, and beans! Generally you wait until after your last frost date has past before planting your garden. I also would recommend buying seedlings as they are a little easier for the beginner gardener, and can guarantee more success.
8. Get Chicks
People often start with day old chicks to save money and grow them out from the start. You can sometimes grab layers online but if you want them cheap and you want a certain breed then buying chicks is great option. Just note you won’t get eggs until the chickens are about 6-8 months old, and meat not until the chicken is 2-3 months. Chicks require certain care, you can read about the easy brooder we made here to make sure they are happy and healthy as they start their life!
9. Learn To Can
Canning is such an important skill to have as a homesteader. You’re already growing all this food so why not to learn how to preserve it so you can enjoy it all year around! Learning to can can be intimidating but the more you do it the more comfortable you will be. Its such an amazing feeling to look at your pantry and see your homegrown tomatoes made into sauce for the winter, and homemade bone broth from your chickens! I recommend focusing on a few different things you will can for the first year and make a gaol of becoming self-sufficient in those couple of things, to feel less overwhelmed.
10. Get Comfortable In The Kitchen
Much like the above, improving your homestead kitchen skills results in you being able to use your abundant harvest – veggies and meat! Making your own bone broth, or tomato sauce are easy things to learn how to do. Once you start with some basic, it’s easy to use those basic in a variety of dishes. It also makes a difference when you are cooking with the food you have grown, you will be more excited to be in the kitchen and you will waste less!
I hope these 10 steps separated into the seasons helps you feel inspired and less overwhelmed when it comes to how to homestead. I’d love to know your thoughts on homesteading and where you’re at in the comments below.